Welcome back amigos, time to enter the busy period of the season bar an unusually quiet December due to that blasted winter world cup, but January definitely lives up to expectation with the sheer amount of games with February to follow that too.
January is the month of the transfer window but as shown in episode two, the board have reduced our wage budget to put us £8k in the red in that department. To remind you all as well, Dan Butler joins Oxford Utd (£250k) and Simon Murray will be off to Doncaster Rovers (£115k) come the 1st of January after showing their unwillingness to drop their wage commands. Butler will be replaced come the transfer window with Juan Larios joining on loan from Arsenal (Joined them from Man City a season ago), thankfully our affiliation with the Gunners has got us out of trouble for the time being in the left back area with not having to contribute towards wages.
Other business included youngster Michael Gault who came in on last years youth intake, has been sold to Notts County for a low £24k. Unfortunately, the potential ability had dropped so it was another way to shave money off the wage budget. There was a few loan recalls, the most notable being young striker Bright Amoateng who I recalled from Newport County following 1 start and 2 sub appearances despite a regular starter agreement. The plan was to re-loan but the day I recall, he got injured for 3 months…just not what we need. Jay Fitzmartin (AMRL) was recalled from Boreham Wood, again poor playing time and Ellis Litherland (GK) came back from Eastleigh to support the first team following an injury to back up ‘keeper Ondrej Mastny.
That rounds up the business side of things, I put this in first as there wasn’t anything key (bar Larios’ arrival) or notable that would effect the squad in a major way.
Another month disrupted by the World Cup (Portugal won it for the first time for those wondering), usually December would have anything between 7-9 games but this year there was only 4 matches with the FA cup starting earlier than usual.
The two teams that clinched promotion with us last season up first, a bore 0-0 draw with Ipswich was contested first but we got goals beating Blackpool 4-1 in a very attacking performance. The Blackpool match was the start of 3 games in 5 days and up next was high flying Watford but their quality got the better of us falling to a 2-0 loss. My beloved FA cup competition was up next and we faced a League One side in Carlisle. I’ve played Carlisle a few times in this save in season 1 and 2 but I’ve actually never beat them until now. It was a tough game with the heavy squad rotation and a few tired players, Carlisle held us to extra time but thankfully striker Johnathan Afolabi grabbed the decisive goal winning 1-0 AET.
A mixed month but 4 points is decent enough from our league matches and whilst it was hard work we progressed in the FA cup to set up what was a mouth watering tie for us…
With fixtures now back to normal, 7 games in the league and an FA cup tie against Mr. Guardiola’s Man City – I was looking forward to it!
Well…a sea of red with a small glimmer of hope around the middle. I knew this was going to happen at some point but with this amount of games in one month, this really wasn’t the time for it. Centre midfielders Antoni Sarcevic & Matt Crooks had picked up injuries that would keep them out until at least late February and we were low on options in that area which didn’t help the cause.
Derby were the first team we beat in the league after promotion but tiredness really got to the squad and we slipped to a 2-0 loss. This was followed by a bit of a morale drainer vs. West Brom losing 4-1 at home. Two 2-1 losses to Millwall and Birmingham followed in two very frustrating games, just when I thought we were gaining momentum at 1-1 we just collapsed late on. We were sinking and at some rate…at least I thought. A game vs. play off contenders Brentford, I told the lads no pressure and they play unbelievable football winning 3-0?!
Then the FA Cup tie against Man City, ever the optimist I thought we couldn’t, could we? Well we couldn’t but it was some performance by us defensively only losing 1-0. City had the big guns out in Gabriel Jesus, De Bruyne, Sterling and Bernardo Silva but I was proud that we held our own, top stuff. After this match we even had a job offer from a Premier league side..
But we are here to get Bolton back to the Europa league, so it was declined although redesigning Burnley’s way of playing would be a great project.
Next was Peterborough, who were just above mid-table and they brought us right back down to earth dispatching us 4-0. Horrific performance, the worst this team have ever shown me, no words in the changing room I stared defeated at the players and simply walked out.
We haven’t had a month like it since the save started but was this a sign we are punching above our weight? Had the players given up on me and were happy for the ship to sink? If I was ever going to have the job at risk, it wouldn’t be as easy as that, well I hoped anyway.
EFL Championship Wage Expenditure
I wanted to share this with you all just to show you what we’re up against financially and the difference between how much we spend on wages a week compared to the high profile teams in the league.
As you’d expect ex-premier league teams especially West Ham & Crystal Palace are spending close to a million pound a week on wages, you also have Watford & Norwich around the £750k mark per week. Even teams like Derby, Brentford & Cardiff spend a lot given how long they’ve been in the Championship. So let’s take a look at the smaller spenders in the league.
This is eye opening to say the least. Considering Ipswich & Blackpool got promoted when we did, I’m still £32k p/w under the lowest amount. I always thought Wycombe would do well to stay up and they have but they’re using a low £100k a week but that’s an amount I can only dream of. That right there is what makes this challenge difficult when you get to this level, lack of financial resources mean lack of pull for decent players that you need to fully compete.
This was a big month, we had to stop the slump somehow but one thing I wasn’t going to do is give up. You don’t get promoted twice in a row just to throw it all away so bring it on!
Wycombe was a big opportunity to get back on track, we were out of form and so were they so I decided to take the game by the scruff of the neck and attack them. Which worked us a treat with a massive 5-1 win! Just what we needed. Draws with Bristol City (0-0) and Norwich (1-1) getting us a couple of more points back on the board but another blip as we lost to Preston 2-0. My tactical fault I thought we could attack them by playing positively but instead it left the team exposed on the counter. We avenged the loss earlier in the season to Luton with a tight 1-0 win and then a massive 3-2 win vs. Crystal Palace which was a shock to say the least!
2-1 down after a soft penalty was given, I encouraged the boys and what a reaction it was. Tyrese Omotoye scored one on one to make it 2-2 and then super sub Ali Crawford gets on to Charlie Patino’s through ball to calmly slot past the ‘keeper. Safe to say by the stats, we took our 3 chances by scoring all 3 shots on target, buzzing with that result regardless!
A great reaction in February after the struggles of January, it could’ve gone two ways and thankfully we rallied out of the bad form. Another bit of good news, on loan winger Scott Banks bagged the EFL Championship Young Player of the Month which was great to see as he struggled earlier in the season with the step up but has got back to what we saw in League One last season with his form.
After seeing both sides of the coin with our form in this one, let’s see where it leaves us for the last part of the season.
So we lie 13th with 13 wins 8 draws 15 losses. Thankfully the January form didn’t do us too much damage but the recovery keeps us mid-table and out of touch with the relegation places with 10 games to go. Another plus is we’re 3 points off my target of 50 points which would be great to achieve earlier than expected.
The remaining two months of the season in March and April to come including the much anticipated youth intake and we take a crack at renewing some contracts if the board allow us to financially. I’m looking for us to get a good finish and maintain at mid-table but sometimes its easier said than done.
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’ which is currently on season 4. This entails Louis starting from the bottom of his management career with no coaching badges and low attributes to add to the fun!
To go from the start;
Or to go from the current season;
Hope you enjoyed as always guys, thanks for reading and we’ll back in a few days with the next one