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The Odyssey - A Personal Lower League Journey [formerly FM for Masochists]


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We opened our season account with a home game against Saltcoats Vics, up from the Ayrshire coast. We dominated the first half, not allowing them a sniff whilst creating a host of chances. But Allan was squandering every one, and out of nowhere they took the lead. That resulted in Allan being even more panicked and he just kept running offside. At half time I gambled on a change that we’d never rehearsed – expecting the Vics to sit back in the second half, I moved McQueenie up top in a False Nine role to pull their defence out of shape. It was an inspired change – in sharp contrast to Jimmy, Michael never wasted a ball as he linked up with the boys behind him superbly. We equalised, but with their keeper making nine world-class saves and us being FM’d, we undeservedly went down 1-3.  It was disappointing, but I maintain there was nothing fundamentally wrong with us – just Allan and Darroch having off days which happens at this level. We go again.




I call this rank bad luck given I can't alter the squad I'm dealing with. On another day we'd have won 5-0. That day will come.


awful ainslie


I say, "off day" - Ainslie, you're killing me, man. Flett back on the flank; I'll find another defender :rolleyes:

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So we ditched Darroch and put McPhee, an untried kid who fancies himself as a False Nine on the bench. We trusted Allan to come good but had that insurance on the bench anyway. Otherwise, nothing changed as we went away to Eglinton, an Ayrshire village. It was the sort of opponent we should be brushing aside if we have any ambitions this season.

We completely controlled the first half, giving them not a sniff, but they defended resolutely, not allowing Allan any chances to squander. Creativity seemed to be the key here, so we made the False Nine change again. We still couldn’t break them down though, and although they never threatened our keeper once, they held out for a dour 0-0 draw. I sensed that when we are fitter and can press a bit more, we’ll break through sides like that.


Need to find that killer touch


Alllan looked the biz in preseason. His confidence is shattered now. We have three cup games upcoming next - I'm going to start with the False Nine-front three combo.

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We went down to Newmains for the first round of the South Challenge Cup. They never touched the ball in the first half but our front three weren’t going to score in a million years. After trying a pressing forward, attacking forward and false nine to no avail, at half time I introduced Ben Crawford, a poacher. And poach he did although his inability to do anything else indirectly caused them to equalise. Going into extra time I brought on Orsi. His one and only contribution was a horror tackle and red card after one minute. We went to penalties. With McFarlane making three saves, we won that lottery. We won a proper game of football! We’re drawn against the mighty Spartans who were a whisker away from getting into the Football League, so we won’t progress in this competition.

David Bairn has left us. Can’t say I blame him – the lad just wants to play football, but it leaves us with no backup keeper. I’ll invoke emergency rules and ask Billy to employ his scouts to find a freebie. They couldn’t find anyone who’d come on amateur forms but eventually they brought a lad in on loan

Next up was Lanark United at home in the Strathclyde Demolition Cup. Crawford started, with pressing forward Allan on the bench and McQueenie a False Nine option if I felt that was the way to go. Poacher does turn out to be the answer. Two first half goals by Crawford sealed the tie and we won 3-1.

On the Wednesday we had our fist midweek game, in the Scottish Junior Cup against Winton Rovers from Ardrossan, two tiers above us. I started our spares and tried out the variant of the 5-2-2-1 with a slow tempo short passing style. The winner was drawn to play a 6th tier side. Of course, we lost the game, but the 1-6 thrashing was humiliating, especially for McFarlane who followed up his spot-kick heroics with an absolute ‘mare.

As the transfer window closes and the goalkeeper loanee arrived to join the Under 18s, Billy let club captain Luke Parry join Hartshill. That’s our THIRD first-choice central defender lost. He was on amateur forms, so it didn’t even save anything on our wage bill. Unbelievable. So Flett has to play at the back and some useless numpty will let us down on the right flank. Great.


August - finding our feet


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If we discount the last fixture where only the goalkeeper of my regular first-team squad turned out, most of my Starting XI have played 4 matches with a near-consistent tactic, sole striker excepted. Let's see if our early data justifies the bookies having us mid-table or the board having us champions.

We'll start with one of our key players and now club captain:


Consistently at the low end of the scale


Our only surviving centreback (Flett is back there now but was deployed as a wingback)


All the defence make a huge number of interceptions, suggesting good positioning compensates for a lack of pace. It also contributes to keeping tackling down, which is just as well as the squad is quite tigerish and I have them tackling hard when necessary. I'm focusing on defenders being calm on the ball and passing it out, so i'm hoping that last stat will improve over time.


This one interests me. According to my eye-test, he's frustrating, but the metrics have him well above average overall. We don't get on great because he wasn't my first choice in preseason, but he is nailed now and will hopefully stop being grumpy with me and start putting a modicum of effort on the training ground.


