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Thread: How are you doing?

  1. #1976

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    How are you doing?

    Have started a new game after my save with Ipswich was corrupted!
    Taken over non league Enfield and secured both the conference and third division titles in back to back seasons. Big test in the second division now!



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  2. #1977

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    getting to the business end of the season, looking in pretty good shape .





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  4. #1978

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    Scunthorpe United, season 2020/21

    After three seasons where a sudden collapse of form has ruined our hopes of doing anything good, this season we miraculously managed to avoid collapsing. We didn't win anything or even get promoted, but I'd say a stable season of overall good results is a nice step up from the previous years.




    We met Rushden in the play-off semi final, and after conceding 2 last minute goals to go from 4-3 up to 4-5 down at home, we lost the away leg as well and Rushden went on to get promoted.

    Two players were signed this season, a right back in the summer and another right back in January. My target for next season is... a right back.

    Spoiler!

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  6. #1979

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    Scunthorpe United, 2021/22

    Last season saw Scunthorpe finally managing to keep up their form for a whole season, and ended with a fine play-off spot. Could we build on that this season?

    A troublesome defence was one of the reasons for the previous years' fall of form, and at the start of the summer transfer window yet another defender arrived at the club, bringing hope of a more solid defensive performance. An experienced Costa Rican, Álvaro Martínez arrived on a free transfer.



    He managed to secure a regular starting place and was one of our better defenders until he all of a sudden decided to retire in March.



    One area where we have previously had good performances is in defensive midfield, but for some reason neither of the two DMCs in the squad did well in the first half of the season, and when January came it was a new DMC who was our transfer target. Ł26k was spent on bringing this young and promising-looking man from Stockport (in the Premier League - they were relegated at the end of the season), where he felt he was ready for the first team but his manager disagreed. He got plenty of first team football in Scunthorpe, going straight into the team and staying there.



    We were doing well in the autumn, I mentioned in an above post that I wanted a better goalkeeper, and after the previous seasons' number 1, Greg Brown, had a fairly poor pre-season the (on paper at least) better goalie John Gallagher, who had mostly been his backup, secured the stopper spot. An injury to Gallagher in November saw Brown re-take the spot however, and he had a solid form for the rest of the season.
    At the other end of the pitch, last year's all time league top scorer in the 3rd division and our best performer by far, Chris Peters, had a poor pre-season and hardly got a start until near the end of the season. Keith Wilkinson hasn't had as good ratings as Peters had, but he's scoring enough goals at least. Unfortunately he's not in the best physical condition, he started the season with 2 in stamina meaning he could only play about every other game in the beginning. It has since increased to 6, but that's still nowhere near where it should be. James Reynolds was his replacement in the early months and with 8 in 14 he's done well too.
    Finally we seem to have a decent defence, and we ended up with the least amount of conceded goals in the league with 39 in 46 games. Definitely happy with that. just a shame that Martínez retired (and didn't need a replacement), he was solid.

    Complete squad overview:
    Spoiler!


    So, the most important bit - the league performance! Last year saw us firmly establishing ourselves as one of the top teams, hardly ever being out of the play-off spots and ending 4th - this year we did even better and were promoted with a 2nd place finish! This will be only the 2nd time Scunthorpe is in the 2nd division, and last time it only lasted for one season before they were relegated again. Hopefully I will be able to lead them to a better situation than that. As we only ended 2nd I'll still be leading the club (and I'm not sure how happy I was with promotion as number two, more of a challenge to win something now and especially with a fairly poor squad).



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  8. #1980

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    West Bromwich Albion 2018/19

    Finally having a proper go at March '19 data after some testing.

    Thought I'd just load the homeland and pick one of the currently available jobs!

    Paul Scholes has a change of heart after deciding to keep quiet about his other hobbies in order to return to his hometown club:

    Spoiler!


    This only leaves the 'sleeping giant' of the black country (well the one who doesn't play in old gold) looking for someone to possibly do better than this unfortunate chap:

    Spoiler!


    I say "do better" as the board are demanding an instant return to the Premier League by achieving promotion.

    Spoiler!

    Being pretty much consolidated in the playoff positions with the business end of the season to come seemingly won't cut the mustard at the Hawthorns.

    So, as I introduce myself to this band of ragamuffins:

    Spoiler!


    I ask them if anyone knows anything about non wib-wobbed tactics or if they have an up to date contact number for Salomon Rondon. They walk out half way through my speech on the importance of star men so I chase after them to take my first training session.

    To be continued...

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  10. #1981

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    Fine work by Alvaro Martinez

  11. #1982

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    West Bromwich Albion 2018/19

    Going as expected so far, replicating real life and hovering in the playoffs:

    Spoiler!


    I have, however just managed to jump above Leeds into second and this has immediately prompted a couple of things.
    Firstly, the board changed their tune with me and decided they were 'pleased' rather than 'satisfied' with my performance. Secondly, it has also prompted the media to suddenly become convinced that we will play well enough to maintain our current advantage of +1 goal difference for another 28 games:

    Spoiler!


    I didn't want to upset the might of Fleet Street or our Chinese backers so I have reluctantly nodded my head in agreement, knowing full well that there is no option now other than finishing in the top 2

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  13. #1983

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    Jamez, when I was coming back to my homeland for a week (to be present on championship), I've ordered a paper work service, because of preparing to exam. And what I need to admit - service, that you order from professional team of PROs (www.superiorpapers.com) is much better than your own amateur one. A lot of cases and real examples have shown it already.
    Last edited by allex13; 26-04-19 at 02:02 PM.

  14. #1984

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    Scunthorpe United, 2022/23

    After being promoted to the 2nd Division in 2022, squad improvment was needed more than ever at Scunthorpe if we were to stay up and not go straight down again like the last (and only previous) time the team was up. After having a look at how the players had performed I concluded that a winger was what I needed, and a winger was brought in. Tony Thompson had just been released by fellow 2nd division team Slough, after not playing a single game for three seasons.



    A couple of midfielders refused to sign new contracts, and while I managed to get money for one of them, two new midfielders was needed, a central one and a defensive one. Danny French was released by our promotion competitors last season Notts County, after playing 45 games for them. Missing promotion with them he chose to go to a promoted team instead. Richard Smith was also a freebie, who was a free agent after 10 years (and 44 appearances, whereof none in the last 4 seasons) at Norwich. 3 players in for Ł0 and 4 players out for Ł82k, plus one retirement, is an ok transfer summer economywise at least.




    January came and with it the traditional January signing, and once again it was a right back that was my target. Marc Reynolds was a free agent after Southampton released him in the summer. He hadn't played for thre eyears, and only a little before that, so I think the Ł1M they paid for him in 2015 was a bit of a waste. Upon joining us he became the third Reynolds in the 1st team squad, but at least only one of the two others is a defender, and they've got different first names/first letters.



    The goal for the season was to avoid relegation, and after a surprisingly good start we managed to stay 5-10 points above the line all year, so I am happy with that.




    Squad performance:
    Spoiler!


    I'm likely to play this save less in the near future as there are new tempting forum-games to play, but I'll keep playing this one as well.

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  16. #1985

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    Spennymoor Town 2018/19

    So I decided to start right at the bottom and Spennymoor Town of the National League North was my destination.

    When I took the job I’m not sure I realised how bad the state of the club was:

    • 200k in debt and no money to spend on players
    • 7500 capacity stadium but only 300 seats
    • A 14 man squad, one of which was on loan
    • One coach, one physio and one scout... only the physio not needing the sack


    To make matters worse no free agent players wanted to join me and no clubs would accept any loan offers I made for players. So I turned to plan B and decided if I was going to do well it would come from the training ground so I managed to recruit the services of some legends:

    • Ally McCoist (assistant manager)
    • Stuart Pearce (coach)
    • Brian McBride (coach)
    • Jim Leighton (coach)


    With the coaching side of things set I just had to deal with what I had on the pitch, including using the best of the bad semi pro bunch (grey players). All my players contacts were due to run down at the end of the season but luckily I managed to tie most of them down on longer deals.

    My squad was unbalanced with 4 strikers so against my will I had to go with a 4-3-3 formation and decided the only way was attack.

    To my surprise some of my players turned out to be more than useful at this level and were grabbing the attention of football league clubs. Including my star man Adam Boyes who was scoring goals for fun and 30 year old midfielder Jamie Chandler who was running our midfield.

    Being lucky to avoid many injuries I managed to out score most teams I played and be top going into January. 3 of my players were due to leave to free me up some funds but the board vetoed them all as they didn’t think my squad was big enough. Then came more bad news and Adam Boyes was going to leave on a bosman to Premier League Fulham at the end of the season. Out of desperation I signed 2 player coaches for free which then meant I could sell a few players and Chandler was the man to be sacrificed, which raised me 700k and also my right back Williams had a minimum fee release clause of 400k, and he was poached by Luton. Still I had got the club balance out of debt and up to 700k and headed to February top of the league and looking good for promotion.

