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
    1
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February 2022

The transfer window shuts with us only doing the Lakin & Vale business which bolsters the AMC positions.

vale.jpg

A quick meeting with the chief scout reports on the current crop of players out on loan:

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And they’re all doing reasonably well but at the moment, it’s probably only Arabat who will be around the first team next season.

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Quite a lot for the board to report back on. The results haven’t been great, but given the board expectation this season was to battle bravely against relegation and we find ourselves comfortably mid-table, I think they’re being a bit unfair.

League 1 - Bristol Rovers (h)

Bristol are top of the league so this is not an easy games, especially coming off the back of the Sunderland defeat....BUT…the 4-2-3-1 is restored.

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It only takes 13 games for Hesketh to have an impact, but what an impact he makes. Rowe scored 22 goals last season, this is his 11th this season and 38th overall for the club. At 33 he is going to be difficult to replace.

League 1 - Wycombe Wanderers (h)

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An aggressive start pays off as we batter Wycombe for the opening half hour, but only get the one goal to show for it. Rowe puts away a fine header from a Fage cross.

That game brings up 100 games in management and it’s an exact 50% win-rate.

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The head of youth development provides another update on Alfie Ross who scores 4 goals in a 5-2 win for the U18s over Spennymoor. He’s been prolific, with these taking him to 45 goals in 39 games.

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Ross profile.jpg

A promotion to the U23s might be coming up soon.

League 1 - Crewe Alexandra (a)

A long list of injuries or players lacking match fitness hamper the selection; Vale, Rodwell, McAleny, Willock, Dacres-Cogley and Lakin are all unavailable. Piergianni gets a rare start.

crewe.jpg

Quansah knew absolutely nothing about that so I’m not going to blame him, especially as he’s been one of our better performers this season. That was a slightly frustrating result to take but we didn’t really do enough.

That appearance for Hesketh means he gets an automatic year extension - not sure I really wanted that.

League 1 - Doncaster (a)

Piergianni’s stint in the first team ends pretty quickly. He’s just been overtaken in quality by others in the squad who have come in. Bahamboula makes a very welcome return in the shadow-striker role.

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It’s fair to say we got battered there and barely put up a fight which was disappointing. Could have done without that result. We improved towards the end, but it was too little, far too late resulting in another away loss.

That makes it 11 games since we’ve won away from Boundary Park, so clearly a change of plan is needed for these games.

Quansah signs a new 4 year deal with a 3 year optional extension. He has a 2.5m release clause to clubs in higher leagues, but to be honest if someone came in with that sort of bid it would not be the worst thing.
 
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March 2022

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I’ve given up trying to get the board to be happy with the playing style but the results need sorting out - especially away from home. On the other hand, comfortable mid-table is more than good for me this season.

Thankfully, the next 3 games are in front of our own fans

League 1 - Burton Albion (h)

The injury list is sorting itself out, but we still miss a couple of key players. On-loan Lakin comes in to replace Garrity and Quansah drops out. And I ramp up the pressure...I’m expecting a win here...all out attack, at least to start with. They didn’t that instruction particularly well.

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Rowe does what Rowe does, but it took a very long time to seal the win there, but Carty, on for Bahamboula, did what he couldn’t do and finished one of the many, many chances that fell in the box. Great to see the 19 year old get off the mark.

Rowe’s 14 goals in the league take him to 3rd top scorer in the league, with no players in the assists chart. Dacres-Cogley is highest with 5.

Alfie Ross gets another couple of goals in the U18s - his stats are going to look ridiculous at the end of the season.

Our next two games are at home, to the teams in 22nd and 23rd. This should be 6 points coming up (famous last words?)

League 1 - Shrewsbury (h)

The match load of various players has a bit of an impact on the team choice today as the full-backs are changed, Whelan comes in and Carty starts after his goal with bahamboula moving into a role he’s probably better suited for.

shrewsbury.jpg

To be honest, anyone could have scored that goal as Borthwick-Jackson plays an inch-perfect pass across the 6 yard box, but it’s Carty who is in the right place at the right time to tap it into an empty net. We really should have scored more though.

That win, ridiculously, takes us into the playoff spots with just the 7 games left. We can’t really afford to get promoted again as this is, at best, a League 1 squad and the board are of the view that £1,800 a week wage is too much...oh!

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League 1 - MK Dons (h)

It's only been 2 days since the Shrewsbury game, so there are a number of changes. Probably most critically, is Rowe being out for McAleny. Carty gets the chance to continue his recent scoring spree.

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It took a little bit of a hammering at half-time to get them to get their act together, but that ended rather well. Ramsey was clearly on form, but the fullbacks - for perhaps the first time this season - both managed to also put in decent performances.

Seven of the squad are off on International duty and we have one game - Bolton away - which is postponed until the beginning of next month, which means we have a pretty decent break now.
 
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April 2022

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The youth intake is in and it’s slim pickings, although there is some potential to re-train a couple of players.

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League 1 - Bolton (a)

Since our away form is so poor, some role changes are put in place, most notably keeping the fullbacks back, to try and grind out the result,

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And grind out the result we did, but it’s a ridiculous Borthwick-Jackson goal that gives us the win.

Just the 5 games of the season left.

League 1 - Ipswich (a)

Another away game and Ipswich sit 2nd in the league, so this is no easy one. The tactics that served us so well against Bolton remain and just one personnel change is needed - Hamer comes in for Dacres-Cogley. We need a big performance from Rowe here.

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It's a defensive masterclass and we ground out the result there. That was a proper backs to the wall, park the bus job in the latter stages of the second half, but we held on and could even have nicked it on the counter at the end if McAleny’s could have held his nerve.

We do suffer a big blow though as Rodwell suffers a hip injury and misses 5 months.

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That’s another of the club goals met ahead of time, despite the lack of entertaining and, apparently, attacking football.

League 1 - Blackpool (h)

The games most definitely do not get easier as second placed Blackpool come to town. Carty comes back in to see if he can perform against better opposition and McAleny replaces Rowe, who needs a break. Otherwise it’s business as usual.

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Okay, so that was a clean sheet, but I’m gutted we couldn’t get the win there after the sending off, particularly as we tried to take advantage of the extra man...to no avail and the good chances just fell to the wrong people. Frustrated.