Our most in-form player over the first four games is deemed bang-average in general.

The data seems to back the bookies in rating us as an average side. As we can't strengthen the side (it can always weaken if Billy continues to give away our best players), we can only exceed our limitations by making our tactics render our team greater than the sum of its parts.


We'll play a couple more games, then compare players who play in the same position.

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The rested players were back in action on the Saturday when we finally had a league game to win. We were home to Easterhouse Academy, another team we really needed to beat. And we did – the result was tighter than I’d have liked, but the performance in the 2-1 win was good apart from Crawford, who scored both goals, not linking well in his poacher capacity with the two attacking midfielders. Still, it was our first league victory of the season, so we have to be pleased with that.

The next weekend the same XI, our best side faced The Spartans in the South Challenge Cup. We were no match for our Lowland League opponents; in my book a 1-4 defeat was not the humiliation of the last cup exit, but to be honest, I was happy to be shot of a competition we have no business being in.

Despite telling the boys the Spartans game was a free hit, they were still down going into the next game against a chipper 2nd-placed West Park United. They’re our Bishopbriggs neighbours and rivals, so it meant at lot to the fans.


Oh dear. I'll rouse them with my Churchillian rhetoric. Let's have a team meeting!


Oh globbits :(

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The nervousness was evident and we were second-best all over the pitch. However, our scouts insisted West Park are known to tire late on in games and we played for that. Our front three and then substitute Shane Stroud perked up to recover from a two-goal deficit, although Stroud left it to the 93rd minute to grab the equaliser. 2-2 – in the circumstances we’ll take that! We now have a run of winnable games coming up – perk up lads, its all in the head!

We could put out a fit team against bottom-placed Harmony Row on the Wednesday, but the following weekend had us playing Easterhouse, whom we’d just beaten in the league, in the Second Round of the Strathclyde Demolition Cup. It’s a competition I saw us as challenging for, but it would be a risk playing the same squad.

In the battle of the misery-guts, ‘honours’ were shared – 2-2. It is all in the head. I figured the Starting XI needed a shake-up for the cup tie, rendering moot any concerns I had over fitness. Six players from the 1-6 shellacking took to the pitch, but with an agenda to win this cup tie. And smiling faces won the day. Goals from Crawford and Stroud repeated the 2-1 score line over Easterhouse. The rested players came away feeling more positive – perhaps not thinking through they might lose their places to their stand-ins now.

With exactly the same team instructions, this Starting XI combo pass far more vertically than the usual Starting XI


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Stephen and McQueenie were dropped to the bench for the visit of Glenvale. They’re on a bad run, with morale where ours was before slightly recovering. We knew they had two skilful players – we simply marked them out of the game and left Crawford to bag his brace in a 2-0 victory.



top half, baby


Typically, the board downscale their expectations just as we show signs of matching them..

And personal progress too?



We have the full metrics for September. What do they reveal?


Our best player, Lewis Scott. The only metric he's under the league average is pass completion, and there's a simple reason for that - the poacher. But since Crawford is banging in the goals in that role, we'll overlook it for now.


We need three or four of David Flett. Our system is set up for defenders to keep the opposition at bay through blocks and interceptions, and he excels at that.


It starts from the back. My coaching staff don't get it at all, but the system begins with good distribution from the keeper, passing to the one of the three centre backs best positioned to progress the ball.


Galasso again. Assists will come, don't worry about that. He gets high up the pitch into good positions. And he's stopped moaning about me in the locker room. Which is nice.

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The medical team come to me with concerns about match load causing increased risk of injuries. The coaches lead the training sessions without my involvement. By the way after five refusals, I’m not even allowed to ask for a coaching course even when I offer to contribute to the costs. So I’m frequently giving permission to players to skip training in order to keep them fresh for matches – where I do have an input.


We travelled to Renfrew to meet St. Peters, currently bottom of the table. We won 2-1. It wasn’t as comfortable as I’d liked; their 4-2-3-1 formation pinned down our wingbacks, which made the centre a bit congested. Still our deep-lying playmaker Edin Hayes found space twice to set up our goals. We’re joint-3rd. The Campbeltown Pupils came to town next. A Crawford brace saw us home 2-0 in a predictable and unexciting match.

We now faced a problem. We’d be taking a break from the league to play two cup ties against higher-tier opposition. I didn’t care that we’d likely lose those games, but if history repeats, our morale will nose-dive immediately before we commence league combat against the top sides.

we might not be here again for a while


all good things ...


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We're thirteen games into the season - most of the first team have played ten or more. Time for a deeper dive into the metrics.