    With such a small squad and little money I took the desperate move of pre arranging as many bosman free transfers as I could for the end of the season to any players that even had a few good attributes, that seems to have paid off and I should have a decent size squad next season, how good they are we will see.

    Since losing Chandler my form has gone and I’ve only won a few games this half of the season, luckily the first half was so good I am still top with 6 games to go and should go up though probably won’t win the league, I also have an FA trophy semi final to look forward to.

    Promotion would be amazing and I’m happy how the season has turned out. Assuming I go up I think a lot of work will need to be put in the summer, wheeling and dealing and loaning players where I can to try and get a squad that can compete in the National League. I will badly need to find someone who can score goals to replace Boyes and I also hope to have a more balance squad so I can change formation and only have 1 or 2 up front.

    Edit:

    Season complete and despite a massive collapse and only getting 2 points from my last 6 games we just about managed to come second, with this form I really know how important the summer is now. We did make the FA trophy final but it was one step too far as we had to face a way too strong Salford and although a good performance we lost 2-1 after extra time.

    On to the National League...
    Last edited by James_y; 09-05-19 at 08:36 PM.

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  18. #1986

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    S1 Shelbourne 2018-2019

    I decided to give the march 2019 update a go.

    I picked Shelbourne FC from Dublin, Ireland:


















    The Drumcondra based club have 13 league of Ireland titles, 7 FAI cups and one league cup.
    They used to be the kingpins of Irish football from the late 90's until the mid 2000’s
    Five league victories came between 1999 and 2006 : 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006.
    The highlight of their history was a European cup run where they nearly qualified for the champions league group stages in the 2004/2005 season.

    Liverpudlian centre back Dave Rodgers scored a memorable goal in the second qualifying round. Which helped Shelbourne to a 4-3 aggregate victory over Hadjuk Split.









    But Shels were then beaten over two legs by Deportvo La Coruna, in the third qualifying round 0-3 on aggregate.






    ‘Shels’ then fell into financial difficulties in 2006 and the heady days were over as soon almost as they began. They were demoted to the second tier of Irish football and remained there for 6 years
    There was a brief return to the top tier of Irish football for two years 2012, 2013, but they returned to second tier and have remained there since.








    The ground is currently Tolka Park in Drumcondra, Dublin.

    It has a capacity of 9700.












    But the stadium has seen better days. And the average attendance is not even a 10th of its full capacity
















    There are only basic training facilities at the club itself, so the club must train in public training facilities.
    In the Athletic Union League (AUL) sports complex.

















    So, the AUL does allow Shelbourne a facility to at least train youngsters












    There is a strong focus on fitness as the young players develop.









    But at a very young age, competitive spirit is also instilled in the players at the club.














    The average Shelbourne fan is realistic to know, that is it is unlikely that an outstanding youth prospect is going to develop at the club.

    Unless Shelbourne improve thier own training facilities, without having to rely on public facilities.






    But despite this, the average Shelbourne fan, is a special type of fan, loyal to the end.

    Hoping for a return to thier glory days.

    Not for them - the bandwagon supporting of the English Premier League team that happened to be winning, when they were ten years of age.

    Of course not.

    The Shelbourne fan like all league of Ireland fans support thier local club, on thier doorstep.











    The few fans that do go to Shels games make up for their lack of numbers by sheer passion, and enthusiasm.










    There are plans in the future to move to leave Tolka Park, and move to home of their rivals Bohemians FC in Dalymount Park



    https://www.98fm.com/podcasts/98fm-s...stic-option-34



    Much to the chagrin of the small but committed band of diehard Shels fans.

























    When I started the year, the club were over €300,000 in debt. The Board were nice enough to give some money during the season. But this was only to help ‘running costs’ and prevent the club from falling into administration.

    The season ended with the club still in debt.
    There was no transfer money to buy players at the start of the season or at the end.























    Those lack of finances were somewhat of a hindrance.



    But they did not stop the expectations of Chairman Joe Casey and the board of directors.
    They expected the side to achieve promotion to the League of Ireland Premier Division.





    Chairman of Shelbourne Joe Casey:











    The Board expect promotion




























    The inherited squad





    Since I had no money, I could only hope that that squad already there was a high standard.

    But the squad was not in the best condition, to be honest.

    There was star player Ciaran Kilduff (SC) who was easily the best player in the team.













    Ciaran Kilduff (SC) attributes














    Lorcan Fitzgerald was also a stalwart of the team, I played him mostly in midfield and occasionally as a wingback.





    Lorcan Fitzgerald (D/ML) attributes












    Dylan Grimes is a versatile (AMRLC).
    I played him on the right wing, left wing, central midfield .

    I even tried 'Grimsey' on the right of a front three on occasion.





    Dylan Grimes (AMRLC) attributes













    Luke Byrne (DLC) was a regular on the left of a back three.

    His speed was his greatest asset, and he was one of the mainstays of the team during the season.





    Luke Byrne (DLC) attributes













    Another regular was Oscar Brennan (DMC).

    Although his position was listed as a defensive midfielder, I played him as a central midfielder due to all round technique and passing.

    Oscar did OK when played in that role.





    Oscar Brennan (DMC) attributes











    There was no real young and talented players already at the club.

    But, 18 year old Shane Farrell (SC) played OK when brought on as a substitute.





    Shane Farrell (SC) attributes












    Conor McCabe played occasionally as goalkeeper, but I felt it was an area that could be strengthened.





    Conor McCabe (GK) attributes











    Dan Byrne (DC) forced his way into the starting line up at the latter part of the season.

    I played him on the right of the back three.

    Dan took the captaincy role when regular captain Williams (FR) was not on the pitch (more on Williams later - see Transfers in)





    Dan Byrne (DC) attributes













    I tried Niall Lanigan (DMC) in the centre of the back three and the right of the back three.

    He played several games at back during a period of the season.




    Niall Lanigan (DMC) attributes










    In fact, at one stage I retrained Lanigan as a defender.

    So, he was a (D/DMC) for a while.

    But he was not happy with training, so I let him revert to his preferred (DMC) and stopped the retraining.

    I also felt I should sign more natural centre backs.



    So, I decided to bolster the squad with several free transfers in and loan signings












    Free Transfers in










    The first free transfer I got in was Conor Cleary (SW/DC)
    I basically got him because I planned to play a back three, and it is rare to find a sweeper who is trained to play there.

    But as a player he was OK. And he may be given more chances to impress in future



    Conor Cleary (SW/DC) attributes










    Sean Murphy (SW/D/DMC) was another versatile defender I brought in.

    This was mainly because of the number of positions he can play.

    Also, there is the fact that Sean is comfortable on either foot and it would be useful in a back three, to give balance to the side.

    The youngster’s versatility helped him get a lot of game time during the season.

    However, you could hardly call him a solid defender.





    Sean Murphy (SW/D/DMC) attributes












    Because of the loss of loanee Jay Donnelly (FRC) in December (more on him later) I felt it was necessary to sign a replacement for him.

    Jamie Williams (FR) fitted that bill perfectly and when he played on the right of a front three, he did fairly well.

    Williams also wore the captain’s armband when he was on the pitch.






    Jamie Williams (FR) attributes











    However, the main problem with Williams was that he was very injury prone.









    At around the November period of the season, I started to stretch the search a bit wider for players (beyond the island of Ireland)



    I brought in Englishman Dominic Yates (AM/FL) as I felt his versatility provided formation options.

    Yates was more of a bit part/bench player during the season,and did OK when called upon

    When he did play he played as a left midfielder, or slotted in on the left side of a front three.





    Dominic Yates (AM/FL) attributes










    My next foreign import was the exotically named Kieran Thomson (AMC).





    Kieran Thomson (AMC) attributes










    The Scotsman's grandmother is Irish, so I played on those connections, to get him to move to Ireland’s capital.

    I felt Kieran would give more flexibly in formation during the season.

    Unfortunately, the teenager did not really make as much impact as I hoped.

    But given his age, there is plenty of time to improve




    The next player I signed was a bit further afield than Scotland.

    I managed to sign the first Brazilian footballer ever to play for Shelbourne, for free.

    Octavio Merlo Manteca. Otherwise known as ‘Octavio’.







    Octavio (AMRLC) attributes












    I brought Octavio before on another save with Boa Esporte years ago.
    Unfortunately, the 2019 version is not as glamourous.

    But his versatility would prove invaluable.

    To get Octavio to move to the second tier of Irish football, I told him if he did well at Shels his next move could be to the English Premier League.
    Or even Barcelona or Real Madrid.

    He is still waiting for that call

    Octavio believes that Shels can be the stepping stone in his career to bigger and better things

    However, he is now worried that his mobile phone may not be working.






    I decided to look on the other side of the world or my next signing

    Luke Clark (SW/DC) was willing to travel to the other side of the world to play for Shels.


    The Aussie was visiting his cousins in Drumcondra near Tolka park, and he decided to go on trial with Shels.

    Clark’s Irish cousins were delighted with the news of his move.




    Luke Clark (SW/DC) attributes











    This was especially so, when Luke managed to force his way into the starting line up regularly towards the end of the season.
    It gave the Irish first division a bit of Australian swagger.

