This Bolton Wanderers side has become absolutely exceptional, which was highlighted by them remaining unbeaten and dominating the Premier League with a 19-point lead at the midway point of the 2040/41 campaign.
It was further highlighted by 2040 ending with a flurry of award recognition for our star players. Attacking midfielder Martial Diaby came second in the Ballon D’Or and FIFA FIFPro awards for the second year in a row, this time ousted by ridiculous PSG striker Oguzhan Topcu. Diaby also won the FIFA Best U21 Men’s Player award for the second year in a row, won his first African Footballer of the Year award and was joined in the FIFA FIFPro Team of the Year by Germán Martínez. While striker Onur Kocaaslan won the European Golden Boy, which Diaby won last year.
The new year began with a new club record sale as backup midfielder Tarik El Alami, who joined for £2.2 million from Ajax in 2036, leaving for £93 million rising to £109 million to Real Madrid. His contract expired in 18 months, he wanted stupid money and we had wonderkid academy product Adam Nolan ready to step up.
We didn’t sign any first-team players in the summer but I finally got a deal over the line for another wonderkid striker I’d been chasing for several years. 20-year-old Dragan Andric arrived for £26.5 million from Red Star, for whom he’d scored 34 in 52 as well as 20 in 19 for Serbia! We didn’t hugely need him, but I mainly signed him to stop Liverpool and Man United getting him!
Youngsters star in cup exploits
Our young starlets had been tasked with Carabao Cup duties and saw off three Premier League teams to reach the semi-finals. So I trusted them again in the two-leg clash with Championship side Cardiff. New boy Andric gave Bolton fans a taste of his talent by scoring 15 minutes into his debut, which was enough for a 1-0 win. But two late goals in the away leg saw Cardiff progress to face Liverpool in the final and surprisingly they won it 1-0!
A week before the first leg, the youngsters also won 6-2 at Carlisle in the FA Cup third round before a tough draw at Man United unsurprisingly ended in a 6-0 loss. However, our failure to win a domestic cup angered the board by failing an objective and caused upset among the players, who requested a meeting to clear the air with me!
Premier League continues
2041 began with a gem of a New Year’s Day clash as we travelled to second-place Manchester United. We started the game very brightly and made it count as Kocaaslan scored after half an hour and Diaby showed his talent to double the lead just before the break. United scored from a corner just after it and we went defensive and held on for a huge 2-1 win that opened up a 16-point gap at the top!
Our bogey side Everton finished third last season but were now languishing in 15th, five points above the drop zone. That showed as we absolutely dominated them with 27 shots to two and scored one in each half through Diaby and a late strike by exciting academy product midfielder Jack Bickley, with Martínez racking up an assist and 10 key passes.
A slower start saw Leeds come to town and score their first shot but another academy player Luca Godden bagged a brace to lead a 3-1 comeback. An exhausted side laboured to 0-0s at Villa and West Ham, which saw our lead cut to 14 points, but beat Newcastle 2-0 through Kocaaslan and Andric’s first league goal playing as a makeshift left-winger.
We then struggled at Derby with the score 1-1 as the final whistle neared. But a Wayne Rooney-esque breakthrough moment occurred as Adam Nolan – who doesn’t turn 17 until August – scored an absolute howitzer 90th-minute winner with his first senior goal, which won the February goal of the month. Check out this sensational goal below!
Our players finally got a rest thanks to a 15-day break, plus a week off for the two cup exits, which was useful as we welcomed fourth-place Arsenal to town at the end of February. Arsenal, who had two of our former midfielders Emanuel and Manuzzi starting, won a penalty in the first five minutes but a Diaby brace and Kocaaslan turned the game on its head in the next half hour. Kocaaslan bagged another 30 seconds after the break then an interesting short corner routine saw centre-back Lasse Hermansen turn home an Emiliano Sotomayor cross before Niksa Djerovic saved a second Arsenal penalty before a late consolation. And that was enough for an emphatic 5-2 battering, with Martínez getting two assists on his 200th Bolton league appearance, in which he now has 83 assists.
Another poor away effort was just about rescued as a brilliant Martínez pass sent Kocaaslan through to scored a 92nd-minute winner at bottom of the league Wolves. That teed up a massive away day as we put our unbeaten record on the line at second-place Man City. But a ridiculous VAR decision gave them a penalty in first-half injury time and the second we went more attacking they added a late second to win 2-0. And that ended a 29-match unbeaten league run.
Another big game followed as Liverpool came to town and we started with five academy products in the starting 11! Liverpool. as always, scored their first shot and led at the break, which prompted a stray water bottle rebounding across the Bolton changing room. That got the desired response as Martínez curled home a sensational free-kick, Kocaaslan put us ahead after a defensive howler, then Martínez sent the striker through for a second before another late consolation.
Wrapping up an early title
With eight games remaining, we had a 14-point lead over Man City with a game in hand. Homegrown midfielder Luke Johnson came close to being sold in January after some terrible form but scored the opener at home to Watford. Likewise, Sotomayor had been terrible lately but tapped home a second before they had a man sent off after five first half yellow cards! Academy product winger Jack Barlow slammed home a third to seal a comfortable 3-0 win.
A trip to relegation Bournemouth followed and another lacklustre away effort ended 0-0 but City lost 4-2 at home to Wolves to stretch the lead to 15 points with six games remaining. City then played before us and drew 1-1 with Derby, which handed us the title on a plate.
Bolton Wanderers were Premier League Champions for the sixth successive season!!
We still had six games remaining and, if we won all six, we’d break the all-time Premier League points record of 100. An inspired Diaby performance with two goals and an assist downed Southampton 3-0 before Hermansen lifted the Premier League trophy.
