We’ve hit the big three-oh mark on this blog save, which takes it to the joint-second longest series we’ve run on the FM Addict blog. And that longevity has seen Bolton Wanderers develop into a club heading in the right direction in the summer of 2034.
The club had just qualified for Europe for the first time in 27 years, had a wealth of exciting young talent painting a bright future and went into the summer with a bank balance approaching £250 million. To aid the progression, the club’s board invested £4.9 million into its training facilities and spent £15.5 million on expanding the Eddie Davies Arena by 4,000 seats, which will take it to a 43,117 capacity.
The summer began with the 2034 World Cup, at which a poor England side was knocked out in the third round by France. A tournament of few further shocks saw Argentina and Spain make it to the final, which Argentina won for the first time since 1986 on penalties.
Back in Bolton, a key part of this save to date moved on from the club as attacker Solomon Suraka joined Wolves for £32.5 million. Now 22, he wasn’t up to the same standard as our other strikers and barely got a game last season, so it was best for all parties to have a fresh start and we did well to get that much for him.
We also moved on captain Gil, who’d been with the club for five years but only made one appearance last season, for £9 million to Benfica. Jakub Krob wasn’t showing the necessary progression but got a £21.5 million move to Eintracht Braunschweig, Peter Whatley-Wilmot moved to Atlanta United for £4 million.
The rebuild began with very exciting Colombian right-back Jhonatan González, who got a scout report of 93- the highest we’ve yet received – and cost just £1.9 million from Independiente Medellín. We also added to our South American contingent with18-year-old Chilean Juan Maldonado, who came in on a free transfer from Universidad de Chile and I’m going to train up as a striker. We also replaced Suraka with the signing of 19-year-old Jan Neuberg, who cost just £5.5 million from Sparta Prague, and a loan deal for Real Madrid striker Iván.
Trotter Talent hero Nana Martin was named as the club’s new captain, which is well earned after 318 league appearances for the club. I didn’t see any immediate need for tactical change so we’ll stick with the 4-1-3-2 that’s served us well of late, with Neuberg starting up top with Guilherme and the rest of the team unchanged.
Premier League resumes
The 2034/35 campaign got off to a tricky start with a trip to Tottenham, which also happened to be my 700th match in charge of Bolton – which is only the 212 short of Charles Foweraker’s club record! Spurs started better and scored twice from indirect free-kicks, Emanuel scored his first Bolton goal to give us a chance, but we just lost out 2-1.
That was followed by three successive league games, which started with Emanuel impressing again against newly promoted Cardiff. He created the opener for Guilherme, who doubled his tally in the first minute of the second half then completed a brilliant hat-trick late on, with Mathias Hansen scoring the other in a 4-0 win. Next, Suraka come back to Bolton with Wolves but couldn’t haunt us as the front two of Guilherme and Neal Vickers scored to seal a 2-0 win. Struggling Leicester followed and Guilherme turned on the style again with two first-half goals then wrapped up his hat-trick just after the hour mark to inspire a 3-1 win. The brilliant Brazilian has seven goals in four games.
Bolton Wanderers in Europe
Bolton’s first taste of European football in 27 years saw us enter the knockout stages of the European Conference League. First up was Panathinaikos with the first leg at home. González made his debut and marked it with an excellent goal on 17 minutes before a Hansen wondergoal doubled the lead. We had 28 shots to their two but only won 2-0. The second half was a little closer but we kicked on after half-time as both Iván and Neuberg both scored their first goals for the club for another 2-0 win.
That ensured qualification for the group stage, where we’ll go up against Groningen, Sturm Graz and Lugano, which hopefully won’t be too tricky.
Absent without leave
Despite his great start to the season, Guilherme gave me cause for concern as he went AWOL and missed our game at Derby after being spotted on a night out. We laboured a little without him but Sean Caldwell’s early goal was enough for a 1-0 win that took us second in the league.
