To find out how season three finished, come this way: Flight Of The Concords: Part 11
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:
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.
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:
We have a laughably small contribution from our sponsors:
We have upgraded our parent club significantly, for more money, and hopefully one day, better loan players:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Which isn’t a huge change, so I’ve also come up with a standard mentality 442:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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…
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…