Trotters Talent: Part 55 – Striker Injury Crisis

The summer of 2045 saw me become the longest-serving manager in Bolton Wanderers history, surpassing the 25 years and one month of service that saw Charles Foweraker remain at the club from 1 July 1919 to 1 August 1944.

My quarter of a century at Bolton consisted of 1,325 matches, of which we’d won 732, drawn 297 and lost 296, with a win percentage of 55%. We’ve scored 2,297 goals and conceded 1,336 at a goal difference of 961. We’ve won 12 league titles, achieved three promotions and lifted 15 cup trophies. I’ve bought 160 players at a value of £680 million and sold 211 for £2.27 billion.

I now sit seventh on the all-time hall of fame of managers, only behind Thomas Tuchel, who’s still at PSG, Pep Guardiola, who retired at 72, Andrea Pirlo, who’s still at Juve, Zinedine Zidane, who just retired aged 72, Alex Ferguson and Paulo Guerrero, who just took over at Man City after five years at Real Madrid. And I’m by far and away the best English manager of all time.

Obviously this save doesn’t have long left as FM22 is less than a couple of months away at the time of writing (the Beta is out on 9 November!!) but we’ll likely push through to the end of the FM21 cycle to see just how far we can take Bolton.

Summer transfer business

The summer saw plenty of transfer activity, largely selling off players that weren’t quite good enough and only had 12 months on their contracts. That included homegrown Brandon Fave going to Palace for £19.5 million, plus Serkan Ozer to Milan for £20 million, Marko Jovanovic, who couldn’t get a work permit, to PSG for £30 million, Sílvio Luiz to Montpellier for £9 million and Mathieu Verhoeven to Juventus for £9.5 million. That brought in a total of £100 million in transfer fees.

We began the summer by snapping up another superstar striker in 19-year-old Belgian Ferre Naessens. He’d scored 28 in 52 for Club Brugge, cost £20 million and is already worth £61 million! While our focus on snapping up young talents saw 16-year-old midfielder Michael Patterson arrive for a lofty £12.5 million from Nottingham Forest and Oumarou Meyong from PSG for £2 million.

We also promoted exciting wonderkids right-back Miguel Muniz, centre-back Marcos Roberto and midfielders Mazinho and Pedro Sousa to the first-team.

Away from the players, assistant manager Gary Neville retired aged 70 and I replaced him with another legend in Sergio Ramos, now 59. We also brought a former youth academy player back to the club as Jack Salter, now aged 39!, came to the club as an under 18s coach, along with Didier Deschamps, now 76, joining as a scout.

World Club Cup nonsense

The pointless summer World Club Cup gave us a ridiculous draw with Atletico and Bayern. We also only had 16 players available due to the Under 21 Euros, and those that were available were all unfit. So it was a total waste of everyone’s time.

That said, we were brilliant in the group and beat both 2-0 but the reward was playing Barca two days after the Bayern game. Seriously, who thought this competition was a good idea? We actually played really well against an equally knackered Barca, racking up 3.42 xG and a late goal from Adrian Jules nicked it. We then had to play City in the semis, drew 1-1, it ridiculously went to extra-time and we lost on penalties. We then had to play a third-place playoff against Juventus, where a changed 11 ran riot to lead 4-0 after 20 minutes and won 5-1. But what a nonsense competition!

Adding more silverware

The season proper started by thrashing Fulham 4-0 to lift a fifth successive Charity Shield. Norberto Rey bagged a brace before Naessens scored on his debut and Mazinho, who signed from Atletico Mineiro last year then went on loan to MLS, scored his first Bolton goal.

We also lifted a fourth European Super Cup as an Onur Kocaaslan brace and a Martial Diaby strike led us to a 3-1 win over Man United.

10th league defence begins

The media have accepted that Bolton are by far and away the best team in England, slashing our odds to Evens to win the Premier League this season. However, star midfielder Germán Martínez pulled his calf in pre-season and will miss a tough start to the campaign.

Without him, we began poorly as a Kyle Rangel goal rescued a 1-1 draw at Villa on the opening day. We improved to thump Watford 4-1 in our first home game with goals from Kocaaslan, Jack Barlow, midfielder Daniel and Rey. But two more tough away days saw us claim very luck 2-2 and 1-1 draws at Liverpool and Man United, which I’d absolutely take if offered them.

