Flight Of The Concords: Part 20

Screenshot (102)We stand on the brink of both an unprecedented double, and back to back promotions. You can find out how we’ve got to this point here: Flight Of The Concords: Part 17, here: Flight Of The Concords: Part 18, and here: Flight Of The Concords: Part 19.

This season has been amazing so far, but can we finish it off in style, and make another leap into the unknown?


Sky Bet League One:

March’s league results sure haven’t hurt:

Screenshot (168)

Although Plymouth seem to have our number, and for the third time this season, we totally ripped off MK Dons, our other four performances were very good indeed. Kevin Brown and Max Broughton have been orchestrating things magnificently from the flanks, and our defensive unit is thriving, safe in the knowledge that they have an extremely capable goalkeeper behind them in the shape of Kieran O’Hara.

As the team tires after a hectic season, performances drop a little during April, and the results took a slight hit:

Screenshot (187)

But still, not bad. We look noticeably worse with Max Broughton out of the team, with the Bolton game being a prime example (he couldn’t play against his actual club).

Note the first goal for our most promising youth prospect, Malcolm Hackett.

And who can argue with this:

Screenshot (185)

What a result! We’ve made it up to The Championship far sooner than I’d hoped. We’ve left Southend in our dust and are now the biggest team in Essex.

Charlton went on an outstanding run to nip into second on the final day of the season. We helped them out by holding Bristol Rovers to a nil nil draw. MK Dons and Callum Gribbin snuck through the play-offs.

This is just insulting though:

Screenshot (175)

Why does the league have prize money at all?

Checkatrade Trophy:

Screenshot (188)It’s fair to say, that went well.

Our favourite weather, and a Liverpool U23 side that was frankly not very good. Only Nathaniel Clyne and goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin were included from their senior squad, and their youngsters couldn’t match us.

They didn’t muster a single shot on target, and we were incredibly comfortable from the moment Manny Monthe thundered home a header from a corner in the 14th minute.

Best of all, with promotion, we won’t have to play in this Mickey Mouse competition anymore.

Ryan Longman was mad good, getting himself into the Checkatrade Trophy record books in the process, smashing the top goalscorer record by 5 goals, and the average rating record by 0.50!:

Screenshot (163)

Stats:

These beautiful, wonderful lads:

Screenshot (206).png

They were all super, but I’ll pick out a few top performers.

Manny Monthe marshalled the defence brilliantly and was always a handful at set pieces. Kevin Brown was a revelation on the left flank, usurping Ben Greenhalgh, providing goals and assists and developing through training, adding both “Runs With Ball Down Left” and “Knocks Ball Past Opponent” to his repertoire. Denville Gumbs and Ryan Longman scored bags of goals, and formed an electric partnership to lead us to glory.

But Max Broughton was definitely our best player, he looked deadly at times, leaving left backs looking foolish all season. His final total of 7 goals and 18 assists and an average rating of 7.67 was enough to get him the Fans Player award:

Screenshot (176).png

And even better, League One Player of the Year:

Screenshot (180)

Alongside Broughton, Kieran O’Hara and Manny Monthe were named in the starting eleven for the League One Team of the Year. I’m very proud.

In terms of our set piece focus, it’s difficult to say with any certainty if it’s made much difference. We did score from two more corners compared to last year in the league and scored more in the cups too, although we did play a lot more games in the cups than last season.

Kameron Stanley’s loan went incredibly well:

Screenshot (178)

Hopefully we’ll be able to find him a loan at a higher level next season and continue his development.

Once again, as we climb the league pyramid, some players are left behind:

Screenshot (202)

Jeez Rory, inappropriate smile much…

Joss Labadie: Apps 63(2), 6 goals, 16 assists, 7.01 Avg rating. A decent captain for a bit, but an absolute liability in terms of discipline. He wanted a lot more money, and I think we’ll need it elsewhere.

Christian Scales: Apps 64(4), 3 assists, 6.94 Avg rating. One of many mediocre left backs we seem to have to suffer with.

Ben Adamson: Apps 46(11), 1 goal, 5 assists, 6.92 Avg rating. Didn’t develop as we had hoped.

Kyron Farrell: Apps 103(61), 13 goals, 22 assists, 6.98 Avg rating. With us from the very start, was an invaluable asset early on, but another player that hasn’t developed as we would’ve liked.

Joseph Holland: Apps 65(2), 2 goals, 4 assists, 7.04 Avg rating. Solid central midfielder, but like Labadie, priced himself out of another contract.

Jamie Whitmore (GK): Notable only for sitting on my bench for over two years in order to fulfill our “homegrown at the club” obligation.

Me, Me, Me:

Damn right:

Screenshot (181)

And finally my coaching education is complete:

Screenshot (183)

Up to the dizzy heights of a three and a half star fitness coach!

Screenshot (184)

And I’ve graduated up from “Favoured Personnel” to “Icon”:

Next stop, “Legend”!


Looking To The Future:

The Championship is a scary looking prospect. Southampton and QPR have annual salaries in excess of £40m. Ours isn’t even £2m. Aston Villa, Blackburn, Swansea, Palace… The list of big clubs stretches on and on.

I’m going to leave any financial talk until the next part, as I wait to see how much of a difference promotion will make to our income…

There’s no doubt that we need to make some improvements to the playing squad, and probably some changes to our tactics if we are to survive. Even as we have continually overachieved both compared to the game’s expectations and my own, this looks like a hugely difficult challenge.

My initial thoughts are that we go back to defensive football, but I’ll wait on making that decision until I see who we can a) afford and b) attract to Canvey over the course of the summer.

Early signatures for next season come in the form of our repeat loansters. Max Broughton has been loaned for a fourth successive season, despite the fact that we will now be in the division above Bolton. I don’t know what they’re thinking. Kevin Brown had already signed for another year and is joined by Conor McHugh, Armando Dobra, Joey Stevens and John English, who must be as perplexed as I about why Preston spent £600k on him… Dobra is unlikely to see much action next season, but I signed him as a precaution in case our transfer window goes badly. After two years on loan from Liverpool, Corey Whelan signs a one-year deal with us to start on July 1st.

It’s a start, but we’re going to need to make bigger strides this summer if The Championship isn’t going to eat us alive. I’m looking forward to the challenge!

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements
Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Flight Of The Concords: Part 19

Screenshot (102)We’re just over halfway through the season and on a great run of form. As it stands, we’re seven points clear at the top and looking good for back to back promotions.

The season started with us banging in plenty of goals and looking brilliant. Then we managed to pick up good results despite a rough patch of performances. I’ve got to say, I’m open to the possibility that we might be good…

If you fancy catching up on the earlier parts of this season, they can be found here: Flight Of The Concords: Part 17Flight Of The Concords: Part 18


Transfer Window:

Happily, it was a quiet one. There was one notable outgoing in the shape of Harry Lee. After four and a half years with us, he leaves for Scunthorpe for the heady sum of £600. That is not a typo.