    Luke achieved this feat by not performing as badly, as the other defensive options at club

    At this stage I now had three sweepers at the club, and the competition for places in the back three was intense.

    Each trying not to be as bad as the person they replaced.




    My final foreign import was Nigerian Yusef Ahmat Sad’eeq (AMC)

    Again, I was looking for options to vary formation with.

    I went to former holiday camp Mosney in county Meath Ireland, which is now a direct provision centre for asylum seekers.








    I heard rumours of footballer who was looking for a club.
    I found Yussef.
    He agreed to join Shels, on condition that it would help him and his family in their Asylum application process.

    It did help his successful application when the authorities were informed of Shelbourne’s interest, and his footballing ability.





    Yusef Ahmat Sad’eeq (AMC) attributes










    A grateful Yusef performed great for Shels initially, when given his opportunity.
    He even received a man of the match award in one of his six games for the club.

    But I found it difficult to find him a place in the side, because it would necessitate a change in formation.
    And how could I leave out other players out who were performing well?


    There was a few changes in midfield as the season drew to a close.

    With nothing to play for I started playing Alex O’Hanlon (MRLC) as the ‘sitter’ of the midfield four instead of Oscar Brennan (DMC)

    His tackling was not as good as Oscar’s but he offered more creatively.

    Alex performed surprisingly well in the role.

    He was also predominantly left footed, but comfortable on the right.

    So this provided balance in the middle of the park





    Alex O’Hanlon (MRLC) attributes












    Another player who forced his way into the starting line up near the end of the season was Karl Moore (AMRLC).







    Karl Moore (AMRLC) attributes









    Moore got his place in the side because of a long-term injury to Dylan Grimes (AMRC).

    Like Grimes, Moore liked to play centrally and was encouraged to make attacking runs from the midfield four.

    His pace, agility and acceleration stood out at this level of football.








    Shelbourne badly needed quality at the club besides the players who were already there.

    But, with limited funds that meant needing low cost cost players, of high quality.

    What better way to do this than the loan system?

    So I set about trying to get players on loan








    Loans in







    The very first signing I made for the club proved to be very successful loan deal.


    It was Northern Irishman Jay Donnelly, on loan from Cliftonville





    Jay Donnelly (FRC) Career History:









    But unfortunately, it was too successful as he was soon snapped up by UCD (of the League of Ireland Premier Division) in mid-season.


    This was unfortunate, because during his time at Shels he was a top-quality footballer, at the League of Ireland first division level.

    Donnelly excelled on the right side of a front three.






    Jay Donnelly (FRC) attributes








    But it is hoped that the move to University College Dublin (UCD) will provide Donnelly with a better atmosphere.

    It gave him a chance to move beyond what was a turbulent time at Cliftonville.



    https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/b...-four-15657678



    I am sure things will improve for him in UCD.
    And being surrounded by third level college students, will help him focus on his football.






    As mentioned, I felt that the goalkeeper position needed to be strengthened.

    So I loaned Crusaders goalkeeper Sean O’Neill.






    Sean O’Neill (GK) attributes









    The Ulsterman proved to be one of the better signings of the season with a good average rating.





    Dean Clarke (FLC) was loaned from St Pat’s.

    A player with League of Ireland top tier experience and a certain amount of versatility.

    But Dean did not really make his mark during the season, and was more of bit part/bench player.




    Dean Clarke (FLC) attributes











    Karl Sheppard (FLC) was brought in on loan from Cork City, to provide versatility to the forwards





    Karl Sheppard attributes (FLC)









    Karl was in an out of the starting line up during the season and played in variety of different roles.

    He did OK during the season and did his bit when given the opportunity.





    Northern Irishman, Jonathan McMurray was brought in on loan as a backup, and competition for Ciaran Kilduff (SC)

    The Ballymena loanee is good in the air with good jumping and heading ability.

    He also has decent workrate.






    Jonathan McMurray (SC) attributes












    I did get rid of some players to make room for all these new arrivals at the club.

    Nonetheless the departures, did not bring much in the way of funds, so it was a difficult rebuilding job.







    Players out









    I particularly did not want David O’Leary (D/DMC) to leave the club.

    But he insisted on leaving the club on a bosman in December.








    His attributes were decent for the Irish second tier.




    David O’Leary (D/DMC) attributes



















    Appearances






    Lorcan Fitzgerald (D/ML) topped the appearance charts










    Lorcan Fitzgerald (D/ML) attributes
















    Goals




    Ciaran Kilduff (SC) was well clear from the rest of the squad in the goalscoring charts

















    But not only that, Kilduff also ended top of the average rating table








    Average ratings














    Ciaran Kilduff (SC) attributes























    So, what tactics did I pick to put all these mishmash of players into a team?

    I planned to play a 3-4-3 direct formation at the start of the season, and it was a formation I used most of the time.

    You will note I tried to keep Lorcan Fitzgerald (D/ML) on the pitch, as his set piece delivery was crucial from left or right. Particularly left sided set pieces.




    Lorcan Fitzgerald (D/ML) attributes









    I even tried to fit him in as a left sided centre back in a three, on occasion.





    Tactics 3-4-3 - direct









    Later in the season I tried a 3-4-2-1 formation to make use of attacking midfielders in the squad




    Tactics 3-4-2-1 – direct









    But this formation was not as successful as the 3-4-3 formation, so it was quickly shelved.



    Later I tried out a 3-2-4-1 direct all out attack formation to see if it would get more goals.




    3-2-4-1 – direct









    But it left the team very open at back, not too surprisingly.

    Plus, it not get as many goals as I thought it would




    I only tried a 3-5-2 wingbacks formation once.




    3-5-2 wing-backs formation - direct











    It did OK, but I felt that the 3-4-3 formation is what the players are more comfortable in





    Using that formation for the majority of the league campaign, proved to be an interesting campaign for Shelbourne to say the least.







    League of Ireland - First Division



















    As already seen, promotion was expected by the board from the league of Ireland first division.


















    League Table - League of Ireland - First Division
    - Promotion was achieved









    Failure to beat Cobh Ramblers in any league game meant first was never really a possibility.


    Even though Shelbourne were second for most of the season....








    Shelbourne were lucky to get the automatic promotion spot.









    There was a poor run of form towards the end of the season with a 3-2 away loss to Evergreen.

    And a 2-2 home draw v Drogheda.

    Three points was needed against already relegated Newbridge.

    In order to stop Athlone from getting the automatic promotion spot.





    S1 LOI D1 match 36 Newbridge (a)





    Fortunately, towards the end of a nervy first half Ciaran Kilduff (SC) silenced the jeers of the Newbridge fans.








    On what was a breezy and wet day for football, Shels finally secured promotion.






    The cup competitions proved to be even more unpredictable for Shelbourne, with varying campaigns in each one.














    The Irish Daily Mail FAI cup





















    Shelbourne managed to reach the 3rd round of the Irish Daily Mail FAI cup after a 3-0 win against Evergreen in the previous round.

    Limerick from the League of Ireland Premier Division travelled to Dublin, to take on Shels in Tolka Park.





    S1 FAI Cup 3rd round Limerick (h)




    This was the game where I used a direct very attacking 3-2-4-1 formation against Limerick’s 4-4-2.









    It was tumultuous game with two red cards








    After being a goal down with 35 minutes remaining, Shels managed to rescue a draw with a Lanigan goal from midfield.

    This meant there would be a replay.




    For the replay I maintained the same 3-2-4-1 formation with a few changes in personnel.

    However, on this occasion Shels were let down by the performance of Sean O’Neil in goal (5)

    And the out of position Lorcan Fitzgerald (D/ML) (5) who played again as centre back on the left side.

    Limerick youngster Shane Barnes (SC) gave Shelbourne a lesson grabbing a brace.
















    EA Sports Cup - League cup
















    It was an unfortunate League Cup campaign for Shelbourne.

    Premier Division St Pat’s proved too strong, and Shels failed to get out of the group.








    It was no shame losing out to St Pat’s as they would go on to win the Premier League Title.













    Shelbourne would have to face St Pat's in yet another competition





    Leinster Senior Cup








    This time Shelbourne also had to face the Premier League Champions elect St Pat’s, in the Leinster Senior Cup Final.

    The Leinster Senior Cup is the least valued competition of all the trophies that Shelbourne were eligible to play in.

    But nonetheless it was still a chance for silverware, so I treated it very seriously.

    Prior to my arrival at the club, Shelbourne were defending Leinster Senior Cup Champions having won back to back titles.


    https://www.the42.ie/leinster-senior...60346-Sep2018/


    Three is a row Leinster Senior Cup wins, had not been done since Shamrock Rovers won four in a row from 1955-1958



    Shelbourne did have a slight advantage the final against Pat's was played in Tolka Park.

    In this game I played a 3-5-2 wing-backs formation against Pat’s 4-4-2 formation.

    I played Jamie Williams (FR) out of position at right wingback.






    In the game itself Sean Murphy (SW/D/DMC) had a poor performance (5).

