30th May 2030
The saloon doors swing behind me as I stride into the seedy bar, spurs clinking on my heels. An eerie quiet falls over the room. I chew on my toothpick as I survey my surroundings. They’re here somewhere.
Ignoring the murmurs from all around the saloon, I walk up to the bar, taking out my toothpick and flicking it expertly down the bar and into the spittoon. I tip my Stetson at the barmaid and she walks over to me.
“Where are they?” I ask, in a barely audible growl.
“Well… Well…” Her face flushes with colour. “Well I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, mister.” She stammers, in a southern USA drawl.
“I been lookin’ for 3 god damn years.” I whisper, also sounding much more American than usual for some reason. “I know they’re here. Show me where.”
Reluctantly, she points me towards a group of stuffy old men in the corner, before scurrying away to the back room.
Clink… Clink… Clink… I walk slowly over to the group, who are deep in conversation. One by one, their eyes find mine and their conversation dies.
“Bolton City Council?” I ask. Nobody responds. The saloon’s grown eerily quiet once again. “I’m looking for Bolton City Council. I want to know when the new sta-“
For a moment, I don’t feel anything at all. It’s not until I touch my gut, then see the blood on my hand, that I realise what’s happened. Staggered, I fall to the floor, bleeding profusely.
The oldest, stuffiest and most boring looking of the old men stands, casting a long shadow over me. In his hand is a smoking pistol.
“You ain’t gettin’ yer god damn stadium.” He smiles, showing off his crooked, yellow teeth, before raising his gun once again. This time he aims for my head.
“After all I’ve done for you. For this city.” I laugh joylessly, spraying yet more blood across the floor.
Another loud bang, a flash of light, and then everything went black. The end.
4th September 2029 (Present day)
Let me start off with the news that annoyed me no end just after we last spoke – After 2 seasons of anticipation, the completion of the planning phase of the stadium build has been pushed back a year.
I’m not entirely sure when you get to find out the name of the stadium, but I was pretty optimistic that it’d be this Summer, when we actually put a spade in the ground. Oh well though, there’s always next year.
We’ve had the usual flurry of outgoing activity that’s sparked the incoming activity – This year we sold Wesley, Machado, Maciel, Centelles, Hallgren and a couple of unexciting youth players, as well as Hocine Boussaada on loan, which I’ll get to in a minute. All in all, we raked in £113M.
In terms of incomings…
Kevin Ellis – Striker – £2.2M from AaB
Over last 3 seasons in Danish Superliga, ave ratings 6.79-7.26, 33 goals scored in 86 appearances, 2.42-2.82 dribbles per game
I’ve already mentioned Kevin – He’s gone on loan to Portsmouth in the Championship this year and he’s scored on his debut, which is promising.
No 21 – David Xhofleer – Left Wing Back – £8M from Stuttgart
Over the last 3 seasons in Bundesliga & Bundesliga 2, ave ratings 6.73-7.04, 3.23-3.53 tackles per game, 1.23-1.52 dribbles per game, 80%-82% pass completion
As good as Centelles has been for us, even as recently as last season, it was time to let him go to Sassuolo at age 29 and bring in a younger model who we can develop. David is that younger model and has had a solid 5 years of first team football in his native Germany.
No 16 – Naldo – Midfielder – £12.5M from Corinthians
Over last 3 seasons, ave ratings 6.77-7.00, 25 goals and 9 assists in 150 games, 3.03-3.17 tackles per game, 76%-77% pass completion
Naldo’s come in to replace Hallgren, who’s joined Leeds, as that 3rd or 4th choice central midfielder. He’s nice and versatile and has looked very solid back home in Brazil for both Corinthians and Botafogo.
No 4 – Danilo Pinto – Centre Back – £23.5M from FC Porto
Over last 3 seasons on loan at WBA in the Championship, Premier League and back in the Liga NOS, ave ratings 7.06-7.11, 1.27-3.32 tackles per game, 8 goals and 9 assists in 106 games, 84%-90% pass completion
Danilo’s come in as pretty much a like-for-like replacement for Diego Machado, who’s joined Sheffield United. They’re pretty much identical, except that Danilo’s faster, stronger, smarter and way better on the ball. I guess they’re not actually that alike, but I’m happy with our business.
