After a great first half of the season by JT, who navigated the Champions League Playoffs, getting to the last game, where he bravely lost against Dynamo Zagreb on away goals and then navigating thought a tough UEL group and missing qualification by a single point. Justin did all this while not relegating the League and I stepped up in second place, with a good cushion over Aberdeen at third, but a bit far from Celtic up top.
With that in mid, I wanted to keep up the good form JT had and hopefully avoid injuries that had him troubled.
The first game I had to manage was an Old Firm derby where we beat Celtic 3-1, after being down for most of the game. Lee Cormack came in as a sub and scored what was the go-ahead goal, the first sign of how good this kid was.
A couple of games later, we recovered Matthew Knox and he scored a brace in a draw against Ross County and a hattrick in a big win against St. Johnstone, but on the next game, he injured his hamstring and was sidelined for the rest of the season. By that time, Cormack had already established himself as an alternative (see the Cup section) so I decided to roll on with him as the starter and leave Waghorn on the bench.
Cormack kept on scoring, including a brace on a come-from-behind draw against Celtic, just before the split, which secured us getting onto the split even on points with our rivals.
In the Championship group, we started off strongly, beating Dundee and St. Johnstone, while Celtic only had 1 point from the first two games, meaning we were 5 points clear up top. Then, when we had the title on our grasp, as Celtic lost against Dundee, but Hearts managed to get me my first league defeat in the stint. With two games to go, a single win would give us the second straight title, and we clinched it, beating Aberdeen at Ibrox. We wrapped up a fenomenal league season, celebrating with the Title, beating Celtic 2-0 in the last game.
In the Scottish Cup, we had a tough draw in the Fourth Round against Aberdeen and we drew at their home 2-2, forcing a replay at Ibrox, where Lee Cormack scored a bench hattrick to fuel a 4-0 win and see us through. St. Mirren was next and we beat them easily 2-0, with a brace from Cormack.
In the Quarter-Final, we faced Inverness CT, and another Cormack goal allowed us to get a 1-1 draw and force another replay at Ibrox. A last-minute goal from ICT, forced overtime, but with an inspired Cormack, who scored 4 goals, including two on the OT, we went on to the Semis.
Unfortunately, Patrick Thistle crash landed our Cup run and we exited on the Semifinals.
Player Performance and Squad Thoughts
At goal, we're pretty covered, with a Robbie McRorie who was pretty solid all season long, playing 54 games and conceding just above a goal per game, with 23 clean sheets. He's under contract until 2021 and happy to be here. Jak Alnwick is a decent cover and under contract as well, don't know how happy he'll be next season, after getting just 3 games in 2018-19. Anthony McArdle and Max Boyle are our top prospects, with the first being a projected starter down the road.
At the left fullback position we've got trouble. Tony Gallacher was a great loanee this season, but had no buy clause, if the next up wants to grab him and manages to do so he'll be amazing for years to come. I agreed to terms with Kingsley Madu but he failed his work permit and the deal fell. Lee Wallace is quite old and has a huge wage, so I decided to not renew him as fortunately his deal runs at the end of the season. George McLennan is shit and should be released , while prospects Liam Boyle and Scott Gray are still very raw.
If we were short of left backs, the situation at the other side is worse. James Tavernier has been the starter all season long and he's a good choice for the position, his contract ends at the end of the season, and he's willing to re-sign, but I leave the choice to the incoming manager. Foster, the backup is a declining player and I wouldn't sign him, specially as David Bates is a decent choice for the backup role. Prospect Martin Smith isn't ready yet and hasn't got much potential as well.
In the centre-back role, we are pretty loaded, with Kevin Mbabu and captain Danny Wilson as the top starters, while our top prospect is also a great backup and probable starter, in Stephen Davidson. All three players are under contract until 2021 and happy to stay, while Mbabu is being followed by Wolfsburg. Marcus Fraser was the fourth CB this season, and had some playing time, his contract ends this season and I wouldn't renew him, promoting a youngster instead. Speaking of, David Syme, Ross McCrorie and Aidan Wilson's potential window is closing and I'd get rid of them, leaving Dylan McIntosh as the 4th CB next season. Thomson, McCoist and Dyer aren't ready yet.
In the middle, we've got some decent holding mids as well, with 2 great choices in current starter Jordan Rossiter and Jack Thomson, who shined in this season, loaned at Dundee. Rossiter has a year left under contract and is being followed by Stoke, while Thomson was just renewed until 2022 and craves his oportunity at Ibrox. I didn't get much on-pitch time from Craig Gardner and Matt Crooks, but both have a year left in their contract, and specially Gardner would be hard to get rid of, due to his bloated contract. Prospect wise, Euan Caddis and Alan Barr seem decent, but far from ready, while Derek McDonald was the joint-best player from this season's intake.
On the creative side of things, midfield playmakers is another positions where a bit of help is needed. Kalvin Phillips started most of the season, on loan from Leeds, and was pretty good, but his £2M fee seemed a bit overpriced for my taste. Specially having Stephen Mallan behind, who played pretty well for me and is less resource demanding. Craig Sibbald is a decent sub, and prospects James Berry and Jack O'Neill still have things to prove.
The Left Wing is another position where we're short. Selim Amallah served as the starter, but Ricky Holmes player a bit less than half the games, starting in 23 as well. Amallah should progress and leave Holmes behind, ability wise, but the Belgian didn't convince me at least. Steven Rennie seems like a decent player and could fit in, as a sub next season if one of the other two leaves.
On the right wing, we're better, with Jai Quitongo as the starter, one of our best players of the season, with 12 goals and 21 assists. Barrie McKay is also a great player and he was mostly used as an Attacking Midfielder, but he's best suited to play on the wing. Congolese-Finnish prospect Serge Atakayi never panned out and he's expendable.
There's not much for us on the Attacking Midfielder position right now, but lots of potential. As I said above, I used Barrie McKay mostly on the position, which caused Jason Holt to be unsettled. Holt has one more year in his contract, and is good to have him on the team, but I don't think he'll be happy to be on the bench again, and definetely isn't starting material in my opinion. Liam Burt, Jack Harper, Jack Adamson and Jordan Thompson are good alternatives with potential, but far from a starter yet. In the prospects area, Neil Miller should become a brilliant player and had some playing time in the senior squad this season, with decent results. Zata and Moffat still have room to grow.
Finally, up front we've got great players as well. Matthew Knox was brilliant in his second season here, despite spending quite some time injured. Lee Cormack became a phenomenon and was the team's best player during the second half of the season, in the same year he turned 17, he's already valued near the £1M mark and on the senior NT radar. I think it's imperative to change tactics and play these two up front. Martyn Waghorn was the main disfavoured with the emergence of Cormack and he didn't play much, so he's unhappy, he's a sellable asset, specially with Paul Donnelly coming back from loan (the TM/P pairing of Donnelly and Cormack will be ama-fucking-zing). Hardle and Jamison don't make the cut in my book, while Rudden and Brown need more loan seasons. In this season's intake, there were two gems, the second being Paul Smith, following the Donnelly/Cormack line of amazing striker newgens we get.
- It was a great season overall, with a decent first step in the UCL and barely getting through in the UEL.
- Once again, Celtic gifted us the title, with a horrendous second half of the season.
- Financially, after prize money things improved, and we've got £13M in the bank. The Board gave us around £9M to spend on transfer budget.
- Finally, here's the save.
So, that's the longest stint in history, I'm so very much sorry about this. Seeing as Rico fled the ship, we're just 4 players left. @Trent and @Nick, next season's yours, I don't know in which order you'd like to play it. After that, it's @Justin's and my turn.