In our first season in the Premiership we finished in 5th place, a lot better than I expected however looking back the teams in the bottom half aren’t much better than we are but the ones above me are a lot better.
This year I just want a top 6 finish again which I think is possible although it could be harder if we get into the Europa league group stage as we have more games to play.
Looking at my squad and the fact that we have no money, I’ve released anyone out of contract that we didn’t use last year and offered out for sale anyone else we didn’t use to try and free up some wage budget.
I’ve also decided to keep the rest of the squad together as they done well last year and I can’t risk weakening the squad if I’ve no money to replace anyone. I’ve also brought back in my loan players I had last year too for another season on loan.
After releasing players and renewing a couple of contracts we only have £3.1k excess wage budget and £0 transfer budget so unless something changes before the start of the season, the only additions to the squad will be if I can get released players to join on small contracts which will be difficult to do, I might be able to get 1 or 2, or maybe some more loan players but that’s about it, we may be trying to play next year with no new additions.
By the time pre-season friendlies start I’ve managed to get 3 more players in, a defensive midfielder and a striker both on loan and a young back up right back on a free transfer. It’s not much but it adds cover, I still need a back up right winger but I can’t find anyone either on loan or for free.
One nice thing with this pre-season is that I don’t have any Betfred Cup group games that usually come before my players are match fit, this must be due to the upcoming Europa qualifying games.
After a couple of friendlies the season odds come out and we’ve been given odds of 350/1 and predicted 9th, it’s better than lasts years odds but I thought with finishing 5th we might have had better odds.
Pre-season went well as we won all our friendly games including a nice 4-0 win over a Monaco team filled with multi-million pound players so ahead of the Premiership games we were in good form.
The first game of the season ended in a good but also disappointing 1-1 draw away to St Johnstone. It was a good result as they are one of the better teams however we should have won as they only has 2 shots all game and scored from a penalty.
That was followed up by another disappointing 1-1 draw this time at home to Ross County who are favourites for relegation, it was another game we dominated but needed a late goal to salvage a draw.
More positively though in between those games we beat Danish top team FC Midtjylland 2-0 at home in our first ever European game and after the second league draw we drew the away leg 4-4, we were 4-2 up before I rested a few key players including my star striker after he had scored a hattrick then they got a late penalty and last minute goal.
That win over 2 legs set up a 2 legged game against Russian team Rubin Kazan to qualify for the group games. Rubin don’t have any actual players and I can’t see the stats of their grey players, hopefully they aren’t very good but I have seen teams have world class grey players too depending on their reputations.
After getting through our first European qualifying round we had another cup game away to Ross County in the Betfred Cup second round, I decided to rest my first team squad so they were fit for the Rubin game 4 days later.
We lost the cup game 2-1 after extra time but I wasn’t bothered as I decided to prioritise the European game over the Betfred game as we can make more money if we get into the group’s.
The European games against Rubin went well as we won the home leg 2-0 and followed that up with a 0-0 draw in the away leg to qualify for the group stages.
Qualifying for the group has given us £2.62m which is a nice boost to finances and put us in profit by £2.68m so we must have had a slight positive balance.
As we have more money I wanted to ask the board to increase either our transfer budget or % from sales but neither were an option to ask, I did however manage to convince them to increase the wage budget and they increased it from £65k to £72k. As I’m only spending £64k currently I’ve been able to put some of the extra into the transfer budget.
I’ve initially put the transfer budget from £0 up to £282k giving me £3k wages spare so I might be able to bring someone else in before the transfer window shuts, I could adjust it a bit either way if needed.
In between those games we had another 1-1 draw in the league, again it was a good result against Aberdeen who finished 3rd last year but I was again disappointed as we dominated the game and conceded late on.
Our main striker has scored in all 3 and got man of the match in all 3 too, he only got 4 motm awards all last season despite being top scorer, hoping this is a good sign that he’s improved again and will fire us up the league once we can turn our dominations into wins.
