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[FM 21] Kedleigh Heath (Create-a-Club)


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13 hours ago, Narrator C said:

We looked at our club's financial page more carefully, and there's no sign there of all our transfer "business."  Long story short, there's apparently a funny glitch in the Create-a-Club system that can create "news" such as this.

Yes you do get a few odd messages in CAC mode and it is also random how they assign the money paid. Also they used to always decide what wages you pay them too, which creates a few odd numbers! Great story telling though, well played.

You could still use a Ramdeuter in this tactic, but that role is more about 'finishing chances' than creating them so probably not quite the right time. It seems your issues are more about creation of chances than converting them. Talk to your Assistant Manager and see who puts up the greatest tactical pitch!

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6 hours ago, deltablue said:

Don't get too excited. A 'Golden Generation' doesn't often mean much ;)

Thanks for the warning!  :) As I've read about other careers, I've noticed that the Golden Generations turn out to be gold plated as often as not!

We'll see how it turns out.  It looks like Brexit will send many of our Continental players back to the EU nations from which they came.  That will make it even more important for our youth program to produce the first team stars of the future.  

Speaking of Brexit, my next post will be an update about the rules we'll have to follow, and probably a few questions about their application to my club, too.  

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4 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Yes you do get a few odd messages in CAC mode and it is also random how they assign the money paid. Also they used to always decide what wages you pay them too, which creates a few odd numbers! Great story telling though, well played.

You could still use a Ramdeuter in this tactic, but that role is more about 'finishing chances' than creating them so probably not quite the right time. It seems your issues are more about creation of chances than converting them. Talk to your Assistant Manager and see who puts up the greatest tactical pitch!

Thanks, Jogo. I had Zoe read the story of our "house cleaning" to make sure I told it accurately. She can vouch for the authenticity of the quoted statements she made. :)

You're right about where the issues lie with our attacking play.   We don't get nearly enough touches in the opponent's area.  This is a fairly typical pass map for us, showing all our completed passes:

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This is the Shrewsbury Town game, which we won 2-0.  You can imagine what one of our 1-0 or 0-0 matches looks like.  Of course, it's hard to complete a pass in the penalty area when our opponent has every man who has ever played for the club standing in the box. 

Our Assistant Manager, Nick Haycock, is constantly advising me to gear our Mentality down from Positive to Cautious, and to put six or seven of our players on Defend duties.

He is giving me this advice while the Gardeners have conceded FEWER GOALS IN LEAGUE PLAY THAN ANY TEAM IN ENGLAND!!

In fact, in the nations we've loaded (England, Germany, Holland, Denmark, and Norway), only Ajax, who are running away with the Eredivisie, have a better defensive record than Kedleigh Heath.  

Perhaps the Vertical Tiki-Taka might allow us to play a bit more directly. The fans and our board want us to play possession football, so I don't think we'll be going Route One anytime soon.  (Besides, we like play possession football, too.)

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Brexit

On 1 January, we learned about the ways Kedleigh Heath FC will be affected by the UK's decision to leave the European Union.  The guidelines are the same as the ones spelled out in this email.

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The first effects were immediate.  Although Chuma Anene and Marc Heider were both interested in joining our club, when neither qualified for a work permit, they both changed their minds.  I don't blame them.  Heider, especially, is not a young player; he's 34.  He wants to play football, not wait while we repeatedly apply for work permits for him, hoping things work out.  

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Based on this information, it won't be easy for Kedleigh Heath players to qualify for work permits.  

Tim Sparv is captain of Finland.  He has 80 caps to his name. He'll certainly qualify for a permit, but he'll also be 36 years old in 2024. We would be delighted if Tim is still good enough to play for us then, but what are the chances of that happening?

Lars Gerson has played 81 times for Luxembourg at age 30.  He is much more likely to have something left in three years.   I would like to think that internationals of their stature could get work permits.

Bárður Abrahamsen will be an interesting case.  I remember reading something about a player becoming eligible if he plays in a certain percentage of his national team's matches over a period of time.  Already a full Faroe Islands international at age 16, he might well have played enough for his country to pass this test by 2024.  

Zoe and I noticed a new category on the Information pages of our foreign senior players. It's called "Work Permit."  There, we see a Recommendation, which we suppose can guide us as we decide what to do with our foreign players.  For every one of them, it says "Has settled status and would stand a good chance of qualifying for a work permit."  According to that, we don't necessarily need to try to sell such players as Tobias Christensen and Peer Koopmeiners before they leave on free transfers to clubs in EU nations.  

Will our non-English staff members, like Wesley Sneijder and Patrice Evra, need work permits, too? Geremi has both Cameroonian and English nationality, so I think we're safe with him.

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Posted (edited)

December-January 2020/21

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At the risk of making this thread irredeemably bad by quoting KC and the Sunshine Band, "That's the way we like it!" 

Here's the way this part of the story begins:

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It would be easy and flattering to attribute our run of nearly indomitable form to our tactical wizardry, giving ourselves the credit for switching to the Vertical Tiki-Taka and, thereby, turning the Gardeners into the scourge of League One.  Actually, we had been winning before the switch, which occurred after the dour goalless draw at Accrington Stanley.  If the supporters (and the board) hadn't clamored for more interesting football, we would have left well enough alone.

In our first game using the new tactic, we routed Sunderland before a big crowd at the City of Light.  We even got a goal from a striker:  Spencer Shackell, leading the line for the first time. 

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The Gardeners weren't held to one goal again before 22 December, when a strike by Tobias Børkeeiet in the game's waning minutes sent us back home from Portsmouth with a 1-0 decision.

By then, we had made up almost all our games in hand...and look at the top of the table!

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Rather predictably, our opponents began playing even more defensively against us.  And just as predictably, we stopped scoring.  

Fortunately our defense became even tougher, too. 

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The first graph was taken on 1 December.  The second one comes from 2 February.  Add to that the fact that Caoiminh Kelleher saves nearly nine of every ten shots that manage to get to him, and you'll see why our goals against record is so strong. 

By mid-January, we knew we wouldn't be getting Chuma Anene and Marc Heider.  With the transfer window still open, our Director of Football, Ashley Kennedy, continued to look for strikers who might be interested in coming to Remembrance Park and bringing their scoring boots with them. 

