Season 6 at Stockport is done!
The tableWe actually got off to a pretty shaky start, only winning one of our first 5 games. I tweaked my central midfield roles a bit and eventually we pulled through. I was hoping to hit the playoffs this year, since we had no money at all. That would have been a fairly reasonable result as we were predicted to finish 12th, and I had a very young squad.
Results (who needs possession anyway?) and performances improved over the months approaching Christmas, at which point our finances were edging further and further towards the red. Eventually in the end of November, a takeover happened. I'd had an excellent relationship with the previous chairman, who had approved significant infrastructural improvements to the club, but the news sites were all reporting that the new chairman wanted to bring in a new boss to replace me. I was spitting feathers at this point - 4 straight promotions and this is how they repay me!? Eventually though the chairman saw that I was too popular to dismiss and I was allowed to continue.
We continued to be pretty consistent for the remainder of the season, taking top spot at about the halfway stage from the previously untouchable Derby. We never surrendered 1st position. Derby faded and ended up going up through the playoffs, while Fulham (my bogey team, the only team to do the double over me) were resurgent in the 2nd half of the season, pipping Derby to 2nd place by beating them on the final day of the season. I'll have to improve if I'm to beat Fulham next season in the Premiership.
Championship player stats
1st choice goalkeeper: Robert O'Brien
Aaron McCarey started the season in goal but a number of errors had crept into his game. Eventually O'Brien took over between the sticks and, as he has the potential to improve, I'll be looking to use him as my number 1 in the Premiership.
1st choice defence (right to left): McLaughlin - Ivanovs - Olsen - Bach
Age was catching up with Manny Smith and Mark Roberts, my previous central defensive stalwarts. Roberts was used mainly as a tutor this year while I gave my promising young centre halves plenty of 1st team action. They both revelled in their newfound responsibility too, Ivanovs recovering from a poor start to become a really classy centre back. Olsen is the hard man and pops up with goals from corners. Bach was a calculated risk; last season's left back Adama Tamboura is now 33 and not up to the challenge. I didn't really have a top class left back so I chucked then-18-year-old Bach straight into the deep end, and he certainly didn't sink. McLaughlin improved hugely on last season's performances and is a steady and reliable influence at right back now.
1st choice midfield (right to left): Turchetta - Racle - Gueye - McEvoy
Sadly this year will be the final year that my hero Elliot Durrell is a regular in the 1st team picture. I've given him a 1-year contract extension out of pure sentiment but he's 29 now and he's simply not up to the challenge of the Premiership, even if he was a useful rotation option this season. Still, if he gets a game next season (which I'll make sure he will) he'll have played for Stockport in 6 different leagues. A phenomenal achievement.
Turchetta is a different player to the one that almost asked to leave the club in search of 1st team football back in League One. He's a class act, popping up with plenty of goals and assists. He's often the player who will change a match single-handedly. Bigger teams have come in for him; I asked for £4m (back when he was only worth £1.5m) but other clubs see that as too much. Their loss!
Racle is an interesting player - he's clearly a playmaker, and I've struggled to fit lightweight playmakers into this team in the past. I originally paired up Gueye and Racle in central midfield, with the former in RCM in a MC(D) role and the latter in LCM in a BBM(S) role. That clearly wasn't working though, partly because Gueye clearly isnt a defensive midfielder and also because I hadn't noticed he was left-footed. Eventually I made the tweak I mentioned earlier, moving Racle to RCM in a DLP(D) role, where he was very solid as his stats shot through the roof. Gueye swiftly became my Yaya Touré in his BBM(S) role at LCM, and his stats have skyrocketed along with his form. He'll be a big player for me in the Premiership. Racle was wanted by several clubs and had a nasty £750k release clause for Premiership clubs; luckily no-one activated it, but I was frantic throughout the summer and winter transfer windows trying to renew his contract, failing repeatedly because we were too hard up to meet his demands. After gaining promotion though I've made him my club's highest earner on a long-term £12.5k/week deal, so if anyone comes in for him now I can drive a hard bargain.
McEvoy continued in a similar vein to last season, scoring plenty but picking up lots of little niggles. A good player, but I'll be looking at finding a top-drawer left winger in the summer.
1st choice strikers (right to left): McClements - Kelly
This was the year of the McClements. He's going to go down as possibly my greatest ever signing on Football Manager. Signed for a free, he's now 2 short of 100 league goals for Stockport in just 3 full seasons. He scored every 80 minutes over 42 games. He scored 5 goals in one game achieving a perfect 10.0 rating. The lad is a machine, and I hope he stays at Stockport for years to come. And of course, he absolutely swept up at the end-of-season awards. He's now worth over £4m with a Continental reputation, he's scored 4 times for his country and somehow, blessedly, no AI teams have come in for him yet. If they do, I'm asking for £30m.
Kelly will take over the captain's armband next season after 36-year-old Mark Roberts leaves on a free. His stats are now incredible, and he does a stunning job in the CF(S) role. For the 2nd year on the trot he's got more assists than any other player in the league, and that's despite him missing 2 months through injury over the course of the season. He's now wanted by bigger clubs but it'll take a bid of £20m+ for me to even consider selling. This lad lives and breathes Stockport.
Jordan Russell is possibly the unluckiest man in football. He's been kept out of the team by McClements for 3 seasons now and has only ever played a rotation role, despite ostensibly having higher potential. The reason I first started playing McClements instead of Russell is because his stat spread is better, whereas Russell only has 11 for Finishing, 10 for Heading and 12 for Composure. He's basically all speed, which I don't really like in my strikers. I prefer them to be more all-round. Russell has scored consistently as a backup for me, but he's a year older than McClements and shows no signs of dislodging him. So he'll forever be the bridesmaid. He's just turned 24 and I'll most likely look to cash in on him before long since I don't think he'll ever reach his potential.
I've signed a number of youngsters, all of whom have at least "good Premiership" potential.
Gustavsson - Andersen - Bendixen - Sedlar - Gauld - Malone
Bendixen and Gustavsson both made significant contributions this season, and will both be in the first team frame next season. Sedlar came in on a free in February having been released - his potential is better than Bach's but he's more defensively minded, so I'm retraining him as a CB. He's also quite injury prone, so Bach is the better bet at the moment. I'm particularly excited about Malone, who not only has leading Premiership potential but is also a Stockport youth product, whereas the rest were poached from other clubs. One to watch for sure.
I'm also very interested in bringing in this kid however possible (his Composure would need work though...)
So there we have it! I'm into the promised land, with all the financial benefits that entails. My new stadium is finished in around a month, and my board have given me a wage bill of £200k/week and a transfer budget of a whopping £19.5m to beat the drop. I'll most likely plough most of that money into a better wage budget (it'll stretch as high as £400k/week with a transfer pot of £9m) and hoover up the free transfer market/use loans from Chelsea, my parent club, to cover any weaknesses in the squad).
It's a good time to be a Stockport fan