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Old 05-28-2018, 10:14 AM   #1
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
Another Adventure in Anglia (FM 14)

Hello again, everyone.

I've been playing Football Manager long enough to know that I would really enjoy writing about a long-running save on the forum here. I've also figured out that when I try to chronicle my efforts in the usual way--writing about the events of a single match, or even a month's worth of matches. For some reason I either (1) struggle to find a writing format that appeals to me or (2) lose interest in the save because I can't manage to hit the right balance between playing and writing.

I'm going to try something different this time.

I like managing in England. For one thing, I've traveled there, so it's easy for me to envision the setting for my save. There are so many options--big clubs, smaller clubs, clubs in between--and, especially with the edited databases I've found, it's possible to enjoy a long journey up the pyramid to the higher levels of the game. And, even when you're playing with a club well down the pyramid, the players in your squad can still do things. They're not all absolute rubbish, with technical attributes so low that they're reduced to simply whacking the ball around the pitch and hoping it goes near the goal.

I'm going back to a club I managed in one of my first-ever FM saves: Wantage Town, a Level 9 club in the Hellenic League Premier Division. They are a semi-professional club, but they're a long way from the bright lights and star power of the Premier League. The team are nicknamed The Alfredians, because King Alfred the Great was born in Wantage in 849. How cool is that? Alfred is featured prominently in the club's badge, shown below.

I'll be playing Football Manager 14. I've bought more recent versions of the game, but for me, FM 14 seems to strike the right balance between complexity and playability.

I intend for this dynasty to have a good, long run, so I'll be posting on an annual, or semi-annual basis. My managerial alter-ego is young, so he could realistically be around for a few decades. I hope I'll do right by him and enable him to do so.

I'll return in a bit with a post about how I'm setting up the dynasty, because I'm doing a few different things in that regard, too.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 07-17-2018 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 05-28-2018, 03:30 PM   #2
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
July and August 2013

I set up my save game a little bit differently this time. I often use fake players, because I think it makes the game more uniquely my own. Also, I get tired of seeing the black silhouettes for so many players' faces.

In fact, that's another reason why I'm playing FM 14. In some of the later versions, the generated players' faces look like something from a bad horror film, with vacant eyes, massive foreheads, and an assortment of ghastly hairstyles--Mohawks in varied colors, an array of teenagers with their grandpas' receding hairlines.

I also didn't "add players to playable teams," because I wanted to put together a team from scratch. The latest iterations of FM will let you do this, with the Create-a-Club feature.

I'm using a very simple tactic, a 4-4-2 I've become very happy with. The roles and duties are basic, and I think I've created a good balance between attacking and defending. Sometimes I think about creating a "sexier" tactic, with enganches or inverted wingers, but the mood passes and I go back to my tried and true.

There are people who have played a lot more Football Manager than I have who claim that the key to success in the lower leagues is concentrating on physical prowess, like pace and strength, because the players at your disposal can't do anything else.

I'm testing a different philosophy with the Alfredians. I looked for players with decent scores for the key attributes needed for the roles I want them to play--which include some technical skills. I also looked for guys with high scores in Work Rate and Teamwork. I want to build into the team's DNA a willingness to play for the shirt, to cover the pitch in an effort do do what the team needs. I want strikers who will come back and defend, full backs who will come forward and deliver a cross and also handle their responsibilities in the back.

I discovered that all the players I wanted to sign would only accept squad statuses of Key Player or First Team. In fact, I couldn't offer them anything else during contract negotiations. I didn't dare sign more than 11 or 12 of these lads, because the ones who don't start every match will start complaining and wreck the team's morale. So, I began the preseason with a very small roster.

That worked fine until the first league match. I discovered I can have a grey goalkeeper on my bench, but nobody else. I had only one substitute, and I ended the match with a very tired team. Fortunately we held on to win, 1-0.

I thought about how to fix this problem for a moment, and the answer came to me. I can sign my team's Grey Ghosts to contracts, and use them to fill out my roster!

That's another advantage for FM 14. Back in the day, the Grey Ghosts were unique players with varying attributes. Some of them were fast; others were fairly skilled; still others were mentally strong. A few could play several positions well. Now, they are completely generic, with the same value for every attribute. Most can only play one position.

I checked out my Grey Guys, and signed seven of them to contracts. I was able to find lads who more or less fit the team's mentality, too. I confess to a bit of cheating in this regard, however. I went into the editor and change their contracts, to make their appearance fees lower. Otherwise, they'd bring in more money per appearance than all but my three top earners make in a week. It didn't seem realistic for the players I brought to life to sit on my bench to pull in that kind of coin.

In my next post, I'll introduce the 2013/14 Wantage Town team.
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Old 05-28-2018, 05:06 PM   #3
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
Meet the Alfredians: Goalkeepers and Defenders

Chris Beesley will wear the number one shirt for us this year. I am paying big wages (130/week) to him, but I'm willing to invest in a top-flight 'keeper. Chris communicates especially well with his defenders, and is athletic enough to make highlight-reel saves.

His backup will be 17-year-old Zach Tiesse, one of the former Grey Ghosts. Zach is a less-talented version of Beesley. I might give him an odd start in a cup tie, but I'm anticipating putting Beesley's name on the team sheet almost all the time.

I give my right back an Attack duty, which some might say is too risky for a lower league team. I need a player who can dribble and deliver a cross, with the ability to read the game and the desire to run all day. I found this kind of player in Richard Ahern. He's also one of our top earners (120/week), but a player like him is hard to find at this level. Richard is also versatile, able to play a variety of positions.

The left back is on Support duty, so he doesn't need to dribble as much or be as good off the ball as his right-sided partner. Matty York will fill that spot. He's a big, strong lad, young (21), and exceptionally determined.

I have both center backs playing as Central Defenders with Defend duties. I wanted them to offer more than Limited Defenders, who basically whack the ball up the pitch if it falls to their feet. I want my center halves to be comfortable enough on the ball to make a good first pass.

The left-footed member of the pair is Matt Osman. He's the Hellenic Premier League's version of a wonderkid, already ready for first team duty at 16. He could show more determination, but he's otherwise perfectly suited for his role.

The other option I have there is Ashley Bancroft, who can play anywhere in the middle of the park. I almost didn't sign Ashley, but he's a veteran leader (age 32) with a Resolute personality, and he's our team's vice captain. He's also cash money from the penalty spot.

The right-footer will be Jonathan Booth. Like Osman, he's big and strong, decently mobile, and comfortable in possession. How we're getting him for 20 quid a week is beyond me.

I'm including James Gowens with this group because, while he can do a job in a number of spots, I promoted him from the Grey Squad to provide defensive cover. James is aggressive and brave, but like a lot of lads at age 17, he's not composed or able to concentrate. Still, he's useful.

Fellow Grey alumnus Leon Neville is almost pathetically slow, especially considering he's 16 and as pacey as he'll ever be. He'll put in a shift, though, he has some technical skill, and he has a colored dot in nine different positions (that means he can play them with some degree of familiarity).

Finally, there's Paul Brabbs, an intriguing former Grey Ghost whom I brought to life to serve as cover for Ahern at right back. He can play a few other positions, he turns out to be a wizard on corner kicks and long throws, and he has the perfect makeup for a future team captain.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 05-28-2018 at 10:49 PM.
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Old 05-28-2018, 05:59 PM   #4
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
Meet the Alfredians: Midfielders and Strikers

My wide midfielders are both Wingers; the right midfielder has an Attack duty, while the left-sider is on Support. The qualities needed for both are the same: the ability to run up and down the wing, a bit of flair, and the ability to cross the ball.

Mention the name Andy Williams to a lot of people, and they'll think of the smooth-voiced singer of the 60s and 70s. His Christmas albums were staples in my household growing up, and my kids have learned to love them, too. This Andy Williams plays on the left and wears the captain's armband. Where Do I Begin to describe his playing style? It's So Easy to overlook his lack of pace. I can easily imagine him saying to the ball, "I'm crossing you in style one day," as his namesake predicted in his greatest hit, Moon River.

Dominic Todd, the right winger, has the desire to track back, but isn't as good at doing so as I might like. He's got other attributes that will keep him on the pitch. He's a big, fast bloke who brings a lot of physical prowess to our attack. Dominic is also a bargain at 20/week.

Both my central midfielders are just that: garden variety Central Midfielders, rather than something more exotic. One is on Defend duty, the other on Support.

The more defensive player of the pair is Joe Graham. His positional sense is well-developed for a teenager (he's 19), and he sticks to his man like a terrier. Joe also has a silky first touch, and he's a surprisingly good passer.

Ashley Lane looks like he'd be the midfield destroyer; he's 6'2" and weighs 198 pounds. Instead, he's the creative partner here. Ashley occasionally makes a poor decision. Didn't we all, when we were 19?

My second tactic is a 4-1-4-1, which I use against teams whose strength in attack gives me pause. I also sometimes pull a striker from the field and replace him with a defensive midfielder when I want to close out a game. That's why I have Lee Parkin in my team. He is the quintessential Alfredian, determined, hard-working, and a team player.

Ryan Ryder has a name straight out of a boys' novel. He's another player who could do a job almost anywhere. Ryan lacks ideal pace, but I like the fact that his ability to mark a man and tackle him will allow me to stick him on the wing when I want to protect a lead.

My strike partnership pairs a Target Man on Support duty with an attack-minded Poacher.

Paul Douglas doesn't look like a typical Target Man. He's not six feet tall, for one thing. He's tough as nails, though, and he is good enough at the requisite duties to be a decent choice for the role. And, if I ever find a classic English center forward, I can shift Paul to the Poacher role.

His partner, Tom Logan, has a good nose for goal and a decent set of technical attributes, all of which are good to see in a Poacher. He also has bags of pace--a quality I didn't emphasize much as I assembled my squad.

Four more Grey Ghosts were summoned to provide cover for the first eleven.

Jerome Halliday was rescued in order provide cover on the right and in the center of the park. He has the Alfredian work ethic and he's comfortable in several positions, so he got the call.

John Davies is even more versatile, and he also offers a flair for the dramatic and a bit of a nasty edge. He's best suited as a reserve center forward, or along the right side of the formation.

Central midfielder Joe Schulz seems to be more gifted than many Grey Ghosts. He'll get stuck in hard, he's quite athletic, and he's not afraid to try a killer pass.

Finally, there's Alan Hinks, a striker who features lots of Aggression, Bravery, Determination, and Flair. I'm not sure how the combination of those traits will play out. I can imagine Alan refusing to be dissuaded from starting a fight against a much bigger dude, whom he then knocks out with a variety of slick moves taken from a number of fighting styles. Perhaps he'll also score a fair few goals, too.
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Old 06-05-2018, 04:11 PM   #5
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
December 2013

As the first half of a season draws to a close, Wantage Town are doing just about as well as we were predicted to do. Tapped to finish ninth in the preseason media outlook, we find ourselves in tenth place in a very tightly packed league, with nine points separating the team in fourth from the team in 16th. When we win a match, we find ourselves leaping up the table; when we lose, we plummet alarmingly toward the bottom. I have to discipline myself to avoid overreacting to these turnarounds, because they're really much smaller than they seem.

We're out of the FA Vase, our only cup competition. On 9 September, we beat Chessington & Hook, 2-0, but a month later we were sent out of the tournament by South Park, who scored an extra-time goal to defeat us, 1-2.

That loss, plus another defeat at home to Flackwell Heath, caused me to rethink my tactical approach a little bit. The squad is full of players with a high work rate, and even though I didn't prioritize it, I ended up with a decent amount of pace on my back line. Why not try pressing a bit higher up the pitch? The results were very encouraging at first. We took 7 points from our next three matches, outscoring our opponents 10 goals to 3 on aggregate. Since then, the results have been more mixed, and lately, we've been suffering an agonizing run of bad luck. We'll bang a shot off the bar, and it will bounce out for a goal kick. They'll do the same thing, and it will ricochet against the upright and into the goal. Three of our last four matches have ended up 0-1, and twice we clearly outplayed our opponents.

Still, we remain one of the tougher teams in the Hellenic Premier to score against. Chris Beesley has been the league's top 'keeper so far, with the highest average rating at his position and the most clean sheets (8). Center back Jonathan Booth, who was struggling so much in the season's early weeks that the fans were calling for him to be benched, turned things around in a big way. Now he's the league's top-rated defender.

Captain Andy Williams has been very good, running up and down the left wing tirelessly and chipping in two goals and three assists. He's been the best of the midfield corps, and I'm still trying to put the right pieces together in that part of the team. Ryan Ryder, who hasn't started regularly, has played so well that perhaps it's time to give him a run in the first team...or should I leave him in his "super-sub" role, ready to step in and relieve almost anyone in the team who's having an off day?

Paul Douglas, the not-so-typical target man, has been terrific so far. He's assisted on eight goals, most in the league. Strike partner Tom Logan leads the team with seven goals, although it's been five matches since he found the net. At one point, Tom was second top scorer in the league. Charlie Sutton of Ardley leads the scoring table with 12, and I remember one of his goals very well. On 7 December, Charlie scored the equalizing goal in a 2-2 draw, with a screamer from 25 yards out that caught Beesley flat-footed.

Right now, I'm resisting the temptation to change too much. I might tinker with my tactic a little bit, trying to sort the midfield out a bit better, but I don't think I'll make wholesale changes to the team. There was a time when I would probably over-manage this club, and quite possibly make things a lot worse.
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Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 06-05-2018 at 04:13 PM.
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Old 06-06-2018, 09:51 AM   #6
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
18 March 2014

I hadn't planned on posting again quite so quickly, but a run of good form and a promising youth intake made the first months of 2014 worth writing about.