Defence first


Here are my four surviving centre backs (one reason why I'd far prefer weekend-only fixtures with no midweek distractions) and three wingbacks. Of the wingbacks, on the left Orsi is out with a serious injury, leaving just Galasso. He's proving to be good enough although he's not passing enough. On the other flank once I had to redeploy Flett, I decided to spare the dreadful Darroch by using a raw kid, Thomson. He appears to be unready and I might need to reinstate Darroch after all. All the wingback options are absolutely woeful at pressing.

At centreback, all our lads are magnificent in the air, and pretty tidy with ground-level defensive actions. Carson is a surprisingly good passer and should be shifted to one of the other roles to capitalise on that. Stephen in contrast is not very accurate.

The main picture for me is that overall we're doing things right and just need minor tweaks.

Midfield and Attack


Where all the goals are coming from and that the win percentage went up when Crawford started games doesn’t need elaborating on.

McQueenie's xA ought to be better – it's why I’m starting Stroud over him. His role isn’t quite right – he can create chances, but his passing is letting him down. And look at Stroud’s workrate  - he runs three times as far as McQueenie and presses too Partly, this might be explained as for the first few games Stroud came on as sub so had more energy over 30 mins than McQueenie did over 60, but I'm not buying it. I wonder if McQueenie would be better as an Enganche or Trequartista, but the team couldn’t carry him (any more than they already do).

Don't worry about the dribbling stats - I could see they were poor at the skill and told them not to try it. However, they do lose possession a worrying amount – although defenders win it back. We will compare to our possession-based tactic later when we've used it enough.

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I know we’ll get knocked out of these cups – if not in this round, in the next. They interfere with our progress in the league so I want to be out of them. However, if we’re going down, I want to gain something from the ties in terms of knowledge. In both matches we will put out of best Starting XI but trial the shorter passing variant.

We went to Irvine and restricted Victoria to a dour encounter in the first round of the West of Scotland League Cup. There was very little goalmouth action and they only just shaded the match 0-1. Well done us, I say. It certainly didn’t harm the morale of the boys. Next up was another Ayrshire settlement - Lugar Boswell Thistle in the Quarters of the Demo Cup. The 1-4 score line obscures the fact that we played well – Lugar are just very clinical.

We lost both ties, as I knew we would. Did I learn anything? Darned right, I did! We do this tippy-tappy thing very well. Our only potential defensive midfielders are particularly poor, so we have to play the system with central midfielders, but it works well enough by the looks of it.

The dilemma is this – as we return to league action, away at table-topping Thorn Academy, do I stick or twist? I’m past the resentment with Thorn – I just want the points. I like this new system but we haven’t so much as drawn a game with it yet – dare I take the risk?



Even the 1-4 defeat - looks very nice.


Yes, yes I do.

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Well. Well well well. Well well well well well.


'Not one for the purist', as they say. Thorn had just come off two cup defeats just like us, but with their expectations being higher, they were still pretty glum when we kicked off. So went early, hit hard and put them to the sword with barely ten minutes on the clock. They weren't coming back from that and with our possession-focused tactics, we just played out the game with no further shots on target from either side. Lovely jubbly.


This is the opposition pass map. all their passing was in their own half, just where we wanted them.


We only have two games a month from here on in. I'll use the free weekends to focus on tactical familiarity and further team cohesion. Yes we're out of four contests for trophies, but we have 13 cup finals left to fight for and I'm serious.

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Finnart FC are our neighbours, with just a hospital separating us. Our scouting team who know our opponents extremely well all said they’re underachieving and are the most talented side in our league. It would be a tough encounter for sure. My decision then, was whether to show them respect and go out more cautiously, or to stick to our gameplan and take the game to them. I opted for the latter, which pleased the players, who all know the opponents as good friends who grew up together. Was it the right approach? We had the possession, we had the xG – by every metric we should have won, but they were dogged and hung in there, even managing to steal the three points with a 1-2 score. It burns, but we see it as a minor setback. We’ll be back!

Alan explained it better than me, which is why he faces the media


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42 minutes ago, phnompenhandy said:

Finnart FC are our neighbours, with just a hospital separating us. Our scouting team who know our opponents extremely well all said they’re underachieving and are the most talented side in our league. It would be a tough encounter for sure. My decision then, was whether to show them respect and go out more cautiously, or to stick to our gameplan and take the game to them. I opted for the latter, which pleased the players, who all know the opponents as good friends who grew up together. Was it the right approach? We had the possession, we had the xG – by every metric we should have won, but they were dogged and hung in there, even managing to steal the three points with a 1-2 score. It burns, but we see it as a minor setback. We’ll be back!


Alan explained it better than me, which is why he faces the media


That's convenient in case of injuries.

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There are aspects of the job I really don't like. After Billy released a couple of kids - further weakening our youth programme but needs must - the wage budget was only £9 over.


