Season 4: A New Challenge

So, it’s with a heavy heart that I leave Poole. I wanted to stay there until the end, take them up to the Premier League. But that was looking increasingly unlikely. If the Vanarama National had caused me to stop playing for a month, what would League Two do, let alone the Premier League? So Colchester is my destination. Can I turn their season around? Can we sneak in to the play-offs? Most importantly, can I cut it at a level that isn’t the Vanarama South? So far I had flopped at Vanarama National level, but how much of that was me, and how much was the situation I was in?

profile

My appointment got me looking at my profile for the first time in a while. One star reputation, how on earth did I get this job? One of the conditions of the job was that I improved my media handling, which shouldn’t be a problem because it is only that low because you get no interviews in non-league. I also notice that half season in the Conference has really damaged my win percentage.

The Club

Enough about me, now on to things I probably should have covered in the last update. Colchester, which I now know is in Essex, are a 2 1/2 star club, with okay finances and a 10,000 seater stadium. They’re predicted to finish 11th in League One, but sit in 16th at the moment. The stadium is in very good condition, whilst the youth and training facilities are both good.

The Squad

Squad

I had looked at the squad before I joined, but only briefly. According to my assistant, this is a pretty average squad, so mid-table seems about right. My first real issue is that I have no right wingers, apart from Lawrie Wilson who is more of a full back. Normally, this would mean a narrow formation, but then I notice that I have an abundance of left wingers, and crucially, Ryan Hedges is one of my best players.

Hedges

My midfield looks to be my strongest asset. Craig Slater has been around the SPL for a number of years, and I recognise George Saville from his time at Brentford. Thomas Lapslie looks a very strong defensive midfielder, even if his decision making is a bit on the low side.

Lapslie

Up front I have Denny Johnstone, who has an impressive record of about 1 goal every three games over his three and a half seasons at Colchester.

Denny

I do also notice a couple of attacking midfielders, one of whom, Sammie Szmodics, loves to play as a shadow striker. The football hipster inside of me started celebrating. What sort of formation can I come up with to take League One by storm?

The Formation

formation

I have decided to go with a variation of the traditional 4-1-2-3 (DM) formation. The main idea is to primarily attack down the left, but for my Right Back to bomb forward to provide width on the other flank. My Box-to-Box midfielder has been set to move in to the channels to give the full back cover. My Shadow Striker is allowed to roam from his position to try and find the pockets of space in between the opponents defence and midfield. We will sit back and look to transition in to attack quicker through more direct passing.

What’s To Come?

Fixtures and results

Despite our poor run of form, I have joined the team after two wins on the bounce. We face Portsmouth away in our first game, who sit second in the league. Now, I always want to win my first game, but for a Southampton fan, a trip to Fratton Park is always spicy. We then face a run of games with teams around us, before hosting bottom team Notts County and a big FA Cup game at home to Crystal Palace. I will look to bring in a few players in January, but will probably not sell anyone until the summer. My board expectation is to finish in the top half, but my only goal is to finish above Giggsy’s Millwall.

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Season 4 (November Update): Oh Dear!

Poole Town are playing in the fifth tier of English football for the first time in their history. We have a brand new stadium that holds over 3000 fans. Everything is coming up Milhouse. Well, that’s what I thought before our season opener at Boreham Wood. 18 games, 3 formations, 4 panic buys, 1 horrific injury and 1 win later, I’m starting to think we’re not cut out for this level.

The Results

As you might have gathered by now, things are not going great. We opened the season fairly positively. Boreham Wood were expected to finish mid-table, and picking up an away draw seemed a solid enough starting place. However, our tough start then began to hit.

We then hosted relegated Grimsby for the first game at our brand spanking new stadium, and, well… we scored. The less said about the rest of the game the better. We went 3-0 down within 36 minutes, and despite having 11 shots (5 on target) to their 15 shots (5 on target), despite having 53% possession, we could only find solace in a late James Daly consolation. Three more defeats followed against middle of the pack opponents, and last season’s player of the year Robbie Burton broke his leg against Forest Green. Great. But finally, something came along that we could celebrate.