Going back to the last match of 2013, we put together a run of nine games without a loss. Somewhere along the way, I changed one of our central midfielders to an Advanced Playmaker. The player I usually employ in that role, Ashley Lane, isn't dazzling--his average ratings are just that, average, and now he's hurt--but nevertheless, the tactic is seeming to click.

We had a couple of really cool moments along the way. When Paul Douglas was hurt in January, Charlie Fowler came up from the youth team and hit Shrivenham for a brace. Chris Beesley, who's been ever-present in goal for us, was fighting a cold the day we played Thame. He finally ran out of gas about an hour into the match, but Zach Tiesse stepped between the posts and helped us close out the match.

Look how far we've moved up the table! With eight matches to play, we're very much in the thick of a promotion contest.

But, as we climbed into contention, I noticed something else. When the creator of the edited database I'm using set up the County Leagues, s/he forgot to include the rules for promotion! It appears that the usual means of breaking a tie in the table--goal differential--doesn't apply here. It seems to default to...alphabetical order! That's why Wantage is listed in fourth with Bracknell in third, even though our differential is nine goals better. I'm enjoying this save too much to abandon it for this reason, but it does make me eager to get out of the Hellenic Premier; I've checked the next highest league, and its tiebreaker was sorted out properly.

Anyway, about that youth intake...

Mick Hart is pacey, flashy, and hard-working, and before his sixteenth birthday he's already acquired a good level of technical skill for this level. He's still working on the mental side of his game, but who isn't at 15? Neil Pelling is almost as promising, a lethal finisher who might grow into an imperious Target Man. Don't be too deceived by their star ratings; my assistant manager is rubbish at judging talent, and those five stars only mean Hart is as good as any current Alfredian. In other words, the FM gods didn't decide to bestow upon me Harry Kane.

Still, it's going to be exciting to see how things turn out. I've asked the board to discuss the renewal of my contract, and while they responded positively, the talks have not yet begun. I'm liking this club, and I hope I get the chance to stick around for a while.
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Old 06-07-2018, 10:53 AM   #7
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
18 May 2014

We did it!!!

I started to let myself believe a little bit when we saw off Brimscombe & Thrupp, who were second in the league, in mid-March. The fact that their name sounds like it would better fit a haberdashery or a brand of tea doesn't take away from the fact they're a very good side.

However, we lost Ashley Lane to a tweaked hamstring in our next match, so my optimism was still very guarded...especially with promotion candidates Highworth next on the programme. I decided to move Paul Douglas into the midfield to fill Ashley's Advanced Playmaker role, and gave young Mick Hart a chance to show me if he was ready for the Hellenic Premier.

Mick's ready. He scored in our 2-1 victory at Highworth and again in our 3-0 dismantling of Ascot at Alfredian Park. He didn't score against Abingdon Town, but his pace gave the Abbots fits.

That victory put us in an interesting spot. We were tied with Bracknell at the top of the league. And, since their club's name begins with a B and ours with a W, they were listed in first place, even though our goal differential was significantly better! And, since only the champion is promoted from the Hellenic League, the Alfredians were going to get hosed if the season ended like this.

I went into the editor and fixed the issue, but apparently the fix didn't "take." Maybe it can't be applied to a game in progress.

Fortunately, the lads took care of business, and the problem became meaningless. Right winger Dominic Todd's brace gave us a result over Bracknell. We drew with Ardley, but we still held our fate in our own hands. A win or a draw at home to Oxford Nomads, and we'd lift the trophy.

Our captain, Andy Williams, had the kind of day young boys dream of when they're playing football in the street. He scored two goals against Nomads, and then he got to lift the Hellenic League Premier Division trophy!

I hope we're out of the County Leagues for good now. If the Alfredians are relegated back down, I'll resign; I might have done so anyway, but now it's a guarantee.

Anyway, it's not time to think about that now. I haven't won many trophies in Football Manager, and the way we charged up the table makes this one feel especially good.

As you can see, we didn't back into our title. In our last eight matches, we faced the five teams that finished 2-6 in the table. Against them, we won three and drew two. We outscored them 11-6 on aggregate. We played like champions over the last weeks of the season.
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Old 06-07-2018, 12:27 PM   #8
Join Date: Feb 2007
Congrats on your closing run. You really did play like Champions. Good luck at the next level.
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Old 06-07-2018, 01:40 PM   #9
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
Originally Posted by thehitcat View Post
Congrats on your closing run. You really did play like Champions. Good luck at the next level.

Thanks very much, and thanks for stopping by. I'm looking forward to seeing how we do against higher-level competition. I hope we'll be able to consolidate our position and stay out of the County Leagues. Feel free to comment anytime.

30 June 2014

In my excitement to move ahead to the Regional First Divisions, I foolishly forgot to take a screen shot of the stats for 2013/14. Oh, well. I'll give you more numbers to feast on next season.

Here's the Best Eleven from last season.

I usually started Joe Graham at M(C) instead of Ryan Ryder, because Graham is much better defensively and I needed a holding midfielder to pair with Ashley Lane. Ryder did a job wherever I used him; he was almost always my first choice off the sub's bench.

Paul Douglas was the supporters' Player of the Year. He topped the Hellenic Premier list with 20 assists, laying the ball off for Tom Logan or delivering dangerous corners. Logan ended up the division's third high scorer for the year.

If there had been a Team of the Year in the Hellenic Division, I'm fairly certain Chris Beesley would have been its goalkeeper, and I'd think Andy Wililams might have been in the running on the left wing.

My contract ran out today, and the board didn't offer me a new one...after I took a team that was supposed to finish in the middle of the table and won the league with it! If I didn't like the team I've put together so much, I'd tell the board where they could stick their month-to-month contract and see if there's a club out there who might want my services. For now, I'll stick around, but I'm more willing to consider a move.

I'll be back with a look forward to the 2014/15 campaign.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 06-07-2018 at 01:42 PM.
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Old 06-07-2018, 02:14 PM   #10
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
30 June 2014

We've been assigned to the Southern League Division One Central. There are 22 teams in the league, and we'll play each of the others twice. The champion gets an automatic promotion to the Southern Premier Division, while the teams finishing second through fifth qualify for a Promotion Playoff. I'm thinking the winner of the playoff also goes up, because the league's bottom two teams are relegated back to the County Leagues.

Back in January, it looked like the Alfredians might be returning to the Hellenic League. I signed as many of the lads to contracts for 2014/15 as I could. Maybe that inspired them, and now it looks like the vast majority of them will be going up with me.

Dominic Todd wasn't willing to sign a new deal. He decided to sign for Ashford Town, and now they're a league rival. They're paying him 210/week, which is seven times more than he earned from us last season and a good deal more than I think he's worth--his heroics in the Bracknell match notwithstanding.

I also couldn't agree to terms with Ashley Bancroft. He made a lateral move to Faversham Town in the Isthmian Division One South. Ashley's now their top earner, with a 150/week wage packet that is three times as fat as the one he got from Wantage Town. I wish Ashley nothing but the best, and I think he might make a fine addition to my backroom team one day. He's thinking about going into coaching when his playing days are done.

Lee Parkin wasn't interested in coming back, and honestly, I wasn't planning on offering him a deal anyway. He never really bedded in with us, and we were paying him too much to sit in the stand each week. Lee got a gig with Peacehaven & Telscombe, back in the County Leagues.

Meet the Backroom Staff
I'm keeping one member of last year's team, coach Samuel Shaw, but I offered him a promotion. He's now my Assistant Manager. My former assistant seemed to have one talent: identifying and counting midfielders, and telling me when we had fewer such players than our opponent.

I hired Callum Stevenson as a coach. He just hung up his boots after making 19 appearances at Durham last season. On paper, he looks way too good to be mucking around with us. Callum is especially good at coaching the mental aspects of football, he's great with young players, and he's an excellent motivator.

As good as Stevenson is, our new Head of Youth Development, Luke Noble, might be even better. Best of all, he's a Model Professional. He wouldn't be a bad fit on the staff of a Football League club. If I ever rise that high, I'm taking Luke with me.

Our new Head Scout is Lee Sparkes. On his information page, I learn that he Comes Deep To Get Ball, Plays One-Twos, and Looks To Pass Rather Than Attempting To Score. These preferred moves will come in very handy if he suits up during training. When Lee is doing his real job, which is scouting footballers, his sharp eye for evaluating them and predicting their potential will be much more relevant.

When I was looking for a new Head Physio, Kamil Hajto's credentials caught my eye. Once I discovered that Kamil, a native of Poland, spoke fluent English, too, I quickly offered him a deal and, lucky for us, he accepted it. There are teams in the Championship who don't have a physio as talented as Kamil is.
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Old 06-07-2018, 06:35 PM   #11
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
9 August 2014

Today is the opening day of the Southern League Division One Central season. It's time to introduce you to this year's Wantage Town team, although you already know the vast majority of them if you've been reading along.

These 15 players are the regular members of the first team. I'll bring up guys from the U21 and U18 squads as needed.

Chris Beesley was fantastic in goal for us last year, with 17 clean sheets in 38 appearances. He lacks the size one usually associates with the position, but he keeps the ball out of the net, and that's all that really matters. Brackley Town, a team all the way up in the Conference North, is apparently intereste in Chris. I hope his head isn't turned, and that he remains happy to wear our number one shirt.

The back line will remain the same, too, with Matty York, Matt Osman, Jonathan Booth, and Richard Ahern from left to right. Our defense was solid all season long, and these four men had a lot to do with it. We'll miss Ashley Bancroft, who filled in so capably whenever we needed him. Ahern will take over as the team's top penalty taker, another role Bancroft filled when he was on the pitch.

My new backroom staff isn't impressed with Andy Williams, and when I look at his attributes, I start to understand why. He's the team's captain, however, and he always seems to deliver the goods. I must have rejected 25 offers for Andy's services from other teams this summer, so perhaps it's my staff who are wrong about him.

Dominic Todd's departure left a hole on the right side of our midfield, and I wasn't sure that any of our young lads were ready to become full-time starters there--especially now that we've moved up a level. On Lee Sparkes' recommendation, I signed free agent Roy Porter. Roy possesses all the skills I'm looking for in a wide man, although he's a step slower than I'd like. I also signed Steve Baker, a versatile midfielder who doesn't demand a starting position or a high wage.

Ashley Lane and Joe Graham both return to the central midfield. Graham was much maligned by the Alfredians supporters, whom I think were being too harsh on him. Lee Parkin's roster spot will be filled by Max Westlake, who possesses a well-rounded skill set that will enable him to play either role in our tactic. I nearly signed Max last season when the injury bug bit us so badly, and I'm glad I have him in the team now.

Now, things become interesting. My new staff don't rate Tom Logan very highly. Perhaps they don't believe Tom will be able to score as prolifically, now that he's left the County Leagues behind. However, they seem to think Paul Douglas is the real deal. I'm inclined to think they're right, but I'm also more confident about Logan's ability to make the transition to the Southern League.

And then, there's Mick Hart, who has done nothing to make me believe he's not ready for prime time, and who my staff think is the best striker in the team. I can move Douglas back to the midfield and let him take the playmaker role, like I did when Lane was hurt last spring...but Ashley's healthy now, and he hasn't given me any reason to bench him, either. And, as you'll see, there's another very precocious young forward waiting in the wings.

It's a nice problem to have, at least until one of the lads starts complaining about why he's not playing all the time. Hart would probably be OK with a reserve role, but I want to make sure he gets the playing time he needs to develop into the star I believe he'll one day be.
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Old 06-07-2018, 06:55 PM   #12
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013

These blokes are the U21s, the former Grey Ghosts I animated to fill out my roster last summer. They served the club well in 2013/14, but they've largely been superseded by the players who graduated from our youth program in March.

Anthony Lord is the most notable of this group. He appeared 13 times last year, and did well enough that I'd not hesitate to name him to the eighteen for any match.

And here are the U18s. Mick Hart has already graduated from their class, but there are still a few names to remember on this list.

HOYD Luke Noble and coach Callum Stevenson, who have good eyes for talent, both believe Neil Pelling is the second-best striker in the team, after Hart. Pelling also needs playing time, which makes me wonder if sending him out on loan might be an option. It would be tough to remove Paul Douglas (10 goals, 20 assists last season) from the first eleven to make room for Neil.

Josh Murray can play all across the back line, and if something were to happen to any of our four starting defenders, Josh would get the call. Like Pelling, he's rated very highly by my assistants, who all believe he's good enough to start ahead of Jonathan Booth right now.

I didn't add the Potential Ability column to this post, because all these lads earned five stars. Either they're all very good, or our current squad isn't all that good, or my staff are clueless. I hope the first statement is most accurate.

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Old 06-23-2018, 11:51 PM   #13
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
14 December 2014

Our first half-season in the Southern League Division 1 Central was both eventful and wildly successful. Looking back, I should have written an update at the quarter pole; from now on, that's what I'll do.

I decided to start the season with the tactical approach that worked so well in our run to the title last spring: a simple 4-4-2, hassling our opponents and pressing higher up the pitch. It works well with the squad I assembled, filled with players who have a high work rate.

Despite the fact the media tapped us to finish in the playoff places, I don't think the other clubs in the league took us very seriously at first. They tended to come straight at us, leaving all kinds of space for us to take advantage of if we won the ball back. We made one side after another pay for taking that approach with us.

We didn't lose once in the league in August and September. I played a rotated squad in the FA Cup tie, and we came close to nicking a result then, too. By then, we were nine points clear at the top of the table.

During our remarkable run, I'd been rotating Tom Logan, Paul Douglas, and Mick Hart at forward. In mid-October, however, Hart caught fire. The young frontman fired in 12 goals in six games, pulling within one of the league lead.

"Mick Hart, he scores when he wants..."

