So that trip to Wembley was unexpected but what a bloody journey! It has taken me a bit longer to write this up than anticipated just due to higher workload than usual and having to play the game to get up to the point where I can update.
The expectations for season 3? Win the league again, try and add another cup or two along the way and compete for another 3rd place in the Champions League group as minimum, let’s see how we have fared at the end of 2018!
We were given a fair budget of £6 million after our impressive previous season and would be supplemented heavily by some big player sales, but we’ll come to that soon. Patrick Roberts had been excellent for us last season on loan but City wouldn’t consider a further loan deal and wished to sell and feel I have done decent to get him for an initial £5.5 million but it’s my largest buy. Iver Fossum was brought in to replace the outgoing Jordan Rossiter (I know, I’m sorry) and for that price he looks a steal, very tidy player.
Luca Silva was transfer listed and would replace another outgoing Diego Poyet, an upgrade on Poyet and for no real transfer cost. Zach Clough would boost our forward options, he’s a player I always like to bring in and fits the mould well, Jovic would extend his loan for another season and those two would rotate generally.
Again Reece Oxford on loan seemed a smart move, happy to be a rotational player, a player who understands our set up and the demands and was developing as a player.
Those youth players we signed would then go in to our u20s to develop and many would leave on seasonal loans to get first team football but we also brought in Mikkel Eide for a bargain £300k, he’s our second choice right back and can play anywhere across the back line. A very energetic player who has great stamina levels.
So there were a lot of outgoings this summer with Jordan Rossiter leaving for Southampton in a £15 million deal, this was all up front and we also inserted a 40% profit sell on clause. I loved Rossiter but I couldn’t turn down that offer and he was being chased by 5 Premier League clubs with his morale being poor when I rejected previous bids.
However I wasn’t impressed by the performances of Toral so was keen to move him on and £5 million was a good return on a free signing after just one season.
I didn’t wish to lose Diego Poyet however and certainly not for a measly £3.8 million but this was my predicament – initially he would only sign for us with a £2.5 million release clause so I agreed then gave him much improved terms in season 2 where his agent limited the value of the release clause to £3.8 million, I reluctantly agreed but he then wished to go from around £14k per week to £40k per week.
Again the agent imposed the limit at a maximum £5 million. I decided against almost tripling his wages for £1.2 million extra so off he went. Moral of the story, agents are bastards!
I had taken Waghorn as far as I could and knew he wasn’t of standard going forward but made a potential £3.2 million deal with Brentford and then accepted smaller bids to sell Josh Windass, Harry Forrester, Rob Kiernan, Matt Crooks, Lee Hodson and Jordan Thompson recouping just shy of £1 million from the combined deals. I then agreed to release a bunch of average to poor youth players along with Fernando Torres who didn’t represent value for money.
Transfers in -£15 million Transfers out – £27.5 million
After our heroics getting to the Europa League final last season I wanted to temper any expectation we would smash any Champions League group, I knew we got lucky in who we drew on the way but we also performed well. We are still 4th seeds so will get tough groups for a while, Juventus, Benfica and Basel would prove tough opposition.
As an aside to this due to Rangers and Celtic having positive seasons in Europe last season we are to gain another Champions League space for next season so first place gets an automatic group stages place and the 2nd placed side goes in to the 3 qualifying rounds.
I realise I skipped past the three qualifying stages but they were very straightforward, we battered a team 19-0 on aggregate so not sure of the merits of going in depth..
We were by far the better side against Benfica at Ibrox but could only muster a 2-2 draw with Patrick Roberts and Barrie Mckay scoring with the latter rescuing a point, battering Basel 4-0 in Switzerland gave me hope we could do something but Dybala would bring us back to earth with an almighty bump scoring 4 times in 2 games against us.
The last 2 games would disappoint me as if we had gained 4 points instead of 1 we would have progressed but that’s ifs and buts.
In the last 32 Europa League draw there were some tough opposition but also then a mix of teams I’d be happy to face but the ones to avoid were Napoli, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and A.C Milan and we were drawn to face Rapid Vienna so pleased with that and would expect to progress here.
So we’re unbeaten at the halfway stage of the season, 49 points after 19 games is very strong and represents our best first or last 19 of any season however strangely I don’t even think we’ve played that well consistently anyway. I’ve flirted with a 3-4-3 and I like it in certain games but it doesn’t dominate possession and games as I like to.
Plenty green icons is always pleasing and would mean 15 wins and 4 draws from 19 league games, the win over Celtic at Parkhead delighted with me as these types of games can be massive in building your season, Jedvaj scored in the 91st minute with a volley straight from a corner!
I feel we will score more goals soon as since changing back to a 4-2-3-1 we have scored 5 goals against St Johnstone and 3 times against Hibs and Dundee United, in terms of players who have impressed Barrie Mckay has 19 goals and 9 assists in 24 games, Zach Clough has 17 goals in 22 games and James Tavernier has been incredible with 4 goals, 12 assists and an average rating of 7.65 in 29 games.
We had lost in the League cup final last season to Celtic in the only domestic trophy that we haven’t won since I have taken charge and I was keen on securing another treble this season as feel we are by far the dominant side in Scotland right now.
Getting Celtic so early in the cup was strange but we were able to win in the Old Firm derby by Barrie Mckay beautifully drifting inside from a wide position and sliding Clough through to a one on one and he placed the ball in the back of the net.
Dundee were then brushed aside by a double from Luka Jovic before we deservedly beat Aberdeen in the final to get the first silverware of the season and Patrick Roberts and Barrie Mckay the two wide players got the goals to give us our 6th trophy in 2 and a half seasons in charge.
As part of my plans to have a youthful squad I mentioned a trio of talents from our u20 squad who I felt were ready to be promoted, those were Owen Miller, Barry Barr and Jack Thomson. I had to turn down bids of up to £5.5 million from a persistent Liverpool for left back Miller after he had played one pro game for us, and despite his annoyance he has now signed a long term contract and is happy again after replacing Lee Wallace as our number one left back at just 17 years of age.
Jack Thomson has started 17 times, come on as a sub on 11 occasions in either centre back or replacing Silva as the most defensive central midfielder in the double pivot and Barry Barr has started on 10 occasions with 7 sub appearances scoring 4 goals and 3 assists.
I’m pleased with all of them but especially Owen Miller who is already one of the first names on the team sheet, his physicals are incredible for his age and performing on a consistent basis whilst Barr is wanted by Everton and Thomson wanted by Liverpool who also tried and failed with a £6 million bid for young Robby McCrorie.
Worryingly Tin Jedvaj is still unhappy I blocked his move to Marseille in the summer and still has a very poor morale so obviously won’t sign a new deal, his minimum release clause is set at £6.25 million again imposed as a must by the agent and Man City, Wolfsburg and Benfica are all interested so he may be gone in January.
However a positive is we have agreed a deal to sign Sergi Samper from Barcelona for £6 million, delighted in securing him to play as a DLP.
I will leave it there and hopefully be back with another update soon but we’re 8 points clear of 2nd with a game advantage, do you have any thoughts on the player sales as a lot has changed? impressed with any of the youth trio we’ve promoted? let me know!
Thank you for reading, it is really appreciated. If you also want to discuss anything you can ask me anything on my twitter which is below, join and speak on my slack channel “johnmcintosh-19” or in the comments section here, I’d love some interaction on this series.
Twitter – @JohnMcIntosh19