He found Kevin van Veen, playing a division below us for Scunthorpe United.  The Iron were willing to part with him for £55K, with another £20K or so coming their way if Kevin plays enough and scores enough for us.  Kevin was willing to serve as a fringe player, so he's not demanding much.  He's earning good wages on a contract that will run out at the end of the season, but if the Dutch striker, who came to us having tallied three goals in seven games, is able to produce at that level for us, it will be money well spent.  Kevin began earning his pay in his first appearance in Kedleigh Heath blue, scoring one of our four goals against hapless Peterborough. 

My sharp-eyed daughter spotted a story in our news feed that intrigued us.  Apparently one of our league rivals was interested in bringing Tottenham's young forward, Rodel Richards, in on loan.  "Let's see if he's any good," Zoe suggested.

We were sufficiently impressed to offer Spurs a deal that would bring Rodel to Remembrance Park for the remainder of the season, while we covered his £350/week wages.  Rodel is pacy and smart, and we'll have no problem providing him the regular playing time Spurs want us to give him. Delighted to pull on the vacant number 10 shirt, Richards has scored in both his appearances for us:  as a substitute against Charlton, and as a starter away to AFC Wimbledon.

It looked like it would be a very tranquil Deadline Day for us.  Then Zoe noticed a lot of rumors surrounding a teenaged center back from Leeds called Charlie Cresswell.  "He must be pretty good. Why else would all these teams from our league want him?" she reasoned.  

Honestly, we could use another center half. Erik Tobias Sandberg is a talented young player, but he spends more time in the medical centre than he does in training.  Lars Gerson also suffers quite a few minor knocks, and he is occasionally away on international duty.  He's also very useful farther up the pitch.  Jack Whatmough ends up playing nearly every minute without a break. Tom Clarke is earnest and gives all he has for the shirt, but he's not getting any younger.  

We took a look at Cresswell.  Basically, he's a more athletic version of Jack Whatmough.  He's comfortable on the ball, a sure tackler, and gives our back line a welcome shot of pace.  We're paying his wages  (£750/week) for the remainder of the season. We are considering it an extended trial--he's out of contract at the end of the season, and he is supposedly extremely interested in joining Kedleigh Heath.

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The last few months of the season look like they're going to be fun!

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Things will be interesting at Fleetwood, Swindon, Wigan, and Wimbledon. One of these clubs is going down, and possibly a second, if Gillingham can turn a draw or two into a win.  

And here's the way this part of the story ends:

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Zoe is composing songs for some of her favorite Kedleigh Heath players.  While she won't be performing them for the thread, she will be more than happy to share the lyrics with you when she's finished.  

Up the Heath!

Edited by Narrator C
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Forgot the Cups! (and other odds and ends from English football)

We meant to talk a bit about what's happened in cup competitions lately.  

Our draw in the FA Cup wasn't an easy one.  We got a nice trip across London to Selhurst Park, where we were delighted to see nearly half the crowd wearing Kedleigh Heath colors!  It would have been nice to give our 12,000-plus traveling supporters a better show, but the gap between us and a Premier League club--even one in the lower half of the table--is significant.

After seeing how successful we've been in the Papa John's Trophy, we've decided to take a shot at winning it!  The competition rules prevent us from playing especially weak sides, but we have given a few of the young lads some chances in the Trophy. Bárður Abrahamsen scored his second goal of the competition against Oxford, a match Spencer Shackell won for us by scoring in the 95th minute.  

Five points separate the top five teams in the Premier League table.  The Manchester clubs, City and United are top, on 49 and 48 points respectively. Tottenham, Liverpool, and Arsenal follow, in order.  

Two big name managers have been sacked in recent weeks. First it was Thomas Tuchel, sent packing by Chelsea when they sat 11th in the table on 28 December.  His successor, Massimiliano Allegri, has fared no better. The Blues are currently 13th. 

I find it almost impossible to believe Everton would EVER sack Carlo Ancelotti, even if he got them relegated twice. But that's what they did, replacing him with Eddie Howe.  The Toffees have not enjoyed a new manager bounce either; they're 12th, in the same place Ancelotti had them.  

Don Carlo politely refused when I offered him the position of Assistant Manager. ;)

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6 hours ago, deltablue said:

It will be nice to get an early promotion.

An early promotion would be a surprise, given where we were at the beginning of the season.  I think our chances for a playoff place are extremely good right now; we're 14 points clear with 18 games to play (goodness, that 46-match season is a long one).  There are teams right on our tails in the contest for the promotion spots, and three of them are in good form right now--especially Ipswich. 

We're still making it very, very hard for teams to score against us, and if you don't concede a goal, you can't lose.  

Thanks for stopping by! :)

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Doing a great job :thup: and lol at Chelsea, I doubt Spurs are doing much better anyway though :lol:

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2 hours ago, Maw74 said:

Doing a great job :thup: and lol at Chelsea, I doubt Spurs are doing much better anyway though :lol:

Thanks, Maw!  Zoe is turning out to be a talented tactician.  She is learning about different formations, and how different shapes affect the way a team plays.  She's also getting a handle on how changing roles and, especially, duties can make a 4-3-3 play in all kinds of different ways.  We're enjoying the conversations we have in our own "back room." 

Changing managers has not improved things at Stamford Bridge.  Allegri hasn't figured out how to get Chelsea winning, either.  Spurs, however, are another story.  We're in mid-March now, and they're still third, after having spent a fortnight at the top of the league.  Mourinho figures into our story, too. You'll see how in our next installment. :)

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1 minute ago, Narrator C said:

 Spurs, however, are another story.  We're in mid-March now, and they're still third, after having spent a fortnight at the top of the league.  Mourinho figures into our story, too. You'll see how in our next installment. :)

Ok that is good, hit the top spot then go down hill, 3rd is good if they can keep that up, look forward to your next installment, sounds like I could do with my own assistant as good as Zoe, maybe not though as I think she would replace me lol :lol:

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Posted (edited)

We're On Our Way To Wembley!

