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Gottlieb Pferd

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    Stoke City

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  1. Stoke City, pre-season 2024 Another busy summer has come and gone, and we are about to head into the new campaign full of energy. We said goodbye to a number of good servants to the club, but welcomed in their place some players of real quality in a couple of key positions. TRANSFER WINDOW - OUT The first player to leave the club was Niall Ennis, who only featured intermittently last season. I had been excited by his pace in pre-season but his inability to link up with other players and the superior poaching ability of Alofabi meant that Ennis was always down the pecking order. Hearts came in with a EUR 900k offer and we were happy to take them up. The next player to depart was Josh Tymon. Josh had a EUR 17.5 million release clause which promoted side Crystal Palace took up upon being promoted. We are sad to let him go, especially after his incredible 15 assists last season, but his defensive performances had always been a concern. I was sure that we could reinvest this money more wisely. Derby then made a suprise EUR 6 million bid for Ben Osborn, a useful player for a couple of positions in the team but never a regular. The final sale was Ryan Woods, who departed for Hull for EUR 825k. Ryan had scarcely featured for the first team in the last campaign. TRANSFERS - IN With cash in the bank, I was ready to make our move for a couple of targets we had been scouting all season. Please welcome David Turnbull. David's physical stats rightly draw concern, but I was so excited about what I could do with his mental and technical stats that I couldn't resist parting with over EUR 6 million for his services. If I can get the most out of him, and mitigate his weaknesses, then he could be the player that makes the difference for us this season. Ryan Sessegnon was the next man through the door, having been released by Tottenham in the summer. Not much needs to be said here, really, with Ryan's stats and reputation speaking for itself. Our time had been crying out for a left-footed midfield player last season, and Ryan more than adequately fills this need. Hopefully he can make the strides forward that have long been expected of him this season. The next player was Charlie Taylor, who joins us on a free transfer from Burnley and provides real defensive and attacking quality. I am really excited about this acquisition as I believe he provides much more defensive balance to our side than did Tymon. Robbie Gotts also arrived on a free transfer from Sheffield United. Robbie can fill in all over the park, is a very intelligent and hard working player and will be immensely useful for us this season. Another free transfer that I am really excited about is Jack Harper. The Scottish international is capable of filling in across all of the offensive positions and his mentality and work-rate will complement our other attakcing players nicely. Liam Delap was our second most-expensive signing of pre-season, joining from Manchester City for EUR 2.5 million after a very productive season with Charlton in League One. Liam provides us with a little more physicality up front than we previously had, whilst his finishing is deadly for this level. The final player to join our first team is Gary MacLennan, with the Scot joining us on loan for the season from Manchester City. He is a player I would love to take on permanently if the opportunity arose in future. Pre-season fixtures Performances were decent in pre-season, as we ended with 3 victories out of 4. We experimented with some new tactics, as I would like to play more on the front this season. I hope that it will provide us with the width, but also defensive stability that we lacked last season. My analysis of our performances last year showed that we scored the majority of our goals from through balls, and conceded an extremely high amount from crosses. I am therefore keen to ensure that we restrict the influence of wide players getting crosses in, whilst having the height at the back to deal with it. Turnbull will initially function as a central midfielder finding pockets of space and launching counter-attacks when necessary, and ticking things over otherwise, whilst Field performs the more defensive duties of the two. Gotts and Taylor in this instance will provide the work rate and defensive ability to cover any attacks on our flanks, whilst also providing crosses from deeper positions when possible. This tactic has functioned well so far in pre-season, but will likely need tweaking as the season goes on.
  2. Play-off semi-finals Sadly it wasn't to be this year. Injuries to two key defenders in the build-up to the two matches threw us out of our stride somewhat, and two stunners from Barnsley in the first leg left us with too much to do at home. In the home leg, we dominated the first half and missed three extremely good chances before De Jong punished us with a sensational first time strike from just outside the box. Balcombe then fluffed a shot from striker Jacob Brown to double Barnsley's lead and the damage was done. Nerves were clearly jangling in the second leg, and we conceded two goals early on in the match. After that we fought back hard, made several chances and this time managed to take a couple, but it wasn't enough. An injury to Tymon limited his influence on the left-hand side and that was us done. The injuries to Nathan Collins and Reece Burke, two of our first choice defenders, through us out whack somewhat. As it was, Norwich ended up thrashing Brentford and then winning the final 3-0 to deservedly win the play-offs and make it into the Premier League. There's always next year. End of season review So a dissapoint way to end the campaign, but what a campaign it was. We defied expectations in the league, developed some exceptional young talents into first team players - namely Nathan Collins, Jon Kiely and Muhammed Tufekci - and put the club back on an upward curve. Now it is about adding to that and sustaining this level as we continue to level out the financial situation. Nathan Collins was voted the Fans' Player of the Season. Nathan had seen very little game time over recent seasons, and whilst he wasn't necessarily as good as the likes of Adam Webster and co, his intelligence and speed excited me and he rewarded my faith in him over the course of this season. Our defensive performances in the final two thirds of the season when he became a regular improved significantly. Jonathan Afolabi joined in January and was voted as the signing of the season, whilst also nabbing the Goal of the Season for his exceptional solo effort against Cardiff. Jonathan was fantastic and struck up a partnership with Tyrese Campbell up top that I hope to build on next campaign. Nathan Collins then took the young player of the season to round off an exceptional campaign. Pre-season will be hard as ever, and finding the right balance in releasing players and bringing new players in will be difficult, but this journey has just begun. See you after pre-season.
