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[FM22] Donegal Celtic - Building a nation from the ground up


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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2033 / 2034

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We got lucky last season as it saw us lift the DBP trophy for the first time after a spectacular collapse from Linfield. Now that we have a taste for it, we need to ensure that we repeat that success as failure to do so again this season would be a regressive step for us. As for the Champions League campaign, I'd like to go as far as we can through the qualifiers. I think a target of reaching the Europa Conference League group stage is probably realistic which means winning at least the 1st Qualifying Round tie. I'd also like to continue to win more domestic cups in order to bolster the clubs reputation and fill some of the gaps in the trophy cabinet.

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League Table - This was a really tough battle with Larne for the title, ultimately we prevailed but it could have easily went against us. Unlike previous seasons, we actually started better and won 10, drew 1 and lost 3 of our first 14 games which had us in 2nd and within range of 1st. We then had a fantastic December, winning all but one game which was a 2-2 draw away at Linfield on Boxing Day. At that point, it was looking like a comfortable retention of the title but then we had a stumble in January which saw us only win 3/6, losing 2 and drawing the other. One of those losses being a poor 1-0 loss away at Warrenpoint Town which allowed Larne to take top spot and pushed us down to 2nd. We went into the split in 2nd behind Larne and I knew that we would have to be in excellent form if we were to overtake them. We did lose away at Cliftonville on matchday 35 but crucially we beat Linfield at home 1-0. Then we delivered the knockout blow by beating Larne at Inver Park 1-0 to put us 3 points ahead going into the final game and with a significant edge on goal difference which effectively meant we could win the title even with a loss and a Larne win. We went on to beat Glenavon and Larne lost away at Glentoran to officially hand us our 2nd title. Larne, much like Linfield last season had a bad collapse at a critical moment by losing their last 3 games. Terrible for them but great for us that we could capitalize on it.

Elsewhere in the DBP, Carrick Rangers beat Warrenpoint Town 1-0 on aggregate in the relegation playoff becoming the first team in a few seasons to relegate the DBP team. Glentoran won the Europa Conference League playoff final with a 2-1 win over Glenavon to once again ensure only professional clubs competing in Europe next season. In the lower leagues, H & W Welders won the Championship so will play in the DBP next season while it was another narrow escape for Distillery who this time survived in the NIFL PIL on goal difference over Coagh United after another abysmal season where they amassed only 17 points in 22 games. I tried to sign an affiliation with them to help them but the two clubs failed to meet an agreement. I want the bigger clubs competing at a much higher level and Distillery has a lot of untapped potential.

UEFA Champions League - It was an incredible run through the qualifiers which no doubt will be transformational to this club. Much like last seasons DBP title win, we had more than our fair share of luck but we were always going to need that coming up against such strong opponents competing in stronger leagues. The group stage however was an unmitigated disaster and shows just how far we are off competing with that quality of opponent. There wasn't a game where we didn't concede at least 3 goals and we now hold the record for the most goals conceded in Champions League history, a piece of history that I didn't particularly want but couldn't avoid. As bad as our group stage results was, for the foreseeable future it's all about the prize money from reaching that stage. Imagine if we could make it into the group stage for the next 3 seasons in a row, the money that will bring would skyrocket the development of the club and more broadly the country.

Domestic Cups - We won nothing this time around which was poor. I was gutted to lose the Irish Cup semi final to Cliftonville. They have become somewhat of a 'bogey' team for us, they also beat us twice in the DBP. Hopefully, next season we can put the record straight and beat them more consistently.

Reserves - Won the league by a point and retained the Steel & Sons Cup for an excellent double.

Under 18s - They did better than the senior team in the UEFA Youth League managing a debut win and a draw. They also won the U18s Academy League narrowly with a 2 point lead over rivals Linfield. A quality season from them, perhaps showing that the youth intakes of late haven't actually been that bad.

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Squad - I think the loan players that were brought in made the big difference to our performances over the season. Newell DL and Longstaff DC had exceptional seasons which really helped us to remain consistent in the DBP. I was also really pleased to see how some of the HG talent blossomed. Clifford ST has come on leaps and bounds as a player and is now the first choice ahead of McCourt ST. McHugh GK was also brilliant this season until his position was somewhat usurped by loan signing Owusu GK. Now that we have a bit of money to spend, usually, my focus would shift to establishing the club as a 'selling' one. I would usually do this by looking to Europe and the pre-contract agreement market. Trying to identify U23 players that are to be released from the elite European clubs and offering them a contract. In the past, I have been able to pick up some real quality doing that which formed the bridge until I was able to start spending more money on transfers. It worked well as I could offer high potential young players which weren't ready for first team football at those clubs game time. That game time would develop them into much better players and then the club would be rewarded for that investment of time with a big transfer fee, setting up a virtuous circle.  

Unfortunately, now that Brexit is in the picture that is a real fly in the ointment for that approach. The work permit rules are incredibly strict and the players I would usually bring in would likely fail to gain one as they would need 15 points. I'm not sure how much this is likely to impact the building of the squad but perhaps the fact that I managed to get a work permit for Batinovic GK means it won't be as bad as I think. I was also able to get one for Neupert DC, who is not an international and hardly played any games for his previous club Schalke 04. The only thing giving him points was that he played for a club in the Bundesliga but surprisingly that was enough. I think this is one of those scenarios where I'll just have to wait and see who I can bring in.

Transfers - I broke the transfer record of the club bringing in Neupert DC. He is definitely not value for money by any measure but he has a lot of potential which I'll be looking to get out of him. I suspect I'll make a loss on him but I wanted to test the waters in terms of turning the club into a selling one. Essel DR was far cheaper and ended up being a far better signing than Rieger DR which was rather disappointing. Christie ML and Harris MC were both excellent pickups on a free, whereas the other free transfers weren't so great. Maher MC was decent for the games he played but the main stars of the incoming transfers was definitely the loans. They were brilliant and if I could make some of those transfers permanent for next season I'll be really happy although I sense that we wont be able to offer them enough money for them to join.

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Average Rating: 7.38
A slight dip from last season but then again the difficulty of opponent faced in those continental games meant he couldn't really perform to his best leading to lower ratings which dragged the overall average rating down. Even with strong competition from Christie he held his own but I would like to see him be a bit more productive next season by providing more assists.
 
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Average Rating: 7.35
Absolutely brilliant loan signing from Millwall. Solid as a rock, I really wanted to keep him but Millwall aren't interested in selling him for a price we can afford, additionally, they offered him a new long term deal so he won't be coming back.
 
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Finances - It's not the size of the bank balance that matters but what you do with it that counts. Now is the time for making wise investments, whether that be in players, infrastructure or even networking. If we are to stand a chance of developing this club into the premier force in N. Ireland which is going to pull up the rest of the clubs with it we can't afford to get this stage of development wrong. With that in mind, a few changes need to happen. The first of which is to stop bringing in players on loan. Developing players for other clubs has to stop as we should be able to bring in players permanently that are good enough to get us to the Champions League group stages and keep us at the top in N. Ireland. It's a poor investment to deprive development time to our own players (who could in future be sold for money) and give it to loan players.

The second change required is in the backroom staff, I need to expand the coaching, scouting and medical department staff. If the club is to become a selling club, then I need to maximize the efficiency of development available through training. I also need to ensure that we can identify the profile of player we are looking for (young, high potential, good attributes) quickly and as efficiently as possible. We also need to ensure that our players spend as much time on the pitch as possible rather than on the treatment table so the medical department needs bolstering. Finally, I will be looking to sign a number of affiliate clubs who I can loan players to. That will give us the ability to tailor the development of our players more precisely to the level of football they are suited to. Ideally, I'd like to have an affiliate in each of the divisions (Championship, PIL & Level 4). I've signed one with a Level 4 club in Brantwood, I wanted to sign one with Distillery but the two clubs couldn't agree so will be looking for another PIL club and finally a Championship side (which I had in Annagh United but had to cancel because we were sharing their training facilities). 

Facilities - I've begun work on the training and youth facilities. Unfortunately, the council wouldn't play ball on the stadium expansion and that had to be scrapped. It looks a reasonable decision given that we are filling less than half the stadium on average. I don't know when the ticket prices are going to stop rising but I feel this is having a depressing effect on the attendances even though they are still on the up. Hopefully, next season we can start to fill our stadium more and better justify expanding the capacity.

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - A trio of quality players but the rest look really poor in comparison. They look quite raw in terms of their attribute spread but maybe with some good development they could potentially be useful. Larne seem to be taking a liking to some of our HG prospects so maybe they won't have a career with us but if they could with them and stay in the country it should be good for the objective of the save.
 
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League Reputation - Up to 2.5* reputation which is excellent and we have for the first time broken into the top 50 leagues in Europe. The jump to 3* is 30th place and above so we will need to see a lot of good performances in Europe from N. Irish teams for that to happen.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - Just like that we are considered the top dogs in N. Ireland, at least in terms of reputation. A gap is definitely beginning to arise between the professional clubs and the rest and I can only see that growing over the next few seasons.
 
Club European Reputation - Another rise this season, a more modest one of 37 places but things are going in the right direction. I'm a bit mystified as to why we are still beneath Linfield but we didn't earn many coefficient points this season although we made the most progress yet. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 3-1 on aggregate to Bohemians in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – This just shows how dependent they are on dropping down the qualifiers which comes from competing in the Champions League. If I get my way it'll be a long time before that happens again so they will need to perform better in the Europa Conference League qualifiers if they are to stand a chance of getting to the group stage.

Glentoran – Lost 6-1 on aggregate to Apollon Limassol in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – They lost badly, they might have done a little better on the scoreline but they definitely lost to the better team and deserved to lose.

Larne – Lost 5-3 on aggregate to Stabaek in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – A poor campaign for them, I really need to see better from the other N. Irish teams.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2034 / 2035

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We managed to retain the title last season but the win wasn't convincing enough to be indicative of an impending dominance of N. Irish football for the club. We must defend the title at all costs and begin to establish a gap between us and the rest. Getting to the group stage of the Champions League again would be the dream as the prize money will really secure the club but I'd be satisfied as long as we make it into a European group stage.

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League Table - I wanted to win the title in a more emphatic manner and we certainly achieved that by finishing a full 12 points ahead of our nearest rivals Larne and 19 points ahead of Linfield. I was pleased to see us manage a better goal difference and reduce our losses to only 3 games. This is more encouraging and until the other teams begin to catch up indicates we are now the best team in the country. Over the next few seasons, the objective has to be to develop a 2nd string team good enough to dominate in the DBP so that we can focus more on competing in Europe. Elsewhere in the DBP, Cliftonville shocked Linfield in the Europa Conference League Playoff final winning 3-1 to deprive Linfield of European football. Newry City dispatched Ballyclare Comrades in the relegation playoff with ease winning the tie 4-0 on aggregate. Carrick Rangers had a shocker of a season winning only one game and will be replaced by newly professional club Dungannon Swifts who won the Championship with a huge margin. In the lower leagues, after flirting with relegation for a few seasons Lisburn Distillery finally succumbed and will play next season in the 4th tier of N. Irish football which is deeply disappointing for them. The Glentoran job became available at the end of the season and after giving it some serious thought I've decided to stay with Donegal Celtic, I'm sure the time is coming soon for me to move on but not just yet.

UEFA Champions League - Our path to the group stage was far more comfortable this time with only Shamrock Rovers giving us any real trouble. We even managed to look a little bit more competent in the group stage also, managing to get the first point in our history and keeping the scores far more respectable than last season. We need to consistently make the group stage from now on and slowly improve the quality of the squad to make it more competitive against the elite clubs in Europe. If we could manage another 3 seasons of group stage football that is going to accelerate the rate of growth of the club immensely. 

Domestic Cups - Another first for the club as we lifted the Country Antrim Shield and Irish Cup to complete an impressive treble. I was disappointed with our performance in the League Cup semi final but Dungannon Swifts are a professional club competing in the Championship so it wasn't all that surprising that they could pull off an upset against us. The result against Shamrock Rovers in the Irish Champions Cup was very poor with us losing both legs but I guess if given the choice that I could only win one of the Champions League Playoff or the Irish Champions Cup I much preferred that we won the former.

Reserves - They made it a hat-trick of Steel & Sons Cup wins which is good but were quite poor in the league and Intermediate Cup. I think the reason behind it being that I'm loaning more players out but they need to improve.

Under 18s - There are some encouraging signs from them in the UEFA Youth League, getting 5 points is a good record especially against the youth products coming from La Masia and Man United. This is another reason why we need to constantly make the group stages of the Champions League. The team is too good for the domestic league which they won easily, they need to be competing against the best in Europe to really test themselves.

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Squad - Continual improvements are being made to the squad and it's definitely beginning to bear fruit. Unfortunately, team harmony is becoming an issue given the size of the squad and expectations of playing time from certain individuals. This is exacerbated by the huge turnover in players that we have been having of late. However, this is necessary in order to improve the squad over a shorter time period. Some players like Lehmann MC and Cengiz ML who were seen as key last season aren't good enough to be starters now so have been moved on or will be getting moved on. I am however really pleased with the state of the first team, we have young HG players showing good development, strikers which are becoming prolific scorers and midfielders who are very productive. Looking at the team, perhaps the wide areas could do with strengthening but I think offering players at the club already game time and developing them could be more beneficial for next season.

Transfers - We had a busy pair of transfer windows but I think we did some good business. We spent quite a bit of money but I think we managed to get some players which could have a long term future at the club and have a lot of potential. The pick of the bunch was probably Nicholson GK who was reliable in between the sticks and has huge potential. Of the players that left, I was disappointed to lose Cengiz ML as he had been such a strong player for us but I wasn't playing him enough and he wasn't happy so for his sake and ours I decided to let him go. The rest that left I was more than happy to get rid of especially McHugh GK who after losing his spot to Nicholson GK who is far better did nothing but complain. I understand his reasons for doing so and I will never forget his role in our penalty shootout victories in the Champions League qualifiers last season but ultimately I'm not going to weaken my squad just to keep him happy, he didn't want to settle for backup player status so he had to leave.