His stats for us over that time stand at: Apps 83(31), 10 goals, 8 assists and an average rating of 6.94. He did some great work for us, and was a capable vice captain to boot, but our rise up the leagues eventually left him behind. We wish him well.

Jordan Holsgrove returns to Reading after failing to establish himself on loan. I thought I’d signed too many midfielders, and he barely featured as a result.

Ben Adamson’s loan at Morecambe was going poorly, so we pulled him out and sent him on loan to Salford instead. Also going out on loan are three members of our U18 side who have just turned, or are about to turn 18. Ronnie Ramm-Hayes: DC/ DM, MC, Andy Clarke: ST and Dan Morris: DC all join our feeder club Whyteleafe until the end of the season. Unless they perform well, they are all at risk of release.

Kameron Stanley is absolutely tearing it up for Chesterfield in the Vanarama National and developing nicely. He’s earned another year on his contract.

FA Cup:

Screenshot (164).png

Alas, it wasn’t to be. I don’t know how Southampton are bottom of the Premier League as they are light years ahead of the Everton side we faced last year.

Still, we didn’t disgrace ourselves. On the balance of play it was probably a fair scoreline, after 90 minutes of attacking football from both sides. Gonzalo Carneiro was unquestionably the best player on the pitch. I’m always glad to at least score in these type of fixtures, to give the fans a cheer or two.

We’re going to need to consistently get to this stage or later in the FA Cup. We need the cash badly. Despite selling John English, we’re back in the red and losing money disturbingly fast. I might have to make some cuts to the staff in the summer…

Club Development:

Before the money was all gone however, we made a couple of board requests:

Screenshot (155)

We can’t afford to upgrade the facilities, so for now, we do what we can:

Screenshot (156)

And finally I got a contract extension:

Screenshot (157)

We’ve now settled on a first choice eleven:

Screenshot (173).png

A couple of changes then. It turns out than Damien McCrory wasn’t the answer at left back. He started poorly, and worse than that, he has shown signs of decline, even before he turned 32 in February. His £1k wage may grate on me next season. I’ll likely try and ship him off in the summer. Fortunately, Conor McHugh has had a good season for us so far, and has made the position his own.

In midfield, Ben Greenhalgh has finally been overtaken on the left wing. Ben’s been OK, but not as influential as he once was. League One rotation option may be his ceiling, but he gets a new contract as he’s an invaluable team leader and club legend. Kevin Brown has been great on the left and I’m happy to say we’ve extended his loan to include the entire of next season. Central midfield has seen the most rotation due to suspensions and injuries, but Robbie McKenzie and Toby Edser are first choice.

Sky Bet League One:

Well, we’re banging in the goals again:

Screenshot (166)

Four good performances, and a backs-to-the-wall point against Millwall makes for a very satisfying month. I’m particularly happy with the 6-2 win against Crewe, in which our 2nd XI really came to play.

Screenshot (167)

John English is back on form, and helped us to another successful month. The comeback from 1-0 down against Portsmouth was great to see, with us scoring three in the second half after changing to a more attacking 442.

Screenshot (186)

Nine points clear at the top with eleven to play. We’re unbeaten at home, have won twelve away games, are scoring plenty of goals and have the best defensive record in the division.

We’re close to The Championship, I can almost taste it, and I desperately hope there will be significantly more TV money so that we can finally grow the club.

Youth Development:

Although Andrew Parker has shown slightly more improvement than he did last season, it’s not enough to warrant going to the effort of grabbing screenshots. I don’t think he’s long for this club. I’ll probably look to loan him out next season.

Malcolm Hackett on the other hand has made some strides:

Hackett Gif

I’ve finally noticed that he’s six foot six. Only took me two entire years. So we’ve started to boost his physical stats a bit, see if we can’t mould ourselves a decent target man. If I’d noticed earlier, I’m not sure I’d have wanted him to pick up the “Moves Into Channels” trait. I may have to re-train that out of him.

The stand out player from last year’s intake, Ronnie Rutherford, has improved little.

Overall, we’ve not accomplished much with the kids so far. We have decent coaches but I think ultimately it’s probably down to the poor youth and training facilities that we have. And there’s not much we can do about that without cash. Sorry to keep banging on about how broke we are, but it’s a source of constant frustration!

From this year’s intake, goalkeeper Matt Davies:

Matt Davies 1

And defensive midfielder Taylor Webb are the pick of the bunch:

Screenshot (196)

They certainly have potential, and we’ll try our best to improve them.

Checkatrade Trophy:

Now why would I have left this until last…

Screenshot (171)

We’re only in the bleedin’ final! Our last three matches in this competition have been excellent and Ryan Longman’s been banging them in for fun. He loves the Checkatrade!

I don’t know what to expect from Liverpool U23s. Reserve team lineups are difficult to predict. We’ve actually got two of Liverpool’s players on loan, and the rules seem to allow both Corey Whelan and, more importantly Kevin Brown to play for us in the final.


On the pitch, things are going great. Other than the FA Cup tie against Southampton, we haven’t lost for ages. Hopefully next time out we can seal a triumphant double! Thanks again for reading!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Flight Of The Concords: Part 18

Screenshot (102)We’ve had a very good start to life in League One. For more, see Flight Of The Concords: Part 17. It’s early yet, but our ability to bang in the goals has me optimistic that a play-off push is a possibility. I’m very interested to see how we perform against the bigger guns in this division. I’ve got an eye on two games against MK Dons in particular, as they’ve had a very good start too…


Tactics:

As things have started well, I’m going to continue with our well practiced 442. However, inspired by Gareth Southgate’s England, and their recent success with set pieces, we are going to make a few changes under the hood.

Firstly penalties. We’re missing about half (either wide, or saved straight down the middle), so after a grumble on Twitter, I no longer have any designated takers. This will also apply to direct free kicks. Gamey? Maybe, but in competitive football our main taker has scored just one in over 200 games, so it can’t get worse. I think I would’ve scored one by now.

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve spent a little time tweaking our set pieces. Nothing very imaginative, keep throw-ins short, aim all corners at Manny Monthe’s near post charge, try some wall disruption on direct free kicks… but we’re now going to spend a lot of match preparation time on them. Sod teamwork, everyone knows the system and the squad dynamics are through the roof. We’ve got good takers, good finishers and a big unit, so now I’m actually paying attention, we should score from more. Right? To football!

Checkatrade Trophy:

First up, we’ll cover the cups so far:

Screenshot (146)

Even now, in season 5, Mesut Ozil plays for Arsenal U23s. Didn’t make a lot of difference, they were rubbish. I don’t know why the lads stopped playing after 16 minutes, but three goals were enough.

The first of the MK Dons games was tough. They had us on the ropes until Joey Stevens came off the bench and changed the game. In what’s becoming an unfortunate pattern with him, he came off the bench, scored, and got injured within fifteen minutes. By January 1st, that’s happened three times.

He started, survived and thrived in the Colchester match, leading us to a comfortable victory.