  3. End of season update So the regular season has drawn to an end and it has been a very fruitful first campaign as Stoke City manager. From the first day, I was able to make pretty much all of the changes I felt were needed and the players have backed me from the beginning. We stumbled a little bit mid-way through the season but always kept ourselves in the race to the end, and have ended up making the Championship play-offs ahead of schedule. We had found February to be rather tricky, but we put that to one side with a sensational 7-0 win away to Luton! It was a day when everything finally seemed to click for us. Set up in a 4-4-2 with Tyrese Campbell and Afolabi up front together, our movement in the final third was just too much for them to cope with and we put away goal after goal. After seeing the partnership between Afolabi and Campbell blossom, I knew I had to stick wih the set-up for the rest of the season. Furthermore, the central-midfield partnership of Sam Field and Campbell worked fantastically, with Sam breaking up play and playing incisive forward passes to our attackers, whilst Campbell could break with the ball at his feet and drag us away. We had finally achieved the right balance. The rest of the month went well, but the teams around us were also keeping pace and the fight for the play-offs was clearly going down to the wire. That was put into stark relief when we lost 2-1 to Hull City. We kept our eyes on the prize though, despatching my old team and over-achievers Cambridge United on the way to a 100% record in April, which saw me win the Manager of the Month award. The way things were going, it looked the final match against Brentford would be a decider, as they were also chasing one of the last play-off spots. As it happened, the last minute victory against Bristol City effectively secured our spot (due to our fantastic goal difference), meaning it would just effect the fixtures for the play-offs. In the end, it turned out to be a sensational game to end the campaign. 2-0 down at the break, I told the lads that we were unfortunate but berated the midfield for failing to take the many chances they had created. Campbell came into our 4-2-3-1 set-up that matched Brentford's and turned the game around, with the help of Muhammed Tufekci. The match finished 4-2 and we would finish the campaign in 4th, whilst Brentford slipped down to 6th and would be facing Norwich in the play-off semis. Meanwhile, we will be facing Barnsley in our first play-off match. As you can see, Crystal Palace and Leeds romped to victory and were some way ahead of the chasing pack. Norwich's fantastic end of season form means they are the favorites going into this play-off, but we are the form team in the league and I have achieved promotion via the play-offs in my last two campaigns as manager. So it's all up for grabs! Middlesbrough were relegated, having rejected the chance to hire me as manager last season. Sheffield Wednesday, who had come up with us last year, also suffered relegation, as well as Wigan Athletic, for whom it had been a pretty dismal campaign. FORTRESS BRITANNIA It's worth noting that one of my key aims, to build on our home form for success this year, was a mighty success. Certainly, nobody enjoyed a wet and windy night at the Britannia! We lost just one game at home all season and ended up winning our last 7 matches there in a row. This bodes well with the second leg of the play-off set to be played there in front of our own crowd. Transfers Our second-choice Adrian Gryszkiewicz signed a pre-contract in February with Hearts in Scotland. He had not featured as much as he would have liked due to the sensational form of Tymon, and so it was not really a surprise. We had been unable to tie him down to a new contract, though I would miss having him as an option due to his more impressive defensive skills and height. In his place, came a Scot from the Netherlands. George was signed for EUR 2.7 million from PSV, having joined the club two years ago for over EUR 12 million. We feel he has plenty left to offer and will be a useful defensive alternative to Tymon, as well as being someone who can fill in at left centre-half. For EUR 100k, we also snapped up another Scot from Motherwell in Shaun MacFarlane, who will join our development squad in the summer. Rob Wilson has been set for release by Chelsea and we moved quickly to secure his signature as well. The Welshman will also fit into the U23s next season. ---- The season is not over, but I am delighted with our performances. Are we ready for promotion? That remains to be seen. This squad is probably not quite mature enough to deal with that level yet, but with some investment there could be enough to stay up. Either way, we have already achieved our expectations so there is no pressure on us really going into the play-offs. If we do fail to get promoted this year, we will take the momentum of our end-of-season run into next campaign, when some of our impressive youngsters will take us onto even greater heights. I will be back shortly with play-off updates!