No 17 – Axel Baeza – Midfielder – £23.5M from Boca Juniors
Over 4 years of first team football with Boca, ave ratings 6.72-7.16, 3.7-4.27 tackles per game, 75%-80% pass completion, 15 goals and 8 assists in 157 games
Axel’s in as a direct replacement for Pedro Maciel, who’s gone to Shandong Luneng. These 2 are actually pretty similar, except that Axel’s way more physically dominant and not quite as technical. At 6’4″, having him striding around the centre of the park is going to be a bit of a throwback to the days of having Tomasz Liwoski in there. Unlike Lisowski or Maciel though, Baeza’s got huge potential.
No 23 – Preguinho – Striker – £22M from SC Braga
Over 2 seasons of first team football on loan with West Brom in the Premier League and in Liga NOS with Braga, ave ratings 6.92-7.22, 23 goals and 8 assists in 74 games, 2.49-2.93 dribbles per game
Alright, this wasn’t my smartest signing, but I’m still extremely happy with it, as this is a man who’s got world class potential. I was resigned to losing Carles Amat this Summer with several massive teams sniffing around and I was ready to pounce on Preguinho whenever a bid came in, so that we could have a nice, smooth “one in, one out”. But then the bids for Amat never came while Dortmund bid for Preguinho, which sort of forced my hand as I didn’t want to end up with neither player. Preggers chose us over Dortmund (How far we’ve come) and nobody ever bid for Amat, so now I’ve got them both! This is why Boussaada, who’s a perfectly good squad player, has been shipped off on loan to West Brom. (Coincidentally, Preguinho has also spent time on loan with the baggies in 27/28).
No 1 – Martin Zeman – Goalkeeper – £5.5M from Sparta Prague
Over 5 seasons of first team football with Sparta, ave ratings 6.96-7.24, 0.51-0.98 conceded per 90, 127 conceded in 178 games with 83 clean sheets
Zeman’s the latest goalie on the production line after Hertha Berlin signed Wesley for an extortionate £40M. Funny thing is, they signed him because they’d just sold our old keeper N’Dri to PSG for a deal which could rise to £90M, so I knew they had the cash. Zeman’s been ridiculously consistent in a team which, admittedly, has dominated Czech football for 4 decades. I’m quietly confident that he’ll be able to handle the step up to the big leagues and even improve for us.
So we haven’t done as well bringing players in on the cheap this Summer, but in all fairness, the bar for quality keeps rising for us and we’re still making a profit. When you get to this level, the pure moneyball I’ve been trying to employ doesn’t really hold up. Proven talent at the level you need (if you want to improve and not just stagnate) costs money, so we’ve spent it. Squad-wise, this is how we’re now looking:
I’m pretty sure that Martin Zeman’s going to be our first choice, but behind him we’ve got 2 pretty equally decent keepers in Symes-Hook and Andrew. In fact all 3 of these are around the same level, so I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the season the pecking order’s changed.
We’re well stocked at centre back, as always. After working himself into the first team rotation over the last couple of years, Marco Kana is our new club captain, taking over from Rafa Perez. Diego Hipólito, arguably our best centre back, is the new vice captain, taking over from Felix Nmecha. Pinto will fit in fine, Gaillard’s reliable as hell and Tamplin never complains about being our last resort because he’s a good egg. Big centre mid Baeza can also cover here.
Prucha and Mezzano should do absolutely fine at right wing back. They never really let us down. Kyle Manning can cover here.
Left wing back’s a bit more of an unknown, though. Flores had an excellent first 6 months with us, but the jury’s still out, while Xhofleer is a brand new signing. Fellow new signing Naldo can also provide cover here.
I don’t know about the opposition, but the combination of Coulibaly and Baeza scares the shit out of me. A big, physically dominant, technically dominant and mentally superior Ivorian and a huge, physically dominant Argentinian. They’re going to have some fun with this league. Naldo should slot right in as cover, Manning’s always dependable enough to make the squad and we have a host of players who can cover, like Kana, de la Tejera, Nmecha and Perez.
Attacking midfield is a position to keep an eye on. Nmecha’s a solid backup, but de la Tejera’s been angling for a move and I’ve agreed to let him go if we get £32.5M. I’ll keep an eye out for potential replacements in the meantime.
Up front, we’re fucking delicious. Carles Amat is now referred to by my coaches as a “World Class Talent”, Arcaba is looking very promising as a deeper striker next to him, Preguinho is the next big thing and Perez is a solid leader who can slam in a penalty.