Our strikers lack of goals recently is a concern as Rowe and McAleny have both been off the boil which isn’t ideal as we come to the end of the season.

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With three games remaining, the playoff places are tight...and our three remaining games are all the teams around us as we square up to Charlton, Rochdale and Portsmouth so there’s still everything to play for.

Alfie Ross continues his prolific U18 performances with another 4 goals.

Ross goals.jpg


League 1 - Charlton (h)

Rowe returns up top, Hesketh comes in and Bahmbaoula shifts across to the right hand side of the 3 AMCs, but his role is changed to Trequartista to try and give us a bit more creativity in that side.

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Two set pieces, two headed goals, three points. That was a very, very good win but our xG report says our performance was worryingly poor...huh. That seventh consecutive game without conceding is a new club record.

League 1 - Rochdale (a)

Almost unchanged, but McCalmont comes in for Willock in central midfield and we still haven’t found the fit for that advanced playmaker role...Garrity gets another chance today. A couple of defensive minded changes and a cautious mentality is employed.

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We were solid, if not spectacular, for 70 minutes and then conceded a somewhat sloppy goal but came back well and could have equalised with Bahamboula forcing good saves from the Rochdale keeper. That wasn’t exactly the game for the purists.

Rowe picks up a training ground injury ruling him out for 2 weeks and the final game of the season.

David Wheater announces his retirement at the end of this season. His contract was up in any case and wasn’t going to get renewed, so this isn’t a real problem.
 
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May 2022

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The final day of the season and it is just the final playoff place that needs to be resolved. That Rochdale result didn’t help us.

League 1 - Portsmouth (a)

McAleny for Rowe is the only change and we’re looking at a slightly less cautious approach as we really need to at least win this.

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Marquis absolutely dominated our centre-backs there as he was far too strong. Despite that, we put up very little in terms of resistance with just the 1 shot in the whole game and even that wasn’t on target.

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The final table of the league. A 7th placed finish is a bit of a dream as we were predicted to finish in 15th so to even be within touching distance of the playoff spots is a result.

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Quansah has been the best performing player this season and it has showed. Woods, in goal, has also been good. Only Rowe and McAleny got into double figures for goals but given the way we play with just the one striker, that’s not a huge surprise. The real disappointment is the lack of assists from the AMC positions. Quite how Hesketh has produced no assists and Lakin only 1, I’m not sure.

Rowe’s 14 league goals are good enough for joint 6th top scorer overall.

Dacres-Cogley doesn’t get anywhere near the top 20 with his 5 assists.

Otherwise, McCalmont leads the passes attempted over 90 minutes with 77 and Quansah features heavily in the defensive stats as he is 2nd in the key headers category, 3rd in clearances and 2nd in the key headers won over 90 minutes. His jumping reach is impressive so this shouldn’t be a real surprise.

Keeper Woods kept 20 clean sheets in the league, 2nd overall.

Of the first team squad…Wheater is retiring and will be replaced by Shahib, who is currently on loan and of the players I have in on loan, I will need to look to replace them. Arabat, also on loan, will come in to replace Linganzi.

Some squad rebuilding will be needed this summer.

The board cancel the proposed youth facility improvement which is unhelpful, but interestingly, a club takeover is being rumoured.

In the end, it’s Blackpool who win promotion to the Championship beating Portsmouth in the playoff final.
 
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June - July 2022

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It’s difficult to see how the board can be upset with a first season in League 1 and a whisker away from the playoffs, so the review seem fair enough. Personally, I’m most pleased with the transfer business which has, with the odd exception, gone to plan.

The stature needs to be improved, the footballing style could be improved but I’m reluctant to change it whilst we’re having success. I see the future as improving each position gradually until we can compete, getting the infrastructure in place, full capacity attendances etc and going from there.

Pre-season is underway and the break never seems to last very long. In addition, the carabao cup 1st leg is drawn and we find ourselves up against it as we are drawn away to Championship side, Derby.

It’s been quite a quiet June, but July is going to be busier as we look to put together a loan-free squad this season. A first team goalkeeper and at least one attacking midfielder is the priority...and as if by magic:

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Keeper Vickers comes in on a free from Watford and will be first choice. We also bring in another United youngster - attacking midfielder Mark Helm to help address the shortages we have in that area. Helm looks like he could be the solution to the advanced playmaker role we never got properly sorted last season.

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We also welcome into the first team, Arabat and Shahib who have both been out on loan last season. Shahib as a direct replacement for Wheater, who has retired, and Ndaba who was on loan. Arabat will play the BWM role in rotation with Rodwell replacing Linganzi who is transfer listed.

The recruitment drive continues at pace as we bring in Albanian attacking midfielder Torraj, released from Spurs. At 17, he’s young, but he’s good enough to be around the first team and ideal for the way we want to play. I’m pretty excited about this one.

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And some backroom changes are made, improving the coaching, shouting and the medical rooms...particularly at the U18 level. We’ve also taken the opportunity to renew some first team contracts whilst we have the time to negotiate, before they end next season.

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Just some tidying up really.

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The opposition wasn’t the most challenging, but with the exception of the Forest Green game, we put in a decent showing in pre-season. Fitness is the name of the game at this stage though. Carty performed well in the poacher role, so that may be something to look at going forward.

Rather than clog up this story with every match for the foreseeable future, I’ll do a couple of updates each season until or unless, something more exciting happens!!
 
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August 2022 - December 2022

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League 1 - given the pre-season expectation of mid-table the first half of the season has gone very well and if we can turn a few of those draws into wins then we could really push on. We’ve been in and out of the playoff positions although there is not much room for error among the top 6. Portsmouth and Sunderland are the ominously big names lurking just outside the group.

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FA Cup - went away to Millwall in the second round and lost on penalties.

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Carabao Cup - we fall at the first hurdle, losing to Championship side Derby 3-0 in the first round

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Papa Johns Trophy - We faced Barrow, Rotherham and West Brom U23s in the group stage which we progressed through in second place. We scraped past Barnsley in the second round and have Crewe up next.