  4. March Update After a decent start to the season, we continued our good form into November, but as usual things have taken a bit of a turn downward since the winter period. Most concerning has been the fact that we have fairly consistently been conceding more chances to our opponents - even in victory. It was therefore no surprise to me when we went on a run of losses in February. Championship November was a strong month, with our Northern Irish winger Jon Kiely stealing the show by scoring three brilliant goals and leading us to important victories against Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan. The draw against underperforming Norwich was also a decent point - they have been underwhelming this season despite spending EUR 52 million in the summer transfer window, but their team is full of quality. Jon Kiely ended this month winning the Young Player of the Month. Our coaches have reappraised their initial opinions of Jon and believe he will now end up being a Premier League winger. We have very high hopes for him indeed. December was, unfortunately, more difficult. We ended the month with three games without goals, though strangely enough we were the team creating the most chances in these games. We sneaked a couple of important wins against Bristol and Cardiff to keep our heads above water but it was clear we were losing momentum. We managed to recover this in January, however. Three important wins in that month put us into the play-off positions. Febrary was altogether more difficult, and three deserved losses against Preston, Cardiff and Norwich set us back in the table and in terms of confidence. Norwich were now in full-steam and pushing right up toward the top of the table, whilst we were beginning to drop out of the running for the play-offs. Of course, not to make the play-offs wouldn't be a disaster considering the expectations at the beginning of the season. Nevertheless, we will be pushing for that for the last few months of the season to give us the most possible momentum going into my second campaign. FA Cup The FA Cup was something of a damp squib, as we were soundly beaten by Premier League strugglers Southampton in new manager Andriy Shevchenko's first game. Whilst this was considered an underperformance, my eyes are much more firmly set on the league for now. Transfer window As ever, January proved to be relatively eventful. It began with the sale of Peter Etebo, our Nigerian international central midfielder. A EUR 17.5 million bid came in from China, and I was more than willing to accept it. My eyes had been firmly set on a replacement for a couple of months anyway, so I quickly moved to snap up Sam Field from Premier League side West Brom who I believe is an upgrade in any case. Sam is a left-footed all-round midfielder who will play a number of useful roles for me going forward. The other unexpected sale saw American goalkeeper Brandon Austin leave the club for the Premier League. Sheffield United had made a bid for Brandon and he insisted in no uncertain terms that he wanted to make the move, leaving me with little choice but to accept. Balcombe had usurped his position as Number 1 anyway, so I wasn't too dissapointed. In his place came relegated Ipswich's number 1, Liam Roberts. Meanwhile, Tyrese Campbell had continued to underwhelm up front, so I brought in further competition to spur him on. Afolabi had played against us whilst on loan for Swansea for 6 months earlier in the season, and I moved to snap him up for EUR 350k amidst much interest during the window. He reminds me a lot of Stansfield at Cambridge in terms of his playing style, and I am convinced that he can help us to nick a couple of wins (indeed, he has already done that in his first month at the club). Hopefully this will both ease the pressure on Tyrese and spur him on to better things. Also joining the first team on loan is Arsenal loanee Johnny Campbell. He can play in multiple positions and is an extremely talented young midfielder. Our scouts dug up a couple more players over in Ireland that will head to the development team and potentially out on loan this campaign. After the success of Jon Kiely already, we have high hopes for Jamie Henderson on the left-wing. Hopefully he will get one or two appearances before the seasons out. Meanwhile, Jonathan Webb is a great character and a talented midfielder that joined for very little and adds something we didn't have before to our development side. Overall, the club is developing nicely. The board are happy with me and there are some really talented players in our youth side and out on loan that will be pushing for the first team in the future. I can certainly see myself staying here beyond the two-year contract I signed back in June. A quick glance at Cambridge Cambridge United have gone from strength to strength since my departure, a great credit to the players and staff that I did leave behind - as well as the club itself of course. The first team is still heavily reliant on loans, as it was during my time there. The contracted players are still, mostly, the players that I signed however. Connor Ripley remains the number 1, Leon Davies is enjoying life at this level at right-back, whilst Brad Potts has proved my trust right with some incredibly vital goals for the club. Their manager Santiago Solari has also signed up some excellent players, no surprise for a former Real Madrid manager, and hopefully the good times will continue to roll there! --- So as far as this season is concerned, we have to push as hard as we can for the play-offs and continue to ensure our key young players are developing.
