3rd July 2021
I won’t lie – This is always the point in a save where I start biting my fingernails. The Championship can be fucking tough, especially when your team (And I say this with the greatest love and affection for this group of players) is dog shit on a Catherine wheel.
Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but the thing that’s really started to worry me is that my coaches all reckon that most of my players aren’t ready for this league. Most of our squad isn’t even league 1 standard, they’re bloody league 2 players. It’s also really starting to grate on me how difficult it is to upgrade any of them because nobody’s offering to buy them and I have basically no money to spend.
You can never discount momentum in this game though, so there’s every chance we’ll have an absolutely fine season. The thing is, we might get absolutely battered back down to League 1. Alright, well let’s reacquaint ourselves, anyway. Here comes the rundown.
Again, in net we’re sorted. Josh Vickers has been consistently solid over the last 2 seasons and is now at the height of his powers and valued at £1.6M. Marcin Bulka is an exciting young understudy for now but with the potential to oust the former Exeter man. Keyshawn Wilson isn’t amazing, but he’s got a bit of potential and I doubt I’ll have to use him.
At centre back, we’re probably fine. Captain Harry Brockbank is one of the few players who’s not only capable in the Championship but who has the potential to take on the Premier League. Now worth a cool £3M, he’s our prize asset. Nathan Smith should be comfortable enough at this level and Ryan Delaney’s borderline, but I have serious doubts over the futures of Reiss Greenidge and Rob Edwards. I think they’ll have to do for now though as we have bigger concerns. Jordan Slater-Bateman has potential and will also be in the mix.
At right wing back, I’m pretty confident that Gethin Jones will be solid in this league as he hasn’t let us down yet. Backing him up will be the now competent pair of Jay Fitzmartin and Brandon Comley.
Over on the left flank, the OG pair of Sam Hart and Jordan Boon will continue to fight it out with young Scotsman James Walker behind them. Boon can cover in the centre of defence too and is actually becoming one of our best there.
But now we get to the position where we’re really struggling – Central midfield. Antoni Sarcevic is… Fine, maybe. Regan Riley’s decent and has a lot of potential to grow into. Behind them we have nothing. Brandon Comley is not the kind of quality we need and neither is Sonny Graham, who I almost let leave on a free but decided to keep and loan out instead. Ian Jones and Mick Skelton will be in an around gaining experience, but we need reinforcements here 100%.
In attacking midfield, Dennis Politic and Ronan Darcy are as dependable and exciting as ever. Aled Daykin’s a decent young backup. No changes needed here.
Up front I’d say we’re probably OK. Eddie Brown and Nathan Delfouneso are a really good partnership when they’re both firing and I see no reason why that wouldn’t carry into the Championship. I am a bit worried about what happens if it doesn’t, though. De’marlio Brown-Sterling has scored 10 goals in our League 2 and League 1 seasons combined, while Steven Prieto’s attributes give him the look of a footballer severely out of his depth. Jim Miley’s got potential but is only 16. Delfouneso and Prieto (Barring an incredible rise in quality) are both leaving when their contracts expire next Summer as they’re old and shit respectively, so I’ll probably be looking to strengthen in January or June. For now, we should be alright.
The bookies are predicting we’ll go straight back down and while I can’t blame them, I do hope we’ll be able to stabilise and have a decent season. I think it could go either way though – There are some massive, pseudo-Premiership teams in this league.
31st July 2021
Back to back to back is on!
Just kidding. Yes, the transfer window has already closed and we’re sitting at the top of the pile after a single game of the season, having very pleasingly seen off Reading on their own turf. To be honest, 3-0’s extremely flattering for us as they battered us throughout the game after Nathan Smith’s early opening goal, but 2 quick late goals from Boon and Darcy put the result beyond doubt.
Shockingly, it hasn’t been that hectic a Summer but I think I’m happy with the business we’ve done. First of all we brought back an old friend from our League 2 squad on a free transfer. #WelcomeBackTom
I’m not 100% sold that this was a good signing as he’s not a fan of big games and is currently probably not at a Championship level. He also didn’t play at all last season after returning to Blackburn following his loan spell with us, but he was absolutely solid in League 2, the attributes are all there and I have a generally good gut feeling about him, so Tom White is in on a permanent deal. As is Bryn Morris.
Bryn I feel much more confident about as he’s had 2 really solid seasons in League 1 with Portsmouth before being released this Summer. Again, he’s probably still a league 1 player, but these 2 are now arguably my best central midfielders and still have a bit of potential to fulfil, so I’m happy with them.
That’s it in terms of transfers. No more ins or outs. No more matches. No more drama. I’ll see you in like 7 months. Why has the window shut this early, it’s mental.
5th February 2022
Alright, this is mental.