    And the team was not helped by Sean O’Neil’s (GK) sending off for a professional foul

    Shels were in the game up to that point and overall there was not much between the sides.

    But the quality of Gary Shaw (FRC) and Michael Drennan (FC) proved too much on the day.










    Gary Shaw (FRC) attributes












    Michael Drennan (FC) attributes























    Finally, at the end of the season the board gave their verdict.











    I suppose satisfied will have to do, but at least the fans seem to like me!
    Last edited by fry78; 12-05-19 at 12:52 PM.

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  20. #1987

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    I've got two different ODB games on the go at the moment.

    The first is a "salvage operation" at Charlton Athletic. I let the game run for two years without selecting a team, then chose to take over at Charlton, who crashed out of the Premier League with 11 points in 2001/02 then did miserably in 2002/03. My first season was a modest 13th-place finish, but I also reached the League Cup quarter-final and I'm slowly piecing the squad back together - a difficult task when you have no money! I've signed Tonton Zola Moukoko on a Bosman, though, ready for 2004/05...

    The second is at Stockport County. I only finished 16th in 2001/02, but that was after a substantial slump in form at the end of the season (I still did way better than Stockport did in real life that year). I'm about to start 2002/03 - no Moukoko, but I have a very tasty-looking regen striker...


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  22. #1988

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    Not a bad start to the season, considering the fixtures weve had, bought in Michael Keane and Breel Embolo with Arnie departing to the Arsenal.




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  24. #1989

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    Life got in the way of managing football teams in recent months - bur finally I am back, fighting for titles and trophies...... even though, winning silverware is the furthest thing away from the club that provides me with a fresh start in the National League North as the bank account shows a red minus, little Croft Park has seen better days in the past as well and a difficult season is expected. Welcome to Blyth in Northumberland, northeast of Newcastle, where the Spartans are home:






    Having appointed me, a German nobody, could be mistaken for the Spartans board already given up on avoiding the drop before even a single ball has been kicked in the new season. Certainly there is little pressure on me, least expectations, to perform well this season. And no surprise: this is a piss poor football team. Granted, every player has two legs - which is a good starting point - though, little actual skills using those legs with a round ball on their feet. The other positive: the squad is big enough to field a team plus a few substitutes. The bad thing: no transfers money is available. All that's left is to bring in a handful of outcasts from league rivals who're willing to join the Spartans on loan.


    In an attempt to maximise the "skills" on offer, I deploy a 5-3-2 system that can become a 3-5-2, depending on the situation. A simple enough system, that will see us through this long season.... hopefully.




    2017/18:


    We start much better than anyone could have ever dared to dream. Five wins from seven games. In truth, this is largely down to kind round of opening fixtures. We start with an awful lot of home games. We really make Croft Park a fortress in these early weeks. On the other hand, as soon as we leave the boundaries of Blyth we're doomed.

    A few games later: a few more victories on the board, a few more away losses as well - we're up there in the table - this looks quite promising! I'v been working on a few deals for the January transfer window also. The question is only: can we maintain form stay until then in order to have an unlikely go in the race for promotion?



    Certainly not. A rotten November and even more rotten December sees our stock falling as fast as a stone falls from the sky after throwing it up in the air. A spell of 12 games without a single win and we're down in nowhere.



    Thankfully January comes and a few decent lads can be picked up from Ireland. They bring a breath of fresh air plus the added bonus of quality on the ball: in fact, Paul Corry and Eoen Wearren were some promising talents only a few years back. Their stock has dramatically fallen over the last seasons obviously otherwise they wouldn't be ending up at the Spartans. Pick of the lot is Stephen Kenny. A pacey striker, who looks to have a lot on his plate for this level. Ryan Brennan will be happy he's off the green island: no more songs about the reproductive ability of his mother (which are impressive, indeed!). Niall Scullian completes the Irish invasion.




    The Irish recruits turn the fortunes. In a more attacking 3-1-3-3 system, Spartans hit some forma. Stephen Kenny is banging in the goal, putting any relegation fears to bed. Unfortunately we lost too much ground already to turn into a promotion contender - the season ends too early for us in order to have a real impact in the table, so a 10th place finish stands for us in the end, regardless - which is quite a positive ending to a volatile year of football for the Blyth Spartans.








    Player of the year is Lewis Horner: 18 goals and 8 assists for the 26 year old midfielder, who's got an interesting story attached to his name. Once upon the time, when he was playing in Scotland for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, he thought it would be brilliant idea to gamble on games of his own team…... he paid a hefty price, having lost a career as a professional footballer, fallen down to the sixth level of the English football pyramid.









    2018/2019:


    Two handful of free signings bolster the squad for the new season. Particularly the signing of flexible defensive unit John Dunleavy from Cork City is pretty exiting. I'm also proud of the sinning of Andy Cook, who looks a powerful striker, who can hopefully take the burden of Stephen Kenny to produce all the goods in front of the goal. Cook is a real number 9, particularly strong in the air and joins from League 2 side Tranmere where he didn't play a single match last season.



    Neutral observers will certainly attest that Blyth Spartans appear to be quite a different side now - and so it should be, because we aim high, want to be in with a shout for the promotion spots at the very least.


    It becomes quickly clear as the season rumbles on, the partnership of Cook and Kenny is an incredibly fruitful one - even though I struggle to identify a third striker who can keep up with the two - as the two share score 40 goals between themselves until the end of the year!

    2018 finishes with a 26:19-5-2 record, that sees us topping the National League North comfortably. As good as that reads, the truth is we're nothing without Kenny and Cook, and games without these two in the XI are a proper struggle.




    It's been a fabulous season for Lewis Horner so far as well. In turn his performances do attract a fair bit of attention from classier clubs. Given our dire financial situation it's hard to resit a €500k offer from Championship side Ipswich, unfortunately. So arguably the most talented player of this Spartans team leaves in January.


    18 goals in the first half of the season have also put Andy Cook very much on the radar of higher ranked clubs. It's no surprise having both Hull and Charlton triggering the €475k release clause; he signs for the Tigers eventually. Losing two stars in a matter of a week is a tough blow for us. Replacing them is neigh to impossible.



    I bring in a few talents that may have the potential to reach the level of Horner and Cook, but he gulf in class is palpable. We struggle in the next few months, stumble from game to game, win some, lose some, draw some…. Certainly scoring becomes an issue.... Kenny doesn't quite hit the same heights as in the preceding twelve months. Horner and Cook were involved in half of our goals until they left. So the quality of chances we create has also dropped markedly.




    Thankfully the buffer we built is large enough to see us through the rest of the season - which ultimately means we secure promotion tor the National League with five games to go!

    It's nip and tuck with Manchester United (FC United; not that plastic stock listed company in the Premier League, of course) for the National League North title; it's a a snail race: we lose, they lose, we draw, they draw..... Eventually the title is ours, despite a loss in the direct clash with United three games before the end of the season and another defeat in the season finale. They simply didn't want it, I guess. We say thank you!




    Nonetheless this feels like a somewhat subdued celebration to what should have been a tremendous achievement for the Spartans. The fact we were so strong in the first half, and so poor in the second half of the season leaves a bitter aftertaste. Clearly the squad needs to be significantly strengthened if we don't want to find ourselves back in this league in twelve months time again.










    2019/2020:


    In order to gain entry to the National League the stadium has to be enlarged. The board obliges duly. Which is fair enough, given I surely want to get out of the ENLN as well - but it also means any gains made on the financial front last yar are now well and truly gone. And so we're back in the red: -€2 million - Autsch!


    All the while the board expects a difficult season. Even though my personal expectations are much higher. We sign a few fine players I feel, particularly playmaker Gavin Brennan - he is the better brother of Ryan Brennan, who is already a Spartan. Obviously the next logic step would be to bring in the rest of the lot: Sean Brennan and Killian Brennan, who the best of the them - though he's on good money at St. Pats in Ireland and, as you know, we have no money.




    Timothy Molloy joins from UC Dublin: a strong striker, a similar profile to Alfie May who joins us from Doncaster, where he didn't play a single minute of football the last two seasons. Conor Essam from Dover should become the new backbone at the other end of the pitch.

    A few more lads on a free transfer plus a handful of guys on loan: there's your fairly decent National League squad - or so I certainly feel at this point in time! obviously I don't expect us to romp home. On the other I'm fairly confident we'll be thereabouts. We should be in the mix for the two promotion spots....



    After a rocky start to the season, clearly adjusting to life in higher grade, it's particularly the goals from Molloy and May that help to settle things a little bit down. We're shaky at the back, however - conceding two goals a game isn't out of the ordinary. Equally capable to score five of our own. Which makes it attractive to watch our games, I guess.


    Veteran keeper Adam Bartlett, who joined us from Stockport on loan, has a number shocking games in October - I lose all trust in him, so back in goal is last seasons #1 Michal Misiewicz. That's no positive by any means because even even in the lower NLN the Pole was moving between world-class and catching flies within minutes. Anyway, fortunes improve slightly from there on.


