So here we are with Part 3 of the save, a quick recap in my last post we had played 15 games of the 2017-2018 Championship Season and lead the table by 6 points after a fantastic start that saw us keep 9 consecutive clean sheets from the the start of the season and go 12 games undefeated however we had a somewhat bad October winning only 1 match which left me a bit deflated. If you want to catch up with the save you can read Part One here and Part Two here. I don’t know what it is but you know how you get attached to something, this club is most definitely become my 2nd club behind my Internazionale. The club and everything around it seems to have sucked me in like no other in all the years that I have played FM.
“If you want light to come in to your life, you need to stand where it is shining “ – Guy Finley
My first team will always be Internazionale and whilst admiring other clubs I never felt like adopting a club to be my 2nd team until coming across Middlesbrough FC. I have even started to follow their news in real life on a daily basis that is how much this save as captured me.
When I reach November time I normally have a shortlist of players to cover each and every position within my system and here at Middlesbrough it is no different. I have the shortlist on a rolling month to month basis that keeps my scouting network on their toes so if a player leaves the club I know who I want to replace them if we cant fill the void from within the club. This for me is how I like to operate and the way that as served me well in the past. I also have a shortlist of staff that I like to keep an eye on with one crucial question that I ask myself each and every time I make a decision about recruitment, “Will this person make us stronger in the department than before we purchase them or offer them a contract”? It is simple if you are coming in to my club you have to be a better replacement than the person who is leaving, or if you are a youth player have the potential to make us stronger in the future.
I always have my scouts watch a player until we have full knowledge on them I want them to watch them that much I want to know what they have for breakfast if you pardon the pun.
Phil Cannon Age57 Nationality English
Judging Player Ability 16
Judging Player Potential 18
I brought Mr Cannon in to the club because of his ability to judge a player at this level and above. I am hoping my scouts are ready for plenty of work because I dont just leave them to get on with it, I get them scouting players who I pick out out in addition to their individual assignments. Mr Cannon and co can expect to be very busy under my tenure at the club.
Ok back to the football and November started off with a fantastic Teeside derby against Sunderland which we edged with a single Assombalonga goal to give us the much needed three points. Another 1-0 win followed against Leeds United with a Bamford strike. We then finish the month with 2 draws, the first against Birmingham at the Riverside thanks to a Jonny Howson goal. The month ends with a 0-0 draw against promotion rivals Derby County. I am pleased with our performances during the month but realise this Championship is a tough competition.
We recorded our third consecutive draw after we battled from start to finish against a tough Bristol City side who kicked the shir out of us. Thankfully the in form Jonny Howson kept his composure in a one on one to slot the ball home. A much better performance came in beating Ipswich Town 2-0 with both Downing and Assombalonga netting. What happened next had me questioning if we had the right character to continue our promotion charge we lost 3 games on the bounce looking like a side who had forgot how to win and it would not be the last time this happened this season. The three games that we lost were against Millwall 2-3, Sheffield Wednesday 0-2 and Bolton 1-2. Now I am somebody who believes in the way I want my side’ to play football so even though I was asking myself questions my belief in the style of Football and the tactical system that I have introduced remains the same and when the boys picked themselves up from the 3 defeats they produced a stunning performance to end the year with a 5-1 demolition of Aston Villa at the Riverside with 5 individual goalscorers hitting the back of the net, they were Assombalonga, Clayton, Baker, Bamford and Downing who sent us in to the new year on an high.
The traditional New Years Day fixture took us to Preston were we came away with a 1-1 draw against a North End squad pushing for the playoffs. The FA Cup 3rd rd gave us an home tie against Lincoln City who came to the Riverside intent to cause an upset against a fully rotated first team line up but we had Marvin Johnson to thank for a 1-0 win that flattered us. Britt Assombalonga hit a rich vein of form in the next few games that saw us beat Fulham 1-0, QPR 2-1 and Sheffield Wednesday 4-0 with Assombalonga netting 5 times to keep us at the top of the table some 6 points ahead of 2nd placed Fulham and 7 points ahead of Wolves in 3rd. Just before the transfer window slammed shut I made a move to bring Manchester City young winger Olexandr Zinchenko in on loan until the end of the season to back up Adams Traoré who is carrying a niggling injury. To end the month we had a FA Cup 4th round tie against Aston Villa at Villa Park to navigate. I decided that I would use the game to give our regular first team a rest and give our fringe players a rum out. Zinchenko made a scoring start to his loan spell along with opposite wing man Marvin Johnson in a 2-1 win.