A Cup Story

Somewhere along the way, when we decided the Gardeners were having some success in the Papa John's Trophy, we decided to go all in and try to win the thing.  

After we won away to Oxford in January, we found ourselves in the Quarter Final.  We drew a league opponent, Bristol Rovers, whom we'd gotten past, 1-0, at Remembrance Park in December.  We had a much easier time of things in the Trophy.  We played at our grounds again, and this time we turned in one of our most complete performances of the year.  We went ahead through Bror Blume, and after Rovers equalized, we scored twice more before the break and coasted from there to a 4-1 result.

The final two goals came courtesy of Rodel Richards, who had done nothing but score since he arrived from Tottenham on loan.  Rodel's pace, his ability to play off the ball, and his ruthless finishing touch were proving more than League One defenses could handle.

Now we were on to the Semi Final.  We were drawn away to Wigan, another League opponent whom we'd beaten, 1-0, at home.  

But in the two weeks since his brace against Bristol Rovers, Richards had fallen prey to the same affliction that has struck every other player who has played center forward for Kedleigh Heath.  Its symptoms are extreme difficulty in earning a match rating over 6.4 and, most notably, the complete inability to score goals.  Zoe and I thought that, perhaps, if we reminded Rodel he was playing in a cup tie, rather than a League fixture, he might relax and recapture his scoring form.  

Such was not the case.  He earned his now-typical 6.4 rating and failed to attempt a shot.  

He wasn't the only Gardener to endure a rough day at the office.  Tobias Børkeeiet barged into Wigan's George Johnston while the latter was inside the penalty area, and Will Keane made us pay for Tobias's error.  Without Rodel's heroics, how were we to get through to the Final?

Thank goodness for Bror Blume.  Within five minutes, the Danish wide man, now our clear first choice on the left wing, had fired home to draw us level.  Then, with eight minutes remaining in regulation time, substitute Spencer Shackell turned home a nifty pass from Wout Droste.  

We were on our way to Wembley!

The Final was scheduled for 14 March. Our opponent would be Arsenal Under 23s, who earned their spot by defeating Manchester United U23, 1-0.  We had played one Premier League B squad--that of Southampton--and won.  We figured beating Arsenal's reserves would be a far tougher task. 

In the weeks leading up to the Final, it became more and more apparent that Rodel Richards had completely lost his form, his confidence, his something or other.  We tried everything:  giving him a rest; bringing him on as a substitute; changing our formation to allow him to play as an Advanced Forward, the role for which his attributes best suited him.  Nothing seemed to work.

While we worked on solving Rodel's woes, we received a rude message from Jose Mourinho, threatening to recall Rodel if we did not immediately begin playing him as an Advanced Forward, as we had agreed to do in our loan arrangement.

"I don't remember seeing that," Zoe admitted.

"Neither did I."  We looked, and sure enough, it was there.

I wanted to respond to the miffed Tottenham boss with "Right, Jose.  Why don't you tell Rodel to score goals?  That's what we figure we're getting when we bring a young Premier League forward in on loan."  However, that was not among the options I had available, so after getting nowhere with my (correct) claim that Rodel was still playing, and as a striker, I had to apologize and promise to play him in the agreed-upon role.

But placating The Special One could wait. We had a Final to win!

Our team looked like this:

Kelleher; Droste, Sparv, Whatmough, Gerson; Rossiter, Koopmeiners, Børkeeiet; Christiansen, Richards, Blume.  Substitutes:  Muyters, Kasteren, Randall, Tavernier, Seddon, Shackell, Curtis.

We thought it was the strongest team we could field, after accounting for injuries, fatigue, and players being cup tied.  The bench contained a mixture of youngsters, getting a reward for their outstanding play (Thor and Tavernier, who is scoring for fun for the U18s) and loyal squad players (Muyters, Randall, Seddon) who deserve a trip to Wembley for being good teammates.  

The Gardeners were up for this one.  For ninety minutes, they played their usual suffocating brand of defense.  The young Gunners challenged Caoiminh Kelleher only once and the Irish gloveman--perhaps on the verge of his full international debut--was equal to the task.

However, we hadn't broken through the Arsenal lines, either. We were creating some decent chances but couldn't seem to convert one of them. As the game drew down, we must have thought about bringing Richards off a dozen times.  He was being lively, though, trying to find space, and it wasn't always his fault that his teammates weren't providing him with much service.  So Zoe and I decided to let him stay on the pitch.

We held our breath in the 99th minute, when an Arsenal player unleased a vicious strike. Caoiminh was there, however, tipping it over the bar. 

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We cleared the ensuing corner, and Steve Seddon, who had come on for Lars Gerson, took possession of the ball on the left.  Ahead of him he spied Ronan Curtis, another substitute, who had replaced an exhausted Bror Blume.  The counter was on!

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Seddon played the ball ahead to Curtis, and as an Arsenal man bore down upon him, Ronan executed a nifty move to gain himself some space.  Look in the top left corner of the picture below. That's Rodel Richards, who has found a bit of space...

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Ronan saw him, too.  If he could deliver the ball to the right spot, there was no way the Arsenal defenders would beat Rodel to it.  The man to Rodel's left was back on his heels, and the one to his right was too far away and not nearly fast enough to track down our pacey forward.

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Curtis's ball could not have been weighted more perfectly.  Richards took it in stride with a smooth first touch.  Neither Arsenal defender was in a position to help. It was up to the Gunners goalkeeper, Karl Jakob Hein

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As Richards shaped to shoot, Hein moved into position.  

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At the age of 18, Karl Jakob is Estonia's first choice keeper.  He showed us why, smartly going down to his right to get his hands to Richards' rasping drive.

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But he couldn't hold onto it!  He could only parry it away, and there was Richards to pounce on it! What would happen next...?

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:D

More to come!!

Edited by Narrator C
adding a picture of Kelleher's great save
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I don't remember the last time I won a knockout cup on Football Manager.  I usually play kids and squad players in the cups, and we end up being eliminated along the way.  When I have managed a cup-winning team, it's been because we were the biggest club in a local competition that we could win without using a full-strength side.  So, while the Trophy isn't the most distinguished prize in England, it's still the 60th most highly-regarded cup competition in the world.  It will hold pride of place in the trophy case at Remembrance Park.

