Let’s Try Not to **** this All Away: A Burton Albion Story

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So two good wins to start the month and another two goods wins to finish the month. Unfortunately a really poor performance against man U see us get hammered 3-0. But 6 points from 9 will do especially as we progress in the cup and make a winning start to life in the Champions League so overall a good month.

October cold e the month that sorts the men from the boys though. We have PSG and Napoli in the Champions League along with Man City Chelsea and 3rd place Palace in the league. We round the month off with EFL cup action against Fulham. I don't think we'll get any points in the Champions League and just hope that any defeats aren't too heavy and don't effect our league form too much.
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So that was a month to forget! The sad thing is it went pretty much as I had feared. Right from the moment we were 2-0 up against Napoli yet managed to lose to a 92 minute winner I had a sinking feeling. Chelsea probably deserved the win in the . next game having shaded possession and shots. The Palace game was very 50/50 but the defeat summed up how things had been going for us. By the time the PSG game rolled around I had convinced myself that we were out of the Champions League and even rested players in order to prioritise the Man City game. The draw we picked up with City I was hoping would be the turning point and ro back it up with a win in the EFL cup was pleasing.

November would start much how October had been with games against Liverpool, who were there or there abouts in the league plus another game with PSG were I had again decided to play a rotated side. After that though would come a run of winnable games, and give how October had finished we really needed to win some games, so picking up points against Wolves, Burnley and Stoke was a must, whilst the game with Zenit could be very important when it came to 3rd place in the group. 9 points in the league and a win over Zenit would leave me a very happy man.
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So from a really bad month to a really good month. Unbeaten in the league and we seem to have discovered our shooting boots again. My only disappointment from the month was that we actually dropped any points in the league as we had been in control of every game and should have beaten Liverpool and Stoke as well. The defeat to PSG was again with a rotated side however the win over Zenit meant we would definitely be playing European football in the new year, even if it is in the Europa League.
December in England is always a busy month with the Christmas fixtures but throw in a Champions League game and an EFL cup Q Final and we would play 8 games in December so a bit of squad rotation was going to be required. Thankfully a lot of the games should be winnable which makes rotation a bit less of an issue. I'd be looking for 4 wins in the league plus progression in the EFL cup. The Champions League is a dead rubber so it will definitely be a weakened side for that one.

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So not a great month but not a bad one either. We move into the semis of the EFL cup and our rotated side hammer Napoli. In the League we were unbeaten but some of the teams we played means it feels more like points dropped than gained. However we are moving back up the league and our now in the top six and back in contention of Europe.

January would be another busy month with 9 games that would include a 2 legged EFL cup semi with Leicester and we if course enter the FA cup with a 3rd round tie against Swindon. With a couple of really tough league games against Spurs and Man U along with a couple that we should be looking to pick up points in like Sunderland and Boro January could be a very interesting month.
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So easy progression in both cups with Leicester and Swindon dispatched meaning our first chance for silverware and of course qualifying for Europe would come in the EFL Cup final against Man U at the beginning of March and having just stiffed them 4-1 we would be pretty confident. In fact the only blot on the copybook this month was the defeat to Boro, which ended a long unbeaten run which stretched back as far as October in the league.

February would see us back in cup action with FA cup tie against Leyton Orient, and the first knockout round of the Europa League with Kobenhavn. A couple of big league games as well with games against the teams who sit just above us in 4th and 5th in Chelsea and Palace. Its going to be a big month!
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So an up and down month. We manage to progress to the 6th round of the FA cup with routine wins over Leyton Orient and Forest in the 4th and 5th rounds. We continue our good cup form in the Europa League with victory over two legs over Kobenhavn. However our form in the league continues to be patchy. Defeat to Chelsea and a draw with Palace leaves us 6th and there is now a bit of a gap developing between ourselves and 4th place Chelsea.

March would see more cup action with Man City in the FA Cup and Bologna in the Europa league. Our 3 league games would see us take on 3 teams below us in the league, meaning a chance to pick up valuable points and push for the Champions League places. This would all be preceded by our 1st shot at Silverware for the season when we line up against Man Utd in the EFL cup final. I have to target a trophy 6 points in the league and progression in the cup would be a great month.

Here's how the league currently sits with us having 11 games to play.

