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Weston’s Super Mare? – Episode 44: The Beginning…

Welcome back, weary travellers! We have made it a long way, but there are still many, many miles to go before our journey’s end. With the club’s financial future still relatively uncertain, I was tasked with creating a side that could be competitive in League One. Ideally, we would spend this season consolidating our position and bringing in some money to help stabilise the club.

The board were thinking very much along the same lines and straight off the bat signed two new sponsorship deals that increased our income from sponsors by more than ten times!

It is unlikely that I will see that money for squad building, but every little helps.

Although, hang on a minute…

What? How can that possibly be? We were on the brink of administration just three or four months ago and now it turns out that we actually made a profit of £1 million..? Something dodgy is going on.

I am not sure exactly who the club’s accountant is but he or she is doing an excellent job. They will also be happy to learn that we were getting a cool £485,000 in TV money for the new season, which is loads and loads of money.

With all this money causing the club’s coffers to overflow, the board told me how much money I would have to play with this season.

£25,000 per week for wages isn’t too bad at all; it is well over double our budget for last season. We still haven’t got any money to pay fees for players, so I will again be relying on free signings and loanees, but with the extra wages I should be able to put together a side that can survive pretty handily in this division.

So, with all that FIFA-style admin out of the way, let’s move on to the playing staff. First off, Bob Holmes was voted as our player of the year for last season. He deserved the award, leading our scoring charts as we marched to promotion. Let’s just hope that he can continue his fine form this season.

In terms of comings and goings, this summer saw a number of the fringe members of my squad leave the club. First out of the door was the Sammarinese right back, Vittorio Giglio. Giglio was very much the backup option in defence for us and wasn’t really up to the rigours of League Two, let alone League One. When Havant and Waterlooville’s manager called me up to ask about Giglio’s availability I was quick to accept a bid.

Next through the exit door was Steven Howarth who left to join League Two Wycombe Wanderers. Howarth has never been consistent enough for me and I had doubts as to whether he would be able to make the step up in leagues. That said, it was a sad day when he left as he had been a great servant to the club and had chipped in (literally) with a number of goals whilst helping us to two promotions in three seasons. Hopefully, we will see him around.

Also dropping down the leagues was Luke McCullough, who joined Blue Square Premier side Darlington. McCullough was a rock for us at the back in his first two seasons at the club, but a string of injuries and rival players in good form saw him lose his place in the side last year. I thought it was right to let him go in order for him to continue his development.

Lee Nasir was a relatively surprising departure from the club, although he was one of our higher earners and, in the end, it was decided that it was best to let him leave. He had been at the club for a number of years and had helped us out of non-league. However, he hadn’t progressed at the rate that I would have liked and so, when Leyton Orient offered him a contract, I didn’t stand in his way. By signing for Orient, Nasir would still be playing in League One this season and therefore we would be bumping into him again pretty soon.

Nasir was sad to leave, when it came down to it, and thanked me for my guidance during his time at the club. He’s a good egg.

The final player leaving was Liam “Panic Buy” Conway. When I brought Liam to the club last summer I admitted he wasn’t the best player and he more than lived up to that tag. Therefore, it was a major surprise when League One side Hartlepool United came in with a bid of £10,000 for his services. I nearly snapped the guy’s arm off in accepting. Thanks, Liam!

Ok, so now that all that is out of the way, here are our new signings:

First through the ‘In’ door was Austrian Under-21 international, Arvid Fahrmann. Arvid is, let’s face it, excellent, and a big upgrade on our centre backs from last season. Plus, he can do a job at defensive midfield in a pinch. He has excellent potential and will be a key player for us this year, for sure. Willkommen, Arvid.

Sticking with our Deutschen theme, ladies and gentlemen, please give a hearty “Hallo” to Christian Neumann, the German Under-19 international. He is 18 years old, six foot five and a bit of a tank. He will be a monster at the back for us, plus I want him to score a few goals from corners.

To complete our central defensive cover, in came Finnish Under-19 international Markku Masalin. He is functional and still a bit rough around the edges. He will be behind Neumann and Fahrmann in the pecking order but will provide more than adequate backup when they inevitably get injured.

To provide us options on the left of midfield and at left back, in came Adam Dodd (yes I screenshotted the wrong page, so what?). He is very solid for this level and can also cross the ball reasonably well. He will be primarily a left back but could also give cover for Norwegian Mo at left midfield as Mo is often injured or tired.

