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Everything posted by Dong21

  1. Congrats on the promotion! Satisfying that Mullin got to the magic number of 50 goals across all competitions. I look forward to seeing how you get on with rebuilding the squad for life in the Championship. Glad to hear it. All good here as well thanks. I'm yet to take the plunge and purchase FM23 as I am still enjoying a career on FM22 (Oldham), however I am sure I will do very soon into the new year!
  2. No updates for a month and then four in one day! When Frank Rothwell recently bought Oldham Athletic IRL he said about the club: I have returned Oldham to League One, the division they spent over 20 years in before Abdallah Lemsagam's disastrous reign plummeted them down to the National League. Now the aim is to make us competitive at the top of this league. July 2024 Pre-season went as well as it could, six victories and one draw (against our parent team who are currently in the Championship). You'll see names of scorers above who were 'the ones that got away' - the players we had on trial, attempted to sign, but were rejected by them. Going into the new season we sold 4,250 season tickets, a big uplift on the last campaign. Just before the season started Couto was ruled out for a month with pulled knee ligaments. I had been debating whether to start him or James, so that at least took that decision out of my hands. August 2024 Our start to life in League One was pretty much how I expected it to go - a mixed bag (one win, two draws, one loss). Points on the board is always a positive when you step up a division. New striker Appéré could not have had a better debut when he scored four in one game against Barrow in the League Cup. We won again in the next round, this time against Tranmere and the star of that night was young midfielder Vaughan. September 2024 We kicked off our Papa John's Trophy campaign with disappointment. My second string side were sloppy, giving the ball away a lot and a draw was a fair result, this was then followed by a penalty shootout in which all three of our penalties were saved (at least they didn't hit them over the bar I guess... - too soon?). This was soon forgotten however, as we then went on a win of three high-scoring victories. The media tried to tell me that the Huddersfield game was a derby - if the fans really feel that way then they would have been happy with the result. All three of Simpsons goals were set up by McGhee. Our League Cup run unsurprisingly came to an end when we were drawn against United at Old Trafford. We took the lead with a beauty of a strike from Lindsay, of all people, and for a moment I thought a memorable upset could be on the cards. They were ultimately too strong though, evidenced by the powerful Alexander Isak scoring a brace. I was worried this result would derail our good form but I was pleased to see us be the better team with more chances against Sunderland. Obviously it was frustrating to then lose, but it wasn't a panic situation. Centre back Katongo won the League's Young Player of the Month award. The other positive this month was the board finally relented and changed transfer policy so that I receive 60% of transfer revenue in my budget going forward. October 2024 What happened next in October was completely unexpected. After a draw against, then, league leaders Plymouth we went on a run of six wins in a row where we scored at least three goals each match. In the build up to the Forest Green game Jno-Baptiste announced his intention to explore other options when his contract expires at the end of the season and then fractured his lower leg ruling him out for at least three months, and this still didn't dampen our spirits. Against Wigan we were winning 2-1 when Couto got sent off for a bad tackle. We switched to 4-4-1 and went defensive which somehow played to our advantage and we scored late on, on the counter attack. By contrast, we had great fortune against Derby. They had a player sent off in just three minutes. We missed a penalty in the 12th minute but our numbers were too much and we were able to romp to victory. To my shock, the Derby game took us top of the League One table. Finally, the Shrewsbury win was enjoyable as youngster Badby managed to get a goal from the bench. For this month O'Reilly was named Young Player of the Month and I received the Managers' accolade. I did not envisage our season would start so well. I think looking at our squad, I would expect us to drop down the table, but either way we should end up more successful than we, the club or the media expected (I hope!).
  3. Ten signings sounds like a lot, but compared to the last two summers this was relatively quiet! It also means I have started the season with my smallest squad yet. I am not overly concerned, as I usually finish seasons with several players who ended up being redundant as the season played out - I just tend to plan for all occasions (primarily, injury crisis') normally. Here is a summary of the players at my disposal, as at the end of the transfer window: Goalkeepers As a result of balancing the books to ensure we had players in all positions, we go into this season weaker in the goalkeeping department than last season in League Two. Last campaign we had two 'keepers capable of being first choice, this time around I would be worried if anything happened to Turner. Crellin should be okay for cup competition. If there had been affordable yet quality options available, this is a position I would have liked to strengthen. Centre Backs One of our strongest areas of the squad. Whichever two were to play, I would be feeling comfortable. Hockenhull is clearly the standout defender, which was evidenced by the array of accolades he received at the end of the prior season. Clarke is club captain as he demonstrates great leadership on and off the pitch. Full Backs Harry Clarke serves as both a centre back and right back option in my squad. Ideally I would have signed another right back or centre back but I could not find someone suitable who would join the club. In Ng, Clarke, Couto and James I have four quality full backs. Central Midfielders I believe that my first choice central midfield partnership, Longstaff and Lindsay, is a top tier League One pairing or perhaps even Championship level. Thompson is an extremely capable alternative and in Haysman and Vaughan I have two young players with bags of potential. Vaughan is rated by my staff as 2 star, which suggests a decline since prior updates. I do not think this is the case however, instead I think it is just reflective of the overall improvement of my squad's quality. Wingers Compared to the last two seasons, we are definitely lighter on the wings. We simply don't have the finances to afford third choice options on both flanks. Jno-Baptiste is my first choice right winger, after finishing last season strongly, and his deputy is Dodoo. On the left wing my first choice is Whittingham and his understudy is fellow loanee Leonard. I spent a lot of the transfer window trying to acquire a marquee winger to add quality to the group, but all the options I looked at went elsewhere. To pad out the squad I have had to promote youngsters Badby and Lewis-Balogun. Central Attacking Midfielders McGhee and O'Reilly are two players who I am extremely fond of. I am hoping they will take the step up to League One football in their strides. Due to the lack of depth on the wings, you may well see one of these two operating there to get more talent on the pitch. Strikers This is definitely the least amount of strikers I've ever started a season with. We play just one up front, but still this is light. Simpson is first choice but Appéré will be right there waiting to take his place if he does not perform. If we are to have a good season, these two will both need to be firing. I am pleased with the quality contained in my squad and like that many of the players are ones I have nurtured over the last two seasons. The concern is of course our lack of depth due to financial constraints. Staying injury free is the most important thing for us. Despite us only just being promoted, I am optimistically targeting a top half finish. Fortuitously the board only expect us to avoid relegation.
