Barwell Season 2023/2024
One of the closest run title races of all time, on the last day of the season, we were leading going into the games. Man Utd and Chelsea were 2 points behind and a further 2 behind them were Man City. We were at home to Man City. As I watched the scores come in, there were at one point 3 different leaders of the league, at the final whistle it ended like this
We had done it, we were champions of the Premiership, we didn’t thrash teams but we did beat them when necessary, we outworked every team due to a fitness regime we had in place since the second season in league two, we were simply fitter than everyone else, our players tired less. We stayed unbeaten in the league from the end of December, drawing quite a few (7 if I remember correctly from then) but refused to be beaten.
We knew that we needed 2 quality player for every position, so this is what we went for, we also attempted to bring more creativity into our work like displays, but the player we brought into do it, was a little off the pace, and after he played the first 7 games, was rested and my normal system was back in place, after 1 game out he complained, and never returned to the team. Kottras the Greek center Back was immense all season, Kucuk, was a free and the best LB in the league, my 2 new LWs, Choi and Svec did exactly what was expected of them, but my signing of the summer was Federic Emana, £2.9m from Sampdoria where he had been top scorer in Italy, he had a release clause and I gambled on him, big, tall strong, good in the air and can finish, and slightly inconsistent Drogba but still immense.
League Cup – Beat Swindon and Crewe, 2nd 11 couldn’t beat Norwich in the Quarter final
FA Cup – Rounds 3 and 4 were easy enough, away wins at Crystal Palace and Fulham, before a fifth round tie with Arsenal (who have become a mid table side), and an easy win 3-0. The quarter final was a battle, a draw at spurs caused a replay, 0-0 at extra time, we scored twice and I change the system, we conceded twice. Penalties decided the game and we held our nerve, ironically 2 of our subs scored in the shoot-out. The semi final was a repeat of our final 2 years ago against Southampton, but this time we scored early and battered them, unable to get a second. The final was against Chelsea, they were stronger on paper, but had some injuries, we were both awful that day, and a second half penalty by Sanchez gave us the win and the Double.
Champions League – We were in the play-offs to get into the group stage, at home to Atletico Madrid, and we steam rolled them, winning 5-2 when it could have been 8 or 9, the second leg was initially a nightmare two down in 8 mins and we feared the worse, an own goal by them gave us some breathing space, they scored in the last 5 mins but we were in the group stage.
Our Group was Marseille, Schalke and Milan (the defending champs), first game was away in the san siro, we lucked a 1-0 win, Schalke at home 1-0 again in a good defensive performance, Marseille at Home, very good performance 4-0, Marseille away and we struggled to a 2-2 draw. Milan who had struggled in the group stage were beaten 2-1 at our place and knocked out, and to finish things off we beat Schalke in their own back yard 1-0.
Galatasary awaited us in the first knockout round, we drew the away leg 1-1 and won at home by 3-1. Next came an attack minded Inter milan, we went with counter attacking football, and pace up front, it worked a 2-1 win, the return leg was us being well organised with 3 at the back and 2 holding midfielders, they found a way through but so did we from a corner 1-1, and into the semi finals against FC Porto, who have a bunch of Argentinian and Brazilian youngsters who will all become world beaters, but at this time were lacking in experience, we stunned them by being a little physical and long balling things in both games, winning both 2-1.
The final pitted us against the best team in the world on paper Paris St.Germain, it mattered for very little, Devereux stuck us in front on 16mins with a header, PSG pressed and we stood strong, we added pace on the wings, and Svec raced clear had his shot saved and Sanchez was on hand to make it 2-0, they still attacked in waves, we went to 3 at the back and held on.
Finances – helped by winning it all we are in a very good financial state and are about to move into our new stadium.
Team of the Year
GK – O Poulsen
RB – K Poulsen
LB – I Kucuk
CB – G Kottras
CB – M Meaney
DM – D McGee
CM – S Devereux
CM – I Sopic
RW – Bernat Sanchez
LW – R Svec
ST – F Enama
RB – K Walker
CB – O Defty
CM – B Jerkovic
RW – T Rees
LW – Choi Yong Gi
ST – C Gummer
In all honesty, I thought about quitting after the Champions League final, but I decided to stick it out, it was a mistake on my behalf, my transfers were poor, selling some big players and the players I replaced them with were just not ready yet, we hobbled through our champions league group and were 5th in the league when the World Club championship rolled around, we won it easily and then I resigned.
I am in charge of Derby in League one and couldn’t be happier. Barwell are managed by Mourinho and are still near top of the league.