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I'm glad Gwion Edwards got some love there.  Until he was shelved with a broken toe in early January, Gwion had been a valuable squad player for us and an absolute warrior in our run to the Trophy. He hit four goals in three appearances.  He's also the leader of one of Zoe's mentoring groups, which has had a positive impact on the personalities of Spencer Shackell and Tobias Christensen

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Here we get a good look at the trophy.  We hope it's the reflection of the ribbons that makes it look green. Otherwise, someone will be tasked with polishing it right away.

It's always nice to make the board happy. This might be a good time to ask for some facility upgrades!

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Aww, thanks, Adeoye!  :thup: 

 

 

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The Class of '21

It's graduation day!  

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Nick Haycock really likes these lads.  Let's see if he's exaggerating...

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If these assessments are accurate, then perhaps the hype is real!

Remember what was said about them back in the autumn?  This is the first season we've played on FM21, so we've never been able to compare the reality of the youth intake with the preview message. We decided to see if we could match the players with their "preview."

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The "good young English central midfielder from Aba" is Philip Kolawole. We didn't recognize the city of Aba. "It doesn't sound English," Zoe decided. We discovered that Aba is actually a large city in Nigeria. While Kolawole was born there, he is indeed English. And he's good.

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Philip looks like a midfield maestro in the making, doesn't he? 

"The wing back who is rated very highly" was obviously the very gifted James Jones.  My daughter rolled her eyes at that description.  "No pressure," she declared. "He better be good, or he will never live that down."

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James is athletic, hard-working, determined, and brave. He works well within a team. He might live up to that "very gifted" tag, after all.

There's only one goalkeeper in our intake, so the "great prospect" must be Richard Brown

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Richard is a long way from being ready for the first team, but there's some potential here.  His Eccentricity would make life with him interesting, to say the least.

We want you to see Daniel Bryan and Ashley Chambers, too.  

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Daniel looks like he will become a dynamic, crowd-pleasing creative winger.

Ashley lacks pace and needs time to develop, but he is two-footed and isn't afraid to get stuck in.  

We watched the Youth Candidates play the Under 18s, and the young lads acquitted themselves well against a strong U18 side.  Richard Brown's impulsiveness cost him.  He journeyed to the far edge of his area to chase down a through ball.  He got there before the attackers did, but he scuffed his clearance into the path of Tom Hogg.  The U18 midfielder hit it on the half-volley into an open goal, as Brown couldn't scramble back in time.  That was the game's only goal.

After the match, Haycock suggested we sign 11 of the youngsters; all of them except Lewis, Clifford, Brown, Francis, and Bossman.  We're still thinking about Brown, and we might not be able to resist signing a player called Yakubu Bossman

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Posted (edited)

February-March 2021

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The Gardeners continued to play well during February and March.  Our run of games without a loss stands at 17, and we've gone 29 games without defeat in League One competition. We're still some way off the league record--Huddersfield Town ran off a string of 43 matches without a defeat between January and November 2011--but I've never enjoyed a run like this before.

We continue to be very, very hard to score against.  We let in only three goals in league play during February and March, never allowing more than one in a single game.  That's one reason why we decided to extend the contract of our number one, Caoiminh Kelleher.  He'll be in Kedleigh Heath colors through June 2024, unless a club comes with an offer of £7.5m that will trigger his release clause.  His wages will go up to £6250/week, which we think is very reasonable for our team's best player.

Tobias Christensen was also happy to agree to a new deal that will keep him with us until the end of the 2024/25 season.  Even more significantly, he received a work permit that will allow him to play in England for its duration!  Perhaps Brexit won't hit us too hard after all.  Toby agreed to a club-friendly £2900/week deal.  

Toby's compatriot, Bror Blume, has become a dependable scorer this winter.  Already known for his marksmanship in cup competitions, Bror has begun to find the range in League play, too.  His strike against Plymouth Argyle was worth three points.

As good as Blume has been at scoring timely goals, Ronan Curtis has been better.  His goal allowed us to salvage a point against Sunderland, in an otherwise sub-par performance.  He then got the game-winners in two consecutive games, at home to Northampton Town and away to Shrewsbury Town.  Ronan, Toby, Bror, and Spencer Shackell have given us several dangerous options on the wings, and our crowded fixture list has made them necessary.  

We have needed to play as well as we have, because our competitors are playing just as well...or even better.

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We have a game in hand against Hull and two against Ipswich, but that is small comfort when we see how often those sides are winning!  Hull City have taken 38 of a possible 45 points since they lost at home to Charlton on 2 January.  Our 0-0 draw against them at KCOM Stadium on 12 February seems like a fair result for both clubs.  Ipswich Town have been less consistent, but you see they're on a run of five straight wins right now.  They can't be overlooked, either.

Bristol Rovers and Sunderland are in a pitched battle for the bottom berth in the Promotion Playoff.  With an annual payroll of £7.23M, Sunderland really should be able to put together a side worthy of promotion!  Kedleigh Heath, on the other hand, pay our players a yearly total of £2.91M.  We're eighth in the payroll table; interestingly, we're just below Hull City there, too (£2.94M/yr).

Wigan, Fleetwood, and Peterborough have lots to play for over the last weeks of the season, too. Two of those clubs are going down, and one will stay up.  

Meanwhile, our Under 18 side has been very successful, too.

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The Under 18 side will now play in Division 3 South, along with nine other U18 sides that played well in their first round of matches.

Edited by Narrator C
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I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a number of our players are being coveted by bigger clubs now. 

Many of the stars of our Under 18 side are now on the radar of Championship clubs. It seems that Mark Hughes wants to bring the entire Kedleigh Heath squad to Stoke City.  QPR's Mark Warburton has also shown an interest in several lads who have played well for our Under 18s.

A few of the Gardeners are also being courted by Premier League teams.  Goalkeeper Caoiminh Kelleher, Left back Dennis Cirkin  and midfielder Leighton Clarkson are attracting major interest from Newcastle United.  Crystal Palace's  Roy Hodgson has his eye on Clive Adams, who has banged in 17 goals for the young Gardeners.  