Away to St. Ives on 25 October, center back Jonathan Booth picked up two yellow cards in rapid succession early in the second half. By then, we were ahead 2-0 via a brace from Hart, and we held on for a 2-1 result.

Five days later, Richard Ahern tore a groin muscle in training. With Booth suspended, half our starting back four would be unavailable for the trip to Guildford on 1 November. Jason Murray and Anthony Lord gave it their all, but the Guild got the better of us, 2-1. Our streak ended at fourteen games without a loss in the league.

Ahern would be out for at least six weeks, so I brought in Danny Thomas on a three-month loan from Dulwich Hamlet. Danny, age 20, is a Welshman, and he plays a lot like a younger version of Ahern. He can do a job in several other positions, so he'll remain useful to us even after Richard is back (which could be around New Year's Day).

Lately, we've had a rash of naughty behavior. In that goalless draw with Barton Rovers, Thomas saw yellow twice, and three minutes after he left the pitch, Bad Jon Booth drew a straight red for a professional foul. Then, against AFC Hayes, Paul Douglas--who's been wearing the captain's arm band more often than not lately--went in for a tackle studs high and was sent off! Paul drew a three-game suspension from the league for his offense, and I've fined both him and Bad Jon a week's wages.

We're really going to miss Douglas. He has 15 assists already this season, either delivering inch-perfect corners or giving a clinic on the role of Target Man, holding up the ball and playing in his teammates.

Around the first of October, other clubs began inviting me to apply for their vacant managerial jobs. Even though I'm still on a month-to-month deal with Wantage Town, I feel like sticking around and seeing if I can lead the lads to another championship.

There are 22 teams in the division, but I couldn't fit them all on my screen at once. That's why this table goes down only as far as 15th place.

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Old 06-25-2018, 02:13 PM   #14
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
13 March 2015

The beat goes on for the Alfredians, as we move closer and closer to a second consecutive league championship. With nine matches to play, we've already clinched a place in the Promotion Playoffs, which means I've met the board's expectation for our performance in the league.

The loss to Coleshill at Alfredian Park sticks out on this list of results, but in all truth, the 3-3 draw away to Burnham was our weakest match of the lot. It was a neutral's delight, with three goals scored after the 85' mark. Still, we shouldn't need a laser of a free kick from Richard Ahern in stoppage time to draw level with a team in the relegation places.

Bad Jon Booth is a character, but he didn't do anything that night to convince me he should get a contract for next year. He barreled into a Blues attacker in the box, and the ensuing spot kick went in.

We promptly righted the ship, and now we're on a six-game winning streak that is a new Wantage Town record.

There's a good battle going for the playoff places now. I like Tring's chances, and St. Ives (our next opponent) has a good team, too. That Coleshill side that beat us is a good one. Rugby Town has struggled lately, which surprises me, given their quality.

I finally got the board to talk to me about a new contract. They said they'll be offering me one, but I'm still waiting.

Speaking of contracts, I've lined up several of our key players and staff for next season. Goalkeeper Chris Beesley, winger Roy Porter, and striker Paul Douglas have all agreed to terms for 2015/16. The supporters love Douglas, who is listed among our team's Favoured Personnel. Mick Hart, who leads the league in goals with 24, will sign a professional contract with us when he turns 17 on 23 July. I'll probably discuss new deals with several other players soon.

I've also lined up HOYD Luke Noble, Chief Scout Lee Sparkes, Head Physio Kamil Hajto, and Coach Callum Stevenson for next season. I'm still considering whether or not to keep Samuel Shaw as my assistant. Part of me wants to see if Callum would be interested in a promotion, which would allow me to fill his coaching position with someone who's better at coaching tactics and technique than Shaw is.

Today is Youth Intake Day! Luke Noble proudly presents the following graduates of our youth program:

Another strong class is headlined by left back Tom Wilkinson. His marking and positioning need work, but he's a sure tackler with very good pace, and he has an Alfredian work ethic.

We keep churning out strikers, too. Josias Bedwell is ridiculously slow, but he is an almost perfect fit for our Target Man role. He's a very technical player for a lad of 16. John Nash is basically Mick Hart, without Hart's electric pace; he's still a promising player.

I like Darren McInnes and Pat Bleasdale, too. Pat, in particular, looks like he'll make a fine Advanced Playmaker.

Many of the lads bear the marks of Noble's Model Professional personality. too. There are quite a few Resolute, Professional, and Fairly Professional characters in the class.

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Old 06-26-2018, 08:39 PM   #15
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
June 2015

For the second consecutive season, Wantage Town lifted a league championship trophy!

We clinched the league with six rounds left to play, when we avenged a loss to Guildford Town with a 3-1 victory at Alfredian Park on 28 March.

Once we'd taken care of business, I was tempted to take my foot off the accelerator and cruise to the finish line. That way, I could give some of our squad players some time on the pitch, and blood a few of our promising youngsters. I ended up deciding against that approach, and named sides that were close to full-strength all the way to the end of the season. With a number of clubs fighting for spots in the Promotion Playoff, I didn't want to jack up the competition by sending out teams that weren't up to our usual standard. Plus, I was aiming for some personal and team goals. I wanted us to break 100 points and score 100 goals, and I hoped Mick Hart would hold on to his lead in the league scoring race.

Two of those three goals were achieved; you'll see which ones.

Mick netted nine times in his last nine matches, giving him 33 for the season and the league's Golden Boot. Earl Archibald of Rugby, his closest competitor, banged in 31.

We ended the season on 101 points, with a 1-1 draw away to Stourbridge. We might have gotten to the century mark more comfortably, but a wave of injuries and suspensions for bad behavior caused me to vary my lineup over the last few matches of the season. Tom Wilkinson, the prize pupil of this year's youth class, made his senior debut as left winger when Ryan Ryder pulled up lame. He also featured at his preferred position, left back, when Matty York was shelved for a couple of games.

It was especially cool when I discovered the record point total for a club in the Southern League First Division Central had been 99. I didn't know that until we'd set the new mark.

That record was a beautiful gift from Tom Logan, who drew us level with Stourbridge in stoppage time. Tom provided a sad footnote to the story of the rise of Mick Hart. It was Tom who yielded his spot in the eleven to the youngster and, to his credit, Tom never complained a bit. He got some playing time when Hart or Paul Douglas were injured and he saw quite a bit of action as a substitute, either as a forward or a right wing. I always pulled for Tom. He's worn the green and white hoops with pride.

We didn't quite make it to 100 goals. Of the three achievements, that one was the least important to me anyway.

Here is the final table:

I've never come close to a season like this on Football Manager. I usually struggle to keep teams out of relegation and get myself sacked, so winning the league at a canter was a lot of fun.

Wantage Town and I will be moving up to the English Southern League Premier Division for 2015/16. Which of the lads who lifted the trophy this spring will be joining me? Wait and see...

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Old 06-26-2018, 11:27 PM   #16
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
30 June 2015

The Alfredians, By the Numbers

I remembered to get a shot of the statistics page before I advanced too far this time.

You're already familiar with Mick Hart's scoring feats. In little more than one full season, he's already a club Icon. That's what scoring the most goals in English football (down to Level 10 in the pyramid) will do.

The supporters named Paul Douglas their Player of the Year. I like their choice. He was the runaway league leader in assists; his teammate, Ryan Ryder, was runner up. And Paul can put it in the back of the net himself, too.

Roy Porter, our replacement for Dominic Todd, proved to be every bit as good as his predecessor was. He's durable and reliable, and the worst that can be said for him is that he has to be warned against complacency when we've won a few matches in a row.

Our other new man, Max Westlake, also proved to be a fine addition. He filled the Advanced Playmaker role in our midfield with class, making a variety of positive contributions.

Chris Beesley was, once again, as good a goalkeeper as there was in the league. He got that assist when he dropped a long goal kick perfectly in the path of a speeding Mick Hart. Chris was the first man I signed to a contract for 2015/16.

We were the runaway league leader in yellow cards, too. I give the players the Hassle Opponents instruction, and to their credit, they do what I asked. Ashley Lane was our naughtiest boy, and he had to sit out two games for collecting so many yellows. Paul Douglas was far from a saint himself, with a straight red to his "credit" and a nice stack of yellows. And when Bad Jon Booth was bad, he was very, very bad. The Alfredians played with swagger and a bit of a nasty edge.

The Best Eleven

Here is Wantage Town's Best Eleven, for the two years I've been in charge.

Take out Andy Williams, move Ryan Ryder to the left wing, and add Ashley Lane, and you have the 2014/15 team. I'm amazed that Lane isn't on the all-time Best Eleven. He's been a lot more important to our team than Alan Hinks, who is back in the County Leagues after I released him on a free.

Ashley Bancroft has hung up his boots and is looking for a job as a Head of Youth Development. I don't need one--not with the estimable Luke Noble on my staff--but I'll keep my eye on him in case I have an opening in my back room one day.
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Old 06-27-2018, 02:30 PM   #17
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
30 June 2015

As it became increasingly likely that we would be promoted last season, I started thinking about this year's squad. We were more than good enough for Level 8, but were the men in the team going to be good enough to hold their own in Level 7?

Fortunately, my scout, Lee Sparkes, has some game (16 Judging Current Ability, 14, Judging Potential Ability). I had Lee take a look at the teams in the Southern Premier Division so I could compare their players to ours. I didn't want to make any more changes to the team than I absolutely had to make. Many of these lads have played together for two seasons, so they've had time to gel as a team. They've also done marvelous work, earning us two consecutive promotions. I'd hate to tell them "Good work, thanks for your service...but you're not good enough for the level you busted your butts to reach."

Lee concluded that the majority of our squad were up to Level 7 standards.
I discovered something else that made me more convinced to sign most of the Alfredians to a new deal. The players I scouted who were of the same quality as our current team tended to demand much higher wages than our lads.

I'm happy to announce that almost all of the players we know will be back in Wantage shirts for 2015/16! A number of them are getting nice raises, but since the board almost doubled our wage limit for next season, we could afford it.

There were only two notable exceptions. Tom Logan wanted a 400% raise for next season. I actually thought about paying him what he wanted--110/week--but he'd realistically be no better than our fifth choice at striker. I wished Tom well and we parted on good terms. I'm still listed among his Favourite Personnel.

Our captain, Andy Williams, won't be returning either. He had surrendered his place in the first eleven to Ryan Ryder, and while I appreciated his versatility off the bench, I released him to Rochester United. They're a County Leagues club, and he will be a regular there. He's also more than doubling his wages. Again, Andy and I are parting on good terms, and I'd consider him for a coaching position if he decides he'd like to go that route one day.

Meet the Backroom Staff
As I hoped I'd be able to do, I promoted Callum Stevenson to Assistant Manager. Callum completed his Continental A badge last season, and he's working on his Continental Pro license now. I'm delighted to have Callum as my right-hand man.

The board allowed me two more coaches, so there are three new faces in our backroom now. Lee Williams joins us as a Goalkeeping Coach. Lee, 34, recently took off his gloves after tending goal for Trafford. He is insanely good at teaching the mental aspects of the game and motivating players.

Reiss Webb, 40, brings a well-rounded set of talents to our staff. We especially appreciate his ability to coach the tactical and technical aspects of the game.

Phil Hunter is a defensive guru who is also a very talented fitness coach. None of our staff were particular specialists in coaching defense, so Phil, 38, fills a very important gap in our training program.

The rest of my staff--HOYD Luke Noble, scout Lee Sparkes, and physio Kamil Hajto--return to their posts.

I really like the team I've put together, and I hope I can keep them with me for the foreseeable future.
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Old 06-28-2018, 07:06 PM   #18
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
15 August 2015

The Southern Premier division kicks off today. Here's the team I'll be taking into the season.

Lots of familiar names here. Chris Beesley takes the number one shirt for the third consecutive season. The back four will also be exactly the same--Matty York, Matt Osman, Jonathan Booth, and Richard Ahern--although our staff think young Tom Wilkinson is ready to challenge for a spot.

Ryan Ryder and Roy Porter return as our outside midfielders, and Max Westlake will once again pull the strings as our playmaker in the middle of the park. He'll have a new partner this season: Dominic Hutchinson.

Hutchinson is 23, and he was released by Brackley Town last January; he'd also been with two other clubs in the Conference North and South, one level higher than ours. He is a reliable defensive presence, good at marking and tackling, and he'll serve as our holding presence in the central midfield. Dominic is also a real threat from corners and free kicks. Ashley Lane will now fill the role of super-sub, able to fill in at a variety of spots.

Paul Douglas and Mick Hart, who combined for 40 goals and 37 assists last season, will lead the line for us. Douglas will take the captain's arm band, after serving as vice captain last year.

My staff, who are actually quite good at evaluating talent, think several of our starters--Ahern, Ryder, even Douglas--are not quite up to Level 7 standards. I'm inclined to disagree. Their set of attributes enable them to fit the roles I'm asking them to play. Ahern and Ryder are in their thirties now. I have only one young right back who is comfortable enough with the ball at his feet to step into Ahern's role, and he is far too raw for the first team. I might be shopping for Richard's successor in case his game begins to slip.

Here's the U21 team:

The strikers, John Nash and Josias Bedwell, are the names to watch here. My staff think they're star material already. My only issue with them is their lack of pace. Nash is not fast, but Bedwell makes him look like a sprinter. And if you're not quick at 16, you won't ever be quick.

Anthony Lord is possibly on his way out, as lots of lower level teams are trying to prise him away.

I want Felix Okoro to put it together for us, but when I've given him chances in the first team, he usually struggles.

And, finally, the U18s:

Brett Purser is the aforementioned young right back. He has promise, but he needs seasoning. Striker Jon Walliss can run fast, but that's about all he can do now. I wish he could loan some of his pace to John Nash.

