Bouncebackability: "The ability to bounce back or recover from bad circumstances"

This story is done, but the career continues - what is next?

  • Retire - my work in football is done

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Sell Parker, Thiry & Lazenby for mega-bucks & rebuild

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Resign and look to move abroad - I've earned it

    Votes: 1 100.0%
  • Keep the team and build a legacy

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters


Jan 2, 2020
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Let me take you back…back to the distant days of August 1992:

Billy Ray Cyrus was making feet shuffle with Achy Breaky Heart; Madonna, Snap and Jimmy Nail were all also present in the top 20. The film charts were full of classics; Reservoir Dogs, Alien, Basic Instinct and Scent of a Woman among many others had all either been released or were about to be.

Barcelona had just hosted the Olympic Games and Denmark were the surprise act as they were victorious at the European Championships in Sweden, despite having not even been in the competition a few months earlier.

However, most importantly in relation to this story, this was the very first season of the Premier League, which started with much fanfare, money and TV deals and ended as below.


Of the original 22 teams, 12 are in the Premier League, although some via relegations and promotions, as Man Utd, Villa, Liverpool, Spurs, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Sheffield United, Leeds, Southampton and Palace all currently find themselves in the top flight.

A further 7 teams; Norwich, Blackburn, QPR, Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry, Middlesbrough and Forest find themselves residing in the Championship and League 1 are home to Wimbledon and Ipswich.

Which leaves us with just one team. One remaining side that have dropped from inaugural Premier league participants to the 4th tier of English football.

Oldham Athletic F.C.
Wimbledon have even had the time to form an entirely new club, start in non-league football and progress to League 1 - leapfrogging Oldham in the process – in the time Oldham have dropped into League 2.

Oldham are the team who have fallen farthest from grace and now it’s time to get them back to the top table…and then…well, who knows?


We’ll just jump in at the deep end with the 5 year plan which seems reasonable with no expectations of promotion in the next 5 years.

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The board seem to be happy to still in League 2 in 5 seasons!! I’m looking to be a bit more ambitious than that.

The squad:


Having loaned out our best keeper for the season to Aberdeen, Lawlor will be first choice for this season….although even he’s only on loan.


We only have one natural right sided full back, but Tom Hamer is a promising player. He could be a key player going forward. We do have cover via the centre-backs, but a more dedicated RB may be needed.

Borthwick-Jackson is one of the more recognisable names in the Oldham squad and our most natural left-back. He will be first choice. Fage is a decent back up and Badan is probably versatile enough to be keeping around for the moment.

Some very decent centre-back options with another recognisable name; David Wheater as the strongest option. Wheater and Piergianni are the highly influential players in the dressing room with Jombati and another loanee – Arsenal’s Clarke – offering good strength in depth.

Both Grant and Keillor-Dunn are pretty versatile and can operate anywhere across the middle and Grant offers cover in the AMC position. This may be a position I look to upgrade depending on how the early games play out and the formations we settle into.

McAleny – one of the more talented players in the squad – and Dearnley can both play across the midfield and up front as well. Dearnley in particular, at just 21, could grow into a key part of this team if we can get the tactics right and we look to play with wingers.

Some good options in central midfield – McCalmont and Garrity in particular, but what we are missing is a real physical presence who can tackle. Ntambwe is the closest thing we have to a true defensive midfielder, but I’ll be looking to beg steal or borrow to improve here to at least add some depth.

Congolese International Bahamboula is the star player, but he will probably be playing elsewhere so it will be down to Rowe and Blackwood to provide the goals.

Overall, this seems like a reasonable, balanced squad for League 2 which makes it even more baffling that the board aren't expecting more. A couple of key signings and the right formation/tactics and we should be looking at the playoffs at least this season.

There are NO prospects in the U23s or the U18s which I’ll be looking to change pretty quickly as building the youth and progressing them to the first team will be a key part of my management.

My assistant manager, Alan Maybury, is clear in terms of the team overall - the positives are that the lads can jump, are agile, possess good anticipation and positioning and we have strength in depth in defence.

However, my goalkeepers’ reflexes are poor and they apparently can’t kick, throw or command their area terribly well, which begs the question as to what they can do.

Most worryingly the overall work rate of the team is questionable and this will need addressing.
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Staff :

Alan Maybury is my assistant manager. I hope he’s enthusiastic this season because he is going to be busy.
Other than that, the rest of the coaching team looks reasonable although I have 2 coaching spaces so they will need to be filled. An entirely new scouting team will have to be brought in as the club have no-one to do that and we’re a couple of physios down as well.

Pre-season transfers:

The first piece of business, which helps to address the deficiencies in central midfield is to bring in experienced midfielder; Kelvin Etuhu, on a free transfer.

Etuhu profile.jpg

And he’s joined by another DM, Amine Lingazi

LIngazi profile.jpg

I’m hoping between the two of them, Ntambwe and Whelen it offers the potential for a real defensive screen in front of the back 4, although bringing in those 2 contributes to what is already a large squad with 33 assigned numbers. Some work will have to be done trying to thin this out…

Squad numbers.jpg
A £50k bid is made for Badan by Livorno, which is accepted and he leaves.

We also pick up youngsters Idowu from the Irish U21 team and Khalil from the French U19 squad

Idowu profile.jpg

They’ll be placed in the U18s and on the development list to hopefully progress to challenge for a first team place in the next couple of seasons.

Pre-season games:


Just the 4 games which makes it pretty difficult to judge where this team are, but creditable displays against higher league opposition might bode well. Winger McAleney seemed to have the ‘goalden’ touch in the friendlies and I’m hoping this carries through.

We flittered from a 4-3-3 to 4-5-1 and then a 4-3-2-1in these games and it looks as though the 4-5-1 will be the starting formation, but the first few proper games will help to shape that.

There are a crazy number of games and competitions this season as we compete on four fronts, starting away at Rochdale in the Carabao cup.

Carabao Cup - 1st Round - Rochdale (a)


Okay, so they are a league above us and we were away, but that wasn’t a terribly good performance. It wasn’t until the wingers were move into the AMR/L position we started to play a bit.

Papa Johns Trophy - Wolves U23s (h)
We’re in a group with Bradford (League 2), Doncaster (League 1) and Wolves U23s which seems a potentially tough set of fixtures, starting with Wolves and the formation is as as we finished the previous game.

Wolves U23.jpg

Moving the wingers up the pitch and taking a more direct counter attacking approach pays off. Wolves were far better in the second half, but by then the damage had been done.

League 2 - Leyton Orient (h)
The scouting indicates Leyton Orient play route one, so the defence, which is not the quickest, is instructed to drop back to avoid being caught out. Other than that, same formation with a couple of fitness-related changes.

L Orient.jpg

They did not come to play and barely managed to get out of their half. Blackwood scored from 40 yards after a weak keeper’s clearance but we really should have punished them more than that.

League 2 - Stevenage (a)
An away game gives us a good opportunity to see how this formation holds up. The central of the 3 midfielders is changed to a BBM role in the hope of getting the ball further up the pitch.


The two wingers profit from Blackwood’s hard work as he comes up with both assists. We conceded to two headers from crosses and the goal right at the end meant that felt more like a defeat. Frustrated.

League 2 - Crawley (h)
On loan Clarke replaces Hamar who hasn’t been in great form and Linganzi replaces Ntambwe who is recovering from a minor knock. The front 3, all with 2 goals each, retain their places after pretty decent starts to the season.


I’m glad we have Bahamboula as he saves us from a pretty turgid performance there.

Just before the transfer window closes, we pick up 19 year old centre-back Shahib - previously at Brighton. He’ll be in the first team as a breatkthrough prospect, but I’m not expecting him to start too many.



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October 2020

A reasonable start to the season finds us in 3rd after 3 games although it is obviously still early days.


…and the board review for last month is reasonable as well…

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This is a busy month.

League 2 - Colchester (a)

We’re away, so I’m aiming to be a bit more cautious; dropping Bahamboula and Mcaleny into the wide midfielder positions. A more conservative passing approach is taken as well. Fage replaces Borthwick-Jackson whose form hasn’t been great in the last couple of games.


