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

So as already mentioned we let a few players go and as we head into the first league game of the season we have sold/released 12 players with a few of the younger players also going on loan. Every player who left did so as I didn’t think they were good enough. I had decided to clear out as much of the dead wood as possible and so accepted bids that were lower than I ideally would have liked but it’s a few quid back into the club and some wages off the wage bill.
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£8.5m in sales for players that didn’t really play last year and given the players we brought in would probably have played even less this season. As the window is still open I wouldn’t rule out a few more departures, there are a few negotiating at the minute.
Onto the exciting bit now and the ins. We had £55m in the budget and about £400k in wages and we certainly made a dent in it. We have so far spent £42.5m and have about £100k left in wages. 11 players brought in 12 if you include Filip who returned on loan from Spurs for a third season, I had planned to get Boris back from Man Utd but he got injured and was recalled and won’t be fit until after the window closes.

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A lot of this was to try and improve our squad depth as I felt that let us down last season as outside the starting 11 many of the other squad players were a big dip in quality which I’m sure cost us points or meant that players were playing unfit or rushed back from injury. Anyhow here are the latest Brewers who will hopefully push us up the table.

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A player I tried to sign last season but that West Brom wouldn’t sell. A solid keeper who has just won the World Cup with England and a upgrade on our current keeper. I have been slightly concerned by his pre-season form, but maybe he is still hungover from the World Cup win.

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Brought in for £1.2m from Stuttgart to provide competition at left back. Better technically than our current left back but not as good physically. It means that I can happily rotate the 2 and not really lose anything. He is solid all round as a full back and I think a bit of a bargain.

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Will start as a back up and at £5.25m an expensive one, however mentally and physically good with excellent tackling and at 21 I’m confident he will improve and may well be a starter by the end of the season. Could prove to be a very good signing in the longer term.

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Will probably be our first choice right back and at 2m not massively expensive. Much like his Romanian counterpart at left back very good physically and young enough to improve the other areas of his game with regular football

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Another player who almost joined last season but failed to get a work permit, however a regular for the US and even made it into the World Cup dream team a player who can fill a number of roles. Can play as a DLP in both the centre of the pitch or drop back into a Defensive Mid if we are trying to hold onto a lead. Will also be the perfect BPD for my 3 at the back system. At £9.5m rising to £12m the clubs record signing.

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Batista joins on loan from Benfica and can play all of the roles we deploy in the centre of the park, (AP,DLP,BBM), he will probably take Boris place as the BBM for most games and has already scored a few cracking 25/30 yarders in pre-season.This loan should have been a permanent signing except I got cheap and try to argue of £1k per week on his wages, despite him asking for less than I was prepared to pay him!

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Brought in to replace Hussian and challenge Christie for the AP spot. £8.5m from Dortmund seems like a bit of a bargain and he can also fill any of the midfield slots. £52k per week makes him the clubs highest earner so no pressure then.

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Another Romanian who at £1.1m could be the steal of the season. I think he could be a really good back up to Lookman on the left and if he improves as much as I think he might he may well have taking the starting place from Lookman by the end of the season. Quick, strong with good dribbling if he can improve his crossing could be a real weapon.

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On a free from Watford it was hard to refuse. A solid winger who can play either side, not to mention English which helps with the Home Grown quota. Bought as a back-up but again could easily push for a start. As I mentioned last year wingers seem to blow hot and cold so will no doubt get plenty of game time.

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My favourite signing of the season and the one I think could be a star. £1.6m and arguably already my best striker and at only 18 can only improve. Tried to buy him at the start of the window but work permit rejected. Then of course Serbia joined the EU on the 1st​ July and given the soft Brexit meant I could bring him in without the need of a work permit. Needs a bit of work on his mentals but otherwise superb.

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The one I wish I hadn’t bought. Not because he isn’t very good but just because I think we now have 1 striker too many and I fear he may be the one the misses out. Bought after Stevo (love that his name is Stevo!) had his work permit rejected and before I realised he wouldn’t need one. With the exception of Natural fitness a really good player, but we will need to progress in the cups, or get a few injuries for him to get some game time which is a shame.
Great work mate! Hope you're improving the youth facilities/scouting to get the gems in. You have amazing facilities!! Also have you improved the ground, cant imagine youre making any money on a tiny capacity?
Great work mate! Hope you're improving the youth facilities/scouting to get the gems in. You have amazing facilities!! Also have you improved the ground, cant imagine youre making any money on a tiny capacity?