All good - for five minutes. Then Billy asked me to talk to three of our players as he wasn't getting anywhere. Benny Crawford, Flett and Allan were due new contracts and wanted pay rises, Ben accepted an extra £10 or so, which was fair enough given his enormous contribution to the cause. Allan's not playing, so I reused him a rise, but the problem is David Flett. Indispensable football-wise, but the chairman's never going to double his wages and have him suck up 20% of the entire budget, so there was nothing for me to negotiate. I can only hope against hope that we win the title and get a bigger wage budget before his contract runs out and the men in suits pay him what he wants.

And that chairman - he sees right through me :ackter:


As much as I understand where he's coming from, he needs to understand the logic cuts both ways. I can't grow as a manager if I can't get the most basic of qualifications. It's frustrating having training ideas that I can't implement and it's frustrating seeing him blow wages on a loan manager and too many scouts to the detriment of my squad and myself. He's not making it more likely that I'll stay - he's making it more likely that I'll move on to a club that does respect my need for personal development.

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I hadn't seen Connor in months. He dropped by with a sheet of paper.


Billy poured over it and cooed; I was less impressed. The centre backs look like welcome news, but there are no midfielders or wingbacks. I don't need a striker - okay, a backup goalkeeper will be useful. I just hope our first choice players stay. I guess Flett won't - a 15 year-old kid is going to replace him.

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Okay, this is getting a little stressful. Twelve. TWELEVE CUP FINALS to go until the end of the season. The first five are through December and January. I want maximum points here.

Half hour down the M8 to Newmains for a must-win game. It wasn’t pretty but win we did, just, with Crawford’s customary brace delivering us a 2-1 victory. Hurry up and sign that contract. Ben!

He signed. Actually, I agreed to him nearly doubling his wages, although it’s still half of what Flett was currently on.

Playing Newmains closed the first half of the season. For the next match we travelled to third-placed Saltcoats, the team who beat us in our opening league fixture. Scores were needed to be settled.

And settled they were as we strolled to an easy 2-0 win. No one else in the top half of the league were victors, leaving us surprised to be in second place, only behind West Park on goal difference. Interspersed between the infrequent league matches, we’re playing as many friendlies and Under-18s games as fitness will allow, in a crusade to get tactical familiarity with our modified tactic and enforced player re-positions maxed out. It’s taking its time, but I hope the results will kick in in time for table-topping encounters at the tail end of the season.

We’d only drawn with Eglinton last time out – that needed fixing. With Darroch injured, for one game only I deputed Flett back to wingback and started both Carson and Stephen at the back after our scouts identified them as options to nullify Eglinton’s dangermen. Although we played well, the changes had the unfortunate effect of slightly unbalancing a carefully-crafted defensive unit. I don’t think we’d have conceded two goals with Flett at the back; nevertheless, we can consider ourselves unlucky to only draw the game 2-2. With West Park losing, the draw flukily took us top on goal difference - for the first time in the club's history! Darroch will be back for the next game in a fortnight, so all should be well. Unless ….

That encounter was followed by Hogmanay – “Should auld acquaintance be forgot” and all that. I just hope that’s not an ironic foreshadowing given that the transfer window opens on January 1st.


tighter than a gnat's proverbial ...


And to top if off, my first ever award



2023 was a good year!


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Nice to get some respect at last, but it's normally the other way around!



















Ruh-oh, our best player is out


Michael McQueenie gets his chance!

He underperformed in the next friendly; I'm going to get him and Stroud to switch positions, with Stroud being the playmaker.

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First competitive game of 2024 – away at Easterhouse Academy. We’d beaten them 2-1 back in September with the now customary Crawford brace (it was his first in the league – he now has five). We had to psyche ourselves up a bit – it’s still an intimidating neighbourhood.

I was in the office arguing with Ben Johnson who insisted I should play him ahead of Crawford (this is a 23 year-old player who has never scored a competitive goals for this club) when I received a message than McQueenie was having his head turned.

The match – so frustrating. It wasn’t even close but two lapses of concentration at the back cost us. A 3-3 draw sends us down to third. McQueenie - between you and me poor, but we need him right now so don't anyone say anything negative. He might come goods like Darroch has. What's also frustrating is that the team have really gelled with our tactics too - we should be cruising these games.

tac fam up.jpg

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Too many of the goals we concede are from through balls going right through our back line. We can either step up or drop back here. The risky option is the first – let’s try that.

Johnson’s mouth was starting to run away with him. I had to ask Billy to let him go (as in make him go). He wasn’t on a wage but it was needed to prevent the atmosphere going off. At the same time, we received confirmation that McQueenie had bogged off too. He sacrificed his £21 monthly salary to get into the squad of a club in the 6th tier – fair play to him. I have to get to know Craig McCoist now, at 17, our only ‘spare’ attacking midfielder.