  5. November 2023 update We are about a third of the way through the season, and it has been a solid if unspectacular start to the campaign. Really, I have to be pleased with the way things are going, but I do have a number of minor concerns. Sky Bet Championship As at Munster and Cambridge, my first full season is marked by a large number of draws. This is nothing conscious or intentional, but I guess I could be accused of being overly cautious. I am however keen to get through the first season with as much player and board support as possible before pushing the boat out a little bit. Whilst the large number of draws is something of a concern, I would point to just the 2 losses - the one against Barnsley being more than a little unjust. In terms of goalscoring, a large proportion of our goals have been coming from set pieces. This is both good and bad, as it is something we are working on but I am concerned about the lack of goals coming in open play. Our key striker, Tyrese Campbell, has been particularly guilty of missing decent chances and considering his ability, I would have expected more. Should we free up enough cash in January, I will be looking for a second choice striker to sufficiently push him. I made my return to Cambridge in September, recording a 0-0 draw against them in a match which we dominated. We found their defensive set-up difficult to break down and my old boy Connor Ripley made a number of important saves from set-pieces to keep us locked out. Going into the notoriously difficult winter period we find ourselves in 9th place. I am relatively pleased with that, but we are as many points short of 8th as we are of 15th so there can be zero room for complacency at this stage. Carabao Cup So far, the only other tournament we have been involved in, and we had a decent run. We exceeded the board's expectations but posed no threat to Tottenham in the 4th round, sadly. It had provided me with a decent opportunity for squad rotation, but we will now turn our focus to the league and the FA Cup.
  6. Pre-season results A bit of a mixed bag, really. Victories have only come against very low league sides, but we put in impressive performances against Cadiz and Leicester, and were highly unlucky to lose to ADO Den Haag. One trend has been individual defensive errors, which is something I hope we leave behind us going into the season proper. Our best performer has been undoubtedly Troy Deeney, who has lined up in most matches alongside Tyrese Campbell as a pressing forward. Here are the tactics we are looking to use this season: No doubt there will be regular changes and adjustments to this, but I was keen to have a two striker system that utilised wingers. We have talented wide players at the club that I want to make the most of. Our second system resembles the one previously used at Cambridge Utd The beginning of the season will see us experiment with these two until we begin to understand a little more about how the players work in them and develop some familiarity with the tactics. I Will be back in November with a first season update!
  7. PLAYING STAFF EVALUATION In light of the evaluation of last year's performance and a thorough evaluation of player ability and personality, I made the decision of transfer-listing Cameron McGeehan, Luke Berry and Tom Ince. The rest of the team has remained mostly intact as I believe there is plenty of untapped potential. Transfers were and will mainly be focused on improving the standard of our development teams. All of the players to have left the club so far were part of our U23 and U18 sides. We are as yet to have bids for our transfer-listed first teamers. Joining the club are the following: Leigh Chandler fills a weakness in our U23 side in the centre of defence. He has excellent physicals and is fairly professional, giving me hope that he can develop into a solid player. Marc Roberts joins from relegated Birmingham City to bolster our defensive ranks. He is an excellent professional with superb defensive stats. He also provides us with a powerful long throw as a set piece weapon. His wages are relatively high, but I insisted that he only be given a 1-year contract at 33 years of age. Jon joins us for EUR 100k from Portadown in Northern Ireland. He is already good enough to challenge for the first team, and his prospects are boosted by his free-kick and corner-taking abilities. His height is a further advantage for him. Enoch is a big target man that joins us for an initial EUR 700k from Nottingham Forest. At 16, he will be going straight into the development squad and is one for the future. Kieran will cost us EUR 140k in compensation fees, but is a very talented and pacy centre-forward that our U23s had been lacking. Ellery joins us on a free and will challenge for the first team goalkeeping position. He is just 23 years of age but is an excellent personality and defends his box well. Troy Deeney was released by Watford in the summer and is the perfect foil for Tyrese Campbell. He has performed excellently in pre-season and his aggression and physical ability will be a vital weapon for us this season, if used sparingly. Finally Kevin Richards is a young central defender who has previously played in the Welsh Premier League. We are hoping he continues his impressive development with us. CONTRACT EXTENSIONS FRom evaluating the existing playing staff, I decided that the following players had a long-term future at the club and were worthy of new contracts: Brandon Austin will compete for the number 1 jersey, but is well equipped to win that battle. Excellent player and personality. We were approached for Tyrese on multiple occasions over the summer after he finished 3rd top goalscorer in the league last season. We are convinced we can make him the top goalscorer and have given him a contract to reflect that trust. Reece is versatile and another excellent personality and is the kind of player I want to build the team around. I actually envisage him as primarily playing as our half-back. Josh is a top quality full-back. He is a similar player to Leif Davis at Cambridge United, but obviously another step up in class. I will look to exploit his ability out wide with my tactics. Muhammed continues to attract a lot of attention from Premier League clubs, but I have assured him that he will play a key role this season for us, which has appeased him for now. A top talent.