Two of our players are being pursued by at least ten clubs.  Bárður Abrahamsen is the subject of considerable interest from three clubs currently in the Championship Playoff places (Bournemouth, Norwich, and Watford) as well as seven Premier League teams.  

Then there's Thor Kasteren.  Our young Norwegian has caught the eyes of eleven Premier League teams, including two who are currently in contention for European competition next season (Wolves and Everton, who have been in tremendous form lately).  We've recently agreed to terms with him on a new contract, complete with a work permit, so we aren't in a position where we have to sell him.  

It's interesting to see that a number of our players have retained the services of two newgen "superagents."  James Jones and four of his teammates are represented by Ashley Harban, whose other clients include Eden Hazard, Thibault Courtois, Joe Gomez, and Jordan Pickford.  And Declan Edwards, agent for Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Hugo Lloris, and David Silva, has seven Gardeners for clients, too.  Among them are Spencer Shackell and Clive Adams

We have our DoF, Ashley Kennedy, in charge of arranging transfers for now. We wonder if he'll be working out any deals? 

P.S. Unless the board override us, we retain the final say on transfer decisions.

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April-May 2021

Honestly, we were surprised and delighted to enter April with a real chance at promotion.  Our board had figured it would take two years for Kedleigh Heath to reach this point, and here we were, our fate in our own hands, with ten matches to play.

We didn't look like a promotion-worthy side away to Lincoln on 2 April. It took a late equalizer from Tim Sparv to salvage a point. Even more ominous was the fact that Sparv's effort was the only shot we put on target all day.  Hull won, away at Crewe Alexandra, putting them four points clear with a game in hand.  

The next week, we faced a tough test against Ipswich Town at Portman Road.  The Tractor Boys were battling for a Playoff spot, while we could clinch one with a victory.  Goals from Tobias Christensen and Rodel Richards (!!) were enough to see us through, even though we allowed a late goal to Spurs loanee Troy Parrott, the League's top scorer.

Hull City kept winning, too.  With each match, our chances of going up looked better and better, and so did theirs.  But which one of us would win the league?  The Tigers suffered a setback on the 17th, when they lost a shocker, 1-2 at home to relegation battlers Fleetwood Town.  Meanwhile, we were beating Portsmouth, 3-0, with Kevin van Veen hitting a brace. 

Van Veen's contribution was a dramatic example of a trend we'd been seeing all year long.   Our crowded fixture schedule, which nearly always required us to play twice a week, required us to make use of our entire squad.  It seemed that every time we called upon a squad player to step up, he did so.  

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That's how the situation looked after the matches of April 17.

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We had a game in hand, but our upcoming opponents were, on the whole, a little tougher than Hull City's were.  

We were surprisingly shaky at the back against Bristol Rovers. They became the first team to score twice against us in league play since Blackpool did it in October.  However, we were one better.  Ronan Curtis, Tim Sparv, and Spencer Shackell found the range. 3-2 to the Gardeners.  Meanwhile, Hull had to come back from two goals down to salvage a point at home to Sunderland.  We were now top of the league...but not for long. Four days later, Hull beat Lincoln County while we could only draw with Swindon Town.  

As Zoe and I look back at the season, the Doncaster Rovers match always makes us smile.  That was the day Rodel Richards remembered how to score.  He knccked in three goals, and we needed every one of them as we won, 3-2.  We weren't sure why we were suddenly allowing more goals than we had before, because we hadn't changed our tactic. Perhaps it was just a case of shooters' luck.  Fortunately were experiencing some of the same thing!

On the first day of May, we and Hull both won, two goals to nil.  That meant that the league would be decided on the final match day.  Both teams would have a week to rest and prepare.  Hull would be away at Charlton Athletic, while we hosted Rochdale.  If we won, we were champions; if we did not, and Hull did, they would pull the trophy from our hands...and rightfully so.

Zoe made a list of the Gardeners who enjoyed big matches, and of those who did not.  Armed with this information from our staff, we picked an eleven that we believed would thrive under the pressure of a title decider.  Regardless of the outcome, we were going up to the Championship next season. But wouldn't it be more rewarding to go up as champions?

We went ahead through Toby Christensen in the sixth minute.  Shortly after the break, big Tim Sparv got his head to a Thor Kasteren throw and powered it in.  To Zoe's endless delight, the same two players worked the same trick half an hour later.  Remembrance Park rocked with the cheers of over 27,000 Gardeners supporters, who barely stopped singing when Rochdale pulled one back on 88'.  And then, the whistle blew.  It was official.  The underdogs in navy, orange, and white were the champions of League One!

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It's a sharp-looking trophy, isn't it? :D

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Our supporters took to social media to share their joy.  Isla Currie won the day with this one. 

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We handled all our press conferences ourselves. It was actually fun to watch our relationships with the reporters who covered us regularly improve, but we noticed one particular pundit never seemed to warm to us.  Amelie Trueman writes for The Blizzard.  We weren't sure why Amelie never seemed to react positively to anything Cameron said during his pressers.  

Sometime during the spring, Amelie had a change of heart. <3 

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Few people know she has two Kedleigh Heath shirts in her wardrobe. :)

Here are the results of our run to the League One title.  We went 39 matches without losing, coming close to the League One record.  (We won't be around to challenge it next season.)

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Our 106 points is a new League One record.  :)  Kudos to Hull City, who kept the pressure on us all season long and broke the century mark themselves. We'll see them in the Championship, along with Blackpool, the winner of the Promotion Playoff.

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Remember Fleetwood Town's big result against Hull City in April? That kept them from going down! Nobody can say they didn't earn it.

And our double-winning Gardeners are going up!  Thanks for following us this season!  *claps to the stands* :applause:

Edited by Narrator C
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Here's our Best Eleven for 2020/21.  There are no real surprises here.  I suppose you could make a case for Bror Blume replacing Rodel Richards, which would make Ronan Curtis the center forward.  

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Jack Whatmough was the supporters' choice as their Player of the Year.  Dennis Cirkin and Caoiminh Kelleher finished second and third.  All three of these players, plus several other Gardeners, were named to the League One Players' Select Eleven.