Another Blackwood goal, another Bahamboula assist but the damage was done in the first 11 minutes and we couldn’t claw ourselves back after that.

A board meeting request for a senior affiliate falls on deaf ears as they don’t seem to think it would be a good move for the club to rely on loanees…despite the fact that we have 5 in the first team as it is.

The tactic still isn’t quite right with 5 across midfield, so I’m pushing the wingers up for the next couple of games to see what happens.

The late transfer window closes - I have no plans to be busy, so it’s an early night and we’re all tucked up. There’ll be no faxes being sent or read at 11pm tonight,

Papa John’s Trophy - Bradford City (h)

We’ll be looking to build on the resounding win in the first game but sticking with a direct counter attacking approach with a balanced mentality. Grant’s better goalscoring ratio give him the edge over McAleny and Whelan’s recent poor performances means he’s dropped for Etuhu. As ever, I’m looking to Bahamboula and Blackwood to do the damage.


Genuinely surprised we won that as we were under the cosh for a lot of the game. That win guarantees us progression

League 2 - Morecambe (h)

The games are coming thick and fast and with them, the numbers of player suffering with lack of fitness increases. Linganzi, McCalmont & critically, Bahamboula miss out as they’re on international duty. Rowe gets a start after his recent injury.


That was a horrible performance, but on the plus side I got to throw a water bottle for the first time this season. We didn’t even come close to scoring, let alone winning. And the fans lay into me for the negative tactics, which is probably right.

And to make it worse Etuhu fractured some ribs - 6 wks out.

That loss drops us down to 14th

And then Whelan…with more broken ribs…adds to the list of midfielders out, as he misses 2 months.

In light of the fans criticism, we’re going to two strikers…but Bolton in 6th, away, might not be the best game to try it for the first time…

League 2 - Bolton (a)

And we’re in park the bus mode after a couple of poor performances and, worse, defeats.


Park the bus must mean something different up here. Wheater got his first of the season from a corner, Rowe’s was a clinical finish from a fine through ball and McAleny headed in from a Hamer cross.

That went well.

And we follow it up with 2 very winnable home games against teams in the bottom 4. The formation stays the same, but we’re not parking the bus at home.

League 2 - Carlisle (h)


The defenders did the hard work and Borthwick-Jones sets down a marker for an early goal of the season contender pinging into the top corner from 30 yards. Youngster Shabib makes his debut from the subs bench.

League 2 - Port Vale (h)

Both Bahamboula and Hamar are struggling with their fitness and miss out as Grant and Clarke come in. Same formation and tactics as the Carlisle game and the formation suits the vertical tika-taka approach.

port vale.jpg

They had one shot on target…and yes…they scored it. Rowe got the goal, but it was Linganzi who repeatedly won the ball in the middle and kept it ticking over that caught the eye.

The first round of the FA Cup is drawn and that takes us away to Port Vale.

League 2 - Southend (a)

Away to the team in second. I’ve resisted going into full Bolton game mode and parking the bus, but Ntambwe is dropped into the DM position. We’re really missing Etuhu & Whelan who are both still out injured.


That was some of the best football we’ve played so far this season so to concede 10 minutes from time was a kick in the teeth. McAleny, on for Blackwood, rescues us with a fine strike at the death.

League 2 - Salford (a)

McAleny gets his reward for rescuing us in the last game and a couple of other changes are needed. Neither Hamer or Clarke have performed particularly well in the RB spot so that position is very much up for grabs.


Another good performance that didn’t get the reward it deserved. Blackwood, in particular, missed a couple of very presentable chances.

November 2020

League 2 - Cheltenham (h)

The medical team advise that McCalmont is given a weeks rest so Grant steps in and Bahamboula, who’s been unproductive since moving him more centrally, is given a role that suits his talents and we’re starting aggressively.


We really could do with being more clinical in the final third as we should have put that one to bed long before Jombati’s headed goal from Bamboula’s corner.

Centre-back Harry Clarke, on loan from Arsenal gets his loan renewed until the end of the season as we need the cover and he could make a start in the upcoming FA Cup game.

FA Cup 1st Round - Port Vale (a)

Clarke does indeed get his start and Bahamboula is dropped into central midfield to give us a bit more stability for the away performance.

Port vale.jpg

That was either the perfect counter attacking away performance or a somewhat streaky win, depending on who you ask.

After 15 games in all competitions, the stats make pretty bang average readings with no-one really standing out. Despite being only a fringe player, Blackwood seems to be the first name on the team sheet as he leads the goals and assists.

15 game stats.jpg

The second round of the FA Cup takes us to Vanarama side, Fylde.

Papa Johns Trophy - Doncaster (a)

A number of changes are needed. Keeper Lawlor can’t play against his parent club, Garrity, Whelen, Etuhu and McCalmont are all either injured or on international duty leaving us short in the middle.


And it’s a good job we’re already through as we get pasted. Can’t even blame that on not having a usual keeper, but it did show that we are desperately short of composure all over the pitch.

Morecambe await in the second round.

League 2 - Scunthorpe (h)

Injuries, suspensions and international travelling hits the squad hard, so it’s all change.


Once again, we’re hardly blowing the opposition away but we just keep finding a way to get the job done and it’s that man Blackwood again from a very fine Dearnley cross.

That run of 7 unbeaten drags us up to 4th in the league, which is looking good for the pre-season expectation of a top half finish although I have noticed the board are not happy with the less than entertaining and defensive football on show!! Hmnnnn


League 2 - Exeter (a)

Exeter sit at the top of the league so going to their place is not the easiest game. Bahamboula returns and we finished the previous game strongly with 2 wide players up the pitch so we’re starting with this. Ntambwe comes into the middle to provide an additional defensive head.


Considering we worked our arses off getting back into that one, to lose it 5 minutes from the end and after making defensive changes to keep them out is disappointing. One of those games.

FA Cup 2nd round - Fylde (a)

Our league game was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch so we’ve had a bit of time to prepare for this. There will be some rotation though. 19 year old Shahib makes his first start at CB and Rowe comes in to give Blackwood a rest.

All out to win this one.


It took them losing a man and us going to 2 up front to win that. Another utterly horrible performance.

We have to find a way of playing with 2 strikers as we look so much more dangerous and it’s been 10 games since we scored more than once in a game!!!

And we go to Old Trafford in the 3rd round of the FA Cup…of course we do.

December 2020

Mgr review.jpg

Well at least the transfers - all 2 of them - have been well received.

League 2 - Tranmere (h)

The familiar faces - Wheater, Borthwick-Jackson, Etuhu and Blackwood return for the league game and…yes…it’s 2 up front.


And Boundary Park finally sees some goals. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?? Rowe, in particular, showed some clinical finishing that’s been missing from his game up until now.

12 players’ contracts are up at the end of the season and we’ll lose the 5 players in on loan so this might need a bit of thought.

Ntambwe has an optional extension of a year which is triggered and experienced centre-backs Jombarti & Wheater are offered an additional year and back up left back Fage is offered 2 years.

It’s unlikely that wide players Bahamboula and McAleny will get new offers as they are asking for too much at the moment.

League 2 - Barrow (a)
On paper, Barrow in 20th, should not provide stiff opposition…the pre-match scouting report described their attacking stats as ‘interesting’ and their defensive as ‘notable’, so who really knows? With the exception of the keeper, I’ve got a loan-free starting 11 which is something I’d quite like to maintain - having to rely on loan deals is not ideal.


We did only score the one goal, but we dominated that game in every area and should have scored more. Rowe & Blackwood still only have 4 league goals each.

My head physio notes that Bahamboula, Borthwick-Jackson and Wheater all apparantly need a rest so are given the next game off.

Which is slightly fortunate, because it’s the Papa John’s trophy and…well…really?

Papa Johns Trophy 2nd round - Morecambe (h)


McAleny makes a bid for being kept around and shows pretty good strength in depth showing he can step up for Blackwood if needs be.

