Bolton Wanderers wrapped up an 11th successive Premier League title in the summer of 2046, which meant we’d hit a level of success that, frankly, was getting a bit boring. Players were also beginning to have unreasonable demands, such as 30-year-old Germán Martínez demanding £650,000-a-week to renew his contract!
However, the key aim of Trotters Talents is now to help striker Onur Kocaaslan become the all-time greatest goalscorer in Bolton Wanderers history. The Turkish international begins the new campaign on 194 league goals and a total of 249 goals in all competitions. Compare that to the records of Nat Lofthouse’s 255 league goals and 285 goals in all competitions, and he’s not too far off either.
I decided to flog players I was bored or frustrated with or who just wanted stupid money to stay, which saw a fire sale of highly talented youngsters like Adrian Jules (£50 million to Southampton), Gatkuoth Lotiman (£55 million to Villa), Zain Carey (£28 million to Brugge) and the dickhead Norberto Rey (£78 million to Chelsea). That brought in a total of £320 million, only for the board to cipher off another £309 million into their mystical “reserve investment fund.” Very, very shady.
On the flip side, we really struggled to bring players in, despite having more than £1 billion of transfer kitty available to us. As a result, we probably have the weakest squad we’ve had in a decade. That said, the starting 11 is still outrageously strong and there are plenty of exciting prospects still coming through.
Away from the players, I brought a legend of the save back to the club. Former midfielder and Bolton icon Sean Caldwell, who made 357 appearances for the club, returned to the Eddie Davies Arena as Under 18s Manager, after the previous guy got poached to become SPAL manager.
Another title defence
The new season began with exciting youth product Ivan Bone scoring the opener in the Charity Shield. But, six substitutes later, Aston Villa came from behind to win it 2-1.
We returned to the league in beautifully predictable fashion as Martínez swung in a free-kick for Kocaaslan to head home. A grimly predictable response followed as Leicester equalised with their first shot. Kocaaslan tucked home a penalty to put us back in front but, despite 25 shots to two and 3.66 xG, we only won 2-1. And that took Kocaaslan, still only 26, past 250 goals for Bolton Wanderers in just 297 appearances. What a player.
His strike partner Ferre Naessens scored the only goal at West Ham, where right-back Jack Barlow idiotically got himself sent off after an hour. The first dropped points appeared to be coming at bogey side Everton, who deservedly led early on but a brilliant pass by Martínez laid on Kocaaslan’s equaliser. The hosts again took the lead after the break only for centre-back Martin Preston to nod home a Martínez free-kick. Against the run of play, a devastating counter-attack was finished off by that man Kocaaslan to earn a sweet 3-2 away win.
Kocaaslan scored two more and created homegrown midfielder Jack Bickley’s first goal in 30 matches as we thumped Arsenal 4-0. An equally dominant performance saw us thump Chelsea 3-0 at home led by two identical Martínez 30-yard half-volley wonderstrikes. And we didn’t hold back in rubbing the 3-0 win in Rey’s stupid ugly face.
A tough fixture list continued as we travelled to Man City, who were in the relegation zone after five games following a 5-1 battering at Everton! But we missed a host of chances and had to settle for a 1-1 draw and drop points for the first time this season. We then got revenge on Villa with a 2-1 win of our own through Naessens and Martial Diaby goals.
Our strong start to the campaign convinced the board to give me a new contract, with mine expiring in the coming summer. That saw them hand their now 62-year-old manager a new five year deal worth £300,000-a-week.
Maintaining a strong start
The good start to the campaign continued through a spell of easier games. Diaby scored the only goal at home to Southampton, in which Lasse Hermansen made his 475th Bolton league appearance – only 44 behind Eddie Hopkinson’s club record of 519. Equally easy was a 3-0 win over Watford with Pedro Sousa creating goals for Kocaaslan and Marco Brunori before young striker Bruno Luís got his first Bolton goal. Another 3-0 win followed at Stoke, who had two points from 10 games, thanks to Kyle Rangel tripling his total for the season with a brace and another late Bruno Luís strike.
My 1,400th match as Bolton manager took us to 18th-place Derby. It wasn’t looking good as Pedro Sousa was sent off for a horror challenge on 37 minutes then Kocaaslan got injured. But we still managed to win 2-0 through Bruno Luís and a late own goal with Martínez in scintillating form. The midfielder, who just won his 100th cap for Argentina, was excellent again as we battered Liverpool, creating goals for Naessens and Hermansen in a 3-1 win.
That began a tough run of games, which continued with a trip to Spurs after an international break. But, even with a tired squad, Martínez ran the midfield and Naessens scored again in a narrow 2-1 win. Martínez’s form won him the November player of the month award having previously won it in September which, surprisingly, is the first time he’s ever won the award twice in the same season.
He was at it again as he scored the winner to beat Man United 2-1 then created the winner for Naessens as the same scoreline followed at Palace. We then absolutely dominated local rivals Burnley with 30 shots to two and won 3-0, which was also the scoreline at home to West Brom thanks to an own goal and second half Diaby and Kocaaslan strikes.
Boxing Day saw us face a 540-mile round trip to Brighton followed by a 300-mile round trip to Newcastle two days later. So much for the festive local derbies! We played poorly at Brighton, who racked up 18 shots, but two goals out of nowhere by the clinical Kocaaslan earned us a lucky 2-0 win. And this team’s relentlessness shone through as a Kocaaslan brace inspired a 2-1 win at Newcastle.
That took us into 2047 having won an incredible 18 out of 19 matches. This team is absolutely phenomenal, even though we sold off some of our better young players in the summer. The main man behind this success is Martínez, who has the most assists (9), player of the match (5) and best average rating (7.53) in the Premier League. At the age of 31, he may be on for his best-ever season, which is no small feat for such a consistently great player. While Kocaaslan has 14 league goals, which is only three fewer than his Top Goalscorer winning total last season.
Facing Hertha… again!
For some reason, we keep getting drawn with Hertha BSC in the Champions League groups. This year is the sixth time in the last nine years we’ve been paired with the Germans and this time they were joined by Athletic Bilbao and Lyon, which sounded fairly tough.
We started at home to Bilbao and a Kocaaslan double got us going before Bickley sealed an easy 3-0 win. Then rotated sides – due to mass lack of fitness – saw us nick a 1-0 win in Berlin then dominate Lyon 3-0 at home, in which Mazinho scored, fellow Brazilian midfielder Dyonatas and Argentinian defender Gerardo Álvarez got their first Bolton goals and 20-year-old homegrown goalkeeper Luke Dickens finally made his debut and kept a clean sheet.
Qualification was sealed with a 3-1 win in Lyon, led by a brace by the increasingly impressive Bruno Luís, then we finished with a draw at home to Hertha. And in the knockout phase we’ll take on PSV Eindhoven.
Join us next time as we look to record Bolton’s best-ever season as we chase a 12th consecutive Premier League title.