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Not surprisingly, the team was full of players from the 100-point Kedleigh Heath and Hull City sides.  Congratulations to the six Gardeners who impressed their peers enough to receive this honor.

Interestingly, another set of players proved to be the most popular among fans who bought Kedleigh Heath shirts. Here are the five players whose shirts sold the best:

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I'll be back soon with all the numbers a stats nerd could ever want. :)

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Great success, well done to you both! The league win is well deserved, and although many of us EFL managers call it the Pointless Pizza Trophy, it's still worth a trip to Wembley and lifting any silverware is always a pleasant feeling.

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2020/21 Statistics

I put together little spreadsheets that include some key statistics for the 2020/21 Kedleigh Heath squad.  I've grouped the players four ways:  goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards. Zoe enjoys doing things like this, so she helped me put them together.

 

Goalkeepers

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We could not have been happier with Kelleher.  We chose him to play a starring role, and that's exactly what he did.  By any measure, he was the best gloveman in League One this season.  Caoiminh's  ability to pass confidently was crucial to our possession-based playing style, and he stopped shots at a higher rate than any regular 'keeper in the league.

In our push to win the Papa John's Trophy, we departed from our plan to play Christensen and Muyters in cup ties.  Both of them, especially Christensen, played exceptionally well.  The young Dane's statistics look even better than Kelleher's, but he didn't face the same level of opposition.

Muyters has expressed his desire to retire, and we appreciate his year of service to our club.  He was a good teammate and a positive role model.

 

Defenders

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Whatmough was an absolute rock for us in the middle of our defense.  He was a deserving choice as our Supporters' Player of the Year, and as a member of the League One Players' Select Eleven.  Some of his statistics don't leap off the page at you, but remember how much of the time we had the ball.  A defender can't record an interception if his team is already in possession.  

Left back Cirkin seized a starting position early in the season and held onto it. By New Year's Day, he had developed into one of our best players.  Still a teenager, we see him as a crucial part of our plans.  Dennis required regular rest, so there were still opportunities for Purrington to show what he could do.  Ben's versatility allowed him to feature as a center back and even, on occasions, in the middle of the park.  

In the same way, Droste found himself coming on as a substitute more often as the year went on.  He never complained once, and he was always reliable when we called upon him.  Knowing we had the steady Dutchman around, we felt free to let Kasteren try his luck in the senior team after he bossed the Under 18 league.  Thor proved he was more than a long throw specialist, even if most of those assists came via that route.  We like the fact that a 5'7" right back won 82% of his aerial contests.

Gerson battled some minor injuries and was occasionally away on international duty, but when the Luxembourger was available, we had a place for him somewhere.  As a full back, a center back, or a midfielder, he gave us a cool, assured veteran presence, and he converted all four of his penalties.  

Our decision to bring Cresswell in on loan in January turned out to be a wonderful piece of business.  The Leeds man paired perfectly with Whatmough, giving us the top center back tandem in the league.  He recently renewed his contract with the Whites, but we still view bringing him back to Remembrance Park as a goal. 

Veteran Clarke (so good in the air), oft-injured Sandberg (still promising), handy Seddon (even more promising) and steady Randall (exemplary teammate) were all valuable to us in their way.

 

Midfielders

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All six of these versatile players could play in any of the three spots in our midfield. That's exactly what we hoped we would get when we selected them.

The popular Børkeeiet, whose shirt was the most popular at the club store, was durable, composed, and skillful.  The young Norwegian was especially effective in a box-to-box role, where his stamina and tenacity were on full display.

We discovered that Rossiter, too, could do a job anywhere we put him.  While he was rarely spectacular, he provided us with the steady midfield presence a good team needs.  We worried that the injury bug might bite him hard and often, but he turned out to be ever-present.  

Koopmeiners turned out to be an ideal Regista.  From the base of our midfield triangle, he could display his passing range and make good use of his ability to read the game.  He's only 21, and his best football is very likely ahead of him.  That's good news for us.

Our captain, Sparv, was more than an inspirational leader.  Whether he was employed in midfield or as a center half, the Finland international was an imperious presence. Many of his eight goals came on set pieces, where he made excellent use of his aerial ability.  At age 34, we wonder how much longer he'll be able to do Tim Sparv things, and we hope we get at least one more strong season from him at the Championship level.

Clarkson is the opposite:  a dynamic young talent whom we believe will grow with the club.  This year, he was our super sub, coming off the bench 35 times to fulfill a variety of midfield duties.  Several Championship and Premier League sides are courting him; they apparently see the same potential we do.

On paper, Close shouldn't have been able to do much in League One, and he certainly doesn't look like a valuable Championship player.  However, we sense that Ben is a powerful example of a footballer who is better than the sum of his parts.  On closer inspection, Close possesses the key attributes for a midfielder in our system.  He'll stay with us next year, and I wouldn't hesitate to give him playing time. 

 

Forwards

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Zoe has decided Christensen is her favorite player.  The left winger contributed to 20 goals, a total that tied him with the next two players on the list for top honors in this department.  We've secured his services for the next four seasons, so unless a team matches his £13.25M release clause, we'll have him in Gardeners colors for a good, long while.

Shackell, our erstwhile Raumdeuter, has also learned to play on the left and as a central striker. The latter talent has made him an even more valuable member of our club, as we're still a bit thin in this department.  Shack is still a teenager, and could still improve. 

Even though he didn't work out too well as a center forward, Curtis ended up being a very valuable player for us, able to do a job on either flank.   He led the team with 14 goals in all competitions, and made the Players' Select Eleven--the only Kedleigh Heath attacker to earn this recognition.  Blume, another versatile forward, carried the scoring load for us at different times during the season, finding the net when it seemed nobody else could do so.  We're squabbling a bit with him over the terms of his next contract. He and his agent want him to be recognized and paid like a star.  We're not sure if he's good enough for that status in the Championship.  Edwards looks like he can do anything Blume can do, and he's happy being a squad player.  A broken toe interrupted the Welsh wide man's season.  

