Season 4: Wanted

It’s fair to say that this season has not been going to plan. It’s pretty depressing this whole losing thing. We are still rock bottom of the Vanarama National, having picked up just one win all season. It’s just under a month since my last update, but something big has gone on.

On December 1, League One Millwall offered me a job interview. Now, I haven’t been looking to move club. The whole point of this save was to get the club where Charlie Austin first made his name up to the Premier League, and hopefully to play against him. The only offer I have had so far was in season 2 with Yeovil, and I turned them down straight away. I didn’t even turn up for an interview. But they were in the Conference, only a division above where I was at the time. Millwall are in League One. League One! I take a glance at the table. 13 points, 1 win, 23 games. I look at the squad morale. It’s getting to the stage where these players can’t be left in the dressing room by themselves. There’s only so many: “Don’t worry, it’ll all be better soon” chats that you can have. I order the kitman to unlace everyone’s boots just in case.

I pop in to town and buy myself a navy blue tie. That’ll impress them, I think to myself. I set my sat-nav to the Den and make the relatively short trip up to London. Now Millwall are sitting 15th in League One, and have just sacked Mick McCarthy…

Coach-Mick-Mcarthy-Look-at-Camera-Smile

… Yes, that Mick McCarthy (Come on, I had to include it!). I attend the interview and everything goes well. They want me to play attacking, possession based football and develop the youth academy. I like attacking football. I also like dominating the ball. I also like (better choose my words carefully here!) giving youngsters a chance. They tell me that I would need to achieve a top half finish, and ask me whether a budget of £2.3m would be enough. £2.3 million! I’ve never seen that much money. You could buy the whole of Poole Town for that, stadium and all. I modestly tell them I could do it for less, and leave feeling pretty confident.

5 days later and I’ve heard nothing back. I begin to think it won’t happen. Sure, I’ve won Manager of the Year twice in the Vanarama South, but League One is a completely different ball game. I barely notice our 0-0 at Lincoln, I’m just staring at my phone, waiting for the reply. Then I get an email, but not the one I expected.

Colchester United have sacked their manager, and they’ve invited me to come and have a chat. Well, that new blue tie is almost paying for itself now. Maybe I should go out and start applying for these jobs, but only for teams that play in blue. Colchester sit 16th in League One, one place behind Millwall. To be honest, I have no idea where Colchester is, so I blindly follow the sat-nav until I arrive at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. I weigh up whether I’m in the position to demand a name change for the stadium. I decide that can wait ’til the summer.

L1 table

The interview goes well again, I think, and I give more or less the same answers, although I have trouble keeping a straight face when I say that I’m a loyal manager in what is my second interview in under a week. Then a complication. Top half finish – that’s fine. £270k transfer budget – it’s no Millwall, but that’s fine as well. They want me to play direct, attacking football. Now I have never played direct football in my life. I stick photos of Sam Allardyce on all the dartboards around the Poole training ground. Will I betray my philosophies just to land a job in League One? Do I hold out for the tiki-taka of Millwall? Then I think back to Poole, where my assistant is pulling his hair out trying to explain to Matt Roberts that he won’t play if he hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games. “Fine,” I say begrudgingly. “I’ll play direct”.

Give it Giggsy

Two days later I get a call from Millwall. They loved what I had to say, but they decided instead to give it Giggsy. Ryan Giggs: the man who led Fulham to 15th in 2017. The man who left to join Brighton, took them down from the Prem, and then got sacked with them thoroughly mid-table in the Championship. “Fine,” I snap. “I never wanted to join your hooligan club anyway”. It was at this moment that I realised the middle-classness (yep, I’m going with that) of Poole was rubbing off on me.

Colchester offer

But the next day, something amazing happened. Colchester wanted me. The offered me an 18 month contract on a very decent £725 a week. Well, decent for what I’m on. I bet Giggsy would turn his nose up at that. I agree to their terms and bring with me my assistant manager Jamie Gleeson, my goalkeeping coach Glyn Garner and my chief scout Nathan Smart. I pack away my red Poole Town tie and say goodbye to the lads. Now all I have to do is come up with a Colchester related name as witty as ‘Poole To Prem’.

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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.