We’ve won a penalty shootout! A two-all draw was probably a fair result against Tottenham U23s, we were good at the beginning and end, but terrible in the middle. Ryan Longman had one of his clinical games. Next up we face AFC Wimbledon away…

FA Cup:

In the 1st round we faced bloody Crawley, who robbed me of Marc McNulty on deadline day. Despite being in the division below us, the bookies have them as favourites.

Screenshot (147)

We were pretty hopeless first time round, nabbing a three-all draw we didn’t deserve with a second half penalty (hooray!). But we completely dominated the replay, missing seven clear cut chances, four half chances and seeing twenty shots fail, only scoring through an own goal. Fortunately we once again won on penalties. Then we absolutely destroyed Vanarama National Leyton Orient:

Screenshot (141)

The game featured two goals from corners for us, and so far we are seeing more success from them since our tweaks. I’ll be interested to compare the stats from this year and last.

We have once again pulled the Premier League’s bottom side out of the hat, so in the 3rd round we’ll be away at Southampton…

Sky Bet League One:

We started off October continuing our good league form, with comfortable victories over Swindon and Mansfield:

Screenshot (139)

Getting nine points from the following four games was practically a miracle. Although we impressed against Wycombe (it could’ve been six or seven nil), in the other three games we were poor. MK Dons in particular must be sick of us. They’ve been the better side against us twice, but encountered us on good finishing days.

Screenshot (137)

But ultimately it’s a results business, and I beat two former Dutch internationals to the Manager of the Month award.

Our good results have continued through November:

Screenshot (144)

We were truly unstoppable for about ten minutes against Charlton, really at our best, with Gumbs grabbing a superb hat-trick. The rest of the month was OK performance wise, but wouldn’t have looked as good if not for Broughton and Mellor scoring a spectacular goal apiece:

Screenshot (140)

I didn’t even realise there was a Goal of the Month award. How has it taken this long for us to have an entry!? [Insert obligatory joke about two buses here]

And so, on paper, a very dull December:

Screenshot (145)

Actually, all the games were pretty good. Bristol Rovers were our equal in an end to end encounter which belies the nil nil scoreline. We once again failed to beat Southend after kicking their asses for ninety minutes, but Ryan Longman’s last gasp winner against Northampton really cheered me up. We look pretty solid defensively, which is making up for our less than clinical finishing at the moment.

Despite a real mixture of performances, we’ve only lost once in three months! We’ve shown a real strength to repeatedly gain results from our poorer performances, whilst scoring plenty of wins when we play well.

Player Performance:

There’s no doubt that Denville Gumbs is our top performer. He’s already got 26 goals and 8 assists, and seems to be a big fan of scoring goals in bunches. If I’m being hyper critical, he does seem to either be brilliant or invisible, but he’s only 18 years old. We’ve managed to increase his minimum fee release clause to a million pounds, but as his value is already hovering around the £300k mark, I don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep him.

His main strike partner has been Ryan Longman, who continues to outperform expectations, he’s bagged 16 goals and provided a fantastic 13 assists, mostly for Gumbs. By contrast, John English is out of form and though Joey Stevens is playing well, he can’t stay fit.

Max Broughton continues his marvelous right wing exploits, scoring three, assisting nine and averaging a preposterous 7.73. He’s added “Hugs Line” to his player traits and is easily our most dangerous midfielder.

In defence, Manny Monthe has been immense, and has banged in four goals from corners too. Kelvin Mellor has excelled at right back, finally we seem to have replaced Mr. Reliable, Perry Cotton, with someone a little more dangerous going forward.

Kieran O’Hara is making strides developmentally between the sticks. He has been solid, but more than that, has made some serious saves when needed. He’s even been called up for the Ireland squad.

Other News:

Bizarrely, the chairman doesn’t want to extend my contract at the moment. As a result I’m being linked with jobs in all four top divisions, including Southend…

Screenshot (138)

No bloody chance.

With the transfer window opening, I have some fears. 1) Max Broughton is finally getting the attention he deserves. We’ve got him on loan for the season, but if Bolton sell, I’m unsure whether their transfer would respect that. 2) Kieran O’Hara continually refuses to sign a contract with a bigger minimum fee release clause. It currently stands at a meagre £150k… 3) How long will Gumbs remain free from the jaws of bigger clubs?

The league table is looking marvelous:

Screenshot (148)

Our solid home form combined with our much improved away form has us at the summit and looking pretty comfortable. There are some decent sides below us, and I feel we’ve been a little fortunate at times, so I’m not as confident as I was during last season. Having said that, I have got to be very happy with how things have gone as we continue to exceed expectations.


Next time out we’ll cover any transfer window shenanigans, the vital middle months of the season and take a look at youth development over the last year, along with our latest youth intake… Thanks for reading!

 

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Flight Of The Concords: Part 17

Screenshot (102)Last time out we completed an unexpectedly dominant season, and stormed our way to the League Two title. We even had a wee cup run.

Now we prepare to face another level of opposition, including Portsmouth, Bolton, Millwall and Forest, and attempt to avoid a nose bleed in the dizzy heights of League One…


Housekeeping:

I’ve once again signed a one year extension, taking me to the end of next season.

Screenshot (119)

Even more exciting news comes in from the Chairman:

Screenshot (120)

huge increase in season ticket sales. Admittedly, compared to most in this league, it’s a small number, but it’s massive progress for us.

I’ve checked the ol’ finances, and it seems we’re paying more for staff than for players…

Screenshot (136).png

As a result we have the best coaching staff in the league. The idea has always been that if we can improve players at the club, a) we’ll be more successful, and b) we can potentially make a bit of cash by selling players on. I think this means the investment in staff wages will more than pay for itself, but I’ll certainly take stock at the end of the season and see if I’ve maybe gone a little too far.

Tactics Talk:

I’ve been rocking variants of the 442 for most of this save because when it comes to lower league football, I’m a pragmatist. It’s simple, it’s effective and I can actually find players that fit into the system. This is the first choice eleven for last season, and they did a hell of a job:

Screenshot (116)

We’ve progressed plenty over the first few seasons, becoming a more attacking side and gradually cutting down our team instructions. I don’t actually like using too many of them, but my brain has always told me that it makes sense to give your players more instruction at a lower level, because they’re not as mentally or technically capable. I have no FM-based evidence to support this idea. Ideally, within the next season or two, I’d like to remove “Play Narrower” and “Stick To Positions” as they run counter to how I want to play.

In theory, as we progress, and the standard of player in the squad improves, I should be able to work towards the tactic that I’d actually like to be playing, and that would go a little bit something like this:

Screenshot (117).png

I haven’t played with a back three for about fifteen years, and when I got FM18 I wanted to try it. But this save got it’s hooks into me, and so far I haven’t had a squad capable of it. But it’s the goal. One day…

Players In:

With a jump in level, we need to upgrade our squad, so we’ve made several signings:

Screenshot (125)

Robbie McKenzie you already know. He’s performed well for us on loan for two years, and we eagerly grabbed him as his contract was expiring.