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So there would be no domestic cup glory this year thanks to 2 penalty defeats against the 2 Manchester clubs. The EFL Cup final we probably could have won. Man U had a man sent off but managed to score on the break from the resulting free kick. We then equalised right from the kick off and proceeded to dominate the remainder of the game but didn't manage to get the goal. As we headed towards extra time I was confident the man advantage would be enough to see us through especially as they were tiring. Then on the stroke of full time our right winger Jurkovs picks up a 2nd yellow for a foul deep inside Man Us half and suddenly our advantage was gone. Extra time was edgy from both teams and then penalties were we were really poor missing 3! The City game could have gone either way and again we failed miserably from the spot in the shoot out.

On the positive side 2 wins and a draw in the league keep our faint Champions league hopes alive whilst 2 pretty straightforward wins over Bologna see us through to the next round of the Europa League and perhaps the defense of our title is on.

April would bring 3 very winnable league games and a Q final in the Europa League against the same team we defeated narrowly in last years semi, Marseille. Minimum of 7 points and progress to the semis again please.
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So April went very much as I had hoped though I do feel like the draw with 19th placed Derby may come back to haunt us come the end of the season. In the Europa League, just like last year we manage to see off Marseille after 2 very even games on the away goals rule, setting up a semi final place and a very tough game against a very good BMG side.

May would see us take on Norwich, Man City, BMG and Sheff Wed all with 7 days, good to see that FM takes scheduling seriously! We then have the 2nd leg against BMG and round the league season off with Arsenal and West Ham.
So the final month of the season was upon us and Champions League qualification was still on in both the league and the Europa League. The problem was 4 games in a week which with us already having a few injuries was going to stretch our squad, it may be a case of pioritsing either the League or Europa League, whatever happened we were going to be faced with some very difficult selection issues, and the real possibility of not making the Champions League regardless of what we do!

So how did we do?

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So we started the month in good form with a draw against Norwich with a rotated squad, followed up by a win over Man City which put us right in the mix for 4th place, as that had been our game in hand, It also meant Man U were confirmed as Champions! We then went to Germany with a few injuries, suspensions and a lot of tired legs and put in a top class performance against BMG and walked away as deserved 2-0 winners and putting us firmly in the driving seat of the tie and favourites to make the final.

With bottom of the table Sheff Wed up next to round off an exhausting week followed by the 2nd leg of the semi against BMG and Arsenal and West Ham still to come there was no resting for the boys.

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The draw with Sheff Wed was definitely down to tiredness and those 2 points dropped meant that we were relying on other results going our way in order to get 4th in the league. The 2nd leg against BMG saw the lads return to a bit of fitness and winning ways with a comfortable 2-0 win meaning we had a shot of retaining the Europa League, though Benfica would be a tough test in the final. Defeat to Arsenal sealed 4th place for Chelsea and meant that all that was left for us to play for was 5th as defeat against West Ham in the final league game of the season would see them leapfrog us, so to get a draw and maintain 5th with a weakened team was pleasing and meant that fitness wasn't the issue it could have been for the Europa League final.
So onto the Europa League final, and it now had increased importance given that we had failed to get 4th in the league and therefore missed out on Champions League qualification, this was our second bite of the cherry!

We went into the game not in the greatest form and this was reflected in the betting with Benfica being slight favourites. we were confident that if we played well we would win.

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So as you can see Benfica definitely had the better of the game with more possession, shots and shots on target, but we had set up to play on the counter so I wasn't really surprised by these stats, however what about the most important stat, the score?

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So we did it with a late goal from sub Stevo and we had managed to upset the odds and retain the Europa League. Of course this also meant that we would be dinning at Europe's Top Table again next season with Champions League qualification confirmed, lets just hope the board can come up with a few quid to allow us to strengthen the squad again.
So the season had finished and whilst it has to be viewed as a success given that we finished 5th in the league, lost in the final of the EFL cup and were also runners up in the European Super Cup. Winning the Europa League and making the QF of the FA cup means it was a good season but not a great season. we need to start getting into that top 4 and maybe even picking up a few more trophies. However we have been given a budget of only £27m and £97k wages which when you think of the type of player we need to bring in to improve the squad would mean may 1 or at a push 2 players. This is the first time that I have felt that our tiny stadium (12k capacity) and therefore low income has started to hold us back. I'm not sure how to progress with this side of things given that we have been refused planning permission for both a new stadium and and extension to our current one. One thing is for certain we may need to get rid of a few players to finance the purchases of those required to take the club forward, we may also see a few youth players promoted to replace those squad players who are on bigger wages but not getting much in the way of game time.

