Here we go ladies and gents! Championship football is not far away now, but first we have a pre-season to contend with where we navigate a hectic transfer window and I decide to change my formation ahead of the new season. Only time will tell on whether this is a good idea I guess!
I also wanted to put into context the magnitude of the task ahead this season. Keep in mind we were meant to finish lower-mid table in League One last season and somehow we we won the league and will now being going up against teams like West Ham & Aston Villa who have just come down from the premier league!
Honestly even typing the words Premier League and knowing it is only one division away from us just seems ridiculous when we were managing in the Welsh 2nd division just 3 years ago! However any thoughts of the Premier League need to be parked for now, the aim for this season for me was clear – attempt to avoid relegation at all costs.
Before I take you into the new season there were a couple of signings we made at the end of last season that I want to introduce you too.
3 fantastic prospects signed for a grand total of £400k. My scouts have always and will always be my most valued personnel and they’ve done a great job for me here again!
All Regens – Vincent Fluery (RB – 20), Tiago Velho (CM – 18) & Alan McCrorie (CM – 19). Not only good additions to the squad now but also great prospects for the future.
Right let’s get into the transfers that took place in the new season. First starting with outgoings…
Arguably our player of the season last season Aaron Lewis (RB) was sold to St Mirren to allow space for new signing Vincent Fleury to come into that position. Tough decision to make but our other right back Fankaty Dabo was our club captain and needed in the dressing room so Aaron was moved on.
You may remember we signed Oliver McAllister on a free from Cliftonville about a year ago and he had played much of last season as a rotation option whilst he was still developing. His rating had actually come on tremendously in the off season and he would have been one of our starting midfielders for the upcoming season, that was until Middlesborough came in with a very good offer and the player wanted to move so we came to an agreement. Those of you who have followed from the start will know that I never stand in the way of a player who wants to leave, it just causes more issues down the line.
Mo McNamara was a regen I completely forgot to tell you all about! He was the first signing recommended to me when I joined Lincoln, 17 years old with 4.5 star potential available on a free from Dorking so I thought I’d take the chance. He went straight out on loan and I forgot all about him to be honest! That was until Nottingham Forest offered the best part of £1m for him and he was off. Another great bit of business by the club.
Steven Baxter was another player we made huge profit on. A player I had with me at Bala Town in Wales and had brought with me on my first venture in professional football for £1.4k, again he was a rotation option last season and was developing nicely, but Stoke came in with a great offer, Baxter wanted to move for understandable reasons and that was another player we decided to let go!
Tayo Edun was a sad one for me to be honest. He had been my best player by a country mile for the first 3 months of my career at Lincoln City before he had his horrible injury. He had never quite been the same since then and to be honest an offer of £600k was a fantastic offer for him by Notts County so I decided to let him go. Could have all been so different though if it wasn’t for that bloody injury!
AND FINALLY… you may have noticed a rather large transfer fee we received for one Liam Moroney. To be fair I did tell you many times throughout the updates in season 5 to remember his name and that he certainly had the ability to play in the premier league at some point! We signed him for £35k from Glenavon at the start of last season and he has just gone from strength to strength and he has thoroughly earned his £9m move to Crystal Palace. Fortunately we managed to insert a clause to get him back on loan for the season so there was no down side to this deal.
Ultimately it just highlighted the great work my scouting department had done since I had restructured things when I joined here. The cost of bringing in the players above was £36.4k and the amount we sold them for only one year later totalled just under £12 million. Plus this doesn’t take into account the future fees we will receive as I negotiated for 50% of the profit made on the next sale of the players above to come to Lincoln.
Overall a great window in terms of outgoings!
Right onto the incomings…
Again I continued to find it hard to splash the cash, despite having the budget it just was not something I was used to and so far staying frugal had proved extremely successful for me so why change now?
Jack Evans (DM – 3.5 star) added some quality to our new look formation (I’ll get to that don’t worry). Layton Stewart (ST – 2.5 star) was one for the future but Thomas O’Conner (LB – 3.5 star) was a real find. Released by Shrewsbury after he rejected a new deal so to find someone of his calibre and quality in the left sided full back position was a great bit of business!
I returned to Wales for the signing of 16 year old winger Justin Green and after our success story with Oliver McAllister I went back to Cliftonville to snap up good prospect Daryl Kidd (CB – 2.5 star, potential 4.5 star), another one who I believe will bring significant profit in the future.
My scouts seem to like scouting players from Blackburn and recommending them highly following their raving reports last season in relation to Daniel Butterworth, and this time round they were waxing lyrical about John Buckley. He was rated 3.5 star with 4.5 star potential for only £175k, at first viewing it looked like another bargain.
I was struggling to get real quality in the striker positions to be honest. With my change of formation I would now be playing with two up top, and yet all of my strikers were rated 3 star at the moment. I tried to get Paul Devlin on loan from Liverpool again but he rejected me unfortunately.
