The summer of 2043 saw Bolton Wanderers become the most reputable club in the world on the back of winning their second Champions League and wrapping up an 8th consecutive Premier League title. The likes of PSG, Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona were close behind, but surprising challengers included Flamengo, Pisa, Catania, SPAL, Verona and Gimnástic.
It was also a summer of change at Eddie Davies Arena as stalwart centre-back Gonzalo Pereyra departed after 12 years and 381 league appearances for Bolton. Now 30, he wanted around £350,000-a-week to stay, which was far too much considering his talents had been surpassed by homegrown man Martin Preston. He eventually confirmed the demise of his career by signing for Spurs on £130,000-a-week.
However, we did dish out new five-year contracts to key players who had two years or less remaining on their contracts. That saw a whopping £500,000-a-week deal for star man Germán Martínez – which will see him take home a cool £143 million! There was also a £400,000-a-week deal for Onur Kocaaslan, £350,000-a-week for Martial Diaby and homegrown full-back Jack Barlow bagged a new £300,000-a-week deal.
We also lost three long-term members of staff as coaches Sami Hyypia and James Beattie, who’d been at the club since 2021 and 2031 respectively, and under 18s goalkeeping coach Darryl Flahavan, who’d been with us since 2028, all retired.
More youth talents arrived over the summer, including exciting midfielder Pedro Sousa for £850,000 from Benfica. But there was no real need to strengthen a first team that only had one player worth less than £20 million – especially considering a host of youth prospects are arriving in January and next summer.
The media finally made made us favourites to win the league with odds of 11/4, followed by Man City (3/1) and Arsenal (7/2). They also made Kocaaslan the 7/2 favourite to be Top Goalscorer, which was probably wise considering he’d scored 72 league goals in the last two seasons! While Marco Brunori, Darlan and Adrian Jules, who’s suddenly become ridiculous, were the favourites to be best young player.
I decided to stick with the 4-3-1-2 formation that we’d been using for the last couple of seasons. However, I was still undecided who to pair alongside Kocaaslan and was leaning towards Myles James, who impressed on loan at Pisa last season. I was also still unsure whether to play homegrown star Adam Nolan up front or in midfield.
Adding more silverware
The second striker decision wasn’t made much easier by both James and Ibrahima Touré scoring then getting injured as we beat Arsenal 4-2 to lift our third Community Shield.
We then took on Lille, managed by Karim Adeyemi, in the European Super Cup and lost Kocaaslan to another broken arm after 16 minutes. We still dominated and a rare Barlow goal put us in front after an hour before fellow homegrown man Andrei Olesk slammed home 10 minutes later. A 2-0 win sealed my 20th trophy, adding a 10th cup to 10 leagues. It also saw me enter the worldwide Hall of Fame for the first time, above the likes of Bob Paisley and Luis Enrique.
8th title defence begins
For a change, we began the 2043/44 season with a home match and against Newcastle, who we’ve beaten in all 10 previous league games. With the two strikers injured, Diaby started up front with Jules playing in the hole and they combined for Jules to score two first half goals. He wrapped up a first career hat-trick -which matched his entire league tally of last season! – and Diaby scored late on as we won 4-1.
We then went to Palace, against whom we’ve won 15 out of 16 Premier League clashes, with no fit strikers. That showed as we wasted chances but Nolan, playing in midfield, saved us with a 30-yard thunderbolt. Diaby and Jules combined again for the Englishman to open the scoring at home to Watford before Martínez teed up brilliant left-back Brunori for his first Bolton goal. A 2-0 win took us to an incredible 60 home league matches without defeat! We then withstood a barrage at Chelsea and held on for a 0-0 thanks to Darlan making 10 saves.
The first international break of the season saw Martin Preston become our second academy product to play for England, as he made his international debut against Belarus aged 21. And he already looks like England’s best centre-back.