Frustratingly, world-class left-back Marco Brunori broke his arm on international duty, which saw exciting Paraguayan Daniel Duarte step up for his league debut at home to Spurs. But Martínez returned to create an Adam Nolan stunner that set the way for a 3-2 win, but the defence is a major concern. And a trend of missing loads of chances and conceding to hardly any continued with a 2-1 win over Wolves, in which we had 3.6 xG and they scored their first shot. We got our first away win in another tough game at Chelsea, where Diaby created goals for Rangel and Kocaaslan.

We finally showed the kind of form I expect from these players as we thumped Bournemouth 6-0, which was our first clean sheet of the season. Naessens scored his first Premier League goal early on but it was all about Kocaaslan, who scored a magnificent four and assisted Naessens’ second. Another clean sheet followed with a 1-0 win over Leicester.

Striker injury crisis

A Kocaaslan brace inspired a 3-1 win at Brighton that took us to six straight wins and temporarily top of the table for the first time this season. However, the striker broke his ankle in training and was cruelly ruled out for at least three months. His absence gave new England striker Gatkuoth Lotiman an opportunity, which he spurned as his international teammate Martin Preston scored the only goal at struggling Middlesbrough.

Lotiman did get his first goal of the season to edge a tense top of the table clash as we beat then leaders Everton 1-0 and repeated the feat in a 1-0 win at Palace. However, both he and Rey both picked up injuries to spark an attacker injury crisis. Despite that, we just about held Arsenal to a 1-1 draw away from home then beat City 2-1 thanks to a Diaby double and an absolutely stunning Gordon Banks-esque save by Darlan, which has to be the best I’ve seen on FM21.

Rey returned to open the scoring at West Brom before Naessens bagged a winner in a 2-1 success. Naessens then bagged a brace, alongside Brunori’s first of the season with a screamer as we won 3-0 at Derby. However, Naessens then also got injured!

The year ended with two home games, starting with breezing past struggling West Ham 2-0 with goals from Preston and Rey. An exhausted side rounded off 2045 by just about beating seventh-place Newcastle 1-0 with an 83rd-minute Rey goal, wasting 3.1 xG en route.

Despite going the first half of the season unbeaten, we weren’t top of the league as Liverpool were again in outrageous form. They have an identical record of 15 wins and four draws, scoring 46 and conceding just nine to our scored scored 39 and conceded 13. But it’s worth considering that most of the top teams still have to visit us.

Kocaaslan is somehow the top scorer in the league with 11 goals despite only playing 10 matches. He also has the highest average rating of 7.62, so to be joint-top with him only available for half our games is quite impressive.

Champions League group

Another European campaign and another clash with Hertha BSC, who were in our group yet again alongside Celtic and Zenit.

We began with an easy 3-1 win in Russia then dominated Hertha at home but it swung on a substitute as homegrown Jack Bickley, who’s been dreadful in the league, came on to create goals for Kocaaslan and Jules in a 3-0 win. We were poor and wasteful in a 1-1 draw at home to Celtic but improved to beat them 3-0 away through Diaby, Martínez’s first of the season and the out-of-form Rey to secure qualification.

With that in the bag, I rotated at home to Zenit and our backup players put on a show to thrash Zenit 6-0 led by a great performance from Pedro Sousa, who scored his first Bolton goal and got two assists. An entirely rotated 11 played well but lost 3-1 in Hertha as we won the group with ease.

I feel like this save is nearing an end, mainly because we’ve achieved everything we set out to a long time ago. However, I’m also getting a little disillusioned by the amount of money involved in managing a massive club, especially when your youth prospects begin demanding obscene wages to stay at the club. And also, the game is really slowing down on my laptop!

But my main aim now is to get Kocaaslan to the Bolton goalscoring records. He’s scored 223 in 264 in all competitions and 188 in 210 league games. That means he trails Nat Lofthouse’s records of 285 in all competitions and 255 league goals by 62 and 67 respectively. So maybe two more seasons if we’re lucky?

Join us next time as we continue to take the fight to Liverpool for our 11th title and push into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

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