I have managed to get youth recruitment improved but no starts yet and the stadium has been upgraded twice but still only 12000 capacity. Despite this we have made a profit every year, though not sure about this season.
So August would have 3 league games and an EFL cup match. It has been a relatively kind start to the season for us with trips to Norwich and Leicester in the league whilst we entertain West Ham and Luton at the Pirelli in the league and cup respectively. With none of the big boys to play I’d love an unbeaten start to our league campaign and cup progression. Lets just hope our new boys have settled as well as it would seem and that we can continue our pre-season form.

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So a solid start if not the unbeaten one I had wanted. 2 good wins against Norwich and West Ham was followed by a good cup performance with Perovic giving more headaches in the striking position. The Leicester game I brought back all of the starting 11, except James Wilson who was still not fully fit from a knock, and we just didn’t show up but Leicester are a decent side so can’t be too unhappy. We also had a bit of recognition for a couple of our younger lights:

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We also completed a few further transfers with a couple of players leaving and one joining.

So the outs were mainly loans for the younger players to get more experience, however a couple of defenders have left permanently, as they had just fallen down the pecking order and it was good to bring in a couple of quid for them.

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The one incoming transfer was just too hard to refuse. A familiar face to many of you and for £3.8m a solid addition to the team.

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A player that can play on both wings and will really push for a starting place. Sisto is one of the players I used a lot last year and I’m really interested to see how he performs this year. If he is anywhere near as good I think he could be a real bargain and will get us plenty of assists and goals.
September would have 4 games with 3 in the league and our cup game against Norwich. Whilst I don’t see the EFL cup as that important and certainly not compared to our premier league survival it is important that we win this as this will put 1 tick against the Boards expectations. The league I just hoped that we could continue our form and pick up another couple of wins and with games against Palace, Spurs and Wednesday I would be happy if we manged 2 wins in the league and progress to the 4th​ round of the cup.

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4 games 4 wins can’t ask for more even if the cup win did require penalties. Comfortable against Spurs, despite the scoreline, and Wednesday, however the Palace game they definatley had the best of but we somehow managed to win and by an impressive scoreline. Our rotated side wasted chance after chance to put the game to bed a 1-0 in normal time only for Norwich to equalise late on before taking us all the way to penalties. Looking ahead it was probably as well we had a good September as October has back to back games against Man U and Arsenal who sit just ahead of us in 1st​ and just below us in 4th​ respectively. After that we have Everton and Wolves in the league and Stoke in the cup, all games that we should be capable of winning.

More good news for our young players as we again scoop the YPOTM award for September:

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October I predicted to be a difficult one and so it turned out.

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2 draws and 1 win in the league along with progression in the cup isn’t the worst month if I’m truthful, however it could and probably should have been more. 2-0 down against Arsenal inside 15 minutes I was concerned we were going to be humiliated, however we got back into it and drew level before half time. Now I noticed on twitter a poll about what annoys you most about FM and Arsenals winner is exactly what annoys me. So Arsenal have the ball in the middle of the pitch when my player tackles them, now this being FM the tackle turns into the type of through ball that your DLP with 20 passing,technique and vision could only dream of playing, and finds an attackers who is almost clean through. I had thought that I’d been saved when my centre back managed to get a tackle in only for this to find the winger stood 5 yards out with no one near him and the goal gaping! How often does a tackle on the half way line turn into a great ball? And then if that ever does happen how often would it happen again in the very next tackle? Anyway a good performance against top of the table Man U in a even game that we could easily have won. Everton were probably edged it and should have won, Stoke we got the 3 points our performance deserved whilst the Wolves game was very even and I’m happy to get the win. So 5 points and a place in the QF of the EFL cup, is probably 1 point fewer than I had hoped for but I guess I can’t be too dissatisfied.