    As the year turns we move to the promotion gaining 2nd spot for the first time this season. Strong performances, mainly driven by superb Matt Dolan in midfield - he's been a revelation, came from Stockport on a free and was thought more of as a squad player - he's owning the #10 role!



    As the new year moves on, the schedule gets tighter, we advance all the way to the semi-final of the FA Trophy, where we go out after high drama in penalties versus Wrexham.


    Injuries pile up. Tiered legs. The schedule over the last 10 games of the season is relentless.Top striker Alfie May is down as well. W miss his goals when we'd need the most. Some games I do struggle to fill the bench with five healthy and fit players. But we're not the only ones with these issues. The table is incredibly congested, more than a third of the league has hopes to be break through and become a Football League club next season.....



    We won't be one. we finish the season with poor form, not worthy of a true promotion contender: W-L-D-W-D-D-L-D with one game to go.... but even a scintillating 4-1 victory over York on the final day of the season isn't enough - Spartans lose out by a single point in the end. I can think of many occasions were we left that single point on the pitch.



    The disappointment last only for a few moments: first season in the National League, we have done the club proud. There's certainly something to build on. Clearly defensively improvement is needed if we want to push on. Conceading 72 goals is simply not good enough. t'll be a tough task with a non-existent budget to improve the squad. But, at least, there is no danger of losing any of our star players this time: May (19 goals), Molloy (22 goals), Dolan (8G, 8A), Watson (3G, 12A and Paul Cory are all under contract next season - without a release clause!








    Timothy Molloy's contribution can't be underestimated. A score involved of 34%, even though he only started 37 of the 46 league games is incredible. Here's hoping the 26-year-old can be as impactful next season.



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  26. #1990

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    2020/2021 - Blyth Spartans in the English National League :

    Despite last seasons achievements the board is conservative in its expectations: stay clear of any relegation scrap is all they ask for. It might be wise to lower the eyes for the moment at least, as the squad is turned inside out. Half the team was on expiring contracts and the majority is allowed to leave as I feel if we want to move forward we need to shake things up. That bears its own dangers of course.


    One of the higher paid players still under contract is Gavin Brennan. His brother Ryan has already left the club - even though I was prepared to offer a performance based contract extension, he wasn't happy with his role as a squad player - Gavin, last year signed as a veteran with supposed star quality, didn't shine as much as expected. So I'm happy enough when he decides to finish his career and retire, given he'd been a highly paid bench warmer this season otherwise.



    I am able to bring in more than capable replacements, or so I feel at this early point of the new season. We land a little coup by signing teenager Andy Howe from Liverpool. The 17-year-old defender is highly determined and quite a bull for his age - he could be a good one, particularly at this level!







    A habit of conceding way too many goals - 72! - was the main issue in our failed bid for promotion last season, strengthening the defensive side of the squad is high priority. Beside Howe, the signings of experienced Ciaran McGuigan from Drogheda, as well as the one of Danny Rowe from League One side Wycome could be significant ones. So could be the addition of Josh McDonald in the middle of the park as he's leaving National League rival Halifax for the Spartans. Keeper Liam Roberts joins from Charlton with the aim to become our new #1.

    Matt Jay and James Collins are further additions for our already rather potent attacking force. Plus a few "fillers" and lads on loan eventually complement a much changed squad for the new season. I'm quietly confident we'll be bang there when it matters with these changes. Which are so dramatic that striker Timothy Molloy is the only one who survives the cull before the start of the first league game: no one else from last seasons squad finds himself in the starting XI!



    Things don't click. 3 points from four games puts us into crisis mode. Improvement not in sight. Six games in and a 6:1-3-2 start is miles away from where we wanna be, despite having a much improved - on paper at least - squad. All the new lads aren't gelling as quickly as hoped. Particularly at the back we continue to be porous as Swiss cheese.


    We get deeper into the season, but even as the calendar turns to November 3 wins is all we've got so far. Promotion dreams are far far away. Getting the basics right is more important now. Tinkering with the tactics means the 3-striker-system is dropped in favour of a more conservative 5-3-1-1 approach. I would love to play attractive attacking football but at the moment we need to find a way to stop the negative trend. If that means a bunch of 1-0 victories is all we get then I'll have that that any day and night over exciting over 3-4 defeats!


    The changes yield in more stability and bring a few decent results to see us moving out of the bottom third of the table. Out of crisis mode. Back to normality.

    In fact, despite those early season woes, since November we make gradual progress - hard fought victories at promotion contenders Macclesfield and Newport help to move up in the table - as the year turns we're still nine points off the promotion spots, but in a desperately long season as the one in the National League, that's nothing. It certainly feels like a win, given how poor we were for the first quarter of the season. Last years success also means we're taking part in a number of televised games, which in turn helps to fill the coffers of the club and leaves me in the comfortable position of having a transfer budget for the first time. Not a lot, but every little helps….


    When the transfer window opens I'll bring in a few new faces - cheap €10-30k purchases, in the hope they raise the quality in the squad.



    The added quality has immediate impact. From January on we march forward and become near impossible to break down. We don't need many chances to score and we certainly don't score a lot, but that's fine as long as you score one more than the opponent - which we do. As unlikely as a push for promotion looked not too long ago, as increasingly likely it looks from February on, as the top teams falter one by one and we're the form team with all the momentum on our side.



    Match day 33, another arch-typical 1-0 victory, this time over Exeter, and suddenly Spartans are top of the table! 12 months ago we crumbled under the pressure when entering the final stretch with the chance to gain promotion - this time we're clearly more lucky with injuries, but also with finding the net in the last minute to get those three points on the board week after week.

    The decision to invest the bit of money we have in the January transfer window turned out to be a key decision - with two games to spare Blyth Spartans gain entry to the world of professional league football for the first time in its history!



    We're not a brilliant National League champion by any means. We have no player in the National League team of the year. Despite leaking many goals in the early parts of the season, changing to a more defensive system helped so much that we end up as best defence in the ENL. On the other hand we're only 17th in goals scored. Last years brilliant top scorers Timothy Molloy and Alfie May had shocking seasons: none of them found any form and remained without a single goal!

    Since the year turned we appeared to be nearly unbeatable, though. Only two losses from 21 games in the second half of the season - conceding only 9 goals! With that in mind it seems there is a good foundation in place to build on for what will be a tough first year in League Two, I reckon.









    Switching to a more conservative tactic helped to change fortunes halfway through the season - albeit few individuals were brilliant - as a team we worked well:


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  28. #1991

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Porridge Flo View Post
    ...bur finally I am back, fighting for titles and trophies......
    \o/ endlich

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  30. #1992

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    2021/2022 - Blyth Spartans in League Two:

    Croft Park gets another facelift - can now host 6.000 fanatic Spartans. The fact that we're back in the red due to this investment doesn't make my life as manager any easier on the other hand. Because any budget to strengthen the squad is practically gone. Thankfully we can sell on some players I don't feel are good enough, including talented striker Anthony Britton, who I'd like to keep, but an offer by League Two rival Aldershot is too good to refuse as it does ensure there are a at least few quid available for player signings.



    Getting former Hearts prodigy Alex Petkov in on a free transfer is certainly one of the highlights - I have high hopes for the playmaker - so is bringing Lewis Horner back to the club - albeit only on loan. Back in NLN days Horner left the club for €500k as Ipswich triggered his release clause; which was a small disaster then, because he was running riot in middle of the park for us - Championship proved beyond him, now he is back at a more realistic level - the 29-year-old who's also on an expiring contract, is expected to find back to his best in the green and white jersey, which saw him win 'Spartans player of the season' accolades in 2017/18.








    It's a drop in grade also for central defender Jack Batten, who joins fom Bredford. He's a monster in the air and should add to our already fairly strong defensive unit. Young striker Arthur Read looks the pick from the other six signings, all in the range of €20-30k transfers.


    The board hopes a prompt drop back to the National League can be avoided. I hope we can sneak into the play-offs if all goes well. The reality after 12 games in is a completely different one: Spartans dominating League Two! A slip up
    versus Fleetwood aside, we're particularly hard to score against: leading from the back is captain Danny Rowe, while on the attacking front it's the return of Lewis Horner, who is in imperious form - to the delight of everyone who holds the Spartans close to their heart.



    But football can be a fickle game. What's oh so sweet one week can turn sour in a matter of days. An insane injury crisis hits us all of the sudden. Horner out, Rowe out, McDonald out….. And a few others as well. We're a bit thin if it comes to quality in depth. So, with some stars on the sideline, reality has us back - we struggle badly. I guess that means we're simply regressing to the mean....



    What hinders us most is a lack of goal scoring: in the early part of the season that wasn't an issue. We scored one and that was largely enough to secure three points. Now, though. we hardly score even a single goal! And if we do, we concede one on the other end. In fact between October and mid-January we fail to score more than one goal in 15 consecutive league games! If you're a betting man you'd make good money backing a 1-1 draw in games with Blyth Spartans involvement. It becomes our standard result. Only two more wins during this period by the smallest of margins - at least "we keep the scoreboard ticking over", so to speak.