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Average Rating: 7.50
A fantastic season from the Indian international striker. He scored for fun this season which was fantastic, he didn't quite manage a goal a game as I would like to see from my strikers but he scored some vital goals, especially in Europe. I know that in order to close the gap to the teams in the Champions League we are going to need better but for now he's enough to lead the line for us.
 
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Average Rating: 7.45
I was beginning to think that maybe he wasn't going to have a future at the club but this season has given me reason to reconsider that thought. He was superb when we called upon him especially in the cups where he was deadly in front of goal. I don't think he is good enough to challenge Tamang for the first choice slot but as a rotation option I couldn't really ask for much more. He also is still only 19 and has a bit of potential to develop into, the fact that he is HG also stacks in his favour. There is no shortage of games to play so he will feature regularly next season too, if he can bring similar goal scoring stats next season that would be highly beneficial for the club. I'd also like to see him compete with Clifford in the hope that it will spur both of them on to improve.
 
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Finances - It's quite a drop to the bank balance but we have been spending massively on building the infrastructure of the club while trying to improve the squad which is expensive business. Our wage bill is approaching £100Kp/w and that's without considering bonuses, staff wages and operational costs. If we assume our total expenditures are around £150Kp/w that gives us a total spend of around £7.2Mp/a, with that knowledge we can begin to understand why the balance is falling the way it is. It also highlights the importance of making it into the Champions League group stage, without that injection of around £15M every season we would very quickly find ourselves in financial problems. That is why although the potential of getting a job with Glentoran was very appealing to me (building from a much stronger base) I knew that leaving would very quickly unravel all the progress I've made with the Donegal Celtic. As we can't get decent money from player sales yet that also doesn't help to close the gap between our expenses and income.

Our domestic income is nowhere near enough to cover our expenditures and although gate receipts, prize money from domestic competitions, merchandise sales have all been on the rise it's still minuscule in comparison. Unfortunately, it's just a fact that we have to be unsustainable financially in order to progress in Europe and earn our money. In order to get to the point where that is no longer true you are looking at maybe 30-40 years of building up the club considering the low base it's starting from. When I move to a club like Linfield or Glentoran that time line is much reduced. I still need to build the fan base of Donegal Celtic to where they are now and looking at the average attendances last season we have a long way to go, add the fact that they are benefiting also from the development of the league means that this is a long term project. I am also not helped by the fact that ticket prices are still rising and I have no idea when they are going to plateau, that is keeping attendances down.

Facilities - Continual work is happening behind the scenes to improve the training facilities and youth facilities which are already starting to become among the best in the country. Once again the council blocked the stadium expansion which is frustrating as I have to work hard to convince the board to agree to expand in the first place only for them to stop it from happening. Clearly we aren't filling 90% of the capacity on average, we actually fill less than half but we need to expand for the future. The ticket prices will stop rising at some point and we will see a rapid increase in attendances, not being able to capitalize on that because the stadium capacity is too low to accommodate the fans that want to watch the game would be a huge missed opportunity on our behalf. 

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - A poor intake based on the standards of my coaching staff but I think there is some potential quality in there. The elite and top talents look really promising to me and have good attributes for the roles I would expect them to play. Sure, they are unlikely to ever become first choices in the first team but they could become decent rotation options in time.
 
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League Reputation - I can see 3* reputation in 26th position which would be the next big milestone for the country. The prize money on offer from the DBP has also been rising steadily which is great as I need the domino effect of clubs becoming professional to start. Dungannon Swifts surprisingly done it at the end of last season when they got relegated from the DBP but next season we will have 5 out of the 12 teams operating at professional status. As a number of teams now have Secure financial status in the top flight I'm sure in a couple of seasons we could have a majority operating as full time clubs which would be transformational for the country. Going from part time to full time contracts dramatically improves the quality of player you can attract and if that is replicated over the entire league we are going to see a massive raising of the standard of play in the country.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - It's a little odd that we haven't reached 2.5* reputation after winning the 2.5* rated DBP but maybe next season we'll reach it. The train is about to leave the station in terms of reputation, the upcoming seasons will determine who wants to be on it and who doesn't. The best thing any team can do to try and keep up is become a full time club, it'll be interesting to see which clubs have ambition and which don't.
 
Club European Reputation - Still rising but I don't think our coefficient will be enough to see us seeded all the way through the qualifiers. This is a problem as there are number of really difficult teams in the Champions section of the qualifiers for next season who we would struggle to beat. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 5-1 on aggregate to Sporting Lisbon in Europa Conference League 4th Qualifying Round – They came agonizingly close to the group stage but stood no chance against Portuguese opposition of that quality. I was gutted to see them miss out on Europe completely next season, maybe that will see them perform better domestically.

Glentoran – Lost 4-3 on aggregate to Qaisar in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – Absolutely dreadful performance in the 2nd leg away in Kazakhstan after winning the first leg at home 2-1. A totally avoidable defeat and they should have done a lot better.

Larne – Lost 4-1 on aggregate to Sparta Prague in Europa Conference League 4th Qualifying Round – They went into the game against Sparta Prague as underdogs but I thought they could have made a better fist of it. They were outclassed and have a lot of work to do if they want to make it into the group stage.

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  • 3 months later...
On 15/12/2021 at 22:07, Santa Claus said:

Good to see this back, you seemed to be away for a minute with this save. Great results are continuing, well done!

It's been a long time since I last posted, haven't been able to play very much but I have managed to get through another season so will be posting the next season review. Thanks to everyone who takes the time out to read and follow the career, I really do appreciate that even if I can't post nearly as often as I would like to.

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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2035 / 2036

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The club has managed to win the DBP 3 times in a row, each time by a bigger margin than previously which indicates to me that we have established our dominance of Northern Irish football. The aim this season will be to continue that trend and to also make the group stages of the Champions League once again.

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League Table - A record breaking season for the club, we managed the most wins and the highest points total in the history of the competition. We've definitely arrived as the top dog in N. Ireland and showed this by finishing a massive 18 points ahead of 2nd placed Linfield and an eye-watering 36 points ahead of 3rd placed Larne. On the one hand, that is a great achievement but on the other it's symptomatic of the fact that we aren't dragging the rest of the league with us which is problematic for the development of the nation as a whole. Having ourselves exist on a island way above everyone else isn't ideal at all, I have to find ways of bringing the rest along. Glentoran will be in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers next season after winning the playoff final against Coleraine 1-0 AET. Crusaders stayed up with a resounding 9-4 aggregate win over Queen's University in the relegation playoff while next season will see Ballyclare Comrades rejoin the top flight after narrowly winning the Championship by 2 points over Queen's University.

UEFA Champions League - Well, we done the minimum requirement by reaching the group stages but didn't do much once we had gotten there. I'm a bit concerned about our performances in the group stage, losing the games at this point is par for the course so I expected that but the fact we didn't score a single goal is worrying. The games against Sevilla and Ajax were more balanced and we did create opportunities to score but couldn't take any whereas in the Liverpool games we were completely outclassed and created very little. We desperately need a quality striker who I can have confidence in to finish the lower amount of goal scoring chances we are going to get against quality opponents. I want to be fighting for 3rd place within the next few seasons as we need to do more than just making up the numbers. 

Domestic Cups - Almost managed the clean sweep with only an extra time goal denying us in the Co. Antrim Shield. I'm not sure what to make of the Irish Champions Cup, the first leg was a really poor performance and although we rallied in the home leg it wasn't enough and we missed out, the only piece of silverware we haven't managed to win yet.

Reserves - A magnificent treble for them which I'm delighted with. I was really surprised to see that our semi-final and final opponents in the Intermediate Cup were both non-league amateur sides. I think there are a good few league teams which could have done with the cash which for the winners has gone up to £333K. Doesn't do much for us but would be completely game changing for the likes of an Ards or Dergview.

Under 18s - A reasonable showing in the UEFA Youth League but wasn't pleased that they missed out on the title domestically. Perhaps, Glenavon have a golden generation of talent coming through which is the reason for their title win but we really should be winning the league every season given how much investment continues to be made into the youth department which other teams in the DBP can only dream about.

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Squad - We have definitely improved and gotten stronger which our domestic results would indicate. We are still however lacking in some respects, our front line doesn't inspire fear into our opponents. Our top scorer scored only 30 goals which might seem impressive but is less than a goal per game which should be easily achievable in a league like this. Tamang ST will be leaving for Nottingham Forest at the end of the season and Russell ST has decided to move back to his home land of Jamaica making our front line even weaker. Therefore the first priority will be to significantly strengthen the forward line and bring in the quality finishers that we need to help us progress in Europe. The right wing also looks a bit weak and I'll be looking to add in that position also.

Transfers - Splashed the cash a bit and overall I'm relatively satisfied with the business that was done. Fiore MC was a bit of a flop as I couldn't register him for the DBP so sold him in January for a small profit. The star signing was Dubois MC who had a reasonable debut season for us, I think once he acclimatizes himself he will develop into a real talent and should hopefully repay his huge fee with a lot more assists. Wilson ML was expensive for what he is but at least he has a perfectionist personality which hopefully should help him develop. Garrett GK was an expensive signing who was supposed to be the replacement for Nicholson GK who left for Fulham. I'd like to give him more game time but unfortunately he hasn't given me any reason to drop Scott GK, hopefully, next season he can do more to push him for the no. 1 jersey. Olaru MC looks a bargain which I'm pleased with and Lua MC looks a strong rotation option who can fill in on the right flank from time to time. I think the goalkeeper, defence, left midfield and central midfield are positions which are largely sorted and will only see moves should I have to sell players. Next season, the priority is the right wing and striker positions. 

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Mark Kelly - MR
Average Rating: 7.43
You may ask why I gave this accolade to Kelly MR and not Christie ML for example who finished with a much higher average rating. The reason is that he played nearly 3x as many games. He was very consistent and while he is definitely not the answer going forward for that position he still had the highest number of assists in the team. As a backup option, he should get game time next season for sure.
 
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Average Rating: 7.35
A player which is unassuming and just gets on with his job like the professional that his personality suggests that he is. In the end, that's all I really want, he has a lot of potential for growth and could be future captain material if he continues to show the same level of dedication to his craft and ambition. He is a large part of why I don't feel the defence needs any further strengthening.
 
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Finances - We are now in what I consider to be a comfortable financial situation. The reason why the balance is so high is that the selling club philosophy is starting to yield financial benefits. We signed Gerry Reid DL for £22.5K from Institute in season 2031/32. He then spent 2 full seasons with us before being sold for £100K to Sunderland with a nice 50% of next sale fee clause. He has then developed magnificently at Sunderland for two seasons (one of which spent as a regular in the Premier League) before being sold this season to RB Leipzig for £32.5M of which we got £16.25M. That sort of deal is what we have to start replicating as just with that one deal we raised 1 year of Champions League money without having to do anything at all. That is the way forward for the club and how we are going to secure a fortune and start helping other N. Irish clubs by bringing in young quality players. Add to that consistently ticking over the Champions League prize money and the financial future looks bright.

Facilities - The investment continues and the youth and training facilities will be getting an upgrade. The board have also agreed to expand the stadium for the end of next season but I'll wait and see if it happens. The fact that the average attendance fell isn't a good sign but ticket prices are still rising and I'm not sure when that is going to stop. We now charge more than double on average for our season tickets than any other club in N. Ireland, we charge £401 while next highest is Glenavon who charge £199. Only Larne charge more than us for an on the day ticket and even then it's only 47p more. This is why even with growth in our fan base we aren't seeing it reflected in our attendances. 

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - My coaches feel this is an excellent intake who could be golden generation but I don't think it's that great. At least I have more confidence that we have the facilities and coaches to develop the talent if it does exist in this intake.
 
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League Reputation - No movement at all which is reflective of how poor the other teams have been in Europe of late. We aren't exactly helping this by getting no points in the group stage of the Champions League either thus earning no coefficient points.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - We have reached 2.5* reputation at last which is a good sign of progress. As a nation, we have also reached a significant milestone in terms of the DBP. For the first time, we have the majority of teams operating at professional status in the top flight which is an excellent development. Us, Crusaders, Dungannon Swifts, Glentoran, Larne, Linfield and surprisingly Newry City now all operate as full time clubs. My hope is that will elevate the level of play in the league as a whole and that over time the DBP will become a fully professional league.
 
Club European Reputation - The club rose 10 places from last season but progress is now slowing down, unsurprisingly, given how little progress has been made in the Champions League group stages. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Cliftonville – Lost 2-1 on aggregate to Lech Poznan in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – The absence of Linfield from European football is being felt unfortunately. Cliftonville did a reasonable job as a semi-pro club against their Polish opponents but narrowly missed out.

Glentoran – Lost 4-0 on aggregate to Dundee United in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – That was pathetic, I really hope they can pick themselves up and do better next season.

Larne – Lost 2-0 on aggregate to Politehnica Iasi in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – With the exception of Cliftonville who actually put in a decent fight with part time players, this has been a lousy season in Europe for the N. Irish clubs.

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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2036 / 2037

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Retain dominance at home, score more goals and start to make progress in Europe after making limited impact so far. A good start would involve getting our first win in the Champions League group stage (should we get there) or perhaps scoring a goal which we failed to do last season.

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League Table - We won the title once again to make it a magnificent five in a row but this was far less convincing. It's true that we scored a lot more goals but we also conceded more to achieve the same goal difference as last season and perhaps more worryingly lost more games than last season. We had a really rough patch just before the split where we couldn't seem to buy a win which allowed Linfield to close, in the end, we still managed to re-establish our lead with a perfect post split period but I'd like to avoid such dips in form in future. Elsewhere in the DBP, Cliftonville managed an impressive penalty shootout win in the DBP Europa Conference League playoff final after drawing 2-2 with professional outfit Newry City. Crusaders beat the drop with a resounding 4-0 aggregate win over Warrenpoint Town and Ballymena United bounced straight back by narrowly winning the Championship title.

