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Football Manager Series: Return of the Bolton Wanderers Legends - Part 1

Rob begins a new series welcoming back legends of time gone by in a bid to rebuild Bolton’s footballing fortunes

The Bolton Wanderers Legends line up in an attacking 4-3-1-2 formation

Life as a Bolton Wanderers fan hasn’t been much of a laugh for the last few years. Sure promotion was fun, but it was from League One, and most of us remember times that were much more high-flying and exciting.

Yesterday, while perusing the locker of Football Manager videos on YouTube, I discovered the existence of a Return of the Legends database, and thought it’d be fun to roll back the years. Thus was born Lion of Vienna Suite’s Return of the Bolton Wanderers Legends Football Manager Series.

Essentially, it’s a database of all the greatest players ever to have played football, and club legends of every club in the major leagues. Upon loading up the database - which takes ages because of all the changes - I set myself up as Bolton manager and went about searching for and, using the In-Game Editor, setting up a team of Bolton Legends.

The series will feature updates on how we get on as Bolton manager, beginning with an overview of the squad and a look at some of the ridiculously talented squads from around this new-look world of football.

Introducing the Bolton Legends

Several Wanderers Legends were already in place, with heroes like Nat Lofthouse - who is outrageously good on the database, see below - Eddie Hopkinson - who at first look seems a little shaky in goal - Gudni Bergsson, Joe Smith and John McGinlay the central hub of the side.

Others had to be drafted in, including a 17-year-old Jay-Jay Okocha from PSG, a 19-year-old Youri Djorkaeff from Monaco and an 18-year-old Gary Speed from Newcastle. Other players moving into the Bolton Legends include Peter Reid from Everton, 19-year-old commanding centre-back Fernando Hierro from Real Madrid, an 18-year-old Nicolas Anelka from PSG, as well as the likes of Sasa Curcic, Stelios Giannakopoulos, Mark Davies, Lee Chung-Yong and, of course, Nicky Hunt.

There were several unfortunate absentees, including Ricardo Gardner, Per Frandsen, Stig Tofting, Michael Johansen and Michael Ricketts. While the likes of Sam Allardyce, Kevin Davies and Kevin Nolan were only in the game as managers. But backroom staff like David Lee, Nicky Spooner and Gavin McCann make up for that a little, supported by legendary assistant manager Phil Brown, while Gretar Steinsson was drafted in as Director of Football.

All in all, here is our Bolton Legends squad:

There’s a lot of attacking talent but a hell of a lot of youth, so the likes of Djorkaeff and Anelka don’t quite have the current ability of the outrageously talented Lofthouse and Smith, so I’ve initially plumped for a forward-looking 4-3-2-1 formation. Lofthouse and McGinlay lead the line with Smith in a supporting role and Okocha, Speed and Reid patrolling the midfield, a defence of Hunt (dubious I know), Hierro, Bergsson and Tony Dunne, with Hopkinson in goal - although I may consider 16-year-old Gary Cahill at centre-half with Bergsson moving to right-back.

We’re up against some interesting sides in the SkyBet Championship, as the database has some really odd teams all over the leagues. For example, the likes of Watford and Huddersfield have been bumped down a league, while Blackpool, Coventry, Notts County and Portsmouth have shot up the leagues. However, our squad is apparently so strong that we are the bookies’ runaway favourites to finish the season as Champions.

A real treat of talented squads

Some of the squads on the database are unspeakably good. Perhaps the scariest is that of Manchester United, who boast a who’s who of footballing talent, including Bobby Charlton, Geoge Best, Denis Law, Ryan Giggs, Peter Schmeichel, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

While their rivals Liverpool have a squad that boasts an equally rich pool of talent, with Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and John Barnes joined by Michael Owen, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Steven Gerrard. How they go about playing them all and keeping all those players happy remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t fancy going up against a defence of Sami Hyypia, Mark Lawrenson, Alan Hansen and Jamie Carragher.

Stepping abroad sees some really exciting squads filled with players from down the ages, including Madrid boasting the attacking talents of Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas.

And perhaps even more intriguing is the potential talent lurking within the Barcelona B team, namely very young Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi, while a certain Lionel Messi is in their Under 19s side.

But maybe the greatest talent is within the AC Milan and Inter Milan squads, which boast the likes of Marco van Basten, (old) Ronaldo, Giuseppe Meazza, Javier Zanetti, Franco Baresi, Paulo and Cesare Maldini, Frank Rijkaard, Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Ruud Gullit and Christian Vieri, among others.

And finally, to finish on a really exciting pool of talent, brings us to Ajax. They boast the likes of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens, Patrick Kluivert, Wesley Sneijder, Jari Litmanen, Marc Overmars, Edgar Davids and many more.

Oh, and then there’s Pele and an unbelievably good 18-year-old Diego Maradona. Wow.

And just to give you an idea of the best talents in the world at the start of the game, here are the highest priced players.

This promises to be a unique, really exciting challenge, and I hope you’re intrigued by what’s to come in this series. And, I hope it provides a little light relief from supporting the real life Bolton Wanderers. Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we’ll bring you an update on how the Bolton Wanderers Legends have fared in the early part of the 2018/19 Championship campaign.