Hey guys so it has been awhile since i posted but i am back with a new save. I dabbled with a Burnley save to start my FM20 off but that hasn't gone to plan so i am back this time with a journeyman style game. It is great to see some of the older faces back posting! Shrewnaldo... in particular! So i thought i would join in the party.
Taking inspiration from one FM content creator on youtube i am going to make this Journeyman have an end point. The aim of the game is to win the big 5 leagues and each of the main cup competitions. To go alongside that i also need to win the Champions League, Europa League and the new Europa League 2. I might as well throw in the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup whilst i am at it. Finally on the International side, I will also need to pick the European Championships and the World Cup. So that leaves the unenviable task of winning 17 trophies!
So where do i start, do i go big and take the vacant Bayern Munich job, do i try and resurrect Arsenal or do i go straight to the top and take Real Madrid? Well no, to add another twist, i am going to start at the very bottom with no coaching badges or prior experience.
So who gives me that chance in football? Wherever it is, i need to move up the ladder quickly to meet the end goal
So only a short trip to Oxford for my first role as the City became the only club to offer me a role to start my managerial career. The only other club to offer an Interview was Braintree and when they rejected me it was obvious my career was going to start at Oxford.
So Oxford City Football club were formed in 1883 and play their matches at the 2,000 capacity Court Place Farm in Marston, Oxford and are in the Vanarama National South (6th tier of English football). In the early days the club had lots of success and were one of the leading clubs in Oxfordshire tasting success in the FA Amateur Cup. However, in the latter half othe 20th Century the club was in decline and there was a brief attempt to return the club to success with Bobby Moore being appointed as Manager with Harry Redknapp as his assistant.
However, in 1988 the club hit its lowest point as it was evicted from its ground by the landlords meaning the side had to resign from the Isthmian League with the club not returning to Senior football until 1990 when they entered the South Midlands League with 1993 seeing the club move to its current ground and return to the Isthmian League.The club continued to climb through the divisions during the 1990's and reached the final of the FA Vase in 1995.
Since then there have been some highs and lows. In particular a couple of great FA Cup runs including a 1-0 win over league opposition Colchester in the First Round before going out in Injury time to Notts County in the 2nd round on BT Sports. Just last season they got to the 1st round this time drawing 3-3 with League 2 Tranmere before losing a replay. However, they are now managerless until they hired myself.
So what do i have to play with?
That is truely it other than two players sitting in the U23 squad. Just 17 players at my disposal and some real work to do if we are to compete. However, there are a couple of gems in there to hang my hat on. Craig King is the No.1 and looks solid enough for this level. Joe Oastler will be the rock at the back whilst Josh Ashby is the star man of the show in midfield with Kyran Wiltshere being a threat from the wing. Up top we have just the one striker so Stefan Brown better get the goals.
So what are the board expecing? Well as part of my interview i promised mid table despite the Media predicting us a lowly 22nd. I may have just set myself up here for failure. The clubs vision is pretty simple as you would expect from a lower league side.
To be honest that suits me to the ground. An above average performance could see me get snapped up by a bigger club so we dont need ambitions right now. To aid me i have just £309 per week left to spend on wages with no transfer budget. Things could get interesting....
We needed players to make up the numbers, that was clear and with little to no wages on offer we had to do it on the cheap. It meant we needed good young players to sit in and be the reserves whilst perhaps trying to add just a player or two to the first team. Loans would be important too and a senior affiliate was a must to help build out this side.
So that is what i did. Harry Mcdonnell, Freddie Niblett and Jordan Clarke fitted the young mould as all signed on for a month to month contract meaning no weekly wages for the guys. All three have the potential and i am sure as the games come thick and fast will get given game time but they help bulk out the defence and the left hand side in particular.
Meanwhile, veteran Ibrahim Kargbo and youngster Martin Onoabhagbe were added to help compete in the first team. Kargbo adds some defensive grit albeit his lack of pace and legs could be an issue but i am hoping his experience makes up for it. Martin on the other hand will go in at the back to partner with Joe Oastler in what could be a decent centre half pairing this season.
We still needed a striker and in my desperate search we have gone with with Luke Rawson to join the side from Chesterfield in the season above. His club's willingness to pay for most of his wages being the deciding factor but he adds another option up top to Stefan Brown. I am hoping there will be more loans as i have added Blackpool as a parent club but so far i haven't found a youngster to come and join the side just yet.
Somehow we are over the wage budget despite my best efforts so i may lose a player over the next few months to keep that under control but we now have a much bigger squad that can hopefully keep up with the demands of the league. Talking of the league.... how has it been on the pitch?
On the field
Well, pre-season saw a mixed bag as we beat lower league sides before getting well beaten against Solihull Moors and Oxford United to make me a little worried going into the season. Were we strong enough? Or had i made another mistake?
Safe to say it has been ok so far. We have lost games we should have won but we have managed to win games we really should not have and somehow sit in the play-off spots. It is early in the season for sure but we have some real potential in the side. Josh Ashby and Zac McEachran have been great in the midfield and i just need to get either Kargbo or Fleet to perform as the ball winner to really nail that midfield down. We need work on the wings for sure with no one performing well and our striking options have shown glimpses but it is just glimpses so far.
There is enough to work with and already i feel at home. Let's see how this goes.