We’re 4th! 4th! And this is after a 5 game winless streak since December that’s seen us drop down from 2nd! We started the season with some ups and downs – 3-0 and 4-1 wins over Reading and Millwall balanced out 2-4 and 0-2 losses against Sheffield United and Leeds etc. In general though we’ve kept it tight and managed to scrape draws and wins against the odds – 27 of our matches in all competitions have seen 2 goals or fewer scored and of those matches we’ve won 8, drawn 12 and lost 7. Then of course, you have the odd match like our insane 5-4 win over Stoke, which was 3-3 going into injury time and then went absolutely snooker loopy from that moment on, but climaxed with a 94th Reiss Greenidge winner. It’s been a fun season. Saying that, we’re already out of both domestic cups at the first hurdle. Barnsley and Birmingham both edged past the reserve lineups I threw out.
We’ve done no transfer business whatsoever over January as we’re really, really deep in the red at this point. I’ve tried to stick to the wage budget but I also don’t want my best and brightest leaving on a free, so new contracts have been handed out and now we’re way over. This, along with our monthly £500k debt repayments, has left us in serious trouble. £7kpw over budget and over £5M in the hole. I know I’ve said this every season, but we really need some cash rich club to come and poach all our talented kids.
Let’s just take a minute to talk about one of those kids though – Marcin Bulka’s having a real breakthrough season. After a few too many howlers that cost us points, I dropped Vickers from the first team in early December. He re-tore his thigh muscle shortly afterwards anyway, but since then, Bulka’s really coming along. He’s conceded 10 in 11 games, kept 3 clean sheets, his passing accuracy’s on point… I think Vickers might struggle to get back in when he’s fit again.
And another thing to note is how the value of our young ‘uns has absolutely skyrocketed since our promotion into the 2nd tier. Newly appointed vice-captain Eddie Brown is worth a whopping £8M after a pretty decent first 6 months in which he’s scored and assisted 8 goals. Brockbank, Darcy and Hart are up there too. Even Delaney, who I’m rating less and less as a Championship defender as the days go on, is worth £3.7M.
But yet again, we’ve had no offers throughout the entire window. Here’s hoping they keep progressing and the Premier League teams are paying attention.
11th May 2022
Alright, this one hurt.
Again, we were looking really strong in 2nd place, again we went on a poor run and again we slipped down to 4th place. Our dream of back to back to back promotions is over. Let me show you.
See that 1-1 against Birmingham in March? That’s where we stopped being able to close games out. We huffed and puffed and eventually found a breakthrough with Brown-Sterling, but Odin Bailley equalised in the 95th minute. We couldn’t find a way through Brentford. Blackpool equalised in the 92nd minute. Huddersfield equalised in the 86th minute. With no disrespect intended, we couldn’t even find a way past Rotherham despite battering them up and down the garden path. Bit by bit, Watford and the automatic promotion places slipped out of our reach. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still chuffed to have reached the play offs, but as I said before, the top quarter of this league is a pseudo-Premiership orgy and Sheffield United absolutely tonked us on their way to the playoff final and ultimately promotion. We did show some spirit at the end of an even 2nd leg though. With 76 minutes on the clock we were 5-1 down on aggregate, but academy graduates Brockbank, Riley and Darcy brute-forced us back to 5-4 in front of our own fans. It wasn’t enough, but it at least allowed us to bow out of the race with dignity.
Nathan Delfouneso gave me a real headache this season by scoring 16 goals – The highest in the team, but ultimately I decided to stick to my guns and let his contract expire. He’s been an excellent servant in taking us this far, but at 31 it’s time to let him go and bring in somebody younger, fresher and with more value in the market. Don’t forget I’m doing a moneyball save here, or I would be if I could sell or buy anyone. Eddie Brown had a really quiet first few months but eventually ended up with a respectable 10 goals.
Eddie was also our top creator with 9 assists, closely followed by Sam Hart. Despite not getting on the scoresheet at all, Bryn Morris impressed me with a solid debut season in which he registered 5 assists.
And our best player this season was… Liam Edwards. Bit awkward, isn’t it? I’m still going to do my damndest to sell him over the Summer, but fair play to him, he’s been solid when called upon, which was rarely. Nathan Smith had another excellent season despite the fact that his iffy on-the-ball ability made for a few cringeworthy moments against some of the more high quality attackers in the league. In fact, the average ratings seem to be skewed towards defence, which isn’t surprising considering the league we’re in and the fact that we conceded just 37 goals, a tally that was bettered only by Watford’s 34.
So where are we strengthening this season? Well, how long have you got? We need and I mean need to sell a couple of players this Summer if we’re going to have any hope of bolstering the side, so I’ll be going all out to achieve that. We definitely need 1 or 2 strikers, then maybe a right wing back and a central midfielder would be nice as it’d mean that I could get rid of Brandon Comley, whose performances are getting worse every season. We’ll obviously be heavily restricted though, so I guess we’ll see what we can afford.
Once the players I’m releasing are gone we’ll only be £2k over our wage budget, so we should be able to work with that. We are £7M below 0 though, so I cannot stress enough how badly we need to sell this Summer.
Bewilderingly, I’ve gathered from our end of season meeting that the squad expect to get relegated next season, but I’ve got a taste for being at the top end of the table now. A couple of months ago I could almost taste that Premier League money and I want us to be promoted 12 months from now, so we’re going to be looking for a play off spot at the very least. Keep your fingers crossed. See you in 22/23.