Welcome to my latest update, we have reached the end of January and its been a busy few months at the club. We have had had a transfer embargo after news of a takeover was in process for it to then fall through after the consortium failed to prove they had got the money required to take the club on. The media were reporting that the new owners would appoint my assistant manager Steve Clarke has their number 1 which obviously got my goat up however just a day after the story broke the deal fell through to my amusement. We also said goodbye to David Vaughan after he announced his retirement after picking up a spinal injury that finished his season. Vaughan had been a regular in our line up until the injury. I am pleased to say he has gone in to coaching so good luck to him and you never know he may return to the City Ground in the future. The January transfer window saw Matt Mills leave the club for 800k, he has joined Brighton after failing to nail a place down in our side. Dumitru returned to Napoli after 10 appearances, he asked to terminate his loan which I obliged at the end of January. The transfer window passed by without us adding to our squad for the 2nd consecutive window. The board have made 750k available but I decided to put my faith in the players at the club already. We have been boosted by the return from a long injury of Matty Fryatt who is yet to play for the first team this season but hopefully will see some game time in the run in. Fryatt is out of contract at the end of the season so I will evaluate him over the remaining few months. I myself have been handed a 2 year contract extension which I am pleased to have agreed terms.
David Vaughan Retires
Always welcome to have a bit of extra revenue through the door to boost club finances.
October kicked off with 3 wins against Birmingham 1-0 (Mancienne), Blackburn 4-2 (Lansbury 2, Vellios and Vaughan) and Cardiff City 3-0 (Kasami, Carayol and Vellios) before a League Cup exit at the hands of Watford 0-1 which we manage to avenge later in the FA Cup. We ended the month with a 2-2 draw at Reading with both Lichaj and Kasami getting the goals. Our form 12 games unbeaten in the league took us to third in the table in a very tight top half of the table.
Just three league games this month but we managed to stretch our unbeaten run to 15 games with two draws against QPR 0-0 and Ipswich 2-2 goals courtesy of Bendtner and Osborn before we ended the month with a 4-0 thrashing of Barnsley, Assombalonga netting a brace along with Carayol and Osborn also on target.
December started off with the news that both Vellios and Bendtner had picked up short term injuries that ruled them out of at least the first 4 games of the month leaving Assombalonga to lead the line with Dumitru has back up. I toyed with bringing Gerry McDonagh back off loan or stepping up one of our youth players but I decided to give Dumitru a chance. The month started with an entertaining 1-1 draw at the City Ground against leaders Newcastle Utd, who we would play again at the end of the month in the reverse fixture at St.James Park or whatever its called these days. Assombalonga netted our goal in Nottingham in a game which we probably deserved more from. Next up was the East Midlands Derby at promotion contenders Derby County which ended in a 0-0 draw with both teams giving it their all. Another draw followed 1-1 this time against Preston North End with our goal coming courtesy of Assombalonga which extended our unbeaten run to 18 games, However our run came to an end with a poor display in Nottingham losing 0-1 to Wolves. The return of Vellios to the starting line up for our trip to Huddersfield was greeted with him netting both our goals in a 2-1 win. The reverse fixture against Newcastle ended our month with a frustrating 0-1 defeat in a game we dominated but lacked in front of goal. We drop to 7th in the table with just 1 win in 6 games this month. I felt I needed to change our system to get the best out of our squad.
At the end of December I decided to introduce a new system to the squad because we had started to become vulnerable and in a rut of drawing games that we were dominating so I went about and set us up in a 4-4-2 that as started to produce results on the back of getting the best out of our forward in particular. The system it self is based on a a few core principles of Diego Simone’s Atlético Madrid system taken from this write up at theinsidechannel.com/guide-atletico-madrids-tactics-diego-simeone/
So with the new system in place we started the month with a good 3-1 win at home to Barnsley with our goals coming from Assombalonga 2 and Vellios. We followed this up with all 3 points in another 3-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday and again both Vellios and Assombalonga netting along with a gift own goal. Up next a trip to Birmingham City which produced our 3rd straight 3-1 win with the in form Vellios and Assombalonga yet again on the scoresheet with Mustapha Carayol netting our other goal. Bristol City up next and we grinded out a 1-0 win with a goal for the returning Bendtner. We then had a tricky game at Elland Road which we won 3-2 with a last gasp winner by the inform Vellios who had grabbed a brace along with another Assombalonga goal. With confidence high we travelled to Vicarage Road for our 4th round tie with Watford who had already knocked us out of the League Cup and it looked that the same fate would happen after we went two down early on, however it turned in to the Vellios show after I threw caution to the wind and changed our mentality to Overload. Vellios capped a fine display scoring a hat-trick after the side dug deep after being reduced to ten men with the dismissal of Mills for a straight red challenge, we held on for a 3-2 win which you can see the highlights video below. We ended the month will a solid 3-0 victory at home to Rotherham Utd courtesy of goals by Assombalonga, Bendtner and an own goal. What a month 7 wins out of 7 and the new tactical set up working well, we are in 3rd place in the League just 1 point behind 2nd placed Fulham.
FA Cup Highlights Including Vellios Hat-Trick
Watford 2-3 Nottingham Forest, a superb win after being 2-0 down and reduced to ten men.
With 17 games left of the season we are in a position to mount a challenge for promotion by either getting in to that 2nd place or via the playoffs. I am scouting with both the option of Premier League or another season in the Championship whilst also not being sure of who will own the club with the current board open to selling the club. Whatever happens it’s all set up to be an interesting few months up to the season’s end.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Happy New Year and thank the community for all your support over the last year which has ignited my enthusiasm for the great game that is FM.
There will be more on the Garibaldi Reds over the next few days has we run down the season.