So far, all of the players I had signed were youngsters. The best way to ensure that these youngsters are able to get through the psychological strains of the long season is to sign an experienced head; a player who, alongside Captain Barbosa and Norwegian Mo, has been there and done that, and who could help the younger players through the tough times. Introducing Tamika Mkandawire; signed on a free from Peterborough United. He is very solid defensively and will be my first choice back-up to Roy Burnell in the defensive midfield role. What a signing.

One final defensive signing as young Scot Darren Duncan joined the Weston fun waggon. Duncan will play as the third choice defensive midfielder. He is young and inexperienced but has some good skills and will provide good backup when called upon.

Danish Under-21 international Frank Christensen was my next signing. Frank is an attacking midfielder who is as good if not better than David Hruby and Alex Diabate. Despite being oddly pale, he will be a capable backup and may even push for a starting position as the season wears on.

On the right of midfield, I picked up another young Austrian, Dirk Lindner. Dirk would provide cover for Captain Barbosa and hopefully push the Cap to keep up his performance levels. Previously we haven’t had many options on the right, so Dirk will give us that.

Now on to the exciting bit; the strikers. First up was Bradley Weston, a decent, hardworking and brave striker who I am looking forward to working with. He may lack a bit in terms of creativity and technical ability, but then again, he is English, so it is about par for the course…

Then came Stuart Winfield on a three-month loan from Brighton and Hove Albion. He looks decent, can take a good free kick and penalty, and is another determined young man.

Thinking back to our loanees from last season, I decided to bring back Joel Ambalu to the club, this time on a permanent deal. Joel had enjoyed a productive loan spell with us last season and I brought him in as a backup option for our assault of League One. Hopefully, he can grab some goals from the bench and generally be a cool cat behind the scenes.

Finally, the biggest coup of the summer was the signing of Belgian Under-21 international, Lyes Saadoune. Lyes is incredibly physical and will be a bit of a beast in the air. He is also technically very good and has bags and bags of potential. I am excited by this signing, although as he is only 17 it is unlikely that he will be able to play in every match. Hopefully, he can make an impact at the club over the coming years.

As you can tell from my signings, I was being mindful of a) having enough English players to fit everyone into the league quotas, and b) the inevitable mass of injuries that December through to March will bring to the club. We now have a squad with good depth and lots of options and this will do us the world of good when the busy winter schedules kick in.

Now to preseason. Last year I didn’t arrange many glamour friendlies and the result was that we nearly hit administration (allegedly). Therefore, despite the mixed messaged coming from the accountant’s office, I played it safe and arranged LOADS of big, money making fixtures. We welcomed Manchester City to the Woodspring, which was televised and netted us an extra £9,000…

…and the same happened when we also brought Arsenal to town…

Big money.

We also played the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Shamrock Rovers in an effort to bring in as much dollah as possible. We even made ourselves some friends, in the form of the son of legendary manager, Brian Clough. Nigel, it’s fair to say, has so far failed to live up to his father’s greatness, but the now Bristol City manager is still a good coach and he was impressed with what he saw as we beat his side 1-0 at the Woodspring.

You can see our full list of fixtures below. We got some good wins (Man City, Bristol City, Shamrock Rovers) and some unfortunate defeats (Chelsea, Liverpool, Brighton), but overall we got what we wanted from the games; match fitness and gate receipts. Mainly gate receipts, though.

Oh, and after enjoying an excellent preseason, this happened:

Thanks, Shamrock Rovers. Luckily I planned for this outcome.

And so, the new season was upon us. We had, ludicrously, been tipped with an outside chance of promotion. That said, we had worse odds on promotion than Nottingham Forest, who had received a ten-point penalty after entering administration and therefore started the season on -10 points, so I still think it is highly unlikely.

So, this is the list of teams we will be playing this season as we battle against relegation. We are in the same division as two-time European Cup winners Nottingham Forest. Hull City and Watford were in the Premier League only a few short seasons ago. We are reunited with Phil Parkinson and David Beckham’s Swindon Town. And Carlisle. As a club, Weston-super-Mare AFC has come a long way.

We also learned of our League Cup first round draw:

We got an away tie at Millwall who, by the way, are managed by none other than friend-of-the-series, Paul Ince. That should be a tasty tie.

Before we finish, there is just time to warn any Plymouth fans who might be reading that they are in for a long, hard season in the Blue Square Premier:

And England have been drawn in a ludicrously difficult group to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. It will be a miracle if Roberto Mancini can get us there…

So, that’s your lot for this episode. How do you think we will do this season? Can we do better than Nottingham Forest? Could we survive relegation? Might the bookmakers be right; do we have a promotion push in us? Let me know in the comments below! See you next time! Cheers.











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