Guilherme was back as we went on a run of really tough games. First was a trip to Manchester City, which we only lost 1-0 despite being dominated. But we bounced back to beat West Brom 2-1 led by a brace from Vickers, who continues to defy the ability ratings and attributes with brilliant performances. We unsurprisingly lost at leaders Liverpool but, again, only 1-0 before going to Arsenal, where we again lost 1-0 to a penalty, while Guilherme missed a penalty and two late sitters.
But we got back to winning ways with a narrow 2-1 success at home to Fulham with goals from Guilherme and Neuberg coming off the bench to score the winner and his first league goal. And another narrow win saw a late Guilherme penalty defeat Brighton 1-0 despite us having 21 shots to their three. We then had a trip to bottom of the league Palace, who had the worst defence in the league. An excellent long-range strike from Hansen gave us a good start, Guilherme doubled the lead and we held on despite a late consolation.
An international break saw Vickers bag his first goal for Wales and we returned to host Leeds, who are apparently unbeaten in eight games against us! They showed why as they held us to 0-0 at half-time despite our 11 shots to their one, but Vickers scored after a long ball from Gonzalo Pereyra to nick a 1-0 win and break the Leeds hoodoo.
Another 1-0 win followed at Southampton, with Guilherme this time scoring the only goal early on and we defended for the win. That took us to five straight wins, fifth in the league, just one point off the top of the league! We’ve also still not drawn a league game and have the best defence with just nine conceded after 14 games.
More goals followed as we hosted Watford, with Guilherme scoring a perfect hat-trick then a cheeky chip that took him to 20 goals for the season. His AWOL episode is now well and truly forgiven. Caldwell scored just his second of the campaign in a huge 5-0 win – despite having 17 shots to Watford’s 16 – and yet another clean sheet. Furthermore, it took us top of the Premier League!
Another home game saw Aston Villa put out a horrendous defensive 5-2DM-2-1 formation and offer nothing. They frustrated us with our shots to their one but an 80th minute long-range stunner from homegrown midfielder Ray Johnston sealed a 1-0 win.
We took that solid defensive approach and winning streak to the toughest of all tests at Old Trafford. And that man Leonardo Bustos was once again our nemesis, scoring twice in a 2-1 defeat. I think he’s scored all six of their goals against us in our last three meetings.
A tough end to 2034 took us to Everton, who we still haven’t beaten, and a clash with top of the table Chelsea. Our dreadful record against Everton continued as we lost 3-1 with former loanee Shemar Vanzie scoring twice – but Mario Cordeiro did score our first-ever goal against Everton…
I made a few changes for the Chelsea game and it worked as Neuberg came in to setup Caldwell’s opener then win a penalty that Guilherme converted. Chelsea got one back then Jonathan idiotically got himself sent off minutes after coming on, but we went defensive and held on for a huge 2-1 win.
That ensured we finished 2034 sitting in fifth place in the Premier League with 13 wins, six defeats and still zero draws, only three points behind leaders Man United. We still have the best defence in the league and Guilherme is the top scorer in the league with 17 of our 30 goals. The Brazilian striker’s form saw him win Premier League Player of the Month in December. He is an absolute hero.
Along with Man United, we’ve won all ten home league games this season and only conceded four goals in doing so! Worringly though, we’ve only scored seven goals in nine away games.
Europa Conference League
Our first full European campaign for nearly three decades began at home to Sturm Graz. The squad was pretty exhausted and we had to go to Man City three days later so I went with a fully rotated squad. And it worked out nicely as young midfielders Mario Cordeiro and Maldonado both scored their first Bolton goals.
Our first European away day came at Lugano three days the trip to Liverpool so I fully rotated and we lost 3-1, then drew 2-2 home and away with Groningen. Early goals from Vickers and Guilherme put us ahead at Sturm Graz, both doubled their tallies and Johnston smashed home for a 5-0 thumping.
We had to play Man United a few days after the group decider at Lugano, so I rotated heavily. Neuberg won a dodgy penalty that Luke Johnson smashed home then another homegrown talent Troy Stevens scored late on to send us through to the knockout stages, where we’ll play Portuguese side GD Chaves.
Join us next time to discover if Bolton Wanderers can keep the great league form going and how we fare in the European knockout stages.