Kelvin Mellor: WB(R)/D(RC),M(R) Kelvin offers versatility (also able to do a job at left back or DM should we need it) and a far more potent attacking threat than Perry Cotton. He’s had three successful seasons in League One with Blackpool and is a steal at £850 a week.

Conor McHugh: D(L)/WB(L)  An 18 year old left back, on loan from new divisional rivals Nottingham Forest. Conor has potential, particularly as an attacking threat, and should be a capable understudy at left back.

Corey Jordan: D(C) Recently released after five years at Bournemouth, he has potential too, but at 22, doesn’t have long to make strides. Back-up centre back.

Damien McCrory: D(L)/WB(L) Experienced left back, solid all round skills. Should finally be our fix in this problem position. Recent Championship experience.

Jordan Holsgrove: AM(C)/M(C),ST(C) Versatile attacking midfielder with potential, probably initially a bench option.

Toby Edser: M(C)/DM,AM(C) Left footed playmaker. Three seasons on loan in the Vanarama National and he’d had enough. He’ll be in the mix for a first team spot.

Kevin Brown: AM(L)/M(L) Exciting prospect from Liverpool’s youth setup. Needs work on dribbling, otherwise ticks all the boxes. Can he rival Greenhalgh?

Miles Russell: M(R) Signed as a back-up option on the right. Has some promise. Only 5’3″.

Tom Bayliss: M(C)/DM,M(R) Another decent looking midfielder, released by Coventry. I may have signed one too many, but they all look good.

Denville Gumbs: ST(C)/AM(R) Absurdly named, brilliant finisher released by Man City. Our top earner on £1.5k a week and wouldn’t sign without a £750k minimum fee release clause. If we can raise his pace (11) to meet his acceleration (15) he’ll be lethal.

We’ve also successfully re-signed Corey Whelan, Max Broughton, Armando Dobra and Joey Stevens for a further year on loan. I’m particularly happy to have kept Broughton, whose performances were exceptional last year. Callum Gribbin wouldn’t even talk to us, and has joined MK Dons on a free.

Players Out:

First off a tribute to five important players that we have released this summer

Screenshot (118)

None of these guys were really up to the job in League Two, and with promotion, they’ve got to go.

Lewis Taafe – Apps: 99(22), Goals: 12, Assists: 28, Avg Rating 7.04. Fantastic on the right wing for us for the first couple of seasons.

Billy Roast – Apps: 83(4), Goals: 4, Avg Rating 6.90. Solid centre-back who never complained about lack of game time.

Leon Lobjoit – Apps: 21(50), Goals: 22, Assists: 8, Avg Rating 6.87. Supersub, will always be remembered for winning us the Vanarama National play-off final.

Max Makaka – Apps: 113(9), Goals: 6, Assists: 5, Avg Rating 6.80. Dependable, defensive central midfielder. Allowed the rest of the midfield the freedom to attack.

Kristian Green – Apps: 49(33), Assists: 3, Avg Rating 6.79. Versatile defender, very handy off of the bench, never scored.

So far, only Max Makaka has been picked up by another club, joining Vanarama National York City. We’ve also released a bunch of unremarkable youngsters.

We’ve loaned out Kameron Stanley to Chesterfield, and Ben Adamson to Morecambe. Hopefully both will develop with regular football in the Vanarama National.

And then transfer deadline day happened:

Screenshot (126)

The club couldn’t afford to lose him without that sell on clause, and he wanted to go. I think we’ve got a pretty good deal. At least £600k is coming our way, and it should rise to £900k with appearances and goals. Who knows how much the sell on clause could be worth.

Preston immediately put him in their U23 squad…

Meanwhile, our bid for a replacement, in experienced striker Marc McNulty failed, when he chose to go to League Two Crawley instead. They offered double the wages I was willing to.

So instead, we snuck through a last minute loan deal for Middlesborough youngster Arian Kalantari: ST(C), who looks a decent back-up option with his pace.

But that may have been premature, because:

Screenshot (127)

He’s back baby! Gone for a total of 95 minutes. Even with the hammer down he wouldn’t have gotten halfway there. That was a hectic deadline day. I did not enjoy it.

Pre-Season:

So finally, some football:

Screenshot (128)

A glorious pre-season. A televised, sell-out 1-1 draw with parent club Chelsea was the highlight. Unfortunately, Kyron Farrell damaged an achilles tendon in training and is out until at least January. Glad we signed an extra midfielder…

Carabao Cup:

For once we made a little bit of progress in the League Cup:

Screenshot (129)

We took care of two divisional rivals in Wycombe and Plymouth, with the performance against Plymouth being absolutely outstanding.

Everton were rock bottom of the Premier League, and frankly, I’m not surprised. Although they probably just shaded us and got the win, it was close, and we’ve once again run a top flight team very close. The prize and attendance monies are welcome as always.

Sky Bet League One:

I didn’t even contemplate changing to a more defensive mentality for this season. We were that good last season, that I’m hopeful of making a play-off run straight away.

Screenshot (131)

Southend somehow had us 2-0 down, despite the fact that we dominated from minute one. I was very proud of the comeback, which gave me the opportunity to give Darren Ferguson the two-fingered salute after the game.

After a bit of a struggle against Northampton, a pair of spectacular 5-1 away wins (!) restored my waivering confidence in our 442. Denville Gumbs scoring six goals in just two games!

Screenshot (122)Screenshot (123)

A double award for Gumbs. And Max Broughton’s super start to the season is also recognised. As well as our Carabao Cup tie against Everton, there were seven league games in an action packed September:

Screenshot (134).png

What a month. We performed largely well, and were even able to rotate the squad without suffering too much. Portsmouth deserved to beat us, and in truth, so did Oldham. We were woeful against them, but at 90 minutes we seemed to have held on for a nil nil draw. Then, chaos. Monthe scored from a corner, they equalised straight from the kick off, and then Joey Stevens bagged a winner with the last kick of the game. Phew!

Screenshot (135).png

We’re only bloody top! It’s early, and I’m not getting carried away, but the first couple of months indicate to me that a play-off place could be a realistic target.

With such an impressive start there are a few players whose performances are worth a mention. Top scorer is Denville Gumbs with fifteen goals already! Ryan Longman has continued to excel with six goals and nine assists, and John English has five goals and three assists as I rotate the strike force.

The wingers are performing marvelously, new team leader Max Broughton continuing his excellent form and club legend Ben Greenhalgh continues to easily keep his place in the team as we climb the divisions. Robbie McKenzie has been brilliant as the ball-winning midfielder, with an average rating of 7.54.

In defence Manny Monthe is averaging 7.55 and is a danger from corners, heading in two goals. Kelvin Mellor has made the right back spot his own, averaging 7.41 and getting forward to support attacks. Things are looking very promising!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Flight Of The Concords: Part 16

Screenshot (102)We’re on the verge of completing a great season. To see how we got here, check out earlier posts here: Flight Of The Concords: Part 13Flight Of The Concords: Part 14 and Flight Of The Concords: Part 15.