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Old 06-30-2018, 10:44 AM   #19
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
14 October 2015

We've reached the quarter pole of the season, and the Wantage Town train keeps rolling. I was smart to take my scouts' advice about the quality of my players. So far, they seem to be up to the Southern Premier's standard.

We've reeled off eleven straight games without a loss in the league, and a draw and two wins in the FA Cup run our streak to 14.

Mick Hart sidefooted in a Roy Porter cross in the game's waning moments to give us a win in our first Southern Premier game. He's among the league's top scorers, already making good on his shiny new 170/week deal.

Dominic Hutchinson has proven to be a great addition. He is a very useful midfield destroyer, and he is absolutely deadly on free kicks--all three of his goals have come that way.

The other new man who has made a difference is young Tom Wilkinson, who has done a job both at left wing, where he spells the aging Ryan Ryder, and at left back when I need to give Matty York a break.

One of my biggest challenges so far has been keeping my squad both fresh and competitive. There's a 46-game schedule in the Southern Premier, and we entered the FA Cup for the Second Qualifying Round. The Cup ties are good for the bottom line; we drew a record crowd of 513 to Alfredian Park for the AFC Hornchurch match and broke the record when 524 came out to watch us take on Dulwich Hamlet. They do make me dig deeply into my roster, however.

The replay against AFC Hornchurch was a unique one. You read that right; we won 5-2 in extra time. Within the space of 11 minutes, Hart struck twice and Richard Ahern blasted in a penalty.

We've got a new man in the team, for a while at least. The departure of Tom Logan (who has signed with league rival Weymouth, where he's getting first team minutes and 150/week) left a void. Our tactic includes the instruction to Pass Into Space. This works a charm with Mick Hart, who is as fast as any striker in non-league football. Logan is quick, so our offense clicked with him in the lineup, too. None of our other top forwards have even average pace, so I decided to see if anyone wanted to send a nippy striker out on loan.

I found Rocky Upton, 17, on the loan list at Chesterfield. I was delighted with the fact that a League Two club would send a lad down to Level 7, and even more delighted when Rocky agreed to go. He isn't as pacey as Hart, but he could match Logan in a sprint, and his other attributes are just fine for our level. We'll have him for three months, and I promised his manager that we'd use him as a rotation player. As congested as our fixture list will be, that won't be a difficult promise to keep.

This table contains the top 18 of 24 teams. I'll do the paste-up job for the end-of-the-year report, but it's a bit too much work for now. Hopefully I won't ever need to show you the bottom of the table.

The media chose us among a group of teams with 6-1 odds to lift the trophy, second best behind a pair of clubs on 3-1. We're not exactly shocking anyone, but I'm still surprised to be a point behind the leaders with a game in hand.

The board FINALLY came through with a contract offer, and I accepted it. I'm not happy with the fact they fumdiddled around and kept me on a month-to-month deal for a whole season, and more than once I've been tempted to leave. In the end, I decided to stay because I like the group of players I've assembled. I'm listed on nearly everyone's Favoured Personnel, and I'm enjoying both the style of football we're playing and the results we're getting. So, for now at least, I'm very happy to stay with Wantage Town.

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Old 07-15-2018, 12:20 PM   #20
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
After a wonderful family vacation, I'm back...

24 December 2015

The fixtures came fast and furious this autumn, as the Alfredians made it out of the qualifying rounds in the FA Trophy and FA Cup tournaments. Oddly enough, we knocked Dulwich Hamlet out of both competitions.

Our FA Cup tie against Barnsley, a League One club, drew a capacity crowd of 1500 to Alfredian Park. We put up a game fight, but their quality was just too much for us. We weren't lucky enough to draw Hereford United at home and, interestingly enough, we didn't play nearly as well against our Conference opponent as we did against our League foe.

If you look closely enough at our league form, you might notice that we haven't been quite as sharp in November and December. Perhaps it's simply a case of regression to the mean. We're a newly promoted side, and perhaps we've been punching above our weight. The board expects us to finish in a respectable position. Maybe that's a more realistic expectation.

But something else happened that might explain our recent form. In the 71st minute of our 3-2 victory away to Tiverton on Halloween, captain Paul Douglas broke his foot. We're not expecting Paul back until February or March.

It's become very apparent how important the skipper's talents are to our club. My staff don't rate him all that highly. They call him a useful player, at best, and don't think he's as good as any of the teenage strikers who have come up through our youth system. But Paul brings something to the side that the lads who have played in his place lack. I don't think it's an accident that Mick Hart has scored only two goals since Paul's injury, without the excellent service Paul usually provides. We're also missing Douglas's willingness to press opposing defenders and track back, qualities none of our other forwards demonstrate nearly as well.

Since Hart hasn't been finding the net like usual, we've depended on loanee Rocky Upton to pick up the slack. He fired in five goals for us in recent weeks, but he returned to Chesterfield a week ago. They wouldn't renew his loan deal with us, because they want him to play with better players now. Fortunately, I discovered another good young forward on the loan list: Nathan Thornton of Basingstoke. Think of him as a slightly quicker version of Paul Douglas, with a little less physicality and slightly less creativity. Nathan will share playing time with Neil Pelling as Hart's partner, and I can also use him to relieve Mick if I decide to give him a break while he looks for his scoring boots.

Luckily, our dip in form coincided with similar performances by the other league leaders. Because of the schedule adjustments required to accommodate our cup ties, we have games in hand against all the other top clubs, so our position is actually quite good. I hope we can hold on until Douglas returns.

Merry Christmas from Wantage Town!

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Old 07-16-2018, 11:00 AM   #21
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
12 March 2016

We sorted things out very nicely during January and February, failing to pick up a point in only two matches since my last update. Weymouth have become our bogey team; they beat us home and away this year. Perhaps it's the presence of former Wantage man Tom Logan, who scored against us in his return to Alfredian Park.

I made two small tactical changes that seem to have helped. During my first season with the team, I added a fairly aggressive press to our 4-4-2. It worked well in the County Leagues and in Division One Central, where we were able to win the ball back by hassling our opponents into making lots of mistakes. We committed a truckload of fouls and drew more than our share of bookings, but who could argue with the results? Once we had possession, launching passes into space for our pacey front men to run onto worked again and again.

That strategy didn't work nearly as well in the Southern Premier. Opposing players are composed enough to keep their cool when we close down on them, and skilled enough to do something with the ball other than cough it up. As a result, we racked up the fouls and cards with much less to show for them. I took the Hassle Opponents instruction off, and almost immediately things began to improve. We still push higher up the pitch, compressing our opponent's space, our exemplary work rate enabling us to get back in time to stop other teams from launching through balls past our higher line. We've cut back on the naughty stuff so much that our side was praised by a reporter for our exceptionally clean disciplinary record.

I also added Work Ball Into Box to the offensive side of our tactic. I look for midfielders who can pass well, and their skill gives us another means of penetrating a defense besides "hit it long and let Mick Hart run it down."

My sincere apologies to those of you who don't want to read my attempts at a tactical treatise. Here's how we did on the pitch:

Hart has recovered his scoring touch, but the other forwards--Neil Pelling, John Nash, and loanee Nathan Thornton--have all joined in, too. And look at that hat trick from Matt Osman in our big victory away to Swindon Supermarine! He got the first two with his head, nodding in Dominic Hutchinson's corners. Later on, he did the honors from the penalty spot, and slammed it home.

The following Tuesday, Alfredian Park was a winter wonderland for our 2-1 result over Weston-super-Mare. Here's a shot of Richard Ahern lashing the yellow football past Seagulls 'keeper Ryan Phillips:

Our youth graduates came on board today. HOYD Luke Noble's Class of 2016 isn't as deep as our first two groups were, but it's still quite solid.

Kevin Lewis is the prize here. Thirteen of his attributes are in double figures, which is fantastic for this level. His Casual personality isn't ideal, but we have a number of good role models who can possibly tutor him. I envision Kevin as an all-action central midfielder. (He can also play center back, but he's going to have to grow a lot to be ideally suited there.)

I think Danny Harrop's future might lie on the left wing, because we have a good stable of teenaged strikers already. I already have Paul Douglas teaching him the tricks of the trade. '

Adam Bowra and Adam Shillito have more in common than their names. They're both solid prospects who might help fill out our back four one day.

Keep an eye on Paul Pike, too. I don't think I've ever gotten a youth player who is a full Model Professional.

Here's how the top of the table looks now:

With nine matches left on our schedule, the championship is ours to lose. We've already qualified for the Promotion Playoff, but anything can happen in a knockout competition. Let's grab another trophy.
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Old 07-16-2018, 06:08 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Greyfriars Bobby View Post
Keep an eye on Paul Pike, too. I don't think I've ever gotten a youth player who is a full Model Professional.

I'm in love with those kinds of dudes after my last dynasty (starting up a new one this week).

We had a Model Professional tutor a low Determination player. After tutoring (despite the slightly disappointing email response), the player jumped from 4 Determination to 10, lost the low Determination con, and became a Professional player in his own right, though not Model Professional.
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Old 07-16-2018, 06:09 PM   #23
Join Date: Feb 2007
Yay the Alfredians are back! Go Wantage Town! (glad you had a good holiday )
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Old 07-17-2018, 06:32 PM   #24
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
Originally Posted by Izulde View Post
I'm in love with those kinds of dudes after my last dynasty (starting up a new one this week).

We had a Model Professional tutor a low Determination player. After tutoring (despite the slightly disappointing email response), the player jumped from 4 Determination to 10, lost the low Determination con, and became a Professional player in his own right, though not Model Professional.

I almost never run across Model Professionals of any age or experience level...let alone a 15-year-old kid who's already achieved that status. Even if he wasn't a decent prospect--and he is--I'd keep him around to serve as a tutor.

Good luck with your new dynasty, and thanks for stopping by mine.
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Old 07-17-2018, 06:36 PM   #25
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
Originally Posted by thehitcat View Post
Yay the Alfredians are back! Go Wantage Town! (glad you had a good holiday )

I did have a really good holiday with my family, and we watched a lot of the World Cup. Still, it's great to be back home, playing some Football Manager.

Alfred's Army could always use another supporter! Good to have you on board!
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Old 07-18-2018, 01:30 PM   #26
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
From the Gaffer's Desk: Spring 2016

There has been enough going on this spring that I wanted to write a post before I told the story of our battle for the Southern Premier League championship.

Every now and then, I'm mentioned as a possible candidate for a job with a bigger club. I'm usually not tempted, but one vacancy did turn my head. Aldershot Town play in the Conference Premier, two levels above the Regional Premier league where I am now. I took a look at their squad, and they seemed to have a core of players who could play the style of football I've created at Wantage Town--lots of guys with high Work Rate and Teamwork. I was flattered by the speculation, and I came this close to expressing my interest in the job. I decided to stick with the Alfredians, since I've enjoyed building and maintaining our squad over the past three years.

I'm in the process of putting together next year's team, deciding whose contracts I want to renew. The short answer is "almost all of them." No matter how the end of the season turns out, they've already proven they are up to the standard of the Southern Premier Division. I don't want to jinx anything, but I also want to see if I'll need to upgrade my roster if we're promoted next season. We're spending a little more than half our wage budget now, so I can afford to shop for some higher-end talent.

When I take a look at the list of players who might want to sign with us, I notice they seem to want a lot more money than we've been paying so far. My scout often thinks they're better than my current players, but when I take a closer look at the key attributes for the roles I ask my players to fill, I notice something interesting. My lads are every bit as well-suited for my tactic, and in some cases, they're even better fits.

Paul Douglas is a perfect example. My staff think he's our fifth-best striker, and give him only 1.5 stars. But his key attributes for the Target Man role I want him to play are solid, across the board--better than the young forwards, such as Neil Pelling and John Nash, who are much more highly regarded. I can't argue with the results Paul has delivered on the pitch, either. And, any forwards with key attributes as good as Paul's are want two or three times as much money as he does.

Again and again, I discovered the same thing. Carefully choosing my players to fill certain roles is enabling me to assemble a winning team without spending a lot of money. The advice I've read about looking past star ratings and evaluating players in terms of how well they fit my tactic turns out to be spot on.

Ryan Ryder is retiring at the end of the season, and Joe Graham won't accept a role other than Key Player and a corresponding wage packet. Joe has been out on loan all season, so I've decided he's not worth bringing back on the terms he wants. Otherwise, the guys you've come to know will be back for another season.

Mick Hart is now a full-fledged club Icon, which gives me another reason to want to keep him in a Wantage shirt for the foreseeable future. Mick has signed with an agent called Paul Eagle, who is "known to prefer his clients to remain at their current clubs." I think that's a good sign.

Hart is getting some love from our old boys, too.

Andy is finishing up a successful season with Rochester. It's good to see him following his old club, too.

Mick isn't the only young player who's caught people's eye. Tom Wilkinson is also attracting some notice from a former Alfredian.

Ashley wants to find work as a HOYD, but he's nowhere near Luke Noble's class, and he won't accept any other staff role. I wanted to bring him in as a coach, but he wasn't interested.

I don't think it's a good sign that our chairman has sold the club and the new chairman, Robbie Doyle, hasn't committed to keeping me on as manager. His favorite manager was spotted at Alfredian Park for one of our matches, which makes me wonder if he's looking to make a change. Who knows; I might be looking for a new gig sooner, rather than later.
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Old 07-20-2018, 05:50 PM   #27
Greyfriars Bobby
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Join Date: Sep 2013
June 2016

Three seasons, three trophies!

We lost to a Tiverton side that played very well against us, but we rebounded to take 20 points out of a possible 24 from our final eight fixtures and take the title in fine form. We celebrated the return of club captain Paul Douglas to the lineup the next week. He wasn't match fit, so he couldn't give us 90 minutes, but I could definitely see a difference in our team's play with him on the pitch.