Well the lofty heights of August could not be matched as we hit some sticky form in September that has threatened to derail the whole team. It started off well enough as we picked up 4 more points against Concord and Tonbridge as we still hovered around the play-offs. Then the wheels came off as we went 5-0 down at half time against top of the table Maidstone. the second half saw us stem the flow of goals nad we scored two of our own to bring it back to 5-2.
Still we had never been breached that badly in the defence and things didnt get any better in the next game as we got well beaten 4-2 by Chippenham with Joe Oastler getting sent off late in the game. Our Morale was falling horrendously and we had the FA Cup up next. We were drawn at home against Faversham, a side we should easily put away but with Morale low and a little bit of rotation, it was a tougher game than i had hoped. We still came away with the victory, a 2-0 win meaning we were in the 3rd Qualifying round where we will take on Salisbury.
The month wrapped up with high flying Bath outplaying us and easily dispatching us 2-0 as we suffered 3 back to back defeats in the league. Morale was shot and not helped by a poor team talk leaving us rock bottom in Mood ready for October. League table wise it isn't looking as bad.
Comfortably mid table as it stands, pretty much equal distance from the play-offs as we are to the relegation places. So all in line with what i told the board but i can't help thinking the next month or two might decide whether we get into a relegation dog fight or have a little foray into the play-off hunt. What i am feeling is a slight tweak to the way we play. Our direct counter attacking game does seem to work but we are not getting any joy down the wings. In fact all 5 wingers i have played this season are performing pretty poorly with our main source of threat coming from Ashby and McEachran in the middle of the park. So i am going to ask the team to play through Ashby. He is our best player and the more we can get him on the ball the better.
Hopefully that will help boost my perceived performance as we slip into a C+ category. I am also going to keep an eye out for some wingers as right now we are struggling massively in that area to the point we are effectively playing with 9 men at times. Money is horribly tight though and i will need to let a player or two on wages go to free up some wage budget, unless i can find a loanee with no wages. Billericay up next who are sitting rock bottom so hopefully they are prime for me to reverse our form and fortune.
After a tough end to September we needed to bounce back in October to avoid getting dragged into a relegation dog fight and we just did that. Despite seeing some of the worst morale i have ever faced we somehow beat Billericay who themselves were on a 7 game streak without winning we won the match 3-1. Zac Mceachran playing the Mezzala role to a tee twice getting past the strikers to score.
It was then FA Cup draw as Luke Rawson bagged a first half hat trick against Salisbury before half time before Leroy Lita and his side inspired a come back to end the game 3-3 and drive us to a replay. A replay we managed to scrape 1-0 to seal a 4th qualifying round spot against Dover from the Vanarama National. That was followed by a routine 2-0 win over Hemel Hempstead to finally right our poor morale and keep us in the hunt for the play-offs.
A 1-1 draw against a decent St Albans side followed where we struggled to press our normal game. Maybe we were dreaming of another 1st round spot in the cup as we played well in a dogged 1-0 defeat to Dover with them scoring their only goal via the penalty spot. It was a tough way to go out but at least i met the Clubs vision for that tournament. Things couldn't though have gone much worse against Braintree as they spanked us 4-0 in another worrying display by the side. I hoped another slump in form wasn't on its way but i needn't have worried as we bounced back beating Wealdstone 3-1 to end a relatively positive month by all accounts.
It feels like an incredibly weird league table with just 3 points seperating 8th and 16th and it will be showing in our past positions table as we yo-yo dramatically between just outside the play-offs and mid table. We are still too reliant on one man as Josh Ashby is all too frequently our only decent player. Others come and go and a lack of an out and out goalscorer is starting to show as we really struggle to kill games off. We need to make personnel changes but i just dont have the wage budget to play around with. In fact our annual salary cost of £126k is the lowest in the league with pretty much most teams having double the budget to play around with.
It also means contracts can't be renewed and Josh Ashby is the first one that will get snapped up when his ends at the end of the season. He refuses to sign one saying he doesnt think we have the resources and he is completely right. Times could be about to get really tough.
I have though at least moved up to a B- with the main challenge right now being that i am over the wage budget but i dont see a way of me shifting that downwards without severly leaving me understaffed. The players i am willing to let go, no one wants. Where we go from here, i dont know but at least November provides some rest bite from the amount of matches we have to play as juggling this side around isn't easy.
Oh dear! November was not a fun month at all as we start to run out of ideas and crash out of the FA Trophy at the first opportunity. The 0-0 draw against a struggling Hungerford summed up a month where we struggled to make chances let alone take them and it is clear we don't have a plan B.
I even switched to a 4-4-2 to try and bring the wide men into the game more to see if that would drive some performances worth noting. It did not! Some more desperate attempts to sell some players failed and we seem stuck with the team as it stands. Which seems to be a team that is half decent at set pieces whilst also having the ability to completely forget to defend at least once per month. Still remarkably we are in the hunt for the play-off spots.... well the last one anyway
In what is still proving to be a weird season we genuinely can not rule out the play-offs or a lower half finish as everyone seems to be so up and down at the moment. So perhaps just that one good loan player will make the difference and i will be out scouring the market again for a new loanee to spice things up a little.
Oh! December is the season to be jolly as we go a whole month undefeated and concede just the one goal as we learn to defend as well as string some wins together. Not only that but my wingers actually did something and scored a few goals. Admitedly they each only had one good game and not at the same time but it is at least encouraging to see them contribute something.
