I know I’ve posted the final league table before, but I feel the need to bask in it for just a little longer, especially now we’re officially highlighted in green, with that sweet, sweet “P” next to our name…
In all my years of playing Football Manager, this has been the most unexpectedly successful season I’ve ever had. We’ve finished at least ten places above my most optimistic hope, and for once I think my tactics are responsible.
We didn’t have much luck bringing in new faces, but the switch to defensive football propelled us up the table largely off the back of having the joint best defensive record in the division.
I tried to stick with a consistent team throughout the season, although injuries disrupted us a little more this year.
Chris Lewington was solid all season long in goal. Having a trustworthy ‘keeper between the sticks at this level makes all the difference, especially when relying on defensive stability as much as we did. He averaged just over 7 this year, which shows he was busy.
I feel an apology to Louis John is in order, as my description of his signing before the season was a little underwhelming to say the least:
“The only other permanent signing is Louis John (DC) who is, and I’m mustering up all of my enthusiasm here, merely alright.”
It turns out he was our best defender, leading the squad in key headers and key tackles, and having started 52 games by seasons end. That told me.
Perry Cotton and Billy Roast continued to be solid in their roles, but Jordan Brown was usurped at left back by Charley O’Keefe. We’ll either need O’Keefe back, or a fresh face at left back next season as Brown’s just a back-up.
Kristian Green played a whole bunch of different positions, doing a decent job at left back, right back and on the right of midfield. He may be the answer at left back, we’ll see what we can find on the market.
Lewis Taafe and Ben Greenhalgh were once again our main creators from the wing, with Greenhalgh walking the Fans Player of the Season.
Lewis Taafe’s goal of the season actually irritated me. It was a direct free kick, and the only one we’ve scored in two full seasons. It’s annoyed me because our usual taker, Greenhalgh, has not scored a single one in his 94 (NINETY FOUR!) starts, despite having free kick taking 15, long shots 16 and having been trained to try long range free kicks. Taafe has a pair of 9’s. It was a good goal though, to be fair.
Max Makaka continues to do a wonderfully understated job in the centre, accompanied by either Farrell or Lee, depending on who’s not injured. It’s tough to pick between them otherwise. They’ve both done a good job as the ball-winning midfielder, although with less success going forward this year, what with facing sterner opposition.
Mostly from the bench, Fumnaya Shomotun contributed useful assists and goals, whilst also providing cover for both wingers.
Up top, we tended to start with Akinwande and Garner. When Garner was good, he was incredible, but off form he was dreadful. His 25 goals led the squad by a clear 10. Akinwande always put a shift in, which with our formation is invaluable, and he also contributed 13 goals, 9 assists.
The hero of the piece however, was Leon Lobjoit. Scorer of the goals that took us up, he was a genuine Supersub. When given chances to start games, he usually underwhelmed, other than a couple of games in March in which he single handedly won us six points. But he did it at the business end of games, and at the business end of the season. What a hero.
Steve King and Ian Miller have both retired. They didn’t feature much this year as they’re both incredibly slow, but King steps into a coaching role. He’s a decent defensive coach and a club icon. He’ll be good to have around the place to remind people how things were in the good old days…
Other notable departures include Stephen Cawley and Jordan Cox. Both looked out of their depth this season, let alone next.
Financially, we were hauled out of the red by the gate receipts from our trip to Wembley, which totalled somewhere between £150k-£200k.
These damn league requirements for grounds sure do make promotion expensive. We’re left hoping for another increase to attendances next season. Our average gate this season was 721. Not great, but a good step up from the season before when we averaged just 404. I hope we can average above 1’000 next year.
It’s been a hell of a season, one I’ll never forget. Football Manager 18 has got it’s claws into me and no mistake. I reckon there’ll be a lot to write about from the coming pre-season. Not only will the playing squad need significant reinforcement, but changes will be needed behind the scenes. I may have to devote an entire post to it. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!