  4. With the same unwanted owner and the same financial predicament, we were starting life in a new division but no transfer or wage budget to use to improve the playing squad. Like in the season before, I was aware that to make any signings I was going to have to sell, so the first thing I did was ask the owner if we could increase the percentage of transfer revenue that I retain, but he promptly rejected this keeping it at just 20%. I was therefore going to have to get creative with my signings. My summer transfer activity can once again be broken down into key phases: Recruitment Phase 1 - Squad Depth Through Loans In an ideal world I would not need to loan any players, but in our situation this is the most cost effective way to build depth into my squad. Firstly I reached out to our 'unofficial parent club' Man City who last season were happy to send us a batch of their young players for no cost. We renewed the season-long loans of left winger Matthew Whittingham and centre back Jadel Katongo, both of whom were important players in last season's promotion winning side. Attacking midfielder Nico O'Reilly spent the first six months of last season on loan with us, this time Man City agreed we could have him for the whole campaign, with us only covering 20% of his £3k per week wages. Next up I turned to our official parent club, Blackburn Rovers. Last season we didn't end up taking anyone from them (unsurprisingly their academy isn't quite as good as City's) but we were more desperate this time around with event less budget to spend. We therefore decided to bring in two of their available players to bulk out our squad, with the major benefit being that we don't need to contribute to their wages. The arrivals were centre back Ashley Phillips and left sided forward Harry Leonard. Both are young players who have the potential to improve if I end up giving them playing time. Recruitment Phase 2 - Sell Anyone Who's Not Essential As is often the case when I am managing in the lower leagues or at clubs with limited budgets, I took a good number of free agents on trial to cast my eye over them. The majority were interested in signing and would improve our squad - the issue was though, we didn't have any budget to sign them. I therefore looked at my squad to see who I could sell to (a) create wage budget and (b) generate transfer revenue I could convert into further wage budget. As you can see above, I managed to raise £550k, of which I only saw a small proportion of. Kigbu and McNulty came to me to say they were looking for new opportunities and so were the first to be placed on the transfer list. Law had decent value considering his limited contributions last season, so again I was happy to accept a bid. Stevenson was a class act, particularly adept at corners, however central midfield was where I feel we have the most depth so I decided to cash in. My staff spent last season telling me that Garratt was my best 'keeper, but I preferred Turner. I therefore offered him out and to my surprise Man Utd and Liverpool were listed as interested in the 29 year old. In the end though it was Charlton who secured him. Gunter was my long-term project in goal, but when a bid of over £100k came in for him unprompted, I just had to take the money. In addition to all the sales, we also loaned out a number of young players for experience. This also made minor reductions to our wage bill. The most notable outgoing was Junior Luamba who I was keen to get more minutes at League Two level. Recruitment Phase 3 - Add Quality Now first of all it is probably worth acknowledging the vast number of rejections I received from players, once we had a small amount of budget to offer them contracts. Players who were on trial with us, were happy to negotiate and had no interest in them from other clubs would all instantly receive an offer from another club the second I offered them a deal. In quite a few instances players chose teams in lower divisions or offers of less money, which was quite perplexing. The biggest example being Josh Cosgrove who I offered the role of first team player, for him to then chose to go to Accrington instead in the division below, same squad status but for half the money I offered! It was not all doom and gloom though, we did manage to secure some new faces. First to arrive on a permanent contract was Reece James (not that one!) who had just departed Cardiff City. The full back provides be another quality option on the left side of defence. After selling both Garratt and Gunter near the end of the transfer window, I needed a back up goalkeeper or we were one injury away from a crisis. The best I could find on the free agent market was Billy Crellin. He is at least competent and, thanks to his age, has potential resale value. At the start of pre-season I took Joe Dodoo on trial and I must admit he was not a priority to sign. He was on trial for four weeks and due to a limited number of options, played on the right wing in a lot of pre-season matches. To my surprise, he was one of our star performers during this period. As we were struggling to sign our primary targets, I decided to sign up Dodoo to add more depth to my squad. Although listed as a striker, I see him as my second choice right winger. The screenshot shows his attributes declining, but don't read too much into that as he has played well so far this season (more on that in a future update). I was happy with Longstaff and Thompson as my first choice central midfield pairing, but when I stumbled across Jamie Lindsay I could not resist making a move. Lindsay is now by far the best defensive midfielder at the club. He had spent the last two seasons as first choice CM for Kilmarnock in the Scottish Championship. There were so many centre forwards who rejected us. I knew I wanted Simpson to continue as my first choice forward, he had earned the right after a stellar campaign, but I also knew I needed a quality alternate. It was looking like we were going to be short in this area, until I decided to splash out and sign striker Louis Appéré on a free from Northampton. On £2.8k per week he is our highest earner by a distance (Lindsay is second on £2k) but I am comfortable with this as we had room in the budget and the alternative was to start the season with just one striker. He is an expensive sub, but I am expecting him to contribute to our success with goals.
  5. Paul Mullin has been an excellent signing with that goal return! Good to see updates from you again on these forums @Jogo Bonito - hope all is well with you
  6. After a bit of consideration, I decided to play on with Oldham for a bit longer. I'm enjoying this too much to stop just now! I tend to offer staff short-term contracts as when their deals come close to expiry it acts as a reminder for me to survey the options available to me external to the club, and bring in new faces if better options are available. It is also a fairly low risk approach as I find staff are usually pretty content to renew their deals, even if you leave this until the day their old deal expires, whilst you are looking at alternatives. Having just secured promotion to League One, I had a feeling better quality staff would be interested in moving to Boundary Park. Richard Thomas was a very good coach, however I decided to release him when it became apparent that Mike Garrity was interested in joining us. Garrity is simply top class in nearly all elements of coaching and brings pedigree to the club, with five years at Liverpool on his CV. Garrity is a coach I have worked with in other managerial careers, at clubs bigger than Oldham. The other new addition to the first team coaching group is Goalkeeping Coach Rob Burch. He replaces Mel Gwinnett, who only arrived one year ago, but who had to move on as Burch is a level above in talent. Burch's previous roles have been at Premier League clubs, so this can be considered another coup. At Under-18s level, the international experience Ashley Williams provided to my youngsters was comfortably replaced by my new U18s Assistant Manager Emmerson Boyce. Boyce replaced prior AM John McKeown and Williams was directly replaced by new Coach Neil Danns. Ronny Rosenthal and Khaled Badra have both been trusted lieutenants to me in the scouting department as we've climbed up the divisions, however it was time to move forward in a different direction. My new Chief Scout, Nicky Law, joins us from Burnley where he spent six years. The Lancashire side have a pretty good reputation for finding hidden gems, so I'm excited to see how Law supports my recruitment efforts. Joining him, following eight years at Manchester United, is fellow scout Kei Tamura. Perhaps a left-field choice as his expertise is Japanese talent, I'm willing to believe his skills are transferable and he will be able to help find me talent closer to home. Physio Calum Green replaces Ryan Wilkie in our medical department. When we were in the National League and League Two I felt I couldn't justify hiring a Director of Football. I like to make most of the decisions at the club, so effectively the role is just another scout as I sometimes ask my Director of Football for player recommendations. Now were are in League One I decided I could afford this luxury. Johnny Miller has very good scouting ability and his wages are lower than similar rated scouts. Perhaps most important of all, his handlebar moustache is a sight to behold! One man was not replaced. My trusted right-hand-man, Terry McPhillips, was rewarded for his loyalty after rejecting a move to Hull with a two year contract extension.
