Rangers Revolution – Going for 55

After winning the Scottish Championship last year by a comfortable 24 points, we were promoted to the Ladbrokes Premiership and went up as 2nd favourites to win the title, fair? I think so however our odds to win it were 10-1 showing how big favourites Celtic were to get 6 in a row, my personal aim was to win it at the first time of asking and felt we could do this if we were backed financially.

We were given £2 million however were boosted by having £40k p/w spare which was boosted to £75k p/w spare when the deadwood were released/moved on, in all honesty it isn’t a great budget and loans will need to play a part again.

Transfers

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I moved on a substantial amount of players, mostly on frees as you can see, however I managed to get £300k for Martyn Waghorn from Bolton and £1.5 million from Aston Villa. I was pleased with both deals due to better players coming in marginalising their playing time, other notable players released were Harry Forrester, Halliday for £98k to Partick Thistle and Dean Shiels.

This allowed us to be flexible in enticing players in with a better wage budget, youngsters Japp, Donaldson and Gordon came in as you may remember and go into my under 20 side. We then secured loan deals for exciting midfielder Joao Teixeira and Chelsea wide man Lucas Piazon with the former outstanding and the latter not playing much.

We still had Harry Winks for another year along with inside forward sensation Mikkel Duelund who both had agreed 2 season loan deals last season and both would go on to have big seasons for me, I secured a deal for Duelund in January and he signed for £1.9 million on a 3 and a half year contract.

Crooks and Windass were pre arranged deals from Accrington and FM doesn’t rate them highly so I sent both of them out on loan to Leyton Orient and Coventry respectively, we did however manage to sign two solid central midfielders in Yasser Kasim from Swindon and Stuart Bannigan from Partick Thistle who are rated as 4 star midfielders.

Stephen Kingsley came in for £200k from Swansea to provide cover at both left back as we lacked this and he can also play centre back so his flexibility helps along with being a young Scottish lad and our last signing was Josh Meekings from Inverness, no I didn’t sign him due to his handball v Celtic in the 2014/2015 Scottish cup semi.. he is a 4 star centre back on the game and alongside Wilson I will have a good base there.

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Scottish Premiership

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As you can see we won the league title at the first attempt with an 11 point gap between Celtic who had a torrid season and actually sacked Ronny Deila mid season and appointed Paul Lambert who massively improved them, we scored the most, conceded the least and were worthy champions.

We won the league in the game before the split and then went on to pick up 1 win in 5 games as the players seemed to go in to holiday mode and to be fair, I’ll take some blame I was using more of our 20s players and tweaking things tactically however 88 points in our first season is decent.

We started the season off in great form and won our first three games without conceding, 2-0 vs Dundee, 3-0 vs Partick Thistle and 2-0 vs Hearts was our perfect start before we dropped 2 points at home to Aberdeen in a game we probably done just enough to win.

Our next big game came against Celtic at Ibrox and we won 3-2 with the winner coming from loanee Teixeira in the 92nd minute, get in!

We then win our next 6 games to make it 8 league wins in a row and we are flying however we only keep two clean sheets in this time, slightly worrying but we move on. We then suffer back to back draws to Dundee and Hearts 0-0 and 1-1 respectively however have garnered a bit of a gap to not have to worry too much.

As I have mentioned Celtic are in meltdown at this stage and our main challengers are Aberdeen, however we beat Aberdeen 3-1 away in a big victory with both our centre backs dominant, Wilson grabs a double and Meekings scores the other.

Hardie and Teixeira then score in a 2-1 away victory over Celtic and this is getting embarrassing now for them now, our first loss of the season comes against Motherwell we lose 3-1 and I slaughter the lads at full time, which comes out in the press the next day.

We then win 6 of our next 7 games including a 4-0 win over St Johnstone, 3-1 over Ross County and 4-1 over Dundee and we are on fire, during this period Jason Holt is becoming the assist king on form and Duelund and Hardie are scoring a lot of goals, lovely.