5-3-1-1

Gateshead were our opponents. The 4-3-3 hadn’t been working so I switched it up to a rather Italian looking ‘Narrow 5-3-1-1’. For the first 7 minutes I felt like Antonio Conte. “What a genius” I heard one of our 6 away fans cry. It was going brilliantly, until, rather predictably, Gateshead went and scored. But we were not deterred. We are Poole Town, the team that made Charlie Austin who he is today. Those hardened 6 away fans hit the roof on the half hour mark, as Harvey Knibbs, who I was starting to wonder still knew what a goal looked like, found himself some space in between the two centre backs and slotted home. For the rest of the game we carried out our Italian gameplan to a tee. We didn’t give the hosts a sniff…if you don’t count the 12 shots, 3 clear cut chances, 1 off the post, and 9 corners that they had after our goal.

Seems it worked so well in our last game, I kept it Italian at home to Woking. It worked again! It worked so well in fact, that they got so frustrated that they had 7 players booked and 1 sent off. We limited them to not a single clear cut chance (we didn’t have one either, but who need goals). This was it. I had found how we would stay up. We were going to draw every game of the season 0-0. What’s that? For each of the last 3 seasons 46 points hasn’t been enough to stay up. And we’ve already lost 4 games. Damn it!

4-5-1

I then made a huge tactical blunder. We had picked up 2 points from 3 games, and were facing fellow promoted club (and smugly mid-table) Torquay. We did alright against Torquay last year, I half-remember, I think we’ll try and score today. I switched to a 4-1-2-3 (DM) with Daly and Conneh on the flanks. We match them in every department. They have 11 shots, we have 9. They have 5 shots on target, we have 2 (ok I’ll give them that). We dominate them on possession 58%-42%. But they have Nathan Blissett – a striker who is not completely incompetent. We lose 1-0. That’s what I get for trying to score goals.

A loss and a draw (Harvey Knibbs scored a brace!) later and we faced FC United of Manchester. They, like us, were new to this divison, but unlike us they were annoyingly doing alright. We continued in our new attacking formation, and for once it actually worked. Louis Hall found himself at the byline and lofted in a deep cross. Harvey Knibbs challenged the keeper, who could only flap it in to the path of Charlie Owens, who drilled home from the edge of the box. Charlie Owens can score! I thought he was only good for getting needless bookings. More importantly, we can win. If I switch back to the Italian formation now we can pick up…41 points. Shit, we need to win 3 more games.

only win

What followed was a run of games where we alternated between losing and drawing. To make things worse, a brief moment of joy in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round was soon extinguished by Ebbsfleet in the First Round. We just aren’t cut out for this level.

We now sit bottom of the league, 1 win and 7 draws for 18 matches. To be fair, the other teams in the relegation zone have been equally shit, it’s just the ones outside that are worryingly pulling away.

The Transfers

As I mentioned in the intro, I have been splashing the panic cash. Robbie Burton’s injury led me to bring in Eroll Ujkani, a 19 year old Kosovan deep-lying playmaker. I also brought in Josh Smile, a happy young fellow who is a natural at both defensive and centre midfield. You can’t have too many midfielders.

My decision to attack left me with a problem too, as I have no natural left wingers. Sure Abdulai Bell-Baggie and James Daly can play there, but I could do with an actual left sided player. So I got two: Colin Daniel, a 31 year old who used to play for Stevenage, and Taylor Morrison, a 19 year old released by Gosport. Wait, didn’t Gosport get relegated from the Vanarama South last season. Oh well, can’t be any worse than what I’ve already got.

The Stars

Can I still use that sub-title when we have 1 win in 18? Daniel Ballard tops the average rating charts with a 7.04, with the injured talisman Robbie Burton second with a 6.98 from his 4 games. Only 5 players have scored goals. Harvey Knibbs has 6, James Daly 2, and Lewis Gill, Charlie Owens and Colin Daniel all have 1. Charlie Owens is the only man with multiple assists, claiming 3. Schofield, Knibbs, Burton, Bell-Baggie and Hall all have 1 to their name. Poor Nick Tzanev has 3 clean sheets in his 19 appearances, whilst Emmanuel Idem has 1 from his only game.

What’s To Come?