Sitting pretty at the top of the table at the end of January.
We pushed on with our promotion charge in February with 5 wins in 5 League games to extend our unbeaten league form to 10 games. The month started with a solid 4-1 win against Norwich City that included a double for the returning Traoré. It was nothing more than we deserved after out playing a Norwich side who are pushing for the playoffs. We then faced off against a resilient Reading side who are in a relegation battle and needed two goals in the last 20 minutes from Besic and Traoré to secure the points. The man of the moment Adama Traoré was the man on the scoresheet in a 1-0 win over Cardiff City. Traoré seems to have uppe his game after the loan signing of Zinchenko. FA Cup 5th round action next and a trip to Old Trafford to face Premier League leaders Manchester United were I rotated the side again but this time we took a right hammering losing 0-6 and feeling lucky we didn’ concede double figures. Hull City were our next opponents who gave us a good game but we edged the encouter with a 3-2 win with that man Traoré getting the winner. Teessde derby action next at the Stadium Of Light that become the Britt Assombalonga show with an explosive hat-trick in a 4-1 win sending our travelling army of supporters home with the bragging right after a 3rd win against our rivals this season.
The month of March proved to be very difficult for our frontmen with us scoring just 3 goals in 5 games that equated to 1 win, 3 draws and 1 defeat so despite the lack of goals we suffered only 1 defeat away at Brentford. There were no signs of the goals drying up when we beat Leeds United 2-0 with both Howson and Assombalonga getting the goals to keep our consecutive run of wins going and up to 9. The win streak came to an end with two back to back 1-1 draws against Birmingham and Barnsley were Assombalonga got the goals in both games. Our 13 game unbeaten run came to an end with the 0-2 defeat at Brentford before ending the month with a goalless draw at home to promotion rivals Wolves at the Riverside.
Three more draws on the bounce got us looking over our shoulder with both Fulham and Wolves closing the gap to just 3 and 4 points putting the pressure on us going in to the last 4 games of the season. The 3 draws came against Burton Albion 0-0, Nottingham Forest 0-0 and Sheffield United 1-1. Our next game would be against Bristol City and to be honest we were lucky to come out of it with a 3-2 win but I have to credit the side for keeping going after trailing twice to the relegation threatened club. It was Jonny Howson who netted the winner. A very difficult game followed against an inform Derby County who inflicted a 1-2 defeat upon us after the league’ top goalscorer Assombalonga had given us a 1-0 lead. When the full time whistle went I had no idea what had happened in the Fulham and Wolves games so when I realised they both lost it was now clear that a win in our next game would give us automatic promotion and the title so bring on Millwall at The Riverside. The week running up to the game was filled with press conference’s galore and a team meeting to give the squad a morale boost ahead of the game folloed by a set back on the eve of the game when Adama Traoré picked up a knock in training so I turned to Olexandr Zinchenko to fill his boots. We started the game piling the pressure on Millwall and at half time we had a 2-0 lead after Assombalonga had scored a 4 minute double to put on the cusp of the title. I motivated the players at the interval telling them to guard against complacency in the 2nd half and the boys responded keeping a clean sheet to bring joy to the supporters we were back in the big time winning the title along the way. We picked up the trophy in our final game at Portman Road after a 1-3 defeat to Ipswich Town.
Champions And Promoted
The board were very happy after we gained promotion playing an easy on the eye style of Football and set the initial transfer budget at £38m. Both Fulham (automatic) and Wolves via the playoffs will join us in the top tier next season.
Britt Assombalonga finished the season both our top scorer and The Championships leading goalscorer with 26 goals. Adama Traoré led the way with assists and average rating.
Squad Statistics 17-18
So my first season in England ends with promotion and the Championship title by playing the style of football that was my vision at the start of this project started here on Teeside. Like I said earlier in just one season I have become so attached to this club I have adopted them to be my 2nd club. It is amazing how you become attached to a club by managing them on a game simulation and I am sure I won’ be the first and last person to do this. I am now looking forward to building during pre season for my first season in the Premier League, the board have given me a new contract which I signed without hesitation. I have been offered the opportunity to interview for vacant managerial positions at Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers which I declined to the pleasure of the Boro board. The summer months will see me attempt to be prudent in improving the squad and getting them ready for the big kick off come August. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to read, follow or retweet any of my blog posts and hope you will return for my next post that will detail my work in the transfer market in preparation for my debut season in the top tier in England.