Going into our first season of League 1 play, I told the board that we will avoid relegation. This sets our transfer budget at 65k and our weekly budget at 48k p/w. Our transfer budget is actually significantly lower than last season (less than 1/4) and I figure most of that is due to us taking a loss of 700k last season. This was due mainly to us signing several players that stretched our wage budget in a successful attempt to get promoted.
I figure that after this season we should have a budget increase. That, and we don't dip into the transfer market - outside of free transfers - so having a healthy p/w budget is what concerns me the most. We locked up a 700k TV deal and landed 4 friendlies with Premier teams, so our finances are looking rosy to start the season. Season ticket sales are pushing upwards of 3400 as well. All told, we should make a healthy profit in our first season in League 1.
We've already brought in two new players, both addressing our attack.
ST Joe Ricketts was brought in to be our target man on offense. He's tall (6'4") and rates well in strength (15), jumping (16), and heading (13). He lacks the stamina to play full time, but he will be featured prominently as a sub. 6 stars.
MC Matty Ritchie is a familiar face from 2011; only this time he joins us on a long-term contract rather than on loan. In fact, it was nice to see that he had me listed as one of his favorite personnel. You better believe we're excited to have him back on the team! Ritchie should boost the entire attack as there is little that he can't do well at this level. 7 stars.
Just wanted to give a brief update since we've played less than 5 games so far.
First, on the advice from my League 1 thread, I've had my request to find a parent team granted by the board but they later said they saw no point in linking up with a parent club at this time. They have also agreed to improve the training facilities again during the offseason, which makes two consecutive upgrades to those facilities. I'm really trying to push for better development as we strive to build more home-grown players. One player of note is DC Igor Paldan, a player we signed 3 seasons ago. He is quickly turning into a force on our reserve squad and will likely be brought up next season to replace Callum Morris.
Second, I've tweaked my tactics a bit, dropping one of my STs into a more defined FCd position by setting his forward runs to "rarely" on my defensive and normal game plans. I'm hoping to emphasize a little more control when we go into the final third because right now we are getting killed by the faster defenses in the league.
With the first 16 league games in the books, we sit about as dead even as we possibly could. Early results are a whole lot better than I had initially expected as we are smack dab in the middle of the league table. I attribute a lot of our success to the triumphant return of Matty Ritchie, but he went down to injury and will be out for about 3 more games. He was lost for 3 weeks and our play has suffered since his loss.
Rather than bring in a replacement, however, I have decided it's time to bring up DC Igor Paldan from the reserve team. We signed him on a free in 2011 after he spent his first four seasons at Man City. He has blossomed over the past few seasons and now looks to be a solid enforcer in the middle of our defense.
This move allows us to put Jean-Francois Christophe back at his natural position of DMC while Jean-Paul Kalala regains a first team role at MC while Ritchie is on the mend. Overall we will greatly miss Ritchie on offense, as evidenced by the one goal we've scored during the two games he's missed, but these moves get our first "home-grown" youngster on the field.
Current standings: 5/6/5, EVEN, 13th position.
Matty Ritchie comes back, and with a vengeance! Since his return we have gone 7/5/1 during league play and he has rated no lower than a 7.1 (twice) and has rated as high as 8.9! It truly is amazing how much better we play with our leader back in the midfield.
Thanks to our offensive spark, we have skyrocketed into the top half of the standings and are in real good form going into the final 15 games of the season. We'll need to keep things up, however, as we're only two points removed from 7th position. With some luck, maybe some of the upper teams will falter a bit and we can make up some ground. Currently, there is a 7 point gap between us and 4th place Petersborough.
Current standings: 12/12/7, +10, 5th position.
With Ritchie providing firepower from the midfield, our entire offense started clicking as we went into the back 1/3rd of the season. He was absolutely amazing to watch as our playmaker, constantly putting opposing defenses to the test. Ritchie's highest point of the season was a hat-trick effort (9.4 rating) against Barnet.
We simply weren't the same class as the top teams in the league, however. We only lost twice down the stretch (7/7/2) but finished an astonishing 20 points behind 2nd place Bradford. We were right in the thick of things with the remaining playoff teams, though, with #3 team Peterborough finishing only 4 points ahead of us. This leaves me confident that we can fight for promotion in the playoffs! We finished a comfortable 9 points ahead of the first two teams left out of the playoffs. Our preseason prediction of avoiding relegation was a comfortable truth - we finished 26 points ahead of the cut line.
Current standings: 19/19/9, +23, 5th position.
Going into the playoffs, I mentioned that I liked my chances since the playoff teams were within just points of one another in the final standings.
Our first opponent was Scunthorpe and we handily won the first leg 4-2 at home. The second leg was a bore, as we played quite conservatively given the fact that we had done so well against them to this point. The final result was a 0-1 loss but an overall 4-3 victory and a date with Peterborough for a chance at promotion!
23 minutes into the match, Jean-Paul Kalala earned a red card and an ejection after a vicious tackle. I begun to start making plans for a second season in League 1 at this point. After some very conservative play, Matty Ritchie stepped up as he has done all season long and scored an inspiring goal in the 34th minute of play. In typical fashion, he mounted an attack from midfield and banged home a goal from just outside of the 6 yard box. Going into the back half of the match, I chose to play slightly aggressive. We were already a man down and if anything I wanted to apply pressure offensively to keep our defense from getting pressured for 45 minutes. The plan worked to a charm as we salted away the minutes and won!
This game seemed to light a fire under the team, however, as we rattled off three consecutive wins to push us into 2nd place. Going into the final game, we were 2 points out of 1st place and not only did we manage to win our final game, but Barnet could only salvage a tie. So on the last day we ended up winning the league!
All season long I had made roster moves to prepare for a two season journey toward promotion. We brought in some players, but other than Ritchie, none of them were League 1 ready as of yet; meaning we were planning for a realistic push for promotion next season. Having won promotion this season, however, I will be re-evaluating our roster yet again.
Ritchie is a mainstay and will serve us well even after promotion.
We brought on ST Marcello Trotta as a long-term project at our FCd position, but I'm thinking we may look for a better upgrade/backup.
DR Howard Beverland was brought in to contend for the starting DR position (moving current DR Kieran Trippier to DL and bumping current DL Joe Bennett into a reserve role), but we will likely loan or transfer him out as we look to upgrade the backup DL/R position as well.
Igor Paldan lived up to his billing and has cemented his starting position at DC going forward.
I'm also on the lookout for a super creative player I can pencil in at our MCd position, as longtime starter Solomon Shields is beginning to look outclassed.
Average attendance on the year was 4221 (4300 max) with 3292 season ticket holders. Average attendance went up terrificly from last season (3239) as did our season ticket sales (1483). The board announced that we will be adding 312 additional seats this offseason!
Corporate facilities are adequate.
Training facilities are adequate. Undergoing upgrade this offseason.
Youth facilities are basic.
Click here for the final standings.
Here is the final transfer information for the season.
And lastly here is our best eleven for 2013.
Matty Ritchie - Coca Cola League 1 Players' Select and top goalscorer