When the Europa groups were drawn, unsurprisingly we were in the 4th seeds pot so we’re guaranteed a hard draw although once the first 3 seeds had been drawn there were some easier groups than others that I wouldn’t have minded being drawn in.
We were drawn into group A along side PSV, Spartak Moscow and Florentina which wasn’t the worst group but still a difficult group. We have actually played Spartak Moscow in a pre-season friendly last season and beat them 2-1 so we might be able to beat them but PSV usually have a good team and Florentina used to be a big team.
I don’t fancy my changes of getting through the group, my best result would be to hope for maybe a win or a couple of draws to bring in some extra prize money, I get £512k for a win and £171k for a draw.
Shortly after that I got some nice news in my inbox from the chairman saying he has increased the % I get from transfers from 0% to 60% which is good, now if the board decide to sell any of my star players I’ll at least get to spend some of that money hopefully that won’t happen though.
Ahead of the transfer window shutting we got our first win in the league beating Motherwell 2-0, they’ve just came up from the Championship and looked like a lower league team as they hardly had a shot.
On transfer window day I managed to spend all my money again, I first signed a 16 year old Scottish left winger for £8k, a small fee for someone that has a lot of potential, I also wanted a permanent left winger as currently the 2 I have are on loan, while only 16 he is still championship ability so will do for cover.
The rest of my money went on our 3rd Columbian as we signed a 19 year right winger for £275k, we were in desperate need for a right winger as we only have 1, our back up so far is mainly a central midfielder that can play wide but isn’t good.
I’ve found several cheap Columbians which I’m scouting and this is one I’ve been scouting since last year. I’ve got my eye on a young Columbian striker too but can’t afford him yet, maybe next year if no one else signs him first.
What was best about the transfer window is that my board didn’t sell anyone, not that we had any offers but there was a lot of clubs interested. In total we bought in 3 players and loaned in 6 players. Going out we didn’t sell anyone even though I tried offering out some back ups we don’t need, we did get rid of several players out of contract and loaned out 8 youngsters.
Overall a better transfer window than I thought it would be as we actually got a small amount of money just before the deadline allowing us to strengthen the right wing which was badly needed.
A couple of days before our next game and a couple of days after the transfer window shut our goal keeper got injured in training and will miss the next 3 months, my back up used to have good potential but he’s not played much in the 3 years I’ve had him so doesn’t look very good now, he will have to do though as other than him we only have youth players.
Our back up keeper started off his run of games perfectly as he kept a clean sheet and saved a penalty as we beat Hearts 1-0, he then saved another penalty in our first Europa league group game as we drew 0-0 away to Spartak Moscow, we should however have won that game as the penalty was their only shot on target compared to our 10 on target from 20 shots, their keeper got man of the match.
We had a European hangover after that though as Rangers hammered us 4-1 for our first loss of the season but that defeat started a good league run and after our 10th league game we were up in 3rd place with 5 wins, 4 draws and that 1 defeat.
That good run was not just in the league as we actually got 2 wins in the Europa league games too as we beat PSV at home 3-2, we were 3-0 up after 22 minutes before our star striker got sent off and we conceded 2 late goals, the other group game we beat Florentina 2-0 at home. The second win was surprising considering the striker we played while our best was suspended got himself sent off after 17 minutes, we were only playing 1 striker too so we played the rest of the game with 5 in midfield and no strikers then got 2 goals late on from counter attacks which put us top after 3 games.
Our good run ended with another 4-1 hammering, this time at home to Celtic following 2 goals from free kicks by a player that’s only scored 2 goals in the last 2 season’s before this game and a goal by a player that’s not scored for 4 years, their other was by their £25m new striker.
After that game I expected the worst away to Florentina but what I didn’t expect was to be 3-0 up after half an hour and winning the game 3-0. That win confirmed qualification from the group with 2 games to go, I’m only 1 point ahead of PSV but after our performances so far I’m hoping to finish top for a better draw in the next round.
A win and a loss in the league followed but then we got a 5-1 win against Spartak Moscow to confirm top place in the group.