UEFA Champions League - A greater number of goals was scored (not that hard to beat zero!) and we even managed to get a draw but still we are way off being competitive in the group stages. I was gutted to lose the game at home to Aberdeen as we had our chances in that game and should have scored before they grabbed a late winner. Had we managed that win we probably would have been looking at Europa League knockout stage football but it wasn't to be. Still a few too many hammerings in there I feel, we need desperately to tighten up the defence.

Domestic Cups - A lousy season in the cups for the club, our newly acquired predilection of throwing away the Irish Champions Cup is becoming somewhat annoying.

Reserves - They didn't perform as strong as last season but a double is decent effort.

Under 18s - The youngsters did the club proud in the UEFA Youth League (perhaps the senior team could learn a few things!) by going far further than anybody would have expected. If this represents what the next generation has to offer then we might just make progress in Europe sooner than I think.

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Squad - It seems our goal scoring problems have been resolved, the only problem we have now is keeping them out at the other end. Squad management was incredibly challenging this season and I found it difficult to retain a harmonious atmosphere in the dressing room which likely explains why our form deteriorated before the split after the January transfer window. It was also difficult when it came to squad registrations as the average age of the squad has increased and a lot of players now require registering as they are over 21. That's not to say we don't have many young players, we have plenty and there is oodles of potential in the squad, I just have to find a way of developing it.

Transfers - As the wallet was feeling a bit fatter than usual I decided to splash the cash and in terms of incoming players I'm relatively satisfied. I'm most pleased with Fachinger ST and Modeste ST who came in and did amazingly well. I kind of broke the policy of only bringing in players 23 and younger but sometimes you have to go with your gut and I'm delighted with Modeste who was unbelievably good. Other notable signings were Mohammed GK and Ramos MC who performed well when called upon. The rest were decent but never really set the world alight which was disappointing, especially O'Sullivan MR who I expected to push for a starting spot but in effect couldn't break through and was a bit part player at best. I'm hoping to see him develop more next season. When it comes to the outgoing players, it was one crushing blow after another. I was most gutted to lose the young player of last season Romani DC for his release clause. Then Scott GK threw a strop in January which was equally vexing as I was forced to sell him also. I will also disappointingly be losing Lua too at the end of the season but I'm not too worried about that for reasons I will explain later.

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Average Rating: 7.79
What an incredible debut season! 63 goals is an amazing return. Exactly the type of prolific striker I was looking for last season. He has plenty of good years ahead of him which is another plus considering he hasn't hit his peak yet. I can't imagine that this season hasn't attracted the attention of the some bigger clubs though.
 
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Average Rating: 7.21
Showed great development this season and I'm very pleased with his progress. If I could develop him into our De Bruyne I would be very pleased.
 
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Finances - Balance went down a considerable amount but we are still comfortable. I'd expect the balance to be even lower by the end of next season as we seek to continue investing in the team in the hope of being more competitive in Europe. 

Facilities - The council finally relented and have allowed us to expand the ground. I would have liked some seats put into the ground but beggars can't be choosers I suppose. I'm actually surprised that they allowed it to happen considering that ticket prices are still rising but I feel we are overdue a spike in our attendances, if this helps us to prepare then that's great. The facilities also have seen continual investment and we finally are beginning to have the trappings of a 'big club' even if we are still relative minnows in Europe.

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - The reason why I'm not overly disappointed to lose Lua is because of Campbell MC. I don't think I have ever had a player as good as this come through any intake before. His attributes are amazing for a 15 year old and he really is a generational talent for N. Ireland. With the right development he is going to become a truly world class player and I will be trying to hold onto him for as long possible and hopefully provide him with the best foundation possible for what promises to be an amazing career. As the star rating are relative to Campbell, I think it's fair to say that the top talents must be pretty decent too! An incredible intake that I'm sure will impact the club for years to come.
 
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League Reputation - I'm shocked that we have actually started to rise again considering how utterly woeful the N. Irish clubs have been in earning coefficient points. All of a sudden 3* is looking achievable again, we really aren't that far off.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - Retained our 2.5* reputation which is great. I said that once the ball started to roll with clubs turning professional that it wouldn't stop and that was proven again at the end of this season. Cliftonville & Harland and Wolff Welders joined the professional ranks. That means next season will see 9/12 teams in the DBP operate as full time clubs which is a dramatic change from where we started.
 
Club European Reputation - Still rising but as we aren't picking up a large clutch of coefficient points every season it's difficult to see massive progress. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 3-2 on aggregate to Maccabi Petach-Tikva in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – They came back into European competition and were complete trash, we really need them to help and do some of the heavy lifting for the coefficient.

Larne – Lost 5-0 on aggregate to Tobyl Qostanai in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – What on earth was that? Losing to a team of greyed out players from Kazakhstan is quite embarrassing. Maybe a season or two outside European competition might do them some good.

Glentoran – Lost 2-1 on aggregate to Djurgardens IF in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – The only team which can hold their heads up high after being knocked out. They gave a decent account of themselves against a strong opponent.

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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2037 / 2038

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Last time out we failed to impress in the DBP even though we won the title. I'd like to improve on that and hopefully make some improvement in Europe. We just require a decent draw in the group stage which gives us a chance of grabbing 3rd. I'd also like to break the curse and win the Irish Champions Cup to complete the set of domestic silverware.

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League Table - Better than last season but not reaching the peak of a couple of seasons ago. I'm not sure whether that is a consequence of the competition become tougher or due to our inability to batter teams which we should be much better than on a regular basis. I'd much rather it was the former as that would indicate good progress towards the aim of the save. I'm a little disappointed to see Ballymena United relegated as they turned professional at the end of the season. Next season they will be replaced by semi professional Championship winners Ballyclare Comrades who won the title by a whopping 16 points. The large margin they enjoyed likely being a consequence of them playing so many more games in that league now thanks to a 'fix' that was introduced in an update. In my view, if it's isn't broken, don't try and fix it, now the Championship teams are playing a ridiculous amount of games. We also lost professional side H&W Welders in the relegation playoff after they got beaten on away goals after a 1-1 draw with Warrenpoint Town. As a result, next season will have 4 part-time sides in the DBP. Newry City qualified for Europe after beating Cliftonville 2-1 in the DBP Europa Conference League playoff final.

UEFA Champions League - Like a genie, my wish was granted and we drew a beatable team as the 3rd seeds in the group stage. The qualification rounds looked a bit shaky in parts but we managed to prevail. I was pleased that we managed to grab our first two wins of the group stage as it has been a long time coming. A narrow loss in the 1st group stage game had me hopeful of perhaps pulling off an upset and grabbing 2nd but two hammerings against Liverpool ended those hopes and we had to settle for 3rd. A wonderful improvement but I do sense that we are going to need that weaker team to have any chance of 3rd for the time being. I am however delighted to have our first taste of knockout football in the Europa League.

UEFA Europa League - This went a lot better than I was expecting. I thought we would get knocked out straight away but we were excellent against our Austrian opponents and won both legs of the tie. Then we unfortunately had to face Chelsea who really are a Champions League quality team. It was an embarrassing aggregate defeat but we simply don't have the quality to compete with them. Overall, a satisfactory European campaign with us progressing further than ever before.

Domestic Cups - At last we manage to win the Irish Champions Cup, I didn't want to leave it to chance so I put out a full strength side in both legs. The League Cup win was impressive but our performances in the other cups was poor. Losing to Portadown in the Irish Cup was unacceptable but they deserved to win as we didn't perform.

Reserves - A rather poor performance from them this season which isn't so bad if it means that some of the lower league teams are getting a chance to progress in the cups.

Under 18s - A strong season from them and I felt they were unlucky to get knocked out of the UEFA Youth League considering they finished the group stage with 10 points.

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Squad - I have to figure out how I turn this squad into one which is competitive in the Champions League group stage. I feel I have some of the players of the required standard but need to add to strengthen the weaker areas. I'm going to need to find a replacement for Garrett GK who is leaving at the end of his contract. I don't have sufficient depth in central defence and I feel I need a top quality central defender to help bolster the defence. The central midfield is probably our strongest area and Campbell even at 16 is a regular starter. I'm going to need to find some quality left wingers and will struggle to replace the quality of Rodriguez who I brought in on loan. I'd like another strong right winger and perhaps another striker to add a bit of depth. 

Transfers - I spent a lot of money this season but for the first time I actually turned a good profit with player sales. This season I actually broke a lot of the rules which I like to play with. I signed La Pietra MC who was 31 when I signed him but was excellent in midfield, I'm sure that his experience and playing alongside Campbell MC helped the youngster to have such a strong season. I also brought in a loan which I really don't like to do but I needed a left midfielder and he was just too good to turn down. I think being a bit more flexible in some circumstances can be okay for the right player at the right time. I was a bit disappointed to lose Olaru DC, Chambers MR and Humphreys DL but I made a good profit on all of them and they wanted to leave so thought it best to cash in.

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Average Rating: 7.81
I don't know how he managed to get a higher average rating given he scored less goals but perhaps his overall play was better. I do have to identify the reasons why he scored 12 less goals though as that isn't a good trend.
 
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Average Rating: 7.72
I had to show his attributes, he is unbelievable for a 16 year old. I really don't know how he is not considered a wonderkid at this point. He is that good that he has even been capped for N. Ireland already. Fingers crossed that he can stay happy and healthy, I'm absolutely intrigued by the prospect of what this lad is going to look like at 18 or 21. The ingredients are there for him to develop into a star, regular Champions League football to challenge him, excellent training facilities and coaches, quality players around him. The sky is the limit if he really wants it, the only concern would be his personality but that isn't impacting him negatively at this point.
 
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Finances - The balance is definitely shrinking but is still comfortable. It may take a hammering next season though as I need to improve the squad.

Facilities - Another stadium expansion which once completed should mean we can accommodate a decent crowd. Still have a long way to go in order to get near Linfield in terms of capacity but at least we have a ground which should hold more than the majority of teams in the top flight. The training facilities will be getting another upgrade and we are starting to get to the point where upgrades off the pitch aren't requiring the same level of investment. It feels as though the fan base has grown significantly but ticket prices are still rising and I really don't know when they are going to stop. 

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - Spence DC looks a quality defender in the making and Bennett DC looks pretty decent too. It would be quite something if I could build the spine of the team with quality HG talent. I'm very pleased with the productivity of the youth department of late as it appears to be giving me a quality player every season which is brilliant.
 
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League Reputation - It's only a rise of one position but I'll take a rise or no movement over a fall any time. We are close to 3* reputation and I'll be interested to see how it impacts the league should we get it. There has definitely been a massive rise in prize money for competing in the DBP which has allowed a lot of teams to become full time clubs. Attendances have also risen across the board so there is a lot of interest being generated in the league. I only wish that the other N. Irish teams could do better in Europe as that would really accelerate the rate of progress.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - The majority of teams in the DBP are seeing their reputations rise which can only be a good thing.
 
Club European Reputation - Excellent progress once again, I really hope that translates into getting good draws in Europe. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 5-0 on aggregate to Manchester United in Europa Conference League 4th Qualifying Round – A good campaign from them, were just unlucky to get such an horrific draw at the final stage of qualifying which blocked them from the group stage.

Cliftonville – Lost 2-1 on aggregate to Shkupi in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – Pretty poor from them to lose to a team filled with greyed out players from North Macedonia.

Glentoran – Lost on penalties after 1-1 draw on aggregate to Cardiff Met Uni in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – This has got to be the worst yet!. Losing to a team of amateurs says it all about their appalling performances, what a disgrace.

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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2038 / 2039

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Last season saw the breakthrough in Europe as we managed to finish 3rd in our Champions League group which granted us knockout football for the first time. I'd quite like to repeat this feat or better still grab 2nd and make the knockout stages of the Champions League. As for domestic matters, well, continue the domination we have been enjoying and improve our performances in the cups.

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League Table - This was a much better season from us and we came so close to becoming invincible but a solitary loss against Glentoran ended those hopes. We was superb, perhaps I would have liked to score more goals but defensively we were miles ahead of the competition. Elsewhere in the DBP, Dungannon Swifts qualified for the Europa Conference League winning the playoff final against Cliftonville 1-0. Semi-pro club Warrenpoint Town survived for another season in the top flight winning the relegation playoff final 3-1 on aggregate over professional outfit H&W Welders. I was a little disappointed with that result as had they lost the relegation playoff the DBP would have been entirely professional next season as Ballymena United comfortably won the Championship. I was gutted to see Lisburn Distillery once again get relegated to the 4th division, the manager job became available with a few games of the season left. I have to say I was sorely tempted to add another manager to attempt to save them and build them up but I decided against it so they will have another season at least in the wilderness unfortunately.

UEFA Champions League - The qualifiers were relatively comfortable with perhaps the exception of the playoff against Rosenborg which was a bit dicey towards the end of the 2nd leg but ultimately we prevailed narrowly. The group stages started magnificently and I was beginning to think that maybe a top 2 finish was on the cards. Well, after the next two games away from home those hopes were severely dented and after the two draws at home against the same opponents they were dead. We might have scraped 3rd on the final day with a win over Villarreal but a loss ensured we finished with the wooden spoon. A disappointing campaign given that we displayed a slight decline from last season, I hope we can do a lot better next season.

Domestic Cups - We managed a clean sweep in the cups and I'm delighted about that. We had to rely on penalties and extra time in 2 of the games but this was an excellent result for us.

Reserves - A clean sweep for them also which meant that we won every senior domestic trophy available to us which is an incredible achievement. All the more astounding given that I don't have a great reserve squad so for them to perform this well is beyond the call of duty.