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Points of interest in the first half of the season:
  • 18 year old Torraj gets his first goal for the club in the 2-1 win over Rochdale and becomes the clubs youngest goalscorer in the process.
  • I turn down an interview at Bolton...at the time, sitting 21st in League 1.
  • The board agree to improve the youth facilities (again…)
  • I get offered (and accept) another 2 year contract.
The players:

GK:
GK.jpg

Vickers has been first choice and has been excellent. Woods has mostly played in the cup competitions and has been a very able deputy. Given Vickers is 27 we are set for a first team keeper for a few years yet.

RB:
RB.jpg

On paper, they’re both very reasonable right backs, but I haven’t been able to get consistently good performances out of either of them, even when the role was changed to try and make the most of their skill set. A position we will be looking to upgrade in the summer.

LB:
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Fage’s 9 assists and his better ability to dribble and cross the ball make him a much better fit for the attacking wing-back option on the left hand side. Borthwick-Jackson has done nothing wrong, but he’s just not as productive.

CB:
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When fit, Quansah - still just 19 - and McDonald have been the first choice centre-back pairing and it rather shows. This is another area where we will look to recruit as Piergianni is the wrong side of 30 and Shahib not yet good enough to be a regular.

MC:
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Rodwell and Arabat have been doing the BWM duties, with Whelan and Willock the DLP. with this in mind, it’s disappointing that Whelan and Willock have not managed more assists. Lapslie is a new signing and will replace Rodwell whose contract is expiring in the summer. The DLP position is an area where we need to improve and there are some targets in the pipeline.

AMC:
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His rating doesn’t really reflect it, but 18 year old Torraj who was picked up on a free from Spurs is second in the league for assists. He’s been excellent feeding McAleny. Otherwise, Bahamboula has been solid and Hesketh and Garrity have chipped in with goals. Still, no-one has really been the answer to the Enganche or Advanced Playmaker role just behind the poacher though. I am still hoping Helm can grow into that.

ST:
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McAleny has been doing all the hard work and really is the only player anywhere near double figures for goals, although this is a lot to do with the way we’ve set up. Through balls into space to a quick, clinical poacher has been paying off. His 18 goals means he’s the leagues top goalscorer. Rowe’s contract is up in the summer and this is another position we’ll be looking at upgrading pretty soon as Carty isn’t quite ready for regular first team action just yet...but he is a very similar player to McAleny so it looks promising.
 
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January 2023 - May 2023


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Tom Lapslie signs as a direct replacement for Rodwell. He’s not quite got the attributes suggested during the scouting, but he is an upgrade.

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And the improvement in central midfield continues as we bring in Goddard from Cardiff. Despite seemingly having all the right attributes, Whelan has been underwhelming so I’m hoping Goddard can come in and be a better performer.

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We also bring in Jake Scrimshaw on loan as an audition as we look to transition a new striker into Rowe’s position as his contract is up.

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And having Liverpool as our senior affiliate pays off as they send us centre-back Rhys Williams for the second half of the season. He could be a very valuable addition for the run in.

The backroom staff have slowly been upgraded until we now have almost the best in the league:

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And I’ve looked at making a fairly fundamental tactical change, moving from a direct ball-in-behind style to something more possession based and patient which will benefit the attacking midfielders and get them more involved and is, I think, more sustainable in the long run for this group of players. Time will tell if it pays off, but we’ll see.

The training schedules are revamped, mentoring plans are amended and individual training put in place which I’m hoping also puts us in a better position going forward.

It turns out McAleny is all about the seasonal goal bonus. He got to 20 goals in January and then just stopped scoring...although to be fair, that probably says more about the tactical changes rather than him downing tools for the last few months of the season.

The youth intake is just a bit meh. A couple of prospects, but it’s difficult to assess at the moment. A young goalkeeper coming through is nice, but Culshaw may need retraining to a new position.

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Papa Johns Trophy: It takes penalties to do it, but we knock out the holders Crewe in the 3rd round and then get comfortably beaten by Man Utd U23s in the quarter final which was a bit of an anti-climax.

League 1: Changing the striker role from P to DLF to incorporate the tactical changes had a significant effect on where the goals have come from as McAleny has just stopped, but others have partly picked up the slack.

At the end of the season...and having been in the playoff positions for virtually the entire second half of it, we screw it up with the last game - losing 1-0 at Plymouth and drop out of the playoff positions, finishing 7th...again.

Disappointed would be an understatement.


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Player stats:
GK:
GK.jpg

Vickers remained the first choice and performed pretty well in his games. One of our better performers, perhaps on the amount of work he had to do!

DR:
DR.jpg

Regardless of who has been put there, the right backs have been the more defensive of the fullback positions and this is reflected in the stats. Having said that, neither have performed terribly well.

DC:
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Williams came in from Liverpool in January and pretty much bossed it. He and Quansah are comfortable our best centre-backs, even though Quansah is only 20. Williams’ contract is up in the summer and he will be our primary target.

DL:
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Fage’s 15 assists leads the team and his 12 in the league, put him joint first. The attacking left wing-back suits him perfectly. Borthwick-Jackson has been alright, but his attacking stats are not as notable.

MC:
MC.jpg

Lapslie and Arabat have played the BWM role, with Whelan and Goddard rotating in the DLP role. They have been okay, but Goddard in particular, hasn’t been as good as I had hoped. Whelan’s contract expires in the summer and will not be replaced.

AMC:
AMC.jpg

Bahamboula has been the pick of the bunch in the SS role and has the league’s highest rating. 12 goals and 8 assists making him our most productive attacking midfielder. However, both Torraj and Carty have put in good performances for youngsters. With another year under their belts, those two could be key components next season.


ST:
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McAleny scored a lot of goals (joint 2nd in the league) but only 2 of those came since the turn of the year...none of the current strikers are ideally suited to playing the DLF role which is the one currently in place. Rowe’s contract expires in the summer and a replacement is being sought. Scrimshaw didn’t really have the chance to show what he can do.

We lose Rowe, Whelan and Piergianni at at the end of the season so replacing them will be the first course of action over the summer.

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Once again, the board cancel the youth expansion facilities due to a lack of finances which is very frustrating. ..come on board, you know what you need to do!
 