Trying him out in a friendly, I could see that he wasn’t bad, but an absence of understanding with Crawford made the latter look bad. We needed another solution. The best available attacking midfielder is Edin Hayes, our best deep-lying playmaker. I’d bring in untried 16 year-old Cole Baird to play there.

We needed a bit of relief and January closed with a match against basement-dwellers Harmony Row. With no rehearsal time, my proposed changes were a huge gamble, but the reducing options are putting me in this place. Within 20 minutes I saw I’d made a mistake so I made in-game changes to revert to something more familiar as well as lowering the mentality to balanced. Suddenly things clicked into place. Crawford exceeded his usual brace and banged in four goals as we ran out 5-2 victors. In isolation it was a great result; however, I had targeted a maximum 15 points over these two months and the 11 we got is underwhelming. We’re fortunate that our nearest rivals are going through similar wobbles.

February brings us away games against West Park and Glenvale. These will be tough match-ups; it’s why I wanted some clear water by the end of January. West Park are more than neighbours – they literally play in our back garden.


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The battle with West Park United was as tight as I’d expected. They had their own Ben Crawford so I had McLelland mark him out of the game, which he did effectively. The result was ‘anti-football’, but we can do that when we’re “away”. 2-1 win – that was all that counted. Thorn Academy lost. We have our 3 points of clear blue water.

The other match in February was in Paisley where we faced Glenvale. Scotty was back for this game – not entirely fit, but I was happy for McCoist to be able to step off the bench when Lewis tired. That clear blue water turned choppy again when we went down 1-2. It was one of those days when we were on top but too many of our players were off-colour, and they took their chances. We top on goal difference only.

I’ve just marked my first anniversary in football management. If I finish this season bringing glory to Rossvale Academy, I hope someone notes my reputation and invites me to move onwards and upwards. I don’t see my future progressing here unless the new chairman takes a different approach. And even if he does, he might not arrive until all the players and staff’s contracts have run out. Bobby Watt did mark the anniversary by informing me a new contract would be on the table. I’d decided that if it doesn’t come with a promise of coaching courses, I’d stall. It didn’t, so I did. At the same time, news was coming in off imminent reshuffling in the boardroom anyway – Mr. Watt wouldn’t comment, even privately, to me and I informed him he was expecting me to sign up to something that was a mystery. I told him I felt it prudent to negotiate with a chairman that would be here and care about the club’s future.

In addition, I don't mind that this is less a football club and more a charity that develops players for them to leave us for better prospects. I do mind that we lose money and I get blamed when the fault lies elsewhere. There is a chumocracy here, where the biggest monthly expense that leaves us in the red every month is not the players' wage bill, but the staff's. We'd be in a healthy financial position if we weren't paying good money to hangers on like technical directors, loan managers and scouts who are surplus to requirements when we only take players from our youth academy.

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Oh, interesting!



In the midst of the chaos of the takeover, I just thought I'd be cheeky and put in an eighth request to start a coaching course. I was expecting the usual refusal, which would have hardened my resolve to leave.

Didn't happen. Instead, the chairman, who habitually declines my request, referred it to Davie, and HE approved it. So I WILL do it over the summer after all. So I'll stay? Honestly, if Mr. Watts had granted my request in the first place, I would have. Now, in my mind he created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, i'd have to be offered a better-paid job, with a viable squad. I'm open-minded, let's just leave it at that.

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After Davie approved my coaching course, Mr. Watts assumed it would be a formality to offer me the same new contract I’d stalled over. He’s missing the point – it’s no longer about the badge; I will talk to the next guy, see if he shows more ambition than this one. Of course, there is a risk my contract (and everyone else’s) ends before old Watts hands over, but it’s a risk I’ll take for now.

March would open with a home game against strugglers St.Peters. We scraped home 1-0 in a dour encounter in which we only broke the deadlock after they had a player sent off. Ten players are maintaining their form, but Ben Crawford has run out of juice – he scored four goals in the first half against Easterhouse and then pretty much stopped. Is it him? Or is it his inability to combine with a returning Scott? Of all players. I think I’m going to have to drop him for the next game. Jimmy Allan has bided his time.

That next game was down the Kintyre peninsula to Campbeltown. The two changes I made weren’t the best decisions in my career. Galasso was looking unfit so I dropped him for Orsi, who was even less fit, an Allan after impressing so much in the Under 18s, failed to break his senior duck as we drew 0-0. With three to go, we were level on points and goal difference with Saltcoats.