  7. I second what @Jogo Bonito has said and will keep an eye out for where you end up managing @warlock
  8. Interesting idea for a save! Enjoying following your updates. I’m surprised you went for Hart as first choice ‘keeper ahead of Henderson? That said, it doesn’t seem to be causing you any issues. All going very well
  9. With promotion in the bag, my attention once again turns to enhancing my squad so that it is capable of surviving and perhaps even thriving in League One. I advised the squad in the end of season team meeting that we would be bringing in new faces to assist us, and the group reacted positively. That said, before I begin to review the transfer options available to me, it is important to first reflect back on the performances of my squad over the season concluded. So let's take a look at how my players got on in the 2023/24 season: Goalkeepers For the second season in a row, Jake Turner was our first team goalkeeper. Second choice stopper Ben Garratt still played over 20 games though as he featured in most cup competitions and also came into the first team for league matches when I had felt that Turner had messed up the game prior. In most instances though, Turner would swiftly return to being my number one shortly after. In my eyes both 'keepers are very even in quality and this is supported by their similar proportions of goals conceded against games played. Going into League One next season, if I can find a goalkeeper who is a significant step up from Turner and Garratt, then I will certainly be open to recruiting. Young Luca Gunter sadly did not get any first team opportunities this season. I will look to loan him out next campaign so he can attempt to begin fulfilling his potential. Full Backs As indicated by his 7.35 average match rating, Harry Clarke had a terrific season. His biggest asset is his versatility; for the first half of the season he job shared the right back position with veteran full back Jordan Spence and then in the second half of the season, after the arrival of Perry Ng, he transitioned to centre back and formed a great partnership with the ever-present Ben Hockenhull. Clarke assumed club captaincy mid-season and has thrived in this role, recently rising to the status of 'team leader' within the squad. At the end of the season three players separately came to me to say they weren't sure they were cut out for this club and in each instance Clarke stepped in and was able to cease any issue. Clarke was voted League Two's signing of the season (with Ng one of the four runners up). Ng has been great since joining. My staff rate him as the best player at the club and I was particularly impressed with his 5 assists in just half a season. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do in a full season. 20 year old Benny Couto had a stellar campaign. He played more matches than he did when we were in the National League and you can see him improving every week. He marauds down the left flank and contributed 7 assists this season in this role. Tomas Galvez was one of several Man City loanees brought in on the cheap to bulk out the squad. Every time Galvez played he did well. I would be surprised if he makes it at Man City but I think he has a very good career ahead of him. Centre Backs There is so much to say about Ben Hockenhull. He had the highest average match rating of any player (nearly 7.5), he had the most Player of the Match awards (6) and the most passes completed per 90 minutes (71). Unsurprisingly he was named our Fans Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season. Externally, he won League Two's Player of the Year and was named in the league's Team of the Season. Three star-rated Jadel Katongo partnered Hockenhull for the first half of the season and did really well in this role. He was ousted in the second half of the season when I wanted to fit both Ng and Clarke in the side, prioritising the development of our contracted players over loanees. Ash Kigbu was merely a backup this season, but whenever called upon he delivered for us. Central Midfield We were over-stocked in central midfield and the two main victims of this were Bobby Carroll and Tom Carroll (on loan for the second half of the season). Neither could get any game time and both have been set for release this summer. I have perhaps wasted the chance to develop Bobby, however it had to be done as I simply had better options available. It could be argued that my midfield signings have also limited the game time of youngsters Harry Vaughan and Khalon Haysman, however on reflection they both featured in near 30 games each which is a good level of experience for a pair of 20 year olds. Ben Stevenson was the top assistor of the season, with nine. He proved to be terrific at corners and this would have been where most of his assists came from. Mid-season signings Louis Thompson and Matty Longstaff both excelled. They both fit the mould of the roles I like to play in central midfield; ball winning midfielder and mezzala respectively, better than any of the players I had at the club prior to their arrivals. Central Attacking Midfield The above image should really feature Nico O'Reilly who was with us until January and played 27 times at CAM and got 5 goals and 6 assists. Dion McGhee could not live up to his first season in which he set up or scored a staggering 34 goals. That said he still had a good season, considering he had stepped up a league level. His goals, assists and average rating were still respectable. Being only 23 years old, he still has room to develop further. Wingers Matthew Whittingham was the City loanee who made the biggest contribution to our campaign. Although still quite raw, the young winger had several standout games and I was pleased with his 6 goals and 6 assists. Whittingham was first choice at left wing, although as you can see from the way appearances are shared around, Ben Lloyd (who did sometimes also play CM) and Jason Law did often deputise. First choice on the right wing was Francis Jno-Baptiste (FJB), although injuries stopped him playing as much as I would have liked. As such Junior Luamba or Dion McGhee would often have to fill in. We had a rare scenario whereby we had a lot more left footers than right footers, which is why McGhee would sometimes fill in due to his versatility. FJB scored one more goal than the season before, and in a lot less games. After he scored 4 against Bradford I tried to offer him a new two year contract, he wanted silly money and talks broke down. As the season progressed I was able to secure a one year extension with him on similar terms to what he was on. After some thought, I also decided recently to give Luamba a one year deal prior to expiry. On paper he is nothing special but so often he does well on the pitch, plus he is homegrown, so I decided to give him the new deal. Strikers There was a question mark over Connor Simpson at the start of the season. Could he score goals in League Two like he could in the National League? Simpson confirmed emphatically, scoring 2 more than the season prior, being named in the league's Team of the Season and finishing up the division's Top Goalscorer of the Season. Like Joe Duffy before him, Jay Stansfield never really got a sniff. He ended up filling in on the right week many times more than he played up front. Considering he only made one start, Bobby Duncan did well to get three goals across the season. He needs to be loaned out to develop or moved on. Marc McNulty was somewhat of a flop and I'll definitely be looking to get him off the books. Renewals Given our financial predicament and the boards indication that there will be no money available for transfers this summer, I decided to explore the possibility of renewing Katongo and Whittingham's loans. To my delight, City were happy to loan them, they were happy to come back and best of all City didn't expect us to cover a penny of their wages this time. I therefore moved exceedingly quickly to tie up their loan renewals. I also thought it would be prudent to renew the contracts of our best players. This means they are more likely to stay at the club, or if they are to be poached then we should get more for them when they have more years on their contracts. Five key players, who all had one year left on their deals, signed new three year contracts; Clarke (£1.6k per week), Hockenhull (£1.5k p/w), Couto (£1.2k p/w), Haysman (£1.3k p/w) and Vaughan (£1.3k p/w). Also, youngsters Cookson and Moore got new two and one year deals, respectively. I also tried to renew McGhee's deal but talks broke down over the fact I wanted him to sign a three year deal and he only wanted two. I am confident that we will be able to resume talks within the next few months and he will sign a renewal of some form. The best bit about renewing Clarke and Hockenhull's contracts was that I was able to remove minimum fee release clauses that, prior to this, had left us vulnerable to them being poached for a bargain.
  10. Thanks @warlock I am undecided to be honest! This is the first year I can remember where I haven't bought the game in advance and played the beta. Its a combination of (1) I'm still really enjoying this Oldham save and it would feel like a shame to end it after putting so much time and effort into it and (2) I haven't really heard rave reviews about FM23 - nothing negative per say, just that not much has changed and therefore I haven't been inspired to buy it and put down FM22. I'm sure I'll make a decision on whether to continue or make the jump to the new game some time this week. Yes that's been my experience in previous years as a lower league manager, not a huge leap between League One and League Two and then a big jump when you get to the Championship. The challenge will be that the board has already advised that budgets will remain the same (remember, they stayed the same when I went from the National League to League Two) and there are some properly big clubs at this level (the likes of Sunderland, Sheff Wed, Hull, Derby and Ipswich), which wasn't the case in League Two. I'm really hoping for that takeover as (1) I'm sick of reading Abdallah Lemsagam's name, (2) it will be great narrative for the story I'm telling here and (3) it should hopefully wipe the debts and put us on a sound financial footing. Its worth noting, I don't want a tycoon takeover as I don't like when a challenge is easy - just a reasonable budget to compete at League One level.