After this I noticed we had a fair bit of money in the bank as we’ve so far got £5m from the Europa league so I figured I’d ask the board to spend some money while we have it and convinced them to increase our wage budget to £74k which is what they gave us earlier in the season before I put it into transfer fund, then they agreed to improve our youth facilities and our youth recruitment.
A few seasons of Europe and I might start seeing to vast improvements in the club facilities, it’s what we need to start producing better players and improving what we have.
After that big win in Europe we followed it up with a poor 2-2 league draw against a lower placed team after conceding another late goal but we did then get 2 massive home wins as we hammered Hearts 4-0 then beat Rangers 3-2 with us getting the late goal this time.
Those wins put us in 3rd place, 2 points behind Celtic and 1 behind Rangers, we’ve actually lost 1 game less than they have.
We followed those wins up with a 2-0 away win in our last Europa group game against PSV, that’s 5 wins and a draw in the group which I hadn’t expected.
Our star striker is second top scorer in the Europa league with 8 in 8 games, overall so far he has 19 in 22 games, without him I don’t think we’d be doing as good as we are.
Qualifying from the group also gives us some more money as along with the money for winning and drawing games we got another £897k to bring out prize money so far to £6.7m for the season.
The draw for the first knock out round saw us paired up with Club Brugge who look to have a good team and a star striker they signed for £32.5m so it could be a hard draw but then I thought the group stage would have been harder than it was.
After the European game we have a break from them until February so we can concentrate on domestic football and we done that by winning our next 5 games throughout December, most were against teams lower down in the league.
Those wins meant we were 2nd in the league going into the winter break with Celtic only top with a better goal difference though they have a game in hand.
The winter break wasn’t good for our league form, we won a friendly game and then won our Scottish Cup 4th round game but in the league we went from 7 consecutive wins before the break to 4 games without a win losing 1 and drawing 3 before winning the Scottish Cup 5th round.
Luckily Celtic also went on a similar poor run so didn’t pull away too much, if only I could have won some of those games and I’d have gone top instead of being 5 points behind them.
After the Scottish Cup game we had our Europa 1st knock out game against Club Brugge and we were hoping for our cup form and not our current league form for those games, although I would take a draw in the first away game.
I think I must be underestimating how good my team can be, maybe because it’s a team playing well in a generally week Scottish League or because we haven’t spent that much money but in our away leg against Club Brugge we easily beat them 3-0 and it could have been more.
On paper looking at the value of players and the wage differences, Brugge shouldn’t have lost that easily, I suppose the lower values and wages of our players just reflects the lower league reputation and not the quality of players.
After that win we ended our 4 game poor run in the league beating bottom place Inverness Caledonian Thistle 5-1 then followed that up with a second leg win over Club Brugge beating them 3-2. We took the lead after 5 minutes and never looked like losing after that.
I think this is definitely as far as we go in Europe this year, I know I keep expecting us to get beat and I’m surprised we even qualified for the group stages however we have been drawn against Man City who are one of the best clubs in the world and have spent hundreds of millions every season on players.
Albeit they are only 8th in the English Premiership and haven’t won it since the first in game season but their team is full of world class players and they have won plenty of other trophies.
After Europe we suffered another heavy defeat in the league to Rangers, they beat us 4-1 earlier in the season and this time they beat us 4-0. We remained above them but it was a game in hand we had over Celtic so could have done with at least a point.
We did get revenge in the next game though as we beat them 4-1 in the Scottish Cup quarter final, it’s also a bit of revenge for a couple of seasons ago when they beat us in the cup final. They knocked Celtic out of the previous round so with those two teams out we could have a good chance of winning the cup.
Next up was City in the Europa second knock out games and on the morning of the game we got our new batch of youth players and yet again none are very good, the best is an unambitious centre back that has 3.5 star potential and a central midfielder with 3 star potential, I gave those 2 youth contracts but the rest aren’t even worth that.
The first leg we were away to City and after they took the lead in the 20th minute I was expecting the worst but it was us who scored next equalizing 6 minute before half time.
