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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.