We’ve got 2 home games coming up - Bradford, in 19th, and Walsall in 3rd - and winning both of those would be a big boost.


We draw league 1 side Hull in the third round of the Papa John’s trophy...away...and we pick up 18 year old defensive midfielder Noor Arabat on a free from the Moroccan U18s squad. He goes into the development side and we’ll see how he progresses...but he looks promising.

Arabat profile.jpg

A meeting with the head of youth development gives some early assessment of the youth intake but it doesn’t look promising.

League 2 - Bradford (h)


We left that late but Garrity, on for Bahamboula, showed some composure when through 1 on 1 from Lawlor’s route one assist. Blackwood made the most of a reckless challenge on Rowe in the box to bring us back level.

The season is already taking its toll as a number of players are regularly looking jaded so squad rotation looks like it is going to be key this season and on top of that both Lawlor and Borthwick-Jackson injure themselves in training.

League 2 - Walsall (h)

The starting 11 needs some amending. Garrity starts for Bahamboula as he’s more comfortable in the AMC position which might mean Bahamboula’s time is limited. He’s a star player, but fitting him into this formation which the lads seem comfortable with is a struggle. The money would be well spent elsewhere.


Right...less said about that one, the better. We did not play very well or create enough and got deservedly punished.

League 2 - Newport County (a)

Lawlor’s still injured and Bahamboula in the BBM role is a bit of an experiment, but we need a result to put the Walsall game out of the memory. Rowe & Blackwood are chosen to lead the line based purely on their numbers at the moment.


I was warned that our keepers distribution was not the best...and now I see why as 3 of the 4 goals all came from keeper kicking or throwing errors. The more attacking mentality paid off, but it was in vain. A new reserve keeper is on the shopping list.

League 2 - Cambridge (a)

Cambridge sit in 7th, one place above us and really where we want to be.


it took some fairly drastic half time changes, including getting the wingbacks more involved to claw that one back. We should have also won it at the death but Rowe missed a sitter in injury time.

Boxing day…

League 2 - Harrogate Town (a)

McCalmont, who’s lacking in match fitness is going to be a big miss and Grant, whist a good player, is perhaps not up to his level. Bahamboula is still in need of a rest whilst both Wheater and Borthwick Jackson are seriously jaded. This is not as easy a game as the table suggests it might be as Harrogate sit in 21st.


Grant was the outstanding performer with a fine goal at the end of a flowing move and a set-piece assist. Although we obviously haven't won every game, having two strikers has really made the difference in keeping the ball at the right end of the pitch. It's also unlocked Rowe, meaning he can make runs off Blackwood and we're starting to see goals from that. If we stick with this, it would not surprise me to see Rowe bagging a few now.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has a bit of a whinge about Clarke playing too regularly at RB outside of his agreed position, CB. As it happens, I’m looking at options to address this but I’ll sort it out.

Dacres Cogley is signed to provide some competition to Hamer at RB. He can also play LB and means that Clarke can get some time playing CB. And for £10k he looks like a good piece of business.


League 2- Grimsby (a)

Borthwick-Jackson is fit to return but his recent performances haven’t been great so he can ease himself in with a half here., Wheater comes back into central defence and the BBM and AP roles are played around with a little bit as we still look to find the right balance in midfield alongside the more defensive minded Etuhu & Linganzi.


We were very unlucky to end up the losing side of 2 very evenly matched teams. Scannell won’t score another goal like that all season though - volleyed in a long crossfield pass from the edge of the box. Time to ignore the social media though. The fans said it was really wasn’t.
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January 2021

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Right-back Dacres-Cogley signs, and the knock on effect will be that on loan Clarke will be able to play in his preferred CB position...Mikel will be happy.

League 2 - Forest Green (a)

Another tough game in quick succession as Green sit in 5th. Dacres-Cogley starts and a number of changes have to be made. Etuhu is moved in the DM position to offer some extra protection.

F Green.jpg

We went more direct at halftime and changed Rowe’s role to poacher and that paid off as he got on the end of a fine Grant through ball to salvage a point. Hard done not to get all 3 really.

My keeper, Gary Woods, who has been on loan a Aberdeen returns. According to my assistant manager, Woods should be first choice, but putting the two side by side, Lawlor looks like the better keeper.

League 2 - Mansfield (h)

The more direct passing instruction is retained to try and build on the Forest Green game. Woods makes a start, but I’ll be looking to Grant & Garrity to be the productive element in midfield.


Rowe isn’t the quickest, but he is clinical and that makes the difference, especially when the Mansfield defence allow him room in the box. Those goals take him to 10 for the season and he’s become a very important part of the jigsaw.

So, 3rd round of the FA Cup and we’ve drawn Man Old Trafford...and there are still only 2 journalists present?? Really…??

FA Cup 3rd Round - Manchester United (a)

This is a batten down the hatches kind of job

Man Utd.jpg

I know we were never realistically going to win that one, but to concede 3 at set pieces was a bit annoying.

And then at the post-match conference there are 13 journalists...where were all you vultures before the game, eh??

That is, unfortunately, the sort of heavy defeat that could hammer morale and lead to a bit of a downward spiral. We’ve got League 1 Hull in the next round of the Papa John’s trophy and then away to a top 3 team in the league. This could be a nasty spell of games.

And to make it worse, Arsenal, the muppets, have recalled Harry Clarke from being loan as he’s been played outside of his preferred be fair, Arteta did warn me about that. But even so, it leaves me a CB short.

Papa Johns Trophy - Hull (a)


Didn’t do enough and nowhere enough attacking intent from the team...but we avoided the heavy defeat that was being predicted before the game so actually it wasn’t a terrible performance.

Borthwick-Jackson sprains knee ligaments in training and misses a number of weeks which is a blow. Fage can step up and Dacres-Cogley can play both fb positions which is helpful.

League 2 - Walsall (a)

I don’t know whether it’s the number of games, or the lack of general fitness at this level but we seem to be having massive problems with players lacking fitness game-to-game so there’s another whole suite of rotations and a change in formation as we only have one and a half fit strikers.


Our inability to defend from corners comes to the fore again as both their goals came from set-pieces. Gordon from our inability clear properly and the second a direct header. McAleny did well to dig us out of a hole and rescue us a point.

Borthwick-Jackson (2 years), Woods (3 years) and Rowe (2 years) all sign contract extensions. We’ll have to find replacements at the end of the season for

GK Lawlor - Bilboe in the reserves offers cover, but he’s not great.
MC - McClalmont - that will be a loss as he’s been one of our better performers.
MC - Garrity.
AMC - Grant.

League 2 - Newport County (h)

Newport County.jpg

Gegenpressing is certainly effective, but it doesn’t half kill the players. McAleny, on as a sub, should have given us the lead long before he actually did and I was starting to get nervous before he popped up with the game wearing on.

With Clarke having gone back to Arsenal, we’re a centre-back down so Corrie Ndaba is brought in a short term deal from Ipswich.

Ndaba profile.jpg

League 2 - Cheltenham (a)

Ndaba comes straight into the first team as neither Jombarti or Pierganni are fit enough to start.


They went to a 4-2-4 formation with 10 minutes left and we just couldn’t contain them. Frustrated as we concede yet another late goal. Ndaba got his on debut though.

squad stats.jpg

After 35 games, it’s a bit of a mixed bag but overall, too many players not performing including some who should be playing better, Whelan, I’m looking at you. Rowe is the top scorer for us in the league, but it’s only good enough for joint 10th and Blackwood’s 7 league assists place him joint 4th.

League 2 - Salford (h)

Again, the high number of players lacking in fitness mean I’m making more changes than I’d like. Today it’s Wheater, Whelan and Garrity who are struggling.


Rowe continues his fine season and McCalmont pitches in as we record a straightforward win. That’s now 10 at home unbeaten, and that win takes us up into the playoff places.


February 2021

board overview.jpg

The wages are a bit of an issue but hopefully the board can hold until the summer. We’re currently paying £4,500 a week to players on loan and £3,500 to unwanted players whose contracts are up in the summer. That additional money will give us some breathing space...although we will need to replace the 5 players on loan.

