(FM22) The Quest #8 – 2028/29 Season Review

Welcome back to the financial mess that is Bolton Wanderers, my word this is tough! Somehow though we are massively overachieving, last season, our first back in Championship was a big success, an amazing end to the season meant we ended in 15th place. This season is huge though, for many many reasons!

The big issue is wages, all my players are on less than £5k per week, this is tiny for the Championship but the wage budget I have means I cannot offer a player any more than around £7k. This season is big because I have a lot of my key players out of contract in 12 months time, I currently cannot afford to offer them the deals that they want. So we either have to sell them, let them leave for nothing, somehow find money or do the unthinkable and go for promotion!

Miracles can happen, we’ve seen that quite a few times in this save but I do think the Premier League is one step too far this club currently, we will see though!

The Summer of Ups and Downs

The Summer started with me fully focused on Bolton but job interviews and offers were coming in and I was getting itchy feet, by mid-July I had turned down Norwich, a side who survived in the Premier League last season and then I was offered the Everton job, I was so close to accepting but for me I just didn’t feel it was the right club, they had been ending in the bottom half consistently and were nearer to the bottom 3 than the top 6. So I said no!

Transfer wise it was a busy one, a few joined but the big news of the Summer was the one big out. Player of the Season Darren Rogers left after Burnley activated his £4m release clause, a massive loss and with Harriette’s loan being up it meant I needed 2 new central defenders.

We also lost 2 players who left on free transfers after they refused a new contract. Ali Koiki and Callum Hussain left to Dundee and Napoli respectively.

New signings were needed and I made 5 of them!

Jarrod Smith joined on a free from Dundee United, the young full back comes in to add some depth at the back.

The first new central defender to joins was 30-year old Jordan Storey, he comes in from Preston for £350k. A big deal but he was massively needed after losing Rogers.

The other new central defender to come in was Danny Bray, brought in on a season long loan from Norwich.

2 seasons ago I signed an affiliation with Manchester City, this was the first proper deal I managed to do with them. Central Midfielder Ignacio Fernandez comes in on a loan deal until latre-January. Top top quality.

And finally, as deadline day loomed I was getting a little bored of poking around trying to sign young players or players for cheap deals. Julian Draxler popped up on my scouting recommendations and I just had to bring him in. He signs from Freiburg for £600k, a bit of money but he offers versatility and considerable experience!

Some good deals and now the squad is set, could we end above last seasons 15th place? Could we even push for promotion? Only time will tell!

August to October – Consistently inconsistent

As the title says really, we started well but we never strung a decent run of results together. The season started with a good draw to Bournemouth before we scraped past Stockport in the League Cup, we then lost twice before ending August with 2 decent wins over Reading in the League and Shrewsbury in the Cup.

September again was a tough one, in the league we played 5 games, we won 2, drew 2 and lost once, we also progressed in the League Cup with an amazing 1-0 win away to Premier League Watford.

The season had started well, we sat in 12th and October started just as well, wins over Sunderland and Barnsley pushed us up to 8th before 3 straight defeats, one of those was in the League Cup as we were edged out by Premier League Southampton.

The end of the month was poor, our league form had dipped and we ended October in 11th place. A great start though, so much better than expected.

November to January – Contract Chaos

The inconsistent form continued through November and December, we never lost more than once in a row but only managed to string 2 wins together. We would lose, draw and then win but overall the performances were pleasing and seeing as we had to string a makeshift central defence together at the start of the season we were hardly conceding.

November ended with 2 wins from 4 games pushing us upto 9th, December ended with us gaining 11 points from 7 games and in that we gained 4 clean sheets.

We were doing really well and as the year ended we sat in 10th, nearer to the playoffs than the relegation zone!

Then came January, the inbox filled with out of contract players wanting new deals but I had no money to pay it. Simons was out of contract at the end of the season, he wanted his £2.2k p/wk raising to £9k. No chance! He wasn’t the only one and I had to just try and ride it out.

Unfortunately though 2 players were nabbed on pre-contract deals. Midfielder Eoin Kelly, signed 2 seasons back on a free will go to Aberdeen and young Striker Thomas Holman will go to Hellas Verona.

We also lost Man City midfielder Fernandez whose loan was up meaning I needed a new midfielder and on deadline day I made my move.

Young Brazilian Nen came in on a free transfer and a cheap wage, a quality looking player.

But it was on the pitch where thing were getting interesting, our form had hugely picked up and we ended the month unbeaten, 5 games, 3 wins including a 5-1 win over Torquay in the FA Cup, we did draw twice but it was a great month and we were now up to 9th.

As January wore on though I was getting itchy feet once again, we were doing well in the League but the financial mess and the worry about losing my key men for nothing was dragging me down. There was literally no money to do anything and it was a huge struggle. Then a job came up I couldn’t say no to!

Leicester City, languishing in 15th in the Premier League sacked their boss Jocelyn Gourvennec and I swooped, surely I had a chance right? Well the interview happened on the 17th January and by the end of the month there was no offer.

February – All Change

It took until the 3rd of February for Leicester to make their decision and unfortunately I wasn’t offered the job, they took on Abel Ferreira.