Anyway a few odds and ends to tie up the season:

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So I scooped manager of the year which I'm very happy with. we also had the annual awards and here are the winners:

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Not sure I would entirely agree with the team of the year though. I probably wouldn't have Pickford in goal, Christie and Fernandes in the centre of the park, whilst they did play well when called upon were both back up players who only started 7 and 15 league games respectively so again probably would have been my choices for those slots. Finally as much as I love Stevo up front I don't think you could overlook top scorer Rodrigues for the start up front.

So into the off season and lots of scouting to be done as we try to find the couple of players we need to take us to the next level.
So with pre-season over and the new season about to kick off there are just a few things I need to clear up/rant about. Firstly my rant about lack of transfer funds was probably a bit premature as the board hadn't set the budgets yet. We ended up with £65m transfer and £250k wages. The second thing is other teams bidding for your players! Now I know if I transfer list someone and/or offer them out I won't get offers of their actual value, however when you have a keeper who is valued at over £5m and a full back who is £4.5m and you get offers of £700k and £0 respectively, and to then rub salt into the wounds they want you to pay 75% of what you are currently paying them! Really! Finally I forgot that I organise friendlies on this save so ended up only playing 4 games.

Anyway rant over, how did we get on in pre-season? Well we at least played some decent teams despite my incompetence. AC Milan, Valencia, Athletico Madrid and Marseille would provide a stern test. With the Milan and Madrid games being testimonials maybe they wouldn't be as tough as expected.

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So good results and performances all round with the Marseille result being especially pleasing given how close our Europa Legues games have been with them over the past 2 seasons. With so few games played it does leave us going into the season with a number of players not fully match fit and with 6 games in August including the Super Cup against Chelsea, Spurs in the league and of course our Champions League qualifier we better hope that we hit the ground running.
So the season proper is just around the corner, and we kick off with our first shot at silverware in the European Super Cup against Chelsea, but who have we brought in to help us get to the next level and actually win trophies and who has been shown the door because they are no longer good enough? Onto the transfers made so far:

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So a couple of older heads don't get their contracts renewed and leave on frees. Wilson scored plenty of goals for us during his 6 years at the club and was £375k well spent. Da Costa was another good servant with 4 years at the club and averaging over 7 for 3 of those years, but age was catching up with him and some new blood required. We gave the usual younger players going out on loan that I'm not even going to talk about. However both the Popescu's on the left have both gone, one on loan the other on a full time on a £9m deal to Everton. The winger wasn't getting the game time he needed whilst the full back again wanted more game time whilst I needed more home grown players.
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So a couple of younger players brought in to go into the U23s and hopefully improve enough to make it to the first team. A couple of back up full backs, who mean not quite the drop in quality that there was last season, a central midfielder and keeper round off the ins. The window is still open and any further ins will depend on players leaving, however there are a few deals on the outs in the offing.

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Came though as an offer from his scout, and I wasn't really looking for a new keeper as I was happy with the 2 we had, however once I had him scouted I couldn't not buy him for £575K. Really good all round though does punch a bit more than I'd like. As you can see is already worth over £11m and will probably become 1st choice, and mean the end of Pickford at the club (assuming I can get a decent offer).

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Ben Neal was brought in from Liverpool and will start as a back up however there isn't too much difference between him and Torres and at 22 he can still improve and may well give Torres a run for his money and the starting spot at left back. Solid defensively but with room to improve going forward. Mentally and Physically very good, a signing I'm more than happy with.

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Lindsay was brought in on a free after he was released by Arsenal. solid in all the areas you would want for a centre half and at 18 will hopefully improve whilst with the U23s. Having said that with the injuries we have pick up in that position pre-season he will be 4th choice centre back until at least Christmas, and may get a run in a few cup games.

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Da Costas replacement as back up right back. Mentally, physically and defensively very solid, could do with improving a bit going forward but 22 he has plenty of time to grow. As with his mate on the left he will start as back up but will be putting pressure on for a start in no time and will probably get plenty of game time.