It’s always tempting to try and pick up some players on a pre-contract at this time of year, but in the interests of being sensible, I may have to resist for the time being.

Just the 5 games this month starting with struggling Scunthorpe

League 2 - Scunthorpe (a)


A Sunday league team would have defended better for their goal as we let a route one keepers kick go straight through the middle of defence for a tap in. Thankfully, we pulled ourselves together after that and McAleny gives us a very deserved win.

Reserve keeper Bilboe leaves for Halifax freeing up another £500 a week. Every little helps…

League 2 - Exeter (h)

Exeter sit top of the league, 4 places ahead of us, so this is a challenge and a really good barometer to see where we are. McAleny just gets the edge ahead of Rowe and the injured Dacres-Cogley is replaced by Hamer, who needs to start improving.


We pretty much matched them but Wheater’s lack of pace at the back proved our undoing. After a reasonably prolific spell, Blackwood scores his first for 10 appearances...we’ll need him firing on all cylinders for the run in.

And speaking of which, the playoff places are ridiculously close.

playoff places.jpg

Our next 3 games are all against teams in the bottom half so give us a pretty good chance to solidify our position and it’s away to Tranmere, in 16th up first.

League 2 - Tranmere (a)

Bahamboula has returned from his spell out, replacing Grant. Linganzi comes into central midfield as well - his passing in particular has been key and leads the league with a 95% success rate.


Hamer finally puts in a decent performance as he produces a fine assist for Rowe. Bahamboula’s 25 yard strike in off the bar capped off a very, very good away performance.

League 2 - Barrow (h)

21st placed Barrow come to Boundary Park. 19 year old Shahib makes his first league start of the season, with top scorer; Rowe, and top assister; Blackwood, looking to do the damage at the other end of the pitch.


Shahib had a reasonably good game, but it was Bahamboula who stole the show with a rare headed goal. He was at risk of being transfer listed as he doesn’t really fit the formation, but he’s adapted pretty well to that AMC position and has 5 goals, 4 assists from that position.

League 2 - Carlisle (a)

Carlisle are having a bit of a shocker. They sit 20th after a pre-season prediction of a comfortable mid-table position. They could be vulnerable. The injured Linganzi is the only enforced absentee with the underwhelming Whelan in to replace him.


Well that was a bit of a boring game. On the plus side, 3 points, one defeat in 11 games and that win pushes us up into 3rd place. We’ve still got a lot of games to play, but this sets us up nicely.
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March 2021


A pretty reasonable review really. I’m a bit torn about the comments relating to the gegenpressing. It might not be attractive to watch, but it’s getting me the…

League 2 - Bolton (h)

A proper top of the table clash as we sit in 3rd and face off against the team top of the pile. Frustratingly both Bahamboula and Blackwood are in need of a rest but having McCalmont back is a boost.


Well that was disappointing and we choked a little bit under pressure.

League 2 - Southend (h)

Ndaba is proving to be a very shrewd loan signing as he continues his fine form at the heart of the defence. Alongside Piergianni in this case. As the overwhelmingly top earner and aged 34, Wheater’s days may be numbered.

Southend are struggling in 17th position, so this should be straightforward...but a clean sheet would be nice.


No clean sheet, but plenty of possession, attacking intent and chances created. The goals were spread around and a slight tactical tweak...dropping deeper and playing offside really hampered their chances to counter attack. Fage was the MoM with 2 assists from the FB position.

League 2 - Port Vale (a)

It’s another struggling team, as Vale sit in 18th place. We’ve got a healthy 8 point cushion in the playoff positions and just 2 points behind Grimsby - who we have yet to play - who are in the automatic promotion spot. A win here would be valuable to solidify that position.

Lots of less than fit players, so trying to reduce the injury likelihood - Ndaba, McCalmont and Rowe miss out. Bahamboula steps in to play poacher as an experiment. He’s quicker than Rowe and I think could be dangerous.

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The sending off helped us, but that was a resounding win and Bahamboula did exactly what I was hoping he could do as he got on the end of 2 fine through balls.

We’re on a bit of a roll here and morale is pretty good, so I attempt to take advantage of this by going to the board and asking for some more coaching staff as our goalkeeper coaching is woefully poor.


That was emphatic.

Ntwambe picks up a knock in training which means he’s out for up to 6 weeks, which is almost all of the rest of the season. That’s a blow as he’s a vital option as one of the middle 3 at the moment.

And things get worse as an attempt to reduce Wheater’s playing time goes very badly...and the squad meeting for the players upset with the way I’ve treated Wheater, goes even worse.

League 2 - Cambridge (h)

These are one of our playoff rivals, so this is a key game not to drop points at. Bahamboula stays up top.


Well, that brought us back down to earth a little bit. I’ll take the hit for that one, thinking we could play exactly the same way as we did against Port Vale and get the same result. My bad!!

And yet more fitness concerns...Bahamboula and McCalmont need a rest. They’re both rested for the next match.

League 2 - Bradford City (a)

Game number 37 in the league this season, and we’re getting into the business end of things. Lots of changes as Borthwick-Jackson, Linganzi and Ndaba return after knocks and Whelan has stepped up his game and was our one bright spot against Cambridge.


Our defenders might as well have wrapped that game up, put a bow on it and presented it to the Bradford manager. Dacres-Cogley played a blind pass across the 18 yard box leaving Novak with a tap in to an unguarded goal and then, comically, Wheater’s attempted clearance from a corner hits Pritchard in the back of the head and bounces past Woods into the back of the net.

We’ve all been there, we’ve all done it...move on.

Bahamboula is away on international duty and bags his first international goal against the international footballing giants that are Ethiopia.

League 2 - Leyton Orient (a)

We’re favourites for this one. Leyton Orient are propping up the league with us now in 6th so I’m expecting us to rather pile on the misery here and put the last 2 losses behind us. We’re so short of players we can only name 6 subs though. Whelan’s form has improved recently since moving him into the BBM role.

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That was the Rowe show as he was clinical in the box with 3 good strikes which take him to 16 in the league overall. Good performances all round.


The youth intake is in and, unsurprisingly for a team with no youth set-up to speak of, there is very little to speak of...particularly when by the time they’ll be in the first team, we will hopefully be a league or 3 further up.

2nd to 6th separated by just 3 points...this is going to be some run in and our remaining fixtures feature 2 of our promotion rivals.



April 2021
There’s a bit of club admin to get sorted:

Players Keillor-Dunn & Jameson’s contracts are expiring. Keillor-Dunn doesn’t really fit the tactic we’re playing and Jameson isn’t good enough, so we can free up some money by letting those two go.

Virtually all my staff’s contracts are up as well. There are a couple who can go, but most will be retained.

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Maybe we’ll get round to playing entertaining football when we have the players to do so!

League 2 - Stevenage (h)

Have most of our players back, so it’s a pretty full squad to choose from as Bahamboula & Ntambwe are the only absentees.


Rowe continues his prolific season and Grant adds another to his showreel of impressive goals curling one in from outside the box. Whelan picked up an ankle injury that rules him out for 5 weeks.

League 2 - Crawley (a)

A slightly pessimistic approach as we’re away and a number of changes are needed as we are suffering from match fatigue. Bahamboula is back, but in an unfamiliar role.


That was frustrating. We more than matched them but got suckerpunched by two long over the top balls...and I can’t even blame Wheater’s lack of pace this time.

A number of youth players are released by Premier League clubs - I offer them all trials like the greedy manager I am...and they all accept so well see if any make the grade.

League 2 - Colchester (h)

3rd placed Colchester rock up and we’re currently 2 points behind them. A win would be massive.


And a win it was, but it took 30 minutes of back to the wall defending in the second half to come out of that unscathed. That win moves us into the automatic promotion places, but with it being so close, everything is still to play for.

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After 50 games, the player stats are a bit mixed and there aren’t too many players playing to their best. Worryingly, the 2 top performing players are only on loan, but on the plus side, there are 3 players in double figures for goals which is good and the assists are spread nicely around the team.

