FM Saddler's Managerial Journey

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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An FA Cup 2nd round tie and a couple of winnable league games were coming up and we had to capitalise going into a tough run of fixtures. Portsmouth were a side I'd hope to beat with ease to advance into the 3rd round whilst Barnsley and Doncaster are sides I'd think we should get 3 points from in the league.

View attachment 13342867% possession yet we could only manage 1 shot on target. Luckily for us it went in but Portsmouth are proving to be a bit of a bogey team after beating us in pre-season last year. Morris was once again fantastic but more issues arose as Demetriou joined Evina on the injury list leaving us with no options at full back going into our next 3 fixtures.

View attachment 133427We didn't deserve a point at all but I'll take it. Bradshaw came off of the bench after the visitors made it 2-0 and pulled one back almost instantly. It took until the last kick of the game for Grant to equalise though as he turned on the edge of the area and smashed home into the top corner.

View attachment 133426 Pompey once again got the early goal but this time shut up shop. We had no width as they shut down our wingers in a 3-1-4-1-1 formation and this forced us to go up the middle. We created chances but nothing easy enough to get a shot on target. That makes it 2 losses and a draw against the south coast side.

View attachment 133425After 3 interesting ties where we controlled the game but failed to get the points we went into a game where it was all even. We looked tired after the replay and still without full back options couldn't find the width to threaten the flanks. Neither side created any clear cut chances and it showed in the score line.

View attachment 133424Just as we were on the brink of the top 6 we slip away again. It was 2 disappointing draws in the league and really we should've beaten Doncaster. We remain in the chase for the top 6 but we could've been in there if we had turned the draws into wins.

Getting knocked out of the FA Cup is disappointing as well. I felt another cup run would've been fantastic for my job stability but getting knocked out before expected has certainly hurt my chances of keeping the job. Despite the tough run of fixtures coming up I feel if I'm not in the top 6 by February that my job will be lost.

I would love to keep this job as I feel I have really built something but the squad has suffered injury after injury to key players and the team took time to gel. I think we can still make the top 6 and possibly win the play-off's with the squad we have but it's whether I am given the time to do so.
 

FMSaddler96

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A tough run of fixtures to face were coming up and the chance of battling for that top 6 would either become more interesting or slip away. We needed to continue to stay within reach but with a few very tough games I wasn't sure if we would.

View attachment 133394After Sawyers missed the penalty before half time I expected a fight back from Wycombe but they looked defenseless in the second half. It was left winger Callum Harriot who got the only goal but it was in a game that we could've, and probably should have scored at least 3 goals.

View attachment 133393I expected absolutely nothing from this game against a very strong Sheffield United side. 17 seconds in though Morris swung the tie our way and I instructed the players to sit back and play on the break. At half time though I switched back to attacking and it paid off.

Hadzhiev made it 2-0 from a corner before Cuvelier scored a penalty for the Blades but they never looked like coming back so when Harriot and Bradshaw scored late on I was glad we got a score that was deserved.

View attachment 133392With the Sheffield United game just 2 days before I had to play a fully rotated 11 with no full backs fit. We lost our width and as has been on many occasions before without Evina and Demetriou we looked to have no threat. Forde's late goal gave us hope of a late equaliser but it wasn't to be.

View attachment 133391Top of the table Gillingham had been unbelievable all season so when Mason Bennett put them 1-0 up just 4 minutes in I was expecting a big loss. However we clawed our way back into the game and took control but couldn't find the goal until late on. We always looked the better of the sides after 10 minutes but couldn't get all 3 points.

View attachment 133390Another mixed bag of results leaves us with a mixed league table. Still just 3 points off of the top 6 we continue to chase but we continue to fail to take chances to break into the top 6.

We face 5th and 6th in our next 2 games before a run where we face only 1 top half team in 11 games. If we can get a win from our next two then that run of 11 games is our chance to break into the play-off spots.

I feel if we don't sit in the top 6 by the end of that 11 game run then we don't make the top 6 a second year running. We end the season with 8 games where we play just 2 bottom half teams. The other 6 teams in our run in are teams currently in or chasing the top 6 so I can't see us getting into the top 6 if we aren't before that point.
 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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Hi guys, I am really enjoying this story so far but don't seem to be receiving any feedback. I will continue to write about it on here but currently seems like nobody is reading it so if people could just leave some feedback it would be appreciated. Feel like I am writing to nobody.
 

