Yes guys, welcome back and here we go with our second season in the EFL Championship. After last season’s 12th placed finish which was great considering the squad we had, the aim this season is to transition and refresh the squad with younger players. This has its pros and cons but there will still be some experience in the squad to support the younger new arrivals.
We will get stuck in to the pre-season results, the squad that will be starting the season, of course the transfer ins and outs and you’ll get to see the first month of competitive games in the league and the Carabao Cup. So all that’s left to do is to get going with it all!
So I agreed to avoid relegation outright, I know there is a good chance of second season syndrome and I’m mindful of that. This league doesn’t get any easier and we’ll have a fight on our hands more so than last season I reckon. Cups, I’m not fussed about but the board seem to care a lot about the FA Cup fourth round!
After last season’s monster sale of young prospect Ed Hurst (£7.5m fee) the board gave us 10% of that which is our transfer budget. As the bank balance is now out of the red due to that very sale, the board have bumped up the wage budget which will allow us to be a bit more competitive in that sense. However, we must remember that there is still debt to be paid so I will be looking to preserve the budget just in case the board need it back.
The board were feeling kind, allowing us to go on a training camp in the Algarve, Portugal. First time I had taken the squad outside of England and it’s a far cry from last year’s Glasgow based holiday camp! Still, while we enjoyed Portugal, there was still a considerable amount of friendlies to play on home soil.
Before our trip to the Algarve, I booked a friendly with Huddersfield which we won 1-0. This was a game a few days after the lads returned to training just to get the match sharpness going early on.
Off we jetted to Portugal and with 3 games booked, it would definitely put the boys through their paces. All 3 games were to be held at Estádio municipal de Albufeira which definitely had that European vibe about it.
That track certainly had the fitness training sorted! We started against Liga 2 (Portuguese Second Division) side Casa Pia and had a comfortable 3-0 win. Estoril (Liga Nos [In game]) were up next which brought a 2-0 win and we finished the tour with another comfortable 3-0 win vs. Olhanense who bide in the Campeonato de Portugal (third division). Very good camp with some good games under the belt, time to return home!
We faced Accrington Stanley and surprisingly lost 2-1 in an unappealing performance – probably the many bottles of Sagres that were consumed on tour! However, we bounced back beating Austria Wien 2-1. Parent club Arsenal beat us 2-0 in a score line that gets smaller each year and then we finished with an unfortunate 2-1 loss to Sparta Prague.
All in all it was a decent pre-season bar the Accrington result but the squad were looking fit and fresh for the upcoming season.
Transfers (Before Start of Season)
I’m going to run through the transfers that were completed prior to the start of the season as this is where I done most of my business. There was definitely more players coming in then there was going out.
To run through, 24 year old midfielder Dan Kemp came in for free with a sell on clause from West Ham, Defensive midfielder Louis Thompson joined us from Reading, young prospect Joe Kendrick (right back) came in from Connah’s Quay, 22 year old Centre back Ajibola Ajese was signed for free after his West Ham release, left back Brayan Vera (24yo) joined as a free agent after his Lecce release and 18 year old winger Callum Richards came in on loan from parent club Arsenal.
Bar Louis Thompson who is 28, all signed players were 24 and under which bodes well with my squad transition.
No major players left, youth prospect Conor Ware pushed through a £650k move to Derby and Adam Senior (CB) left on loan to Southend for another season.
I’m quite happy with the squad going into the season, its a younger squad which I want to develop as the season progresses but there will be plenty of opportunity for the younger players and to be fair some of them are already talented.
It may look like I have a lot of left backs but both Toti Gomes & Lloyd Greenwood play centre back for me as I feel they perform better there (both 3 star in that position). Daniel Kemp & Kai Fotheringham will play games as our advanced playmaker in centre midfield and Tarrelle Whittaker will most likely lead the line up front.
I’m quite happy with the squad although we will have to get the new players up to speed tactically and I’m not quite set on a preferred first XI at this stage. Sean Elstone-Coyle has been promoted from the U18s as left back cover, we’ll see if he can hang in this league or if he needs a loan.
Tactically we will stick with the 4-3-3 DM wide wing play primarily, supported by the vertical tika taka 5-2-1-2 and the back attack tactic.
Average age of the squad is sitting at 23, which is around the mark I want to see it at this stage.
It’s that time to get going with the competitive season, a busy month as well with 6 league games and 2 cup games to tend with.
Wasn’t the best start to the season, we opened up the league with 3 draws in a row. An entertaining game with Swansea (3-3), Jonathan Afolabi equalising in the 94th minute for us there. Up next was Middlesbrough (2-2), we were lucky to say the least so I was happy with the point. Then a bore 0-0 draw with Derby, neither team wanted it in this one I can only remember about 3 highlights!
Carabao Cup action, we faced Fleetwood Town who were in League 1 and we saw them off with a 4-0 win after a Lloyd Isgrove masterclass with 2 goals and 2 assists. Back to the league and we picked up our first win 1-0 vs. Cardiff, a tense game with Tarrelle Whittaker scoring the goal but it was a relief to get 3 points. We faced recently relegated Burnley and we gave them a game but still fell to a 3-2 loss. I believe we deserved a point but the difference in quality saw them through and despite some clear cut chances we didn’t do ourselves justice, more or less gifted Watford a 2-1 win against us. In the 2nd round of the Carabao Cup I rotated as did West Brom but is was a 1-0 loss for the boys.
A bit of a tough month, whilst I don’t mind draws, too many could become problematic and the 3 losses towards the end of the month is not doing our attempts to get some momentum going any justice. But with the younger squad I think it may take a few months to get going properly but that remains to be seen!
Some good news though as Centre back Toti Gomes bags himself the Championship Player of the Month with 3 goals and an assist would you believe! Someone had been practicing his heading and set piece movement in the summer!
Final Transfer Business
Before I display the league table we made one more permanent transfer that I was very happy with and sold a transfer listed player.
So transfer listed Harry Chapman who spent most of last season in the medical room was sold for £350k to Huddersfield meaning his stay with us was only for a season after signing on a free last year.
I was very happy with signing ex-Barnsley Forward Conor Chaplin on a free after his release. A very good player at this level and great versatility in attacking areas with the ability to play wide (either side), as a No. 10 or a striker. I’m hoping he can do big things for us as the season goes on.
But that wraps up our business for now, although I am keeping an eye on the free agency market for any players who can help us progress with our squad plans.
After a mixed bag in August where we only got 6 points out of a possible 18, I knew it wasn’t going to be the start I quite was after.
So we lie in 19th, 3 points above the relegation zone. It is very early doors but I don’t want to be in touching distance of the bottom 3 as once you’re in that area, it can be very difficult to get out.
Up next we will be covering September through to the end of November with plenty of matches to be played. I’ll be looking to get the boys back on track and hopefully some amendments in training will allow us to achieve that.
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 5. 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 – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-season-1-episode-1/
Or to go from the current season – https://dpfmblog.com/2021/01/30/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-s5-ep-1-semi-pro-to-efl-league-one/
Thank you as always ladies and gents, appreciate your viewings and I’ll be back in a few days with the next episode, look out for it! Make sure you follow the blog on wordpress and follow us on twitter – @DP_FM_ to keep up to date with our activities.