We entered play on 4 April with a chance to clinch the league title. Royston Town put up a fight and played us to a draw, but when Gosport saw off Hitchin (2-0), we sewed up the championship anyway.

We extended Nathan Thornton's loan contract until the end of the season, and found a very smooth midfielder called Daniel Williams on the loan list. He was having a problem breaking into the first team at Chester (Conference Premier), but his well-rounded game plays very well at our level. He's versatile, too, able to play in the middle of the park or on the right wing.

Two weeks ago, I got this email from our new chairman. It's awfully nice of him to allow me "to stay on as manager of Wantage Town." Seriously, I'm thankful for the support that changed Doyle's mind. When/if I leave Wantage, I want to do it on my own terms.

Here's the top half of the table:

We barely missed 100 points and 100 goals again this season. A healthy Paul Douglas might have been enough to put us over the top in both cases.

Tiverton Town's run of good form continued through the Promotion Playoff, and they'll be joining us in the Conference South next season. The unhappiest lot of supporters are probably the fans of Histon, who fell all the way out of the playoff places after topping the league as late as December.

And here's the bottom half:

Royston, Mangotsfield, and AFC Hornchurch battled to avoid the drop, with the Urchins coming out worst. You might remember they gave us a good tussle in the FA Cup.

The club will need to make some improvements at Alfredian Park to meet the quality standard of the Conference. They'll be ready by late October, and until then, we'll share the Culham Road grounds with Abingdon Town.

Should I be embarrassed that our former foes in the Hellenic Premier League will be hosting us...while we're playing three levels higher?

Right now, I don't care. I'm too busy enjoying the fact that we're making room for another trophy in our case.

Up the Alfredians!

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 07-20-2018 at 05:51 PM.
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Old 07-20-2018, 10:27 PM   #28
Greyfriars Bobby
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Join Date: Sep 2013
30 June 2016
The Alfredians, By The Numbers

Here are the stats for the 2015/16 Southern Premier Division champions. The players are listed in order of their appearances.

Mick Hart notched his second consecutive season with at least 30 goals. The fleet-footed striker nearly led his league again. He entered the last round of fixtures tied on 26 with Chris Ellis of Kettering Town. Mick didn't score, Ellis did, and Jake Weston of Gosport Borough hit a hat they pipped Mick for the honors, 27-27-26.

While the fans certainly love them some Mick, they also appreciate the all-around game of Dominic Hutchinson. Dominic added steel to the Alfredians' midfield, and his wizardry on set pieces was a huge addition to our attack. He's the Supporters' Player of the Year.

Everpresent Matt Osman led all Southern Premier defenders with eight goals, so many of them coming when he headed home Hutchinson's corners. He and Jonathan Booth had solid seasons defensively, too. The fact I didn't seem to notice them often speaks loudly to the efficiency of their play. They were simply in the right places at the right times. It's hard to remember that Osman only turned 19 as the season was ending.

Max Westlake also had a quietly outstanding season. He's growing perfectly into the Advanced Playmaker role, completing a higher percentage of his passes than all but two other players in the Southern Premier and making more key passes than all but four.

When Tom Wilkinson graduated from our youth program, I envisioned him as a future star at left back. This season, he played himself into a regular gig as our left midfielder. I'm not sure where he'll end up, but he's going to play somewhere, because he's good. And, he's only 17.

Loanee strikers Rocky Upton and Nathan Thornton aren't on this list, but their contributions--five goals from Upton and seven from Thornton--helped propel the Alfredians to a league-high 99 goals.

Speaking of strikers, I still have the enviable "problem" of trying to find playing time for a host of worthy forwards. Neil Pelling is, honestly, almost too good to keep on the bench. He won't agree to negotiate a contract for next season, so I'm afraid his days in a Wantage Town shirt might be numbered. John Nash scored three goals in cup games, and when I started him in the last two league matches, he scored in each of them, too. Paul Douglas is still in his prime at 28, and unless his game starts to falter, I'm not going to bench him--he's the club captain and a fan favorite. For some reason, Paul provides the team with an X factor that seems to put wins on the scoreboard.

Here is our new All-Time Best Eleven:

The reliability of Chris Beesley is demonstrated clearly by the fact that a goalkeeper with five career appearances makes the substitutes' bench. Tom Knowles is a good young 'keeper who played very well in the last few games of our season. He was an unsung member of my first youth class.

Beesley and Matty York are our joint all-time appearance leaders. In 131 matches with our club, Matty has scored exactly one goal. He found the net on 20 October 2015, at home against Gloucester.

Andy Williams just signed a contract with Oxhey Jets, a County Leagues club out in Watford. He's expressed some interest in coaching when his playing days are done, and when that happens, I might be giving him a call.

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Old 07-21-2018, 01:27 PM   #29
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Join Date: Sep 2013
12 August 2016

Tomorrow, a new season begins, one that finds us in the Conference South. It's a big step up for us, much more daunting than the ones we've previously taken. The board expect a mid-table finish from us, and we're picked to finish 13th in the 22-team league by the media.

I was allowed to expand our coaching staff, and I took full advantage of that opportunity. All the names you'll remember from our backroom staff are still here, along with some new ones.

Coach Anthony Bryant and Under 21s manager Ryan Ellis are the new faces this season. We're up to 2.5 stars in all our training areas now, which seems good for our level.

Here are the staff who work with our younger players. I added two staff members for our Under 18s: manager Steve O'Brien and coach Tom Donovan.

Last December, we lost, 0-1, to Histon at Alfredian Park. Their goal was scored off a long throw by a German defender called Malte Seidel, who hurled the ball like an arrow into the middle of our six-yard box for a big bloke to head in. I took a closer look at Seidel, and I was impressed. Besides being as good at long throws as any player on the planet, he's a hard-working, tough right back with the dribbling and crossing ability to provide some offensive help. In other words, Malte is exactly what I want in my team.

Malte's contract expired at the end of June, and after Histon failed to make the Promotion Playoff, he was open to the possibility of a move. It took some persistence, but I got him to agree to terms with us.

Richard Ahern had already figured out that his advancing years made him better suited to relief duty, so he was happy to accept a new deal to back Malte up.

The rest of our goalkeepers and defenders are familiar faces, returning to their familiar duties. Chris Beesley will be between the posts, with Matty York, Matt Osman, and Jonathan Booth joining Seidel on the back line.

Daniel Williams returns from Chester on a year-long loan. He's a big, strong man who is developing the defensive awareness to strangle an opponent in the middle of the pitch and the creativity to make things happen in attack. He will allow us to keep Dominic Hutchinson and Max Westlake fresh over the course of a long season.

Roy Porter and Tom Wilkinson will man the flanks again.

I signed Tim Joyce on a free transfer to fill the role previously played by Ryan Ryder. Tim is even more versatile than Ryan was, and gives us a jolt of pace off our bench.

I was right about Neil Pelling not being long for Wantage Town. Last week, he accepted a non-contract deal with Alfreton Town, who were relegated to the Conference North last spring. He's on their Under 21 roster now, so he might not be getting much more first team football than he did with us. At any rate, I wish him well.

The first team strike pairing of Paul Douglas and Mick Hart need no introduction.

Here are the most promising players from our Under 21 and Under 18 teams. Those squads will be playing in full-fledged leagues now that we're in the Conference, so these lads will get some real playing time.

Kevin Lewis and Josias Bedwell will almost certainly feature in the first team for cup ties.
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Old 07-22-2018, 09:23 PM   #30
Greyfriars Bobby
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Join Date: Sep 2013
20 October 2016

Today is a big day in Wantage Town FC history, as the new, expanded Alfredian Park is ready for its ribbon-cutting. It's twice as big as it used to be, with room for 3000 and seats for 550. Our first match there will be on 1 November.

We'll actually bid a fond farewell to Culham Road, because we never lost there in league play. In fact, we've only lost once in the league, period.

In our first game in the Conference South, we met an old foe from the Southern Premier, Tiverton Town. A brace from new man Malte Seidel enabled us to earn a draw, but Whitehawk hit us for four goals three days later. We let in seven in our first two matches, so I decided to tweak our tactical setup a bit.

Even at this higher level, we still have one of the hardest working teams in our league. I like pressing a bit higher up the pitch, but the better teams we're facing now can make us pay dearly for that. I decided to turn our mentality down a notch, from Standard to Counter, when we face the better Conference sides, especially away. It's been working most of the time, and when it doesn't, we've been lucky to score at least as many as our opponent. Since the loss at Whitehawk, we've gone eight matches without a loss--six wins and two draws.

Aldershot Town, the team I came close to interviewing with last season, knocked us out of the Southern League Cup, and Conference South rival Ebbsfleet United eliminated us from the FA Cup. Still, the board are thrilled with the job I've been doing...and I've already extended my contract through the 2017/18 season.

Do you see a familiar name among the list of players who have scored for us this season? Yes, Tom Logan is back in Wantage green and white hoops!

In early September, Mick Hart twisted an ankle, and physio Kamil Hajto told me he'd be out for about a month. With a crowded fixture list staring me in the face, I pored over my scouts' lists of strikers who might be available to fill in while Mick recuperated. I saw that Logan was available; he'd been released by Weymouth at the end of last season. Tom was willing to join us on a non-contract basis and accept a backup role. He's already written a new chapter in his Alfredian story, banging in four as we sent off Margate.

Hart's injury also gave John Nash an opportunity to show us what he's capable of, and he's taken full advantage of it. Mick is back now, but I'm going to try to make sure John gets plenty of playing time, too.

We're three points off Bishop's Stortford's pace, but we also have three games in hand. Incidentally, Bishop's Stortford has Rocky Upton in their team now, on another short-term loan from Chesterfield.

The three teams that don't show in this table are Bath City (2-2-7, 8 points), Woking (1-2-7, 5 points; -8 goal differential), and Wealdstone (1-2-8, 5 points, -16 goal differential). I was afraid we'd be down at that end of the table. At least for now, we're looking a lot better.
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Old 07-25-2018, 12:56 PM   #31
Greyfriars Bobby
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Join Date: Sep 2013
25 December 2016

Dang, this is a lot of fun. I was expecting us to struggle in our first season in the Conference South. We do have trouble with the better sides in the league, especially away from home. However, we've been feasting on the rest of the teams and, as a result, we're in better shape than we've been at mid-season since 2014.

I've learned to make better use of the scouting reports Lee Sparkes gives me. Against tough opponents, away from home, I use the Counter mentality. At home, I use Standard. If their forwards don't have a lot of pace, I add the Push Higher Up instruction. Otherwise, I don't; I learned my lesson after some quick strikers got behind my defense and scored easy goals.

I also think we are benefiting from the fact we have a core of players who have stayed together for a while now. I've resisted the temptation to bring busloads of new men in each year.

Chris Beesley, Matty York, Matt Osman, Jonathan Booth, and Paul Douglas have been fixtures in the first team since 2013. Mick Hart graduated from our youth program that first spring. That means over half of my preferred first eleven have been with us almost from the beginning. Ashley Lane, who has evolved into a reserve, is also an original Alfredian.

Roy Porter and Max Westlake joined the team in 2014, and Tom Wilkinson came up from the youth ranks in spring '15. Dominic Hutchinson signed with us last season, and Malte Seidel replaced three-year starter Richard Ahern this year. At most, the team is adjusting to only one or two new players each season. I think that stability has made a difference, and it's something new for me; I tend to start bringing in too many new players when my team starts to struggle.

I've also realized the value of finding players with the right attributes for the roles I want them to play, rather than fixating on their star ratings. That has the added bonus of enabling me to find some bargains. Our wage bill is well under control, because I'm not paying premium wages to "five star" players when a "two star" lad can do the job I want done just as well.

We're out of all the knockout competitions, after our loss to Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Trophy. The board is fine with the progress we made.

Our scoring is much better balanced this season. Hart leads the team, as usual; even after missing a month with a bad leg, he has nine in all comps. But John Nash (7), Paul Douglas (6), and Tom Wilkinson (6) are right behind Mick, and Matt Osman (4) and Malte Seidel (4) are pitching in, too.

Seidel's long throw ability gives us a really cool new weapon. Malte can easily hurl the ball from the touch line into the penalty area. Once, when his delivery went untouched, the ball CLEARED the box in the air, finally hit the ground on the far side, and went into touch on the opposite side of the pitch. Novelty value aside, we've scored several times as a result of his ability to put us in a dangerous position from a throw.

We're in a big enough league that our players are eligible for monthly honors. November was a good month for our boys, wasn't it?

The gaffer had a good month, too.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed that old Alfredian Ryan Ryder had learned enough about evaluating talent to make a decent scout. I had an opening on my staff, so I signed him. It's good to have a familiar face in my backroom staff.

Here's how our end of the table looks:

Happy Christmas from the Alfredians!
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Old 08-22-2018, 04:11 PM   #32
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
12 March 2017

It's been a while since I posted--it's been a busy summer, and I got in a mood where I preferred playing to writing. Wantage Town have been the surprise side of the Conference South, maintaining their position on top of the table.

After drawing twice during the busy festive period, we reeled off six straight victories. I don't remember many of the details, since I played these matches a couple weeks ago, but I do remember how satisfying it was to see so many players contributing to the team's success.

Malte Seidel, the only new member of the first eleven, has been a wonderful fit. His incisive runs up the right side remind me of Richard Ahern at his best. He takes our penalties, and he's cash money from the spot. He's a tough defender with good pace and an exemplary work ethic. And I've mentioned what kind of weapon his long throw can be.

We were poor in our loss at home to Basingstoke, but we quickly turned things around--due in no small part to a scoring binge by Mick Hart, who netted in five straight matches. Mick might not score quite as easily as he did back in the Southern League, but he's proving he's up to the Conference standard.