  8. Stoke City coaching staff Most of the coaching staff had already moved on by the time I arrived. After evaluating the staff members, the following were retained: Andy is a quality goalkeeping coach and I will be retaining his services for the time being. Rory Delap was a fans-favourite at the club during his playing days, and he is also a decent coach. I therefore had no hesitation in keeping him on. Alessandro is a talented young goalkeeping coach with an excellent personality. He will be working in the U18s. I then hired my own staff members to fill the remaining positions: ASSISTANT MANAGER Alvaro moves from Cambridge Utd's U18 coaching staff to becoming my assistant manager. I had been set to promote him to the first team coaching staff in the summer anyway, but I am delighted to bring his talents to Stoke. He is an excellent personality that has developed exceptionally as a coach over the last couple of years and has a track-record of success. FITNESS COACH Also joining me from Cambridge United is Sam Huggins, who I really value for his mental stats and is continuing to develop at just 37. FIRST TEAM COACHES David Lee also joins from Cambridge and is the coaching staff's Mr. Motivator. It wasn't a difficult decision to bring Jonathan Walters as well, considering his history at Stoke City. Furthermore, he has developed fantastically over the couple of years we have worked together and this is a natural next step for him. Jamie McAllister joins us to primarily work with our defence. HEAD OF YOUTH DEVELOPMENT Neil Woods joins us from Grimsby Town to head up the club's Youth Development. His tactical style, personality and attributes made him a perfect fit for the job. U23 COACHING STAFF MANAGER Michael is an ex-Stoke player and was most recently working for Kettering's U23 side as manager. He is ambitious and has solid stats for a manager, so I was happy to bring him on board. ASSISTANT MANAGER Joining Michael will be Pablo Zabaleta, a player who has had success at the highest level and is looking to progress his coaching career. FITNESS COACH Chris is a top quality fitness coach and I had no hesitation in selecting him when he applied for the job. COACH Cole Skuse had an excellent career in the English Football League and with his personality and ability to work with young people, I am hoping to see him develop nicely over the next couple of years. U18 COACHING STAFF MANAGER Karl Robinson is an excellent manager and I am hoping that he will do a fine job of developing young players for the first team. ASSISTANT MANAGER As part of an experienced duo, Graham Coughlan will join Karl as assistant manager and provides excellent mental attributes and a fine personality. FITNESS COACH Chris Riley will be tasked with ensuring that the fitness standards of our young players are developed to give them the best possible chance of featuring in the first team. And that's our coaching team for the next couple of years! I am excited about the personalities we have managed to pool together and I am hopeful that this will result in our players developing markedly.
  9. Evaluation of Stoke City performance in 2022/2023 season In order to get my bearings before starting my job, I decided it was important to analyse the club's performance last year. The hope is that this will highlight any potential areas of improvement and weak links in the team. The club finished 20th in the Championship, just two spots short of the relegation zone. Tactics: · Appear to have predominantly used a 4-3-3 formation. · Wide players usually Etebo and Sabiri o Both players lack pace, meaning rapid counter-attacks out of the question. o Potential lack of support for full-backs from two wide-players (Etebo has low stamina and speed, Sabiri also lacks pace and stamina, whilst also having low work rate) · Tyrese Campbell played in every available game for analysis as a lone centre-forward. He finished the season with 17 league goals, the third highest in the division. · Central midfield often lacks height, unless Reece Burke played in the CDM role. Batty (5’8”), Woods (5’8”), Osborn (5’9”). Burke stands at 6’2”. · Thomas Lam playing at left-back. Goals: · In the final 20 games in the season, the majority of goals were conceded in the opening 30 minutes. o Lack of intensity from the start o Cautious approach? · In contrast, the majority of goals were scored in the middle section of the first and second half o Suggests a need to warm into games, lack of intensity. Fitness or approach? · Majority of goals conceded came from crosses, followed by short passes, followed by through balls. o Frequency of goals scored by through-balls suggests space in behind the defence. Too high/wide? o Frequency of goals scored from crosses suggests weakness in the air/wide players failing to stop crosses. 2v1s due to Etebo and Sabiri being too high up the pitch, or not having the pace to track back? · Majority of goals scored came from short passes. o Ability to pass through opponents. This is unsurprising, due to the high number of gifted technical central midfielders that lack pace for through balls. · Very few goals scored from set pieces (4). · Concerningly high number of goals being assisted from inside opponent’s own half o Suggests the defence is too high and unable to cope with the long-ball. · Most of the other assists came down our right flank. o This coincides with some poor performance ratings for Tom Edwards in a number of games. Not enough support, or not good enough to stop wide players? · Relatively high number of clear-cut chances created and conceded in the space of 20 games. · Clinical finishing. Player Stats: · Reliance on Tyrese Campbell for goals. Return is decent at just under 1 in every 2 games. o Second highest goalscorer is Abdelhamid Sabiri, most often seen