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The first game in April was the one I was dreading – Thorn Academy. By the time the match came round, they had faded, losing three of the last four. We weren't going to be complacent, though, having faded ourselves. Crawford was back with a point to prove. Well, mojos were found. We stormed that game - maybe our best performance of the season. 4-1 was the result and there was more goodness to come. The West of Scotland Amateur FA had changed the rules - rather than automatic promotion for the champions and a play-off for 2nd and 3rd, now the top three all win automatic promotion. How can they change the rules at this point of the season? No idea. But here we are:

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Back of a napkin - I make that SEVENTEEN times more than my current budget. It's West of Scotland Premier League level - setting us up for four promotions. Bring me back that contract!!!! :eek:     :hammer:

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Reader, I signed it. I wangled another £25 a week out of him. Should I have waited for the next chairman? Should I at least have waited until the academy intake sine I can't spend the wages on new players? I've tied Davie Flett down to staying on big money, and any other players who I want to retain will presumably stay, but if the youth intake is low quality, I can't improve the squad. Will they let me take more courses next year? I didn't want to blow the chance of staying under these circumstances - I mean, if the next guy is prepared to spend that much on wages, presumably he has ambitions and the money to back it. I probably should have waited though.

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Are you sure, Connor? This Danny Gould that good? I hope he's versatile because it's central midfielders I use, not defensive midfielders. Billy will probably try to blow that wage budget by signing them all up, but I don't want a bloated squad.


I need to get to know this Connor Winter, the Head of Youth Development better. Clearly, his got these kids comfortable playing in my system – the defence and front three at least.  The boys on the flank don’t understand the art of the wingback, and the central midfielders are a bit bewildered, being more used to playing further back, but they were still better than the Under 18 side they faced. I recommended keeping 13 of the 16 for me to assess over the coming months. Billy immediately signed them all on 4-year youth contracts.

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The new board is in place already - I figured the incoming chairman would want to take direct responsibility for his money.


The nub is this - we feel the squad we have can stay in the Third Division - we could attain a respectable midtable finish, but there's no way we can challenge for promotion. The new board needs to understand that and not put unrealistic expectations on us just because they have money to flash around. If they're smart, they'll invest in infrastructure. Right now, I have no idea if they are or not. I should have waited.

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The West of Scotland 3rd Division has 19 teams. That’s 36 league games as opposed to the 22 this season. We need a full squad. We currently have 34 (excluding the now-redundant loanee goalkeeper who'll return at the end of the season) - that's mostly three players per position. We're short of central defenders, and those numbers do depend on fullbacks being able to play at wingback, and academy midfielders being adaptable. There are a number of new kids who don't look like they'll adapt to our system, but I'm willing to give them a year in the Under 18s to see if they can. The new regime has gone crazy by giving everyone 4 and 5 year contracts, which is going to cause serious problems a year from now, when I do want some of them to go.

The next and penultimate league game is around the corner at neighbours Finnart FC. They are a salient and in-your-face example of the club I don't want us to be. They were 4th division champions two seasons ago. They went up and lost half their players. They were mismanaged and immediately came back down. Now they're having their worst season in decades. Mismanagement - it concerns me. To be fair, we won't be losing key players - suddenly everyone has a passion for the club as they're offered four-year deals. No, it's getting rid of deadwood that will drag us down. All those contracts are the same £21 a month deals with a few deserved exceptions.

I want some input into recruitment but I'm not trusted as I have no background. I want some input into training - which I am promised for next season, and as Alan MacKay doesn't feel confident managing it, I think that's a promise that will be kept. Mind you, we'll need some proper coaches instead of superfluous suits and scouts.

In a chaotic match at Finnart, Crawford got his usual brace, but Darroch got himself sent off and we went down 2-3. With Saltcoats and West Park confirming their promotions, we need to win ou last match at home to bottom-placed Newmains to claim the title.


Edited by phnompenhandy
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I tried three new lads in our last game – two are intended to be substitute options next season, and the third was due to Darroch’s suspension. Back up striker Niall Young and central defender Kyle Scott are definitely ones to watch. Young is an exciting backup to Crawford and looks like he can play in a variety of striker roles. I was confident enough to have Allan released - I didn't believe he would ever score. Two of our other forwards from last year’s intake, McPhee and O’Donnell can try to convert to Attacking Midfielders if they want a future here.

Ahead of the game, fresh from signing long contracts, McCoist and Anderson gave me lip over my urging them to put more effort into training. They can step off the first team bench into the Under 18s for evermore if that’s their attitude. Will there be more of this?

The players who did participate in the game against Newmains United had no such attitude however, getting the job done with a 2-0 win. The authorities had brought the trophy along to present to the expected winners. It was a good day.