November would see us face away days to Boro and QPR whilst we would entertain Fulham and then West Brom in the cup. Now the EFL cup is not a competition I see as important and I will continue to rotate the side, however now that we are approaching the business end of the competition I may make a few less changes and if I’m honest a trophy would be lovely. The 3 league games are definitely winnable and I would like to think that we can take at least 6 points.

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So SF of the cup and this was achieved with a team that included 8 changes so very happy and Wolves in the semi is a team that we could beat over 2 legs. The league form though is back to being patchy with 3 points from a possible 9. Boro we lead until the last 10 minutes when they got an undeserved equaliser. QPR we bossed the game and they didn’t even manage a shot on target and we should have scored more. The Fulham game was another game we should have won. By far the better team Fulham scored with there 1st​ shot and only managed 1 further effort on target. I am beginning to worry about our lack of goals. Maybe I need to worry less about players complaining about lack of game time and concentrate on ensuring we win games. This inconsistent form has seen us fall out of the Champions League spots for the first time this season.

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So December would be a busy month as always with a total of 7 league games, not including the New Years day fixture. It would also be a month were our Champions League ambitions would be tested severely with games against 3 of the teams hoping to also secure qualification in the form of Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool. Throw in home games against Southampton, Bournemouth and Norwich as well as a trip to Stoke and rotation could well be the name of the game.

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So a good month all in all with really good wins over Chelsea and Man City as well as Stoke and Norwich. Two draws against Southampton and Liverpool where we conceded late equalisers. The defeat to Bournemouth is probably the first game all season that I have thought we were really poor. Yes we had a rotated side out but we just didn’t show up and got what we deserved. So all of that leaves the table looking like this:

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So we are still outside the Champions League places but it is tight between ourselves, City and Chelsea and with a bit of a gap beginning to open up over 6th​ and the top 2 also opening a gap it could well be two from three. We need to remain focused and try to push on in the second half of the season and hopefully secure a top 4 finish. Having said all that out loud we will probably plumett down the table and not even qualify for Europe, though with 38 points relegation seems to be out of the question.
So January would be a very busy month, and one that could be very momentous for both myself and the club with the possibility of our first cup final. Eight and possibly nine games spread over 3 competitions would test our squad depth, which would of course be depleted by the ACON and a few of our players disappearing for most of the month on international duty. Leicester, West Ham, Spurs, Palace and Wednesday would provide the opposition in the league, whilst a 2 legged semi final with Wolves in the EFL cup not to forget Hull in the FA cup 3rd​ round, it was definitely busy if nothing else. This could really hurt us as we still don’t have the squad of a City or a Chelsea and a few changes can really make the difference in terms of quality in our team. By the time February comes we could easily find ourselves out of Champions League contention.

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So a pleasing month that see us heading to Wembley for the EFL Cup Final against Spurs after 2 1-0 wins over Wolves in games that we dominated and should probably have won by more one goal, but 2 wins and a final appearance isn’t to be sniffed at. In terms of the other cup competition, The FA Cup, we had mixed fortunes in it. Hull were despatched win greater ease than the 2-1 score suggests, then West Ham knocked us out in the next round, in a exciting game which had seen us fall behind inside 20 seconds, then score 2 goals in quick sucession around the half hour mark. However from that point we seemed to stop playing and West Ham came back at us scoring their equaliser just before half time then a awful winner as far as we were concerned in injury time at the end of the game. Probably a blessing in disguise as fitness levels are suffering and another game probably wouldn’t have helped, disappointed none the less to be out. We were also unbeaten in the league with 3 wins and 2 draws and that good run of form see us sitting 3rd​ in the league, though both Chelsea nad City have a game in hand and could both leapfrog us with a win. Heading into February more of the same in terms of form would be great, though with games against the top 2 in the league and of course our cup final it could be the month that makes or breaks our season.