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June - July 2023

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To be fair, I was also very happy with the season up until, literally, the last game of it. 2 seasons of 7th placed finishes is somewhat frustrating.

Bit of a mixed bag and we need to improve, in particular, the way we play at the top end of the pitch. McAleny is not the DLF we need.

We need to do some business this summer - let’s see how we get on.

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This season’s loan reports for the players I’m hoping to progress to first team action are in. khalil’s contract is up and his contract won’t be renewed. Chances for the others are up in the air a bit and they’ll probably be out on loan again next season...we’ll see. They're certainly not going to help improve the first team this time round.

Crystal Palace finished bottom of the Premier League...by some distance - 13 points - and decide they need a new manager and approach me. In any other life, I’d be biting their hand off for this one but I have unfinished business here.

We lose a lot of players at the beginning of July as Jones, Piergianni, Linganzi, Khalil and Rowe. Rowe, in particular, may be a loss but his age and our new tactical outlook caught up with him.

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Having been on loan at the latter end of last season, we swoop in and make Rhys Williams a permanent signing and then sign another ex-Red in Paul Glatzel as I think he will be a good fit in the DLF role. This seems like two great pieces of future-proofing the team as they can surely make the step up to Championship level.

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Our average attendance last season was just over 6,000, which was actually down on the season before. We sell 4,062 season tickets this year.

Surprisingly, the board allow me to sign another couple of first team coaches which is a result, so we can bring in another couple who can allow greater specialisation.

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Three friendly wins before the real show starts and the Celtic victory in particular was a good performance, but frustrating not to be able to fit more in.

Only two transfers brought in, but they have upgraded and filled in positions where we needed it so there is a strong squad which I’m pretty sure can compete here.
 
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August 2023 - December 2023

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League 1 - A couple of tactical tweaks and much better game management from me has meant that we are starting to turn some of those results which last season would have been losses or draws, into wins. We’ve improved the coaching further still and training has been revamped, taking it out of the assistant manager’s hands.

The addition of a brilliant centre-back for this level in Rhys Williams and Daniel Batty In November means we are as defensively good as we have ever been and it’s reflected in the results and the league position.

The other tactical change to be more patient and build through the team means that the attacking midfielders are getting a much larger share of the goals which is pleasing.


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FA Cup - It takes a replay to get past League 2 Barrow and then, having drawn non-league Borehamwood, we play our worst football of the season, completely failing to produce anything of note. That was shockingly poor, even for the second string team we put out.

FA Cup.jpg

Carabao Cup - we draw Championship side Blackburn in the first leg and despite putting in a pretty good performance, end up on the wrong end of a 2-1 loss. The competition ends as soon as it begins and that’s the third time we’ve lost in the first round. We could do with a decent run in this competition at some point.

Carabao Cup.jpg

Papa Johns Trophy - we faced Mansfield, Morecambe and Everton U23s in the group stages and top the group with 3 straight wins. We leave it late against Crewe in the 2nd round and draw league 2 Chesterfield in the third round.
  • Liverpool send us Jake Cain on loan which is a welcome boost and an extra slice of quality in central midfield.
  • Torraj makes his international debut with Albania.
  • Another new 3 year contract, but still with no expectations of promotion in the 5 year plan. Come on board...back me.
  • One of my hottest prospects, central midfielder Arabat, is not able to renew his work permit. This is a blow.
We sign Daniel Batty on a free to offer some cover in the BWM role. He’ll either come in for Arabat if I can’t get him a work permit, or for Lapslie who has failed to impress since his arrival last season. Lapslie’s contract is up next year in any case so this could just be a phased replacement.

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The players so far:
GK:
GK.jpg

Vickers has been first choice in the league and is very much justifying that position. Woods has played in the cup and been a pretty good back-up.

DR:
DR.jpg

This is the much more defensive of the full-back roles and it shows, but both players have rotated reasonably well. Neither is good enough to play first choice in the Championship.

DC:
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Williams, Quansah and MacDonald have been the rocks and chipped in with a few set piece goals. Shihab has gone from being a promising youngster to unwanted.

DL:
DL.jpg

The attacking wing-back role is suited to both Borthwick-Jackson and Fage and these two have been pretty good with Borthwick-Jackson a creative force. At 26 and 24, they are young enough to be around for a while although Fage may struggle with the step up in quality.

MC:
MC.jpg

One playmaker, one breaker-upper. Lapslie has struggled and Arabat needs a new work permit which he isn’t likely to be granted which is a blow. Cain & Goddard have mostly rotated and Cain’s contract is up in the summer...he would be a fantastic addition to the Liverpool enclave here.

AMC:
AMC.jpg

And these players are most of the reason for the massive improvement in the league position. Playing through them, rather than over them, has paid off massively and it shows in the stats. Garrity, for example, scored 9 in the whole of the last season - he’s already got that. Helm managed 0 goals and just 2 assists last time and Bahamboula, who is our most valuable player has continued doing what he does.

ST:
ST.jpg

The addition of Glatzel has taken the pressure of McAleny a bit and he has been first choice, although his 8 league goals mean he’s only good enough to be joint 9th top scorer.
 
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January 2024 - May 2024


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The January transfer business starts with Arabat signing a pre-contract with Lecce as he demanded more in contract terms than I can offer. He will join them in the summer, so we bring in Cypriot midfielder Okkas on loan from Fulham with a view of seeing whether he’s good enough as his contract is up in the summer.

okkas.jpg

Despite only coming in last season, Lapslie has regressed into our worst central midfielder. A number of clubs make bids and he goes to Notts County for £50k - of which £7.5k goes into the transfer kitty...errr...thanks lads.

Papa Johns Trophy - We faced Mansfield, Morecambe and Everton U23s in the group stages and top the group with 3 straight wins. We leave it late against Crewe in the 2nd round. A second string line-up just about edge us into the quarter finals past Chesterfield, but most of the same second string do a far better job against Spurs U23s.

We were comprehensively outplayed by Ipswich but defended resolutely to get to the final, in which we completely outclass West Ham U23s in one of the easiest games in the whole run and should have won by a far bigger margin. Rhys Williams leads the way.