Bolton guarantee a play-off place.

League 2 - Morecambe (a)

Morecambe currently sit in 11th place, but have been in good form recently. Bahamboula returns, Borthwick-Jackson replaces Fage and Garrity comes in for Linganzi, which is more tactical than fitness related. I’m resisting the urge to try Bahamboula in place of Rowe, but it is surely worth a shot at some point. His additional pace makes him dangerous.


Well that was frustrating. Rowe got his 18th league goal of the season and Bahamboula scored a wonder-strike, but we didn’t do enough to win that, despite taking some risks as the game wore on.

The title run-in looks interesting:

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We’re lucky that we’ve got promotion rivals Grimsby at home, but who knows??

Tarelle Whittaker, who failed to make the grade at Spurs and Jarrell Quansah from Liverpool are the 2 players we’ll be signing in the summer.


League 2 - Harrogate (a)


Harrogate weren’t very good, but we took full advantage of them being a bit...a lot...****.

Not only does that win guarantee us a playoff place, but it takes Rowe to joint 1st in the league scoring charts with 21. His recent form has been seriously impressive.

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League 2 - Grimsby (h)

This is the big one as we sit equal on points with them with 3 games left.


Rose got a late consolation, but we really are saving our best football and performances for last. Grimsby had more shots on goal, but they were mostly speculative and from distance and we made ours count.

Ntambwe injures an ankle and misses out for the next 3 weeks. That could be a big loss as he provides cover across the midfield.

Bolton beat Morecambe and confirm automatic promotion. 1 down, 2 to go and it’s tight at the top.


May 2021
Unsurprisingly Rowe’s 6 goals in April give him the league 2 player of the year, Ndaba gets 2nd place in the young player of the month award and Grant’s effort against Stevanage gives him second place in the goal of the month.

League 2 - Mansfield (a)

Morale is crazily high, recent form has been very good and we’re on a bit of a roll. No changes are needed but Blackwood is replaced by McAleny as he offers the greater goal threat from the DLF position.


We did absolutely everything right as we battered Mansfield but just could not make the breakthrough. Bahamboula, Rowe and Dacres-Cogley all missed chances they could have put away. Another ‘one of those games’.

Bolton are crowned champions.

Ahead of the final game, it’s between us, Grimsby and Exeter, so in order to get automatic promotion, we need to better both of their results:

Grimsby are away to 6th placed Cambridge.
Exeter are at home to 21st placed Barrow.

League 2 - Forest Green (h)

So, hoping a number of other results go our way, all we can do is win our game. Borthwick-Jackson ****** me off in a team meeting, so he’s out and Bahamboula needs another rest so Grant comes in. We need Rowe’s form to carry on from last month.

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McAleny was brilliant and even Ndaba’s own goal can’t really spoil the result.

We uphold our end of the bargain, but there’s a very nervous wait in the changing room as we wait for other results to be confirmed...

May 2021 (continued)

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Grimsby get well and truly spanked and Exeter can’t make their home advantage count so we’re up via AUTOMATIC PROMOTION against all pre-season expectations.

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The board are quick to jump on the success and want a meeting already to discuss club culture and future plans


Okay...that’s reasonable and fits with both our current tactics and the way I like to play.

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Stay up, make some money, be established as a league 1 team. I think that’s doable.

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On loan Ndaba & McCalmont were the stand-out players and I may look to bring those players in again next season. 32 year old Rowe was the top scorer with Bahamboula, Blackwood and McAleny also all in double figures. Of the poorer performers, Dearnley is transfer listed and can leave. Whelan has all the attributes, but has underperformed...although he was better in the BBM role.

Rowe’s 23 goals is a new record.
Blackwoods 10 assists is a new team record
Bahamboula’s 6 man of the match awards is a new record.
Lawlor’s 11 clean sheets is a new team record.

The squad will need improving, but we’ll see what happens.

The players get 6 weeks off and we’ve probably got some squad building to do.

Both Ndaba’s and McCalmont’s loan are extended for another season and that is a coup. They are both quality.

I also try and take advantage of the promotion to force the board to ask for more coaches and a senior affiliate club which they agree to. This might be a slow build up of improving the facilities and staff etc over the next couple of seasons.

The board come up trumps and manage to secure a partnership with Norwich whose excellent youth facilities will surely benefit us. Very happy with that.

Rowe’s 22 league goals give him the top scorer of the season award and there’s a very welcome winner of the manager of the year award:

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June 2021
So...this could be a critical month and the priority is bringing in good enough players to stay up in League 1. I’ve lost GK Lawlor and attacking midfielder Grant as their loans have finished so they definitely need replacing.

Garrity, on loan from Blackpool last season, is approached to sign as his contract expires.


Transfer priorities are a keeper, attacking midfielder and a striker...and also a DM as Etuhu announces his retirement. I could have done with him hanging around for another season.


New signings Whiitaker and Quansah are brought in. being short of a striker, Whittaker might be put straight into the first team to cover for Rowe. Quansah is a pretty good prospect, so might benefit from some loan time coming up.

I’ve got a transfer budget of £1m, but given the instruction to get the finances under control I’m looking to improve via free transfers in the summer. If something too good comes up though, who knows?


It looks as though staying up is going to be an achievement, but there is some money available and the staffing can be expanded and improved.

The first leg of the Carabao Cup is drawn and we find ourselves away to Oxford in August. Definitely not the worst that draw could have been.

One thing that I am expecting is an increase in attendances. Boundary Park has a capacity of 13,612. Our average attendance last season was just under 4,500 so about a third full. I’m hoping this will increase and matchday takings will be up too.

The end of the month means the end of the loans and keeper Lawlor, attacking midfielder Grant and a number of fringe players in the U18s and U23s who were never going to make it, leave.

July 2021
We had Garrity on loan last season and have now made him a permanent signing after his release from Blackpool. He can play in either of the supporting CM roles, or AMC behind the strikers.

The search for a second keeper only goes as far as WIgan as we pick up Jones on a free transfer who will be at least a decent back-up and he’s very quickly followed by Matty Willock, released by Gillingham


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That was an easy one to achieve as I’m not entirely sure how we’ve ended up fully repairing the financial damage already, but I’ll take it.

33 year old Sido Jombati, who was unhappy at being played centre-back requests a transfer which is granted and he moves back to League 2 with Cheltenham. He’s been more than replaced by Quansah so I’m not too downearted. He performed well last season, but at 33 and with his contract expiring, he was getting on for being surplus to requirements.

20 year old Shahib goes out on loan to Bromley as I feel regular first team football would be beneficial.

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Assuming we’ll line up as of last season, it’s looking like our squad is going to be:

GK - Woods / Jones

RB - Hamer / Dacres-Cogley

LB - Borthwick-Jackson / Fage.

DC - Wheater / Quansah / Pierganni / Ndaba

DM - Ntambwe / Linganzi

MC - McCalmont / Garrity / Whelan / Willock /

AMC - Bahamboula

ST - Rowe / Blackwood / McAleny / Whittaker.

If our ability to remain fit for more than one game at a time is still the same as last season, players will get lots of game. We still need a backup AMC after a number of unsuccessful trials in the last month.


Not many green bars in there, but actually for a newly promoted side, I don’t think we match up too badly although there are definitely areas to improve on - goalkeepers distribution, defenders pace and strikers heading (and maybe pace).

We’re still pretty deep in potential transfer business, but the first game of the new season is upon us. The press conference is noticeably busier with 8 journalilsts….I was used to just 2 in League 2!


The friendlies did not exactly go to plan as we only manage win across the 5 games which is disappointing and doesn’t exactly bode well for the upcoming season.

League 1 - Rotherham (a)

We’re without Whittaker and there a number of players who are well short of match fitness, although that’s not a huge surprise at the beginning of the season. It’s a very familiar starting 11 though and we’re starting with a defensive mindset.


Gutted. Gutted. Gutted. Played the perfect defensive away performance and then spoiled it a minute later from a corner. Gutted. Gutted. Gutted. Can’t even be mad.

August 2021


Not quite sure where that came from after one game, but I’ll take it.