Dan McConnell

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May 9, 2015
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Persevere FMSaddler96, I'm keenly following and will be as I'm considering a save with Walsall myself, it looks like a fun one!
 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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Persevere FMSaddler96, I'm keenly following and will be as I'm considering a save with Walsall myself, it looks like a fun one!
Thanks mate, wanting to carry it on but didn't seem to be getting any responses. Seen stories which have 10/15 comments on first couple of pages and loads of likes and I've had no more than 10 comments and only 5 likes through 7 pages. Will carry it on knowing there is at least one person reading :')

Also it is a very interesting save. Lots of good kids, strong squad but not instant success. Chance to build as long as you can stay in past first season or two. Would definitely recommend starting it
 

dporter8999

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Looking well placed to have a go at the play offs if you can get a good few results in. Gotta say, with Bradshaw's injury record, might be time to look at offloading and finding a replacement!
 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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Two big games before we have an easier run of fixtures. In these two games we just need to stay close to that top 6 and make sure we are still in the battle going into the easy run of fixtures.

View attachment 133355After the 4th minute I thought we were going to struggle in this game but we managed to get back in the game and claim all 3 points. Harriot got a goal and an assist to give us the lead before the half. It was a back and forth second half and I thought we'd shot ourselves in the foot when Evina got sent off but we kept the lead and almost made it 3 with the final kick of the game.

View attachment 133354Didn't expect anything from this game but we were superb. Our wide players tore them apart and Harriot once again was our key man. Morris got the first and set up Harriot for the second. Southend got a bit of momentum after pulling one back but we controlled the final 5 minutes before Harriot beat his man on the counter to slot home the sealing goal.

View attachment 133353And just like that we are in the top 6! What a turn around this has been and I feel that if we can perform over our easier run then we can seal our top 6 position in that final run in with ease.

 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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Just a bit of transfer news. Currently in the middle of January I think I have done all my transfer business baring any players who pop up. We have no transfer budget but about £3k free in our wage budget. The finances are also looking good with over £1.7m in our pockets but we are on track to make a loss on the season.

View attachment 133352Just the two deals after a busy summer then.

McCarthy was the first deal done. We needed extra cover at CB. Preston is out for 2 months, Hadzhiev isn't a natural in the position and a few of the kids aren't ready to start yet so if anything were to happen to Downing or Flanagan we would have no option.

McCarthy offers fantastic physicals and a lot of good technical skills so he will be fantastic as a backup CB and may even step in to start should Flanagan fail to perform in the important part of the season.

The second transfer is of Giorgio Rasulo. Rasulo was offered to me by his agent after being transfer listed by MK Dons and he is going to become a backup CAM/ST behind Sawyers/Seager with Bradshaw out and Hesketh only on loan.

He is like a slightly worse version of Sawyers. Physically he isn't great but technically he is one of our better players and will be able to provide and score goals to strikers and wingers. He should be able to step in and help us out going into the run in and for £52k I couldn't turn him down.

One final piece of news is that Adam Chambers who was our captain and was planning on retiring at the end of the season has pushed his retirement forwards. He wasn't playing for us with Gazo, Grant, Mantom and Flanagan all better options so I offered him the U18's assistant manager role and he took it happily.
 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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Looking well placed to have a go at the play offs if you can get a good few results in. Gotta say, with Bradshaw's injury record, might be time to look at offloading and finding a replacement!
I've been thinking about it and have a couple of ideas in mind but at the moment not got the funds to replace. If he can get over the injury curse then he is by far our best player (as proven by his 28 goals last season!). Been lucky with Seager so far this season but not really got a decent backup, lucky Morris and Harriot have added a few goals from either wing
 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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So the last time we met we had somehow worked our way into the top 6 and we were coming up to what should be an easier run of games. After back to back wins against Orient and Southend we looked to be moving forward and pushing up into that top 6.

This is how we have got on since....
View attachment 133137
So the Southend result was the last game we talked about and since then we have got 4 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses in 10 games.

Colchester were poor and we controlled the first half and went into the break 3-0 up. Colchester got a late consolation after Gazo made it 4. Seager then continued to prove his worth with Bradshaw coming closer to returning and got a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Scunthorpe.

However we then went on a 6 game winless run scoring just once in 5 games earning 3 points from a possible 15. The Oldham game we were poor but the Bolton and Coventry game we deserved all 3 points. Notts County, despite being bottom, were superb before Preston continued to frustrate me and Port Vale somehow got all 3 points.

We then returned to winning ways though. Flanagan and Evina were the unlikely scorers after we went 1-0 down against Burton and a late sending off for Burton let us control the tie.

Then Ryan Seager got his 2nd hat trick in 10 games against Cambridge to get all 3 points. We went 2-0 up but somehow went into the half level. A Seager penalty and a second goal in as many games for Evina sealed the points though and put us in good looking form heading into the back end of the season.

But how does that leave the league table...
View attachment 133136A lot better than I thought it would look. We sit level on points with 6th and 7th place but currently have the better goal difference and only sit 3 points off of 2nd place. I think we can go into this final 9 games and aim to get top 2.

