An unbeaten start to the 2045/46 campaign had Bolton Wanderers surprisingly sitting second in the Premier League, only trailing a strong Liverpool side on goal difference.
The new year began with striker Norberto Rey winning the FIFA Best Under 21 Men’s Player for the second year in a row and Darlan becoming our first goalkeeper to win the World Golden Glove. The keeper was also named in the FIFA FIFPro team of the year for the first time, along with Marco Brunori and Martial Diaby.
As alluded to in the previous post, our young players were demanding ridiculous wages to sign new contracts. As a result, I decided to sell some of them. Midfielder Daniel wanted more than £300,000-a-week so we flogged him to Inter for £25 million… where he’s on £86,000-a-week. Centre-back Juanjo Latorre signed for £3.7 million from Real Madrid six years ago and couldn’t get in our team, so we sold him back to Real for £50 million! That took our total season sales to £200 million.
Three exciting new talents arrived in their place in Serbian midfielder Veljko Andjelkovic, who cost £750,000 from Red Star, left-back Gabriel, who joined on a free from Gremio, and striker Ilyes Poletti, who cost £10 million from PSG.
Despite an unbeaten start to the season, I was worried about our continued wastefulness in front of goal. Furthermore, the middle man in the midfield three continuously played poorly, so it was pointless playing it anymore and we might be able to give Germán Martínez more space to work his creative magic. With that in mind, I switched to a 4-2-4 control possession formation, which pushed Diaby out to the right-wing as a raumdeuter and brought Adrian Jules in as an inverted winger on the left.
Tactical rethink works wonders
The first outing of the formation was a success as captain Lasse Hermansen made his 450th league appearance for Bolton. To celebrate, we put four goals past our former keeper Niksa Djerovic. Belgian striker Ferre Naessens bagged a hat-trick and laid on a goal for Diaby, 16-year-old winger Michael Patterson impressed as he came on to make his professional debut and Villa only had one shot.
We won by the same result at Spurs as Jules bagged an assist hat-trick and Rey, who attracted a £150 million bid from Real Madrid, scored a brace. Then both wingers created goals for each other along with a strike from Naessens to down Man United 3-2. We moved to 14 goals in four games with the new tactic with a 3-1 win at Watford inspired by a brace from substitute wonderkid Pedro Sousa. And that extended with a 4-0 win at Wolves, in which Patterson came off the bench to score his first league goal and Naessens bagged another brace to take us to 10 straight league wins.
The strong start to the year teed up a huge top-of-the-table clash at home to Liverpool. Both sides had identical records and remained unbeaten after 24 matches. And that showed as a really good match with 17 shots apiece couldn’t see them separated as Liverpool cancelled out Diaby’s opener then Darlan played a 7.8 to keep them out.
Striker Onur Kocaaslan had been injured for four months but was still our top scorer when he returned to the squad for Chelsea at home in early February. But we didn’t need to risk him as Naessens continued his fine form by scoring a superb volley in a 3-2 win. And the Belgian scored again along with Diaby and Jules as we breezed past Bournemouth 3-1.
But Kocaaslan did eventually return to bag a brace – because of course he did – in a routine 3-0 win over Brighton, in which I reverted to my preferred 4-3-1-2. He scored again in an easy 2-0 win over bottom side Middlesbrough on the same day Liverpool lost for the first time at Newcastle. Diaby bagged his 150th Bolton goal and the legend that us Germán Martínez scored his 50th as we battered Leicester away but settled for 2-0 again.
Champions League knockouts
The first knockout round of our third successive Champions League defence served up a repeat of last year’s final as we took on Juventus, who had three of our former players. Juve started better and scored with a thunderbolt but we came back into it and Jules got a deserved equaliser mid-way through the second half. However, we were special in the home leg and a Kocaaslan quadruple led us to a 5-0 battering of the Italians.
That teed up an all-English affair as we took on Chelsea, who obviously scored with their first two shots in the first leg. But a Kocaaslan brace drew us level and took him to 250 goals for Bolton. Then Pedro Sousa completed the comeback to seal a 3-2 win. Unbelievably, Chelsea also scored their first shot in the away leg from a ridiculous penalty decision and we eventually fell 3-0 as we chased the game. So the Champions League dream was done for this year.
8 games from more glory
With eight games remaining we’d stretched away from Liverpool and enjoyed a seven point lead. Furthermore, we were still unbeaten!
The season run-in began with a 2-1 win over Palace, despite totally dominating the game and having three goals disallowed. And those goalscoring struggles showed as we went to traditional bogey team Everton and lost our first game of the season to the third-place side. However, Liverpool drew at Watford so our lead was only reduced to six points.