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That’s an interesting draw - bit of a mixed bag, but between Sunderland and Man Utd U23s that could be tough to get out of.

Lots of scouting needing to be done...but in the meantime, we have games to play!

League 1 - Plymouth (h)

At home, I hope we can afford to let the shackles off a bit. Willock makes his debut as he comes in and Linganzi replaces Ntambwe from the previous game. I’ve also swapped Rowe & McAleny as their player traits suit being the other way round. The shackles are taken off the fullbacks as well.


That will do nicely. Dominated possession, Bahamboula scores a cracker from outside the box and Willock has a very promising debut.

Caribou Cup 2nd Round - Oxford United (a)

Quite a lot of rotation going on here, including a first start for 18 year old centre-back Jarell Quansah and keeper James.


We were slightly fortunate to get out of Oxford with a win there, but we defended pretty resolutely as Oxford pushed on to get a winner.

For the second season in a row, we draw Premier League opposition but this time it’s Sheffield United and we’re at home. That might be a bit of a money-spinner if the stadium is full.

Another very good piece of transfer business is done as 28 year old centre-back Angus McDonald is bought in from Rotherham. He will be the successor to Wheater, whose contract is up next year and will not be renewed (but shush...he doesn’t know that yet).


He instantly becomes our best centre-back.

League 1 - Accrington (a)

McDonald will have to wait for his debut. Borthwick-Jackson comes in for Fage who’s injured and Ntambwe replaces a less than fully fit Linganzi at DM. We’re starting with the same defensive mentality that (nearly) served us so well against Rotherham.


Turns out we were too defensive in the first half and it was an uphill struggle trying to get it back after half-time. Good performance from Blackwood though.

To add to the injury woes at LB - Borthwick-Jackson is now out for 8 weeks with a thigh strain. Ndaba can step in, but losing him from the middle is a blow.

League 1 - Northampton (a)

Northampton have lost their 3 games so far, so we’ll be looking to pile on the misery. Aside from the injuries, Whelan hasn’t particularly impressed yet so he misses out. McDonald make his first start and Blackwood/McAleny are the strikers in form so stay in.


Well that was entertaining. That second penalty from Blackwood was a bit nervy though.

The post-match press conference suggests that 50 points is the minimum to stay up and if we keep getting results like this, we’ll manage that easily.

Carabao Cup 2nd Round - Sheffield United (h)

It is tempting to put out a weaker team to keep fresh legs for the league, but I’m going to resist with only a couple of changes to be made.

Sheff Utd.jpg

We were desperately unlucky to concede at the death, having pretty much controlled the game, so the penalty win was glorious and, although they’re not one of the BIG, BIG boys, a premiership scalp is a result. Disappointing that the stadium was less than half full though.

The 3rd round of the Carabao Cup is drawn and we find ourselves against another premier league team, this time Wolves...and at home again. Another potential upset on the cards.

Having been unable to find a good enough back-up for Bahamboula in the AMC position, I’ve been forced to bring in a loan option - Jacob Ramsey from Aston Villa is the best available and comes in for the season.


Youngsters in the development squads Shahib (DC), Idowu (MC) and Arabat (DM) are all offered extensions to their current contracts as I want to get those tied down.

Almost every first team player has a contract that is up at the end of this season and these will be worked through in the next few months.

League 1 - Coventry (h)

Ndaba still has to deputise at LB in the absence of Borthwick-Jackson and Fage and Ntambwe is also unavailable, so Linganzi has to play again which is adding to his matchload which isn’t exactly ideal.


Another very late goal robs us of 3 points but Rowe & Blackwood goals are pleasing with assists coming from the full-backs. Ramsey had a good half hour cameo as well.

Blackwood jointly leads the league top scorers with 4 and Dacres-Cogley leads the assists with 3. A very good start for those two in particular.

Rowe and Linganzi are offered new contracts which they accept. That’s a couple of years extension each which ties them down - and with seasonal goal bonuses as well which will incentivise them...hopefully.

19 year old defensive midfielder Arabat goes off to Livorno on loan for a season to get some first team football hopefully.

Papa Johns Trophy Gp Stage - Manchester United U23s (h)

Man Utd U23s.jpg

Having not drawn in this competition last season, the penalty shootout took me by did the 2 points for a win and 1 point for a loss on penalties, so that’s weird. On to the game though, we did well and were pretty evenly matched. I would have said a draw was a fair result - and it probably would have been. Woods was the hero with two saves.

And right at the end of month, we pull of a bit of a coup as we sign Jack Rodwell for 11 months, with a years extension. He’ll add some cover in the middle and allow us to run Ntambwe’s contract down.



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September 2021


Wheater’s recent performances have been slightly worrying so I get that and I’ll have to keep an eye on how he manages. He’s also consistently been the worst performer in training which doesn’t bode well.

The contract renewals continue as full-backs Fage and Hamer get their extra year triggered. Bahamboula is given a bumper rise and in the process becomes the top earner at the club. McAleny signs another 2 years as well.

5 games this month with a run of 3 home games in the middle.

League 1 - Colchester (a)

Ahhh...Colchester, the oldest recorded town in the country. They’ve overperformed this season and sit happily in 10th. Rodwell is thrown in earlier than I anticipated. Blackwood, Ntambwe, Linganzi and Borthwick-Jackson are all injured.



League 1 - Cambridge (h)

WIllock suspended, top scorer Blackwood injured and no cover for DM Rodwell so he gets 2 games in a row and Bahamboula comes back in.. Cambridge are another team who are surpassing expectations but we can’t possibly play as badly as we did in the last game.


And that’s why Bahamboula gets the new contract. In truth, Cambridge threw that away at the end with a needless foul to concede the penalty but I won’t be complaining about that.

League 1 - Fleetwood (h)

Top of the league and unbeaten so far this season - this is a tough proposition. Quansah returns - he’s our highest performing centre-back so far this season and Willock returns after his suspension. The only other change is to move Rowe onto the right hand side of forwards onto his stronger foot.


Okay...not an ideal result, but it was a far improved performance built on the Cambridge result.

Carabao Cup 3rd Round - Wolverhampton Wanderers (h)

Another Premier League team and we’re up against it so we’re putting out a strong team. Blackwood and McAleny have scored the majority of our goals, so they both start. Borthwick-Jackson is still injured so Fage, who hasn’t been in great form, has to deputise again.


We had a couple of good chances, but the scoreline suggests that was a lot closer than it was. We got battered and their quality shone through with the new £20m signing getting the goal.

Still less than 2/3rds full though, so it makes me wonder what we have to do to get a full crowd.

Four games on the bounce was clearly too much for Rodwell as he is ruled out for 7 weeks with sprained knee ligaments.

League 1 - Bristol Rovers (a)

Rowe comes back in, as does Quansah. Full-backs are a real problem area as they’re all struggling to put 2 good performances together. Tactical changes are made to hopefully make us more difficult to break down as away to the team in 5th is a challenge. We seem to have had a run of tough games against teams in the top half of the league so no pressure lads!

Bristol R.jpg

By the end of that game, we couldn’t even find team-mates with throw ins.

The contract renewals continue as Piergianni signs a new 2 year contract and the bid to at least improve the youth team goes on as ex-Wolves player Conor Carty signs and is placed on loan.


3 losses that month mean our league position takes a bit of a hit.


October 2021
Garrity is the next to spend some time in the physio room as he misses 4 weeks with a back sprain which is annoying.


Despite last month’s poor results, the board review is still reasonable.

League 1 - Gillingham (a)

Gillingham are another club at the wrong end of the table, so this is the perfect opportunity to get the results back on track. Some form and fitness related changes are needed.


Hardly the sparkling return to form - we only had 2 shots on target the whole game - but at the end of the day, a point is a point...cliche’s in abundance.

Papa Johns Trophy - Mansfield (h)

Bahamboula needs a rest, which he’s given and 18 year old Whittaker makes his first senior start.


Another penalty win...we must have been practising these at some point.