We have Bradshaw, Harriot and possibly Grant returning from injury in the near future which added to in form players such as Evina, Seager and Morris and it is looking good.

In terms of our final 9 games we have a mixed bunch. The next 4 games are games we should be winning as we visit Valley Parade to face Bradford (16th), host MK (11th), travel to Fleetwoods (17th) Highbury and then host Rochdale (12th).

After that we have a very tough final 5. Firstly we travel to Wigan (8th) where a win could be a must. Sheffield United (4th) then come to the Bescot where again a win could be needed to make sure we get at least top 6. Chesterfield (9th) will then host us at the Proact Stadium and with them well and truly still in the race for the top 6 it could be a massive game.

We then get a slightly easier tie against Wycombe (15th) at the Bescot where we have to get all 3 points. Then finally we travel to Oakwell where Barnsley (2nd) will be looking to secure their top 2 place but I feel that we could be in the fight.

At this point in the season I am extremely nervous. We were in a similar position last season and just missed out and I don't want to see a repeat of that again. We have no reason not to chase that top 2 when we have 3 of our key players returning and have been tough to stop when in form. I'm just hoping that we can avoid the inconsistency going into the final 9 fixtures.
 

dporter8999

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If you manage promotion this season, your gonna need to sign at least 2 strikers of decent quality, most likely on permanent transfers. Though the top half looks close, think you can make a good push with your players back fit.
 

FMSaddler96

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So with 9 games to go there was everything to play for. We needed to secure that play-off spot after missing out last season but once again injuries piled up at the worst time leaving us without Bradshaw, Demetriou, Mantom and Morris for our final 9 games.

So how did it go...
View attachment 133012It went fantastically. 6 wins from our final 9 was more than I could have asked for but in the end it was tight throughout. The dropped points cost us in the end but let's give a quick walk through of the games before going into the league table.

The Bradford and Fleetwood games we were superb. Attacking from the off we got our goal and then defended our lead well. After these 2 games I was rewarded with a new 1 year deal going into the final run in, not bad considering a few months ago my job was in the balance.

MK Dons then gifted us a draw which we didn't really deserve but I am taking the point anyway. Back to back 1-0 wins against Rochdale and Wigan with both goals coming from our starting left winger for the game then made up for the draw.

However at this point it got nervy. Sheffield United and Chesterfield were just behind us and the draws affected our final two games. Bradshaw rescued us a point against Chesterfield. We then brushed aside Wycombe but picked up a few injuries going into the final game which would decide our fate.

Barnsley needed to win to get top 2. We set up to defend in the first half and then hit them when they were tired. It took 87 minutes for Ryan Seager to get the winner.

But was it enough to seal a top 6 place....

View attachment 133006IT WAS MORE THAN ENOUGH!!!

We were only denied the title by a last minute winner for Gillingham who had a rough patch towards the end of the season. It ended up being us vs Barnsley for the automatic promotion and whoever won that game got 2nd place and a shot at the title.

Going into that game I was so nervous. Barnsley hadn't lost in 8, we hadn't lost in 10. But we were without key players including Morris and Grant who had been key to our entire season.

After the disappointment of last season we somehow managed to go one better than expected and get automatic promotion but let's face it, we all know it wasn't easy.

View attachment 133002In all honesty we were probably the lesser deserving of the 3 sides to get promoted. Barnsley and Gillingham had been fighting it out for the top spot since the mid point of the season and Barnsley only slipped out of the top 2 twice after the mid point of the season, all 3 times for us to rise above them.

It was a fantastic turn around though. 15 games in we were 15th in the table and struggling to find any form and it looked like I was closer to being sacked than getting the play-off spot but from that point on we were superb.

We only lost 5 games in 31 from that point onwards and when you look at it like that we probably deserved the promotion. Somehow we overcame several injury problems, losing our best player and having our top scorer from last season out for most of the season to get the 2nd place finish.

Honestly I would've been happy with a play-off finish but to turn it round like this was the best thing I have done on this game. I look forward to our first season in the Championship and the chance to beat the odds and survive the higher division.
 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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If you manage promotion this season, your gonna need to sign at least 2 strikers of decent quality, most likely on permanent transfers. Though the top half looks close, think you can make a good push with your players back fit.
Yeah, wanted to upload the next update before replying but we will need improvements. To be fair our squad isn't too bad and I feel we just need to bring in a striker on a permanent then add a few backups to the squad to make it easier to rotate through injuries.

This league has been ridiculously close for the 2 seasons and I honestly thought I wouldn't have a chance going into the final run in. The fact that Colchester who were 10th finished 5th and Southend who were 6th finished 15th shows how tight it was.
 

FMSaddler96

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So with promotion secured and no worrying about the pain and torture of the play-off's to deal with lets take a look at some of the stats...