  11. February 2024 After an extremely busy January the first team was exhausted so I played the reserves against Crawley and they secured a goalless draw. The rest of February was smooth sailing though with the obvious highlight being the 6-1 mauling of relegation zone strugglers Bradford. My critique of Jno-Baptiste over the last two seasons, along with his injury record, has been his lack of end product. With four games in one match, FJB showed he has got that killer instinct in his locker. After we beat Bromley and Colchester drew we rose to 3rd in the table, which is an automatic promotion place. Left back Couto was awarded the League 2 Young Player of the Month and the board congratulated me on the early completion of one of our objectives: to remain in League 2 this season. March 2024 March was more of a mixed bag of a month. Northampton beat us with a header from a corner and a great direct free kick, whilst at the same time Colchester won. Luckily we remained third, albeit only on goal difference. We had a great day when we took on Leyton Orient, bagging 5 goals, all from different goal scorers, without reply from our opponents. Next up was a trip to league leaders Gillingham. We started well when FJB scored within the firs two minutes, but unfortunately they were too good for us and we ended up losing. That result meant that we dropped to 4th in the table. It was around this time that the board once again had to inject cash into the club (160k in this instance) to keep us afloat. The board also let me know this month that I'd achieved another of their objectives. This time, to become and established League Two side. April 2024 When we drew away at Mansfield we fell to 2nd in the table however it is indicative of how close it was at the top that when we followed that up with three straight wins, we found ourselves 2nd in the table after beating Bristol Rovers! Our fellow promotion contenders slipped up (in some instances they were playing one another) so the Stevenage loss at the end of the month did not see us drop down the table. Simpson got a hat-trick against Chesterfield, which contributed to him being names League Two Player of the Month for April. May 2024 Four points from our final two games of the season was enough to finish 2nd and secure automatic promotion to League One! This was unquestionably above the expectations of the owner, the fans and of myself. I was aware the gap in quality between the VNL and League Two was not substantial, however I was expecting a bit more struggle than we experienced. The players performed admirably throughout the campaign. League Table Here are the final league standing for the 2023/24 League Two campaign: Gillingham went up as champions, 14 points ahead of us. Winning the league was never within our sights. Colchester joined us as an automatically promoted side and then we were also joined in promotion by Playoff winners Fleetwood Town. Our goal scoring was not as prolific as when we were in the VNL, however we did score more than any other team in our division. Furthermore, there was only one team (Rochdale) who conceded fewer. It was therefore unsurprising that we had the best goal difference in League Two. Best Eleven The above media item shows a fairly accurate reflection of the team I most frequently played in the first half of the season. However, in January I signed right back Ng and central midfield pair Longstaff and Thompson who became mainstays in the team, in the second half of the season. The trio, in my opinion, were an upgrade in quality and output compared to their predecessors. In the next post I will write up a comprehensive review of my squad's performance. New Contract After securing a second successive promotion for the Latics and being named the league's Manager of the Year, I was approached by Oxford who had just finished 16th in League Two and was asked to come to interview. I politely declined in favour of continuing onwards with Oldham. Due to our perilous financial position, the owner once again waited until there was only a few weeks left on my deal before offering me a new contract. This time, at least, it was a two year deal. I gladly accepted, giving me some much needed job security as we head into a season in League One.
  12. I have now completed the 2022/23 season and will update on that very shortly! Before that though, there are some housekeeping items to update on. Head of Youth Development In early February my Head of Youth Development Conor Marlin was poached by League One side Lincoln. This was disappointing as I rated Marlin, but it presented an opportunity to review what options were available to us for his replacement. The HOYD is a very important position, considering I want to bring through quality homegrown players. I therefore need to make sure I got the best person for the job. The man I settled upon is perhaps a little left field, as this is his first job not as a player, but I was blown away by his attributes. Great working with youth, very good judgement of players ability for this level and, perhaps most importantly, his mental attributes (determination, adaptability, discipline) are simply top notch. I'm looking forward to seeing what positive influence Aaron Taylor-Sinclair can have on my young players. In other staffing news, we also hired one of Steven Gerrard's trusted lieutenants Jordan Milsom as our new Sports Scientist and in the youth ranks we hired Jim Elvin as an U23s Assistant Manager, joining our ever-growing contingent of Northern Irish staff. Both positions were previously unoccupied, so this is an evolution of our coaching team. Youth Intake It was too soon for Taylor-Sinclair to have an influence on our new crop of youth team players. The five below are the only ones we decided to sign from the youth intake: The youth intake preview earlier in the season probably over-played the quality of the crop of youngsters that would be coming through. That said, winger Lewis-Balogun and centre back Antoniadis both look like they have a good level of potential. Shortly after they joined, I gave both of the pair two year contracts. Ownership Saga Continued Between February and May there was not one, but two, fresh takeover attempts. Both of which would ultimately collapse! First was an attempted takeover by a fans' group. This would have been a fairytale ending to the Lemsagam era, but sadly talk of this deal just fizzled out. Second was a bid from a local investor, with the exciting side note that he intended to wipe out the club's debts. This attempt was more formal, as we were once again placed under transfer embargo. This ended in disappointment with the news that Lemsagam once again rejected the bid. I'm starting to wonder if he ever will actually relinquish control of this club...
  13. Anyone following my career updates, or indeed even my career updates last year on FM21, knows the one thing I want most from a save managing Oldham Athletic is to see the departure of controversial owner Abdallah Lemsagam. In real life the club is luckily now rid of him but in my career, sadly set up before the club was bought by local businessman Frank Rothwell, the Moroccan is still in situ. I can improve how the club is run on and off the pitch, but frustratingly this remains the one thing completely out of my control. In my first season, whilst managing in the VNL there were rumours and media speculation regarding a club takeover three times, but this all fizzled out. I was therefore delighted when the following news broke: This was the most substantial indication I had seen that a takeover was finally happening. I had names of the two individuals heading up consortiums rivalling to purchase the club. Most excitingly there were two bidders! Surely one of them would be able to seal the deal. I didn't even care that one of them was suggesting I would be replaced - I had confidence that my performance in the role would convince him otherwise. We were formally placed under transfer embargo in late December. It looked like something significant was about to happen. Then, in early January, my dreams of new ownership were once again crushed. Perhaps a lucky escape, if Smethurst consortium did not have the funds to back up their bid. Before the real life takeover by Rothwell, Lemsagam was known to be wanting an overinflated fee for a club in the position that Oldham is in - perhaps my save is replicating that and his expectations are what quashed the deal... But what about the other consortium? Smethurst's group had failed to evidence finances, but what of the group headed by Voetbalzone? Not a word about Voetbalzone has been said in them months that have passed since. When I check the owner status we are no longer under offer, Lemsagam is simply 'willing to listen to offers'. Better than 'happy at the club', but it really does feel like we are back to square one again.
  14. Thanks @warlock - appreciate your unwavering optimism! Hot off the press. I have just made an additional free transfer signing a few days after the January transfer window has closed, which could well spur us on for the remainder of the season. I have no idea why he was willing to come to a League Two club after leaving Newcastle, nonetheless I am delighted to acquire a player of this calibre. He has become our highest earner, but his £1,400 per month has in no way broke the bank and is very much still within our means. Hopefully Longstaff will be the workhorse that powers my team forward now.