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And that’s trophy number 1...hopefully the first of many.

League 1 - Our best centre-back, Quansah, was injured for the whole of February and March, which makes the run in those months even better with just the one loss in those 2 months.

The Portsmouth game was our game in hand, but despite going all out to win that one, we were unable to put ourselves in a better position ahead of the top of the table clash away to Plymouth. Our record at home was far better than away, so we were slightly fortunate that the scheduling gods gave us the last two games at home to secure promotion.

Heading into the final game, we could have finished anywhere between 1st and 3rd but despite utterly bottling it against Charlton, the draw was a better result than either Plymouth or Middlesbrough managed so - against all expectations - we finish the season as Champions despite picking up just 1 win in the final 6 games.


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...trophy 2...

Some highlights:
  • 21 year old attacking midfielder Conor Carty has found himself a bit of a niche area on the left hand side of the attacking 3. His stats aren’t great, but his off-the-ball, finishing and composure means that he is getting chances and putting them away.
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  • Borthwick-Jackson is tied down for another 4 years. As a genuine Championship level player, this was a no-brainer but it was needed to get it done early before he starts to ask for Championship level wages.
  • Keeper Vickers broke the club record for most clean sheets in the season.
  • Borthwick-Jackson managed the most player of the match awards and was voted the fans player.
  • Rhys Williams ended up as both signing of the season and young player of the season...and quite rightly as he has been excellent.
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GK:
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58 games has been a long season, and as with their expectations, Woods has been mainly the cup keeper and one of the main reasons for the Papa Johns trophy. Vickers is understandably, one of our key players.

DR:
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It’s the same two right backs as last season and they’ve been everpresent. They’re both solid enough - and are probably good squad players - but they’re never going to set the Championship alight. But, because they’re solid, upgrading this position probably isn’t a priority.

DC:
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This position, however, definitely is. Shihab wasn’t good enough for League 1, let alone the step up and MacDonald may struggle. In Quansah and Williams though, we have an outstanding partnership IF (and it’s a big IF) I can keep them together. I expect their stock to rise significantly.

DL:
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Again, two good squad players. Borthwick-Jackson will probably be at home in the Championship and Fage is a solid enough back-up.

MC:
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Arabat’s good form means his loss is even more troublesome, but otherwise this is also a good set of player. Willock is probably surplus to requirements and I don’t think we’ll make the move to secure Okkas permanently so a true defensive midfielder is on the shopping list. Cain has also played in one of the AMC positions this season and has performed well.

AMC:
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Again, the proof of playing through the AMC positions is in the stats. Bahamboula and Garrity in particular have been prolific from behind the main striker with Helm & Torraj being the creative force. Torraj and McAleny in particular seem to have developed a fine understanding.

ST:
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And the strikers as well. They’ve been pretty regularly rotated as a lot is expected of the front player and both Glatzel and McAleny have found themselves in the goals. One of the changes I am considering next season is to go to 2 strikers to help keep the ball at that end of the pitch. There were too many occasions when the single striker was isolated and that could cost us against better opposition.

Despite all that, we still only managed 48% average attendance for the season.

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And here come the influx of players wanting better contracts as a result of promotion...Goddard, Bahamboula, Garrity and Quansah all come to see me.

Our inability to offer good staff wages is really hampering improving the backroom and the board aren’t interested in improving it. This could be a very frustrating unproductive summer.
 
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June 2024 - July 2024

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To add to the accolades, Borthwick-Jackson wins the League 1 player of the year and 5 others - Vickers, Quansah, Williams, Hamer and Glatzel are named in the team of the season.

And now the hard work starts.

We need a BWM to replace Arabat, a new DLP to replace Cain who was on loan and a new centre-back.

I would like a new striker as McAleny isn’t really a forward but other than that, the team is pretty good. A couple of premier league loans wouldn’t go a miss though.

Vickers is refusing to lower his contract demands so we’re at risk of losing our first choice keeper and one of the best players overall.

I reject another approach from Crystal Palace for an interview and we’ll be facing them next season.

We do manage to bring in Jake Cain on a permanent deal after his successful loan last season.

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We finally get Vickers to sign a new contract, but it’s costly and his 9.5k a week contract comfortably makes him the clubs top earner….but he is a good keeper and will be comfortably first choice this season.

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We bring in Jacob Davenport for a fee of £150k. He will rotate with Batty and solves one of my transfer issues.

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Oxford come in with a bid that falls into the ‘too good to refuse’ category as they offer £150k for Willock. With Cain and Goddard in midfield, Willock was surplus to requirements and allowed to leave.

Having been a bit contract-renewal happy at Championship level wages, I realise I’ve totally screwed up and have no transfer or wage budget to spend any money on incoming players, even on loan unless Liverpool - my senior affiliate - are feeling generous. Otherwise, I only have 3 decent centre-backs and a LOT of games to play.

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Our average attendance last season was 6,579, which is about half of the 13,612 capacity at Boundary Park. So far, we’ve sold 5,800 season tickets which seems promising and might result in some much needed income, but Oldham are unhelpfully close to both Manchester clubs as well as Rochdale and Bury, with a number of other clubs in pretty close proximity which makes getting the fans in tricky.

Reassuringly, my staff levels are pretty good and compare well to the rest of the league:

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The U18 staff aren’t quite as competent but the ability to recruit decent replacements has been severely hampered by the lack of funds available.

The sponsorship isn’t as bad as I thought actually, but the media prediction and the stadium info do give an idea of the task at hand and to put things into a bit of perspective, Brentford have spent £60m on incoming transfers...I can’t even find an additional £250 p/w to improve player’s contracts.
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The friendlies are all completed and, whilst hardly representative of ‘proper’ football, they do put us in a positive mood before the real business begins.

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August 2024

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We’re going to start the season with the same formation we’ve been playing with for the last few seasons but we’ll see how it stands up as the season goes on.

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The squad at the beginning of this season is going to look like this...

GOALKEEPERS
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Vickers is the obvious choice in goal and a better back-up for Woods will be needed in the long term.

CENTRAL DEFENDERS
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Quansah and Williams will be the starting centre-backs and will play when they’re both fit. McDonald is a decent back up, with Shihab as the only other option in the first team squad and, frankly, not a great one. Another area we need to improve.