View attachment 132999So in the end we secure the 2nd place spot by 1 point ahead of Barnsley who will have to deal with the play-off's. I left in the board confidence to show how we end the 2nd season in good financial situation but also to show how the board don't seem entirely convinced by my work.

Our defence was ridiculous. Flanagan and Downing were unreal together in the middle and adding McCarthy as our backup once Preston got injured helped a lot. Considering we conceded 16 after 15 games shows how solid our back line was in the 31 games after our rough start. We conceded just 27 goals in 31 games and kept 13 clean sheets in those 31 fixtures.

In terms of scoring goals I expected a lot less. Without Bradshaw ,who got 28 in our first season, for most of the season I was wary of how we would do in front of goal but we did fantastically. Seager ended as our top scorer with 22 goals but we scored from all over the pitch.

Morris and Harriot both hit double figures scoring 10 goals each despite injury concerns for both throughout the season. Bradshaw, despite only starting 3 games, scored 6 goals and showed he is still important when fit. Sims added 4, Evina added 4 (including some wonder goals), Forde got 3 and Grant got 2. There were then 7 players with 1 goal to their name.

However it's where the goals came from that I was most pleased with. Morris set up 11 goals from the right wing which was 4 more than anybody else with Demetriou coming second with 7. We had 9 other players with multiple assists including 3 from CB Paul Downing. Then 5 players registered a single assist including 1 for goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

In terms of average rating we had 13 players with a rating of 7.00+. But it was Jorge Grant, our record signing, who had the best rating of 7.48 with 30 starts and 4 sub appearances. I'd say the most shocking rating was Reece Flanagan though who came in late on when injuries piled up in the middle of the pitch and he claimed the starting role going into the final run in with an average rating of 7.12 to end the season.

The only thing I am disappointed with is the amount of cards we got. Whilst I can deal with yellow cards being high I cannot deal with 5 red cards on the season. They cost us a couple of times and they will need to cut them out next season.
 

FMSaddler96

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So there is just one final bit to tend to going into the off season and that is the awards.

View attachment 132995So Jorge Grant has become an all round fans favourite winning all 4 awards and making his way into the TOTS. I'd say the TOTS was straight forward looking at how and who played the most.

View attachment 132994However it is this that shocks me most as 10 of this years team of the season make their way into the overall best 11. I think the biggest shocks in there are James O'Connor being replaced by Tom Flanagan who was one of our poorer players in relativity to others but also Evina coming in and replacing Rico after 1 year was a shock to me.

View attachment 132993The final bit of news was the injury report and I have seen bad ones before with players out for close to 50% of the season but I have never seen a player unavailable for more than two thirds of the season unless it was a season ending injury.

To think Bradshaw picked up 7 different injuries, missed 67% of the season and still managed 6 goals on the season is ridiculous!

The rest of the big injuries are mainly kids. A lot of players missed brieg parts at key moments but only really Mantom, Evina and Demetriou picked up "big injuries".
 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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View attachment 132991
So one last note going into the new season is the transfer business I want to make.

Looking at this squad I think we currently have the quality to challenge for survival but need a bit of extra depth.

One signing I am going to try my best to make is Ryan Seager from Southampton but I doubt it'll be realistic after the season he has had. At worst I think we get him for another year on loan but ideally I'd like to make it permanent so we have him and Bradshaw to look to for goals.

Elsewhere I think we just need backup. I can't see me bringing Sims back so a backup to Harriot would be key. Preston hasn't developed the way I thought he would so I would like to bring in a 3rd choice CB to cover for Flanagan and Downing.

In the middle I think one more quality option to backup Mantom and Grant could help. Then finally just a cover full back in each position so that we struggle less when we don't have Evina or Demetriou.

So a left winger, 1 or 2 strikers (including Seager), a CM, LB, RB, CB and I think we are ready to survive next season. Once again I will look to use Southampton to utilise loans from their quality youth system but I would like to bring in a few permanent transfers, especially up front and in defence.

Thanks for following up to this point and I look forward to a 3rd season and a 1st season in the Championship!

On one final note I may not get to upload too much in the next week or two, if at all. There is a lot going on so I will try to get a few updates done when I can but it may be a week or two before I get the chance to regularly post again.
 

dporter8999

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Glad you did the next update before replying, what an end of season you had! Hopefully you can get Seager back, and maybe an experienced old head for the know how to help push on next season in the championship
 

FMSaddler96

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Feb 10, 2016
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Glad you did the next update before replying, what an end of season you had! Hopefully you can get Seager back, and maybe an experienced old head for the know how to help push on next season in the championship
Yeah, not had a chance to play through today so no ideas of who I'm going to go for but after this season seager is definitely a target. Him and Bradshaw could be key in championship. I was so shocked to be automatically promoted but glad at same time.
 
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