A big chance to respond came as Arsenal came to town and we delivered as Rey’s first goal in three months and an own goal secured a 2-0 win. Liverpool’s bizarre loss of form continued with a 2-1 loss at home to bottom of the league Middlesbrough – who’d only won five all season before that – to stretch our lead to nine points with five remaining.
Liverpool lost again at home to Spurs, which meant we just needed one more win for an 11th successive title. A first chance to do that was a tough trip to Man City, which either side could have won and City should have given Darlan brilliantly saved a second half penalty. But defences came out on top in a 0-0 draw that moved us 10 points clear.
Fittingly, three heroes of the save stepped up to seal the title. Diaby and Kocaaslan both bagged braces and Martínez got an assist as we strolled to a 4-0 win over West Brom and Hermansen lifted yet another trophy – my 30th as Bolton boss – at the Eddie Davies Arena.
Bolton Wanderers won an 11th successive Premier League title!!
We celebrated the title win by beating Derby 4-0, with a Kocaaslan opener then a Martínez brace doubled his tally for the season. A dreadful 1-0 loss at West Ham was quickly forgotten as a sweet moment saw 17-year-old youth academy striker Ivan Bone score his first senior goal to earn a 1-0 win away to Newcastle on the final day. More on him below!
That saw us finish the campaign on 96 points and win the league by 10 points from Liverpool. We scored 84, which was five fewer than Liverpool, but only conceded 23. Kocaaslan was somehow the Premier League Top Goalscorer, despite missing four months with injury, with just 17 goals, which is the joint-lowest tally in Premier League history tied with Timo Werner in the very first season of this save.
Another successful domestic campaign was largely thanks to Kocaaslan’s goals again. The striker scored 28 in 31 starts, to which the nearest challenger was Naessens with 16 in 42 and Diaby with 16 in 46. Diaby also got a club-high 16 assists, followed by Kyle Rangel with 12 and Martínez with 11, while Jack Barlow got nine from right-back.
Surprisingly, Martínez won fans’ player of the season and Preston won young player of the season, while Naessens won the English Players’ Young Player of the Year, which is the ninth year in a row one of players has won the award!
The final league game of 2047 also saw Lasse Hermansen make his 579th Bolton appearance in all competitions. That saw the 32-year-old defender surpass the all-time club record held by goalkeeper Eddie Hopkinson, who played for the club between 1952 and 1970. Hermansen set the new milestone in 16 seasons having joined from Kobenhavn for £2 million in 2032. An absolute Bolton Wanderers legend! He also has Hopkinson’s all-time league appearances of 519 in his sights, with Hermansen currently on 468.
Trotter Talents update
Our Under 18 side won the U18 Premier Division Cup for the third time and the first time since 2040 and made it to the UEFA Youth League semis. While the Under 23s won the Checkatrade Trophy for the third year in a row. The main man for the youth side has been American striker Bone, who scored nine in six in the PDC and an outrageous 59 in all competitions, in addition to scoring on the final day. This kid looks like being a really special talent and he’s being promoted to the first-team for next season.
The squad is still reliant on academy players with the likes of Preston, Barlow, along with Jack Bickley and Adam Nolan, who’ve both been poor this season, still regular starters, along with support players like Ildemar Testoni and Luke Dickens. Our latest youth intake wasn’t the best but still offered a few 3- to 3.5-star potential players, who’ll likely help to bring more money into the club coffers.
A look around England
We won yet another title as Wolves, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough went down. Southampton won the Championship and Burnley and Stoke got promoted, with Huddersfield, Rotherham and Blackburn going down.
Rochdale won League 1 with Hull and our feeder team Oldham going up, while Northampton, Forest Green, Coventry and Wycombe got relegated. Southend won League 2 and Mansfield, Shrewsbury and Ipswich went up as York and Barnet, who had been up in the Championship in 2032, dropped out of the league. Carlisle and Dulwich Hamlet came back into the league with FC United of Manchester, Dagenham & Redbridge, Dartford and Bashford going down. They were replaced by Telford, Chorley, Sutton and Braintree as Worcester, Hyde, St. Ives, Buxton, Brackley, Truro, Basingstoke and Cray dropped out of the system.
Villa won the FA Cup, beating Everton 2-1 in the final, and Liverpool beat Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final on penalties. Our conquerors Chelsea beat Man United 3-1 in the Champions League Final and Man City beat Championship side Fulham on penalties to win the Europa League.
Join us next time as our quest for a 12th Premier League title begins with a bit of a fire sale!