At the end of January we dispatch Aberdeen 1-0 to end any hopes they have of challenging with Ryan Hardie scoring a 81st minute penalty in front of a delighted home support, before we batter Celtic but only manage 2 goals in a 2-0 victory Texeira scoring the goals.

We then go through an average spell where we beat Dundee United who are heading for the drop much like in real life 3-0 with Hardie getting another double before drawing 0-0 with Motherwell, beating Inverness 2-0 and Ross County 2-1.

We win the title in a poor fashion throwing away a 2 goal lead against St Johnstone to draw 2-2 but secure title 55, the press first question is about how many points we have thrown away this season, we’ve just won the league title first time of asking and stopped Celtic winning 6 in a row and they ask this?

I’m certain the players minds then go to holiday mode as we win just one time in our last 5 games after the title is secured as you can see below, with the first and only defeat in 5 games this season to Celtic which I was raging about.

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League Cup

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The board didn’t care about the League Cup however it was a chance to defend our trophy and we’re in this game to win trophies so I wanted to go as far as possible, we started in the first round and progressed past Elgin easily before almost crashing out to Livingston in a shocking game that went to penalties where we converted all 5 and Livi missed 2.

That one goal lost to Livi in extra time would turn out to be the only goal we lost in the competition as we beat Hamilton 1-0, Aberdeen 2-0 at Ibrox (Silence of the Sheep) in the quarter finals with Ryan Hardie and Danny Wilson getting the goals in a strong first half display. Both of these players repeated this in the semi final with both getting a goal as we dominated Partick at Hampden.

Inverness came out and attacked us and this allowed us to exploit them and truth be told this was a battering, 4 excellent goals scored from Ryan Hardie, James Tavernier and a double from that signing sensation Mikkel Duelund saw us run out 4-0 winners.

Scottish Cup

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Early comfortable 3-0 wins over Dumbarton and Queen of the South saw us reach the quarter final stage against fellow Premiership side Dundee and at home they caused us all sorts of problems, we took the lead from Duelund before Greg Stewart scored an incredible 25 yard effort and we hung in to get to 90 minutes. However in the away leg I tweaked a few things tactically and it worked with us running out 5-0 winners with Teixeira, Wilson, Bannigan all scoring whilst inside forward Duelund scored another double.

This lead to another big game against Aberdeen who for much of the season were our closest challengers but had fallen away during the business end of the season and we beat them 1-0 with the goal coming in the first minute from an Alex Iwobi header and this set up a Scottish cup final versus Celtic, win and we are treble winners.. we played awful but so did Celtic, so much so that there were only 15 shots in the whole game 7 to Celtic and 8 to us.

However we managed to take the lead from a Yasser Kasim with a free kick from just outside of the box which was smashed into the top corner before the treble and Scottish Cup was secured from a Ryan Hardie header from a Jason Holt cross which was headered across the box by Alex Iwobi and Hardie only had to cushion his header into an empty net. Scott Brown got his standard sending off against us on the 85th minute.

Change to tactical set up

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I wasn’t too happy with my old system as I wasn’t creating enough chances so I made some tweaks and have finally come to a system I feel works well for us, we play some beautiful football, keep the ball really well and the advanced playmaker pushed higher up means he can create a lot more, while on the right hand side the AP-S drifts further in with some nice link up play with the F9, RPM and AP-A and allows the CWB to push on and get to the byline.

I also want my full backs to be attacking however I read a blog by the impressive FM Analysis and found something I didn’t know but really should have, that where you place players tactically is where they will be positioned defensively but their roles will decide what they do/where they go in game when we have the ball – go check him out if you haven’t already – twitter – @FMAnalysis and the article is in this link below.

https://thedugoutfm.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/tactical-analysis-the-defence/.

The ball winning midfielder positioned more deep is key as I tried to have him alongisde the roaming playmaker and we left too many gaps between midfield and defence and he is winning almost every loose ball in the dm position and I had trialled the central midfielder as a deep lying playmaker but found that I missed an obvious drive so changing to a RPM really helped with that.