A man who could join him is Nolan, who scored with a lovely 20-yarder to put us ahead at home to Everton. The visitors somehow scored two from their first shots but we came flying back to batter them 8-3 with James scoring his first two league goals for the club, a late Giannis Ntelekos brace and goals from Brunori, Jules and Martínez.
A tough run of games began at Old Trafford, where United – who had a massive overhaul in the summer – obviously scored their first shot from a corner. But an inspired team talk saw the boys take over led by our two Ivorians as Diaby scored his 100th Bolton goal then Touré came off the bench to bag a game-winning brace. Another big game saw us welcome second-place Arsenal to the Eddie Davies Arena. Diaby scored early but Arsenal had the better of the first half and levelled. But another inspired second half saw us take control through James, Ntelekos and substitute Jack Bickley.
This season’s surprise package thus far had been Aston Villa. But the third-place side found Darlan in inspired form as he made 10 saves to earn us a 1-0 win through Diaby’s early strike. The strong start continued by thumping bottom of the league Leeds 5-0, in which Kocaaslan got his first goal after a spell out with injury, a 1-0 win at Burnley, who gifted us the flukiest goal ever courtesy of our former academy product goalkeeper Tim Marshall!, then a 2-0 win over Southampton. A Diaby brace and Kocaaslan hat-trick saw us thump Middlesbrough 5-1 away before dominating Derby 3-0 and coming from a goal down to beat in-form Fulham 4-1.
That completed a 10-match winning streak, took us 16 unbeaten and with a nine-point lead heading into two big league games. First up was Liverpool at home, which we dominated and won 2-1 with first-half goals by James and Kocaaslan while second-place Arsenal lost 5-0 at Leicester. A trip to now 65-year-old Frank Lampard’s Man City followed and the hosts dominated the first half and deservedly led 1-0. But a triple sub and a switch to playing more direct football worked a treat with a huge turnaround in the last seven minutes. Super sub Touré latched onto a Preston long ball to equalise then Kocaaslan converted from an Ntelekos through ball to nick all three points. As a result, after 16 games we already led third-place City by 17 points!
The sensational start to the season continued with an underwhelming 1-0 win over fourth-place Leicester, only thanks to a Nolan penalty. Boxing Day saw a first return to the club for Pereyra, who couldn’t handle Kocaaslan and Diaby as we beat Spurs 2-0. That saw us set a new club record of 31 games unbeaten in all competitions. The run extended through to the end of 2043 as Touré, Preston’s first of the season and Kocaaslan earned a 3-2 win at seventh-place West Brom, who missed an early penalty and mounted a late comeback.
That took us to an incredible 18 wins out of 19 matches heading into 2044. We enjoyed a 14-point lead over Arsenal and were 20 clear of third-place Chelsea. What a ridiculous start to the campaign! Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane is on the verge of the sack with Man United way down in 12th.
Kocaaslan is the second-top scorer in the league, with 10 in 14, Diaby and James have the best average ratings of 7.41 and 7.40, and Darlan has a league-high 10 clean sheets.
Champions League Group
Our defence of the Champions League saw us reunited with European bogey team Hertha BSC in the group stage. We were also drawn alongside RB Salzburg and Verona, who signed our academy product Ken Cooper in the summer.
Verona at home was first up and we dominated to win 2-0 with goals from Ntelekos and James. Another of our former academy players was up next as we travelled to Neal Vickers’ RB Salzburg, where a Bickley goal edged a 1-0 win. That gave us the confidence to end our Hertha hoodoo with a 3-0 home win thanks to Kocaaslan, Bickley and Diaby.
A 2-0 win at Hertha secured qualification without conceding. So I rested all the first 11 at Verona, where we sealed the group with a 1-1 draw with 10 men, and at home to RB Salzburg, where the midfield three of Ntelekos, Olesk and Kyle Rangel, who also got a first half assist hat-trick, all scored in a 4-0 win.
And, despite winning the group, we drew Real Madrid in the knockouts again. Give me strength!!
Join us next time as we look to continue our best Premier League start so far and European defence with another Real Madrid clash!