Trotters Talent | Part 14: Goalscoring Hero

The steady growth of Bolton Wanderers was confirmed by the media finally deciding they were no longer favourites to be relegated in the 2026/27. However, the club’s financial concerns returned thanks to the new board’s strange decision to blow a non-existent £100 million on a new stadium, which plunged us back into debt.

The new season began by announcing a senior affiliate deal with Liverpool, which could allow us to bring in the Premier League giants’ youngsters on loan. It was also preceded by the 2026 World Cup, which our academy product Jack Salter played at for New Zealand. Portugal won the final against England, with both goals in a 2-1 win scored by England-based players Bruno Fernandes and Fabio Vieira.

The summer transfer activity started with Jude Soonsup-Bell, who signed on a free 12 months ago and was very poor last season, attract a £2.4 million bid from Blackpool. I thought £5 million would scare them off but it didn’t, and we got some vital cash into the club. By comparison, Huddersfield came in with a pathetic £1.3 million bid for captain Nigel Turner, who’s actually good, so I demanded £30 million and they quickly disappeared.

The key piece of transfer news was a fifth loan spell at University of Bolton Stadium for Watford loanee Ryan Cassidy, who Watford are still happy for us to have and only 20% of his wages despite him being better than all their strikers! Joining him on loan was Chilean midfield starlet Rodrigo Aguilar, who comes in for the season from Brighton. We again spent zero money, instead relying on free transfers to bring in former Chelsea man Alfie Gilchrist, who’ll largely play at right-back, and former Liverpool midfielder and defender Doug Carratt. We later added more quality on loan in Chelsea striker Nathan Higgins and Man United winger Shola Shoretire, who I’d been eyeing up for a few seasons.

We bolstered the first-team squad with five academy product talents in goalkeeper David Roberts, right-backs Frank Dlamini and Darragh Bonner, the latter of whom I’m particularly excited about, right-winger Sam Weston, and 16-year-old Bolton-born midfielder Lewis Gordon who came through last year’s intake but was considered the best player in our Under 18s. And for context, 2-star players are considered to be playing at National League level…

That means Cassidy is our oldest player at 25 and only him and goalkeeper Roco Rees are older than 22. And 12 of our 22 man squad are players who came through the Bolton academy. Now that’s true Trotters Talents! With the squad changes, I’ve also decided to slightly tweak the tactic to a 4-3-2-1, pushing the holding midfielder into a flat three in midfield.

For the first time, the media don’t expect us to get relegated! We’re now only 100/1 to win the league and the media expect us to finish just above the drop zone in 20th.

Championship kicks off

The new season began well as new man Carratt scored on his senior debut from a Mark Parish free-kick and we defended to hold Sheffield Wednesday off. We even survived Nana Martin’s late red card (which means he’s been sent off in successive games!) to win 1-0. We looked to be heading for a defeat in our first away day at Cardiff only for Cassidy to step up and score in the 92nd and 96th minutes to steal an outrageous 3-2 win, with goals created by academy products Trevor Weller and Ebube Onoja.

Next, we welcomed to Birmingham to town and things weren’t looking good as they dominated the early stages and took the lead just before the half four. But from there, that man Cassidy absolutely took control, equalising five minutes later then scoring three goals in three minutes inside the first 11 minutes of the second half. A four-goal haul for Cassidy, what a hero!

Cassidy’s inspired start to the season continued at Charlton, where he scored his 100th league goal for Bolton just after the break and doubled his tally late on. A 2-0 win put is top of the league with four wins out of four! Cassidy, by the way, has now scored 101 goals in 176 league games for us, including eight in four this season.

He was at it yet again as he scored the only goal at home to Rochdale but picked up a knock before the great start ended with a 3-1 loss at newly relegated Crystal Palace. Then a strange game at home to Bristol City saw both teams trade first-half penalties before substitute Onoja won a 94th-minute penalty that Turner converted. Cassidy scored his 10th of the campaign in a 2-2 draw at Swansea before scoring a hat-trick inside 23 minutes as we beat Rotherham 3-1. And that moved us top of the league after 10 games!

However, a 1-0 loss against Burnley led to defeats against QPR and Sheffield United then a draw at Ipswich, which took us to four games without scoring. That ended with a very lucky 1-0 win at home to Middlesbrough, in which Rees made 10 saves and played an 8.4. But it proved to be an anomaly as an injury crisis and suspensions coincided with a tough run of games as we lost to Watford, then drew 0-0 with Derby and Leeds. The draws were great results for us but took us to a shocking run of scoring twice in 10 games!

A good opportunity to put that right arrived at bottom of the league Hull, but they managed to score with their first shot to go ahead early. However, Shoretire finally scored his first Bolton goal with a screamer then Aguilar slotted Cassidy in to end his eight game goal drought and nick it 2-1. Another loanee Aguilar also finally got his first Bolton goal to nick a 1-0 win over Cardiff, who gave us a chance by having one of our former loanees Anthony Gordon sent off.

Our good form this season led to interviews and job offers from Southampton and Wolves, which I obviously would have taken if I wasn’t doing this as a Bolton save. But 2026 concluded with a good point at Sheffield Wednesday then a narrow 1-0 loss at Birmingham in which we created zilch.

That left us in a solid eighth position in the Championship after 26 games heading into 2027. We’d only scored 28 goals – of which 14 were scored by Cassidy, who’s the second-top scorer in the league – but also conceded 22, a defensive record only bettered by ninth-place Burnley.

Join us next time to see if Bolton can rediscover their form and push for a playoff place or if another end of season slump is around the corner.


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