Welcome back to the not-so-Occasional Football Manager, as compared to previous versions of the game, I’m absolutely flying through this save. I’ve reached season 3 in what must be record time for me. This post will detail our summer dealings in the transfer market ahead of our first season in the Scottish Premiership, and harking back to flying through the game, go into detail about how we’ve done so far in the league at the half-way point of the season. As always, feedback is welcome so let me know on Twitter if you’re enjoying the save updates, despite their hugely irregular timing and format!
Summer Transfers In
Quite a fair bit of incoming business ahead of the 2017/18 season, and as I detailed in the previous post, what will be our first in the Scottish Premiership. I’ll pick out a few of these players and give you my thoughts.
Dec arrived on a pre-contract from Fleetwood Town, and he’s no stranger to the ‘Ton. He was top scorer in the 2014/15 season as the club secured the League 1 title, and their return to the Scottish Championship, just before I took over. The attacking department is somewhere that I really struggle with, brilliant players quite obviously come at a premium, and we just can’t compete on similar levels to our league rivals at the current time. Dec, however, has pace to burn and although his level of composure isn’t generally as high as I’d look for in a striker, I’m hoping he’ll chip in with a few goals this season.
We’ve always got to be in the hunt for securing players on free transfers after they’ve been released. If it looks like they can do a job, they’ll be offered a deal, and bringing in Kavanagh was a bit of a no-brainer. Michael Miller has been excellent for us at right back, but he’ll maybe have to contend with less game time now. Good in the tackle, and his attacking attributes for a full back are good too, in particular his pace, crossing and work rate. The fact that his value has skyrocketed to £725k just vindicates his arrival, and leaves me seriously questioning why Cork City let him leave on a free.
Let’s call him Freddy. I’ve mentioned in almost every post so far about Scottish clubs really needing to utilise the loan market to secure players of a higher quality, and that they could make the difference between a successful or a not-so-successful season. Freddy arrives from Fulham and is the first player I’ve had to spend some money on, albeit on a loan deal. He’s a flying winger with great pace, and his stats for finishing and composure aren’t too bad for this level either. He’ll work his socks off for the team with high determination, I’m really excited about what he’s going to do this season.
We need a sound defensive base if we’re going to stay in the league, and it’s an area that constantly need strengthening. While he didn’t actually play any games, Mbabu had a loan spell at Rangers previously, and I’m expecting him to really shore up the back line. There’s still plenty of room for him to improve, and the almost guaranteed first team football this season should do him the world of good in that respect. He’s a huge step up in quality compared to any of our current defenders in the squad.
Charlie Telfer and Alex Samuel both returned to the club on loan deals as well after their previous spells. The final incoming transfer to outline is this guy.
He should be a well known name to any Scottish football fan, but ex-Celtic winger James Forrest joins his brother, Alan, at Morton on a free transfer. It’s a real coup for a club of our stature, just coming up to the Premiership, to secure his signature. He’s not as young as his image suggests, but at 26, he’s arguably just reaching his peak. Again, I’ve said this before, but I almost exclusively just look at pace and acceleration for wingers, if they have that in abundance, they’ll cause problems and do damage. Forrest is rapid and I can’t wait to see what he can produce in the blue and white hoops of the ‘Ton.
Again, there was no real outgoing transfer activity of note. We aren’t in a position to be selling players for fees yet, however, I feel that might be coming soon.
How are our results in the Scottish Premiership looking as we look to battle bravely against relegation back down to the Championship?
We started the season in brilliant fashion. That 5-2 opening day win away at Dundee Utd really set the tone for the first couple of weeks. We followed it up with perhaps the best result of my time at the club so far. A home 4-0 win against Rangers. They couldn’t handle us, and we absolutely steamrollered last seasons league winners. The fixture list hasn’t been kind to us, and we’re having to face Celtic the week after Rangers. However, looking at our results against them both so far in the league, maybe I’ll have to revisit my thoughts on that. The 2nd games against the Auld Firm bringing another win against Rangers, this time at Ibrox, and a 3-1 home win against Celtic. If you’d said to me before the start of the season that we’d beat both Rangers and Celtic at home, I would not have believed you.
We’ve scored 5 goals on 3 different occasions, however you can probably see from the results that we’re conceding quite a few goals as well, more on that in a second. The real low point of the first half of the season has got to be that 7-2 defeat at Hearts. I can’t even explain what happened. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you we had 62% possession and a couple more shots than them. The away defeat at the end of December there against Dundee was also poor from us. They scored with their only shot on target as we missed chance after chance. I would have taken a draw.
Spoiler alert, we aren’t battling bravely against relegation…
We’re fighting to qualify for Europe. To get to the half way mark, and to have lost the least amount of games in the league is a great achievement, and I’m really delighted with it. The table is so tight, and there really is everything still to play for. We’re leading the way in terms of average match possession so far, with almost 56%. If we’ve got the ball, other teams can’t score. Well that’s what you’d presume anyway. We’re joint 3rd for goals conceded so far in the league, with 39. That’s 1.69 goals conceded a game. Normally I’d be concerned about that, but, we’re also joint top in the goals scored table. We’re scoring 2.17 goals a game, that’s 50 scored in our 23 matches so far. We’re sure fire bets for any punters both teams to score coupon. The board are still expecting us to avoid relegation, I’m pretty sure it’s the least we can do.
Picking out three players that have really done the business so far for us this season is actually quite an easy task. You’ve been introduced to them above, so I won’t re-screenshot them.
3 – In at 3, is Freddy Plumain, the Fulham loanee. An average rating of 7.28, with 5 goals and 5 assists in 16 league starts.
2 – At 2, it’s new arrival in the right back slot, John Kavanagh. Unluckily for him, Michael Miller was injured for a few months at the start of the season and Kav slotted right in where Miller had so brilliantly performed before. His average rating so far is 7.44, and he’s bombing up and down that right flank to chip in with 10 assists. He leads the way for league assists.
1 – And our stand out player of the season so far is, James Forrest. A deadline day arrival, he missed the first few games of the season but has come in straight away and really performed. He’s our top scorer with 10 goals in just 14 starts, with a huge average rating of 7.67. We really rely on the wingers in our system, and I’ve been delighted with both Forrest and Freddy’s contributions so far this season.
Off the Pitch
I always like to give an update on how we’re doing off the pitch too, in terms of the financial side of things. As I mentioned before, our previous chairman, Douglas Rae, left the club ahead of the season. He was an underwriter which meant he injected money into the club to cover any losses over the course of the season. The new regime started well, we had a boost in season ticket sales which brought in an extra £500k compared to the previous season. But over the last few months, although attendances are up on last season, and are remaining at a steady level, we’re losing money at a faster rate than making it. I’ll really be looking to remedy this, firstly, by finishing as high up the league table as possible. A 4th place finish brings in a sum of £1.6m, which will be huge for the club. Secondly, I might have to sell some players in the summer, especially now we have a few players at the club that if we did sell, could really make a difference to how we can operate going forward.
So there we are. It feels like a bit of a whirlwind summary of the season so far. Can we keep up the challenge for a European spot? Do you think I’ll be able to sustainably keep outscoring the opposition? Let me know your thoughts!