playing in an advanced left-wing position supporting the striker. · Reece Burke with the highest number of assists (7). Predominantly seen playing as a centre-back. o Long-balls into the forward? Flick-ons from corners? o Could be a solution in the Half-back position · Sabiri with joint-second highest number of assists. Few assists from full-backs and wingers · Goalkeepers with extremely low passing accuracy o Tendency to go long, but with no obvious target man (midfielders too small, Campbell’s strength not holding up the ball) · Very few appearances for Benik Afobe and Niall Ennis suggests distinct reluctance to rotate or play with two strikers. · Few appearances for Webster and Collins, who appear to be the side’s best central defensive pairing. Likewise for the more defensive-minded full-back Adrian Gryszkiewicz. · Captain Tommy Smith only featured in just over half of all matches. o No serious injuries recorded o Better candidates for captaincy? · Thomas Edwards and Thomas Lam with large number of yellow cards (2 red cards for Lam). o Potential discipline issues? Asked to play more aggressively (both have low natural levels of aggression at 11 and 10, respectively).
  10. Stoke City Identity Footballing philosophy Stoke City rose to the Premier League in the 2000’s thanks to the work of manager Tony Pulis, in close connection with the chairman Peter Coates. Over a period of 7 and a half years, Pulis transformed the fortunes of the club from one of middling Championship club to established Premier League side. This was done primarily with an aggressive and physical side that dominated in the air. Goals would be scored from balls in the box from wide areas and from set pieces. There was a strong focus on winning at all costs. Pulis’ time at the club was followed by a spell under former Blackburn and Manchester City manager Mark Hughes. His time at the club embraced the physical element of the game, but also added more aesthetic elements, finding space for talented, creative types such as Marko Arnautovic. It focused around a physical playmaker in the middle of the park such as Steven Nzonzi who could advance the team and allow for a more controlled style of football. Our playing style will therefore primarily be defined by: - Aggressive mentality, not afraid of a physical battle - Strong in the air - Score from set pieces - Capable of controlling the centre of the park - Capable of playing vertically at great speed, on the ground or in the air Much of this is reflective of my Cambridge United side, making me a very good fit for the club at this current time. Development philosophy The current board of directors are keen for us to promote players from our youth academy. This will require two things: - Players of a sufficient standard - Players of a sufficient mentality These are both things that can be influenced by good management, but primarily over the long-term rather than the short-term. In the short-term, it is likely that we will have to sacrifice on both elements in order to satisfy the board’s demands. It is therefore crucial that improvements are made in this field as soon as possible. This involves providing current youth players with as many opportunities to develop as possible, with the best quality of coaching available. It also requires board investment in recruitment, coaching and facilities at youth level. Sufficient standard means that they fulfil the criteria for a role in one of our key positions to at least a League Two standard. These criteria are (position-dependent): - Aggression, Bravery, Decisions, Concentration, Anticipation, Positioning, First Touch, Passing, Vision, Composure, Off-the-ball, Teamwork, Acceleration, Pace, Work Rate, Stamina This most be coupled with a sufficient mentality in order to ensure as quick development as possible. Sufficient mentality includes any of the following personality traits (coupled with acceptable levels of determination): - Fairly Professional, Professional, Model Professional, Perfectionist, Resolute, Driven, Fairly Determined, Fairly Ambitious, Very Ambitious, Model Citizen, Spirited, Resilient Any players that fill these criteria should be promoted to the first team, provided with a relevant mentoring programme, if possible, and given as much game time as possible. Players who are not of a sufficient standard need as much game time as possible. Players aged over 18 should be sent out on loan, if possible. Affiliate clubs should be favoured. Players who are not of a sufficient mentality require mentoring if possible, or being loaned out to a club with an excellent mentality from 18+. Players recruited to the club should already be of sufficient mentality or sufficient ability. Players to be developed should be from the British Isles. Club culture Stoke is a club with a proud and passionate support, providing it with strong, local roots. This should be emphasized as much as possible. It is key to bring the fans on side and to make a connection via the press and via positive football to ensure that attendance is always maxed out. Loyalty should be valued, and routes should be made from playing staff to coaching staff. Players that embody the values of the club in terms of personality and playing style should be offered ways to stay at the club wherever possible. An atmosphere at the club of hard, but enjoyable and rewarding, work should be instigated. This will be reflected by a happy dressing room and players that enjoy working with each other and for the manager. There should also be a mentality of success and a desire to win. This is the lasting legacy of Tony Pulis, in that the club is one with that still retains the mentality of a Premier League side. This must be tapped into as soon as possible if the club is to return to the level that it deserves.
