Two straight promotions, inclduing a brilliant season to win the League Two title last season, have us, on League One, nearing our first save goal, of getting into the Premier League. I know that's still a long road ahead of us, specially as the quality leap between teams in League Two and League One is quite big, and we have a young team without any standout player, but rather a hard-working, cohesive, well-knit squad.
My last post, was a squad report for this season, done right at the end of the pre-season. Well, we managed to shift things around, getting a couple of deadline deals, to bolster the squad.
Iain Topley was poached from Portadown in Northern Ireland, and quickly became our best potential player, a terrific centre back, with great attributes and oozing potential. Once he won the starting position, never let go and was one of our best defensive players of the season, earning himself an international callup, becoming our first internationally capped player of the save.
Ryan Leonard was brought forward via his agent, who was offering him. I don't usually put much attention on those offers, but this was a fully developed player, from a team in our same league, out of contract and in a position of need. He slotted right away into the starting 11 and was a big player for us at times.
Unfortunately, during the winter window, The Board decided to go above my head, and sold Shane Sheridan, a terrific right back prospect I had poached last season. We got a decent deal, with around €850k up front, with €850k more in clauses, plus 40% of his next transfer fee. I didn't want to sell him, we really didn't need the money, but The Board made a decision and I never really got to play him much. Hopefully we can get him on loan next season.
Sky Bet League One
We had a quiet start to the season, getting into the midtable section, after around 10 games, including a brilliant last minute comeback win, over heavily favored Reading at their own ground. We then had one of the strangest spells of my FM17 career so far. We won 4 straight, Shrewsbury, Charlton, Burton and Carlisle, then lost 5 straight, Exeter, Port Vale, Leyton Orient, Bury and Southend, then came back to win another 4 straight, Wigan, Northampton, Bradford City and Coventry.
By around halfway of the season, we solidified our position on the top 10, and I felt with a little luck, we could get ourselves into the promotion playoffs. After an inconsistent patch, winning one then losing one, for a few weeks, we got a bit of impulse and managed to get 6 wins and 6 draws in the last 14 games, placing us as high as 4th at times. Unfortunately, we lost two key games on that last 14 games stretch, against playoffs rivals Burton and Coventry.
In the end, we missed the playoffs by a single point, ending up in a very respectable 7th position (we were expected to finish dead last). We were the top scoring team, but also one of the worst defensive units, with a barely acceptable goal difference. Our starting strikers, ended up 1st and 2nd on the goalscoring table, with 25 and 24 goals each.
The first Cup we played was the EFL Cup, and we managed to get a surprise result, beating Championship side Blackburn in the First Round 3-0. Welsh side Swansea, also from the Championship, duly eliminated us in the Second Round, after a narrow 0-1 defeat.
In the EFL Trophy, we got a group with Wigan (L1), Fleetwood (L2) and ManU U-23's. We dominated the group, getting an impressive 8-0 win over Wigan, with 5 goals from Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls.
Unfortunately, in the Second Round, we faced Wigan again, and couldn't repeat the performance, losing 3-4 and getting eliminated.
Finally, the FA Cup saw us get a bit of a Cup run, something unusual for a team in League One. Obviously the luck was on our side, getting a very lucky path through the rounds. We beat Regional side Grays on the First Round, 2-0, then L2's Sutton United on the Second, 1-0.
On the third round, we beat Coventry (L1), 1-0, then faced Bolton (L1) and also beat them, 5-0 this time, to get to the Fifth Round.
There, Liverpool would put us back to our place, playing almost a U-20 side, and beating us 0-2. Nontheless, facing a big side on a televised Cup game, helped our finances tons.
3.- Rob Evans: A terrific all-rounder at midfield, Evans has been an integral part of all three seasons of the save. He's also a local lad, which adds incentive to play him. He formed a terrific pairing with Ryan Leonard and bossed midfields around the country. He played 45 games (43 started), scoring 5 goals and had 9 assists, with a 7.13 rating.
2.- Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls: One half of our amazing striker duo, KBN plays the poacher part to perfection, and after exploding last season, he kept the amazing play, despite the upping on competition level. Quick, oportunistic and a great finisher (for the level), he manages to get a lot of goals, while also assisting teammates. Besides, at 21, and with some potential still on the tank, he might grow into a great player. He started 55 games, scoring 28 goals and had 14 assists, with a 7.13 rating.
1.- Jordan White: Well, we described one half, now it's the turn of the other. White is an amazing, towering target man, who drives defenses crazy, with his blend of size, strength and quickness. Technically gifted as well, White had his best season so far, breaching the 30 goal mark, for the first time. He's got a bit of durability issues, and hasn't played a full season yet, but when he's healthy, he's a beast. White played 50 games (started 49), scoring 34 goals and had 11 assists, with a 7.33 rating.
- The Board is incredibly happy with the job done so far, exceeding all of their expectations. I just got renewed until 2022.
- We've got around €2M in the bank, quite a nice sum to have, specially after taxes.
- We got another Youth Coaching improvement, in the contract negotiations. We now stand at Average Youth Recruitment and Junior Coaching.
- The Youth intake was quite interesting, with a few developable players. I'll show them in the next squad report.
Well, I said I was gonna be back, hahaha. Sorry for taking too long, but I just hadn't played FM at all. I enjoyed speedrunning through this season (around 3/4's of it was done in less than a week, quite quick to what I had done before), so this game is still pretty much at a go, as I'm having fun. Another season at League One, will help to develop our young core and hopefully we can mount a promotion hunt next season. See ya!