In fact the classic 4-4-2 is doing us pretty well with the only worry is that we only have 2 strikers at the club so we have no one else to come on and change things up. It is a little limiting but we are riding our luck with injuries somewhat at the moment. I went hunting around Blackpool but supposingly playing for the U23's or the U19 sides is a better prospect then playing in the Vanarama South in lovely Oxford so that is proving to be a right bummer.
Still we are in the play-off positions somehow and we are living the dream but January has some tought games lined up with Weymouth, Havant and Dulwich our first three games of 2020 so expect to come down with a bump. Still a season high rating of a B is looking positive although i do feel a little hard done by. I cant physically get the wages to go down as no one wants any of the players we can afford to lose plus i am in the bloody play-offs having been predicted to come rock bottom!
The day we all live for is around the corner and i am hoping it is the answer to some of my questions as a good regen or two could make a massive difference to this side. However, on first glance i shouldn't hold out too much hope but a half decent winger still could make this side with some consistent performances.
Some new faces and a tough run of league fixtures are the story of this month.
So we managed to add two new faces to the squad both on loan with no wages being paid keeping the wage budget where it is. First through the door was Harry Hammett joined from Notts County to finally give me a 3rd striker. He isn't great looking attribute wise but with Stefan Brown getting injured he has taken his chance and scored 2 goals in the last game of the month. The second new face sees parent club Blackpool send a player here on loan with Michael Fitzgerald providing another option in the centre of midifeld and he should be a good alternative to Zac Mceachran who has gone off the boil lately.
On the field
As i said it has been a horrible run in the league as we have come up against virtually every side in the play-offs back to back and with just 4 points picked up from a possible 15 we are suddenly out of the play-off places again and needing to get ourselves back in the mix.
Can we do it? Potentially, the run of horrible fixtures continues into February with Maidstone and Bath but after that point we would have played everyone in the play-off hunt with a theoretically easier run in we could get some momentum and take on the play-offs. With Fitzgerald and Hammett providing extra numbers and competition, things are looking up. We do need someone other than Ashby to turn up week in and week out and with Ashby's contract still looking to expire and him having no interest in signing a new one, i am fearing we might be losing our best player. The play-offs give us our best shot of keeping him adding that additional pressure.
We are like a bag of revels at the moment. You never quite know what you are going to get and it is certainly making the save interesting but also making that play-off spot even harder to get! We now have just 8 games to go and as you can see we need to play catch up if we want our season to extend into May.
The month started brilliantly as we beat Maidstone 2-1 a team that if you remember thumped us earlier in the season. It looked like it was going down to a draw but with 4 minutes to go they had not one but two men sent off. So seeing an opportunity i went to very attacking and luckily Zac McEachran popped up at the back post to prod one home late on to give us the victory. Bouyed i thought we would steamroller Tonbridge and we scored in the first minute but could still only muster a draw.
Then Bath royally thumped us 5-2 in another classic Oxford City collapse in defence and that threatened to derail us as we again struggled against Chippenham but somehow pulling out a 2-1 victory. The final match against Hemel Hempstead saw a Jekyll and Hyde performance. First half we were coasting to a 2-0 lead but we managed to concede against from the only two shots on target to come away with a disappointing point.
So 8 games to go and 3 points to catch up. Our fixtures see us play against current 7th place St Albans in what could be a play-off 6 pointer and will be the crucial fixture. The games against Slough and Chelmsford are the only other "difficult" games on paper with everyone else in mid table obscurity or struggling near the bottom. Our goal difference though is the real worry and it will mean we will need to go the extra step to finish in these play-off positions.
Another Month down and another month where we made hard work of it. Against Billericay it took a lucky own goal to give us the 1-0 victory in a game we should have won easily. St Albans was the big game of the month as we needed to catch them and we did just that with another lucky 1-0 victory. This time Nana Owusu cut in from the left and curled one in.
We were now in the play-off spots and it was ours to lose and we really struggled for a 3rd game on the trot to cut out some clear cut chances and this time we paid for it as Braintree scored two long range efforts to win the game 2-0. The month ended with our toughest game of the season against a Slough side who were looking to guarantee their own play-off spot. With that in mind, it was no surprise neither side carved out a single highlight and a scoreless draw was the end result.
Somehow we are still in a play-off spot but it is going to go down to the wire. Just 4 games to go, and what a four games it is. Both Wealdstone and Chelmsford are currently hunting us down and they are our last two away games of the season. Luckily the home games are a little more winnable but with the way we are playing, we could end up doing anything right now. I think we are going to need 8 points to get that spot, and we might get away with 6 especially if the 6 points are picked up against Wealdstone and Chelmsford.
Before i get to the business end of the season and the small question of whether we make the play-offs. I thought i would do a litlte update on the fruits of our first youth intake. Firstly it has to be the worst set of personalities i have ever seen as we are peppered with unambitious players which is a worry. There are at least a few that have some potential to be decent players but no one who is immediately ready to go into the first team.
The best of the lot for me is Welshman Lloyd White who has the best personality of the lot, high determination and probably could make it as a 4th choice centre half for us next season. Positioning and Concentration need work but the other stats should improve enough to make him half decent at this level.
Outside of that we have striker Joe Matthews who has pace but can't finish. To be honest i see him more as a winger and so ill look to retrain him as one. Shaun Rendall looks too short to be the centre back he is touted as but he could make it as a right back with a bit of luck.
They are the only three that i can see at this stage making it but i will sign a few others to bulk out numbers including Luke Sobalek and Ben Young.
Any tips on youth intake and what i should be doing to maximise the potential?