  11. Arrival at Stoke City It is just a few short weeks since my trip to Wembley and I am getting my feet under the desk at Stoke City. In footballing terms, three-and-a-half years is a relatively long period of time to stay at one club and it is now up to me to get my head around this new task. I have a two-year contract to turn this club around, or it's back to square one. In terms of facilities, we have a Premier League standard stadium in the Brittania and decent training facilities - at least better than at Cambridge United. I have also been given a fairly healthy budget to start with: This could be added to with transfer sales, of course. The size of the current squad suggests this is also quite a likely route to go down. Setting a course In order to orient myself, I initially made a bullet point list of tasks I would need to accomplish whilst the players are on holiday and before pre-season begins at the end of June. Create a document outlining "Stoke City" identity Evaluate Club's performance in 2022/2023 season Evaluate senior and development coaching staff Evaluate senior and development playing staff Evaluate recruitment I will detail the results of these in the following posts.
  12. League One Play-off Final Two successive play-off final victories! It has only been done once before - by Neil Warnock with Notts County at the beginning of the 90s. We were in control of the entire game, although actually Wycombe had the best chances. They had two one-on-ones after mistakes in the midfield, but as he has done all season, Connor Ripley was in place to save the day. Chance after chance came, but we finally got the goal in injury time when substitute right-back Lloyd Jones rose highest from a Vivian Robinson corner to smash home a header. What a way to end my time at Cambridge United. We will be facing each other again next season in the Championship, as I take up my role at Stoke City at the end of May. Here's a quick look at the season's final stats: The end of season awards saw Vivian Robinson rightly named our player-of-the-year. Keepers are always under-rated in this game, I feel. Ripley was there in vital moments to secure clean-sheets and victories and would have been in my top 3, for certain. The free signing of Andy Stockbridge was made signing of the season, which I agree with. He was a vital link between our midfield and attack all campaign and will undoubtedly bring the club a healthy sum of money when the time comes. And so Cambridge United - until next we meet. Farewell!
  13. League One Play-off Semi-Final We had failed to beat Rochdale in our previous 4 attempts, but having played so well the last time we met we went into this match full of confidence. With the home leg up first, we wanted to make sure we did as much damage as we could, and that's just what we did. 4 clear cut chances speaks for itself, we were truly dominant in this game. And that was whilst playing for 30 minutes with 10 men, after Higgins went off with a red card. Rochdale had taken an early lead from a poorly-defended free-kick, but we were level soon after when Wellens finished a rebound from Dixon-Bonner's long range effort. Higgins had an excellent first half and was constantly beating his man on the right hand side. He ran the length of the touchline to whip in a ball to the back post shortly after Wellens' goal where Dallas was arriving to make it 2-1. A Dixon-Bonner penalty shortly afterwards made it 3-1 and from there it was all about our defence. We ended the game with 4 centre-backs on the pitch and saw out the victory comfortably. We have become really good at defending deep this season, and we were in our element during this game. Rochdale had tons of pot shots but we in fact had the only proper chance in this game, when Brad Potts missed a penalty with half an hour to go. In terms of our attacking play, we were extremely poor without Higgins, meaning we will have to rethink how we approach the final. The most important thing, however, is that we are going back to Wembley in a week's time.
  14. End of Season update So the regular season has come to an end. With one game left to go in the season, the table looked like this: Bradford City and Fleetwood both had the opportunity to knock us out of our play-off spot at the last if we slipped up and they grabbed wins. We would be facing Rochdale in the last match, a team we had failed to beat in (X) previous attempts. Mark Warburton's side had been another impressive over-achieving side this campaign and despite our contrasting recent form, this was sure to be a tough test. And it certainly was.. Despite creating by far the better chances (6 Clear cut chances to 2), we ended up running out 3-2 losers on the night. We mounted a stirring come back from 2 goals down and were pressing for a winner when we were hit with a late sucker-punch. We were therefore relying on Bradford, Wycombe and Fleetwood's results going in our favour... We were in luck. Bradford lost to Sheffield Wednesday, the eventual league winners, in a fairly unsurprising result. Perhaps more surprising was 20th placed Accrington Stanley's last minute victory that confirmed our play-off position and secured Accrington's survival on goal difference, with Rotherham and Doncaster both consigned to relegation in their place. We would finish the campaign in 6th, whilst Rochdale's win left them in 3rd meaning we would meet again in just a few short days time! We now have the chance of a second successive play-off victory, and based on our performance against Rochdale in the last game, I wouldn't bet against it happening! Here are our last ten fixtures that kept us in the play-offs: Our form was stuttering at the beginning of March, but a victory against local rivals Peterborough United stirred us back up and we picked up vital wins away at Wimbledon at home to Blackpool to put us in place. JOB OFFER Stoke City came in for the second time this season, and this time I could not turn them down. After a very productive meeting with the board of directors, I negotiated a 2-year contract with the club that will start once this season has concluded. Either way, I will therefore be making my next steps into the Championship next season, but I am determined that Cambridge United will be joining me on that adventure!