We stand fifteen points clear of the field, with our promotion rivals tearing each other apart, surely, surely we can’t blow this?


Sky Bet League Two:

I don’t think we can, because we’re playing really well:

Screenshot (92)

If not for complacency in our second half performances, we could’ve kept four clean sheets. We were particularly great against Stevenage, where…

Screenshot (85).png

We’ve only gone and sealed promotion and the title. In March!

And I’ve grabbed my fourth Manager of the Month award of the season. I’m so cavalier about it now, I’m not even doing a screenie.

We had the traditional post-title winning mini-slump (we were proper shit), which was a little disappointing as it ruined our season-long unbeaten home record, but we recovered to win the last four in style:

Screenshot (111)

A minor gripe – against Grimsby, Joss Labadie picked up his fourth red card of the season. I docked him two weeks wages and gave him a piece of my mind, fully expecting him to become outraged. He was fine with it.

Despite John English being awful for most of the last half dozen games, we looked very good, with Joey Stevens or Ryan Longman doing the job up front without him. And so, we managed to break the League Two total points record!

Screenshot (98).png

What. A. Season.

We also broke the League Two record for fewest games lost in a season.

Player Performance:

Unbelievably, despite his goalscoring exploits, John English didn’t finish in the top three in the Fans Player of the Season, with Ryan Longman beating Max Broughton and Ben Greenhalgh to the prize:

Screenshot (93).png

And then he bagged League Two Player of The Year:

Screenshot (99)

He had a great year, and it could’ve been even better but for injuries.

Screenshot (112).png

All of these guys pitched in with great performances at one point or another. Special shout outs to the three strikers who bagged an incredible 82 goals between them!

Our wingers once again excelled. Ben Greenhalgh is still doing a remarkable job, even whilst the game rates him at a mere one and a half stars. Eight goals, fourteen assists and a 7.30 average rating as he continues to build upon his club legend status. Max Broughton, particularly towards the end of the season, was amazing. He averaged 8.10 in his last five starts, was beating people for fun and had two games with three assists. He’s signed on for another year at Bolton, I hope we can get him back for another year on loan. Seventeen assists!

In the heart of the defence, Manny Monthe and Chris Smith made us a lot more solid, and Christian Scales had a fantastic second half of the season after regaining the left back berth from Archie Edwards. Perry Cotton continues to be Mr. Reliable at right back.

This was our first choice eleven for the season:

Screenshot (116).png

I was going to talk more about tactics, but seeing as I’m going to cross 1’000 words, I’ll leave that for next time.

I think we’ll be releasing quite a few of our players this summer, particularly some of the lads that’ve been with us from the very start. I’ll mostly cover that in the next post, however Kyron Farrell and Harry Lee were very good when required, and as they are both happy to be back-up players on low wages, I’ve signed them both up for another season. Hopefully that should reduce any dressing room disquiet and lessen the impact on squad dynamics, especially seeing as Harry Lee is the vice captain. Better to spread these things out I think.

Personal News:

I’ve completed another coaching badge:

Screenshot (103)

There’s only one to go, and I’m working on it. It should take a year and then my qualifications will be complete. Hopefully by then I’ll be more than a three star fitness coach…

Still, there’s this:

Screenshot (100)

That makes up for not even making the shortlist when we got promoted from the Vanarama. Smoke that Jimmy Bullard! Where are you now? Unemployed is where.

Youth Intake:

In terms of general quality, it’s a much better intake than previous years. There are far fewer absolutely useless players, although there aren’t really any standout players either:

Screenshot (81).png

The best of them is Ronnie Rutherford:

Screenshot (106)

I think there’s potential there. I particularly like the idea of playing him in a central midfield partnership with one of last years intake, Ronnie Ramm-Hayes.

I also like that more of them have positive traits this year. Fewer “Casual” or “Unambitious” players is a relief. Finally we see some “Resolute” personalities, so kudos to you, Ricky Shakes.

Player Development:

Our two most promising players from last years intake have shown some signs of growth. Malcolm Hackett has added “Moves Into Channels” into his game and his determination is up to eleven, for when you need that extra push over the cliff:

Screenshot (35)

Screenshot (104)

He has had some development across the board, but the changes are relatively small so far. I’m torn between focusing on his technique and his quickness for the coming season. I may split the difference.

Andrew Parker’s development has been even slower:

Screenshot (36)

Screenshot (105).png

So, glacially slow really. At least he’s recently lost his “Low Determination” personality. He’s also just been capped by Wales U19’s. So they must suck. Parker hasn’t made much progress at all, and if he has a similar year next season, you probably won’t see him again.


I’ll just leave this here:

Screenshot (96)

As soon as the season was done, he was willing to talk. John English has become our first £1k a week player, and I’m very pleased to have managed to negotiate his minimum fee release clause up to a cool £1m.

If we can get Joey Stevens in on a free or another year’s loan (if his contract at Southampton is extended) then we’ll have three dangerous strikers, that I think should keep us away from a relegation dogfight next season. But there’ll be more transfer talk next time…

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Flight Of The Concords: Part 15

Screenshot (102)The season has started very well. Catch up here: Flight Of The Concords: Part 13Flight Of The Concords: Part 14.

As it stood, we were halfway through January and are leading League Two by six points, and even have cup ties remaining. Also, deadline day approaches…


Checkatrade Trophy:

Surprisingly, we dispatched Tottenham U23s with very little fanfare. The 2-1 scoreline actually flattered them. And then, for the fourth time in three seasons, we pulled Southend out of the bag.

Screenshot (82)

We played really well, under another Canvey deluge. We were on top for the majority of the game, but unfortunately just couldn’t get a winner. Then they robbed us on penalties. They’ve knocked us out of four cups in three years now, and while the game might not consider them our rivals, I hate the bastards.

The Transfer Window:

James Clarke went back to Burnley. He wasn’t satisfied with his playing time after falling down the pecking order. We have signed Keith Buckland (DLC) on loan from Everton as a decent looking back-up option instead. He’ll only feature if we have injuries.

I tried to strengthen the squad in a couple of places, left-back (again…) and central midfield, where we’ve lost Robbie McKenzie to injury for three to four months, but both of my targets went to Notts County instead. We’ll try and get by with the squad we have.

Interest in John English was high, with six separate clubs bidding for him. Early in the window, my negotiated bids were enough to put teams off, and on deadline day itself, I just ignored the bids until time ran down. I think we’ll probably lose him in the summer. Hopefully I can secure a large sell-on clause rather than just losing him for his £400k release clause (he won’t sign another contract).

FA Cup:

Here’s fantastic news:

Screenshot (71)

That money is a Godsend. And even better is our comeback from 2-0 down! We weren’t playing too badly with our old defensive 4141 system, but their finishing was too good, Juan Hernandez banging in both. The very next minute after their second goal though, John English took advantage of the shop window of a nationally televised game, and curled in a beauty from just outside the box, into the top corner.

