Allardyce or Nothing Season Two

So I’ve reached the end of the second season of Allardyce or Nothing.  A lot has happened between this update and the last one.


First to finances .  My first season – in the Championship – saw Bolton make a loss of £2 million.  The first season in the Premiership saw the club make £92 million.  After spending just under £125k on transfer fees in two seasons my budget for next year is £44 million.


That sum may give you an indication that the club is still in the Premiership.  It is.  The pre-season preview had predicted a finishing position of 19th… I finished 3rd!   Not only will Bolton be in the Champions lLeague next season, but I had to find a dust cloth and a can of pledge for the trophy cabinet as the Wanderers won both the League Cup and the FA Cup beating Manchester United on both occasions – 2-1 in the League Cup and 5-2  in the FA Cup.


Success this year was again down in part to Zach Clough who was ably assisted by loanees Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi.  The quartet of Wellington Silva, Alex Iwobi, Iheanacho and Clough were my main attacking outlet, but they were well supported by the rest of the team.  In pre-season my recruitment was hampered by the club just exiting the embargo and I decided to recruit with one eye of player personality.  That Josh vela, Wellington Silva and Hal Robson-Lanu are ‘resolute’ characters means that uppity-Bolton wouldn’t lie down after half-time rollicking from yours truly.


Sam left Bolton in 2008 after feeling he wasn’t supported by the Board in trying to push the club forward.  Given the transfer budget for the forthcoming season I can’t say that.  My priority has to be the defence and replacing Dean Moxey who has more bookings than a travel agent.  I also need cover at the back – Steven Taylor who I brought in to cover Holding, Wheater and Osede played one game before a season ending injury.  That said I’ll probably end up with more central midfielders!


Oh, and at 96 days I’ve already outlasted Big Sam in the International arena managing Ghana.  International management with be an interesting diversion.


Sam Allardyce’s CV is littered with examples of him making the best out of a bad situation.  When he arrived at the Reebok Stadium in 1999, Bolton Wanderers were in the bottom half of Division One. When he left in 2007, they were an established Premier League team who had played in Europe for the first time in their history.

Allardyce of Nothing is a FM16 save in which I attempt to manage Bolton Wanderers in a Sam Allardyce way.




Allardyce or Nothing Season One

Sam Allardyce’s CV is littered with examples of him making the best out of a bad situation.  When he arrived at the Reebok Stadium in 1999, Bolton Wanderers were in the bottom half of Division One. When he left in 2007, they were an established Premier League team who had played in Europe for the first time in their history.

Allardyce of Nothing is a FM16 save in which I attempt to manage Bolton Wanderers in a Sam Allardyce way.


I switched off Football Manager at 1:30am swearing under my breath, not quite sure what to do next.

Not the way one generally reacts to winning the Championship and gaining promotion to the promised land of the Premiership.  But as FM16 constantly reminded me through the season Bolton are ‘penniless’.

Being penniless is okay.  I started Allardyce or Nothing with the aim of restoring Wanderers to health over ten years – the in-game debt runs until 2026.  Success for this save looked like this a) remaining in the job; b) paying down the £120 debt and c) remaining competitive in the Championship.




Other than eight free transfers who – other than Samaras – contributed little – in true Big Sam fashion, I made do.  I loaned out the majority of my U21 and U18 squads with an eye on that £1m monthly loan payment.

Bolton Wanderers_  Transfer History

The Formation

Zach Clough was obviously the jewel in the somewhat tarnished crown, so I decided to build the team around him and prayed he stayed fit.  That meant Zach in his best position of a False Nine.  It meant 4-4-2.

Bolton Wanderers_  Overview

The Statistics

Happy with Clough, Vela and Wilson.  Moxey was a liability, I ended up finishing the season with Wilson at left back and Vela at right back because of Moxey’s unreliability.

Bolton Wanderers_ Players Players-3

The Table

The media predicted 12th.  I would have been happy with that!

Sky Bet Championship_ Overview Stages-4

The unbeaten run in the league began on the 15th of December beating Charlton (a) 4-1; Fulham (h) 3-1 and drawing with Rotherham (a) 4-4.  And then…

Bolton Wanderers_  Senior Fixtures


Promotion to the Premiership would have maybe been a mid-term goal, maybe the third, fourth or fifth season.  But achieving it in my first season?  It’s a little frightening.

But that’s how I find myself – fresh out of a year-long transfer embargo in the Premiership.

Allardyce Or Nothing: Introduction

“Many of the new methods and ideas that I have taken on board over the years have come from observing not only other people in football but other sports and philosophies. At Bolton, for example, we observed and researched the methods employed in American football, basketball, Formula 1 and the England Rugby squad.” [1]

This is my first Football Manager Story even though I’ve played the game for over twenty years. Because I’ve read many articles and blogs about Football Manager in that time I’ve been in turns inspired and intimidated, what could I add other than my perspective? Would that be enough?