January of course also means transfers. As usual I hadn’t planned too much activity, with maybe a few leaving on loan and the odd fringe player going if we got a decent offer. Those plans changed a bit half way through the window though.
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So a couple of fringe players leaving and a few loans just as I had imagined, then Bayern hit us with £27m for CB Yao. Now giving that he was valued at £11m, we had paid £1.9m for him and he had been talking about leaving for Champions League football for the past 3 months I felt that it was a good deal and one that we couldn’t really turn down. The problem being that this left a big hole in the centre of our defense, especially if you consider that our other starting centre back is on loan! However I thought I had everything under control, as transfer listed was a very good CB who fitted the bill perfectly and at only £7m meant that we would make a health profit and not have weakend the side. So whilst Yao was talking to Bayern we were talking to his replacement. As I confirmed Yao transfer I believed we already had his replacement sorted. Then suddenly several other offers are accepted on the guy I thought was a done deal. Everything goes quite for a day or to then before you know it he has joined Lazio instead! To add insult to injury on less money too. I then began a frantic search for a CB that would see me rejected by half the CB population of the world before agreeing to sign this guy:

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At £24m it was more than I wanted to spend but I was getting a bit desperate and he is a very good defender already and at 21 will probably get better, with my scouts thinking he may even have 5* potential, in a couple of years he may look like a bargain. Still to make his debut as he has been injured but I feel a good addition to the squad.
So how did February go?

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A draw against 2nd​ place Arsenal was a resonable start to the month but thrn a hammering at Old Trafford severally dented our Champions League hopes. Me managed to get back t form with a comfortable win over Wolves. Next was possibly the biggest day in the clubs history, and honestly it all went fairly well. We dominated the game in terms of possession, shots and shots on target, in fact I don’t remember Spurs having a highlight. So with the EFL cup in the bag and of course European qualification that would mean that we could go out and attack the rest of the season and try and upgrade our Europa cup place to a Champions League place. We are currently 4th​ 2 points above City and 3 behind Chelsea. With us having to play both of our rivals in the run in Champions League qualification was in our own hands.

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The cup win also cemented my place in the history of the club with my gaining Icon status amongst the fans and now I aim to become a legend!
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So March wouldn’t be a busy month on the field with only 3 games and I was keen to ensure that we kept pushing and not just think that we had won a trophy and qualified for Europe so it was season over. With games against relegation threatened Everton and Fulham sandwiching a home tie with Europa League chasing Boro it was a month were at the very least I’d expect 2 wins and as we play Boro at home a clean sweep of all 9 available points would be very doable.

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So not the 9 points I had hoped for but 6 will do and keeps us in the hunt for a CL place. Routine wins against Everton and Fulham were expected. I did think Boro would be the most difficult game but how we didn’t win with 60% possession, 3 times as many shots and shots on target I will never know.

Now whilst March was quite on the field, off it was a different story. The club was subject to a takeover bid which got my hopes up of a tycoon and loads of cash etc.

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The bid was soon confirmed, but much to my disappointment there was no extra cash, and like the previous Chairman, he didn’t want to improve any of our facilities. I suppose at least they let me keep my job.

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So as I mentioned they let me keep my job, however I did get this message from my new boss:
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Good to see that all my hard work if getting the club to where they are today, and making them an attractive club to takeover, is appreciated and isn’t just being discarded by the new regime!

Anyway onto more football matters and we would go into April, were we would face QPR,Southampton, Stoke and of course the big CL battle with Chelsea, in good spirits, on reasonable form and with new owners who will hopefully through a bit of cash at the club in the new season. Everything was looking good lets hope that as we move into May the same can be said.

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So unbeaten in April including a massive win over Chelsea. The draw with Stoke was disappointing and much like the Boro game the previous month, I suppose I should be happy to have got something out of it! He real annoyance was that if we had won we would have moved into 3rd​ and have a 5 point cushion over 5th​ with 3 games to go. I can’t really complain about an unbeaten month and there was more praise for a few individuals in the monthly awards:

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One of the best goals I’ve seen on FM in a while. At least 30 yards out and bent into the top corner. Screamer!
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Good to see Olegs getting some consistency in his performances, he like all of my wingers have been up and down all season.

All of that meant that with 3 games to go the table looked like this:
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So level on points with Chelsea and 2 points ahead of City with them up next. A win there would almost guarentee CL place though with games against Liverpool in 8th​ and Bournemonth in 10th​ we can’t afford to count our chickens just yet.
Just catching up with this now. Good read and great progress made with Burton.
Looking good mate! Very impressive season. Shame the new owners aren't interest in how the club got where they are and are only interested in what you do for them going forward!
Tounkara looks great - where did u sig him from?
Looking good mate! Very impressive season. Shame the new owners aren't interest in how the club got where they are and are only interested in what you do for them going forward!