Youth round up

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Again our own youth intake was quite poor, so I moved for the next best in Scottish football and came across Adam Mitchell from Hibs who I felt had a good base of skills for what you want in a centre back and at just 16 felt he had some potential, he has anywhere from 3.5 start potential to 4.5 star so is one to watch.

The other signing I made was Ross Muirhead from Dumbarton, I was able to get him on a free and all I need to do is play a friendly with them so a good deal however he develops, 14 finishing, good physicals and 18 for determination are all decent for a 16 year old.

I also want to discuss what we are doing with our young talents, Stephen Japp is progressing well and has been tutored by Yasser Kasim – at 18 years old he may go out on loan next season, Jamie Barjonas is still in our 20s but has been loaned out to Championship side Ross County, his potential is between 4 and 5 stars but his stats aren’t showing that for me.

Liam Burt is currently in my first team squad and often gets on as a sub however I think a loan deal would be more beneficial, his first touch is 16, passing 11 and vision and work rate 16 so has talent with a current ability of 2 stars and potential of 3.5-4.5 stars he’s one to watch.

Ryan Hardie is obviously someone we are well aware of so I won’t delve deep with him but he’s my starting false nine and has 49 goals in two seasons, the McCrorie brothers are very highly rated so much that Robby has now dispatched Wes Foderingham as my number one keeper – a current ability of 2 stars and potential of between 4 and 5 stars.

Ross McCrorie is a fantastic young player with flexibility to play centre back or right back, he made 18 appearances this season and executed an average of 7.62 with a potential of 3.5-4.5 stars he’s another one to watch.

Finally Ross Lyon has come into my first team squad and played on several occasions due to injuries/suspensions and has always played very well, he played 8 times last season and had an average rating of 7.66, he also has 2 stars current ability with potential to grow in to between 3.5 and 4.5 stars, so the future could be bright.

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Top Performers

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James Tavernier produced an incredible season, one of the best average ratings I have ever seen on Football Manager 8.69 what a god! Along with this average rating he also produced 5 goals, 14 assists and 20 man of the match awards, at complete wing back he is fantastic and moving him back to a 4 has made sure he isn’t out of position too much.

Jason Holt averaged 7.88 scoring 5 goals and the added freedom pushing him higher up allowed him to assist 17 times and his value has soared to £3.9 million.

Mikkel Duelund scored 19 times and gained an average rating of 7.64 as he proved his worth at inside forward and repaid me for making his deal permanent.

Finally Ryan Hardie scored 24 goals and created 12 assists in 41 starts and 7 sub appearances and made himself the dominant striker, he’s only 20 years old so expect him to keep progressing however Cummings was poor and mentioned that he’s annoyed s may move him on.

Notable mentiones go to Harry Winks who was a big driving force from the middle of the park,  young Scot Ross McCrorie and Alex Iwobi.

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Conclusion

A few things to round this off are that I signed a new deal until May 2020 which I’m delighted with, we made a profit this year of £2.7 million and increased our season ticket holders to 37,500.

We had the youngest average age of any side in the top flight of 23 and although the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Stoke attempted to lure Robby McCrorie we held on to him rejecting £6 million bids albeit this included many future fees.

I have managed to get the board to increase how many coaches we can have from 10 to 16 so we will see some additions and also increased our junior coaching budget and improved youth recruitment so hopefully we can produce a few stars.

We go into the third season with hopes of defending our honours and we finally have a crack at europe, we will face three rounds to qualify for the group stages of the Champions league, can we do it?

Thank you all for reading and if you have any feedback or just want to discuss anything feel free to leave a comment on here or you can get me on twitter @johnmcintosh19.

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Rangers Revolution -Success and failure

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So an unbeaten season at the halfway stage of our first season, could we keep this up? Well, no we couldn’t but we’ll go through that competition by competition later. In the last update we had played 23 league games and had amassed 57 points giving us a comfortable 10 point gap over surprising second placed Raith Rovers, we only had 13 games left so this would all be about continuing our good form and we had the small matter of going for a potential quadruple with a League cup final against Hearts to come, Challenge cup final versus Hibernian and a fifth round Scottish cup tie against Hibernian again.

