Football Manager allows us all to entertain ridiculous fantasies that we could feasibly take over our favourite club and work wonders. For example, even if Bolton Wanderers appointed Pep Guardiola tomorrow morning it’s unrealistic to think that in 20 years time he would have not only won the club’s first league title but also the Champions League. However, that was the virtual reality in the summer of 2040 as Bolton fans celebrated a fifth successive Premier League title and becoming Champions of Europe for the first time in the club’s history.
Star midfielder Germán Martínez had been with us for five years but was still only 24 and his contract expired in two years. And, after 87 assists for the club, we had to give him a new deal. However, he wanted £500,000-per-week! That meant we had to break the bank to keep our main man and we eventually negotiated him down to £425,000-per-week until 2045, which was more than double any other player at the club and £100,000 more than I earn. But it’ll earn him a total of £121 million! Shadow striker Martial Diaby later netted a new deal worth a cool £300,000-a-week and homegrown star Jack Barlow signed a ridiculous £230,000-a-week deal, both also until 2045.
We began the summer by bringing a true legend back to the club for sentimental reasons as former captain Nigel Turner, now 34, returned having played 444 league games between 2020 and 2032. He’s obviously not very good, but I thought it would be a nice touch!
Our first team was looking the strongest it ever has and we had a host of exciting youngsters just waiting to fulfil their potential. So there was no major need for transfers. We did, however, offload centre-back Ezequiel García, who had 12 months on his contract, to newly promoted Spurs for a huge £35.5 million, dodgy striker Edvan to Hertha for £28 million and goalkeeper Daniel Ibarguen to Pisa Calcio for £8.25 million.
In actual, sensible transfers, we began the summer with two excellent free signings as centre-back José Jesús Martínez arrived from Barcelona and Ibrahima Touré came in from Real Madrid.
The summer transfer business means academy product Logan Holtz steps up to become our first-choice right-back. He and Barlow are the two first-choice homegrown players, along with 10 further Trotter Talents in the first-team squad – which I’m pretty sure is the highest total we’ve had yet in this save!
European Super Cup
After a penalties defeat to Arsenal in the Charity Shield, Bolton then faced off against Inter Milan in their first-ever European Super Cup. Diaby was out injured so homegrown Jack Bicley started behind the striker. We made a great start as fellow academy product Barlow scored a backpost header but they equalised in the first minute of the second half then turned the game on its head. We came flying back as captain Lasse Hermansen headed home a Martínez free-kick before striker Onur Kocaaslan and another homegrown player Luca Godden put us 4-2 up, but somehow conceded again before a 95th-minute equaliser saw us draw 4-4. But Kocaaslan scored again at the start of extra-time and this time we managed to hold on to win 5-4!
Title defence begins
For the second season in a row we began at Everton, where we’d still only ever won once. But we got off to a flyer as young starlet Barlow crossed for Kocaaslan to poke home after 20 minutes then Martínez picked out Diaby to finish with a brilliant header. Everton offered little in response and we eased to a 2-0 win.
The first home game wasn’t much easier as we welcomed Man United to town. United started better but Diaby played Kocaaslan in to score against the run of play. But our old nemesis Leonardo Bustos equalised and we just about held on to a 1-1 draw.
A second half Diaby double and Kocaaslan goal saw us past Leeds 3-1, before a solid 3-0 win at Newcastle and a Godden brace in a 4-0 thumping of Villa. We then had a proud day for the academy as superstar 16-year-old Adam Nolan – who’s just been called up to the England Under 20 squad – got his first-ever assist on his first start and Iwan Sinnott scored his first senior goal in another 4-0 win over West Ham, in which we had 24 shots to zero! Another comfortable win saw us rack up 29 shots en route to beating Derby 2-0.
It was a completely different story away to Arsenal, who were struggling down in 10th but totally dominated the game only to waste a host of chances. And we took advantage with goals from Diaby and Kocaaslan sealing a 2-1 win. Nolan had been training exceptionally, so I gave him another start at home to Wolves and he bossed the midfield in a 4-0 victory led by a Kocaaslan hat-trick. He looks like a really special midfield talent.
A win in Europe equalled the club’s all-time record for most successive wins in all competitions of 11, which we put on the line at 12th-place Liverpool. Barlow scored inside 38 seconds before a Liverpool player even touched the ball and we held them at arm’s length for 89 minutes to win 1-0. And that smashed a club record that had stood since 1905!
The winning run appeared to be coming to an end at home to Man City as their striker Vladan Peric scored twice to give them a 2-0 lead inside 58 minutes. But a stirring seven-minute turnaround saw us come from behind to win led by a Kocaaslan brace sandwiching a Sotomayor goal.
The great league form continued as we dominated bottom side Bournemouth 3-1, with the highlight a screamer by Bickley that he repeated to nick a 4-3 win at Southampton. An exhausted squad went to Watford and missed a host of chances en route to a 1-1 draw then entertained third-place Chelsea and missed four open goals before Barlow finally showed some composure for the only goal of the game on 64 minutes – but Martínez racked up 12 key passes and the assist!
Diaby scored after 16 seconds at home to bottom of the league Norwich and Tarik El Alami got his first of the season before we somehow allowed them to equalise then regained control with late goals by Barlow and Gonzalo Pereyra.
The academy stepped up yet again as late goals from Bickley and Sinnot downed Leicester 2-1 away with Nolan starting and bossing the midfield, which was yet another sign of how good this kid could be become.
Boxing Day 2040 saw a first return to Spurs since their relegation and we made a bright start as Diaby scored and laid on a goal for Sotomayor. We annoyingly allowed Spurs to equalise but left it late to a nick a winner thanks to an absolute wonderstrike by Emiliano Sotomayor after nice play by Nolan and Sinnott.
We rounded out the year with another great game, this time at home to fourth-place West Brom. Another bright start saw Kocaaslan end an eight-game goal drought after 40 seconds and Barlow head home after 15 minutes. A crazy second half saw us allow West Brom score all three of their shots on target alongside goals from Diaby, Kocaaslan and Sotamayor sealing a 5-3 win.
Our closest challengers Man United lost 4-0 at Newcastle in their final game of the year, which opened up a huge 13-point gap at the top. We remain unbeaten after 19 games and are the top scorers with 52 goals, while five of our 19 conceded were in the final two games of the year. Martínez is earning his £425,000-a-week with a league-high 12 assists and the third-best average rating of 7.47.
Champions League group
The Champions league tough group draws returned as our European defence began against Real Madrid, Red Bull Salzburg and Sochaux. Salzburg at home was up first and, despite battering them with 22 shots to two, a Kocaaslan goal was enough for a 1-0 win. And a Barlow brace, Godden and Kocaaslan eased us to a 4-0 win at Sochaux.
Barlow was at it again with another brace to inspire a slightly lucky 2-1 win at home to Real Madrid, before Sotomayor gave us an early lead at the Bernabeú only for our former loanee Iván to equalise and some ridiculous defending gifted them a humbling 6-2 win.
But another Barlow brace – which took him to six goals in five in Europe compared to one in 13 in the league – inspired a 3-1 win in Salzburg, which won us the group with a game to spare. So we threw in a full team of youngsters for Sochaux at home and dominated them 4-1 with 27 shots to one. And we got Ajax in the first knockout round.
Those youngsters also knocked out Chelsea and third-place in the Premier League West Brom (in an 18-penalty shootout) to reach the Carabao Cup quarter-final, where they were magnificent to beat a full strength Spurs side on penalties to send us through to the semis for the first time!
Join us next time to see if Bolton can continue to dominate the Premier League and how we fare in our defence of the Champions League!