And a bit of a break as 6 of the players are off on International duty - Bahamboula and Linganzi are with Congo, Ntambwe is the with Democratic Republic of Congo and McCalmont is with Northern Ireland. 2 youth players are also away.

League 1 - Crewe Alexandra (h)

A couple of tactical tweaks - play narrower and through the middle to take advantage of our players being there. Some players haven’t fully recovered from Internationals so changes are needed and this is the first of 3 games this week.


Crewe were far and away the better team, but didn’t really create much more than their goal. We did need Rowe at the end though…

We find ourselves going away to Salford in the first round of the FA Cup as that’s drawn.

League 1 - Wycombe Wanderers (a)

Wycombe finished bottom of the Championship and were relegated last season and find themselves in 7th place so far. We’re shutting up shop for this one but trying to pick the team based on who’s playing well is difficult, as no-one is standing out.


Actually played okay, but just didn’t have the extra quality seemingly needed in this league. It’s going to take a couple of seasons to upgrade this team enough I think.

Our defensive performances have not been good so far this season - the only team who have conceded more than us are Northampton who are bottom! Might be time to look at shoring up at the back.

League 1 - Burton Albion (a)

Burton Albion are one of the few teams below us, in 23rd so we really could do with a win here and we’ve got a run of games against the teams around us. We make a massive tactical change in light of the lack of chances made recently and a lack of attacking intent. If we can't defend properly, we might as well look to out-score the opposition.


And it pays off as again, Rowe, proves his value to the team. We certainly show more intent and do a better job of getting the ball forward. Burton weren’t great, so this may not hold up, but for today, it worked.

League 1 - Doncaster (h)

Doncaster finished in 11th last season but have struggled so far this time round. We haven’t really got the players for this formation, so Blackwood and McAleny have to play unfamiliar roles.


Not that it seems to matter too much as we thump Doncaster with an unprecedented show of relentless football. Quansah gets his first for the club and at 18, he is already one of our best centre-backs.

Another week where Wheater has been poor in training. If he wants a contract extension, he really is going about it the wrong way.

League 1 - Shrewsbury (a)

Quansah is a high injury risk, so McDonald comes in. Garrity replaces Ramsey and Backwood is dropped for Bahamboula after whinging about playing out of his preferred position. That’ll show him…


Turns out getting 3 wins in a row is tough in this league.


November 2021
A quick meeting with the head physio indicates that both Bahamboula and McCalmont are looking jaded and could do with a rest...excellent.


League 1 - MK Dons (a)

MK Dons are one of the other teams struggling as they sit just below us in the table. We have to make a lot of changes for fitness related reasons but it doesn’t seemingly weaken the team too much. Rodwell is in contention for an appearance after his injury as well.

MK Dons.jpg

Quansah is an absolute rock at centre-back and what a bargain he looks. McAleny does well at the other end of the pitch as we just about edge a pretty even game which takes us up to 13th in the league.

FA Cup 1st Round - Salford (a)

Back to League 2 as we square up against Salford who are fighting for the promotion spots this year. We make a lot of changes, including swapping Rowe for Whittaker. The 18 year old is yet to score, but we have high hopes for him and this is all part of his development.


Bahamboula’s missed penalty pretty much summed that game up. Had all the chances, all the shots, most of the possession and none of the goals.

If we win the replay, we’ll face League 1 Cambridge at home in the second round.

Papa Johns Trophy Group Stage (3rd game) - Sunderland (a)

We’re second in the group, Sunderland are 3rd so if we can avoid a loss and Man UtdU23s beat Mansfield, which they will surely do, we’re guaranteed progression.


Although we didn’t play badly, there was not enough attacking intent and even when changes were made to address that, we couldn’t break through a pretty solid red and white defensive wall. Worse than the result was McDonald’s injury meaning he’s laid off for 6 weeks which is a blow.

Despite missing players due to international duty we are set to play the FA Cup replay against Salford which isn’t ideal.

16 year old youth player Alfie Ross has been impressing in the U18s with 30 goals in 25 games this season and 10 goals in 6 games last season. He could be one to keep an eye on in the next couple of years if he can step up and mix it with the big(ger) boys.


Rowe is injured in a training collision and that is a blow as we lose our first choice striker for 3-4 weeks. We have players who can deputise, but none who are quite as effective.

FA Cup 1st Round replay - Salford (h)

We only failed to go through last time round as Bahamboula missed the gilt-edged penalty chance to put us through. We’re without Rowe and McDonald who are key players and on the advice of my assistant manager, I’ve changed McAleny’s role from trequartista to shadow striker.

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I might have to listen to Alan Maybury more often as McAleny turns in a performance of the highest order as he provides both assists for the goals. The on-loan Ramsey, in particular, is really benefiting from the move to 3 attacking midfielders allowing him some freedom which he is making the most of.

League 1 - Ipswich (h)

This is one of the tougher games we have. Ipswich are 3rd and have only lost twice this season. Ndaba can’t play against his parent club and we’re missing a number of first team options so it’s a slightly patched up starting 11. I take a bit of a risk in the changing room and tell the lads I’m expecting a win...


Oh yes! We rode our luck a bit, but Bahamboula’s goal at the death was probably just deserved. 5 unbeaten in the league and that propels us to the heady heights of 12th place but, more importantly, 11 points clear of the relegation zone which is the primary aim this season.


After 25 games, performances are a bit of a mixed bag. The top players are at opposite end of the pitch as Ndaba and Rowe lead the average ratings.

Rowe’s 6 league goals are only good enough for joint 14th in the league. Dacres-Cogley has 5 assists from the RB position which puts him in joint 2nd. Bringing him in for 10k from Birmingham looks like a very good piece of business now.

At the other end Ntambwe is looking out of his depth in League 1 and Wheater’s age is getting the better of him. Whittaker is in the squad for the experience and Whelan, who has had multiple chances to impress, can’t seem to put in a decent performance.

We bring in Jake Hesketh on a free to help spread the load among the AMC positions as we’re short of players who can play in that position and with the way things are going at the moment, it looks like this formation works for the time being. He’s signed until the end of the season to see how he gets on. Unfortunately, he’s a signing the board won’t like as he doesn’t meet their vision for U23 first team players, but needs must.


He is probably a league 2 player in league 1 but he will get a good amount of gametime. I also have to sacrifice Ntambwe’s registration spot to put him in, so Ntambwe is transfer listed.

FA Cup 2nd Round - Cambridge (h)

Home advantage should give us the edge in this one and the squad is rotated slightly. Key players are rested and the full strength of the squad is being utilised. Hesketh is on the bench but will likely make an appearance.


Far from the most convincing performance, but that win puts us through to the 3rd round. Having drawn Man Utd last season, it might be nice to get a team that might give us a chance of progressing.


League 1 - Charlton (a)

We seem to have picked up the tougher games this month as we go to top of the league Charlton and looking to play a more defensive mentality given their obvious strengths outweigh ours.


If I’d have been as positive in the first half as we were in the second, we may have got something out of that as we dominated, but couldn’t claw back the deficit.


Given the pre-season board expectation of fighting bravely against relegation, the table makes very pleasing reading. We’re halfway to the probable target of 50 point safety.

December 2021
The finances overall don’t look too bad, although helped by that Man Utd FA Cup game last season. The season tickets jumped from £1m last season to £1.4m this and I’m hoping that will increase again if we can stay in league 1. Sponsorship has more than doubled giving us a pretty solid base as long as we don’t go crazy with the signings.



League 1 - Rochdale (h)

The first of 3 very winnable home games gives us the chance to consolidate our league position. Hesketh makes his first start, McAleny replaces Blackwood up top as Rowe isn’t quite fit enough to return and Rodwell comes in.


Edgy, but McAleny’s fine finish seals it towards the end.

League 1 - Bolton (h)

Bolton won League 2 last season and have performed well so far. We’re without Bahambola and McDonald and Rowe is only fit enough to play a half. McAleny deputises up front and Garrity comes into the starting 11.


Direct passing, into space and a striker who likes to beat the offside trap is the perfect combination here as McAleny profits from our ability to thread balls through the defence, although it’s keeper Woods who picked up 2 assists there....not so much threaded through their defence as hoofed over it.