The second half we both had chances but neither could get a goal to win the game, a 1-1 draw is a very good result to take back home.
The return leg followed a 0-0 league draw as I rested my entire team for Europe and the second leg ended in a bore 0-0 draw too which meant we went through on away goals. I didn’t play defensive for a draw, I played the same team and formation I’ve played all season but not much happened, they had 17 shots to my 6 but most of theirs were long shots and only a couple generated a key highlight and we had 66% of the ball.
After getting past City we got drawn against Roma which isn’t too bad considering we could have got Barcelona, Real Madrid or Arsenal which would have been a lot harder. Roma should be hard but I thought that against Man City so I’ve no idea how it will go.
After the City games we had 2 league games against Celtic with a game against Ross County sandwiched inbetween. The Ross County game went ok as we won 1-0 with our reserves but the Celtic games again showed the difference in class between us.
Celtic had beat us 4-1 at home earlier in the season and they have just beaten us 3-2 at home then 3-2 away. The home game we took the lead twice before they equalized then got their winner in the 92nd minute and the away game they were 3-0 up at half time, we came back into it in the second half and had a couple of good chances missed to draw the game.
Those games left us in 3rd, 8 points behind them and 2 behind Rangers with 1 game to play before the league splits and 6 games overall left to play.
It would be nice to get 2nd place ahead of Rangers but I’ll be happy with a 3rd place finish, we are 7 points ahead of 4th so a top 3 finish is looking likely.
Just after those games we also got informed that our stadium upgrade has been completed and we are moving back home into our now 2,863 seater stadium, it also notes it could be expanded to 5,000 seats.
Considering we have averaged 6,657 fans this year with games against the big clubs getting a little over 16,000 going back down to that little is going to bring in less match day revenue.
Another league defeat followed the Celtic defeat and we were probably in our worst league run of the season ahead of the first Roma game.
The Roma game first leg was at home and they got a penalty after 5 minutes which my keeper saved. We then took the lead twice with them equalizing shortly after before they took the lead with 15 minutes to go. With 3 minutes remaining they scored and own goal and we managed a 3-3 draw which wasn’t a bad result but 3 away goals conceded means in the second leg we need to win or score 3 or more goals in case of a draw.
After the game we got news that a consortium are planning on taking over the club, hopefully it’s one that will pump money into the club but more often than not takeovers don’t seem to change much.
Although our league form hasn’t been great since the new year our cup form has been brilliant. After the draw with Roma I rested most players in the next game for the return leg and we beat St Johnstone 2-1 in the Scottish Cup semi-final.
After that with our full team we went and beat Roma away 1-0 which I didn’t think would happen after our star striker got a straight red card after 20 minutes. Roma wouldn’t be happy with the goal as their keeper brought it far out of the area and had the ball took off him by my winger to score in an open net.
That’s put us into the Europa semi-final where we’ve been drawn with Arsenal avoiding Barcelona who have been drawn against Rangers.
In the league we got a good win against Motherwell but then lost again to Celtic which gave them the title. Luckily for us rangers hadn’t been doing too well either so I was 3rd but only on goal difference to Rangers as we are both 14 points behind Celtic so 2nd place is still possible.
What I hadn’t noticed though was that while us and Rangers hadn’t been doing too good, St Johnstone had been winning and they were now 4th on goal difference with all 3 of us on 60 points with 3 games to play so while 2nd place was possible so was finishing 4th.
During the Celtic defeat we lost our right back for the rest of the season through injury then a day later we lost our back up right back for 2 weeks so going into the Arsenal first game we had no right back, our star striker was suspended and our best left back was ineligible to play as he’s on loan from Arsenal.
With those players missing we ended up losing the first leg away 4-1, they got a 10 minute penalty and we equalized by half time but in the second half they scored 3 goals including 2 late goals when we went down to 10 men after our reserve left back got injured after we has already used our subs.
We need to win the second leg by 3 goals which I can’t see happening, it looks like our European journey ends in the semis.
Our second leg got off to a great start as we took the lead after 11 minutes, we then dominated the rest of the half without getting another goal we deserved. The second half started off quiet but we got a second goal after 77 minutes.