Under 18s - That completes the set, we won everything in N. Ireland. They also had a wonderful run in the UEFA Youth League, quarter finals for the squad we have is brilliant. Looking forward though, I'm skeptical as to whether they will achieve these heights again. As this crop of players graduates they will not be getting replaced with quality given the latest youth intake. I'd be very surprised if they could repeat this season next time out.

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Squad - I decided to trim the size of the squad down as management of game time was becoming an issue. I'm also looking at the squad and the depth isn't where I would like it to be. Once you take out our starlets such as Campbell MC, Spence DC and Dubois MC, the quality of the team declines dramatically. This is no good as we have to rotate the squad a lot and while it didn't cost us this season I can definitely see it becoming a problem as the opposition in N. Ireland strengthens. I definitely need to invest in a quality left back, a couple of defensively minded central midfielders given that La Pietra MC will be leaving at the end of the season. I also need to look for a quality left footed finisher to play in the Advanced Forward role, even though Modeste ST has been scoring a lot of goals, his goal return has been declining and I'm not appreciating his performance in some games where he simply doesn't turn up. I also think I need a quality right winger and left wide midfielder. I don't think it would do us any harm if we could bring in another right back also. That's quite the shopping list but if we are to improve in the Champions League I think it will be essential. I'm a bit perturbed by the low market values of players though, it's making our selling club philosophy a real struggle at the moment.

Transfers - I was very restricted in my incoming deals this season and restricted it to only 3, one of which being a loan. Butler GK was definitely overpriced and I regret buying him as he wasn't a first choice regular. I have to either move on Mohammed GK (who incidentally is getting itchy feet as he feels he needs to play for a bigger club to retain his place in the England squad) or try to recoup as much money as I can get by selling Butler. I think I'll probably opt for the former as Butler looks to have a lot of untapped potential while Mohammed is playing at his peak already. The Rinner ML loan was a real success, so much so that I tried to extend his loan and even though my offer was accepted by his club Napoli he declined the opportunity to spend another season with us. I hope he doesn't come to regret that and can break into their first team. Finally, I spent a bit of cash on Henson ST to play in the Deep Lying Forward (Support) role who for the most part was decent, perhaps not as productive as I would have liked but scored a few goals and assisted a reasonable amount.

As for the outgoings, well there was a lot of them. Phillips was a youth player who I didn't feel had a future with us so I shipped him off to Dungannon. I took a huge loss on Neupert MC which I'm gutted about. The most prominent of the leaving players was Fachinger ST who left for a reasonable fee but if I'm honest was missed with his replacement Henson not quite matching his standard. I was disappointed to lose Durnagel DL but the rest I was happy to let leave. I think I've been a bit too restrictive with my scouting which has meant that I have missed out on some real quality players who haven't been visible to me. I've been using the player search and scouting by position but also having the restriction of only having players with a value of over £100k. The problem with this is that owing to the changes to the player market value system and the fact that this is something you now have to scout to discover I was missing out on players simply because they were not visible to me. As a result, I have decided to change my approach and remove that restriction which has helped. It means that scouting is now a season long task to work through all the thousands of players but if it helps with recruitment and to unearth some gems then I'm willing to do it.

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Average Rating: 7.69
A wonderfully consistent defender who played a large part in our exceptional defensive record in the DBP. Playing 38 games and only conceding 19 goals is a goal conceded every other game which is remarkable and a testament to how well he worked alongside Spence to keep the opposition out. 
 
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Average Rating: 7.56
Another brilliant season, although not quite as good as last season. I really had to manage him this season as his tender age meant that he tired quite a lot and had to be rested frequently. I'm hoping that now he has turned 17 this will help him to improve his stamina. Incidentally, he and Spence DC were both in the list of next-gen wonderkids. We really have to hold onto these guys who have both become N. Ireland internationals, they are the key to our future development as a club.
 
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Finances - Not a bad balance to be ending the season with considering how much was spent on players this season. We are definitely comfortable but not considered 'Rich' which I'd quite like to get to if possible.

Facilities - There is quite a bit of activity behind the scenes in terms of building the infrastructure of the club. Firstly, I was delighted to acquire state of the art training facilities which is really going to help develop a lot of the young talent we have in the squad. I was also pleased to have the stadium expanded and to have the final day of the season see us sell out the increased capacity against Cliftonville. I did ask for another expansion to which the board responded by saying a resounding no even after I attempted to negotiate with them. To some extent, I agreed with their decision, the game at home to Larne after the expansion was completed was nowhere near a sell-out so I understood their idea to wait for a full season in the expanded ground before committing to any further expansion and was happy to leave it at that. Then they threw me an unexpected curve ball and this message popped up in my inbox.

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What? This makes no sense to me. Why would you be looking to build a new ground when you just stated to me that expanding the ground was too big a risk to take. Adding a few seats to the current ground would cost a lot less than building a new stadium from scratch. I'm really disappointed by this announcement as the new ground capacity is much lower than the current capacity of Donegal Celtic Park. That also means that the potential expansion capacity of the new ground is probably going to be less than 10,000. This is not the legacy I wanted to leave with the club, this is a big mistake in my view by locking in the growth of the club in this way. Hopefully, I can encourage them to be more ambitious by bringing further success on the pitch, otherwise this could mark the beginning of the end when it comes to my time at the club.

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - A rubbish intake compared to previous seasons but I can't complain too much. 2 wonderkids in the previous 2 seasons is remarkable, asking for more is probably being greedy at this point.
 
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League Reputation - I think 3* will herald a massive change for the DBP but we still are a few places short of getting it. The target has to be on getting to be more reputable than the English Championship, if we can do that over the next few seasons we will really start to see the development of the league.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - The board expect us to retain our place as the most reputable team in N. Ireland and we are comfortable in that regard.
 
Club European Reputation - We are just outside the top 50, I think with a good performance next season we should break through. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 5-3 on aggregate to Belenenses S.A.D. in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – They gave it a good go but we really need another N. Irish team in the group stages of European competition if we are to improve our qualification places further. I can't do it all on my own and the club isn't really in the position to start helping the other teams with players.

Larne – Lost 5-3 on aggregate to OB in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – A good effort from them although they are going to miss out on European football next season which could make it difficult for them to qualify in future.

Newry City – Lost 6-0 on aggregate to TNS in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – I didn't expect them to pull up any trees in Europe but this was a humiliating defeat. Hopefully, next season with Linfield, Glentoran and Dungannon representing N. Ireland we might see something better.

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Season 2039 / 2040

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A comfortable 3rd placed finish in our Champions League group put us in the knockout stages of the Europa League. After two impressive wins in the 1st and 2nd Knockout Rounds we find ourselves with a spot in the quarter final. I'm delighted with our campaign so far and should we bow out I'd be happy but who knows maybe we can stretch our remarkable run a bit further.

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There are no easy draws left but there are definitely teams in the draw I'd like to avoid such as Chelsea, Newcastle United, Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen. I'd be happier if we drew one of Udinese, FC Nantes or Villarreal although they are still quite formidable opponents but not quite as difficult as the previous 4.
 
Who did we draw?
 
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Udinese

Well, I'm actually rather pleased with this draw. Unquestionably, they are still firm favourites to win the tie and progress to the semi final. We are going to have to be at our best to compete against them but given our miraculous run so far I'm not ruling anything out, maybe once I look at their squad my mind will change.  

Our squad
 
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Their squad
 
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They are actually really strong and I think we are going to have our work cut out here. Perhaps I can take some encouragement from the fact that both their starting central defenders are 33 years old and perhaps haven't got the pace anymore, or maybe they will miss the injured Simoes who is one of their star players. I'm clutching at straws a bit here though as you can imagine, they have better players in practically every department.
 
Quarter Final 1st Leg
 
Here's how the two teams lined up:
 
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They've gone for a 4-2-3-1 formation so I suspect the flanks are going to be a key area for us. Not only to pose an attacking threat to them but also to relieve pressure by providing an outlet. I expect they will dominate the central midfield as we are outnumbered there so I'm hoping that Bernet and Gordon can have a good game for us on the flanks and cause problems for their fullbacks. I'm going to stick with my usual positive mentality and hope to compress the space their front 4 has to operate in. I'm fairly confident that I have the pace in the back line that we can recover should they spring the ever so slightly elevated defensive line. I don't have much expectations going into the game, with the abolition of away goals I just would like a result which keeps us in the tie and in with a chance in the 2nd leg infront of our home fans.
 
Result
 
Spoiler

Udinese 1 Donegal Celtic 1

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That'll do nicely!! As expected, they completely dominated possession but could only score one goal to show for it. We were perhaps lucky to score ourselves given our xG but we fashioned the same amount of clear-cut chances and both teams took them and in the end that's all that matters. On reflection, a draw was a fair result for both teams and gives me confidence that we can compete against them. Unexpectedly, we have a good chance of making progress, hopefully, the 12th man of our home fans can make the difference for us.

Quarter Final 2nd Leg

Here's how the two teams lined up:
 
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The door to the semi-final is ajar, we have already made history with our run so far. Can we step through the door and make further strides into uncharted territory? Unfortunately, Fusco DR got an injury so is unavailable for selection and our other right back Peet picked up another yellow card in the 1st leg so is suspended. Therefore I have to rely on Filipovic to slot in at right back. I'm hoping to see a decent performance from him and the team, here goes nothing.

Result

Spoiler
Donegal Celtic 3 Udinese 1 (A.E.T.)
 
Donegal Celtic win 4-2 on aggregate
 
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How about that? It took extra time to pull it off but on we go to the semi-final!! When Taurone scored after 48 minutes I was thinking that we had blown it but a relatively quick response through a header from a wide freekick from Walsh in the 57th minute reignited our hopes. They had their chances after that point but nothing really concise or concerning that really stretched our defence, so when the full-time whistle blew I felt we had a great chance of winning the tie. We were tired but then so were they and they had a lot of older players within their lineup. I think that proved decisive as 2 defensive errors from them in extra time gave us 2 goals. One just before halftime in the 102nd minute when wonderkid Campbell latched on to a lovely flick from Modeste who attracted the two central defenders toward him leaving a massive gap for Campbell. He took a touch and then smashed the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net. Then in the 113th minute, we scored again when a cross from the right flank from Mazadiego MR was parried by their goalkeeper Ibanez straight in front of Modeste ST who applied an easy finish to finish off the game.
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Season 2039 / 2040

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I already knew who we could be playing as the quarter final draws and semi final draws are done at the same time in the Europa League.
 
Who did we draw?
 
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Villarreal CF

Given the alternatives of either Newcastle United or Napoli this was definitely the best draw we could have hoped for. I'm not convinced that we have enough to get past a team which is 4th in La Liga but then again I didn't think we would get past Udinese. Anything is possible, let's have a look at their squad.

Our squad
 
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Their squad
 
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They look tough!! To have any chance what so ever we have to find a way to stop Carlos. That kid is dangerous and is their top scorer by a large margin, if he is allowed to play to his ability we are in for a world of pain. I'm hoping that I can formulate a plan once I see how they will line up.
 
Semi Final 1st Leg
 
Here's how the two teams lined up:
 
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It looks like they will line in a 4-2-3-1 just like Udinese did. Tasic MC and Campbell MC are going to have to play at their absolute best as while I expect to lose the central midfield battle I'm hoping that they can stifle their opponents. If we can cut off the supply into Carlos ST we will have a chance. If not, well, we are going to struggle badly. If I can leave Italy with a result which keeps us in the tie I will be satisfied.
 
Result
 
Spoiler

Villarreal 2 Donegal Celtic 1

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A great effort from the lads and we came within seconds of getting what would have been a well-deserved draw, unfortunately for us, a winner in the 3rd minute of stoppage time at the end of the game means we have to overturn a deficit in the 2nd leg if we are to make it to the final. The game plan worked pretty well and to my surprise, we not only managed to keep Carlos quiet we actually managed to have the majority of possession which really helped to stifle our opponents. Yes, they did have a lot more shots than us but their xG of 1.24 would suggest they were perhaps lucky to grab a late winner. I think it's still all to play for and I just hope my players believe that to be the case too.

Semi Final 2nd Leg

Here's how the two teams lined up:
 
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It's all or nothing time now, we have to play the game of our lives to do the unthinkable and make the final. If we lose, then so be it but I want my players to leave everything they've got on that pitch tonight. This tie is not over and we have an incredible opportunity to become the first N. Irish team to make it to a European final. Come on lads, one final push and we are there!!

Result

Spoiler

Donegal Celtic 2 Villarreal 0

Donegal Celtic win 3-2 on aggregate

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:applause::hammer::applause:

WE ARE GOING TO THE EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL!!!

I asked my players to give me all they had going into the game and they responded with a performance like that!! Amazing lads, just amazing. Modeste ST got the two goals to get us there but in reality, he could have scored a bucket load such was the dominance we enjoyed in the game. He was magnificent and the team (as can be seen from the average rating) was brilliant. Thoroughly deserved the win and our place in the final. We are the history makers and now we have a date with destiny in Spain to see if we can't achieve something so unthinkable, so unbelievable, and become Europa League winners.

 

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Season 2039 / 2040

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A club steeped in history and once home to the great Diego Maradona have been a rather mediocre side since that golden era. Enjoying sporadic success without ever really becoming the dominant force in Italy or Europe. They last enjoyed success in Serie A in 2034 lifting the title after a 44 year wait. The dominant team in Italy remains Juventus who have lifted the last 5 Serie A titles in a row. That Serie A win coming off the back of a Europa League triumph in the previous season ending another painful 44 year wait to recapture the trophy. They have been Champions League group stage participants every season since 2033/34 where they went on a remarkable run to the semi final losing to Real Madrid. They have not been able to repeat that feat since.

They were drawn into Group A where they were joined by Glasgow Celtic, Borussia Dortmund and Irish minnows Shamrock Rovers, they managed the following results.