I have read a lot of books about football, coaching and leadership over the last couple of years. Mostly because as a disabled football fan I took more interest in those on the sidelines rather those on the pitch who I couldn’t possibly hope to imitate and secondly because I hoped in some way to coach myself through current difficulties.

But was there a way of incorporating what I read in Football Manager? Alex Stewart did an excellent Moneyball Series and Guido Merry has started a series on Building an Identity. I thought about merging the two and adding further layers using what I’d read – Fernando Soriano had some interesting insights about ‘contract hygiene’ I “Goal: The Ball Doesn’t Go in by Chance”. Michael Calvin’s “Living on the Volcano” also provided great food for thought.

To complicate things further I discovered “All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals”. More grist for the mill.

Then Sam Allardyce was interviewed again for a job he should have got ten years ago; I hope he gets it this time around. Sam brought a great deal of success to my team Bolton Wanderers which I doubt will happen again.

I thought again about my unwritten Football Manager Story, could I manage Bolton Wanderers in an Allardyce-like way and emulate his success using Football Manager?


I’ll have fun finding out. Hope you’ll join me.

“Ahead of the Curve” ~ Brian Kelly

Yes, ‘Ahead of the Curve’ is a baseball book, but it’s also a book about the habits and tradition and how they can be barriers to discovering answers to questions that are in plain sight.

I am a Baseball novice – this is only the third book I’ve read on the sport – but Brian Kenny does an excellent job of making the sport and sabermetrics accessible and interesting to someone like me.  Many of the issues regarding habits and tradition are applicable to other sports; business and life in general. A really enjoyable read.




Rating: *****



The Only Rule Is It Has to Work ~ Ben Lindbergh, Sam Miller

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team”, is only the second book I’ve ever read on baseball. The first was Michael Lewis’ Moneyball.

“The Only Rule Is It Has to Work” is a terrific read.

Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller two of baseball s leading sabermetric writers put their beliefs on the line by taking over an actual team of actual players and trying to implement their unorthodox theories.

“The Only Rule Is It Has to Work” is the story of their season with the Sonoma Stompers is a fascinating human drama about the give-and-take between the new and old thinking. Five stars.

Rating: *****

[Advance copy received from Netgalley]


Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game

Football is a mathematical sport.

From shot statistics and league tables to the geometry of passing and managerial strategy and, according to my wife, Football Manager is a ‘glorified spreadsheet’; football is filled with numbers, patterns and shapes. How do we make sense of them? The answer lies in the mathematical models applied in biology, physics and economics.

In Soccermatics David Sumpter brings together his two passions, mathematics and football, in a highly original and entertaining way. The beautiful game illustrated through the beauty of mathematics and analogies like why goals are like buses or light bulbs.

If Soccermatics had been around in the early 90’s when I was studying for my GCSE Mathematics my coursework would have been all the better for it.  Sadly for me it wasn’t and I turned in a piece of work that, eventually, saw me fail.

Still as the saying goes – sooner rather than later; later better than not at all.

An excellent book.

Rating: *****

Version: Kindle


Living on the Volcano ~ Michael Calvin

“Living on the Volcano” by Michael Calvin is a book about football managers.  About what makes them tick; how and why they do their job and what shapes them.

I’d been itching to read “Living on the Volcano” as soon as I learned of its publication and after waiting a while for it to come down in price on the Kindle chanced upon it in my local library.  I make no secret of the fact that I struggle with “print” because of the multiple problems affecting my vision, but it was a book I wanted to read and the font and layout of the book was favourable and sympathetic.

As someone who has always observed the game from the sidelines I am a frustrated Manager in waiting, I’m also a self-confessed Football Manager addict.

Michael Calvin interviews 20, or so, League football managers, from the Premier League – Alan Pardew, Mark Hughes, Ronald Koeman and Roberto Martinez – to the stalwarts of the Championship – Mick McCarthy, Kenny Jackett – and others in the lower leagues, such as Aidy Bootroyd, and Gareth Ainsworth.

All of who share why they voluntarily do a job with absurd levels of stress and a likelihood of being sacked and for me it is absolutely fascinating.

I can do no more than wholeheartedly endorse and recommend a book that fifty pages from the end made me said because I knew I’d soon finish it.  It is truly compelling reading for anyone interested in football, the wider issues of player development and challenges of achieving short term results whilst building for the long term.

“Living on the Volcano” is, to quote Paul Tisdale, one of the many managers interviewed in the book, “Spot-Bollock-On”.

Rating: *****