Ladbroke Championship table

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As you can see we did continue our strong form, winning 10 games, drawing 2 and losing one time in our last 13 games to see us win the league title by 24 points and a goal difference 40 goals better than second placed Raith, dominant.

With how strong we were, I was concerned at the last 4 games only picking up 1 win in 4 games but we bounced back sort of, with wins over Alloa and Queen of the South 3-0 and 3-1 respectively with Ryan Hardie scoring a brace against Alloa and following it up with an incredible solo goal against Queen of the South.

Next up was a tough run with us again picking up just 1 win in 3 games, we beat Raith 1-0 in a big result at the top of the table through a Barrie Mckay strike and held on despite Jordan Mcghee being sent off on the 51st minute, either side of this result we drew 0-0 on both occasions to St Mirren and Hibs.

The Hibs fixture was one where we dominated the game but couldn’t find the back of the net, we had 24 shots to their 9, 9 on target to their 2, 6 half chances to their 2 and 57% of the possession so it was a really frustrating game but against St Mirren we only mustered 7 shots in 90 minutes, awful stuff.

We then won 7 games in a row which sealed the league title and in this period we just battered teams in terms of control of games and creating chances, we started this period of dominance off with a 3-0 win over Morton with Hardie and Duelund excelling and getting on the scoresheet, we make amends against Falkirk with a 2-1 win before beating Queen of the South, Raith Rovers and Dumbarton 3-0, 3-1 and 2-0 respectively – Ryan Hardie scores 4 goals in this 3 game period and is starting to make the false nine role his own.

We end the season with an incredible 6-1 away win over Livingston with Gedion Zelalem hitting a brace and both of them being screamers, Hardie and Duelund again scoring, followed by a comfortable 2-0 win over Alloa at Ibrox before it comes to the last game of the season, away to St Mirren who were in form, if we avoid defeat here an unbeaten season is complete.

As FM does best, it screws you over sometimes and this was a perfect example, we lost 2-0 to St Mirren despite going being the much better side, we had a poor start when SImon Murray broke our high line and finished well, then Danny Wilson scored a calamity own goal on 14 minutes and despite hitting 31 shots and 2 clear cut chances and 7 half chances we couldn’t reply.

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Scottish cup

When we left this on the last update we had surprisingly struggled to progress against Turrif United but over 2 legs we managed to and faced Hibernian in the fifth round tie (last 16). It is important to note that winning the Scottish cup is the only way to secure European competition for next season.

Well, what can I say we had as you can see 17 shots to their 3, 60% of the ball possession but come away with a 0-1 defeat and we’re out of the competition early with the board not happy with the Scottish cup run as they expected the semi final at least

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League cup

We faced Hearts who although finished 35, yes 35 points behind Celtic in the top flight were their nearest challengers and finished in 2nd place so the league cup final would be a decent test but I’ll be honest we’re Rangers and everything about this club demands and expects success so I went in confident.

My confidence was well placed as we ran out 2-0 winners in a relatively comfortable victory with a brace coming from Ryan Hardie in the 69th and 89th minute.

Ryan Gauld was fouled just inside the box by Zanatta and Hardie stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards, the second goal however was a thing of beauty, a corner we were attacking was defended well and headed out, Waghorn picked the ball up around 30 yards from goal and spread it wide right to corner taker Duelund, who took his man on and played a delightful cross to Hardie inside 6 yard box who headed the ball back to the opposite top corner.

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Challenge cup

So as I mentioned in the past update we faced Hibernian in the final of the Challenge cup, we had little pressure as the board didn’t care but by getting to the final I knew the fans would expect another trophy so we went with our strongest team with giving Robby McCrorie a start as sweeper keeper as he does in cup competitions.

