In my last post about Glentoran I talked about how to keep the save alive, the keep it challenging and, more pertinently, interesting. Time for a bit of honesty, I don’t like being a dominant force in Football Manager. I enjoy the struggles of mediocrity. It might seem strange to some, maybe it’s a form of inferiority complex. Maybe it’s something much less deep and psychological.
In my fifth season, I came so close to completing a clean sweep of (non-continental) trophies but I faltered in the NIFL Cup. It was still such an incredible season but much like Nostradamus I had foreseen what was to come. Once you reach the peak there is only one direction to go…
The movements this season need to have the scene set by two big departures.
Goalkeeper Aston Oxborough turned down an extension to make a move as a free agent to English Championship QPR. Oxborough racked up a ridiculous number of games over his three and a half seasons with us, 215 to be exact – that’s at least 19,350 minutes before we consider extra time and penalties! I have mentioned previously that I did expect to replace him at some point soon but I really wanted that to be on my own terms, as such my hand has now been forced.
Secondly, one I had already pre-empted in Umaro Landim. Our superstar on the wing had a stupidly low release clause of just £675k. He spent just a season at The Oval but managed 10 goals and 31 assists in 52 games, amazingly just 22 of those games played in the League. We should never have been able to sign a player of this calibre and he will go on to great things. With this in mind I negotiated a fee of £400k and 30% of any future fee to allow him to move on to Napoli – top AI management there.
We secured not just a replacement but definitely an upgrade on Aston in loan signing Lucas Bergstrom from Chelsea. I’m a big fan of ‘try before you buy’ and his contract at Chelsea expires at the end of this season so he’s essentially on a 12 month trial. Not quite an immediate upgrade here but Benfica youngster Joao Tomé is an exciting alternative for Umaro Landim on a season long loan, he has big shoes to fill already. The final summer signing was a third loanee and will primarly be a rotational option to bolster our defence – Liam Perry comes in for the season from Aston Villa.
I’ve made it my thing to go out in October/November in search of what I have christened as my ‘Danny Glovers’. This season we brought in another three experienced heads. Firstly Sidnei is a great option who actually would step in to become a first choice at centre back, he’s a perfect Ball Playing Defender for this level but frighteningly lacking in the physicals. Willian was an attractive signing to play second fiddle to Jamie Murphy on the left wing. The most exciting was definitely Sergio Aguero, my favourite Danny Glover of all. The Argentine hitman still has everything needed to be a top striker at this standard.
One last signing was made this season in January. Lars Unnerstall came in on a 6 month loan to provide vital cover between the sticks when Bergstrom was struck down with a muscular injury at a crucial point in the season.
It happened again. We looked set to complete an Invicible Season but were knocked back late on by Larne. Bloody Larne. That aside, we still set a record for games won, points won and goals scored. That Goal Difference is insane.
The results below show just how incredibly dominant we were, the league title really was never in doubt from the word go.
In Europe, we managed to get ourselves into the CL Group Stage for the second year running, drawing Chelsea once again. Those two wins over Club Brugge were enough to secure us third place and passage into the Europa League Knockout stage were Lille were just too good over the two legs, despite us taking a shock lead early on in the second leg.
We were undone in the NIFL Cup again, this time in the final by Larne. Bloody Larne.
Thankfully we did have the beating of Larne in the County Antrim Shield, going on the blast Cliftonville away in the final.
There would be no repeat of our success in the Scottish Challenge Cup as we disappointingly exited in our first round of participation.
The heartache continues as a side depleted by International Call Ups was destroyed at home in the second leg of the Irish Champions Cup.
There was some relief as we went on to win the Irish Cup yet again. Somewhat fittingly against bitter rivals Linfield.
And so, the season ends. I’d love to say we finished on a high but Those three cup losses stung hard although the bit that really hurt the most was not being able to complete an unbeaten league season!
Leaving A Legacy
I decided that, after six seasons, the time was right to take my leave from The Oval hotseat. I like to think I did it in classy fashion as my contract came to its natural end.
My main focus is always in leaving a club in a better state that when I arrived and it’s obvious that this is the case here. A squad capable of dominated for years to come, significantly upgraded Youth, Training and Data facilities, an accomplished backroom staff and a massive club account balance of £24million with the Jake Collum and Umaro Landim transfer fee clauses sitting waiting to be activated.
I will continue my journey as the Northern Ireland national manager but what is to come for my Glentoran? My predictions are that the squad will be sold off one by one for outrageously low fees and replaced by players on inflated wages brought in for stomach churning transfer amounts. I’ll keep a keen eye on progress as my international management goes on.