LEFT BACK
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Borthwick-Jackson is first choice left-back but Fage can step up when needed - a number of our assists come from the LWB position.

RIGHT BACK
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Dacres-Cogley and Hamer are about as good as each other, so the RB position can be rotated pretty freely without detriment to the team but neither are going to help us push on at this level

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS
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Essentially, we have one destroyer and one supporter in central midfield. Batty is the first choice BWM but Davenport is a very able deputy.

Getting Cain in from Liverpool was a result. His loan spell was very productive last season and bringing him in permanently could prove to be a masterstroke.

ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS
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Hesketh and Helm are the natural choices for the AP position, Bahamboula and Garrity (who picked up 14 goals as a shadow striker last season) can play SS with the left-footed Carty and Torraj as attacking midfielders. All the attacking midfielders are pretty capable though and can play across this midfield three and some as the creative central midfielder. There's quite a lot of flexibility among these players.

STRIKERS
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Glatzel is the main striker and having failed to bring in a better second choice option, McAleny will be the able deputy.

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8 games this month...8 games. If this doesn’t test the squad, nothing will. Talk about a baptism of fire.

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Goddard chooses the right time to score his first league goal for the club with a 25 yard wonderstrike. That was defensive, composed and while we conceded a number of chances, Reading couldn’t put them away. We’re 7th - stop the league now.
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Well, this league doesn’t seem too bad. Set piece training pays off - Quansah from a corner, Helm a tap in from a free-kick. 7th?? That win takes us top...NOW we can stop the league. The attendance of 9,726 bodes well for the finances as well.
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Horrible defending from a corner allowed a completely unmarked Souttar the freedom of the 6 yard box to head in unchallenged...and we’d been working on defending set-pieces in the week. Glatzel twists an ankle and misses a month...that’s a bit of a concern.

Afie Ross is promoted from the U23’s for the time being - he has been prolific at U18 and U23 level and McAleny is going through a lean scoring spell having not scored in 8 games.

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Carabao Cup 1st Round. We deserved to lose that, we were terrible but somehow we go through, thanks to the kid brought in to replace Glatzel, who came on for a very ineffectual McAleny. His composed 1 on 1 finish in the 88th minute really gave us a chance we should never have got. Good time to get your first senior goal though and to score the winning penalty. Vickers saved 2 out 3.

We draw Championship side Nottingham Forest in the next round.

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Boro were in league 1 with us last season, where we drew one, won one so hopes were high for this and Vickers earns every penny of his appearance fee as he keeps out a couple of decent efforts. Garrity’s first of the season at the end of a fine flowing move gives us a streaky win.
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Glatzel injured, McAleny been terrible so Ross is getting a go. What’s the worst that can happen? Oh...yeah, that’s not great. Beaten by the man worth £15m.
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The Brummies sit unbeaten, top of the league and with 4 wins out of 5. This is the game to go into park the bus mode. The toughest decision is the striker and we’re going with Ross as the quicker of the two and look to spring the offside trap on the counter. It should not be a surprise that Vickers was comfortably our man of the match. Effort was there but the quality was not.
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Carabao Cup, 3rd round. They definitely had the better chances, but we put the one really good one we had away and defended resolutely after that. McAleny finally ends his goalscoring drought. Through to the third round for just the 2nd time.

And then…

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...which might make things really interesting.


We go to League 1 Lincoln in the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup which gives us a really good chance of making the fourth round.

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We did brilliantly to fight back to win that one, helped by some somewhat dubious defending for McAleny’s second goal. Hopefully that will give his morale a bit of a boost and he can spring on from here. He led the line almost perfectly.

The finances are not in a terrible place. Our season ticket sales bought in £1 million more than last season, our sponsorship has doubled and we’ve got a balance of just over £2m, although none of that money has made its way down to the transfer kitty. The only debt we have is one to be repaid when we get to the Premier League. Last month in our 5 home games, we’ve taken £720,000. In the whole of last season gate receipts were £2.4m

That takeover could give us a bit of a windfall though.
 
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September 2024
On transfer deadline day, the board totally screw me over as they accept a 7m bid for Rhys Williams over my head. I was already short of centre-backs but that causes me a serious problem….but to my eternal relief, he rejects the contract and stays.

That would have annoyed me.

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I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that but it does show the scale of the job at hand.

International duty and just the 3 league games, 1 carabao cup this month.

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One of the teams that got promoted with us and we did well to pull a draw out of that, as we didn’t play particularly well, but it was a pretty scrappy game overall.
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Goals seem to be hard to come by, so a game against a winless bottom team is surely the time to take advantage and we do as we take our chances and hit them on the break. We didn’t defend particularly well, but that is a good win whih piles on the misery for Bristol Rovers. A very good away win.
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Carabao Cup 4th round. This is a very good opportunity to play some of the fringe players, but it’s still a strong enough team to progress - or at least, it should have been. I can’t believe it took penalties to get through that round. 20 year old Torraj proves his worth as back-up.

Fourth round, here we come...and it’s Manchester City...away...oh well, it was a nice run!

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Battered, deservedly lost although it started quite well and plummeted downhill from there.

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October 2024

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Nottingham Forest are one of the better teams in the league, so I suppose this isn’t a terrible result but having hit the woodwork, had a man advantage for 20 minutes and McAleny being off his game, that feels like an opportunity missed. Disappointed for the 12,000 odd spectators.

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Not that I had the finances to sign anyone, but come on guys...SHOW ME THE MONEY..unless Cody Oldham (huh…) wins it, in which case it seems he wants to remove me.

Another international break means this month is heavily weighted towards the end with another heavy load of games.

Two away games in quick succession against established Championship sides.

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Well that’s a bit of a reminder that we are most definitely one of the bigger teams in this league. We got well and truly spanked.
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Changing the wing-backs to full-backs, adding an extra defensive body in midfied and a reduced tempo pays off...sort of, although we did spend 85 minutes of that on the back foot. A pretty good defensive display that rode its luck a bit. A point is a point though.