Two trademark Martínez screamers, Kocaaslan and a first Bolton goal for young winger Adrian Jules defeated Leicester 4-1 on the day Hermansen made his 300th league appearance for the club. Nolan gave us an early lead at Chelsea but they deservedly equalised and we drew 1-1 to end the record points dream.
Young winger Iwan Sinnott returned from injury to create the only goal at relegation-threatened Norwich. I gave a few youngsters a chance as seven academy products started at home to Spurs, who took an undeserved lead but Nolan created a 30th of the season for Kocaaslan, who then laid on Sotomayor’s winner. That was our 30th league win of the season, which set a new club record. We concluded the season at in-form, eighth-place West Brom and Kocaaslan scored again but they nicked an equaliser late on.
That ensured we finished the season with 97 points, which is the highest total in the Premier League on this save, surpassing Liverpool’s 93 in 2034/35. We lost just one game all season and drew seven, scored a league high 87 – which is a huge 21 fewer than last season! – and conceded a league-low 32 – nine fewer than last season.
Kocaaslan was the second-top scorer in the league with 25 in 36, only behind Liverpool’s Eder Morales, who scored 28 in 38. Martínez tied Barlow’s league record of 19 assists and Diaby topped the average rating with 7.37 in 31 games with Martínez third on 7.34 in 37.
Champions League knockout stages
Our defence of the Champions League continued with a first knockout round clash with Ajax, who played an unusual narrow 4-2-2-2 formation. A terrible first leg in Amsterdam ended 0-0 and with one highlight. We improved at home as academy products Barlow and Johnson both made one and scored one to put us 3-0 up but somehow conceded two late goals to make things edgy.
Our reward for that was an all-star PSG still managed by Thomas Tuchel. A daunting trip to Paris was first and they made a great start through star striker Topcu. I immediately made defensive adjustments and Barlow bagged an important equaliser 12 minutes later. Unlike his Turkish compatriot, Kocaaslan missed a huge chance and Topcu punished us with two more goals – he’s basically unplayable – and Djerovic gifted a late fourth that killed the tie off. We were better in the home leg and were unlucky to lose 1-0 to a late goal. The Champions League defence was over at the quarter-finals but PSG are ridiculous.
Diaby was the best performer this season with 18 goals and 10 assists at a 7.30 average rating. The 22-year-old, now known as an elite attacking midfielder, become just our second player to win the English Footballer of the Year, after Bordaberry in 2038, along with a clean sweep of awards with the English Players’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year. He also won the fans’ player and young player of the season and is now listed as a Bolton icon alongside Sean Caldwell. I’m the only Bolton legend alongside Nat Lofthouse, while Martínez and Kocaaslan are favoured personnel with Bordaberry and Guilherme – which I think is harsh on 300+ league game centre-backs Pereyra and Hermansen!
Kocaaslan top-scored again with 31 goals in all competitions, followed by Diaby (18), Barlow (16), Sotomayor (9) and Godden (7). Barlow’s eight goals in the Champions League earned him third-top scorer, well behind Topcu’s 13 in 11. Martínez topped the assists with 21 and left-back Edmundo Júnior got an impressive 12, followed by Barlow (11), Bickley and Diaby (10), Sotomayor (7) and Kocaaslan (5). However, I was concerned by the performances of the likes of Sotomayor, Godden, Johnson and January signing Andric.
Pleasingly, we won the title with an average squad age of just 21, which shows there’s even more to come from this team. We set a new team record of 30 wins and a new low of just one defeat all season. Barlow entered our overall best 11 for the first time, usurping Darragh Bonner at right-back despite not playing in that position!
Trotter Talents update
This has probably been our best season for academy products so far, with last year’s intake star Nolan showing great progression. The 16-year-old scored two and got two assists in 28 league games, which is pretty ridiculous. And he’s one of 12 academy players now in the first-team squad. Other players have shown great progress, including the likes of Bickley who got 10 assists and six goals, defender Logan Holtz who started 45 games, Sinnott who scored six and got four assists, and promising defender Ben Halliwell.
Four of our homegrown players went to the Under 20 World Cup, with Martin Preston, Halliwell and Nolan for England and goalkeeper Ildamar Testoni for Brazil, which saw them miss the final game of the season.
A look around England
Bolton, of course, won a sixth Premier League with Wolves, Watford and Norwich going down – and Everton only avoided the drop by three points after finishing third last season!
Burnley won the Championship with Palace in second and Stoke getting promoted for the first time since 2031. Rotherham, Charlton and Notts County going down. Sunderland won League 1 and our feeder club Oldham got promoted with Preston, while Walsall, Cambridge, Brentford and Fleetwood went down. Coventry won League 2 with Swindon and Crawley going up and Hartlepool and Dulwich Hamlet went down into non-league.
Shrewsbury and Carlisle got promoted back into the league with Bath, FC United of Manchester, Halifax and Kingstonian going down. They were replaced by Hemel Hempstead, Cheltenham, Welling and Newport County, while Morecambe became the biggest team to drop out of the league system so far alongside Kettering, Tamworth, Lancaster, Dover, Canvey Island, Metropolitan Police and Swindon Supermarine.
Spurs won the FA Cup, beating Arsenal on penalties, and Championship side Cardiff won the Carabao Cup. Juventus ended the English domination of the Champions League by beating Man City 1-0 in the final. Leeds won the Europa League by beating Man United 4-2 in the final and Nurnberg ended a seven-year English domination of the Conference League.
Join us next time as we look to continue our English domination for a seventh successive season, and we enter the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time.