Once I’d chosen my team and setup my backroom staff etc, I got things under way and blasted through games in no time. We were predicted for a 9th place finish, so I was anticipating it to be a difficult season. I wasn’t expecting things to go as they did.
I made no signings at the start of the season. My reasons were simple, I just wanted to see what the team had and how good the players really were. By October, I was on the lookout for a defensive reinforcement. We were leaking stupid goals and seeing out games was a nervy affair. I picked up former Blackburn Rovers defender, Gael Givet on a free transfer. He’s obviously a veteran player, but his experience proved invaluable. We still leaked goals, but we were a bit more robust in the middle.
I made two further signings in January, Artem Milevskyi was taken in as an attacking option. Partly due to his experience, but his attributes made him a decent signing, despite his advancing years. He came in and contributed with some goals and assists. I also picked up Julien Gorius from KRC Genk. He’s a midfield player that really helped our midfield game with some assured displays.
The league campaign got off to a great start, going 7 games undefeated before succumbing to promotion chasing Nancy. We had a great 4-3 victory over Tours, coming back from 3-1 in the 54th minute and snatching it with an 89th minute Adama Ba penalty.
Our form was quite up and down at times, winning games by good margins, to then going 3 games without victory. By the time we hit the winter break, we were top of Ligue 2 by a point. Promotion was a reality, but we had to have a good second half of the season. We came back with two narrow defeats, before getting some momentum going again. We were never really consistent in the second half of the season.
However, with three games remaining, we gained promotion to Ligue 1. Nancy were doing well and remained a point ahead. We needed a victory in the game against Brest and for Nancy to lose or draw for us to claim the title. We were 1-0 in the 65minute. I suspected our title push was over, but three goals in 6minutes saw us win the league by a point as Nancy drew 1-1.
Player performances were on the whole a bit meh. With the exception of right back Ruben Aguilar and perhaps Samed Kilic, nobody was outstanding. Courtet did grab 22 goals, but it was in bursts that he actually performed well. He was very sporadic with his goalscoring. He score a hat-trick then get a couple of doubles, then nothing for five games but glaring misses and disappointing performances. Adama Ba was a bit more solid, he scored 15 goals, but it was perhaps a bit below what I expected of my strikers overall. Maybe I’m being too hard on them, but their assist contribution was lower than what I had hoped. If the finances at the club are there, then I’ll be looking to replace one or both of them next season.
On a personal level, I got offered a new contract in October. I had Swansea and Leicester offering me job interviews, but both were declined. I had a bit of trouble getting a Head Of Youth Development appointed, so I left the youth recruitment drive to my U19’s manager. He found some good players, but this boy is the pick of the bunch.
15 years old and already, most of the top clubs in Europe are circling. I’ve been offered a couple of million pounds, but so far I’ve resisted. He’s signed a contract until 2020. Once he’s 16, I’ll be moving him into the first team to develop under my guidance.
I think next season is going to be a struggle. We’re not very financially stable so I’ll likely be limited to a couple of signings. I’m hoping that we can stay in the division though. I’m aiming to keep us afloat, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a frustrating and difficult season. 17th or above is the aim, but relegation is a real possibility. We’ll need to be really good against the teams around us to have any sort of chance of staying up.
Hopefully now that we’re in the top division, the fans will return. We were getting pretty poor attendances, roughly around 6000 per match. Anywhere in the 10,000 area would be good. Season ticket sales will give me a better idea of where we should be on that front, although projected sales are around 7000.
I’ve got a lot of free time over the next few days, so hopefully I’ll be well into the second season by the end of the weekend. I’ll be trying to keep the updates regular as we progress.
As always, thanks for reading.