I said 8 Points would be enough and in fact it took just 6 points and 3 games to do it, but our season will end in either play-off ecstacy or play-off heartache. A 2-0 win over Wealdstone was hard earned but effectively knocked them out of the running and we could have had things wrapped up even earlier but a shock 3-2 defeat to 2nd from bottom Hungerford delayed what looked like the inevitable.
Instead a 2-1 victory over Hampton and Richmond secured our play-off spot before a dead rubber against Chelmsford saw the end of the regular season. A 1-1 draw was secured leaving us in 6th place going into the play-offs. Which of course means we needed to go through 3 rounds to get ourselves into the Vanarama National league. First up was Bath. A nightmare of a tie, as this team have beaten us 3-0 and 5-2 in the regular league campaign and were somewhat of a bogey team for us.
So i wasn't too surprised when this happened
It was an horrendous game for us as their wingbacks were rampant and a misssed penalty by Brown pretty much stopped any hope we had of getting back into the match. There was some terrible performances and we limped out of the play-offs at the first time of asking. However, 6th was still an incredible performance with a side predicted to come bottom and with the smallest budget in the league by far.
The board though seem a little less impresssed than i had hoped. I think my performances should have at least merited an A and i cant help but think there is a slight bug in the Club Vision side of things. I had agreed with them Mid table and i acheived play-offs and considering the actual expectation from them was to be in a relegation battle i should be performing better. We got to the correct round in the FA Cup and admittedlly we didnt go as far as they would have liked in the FA Trophy, from a competition standpoint i exceeded expectations. The wage budget at the end was not kept as under control as i would have liked but i had to renew some contracts otherwise there would be no players here next year and i did need to sign some of the youth intake. So i can only imagine it is that that has caused the problems. I did manage to get rid of youngster Bennett who joined Tamworth which freed up £95 per week but it was a lot tougher to get rid of the players than i had hoped.
End of season Awards
My name was touted as a contender for the Manager of the season but in the end i was not crowned or even in the top 3. Manager of the year was instead the Slough manager who guided his side into the Play-offs having been predicted 14th. We also had no individual player awards for the season which isnt that surprising when you look at the average ratings of most of the squad. Only man averaged over a 7.00 for the season and that was Josh Ashby who helped himself to 2 goals and 8 assists this season. So it was no surprise that he took home the clubs player of the year
As you can see it wasn't even close and that probably sums us up right now. We need to be better, more consistent and also less reliant on one person to perform week in and week out. I was delighted i managed to get him to talk about a new contract for the first time at the end of the season and i have secured his services for another year.
Which brings us nicely to the future and what we are going to do. I have thoroughly enjoyed the season despite the heartbreak. There is something about LLM that makes it more enjoyable and i feel like i accomplished something here. The problem is my reputation is still virtually nothing (less than 1/2 a star) and i have only just got the board to agree to funding a coaching course which will help me in the future. The job market is also threadbare unless i fancied the Man City or Real Madrid jobs but for some reason i dont think they will come calling. There was just the one job that i applied for and that was for Havant & Waterlooville who had a terrible season this year finishing a lowly 14th having been predicted to be one of the promotion favourites. Their wage bill is 3x ours and i was lured in by the thought of having more wriggle room to make a promotion chasing squad but i wasnt even offered an interview and that put that to bed. So i signed a new contract and i will be here next year.
Budget wise that works out another £600 per week on wages but we were already overspending by that by the end of the season and it means i am going to have to look at cutting the squad down even further and trying to find some cheaper alternatives to the players that i have got whilst trying to take the club and myself to the next level. The club vision has now changed to being mid table for the next 5 years which is somewhat good news and depressing at the same time as there is a lack of ambition. They have also added being good at set pieces as a must after our impressive set piece goal tally last season. We will also be changing grounds which was a surprise to me.
So now we are going to be groundsharing with Maidenhead and also facing another cost to the club further hurting our resources. Things are going to get tougher before they get easier.
So before i get cracking and provide you an update on all of transfer business i should give you an update of what has been happening in the wider world of football and also look at how we are progressing against our own targets that were set in the very first post.
So Liverpool had a cracking season as in real life and won the Premiership and FA Cup double and fell just short in the Champions League final where they lost to Barcelona. Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea joined Liverpool in the Champions League finishing in the top 4 leaving Man Utd and Arsenal in 5th and 6th. So it all went to wire in the Europa League final where Man Utd beat Arsenal to secure a 5th champions League spot ofr English Clubs.
Meanwhile in Spain, Atletico Madrid won la liga with Barcelona 2nd. Real Madrid though could only come 5th in a terrible campaign where their only highlight was the Copa del Rey. Juventus were runaway league winners in Italy with PSG also winning Ligue 1 at a canter. However, neither side was able to get a domestic double with Napoli and Lille both winning the Cup competitions.
In Germany, it was a slightly surprising champion as Borussia Dortmund took home the Bundesliga title whilst Schalke won the DFB Pokal beating Werder Bremen in what must be a rare trophyless season for Munich.
0/17 Targeted trophies won 0 Other trophies
2019/20: Oxford City, 6th Vanarama South, 4th Qualifying Round FA Cup, 3rd Qualifying Round FA Trophy
It was time to pick ourselves up from last season and look at how we can improve this squad with very very limited resources. With the wage budget now just about covering the team we had i need to find a creative way to free up some budget. So i cut my scouting budget down to the minimum and moved that to the transfer budget and then transfered that to the wage budget. It doesn't add a lot but it is still better than nothing.