After 60-odd minutes, we switched to our favoured 442, and brought on Joey Stevens. We were playing better and started dominating the highlights. And then, in the 96th minute, Joey popped up in the area to finish after a quick counter down the left! We’d stolen a draw from the team in fifth place in the Premier League!

Screenshot (83)

Unfortunately, John English was injured in that game, and will miss the whole of February. And the romance of the cup was done with us. Watford beat us comfortably 3-0 in the replay in a game that could’ve finished 8-0. But getting to the fourth round and drawing with a Premier League team is a fantastic achievement and the money we’ve earned will help us grow.

Not everyone’s happy though:

Screenshot (76)

Elsie Burt, maybe you should just support Man United or something.

Club Development:

As a result of TV, prize and attendance money from our forays into the mid-rounds of the cups, we are back in the black, and although it’s temporary, the Chairman and the board continue to agree to my asks. Because they are great.

Screenshot (79)

Screenshot (80)

We’ve also added Bishop’s Stortford as an affiliate club. I hope they can bounce straight back into The Vanarama South, as it’d be good to be able to loan players out to a playable league.

Sky Bet League Two:

Our final two league fixtures of January finish as 2-1 wins, so we won five out of five:

Pic

John English has been on fire, and deservedly wins himself a prize:

Screenshot (73)

Quite how he wasn’t in the running for Player of the Month, I don’t know. I’ve got my third Manager of the Month award from the season that keeps on giving:

Screenshot (74)

After John English’s cup injury, we must face February without him, as well as Ryan Longman who got injured against Tranmere and then during the Watford replay, Kameron Stanley got injured too!

Screenshot (91)

Fortunately, Joey Stevens chose this moment to start banging in the goals. I may have a selection dilemma on my hands if and when all the strikers are fit… It also really helped that our defence stepped up their game. We’ve continued our good form and are now up to eleven games unbeaten in the league.

Screenshot (101)

Have some of that! Our transformation from last season has been incredible. We now sit fifteen points clear at the top, and with ten league games remaining, it would take a remarkable slump for us to fail to win the title. It’s also been very helpful that of our potential promotion contenders, most have fallen away with patchy form.


In the next part, I’ll cover the (hopefully not too exciting) end to the league season, look at the forthcoming youth intake, see how our players and tactics have developed over this year and look to the future…

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Flight Of The Concords: Part 14

We do seem to be good.

Screenshot (59).png

We’ve added one more defender. Manny Monthe (DLC) has joined and similarly to Chris Smith he offers good mentals for tutoring, as well as slotting straight in to first team contention.

I said before that the summer was our best transfer window so far, and the results and performances have borne that out. We are much better than last season. We’ve even (shock horror) won more than one cup game this season!

Checkatrade Trophy:

Screenshot (65).png

I still don’t like this competition. Playing against under-23 teams lacks romance, attendances are shockingly low and the rules suck. But we need every penny at the moment, so we’re trying our best. Holders Tottenham U23 are our next opponents in the Third Round…

FA Cup:

Screenshot (66).png

A proper tournament, and we’ve had relatively favourable draws. We were brilliant against Accrington, probably our best ever performance. It could’ve been eight or nine.

Beating Peterborough was a proud moment, as they’re mid-table in League One, though we were fortunate to play them during a slump. We’ve gotten farther than I’d hoped, and get to test our mettle at home to a Watford side flying high in fifth place in the Premier League next. I’m hoping for a record attendance…

Sky Bet League Two:

Not a sexy month, but enough to bag me another gong:

Screenshot (61).png

Screenshot (53).png

We had a little stumble at Christmas as I played half the first team on Boxing Day, and the other half on the 28th.

Screenshot (69).png

Perhaps I should’ve targeted one fixture and sacrificed the other. You live and learn. Before that, we were a ridiculous eleven points clear, but Lincoln are on fire at the moment. After we beat them they’ve won eight on the bounce, closing the gap to six points.

We’re back on track in early January, despite playing a full blown back-up XI against relegation threatened Ebbsfleet, as we rested our players for the FA Cup tie versus Bury.

Screenshot (70).png

I almost can’t believe how well it’s going. Our efforts to attack more are working brilliantly, and our home form continues to astound. We’ve turned the Aspect Arena into a real fortress.

But it hasn’t cost us too much at the back. Our defence is still one of the best in the league.

Other News:

There was a point where I went to three job interviews in just two days, all for Championship clubs, but when Concord offered me a new contract to stay for another year, I signed it (after negotiating the wage budget higher). I couldn’t leave now.

Screenshot (54).png

Louis John has left for Solihull Moors on a free. He gave us a decent season and a half, but has been left behind as we try to improve. There’ll be more of that this summer I suspect…

It’s the start of the January window and the vultures are already beginning to circle for John English. West Brom bid a pathetic £42.5k plus future fees, an offer I’ve stalled on answering. I think I’ll have to negotiate rather than reject so as not to piss him off. The partnership between him and Ryan Longman is what’s got us into this position. If one of them was to leave, I suspect we’d drop like a stone.

In terms of potential incoming transfers, I am considering adding another goalie. Ben Wilson’s done nothing wrong, but there’s an upgrade available for free…

Player Performance:

John English, attracting interest from all three divisions above us, most frighteningly from Premier League West Brom, has been superb, especially in the league:

Screenshot (67).png

He’s developing nicely too, and I hope he’s not too far off adding “Moves Into Channels” onto his player traits.

Ryan Longman’s form declined after I signed him to a new deal, and after he got praised in the media. But he’s still playing okay, and I remain hopeful he can strike another rich vein of form. At one point he scored twelve league goals in just six games. Crazy.

Ben Greenhalgh has upped his game again.

Screenshot (64).png

Seven goals and eight assists is great, and he continues to perform brilliantly.

Manny Monthe has stepped straight into the back four, averaging 7.16, and has already started tutoring, taking Ben Adamson under his wing.

I’ve ended this post a little earlier than usual as with two cup games and a decision about John English to make, it seemed like a natural pausing point. Also, I may not have much time to play and write for a few days.

It’s going very well so far, and I’m enjoying myself hugely. My only concern is if the January window is destined to disrupt our title/promotion challenge…

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Flight Of The Concords: Part 13

I have made plans to adapt and grow this season (not just giving the blog a new title…). You can read about them here: Concord Rangers: Pre-Season 4


We’ve had one more addition early doors, with Chris Smith (DC/DM) joining on a free to bolster the defensive ranks. He’s good, but I also signed him because he has 16 determination and is considered “Resolute”, so once he gets old enough (currently 22), he’ll be a decent tutor.

Carabao Cup:

It sure would’ve been nice to get a more favourable cup draw this season:

Screenshot (21).png

But no, Southend away again! Three times in three years? Away from home every time?

Screenshot (41)

Don’t let the penalties fool you, they were much better than us, but it don’t mean this result doesn’t sting.