  15. December 2023 After no wins in eight and a defeat against bottom of the league Harrogate, the last thing I wanted to do was play league leaders Colchester. I switched to a defensive approach and pulled off a very surprising win, helped out through the head start of a penalty. This was quickly followed by a Papa John's Trophy victory over League One side Accrington. A 94th minute equaliser and a win on penalties felt good for morale and resilience. We still drew three league games, so that habit isn't exactly gone, but two of those draws were against promotion chasing sides. In mid-December Norwich Manager Dean Smith approached me to advise he would be recalling striker Joe Duffy in January due to lack of game time. Typically he finally got his first goal of the season a week later, going on to bag three in three over the festive period. Christmas Presents I received a few gifts over the Christmas period, with the first being the news that Assistant Manager Terry McPhillips had rejected the equivalent role at Blackpool, instead to stay on alongside me at Oldham. Hot off a great month in which he scored five vital goals, the second gift was Connor Simpson's agreement to sign a new three year deal on exactly the same terms as he was currently on (£1,200 per week). With six month left to go on his contract, prior to renewing, the club and fans were delighted by the news. Next were two gifts I gave to myself. After our poor November I decided to explore the free agents market and with our reputation grown by a strong start to the season, better players were interested in joining us than in the summer. Good job I ended the transfer window with £6k per week left in the budget. First to arrive was right back Perry Ng who had recently been let go by Vancouver. The former Cardiff player can be considered somewhat of a coup as he is thought of as the best player at the club by my coaches. The second arrival was defensive midfielder Louis Thompson who had been a free agent since being released by League One Portsmouth in the summer. Again my staffs reports were positive, classing him as our best central midfielder. Both penned their deals in early-December, played U23s fixtures to rebuild fitness and made their debuts against Carlisle. It wasn't all good news, as I didn't get two things on my Christmas list. Deals were agreed for goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo and attacking midfielder Ateef Konaté, however both failed to get work permits and the deals had to be cancelled. My Christmas present to Oldham Athletic was my rejection of job interviews at League One strugglers Walsall and Forest Green Rovers. Finally, I received news of gifts coming my way in 2024. The preview of youth players due to arrive was very exciting as it alluded to quality all over the pitch. If the report is to be believed, we have six talented players joining our academy soon. January 2024 Besides the slip up in Newport, January was another positive month. Three wins and two draws in the league was a points haul I was satisfied with. When the time came to play Fleetwood they were then league leaders. A draw would normally be considered a good result, but both goals we conceded were sloppy, so I was frustrated. Speaking of frustration; we did not deserve to exit the Papa John's Trophy. We had 15 shots to Derby's 1. Their goal was a header from a corner which gave them an xG of 0.08. We scored a top quality goal that was just offside and hit the post. The one positive is that we proved we could compete well against bigger sides. The month ended on a high when we beat Swindon with a burst of three goals in three minutes, coming back after being 2-0 down in the first 20 minutes. January saw some big name outgoings. Club captain Jordan Spence was unhappy at his lack of game time, phased out by first Clarke and now Ng. I will miss his leadership attributes but at 33 it seemed the right time to move him on. He was sold to Sutton for £16k. Tom Carroll's time at the club never really got started - I loaned him out to Shamrock Rovers for the rest of the season. The big disappointment was when Nico O'Reilly's loan expired and City were not interested in letting me renew till the end of the season. The attacking midfielder scored six goals and got five assists in 23 games. His contributions will be missed. After Spence left the club I moved quickly to select Harry Clarke, who has been having a great season, as the new club captain. There was one arrival during the transfer window. When Duffy's loan was recalled I knew I would need to bring in another striker for cover. Striker Jay Stansfield arrived on loan from Fulham. However, since joining in mid-January he has found himself having to fill in on right wing. First choice on the right wing at the start of the season, Jno-Baptiste has had no luck, first breaking his toe and being out for 8 weeks, then picking up a flu followed by a virus that cost him the month following. The only other right footed winger, Luamba, has had his injury challenges with the latest knock being pulled abs. Going into the home stretch of the season we sit 4th in the table, in with a good chance of achieving a Playoff place finish and with an outside shot at automatic promotion.
  16. October 2023 October got off to a great start, as our victory away at Morecambe saw us rise to 4th in the League Two table. This was followed by a victory against local rivals Man United, albeit it was their Under-23s! The team they fielded in the Papa John's Trophy did feature the likes of Hugill, Garnacho and Mainoo, along with Tom Heaton, so victory was in no way guaranteed. Our good form continued with a victory against Notts County, but we were frustrated when we lost against Cheltenham despite having 22 shots. The month rounded off with two wins and a draw. Jno-Baptiste in particular was demonstrating great form. We rose to 2nd in the table after beating Newport - I couldn't believe how well things were going so soon after returning to the Football League. November 2023 What a difference a month makes! In an unprecedented run, we drew seven times in a row, with two of those draws counting as losses. To top things off the month culminated with a loss against bottom side Harrogate. Following draws against Bromley and Exeter I decided to call a team meeting and tell the team that things might not be going our way but they would pick up. To my surprise, the whole squad reacted with anger and morale plummeted. On reflection, we were 4th in League Two and by no means in crisis, so I should have let things play out for longer. Our aim at the start of the season was a top half finish, but minimum was just to avoid relegation, so to be sitting in the Playoff places at this stage of the season is still good going. What worries me is our ongoing poor form - we look more likely to turn draws into losses than draws into wins at this moment. Can I turn things around? Let's see. That's the fun of management. It would be really boring if this was just linear success.
  17. I’ve just had a question in a pre-match press conference about what type of new owner I would like and when I checked the club info it says the owner will listen to offers 🤞🏼 That said, I probably shouldn’t get my hopes after three failed takeover bids in the first season!