I forgot to take a screen shot of the table before I moved ahead. We're top of the league; that much I do remember.

Today was youth intake day, so let's meet the newest Alfredians!

Our youth program keeps turning out good strikers. This year's prize pupil, Pearce Lynn, is cut from the mold of Mick Hart. He's not as fast--few footballers are--but he's the same kind of player, and my staff think his ceiling is as high as Mick's is. They're both said to have the potential to play in League One.

We also might have found our goalkeeper of the future in Adam Rowland. He's a tall lad (6'2" already) and he communicates with his defense like a veteran.

I like Daniel Gilligan a lot, too. He could develop into an all-action midfielder, perhaps a Dominic Hutchinson with a bit more offensive flair.

Let's see if we can close out the season in style and lift another trophy!

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 08-22-2018 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 08-23-2018, 03:25 PM   #33
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
June 2017

For the fourth consecutive year, we need to make room in the showcase for another trophy.

Wantage Town are the 2016/17 champions of the Conference South!

Our form dropped just a little during the spring; part of that was due to my decision to allow some of our youngsters to see some action with the first team. Goalkeeper Tom Knowles was between the posts for the match at Staines Town. Kevin Lewis and Terry Richards both started against Boreham Wood. Even so, we ended the season 15 points clear of our nearest competitor, and our 92 goals scored and +41 goal differential were both best in the league.

A crowd of over 1,100 turned out to Alfredian Park on the last day of the season to honor their champions. I did field a full strength side that day, and I wish we could have thanked the supporters with a big win.

Bishop's Stortford rounded into form during the season's final weeks, snagging a spot in the Promotion Playoff. Once there, they dispatched Ebbsfleet and Sutton United in turn, and they'll be joining us in the Conference Premier.

Tonbridge stayed up by a five-goal margin, barely edging out Hayes & Yeading. Wealdstone and hapless Bath will be going down.

Once again, our promotion means the grounds at Alfredian Park will need to be upgraded to meet the standards of a higher league. The standing room at the grounds will be expanded, bringing their capacity to 4500. So, until March, we'll share the County Ground with Swindon Town.

I received two important bits of news on 25 June. First, the board announced the club will turn professional. Going full time ought to help our players move closer to their fullest potential, and I'm excited about it.

The board also offered me a contract extension that will keep me with the club until June 2019. I didn't hesitate a moment before I accepted it. I like it here, and as long as I feel that way, I'll stick around.

Once again, I'll face the challenge of deciding which of our players will measure up to the demands of a higher league. I might be guilty of excessive sentiment, but I'm inclined to give the great majority of them the opportunity to prove they have what it takes. Our staff believe lads like Jonathan Booth, Dominic Hutchinson, Matty York, and Paul Douglas are decent players for the Conference South. Will their familiarity with my system, and their suitability for the roles I want them to play, allow them to continue to excel against stiffer competition? We'll find out next season.

Two regulars from this year's side won't be returning. Right winger Roy Porter demanded a wage rise that would have paid him nearly twice as much as anyone else in the team. I like Roy, but not for that price, and I wish him well. Max Westlake wasn't willing to discuss a new contract with us. Max had a fine season, and I'm disappointed to see him leave.

I'll be back to sum up the season, stats-wise, soon.
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:16 PM   #34
Greyfriars Bobby
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Join Date: Sep 2013
30 June 2017
The Alfredians, By the Numbers

Here's a look at the stats for the 2016/17 season:

Mick Hart battled back from an injury-plagued autumn to finish among the league's top scorers, bagging eight in his final seven games to bring his total to 25. It's sometimes difficult to remember he's still awaiting his 19th birthday. I'm surprised bigger clubs haven't come calling for him yet, honestly. For now, however, he's still in Wantage green and white hoops, and the supporters couldn't be happier. He's been elevated to Icon status, along with his strike partner, Paul Douglas.

Speaking of Douglas, the captain banished the memories of a 2015/16 season that saw him in the physio's room as often as he was on the pitch and enjoyed the best season of his Wantage career, based on average rating.

The breakout star of the year was another starlet, Tom Wilkinson. Bombing up the left wing with abandon, Tom was third in the team scoring table and was named Man of the Match more often than anyone.

On the other hand, Roy Porter took a step backward this season. Was the Conference South simply too fast a league for Roy's skill level, or was this simply an off year for him? I decided the gamble wasn't worth the price Roy wanted me to pay to keep him around another year.

Max Westlake will be missed a good deal more. He was never spectacular, but his calm presence in our midfield allowed our flashier players to do their thing. I'm looking for his replacement, and it's not been easy to find him.

Dominic Hutchinson has been elevated to the ranks of Favoured Personnel after another fine season in our midfield. Dominic is even more of a lunch-pail kind of player than Westlake was. His moment to shine comes when he stands over a free kick.

I hope John Nash remains happy with his role as a super-sub, because he's awfully good at it. Those eleven assists look even more impressive when you consider he didn't have as much time on the pitch as the regular starters had.

The back four--Matty York, Matt Osman, Jonathan Booth, and Malte Seidel--were, in a word, delightful. Seidel and Osman were lethal on set pieces; Osman has 19 goals in four seasons, almost all of them seeming to come from corners, and Seidel's prowess has been mentioned already. Booth is a quiet force in the center of our defense, one the fans recognized when they named him their Player of the Season. York, too, seems to do his job without a lot of fanfare, and he's on the team sheet almost every single time. Matty is the club leader in appearances during my tenure, with 176.

That's one more appearance than our stalwart 'keeper, Chris Beesley. Chris proved himself up to the standard of the Conference, keeping 11 clean sheets to run his total to 54 in Wantage colors.

Here is our new all-time Best Eleven. I doubt you'll see many surprises here.

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Old 08-28-2018, 01:25 PM   #35
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
8 August 2017

After four league championships in four years, we find ourselves in the Conference Premier, the fifth level of English football. I have a feeling we're going to find the going much tougher this season.

For one thing, we'll be going up against teams with much, much more money to work with. Our board approved a wage budget of about 7000; that's a good deal more than we could spend last season, but it leaves us well behind many of our competitors.

As a result, I really couldn't have brought in a bunch of new players even if I'd wanted to. When my scouts identified players who might have made my squad better, they often wanted more money than I could afford to pay them without wrecking my budget.

That means you'll recognize a lot of the names on the first team roster. And, look--we're at a high enough level that they get squad numbers now!

Chris Beesley returns for his fifth season as our number one 'keeper. His backup, Tom Knowles, is upset about the fact he's not getting first team football, but that's not going to happen here right now.

Malte Seidel and Matty York return to the right and left sides of our back four, respectively. Center half Matt Osman is back, too, and he'll have a new partner this year: big Lloyd Unsworth, who was released from Bournemouth's youth program last month. Unsworth is a well-rounded defender, strong, fast and good in the air. Jonathan Booth will serve as the first reserve all along the back line.

Tom Wilkinson has drawn raves for his performance during the preseason, and I'm looking for him to continue to improve. He's one of several players my staff believe are talented enough to make the transition to a higher league with relative ease. Roy Porter's departure left a hole on the other wing, and I've filled it with the signing of Aiden Harris. The former Margate man is almost four years younger than Roy, with just as much pace, more defensive acumen, and a stronger mental game. Aiden also can play several positions well.

Holding midfielder Dominic Hutchinson returns to the team, and he'll line up beside newcomer Ryan Bellamy. Ryan was let go by League clubs Hartlepool and Oldham, but I believe his athleticism and technical skills will play well at this level. He is an especially good passer with a silky first touch. I'd like to find another midfield reserve to join Terry Richards and Ashley Lane.

Mick Hart and Paul Douglas are back to lead the forward corps. Although my staff believe Douglas would be "a decent player for most Conference N/S sides," he retains a certain je ne sais quoi that makes the team better when he's on the pitch. We don't give up much when John Nash or Josias Bedwell play. I'd especially like to see what Bedwell can do, before someone nicks him from us with the promise of first team football.

Here's an introduction to our most promising younger players, ranked in order of their potential:

Last year's prize youth grad, striker Pearce Lynn needs only to develop his ability to anticipate what's happening him around him and his movement off the ball to be ready for the first team. Daniel Gilligan is almost good enough for the subs' bench, and Adam Rowland is probably our second best goalkeeper right now.

I'd love to find a place for Kevin Lewis. His best position--defensive midfielder--is one I don't usually use. I'm hesitant to use a 5'9" lad at center back. Perhaps I'll see how he does as a holding M(C).

According to the experts, we'll be battling to avoid relegation this season, instead of competing for a title. Even our own staff believe only six or seven of our players are good enough to be solid contributors at this level. Fortunately, the board don't expect us to do more than stay up. We'll see if we can beat the odds and do a bit more than that.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 08-28-2018 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 09-03-2018, 12:30 PM   #36
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
7 October 2017

As I expected, the going is much, much tougher in the Conference Premier. The players at this level are a lot more talented; they make fewer mistakes, and they are much quicker to pounce on scoring opportunities and convert them.

As we worked our way up the pyramid, the Alfredians were a dynamic, high-scoring side that might approach 100 goals in a season. Those days seem to be gone. This year, we're a scrappy lot who try to keep things tight in the back against most opponents, and hope to nick a goal or two from a break or a set piece.

With the exception of two matches--away to Macclesfield and Forest Green--we've managed to accomplish those tasks fairly well. The Hednesford Town match was a bit of an exception; two yellow cards for Matt Osman put us a man down, and the visitors got the winning goal five minutes from time.

Mick Hart continues to prove he can find the net against faster competition. Both he and Paul Douglas were injured against Hednesford Town, so we'll be relying on John Nash and Josias Bedwell for a few weeks.

Our new men are still bedding in, with varying degrees of success. Lloyd Unsworth has been the best of them so far, providing us with a powerful presence at center half. He is particularly good in the air. Ryan Bellamy has been quietly solid, but the supporters are wondering why Aiden Harris is still in the first team. I don't think Aiden has been that bad, honestly, and even if I did, the alternatives I have right now aren't likely to be any better.

A number of younger players who haven't had the opportunity to break into the first team have come to me wondering why. They've all been non-contract players, so I've simply released them. The most notable among them were goalkeeper Tom Knowles, defenders Josh Murray and Felix Okoro, and forward Tom Logan. It's interesting to note that Murray is the only one who has found a new club, and he had to go back to the County Leagues to do it. That makes me think I was right; they certainly weren't suited for regular duty with us.

I realized we need more effective cover for our midfielders, so I brought Danny Beadle in on loan from Barnsley. Danny, who is about to turn 20, has made nine appearances for the Reds while spending most of his time on loan to clubs in the Conference. He is a solid presence in the center of the park who does nothing spectacularly, but will work hard and keep his head in the game. In other words, he's perfectly suited to hold down the fort when Dominic Hutchinson or Ryan Bellamy need a rest.

You have to look a lot farther down the table to find us this season. Managers of clubs all around us in the standings are getting the sack, but so far, I've been safe. The board don't expect me to do more than keep us out of relegation, so I suppose they're pleased with our position.

Braintree are right below Dover, in 20th, with 13 points. That's the last safe position. Barnet have 13 points, too, but Dover has a four-goal edge right now. Salisbury and AFC Fylde are next, with 11 points, and Bishop's Stortford are bottom, with only 8.

Fylde and Bishop's Stortford are two of the other clubs who were promoted from the Conference North/South this year. The fourth promoted club are Harrogate Town, who have one more point than we do.

I'm having to adjust my expectations, but after I do, I'm not feeling too bad about the season.
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Old 11-14-2018, 08:43 PM   #37
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
I was missing the Alfredians, and it's good to be back.

2 November 2017

At least the end of the month went better than the beginning.

Kidderminster are top of the league, so I suppose an 0-1 result isn't that bad for a club that's battling relegation. Wrexham are also in the playoff places, but that's no excuse for the horrid performance we produced four nights later. We were behind 5-0 early in the second half, so those two late goals were small comfort.

We were playing without first team strikers Mick Hart and Paul Douglas, but--again--that's not why we shipped five goals. I gave the players the hair dryer treatment after the match, and we played much better at Havant & Waterlooville. Still, as we boarded the coach for the ride back home, we found ourselves without a win in our last five matches.

Fortunately, Hart and Douglas were back in the lineup against Salisbury City. The Whites have been struggling even more than we have, so we knew we needed a result. We got a bit of luck when a Dominic Hutchinson corner pinballed around the area and fell at Matt Osman's feet. Matt made no mistake, and we took an early lead. Salisbury drew level before the intermission, but five minutes after intermission, Douglas played in Hart for a vintage Alfredians goal. The three points put us back where we were three weeks ago, in 18th place, one point from the drop zone.

We made it two in a row last Saturday, advancing to the First Round proper of the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over our old Southern Premier rivals from Farnborough. I gave Josias Bedwell a start, and he rewarded me with a goal. Hart got the other one, but the real star was Tom Wilkinson, who set up both scores with delightful passes.

Ryan Ryder has been scouting in Ireland, and he's found several talented young players whom we've brought in on trial. One or two of them might end up in Wantage colors. We'll see what happens.

I'll probably start updating monthly (in game time), so watch this space.
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Old 11-15-2018, 08:00 AM   #38
Join Date: Feb 2007
Yay you're back! Come on you Alfredians!!
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Old 11-16-2018, 09:28 AM   #39
Greyfriars Bobby
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Originally Posted by thehitcat View Post
Yay you're back! Come on you Alfredians!!

It's really good to be back, and good to hear from you. We're facing some new challenges this year; the gap between the Conference South and the Conference Premier seems to be considerably larger than any of others we've had to navigate. I've had to make some tactical adjustments, because if we try to play the way we've always played against most of the teams in this league, we get destroyed. The players we face are much more skilled, and they're often faster than we are, too.