Another bad draw for us, and another chance at prize money gone.

But, optimistically, our games against Southend are getting a goal closer each time. Replay next season?

I’ll cover the Checkatrade Trophy once the group stage is complete…

Sky Bet League Two:

Early on, our league form resembled last season with draws o’plenty:

Screenshot (42).png

But we were playing well, and getting into our stride:

Screenshot (43).png

Eleven unbeaten, six wins in a row and five clean sheets in a row, which is particularly great to see. Sure Coventry beat us, and they deserved to, but we ran ’em close.

September was superb, and I’ve snagged my first award in League Two:

Screenshot (39).png

As well as my prize, John English came 2nd in both Player and Young Player of the Month awards. He has been fantastic so far, scoring eight and assisting six in just twelve starts! He’s been so good I’ve given him a pay rise in order to negotiate his minimum fee release clause up, from £160k to £400k. My coaches reckon he’ll develop into a Championship level performer. That’d be great.

October didn’t turn out too bad either:

Screenshot (48).png

Some of our attacking play has been delightful. We do have a slightly irritating tendency to concede within the first five minutes of games, but we’ve also got a wonderful tendency to fight back strongly.

The Cheltenham and Scunthorpe games were carnivals of attacking football. I hope that if we continue to be an entertaining side to watch, it might have a positive impact on our attendances, although so far they’re about the same as last year.

Ryan Longman has continued with his goalscoring exploits, scoring fourteen goals so far, in an excellent display of poaching.

I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I don’t totally understand why he’s doing so well. He’s definitely outperforming his attributes:

Screenshot (51).png

John English hasn’t been as prolific of late, but is up to twelve assists (mostly for Longman), and the partnership between the two of them is really starting to look promising. I wonder if I’ve stumbled onto something playing with an advanced forward and a poacher together?

They’ve been so good it’s almost forced me into playing my standard 442 over the counter 4141, and so far it’s working very well.

On the wings, Ben Greenhalgh has been superb, scoring six, assisting four and averaging 7.39 (and finally scoring from a direct free kick!), whilst Max Broughton is really improving on the right, creating plenty (five assists) and routinely beating his man. If the pass/cross before an assist were a stat, he’d have tons.

The other noteworthy performer is Joseph Holland, averaging 7.20 whilst running the show in central midfield.

Screenshot (49).png

Holy hell. I think we’re good!

 

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Concord Rangers: Pre-Season 4

To find out how season three finished, come this way: Concord Rangers: Season 3, Part 3 and Review


The State Of Play:

After successive promotions, last season’s tenth placed finish was a pleasant surprise. However, the media and the bookies remain cynical about our chances for next season:

Screenshot (24)

Personally, I’m determined to make a run at the play-offs. We’ve shown that we can hang in there with teams in League Two, now it’s time to see if we can push on.

Screenshot (25)

It’s going to be a challenge. Despite our TV revenue, season ticket sales and last year’s influx of League Two cash, we don’t even get through to the season proper before dropping well into the red. And that despite having by far the smallest annual wage budget in the division:

Screenshot (30).png

We have a laughably small contribution from our sponsors:

Screenshot (16)

We have upgraded our parent club significantly, for more money, and hopefully one day, better loan players:

Screenshot (29)

We still can’t match any team in this league financially. But, if we improve our squad with shrewd (cheap) signings, then I believe we can finish higher than last season.

The UK has left the EU:

Screenshot (20)

At the present time, this doesn’t affect us. We now have to register a squad of no more than 25 senior players, but as we can’t afford that large a squad anyway, it doesn’t matter.

Transfers:

I usually go into a transfer window with a list of positions that need filling, but this time around I searched all positions and player roles in an attempt to improve the squad, with the theory that we can adapt our tactics around the players if necessary.

Whether because of this or because of our increased status, I had more luck locating interested transfer targets this summer compared to last year. Unfortunately, six of my nine priority free agent targets were demanding in excess of £2.5k a week, and we simply can’t afford that. However, we did secure the other three.

We also got the loan players that we wanted back for another season (Clarke (DRC), McKenzie (DM/MC) and Broughton (DC/MR)), and we’ve made real upgrades with our other signings. This has definitely been my best transfer window so far.

Screenshot (28)

John English (ST) and Joey Stevens (ST) look like dangerous options up front, who should be ready for action immediately, and Kameron Stanley (ST) is a pacy teenage forward with potential.

Joseph Holland (DM/MC), Callum Gribbin (MC, AMRC/ST) and Armando Dobra (MC/AMC) all offer a bit of creativity that we’ve been lacking in midfield. Joss Labadie (DM/MC) adds leadership, something we’ve been sorely lacking in the squad.

At the back, Corey Whelan (DRC/DM) looks like he can do a great job in three positions, Archie Edwards (DL/WBL) is our latest throw of the dice in that problem position, and Ben Wilson (GK) looks a step up from Chris Lewington.

I hope it’s a sign of our growth that good young players from the Premier League are willing to ply their trade with us for a season now.

In terms of notable outgoings, Tom Richards has unhappily departed to Wrexham. Femi Akinwande has been released at the end of his contract, and I’m glad to say he’s found a new home with Dartford, to link up with another ex-Concord forward – Danny Parrish.

Tactics:

In the end, our incoming transfers didn’t result in any tactical revelations. I didn’t find an amazing wing back, or an incredible attacking midfielder (although maybe Gribbin if we need a change), so any tactical changes largely came from analysing last season.

I’ve re-watched a number of last season’s games to get an idea of where we can improve. Our current set up is great when playing against bigger sides, but ultimately comes up short when we’re the favourites. Towards the end of last season in particular, our home games were often cagey, defensive affairs and resulted in an absurd number of draws.

So I’m going to try and be a bit more adventurous this season. We’ll keep using the defensive 4141 in the more difficult games, but for the other matches, I’ve developed two more tactics; a counter mentality 4141:

Screenshot (33).png

Which isn’t a huge change, so I’ve also come up with a standard mentality 442:

Screenshot (32).png

For this one, I’ve ditched the team instructions “Retain possession”, “Be more disciplined” and “Drop deeper”, so that we’re not too passive. With a two man central midfield, we’ll have to make sure we don’t get outnumbered, so having a deep-lying playmaker on defensive duty makes sense to me. With our lines now being closer together, I’m hopeful this will be sufficient to link to our forwards.

Training:

During the first three seasons, I’ve focused training almost entirely on teaching the players the appropriate roles for my tactic. This season I intend on taking a different approach. My overarching aim will be to make us a more effective attacking team, so I’ll be trying to add appropriate individual player traits where possible, eg. “Runs with ball down right” for Max Broughton or “Gets forward whenever possible” for Perry Cotton.

I’ll also be focussing most of my midfielders toward honing their offensive attributes (particularly passing, technique, crossing and dribbling). We have a very impressive group of coaches for this level. Having added Shola Ameobi this summer, were are now top rated in League Two for everything other than GK (Handling). So I’ll want to see a return on that investment. If we are to progress as a club with such limited means, we must be able to improve players in-house.