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Undoubtedly, a few eyebrows would have been raised after their opening day draw with Shamrock Rovers and that really epitomized what was a rather disappointing campaign in the Champions League for them. They comfortably finished 3rd but would perhaps look at the poor loss at home to Celtic after going down to 10 men as the turning point which led to an early exit from the competition. Their group finished as follows:

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As can be seen from the final table, that loss to Celtic proved pivotal to their chances of progression. Ah well, as one journey ends another began for them in the Europa League where they would face Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk in the 1st Knockout Round.

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A comfortable pair or wins for the Italian side as they had no trouble getting to the 2nd Knockout Round where they would face far tougher opponents in AS Monaco.

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This proved to be a much stiffer test for them and only thanks to some heroics performed by Poirier GK in the penalty shootout were they able squeeze past AS Monaco to make it to the quarter finals where they would once again face French opposition in FC Nantes.

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A rather comfortable passage into the semi final considering FC Nantes are arguably the better team having finished above AS Monaco in Ligue 1 this season. The penalty shootout win over AS Monaco perhaps giving them some inspiration into thinking that perhaps this was going to be their year. The final hurdle for them to overcome to get to the final, a tricky looking tie against Newcastle United who no longer have their huge financial backing.

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A difficult tie but one they seemed to navigate relatively comfortably in the end to set up a final against N. Irish minnows Donegal Celtic.

They are overwhelming favourites to lift the Europa League and make it 3 wins in their history. They are stacked with world class talent and should easily brush aside Donegal Celtic. Among their better players they have are seasoned Danish international Casper Crone AMC whose performance in the final will be key in determining who wins the battle for midfield.

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They can also depend on Israeli international Itamar Rabinovich AML who will be looking to dominate on the left flank and give the Donegal Celtic right fullback a real test. He is a real goal threat also so will be looking to take any opportunities coming his way during the game.

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The team finished a full 7 points behind Serie A winners Juventus in 3rd and were trounced in the Italian Cup semi final against AC Milan 3-0. They have already secured their place in the Champions League group stage for next season but this is their last opportunity to grab silverware this season and they will be desperate to bring home the trophy. It will take something remarkable happening in the final for them not to be taking the Europa League trophy home but they will be doing all they can to ensure they are not on the end of a giant killing and to provide something for their long suffering fans to enjoy.

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Season 2039 / 2040

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From amateurs plying their trade in the depths of non-league N. Irish football all the way to the Europa League final within the space of 20 years. This club has been on quite a journey and surely if they were to end this season by bringing home the Europa League trophy to Belfast their story would have to go down as one of the most remarkable ever told in footballing history. They have emerged as the pre-eminent force within N. Irish football surpassing all the other larger Belfast based clubs. Winning a clean sweep last season and having won the DBP a remarkable 8 times in a row, not bad for a team which in season 2030/31 were still operating as a part time club. In Europe, they have been a club on the rise having established themselves as Champions League group stage regulars, the money gained from their participating transforming the club both on and off the pitch. This however is the furthest they have ever been in a UEFA competition by a large margin and they have yet to make it into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Speaking of the Champions League, they were drawn into Group B which looked a difficult task for them being drawn alongside PSG, AC Milan and Ajax, they managed the following results.

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A topsy turvy group stage campaign which started badly but improved and gave them hope of a 2nd placed only to have those hopes dashed with a loss in Milan which eliminated them from the competition before the final matchday. Thankfully, they were surprisingly much better than Dutch opponents Ajax which meant they easily grabbed 3rd. Their group finished as follows:

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The top 2 managing a massive cushion over them while they comfortably finished 6 points clear of Ajax. Next up a tie against Swiss side FC Basel in the 1st Knockout Round of the Europa League.

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After an impressive trouncing of their opponents in the 1st leg, progression was ensured with the 2nd leg win adding icing to the cake while picking up some much needed coefficient points given that they are the only N. Irish team seemingly earning any. Next up came a real challenge for the N. Irish team as they had to face Marseille in the 2nd Knockout Round.

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A hard fought win in the 1st leg at home had the Donegal Celtic faithful ecstatic that a quarter final place might just be in reach but then a remarkable 2nd leg in France shattered that confidence somewhat. A thrilling game which saw Marseille race into a 2 goal lead before half time turned the tie completely on it's head. Then the moment which completely changed the tie happened as Marseille went down to 10 men in the 42nd minute. At the start of the 2nd half, a double salvo by Donegal Celtic in the 50th and 52nd minutes made it 2-2 and looked like giving them a decisive 3-2 lead in the tie. Marseille determined came storming back to take a 3-2 lead in the 63rd minute and regardless of how hard Donegal Celtic tried it remained deadlocked at 3-3 on aggregate until it had to be decided with a penalty shootout. Thankfully for Donegal Celtic, Marseille proved to be awful at penalties missing all but one while the N. Irish club scored all 4 of theirs to set up a quarter final tie against Udinese, the furthest any N. Irish club has ever progressed.

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A good performance in the 1st leg to get a draw set the foundation for an excellent 2nd leg performance which saw the N. Irish team storm into the semi final after extra time to set up a clash with Spanish team Villarreal.

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After an unlucky 1st leg defeat, it looked like the journey was coming to an end for Donegal Celtic but a resilient and powerful 2nd leg from them saw them recover magnificently to book their place in the Europa League final.

I don't think there has ever been such a large disparity between two teams competing in the Europa League final. Donegal Celtic are huge underdogs and will need to perform miracles if they are to bring the trophy home to N. Ireland. The Donegal Celtic squad don't have the riches of the Napoli team but they do however have some talented young players who if they perform at their best could pose problems for their Italian opponents. The first of the those being HG wonderkid David Spence DC who will need to have a stellar performance at the back if they are to have a chance.

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New signing Aleksa Tasic MC will also need to have a strong performance in the midfield and provide an effective outlet for the defence whilst being a creative force for the attackers when his team recovers the ball.

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Winning the Europa League would be a incredible achievement for the club and would send shock waves around the world. It would also ensure that next season they wouldn't have to qualify for the Champions League group stage which would be a huge bonus. The odds are heavily stacked against them but I guess that has been true in every round so far. In a one off game, who knows what can happen, could this remarkable story get its fairy tale ending?

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Season 2039 / 2040

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THE FINAL

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The Estadio Cornella-El Prat is ready and the atmosphere is electric as we await the drama of the Europa League final. Just over 3,000 Donegal Celtic fans have made the trip to Barcelona and will have to try and make themselves heard against nearly 10x as many Napoli fans.
 
Our squad
 
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Their squad
 
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Look, usually I'm not a conspiracy theory type of guy but the events in the weeks leading up to the final have made me very suspicious. The first blow was losing Butler GK to an abdominal strain from an injury sustained in training. That was a huge loss in of itself, even though I could play him as he has an orange 'Inj' icon, it's a huge risk and one I'm not willing to take for such a big game so have opted to start the much weaker Mortada GK. Then another massive blow, Campbell MC like an idiot days before the final messing around with weights suffers a double hernia meaning he will miss the game completely. I try to be optimistic but that injury I think has basically killed our chances. To lose our two best players is too much to contend with considering how strong our opponents are and how they mainly appear to be in great condition. That's not to mention the fact that Hall DC broke his ankle which will have him out for the next 6 months but he was unlikely to feature in the final anyway. We are going to need a miracle!! 
 
Final
 
Here's how the two teams lined up:
 
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I'm surprised that they aren't starting Crone but they are so strong I don't think they will miss him much to be honest. We are going to need a lot of luck in our favour if we are to win this. I hope I can use the wings to good effect considering they are playing a 4-2-3-1 but tactics can only take you so far when the ability gap is this big. Come on the Wee Hoops!!
 
Spoiler

Napoli 4 Donegal Celtic 1

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Ouch!! That was a painful watch and when they scored after 15 minutes I was beginning to think it was going to be a long day given how they were dominating the game. We improved slightly but when they scored a 2nd just before half time I thought the game was pretty much up. We gave ourselves a bit of hope by scoring just after halftime through Modeste but they basically kicked off and went straight down the other end and scored to make it 3-1 extinguishing any hope we gained. When they added a 4th in the 55th minute any faint hopes were gone. This defeat is going to take some time to recover from and unfortunately has left me with a lot of regrets and what-ifs. Would we have been beaten like this with our 2 best players on the pitch? Should I have risked Butler? I'm absolutely gutted and I don't feel we gave a good account of ourselves at all. Then again I can't really complain too much, the players have raised their game so many times over this campaign that maybe this was just one game too far. 

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Although disappointed, we will get over it and can reflect on a wonderful campaign. We have gone toe to toe with some of the best teams in Europe and not only competed with them but beat them which we can be immensely proud about. Things didn't go our way this time but going forward I can be confident and optimistic that with this young developing squad that such feats in the future should become more commonplace. A superb season, bring on the next. 
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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2039 / 2040

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Last season, we cleaned up domestically but suffered a slight decline in Europe. I'd quite like to improve upon that and would like to have post-December European football once again if possible.

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League Table - We weren't as good in the league this season as we lost more games and had to wait until matchday 35 until we could claim the trophy. We did however score the most goals in DBP history which is a good feather to have in our caps. Elsewhere in the DBP, Coleraine pulled off a stunning win in the UECL DBP Playoff final with a 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts to claim European football next season from a 7th placed finish. Next season will see the return of Championship winners Ballyclare Comrades (depriving us once again of an entirely professional DBP) to the top flight while Ballymena United stayed up with comfortable 2-0 aggregate win over H & W Welders. I would really like to see us improve our record next season, we dropped a lot of points against Glentoran and Linfield and that trend can't continue.

UEFA Champions League - A straightforward run through the qualifiers which made a welcome change. I'm not a fan of having to start our season so early every year thanks to starting in the 1st Qualifying Round but I guess until our coefficient improves we will just have to deal with it. I think we drew a particularly hard group although I was shocked with how poor Ajax were. Sitting on 7 points after 4 games we had hopes of maybe getting 2nd but unfortunately we put in a poor performance in Milan which knocked us out completely on the head to head record. A 3rd placed finish and knockout stage European football is an improvement on last season so that's good progress.

UEFA Europa League - An amazing run which I never would have anticipated happening at all. It was gutting to lose the final in the manner we did but this could mark a real turning point in the trajectory of the club. Had we been able to select from a full strength side for that final, perhaps we still would have lost but I think we would have been able to give Napoli a far tougher challenge. All that being said, I couldn't be happier with our performances during the campaign, a real step forward for the club. I think this run will have garnered the attention of the European elite clubs, we are not at their level yet but we are building something special here and they are on notice. The fact that so many top clubs are now interested in my players indicates the impact that has been made. 

Domestic Cups - Well, it was doubtful that we would be able to repeat perfection but at least we have one cup to show for our seasons effort. I wasn't pleased with our loss in the Irish Cup final to our greatest rivals but considering that it came a couple of days after our Europa League semi-final meant I had to field a heavily rotated and weakened side. I guess the loss that we aren't quite able to fully rotate out our best players and still be strong enough to beat the best of the rest but maybe it will come in time.

Reserves - Ended the season without a cup but at least they kept their run of league title victories going.

Under 18s - Won the league title at a canter but as expected they showed a decline and came nowhere near repeating their success in the UEFA Youth League of last season.

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Squad - This is the strongest squad I have had during my time here and I'm excited by how strong we could become when a lot of the young talent starts to realize their potential. I think the major challenge facing us now will be in trying to hold onto our best young players, unfortunately, we have already started to see the vultures circling and picking at our squad by taking our best players. Butler GK will be off to Man United but at least I managed to negotiate a loan back deal with them and clauses but that loan will finish at the end of the season. Campbell MC wanted to leave for Man City and there wasn't much I could do about it unless I wanted a miserable player on the books, so after some consternation I agreed to let him go with a year loan back and a percentage of profit fee clause. I'll get another 6 months with him on the books but he is going to leave a huge gap in our midfield when he leaves. I'm holding onto Spence DC so far but even he has asked for a new contract with a release clause in order to be happy to remain at the club. We are going to need a new goalkeeper to replace the departing Butler, a central defender (maybe even 2 given that Hall broke his ankle and will miss the first half of next season), a central midfielder (support), central midfield (defend), Advanced Forward and Deep Lying Forward. We have a lot of work to do but I have been a lot happier with quality of player we have managed to bring into the club. 

Transfers - A massive pair of transfer windows for the club but overall a productive set of transfers which made the club a nice profit. Let's start with the significant outgoings, as you can see Butler GK was sold early in the summer window but I pleased to be able to get him loaned back so that I could have him for the season. A good fee but when I look at his value now (£41M-£53M) I can't help but feel that I'm being short changed just a bit :mad:. I decided to let Pereira MR go as although he was a decent option on the right flank he was proving to be quite injury prone. Then we had the debacle with Dubois MC who kicked up an almighty fuss about wanting to leave the club, I tried to placate him, that didn't work, I tried to play hard ball and reject offers, that didn't work. In the end, I was fighting a losing battle so I cut my losses and let him leave for a slight profit for the club + clauses. As I wanted to do, I sold Mohammed GK as I managed to secure Butler on loan until the end of the season, given he would not have played much, it was his time to leave. Finally, you can see the deadline day transfer of Campbell MC to Man City, as disappointed as I am to lose him, I can understand where he is coming from to some extent. Even though he has a great deal of affection for the club being a HG player, is it really fair to deny him when a club which is already among the elite comes calling? I reckoned no so I'll try and keep developing him in the hope he can become a first choice Man City player.

