As is often the case on my Football Manager saves, I’m very exited early doors, with a very definite theme in mind, but after a few seasons begin to waver and become sluggish in writing updates. This post is my attempt to rekindle that excitement I had back when I started the Community Football series.
Last season (which I failed to write about), my newly promoted Swindon Town side made it all the way to the Championship playoffs, only to be given a good hiding off Millwall. Still, we’re well ahead with the board’s long term vision and expectations, and fourth round exits in both cup competitions completed a very decent season overall. Twelve games into season 5 and we’re currently sat in 6th place, just about in the playoff spots again.
Looking back on my introduction to the series (Welcome to the County Ground), I’ve asked myself some questions to help assess my original principles:
Style of Play / Transfers
- Are we offering an enjoyable match day experience, playing attractive, attacking football, particularly at home?
The team is scoring but not quite free-scoring (averaging 1.77 goals per league game). We’re actually playing attacking football both home and away, with our away form suffering a little. Continuing to attack at home (perhaps even more so) and taking a more reserved approach away, might be the way forward.
- Are we a club that takes cup games/cup runs seriously?
We are, but it’s always a lottery – this season we’ve drawn Chelsea away in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.
- Are we providing opportunities for academy players?
This season in particular. We’ve brought Portuguese centre back and academy graduate, Nuno Telmo, into the fray. He’s become a squad player and is getting plenty of minutes. I like the idea of mimicking Manchester United’s ‘introduce at least one academy player a season’ principle.
- Are we offering a route back for under 23 players released by Premier League, Championship and La Liga clubs (a tip of the cap to the Glenn Hoddle Academy)?
Yes! Deemed surplus to requirements by Real Madrid, both Noel López and Álvaro Ginés have joined The Robins, with Noel López becoming a regular first team player. I’m now following both Real Madrid’s B team/under 19s and Chelsea’s under 21s, who I’ve targeted as ‘ripe for the picking’.
- Are we a financially secure club (debt free, no loans, money in the bank, owner of ground/facilities)?
Whilst not particularly wealthy, we’re comfortably in the green. The stadium is still rented off the local council for £100K a year. Until we reach the Premier League or cash in on some big player sales, that target will have to remain ‘in progress’.
- Are we giving ex-players/legends the opportunity to join our staff?
This area is just starting to develop now. Striker/legend Matt Smith is still a first team player at 37, but his latest contract has given him coaching responsibilities with the under 18’s too. We’ve also just confirmed the signing of Jack Butland (to join us in January) as a player/goalkeeping coach.
- Have we invested in the youth academy?
At every opportunity. Junior coaching and youth recruitment are ‘exceptional’, with ‘good’ youth facilities. Our current youth level is 3.
- Have we invested in facilities for the local fan base (corporate, stadium expansions as appropriate, pitch quality, sponsors, merchandise, custom kit designs!)?
There hasn’t yet been an opportunity to develop corporate facilities, and stadium purchase / developments are not yet affordable. Kit designs! Yeah, maybe I could look at that!
Loosely based on the ‘Hoddle era’:
Play attractive, attacking football, and score lots of goals. They primarily achieved this by attacking teams from out wide. Hoddle (player manager), playing as a sweeper, would use his fantastic vision and distribution skills to release the wing backs with diagonal passes. Marauding wing backs like Nicky Summerbee, would provide ample crosses and through balls to feed the strikers.
My own words from the Welcome to the County Ground series opener
- Improve average goals per game rate (currently 1.77)
- Continue giving games to Nuno Telmo
- Identify another academy prospect to introduce into the first team squad next season
- Move players on to create more space in the squad (and on the bench) for academy graduates
- Continue funding academy improvements where possible
- Continue to give older players opportunities to join the staff
- Increase the bank balance (currently £1,471,083)
- Maybe look at designing a new kit!