Fortunately, the board merely expects me to stay clear of relegation this season. We're meeting that goal so far, but by only the barest of margins.

Hoever, there's another issue that might end up making me look for another position. More on that later...
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Old 11-16-2018, 12:16 PM   #40
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2 December 2017

November was a much better month for us. We achieved better results on the pitch, opening up a little more ground between ourselves and the relegation zone. I was able to reinforce our roster a little bit, too.

We opened the month with an ugly 1-1 draw with Braintree Town at the County Ground. Our temporary home seats over 14,000, which makes our tiny crowds of 300 or so seem even smaller. The folks who came out got to see the referee pull seven yellow cards, and one attractive Wantage goal. Mick Hart stepped into the path of a lead pass from Aiden Harris, turned on the jets, and beat the Iron keeper with a well-placed shot.

The next Saturday, we welcomed Dagenham & Redbridge for a FA Cup tie. The board didn't expect us to make many waves in the Cup, and I figured our League Two opponent would be a bit too much for us to handle. With a league game coming up on Tuesday, I selected a rotated squad.

To my delight, the lads performed above expectations. Two of our best young prospects looked especially good: goalkeeper Adam Rowland, who made two especially fine stops, and striker Pearce Lynn, whose first senior goal gave us a highly respectable draw.

We lost the replay at Victoria Road, but the game was a treat to watch. We refused to bow to a bigger team, showing the kind of fight I expect from a Wantage side.

Our improved play really made a difference in the league. The Dover game reminded me of the kind of performances we used to enjoy as we worked our way up the leagues--solid defense combined with authoritative attacking play. Three Alfredians got their first career goals, including Aiden Harris, who coolly dispatched two penalties. Aiden had been catching some grief from the fans, who wondered if he'd ever redeem our faith in him. It was wonderful to see the young winger finally find the net. He followed up on that performance with a brace against Dag & Red, and he's also improved his ability to set up his teammates, too.

We lost to Aldershot Town on a stoppage-time goal, but bounced back against AFC Wimbledon, courtesy of a Malte Seidel goal.

The three points we took from the Wimbledon match gave us a little more breathing room. We're four points ahead of the drop zone now. We're far from safe, but the trend is positive.

Danny Beadle's loan expired, so he's back with Barnsley now. In his place, I've brought in another midfielder, Andrew Fenton. Andrew comes to us from Newport County (League Two). He can play anywhere along the middle of the pitch, and he can also fill in on the wings. Fenton isn't as pacy as Beadle was, but he is a savvy veteran (age 32) with outstanding mental qualities.

Remember when I mentioned the young players I brought in on trial? One of them will be joining us on 1 January. Pakie Kerley will arrive from Irish club Avondale United. He's a quick, hard-working central midfielder with a deft first touch and bags of pace. Pakie turned 17 yesterday, and scout Ryan Ryder believes he has the makings of a League One star of the future.

Along with Pakie, we're bringing in Northern Irish teenager Nathan Nicholl of Carniny Amateurs. Nathan is a midfield conductor in training, able to carve up a defense with his dribbling or slice through it with a nifty pass. The two youngsters will slot immediately into our Under 21 team, and I plan on letting them taste some first team action, too.

Both Kerley and Nicholl possess another advantage. They're willing to play for wages we can afford. Wantage Town have the lowest wage bill in the Conference Premier. Nine clubs pay their squads at least three times more than we do. It's therefore somewhat difficult to bring in players who could make our team better, because we can't afford to pay them the going rate. Our scouts have discovered more than a few players who would be fantastic additions to the squad, only to discover their salaries are way outside our budget. What's more, it's going to be very difficult to keep our existing players in green and white hoops. As core players like Hart and Harris and Seidel, Tom Wilkinson and Ryan Bellamy and Chris Beesley reach the end of their current contracts, they may well demand more than the board pay them. If that's the case, we'll have to let them go.

And, if that becomes the case, I might be on my way out, too.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 11-19-2018 at 09:02 PM.
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Old 11-16-2018, 02:18 PM   #41
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Join Date: Sep 2013
December 2017

I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some former Wantage men have been up to since they left Alfredian Park.

Winger Dominic Todd potted eight goals in 2013/14, his only season with Wantage Town. The following year, he left for Ashford, and competed against his former teammates in the Southern Division One Central. He had another solid season, with six goals and seven assists. However, Dominic has never found a place to hang up his boots for very long. He's turned out for Halesowen Town, Shortwood United, Ascot United, and Verwood Town, and he's had to return to the County Leagues in order to play regularly. Dominic is 27 now, so what you see is pretty much what you get.

Andy Williams wore the captain's arm band for two seasons, scoring ten times in 2013/14. Injuries kept him from showing the same form the next season, and by the summer of 2015 Andy was gone, dropping down a level to play for Rochester United. Now he's with Oxhey Jets, where he's vice captain. Andy often speaks to reporters about Wantage players who impress him, such as Aiden Harris.

When he joined the club in 2013, Joe Graham looked like a future star. His career never truly took off, and as more talented midfielders joined the team, Joe's playing time dwindled. The Southern Premier League seems to be where he's most comfortable. He recently signed with Peterborough Northern Star, where he has one goal in five appearances so far. There's still time for the 24-year-old to establish himself as a footballer.

Neil Pelling was part of the outstanding crop of youth who came along in the spring of 2014. Within two years, the big number nine was on the doorstep of the first team, scoring eight goals and assisting on 12 others for our Southern Premier League champions. Unfortunately, we couldn't match Neil's asking price, so he signed for Alfreton Town in 2016. Now he's at AFC Wimbledon, where he earns almost twice as much as any man on our roster, and he's scored six times this year.

Classy Richard Ahern was a fixture at right back for three seasons. When Malte Seidel joined the team last year, Richard accepted his new role as a utility defender without complaint. At age 33, he wanted one more chance at first team football, so he left for Coalville Town in the County Leagues with our blessing. He's also developing into a talented coach, and I have an eye on him for a future staff position.

Max Westlake is a talented 23-year-old midfielder, and he believed such a player should earn more than he was making at Wantage Town. He didn't reach contract terms with us in June, so he became a free agent. Max couldn't land a gig until late September, when Tiverton Town ponied up 400/week to sign him. He's appeared 11 times for the Conference South team, notching one goal and one assist and playing to a 6.58 rating.

There's no shame in being unable to take the number one shirt from Chris Beesley, but Tom Knowles tired of being a backup 'keeper. He left Wantage Town in October, and hooked up with King's Lynn Town about a week later. He's not their first choice, either, and in his one appearance, he was dreadful. Still, he's earning 140 quid a week to sit on the bench.

We signed Roy Porter from Chesham United in 2014, and he quickly became a sensation at Alfredian Park. Roy appeared 121 times for us, scoring 12 goals and setting up 18 others. He, too, was an economic casualty. He recently signed for Stalybridge Celtic, where he finds 1,000 in his pay envelope each week. That's only a little less than what we pay our three highest earners...combined.

I always appreciated the professionalism with which young defender Josh Murray accepted his role. He would play anywhere along our back four, and never pitched a fit about not having a spot in the first eleven. Given an opportunity to start at Haverhill Rovers, Josh has made the most of it. He's even appeared once in goal, demonstrating once again his willingness to do whatever is needed for his club.
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Old 11-21-2018, 11:47 AM   #42
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
30 December 2017

The bad news: We're one place farther down the table than we were a month ago.

The good news: We're closer to a playoff place than we are to the relegation places. In fact, we basically halved the distance between us and the top of the table.

Our first teamers were still a bit tired after the Wimbledon match, so I played a rotated squad in the FA Trophy game against Whitstable Town. The game was a neutral's delight, going back and forth until the visitors nicked a late goal. Pat Bleasdale, a young midfielder who has been fantastic for the Under 21s, took his goal very well. He's not ready for regular first team duty yet, but he's developing into a player who could be useful soon.

I honestly didn't think we'd get much out of the trip to Eastleigh. That changed before the match was 20 minutes old, as the Spitfires' Nicholas Thompson got sent off for a vicious two-footed challenge that sent Tom Wilkinson flying. Ten minutes later, Tom got the best revenge of all when he got to a Dominic Hutchinson free kick and lashed it past the 'keeper. Not to be outdone, Ben Stewart hacked down Hutchinson and earned an early bath, too. We pounced all over our undermanned opponents. Wilkinson went on to bag a hat trick, and Paul Douglas, who hasn't enjoyed a great season so far, got a goal, too.

Based on our scouting report, I switched our formation to 4-1-4-1 away to Chester on Boxing Day. They eat teams that play 4-4-2 for dinner. I'm still not satisfied with the way we attack from that formation, but we were very solid in the back and squeezed out a win.

Then came the reversal, against an Exeter team that has been somewhat disappointing this season. They were far from that against us. We were never really in the game. So, I'm left wondering what kind of team we are: the one that took six points from playoff contenders, or the one who went down without a trace against another mid-table club?

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 11-21-2018 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 11-21-2018, 01:24 PM   #43
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
30 December 2017, Part Two

There's more to the story at Wantage Town, enough to make me decide it warranted a second post.

Things are going very well on the pitch. At the halfway point of the season, we're looking for all the world like a solid, mid-table club after we were predicted to go right back down to the Conference South. The board are delighted; I have an Untouchable job rating, which I've almost never earned--even when I was managing teams to four straight league championships.

The fact we're doing so well on such limited funds is one thing that is making the board so happy. Wantage Town are now a fully professional club, with a stadium that is undergoing its second expansion in two years. Still, as you'd expect, we haven't grown as fast as we've ascended the pyramid. Look how much some of the teams in the Conference Premier are paying their players:

Compare this list to the league table in the last post, and you'll see some similarities. All the teams in the playoff places except for one are also among the top ten salary per annum.

Now, look at the rest of the salary rankings:

There are Kidderminster, top of the league, and 13th in salary per annum. And there are Wantage Town, all the way at the bottom of the list.

That's great, right? Well, there's another side to this part of the story, a far less uplifting one. In six months' time, the contracts of eight of our most important players will expire. You recognize every single name: Beesley, Booth, Douglas, Hart, Hutchinson, Osman, Seidel, and Wilkinson.

I've asked each of them, or their agents (yes, some of our lads have agents now), what it might take to sign them for next year. In every case, they want considerably more money to return to the club and, to be honest, they've earned it.

Unless the board will agree to raise the wage budget, I will have no choice but to say goodbye to most of those players and build another team. And, as I've been reading scouting reports over the course of the season, I've noticed that players as good as the ones we have will want just as much money as the ones we have right now. In other words, it would be very hard to bring in the kind of quality we'd be losing.

The Alfredians, as we know them, could soon be breaking up. I'm not sure I want to be there when that happens.

I'll see what the board says to a bigger wage budget. Then, we'll see what happens next.
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Old 11-21-2018, 03:10 PM   #44
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Location: St. Catharines, Canada
Good stuff!! Congrats on the incredible climb up the tiers so far!
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Old 11-22-2018, 11:54 PM   #45
Greyfriars Bobby
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Originally Posted by NoSkillz View Post
Good stuff!! Congrats on the incredible climb up the tiers so far!

Thanks, NoSkillz. I appreciate the compliment, especially coming from someone whose Football Manager dynasty was one of my inspirations to (1) purchase the game and (2) write my own story here.

I think we might end up settling down in the Conference Premier for a while, but that honestly wouldn't bother me a bit.

I was able to convince the board to free up more money for wages, so I've got some good news about signings for 2018/19. That makes it much, much more likely that I'll be around, too. My contract won't run out until June 2019, and I'm planning to honor it. We'll see if we're all still happy with the arrangement in a year or so.

Thanks for stopping by!
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Old 11-23-2018, 07:05 PM   #46
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30 January 2018

As we appear to be firmly established in the middle of the table, our place in the standings is the third piece of data I'm looking at. First, I check to see how safe we are from relegation. We're ten points clear now, and we've gained three points since last month. That's looking good. Next, I let myself dream a little, and I look at how far we are away from a playoff position. Just like last month, we are six points shy of the top five. That puts us eleventh in a very tightly packed table. If the season ends with us right where we are now, I would be delighted.

We played seven league fixtures in January, which put our depth to the test. On the whole, I'm pleased with how things turned out.

I've been trying to find ways to get young forward Josias Bedwell onto the pitch, because he's a very promising player and I'd hate to lose him. He's big and strong, and his almost complete lack of pace doesn't seem to hurt his game too much. He got one of the goals in our impressive victory over Gateshead. We got a scare when Lloyd Unsworth picked up a knock that was serious enough for him to have to come off, but we were lucky this time. Lloyd didn't even miss a day of training.

In fact, he was Man of the Match four days later, for his imperious defensive play against Bishop's Stortford. Lloyd wins more key headers than any center back in the league, and he added 10 interceptions as we kept the Blues from putting a shot on target.

We have an affiliation with Gillingham, who are enjoying a successful season in League Two. I keep an eye on their roster, just in case they have anyone they'd like to loan out who might help us. One such player, defender Ben Roberts, had just returned from a five-month loan at Dover Athletic. I decided to bring Ben in for three months. Gillingham was willing to pay his wages, which made it a no-brainer.

Ben, age 21, can play left or center back, and while he lacks the technical ability I like to see in a defender, he ticks all the other boxes. He is a heady player with good pace, and he plays with a bit of an edge. He's good enough to play regularly for us, and he will.

I wondered how we could play so well against strong sides like Gateshead and play a team like Bishop's Stortford off the park--and then lose to AFC Fylde, who are bottom of the league! That's exactly what we did. Our highlight came when new man Roberts headed in a corner.

