Samo’s Stirling – End of Season Two

I knew restructuring the Scottish league system would be a positive thing. Firstly, I’m not bored out of my mind playing the same teams at least four times a season. Secondly, despite the somewhat snail pace I play the game at, that’s me finished my second season already. Unheard of for me. I’ll tell you how it went, let’s get stuck into it.

Expectations

I always like to pay quite a bit of attention to how we’re expected to do. As you’ll remember, we’re a newly promoted side. Last season’s S2 triumph lingers in the memory, but would it see us tagged as strugglers this season? Not really. The media is expecting us to finish 11th, and the board agree. It’s quite surprising to not be tasked with fighting relegation whatsoever as a newly promoted side. In all honesty though, it matches up to my own expectations. If we play at our best, I know we can battle for a top half spot. Whisper it, could we even push for a playoff spot?

Transfers

I didn’t go through my transfers too much in season one, other than mentioning that a couple of my loanees were key in achieving what we wanted to. Transfer windows for clubs in Scotland usually means a lot of upheaval, especially in the summer. Couple that alongside us being newly promoted, and we had a fair bit of strengthening to do. We spoke about recruitment extensively on the latest episode of the Deep Lying Podcast, my approach is anyone I can get my hands on. Armed with my budget of less than £20k and wage budget of £6k, I got to work.

Did it feel slightly like cheating to nab so many players from Queen’s Park? It did. Was I bothered? Not really. Scotland’s hard-coded amateur club have always had this slightly enhanced reputation in FM, I think it’s mainly down to the fact that they play at Hampden. Across the years, I’ve seen them be able to persuade some pretty decent players to sign on amateur terms for them. What this means is that if those players then want to join you, they can at no cost. The fact we swapped leagues over the summer too helped as well.

My first summer signing was actually a player I’d attempted to sign last season in January, but he chose Queen’s Park instead. Silly man. Not to be deterred though, I kept him on our radar and snapped him up ready to slot into my RB role for this season. A player I know very well from his Morton days. It’s who you know in Scotland…

Last seasons number one choice between the goalposts was actually a loanee from Ross County. With him, or the club, showing no sign of wanting to make that a two season deal, a keeper became pretty high on my necessity list. In comes Blair Currie who played every league match for Clyde last season in our league, keeping 13 clean sheets. Good with the ball at his feet, which I like as my preference is our keeper plays it short to our defenders. His goalkeeping attributes aren’t bad at all either.

We’re moving up a league, so in my head one of the main areas we need to strengthen is defensively. Our opponents will be of a much higher quality than we faced last season, and we’ll need to be at our best to gain results. Jack Leitch comes in to bolster our options in defensive midfield. He’s an upgrade on Willie Robertson, who played there for most of last season. One other thing to note that I like to do is that while players often don’t jump out in terms of pure attribute quality, if they served their youth apprenticeship at a decent club, there’s bound to be some ability there that I can squeeze out of them. I remember Leitch coming through the youth ranks at Motherwell and while he’s floated around a couple of other lower league clubs since leaving the Lanarkshire club, I still believe his footballing education there will get him by here.

The final two incomings I’ll go through arrived in January on loan. Again, getting that little bit of something different in on loan can really make a difference to your season at this level. Nelly’s brother, Willis, arrives from Aberdeen for the rest of the season, as does Jack Adamson, who I actually grew up on the same street as. His youth career took him from Hibs to Rangers, but he never managed to kick on and breakthrough. Dundee picked him up on a free in the summer and hopefully he can come in and give us something a bit different for the remainder of the season.

The only other bit of transfer news to note is that we made our first bit of money selling a player! Luc Bollan arrived in the summer as you’ll see from the screenshot above, but chose not to extend his contract beyond this season. In came Inverness to snap him up on a free in the summer, but they accepted our offer to sell him for £26k in January. Every little helps.

Scottish Cup

I said during last season’s summary post that I wanted a better Scottish Cup run this season, and well, we did better it, but only by a few rounds.

Good to progress to the 4th round but where it was Ross County last season, it was Dundee this season. Two sides that should be beating us, granted, but if you know you’re going to get beaten, you at least want a little payday out of it. We took them all the way to penalties to be fair, but we were never in the game. Two shots, both of them off target, across 120 minutes of action is all you need to know.

Scottish Division One

And so to league action.

I’d call this bang average form and it was. At the halfway stage of the season, we sat in 9th place. Exactly where the board expects us to be, and just slightly overachieving the media’s prediction. Not bad at all for us as a newly promoted side, and I was loving the challenge of battling for 90 minutes each week trying to grind out performances and results. A great start to the season, with three wins from four was ground to a halt with a four game run of defeats. This included a disappointing 2-0 defeat infront of a near packed out Forthbank against Falkirk, who are classed as one of our fierce rivals. Our other fierce rivals, Alloa, narrowly defeated us at home as well towards the latter stages of the first half of the season. It’d be nice to at least beat one of them this season for the fans.

I wasn’t too downhearted about our other defeats. We showed promise, played relatively well and I knew if we could get a good run of form together we’d be absolutely fine. Cue the second half of the season…

After the Airdrie game on matchday 17, I had a look at where I was conceding goals from. The majority of assists were coming from my left hand side, where I had my LB set to be a wing back on support. Of course, tweaking him to be a full back on support instead can’t be the sole reason for this miraculous run of form in the second half of the season but in the 17 matches since we’ve conceded a grand total of seven goals, none of which were assisted from my opponents right hand side. Boom.

My January Manager of the Month award was well deserved, and that run of five wins without conceding was the highlight of my season. Just a couple of little blips midway through, but we did manage to gain our revenge over both Falkirk and Alloa and send the Stirling fans home happy that attended both of those away matches versus our rivals.

One other thing to note, is the form of Ross Kavanagh. His best role is as a forward, but I’d mainly been utilising him on either flank and mainly as a back up option. Injuries and a lack of form from my other strikers led me to give Kav a chance up front. He’s repaid me with 11 goals in 18 games since coming in up front for the Peterhead game on matchday 16. Brilliant.

You must have mid-table all sewn up, Samo? Well…

Playoffs here we come! That unbelievable second half of the season, in which we were second behind Dunfermline in the form table over the 17 matches, has catapulted us into real contention for promotion. We couldn’t go up could we? Playoff drama, player performances and a growing the club update coming soon in a separate post. Who doesn’t love a cliffhanger?!

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