So starting with the outgoings. All three loanees (Hammett, Rawson and Fitzgerald) went bacl to their parent clubs whilst we released the above from their contracts. Ignore O'Hara and Nicholls who were purely here on trial when they decided to retire but the others all left. Kargbo was terrible and rightfully retired to become an awful scout. Kyran Wiltshere was billed as a top player but his wages were high for someone that barely performed all season, so i released him to free up £220 per week in wages. The fans are not happy on that one but i think it is the right move. Tarik Moore-Azile was our back up centre half who just didnt get enough games to warrant having someone on a contract and so he left whilst Rhys King was a youngster out on loan last season who is awful.
Joining them on the outgoings were three other players. Youngster Harry McDonnell was on a month to month contract and decided to join Slough rather than accept a minimal contract to keep him at the club. Striker Stefan Brown actually left for a little bit of money and became our record sale at £400. Whilst Reece Fleet was another player who was a back up and on a weekly contract so was allowed to leave to go to FC United.
With all of the outgoings we needed to rebuild. It was free transfers and loan deals central as i trialled what seemed like 200 odd players. It was clear we needed to rebuild the midfield as we were desperatly short in the center of the park and the wings needed a refresh as well. Up top we now had no strikers so that again was an area to look at as well as adding a full back or two. All of that for around £400 per week. Should be easy right?
A gruelling transfer window as i scrimped and saved everywhere where i could but i have still ended up £500 per week over budget so the board are not happy but i am going to make the gamble of performing better than their expectations. As they are expecting us to avoid relegation i am confident i can keep out of the firing line.
Terrique Anderson was the first man through the door as the winger/striker adds another option and more importantly versatility to the side. I see him more as a winger and he will have something to prove having not played for a club last season but he has decent enough physicals and mentals for this level. The loan market is a massive boost for clubs like Oxford City and so i was quick to add three new loan signings to the side from London clubs. James Vennings joins from Charlton and has great passing and vision for this level and i hope will be a creative force to go alongside Ashby this season. We are paying all of his wages which is the only downside as my other loan deals are better value for money. So welcome Aaron Drewe and Charley Kendall who join from QPR on loan and are costing around £80 per week each as QPR pick up most of the bill. Kendall looks a right find up top and should easily surpass the goal tallys we were getting last year whilst Drewe is a massive upgrade at right back.
After 3 loans came free central midfielders on free transfers, all for different reasons. Veteran Scott Shulton joins on a month to month contract so has no financial outlay and will be a reserve we will call on when needed. He knows this level and gives us some grit in the middle if needed. Lewis Bryon will be vying for a starting position and i cant work out if he will be a ball winner or an attacking midfielder as he seems very well rounded and more importantly versatile. Finally Tyo Carter joins as an U23 player who has some potential and more importantly costs nothing on the wage front.
We finished pre-season with two more loan signing as Connor Slack and Hayden Ravenscroft join from Forest Green and Blackpool. Slack will compete with Kendall for the striking position whilst Ravenscroft gives me another option in midfield. I definitely cant say my midfield isnt stacked right now.
With all of the new faces booked in, it was time to go onto the field and show how the reinforcements have made us a different outfit. The Media seem to think we have done a good job as before the season started we were predicted to come 21st in a newly expanded 24 team league. So to be relegated again but as the season started we had moved all of the way up to 12th in their predictions.
That new found belief in our abilities showed as we won the first 4 games of the season to provide my longest winning run on the save so far. They weren't all pretty but they were wins all the less. Hungerford were up first on the opening game and new signing Charley Kendall bagged his first goal after a long ball from club captain Joe Oastler split their defence. We then had League favourites Barnet at their place and another early Charley Kendall goal got us off the mark, they equalised straight away but then a scrappy Nana Owusu goal secured us a nice surprise victory.
The next weekend saw us at home to newly promoted Truro and their two red cards didn't help them but we were never in danger as Joe Oastler got two goals from centre half with Terrique Anderson opening his account for the club. Then 2 days later at home to Chippenham we had a comical own goal give us the lead before Charlie Kendall scored his 3rd of the season to help see us through to an eventual 2-1 victory.
However, our good run soom came to and end as we lost the next two to Hemel Hempstead and Wealdstone 2-0 and 1-0 respectively as we failed to make any chances. A poor 1-1 draw with bottom club Chesham followed with youngster Jordan Clarke scoring his first professional goal for the club before we got pegged back late on. Another 1-1 draw against Dorking didn't help as Kendall added a 4th of the season before left back Jefford got sent off and we conceded a late equaliser. We did though end the month on a high as Josh Ashby struck a sublime free kick to give us a 1-0 win over Braintree to leave the table like this
9 league games in a month is insane and September doesnt look like it is going to hold up as the bigger league campaign will come with games thick and fast as we need to keep rotating the squad hence the large influx of central midfielders to help keep the energy up in the middle of the park. Charley Kendall is looking to be a decent striker and his tally of 4 is only 7 away from the total our top scorer got in the whole of last season.
Although results have been a little up and down we are straight into the play-off conversations and that is where i want to be. I am especially happy as we have not had our No.1 Craig King all season after he dislocated his shoulder just before the opener meaning we are relying on an untried 19 year old teenager in goal who at times has looked absolutely shocking. 9 more games in September including the start of our FA Cup campaign. Hopefully i can hold on out with the youngster in goal! See you all soon.