Thanks mate. Gutted to be at work and not be able to get the season finished. I was more annoyed that they didn't want to invest in youth level/facilities.
So the final 3 games of the season and with Champions League football within our grasp the lads just need to remain focused and maintain the form that had seen us become a very difficult team to score against let alone beat. A win against City would mean 1 more win would confirm our Champions League qualification. It really was squeaky *** time. Could we handle the pressure or would the experience of City and Chelsea, who had been in this position on many occasions tell?

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An unbeaten run to the end of the season, but not the number of points I had hoped for. The draw with City was an edgy affair with neither team wanting to lose and a draw was probably a fair outcome in the end. Bournemouth was another even game and this draw meant that Bournemouth had taken 4 points off us this season, and they are a team we should be beating. The Liverpool game was like so many of the matches that we had dropped points in. 29 shots, 11 on target (not enough) and 60% possession as compared to Liverpools 8 shots and 1 on target. We should have won and handsomely at that, but they held out and frustrated us and I suppose that is a measure of how far we have come when teams like Liverpool are just hanging onto draws against you and trying to frustrate you. Now the big question is did all these dropped points cost us Champions League football or did Chelsea or City bottle it more than we did?

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So as you can see a successful season but one tinged with sadness as we miss out on Champions League on goal difference, and by 1 goal at that! None of the 3 teams involved in the scrap really wanted it and up until the 73rd​ minute when City equalised against Stoke we were sitting pretty. Whilst everyone at the club is disappointed that the hard work put in across the entire season has ultimately seen us come up short there are many positives to take from the season, and if you had said win a trophy and 7th​ to me in August I would have snapped your hand off.

Trying to look at the season in a positive fashion we finished higher than ever before, with 13 more points than the previous season. We had the joint best defense in the league and we conceded 32 less goals that the previous season, and we won a cup. All this in a season were we were tipped to be more likely to be involved in a relegation battle than a Champions League battle.

There were of course a few personal trinkets that would not make up for missing out on the CL but that eased that pain a little.

We had the best keeper in the league with the most clean sheets and at 29 he has a few years left in him.
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Two of our players made the team of the year, though spoiler alert, one won’t be next year as Spurs won’t loan or sell him to us.

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The club of course had their own awards night and the results were as follows:

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It’s a real shame we can’t keep a hold of Filip, as he has been a real rock in our defense for 3 seasons now and has developed into a star, which is probably why Spurs want £69m for him!

Another manager of the year gong for me and at this rate I’m going to need to build an extension on the downstairs loo as that is 3 years in a row now. You would think that I would be linked to a few decent jobs at this stage but nothing but Championship or struggling Premiership teams.

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So with everything around the club wound down for the summer I sat down with the new board to see how we could move the club forward and build on our success this season. It turns out that they agreed with the majority of my suggestions and we were going to expand the stadium to increase income, improve the youth set up and was promised a decent budget to improve the playing staff to help us cope with the pressure of Europa League football (assuming we get through the qualifier).

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So these budgets meant the we had £66m and about £300k in wages which I was more than happy with. As already mentioned we tried to sign our loan players to different degrees of success with Spurs refusing to let Filip join us but with top scorer Batista now joining on a full time basis.

We also had differing degrees of success in the other areas discussed with the board. We were successful in improving our youth facilities and they are now considered level 2 and we will have established youth recruitment. They did however refuse to increase the Junior coaching budget. Then we got this little bit of info from the council:

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So no bigger stadium. I just hope that this doesn’t begin to hold us back too much as we try to progress as a club. Anyway friendlies have been put in place and our scouts are working overtime in an attempt to find the new faces required to push us into the champions league.
Any chance of a new stadium or would the board not entertain that? 12,500 is small for a Championship club, never mind a top end of the table Premier League club with European football on offer.
Any chance of a new stadium or would the board not entertain that? 12,500 is small for a Championship club, never mind a top end of the table Premier League club with European football on offer.

I don't even have the option to ask for a new stadium!(I assume its in board requests) I feel that the lack of income due to our tiny capacity could be what ends up hindering our progress and possibly taking us backwards