Then I think I found the answer.

By any objective measure, Paul Douglas isn't good enough to play for us any more. Most of my back room staff say Paul "is far from good enough for the Wantage Town squad," and they're unanimous in their belief that he'd be no more than a "decent" player back in the Conference South.

However, Paul's presence makes us a completely different team. He seems to come up with a perfect pass every time he sets foot on the pitch, and his partnership with Mick Hart is delightful to watch. Paul set up two goals in our victory against Macclesfield Town, and one of the five we put in away at hapless Barnet. He scored one and played in Hart for another as we lost a cracking good match to Dartford. Douglas has 12 assists on the year, two behind the league leader, who has played many more minutes than Paul.

Simply put, Douglas is possibly our most important player, our captain and a club icon. I didn't hesitate to offer him a contract for next season, and his willingness to accept a Backup squad status is evidence of his class. Suffice it to say he'll play a lot more than that, unless his game completely fades.

That can certainly happen, and our central midfielders are proof of that. Dominic Hutchinson hasn't been bad, but he hasn't been able to assert his will over games, either. That's why I brought veteran Sonny Holdsworth in on loan this month.

Sonny, age 29, is contracted to Tranmere Rovers, and he's failed to establish himself there. Perhaps a change of scenery is all he needs. Sonny lacks some of Hutchinson's defensive presence, but he's far from a slacker, and his technical skills are first-rate for our league. At worst, he'll rotate with Hutchinson and Ryan Bellamy in our engine room.

Tomorrow is Deadline Day, and I'll be back with a post covering our activities as the transfer window closes. We did a bit of business, saying goodbye to a loyal club servant and bringing in a couple of new faces.
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Old 11-26-2018, 09:19 PM   #47
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Join Date: Sep 2013
14 March 2018

Eight rounds of fixtures remain on the Conference Premier schedule, and we continue to consolidate our position in the league. We are now 18 points clear of the relegation places, so I feel comfortable about our ability to remain up for next season.

On Deadline Day, we said goodbye to a faithful club servant. Ashley Lane was a regular midfielder for us for three years, before we reached the Conference. At this level, he's been a versatile backup who never threw his toys out of the pram when he didn't start. Ashley is 24 years old now, and if he doesn't establish himself as a regular soon, he might never get the chance. He asked to have his contract terminated, and we let him go with our best wishes. I'll keep up with him, and I'll let you know where he ends up next. Good luck, Ashley.

As we were bidding Ashley farewell, we were greeting our newest arrivals. Joining us on loan for the rest of the season is veteran Tyler Burns. Tyler came out of Everton's youth program and spent 16 years with the Toffees, earning a single England cap in the process. He came to Gillingham on a free transfer in 2015, and enjoyed a stellar 2016/17 season (5 goals, 10 assists). At age 37, Tyler has lost almost all his pace, but his technical skills are as refined as they ever were, and his command of the mental aspects of football are first-rate. Ryan Bellamy will be unavailable for several weeks while his pulled hamstring heals, so Burns will come in very handy.

I also did something I've never done before: sign a player on something other than a free transfer. I paid Lowestoft Town 6000 for center back Tomasz Wisniewski. Tomasz was a key member of the Trawlerboys' team that won promotion to the Conference Premier in 2016, but they went back down immediately last year. It wasn't Tomas's fault, as he was one of the league's most accomplished defenders.

The towering Pole, who played for his country at the under 21 level, is a commanding presence in the air. He is stronger than all but the most powerful strikers, and his determination is second to none. Tomasz wouldn't have been fast enough to play the high press we used back in the Southern League, but his lack of pace shouldn't keep him from doing a job for us now. He showed his class with a dominant performance at Hednesford Town on 24 February, winning 17 headers and making 18 interceptions. He's slotted in beside Lloyd Unsworth to form a powerful center-back pairing.

If it looks like these moves are the kind a manager makes when he thinks the playoffs might be a possibility, that's because I think that's what I need to do right now.

I succeeded in convincing the board that they needed to raise our wage budget in order to compete with our rivals. With an additional 3000/week to work with, I was able to extend the contracts of several important players. The day after Mick Hart hit his 100th goal for Wantage Town (in his 147th appearance), I thanked him with a new contract, which he quickly accepted. It was easy to justify new deals for Chris Beesley and Tom Wilkinson. Malte Seidel was happy to return for another year, and without a big salary rise. I had some doubt about renewing Dominic Hutchinson's deal, because he's struggled to find his form this season. He is, however, among our team's Favoured Personnel, and his contract demands weren't extreme.

The board made it much easier for me to commit myself to staying at Wantage Town. I wonder if they know how serious I was about leaving, had they not freed up some funds to keep a competitive team on the pitch.

Lately, we've been beating the teams we should beat and dropping points to the playoff teams. I'm not too disappointed with that right now.

We celebrated our return to Alfredian Park on 4 March, where 900 fans watched us draw with Wrexham. Our average crowds at our temporary home, the County Ground, were about a third as big. It's great to be back home.

Head of Youth Development Luke Noble introduced his newest class of youth program graduates this week.

The best of the bunch are as promising as any young players we've produced since I've been here, and that's saying a lot.

Sean Boshell has an attribute polygon that looks almost exactly like Kevin Lewis's, and Kevin is two years older and a Wales youth international. Our staff say Sean could develop into a Championship-calibre defensive midfielder.

Perhaps he'll pair one day with Luke Beauchamp, who has the vision and passing range of a future midfield creator. I prefer my fullbacks to be more comfortable pushing forward than Matthew Sullivan seems to be, but his defensive skills are already solid enough to make him our second-best option at right back. All three of these players, plus goalkeeper Bobby Ashby and forwards Ash Newell and Greig Ferguson, are rated by our staff as League 2 talents or better.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 11-27-2018 at 08:15 PM.
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Old 11-27-2018, 07:49 PM   #48
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High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
23 April 2018

It's been an eventful month, to say the least.

Two days before the loan window closed, we reached a deal with Newport County to bring in left back Jamie Collin. As much as I like Matty York, the inconsistencies I'd seen in his play this season have made me wonder if the Conference Premier might be a bit too fast for him. Since I couldn't renew Ben Roberts' loan for another three months, I expected Jamie to slot in to the first eleven.

Even at 30, Jamie has a bit more pace than either Roberts or York. He's a little less aggressive a tackler, but he is more comfortable getting forward.

By the next weekend, two teams were officially relegated, while two more--Gateshead and Stockport--clinched spots in the play-off. We had a chance to move into the play-off places ourselves, but lost to Aldershot Town on a heartbreaking goal in the dying minutes of the match. Still, if you'd asked me in October if we'd be fighting for a play-off place in April, I'd have said you were crazy. Here's how the top of the table looked on 7 April:

The next week, we grabbed a point against a scrappy Eastleigh side. We drew a corner, and Dominic Hutchinson floated the ball into the area. Eastleigh's Mason Gallen, who is 5'6" and weighs 147 pounds, made contact with big Tomasz Wisniewski, who's easily 25 pounds heavier. Big T went down; more than a few Eastleigh supporters thought Tomasz went down a bit too easily, but the only man whose opinion mattered pointed to the penalty spot. As he's done all year, Aiden Harris made it count.

The point probably saved our chances at the play-off, but victories by Wrexham and Chester made those chances look a bit more remote.

On Saturday, the 21st, Chester hosted league-leading Gateshead and pulled off a clutch 2-0 victory. But Wrexham lost at Hednesford Town, making our Sunday result that much more important.

A big crowd turned out at Alfredian Park. Our opponents were bottom-dwelling AFC Fylde, and they took the lead through Sean Love in the 10th minute. No sooner had the visiting fans sat back down before Paul Douglas ran onto a beautiful through ball from Ryan Bellamy and drew us level. Twelve minutes later, Douglas nodded the ball into the path of Tom Wilkinson, who showed the Coasters' defense a clean set of heels and scored. Just like that, our captain had set things right. We romped to a 5-2 victory.

So, this is how the table looks going into the final round of matches. We will travel to the capital to face AFC Wimbledon, who are currently in 20th place. Chester will be at AFC Fylde, and we need the Coasters to help us out. Wrexham might have the toughest fixture; they face 10th place Grimsby Town, although they do have the advantage of playing at home.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 11-27-2018 at 08:14 PM.
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Old 11-28-2018, 02:27 PM   #49
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
28 April 2018

In the days leading up to the match, AFC Wimbledon manager Ian Wilkinson decided to talk some smack. After I had taken the high road and praised his team's quick passing style, Ian told a reporter our success was more a result of our opponents' complacency than our abilities.

I admit his remarks caused me to add an extra bit of zing to my pre-game team talk, and the lads could not have responded better. From the opening kickoff, we strung together some quick passes of our own--ten of them--before Tom Wilkinson stung Wes Clarke's palms. Mick Hart was first to the rebound, looked for a shot, and decided to slip the ball back to Aiden Harris. Five more passes found the ball at Paul Douglas's feet. Hart evaded his marker and snuck into the box, Douglas found him, and Mick slotted home. From kickoff to goal, the sequence took exactly 31 seconds.

On the quarter hour, Wilkinson got hold of a pinballing corner by Dominic Hutchinson and pushed it past Clarke to put us up 2-0. Wimbledon pulled one back in the 66th minute, but we held on for the result.

We had done all we could do, and now we had to see how Wrexham and Chester fared.

AFC Fylde had nothing to play for save pride, as they had already been relegated, but they chose to take a stand and upset Chester. However, Wrexham ended our hopes for a spot in the play-off by seeing off Grimsby Town.

So, the season ended like this:

Three more teams: Bishop's Stortford (44 pts.), Harrogate Town (44 pts.), and AFC Fylde (43 pts.) were relegated as well.

I'm very proud of what the lads accomplished this season. From 30 December to the end of the season, Wantage Town took 42 points from 22 matches. Stockport County also accumulated 42 points, but it took them one more game to reach that total. No other club had more than 39 over the same stretch. It's extremely satisfying to be able to say that for the season's final three months, Wantage Town were the best side in the Conference Premier.

I received a nice honor from my fellow managers, too.

The Best Eleven for the season looks just like I'd expect it to look. The All-Time Best Eleven welcomes Malte Seidel to its bench. I don't think it will take long for our German long throw specialist to push his way into the first eleven.

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Old 11-29-2018, 10:54 AM   #50
Greyfriars Bobby
High School Varsity
Join Date: Sep 2013
June 2018

That item from the 2017/18 season wrap-up says it all. Without the financial might to stand toe to toe with the big clubs of the Conference Premier, we were expected to be fighting to remain up. Instead, we went into the final matchday with a chance to gain a spot in the promotion play-off.

I've won four league championships with this club, but this achievement feels just about as good as any of those title wins.

The same news item highlighted one of the statistical highlights of our season. Paul Douglas's remarkable ability to set up his teammates was on full display again this year. The skipper broke the Conference Premier record for assists in a season and continues to cement his place in Wantage Town lore.

Here's a closer look at the numbers:

Douglas's performance was even more significant, considering he played over a thousand fewer minutes than some of our other regulars. Some of his absences were due to injury, but others were my fault--I was guilty of looking too much at the star ratings and listening a little too much to my assistants, who didn't think Paul was good enough for this level. Paul's return to the first eleven coincides almost perfectly with our march up the table. Looking back, that was no accident.

Once again, many of Paul's best passes found their way to Mick Hart. The lightning-fast front man bagged 24 goals in league play, second best in the division. What's more, Mick played the entire season at age nineteen. I'm aware of the fact it's going to be increasingly difficult to keep Mick in a Wantage shirt. This summer, he caught the eye of a bigger club for the first time, when Scottish Premiership outfit St Mirren began expressing interest.

Aiden Harris proved to be a very smart signing. He led the team in minutes played, and was second to Hart on the goal-scoring list. Aiden does everything we ask of him and more, and he is cash money from the penalty spot.

Aiden patrols the right wing, and his left-sided counterpart, Tom Wilkinson, continued to develop into a star. Like Hart, Wilkinson has the pace to beat almost any defender. Once he does, he excels at putting the ball into dangerous positions--either for a teammate to control, or into the other team's net.

Most of Malte Seidel's six assists came via his deadly bullet throw. That signature skill sometimes overshadows the rest of his game--he's a polished attacking full-back who covers a lot of ground and tackles robustly. Fun fact: Malte is an avid supporter of Peterborough United.

For my money, Lloyd Unsworth was the best center back in the league. He won more headers than any player in the Conference Premier, and he was also among the leaders in interceptions. His size and mobility made him dangerous on set pieces, too.

January signing Tomasz Wisniewski added even more authority to our defense. He's not terribly mobile, but his strength made him a formidable opponent, and he's comfortable enough with the ball to contribute five assists in 15 games. I hated to see long-time favorites Jonathan Booth and Matt Osman struggle this season, but the arrivals of Unsworth and Wisniewski solidified our back line significantly.

Another familiar player, left back Matty York, was slow to adjust to the tougher competition we faced this year. By the end of the season, loan player Ben Roberts was playing ahead of him. To his credit, Matty handled his 'demotion' with class, and became a valuable asset off the bench, able to cover all along the back line.

Dominic Hutchinson continued to work magic on set pieces, but the rest of his game took a step back this season. Newcomer Ryan Bellamy took a while to establish himself, but by late winter, he was regularly providing us with energy and creativity in the center of the pitch.

It's easy to overlook Chris Beesley sometimes. His play in goal isn't flashy, and he doesn't make a lot of highlight-reel saves--not because he's not capable, but because his positioning and his command of his area are getting better and better. Chris has been our first choice goalkeeper since the day I arrived at Alfredian Park.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 11-29-2018 at 10:58 AM.
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