Youth Development!

Unquestionably my favourite part of long term FM saves, but don’t get too excited, we’ve only had two players come through our three youth intakes with potential. They’ve both been with us for four months now, and have developed a little bit. Firstly, Malcolm Hackett:

Screenshot (35).png

When Malcolm graduated he had the “Casual” personality trait. Unfortunately, my first team squad is not blessed with many positive personalities, but being tutored by Ben Greenhalgh, has him up to “Balanced”, with a small increase in determination and has gained a free kick taking trait. I’ve now got Lewis Taafe tutoring him, hopefully to gain more determination and the “Curls Ball” trait.

The second prospect is Andrew Parker:

Screenshot (36)

Parker hasn’t been able to shift his negative trait yet, but through tutoring with Lewis Taafe has a least moved up from determination 2, and now has “Curls Ball” in his bag of tricks. He’s now being tutored by Leon Lobjoit to hopefully get his personality upgraded.

I’ll be the first to admit that neither of these guys fill me with a huge amount of hope, but they’re the best to come through by a margin. My hope that Head of Youth Development Ricky Shakes would provide some better personalities has not worked out so far…

Pre-season Results:

Screenshot (31).png

I don’t usually find friendlies to be a great barometer of anything, but our new tactics have fared quite well. But for some more clinical finishing, we could’ve seen a couple of 5 or 6 goal scorelines. And we were easily a match for our former parent club Fleetwood, in the end we were unlucky not to defeat them.

Overall, I’m fairly confident going into my fourth season at Concord Rangers. We were a solid mid-table team last year, and have improved our squad with transfers and loans. If we can find the right balance tactically, I’m hopeful we can push for the play-offs…

 

 

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Concord Rangers: Season 3, Part 3 and Review

To catch up on Season 3 so far: Concord Rangers: Season 3, Part 1Concord Rangers: Season 3, Part 2


Sky Bet League Two:

Our five match run without a win had clearly spooked my assistant manager Rory Fallon, who came to me and implored me to hold a team meeting. Reluctantly, I agreed. Reluctantly, because quite often, my team meetings go very wrong.

This time however, after choosing options that are as close to how I feel as possible (chill out guys, we’re doing fine), I’m confronted by a sea of green. Morale skyrockets, with a few players hitting “perfect” and everyone in the first team squad at “very good” or higher. This is great!

Screenshot (8).png

I’ve made a couple of tweaks to the tactic. The defensive forward role hasn’t been at all productive this season, and Ryan Longman in particular has looked far better when playing in his natural Poacher role. In another attempt to not isolate the striker, I’ve switched one of the ball-winning midfielders to a Central Midfield – Attack.  Kees De Boer is perfect for the role, and hopefully it won’t leave us defensively short.

To compensate for that, I’ve set the right winger on support rather than attack. I’ve also changed the left back to Wing Back – Defend, for no other reason than it suits Christian Scales better.

Screenshot (15)

With 20 minutes to go against Accrington, at 1-0 down, it looked like we’d be going nine games without a win. Despite an uptick in performance since the team meeting, we still couldn’t bag a win, although the draw away at leaders Wycombe was a great result. Then Ryan Longman tucked away a couple of lovely finishes, and suddenly we were on a five match unbeaten run!

Which eventually became a thirteen match unbeaten run! Without a single home win. Really strange. There were nine draws out of those thirteen games and we finished with twenty draws from forty-six games.

It was nice to win our last home game. I gave a run out to Femi Akinwande, who has served us well in getting to League Two, but is not up to the standard required, and will be released at the end of his contract.

Screenshot (13)

We’ve done really well. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most exciting of seasons, but we were never anywhere near the dreaded relegation zone. There were a couple of moments I thought we might make an unlikely run at the play-offs, but it never really looked like a possibility.

No-one lost fewer games at home. Is it because of us being great, or the pitch being a swamp. I wonder…

Screenshot (26).png

Ben Adamson has already usurped Louis John in central defence, and he along with top scorer Ryan Longman (16 goals), are the first young players to have made significant developmental strides since I’ve been here. I think the switch to professional status has had the expected impact, and our much improved core of coaches can’t hurt. I think I’ll finally be able to spend some time discussing youth development next season, especially as we got a couple of decent prospects in our intake this year.

Largely, it was a season of solid, unspectacular performances, with only Longman and Greenhalgh standing out. For the sake of this season, that’s enough, but if we are to continue to grow, there’ll need to be improvements in the playing staff.

I’ll also be looking at the tactics over the summer. Early in the season when I started games with a 442, we inevitably fared poorly, mostly getting outnumbered in the middle of the park.

Yet switching to a 442, usually in the second half of games when we were in trouble, was very successful. Longman and Lobjoit scored many of their goals coming off the bench. In Lobjoit’s case, all of his goals.

I think I’ve taken Concord as far as I can with defensive tactics. I’m going to try and switch it up for next season. We’re not going to go attacking or anything, but maybe a switch to counter would be a good idea, and if we can upgrade our squad sufficiently, we’ll look to play a little less cautiously, a bit more attacking and a bit wider. Could be interesting…

Screenshot (9)

After becoming our new captain in the summer, Ben Greenhalgh claimed his third successive Player of the Season, and once again thoroughly deserved it. 7 goals, 8 assists and a squad leading average of 7.12. He is now considered a Concord legend. Still hasn’t scored a free kick though.

Harry Lee claimed the vice-captaincy at the beginning of the season, and did very well in central midfield. Really the only selection dilemma I had was choosing between Lee, Farrell and McKenzie in central midfield, as they all performed well.

Other Events:

I’m still getting interview offers from bigger clubs, of which the offer from Swansea (now in The Championship) sticks out.

Screenshot (22)

But I’ve been to half a dozen interviews now, and never been offered a job.

Screenshot (14)

Another coaching badge is claimed, and I’ve signed up for another over the summer when we briefly have money.

Financial:

This was a really nice boost at the end of the season:

Screenshot (12)

Before this cheque cleared, we were £250k in debt, and I was beginning to get the fear.

Screenshot (27)

We’ve seen our fanbase increase this season. I hope that it’s something that continues, as it’s very difficult to make ends meet, let alone grow the club. We were back in the red before January and had no chance to improve any facilities at all.

For next season, the Chairman has very kindly doubled our wage budget:

Screenshot (11)

I don’t think I’ll get anywhere near that total though. Our wage total this season didn’t even approach £10k a week and we were still losing money fast. I’ll be trying to re-sign the more successful loansters from this season, maybe find a couple more, and find a couple of free transfer signings that don’t want a huge wage.

We could really, really do with more luck with our cup draws next season, and I might have to take the Checkatrade Trophy seriously for prize money purposes.

We’ve over achieved again, but I think with our lack of fans and cash, it might take a long time to reach the big time.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , | Leave a comment