We are so so close to being a decent team for this league but we need to kick some of the inconsistency out of our game if we are going to get ourselves promoted this time around. The results above show some of the problems, as in 5 games we failed to score a goal, this is despite having at least 2 clear cut chances in every single one of them games and also having more clear cut chances than the opposition in all of them. Quite simply we shouldn't have lost any of the games we did.
I have raved about Charley Kendall and his 8 goals already is a dramatic improvement on where we were last season but he does miss some sitters from time to time. Connor Slack, the other striker is almost as bad and i guess that is the danger of LLM as the players just dont have the capability of being consistent. However, all being said the league table still looks pleasant enough
Still in the play-off hunt but automatic promotion looks out of the question as Wealdstone seem to have hit that level of consistency needed. We are also still in the FA Cup after we beat Faversham in the 2nd Qualifying Round for the 2nd season on the trot and we will now play Bognor Regis away in the 3rd Qualifying round. October maintains the pace of games dropping to a mere 8 in the month with the potential for more if we get past Bognor Regis.
The month of Haloween, a month normally reserved for scares and horror stories has in fact been very kind to us as we stayed undefeated for the whole month and it means we go into November still within the hunt for the play-offs and more importantly we have a couple of games in hand.
Looking at the table the top 8 have pulled away and at this stage we should be able to concentrate primarily on the teams above us and trying to leapfrog them. Within the 8 teams at the top it is clearly split into two halves meaning we are battling with Havant, Bath and Hemel Hempstead to not be the one team that misses out. Personally i could do with Bath missing out of the play-offs as i just cant seem to compete with them. The main worry for us is if you look at the 8 teams in the hunt is that we score the least goals. Something i am trying to correct by tweaking the formation to allow us to be a little more positive from the get go and also moving our defensive lines further up the pitch.
If you look at our results in the month it seems to be working as we scored 2 goals or more in all of the matches bar our FA Cup 4th Qualifying round tie against Eastleigh. Luckily that tie ended 0-0 before we smashed them 5-1 in a replay to put us in the 1st round proper. We will go away to Stuart Pearce's Ebbsfleet who are sitting near the bottom of the table having won promotion from the Vanarama National. The way we are playing right now, i fancy our chances to cause an upset.
Squad wise we are relying on the goals of Charley Kendall more then ever but it is good to see we have more than one player averaging over a 7. Josh Ashby is still the star of the show and has already matched his goals and assists totals from last year. Our centre back pairing Oastler and Onoabhagbe are forming a great little partnership at the back. Secondly some of our wide men are starting to perform and chip in with the assists we missed. Things are changing and for the better. The board even recognise it with our highest rating so far
November seems to be the month of the draw in the league as we struggled to keep our relentless pace up from October. It was also a month peppered with 3 cup games as we needed to rotate heavily. Still undefeated in the league and we played some promotion rivals including St Albans and Bath.
It started off well enough as we came back from a goal behind against Gloucester to comfortably win 3-1 and take advantage of one of our games in hand. We then had 1st Round FA Cup day, the biggest day in Non-league football and i fancied our chances against a struggling League 2 Ebbsfleet. We had St Albans in the league just 3 days afterwards so i actually rested some players for the Cup game as i wanted to go out and beat St Albans and make up some more ground in the promotion hunt.
It didn't seem to matter as Ebbsfleet were poor and Charley Kendall continued his excellent season to score a brace before we conceded late on it was ended up being a comfortable 2-1 victory away to League opposition. Our reward was a big home tie against Sunderland in the 2nd round. A tie we played later in November and one where we walked away with some pride. It didn't start well against the Black Cats as we were 3-0 down within 27 minutes but we pegged it back to 3-2 thanks to goals from Clarke and Kendall but we instantly conceded a 4th to go in at half time 4-2 down. A 5th Sunderland goal killed any hopes off of a remarkable comeback but i was happy with the two goals we scored as we bowed out of the FA Cup. It was a bumper crowd though with 4800 odd people in the stadium. Not bad considering we have been averaging around 300 for our hime matches in the league. Which by the way is half of what we were getting last season, as the stadium move has killed our fan base.
Whilst we are on the Cups, we took on Bradford Park Avenue in the FA Trophy and this time Connor Slack was the hero as he scored two with James Vennings getting a first for the club with a 35 yard screamer to see us win 3-1 and progress to the 1st round proper where we will play Notts County away from home.
Back to the league campaign and we ended November with three 1-1 draws on the bounce against St Albans, Concord and Bath City. We were deadly unlucky against St Albans as we conceded a 96th minute equaliser whilst we missed some glorious chances against both Concord and Bath to prevent us taking maximum points. Still we managed to end our run of defeats against Bath and perhaps i might have a chance should we have to face them again the play-offs.
A hald decent month there and we are now in a play-off position but it is still incredibly tight. 9th looks a fair distance away so really we should be getting a top 8 finish this season keeping the board ecstatic. However, we need to shake off one more team to guarantee that play-off spot but right now i am focusing on that 2nd or 3rd spot as it will make a massive difference playing at home in the play-offs and also having a round less to get through. We have both Weymouth and Barnet in December so we have the perfect chance to make inroads.