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Moving the central midfielder roles back into the DM positions has a noticeable effect on the stability of the team, at least in this game. Golkeeper Vickers was comfortably man of the match, but Batty & Cain provide the shield in front of the back 4, turning us into, essentially, a back 7 and front 4. We needed that after a run of 4 without a win.

I have to distance myself from the Newcastle - now in the Championship - job, after Steve Bruce is sacked.

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Carabao Cup 4th Round. Well, this is the furthest we’ve reached in this competition, so we should be pleased with that. Unfortunately, even Manchester City’s reserve team had too much for us and when you have centre-back Timori putting in a free-kick from 35 yards, I think it’s apparent it is not your day. Couldn’t even take a little of an advantage of the extra man for 40 minutes.
 
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November 2024

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Both Glatzel and garity have struggled for form and goals recently, so quite where this came from, I don’t know but everything that Glatzel hit went in. That was an outstanding result which I was not expecting. Palace did finish bottom of the Premiership last season, but they were still in the Premier league last season.

Glatzel:
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Garrity:
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The proposed board take over is completed, although it’s far from a windfall as they provide an extra £250k only for transfers...and most of that will go towards the excess wage budget. On the plus side, they send me off on a coaching course without me having to ask for it which is nice!

I get the chance to turn down another ex-Premier league club and this time it’s Newcastle….again...although in every other career, I’d be biting their hands off for that one.

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Vickers has a shocker...normally so reliable but he made 2 horrible mistakes and was then beaten by a wonderstrike. A half-time rollicking forced a slightly better performance, but the damage had been well and truly done by then. Not a good way to mark his 100th league game.

Garrity is ruled out for a month with an injury which leaves us a bit short, especially since Torraj and Hesketh have been underwhelming and may have found their ceiling in the Championship.

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That win pushes us into the playoffs which is crazy, but I don’t think we’ll be there coe the end of the season...which is fine. Bahamboula has performed pretty well and was the best player on the pitch there.
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the less said about that the better...no idea what was all about but we were dreadful.

I seem to be going through a phase of my staff being wanted by others as my chief scout, under 18 manager and a coach are all approached by other teams. A discussion with all of them though, persuades them that the grass is greener in Oldham...despite still only being able to offer rock-bottom wages!

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So that was hardly the sparkling return to form I was kind of hoping for, but for a full on defensive display against one of the best teams in the league that was not a bad performance.
 
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December 2024

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A very tough set of games against established Championship sides - this could be a testing month.

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We end up with fellow Championshipeers Sunderland, as opponents in the 3rd round of the FA Cup...thats not an easy draw.

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We even added a central midfielder to help shore up the space in front of the defence, but it seemed to have little effect as we barely made an impression. That was frustrating, but I don’t want to risk morale by hammering the team.
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We were completely outplayed. I have no idea how we came out of that with any points, let alone 3. Even with the extra body into central midfield, it didn’t stem the black and white tide...one of the luckiest results I think I’ve had as manager especially after the Fulham result.

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After 25 games, it probably isn’t a surprise that four of our top 5 performing players are defensive minded. We’re not scoring all that many, but Bahamboula does look like he’s capable of stepping up. A lot of players are not good enough but we’re stuck with them, with no wage/transfer budget, so it’s a case of making do for the time being and getting by.

Some players are performing well though:

Quansah leads the key headers category. Glatzel leads the conversion rate for the league and Rhys Williams leads in pass completion. Good stats to build on.

Another ex-Premier League team is sent packing in a bid for a job interview...Fulham this time. In another world, that might have been a good job to take.

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With 6 first team players unavailable, this was a seriously patched up team with left-back Fage, having to make up the numbers as an attacking midfielder. Well that was poor...we almost defended pretty well, just making the one mistake for Whittaker’s goal.
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Surely the team languishing in 23rd are the ideal fodder to get our performances back on track, although the injury list has increased to 8 as Williams and Woods find themselves in the doctors room. 4 players on the bench… scrappy is the word, but that puts us 3 points closer to 50 which seems to be the magical number. Carty gets his first of the season.

December is clearly the sacking month - this time it’s an approach from Sheffield United...who are actually in the Premier League.

And another two players are unavailable due to injuries - Borthwick-Jackson and Bahamboula this time. December has absolutely killed my players.

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Bus well and truly parked. That was glorious anti-football at its absolute best. Jose would have been proud of that.
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The most unlikely of goalscorers as ball winning midfielder Davenport scores a free-kick of all things. After that it, it was defensive mode again which we did honourably.
 
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January 2025
The month...nay...the year starts off on a positive note as the board want to change the season’s expectations: Avoid a relegation battle? Yes, I think we can manage that, although the ‘rewards’ for doing so don’t really fill me with joy. A new wage budget of £100,000...which we’ve already spent.

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A needless penalty and some slack set piece defending subjected us to a bit of a loss there. We didn’t produce that much going forward and didn’t defend terribly well which is not a great combination. I did enjoy Carty’s goal though...a fine dribble through the middle and clinical finish.

Monthly player profile - Conor Carty

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I’m not sure he’s going to get too much better, so he’s very much in the shop window and might do a good job if he could play regularly. He’s been playing behind poacher Glatzel in recent weeks, but Glatzel hasn’t been playing terribly well so we could give Carty a shot and actually...his attributes suit that.

There are some loan options out there - Stewart at Liverpoool seems the most promising option and wouldn’t cost anything.

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FA Cup 3rd round, and we do give Carty a chance to lead the line with a midfield of Garrity, Torraj and Hesketh behind him. That’s an attacking, creative bunch behind Carty so he should get chances...but he didn’t, and we didn’t...that was depressing. We have a shocking record against Sunderland so I can’t be too surprised really.
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Fed up with not creating enough chances, so it’s 2 up top in a 4-4-2 diamond….we do create more, but we’re still no better at finishing, it would seem. Glatzel is our only bright spark. That would be 125 league games for Fage as he’s been with us since league 2 and still doesn’t seem out of his depth.

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Keeper Talbot comes in as a direct replacement for reserve keeper Woods, who has rather fallen by the wayside. And we might just stick with 2 up top as, after taking a look at him earlier in the month, senior affiliate Liverpool, randomly send us Layton Stewart. We also pick up keeper Talbot on a free as we look to offload back-up Woods.