As for the incoming players, well, that's where it gets interesting and I think we did some excellent business. Peet DR was an absolute steal from Leeds on a free transfer and he provided strong competition for Fusco which was fantastic. Gordon MC was a great loan who proved a valuable utility player in midfield performing well in the defend and support central midfield roles and the wide midfielder role. He will be greatly missed next season. Tasic MC looks an astute piece of business, he has shown excellent development as a player and feel there is a lot more to come from him. Bernet MR was slightly overpriced but did well although I'd like to see more from him next season. Mortada GK was our cup goalkeeper and for the most part did quite well, it was unfortunate that he had to ship the 4 goals in the Europa League final but he pulled a number of good saves in that game also so the loss wasn't his fault. Alvaro ML looks a promising player down the flank and had a positive impact when he arrived. When Gordon leaves I hope he will secure that left midfield spot. Finally, we secured the signature of the strangely named Mazadiego MR who came in for a discounted fee but high wages. He did well on arrival and even managed to convince me into starting him in the Europa League final over Bernet. He has a lot potential which I hope he can develop into during his time here. All the signings are young talented players with a lot of potential, let's see how far they can take the club.

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Average Rating: 7.66
He appears to have rediscovered his scoring touch and finished as the top scorer in the Europa League and finished miles ahead of everyone else in the team. 53 goals is pretty good going, I just feel he needs some competition to drive him on to even higher heights.
 
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Average Rating: 7.50
The club is really going to miss this guy when his loan ends and he returns to Swansea. He really was an excpetional player for us. His versatility, his magnificent set pieces, his passing and assists. His replacement is going to have to be one heck of a player to match what he did this season.
 
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Finances - We are considered 'Rich' and when I look at that fat juicy transfer budget I'm sure that this balance is going to take a hammering next season. It will be necessary however, we are losing some top quality players for way below what they are worth and need to strengthen if we are to break new ground and get into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Facilities - The youth facilities downgraded so £1M was spent on bringing them back up scratch. There has been no movement on the whole new stadium front which in some ways could be a good thing. I've noticed that our attendances leaped up this season and we are now threatening Glentoran for 2nd place in terms of average attendance. Our fan base is definitely growing and considering ticket prices are still rising I think we have managed to obtain a good level of growth.

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - Oh dear!! Another shockingly bad intake. If any of these guys were to make it here I would be astounded, I think the majority would probably struggle to make a career playing in the DBP, that's how bad they are.
 
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League Reputation - By the skin of our teeth we manage to scrape 3* reputation. I haven't seen any impact so far unfortunately in terms of market values of our players. Hopefully, next season we can build on this and push on and secure our 3* reputation more clearly by creating a gap between the DBP and 2.5*.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - We have a whole star advantage over our nearest rivals now, looks like they won't be threatening our position as the most reputable team in the country anytime soon.
 
Club European Reputation - A great leap forward for us which I'm hoping will help in the Champions League qualifiers next season. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 4-2 on aggregate to Hammarby in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – We need more from them, this simply is not good enough to help develop the nation as a whole.

Glentoran – Lost 3-1 on aggregate to Sarajevo in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – There I was thinking that having them back in Europe would be a help, well, another awful season in Europe for the Big 2.

Dungannon Swifts – Lost 5-1 on aggregate to Dundee United in Europa Conference League 4th Qualifying Round – The only other N. Irish club who can hold their heads high after performing decently in Europe.

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Spoiler

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Spoiler

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On 03/08/2022 at 07:14, dom.march said:

Hi Pheelf,

Bravo for you career §

as always i wonder what tactic do you use ? is it the simple 442 you used previously ? or a 4231 i guess by your plyar list ?

many thanks

Thanks for the kind comment :).

Still working with the basic 4-4-2, I just find it much easier to build squads with it. I've found the more specific a tactic in terms of roles, the more difficult it can be to find players to suit those roles. With the 4-4-2 tactic, I have more freedom and more of the individuality of the player can come out with the generic roles I use.

For e.g. I can have two completely different types of right winger for the winger (attack) role, one pacy and direct while the other is technically gifted and patient. Therefore swapping between the two can make a massive difference to the way the tactic plays out which can be very useful when plan A might not be working.

I have a possession based 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 on standby should I ever need to use them but I haven't felt the need so far. 

Cheers

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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2040 / 2041

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We had an amazing run all the way to the Europa League final last season. Getting anywhere near achieving that again would be amazing, better still progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions League would be an excellent indication of progress. Domestically, we need to keep up our dominance and try to claim the league title a bit earlier. 

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League Table - We suffered far too many dropped points from my perspective and had to wait until after the split to clinch the title. For large parts of the season we were in a 3 horse race for the title with Glentoran and Linfield, that is something which I hope not to repeat next season. We also scored a lot less goals which a bit troubling but then again we conceded a lot less goals also so maybe that shows that the competition is getting better defensively and is not anything to be concerned about. Elsewhere in the DBP, once again the 7th placed team clinched a spot in Europe with Cliftonville getting a narrow 1-0 win over Larne in the DBP Europa Conference League playoff final. Down at the bottom end of the table, Glenavon comfortably stayed up winning the relegation playoff 6-3 on aggregate over professional outfit H & W Welders, this being the 3rd season in a row they suffered heartbreak in the playoff. Next season will see the top flight joined once again by semi professional club Warrenpoint Town who managed to clinch the Championship title on the final day with a win enabling them to leapfrog H & W Welders who could only manage a draw.

UEFA Champions League - The qualifiers were a breeze and we were seeded all the way to the group stage. Honestly, I'm gutted that we couldn't get through to the knockout stages and had to settle for the Europa League. We started the group amazingly, deservedly going 2-0 up in Italy against Juventus. Unfortunately for us, late goals from our Italian hosts turned the game around for them and left us pointless. We beat Olympiakos in both games as expected but the killer for our chances of progression came at home to RB Leipzig, that early red card from Alvaro ML really damaged our chances of getting the win we needed to stay in the competition. I'm disappointed not to have made that leap into the knockout stages yet considering that this is our 9th season competing in the group stages but we are now putting in better performances and may need just a bit of luck to get us to the promised land.

UEFA Europa League - What a difference a year makes! If we were to repeat the trick of last year against Marseille, I felt we needed to hold our lead going to France for the 2nd leg but we conceded a senseless penalty late on which firmly swung the momentum of the tie against us. We had a lot of injures around the time of the tie which may explain why we lost the 2nd leg so badly but even still it was a pathetic performance and a stark contrast to the steely resilience we displayed last season, even though on paper Marseille have better players than us, we must do a lot better than this. 

Domestic Cups - A very good season in the cups although not quite a clean sweep. It was immensely satisfying to beat our rivals Linfield in 2 cup finals, capped off what wasn't the best of seasons for them.

Reserves - Came very close to a quality treble but a penalty shootout loss denied them.

Under 18s - Light work once again in the U18s league as they finished miles ahead of the competition. I felt they were quite unlucky to get knocked out of the UEFA Youth League having amassed 9 points but when you have a particularly weak 4th seeded team you really need to get into double figures to qualify.

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Squad - There was a lot of changes to the playing squad this season. I wanted to bring in a lot of depth and I certainly achieved that but perhaps I got a bit carried away. It's all well and good having a large squad but managing it is another thing. There are a lot of games to play but a lot of our players don't seem to be content with playing cup games and want to be a starter in the league. The problem with that being that some players like Spence DC constantly need resting and two games a week isn't possible for them let alone 3. I am however very pleased with the untapped potential within the squad, the development of some players such as Mazadiego MR, Tasic MC and Ions ST has been especially pleasing to watch over the course of the season. The only problem I have now is holding onto our best players and getting a reasonable price for our players. The market values are still very low and that's a big problem when you want to become a selling club.

Transfers - I decided to splash the cash this season after last seasons financial bonanza coming from the Europa League run. I also managed to sell a clause for just under £9M which means that after all is said and done we had an outlay of around £20M. The significant outgoing players, Henderson ST wasn't really a regular starter so I decided to let him go. Wilson ML had dropped down the pecking order to the point where he wasn't really going to play any games, I didn't want that for him considering how he had been a loyal servant to the club so I sold him to Wigan for him to resurrect his career. Fusco DR kicked up fuss when I rejected an offer from Italy for him and asked to be transfer listed, as I had cover I decided to get him out of the club and sold him back to his native Argentina for a decent fee. Mortada GK was a backup choice who was not good enough to be first choice, he was dissatisfied with that so I let him go, on reflection, I should have perhaps refused the offer of Wolfsburg to have him back on loan for the season as he hardly played and was miserable throughout. Wilson DL was a player I couldn't get a work permit for so I was happy to get a good fee for him. In fact, whether you get a work permit or not seems to be quite random but I suppose with thorough scouting you can discover this before going in for a player. Bertini MC was a signing which never really worked out so I took a slight loss on him. Then finally, I sold Buchanan ST to Glentoran for a reasonable fee, I couldn't register him and he has been quite decent for them since joining, in fact, he is a large reason why they finished 2nd this season.

As for the incoming players, Maitre DC was overpriced and I just hope that he can develop into that huge potential he has otherwise it will go down as a poor piece of business as I'm unlikely to recoup that fee if I were to sell him. Spencer ML was another expensive signing who did okay but wasn't good enough to establish himself as our first choice ML, another signing which I'm beginning to regret. Kalinic ST was a reserve player put out on loan, Schulz MR was a decent signing but the low fee hides the hefty wages that he is on. Merciai DR wasn't that great and for the money I expected a bit more than just a rotation option, at least he has a lot of potential. Keller MC was definitely a mistake, overpriced, didn't play a lot and without a lot of potential. Hurst DC and Marlow were backup players, Hurst was put out on loan. I think the transfer I regret the most definitely has to be Meza MC, very expensive and didn't really develop anywhere near as much as I would have hoped, next year has to be a big year for him otherwise we are going to take a huge loss on him. Ripoli MC was decent when called upon but once again failed to establish himself as a first choice, I loaned him to Glentoran in January and he did well there. Sery ML was a signing I was pretty pleased with, he showed excellent development even though he is only considered a fringe player. Prescott was put straight out on loan, Ash GK was a superb replacement for Butler, a good price for a consistent player who had a great season and was our signing of the season. Fontana DC did well when he played, Eckardt ST was a useful rotation option, Ions ST was probably the 2nd best signing of the season, when Modeste suffered an injury keeping him out for over a month he came in and bagged goals for fun. 25 starts and 29 goals is a fantastic return and he will be featuring a lot more next season. O'Neill, Pyper, McGinlay didn't feature all that much while Marusic MC performed consistently when he arrived and is a good rotation option. Finally, there are 3 players which don't appear on the list, Wood ST who was a punt on potential, Cooke DR who was an excellent replacement for Fusco, Areias DR isn't a bad player but I don't think he is quite good enough to have a career here, he isn't good enough to be a central defender where his attributes suggest he should play and isn't strong enough to be a fullback. Lastly, Grande GK came in as a backup player. Hopefully, next season we can be a bit more relaxed with the activity although there still exists a healthy transfer budget should I wish to use it. 

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Average Rating: 7.78
You can't keep a good guy down and I'm delighted to finally have decent competition for him in Ions. 46 goals is another excellent return for the striker and had he not suffered that injury he easily would have broken the 50 goal barrier.
 
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Average Rating: 7.79
Absolutely magnificent debut season from him, it's no wonder he is attracting the interest of some fairly big clubs. 22 assists is a fantastic return, he did so well that Alvaro after a certain point couldn't get a look in given how much he elevated his level. My coaches think he has peaked which is a bit worrying considering he is only 20 but we will see, I look forward to the battle between him and Alvaro next season to see who will claim the 1st choice spot.
 
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Finances - We are still in a very comfortable financial position but just look at that wage bill. We are spending around £24M a season on players wages alone and that doesn't consider bonuses and staff wages. We are running a huge deficit and that simply isn't sustainable in the long term. I think at this point, getting into the knockout stages of the Champions League isn't just an aspiration we should some day look to achieve but has become a necessity that we need to do soon if we are to service this huge wage bill and not plunge the club into huge debt. I have a bit of breathing room and won't be making any cutbacks next season but we really need the player market values to rise as them being so low is really hampering our ability to become the selling club we need to be in order to build the balance. I'm hoping that we can cash in the Campbell MC transfer clause from Man City for a good chunk of money soon, we may need it!

Facilities - The youth facilities will be getting upgraded again and that should bring them up to a high standard. I have to say I am quite perturbed by the situation around the new stadium, once again there was no movement but I'm really not happy with such a low starting capacity considering that our average attendance has actually been higher for the last 2 seasons. I would have been happier with incremental expansions every year until we reached the potential capacity of Donegal Celtic Park (which is 8,000 I believe). If the plan does not change then we are going to be hamstrung significantly with a ground which when fully expanded probably will have under 10,000 seats. Then we will have to wait another 20-30 years in order to get another new stadium. It makes me seriously question whether my long term future is at the club considering the objective of the save. Admittedly, the size of the stadium doesn't play a massive role in the development of the other clubs in the country but it does play a role. Having a huge stadium with high attendances can do wonders for lower league teams in the cups. Linfield and Glentoran are far better placed to take advantage of the growth of the league, we will not be. Linfield's average attendance is still way below their 18,000 capacity home ground. If I were to bring the same level of success to them as I have with Donegal Celtic the potential growth would be huge. Ideally, I would love to stay with Donegal Celtic long term but if I'm going to be limited in that way then perhaps it would be better to move on. We'll see what happens at the end of next season.

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - A better intake than last season which is good, I don't quite view it in the same way as my HoYD who thinks it's a golden generation but a few of the elite and top talents with development could become good players.
 
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League Reputation - We are not really putting any distance between ourselves and 2.5* unfortunately and I sense that if we were to say miss out on qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League we would quickly revert back. At least there was some positive news with the following message.
 
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I suppose every little helps, instead of having to face 4 ties to get to the group stage now we only have to face 3 from the season after next. We need to get a bit further up the coefficient table for the real good stuff to start happening (automatic group stage entry, more qualification spots) but when you are trying to do it alone with practically no help from your fellow N. Irish clubs it's pretty tough going.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - The gap between us and the rest continues to increase.
 