Our first – MY  first ever trophy


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I’m starting my coaching course next week. It’s here:

Scottish FA C Licence Course


I’m not taking a break – as soon as the players disappeared I sat down with Aron our analyst to prepare insight to take with me. This is what we found -


All good. The tackles percentage is low because with our possession, we don't have to tackle much.


This is very pleasing. The dribbles figure is low because I tell them not to, knowing we're weak at that skill.


You have to be careful here - this polygon is highly deceptive. Defending is not our strong point; however, some defensive actions like clearances are low because we play out from back, not lump the ball away. Also, if we press well we prevent a lot of blocks and clearances. A large proportion of our goals are from failing to cut out through balls, which is a hazard of our style that didn't hurt us too much this season, but will be something to look at if opposition strikers are smarter or faster in the third division. I'm particularly interested in the low number of fouls we gave away - it suggests there's room in the locker to go in a bit harder if needs be.



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This graph needs unlocking. This is a good outlier, not bad. It tells me our possession strategy is very successful.

I shifted from a low-possession to a possession-based tactic early in the season, so our stats in reality are even better. Possession is dependent on accurate passing, and the change involved moving to a short-passing zippy-zappy style. What do we learn:



It's proved enormously successful - retaining possession means the other side can't hurt us.


The central defenders have been passing well, even the ball-players who often launch long balls. In contrast, the wingbacks are terrible - with an exception I've overlooked. Dane Orsi deserves more time as a starting left wingback.

So if the opposition can't hurt us if we don't let them have the ball, do we hurt them?


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xG - not bad. Not great either. It would be an utter disaster without Ben Crawford though.


Clinical - that's good. That's all Ben of course. There's no point putting up his graphs - you know how they look. The others are more interesting.


Our attacking midfielders are taking more shots and getting more on target than I thought, given how few they score. The central midfielders are better off not bothering.

I want to know who is creating the chances for Crawford to convert.




It should be our advanced playmaker, Lewis Scott - the staff rate him as our best player. Or our attacking midfielder Shane Stroud. But both of them are below average in the key metrics. They're a disappointment. Their weaknesses have been covered up by Crawford's sensational goal-scoring prowess, but we can't rely on that forever. It's a shame McQueenie left us, but actually he wasn't any better. We've got no one coming through, so we'll be overly-dependent on these two next season, too.

I think all I can do is next season address deficiencies in roles with individual training. That's my priority for taking away something from the coaching course. The suits won't hire additional coaches - not yet, anyway. I'm inclined to leave the team training to Alan and his occasional boys, and take individual training myself. We'll see.

Edited by phnompenhandy
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As a couple of late stragglers wandered into the office during the holidays to sign new contracts, and we prepared papers for the back-up keeper whose name I never remembered to leave, I suddenly remembered this guy


The kid was our best right wingback and I sent him out on loan purely because we couldn't afford his wages. Well, now we can. His contract was a couple of days from expiring and no one had made contact to ask him back. As you can see, that left him grumpy, but I persuaded him to return - and nothing like as a 'star' player either. I hope we get on because that position is a huge problem right now.


June 9th - transfer window opens. I've nothing to worry about this time, right? Every single player (and staff member) have signed contract extensions. I'm the only one with any doubt about this board.

Sponsorship money came through last week - I was straight down the sweet shop.

Increase number of coaches - nope.

Improve facilities - nope

Improve junior coaching - that one I got.

I'm trying to improve the quality of football here - that's my method of progressing the club. They want to flash their money around, chucking it at pointless baubles, thinking that's the road to success. The chasm is widening.


That new contract - I'm still going with "too soon"


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3 hours ago, phnompenhandy said:

Remarkably, a YouTube video has dropped today that is all about the West of Scotland 4th division - i.e. our league. See what we're really all about here;

Watching football at the VERY BOTTOM of the pyramid!


Just watched that video, been subbed to him for a couple months now

Pointing Rick Dalton | Know Your Meme

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1 hour ago, Vakama2619 said:

Just watched that video, been subbed to him for a couple months now


He very much supplements my obsession with non-league Scottish football. His YouTube name gives absolutely no indication of what he's about.

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Not everyone's stayed then:


It's a huge step up for the chap - and a salary higher than mine. It's a post I might have considered myself if it had been offered. Which it wasn't :mad:

Between you and me, I'm quite glad he's gone. We fell out at the end of the season when he wasn't starting the players I asked him to in the last two Under 18s games. I wanted to compile data on the new arrivals, and he interfered with that. I don't suppose the suits will listen to me, but I'd rather we not replace him and let me manage the Under 18s. Failing that, the Under 18s assistant seems alright.

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"The club prefers to sign foreign managers".

Very odd for this level Davie. Which exotic clime does he hail from?