Fortunately my scouts were on hand again and after I instructed them to go and find me some real quality in the striker positions they came up trumps in the loan department. We managed to complete three great loan signings in Angel Diaz from Celta Vigo, Federico Casagrande from Roma and Gentrit Rrahmani from our newly negotiated parent club Chelsea.
Finally, as explained earlier, the return of Liam Moroney for the season on loan was secured as part of the deal to let him go to Palace and we further strengthened our DM position with the signing of Beni Baningime from Portuguese side Famalicao, he currently plays for Derby County in real life on loan from Everton.
So a busy window including those players brought in at the end of last season, the totals meant we had brought in 14 players, 10 permanently and 4 on loan for a total of just under £1m. Equally we had let 12 players leave the club, 6 on loan and 6 permanently for around £12m. Another great window in terms of securing the clubs financial future!
Formation Change & Manager Updates
Last season you may remember I setup with a 4-3-2-1 formation with a flat back 4, a flat midfield 3, 2 advanced wingers and a singular striker. This season I just felt that the wingers we had weren’t going to be able to cut it in the Championship and my scouts couldn’t find any standout ones for the price I wanted to spend.
I also felt that in the Championship more teams get the ball on the ground and have excellent quality in the middle of the park. So I decided to create a new formation that got rid of the wingers and allowed me to overload the pitch where my highest quality was, central midfield. So this is season we will be lining up with a 4-1-3-2 formation, with effectively 4 players in the middle of the park.
Width would be provided by my new attacking and athletically capable full backs. The other thing this formation change allowed me to do was to add another central striker, in this league I expect we will have fewer chances so when we do get into attacking positions I want to make sure there are options in the box – not rocket science is it!
Only time will tell if I have made the right decision here, but it makes sense to me. I think football tactics in this game and in real life are often overcomplicated, to me it’s not hard to understand that you have to get your best players on the pitch and find a balance which means you are able to commit numbers in both defensive and offensive areas, once you do that it is the players quality that will be the difference.
Another quick update from the off season…
We completed our Continental A Licence and were immediately funded to go to the highest level – a Continental Pro Licence. We have gone from completely unqualified to studying to become the most qualified you can be in 6 seasons! I have to say a massive thank you to Bala Town & Lincoln City as they have funded me right the way from National B Licence onwards and I feel more than justified in my decision to leave Llanelli Town all those years ago.
The Magnitude of the Task Ahead!
Before we get into the Championship proper in the next episode I just wanted to take some time to show you the magnitude of the task facing us. There should be no doubt about it, we shouldn’t be here, but we are. Now that we are we need to do everything we can to stay here for as long as possible!
The board didn’t have high hopes by the sound of it as they only expected us to fight bravely against relegation. That is pretty much treating us as a dog running the grand national – just happy to be there!
The bookies didn’t think we would be doing much either, between them and the media we were predicted to finish 23rd, with the same odds of winning the league as predicted bottom club Wigan. Hopefully we can prove them wrong but when you look at the quality of the other teams in the division I am concerned!
It’s not just the bookies and media that seem to think we’re a million miles away from being a Championship club – just look at the transfers fees being spent by some of the other teams in this division!
£63 MILLION FOR ONE PLAYER!?! IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
Honestly we brought in 14 players for a combined fee of just under £1m and yet there’s Leeds who spent £102m… how are we meant to compete? Then just look at the wage expenditure comparison below…
We are spending a tenth of the wages of top spending side West Ham. Barnsley in 20th are spending double what we spend! Honestly the more I started to look into everything the more worried I became.
But then I remembered, I am literally a dog at the Grand National and I may only be here once. .. so I better take it on the chin. We are where we are and we better go out and bloody enjoy being here!
Next time now that transfers and pre-season is out of the way we will be going through the first months of the Championship season! It should be all action as we kick off the month of August 2025 with no less than 9 matches, I’m hoping if we get some early points on the board we could surprise a few people.
Find out how we get on in the next episode which will drop on Sunday 14th February 2021.
Don’t forget you can subscribe below to have updates sent directly to your email so you know as soon as an episode is released! As always if you have any thoughts, tips or feedback leave them in the comments below or get in touch with us through our contact page or social media (Twitter @DP_FM_) – we’d love to hear from you! If you’re enjoying then make sure you like this post and share with others from the FM Community.
While you’re here on DP-FM if you want to follow more challenges go over to Scott’s (the co-author of this site) challenge where he is on a journey to rebuild Bolton Wanderers and take them on a Europa League run!
To read from the start click here – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/bolton-back-to-europa-s1e1/
Or to follow from the current season click here – https://dpfmblog.com/2021/02/07/bolton-back-to-europa-s4e1-early-inconsistences/
Thank you for reading and supporting us. As always please keep safe during these difficult times and we’ll see you again soon!