Club European Reputation - An expected fall considering how exceptional last season was and how far below that standard we managed to achieve but it was only a drop of a place so I won't be losing any sleep over it. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 3-1 on aggregate to Slovacko in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – What the hell man, seriously? They have been woeful in Europe for so long it's not even funny anymore. The problem is that I can't even help them as unlike Glentoran who are mopping up our unwanted players (which improve them) like a sponge Linfield have no interest because of the historic rivalry between us. It's so frustrating as they really should be beating teams of that quality and they just can't seem to do it at the moment.

Glentoran – Lost 2-1 on aggregate to Dundalk in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – I suppose losing to them is more understandable but even still. Hopefully, now that they will have some of our players they can do a bit better.

Coleraine – Lost 4-1 on aggregate to Banik Ostrava in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – Not too bad, not too great either, the aggregate score was a little bit harsh on them but I give them a pass as they very rarely play in European competition.

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Il y a 4 heures, pheelf a dit :

Thanks for the kind comment :).

Still working with the basic 4-4-2, I just find it much easier to build squads with it. I've found the more specific a tactic in terms of roles, the more difficult it can be to find players to suit those roles. With the 4-4-2 tactic, I have more freedom and more of the individuality of the player can come out with the generic roles I use.

For e.g. I can have two completely different types of right winger for the winger (attack) role, one pacy and direct while the other is technically gifted and patient. Therefore swapping between the two can make a massive difference to the way the tactic plays out which can be very useful when plan A might not be working.

I have a possession based 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 on standby should I ever need to use them but I haven't felt the need so far. 

Cheers

I do pretty much the same as you with  a simple 451. having two sets of players. i ussally start at level 6 in France or 10 in england.

tell me what you think of my tacttic

truly yours

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On 04/08/2022 at 13:40, dom.march said:

I do pretty much the same as you with  a simple 451. having two sets of players. i ussally start at level 6 in France or 10 in england.

tell me what you think of my tacttic

truly yours

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Well, it's very different to my 4-5-1 but my version is a very possession hungry based style whilst yours is more direct and riskier. I guess the real question is whether it's bringing your team success, if so then it's all good. Personally, I wouldn't play a Poacher as a lone striker and tend to like to have one of my fullbacks on the attack duty to create overlaps and width. I also like to have an an attack duty in central midfield but that is because I have a False 9 leading the line. Those are just my preferences playing a 4-5-1 though and doesn't necessarily mean that other approaches can't be as successful or even more so. Given it looks a solid tactic, I think the players you put into the tactic are likely to be far more important than the tactic itself.

All the best 

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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2041 / 2042

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The main objective of the season has to be to get through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, we have been competing in the group stages for 9 seasons now, it's about time we made that breakthrough. At home, we just need to maintain our dominance and make it a terrific ten DBP titles in a row.

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League Table - A comfortable retention of our title to give us a decade of consecutive title wins. Only Glentoran prevented us from going unbeaten by beating us twice and I will be looking to correct that next season. Confession time, mid way through the season the Glentoran job became available and I applied for it. Unfortunately, I didn't spot it in time and the interview process had already ended which meant I missed out. Then the Linfield manager left for English Championship team Bristol City after being in the job for 12 years. I applied and got offered an interview which went well but I stipulated that I wanted to take the reins at the end of the season. That was perhaps a mistake on my behalf and I should have been willing to take the job immediately. As a result, they hired someone else which could go down as one of the biggest blunders their board have ever made, I'll be looking to prove that to be the case over the next few seasons. If I'm being honest, I think I have hit a bit of a plateau with Donegal Celtic at the moment which is why I'm entertaining the prospect of leaving the club. I just think that going to either of those two clubs would allow me to build the nation so much easier but for now I'll stick it out with Donegal Celtic. Elsewhere in the DBP, Glentoran missed out on Europe (which incidentally saw their manager status drop to Insecure) after losing 1-0 to Larne in the UEFA Conference League DBP Playoff final. Coleraine stayed up with complete ease by slaughtering Carrick Rangers 6-0 on aggregate in the relegation playoff. Ballyclare Comrades bounced straight back after winning the Championship title comfortably over H & W Welders who once again flopped and will remain in that division.

UEFA Champions League - That was most definitely the shot in the arm we were looking for. The qualifiers were a piece of cake and when we drew our opponents for the group stage I was cautiously optimistic that this might be the season we crack it and get 2nd. We started brilliantly against top seeds Celtic who would be our competitors for 2nd. Then as expected we got completely outclassed in Liverpool but I was looking to the games against Zurich to put pressure on Celtic who would have to play Liverpool. Well, the first game in Switzerland went to plan with a relatively comfortable win but a poor performance in Belfast took our ability to progress out of our hands. That draw combined with Celtic winning at home against Liverpool severely damaged our chances. After our 2nd loss against Liverpool it all came down to the game in Glasgow on the final matchday. Only a win would do and we actually managed to pull it off with an incredible display to book our maiden voyage into the knockout stages. Out of the pot we got Barcelona, I didn't think we stood a chance but when we went 2-0 up after 15 minutes in the 1st leg I was beginning to wonder whether I had overestimated our opponents. Well, unfortunately for us, our defence didn't get the message and completely crumbled as we went on to concede 5 at home. We got a late consolation to make the return leg slightly interesting and keep our hopes alive, just. We took the lead early into the 2nd half to reignite our hopes fully but just couldn't find the 2nd goal to level the tie on aggregate and when they scored the equalizer in the 74th minute the game was up. An excellent campaign however which has done wonders for the nations coefficient and has maybe changed the game forever in N. Ireland, more on this later. 

Domestic Cups - Almost perfect but playing a massively rotated side in the League Cup final cost us. The prize money for winning the cups is becoming quite large, we got just over £1M for winning the County Antrim Shield, if we didn't need the money ourselves I might have considered throwing the final to give Crusaders a nice payday. It's a bit strange how these things are decided however as you only get just under £700K for winning the Irish Cup and £210K for winning the League Cup, doesn't seem quite right especially since the Mid-Ulster Cup winner also gets just over £1M. That prize money might explain why Dungannon Swifts who have won 5/7 of the last Mid-Ulster Cup trophies were able to finish 2nd in the DBP this season.

Reserves - Only the double this season which is pretty good. Yet again, the prize money of the two cups has really skyrocketed of late. If you win the Steel & Sons Cup you get £343K and winning the Intermediate Cup will net you over £500K which would be massive for any lower league club which could do it. Unfortunately, the gap between the lower league clubs and even the reserve DBP squad is so high that they rarely even get to the final.

Under 18s - An easy U18s league win once again. I said last season that they needed to get into double figures in the group stage of the UEFA Youth League to qualify and they did just that but even still it wasn't enough and they got pipped by a point by Liverpool U18s. Zurich U18s were just abysmal finishing with 0 points. Maybe to qualify you really need 4 wins out of 6 games when you have such a weak 4th seed, that is however a steep climb for our youth team.

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Squad - A lot less movement within the squad this season which is good but the constant low offers for my players is really making transfer windows a living nightmare. Not only because I have to manually decline every offer but because it causes havoc to the harmony of the dressing room. I'm trying to be a bit more proactive to counter this by tying down players on longer term contracts where possible. I'm also hoping that a policy of not allowing players to enter the last year of their contract without deciding their future will help to maintain the morale of the players. The makeup of the squad also has improved with some experienced heads mixed in with a lot of exciting young players. Having some of the experienced players being team leaders has also helped with the dressing room atmosphere when there has been some discontent within the ranks. I don't see too many glaring weaknesses within the squad but perhaps I should add some depth to the central midfield and right midfield.

Transfers - I didn't go as wild with the transfers this season as I sought to work with what we had, we also couldn't really afford it so only went into the market for replacements. The standouts of the players we brought in was probably Muscat MR and Lanza ST both of who did a reasonable job. Morandi MR was definitely overpriced and will need to develop significantly more into his potential next season if his transfer isn't to be a flop. The other signings added a bit of depth, I was expecting Miskelly DC given his scout report to be HG but for some reason when he arrived he wasn't. The club made a lot of sales, some of which I was deeply disappointed with as I felt the player had forced my hand after creating problems for me in the dressing room. The sale of Mazadiego MR, Bernet MR, Marusic MC and Spence DC all falling into that category. All of which being weeks long battles with them which ultimately led to me giving in and letting them go. At least with Spence DC I managed to get him to agree to leave for a club which offered a percentage of profit of next sale clause rather than just the straight release clause fee.

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Average Rating: 7.83
Another stellar season from him, shame that he was such a pain to deal with as I had to constantly face his annoyance when I turned down pitiful offer after pitiful offer from clubs looking to low ball the club. He is easily worth £10M+ but he was unhappy when I rejected offers in the hundreds of thousands for him. I guess the career of a footballer is short so when they see bigger clubs wanting them their heads are easily turned. I'm all for letting players go and fulfilling their ambitions to play in the elite leagues and clubs but not for a price which doesn't compensate the club for the work we've put in to developing the player.
 
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Average Rating: 7.72
Fantastic goal return once again considering he is sharing the Advanced Forward role with Modeste and didn't start all the games. I think he has surpassed Modeste as the first choice now so perhaps we need to be looking to upgrade Modeste in order to provide adequate competition for him.
 
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Finances - The comfort-ability we have been enjoying over the last few seasons is well and truly over. The FFP red warning concerns me greatly and I will need to address that next season. We simply aren't able to sustain this level of spending and will need to tighten our belt a quite a lot while trying not to degrade the competitiveness of the squad in the Champions League. What could save us is if the player values rise but that is looking unlikely at the moment. This is really worrying considering this is in a season where we managed to get to the Champions League knockout stages which bought in an extra £8M.

Facilities - By the looks of it the whole new stadium idea has been scrapped which is actually a relief but on the other hand doesn't help us to secure our long term future. I was once again able to ask for a stadium expansion but was refused owing to the financial status of the club. We have to continue growing the capacity of the stadium as that is really placing a limit on our potential attendances. Our average attendance is still below Glentoran even after all the success we have been enjoying, it's quite extraordinary to think about the implications of that. It means that Glentoran who have basically done nothing of note for the past decade, still have a bigger following than us. 

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - A mixed bag but definitely a weaker intake than last season, I think it's going to be a long, long wait before anyone of the quality of Campbell MC or Spence DC comes though again.
 
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League Reputation - At last we begin to create some distance between us and 2.5*, we can even begin to look up to 3.5* but that is a long way off at the moment. I was happy enough with that improvement then the game changer arrived in my inbox.
 
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This is what is going to transform the fortunes of the nation and I'm now beginning to regret not being able to move to Linfield. What has been causing a lot of the problems for the other N. Irish teams has been the inability to drop down into the other 'lesser' European competitions during qualifying. This makes this a possibility once again and losing from the season after next is no longer the end of the road. Whoever finishes 2nd next season will play in the Champions League (League Path) 2nd Qualifying Round, should they lose that they drop down to the Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round, lose that and they will be in the Europa Conference League (League Path) 4th Qualifying Round and 1 won tie away from the group stages. It may prove difficult but winning any of the those ties guarantees group stage football which is a massive difference from now when losing a tie means no more European football for the season. It's a massive improvement for the 3rd placed team also as they can drop to the Europa Conference League 4th Qualifying Round. The result meaning that we are going to have 2 other N. Irish teams 1 tie from making the group stage for as long as we can sustain our position in the coefficient. Therefore the stakes have just been upped and the other N. Irish teams need to start earning those coefficient points.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - Based on reputation and league finishes over the last few seasons, it would appear Linfield are best placed to finish 2nd and take advantage of the new spot in the Champions League but if this season shows anything it's that Dungannon Swifts and Glentoran are going provide stiff competition for them. I think if it's looking like they won't make it then we could be seeing a lot of managerial pressure starting to mount, I don't think we will see another 12 year stint at any of the top N. Irish clubs again. This is a critical time for the other N. Irish clubs, who wants it the most?
 
Club European Reputation - It was our run to the knockout stages which done it and pushed the nation 2 places up to gain the 2nd Champions League qualification spot. It's amazing to think that the trajectory of the entire nation may have been altered based solely on our final matchday win against Celtic in the group stage. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 4-1 on aggregate to Domzale in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – It's boring now Linfield, hopefully, it's only one more season of this then we should start to see an improvement.

Glentoran – Lost 2-1 on aggregate to Neftci in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – Even with assistance from us with loans and transfers they still flopped. Worse still there will be no correcting the record next season as they failed to qualify, I suppose it could prove to be a mixed blessing. If there was a season to miss out next season is probably the best, they can focus solely on the league and grabbing 2nd.

Cliftonville – Lost 2-1 on aggregate to Sligo Rovers in Europa Conference League 2nd Qualifying Round – Well, that's the full set. All the other N. Irish contingent in Europe knocked out at the first round of entry, fantastic. It's a good thing we've been performing miracles in Europe, if we had to depend on the others for help we wouldn't be making any progress at all considering that each contributed a total of 1.50 coefficient points this season.

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Season 2042 / 2043

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After a less than stellar performance in the Champions League group stage where we to had to scrape a final day 3rd place finish we have looked far more impressive in the knockout stages of the Europa League so far. I think it would be asking a lot to repeat our incredible run to the final of a few seasons ago but with a decent draw who knows?

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There are some tricky teams left in the draw mixed in with some teams which we could possibly compete with. I'd like to avoid Arsenal, PSG, Newcastle and Lyon if we can. I think we might have a better chance against Rennes, Lazio or Leipzig (although they beat us the last 2 times we played them). Here we go!
 
Who did we draw?
 
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Arsenal

Well, if we are to progress to the semi-final we are going to have to find a way to beat the favourites for the whole competition. I don't think we have much of a chance to be honest and given the weakening of our squad that has happened in January, I fear this is going to be a hiding to nothing. Maybe a look at the two squads will give me some encouragement.  