For a while, we thought Richards would be a bust, another marginally effective number nine without the inclination to do much else.  Then he found his scoring boots, which he had apparently packed in the last bag he brought with him from Tottenham.  Even if he never did anything else, though, we'd always love him for that glorious day at Wembley.

We're not sure what to make of Sørensen.  Our staff think he has the makings of a productive Championship striker.  On the pitch, he came across as a bit of a flat track bully, unable to score against teams at our level.  Which assessment is right?  He's out of contract at the end of the season. What shall we do with him?

Quietly, van Veen was our most productive player, measured in terms of goals/90 minutes.  A low-cost option for the bench, the well-traveled Dutchman did exactly what we asked of him. Several clubs in his native country paid attention, and it's rumored that one or more of them might make a move for him in the summer window.

There are already lots of big clubs swarming around Abrahamsen.  We like him a lot, but if a Premier League side approached us with a million-pound offer for the Faroese teenager, should we accept it?  If we did, would we be saying goodbye to a striker who could lock down his position for a decade or more?

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27 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Great success, well done to you both! The league win is well deserved, and although many of us EFL managers call it the Pointless Pizza Trophy, it's still worth a trip to Wembley and lifting any silverware is always a pleasant feeling.

Thanks, Jogo!  Zoe will undoubtedly giggle at the Pointless Pizza Trophy name.  In a way, we're almost glad that, as a Championship club, we won't be eligible to defend it.  You're right, though, a trip to Wembley is definitely worth it. I've never managed a club that got to a Wembley final in FM. 

We've already decided that if we make it to the FA Cup final at some point, we will dress for the occasion.  I might not go as far as a full suit (I don't wear one to work), but I'll put on a tie. :)

We went from being delighted at the thought of making the Playoff to being equally delighted at the prospect of automatic promotion.  We wouldn't have been too gutted if Hull City had pipped us for the title--they were favored to win it, and we were picked to battle in mid-table--but we're thrilled that we pulled it off.

Now, we'll have to see if we can manage to keep ourselves in the Championship, or if we'll go right back down again. 

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7 minutes ago, Narrator C said:

Thanks, Jogo!  Zoe will undoubtedly giggle at the Pointless Pizza Trophy name.  In a way, we're almost glad that, as a Championship club, we won't be eligible to defend it.  You're right, though, a trip to Wembley is definitely worth it. I've never managed a club that got to a Wembley final in FM. 

We've already decided that if we make it to the FA Cup final at some point, we will dress for the occasion.  I might not go as far as a full suit (I don't wear one to work), but I'll put on a tie. :)

We went from being delighted at the thought of making the Playoff to being equally delighted at the prospect of automatic promotion.  We wouldn't have been too gutted if Hull City had pipped us for the title--they were favored to win it, and we were picked to battle in mid-table--but we're thrilled that we pulled it off.

Now, we'll have to see if we can manage to keep ourselves in the Championship, or if we'll go right back down again. 

True, the worst thing about any League 1 or 2 club is having to play that competition. It wouldn't be so bad if the big clubs under-age teams weren't in it. But once you get to the latter stages, it's well worth winning. Your run of form kept getting stronger, promotion is the most important but trophies are nice. You two just have to take turns in polishing it each week...

I'm confident in the pair of you avoiding relegation, good luck with the summer transfer window. Not sure the FA Cup Final dress code will be an issue just yet ;)

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19 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

True, the worst thing about any League 1 or 2 club is having to play that competition. It wouldn't be so bad if the big clubs under-age teams weren't in it. But once you get to the latter stages, it's well worth winning. Your run of form kept getting stronger, promotion is the most important but trophies are nice. You two just have to take turns in polishing it each week...

I'm confident in the pair of you avoiding relegation, good luck with the summer transfer window. Not sure the FA Cup Final dress code will be an issue just yet ;)

That's how Zoe and I viewed it, and why once we found ourselves progressing well, we decided to go all in.  Fortunately, we didn't pay a price for it by falling away from the pace in the League!

It's admittedly easier to succeed with our created team, because we started with an idea of how we wanted our team to play, and then picked players who would suit our style well.  We want to play from the back, so we picked center halves who are good Ball-Playing Defenders.  We made sure we had a right-footed left winger.  We wanted full backs who are comfortable joining the attack.  

I hope you're right about us staying up in the Championship! The pundits aren't so sure, as you will soon see...

And, as for the FA Cup Final, neither of us is under any illusions that we should pick an outfit just yet. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

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To the Next Level

Winning promotion to a higher league is fun, but it brings with it a challenge I've always found to be a tough one.  What, if anything, do I need to do to make sure I have a squad that's strong enough to stay up, rather than going straight back down to the level we've just "beaten?"  I suppose every "real" manager faces this same question.  

We decided to see how well our staff think our players might fare in the Championship.  We went through the profiles of the players who were on our squad list at the end of the season and ranked them accordingly.  Then Zoe made these colorful charts that summarize our findings. 

We identified ten players whom our assistant manager, Nick Haycock, believe are good enough to play in the Championship.  That's fairly good news!

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Unfortunately, Charlie Cresswell is a loan player, so unless Leeds United will extend their agreement with us, we won't have his services next season.  That gives us nine Championship-caliber players.  All of them except Tim Sparv are 24 or younger, and might still improve.

The rest of the squad looks like this:

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Again, this looks a bit better than we thought.  The players with Gold current ability are all League One standard.  We think they'd make decent squad players, if they will be willing to accept that role.  Eight of them--the eight younger players--are all projected to be Championship quality or better.  Rodel Richards, of course, is a loanee.  

The Grey group are suited to play two levels below us.  That doesn't bode well for their success in the Championship. However, five of these lads are very promising.  This group includes James Jones, who is now considered our best prospect.  

We were surprised to see Ben Close in the Grey/Blue tier.  Our staff don't seem to rate him, but they think he has some upside.  We like him, so we think we might keep him around.

Kevin van Veen and Tom Muyters are the Grey/Grey guys.  Tom is retiring, and Kevin is drawing some interest from Dutch second division clubs. Perhaps it might be time to sell him, even if we can't quite recover the price we paid for him.  

Zoe's tables make it a lot easier for us to evaluate our needs in the summer transfer window.  We have £3.3 million available to spend.