  15. March update The season has followed a similar pattern to seasons past, as we suffered something of a slump over the winter period, before picking things up again going into March. As it is, we can be very happy with our progress with 10 games to go. Transfer Window It was another fairly active January transfer window, as I looked to deal with some of the players in our squad that were not featuring. Club icon and last year's player of the year Tom Carroll moved on after featuring sporadically over the course of the first half of the season, whilst Jordan Clarke was sold to Coventry and Chuks Aneke moved to Wrexham on loan for the rest of the campaign. Furthermore, we suffered a serious injury to top assist-maker Vivian Robinson, meaning I had to make some moves to shore up our midfield. Returning to the club is Everton midfielder Bobby Carroll, who fits perfectly into our new tactic (more about that later). He was joined by the largest signing I have yet made at the club: Brad Potts. Potts comes from Championship side Preston and has all of the features I look for in an attacking central midfielder. Note in particular his PPMs. Brad is on big wages but I consider him vital to our tactics, and I don't think there are many better in his position in this entire division. He also brings some presence to our otherwise slight midfield. Finally, Gary Bermingham joins us on a free transfer from Shamrock Rovers. We have good knowledge of Ireland due to having a number of coaches from there, and they have been teeing us up with a few incredibly promising players. Bermingham will be pushing Ripley over the next couple of seasons. League One We suffered three dissapointing defeats in a row over December, whilst also being knocked out of our last remaining cup competitions. As it worked out, that seemed to free us up going into January where we secured some very impressive results with a new style of play. For most of the first half of the season, we had been using the narrow 4-3-3 that won us promotion. However, against Sheffield Wednesday, I began to tweak our wider 4-3-3 formation to ensure we utilize our pace as well as possible. We have used this for most away matches and big matches ever since. It has meant that our top goalscorer John Marquis has been featuring less, due to the fact that he has a "Holds up ball" PPM. This tactic is focused on attacking vertically at pace, with very little space between our defensive line and our attacking line. Young Charlie Wellens has thrived so far in this position, due to his exceptional off the ball movement, whilst Higgins has been finally presented with the opportunity to show his worth with his pace. The key has been balancing the defensive positions. If Leif Davis is playing at left-back, I will usually prefer Lloyd Jones (a centre-back by trade) at right back to add more solidity. If Leon Davies is playing at right back, then Georgey Taft will come in at left-back. This gives us the presence at the back that is necessary for soaking up pressure. As you can see, we dropped considerably during that slump in December, but we have recovered well and our now challenging for the promotion positions. With Vivian Robinson now back in the side, I am very hopeful indeed that we can maintain this push. FA Cup Now Doncaster isn't an exceptionally difficult task by any stretch of the imagination, but in the midst of a busy schedule, we would have preferred slightly easier opposition. As it was, we conceded a goal in Extra Time to knock us out of the FA Cup in the second round, to the dissapointment of the fans and the board. I had also been hoping for some of the cash from this cup run, as our coffers are looking particularly empty at the moment, even if we are EUR 11k under our wage budget. Leasing.com Trophy We did end up making it out of the group stage with an exceptional 3-0 win against Millwall, only to lose convincingly to Watford U23s in the next round. As with Arsenal last year, their team featured a number of players that are playing for them in the Premier League and we could not cope with the quality of their finishing. It also came in the midst of our worst period of form in the season. JOB OFFERS Our poor period of form coincided with a number of interviews that I held with Championship clubs, and I confess that my head may have been turned somewhat. I was particularly excited about the prospect of working for Middlesbrough, a club with an exceptional youth academy system. I had been approached rather than applying for the job so I was pretty gutted when I ended up not being chosen. As such, I have decided that I will be ignoring any more approaches for the rest of the season in order to fully focus on the job at hand with Cambridge Utd. I will reassess my future in the summer. As it is, everything is in place for us to challenge for the play-off positions and that has to be our aim! I will be back in April with an update.
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