Form with Bolton though was still going strong, we managed to take Premier League Fulham to a replay in the FA Cup before a 2-0 defeat away, in the league though we had won 3 of our 6 games and with others slipping up we ended the month in 7th place, 6 points off the playoffs.

Still though the itch to leave was there and then another job came up that I had to go for.

Tottenham, with one of the oldest squads I had ever seen sacked their manager Luis Enrique with the club in 11th place. The club had been doing poorly over the past few seasons with 7th place their highest finish in the save so far.

I had to go for it, the urge to manage what I class as a big club was too much. The interview went well but I had doubts I’d get it seeing as Leicester turned me down but it didn’t take long for them to make their decision.

I’m off to Spurs! A team I’ve never managed before!

As I said previously though the squad is rather old!

So many over 30’s including a 35-year old Harry Kane, who wants to leave, a 36-year old Heung-Min Son and the likes of Harry Maguire and Youri Tielemens. We also have a familiar face with Joel Dixon here as a back-up keeper, signed from Bolton a couple of seasons ago!

One of our younger players is 25-year old Harvey Elliott who joined from Liverpool at the start of the season but is currently on loan at Rangers. A good player to have for the future.

A big challenge ahead, the older players still look top quality but it’s in my nature to bring in young players.

Then there’s the next challenge, there are a lot of unhappy players.

All the above want to leave for Champions League football with Kane and Rodriguez both out of contract at the end of the season, looks like my first time managing Harry won’t last long!

So a thin, old squad, full of players who want to leave, what could go wrong?!

March to May

We had 10 games of the season to go and with the transfer window well and truly shut I had to make do with what I had, these lads had 10 games to prove themselves before the Summer where, with so many players likely to leave, there is going to be the dreaded rebuild!

Overall the final 10 games went really well, I implemented my 41221 formation that has worked so well at Bolton and it worked a treat, it did suit the players which is why I went with it. In the 10 games, we came out with 6 wins and 4 draws, 22 points is really good.

Some good results there including draws away to Liverpool and home to Arsenal and a stunning 7-0 win over Aston Villa.

But was that enough to get us into European contention? Well with a game to go we sat in 8th but it was a 3-horse race for that 6th spot. We had to beat 6th placed Southampton and we had to rely on Manchester United losing away to Chelsea. As you can see above we won but unfortunately Man U beat Chelsea 2-0 meaning we would end in 7th.

A great end to the season which gives me a lot of hope for the next campaign!

Next Season

I won’t go through the key men as I could be here forever! What I want to do instead talk about my plans for the Summer and how I want to move forward with this squad.

This is the squad as I end the season.

Clearly there is a going to be a mini clear-out, Kane is out of contract and still wants to leave, Sabitzer and Rodriguez have both accepted pre-contracts and currently Lemar won’t renew his contract as well.

There is also the likes of Tielemens, Dodo, Almada and Richards who I’ve told can go for the right offer as they want Champions League football.

So a lot of players could go but I wouldn’t be that fussed, most are getting on and are being paid a rather large wage.

After assessing those final 10 games it’s clear who we should be building our team around and that midfielders Oliver Skipp and Alfie Devine, both were instrumental in our good end of season form and will be mainstays in my team moving forward.

So the midfield is sorted, I will also be looking to keep Harry Maguire and Heung-Min Son around, they may be late 30’s but both are still top quality and will be key for the next season.

So let’s say everyone leaves who I expect to, this is how my first XI will look.

Kovacic didn’t play as much this season but is still really good for this level and De Frutos on the left wing was really good in those final few games.

As you can see though there are gaps. If Dodo and Richards leave that means we have no decent Right Backs, we really have no top quality Goalkeeper whatsoever and then we have the dilemma of replacing Harry Kane.

So signings are needed in those 3 main areas. I also then need to add some decent depth and to the first team squad, especially if everyone who I think goes actually does. The main areas to add that depth are in Central Defence and Central Midfield

My aim is to bring in some younger, fresher faces and to do that I’ve scouted every single player in the NXGN top 50 list. I now have around 8-10 players who I think can add some depth to this team who also won’t cost a bomb.

Talking of budgets!

Awful! £12.8m transfer budget? Get the fuck out of here! The wage budget has increased by £200k per week but I personally feel an annual budget of over £200m is way way too much and is one the reasons the club is losing so much money. Wages need to be cut IF I can and that starts with shipping out some of those lads who don’t want to be here anymore, that also means the transfer budget increases and therefore I can bring in some of those wonderkids.

So a long Summer ahead but I have confidence I can mould this squad into a side capable of getting back into that top 6 next season.

And Finally

The big news is…. Leicester have won a European Trophy, beating Liverpool 1-0 in the Europa League final! Massive for them after a poor Premier League season.

Other than that not much change, Wycombe gained their second successive promotion via the playoffs to get back to League One, Celtic ended up as the bridesmaids in 3 competitions and Fylde gained promotion to League Two for the first time.

Anyway, that’s all from me for now.

Thanks for reading.

Steve/LutterworthFox

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