As you can probably work out, this was about the time I took a month away from FM. Turns out losing all the time is not that fun. Anyway, we have an important double header against Braintree and Dartford coming up, both of whom are in the relegation zone along with us. 6 points would hugely improve our position, especially as they are both at home. We also have the FA Trophy coming up at the start of December, so maybe we can have a run in that.

Season 4: Summer Transfers

With our first season in the Vanarama National coming up, I really needed to strengthen the side. I used this promotion to get rid of a lot of deadwood, some with a heavy heart. But it needed to be done.  We had scraped up, with a squad that had only been predicted to finish around mid-table in the Vanarama South. This year, we are 1000-1 to win the title, and favourites to go down. Again I tried to tie down the best young players that I could from the Premier League clubs, but this year I also looked to strengthen using the best players from the division below. We’re favourites to go down, what have I got to lose?

transfers

The Outs

As I mentioned, I shifted out a lot of deadwood over the summer. Curtis Young, who I had brought in from Bournemouth in my first season, had only made 6 appearances (5 of which were off the bench) last season, and my change in formation meant that James Waite hadn’t played at all. Adam Bailey-Dennis also left the club. I had brought him in solely as an experienced back up until we got promoted, but even at that level his 3 pace and 5 concentration left me biting my nails whenever the ball went near him.

It was with a heavy heart that I let Lewis Tallack and Danny Clifton go. Tallack had started at the club, even making 15 appearances last year, but he was not good enough to compete with the new centre backs that I had coming in. Danny Clifton won me over in the first season, justifying my signing of him with 8 goals in 18 games. But he netted just 3 more times in 35 games over the next two years, and it was clear he wouldn’t be able to cut it at a higher level.

Inglethorpe.png

James Tizzard and Tyler Ruddy were youth players that will never make it, whilst back up keeper Jonathan Miles heads out on loan to Wrexham to get some game time. I also loan out new signing James Inglethorpe, a promising centre back from Southampton.

The Ins

Tzanev Idem comp

We’ll start off in goal, the reason that Jonathan Miles was allowed out on loan. Nick Tzanev (nope, I have no idea how to say that either) has joined on a free from Havant and Waterlooville. The Kiwi has 6 under-20 caps, and will come in as our first choice for this season. It may be a little harsh on Emmanuel Idem, but our number one has been a bit error prone, and I really can’t afford that this season. Tzanev has better positioning, he’s better at one-on-ones and has much better anticipation, so I might deploy a sweeper keeper this year.

Schofield

In defence I have brought in three new faces, the first of which is right back Mike Schofield. The 19 year old comes in after being released by Chelsea, and his crossing is why he will start over Tyler Cordner. Playing such a narrow formation means that we rely on our full backs to provide width, and Schofield should prove a useful player at both ends of the pitch.

Hickford

Next up is centre back Harry Hickford. The 23 year old joins from Bishop’s Stortford, his strengths include marking and tackling. His 10 heading could be improved, but his 12 leadership should see he command the defence this season.

Upton.png

Another centre back that joins the club is Regan Upton, who joins from Wealdstone. Upton can play as a centre midfielder and a defensive midfielder, so his versatility will be vital as you can still only name 5 subs in the Vanarama National. At 194cm (about 6ft 4) he gives us an edge in the air both defending and attacking set pieces.

Carmichael

25 year old Josh Carmichael comes in as our ready made deep-lying playmaker. His 11 vision, 13 composure and 12 passing means that he should be able to dictate play from that deeper position. The Scotsman joins on a free from Gosport.

Roberts.png

Up front comes target man Matt Roberts. At 192cm, the former Swansea man is a handful in the air, but his 13 acceleration means he’s no slouch either. Roberts also has decent finishing, but it’s his off the ball work that will allow the Irish under-19 international to bring his strike partners in to play.

I have also brought in a few prospects for the future, but they won’t feature too much this year. Matthew Williamson comes in as a centre midfielder (attack) as my yearly signing from Aston Villa, whilst George Canham joins from Chelsea as either a ball-winning midfielder or a centre midfielder (defend).

What’s To Come?

We open the season with a trip to Boreham Wood, who are predicted to finish mid-table. We then welcome relegated Grimsby for our first game at the Killick Arena. Our trip to Torquay at the end of September is the first time we will face another promoted team, so it could be quite a tough start.