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Another youngster who will slot into the U23s squad and who can hopefully one day make it to the starting line up. He has plenty of work to do and improvements to make so if he makes it it will not be for a few years. But good physically is a good start but will need to improve everywhere else. But for £160k a gamble worth taking.

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The only one of our signings who will go straight into the starting line up, or at least once hes fit he will. Wasn't my first choice but the English player I was after was twice the price and wanted £50k more in wages, and went to Man City, so give it a couple of seasons and I'll get him for next to nothing. He is just a very good DLP and will slot perfectly into both formations we play.
So August kicked off in the European Super Cup against Chelsea and it was a thriller, Palace, Wolves and Spurs would provide the league opposition whilst as would obviously be the case given that I turned down the job we got Bayern in the Champions League Qualifier, which I thought was incredibly difficult draw.

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So the Super Cup put me through the ringer. 1-0 up early we went into injury 2-1 down before an equaliser sent us into extra time. 3-2 up shortly after kick off of injury time but the lead didn't last long, 4 minutes to be exact. As things seemed to be drifting towards penalties Stevo popped up with his 3rd of the game and our first trophy of the season was in the bag!
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After the ups and downs of the Super came the bore fest against Palace. I did rotate the team a little given that we had played 120 minutes 3 days earlier but still need to be winning those games. 1-1 away at Bayern I was happy with however given that we went 1-0 up in the 88 minute I was completely gutted when the scored beyond the 1 minute of injury time we were meant to play, but an away goal is what I was after. Next up was Wolves and they were dispatched with ease including a goal of the month for new boy Doraci. The 2nd leg against Bayern was a game we dominated and were probably unlucky not to have won in normal time but we got the win in extra time thanks to a header from a corner from Aaron Moore, and we made the group stage for the 2nd year running and we have knocked out a European heavyweight on the way. Away to Spurs was never going to be an easy game and to pick up a point was pleasing. Not so pleasing was old boy Filip scoring the Spurs equaliser! How could you?

So a few more transfers to tell you guys about now that the window is finally closed. First up a youth prospect brought in from San Martin in Argentina. Paz looks like he could be a good player if he can progress as I hope, if not £1.2m isn't a big outlay. He has gone out on loan to Spain as he has no work permit as yet.

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A few departures as well. One that I'm not happy with but I forgot he had a release fee and didn't give him a new contract, but hey we brought in a new keeper already who is going to be 1st choice. The others had fallen down the pecking order and I was not too bothered about them leaving!

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So September will see us in action on 3 fronts. West Ham, Liverpool and Leicester would provide the league opposition. We continue our Champions League campaign when we entertain A. Madrid whilst a difficult EFL cup 3rd round draw we see us travel to New White Hart Lane to take on Spurs. This could easily go either way and we could lose all 5 games or we could get results and progress in the cup, Champions League and the league.

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So another unbeaten month means I can't complain, however 3 draws in the league means that we have only won once in 6 games which isn't ideal. However more good form in the cup competitions see us top our Champions League Group after a good win over A. Madrid, whilst a rotated side destroy Spurs on their own patch to progress to the next round of the EFL Cup.
October would again see us attacking on 3 points, with more EFL Cup, Champions League and League action. We would face trips to Parkhead & Milan in the Champions League, home to Boro and away to Man Utd before back to back games against Bournemouth in the EFL Cup and League means a very difficult month ahead.

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Two draws in the Champions League mean that we stay top of the group and I'm beginning to think about getting to the knockout stages. The draw with Man U had me thinking not more draws but 2 wins over Boro and Bournemouth see us move back up the League to 6th and towards the Champions League places. A penalty win see us into the Q Final of the EFL Cup and Wembley is one step closer.
Just caught up reading all this, great work. I live nearish Burton and I think they have done a great job in real life and it looks like you have done great with them. I just started save with m team, Shrewsbury Town, getting towards business end of season frequenting playoffs at moment despite being highlighted as a team that would face relegation. We made the EFL cup final too, lol, I don't know how was bit strange, we came up against a reserve arsenal side, that featured Walcott and Welbeck but they beat us 4-2. It would have been bit silly if we won EFL Cup as a league one side. Anywho enjoyed reading your journey. Any bargain championship level players you would recommend (if I get here that is)
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