  18. As well as changes to playing personnel, there was also some staffing turnover in the summer. The contracts of ten of my staff were due to expire, so I reviewed their ability and looked around to see if there were better options out in the market. Only four of these staff were offered new deals. Firstly, and most importantly, Coach Richard Thomas who I had hired last summer was given a new deal. His attributes are great for this level, but he just seems to like dealing in one year deals only. U23 Assistant Manager John McKeown, U18 Coach Ashley Williams and U18 Fitness Coach Ed Franklin also secured new contracts. Goalkeeping Coach Steve Collis was released after I discovered Mel Gwinnett was available and interested in joining. Gwinnett brings extensive experience coaching in at EFL clubs. I am hoping that he will bring the best out of our three goalkeepers. Scout Edwin Vandenbergh was approached by Molenbeek but he rejected them as he is enjoying being part of the Oldham project. Jaaskelainen, Kiwomya, Maguire, Polly and Hudson were all released. Most were hired by me last season, but sensibly placed on one year deals giving me the opportunity for look for better if our standing as a club improved, which it has. Sean Mackle arrives as our new U23s Manager and he will be supported at U23 level by Sports Scientist Ronan Kavanagh. The U18s also have a new Manager, another Northern Irishman, Jason Ferry. He was not my first choice; I had a deal in place to hire David Platt, but due to our financial predicament in that moment, we could not afford the £4k compensation needed to sign him from Colraine! Ferry will be assisted in the U18s by a pair of new hires, Goalkeeping Coach Dwayne Nelson and Conor Downey (both also Northern Irish). July 2023 Pre-season went very smoothly with no defeats. I probably say this every time I write about pre-season but this time is all about squad cohesion, tactical familiarity, building morale and testing out players (I had 17 players on trial across the span of pre-season), therefore I have little interest in playing much bigger sides that may thrash us and upset our team building. I do however acknowledge these fixtures are handy in generating revenue when financials are poor. August 2023 Pre-season concluded with draws against Liverpool U23s and League One Bolton, plus a victory against Spurs U23, so spirits where high that we may well be able to hold our own in League Two. On the eve of the new season it was confirmed that we had sold 2,834 season tickets, which is up 800 on last season but still not near where I want attendances to be. I was delighted that we started the season with two comfortable league victories. We nearly also beat Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup, with only misfortune getting in our way. We were 2-1 up when left back Couto had to come off with a twisted ankle (was then out for 4 weeks). With no left back on the bench, I put right back Harry Clarke there. Out of position he clumsily gave away a penalty that was scored and took the game to a draw . We then went on to lose the penalty shootout. What has been most exciting is the way we have been playing; in both the Chesterfield and Sheff Weds games we hit the woodwork four times apiece! The loss to local rivals Rochdale was a reality check. They were the better side and deserved to win. This was a reminder that League Two won't be plain sailing. After the game the Chairman informed me he had needed to inject a further £120k into the club to sustain it. Just a few days later, in early September, he injected another £200k. This is fairly alarming. Hopefully this increases the chances of a takeover as this financial model is surely not sustainable for the owner. September 2023 Anyone who bet on a hat-trick for centre back Ben Hockenhull, when we played Mansfield, would have made a handsome profit! His first two goals were identical; corner in from Stevenson, bullet header from Hockenhull. From leading 2-0 we collapsed and were losing 3-2. We won a penalty and then I had to laugh when I saw Hockenhull stepping up to take it. A nice gesture from his teammates to let him take it to get his hat-trick, but quite high risk when there were capable strikers on the pitch! Luckily he scored it and a point was secured. I played an entirely changed eleven in the Papa John's Trophy and managed to beat Morecombe. The only negative is that Couto got re-injured on his return keep, albeit he will only be out for a week this time. The Swindon game was satisfying but again was soured by injury as Stevenson was ruled out for three weeks after a robust challenge. The Crawley defeat was a classic - we had 20 shots without scoring and then gave away a penalty so they can score the winner. Our run of giving away penalties continued against Port Vale - perhaps I need to get more disciplined! Football is, of course, like a rollercoaster and this game ended in a high. With the score at 2-2 I instructed the team to go all out attack, which resulted in Simpson scoring a screamer from distance. The draw away at Bradford was a good result as defender Hockenhull was sent off on 64 minutes and we were able to hang on and leave with a point. This misdemeanour did not stop Hockenhull picking up the League Two Player of the Month award, however. After just eight games we are currently in the League Two Playoff positions. It has been a great start (with obvious areas for improvement), but there is a long way to go and I am acutely aware that we are equidistant from 1st and 16th place. Bring on the rest of the season!
  19. Thanks @warlock! Always appreciate your interest in / comments on my posts.
  20. After such a busy summer of transfer activity, the composition of my squad has changed since I assessed my playing staff at the end of last campaign. Here, therefore, is a summary of the players at my disposal, as at the end of the transfer window: Goalkeepers We now have a great deal of depth in our goalkeeping department. Turner starts the season as first choice, partly based on the merit of his last season and partly as he has more potential to develop compared to the older Garratt. Young Gunter has the most potential of the group and, at 18 years old, has plenty of time to live up to expectations. Full Backs We now have two top quality right backs. Spence was immaculate last season, but with him being 33 it is logical to start to look towards Clarke going forward. We only have three centre backs so both my right backs could see themselves potentially filling in there. In Couto and Galvez we have two youthful left backs with plenty of potential. My priority will still be developing academy graduate Couto. Centre Backs Anyone following this career closely may be surprised to see Kigbu listed here. He had declared he would be leaving the club after demanding a ridiculous new wage, but just before his deal expired I reopened negotiations and to my surprise he was open to accepting a reasonable wage. Hockenhull continues to go from strength to strength. Central Midfield We are now well stocked in the midfield. Although I have added quality in Stevenson and Carroll, I am still focused on developing Vaughan and Haysman. Haysman is the highest earner at the club on only £1,300, which is indicative of the tight financial management that has taken place this summer. Vaughan is perhaps overpaid for his current ability, but is a player I intend to develop and build around. Wingers Five wingers may seem excessive, but I see this as a key position for our formation and our chances of success. Only playing one striker, these are players we can bring on from the bench to look to change the outcome of games. I do not have a settled first choice pair of wingers, so opportunity is there to be seized. Attacking Midfielders During the summer we received a £130k bid for McGhee from Wigan. I flat out refused to negotiate. This was a player I had no intention of cashing in on. McGhee was sublime in our promotion season and I want to try to continue to build a team around him. O'Reilly is so talented I may well need to find away to fit both of them in the team. Duffy may prove to be unnecessary, but he can play striker as well as attacking mid and so does add valuable cover in a crisis. Strikers Just three strikers may seem not many, but I tend to only play one up top and many of my attacking midfielders can play there if needed. Simpson is the main man, with McNulty his understudy and Duncan the young prospect who I hope to find minutes for. I am pleased with the balance and depth of my squad. Despite us only just being promoted, I am optimistically targeting a top half finish. Fortuitously the board only expect us to avoid relegation.
