Welcome back to Flight Of The Concords. We’re about to embark on our seventh season at the club, and our second year in The Championship.
There are many changes going on at the club, both behind the scenes, and with the playing squad. The vast majority of this post will be covering said changes, and it’s entirely possible we won’t get to a competitive fixture at all!
We had an excellent first season in The Championship last year, finishing well above expectations by sneaking into the play-offs. We were close to taking Palace to penalties in the semi-final before a hugely unlucky injury scuppered our dreams.
This season, I’m hopeful we can have a similar year, but will be satisfied with a top-half finish as this is an incredibly tough division full of teams rolling in cash.
Season Six Summary:
Largely off of our continually fantastic home form and a solid defensive 4141, we stunned The Championship to finish in sixth place:
Villa and Birmingham plunge down to League One!
There’s little doubt that the top 3 in our Fans’ Player of the Year award were our standout performers:
Max Broughton wasn’t as productive as in years past, but he was a constant danger down the right flank and topped our assists chart with eight, whilst averaging 7.11.
Luke Dreher was very good as our ball-winning midfielder, and after a rough start, made the position his own. Eight goals (three penalties) and four assists is a great return from a defensive role and as our captain he led by example with a 7.17 rating.
Danny Pearson was excellent at the beginning of the season, and although he couldn’t maintain that start, he was our most creative player, his four goals, four assists and 7.09 rating being accompanied by a team leading 54 key passes.
Up top, John English led the scoring with fifteen, showing improvements in the target man role we’ve now got him playing. Denville Gumbs’ form fell off a cliff in the second half of the season, and though he scored ten, I’m considering cashing in if Leeds and Middlesborough make their interest more solid. Joey Stevens continues to perform when fit, but I can never predict when his next injury will come.
I’m dropping the youth development “section” in here. It’s very brief as there are only really two youngsters to speak of. We’ve seen how Gerry Brewitt is doing after his impact last week. The other player is Malcolm Hackett:
He’s definitely made some progress, and with “Plays With Back To Goal” in his armory, I’m going to give him a shot this season. He’ll be backing up John English for the target man role.
Despite the lack of promise in the U18s, I spend time on the training and tutoring of them all, and have save files I can go back to for pictures, in the unlucky event that someone makes a big step up.
Finances and the Boardroom:
There may be a light at the end of the tunnel:
The £5.25m “solidarity payment” from playing in The Championship is enough for us to make some progress towards sustainability.
There’s a peak on our balance sheet! I know it won’t stay there, but if we can maintain our position medium-term in this division, we should be able to finally make some serious strides at growing the club.
Just before that £5.25m came in, the work on our youth facilities were cancelled due to lack of funds. Now I’ve restarted that work, and somehow it’s going to be done a month sooner…
Avoiding relegation is no longer the aim of the board:
I think we can secure mid-table, but our cup draws have been a disaster in this save. I pray we can avoid a big fish away from home with our first ties this season.
The board are obviously confident as they’ve booked a
squad jolly up training camp for us in July.
I chose Portugal over Spain because personally I’ve had a couple of great holidays there. The people have always been delightful. Cheers Portugal!
And now, the pièce de résistance:
After six years of playing short, passing football on a dubious pitch, we’ve finally got one appropriate for the way we want to play. Now the big question, was it the terrible pitch that was responsible for our excellent home form? We shall see…
This was a busy summer, both for player movements and staff movements, which is why I haven’t managed to play a competitive match yet.
I’ll start with released players. There’s quite a few:
There are the usual array of 18/19 year old players that didn’t make enough progress to stay. Andrew Parker and Ronnie Rutherford are particular disappointments as I thought they had potential.
There are the bench warmers like Tom Bayliss and Alain Oyarzun, but there are also a few players worth dwelling on.
First up, we’ve got to give Ben Greenhalgh some love. The original club legend, could our new ground get named after him? It would be fitting. Apps 226(14), 36 goals, 52 assists and an average rating of 7.19. He was masterful for us for years, with three successive Fans’ Player awards. And he also once scored a free kick. Alas, The Championship was a step too far, and after showing no interest in any staff roles, we have to release him. Farewell sweet prince.
Manny Monthe was a behemoth for us at times, but his form in the second half of this season was dire, his performances strewn with mistakes, and when he wanted a massive pay rise to stay, I had to say no. We’ve been a lot less dangerous from corners since he’s been dropped, but we’ve also been far more solid. He’s already got a bumper pay packet after signing for Wimbledon. Apps 105(18), 6 goals, 10 assists and an average of 7.07.
Corey Whelan, Kelvin Mellor, Chris Smith and Toby Edser all had useful seasons for us in their time, but they aren’t up to this level. Danny Pearson was top of my priority list for signings after Tottenham released him, but his wage demands of £10k a week would be a ninth of my total budget, so I had to look elsewhere.
John English, Joey Stevens, Kevin Brown, Aaron Bolger and Dmitry Zherdev all return on loan for another year.
We have no less than ten new players:
Yes, I even splashed some cash. The board, the media and the fans all think I’ve been conned, but look at this guy:
He’s only 20, has a great personality, good physicals and passing 16! I’m going to attempt to train some traits into him as he’s a blank canvas in that regard. I’m thinking “Arrives Late In Opponent’s Area”, “Try Killer Balls” and “Dictates Tempo”, but we’ll see if they take. He immediately gets a face.
Rhian Stephens is a goalkeeper released by Arsenal, who looks promising if we can keep him happy.
We’ve picked up four defenders to restore our depth in that department. Arantes Graham D(L) / M(L) has great pace and will challenge Ilias for the first team left back berth. We’ve signed another Italian, Michele Somma D(C) / DM in as a back up, and two more Greek defenders; Dimitris Konstantinidis D/WB(R) and Dimitris Nikolaou D(C) / DM who will probably both go straight into the team.
Our midfield has gone from too full, to a little lacking, so alongside Federico, we’ve brought in Jay Harvey M/AM(L) / AM(R) and Tom Adeyemi DM, M(C) / D(C) to provide competition.
And two more strikers. Matthew Joiner ST(C) / AM(RL) and more excitingly, yet another Italian, Fabio Alagna ST(C) / AM(RLC), who needs a little work on his finishing, but he’s fast, great off the ball and has flair. And after the performance of Gumbs last season, I’m beginning to think a high finishing attribute means little.
We’ve loaned out a few of the more promising youngsters:
And they are joined by Ryan Longman who needs games after a couple of bad injuries took their toll on his development.
Tactics and Pre-Season:
I’m hoping we can line up a little more adventurously this season:
I’ll still have our old faithful 4141 in reserve, and have added an attacking 424 as an option against smaller teams, or when we need to push on. I think a target man can work in a short passing formation. We’ll not be banging it long for him, but putting it into feet and hoping he can either hold it up for our advancing midfielders, or lay it off for Alagna. We shall see.
A 100% pre-season, we beat Chelsea!
I had a bit of a scheduling balls-up as I accidentally put my assistant manager on “arrange friendlies”, but it seemed to work out. We look quite good.
Oh yeah, and this:
Come back next week to follow my first season as a legend. I promise there’ll actually be football to talk about!