One thing we do need to be careful about is suspensions building up. We had 3 red cards alone in November and our yellow card tally is building and particularly in defence we dont have the greatest back ups and as well as our attack our performing this year, if we have no defence we could start losing or drawing games we should be winning. I suspect that is what happened this month as i constantly needed to rotate anyway due to fatigue so with suspensions also causing us issues we were bound to find it a little tricky. Injuries have also started to creep in for the first time this save, nothing serious but Josh Ashby has had a few knocks meaning he has had to miss out and with him being our most consistent and therefore best player, i feel like we have carved out less chances without him on the pitch.
Still the board are happy and we are well on course to meet all of their competition expectations. Time to get stuck into the festive season again.
With match postponements causing some havoc with our fixture list, December was a remarkably quiet month this season with just 4 games played as it allowed the team to catch their breath and recover from the so far gruelling schedule. The one slight problem is that they might have also taken their foot off the pedal as we were knocked out of the FA trophy and picked up just 4 points from the 3 league games.
To be fair, we were massive underdogs against Notts County in the FA trophy, a side at the time atop of the Non-league pyramid and expected to beat us. We played well for around 75 minutes but unfortunately in the first 10 minutes of the match and the last 5 we switched off and we eventually lost 2-1 despite our best efforts.
Moving onto the league we left it late, very late to score two goals to finally see off 10 men Hungerford before playing out the most boring 0-0 draw with fellow Promotion hopefuls Weymouth that you have ever seen. It was a point but a massive missed opportunity to catch them. However, the wheels truly fell off in what proved to be the final game of 2020 as Barnet smashed us 3-0 at home. To be quite honest over the last three games we deserved a spanking and we got one. The table now looking like this
So we are still very much in the play-off but 2nd and 3rd look a distant dream as it stands which means we are going to need to think about 3 rounds of play-offs again. Welling still look a little far away to worry us just yet and we have a game in hand against struggling Chippenham in January to help extend that lead further. We still have one more long term loan available for the season and after the last few games it looks apparent that should be a right winger. Terrique Anderson started the season well but he has dipped and we dont really have a decent alternative so that will be the priority for January.
As you can see the board are still happy and keep offering me a new contract. I have walked away as right now i am not sure if my future remains with Oxford City past this season. Talking of the future.
We got the first glimpse of our youth intake for next season.
Nothing to write home about to be honest. A goalkeeper is nice and they might be a better back up to King than Caro but it isnt what i really wanted. Some defensive options could be interesting particularly the full backs as we are short there. Still i expect they will be pretty poor when they actually come through.
Now our little foray into the FA Cup did provide some much additional finances. As of the 1st January we have just shy of £230k in the bank. No signs from the board to help expand our wage budget but i did get them to agree to this
Now whether i am here to see it is another question but the move to Maidenhead has really pushed the fans away and our attendances are half of what they were last season. Even if i am not here to see it i will be proud to say that i should be leaving this club better off than when i left it.
As it stands... should i stay or go at the end of the season?[/b][/b]
I did have a look at Wrexham and Hartlepool earlier in the season but by the time i applied they had already found their manager. The Yeovil guy is insecure so i am following them just in case he gets the shove. Interestingly i got the board to agree to letting me doing my National Coaching A Badge even though at first they said no as they were worried i would get bigger clubs coming after me. I suspect when i get the qualification (Due around May time) i would be more reputable than the club. We are both currently 1* reputation so i am hoping it will open up some more jobs for me
So January saw a little bit of movement on the player front as i used my 6th and final long term loan in. I mentioned we needed a right winger and i added Robert Apter from then Parent club Blackpool. Some great physicals for this level and double figures for crossing means he is rated a star player. Only problem is on his debut against Truro he injured himself 20 mins in and is now out for 8 weeks. Luckily we are picking up none of his wages.
Now the eagle eyed of you, may have noticed i said then parent club as after the Apter loan i actually changed our parent club to Sunderland. They have much better facilities so should have a better quality of player and probably more importantly they are paying us an extra £10k per year for the privilege.
We also let non contracted players Tapp and Rowe leave the club on frees as in reality i would probably play the regens over them should we need to.
On the field
After a disappointing December we needed a big month to get ourselves back on track and my god did we get it as we won 5 and drew 1. Now none of the games were vintage and infact we won 4 of the games by just the one goal but we fought hard and took the points when it mattered. I should also point out that other than the game against Tonbridge, all of the sides we faced were in the bottom half of the table so they were there for the taking.
It was such as good month we finally won the manager of the month award and the board are ecstatic with me and i am now deemed untouchable by the board. The good news as well though is that i look to be nailed on for the play-off spot with Hemel Hempstead and Havant & Waterlooville falling away. The fact we could even sneak in to a top 3 spot gives me real hope that we could in fact get out of this league which will make a decision to stay even more likely. come end of the season. On a side note we have equalled last seasons points tally with 8 games to spare which i think says more about how last season played out points tally wise.
All good things have to come to an end and that was the case in February. The highs of January could not continue as we hit another slight sticky patch. To be fair the four the games we had in this short month were far tougher including playing high flying soon to be Champions Wealdstone plus fellow Play-off hopefuls St Albans.
It started with a disappointing 2-2 draw with Dartford with Terrique Anderson getting both goals. It was a game we were at times lucky to be in. The one good thing to come out of it is i have found out Terrique Anderson knows where the goal is when he plays on the left. If only i hadnt played him as a right winger for the last 6 months!