    It's a few nerve-wrecking weeks ahead. A lack of continuity, untimely injuries, some stars out of form…. 1-1, 1-0, 0-1, 1-1, 1-0, 0-1…… we fall outside the top 2, and with that out of the promotion spots.


    One of the main issues I make out: even though we have quite a large number of shots on goal, many of these wouldn't hit the target and come from outside of the box. I was under the illusion in these lower leagues you simply have to shoot and the goals will follow, given the rather poor goalkeeping standard. Unfortunately, as we're not riding a wave of confidence, shooting accuracy is dwindling to desperate levels.


    So, I take drastic measures: no player is allowed to take shots from outside the box. Period. With these new instructions the team is particularly encouraged to play more passing football in order to truly develop scoring chances. The success is instant: of the 15 shots in the next home match against Hartlepool 12 will find the target - the result is a scintillating 3-0 victory! We're not transforming into a goal scoring machine just yet but we're certainly hitting form at the right time of the season.

    All those points collected earlier in the season - albeit only draws, also become quite handy toward the final third of the season, though, as we never lost sight of the promotion spots thanks to hamstring points. A 1-4 defeat at Oxford is the right wake-up call with ten games to go - from there on we win seven out of nine. Which in turn means with only one game left, Blyth Spartans are in fact promoted to League One! The opportunity to win a second league title on the bounce is sadly missed, as we can't beat Cambridge on the final day, drawing 1-all; the result so arch-typical for us this season!




    In the end, finishing runner-up is a great success. Back-to-back promotions. Highly efficient, nearly German! In 31 of the 46 games we couldn't score more than a single goal - on only 15 occasions would we find the net more than once! That's a bit scary moving up a division now.








    A revelation was January signing (€45k) Johnville Renee Pringle who came from Wimbledon. An injury cut his game time short, but in 13 league games he assisted 7 goals nonetheless - the right-back made a huge difference toward the end of the season.

    We also found a prolific goalscorer in Jordan Jenkins. He was a cheap €35k pickup from Glenavon in Northern Ireland. He scored 18 goals after having a few issues early on in the season. Alex Petkov was the disappointment of the season. After a bright start with six assists in 10 games he fell completely away.







    Unfortunately Lewis Horner, whose on loan from Ipswich and had a good second spell here, decided against our contract offer - he will move on a free transfer to Chesterfield. There are a lot of expiring contracts as well. Only very few will receive an offer to extend their stay.

    Attracting fans to Croft Park remained an issue throughout the season. An average attendance of around 3.700 is the second worst in League Two. It's not a good look…. And financially makes life difficult for us.






    2022/2023 - Blyth Spartans in League One:


    The most prominent signing over the summer will sit beside me on the bench: Rafael van der Vaart joins the Spartans on a free transfer…. As the new assistant coach! After finishing his career a few years ago, he went to Argentina to get some coaching experience under his belt. He didn't stay long there. Now he's back in Europe. I'll hope he'll help me with his tactical knowledge to set the team up in the best possible way each week, as well as judging which talents should get a run in the team.







    Receiving €1 million for EFL1 TV rights is a massive boasts for the club coffers. So is selling Alex Petrov, who simply didn't become the player he promised to be - he's off to his native home Bulgaria in a €500k transfer.

    Blyth is out of the red and well in the green in monetary terms. That doesn't mean I can throw money around the transfer market, but it helps to make a bunch of solid signings, that will ensure we're competitive this season.



    I do struggle to sign any players from my shortlist, which in turn means we're going into the season without any 'sexy' signing. Players we do sign are generally - as so often in the past - outcasts from lower tier clubs. A real gem could be right-back Salas Cannonier, who joins for €55k from National League side Southport where he didn't get a single game in two years, surprisingly.

    Center-Back Ryan Nyambe, left winger Blair Adams and forward Craigh Wighton are the other more noteworthy transfers. Bar Adams, who was a regular for EFL2 side Hartlepool, none of the lads played with any regularity over the last number of years, but our scouts are sure they can add a lot of quality on and off the pitch.








    Never change a winning system. For the new life in League One I'll keep faith in our 3-5-1-1 system that worked well last season. Expectations are modest as always at the Spartans: the board would be delighted if we stay in the league. My personal hope is a solid push for the play-offs, particularly if we could remain largely injury free.


    We surely start well with a frantic 4-2 over Blackpool. A goalless draw at Lincoln followed by a defeat at Shrewsbury. It's the sort of form we develop over the first two handful of games. We're competitive every single night. But sometimes not quite good enough. That's okay. Hoovering around the ominous final play-off spot is certainly positive.



    Match day 18, away to a fallen Cardiff City: we put a string of unbeaten games together. A 3-0 trashing of the Bluebirds is an indication things start to click and we're now a proper promotion contender! Craigh Wighton with 11 goals to his name has been a revelation. Young Arthur Read, who was light and shadow last season, has really stepped up also, leading the internal scorers list with 8 goals and 8 assists.

    An unbeaten run of 11 games between October and December sees us climbing up to second…. However, a one goal defeat at leaders Crawley brings everyone down to earth again.



    A bit of an injury crisis hits us around the new year. Particularly the midfield is impacted, which isn't where we're particularly deep anyway. So, I use the opening transfer window for a few cheap signings, boosting our midfield depth in the hope of finding one or two hidden gems. Central midfielder Calum Mason is the one I'm most excited about. The teenager can pass the ball really well and I hope he can develop into a nice player for us.


    In the meantime clubs around us splash the big cash: 3rd placed Sheffield United pays €1.1 million for playmaker Ethan Robinson! That shows what we're up against in the second half of the season…. Two weeks later we beat The Blades 2-0 at Croft Park!


    We have our own growing financial woes, though, as the weeks move on. 35 players on the book now; a few expiring contracts extended - mainly the ones off Read and Jenkins - for an increased salary of course. Add a bit of ground maintenance - old Croft Park isn't cheap to keep going and with an average attendance of 5000 we do struggle to offset the costs. So, once all adds up the bank account turns red.



    On the pitch Arthur Read is running riot ever since his contract extension. The 22-year-old forward is on a run in spring; so is Salas Cannonier, who saves us multiple times with his 20 meter free kick bombs. As we march on, so does Crawley, the undisputed leader of League One - as far as 12 points ahead in early February.


    It's a golden spring: seven games between March and April - we win them all, despite losing dominant right-back Johnville Renee Pringle to injury. Read and Weighton do their thing up front, while keeper Liam Roberts - who is with us since National League days - keeps keeps a clean sheet in five consecutive games.



    Hunting Crawley for the league title - it's what's on the radar now. With five games to go we're qualified for the play-offs, but have a substantial advantage over the third already. The Reds have a rotten form in spring and have lost all their points advantage bar a single one that has them clinging on to the top.



    Three games to go we overtake Crawley…. Thanks to the tiniest of margins in goal difference. This goes down to the wire..... Both on 100 points before the final day of the season. As we lost out in a similar scenario on the EFL2 title, same should not happen this time….. And it doesn't! Town wins their game, but so do we - in front of a 5.700 record crowd at Croft Park: Read, Jenkins and Beith provide the goals to secure back-to-back-to-back promotions as well as the League One title!

    A whopping 103 points in the end - our best league campaign ever! We didn't score as many goals as some other clubs, but defensively it was a record breaking season, particular since the year turned: 20 games, 14 clean sheets, only 10 goals conceded!









    To be perfectly honest: we're a few years ahead of the schedule. Of course was the hopeful idea to bring the Spartans gradually up, to find out how far this small club can go. That things would run so fast…. I didn't expect. Three promotions in three years is like speeding on the motorway: the speedo shows 140 miles an hour as you go with the flow but you know you're over the limit. Blyth Spartans are right on the limit. Next season in the Championship this is an entirely different beast. Another level. So far removed from the humble beginnings.

    Croft Parks remains a small ground with only two proper stands, holding 6.000 people, seats merely 1.000, has dreadful facilities and certainly no sign of any proper setup for underage- and youth development. The club is in debt because of the inevitably of ever increasing wages and the squad is like a patchwork family consisting of journeymen players brought in at different stages in the last three years. 14 expiring contracts, the few I'd like to keep at the club I can't pay the money they ask for.....


    Despite the success on the pitch, desperate measures have to be taken off the pitch: we're forced to sell keeper Liam Roberts. Championship side Brighton makes a €3.4 million offer we can't refuse. He's been fabulous over the last three seasons since he joined the Spartans for €35k from Charlton, back in National League days. No surprise his performances brought interest from better clubs. In turn we'll sign keeper David Craddock from Brighton, who was already on loan with us last season, albeit then the backup for Roberts!

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  32. #1993

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    Fantastic!

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  34. #1994

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    2023/2024 - Blyth Spartans in English Championship:


    €12.75 million in TV rights are a blessing for the club, so is the money we get from the Roberts transfer. We were deep in the red before this money arrived, to the point I was wondering where and how to find money to sign capable players for a serious bid to stay in the league, as even wage wise we struggle to offer competitive contracts to free players.

