Welcome back to Flight Of The Concords, where it’s deep into the 2023/24 season and I’m in my forties. Truly a hellish alternate reality…
We’ve had a wondrous start to our second season in The Championship. We’re looking like unlikely promotion challengers off the back of our new, less conservative playing style, which has seen us start like a goal-scoring juggernaut.
With money seemingly flowing through our fingers in an unstoppable torrent however, promotion is beginning to look very important indeed, otherwise we’ll probably have to strip back our expenditure over the summer, particularly from our youth setup which is costing us almost as much as player wages each month…
We’ve finally beaten bloody Crystal Palace:
Another brilliant month, resulting in another manager of the month award. Our best performance from November came at home to Bristol City. Relegated from the Premier League last season, in third place and on a good run of form. We were in control from start to finish, the very definition of comfortable.
QPR showed up with a flat back five in the first in an increasing trend of teams attempting to park the bus against us. Quite a change from last year!
At this point James Mulvenna, our back up right winger, started agitating for a move. He’s played quite well when called upon, but has no chance of dislodging home grown, club icon, vice captain Max Broughton, who as well as all those other things, is playing very well.
Mulvenna has gone so far as to announce he’ll be leaving on a free at the end of the season, so we’ll see if we can get something for him in January. Meanwhile we’ve snapped up Neco Williams – D/WB/M/AM(R) on a free transfer. Three caps for Wales and released by Liverpool, he offers plenty of pace off of the bench and can deputise in a couple of positions.
The month started with an end to our unbeaten run, with Swansea deservedly turning us over:
Teams are playing less expansively against us now, I think we’re finally considered a threat. We’ve dealt with the extra challenge pretty well and five closely fought games all ended in victory!
Three manager of the month awards in a row!
I’m loving the complete sell outs at our home games, but our finances are on the skids again. At some point in January we’ll be back in the red unless we sell.
I’ve renegotiated a few contracts, with extentions signed by Ilias Chatzitheodoridis (I always write about him on my phone, God bless predictive text), Dimitris Nikolaou and Davide Mondonico, and pleasingly they all took slight wage cuts.
We head into January with no fewer than ten players in our first team squad having interest in them from bigger clubs…
As soon as the window opened, I sent Francesco Rapisarda back to Italy. He hasn’t done anything wrong, but after signing Williams, we probably don’t need him and can save the money from his wages.
We also recalled Alan Wilson from loan at Swindon where he wasn’t playing, and packed him off to Rochdale instead, where they vow he’ll be a first teamer.
Matthew Joiner has gone back to Huddersfield after failing to make an impact, and with the emergence of Rhian Stephens, Dmitry Zherdev has gone back to Everton.
We’ve been on the lookout for two cheap loanees this window for back up, a centre back and a forward, and eventually we found our men. Two more Italians!
Francesco Trombetti D(RC) comes in from the Premier League, and Simon Franceschetti AM(C) / ST(C) flies in from Sardinia. Franceschetti is a great finisher and very fast, although his mentals need some work. I’m hoping for some impact off the bench when opposition defences are tiring.
As for outgoings, despite all my talk of my players being trailed by bigger clubs, very little happened. Even my attempts to get money for James Mulvenna failed, with no club willing to bid more than £0. Clubs from Barnet to Manchester United tried to rob him from us, unwilling to part with as little as £10k or put in a 10% next sale clause. So we’re keeping him as back up until June as his wages are low.
The only other bids we were subjected too were almost as insulting. Swindon offered to loan our starting left back Ilias. Errr, no. And League One Barnsley offered a non-negotiable £500k for our captain, Luke Dreher. Errr, f*** no. Overall I’d rate this transfer window at 1/10: AI needs serious work. But on the plus side, our squad remains intact.
Enough of that nonsense, let’s get back to footie:
A lot of draws! In the league, our performances were good, so I’m not too worried by our sudden inability to score simple chances. Hopefully it’s just a blip. John English in particular has missed some absolute sitters. It does seem to be a bit of a New Year trend for us.
I have no idea how we drew 2-2 with Brentford. If they deserved two goals, we deserved eight – it was one of those games.
We were perhaps a little fortunate to defeat Southampton in the FA Cup, but I think we’ve earned a little luck in that competition. Fabio Alagna’s 111th minute equaliser was a real relief after they had taken the lead a minute earlier. It’s nice to win a penalty shoot out! In the Fourth Round we’ll face Premier League West Brom at home. In what’s becoming a bit of a cup tradition for us, they currently lie rock bottom of the league.
The Leeds match was vital. Following the extra time against Southampton, we were missing several first teamers and Dimitris Nikolaou was playing on painkilling injections. In a bad tempered game with a sending off apiece (Aaron Bolger got a four match ban for his appalling tackle), we took the lead twice, but couldn’t keep Leeds out at the other end. I’m happy to avoid defeat with some of our back ups performing very well in what was probably our most difficult league game of the season.
Leeds are our main rivals at the top of the table, and they’re in quite different financial shape to us, having just spent £11.5m on a winger in January. But they’ve slipped up away from home in recent games, so avoiding defeat here has made our situation look very promising:
Very, very satisfying viewing indeed!
With sixteen league games remaining, we have a fifteen point lead over third place Bristol City, so promotion is well and truly in our hands. We’ve got the best attack, and the best defence in the league and our home form appears unaffected by our new, pristine pitch, which is a relief.
Thanks very much for reading, hopefully you’ll be back next week to see if we can make it to the big time!