Right. Do you like working for this dunderhead, Davie? :rolleyes:

The chumocracy is in full swing. I said 'no', he said they're coming anyway



Edited by phnompenhandy
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See, all this squandering of money has the bookies making us favourites for relegation


We should not be here. Let me do my job properly with the resources I need and we can get to midtable. Undermine me, make my job impossible and I'll walk and you can do a Finnart. :sega:

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Well, I have a job to do. The lads are back and whilst I'm still completing my coaching course, I'm getting ready for the preseason friendlies. Here's the squad - two for each outfield position


Note how young the squad is now.

I've established myself with my boys, whatever the ignorant suits think


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Let's meet these new kids.


I'll be honest with you - I'm not seeing what everyone else is seeing, but I'll give him enough minutes in preseason to prove me wrong.


In contrast, I'm the only one who rates this kid. With a load of midweek games in the opening couple of months, we'll need backup defenders.


The back up to Ben Crawford. I released Jimmy Allan and Ben Johnson to promote the kid to #2 striker. There are more waiting if he is Allan mk.2.


The other defender. With Scottytwo, I have five defenders I feel confident to start.


Nathan's in the preseason squad to make up the numbers, as no one will manage 90 minutes early doors. I don't think he'll be good enough for the first team for a while, but he's always welcome to prove me wrong.

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The rest of the academy intake would like to say 'hi'.



Two goalkeepers. I have no criteria with which to choose one as first backup, other than Cian fancies himself as a sweeper-keeper and that's what we use.





I don't think either of these two will ever make the grade. I'll keep them in the Under 18s squad simply because we're not short of money.


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Finally, newly appointed staff


Another scout. I don't know why, I haven't met him, as far as I know he's not on a salary.


A physio. I've not met him either. I think he works out of the hospital we're next door to.


The Under 18s team. I will have to liaise with them - I just hope they work with me and not against me.



Oh, and mystery solved (sort of). More on Meikle here:


Yeah, boen in Hawick. That's nearly England - foreign enough in these parts!


That's everyone.

What's that you say? The new chairman? Bu99er that!

Edited by phnompenhandy
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I called a meeting with our scouts. I shouldn't bad mouth them really - they may be no use for scouting players to recruit, but they are extremely valuable in one aspect; they're all local boys and know the teams and players round about, specifically those who we'll be facing in Division Three this season. The meeting didn't throw up any new insights, but did confirm my expectations.

GOALKEEPER - They're much of a muchness in this division and Declan McFarlane compares pretty well.

DEFENCE      -   Same as last season - we're good in the air and slow on the ground. But our boys still have good enough technical ability and football intelligence to keep us off the bottom.

MIDFIELD     -   Again, one of the slowest in the division, but with decent technical skills and smart. Short sharp passing should minimise the weaknesses.

FORWARD   -   Exactly what we know - Ben Crawford is quick and a deadly finisher; beyond that he had no skills at all. We just have to pray he isn't found out.


I then sat with Alan MacKay to think through how to hone our tactics. We simply can't rely 100% on Ben; we have to bring the supporting cast into the game - one or two at least.  We could tweak a player role, or we could tweak a couple of team instructions. We'd use the preseason friendlies (including Under 18 games) to experiment. I decided to trial the following alterations:

Role: (a) try each of the Attacking Midfield roles as a Shadow Striker (no other player after Crawford can finish, so I don't expect much from this).

         (b)  try changing the Central Midfield support duty to an attack duty.

Instructions: (c ) Slightly increase the passing length although still short

                       (d)  Don't order never to dribble (maybe only for wingbacks as no one else can dribble anyway)

                      (e)   Increase tempo

                      (f)   Drop the Defensive line a little to reduce the number of goals conceded (thus opening up more space between front and back at risk of reducing our possession)  

                      (g)  Don't instruct team to work the ball into the box


Let's see how we get on.

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More key data I forgot to share with you earlier - compiled with Áron our analyst, here are the charts recording player form and progress (development):


What we see here is that his form was consistent - the lower match ratings were generally when he had little to do. The progress line is a goalkeeping curiosity; young goalkeepers tend to stall one year then shoot up  the next in an odd/even cycle. I have no worries (and no replacement for a year or two!)







Our three defenders for most of last season. Flett is our rock and a model of consistency, deserving of his enormous wage. The dips in the progress bar correspond to when I played him at wingback, which he didn't enjoy. We're still weak in that area, but note to self: don't do that again.

Stephen has had enough games to prove himself, but hasn't improved at all. This is why I'm giving chances to a couple of new intake lads with Ross dropping to the bench for now. In contrast, McLelland was in the Under 18s for some time until he was called up due to losing first choice options. He has taken his chance and proved himself reliable and is rewarded with being a first-choice pick.

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  • phnompenhandy changed the title to The Odyssey - A Personal Lower League Journey [formerly FM for Masochists]

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