We only needed 1 more goal to take it to extra time but it never happened, Arsenal managed to defend the rest of the game out, we won 2-0 but lost 4-3 on aggregate.
We did get £2m for playing in the game bringing our total prize money from Europe to £11.5m and another £0.5m from tv money and a few million from gate receipts has made it a very profitable season.
With 2 league games to play it was announced that I won the players manager of the year award which is nice, better than last year’s runner up. I’m not sure how it’s worked out but the runner up this year is managing the team who are second bottom and could still be relegated.
The last 2 games are away to St Johnstone who are now 3rd, level on points with me and home to Rangers who are 4th 3 points behind after St Johnstone beat Rangers in their previous game.
We beat St Johnstone 3-0 away and as Rangers lost to Celtic it guaranteed a top 3 finish which I was then informed we had qualified for the champions league, I thought it was only the top 2 that got champions league but looking at the rules the top 2 qualify for the group stages and 3rd place goes into the qualifying.
I’ve gone back a few seasons and only 3 seasons ago 3rd place only went into the Europa so the extra place in the champions league is recently new.
Due to being 3 points ahead of 3rd with a much better goal difference means we will be finishing 2nd regardless of what happens in the last game so we’ll be playing in the champions league groups next season.
After confirming champions league the board have given us the initial transfer and wage budget, due to the money we’ve brought in this year they have upped our wages by £20k to £94k a week but given us a whopping £9.26m for transfers, considering we had £0 last year and ended up spending £275k all season it going to be an interesting summer of transfers.
Although I’ve got that money, straight after we were the subject of a takeover by someone willing to invest a measly £6m into the club so it’s not going to be a big takeover. The takeover however means that we are under a transfer embargo so I can’t start buying players just yet.
Our last league game ended in a 0-0 draw to Rangers and confirmed 2nd place, 16 points behind top and 1 point ahead of 3rd after winning 19, drawing 10 and losing 9.
Celtic were just too good for us in the end, we stayed close for a while but they pulled away as our league form dropped off trying to juggle Europe, the league and domestic cups our team wasn’t strong enough.
Just 1 more game left this season and they the Scottish Cup final against Hearts, we lost our last cup final but Hearts only finished 6th and we’ve beaten them 3 times this year and losing once so we should be favourites to win the final.
We had no problems in the cup final this time as we won 2-0 with 1 goal in each half. The stats show that Hearts had 4 shots but none were worthy of a highlight as we dominated the game. We only got £136k for winning it, we got more (£820k) from gate receipts.
That win tops off a good season, 2nd in the league, a Europa semi and a cup win, can’t have much to complain about as Celtic were deservedly the best team in the league and Arsenal were just too good for us in their home leg.
We finished the league season as top for possession which I’m happy with, we stuck to our 4-4-2 formation again this year and it done well.
We were only the 4th top scorers but Celtic who were top only scored 5 more goals so there wasn’t much in that and only 3 teams conceded less than we did so we done well in both attack and defence.
We were bottom for average attendance with only 6,258 which will be a lot lower in our crappy small stadium next year.
Out players done well with our star striker finishing top scorer again with 25 goals in 30 league games and 37 in 47 overall. He was also top for average minutes per goal, number of shots, and shots on target.
We didn’t have the top player for assists, out best was 5th but we did have 3 players in the top 15 assist makers.
In the end of season awards, along with my players manager of the year award I also got writers manager of the year and our star striker got all the individual player awards again for a second year running and is still only 21 years old.
I’ve also been informed that they are expanding the ground again, this time by 2,137 seats to take it up to the 5,000 maximum size it can be expanded to. While that happens we will play at Hamilton’s 21,849 seater stadium so at least next year we won’t lose out on gate receipts.
The board have also decided to upgrade the youth facilities which is nice of them.
That’s all for this update which seems to have been a long one, a lot happened this season with the cup runs and in particular Europe.
I’ll be back with an update after the next season.
– Sparko Marco