It was time to pick the boys up after last season and we needed to find some new talent especially after losing Hessenthaler. We released a lot of players during the off season, all of whom were non starters with probably the biggest name being Joe Ellul.
The defence was the key area for me and that is where most of the rebuilding was done. First in through the door was young Kane Gayle who was released from West Ham. The regen right back has good physicals and mentals but needs a little work on the technical stats but at 4* ability he is one of the stronger options in the league. On the other side of the defence at left back, i broke the clubs transfer record with the £80k purchase of Ollie Harfield from recently relegated Dag & Red. A well rounded player and instantly becomes the first choice at left back.
Centre backs were also on the menu, as we added the unpronounceable Pascal Kpohomouh having been released from Southampton. I wanted his pace and he should be smart enough to be in the right positions for this league which is what it comes down to. Alongside him i loaned in Ryan Johnson from Billericay as he wouldn't sign on a permanent deal because of our part time status. Not as quick as Kpohomouh but more rounded and the two of them will become my new partnership at the back.
So that was the defence rebuilt but i wanted more. Scott Quigley joined from Billericay to give Luer some competition up top. A £30k fee was arranged and hopefully he can take up some of the goal scoring that we have lost. The final move was to bring in Joe Busby on a free transfer with the ball winner giving us another option in the middle of the park.
So got nowhere near the £800k being spent but the £110k that was made us the biggest spenders in the league comfortably but with the window open throughout the season, i could always add to my collection.
Time for a tactical switch
For 3 seasons we have played a 4-4-2 formation but after last season's end i felt it was clear we needed a tactical revamp to 1) keep it fresh and 2) fix some of the issues we faced last season. It was a common sight for us to be overrun in the midfield and in about 3/4 of the games we had less shots and less possession meaning we rode our luck quite a bit. So with that in mind we have switched to the below
It is going to be about the counter attack now and to move to having 3 in the midfield to give us a bit more protection but also allow us to dominate the midfield in more games. So how has it done?
Not a bad little start as our decent pre-season form flowed into the league. 4 Clean sheets from the 6 games is a good sign that our defence has improved but when we do concede we are conceding hard as we look to chase the game so it still needs a little bit of work but it is getting there.
More importantly, games seem to be a little closer and we are giving the opposition far less shots. So defensively there are improvements but we are seeing a lot less goals so maybe i have created some problems elsewhere. Seeing Greg Luer with just 1 goal at this stage of the season is surprising and Quigley is yet to get off the mark being the only new signing who hasn't quite lived up to expectations.
The Media think we will finish 16th and the board want a mid table finish which i think is because of our status as 1 of just 3 semi-pro sides in the league. Personally i think the play-offs have to be our aim again but it is going to be tough.
Woking's August player of the month
No Greg Luer or Russell Hessenthaler here as i give the award to Aaron Kuhl who bagged 3 goals and seems to be the man who is benefiting the most from the extra man in the middle.
If you go behind in every game of the month you know you are in trouble. Three late goals meant the month wasn't a complete disaster but it looks like our reality of being a mid table side at best is going to come to fruition.
On the positives, we are just 3 points from play-offs so it is hardly a disaster in what is proving to be a tight start to the season and there is at least a fighting spirit picking up 7 points from losing positions. However, at some point you have to stop going behind if you are going to do well in the league (Look at Arsenal this season). Scrapping for draws isnt going to get us promoted, we need to be scrapping for wins if we have a shot of going up this season.
A new face
Right at the end of the month, i dipped back into the loan market again as Billericay loaned me striker George Miller for the rest of the season. Not quite as good as Hessenthaler but in the right mould and might allow me to find some of that magic again that we so sorely miss.
At this rate i might end up with a whole team of Billericay cast off's which shows how good their squad is for this level.
Woking's September player of the month
Kane Gayle is the winner this month out of pure consistency in performances from the right back in what proved to be a slim picking this month as our form continues to falter.
In the first few games the late goals went in our favour as we picked up 5 points from 3 games in the league before we comfortably beat Hornchurch in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying round 3-0 to get to the 1st round for the 4 straight season. This time we have Spennymoor of the Vanarama North.