We bounced back from that draw though and got a great victory away to St Albans with both Bryon and Owusu scoring long range goals to give us an important 2-1 win. A tough 1-1 draw with Chelmsford followed with Anderson continuing his good form and getting us the equaliser before we had another capitulation this time against Wealdstone as they smashed us 3-0 in a game where Anderson got a red card instead of a goal.
Our bid for top 3 has taken a hit and it is a sure gone thing that Wealdstone will win the league after literally obliterating every team that has stood in front of them. I checked and i cant see any reason why they have suddenly become the leagues version of Liverpool. Bath and Barnet are catchable but do look very likely to get that 2nd and 3rd. If we can have another January run of form then we have a chance. The last time we got smashed 3-0 as in the final game of 2020 so we have bounced back before.
Im confident of the play-offs still but i just dont know what team will turn up. Earlier in the season we had a number of players in form averaging over a 7.00 but that has dropped right down to just 1 player averaging that for the last 5 games (Terrique Anderson). Charley Kendall has gone off the boil which is the most worrying thing as we rely heavily on his goals whilst Slack is on a drought as it is.
Time to have another tweak and perhaps a team meeting to try and keep the momentum going
I think the above tells you the main story for the month as we secured our play-off spot for the 2nd year on the trot in what has been a largely positive month of March as we picked up 3 wins from 4 games. Dorking Wanderers were the first side up and Charley Kendall got himself out of his little rut with two goals with Bryon also banging in a long distance goal to set up a 3-2 victory to get the month going. Chesham were then beaten in the next game 3-1 as Kendall again got himself a goal alongside Anderson and Apter scoring his first since his loan spell.
We then had a little blip against Braintree as i went chasing the victory and got caught on the counter attack as we went down 2-1. This set up the final league match of the month against struggling Hampton and Richmond Borough in what proved a combative match as we got 7 yellow cards in a tight 1-0 victroy with Zac McEachran scoring from a corner. It leaves the table like this
We are now in the driving seat for the top two play-off positions and we can not let them go as i see it as our best chance of going up. Interestingly, the end of March sees us play our 42nd league game and when we look at last seasons final finish we have lost 6 games less than last year and more importantly turned them into 4 wins and 2 draws to see us 14 points better off. It also equates to 3 goals more but more importantly 15 less goals let in as we are becoming a better side. A side good enough to get promoted? I am not so sure.
I am so unsure, that when the Barnet manager got sacked i did apply. They are a bigger club and even though we are ahead of them in the table, their budget and reputation would allow me to go to the next level. Only problem, they didnt give me an interview stating my lack of experience in promoting teams being a problem. Well screw them... Onto the final games of the season
We do really need to sort out the personalities as its clear we love an unambitious player but ignoring that this is a much better youth intake than last season's first effort. Dwayne Rushton is the star of the show and already a 2* left back which means he is only a little bit behind first choice Jefford. He will go straight into the first team and might even come off the bench this season to give him some game time.
Matthaios Kassos is rated the best prospect by the team but i am not so sure he is going to be ready for the team anytime soon. Brayden Bradbrook was heralded as the goalkeeper that could do something but like Kassos, he is some way off and he will not be threatening the first team anytime soon. Interestingly we had a Swede in the youth intake with Benjamin Karlberg coming through. I think he is better than the scouts are giving him credit for and we are light on strikers so he becomes 3rd choice should we need him.
Toby Hobbs is probably the 2nd best player that came through but will need retraining to sit further back in the midfield as we dont play with an AMC but again there are some decent passing stats there to work with.
We really tried to bottle it, we really did. To be fair it was a tough match of fixtures with games against Welling, Havant & Waterlooville and Weymouth but it took a 91st minute winner in the final game of the season to seal our 3rd place spot. Without the winner we would have finished in 6th place again.
I think this update is best described with some simple images. A picture can tell a thousand words
Absolute joy followed by complete heartbreak. We managed to beat Bath for the first time ever in the save after a nervy performance with on loan Apter scoring a goal that had me jumping up and down with joy. We then had St Albans, a side we hadn't lost too over two seasons and again it was a very nervy affair and their goal was a counter attack from their own area. Absolute heartbreak and now i need some time to work out what to do next. Still it is the clubs highest ever finish
The end of season awards are in and quite rightly Charley Kendall won fan's player of the year after scoring a club record 28 goals in the season. Josh Ashby broke the record for number of assists as well getting 12 this year in what was another good season for him. Alongside club captain Joe Oastler the three became a spine that relied on heavily.
Now that is a worry as Kendall is only on loan and Ashby right now is not looking likely to sign a new contract wanting a huge £600 per week and i can't offer more than £450. I have gone on to renew pretty much all the players contracts that i want to, just in case i stay and our budgets are out.
It is a generous £200 per week more than what we are currently spending but the transfer budget will be moved into the wage budget which i think works out at £4600 per week roughly which will probably equate to one very good player but more likely 2 or 3 half decent players. Is that going to be enough to go up at the third time of asking?
This has also come in, in what is huge news for the club with the club going back to Oxford. Can i hold on for that long? I dont know. The deal has put some pressure on the club with a loan needing to be paid back over the next 10 years at £12.75k per month but we still have £270k in the bank so i think the club will be ok in the long run. Another FA Cup run will do the trick.
However, no matter what, my reputation hasn't been hurt as i win the Manager of the year for the league. My National A Coaching badge has also been completed which did briefly put me to over 1* reputation although it has dropped again strangely to a solid 1*. I shouldn't find it hard to get a new role, with the award in my back pocket and some coaching badges and experience.