  21. It has been an extremely busy summer both personally (apologies for no updates in a while!) and at Oldham Athletic under my leadership. Identifying new talent is one of the elements of management I enjoy the most, so it was inevitable I would make some signings following our promotion back to the Football League. I did not, however, expect to make changes on this scale. No club had more incomings and outgoings than us. Our financial predicament was the reason this unfolded. Often when summarising a summer of signings I will run through position by position. Instead, in this update, I will outline the recruitment 'phases' that we went through and the relevant factors. Recruitment Phase 1 - Add Experience When I took over as manager a year ago, all I had to start with was youth. The team has evolved massively since then, however my recruitment focus in the first season was young players who could perform and improve, whilst also having potential resale value. Going into League Two, I knew I needed a few wise head adding to the group. There is less margin for error in this league, so some experience and composure is valuable. I mentioned in a previous post, the Chairman had given me an extra £5k wage budget for the new season, so I had some funds to start making signings as soon as the season ended. The following four players arrived early in the window, all on free transfers: First to arrive was striker Marc McNulty, on a free from Dundee United. A definite coup to sign a player who has just spent the last two seasons in the Scottish Premiership, considering we are newly promoted to the EFL. McNulty may not have been consistently prolific in his career but the last time he was in League Two (2017/18 with Coventry) he scored 23 league goals. Our second signing also has experience well above our level. Tom Carroll has spent most of his career in the Premier League or Championship. He played nearly every game last season for an Ipswich team that finished top half in League One. The screenshot above indicates he is in decline, but even if he is his attributes are still great for this level. My young central midfielders Vaughan and Haysman can certainly benefit from his mental attributes. Our third signing, Ben Garratt, will provide proper competition for first choice goalkeeper Jake Turner. Some of my coaches even rate him superior than Turner - Garratt has spent the past four seasons as first choice stopper at League One Burton, so perhaps that is unsurprising. At 26, Ben Stevenson who is formerly of Forest Green Rovers, is not quite as experienced as the other three signings. More so, he is just reaching his prime. Compared to my squad though, he will still be an experienced head. I am delighted to have strengthened the centre of midfield so swiftly. Recruitment Phase 2 - Sell, Sell, Sell When the first season officially concluded, my optimism surrounding our budget quickly evaporated. When promotion pay rises and yearly pay rises were applied, we suddenly found ourselves with a wage bill of £34,500 per month, which was higher than our £32k per month budget. We also had no transfer budget to convert into wages. Being in the red and with areas of the squad still to improve, it became apparent we would need to sell to raise funds and bring down the wage budget. Luckily, there were players who I deemed surplus to requirements after having average seasons last time round, who had suiters and value based on their age and potential. In total, player sales raised the club over £400k. The board would only let me reinvest 20% of transfer revenue generated - this was frustrating but gave me comfort that it was helping keep the club afloat and decreasing the wage bill at the same time. The biggest value sale was D'Mani Mellor. I do think I could have turned him into a success, but the offer was significant and he was surplus to requirements most of last season so I took the money. Tormey, like Mellor, was often out with knocks and never established himself in the first team. At just 22, Sutton are also buying potential. I liked Willock and he did well for us, but after signing midfield quality (Carroll and Stevenson) and having other talent in the squad (Vaughan and Haysman) it seemed the logical thing to cash in. Danny Lloyd was the player I was most determined to sell. He never set the world alight last season and his wage was £2.5k. I needed him off the books and was delighted when League One Barnsley submitted a bid. I also deemed Maghoma, Williams and Clarke as expendable. The only sale I regret slightly is that of Mich'el Parker. On transfer deadline day I received the £35k bid for him from Forest Green. I looked at free agents available and identified Polish defender Kacper Lopata as a suitable replacement. Scouts said he would be my best centre back, so I offered a contract to him. I therefore accepted the Parker bid and sold him. Shortly after, Lopata failed to get a work permit and the deal fell through. Recruitment Phase 3 - Unofficial Feeder Club With budgets so tight I decided to ask the club to find me a feeder club so we could take loan players in without covering their wages. The Chairman accepted - the first request I believe he has ever approved. Whilst this process was ongoing, I decided to scout the U18s team of local giants Man United and Man City. Our overtures to United were not fruitful, but our review of City found a number of players who would be first team quality for us. The best bit? City only wanted us to cover 10% of each of their wages, which in most instances was around £300 per week! I could not let the opportunity to strengthen my squad on the cheap pass me by, so I arranged four season long loans in quick succession: With bags of pace and good crossing, I am hoping that Matthew Whittingham can be an impactful option for us on the left wing. Another left sided player, young Tomas Galvez has been brought in as Benny Couto's full back deputy. My assistant manager considers Nico O'Reilly to be both 'four star' and the best player at the club - all this and on only £300 per week! Despite this, he will start the season behind Dion McGhee in the central attacking midfield pecking order as McGhee has well-and-truly earned his chance at this level with his performances last campaign. Jadel Katongo may have the same hairstyle as O'Reilly, but is a very different player. Has a strong chance of partnering Hockenhull as first choice centre back. The board did eventually come back with Blackburn as our feeder club. By then I had already filled our loan spots, but accepted the offer as it may come in handy in the future. After scouting the team, I didn't see any better options than what I was able to get from City. Recruitment Phase 4 - Complete the Squad After player sales, wage budget reduction and cheap loan signings, we finally had some budget to make some more additions to the squad. Arriving on a free from Arsenal, Harry Clarke is another who can be added to the 'coup' list. What will certainly have helped persuade him to join was his prior spell on loan at the club in 2020. Clarke will serve as our back up right back. Spence is great quality but is getting older, so I don't see it being long before Clarke succeeds him. Additionally, with only three CBs at the club, Clarke could easily fill in if needed. I was almost not able to complete Clarke's signing however, as although there was sufficient wage budget there was no transfer budget to pay his signing on bonus. I therefore made the decision to reduce the cup competitions bonus to 'low' which put £36k back in the transfer budget. Jason Law spent most of pre-season on trial with the club, following his release by Mansfield. He got 9 assists in League Two last season. With funds in place, we were finally able to offer him a contract. To bulk out our forward options, I decided to take a punt on striker Bobby Duncan. He has so far failed to live up to his big potential, but is still young enough for it to happen yet. Only wanting £400 per week, the deal feels pretty low risk. Another bargain is fifth loanee Ben Lloyd who joins from Swansea where I have found good talent before. He adds depth to our wing options and is able to play in central midfield if needed. Our final first team signing is Joe Duffy on a season long loan from Norwich. The big appeal to me, is that he is comfortable playing either attacking midfielder or striker. This is a sixth loanee, which is more than I would have liked. But needs must. Only five of the loanees will be able to feature in the matchday squad at one time. Recruitment Phase 5 - Looking to the Future Firstly I should mention that youngsters Badby, Kilner, Glean, Moore, Da Silva, Sutton and Rosa all went out on loan to focus on their development. As the transfer window drew to a close, there was clearly enough budget to make a luxury 'one for the future' signing or two, if I fancied. In fact, the window closed with us having a surplus of £5.6k per week wages left over. Something to potentially utilise in January if we need it. The final two free transfers were as follows: Fresh from Liverpool's academy, Oakley Cannonier (great name, especially for a striker) has great finishing, composure and pace for his age. He has gone into the Under-23s squad to develop. After our goalkeeper crisis at the end of last season, I was keen to have strength in depth this time around. I was really pleased to find Luca Gunter who, despite never playing first team football before, is rated by my staff as not far behind my two first team 'keepers in ability.
  22. Good news, I have now been offered and have signed a new one year contract so the adventure with Oldham continues on! Just a few days prior to this I was invited to interview for the Carlisle managerial role, vacant after they finished 9th in League Two. In real life, I believe any manager who’s club were letting his contract run down till it’s final month, despite having just won the VNL, would have definitely jumped ship! But the Latics are lucky, I am committed to this challenge.