However, after that FA Cup game it all started to fall apart as we hit 3 back to back defeats in the league which has seen us drop down the table to a position that i have not been accustomed too since the start of my save. Billericay were first scoring a 90th minute goal to beat us 3-2, Maidstone than did the same thing as they won 1-0 before Halifax were awarded 4 penalties in their 4-1 victory over us. Yup, 4 penalties. The ref was a C***.
More work to be done and i might even change back to the 4-4-2 as i just dont seem to be able to get Luer firing this season and Miller is still to adapt. More tinkering needed for sure.
A bright young spark
Every season, i always take someone from the youth intake from the year before and incorporate it into my first team squad. First it was Russell Hessenthaler and we all know what happened to him. Than it was Craig Liddle who made a handful of appearances in the defence before seeing himself out on Loan for more game time. This season we have been using Jack Lockwood and the youngster hasn't done too bad with 4 assists to his name already as he shone in the FA Cup game against Hornchurch.
Woking's October player of the month
Nathan Moriah-Welsh just nips it ahead of Lockwood purely down to goals as both wingers are the bright sparks in an otherwise drab month for the club.
Still in mid-table but on a surer foot and we are now the most consistent inconsistent team that you can ever find but 8 points from 4 games including a vital victory over local rivals Aldershot which was just a little bit satisfying. However, nothing has been as satisfying as our FA Cup run. As i mentioned, in the last update we had Spennymoor in the 1st round giving us our best chance of progression and we took it nicely with a 2-0 victory secured within the first 15 minutes. That led us to an away trip to Plymouth who were flying high in League 2 and what a game that was as George Miller scored on a counter attack to score the only goal of the game.
The 3rd round awaits us and we got a humdinger of a tie. Liverpool at Anfield. Let the spanking commence. Score Predictions from you guys could very well be interesting?
Back to ol' 4-4-2
Back to basics but with a tweak to a counter attacking format given our quality. 5 clean sheets from the 6 games in November is what we can build from and goals are starting to come back to our game as well. I am going to stick with it for a bit longer to see if it is enough to get us out of the mire we find ourselves in.
Woking's November player of the month
We are starting to get the best out of Gareth Miller, he isn't a Hessenthaler figure but the signs are that Luer and Miller are forming a partnership that might just get enough goals to secure us more points.
Only 6 points from the 5 league games as we struggled for goals. In both the York and Boston games we should have won easily, dominating possession and shots but missing simple chances to pick up the points. Leyton Orient than came to town and comfortably beat us before the FA Trophy gave us a handy tie against lower league opposition where we could smash them 4-0.
That victory than seemed to spur the team on as we battled to a 1-1 draw against Newport (We should have won having missed a penalty) before beating high flying Tranmere 2-0 in what was a relatively easy victory.
Again it was a month where we looked better but not necessarily getting the results to push us back up the table. Lots of clean sheets and in fact we are 3rd in the table for clean sheets which shows goals is now the problem for the first time in this save. Normally at the new year point my strike force are pushing towards 40 goals between them, this season they have 15. Oh how i miss Hessenthaler
Just Liverpool up next.... that will be fun
Woking's December player of the month
Gareth Miller steals it again for me mainly because of the last two games after Christmas but once again competition is a little scarce
Let's get it over with, the FA cup tie at Anfield was on New years day and i was expecting a pumping. We got this though
A very respectable result indeed and even more annoyingly we conceded in the 1st minute. Now the Liverpool side was heavily rested and the AI had clearly decided to send every fringe player and youngster out but we held on by just parking the bus and hoping. We did have the odd chance but the result and a giant killing was never truly on the cards.
It meant we could turn our attention and focus on the league, especially when we got knocked out of the FA Trophy to Oxford City in a poor 1-0 defeat. That cup defeat was not as well received by me. Back to the league, it was more of the same inconsistency, picking up 7 points from 4 games.
I wouldn't have minded but we lost to bottom of the table Dartford 2-1 who had only won one game all season but managed to beat Port Vale 3-2 in the very next game. It means all i can see from the season is mid table obscurity and right now i would be ok for this season to end so we can start again. For those that want to know, here is the table.