You don’t need to see the finances anymore, but I just like showing them off at this point. This is how good a moneyball approach in the Premier League can be:
Our season’s started excellently, considering we drew Liverpool in our first match for the 3rd time in 4 seasons in the Premier League. Seriously, the scheduling is so fixed. The only time we didn’t play them 1st was last season when we had double-winning Manchester United. Oh thank you, kind fixture gods. Anyway, we actually beat them pretty comfortably somehow, with our 2 starting strikers getting off the mark in a 2-0 win. Manchester City were next at their place, though (Seriously, come on…) and we got hammered. Since then, we’ve edged past Crystal Palace thanks to a last-7-minutes turn around with a first goal for Preguinho and one for Prucha, then we comfortably saw off West Ham. Arcaba’s picked up an injury and has missed a couple of games, but Preguinho and Amat are already on 2 goals each, which is excellent.
We’ve drawn Cardiff in the Carabao Cup, which should be a nice chance to use our 2nd string, but we’ve drawn a fairly tough group in the Europa League. As one of the minnows, I suppose we were bound to end up with a few bigger fish, though. We start with Gent after the international break, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
The bookies have us at 11th this season, which isn’t as insulting as their predictions usually are, but I still think we can do better. I want us chasing Europe again and at least making the top 8, while potentially winning a cup? I really want the stadium to be named after me and winning a cup this year might be our last chance to shoot me into legend-dom and make it happen. We’ve reached the Carabao Cup Final and the FA Cup Semi Final in the last 2 years, so why not?
Just before I end this first section, do you know what I’ve just now realised? We’re the S I X T H most valuable club in England! We’re valued at £1.44B, which is behind only Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Tottenham, all of whom are valued at £2B. We’re more valuable than Everton, than Leicester, than bloody Liverpool. Madness. Anyway, see you soon.
1st February 2030
Doesn’t it just bring a tear to your eye?
As we enter another new decade, brave, plucky Bolton have made themselves nice and comfortable in 5th place in the Premier League after a really solid first 6 months of the season. Not only have we been having a smashing time in the league though, but we’ve been kicking arse in the cup competitions too!
It turns out I was way overestimating the teams in our Europa League group – We came out of it with 6 wins from 6 games and an extremely healthy goal difference. We’re still in the FA Cup for now, despite a tough 4th round draw against Liverpool. The first attempt ended 1-1 at Anfield, so we’re due a replay. We’ve also got a bloody genuine chance at actual silverware as we’ve made our way to a Carabao Cup Final against relegation-threatened Burnley!
Admittedly, it hasn’t been the toughest run to the final ever, but it certainly hasn’t been a cakewalk. We had 3 championship sides in Cardiff, Birmingham and Forest and a match against Spurs in the quarter final. I’ll be coming back to bring you the final as it happens later, so do me a favour and keep everything crossed.
The transfer window was as busy as January transfer windows ever are – 1 in, 2 out, although 1 of the 2 players that left was a fairly talentless kid. When Bayern came knocking for star defender Diego Hipólito, I knew there was no point in putting up a fight. I squeezed a club record £45M out of them and replaced the centre back with a lad from Mexico named Irving Jasso.
No 25 – Irving Jasso – Centre Back – £24.5M from Pumas de la UNAM
Over 4 years as a first teamer, ave ratings 6.7-6.93, 2.64-3.35 tackles per game, 78%-83% pass completion
It has been really, really tough finding a quality, yet affordable centre back this month. I’m not 100% sold on Irving as an investment, but he looks like he’ll be solid enough as a player. It was his debut goal that earned us an FA Cup replay against Liverpool, so that’s something.
In other transfer news, we almost sold captain Marco Kana for £30M to Brighton, but as I legitimately couldn’t find anyone of his quality to replace him for less than £80M, I pulled the plug. We also managed to tie our star striker Carles Amat to a new 4 and a half year contract to frighten off his pursuers and 2 transfers have been agreed for the Summer – The first is Diego Mezzano’s move to Bologna on a free transfer. He’s never quite reached the heights that I’d hoped for and at 26 I think it’s time we went our separate ways. I did receive an offer of £6M for him in January, but as there are no right backs on the market that tickle my fancy to replace him, I’d rather let him go on a free later. The other agreed transfer is an incoming one, and it’s for Fabian Wiesner.