  23. With promotion in the bag, my attention turns to enhancing my squad so that it is capable of surviving and perhaps even thriving in League Two. Before I begin to review the transfer options available to me, it is important to first reflect back on the performances of my squad over the season concluded. I started the campaign with near to no squad at all, so most of these players are my signings to reflect upon. I focused on signing young players who could grow and develop in their roles and would have the possibility of being sold for a profit when needed. As detailed in my updates throughout the season, I have already gone through the process of renewing the contracts of my best performing players to give us a good chance of retaining them in the season ahead. So let's take a look at how my players got on in the 2022/2 season: Goalkeepers After initially seeing off some competition from experienced stopper Kyle Letheren (4 appearances, 7 conceded), Jake Turner went from strength to strength as our first choice 'keeper and only conceded 33 goals in 41 appearances, including 16 league clean sheets. Turner developed from a 3 star player to a 3.5 star player during the season. Loanee Cameron Gregory (2.5 stars CA and 4.5 stars PA - I am not sure why this view is not showing assistant reports for loan players) and youth Luke Southerington did okay as stand-ins at the end of the season, but I don't intend for either of them to be in the first team next season. One of my transfer focuses will be to find competition for Turner. Full Backs If Sam Hart had not been sold, he likely would have been a contender for our player of the season. That said, the decision to sell him was absolutely vindicated by the terrific form of Benny Couto since he departed. Couto had the second highest average rating of any player at the club and provided seven assists from full back. His development throughout the season has been phenomenal - he began the season being rated 2 stars by coaches and is now rated 3.5 stars. Due to his good leadership attributes and home-grown nature, I decided to make him vice-captain late in the season (demoting Maghoma in the process). Lincoln McFayden (3 star CA / 4.5 stars PA) did not get too many opportunities to shine, as I was focused on developing Couto, but he did well in the moments he featured. I don't currently intend to renew his loan and will likely be looking for a new left back to support Couto. Our leader on the pitch; Jordan Spence had a great campaign. Classed as a 'team leader' in the dressing room and Mr Consistent on the pitch. Jordan Clarke was an able back-up, however I think it is time to move him on and look for a younger understudy to Spence. I have just given a new two year deal to Oliver Kilner who spent the season away on loan from the club. Centre Backs At the start of the season I would have said I had four centre backs with equal ability, however I recall thinking that Mich'el Parker and Christian Maghoma would likely be my starting duo. After experimenting with different combinations at the start of the season, it turned out to be Ben Hockenhull and Ash Kigbu who stood out. Hockenhull was the star of the back line and was shortlisted for VNL Player of the Season (an award won by Solihull's Kyle Hudlin). Kigbu being left footed helped him gel well with his partner. When Kigbu rejected a new contract it created opportunities for Parker and Maghoma, the latter of whom would likely have played more if he wasn't so frequently injured. Somewhat peculiarly, Parker was voted as our 'Signing of the Season'. I personally would have chosen McGhee. Central Midfield No central midfielder featured more frequently for us than Khalon Haysman. The 19 year old predominantly played as a ball winning midfielder, yet still provided seven assists for his colleagues. Bobby Carroll was his understudy and his highlight of the campaign was that he won our Goal of the Season award. Developing the clubs youngsters is one of my biggest motivators and focuses in this career. Along with Couto, Harry Vaughan is one of my priorities. The young central midfielder was involved in 40 games, scored seven times and got five assists. Throughout the campaign he went from a 2 star to a 3 star rated player. Matty Willock was the first choice partner of Haysman at the start of the season. He was dropped through no fault of his own. We were looking comfortable at the table and I concluded I could risk playing Vaughan most games to aide his development. Central Attacking Midfield Probably the most exciting thing about managing Oldham Athletic so far has been the performances of Dion McGhee. The ex-United man has been imperial this campaign. His return of 19 goals and 15 assists say it all! He also picked up more Player of the Match awards (seven) than any other of our players. McGhee won both the Fans Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season. I personally think he was robbed when he did not win the VNL Player of the Season award. The big challenge now will be hanging on to him. Cheltenham (who finished 22nd in League One) manager Joe Dunne was in the stadium on the last game of the season scouting him. Bernardo Rosa did okay as an understudy - he even filled in at left back in the last game of the season due to injuries. Wingers I was as shocked as anyone at how well Junior Luamba did this season. He does not have any standout attributes besides very high levels of determination, which I have surmised is the reason behind his successful campaign. 14 goals and seven assists, from a player only involved in 26 games is quite the return! Francis Jn-Baptiste and Danny Lloyd both featured regularly and were in double figures for goal contributions (goals and assists combined) but neither ever seemed to set the world on fire. When looking at transfer options, the wings will definitely be a place I will look at enhancing. Injuries curtailed George Williams and Nathan Tormey's involvements in the team. Williams may well have been our best player in the first month or so, but after getting injured he couldn't get past the in form Luamba. Strikers Our top goalscorer was Connor Simpson. 22 goals is a great return, but it was not the perfect season as he still managed to go on long spells without scoring during the season. It will be interesting to see how he fares in League Two. Josh Thomas (3 star CA / 4 star PA) had a really successful loan spell with us. Tasked most frequently with being an impact-sub, he quite often delivered with a goal. Disappointingly, at the end of the season Swansea agreed that I could take him on loan for another season (this time only covering £240 per week of his deal), but Thomas rejected the move. I started the season with D'Mani Mellor as my first choice centre-forward. A combination of uninspiring form and injuries meant that Simpson soon replaced him as my number one forward. Mellor is still only 22, so he may well be worth giving a second opportunity next season. That said, I will be giving some thought to moving him on if I can get a decent fee.
  24. Thanks @warlock! The downer on what should be a time of celebration is I'm currently dealing with uncertainty as to whether I will be able to stay at the club. When I joined the club I was given a one year contract. Half way through the season, with things going well, I asked the Chairman to consider extending my contract. I was told I needed to wait till the end of the season, due to our perilous financial position. The day after the league title was delivered, I decided to once again ask our unpopular Chairman for a new deal. Despite the success I have brought, I was rejected once again, this time being told that no new contracts would be offered until the very last moment possible to save money. I don't quite understand the situation. The Chairman recently put £150k into the club to manage running costs and we have been set our new wage budget for next season which is £5k more per week than we are currently spending (£32k per week). Admittedly there is no transfer budget, but we don't seem in such a severe position that they couldn't renew my contract. I'll happily accept the same terms as I am on now... Hopefully I will get a contract before the end of June and then I can get back to dreaming of a new owner taking over!
  25. April 2023 In my last update I noted that first choice goalkeeper Jake Turner was injured, meaning loanee Cameron Gregory would deputise for the final month of the season. Disaster struck though. Prior to the Maidenhead game Gregory was ruled out for 10 weeks with a broken arm. We had no first team 'keepers. I spent quite some time trying to find someone to take on emergency loan, but was scuppered as either clubs didn't want to loan at this stage of the season or wanted the players wages to be covered, which we can't afford at this time (our whole wage budge was being utilised). This meant, therefore, that I decided to call up Luke Southerington from the Under-18s. In the end, I had nothing to worry about as he delivered clean sheets against Maidenhead and Wealdstone, on our path to promotion. Against Wealdstone we were struggling to make the breakthrough, so I subbed on Luamba and Simpson. Luamba got two assists and Simpson scored the crucial first goal. Victory away at Yeovil was the result that sealed the league title and promotion back to the Football League. The only downside was Luamba was injured scoring his goal and had to be subbed off. I am delighted to have been able to comfortably win the Vanarama National League. I really did expect it to be a battling season with Playoffs the best case scenario. After securing the league, I worried the team would take their foot off the gas against a good Gateshead side. Conceding three was sloppier than usual, but scoring six delighted the fans! McGhee and Simpson both got braces, but Haysman got the headlines after scoring his first goal for the club - an absolute screamer! A draw was a slightly underwhelming end to the season, but that didn't stop us partying once again at the full time whistle! I was selected as the April VNL Manager of the Month. I was also shortlisted for the Manager of the Season (voted for by VNL managers) after achieving a 73% win percentage, but was pipped to the accolade by Mike Williamson at Gateshead. League Table Here are the final league standing for the 2022/23 VNL campaign: Notts County won the Playoffs to join us in League Two next season. They drew 1-1 with Solihull Moors in the Final, and then won on penalties. No team scored more than us in the VNL, in fact we set a league record with our 98 goals. Notts County had the leanest defence, but we only conceded four more than them. Looking at the table, one thing that stands out is our lack of draws which is pleasing to see. 107 points may well be the most points I have picked up in a league campaign on FM. I can't recall being so dominant. Best Eleven The above media item shows a fairly accurate reflection of the team I most frequently played this season. Sam Hart was the first choice left back, up until his sale in the January transfer window, and Matty Willock played nearly as many games in central midfield as Harry Vaughan. In the next post I will write up a comprehensive review of my squad's performance.
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