    At the same time here at the Spartants we desperately have to start investing in the infrastructure of the club, which remains on the level of a conference side. As a first port of call the development of Croft Park is vital, I feel. My request for investment is denied by the board, however. They don't sense the same sort of urgency as I do. Which means we continue to play in a shabby ground, holding merely 6.000 souls. At least we won't be setting a new record low for attendance in the Championship, which will go to fellow promoted Crawley Town. Broadfield Stadium seats exactly 4.996 fans.


    On the team front there is less turnover than in the years before. The core of last season's squad remains intact - in fact we could field the exact same XI on day one of the new Championship campaign as on the final day in League One. I rate this as success!



    Nonetheless we'll need to make this squad Championship ready. 12 players in for €4 million - not a single 'stars' in sight, but I'm confident we can play a good role in this league. Key signings of Dominic Smith (CB) and Richard Brindley (DR) do compliment what we already have in defence - which I rate highly. Central midfielder Conor Thomson and highly creative Filip Blazek (DMC) are supposed to drive the game in the middle of the park.

    On the other hand I struggle to bring in a striker to take the pressure of Read and Jenkins a bit - we're rather thin on that front with these two. I trust them to perform - but what if they don't adapt to life a level higher?








    After a slow start with a loss against Southampton and a draw at Ipswich I remain calm, no panic yet. Performances were solid, we just didn't get the right bounces yet: keep doing what we're doing and the tide will turn - as it does, indeed! We bounce back with four straight wins!

    Arthur Read, so prolific last season, is on the mark a division higher, no bother. On the other hand Philip Blazek struggles use his creativity in the tough environment that's the Championship. The supposed star recruit is on the fringe ob being dropped. Which he is, eventually after another dismal performance. Not happy with this decision, Philip is unhappy as well. We "mutually" decide it may be best making him available for a transfer in winter.


    He's only on loan,an was a late signing on the final day of the transfer window: 18-year-old striker Chris Jennings joins from West Ham, and turns out to be a revelation. Any attempts to make him one of our own are rejected by the young man, unfortunately - even though the Hammers are happy to sell. Nonetheless, he bangs in the goals for us, which is the most important thing right now.


    An unlikely last minute two-goal comeback against Newcastle in the EFL Cup 2nd round, which we win in extra-time eventually, is the tipping point on Tyneside: manager Phil Neville gets the sack as the club is already fighting a tough battle against relegation in the league.



    We bring about a small sensation in the 3rd round of the League Cup as we beat Manchester City, despite having to play away and conceding a red card halfway through the game - plus keeper Robert Mutch - who gets the nod in all Cup games - has to save a penalty as well! Unfortunately we have to leave the competition a few weeks later after a 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage against another Premier League team in Fulham.









    In the league we are able to defeat pacesetters- and local rivals Sunderland thanks to Mason and Jennings goals - it's the first defeat for the Black Cats. It keeps us up in the play-off spots, hovering around third place. Dropping a few points here and there means we're close but able to catch Stoke in second position - Sunderland, despite that unusual home loss against us, marching on with the Christmas season approaching fast.





    My work hasn't gone unnoticed. Nonetheless it comes completely out of the blue: Leeds United make an attempt to lure me to Yorkshire after sacking manager Thomas Christiansen. I decline the offer politely - Leeds si bottom of the Premier League, having accumulated a meager 5 points from fourteen games….








    A bombshell at the end of January - Salas Cannonier rejects our offer for contract extension beyond the season, instead signs for Championship rival Tranmore Rovers! He's been a star since joining last year. Even though he sees himself solely as a Right Back he was deployed on the left side in our system and did a fabulous job. It's a real shame to see such a classy player leave - particularly on a free transfer. However, we have alternatives on the bench - albeit not quite of the same caliber.



    Direct promotion prospects slip away in spring. We can't score more than a goal for weeks and weeks, coupled with injuries..... Sunderland and Huddersfield fly away. At least the play-offs are a near given at this stage. Right?


    13 games where we can't score more than one goal between January and April… we fall down to 6th place with less than six games to go - play-off certainty? No more!


    It becomes obvious with every passing week that most league rivals have figured out the way we play - and more importantly how to counteract what used to be our strengths. Opponents do enjoy deploying a simple 4-3-3 now; we start to struggle to get on the ball, struggle to create chances while appearing prone for quick counter attacks once we lose possession. I'm forced to make drastic changes - I let business as usual and the hope for a turnaround of form prevail for too long already: tactically we'll change to a more traditional back four and will play a more defensive oriented holding midfilder.



    We remain shaky but get a few vital points on the board, beating Tranmere and Nottingham Forrest - vital because two defeats on the last two nights of the regular season nearly cost us the 6th place…. Nearly, as Stoke, who made a big push in the last few weeks, is defeated as well, which means we through to the play off merely on goal difference!











    A date with the 3rd placed Birmingham awaits. The bookies have us down as the underdog. A place that suits us better than having to carry the burden of being favourite. After a nervy scoreless draw at St. Andrews that could have gone either way very easily, we earn a well deserved spot in the final at Wembley thanks to a euphoric 3-1 victory in front of a frenetic sellout crowd at Croft Park! The riches of Premier League football are only a single game away now…..




    Wembley Stadium, 27th May 2024 - a date with history. Blyth Spartans would well and truly become the smallest football club that has ever made it to the Premier League if we would be victorious here. Let's talk in "if" for the moment. Between the excitement of hosting Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool stands Burnley, the 4th placed finisher of this season. They overcame Derby County in the semi-final and finally want to make their way back to top flight football after six years in the second tier.


    I make the tough decision to drop veteran right back Richard Bridley. A constant in our team all season long, but in our new system he simply hasn't been able to perform to quite the same high standards which he used to set all season long. More defensive minded Dominic Smith takes his place instead.



    In a tight contest, defensive unity is king. There is little happening in the first half. Both sides are wary and clearly have only one thing on their mind: not to concede! Beauty doesn't always win games. This one certainly isn't a beauty contest. Millions of pounds are on the line, in fact.


    We take charge of the game in the second half, putting more and more pressure on Burnley. 67th minute - the breakthrough. Read breaks free in the blink of an eye, but has the vision to pass to Mason who's unmarked in an even better position.The youngster hammers home for the lead!


    Nail biting final minutes - Burnley throws the kitchen sink at our goal. The last minute equalizer in the air as keeper Craddock can't catch a powerful header from inside the box…. Danny Rowe with a crucial challenge, thankfully! The seconds tick away and then it's all over! The fairytale continues....




    Blyth Spartans are an English Premier League club from now on!












    The golden boy Callum Mason - still on a monthly €2.5k wage; arrived last season for €40k from EFL2 side Forrest Green!






    Another superb season for Arthur Read. He made the step up from EFL2 to EFL1 to Championship without any issue!





    The only one who survived from National League days - Danny Rowe. Now Blyth Spartans record player:







    So, a new chapter is to be written in the history of the Blyth Spartans. Premier League football awaits. Little Croft Park will host the likes of Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool on a regular basis now. It's a dream most of us in the club would have only lived on the Playstation or in Championship Manager not too long ago.......




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  36. #1995

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    finished a respectable 6th in league, was hoping to better the 1st seasons 3rd but with European commitment wasn't tobe, won league cup and then this...….totally unexpected and was under the cosh for long periods in the game....but Mr West Ham pulled it out of the bag...…


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  38. #1996

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    Fourth season in, best finish in league so far has been 3rd in the 1st and 3rd season, but looking good as we head towards the busy Christmas period.


  39. #1997

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    Season 2024/2025 - Blyth Spartans in the English Premier League:


    First things first: I'm a loyal manager. If you show me you've got a bit of talent, the guts to do your bit for the team and work hard in training I'll reward you. I love to develop youngsters in particular. Andy Howe is my little project for the last number of years now. This young man came to us as a boyish teenager, 17-years of age, signed on a free transfer out of Liverpool's reserve, four years ago. He's one of the very few survivors of the National League days. One who has gradually improved, even though has been more a fringe player than a permanent line item on the team sheet.

    Last season was his breakout year, though. Surprisingly not as center back, but once we changed the system to a back-four including a defensive midfielder he excelled in the position of the destroyer in the middle of the park! Here's hoping Andy can continue to progress in this new role - even in the Premier League. As a consequence for his performances I'll reward him with a new 5 year contract. He's my adopted son now!







    Obviously the main aim this season is to stay in the Premier League. Avoiding the drop at all costs. Of course, in an ideal world, I'd love to give the heroes that got us here their chance to shine in the Premier League as well. It's not that simple, though. The standard is so much higher here, and let's not forget we barely made the the play-offs, thanks to a better goal difference.


    Clearly we need to improve the quality and depth of the squad. 10 players left over the summer, their expiring contracts weren't extended - or in the case of Salas Cannonier, who sadly left us for monetary reasons - but will stay in the Championship with Tramore, actually.

    Club heroes like Johnville Renee-Pringle and Jordan Jenkins are part of the group that haven't been offered a contract extension. It's a pity to see them leave, but their journey comes to an end here, being realistic that they will not make the cut in the Premier League.