Fabian Wiesner – Striker – Free transfer from Fortuna Dusseldorf
Over last 3 years as a first team player in Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, ave ratings 6.99-7.34, 43 goals and 8 assists in 101 games, 3.08-3.63 dribbles per game
I know I’m not meant to “stockpile” talent as such, but I couldn’t resist signing Fabian as he looks an excellent prospect. He can comfortably play in either of the roles we use up front or as a number 10, has potential for days and has been really impressive in a really high quality league at such a young age. If this Summer’s the one where we finally cash in on Amat, then he’ll replace the Spaniard in the squad, otherwise I might look to finally get rid of Rafa Perez to make room.
Well, that’s it for now. I’ll see you in a month and a day for an honest-to-goodness shot at a trophy.
1st March 2030
Here we go, bitches – 156 years without a League Cup might be about to end.
It’s Dave O’Leary v Scott Parker. Marco Kana v Vítor Ferreira. Carles Amat v Amaury Sainz. The league cup will be coming back to Lancashire, but with whom?
Before we get into it, a quick update on how February went – February was fucking awesome. We did go out of the FA Cup thanks to a 121st minute David Xhofleer own goal, but we picked up league wins against City, Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle and we’re in such a good position that we’d have to be pretty spectacularly bad from this point to miss out on a European place for next year.
And we’ve just drawn Porto in the Europa League knockouts, which should be an interesting tie.
Alright, now back to the matter at hand – We’re only missing Eric de la Tejera, who picked up a hernia a couple of weeks ago and isn’t back in training yet. Other than that though, everyone’s available. I had nightmares last night that Carles Amat would be ruled out at the last minute but I think he’s going to make it.
6 minutes in, Preguinho plays a lovely little one-two with Amat and goes one-on-one with Legg, who saves well from the Brazilian’s low shot. A few minutes later, Biel Flores stands over a free kick, 25 yards from goal. He curls it… Straight into the top corner! Oooooo ya beauty!
Bolton give us a scare halfway through the first half when Pinto’s robbed of possession near the halfway line, allowing Sainz to run through on goal unchallenged. His shot’s pretty tame though and easy for Zeman to catch.
And that’s it for the first half. Not a lot going on here, but we’ve been on top and we’ve got the lead to show for it. We’re 45 minutes from an actual domestic trophy. I beg the players not to lose their heads.
20 minutes after the break, Preguinho scores! He heads in from close range after Jasso flicked on a long throw, but he was offside, so it’s ruled out. We remain 1 goal ahead and my buttocks remain firmly clenched in fear.
With 20 minutes to go, I bring on Arcaba for Preguinho, who’s missed a couple of decent chances. A few minutes later, Prucha, who’s on a booking, seems to tug on Miath’s shirt. That’s what I assume it’s meant to be anyway, because it looks like he does absolutely nothing but the ref sends him off. Mezzano comes on for Nmecha to plug the gap.
Shit game, but it got the job done. COME. ON. YOU. TROTTERS.
This season is the fucking best. I’ll see you at the end of it.
29th May 2030
Erm… We might be on for a double.
Ridiculous, isn’t it??? We’re potentially going to come out of this season with our first league cup and our first Europa league. Since the league cup final we’ve had a pretty average time in the league, but our Europa League performances have been really good – We’ve edged past Porto 1-0, edged past Leverkusen 3-2 and obliterated Villarreal 6-3.
I think let’s just get straight into this match. We’ve got a few players with knocks, but Tamplin, Naldo and Symes-Hook wouldn’t have started even at full fitness anyway.
It’s worth noting too that Preguinho’s in incredible form – He’s now on 23 goals for the season, just 1 behind Carles Amat’s and Eddie Brown’s now joint club record, which is 24.
Oof! Jasso goes close after just 2 minutes when Flores whips a fierce corner in and he heads it just over the bar. But it’s West Ham who draw first blood when Rodriguez volleys home from a yard out.
25 minutes in, we get a chance to equalise when at the end of a brilliant move, Flores is brought down in West Ham’s penalty area by former Bolton lad Luca Connell. Preguinho steps up – And scores! Equalling Carles Amat’s tally for the season and our club record.
Quarter of an hour later, Flores’ corner is nodded on at the near post by Jasso and tucked home by Pinto as we complete our turnaround and take the lead in the Europa League final! At half time, we look well worth our lead.
5 minutes after the break, a delicious ball over the top from Preguinho sets de la Tejera clean through, but his poked shot is tipped behind by Konaté.
