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Standing Free – End of Season 2 – 2.5

AFC

Last time out, we went through the January transfer activity and set ourselves up for the remainder of the season. The 2016/17 Scottish Premiership season is now finished, so how did we do? The aim at the start of the season was to win the league, did we do it?

League

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Look at those results. An unbeaten second half of the season. We’d ended the first half of the season with a disappointing 0-0 draw against Hearts and a defeat to Falkirk. That was swiftly forgotten as we destroyed Hearts 5-1 at Pittodrie. On the whole, it does look like a great run of results. However, looking a bit deeper into it, 4 draws in the first half of the season, and 5 in the second. Disappointing draws too, draws that we’ve had to salvage. Cummings scoring in the 83rd minute against Falkirk, and the 82nd against Hamilton in the next game. Donald Love of all people equalising in the 80th minute against Inverness.

We managed to finally beat Celtic in the league, 2-1 at home, in a bit of a smash and grab performance.

We went into the last game of the season still in with a chance of winning the league, for the second year running. Although, our chances weren’t as good this season. Celtic had the advantage against struggling Kilmarnock, and only had to better our result to secure the win.
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Of course they bettered our 0-0 draw against Rangers, and so the title was theirs for the second year in a row. We finished 4 points worse off compared to my first season in charge, to only lose twice and not win the league is quite devastating. The draws killed us, and I knew they would as the season went on. We scored 1 more goal than last season, but conceded 5 more as teams started to work out how to play against us. Celtic’s second half of the season was bloody impressive. Their only points dropped coming in their defeat against us, and a 1-1 draw against Inverness on the second last day of the season which gave me some false hope of snatching the league from them.

Domestic cup competitions

So from league disappointment into the domestic cup competitions, how did we fare?
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We overcame Inverness, Raith and then Hibs in the final to secure our second consecutive League Cup victory. The competition isn’t hugely important, but it’s always good to win a trophy.

To the Scottish Cup then. We squeezed past Inverness in this competition, and followed it up with a penalty shootout victory against Hearts. Surprise package, East Fife were swept aisde in the quarter final, and in the semi final it was a classic Football Manager dominate in the first half, but fall apart in the second performance against Dundee United.

We’d face our not-so-friendly domestic rivals, Celtic, in the final. I was becoming a bit sick of Brendan Rodgers to be honest. Aside from signing too many goalkeepers (is that coded into the game for Celtic??), he’s building a very strong squad at Celtic. AFC 2.6 4

Celtic dominated the game, and after going 2-0 up, I had nothing to lose. Kiltie pulled a goal back and I went for it, in-game teamtalk of demand more, do what I can to push forward tactically. 2 minutes later, Konate gets his 2nd of the game, and 2 minutes after that, he completes his hattrick. Just like that. Rooney pulled another consolation back but the win was theirs.

No domestic cup double this season.

Europe

We’d marvelously qualified from our Europa League group, and were drawn in a Battle of Britain to face Liverpool in the 1st knockout round.

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I went in with no expectations, but maybe the less said about these matches the better. A brutal first leg home demolishing.

Celtic cruised past Litex in the 1st knockout round, but came unstuck in the 2nd knockout round against one of the strongest sides on this version of the game, Benfica. The coefficient for the country stands at 30.675 and that total catapults us up to 11th in the European coefficient table. What this means is the below.

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The league winners now automatically qualify for the Champions League group stage, with the team in 2nd place qualifying for the notoriously tricky best placed qualifying route.

Players of the season

Donald Love

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Last season, Shay Logan at right back was one of our players of the season. This time round, Donald Love gets the nod. 31 games in all competitions, 15 assists and 5 man of the match awards. His PPM of gets forward whenever possible really lends itself brilliantly to my current tactical setup. The only negative point I have with Love is that, while he’s Scottish, he was obviously trained at Man Utd, so doesn’t count towards our quota of being trained in Scotland.

Jason Cummings

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A £350k signing last summer, I managed Cummings before for a few seasons with Morton and had issues getting him to perform. No issues this season though, he banged in 28 goals in 32 starts. Last season, Adam Rooney scored 35 goals, this season he managed 22. He struggled for form at times and was nowhere near his form of the previous season. Someone had to step up to cover for his struggles, and Cummings did.

Mihailo Ristic

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He’s just an all round brilliant footballer. Despite him laying on 15 assists across all competitions, he doesn’t do anything miraculous. He’s classy, plays it simple and like I’ve said before, definitely does dictate our tempo as per his PPM. When he plays, we play, and we more often than not, play well.

Summary

Another season, another 2nd place finish. Not quite as heartbreaking as last season, but just as disappointing to go close but not win it.

We had a great season in Europe, and will be aiming to make the group stage again next year.

Finances are looking very healthy again after a League Cup win, a run to the Scottish Cup final and our windfall for finishing league runners up. This has enabled us to further improve the youth facilities, and also get a training facilities improvement organised too. They’ll both be completed in October.

Will we finally end our league hoodoo, overcome Celtic, and secure the Scottish Premiership in my third season in charge? Keep following Standing Free to find out!

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