Do we make a move for a striker who is ready for first team duty?  Or, do we roll the dice with Spencer Shackell and young Bárður Abrahamsen?  

Do we stand pat at center back, using a combination of Lars Gerson, Tim Sparv, Ben Purrington, et. al. beside Jack Whatmough?  Will Erik Tobias Sandberg grow into his potential if we allow him to see regular duty? And will he stay healthy enough to do so?  Or, do we make a move for an established, Championship-quality center half?

We have a lot to think about, don't we? 

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Takeover!

We just received news that our chairman, Pete Winkelman, has decided to leave the club.  Pete has apparently decided to pursue his dream of becoming a football scout, or perhaps a Director of Football.  Apparently it's a natural next step for a pop music producer to become a property developer and then a football man.  

The new chairman is a local businessman called Don Scott.  We think he might be a newgen character, but we're not sure.  He seemed very happy to keep me on as the manager, and he then loaned about £6 million to the club.  

Scott also tweaked our Club Vision a bit.  

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Zoe and I are wondering how we can manage to put together a side that will play attacking, entertaining, high-tempo, pressing, possession football.  That seems like a big ask for a newly promoted team!

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11 hours ago, Narrator C said:

We just received news that our chairman, Pete Winkelman, has decided to leave the club.  Pete has apparently decided to pursue his dream of becoming a football scout, or perhaps a Director of Football.  Apparently it's a natural next step for a pop music producer to become a property developer and then a football man. 

If he goes abroad maybe he'll take Claudia with him... :D

Congrats on the L1 title.

11 hours ago, Narrator C said:

Zoe and I are wondering how we can manage to put together a side that will play attacking, entertaining, high-tempo, pressing, possession football.  That seems like a big ask for a newly promoted team!

I might well be wrong...it's been known...but I think the favoured means it's something the board would like to see but will more than likely understand if you find yourself haveing to defend against the top teams. I managed to escape punishment for signing players in their mid 30s when the board wanted U23 signings. I like to think they understood the need for experience.

Best of luck in the CH. It's a tough league.

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30 minutes ago, anagain said:

If he goes abroad maybe he'll take Claudia with him... :D

Congrats on the L1 title.

I might well be wrong...it's been known...but I think the favoured means it's something the board would like to see but will more than likely understand if you find yourself haveing to defend against the top teams. I managed to escape punishment for signing players in their mid 30s when the board wanted U23 signings. I like to think they understood the need for experience.

Best of luck in the CH. It's a tough league.

Thanks, anagain.  Living in the USA, I had no idea who Claudia Winkelman was. At first I assumed she was also Pete's wife.  Google informed me I was incorrect.  

We were constantly being reminded to play more attractive football, because we didn't score as often as the other top sides.  I was surprised to see we were fifth in goals scored.  I was expecting us to be closer to the middle of the league in that category; we scored 69 goals  in 46 league games.  We simply didn't allow the other team to score. 

We got high marks for playing possession football, because we had the ball more than any team in the league; our average possession was 58% the last time I checked it.  We also completed well over 90% of our passes, best in the league as well.

It's going to be rather difficult for us to play such expansive football while we're also "fighting bravely against relegation."  We'll see how it works out.

We'll have no problem fulfilling the requirement to make use of our youth system. That's something I probably would have added to my contract anyway.  

Thanks for stopping by!

 

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Meet the 2021/22 Gardeners

Zoe and I are proud to introduce to you the 2021/22 Kedleigh Heath FC squad.  You'll meet some new faces, and you'll learn about some former Gardeners who will be playing their football elsewhere this season.

 

Goalkeepers

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We couldn't be happier with our number one.  Kelleher did everything we asked of him last season, and more.  We feel much better about our chances in the Championship knowing we can count on the man between the posts.

Zoe and I decided to loan out Christensen, so he could get the playing time he needs to develop.  He'll spend the season back in League One, with Rochdale. He will be their first choice keeper.  Right now, we'll roll with youngster Davis as Caoiminh's backup.  He played well with our Under 18s, and he has impressed our staff lately.  

We have former Notts County man Luke Pilling in camp on an extended trial; he could possibly join us as well.

 

Full Backs

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Let's start with Cirkin, who was valued at £275K a year ago.  Now he's a £2M player, a full Ireland international, and a hands-down choice for us at left back.  We ask hiim to play a wing back role, which suits him perfectly.

Kasteren, too, has developed significantly, so he's now our clear first choice at right back.  Adding 26 pounds of muscle to his frame has turned him into a dangerous, marauding wing back, and the value of his long throw is already well-known.

Behind them, we have Purrington on the left and Droste on the right.  I would have no problems calling on either of them in an important fixture. We'll need four wide defenders as the season progresses, especially if we remain in multiple competitions for a while.  Randall and Seddon are also available. Seddon, in particular, is promising enough to hold on to. 

There are also a number of exciting prospects, led by The Very Gifted James Jones.  We still say this with tongues in cheeks, but he really does have the potential to become a star.  For now, he'll feature in the Under 18 side so he can play regularly, but we'll bring him up to the senior team for cup ties.  James can also play on the left, which creates room for Chambers, who is almost as promising.  Book is still a good Book, but possibly not the classic we hoped he would be.

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Meet the 2021/22 Gardeners, Part 2

Center Backs

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We build our defensive line around Whatmough, who bossed League One and should be good enough to make the step up to the Championship.  He might have more work to do, since I don't expect us to have 60 percent possession this year.  We replaced Charlie Cresswell with another loan player, promising van den Berg, in from Liverpool.  

The Dutch teenager's arrival allows us to use Sandberg in a backup role, and/or utilize Sparv as a half back.  I'll profile the captain along with the midfielders in my next post.  

We still have Clarke, who contributes more as a leader and a mentor than he does on the pitch these days.  A number of our defenders can play in the center or out wide, such as GersonPurrington, Kasteren, and Droste.  We shouldn't have any problem filling these spots, even if the fixtures are coming at us fast and furious.

The most promising youngsters include Tucker and Hall, who are both on loan, and van MeursRaymond is seeing more action as a defensive-minded midfielder.  

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