League1 - Portsmouth (h)

In the interests of retaining everyone’s fitness, some squad rotation is required. Bahamboula’s return is welcomed and McAleny gets the chance to build on his Bolton hat-trick.


Or not.

The youth intake preview is described as a group of mediocre players which doesn’t bode particularly well. Looks like we’ll be having to bring in the youth this time round.

A request to the board finally gets granted as they agree to improve the youth facilities, but not until May next year. £350k as well. All part of the long-term plan as we build towards the Premier League.

League 1 - Rotherham (h)

Rowe is back to full fitness and returns, but that means moving McAleny back to the SS role, which isn’t ideal. We’re a bit short in the AMC position, so might need to address that next month. Whelan gets his reward for a good week in training. And I put the pressure on; “I expect a win here”.


McAleny’s position might have changed, but his eye for a goal hasn’t. Overall, that was a bit scrappy but we had to change the formation and tactics to get the win. Linganzi, on as a sub, seals the win.

Crazily, that win takes us into the playoff places.

League 1 - Plymouth (a)

Plymouth aren’t doing too well overall. ,but their recent form puts them near to the top of the form table so we’re adopting a slightly more cautious approach for this. McCalmont is a very welcome return as Bahamboula’s fitness issues keep him out.


Rowe missed an absolute sitter from 6 yards which would have given us the win, but it’s not to be. Can’t be too hard on the boys as they played pretty well there.

19 year old Conor Carty is drafted into the first team squad from the U23’s to help with the lack of AMC’s - his natural role is shadow striker, so should slot in quite nicely. He was picked up on a free, having been released from Wolves.


League 1 - Blackpool (a)

Another away game, so the cautious outlook is maintained. Carty has to come in to make his debut and Willock also returns to the starting line-up.


Conceded a scrappy early goal and it was all uphill from there. Went all out attack as we weren't creating anything and got sucker-punched on the counter for the second. Disappointing result, but can’t fault them for effort.


I’ve got 4 players currently out on loan. Of the 4, it is likely that Arabat and Shahib will be around the first team next season. Shahib as a straight swap for Wheater whose contract runs out and Arabat would allow Linganzi to play higher up the pitch if he stays. That also means that we won’t need to look at another AMC position.

We probably won’t have space for either Khalil or Idowu who don’t look ready for first team action yet, but who knows what will happen before the end of this season.

League 1 - Accrington Stanley (h)

Rowe’s goal drought has not gone un-noticed and he’s replaced. Bahamboula is finally fit enough to return and Ramsey replaced Garrity as the advanced playmaker as he’s failed to consistently perform. No assists in 22 games isn’t really what I’m looking for in that position.

Accrington Stanley.jpg

Well that was grim. Ramsey justified his position swap, but no-one else really managed to impress.

All of a sudden, the board are feeling generous and allow me to sign another scout, performance analyst and a couple of other members of staff.


Yup, that was a no-brainer.

And they ask whether we’d like to have another senior affiliate. They are feeling Christmassy.

League 1 - Coventry (a)

The final game of the year. Blackwood remains up top, Hesketh has a bit to prove and Piergianni needs a game.


Oh dear. A bit of a slip as we have now won just the one game in the last 6...

35 games.jpg

After 35 games, the stats make interesting reading, considering our current league position of a comfortable mid-table 10th. McAleny is our top scorer and making a strong case to be first choice up top. With a lot of interest in Blackwood, that is looking decidedly possible. His 9 league goals are only good enough for joint 9th in the league though.

The assists are nicely spread round, but it’s concerning that keeper Woods has more assists than attacking midfielders Hesketh, Garrity and Ramsey combined.

Loan offers from some Australian teams, are rejected for Blackwood. His contract is up at the end of the season in any case, but he is important back-up.

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January 2022
Two of my players win awards for December - Quansah wines young player of the month and McAleny wins player of the month. Not bad for a fairly indifferent set of results.


FA Cup 3rd Round - Burnley (h)


Unsurprisingly, completely outclassed.

League 1 - Sunderland (h)


I don’t know if we played the name and not the game there. We seemed over-awed that this was Sunderland, rather than a League 1 team. That’s 5 without a win and morale is taking a bit of a hammering which is a problem. Quansah had a good game though.

Surely Northampton Town, bottom of the league are the team to get back on track against.

The board come back to me and indicate that they want to replace senior affiliate Norwich with Liverpool, which is a decision I wholeheartedly agree with and we’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes improving the staff, which is starting to pay off as we appear to have one of the best backroom set-ups in the league


League 1 - Northampton Town (h)

Bahamboula, Rowe, Piergianni, MacDonald and Dacres-Cogley all find themselves in need of a rest, so this not exactly a first choice 11, but it should be strong enough. Its a slightly more positive start as I want us to start the game strongly.


Finally, an emphatic win and even better that was a fan day. The only black spot was McAleny picking up an ankle injury that rules him out for 6 weeks, which is not ideal for one of our more potent attacking weapons. We even had time to allow 19 year old Whittaker some game time and he should have scored his first, hitting the post and being put through one-on-one...some finishing practice is needed.

Charlie Lakin joins on loan from Wigan to help out with the rotation in the AMC position and to provide some cover for injuries at the moment.


League 1 - Cambridge (a)

Rowe returns to lead the line and McCalmont needs a break so Willock comes in. Lakin isn’t registered in time and Bahamboula, McAleny and Hesketh are not match-fit. 19 year old Carty makes his second start.


Rowe finally ends his goal drought, and despite seeing exactly where those two goals were going to come from, we were unable to put the changes in to prevent them - Hamer was poor.. Frustrated.

Fringe striker George Blackwood agrees a pre-contract move to Central Coast Mariners...not sure why he’s chosen Australia over Oldham, but there we go. He will go in July but is taken out of the squad for the rest of the season to free up a place.

Bahamboula picks up ANOTHER knock - 3wks this time and another attacking midfielder down.

League 1 - Colchester United (h)

Almost the very definition of a mid-table clash as it’s 10th vs 11th here. We have the home advantage, but our recent form hasn’t been great. Rowe continues up front but new loanee Vale from Blackburn is on the bench.


Rowe shows what a proper striker can do when given the opportunities and follows up his good performances against Cambridge with another one.

Quansah has been comfortably our best player. The 18 year old centre-back has been immense and if we can keep hold of him, is in the team for a long time. Worryingly 4 of the next 5 best players are on loan so some cute recruitment will be needed in the summer to match up to these guys. McAleny leads the scoring and is unusually injured. Bringing in more AMC’s will allow him to play up top when Rowe isn’t available.

Hesketh has been very poor so far and his contract renewal is in doubt if he can’t produce something...anything!! Rodwell’s stats are poor, but he’s been neat and tidy in midfield.

League 1 - Fleetwood (a)

We’re reigning the creative juices in a bit as Fleetwood are riding high in 7th place...although we do only sit a couple of places behind them. Hesketh is only in because Bahamboula is still injured, Garrity hasn’t really performed either and Carty is struggling with match fitness.


Perhaps a touch too defensive there.

League 1 - Gillingham (h)

I’ve run out of patience with Hesketh, so the slightly - and only slightly more productive (1 goal, 1 assist) - Garrity replaces him. Rodwell is suffering from damaged ankle ligaments so Linganzi is the natural replacement.


Absolutely nothing happens for 60 minutes, then we go to 2 strikers and concede, win a penalty, they have a goal disallowed and we miss another penalty. Vale gets his first on loan in an Oldham shirt.

Frustratingly, Lakin has a 6 week layoff as as result of an injury in that game.

League 1 - Sunderland (a)

For the second time this month, we play Sunderland and, having hopefully learned from the mistakes in the earlier game, it’s a far more defensive set-up employed...especially given we’re away.

sunderland (a).jpg good there either and only got our goal after going back to the usual formation.

Elsewhere, Coventry and Shrewsbury shared 12 goals, with Coventry coming out as the victors with an 8-4 win. Crazy game.