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Although having the two strikers didn’t really benefit us here, but despite that a credible draw agains the team currently sitting in third in the league. Garrity scores his 5th of the season but Stewart struggles a bit. Another good attendance of 11,500 as well which will hopefully keep the coffers filled.
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That was a horrible performance. I just can’t seem to get a consistent song out of these lads at the moment, despite them seemingly being good enough. As a newly promoted team, maybe I am expecting too much though. Staying in the league is the objective and we’re managing that so far. McAleny is struggling at this level.


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February 2025

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That’s a very tough set of fixtures.

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We rode our luck a bit there, particularly at set-pieces, but held out for a good draw. Where are my strikers though and November was the last time we scored more than once in a game and, to add to the problems, Stewart strains a hamstring and misses 7 weeks.
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Okay, it wasn’t a win...and there’s still no striker on the scoresheet...but we actually played pretty well and did well to fight back from 2 down. I try and keep the morale high by praising their performance.

Surely our next opponents - Bristol Rovers in 23rd, at home, are the ideal opposition to pick up this elusive win and a team meeting is held to try and raise the morale in camp.

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Hmnnn. Not quite the resounding win I was hoping for, but it is a win and a change of striker - Carty for McAleny pays off. Carty can’t do much other than be a poacher, but he has the habit of being in the right place at the right time. Even the season’s underachiever, Mark Helm, managed the assist.
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They piled on the pressure and we couldn’t hold out, but given that we scored with our only shot on target, I can’t be too disappointed. Clinical could be one word...lucky would be another.

That man Carty again.
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What a performance from Torraj as his 2 defence splitting passes put Carty clean through. He is the only one of our attacking midfielders who seems to be able to play those passes.

Monthly player profile - Renaldo Torraj

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75 games for us so far and only 20. He’s not been first choice as often this season but is forcing me to rethink how we can get him in the starting 11. I don't know how much more he's going to improve and he is lacking in some key areas for an attacking midfielder, but his passing ability perhaps outweighs the negatives. He will definitely be in and around the first team for the rest of this season and I'll look again at how valuable he is in the summer. A loan for some first team football may not be the worst move next season.

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Torraj gets his chance to continue behind the strikers and Carty’s recent good form, along with Bahamboula’s injury, means he’s almost the first name on the sheet. Carty’s purple spell continues as he records his highest scoring season so far and Glatzel was the main tormentor in chief as he pops up with 2 assists.

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March 2025

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Last month’s results have gone a long way to making that a very bearable report.

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Considering they are languishing in 20th, we didn’t do anywhere near enough to cause them problems...a bit of a disappointing result proves this league is a bit of a ruthless one if you let your guard down.
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Well that was entertaining. My assistant manager keeps telling me that Carty isn’t good enough to deserve a new contract but that’s now 10 league goals in 18 games and that seems a good enough reason to keep him around. Frustrating to lose that at the death though as we failed to properly clear a set piece.

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After 40 games this season, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Mid-table Championship was never going to produce a raft of quality performances, but there are definitely players who should be performing better. Shihab is not good enough for this league, Hesketh has failed to be anywhere near consistent enough over the last 4 seasons and could be on the way out, along with McAleny as we look to build a squad that can compete.

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Games don’t come any tougher than this. Away to the team top of the league...and a team in the Premiership two seasons ago with the players contracts reflecting that with top earner Max Meyer on £94k a week. That’s not that far off our entire wage budget. Despite that, a very creditable draw and 6 goals for the second game in a row.

Two home games against teams at the wrong end give us a real chance to solidify our league position and keep well clear of the relegation zone.

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It only takes 3 minutes for the game-plan to come undone. Stewart’s loan spell has failed to kick off yet although going down to 10 men didn’t help him...no-one impressed and we were pretty much outplayed there as they took full advantage of the extra man.

Sheffield Wednesday are the first team to lose their Championship status as they’re relegated with 7 games left.

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Keeper Vickers was comfortably man of the match, but Stewart should have put that to bed long before he did as he missed a number of one-on-ones, either missing the target altogether or passing tamely back to the keeper. 3 points ground out but it wasn’t pretty and should have been far more convincing.

Chris Wilder - now Birmingham manager - was watching Rhys Williams. Hands off Chris, hands off.

Monthly player profile - Rhys Williams

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24 years old, Welsh International, 80 league games, valued at just over £5m, he’s going nowhere, although I am conscious that the previous board accepted a bid over my head for him...so he may have a ‘too-good-to-refuse’ amount. Im just not sure what that is yet.

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The youth intake leaves a bit to be desired. Oduor has the potential to be retrained and I think we’ll look into that, but at the moment...that intake doesn’t really do anything for me!

And then, I have the absolute pleasure in turning down the biggest interview invitation so far...Premier League Everton, struggling in 14th.

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April 2025

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Promotion chasing in the Championship and another ex-Premier League team to face this season. Away at Turf Moor doesn’t really bring a smile to the face. The stats make it look like we got battered, but it didn’t feel that way as we held our own and only an own goal and probably a lack of quality in the final third - expected from a newly prooted team - held us back.

That was Bahamboula’s 150th league game for the club for me which is good going.

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Another promotion contender...away...oh good. Unlike the Burnley game, we didn’t play well and couldn’t shore up properly after the sending off. That aas disappointing and we just got destroyed by wonderkid Curran, on loan from Chelsea.

Even though we get mullered in that game, other results mean that survival is guaranteed.

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Survival ensured and the team F**** off early. I don’t know what we were doing in that game, but it wasn’t playing football. Absolutely shocking performance.
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It’s fair to say I wasn’t expecting that performance after a couple of less than stellar performances. Carty’s hat-trick was the obvious high point of the game which takes him to 14 for the season and makes him our top scorer.

And to top it off, Glatzel scores his first goal in...forever.

Monthly player profile - Paul Glatzel

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****** set pieces again…unable, or unwilling to defend them properly.

Ordinarily, with teams being relegated I’d be looking to hoover up some bargains, as those going down have some good prospects...QPR in particular, but since we’re already over our very meagre budget, we might have to wait a bit longer.

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