The start of the League 1 season, I am excited for the team and happy to be where I wanted us to be in season 2. I feel positive and don’t expect us to be battling relegation however, getting a decent enough start in the first few months of the 2021/22 season is important to ensure we start settle above the dreaded area of the league.
The league starting on the last day of July means there is still time to get players in and out to ensure we can accomplish our goal of a mid-table finish. Let’s getting going and see how we navigated through the start of season!
As usual in the lower two EFL leagues, cup games pop up from the start of the season. To be fair I wouldn’t mind a run in the Papa John’s trophy this season but that all depends on our league positioning.
2 draws to start the season vs. Swindon & Bristol Rovers, both having the same story. 2-0 up in both, ended up drawing 2-2 conceding late goals. A Ryan Delaney red card didn’t help matters vs. Bristol Rovers. It was clear we were still trying to settle in the league so I wasn’t looking to change anything at this point. Rotherham knocked us out of the Carabao cup on penalties, they are a league higher so could be half expected but I’m not fussed as League 1 clubs make up the numbers in that competition if we’re honest with ourselves!
A good win against fellow promoted club Leyton Orient to get our first win of the season before sharing the points once again, this time with MK Dons. A tight 1-0 win vs. AFC Wimbledon was particularly pleasing meaning we finish July/August with no losses in the league. Morecambe were dealt with emphatically in the Papa John’s trophy group stage bringing the team 4 goals.
Lloyd Isgrove’s Injury Record
Lloyd Isgrove is probably my best winger alongside Nathan Delfouneso but as seen in Season 1, the man cannot stay fit. Again, in training Isgrove picks up another injury and when you review his medical report you will see my frustration as it is either a good few weeks out or little knocks which would make him miss a match. I think if it carries on I will need to move him on in January unfortunately! His injury susceptibility has gone up to very high so when he is back, he will need to be managed very carefully by myself.
August Transfers/Deadline Day
Going through August there wasn’t much activity in terms of transfers, I secured 20 year old striker Ryan Cassidy on loan due to an injury to Eoin Doyle which would keep him out for 4 months. The loan was for the season as in turn I was trying to secure a loan out for Bright Amoateng our young prospect up front to get him constant game time.
Then on deadline day, a scramble for a centre back was then kicked off after disaster struck…
Ricardo Almeida Santos who had taken a spot in our starting line up partnering Ryan Delaney at the back had caught wind of interest from Ipswich. They bid 20k and I rejected it so Santos reacted as you’d expect. He didn’t want to stay as he believed Ipswich had a better squad…he was right to be fair. We had to agree a price between us for a bid to be accepted, started with 100k, but it ended up being a lot lower due to his one year contract (extended last season) and he left for 48k. I had about 3 hours game time to find someone and with no backing from the board it had to be a loan.
After going through player after player, I found Toti Gomes from Wolves’ Portuguese conveyor belt of players. He was at Estoril last season on loan and I wasn’t convinced he would be up for League 1 but I went for it, only had to pay him £400p/w as well as part of the deal. With time running out, Toti Gomes thankfully agreed and we got our 3.5 star man with less than an hour to go, capable of covering centre back and left wing back – success!
Bar Santos leaving, I was very happy with the summer window. Some very good free signings and clearing out some deadwood makes the squad a lot easier to manage. Once everyone is familiar with the tactics hopefully we can get some more wins in the bag.
A fairly decent start with 2 wins and 3 draws after 5 league games, this left us 9th with a game in hand going into September as we have a few players who get called up internationally for senior squads and U-17 to U21s squads and the league allowed us to postpone fixtures due to this.
Just the 4 games in September and I was very happy with this month. A massive 6-0 win vs. Fleetwood after a mentality change to Balanced. I done this as we were getting countered more often playing positive, I also made the change for my Goalkeeper to distribute with short kicks as we don’t have the necessary height to win long kicks, my defence are good enough to play out seemingly.
Two 3-1 victories against Crewe and recently relegated Sheffield Wednesday (massive result!) either side of our first league loss to Doncaster. I wasn’t too disheartened by this as we’re going to lose games in League 1, I did feel they are a team we could beat but we bounced back which was the main thing.
Our 9 points gained in September took us up to 4th place after 9 games, which is an awesome start in my eyes but we can’t get ahead of ourselves as there are a fair few fixtures in October to get through in the league and cup.
Couple of 1-0 wins to get us going, one in the league vs. Newport County and a win vs. Newcastle U23s to send through us to the Papa John’s Trophy knockout rounds with a game to spare.
We had a small wobble in the middle of the month, 3-2 loss vs. Coventry which was a battle of a match but we succumbed to a loss. This followed with two 1-1 draws with Charlton and Accrington who were both in the relegation places, I was a little disappointed by this as they were both in bad form, as good as Charlton are on paper I wanted to take advantage of this.
Burton were flying high with us and this would be a great game to bounce back in and it was a close one where we stole a late 3-2 win much to my pleasing. My side finished off the month with a straight forward 2-0 win at Northampton but it came at a big cost…
Nathan Delfouneso who is a massive player for me on the right wing, smashed it in League 2 and his stats above show his effect in this league also. Achilles injuries are nasty and this was definitely one of them, damaging a tendon which will cost him 5-6 months of his career. You may be wondering who will replace him, there are a few options. Dennis Politic is back from his 15 month injury lay off, young prospect Finlay Hurford-Lockett can step up and striker Simon Murray has the capability to play there too, however Murray has flew out the blocks goal wise so ideally I’d like to keep him up front.
Apart from that injury, October was another decent month for us in what must be judged a very good start from us and we seem to be getting better month by month.
After our clear out over the summer window, it became apparent that we were still a bit light defensively. The reason being 35 year old Bolton legend Alex Baptiste just wasn’t good enough any more in the centre of defence and he was too slow to play right back (5 pace!!) and we didn’t have much cover for new star Dan Butler at left back.
I found 33 year old left back Lewis Stevenson in the free agents market, released from Hibs up north in the Scottish Premier League. 2.5 star player signed until the end of the season, I got him in as back up and to get us through the League 1 season. I’m not looking to retain him next season in the hope that our financial situation is better so we can sign better competition at left back – I still hope for us to be taken over!
Kieran Wallace was actually found by my scout ex-premier league striker Tomasz Radzinski! Wallace was released by Burton Albion despite his 3 star rating and can play CB, LB and a few roles in CM, the best bit was he agreed to £170 p/w to sign on a free, absolute bargain. He will be used as centre back cover for the time being.
No more signings if any, until January my friends!
After 15 games and one in hand which is against table topping Ipswich, we sit just inside the play offs about a third of the way through the season. I’m very happy with that and to only lose 2 games in our opening 15 is impressive from my squad.
Episode 3 will focus on the months of November through to the end of January, again containing the winter transfer window. I’m hoping none of my other important players try to push through a transfer in this one like Almeida Santos did in August, as fellow FM21 players I’m sure you understand the stress of scrambling for players last minute!
While you are exploring the DP-FM site, go take a look at Louis’ (Co-blogger/creator of DP-FM) challenge where he is embarking on his series ‘Unemployed, Unskilled & Inexperienced’. This entails Louis starting from the bottom of his management career with no coaching badges and low attributes to add to the fun! The link is right here – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-season-1-episode-1/
Episode 3 will drop on 20th January will the release time being confirmed on our twitter feed (@DPFM_blog) so check us out on there and give us a follow to keep up with news and releases from DP-FM. A pleasure as always my people, take care & stay safe.