Our squad
 
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Their squad
 
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Yeah, this is going to be a rough ride. The only real weakness I can see with their squad is perhaps the age profile is a bit old. Quite a few over 30 players in the squad but then again there are still quite a few young players mixed in. If anything, the greater experience they possess might work against us, as we will be fielding a very young side in comparison. Perhaps the formation and lineup might provide some clues as to how I can attempt to close the ability gap.
 
Quarter Final 1st Leg
 
Here's how the two teams lined up:
 
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Arsenal opted for a 4-2-3-1 which could be useful for us if our wide players can put in a performance. Doubling up on their 34-year old right back Munoz could bring us some joy so Gray ML and Doe DL will need to try and dominate that flank. We are going to need to keep Vinicius AMC quiet so Cericola MC is going to need to be strong as if he starts getting time and space in that golden zone we are going to suffer. It's going to take a monumental effort (+ a bit of luck) to get a result here especially since we have such a weak GK in goal for us. All I want is a result which gives us a chance in London and keeps the tie alive, let's give it our best.
 
Result
 
Spoiler

Donegal Celtic 0 Arsenal 0

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I think that is a magnificent result and it means that it's all to play for in the 2nd leg. It was probably one of the most boring games I've ever seen in my life but the objectives we sought to achieve pre-game got done. Vinicius was practically anonymous and was ineffectual in the final third thanks to our central midfield. While Schaffe ST and Yates AMR were relentlessly closed down and blocked from regularly receiving the ball leading to them both getting ratings of 6.3. I would say we need more of the same in the 2nd leg but we also need to do a bit more than just stifle them if we are to actually score and give ourselves a chance of winning the tie.

Quarter Final 2nd Leg

Here's how the two teams lined up:
 
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We were up against it already but another sequence of minor injuries once again may have just ruined our chances. Gray ML, Eckardt MR and Soria MC all suffered knocks in between the two ties and are all orange injury listed. I'm taking a risk by starting Gray as we simply don't have any alternative. The other two start on the bench which is a big blow as Soria MC is probably my most creative central midfielder and Eckardt MR my most consistent right winger, We will also be missing Cooke at right back through suspension which is massive loss and an unfit Filipovic will have to fill in there as I have no one else. I guess it doesn't help that Arsenal are at full strength either, I think our best chance is if we can take them all the way to penalties. We are going to have to look to hit them on the break and hope that our weakened defence can hold the line.
 
Result
 
Spoiler

Arsenal 3 Donegal Celtic 1

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As the stats show we got completely dominated in this game and were lucky to even score. It was the worst type of goal too, an 80th-minute strike to make it 2-1 which gave us false hope of a miraculous turnaround only for them to score a 94th-minute injury-time goal to finish us off. Fair play to Arsenal, we didn't deserve anything out of the game but at least we kept the tie alive right until the end which we can look at with some satisfaction but then again if the Arsenal players had their shooting boots on they could easily have scored 6 or 7.

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Not the best end to an up and down season but one which has proved critical for the nation. Without this run to the quarter-finals, we would have been overtaken by Croatia, Switzerland, and Austria in the nations coefficient which would have meant the loss of our 2nd Champions League qualification spot. Our hold on that spot is very tenuous and this run gave us just enough to hold on, I really hope that next season we can get some more help from the other N. Irish clubs in Europe otherwise we are going to risk going backwards. Incidentally, Arsenal went on to win the competition with a 2-1 win over Lazio in the final.
Edited by pheelf
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Donegal Celtic F.C.

SEASON 2042 / 2043

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We are now into our 3rd decade at the helm and the transformation that has occurred to the club and the nation as a whole has been spectacular. We have emerged as a force in Europe, a club that every season makes the group stage of the Champions League. The DBP is no longer a backwater within European football but a location to be given serious consideration by some of the best young players looking to build a career and use as a stepping stone to the elite clubs and leagues. With every season that passes, the objective must always be to surpass the results of the previous one. With that in mind, I'd like us to aim for a quarter final place in the Champions League and get a clean sweep domestically. 

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League Table - This was not an easy ride for a significant part of the season as we had Dungannon Swifts and Glentoran breathing down our necks. Ballymena United seemed to have this weird hold over us, out of the 3 games we played they were unbeaten against us, beating us twice and drawing the other game, I don't really have an explanation for it although I expect us to do better against them next season. Our two title challengers kept the pace up until December but once the busy period kicked in, we began to stretch our legs and pull clear. I think the increased depth of our squad and our ability to rotate made the difference. It took until after the split to clinch the title but it was relatively comfortable. I was shocked to see Linfield finish 3rd (there was even a bit of pressure on their manager when they lay in 5th earlier in the season but they recovered well) and perhaps Dungannon will be the team that will emerge as our closest rivals. 2 seasons in a row they have finished 2nd and I sense that regularly winning the Mid Ulster Cup and getting the prize money that comes with it which is now up to £1.22M is really helping them to build a competitive team. In the DBP UEFA Europa Conference League playoff final, 8th placed team Coleraine pulled off an upset and beat Cliftonville 2-1. Glenavon stayed up thanks to a 4-1 aggregate win over Warrenpoint Town in the relegation playoff. H & W Welders finally put years of hurt behind them and comfortably won the Championship title (by 25 points over Warrenpoint Town) to make it to the top flight which means that next season the DBP will be an entirely professional league for the first time ever.

UEFA Champions League - The road to the group stage was simple enough but we then got drawn into a bit of a nightmare group which it was always going to be difficult to qualify from. Our prospects hinged on getting a result at the Nou Camp in the 1st game and beating AEK Athens twice. Well, we managed neither, a damaging opening day defeat in Barcelona and frustrating night in Athens meant the best we could manage was 3rd which incidentally wasn't even secured until the final matchday. Thankfully, AEK Athens also lost to Liverpool otherwise our loss at home to Barcelona would have consigned us to the wooden spoon. At this point, looking at the nation coefficient had me deeply concerned, 3 other nations were poised to overtake us so I knew the pressure was on us to deliver in the knockout stages of the Europa League.

UEFA Europa League - It was a tough set of fixtures but in the end we managed to cobble together enough coefficient points to enable us to hold our position in the nation coefficient rankings. The home game against Estoril was a very pleasing watch, the same can't be said for the game in Portugal and at that point we still lay behind 2 nations, we would definitely need more. Then followed in the 2nd Knockout Round an absolute cracker of a tie, a late stoppage time equalizer at home giving us a 3-3 draw after Werder Bremen themselves scored in stoppage time at the end of the game to take a 3-2 lead. Then another night of drama followed with 4 goals scored in extra time in Germany after a 1-1 draw at full time to give us a penalty shootout. Mulligan GK proved to be the hero saving their 2nd penalty while we managed a perfect record to send us through to the quarter final. At this point, we overtook the other 2 nations and they had no team left in the European competition to earn more points so we could go into the Arsenal tie without pressure. After a creditable 0-0 draw at home I was beginning to think that perhaps we were going to pull off a miraculous win but injuries and suspensions greatly hampered us and Arsenal were able to win the return leg in London very easily. Perhaps not the run we wanted as we would have liked to progress further but definitely the run we needed as it allowed us to protect that precious 2nd Champions League spot.

Domestic Cups - Cleaned up nicely in the cups, took extra time in a couple of the games but a win is a win. The cups proved a useful way to keep some players fit who I could not register for the DBP or Europe.

Reserves - Another clean sweep from them to make it another perfect season domestically for the club where we won every competition we entered into.

Under 18s - Won the league easily but seem to be going significantly backwards in the UEFA Youth League, largely as a consequence of the quality of youth intakes of late falling off a cliff.

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Squad - A severely weakened team thanks to a lot of the bigger teams pillaging our best players. In some respects, having a more trimmed down squad helped with the management of the team. In the 1st half of the season, we couldn't register everyone and it was one tantrum after another but once I started to get rid of some of the trouble makers it seemed to calm down. It also helped that I was able to offer more game time to some of the high potential youngsters which seemed to help them to thrive. We are definitely going to need to strengthen next season as I want to try and make further progress in the Champions League. The player market values are still in the dumps so if I'm to earn any serious money out of the transfer market I'm still relying on % of next sale fee clauses.

Transfers - As can be seen from the screenshot we made a tremendous profit in the transfer market this season with the potential for a lot more to come with transfer clauses. I'd quite like if we don't have as much turnover next season in terms of players but all the moves were made to placate otherwise unhappy players who wanted to leave. We aren't in the position where we can really talk players down who decide they want to play for a bigger club or a club in a better league. It seems the selling club philosophy is starting to kick in and I'm very pleased about that. We made huge profits on the sales of players, Alvaro ML made the club £3.1M, Grande GK £445K, Peet another £3M, Prescott ST 400K, Tasic MC £13.5M, Fontana DC £100K, Ash GK £2.05M, Ions £1.9M, Sery ML £6.6M and Rawlings DL £3.1M. Yes, we made a loss on a few players like Spencer ML, Meza MC, Keller MC and Henson ST but the profit on Tasic covered all the losses with a lot left over. 

As for the incoming players, Hobmang DC was a fantastic piece of business and did excpetionally well in the defence alongside Mikic DC (who is now considered a wonderkid). Gordon DR, Cericola MC & Krahl ST were all punts on high potential and did well with perhaps the exception of Krahl who unfortunately suffered a torn abdominal muscle which kept him out for 2 months over the busy winter period of the season. When the winter window opened I started to look to raid some of the reserve teams of the elite clubs and I feel we added some good depth to the squad by doing that. Cook ML and Gray ML were brought in to bolster the left flank and both did well putting in a series of quality performances. I perhaps overspent a bit on the 2 goalkeepers Bertoletti and Jones but they have a lot of potential and with game time could become good. I'm fairly satisfied with our business this season and will be looking to do more of the same next season.

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Average Rating: 7.45
I know he didn't enjoy being a bit part player when Ions was at the club but once he left and opened the opportunity for him to play he picked up where he left off. Scoring plenty and ending the season as top scorer. I think we need better for the Champions League but he is certainly good enough to dominate domestically.
 
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Average Rating: 7.42
An unbelievable player who actually proved to be an adequate replacement for Spence. His low release clause of £2.6M is really concerning me though but I had to place it into his contract in order to be able get him to sign a new deal. I'll be very surprised if he is still here at the end of next season considering 29 clubs are interested in him, among those some of the European elite such as Real Madrid, AC Milan and Chelsea. I just hope I can somehow work a % of next sale fee into any deal that is struck.
 
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Finances - If you thought this balance is impressive you ain't seen nothing yet!! After the screenshot was taken Campbell MC was sold by Man City to Chelsea for an eye-watering £117M which meant we got a nice £45,500,000 injection of cash into our balance to leave it standing at around £93M. That gives us a transfer budget of around £44M to play with next season. I can't see us spending anywhere near that but I will have the collateral to start wonderkid shopping which is going to take our first team squad to the next level. All the FFP worries are behind us and we can really begin making huge strides both on and off the pitch.

Facilities - Our nouveau riche status has meant that the board were more willing to expand the stadium. I'm actually a little confused by this as it will mean that the capacity of Donegal Celtic Park will be above 10,000 once it's finished which exceeds the potential expansion capacity of 8,000. It's all good however, the more fans we can accommodate the better and will mean we have the 2nd biggest capacity stadium in N. Ireland. It might actually mean we get to play some European games at home rather than at Windsor Park. For the first time, we were also able to overtake Glentoran in terms of our average attendance, we are still miles behind Linfield but this is good progress.

Youth Intake Part 1 Youth Intake Part 2 - Another mediocre intake, the elite and top talents all look fairly good but are very raw in terms of their attributes and will need a lot of development to get near their potential.
 
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League Reputation - The 3* reputation status looks to be secure and the 3.5* reputation is coming into view. We are going to need to see a massive improvement from the N. Irish contingent in Europe next season otherwise our status as a 2 Champions League spots league could be very short lived.
 
Club Domestic Reputation - The train is leaving the station and the likes of Glentoran and Linfield aren't on it with Dungannon positioning themselves as the best of the rest in N. Ireland. This is an urgent situation for those clubs, especially Linfield, give Dungannon group stage money of any European competition on a yearly basis and the gap is going to very quickly become insurmountable. Next season might be the last chance for any club aspiring to be among the elite in N. Ireland to challenge for 2nd, they will need to make the most of it.
 
Club European Reputation - Without the run to the quarter final of the Europa League the nation would have lost that 2nd CL spot, we are going to be fighting to protect our position for a while I sense, never mind making any further progress. Listed below is how the other N. Irish teams performed this season.

Linfield – Lost 4-1 on aggregate to Chelsea in Europa Conference League 4th Qualifying Round – You know what, compared with the results of recent seasons this was a good effort from them. They made it through 2 rounds and only got beaten by a team which really shouldn't be in this competition because they are way too good to play in it. Chelsea went all the way to the final but lost 1-0 after extra time to Hertha Berlin. I'll be interested to see how they fare in the Europa League qualifiers next season, they only need to win 1 tie and they will be in the Europa Conference League group stage, I really hope they can manage it.

Dungannon Swifts – Lost 6-1 on aggregate to Sporting Lisbon in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – There is no shame in that at all, their opponents are one of the best teams in Portugal and this was only their 3rd season competing in European competition in their history. I'll be interested to see how they get on in the Champions League qualifiers next season, I fully expect them to lose but I'm hoping that they might be able to scrape a win in one of the 3 ties they will play to find themselves in the Europa Conference League group stage.

Larne – Lost 3-2 on aggregate to Ordabasy in Europa Conference League 3rd Qualifying Round – They won a tie but their Kazakhstan opponents proved too much for them. I've been very critical of the other teams performances in Europe of late but to give them their dues, this was a massive improvement from last season where they all got knocked out at the round of entry. Here's hoping that next season can see some further improvements.

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Edited by pheelf
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