We started the game the much better team and duly took the lead on the 26th minute through Barrie Mckay, we defended a corner well and Mckay started the move on the 18 yard box, a smart through ball to Hardie who occupied the left wing he held on to the ball allowing for players to get forward, a switch to the centre of the pitch around 30 yards out and first time pass to Mckay who was on the left hand side of the box breaking the offside trap perfectly, he cut inside and finished well, 1-0!

We then lost a goal to James Keatings using his pace to cause us some damage on the 49th minute, not a great start to the second half and despite us going for the second goal we couldn’t get it however I told the boys to go for it in extra time and to keep doing what they were doing and it worked.

Mikkel Duelund pressed high and won the ball from Gunnarsson on the half way line with every Hibs players up for a free kick we had a 3 on 1 advantage could we play this right? Yes we could, Duelund played in Hardie who went 1 0n 1 with the keeper but very smartly he had the vision to see Gauld had a made a delightful run to his right and a simple 5 yard pass meant Gauld rolled it into the empty net.

Challenge cup winners at the fourth time of asking and yet the fans exuberance was kept in check within the stands, incredible stuff..

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Youth signings

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There was literally no decent prospect from our intake so I signed deals for a few between 2 and 2.5 stars potential however this was mostly due to assistant recommendation and to give the youth team more squad depth, so I went out and looked to bring in a few of the better young talents from other Scottish sides.

Stephen Japp is the best talent I signed and he joins from Hibernian at 16 years of age, my assistant feels he could become a key player for the first team if he reaches his potential and is a 4 star potential talent, with passing at 15, first touch and pace at 12 I thought it was too good to pass up on him for £30k initial fee with a further £20k over the next 12 months.

Robbie Gordon is a ball winning midfielder and signs from Livi who are renowned for a good youth system for £16k, he has tackling of 13 and positioning of 11 and while reports only put him at between a 2 and 3 star potential talent, I think this is a solid signing.

Like Robbie Gordon, Allan Donaldson is a 2-3 star potential player however some of his stats as a keeper stood out for me, 14 reflexes and 15 for rushing out which is key for a sweeper keeper and communication of 12 he seems to have a solid base.

Top performers

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In James Tavernier we had a great complete wing back on our right side, 14 assists, 10 man of the match awards and an average rating of 8.39 is simply phenomenal, I have and continue to make efforts to improve his positioning as this is something that lets him down defensively.

Our number 10 Jason Holt had a good season with an average rating of 8.06, that alone is very impressive although I would like him to get amongst the goals/assists a bit more for his role he did contribute 4 goals, 8 assists and 7 man of the match awards.

Ryan Hardie is a product of our youth system so it’s always something I like to do in promoting from within and hopefully this is something I can do more as we move on and improve within the game, he returned 25 goals in 30 starts, 7 assists and an average rating of 7.83

Our loan signing Ryan Gauld was a top signing, he gave us a bit of a creative spark and opened up games where the opposition were trying to shut games out, it’s a shame Sporting aren’t willing to sell and that we aren’t currently in a strong financial position to sign him permanently however an average rating of 8.06, 6 goals and 7 assists within 25 starts shows how valuable he has been.

Finances

We recorded a £1.94 million loss for the season, it may sound bad however we’re just in the black in terms of balance and we paid £4.17 million of the £5 million Mike Ashley loan which is incorporated into the game, by the start of the new season we will be debt free and in a positive balance due to season ticket sales which I’d hope would both increase in price and see more supporters buy season tickets.

Overview

So all in all, this was a successful first season securing three trophies although the poor efforts in the Scottish cup has cost us european football next season which will be gutting however it does allow us to focus on securing our 55th top flight league title and stop Celtic domestic dominance.

We used the loan market well due to our finances however must be smart in recruiting for a tougher league but we still retain Harry Winks and Mikkel Duelund for a further season.I was also rewarded with a contract for a further season to see how I would progress with the team in the top flight.

I hope you enjoyed reading and any feedback will be appreciated in the comments section or you can interact with me on twitter, I’m @johnmcintosh19.