Bolton Wanderers fans had a summer to remember in 2035 as their heroes lifted the club’s first-ever European trophy. The young Bolton side also upgraded to the second tier of continental competition for the next season by finishing fifth in the Premier League.
The summer of 2035 began with something very unexpected as Manchester United, who finished below us last season, sacked Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer and offered me an interview! Obviously I had zero intention of taking it, especially in light of exciting news as the Bolton board announced major stadium expansion plans that will increase the Eddie Davies Arena capacity by 16,000 to a massive 55,153, with works completing in July 2036. As a result, the ground only has two stands for this season!
I decided that this was a pivotal summer for the club if we really wanted to reach the next level and compete for the top four. That began with strengthening our staff and hiring better scouts. That included England’s all-time greatest striker Harry Kane, who scored 86 goals in 138 caps and became Spurs’ record scorer with 291 goals before retiring in 2032, becoming Bolton Under 18s Manager.
It also involved selling off players who I didn’t think would progress to the level required. That saw homegrown players Ian West, Harry Ford, Troy Stevens and Tristan Smith depart the club along with Mario Cordeiro, Ricardo Acuna, Sharon Laluz, Eduardo Navarro, Martin Pavelka, Thauan, Umit Balkaya and Javier Parra for a total of £61.5 million. Barcelona came in with a bid for centre-back Lasse Hermansen but wouldn’t pay our asking price, which led to him requesting a transfer.
I asked Kane to recommend a signing and he came up with an absolute doozy in the form of Boca Juniors midfielder Germán Martínez. Despite only costing £6 million, the midfielder – whose favoured personnel is Juan Román Riquelme, which makes him even cooler – instantly becomes by far and away the best player at the club and he’s already worth £26.5 million. Furthermore, he’s also been named in the media’s Premier League dream 11 for the new season! I firmly believe he will become a superstar and the best signing in Bolton’s history.
A fellow Argentinian arrived in striker Darío Bordaberry, who cost just £4.5 million from Racing Club. We also snapped up an exciting new goalkeeper in 18-year-old Fabian Oostenbrink, who cost around £1 million in compensation from PSV.
In addition to those signings, we’ve seen the likes of striker Jan Neuberg, who ended last season on a massive streak without scoring, and defenders Edmundo Júnior, Ezequiel García and Jhonatan González show great progression. That quartet are among nine wonderkids in our ranks, which suggests there’s a lot to get excited about from this group of players. And exciting academy product Dylan Smart has stepped up to the first-team, which means we do still have six Trotter Talent products in the squad. Furthermore, we’re back to having the lowest wage spend in the Premier League
However, the signing of Martínez gave me a bit of a tactical headache given the amount of quality we had in the middle of the park. I retained our tried and trusted 4-1-3-2 formation as our primary option, with tweaks to the midfield roles to deploy Martínez as deep-lying playmaker given our coaches rate him as 5-stars in that role! But I also devised a flat 4-4-2 system that utilised Martínez and Sean Caldwell in the wide positions.
Premier League 2035/36 kicks off
Weirdly, our first three opponents of the new season were the same as our final three opponents of last season! We began it at home to Chelsea and got off to an absolute flyer. Guilherme broke away from a corner, sent Bordaberry through and the debutant tucked home coolly after six minutes. Martínez then teed up Guilherme to double the lead just before half-time, then Mathias Hansen curled home a third just after the break. Worryingly, we allowed them to get two back late on but held on for the opening day win. Elswehere on the opening day, West Brom hammered Portsmouth 9-1!
Next was a trip to Everton, who we’d never beaten and only scored one goal against in nine matches. And, with four first-team injuries, the trend unsurprisingly continued as we lost 3-2 despite being well and truly dominated, and I honestly don’t know what we have to do to beat them. I decided to try out the 4-4-2 formation at home to Villa, and it started badly as right-back Vitor Mesquita gifted them an own goal inside 13 minutes. But we fired back as Guilherme scored a penalty to take him to 100 Bolton goals, Mesquita crossed for Martínez to score his first Bolton goal and Martínez created one for opposite winger Caldwell, and we won 3-2 this time.
We lost our second away game 2-0 with a shocking performance at Arsenal, but won our third with a much better effort at Wolves. Captain Nana Martin came back into the side to create goals for Caldwell and Guilherme, who tucked home a late penalty won by Neuberg, who’s gone 25 games without scoring! Another concerning defensive effort saw us concede twice to former player Devon Edwards with his Portsmouth side, but Guilherme, Hansen and a Neal Vickers brace off the bench saw us triumph 4-2. Then another comeback saw us beat Leicester 2-1 with goals from Guilherme and Vickers, who continues to perform despite being nowhere near the quality of other strikers.