With 20 minutes to go, Flores (Making everything happen today, isn’t he?) crosses from the left and Amat’s glancing header goes just wide of the far post. 10 minutes later, just as I’m preparing Mezzano for a final goodbye appearance, de la Tejera goes down and will have to come off. Nmecha joins Mezzano on the pitch. I’m happy with their introduction, they’re both long-standing squad members with a lot of influence in the dressing room, so hopefully they’ll help everyone to keep their heads in the final 10 minutes.
Oh, perfection. In the 95th and final minute of the game, we break after Baeza stops a building move from West Ham. Nmecha slides the ball in behind the defence and Carles Amat strokes it beyond the keeper to reach that magic milestone of 25 goals and become Bolton’s new record goalscorer in a season in the modern era. 3-1 it finishes and I’m a happy fucking panda.
Jesus, well I was not expecting this. At the start of the season I said a top 8 finish and a cup would be nice, but I didn’t actually expect us to win anything. It’s like I always expect Everton to win a cup IRL, but I’m 29 now and we’ve won fuck all since before I even cared about football. To win a double?? What on Earth has happened?
Oh shit, and that makes Champions League football next season!
Well, let’s do all of our end of season things and wrap this up – It feels like this has been a really long episode, what with the 2 cup finals and everything.
Our strike partnership is now fucking incredible. The Amat/Preguinho combo has scored 49 goals this season. I’m also happy with the contributions of Arcaba, who’s a solid 3rd option, Perez, who scored 6 despite extremely limited gametime and the likes of Pinto and Naldo, who got a handful of goals in their debut seasons.
Who’s setting up those goals? Well it’s mainly Biel Flores, who like Amat has set a new Bolton record of 14 assists in a season, which just betters the previous record of 13 set by Jordan Boon in 22/23 and equalled by Álex Centelles in 26/27. David Xhofleer’s also had a really good season, setting up 11 despite starting half as many games as Flores, while Amat, Coulibaly and de la Tejera all deserve credit too.
Our best player technically was Stuart Tamplin, although we don’t exactly have the largest sample size to base that off. Likewise for the soon-to-be-released defender Louis Underwood, who played a single match and did well, but has no future here. Carles Amat’s probably the actual player of the season in 3rd place.
And where do we need to strengthen? Well, it depends on who we sell, as always, but I definitely want a right wing back to replace Mezzano and an attacking midfielder to replace Nmecha, who I plan on selling. A top class centre back would be nice too, if we can afford it… Jk, we’ve got a fucking £287M transfer budget, but I’m honour-bound to look for bargains.
So that’s it. Season 11 has certainly been an eventful one and I’m actually a bit worried we may have just peaked, but we’ve got Champions League football to look forward to next season, as well as another potential board takeover and the prospect of our new stadium. The first spade should be going into the ground over this summer. Despite all of our heroics though, the name “Dave O’Leary Arena” is looking unlikely…
Oh well. See you in 30/31!
31st May 2030
Except no, I won’t. A day after we completed our famous double and I finished writing this episode (Or so I thought), the stadium plans had to be scrapped after we were denied planning permission. To be honest, the stadium move was what I’d been striding for for a couple of years. Without that on the horizon, I think I’m done.
I set out to take a club that was haemorrhaging money in the 4th tier of English football and through some astute business and responsible handling of finances, bring them out of their horrible situation. After winning League Two, League One and Championship titles, as well as our Europa League/Carabao Cup double, I’m 100% satisfied that I’ve done that.
I’ve played 566 games, won 288, drawn 138 and lost 140. My Bolton side has scored 796 goals and conceded 505. I’m calling time on my career with a goal difference of 291 and a win percentage of 50%. Almost exactly.
Or maybe calling time is the wrong way to put it. I might revisit this in a couple of months and see how far I can really take Bolton, but I’ve played 11 seasons in 6 weeks and I definitely need a break! Let me know if you reckon this is worth coming back to or whether it’s run its course.
Overall I made a £283M profit on player sales, which means I very nearly made twice as much money from sales than I spent on signings. Moneyball’s fucking brilliant. And effective.
So one last time, let’s take a look at the club finances. We started off with less than a million in the bank and in £40M or so of debt. Now we’ve got over £350M in the bank, we have the 5th highest turnover in the World and at £1.55B, we’re the 7th most valuable club in the World behind Man City, Bayern, Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs.
So yeah, I think I’m done with this save. I’m writing this on the 11th of October and if my calculations are correct you won’t be reading it for almost 2 months. Maybe by that time I’ll be into the idea of carrying on, but I’m not sure.
Either way, thanks for somehow reading all the way to the end and I’m sure I’ll talk to you soon.