    With the start of the new campaign there're only 16 players in the squad. Our scouts work overtime. They do fantastic work in truth and unearth some real gems. Obviously, in our situation we can't attract the big star names. But as a Premier league club we're not a shabby destination either. Particularly lads who want to (re-) establish themselves as top class are keen to join.

    This leads to a new record transfer in the history of the Blyth Spartans - up until now the record was the €750k paid for Filip Blazek last year, who'd end up a major flop and left six month later…. Now we're shelving out significantly more - a whopping €10 million for pacy forward Myziane Maolida!

    The 25-year-old joins from Lyon where he established himself as a leading attacking force over the last two seasons despite being more often deployed as a joker from the bench. Maolida wants to become a regular in the starting XI hence he was open for a move. I feel this is good value for money as he offers the option to be the main up front or play the AMC role as well.


    It's the arrival of someone else, though, that has Spartans fans go nuts: striker Andre Pinamonti moves to Blyth from Inter Milan for €8.25 million! The 25-year-old has been struggling to break through at Inter, having been a fringe player over the last number of seasons. He#s one with plenty of upside, however - he's gonna be a star for us, I reckon!








    More quality arrives particularly with attacking midfielders Jonathan Okita (Kortrijk) and Jari Schuurman (Feyenoord). Defensively the addition of Nigerian full-back Tyrone Ebuehi is quite exciting:









    To put these transfer into perspective: Tottenham, the reigning Premier League champion, just signed Leroy Sane from Real Madrid for €85 million. Man City in the meantime, completes a €138 million transfer for Matthijs De Ligt, who's going to be on a monthly wage of € 1 million at the same time. We clearly are the smallest of lights in the new Premier League season.



    Finally the board has heard my cries, though it's more likely they heard the cries of the Premier League authorities that said shabby Croft Park with a 70/30% split of standing and seating doesn't quite cut it in the top flight. So the club is forced to spend a whopping €27 million on ground development that will see Blyth Spartans become the owner of a 15.000 all-seater stadium! Obviously it is sad to see the old terraces go, but we've got to move with the time, given Spartans are now part of the elite. The capacity of the new stadium is enough to accommodate roughly 40% of Blyth's population.


    Having to invest large sums in stadium development is only possible due to the insane amounts of TV money on offer: €65 million!




    Despite splashing some cash on transfers, on day one of the Premier League season, six of last years team keep their spot in the starting eleven. As I failed to recruit anyone suitable for the defensive midfield position - anyone who I'd sacrifice Andy Howe for - he's going to be our number one in that position - who'd have thought that only a few months ago?!





    The first weeks of Premier League football feel nothing like it: the season kicks off with Huddersfield, Northampton and Crystal Palace. Not sexy, but offers the opportunity for vital points. And so it is: draw with Huddersfield, home win in front of a record crowd over Northampton and an away success at Palace - Maolida off the mark, Pinamonti off the mark and Arthur Read - who just signed a new 2-year deal, scores his first Premier League goal as well - he's with the Spartans since League Two days!



    Then the first match that sets the pulse raising: Croft Park is hosting the champions Tottenham Hotspurs. Spurs manager Pochettino has the luxury of a squad so deep he leaves €87 million summer signing Leroy Sane on the bench.


    After a superb start to the campaign we're full of confidence and hope for a good result, particularly in front of our frenetic home crowd. A Gabrial Jesus wonder goal from outside the box silences the home fans only three minutes into the game. Shortly before half-time Min hits the crossbar - a major let-off as the preceding counter attack leads to Pinamonti having a one-on-one with Spurs keeper Gazzangia, who brings the Italian striker down…. Penalty and red card!

    Replacement keeper Brandon Austin saves the spot kick, unfortunately. Full throttle attack in the second half…. Rewarded as Pinamonti makes amends for the missed penalty, hammering one home from wide range! A point against the champions.... and still unbeaten after four games!


    First defeat follows soon, though. Two weeks later at home against West Ham - a game we register only two shots on goal.



    Local derby with Sunderland: not too long ago it would have been merely bad dream for football fans north and south the river Tyne: the number one in the area's neither the Magpies nor the Black Cats? Nope! It's the tiny neighbour furthest to the north: Blyth! Only 17 miles separate Croft Park and the Stadium of Light - a leisurely 5 hour walk, if one wants to attempt it.


    In football terms there's a whole world between the two sides these days: while Sunderland got directly promoted last season with 23 points ahead of us, one division higher they struggle. Only a single point so far, they desperately need to reinvigorate their season - but we're not doing them the favour. Playing in the Stadium of Light in a Premier League game, and beating Sunderland - thanks to an early Maolida goal - unbelievable!









    After 14 games in we've still only lost one game: at Aston Villa. Otherwise, we're competitive, draw with Chelsea, beat Waterford, West Brom…. In truth, we also get a few lucky bounces when needed. Is this form sustainable? Maybe. It'll depend on staying injury free.



    So far we avoided the big guns mostly, but the upcoming weeks will be telling some tough truths, most likely: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool Man United, three of those away. Indeed, we're on the back foot in all games. It's a struggle….. Two goals are enough to gain another two points out of these games, thanks to two one-all draws at Anfield and Old Trafford. Points for the moral. In reality, we were bloody lucky to get away with any point at all!



    Life gets bit easier going to Northampton next. We trash them 3-0; though this games also sets a sad record low for Premier League attendance with only 9.094 fans turning up.



    The year turns, we sit in eight, well above expectations. One part of of the team where we're a bit light is in the middle of the park. Hence I'm happy to bring in what I feel is a real bargain, as certainly at the very least a strong depth player: Durel Avounou joins from Ligue 2 side Socheaux for €375k, was lately loaned to a Croatian side, though.


    No immediate concerns, but always good to land a major talent I feel, is young Italian shot-stopper Davide Mele. He's got two full seasons at Serie C side Empolio already under his belt and I hope can with time he can become our number one - that says David Craddock does a fine job and is under no threat to lose his place in goal.










    Trouble in paradise in mid January: Jonathan Okita turns up late for training and looks distinctly unfit only a day after we lost an away match to Tottenham - I'll give him an official warning, hoping he'll learn his lesson. Unfortunately Jonathan takes it the wrong way and requests to be given the opportunity to leave the club as soon as possible. Request granted, and he'll train with the reserve from now on. We don't need players that aren't committed to the cause.


    In saying that, Okita has been playing well, so it's a major loss from a football perspective, having a talented player as him locked away in the own reserve team. Results on the pitch don't quite go our way in this phase as well. It's a few tough weeks for the Blyth Spartans.....


    The next shock is only around the corner: David Craddock rejects to extend his expiring contract. Instead he prefers to join league rival Northampton Town at the end of the season. Another significant blow as he's been well established as number one in the club, posting a 7.65 average rating so far this season, having been one of the main reasons we got promoted last season.



    Despite those blows, the show must go on. And it does. The expensive summer signings Pinamonti and Maolida have a bit of a spring in their step as the days get longer and warmer. We continue to stick around for a top ten finish, but eyeing a surprise bid for Europe, in fact. This is also down to the heroic deeds of young Italian Davide Mele, who's established himself firmly as the new number one! David Craddock watches on from the stands in the meanwhile….



    The deciding weeks approach fast: an untimely defeat at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, a direct rival for Europe, only five games out, sees our European dreams burst, given we still have to play some tough opposition over the last handful of weeks. That's why a subsequent away victory at the home of the champions, Man City, is a major surprise - also a sign of what we're capable of. With two Premier Leagues matches left, we stay in eight, merely two points off the fifth Arsenal.....



    It probably would have been our biggest over achievement would we have made the top-six. It wasn't quite to be in the end. Defeat to Liverpool and a goalless draw with Middlesbrough bring the maiden Premier League season to an end: Blyth Spartans finish in a more than respectable 9th place!










    There were a lot of positives: we lost only 9 games. Conceded only 31 goals - the least in the league bar the new Premier League champions Manchester City. The club record signings Pinamonti and Maolida delivered: 12 league goals each plus 5 assists together - that's a 65% score involvement!



    Young keeper Davide Mele has made long standing #1 David Craddock a forgotten man. His move to Northampton hurts much less thanks to the Italian youngsters heroics.








    Andy Howe started every single Premier League game and established himself as a solid Defensive Midfielder at this level. Veteran center-back Danny Rowe also played a vital part, particularly in the second half of the season he fought his way back into the team, after losing his spot earlier. These two lads have made it all way from the National League up to the Premier League with the Spartans - and continue to be key figures, even at the highest level!


    Opportunities for improvement are obvious. There is the goal scoring: only 44 goals, and the burden carried very much by two players. If either Maolida or Pinamonti ever get injured we're fu**cked. There was little contribution from the midfield. The signings, like Schurrman or Tilley, didn't deliver. Okita rebelled. It's an area of investment over the summer, no doubt; particularly if we want to push on from here. We're now established in the Premier League. Europe is what we want to aim for next season....

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