A big test came as Man United, now managed by Mauricio Pochettino, came to town but we started well with Guilherme latching onto a Martínez pass, running from the halfway line and smashing the ball past Donnarumma. United got back into it with a very flukey goal as their player headed the ball against the bar, it hit Hermansen on the back and trickled in. It looked to be drifting to a draw but, in injury time, Martin played the ball through to Guilherme who slammed home to nick all three points. What a God this man is!
A first draw of the season followed at Watford, with Guilherme bagging his 10th goal of the season, but his strike partner Neuberg nicked the only goal at Fulham. That took us six games unbeaten heading into a clash with Liverpool, who’d only dropped two points in the first 10 games.
And, having struggled to score in the last two games, something crazy happened. Liverpool gifted us an own goal after five minutes and Guilherme teed up Neuberg to double the lead seven minutes later. Martínez curled home a delicious free-kick after 42 minutes then Neuberg and Hansen both scored in first-half injury time to put us 5-0 up at half-time. Bolton 5-0 Liverpool, at half-time!! Nothing happened in the second half other than Guilherme getting injured and we strolled to a ridiculously impressive 5-0 win over the champions and leaders. And that’s probably the best team performance I’ve ever seen on Football Manager, let alone in this save.
Another big game followed as Spurs came to town and it was another crazy one. We again came flying out of the blocks with Guilherme teeing up Neuberg to score after two minutes then latching onto a Martínez pass to double the lead five minutes later. Neuberg – who’d gone 27 games without scoring but now has seven in his last four – got onto the end of a González cross to double his tally after 11 minutes. Spurs got a goal back to make it 3-1 inside 15 minutes! The game calmed down a little until Spurs scored again after 66 minutes but we held on for a 3-2 win.
We weren’t great in a 0-0 at West Brom on the same day Liverpool beat Sheffield United 9-1. But our good form saw Neuberg win the November player and young player of the month and I won my first Premier League manager of the month award. The striker celebrated by scoring inside three minutes at Bournemouth, in a crazy game in which the first three shots all ended up in goals with Bournemouth equalising then centre-back Gonzalo Pereyra heading home a Martínez corner. We had Neuberg to thank again for rescuing a point at home to Southampton, who absolutely battered us, before a Guilherme goal nicked a 1-0 win at sixth-place Leeds.
We then hosted Brighton and two identical moves saw Neuberg tee up Guilherme to score with our only two shots of the first half. Hermansen scored an unlikely 30-yard screamer before Neuberg wrapped up an undeserved 4-1 win. On the same day, Liverpool’s 43-game unbeaten home run ended with defeat to Arsenal, which moved us joint-top of the league with them!
A strange festive period had us play all of our games – four in a row – away from home. That began with a Boxing Day trip to Sheffield United, which was a drab 0-0 in which nothing happened. Another clean sheet followed but a much more impressive one as we travelled to Man City and a brilliant Neuberg strike just before half-time was enough to seal a hard-earned 1-0 win.
That massive win at City took us four points clear of them, sitting in second place two points behind Liverpool. We’ve only lost twice at the half-way mark of the season, scoring 38 and conceding 19. Guilherme is the top scorer in the league with 14, Martínez has the second most assists with nine, and Neuberg has the third-highest average rating with 7.39.
Europa League group
Our first Europa League campaign, and Bolton’s first since 2007, saw us drawn with another of my favourite teams in Sporting Lisbon, the beginning team of my Journeyman save on FM20, along with Leganés and Anorthosis Famagusta.
We began the group with a 0-0 draw at Leganés, despite having 14 shots to their two. We then scored with our first shot at home to Sporting as Ray Johnston put us ahead before Bordaberry’s brilliant chip doubled the tally and Gonzalo Pereyra scored quickly after the break to seal a 3-1 win. Another win followed despite making nine changes at home to Anorthosis, with first Bolton goals for Garcia and a screamer by Mesquita. Neuberg ended his incredible 27-match goal drought with a brace, Bordaberry scored from a naughty Maldonado rabona cross then homegrown Dylan Smart scored his first Bolton goal to seal a 6-0 thumping.
The return leg in Greece saw us go behind early but Maldonado and exciting academy product midfielder/striker Craig Radcliffe, with his first Bolton goal, turned things around inside 20 minutes. Emanuel added a third before another Mesquita screamer sealed a 4-2 win. A Ray Johnston goal was enough to seal a 1-0 home win over Leganés and, in doing so, qualification to the knockout stages. A final day draw at Sporting confirmed top place in the group.
Realistically, we’re not going to challenge Liverpool for the league but the aim is very much to try and push for Champions League qualification. Join us next time to see if we can do it!