Some more transfer business was completed as we managed to sign Max Haygarth from Bromley in a £70k deal. I had been chasing this guy for 3 seasons after he got let go from Man Utd but he now joins our midfield as a 4* player and should be a step up.
In terms of outgoings, Kane Gayle who joined just on a free in the summer, already attracted League interest with Swindon paying £150k for his services but agreeing to keep him here for the rest of the season. A nice tidy little profit for someone who was playing sub par if i am truthfully honest.
Woking's January player of the month
I'm going to go Miller again but it is a poor pot to choose from. Again for no other reason than for his two goals against Torquay which won a crucial match for us
However, is it enough. We battled to a 2-2 draw with Greg Luer showing up finally to score two goals but again it was a match we should have won. We than decimated Harrogate in our best game of the season before battling to a 1-0 win over Boreham Wood.
Things were looking positive and we have a play-off 6 pointer against Chesterfield to finish the month off. We got smashed 4-1 in what proved to be an almost laptop smashing match. Its always 2 steps forward and than 1 step back with this team and although we are now just 9 points off of the play-offs (1 point better off than a month ago) the progress is potentially too slow.
By my reckoning we should be aiming at 75 points for a play-off spot. That means 27 points from 36 available. A very tough ask when we are so inconsistent.
Chalk & Cheese
So why are we inconsistent. Well look at these tables showing our home and away form
It is complete chalk and cheese. The 4th best home record in the league but the 5th worst away at the same time. Our away form is basically as good as the bottom 4 and that is where we need to change as unless we have 12 home games from our final 12 games (I did check and that isn't the case) than we are going to struggle to be consistent enough to make up that gap.
What i do differently in away games.... I have no idea. Ideas always welcome
Woking's February player of the month
Greg Luer wins his first prize of the season with 4 goals to his name. Certainly not as prolific as previous seasons but his 124 goals in 199 appearances is an almighty record. Fully recommend this lad for anyone doing a LLM save in England.
It is like whack-a-mole here in Woking. You find there is a problem away from home, and you try and sort that and your home form goes out of the window. Somehow we lose all 3 home games but pick up 5 points from the 3 away games. It means in essence, we have no chance of the play-offs
All i can really hope for now is a top half finish to save some space as i look to build out this squad a little further.
On that, we have added two more faces to the team. Levi Sutton joined from Leyton Orient for £10k to add a ball winning midfielder to the squad. A nice upgrade on what we had and he was in good form for high flying Leyton Orient as well. The 2nd man in was Jordan Gabriel from Maidstone in a £70k deal and he will now be our new right back with Kane Gayle on his way to Swindon at the end of the season.
Both feel like decent coup's and it feels like we can attract a better level of player than we could at the beginning of the season. However, i can only wish for professional status
The good old youth intake comes through again and there is one man that stands out. He is no Hessenthaler but Ethan Taylor could be an okay little player. We don't currently play with an AMC but it is something i was considering for next season as a way of trying to shake things up and so as tradition goes i will add him to the first team squad for next season.
Woking's March player of the month
George Miller takes it again in a month where he scored another 4 goals.
On the plus side we still finished above media expectation (17th) but we should have been better. Hugely inconsistent and we have gone from Leagues top scorers to one of the lowest. Oh how i miss you Hessenthaler!
Woking's end of season review
To be honest, that month was a slog and i just wanted it to end so i could just start from fresh. George Miller won player of the year and ended with 16 goals for the season, 2 behind top scorer Greg Luer.
Tactically we are clearly a mess and i am struggling to find something that works. I need to have another look, find a style and buy around that style. I think im too all over the place and i cant find an identity. Again we have a decent budget for next season (£400k) but they will refuse to let me go professional.
So after that awful end to the season, i have decided to put a halt on this save. I really need to have a rethink as to how i persevere and get into the football league. Having read Ben's save i want to go and experiement a little in another league with a fresh start and hopefully from that save i can get enough ideas together to be able to pick up the pieces with this side. I will be back soon with a new save