They say great things never come from comfort zones. I left my comfort zone well and truly behind when I moved country to manage a set of below average part-time footballers. The season ended with us avoiding relegation. I just let 15 players leave the club, leaving me with 12 first team players. It's not really my fault, I weighed up each and every player decided whether they are good enough for the club. 15 of them failed the test so I told them they'd be leaving at the end of the season. Well, the day came and they all left. The place feels empty and with those numbers in mind, it means I need to recruit 8 or 9 players. Seeing those players go however does mean that I at least have a sizeable amount of wages left in the budget. I also have 4 months to recruit new players so I can take my time.
I have two worries. The first is simply finding good enough players on sensible wages. Am I going to have to panic buy to make sure I have enough numbers or are there enough players out there to see me through? Second, even if I get those players in, how can I be sure that they will gel? It could take months before they learn each others games, at which point, it could already be too late. Well, good by comfort zone, hello risk.
The scouts have been out for most of the season, suggesting a few players here and there but no one that would really improve us so I've taken matters in to my own hands. I've set up a long list of players and sent the scouts of to dig up information on them. At a minimum I need one player for each of the following positions:
- Left back
- Right back
- Central Midfielder
- Left sided attacker
- Right sided attacker
As the summer went on we narrowed down the long list into a shortlist, three players for each position, and ended up signing 8 players:
Automatically the most talented midfielder at the club and at only 22 is sure to become a key part of my team. Technically better than almost everyone already, he has room to develop, he's a real team player and works hard. His major weakness is that he's terrible at marking and wilts under the pressure of big matches. However, I'm convinced that he's going to be a quality signing and will help us to keep better possession as well as opening up opportunities for our attackers to score.
We're in desperate need of wingers who can turn a game and they're hard to come by. Richard is the only decent one I could find that would be available to a small club like ours. He's a model pro, a Syrian international and at 29 has experience that should only help us. Much like Johnstone, he also doesn't fair well in the big games and has a sketchy fitness history at best but beggars can't be choosers. Even with these weaknesses, he's so far above anyone else we found.
Even harder to find than quality wingers are quality full backs. Or, at least, ones who would come to us. After being rejected by three players, I ended up settling on Anton, a 20-year-old who we've brought in on loan. He's not great but provides depth on the right-hand side. He's a professional team player with no major strength or weakness. An all-rounder who should put us on until next season.
Strikers are yet another rarity - we talked a few but got rejected every time. Our wage limits are making this difficult, I have to spread what's left to 8 signings so we ended up opting for another loan. Eriksson is a young player who will provide depth but no great improvement on either Sandberg nor Eklund. Although not trained there, he has the kind of abilities that might work out wide and due to my lack of success in signing another winger, he may feature out there more than I'd like. He's a decent finisher, has a bit of pace about him but I can't put a loan player ahead of Eklund.
Oh boy, we're really scraping the barrel now. Compromises have been made. Svensson is the most commanding keeper than I could find, not as good at shot stopping as Vestermark but hopefully, that will be less of a problem if Svensson can help to organise our defence.
An injury prone, 32-year-old right back who is also happy to play on the left. He's older than I'd like but he's a solid pro, athletic (relatively speaking, of course), and most importantly a bloody good full back at this level. I'm excited about him coming in, if only he was ten years younger.
A short-term option to provide some strength in depth to our midfield. At 36, he's no spring chicken but he'll be a good role model and give us the ability to rest the first choice players if need be.
Much like the Petersson deal, Prince is a short-term option. He's 38. I'm desperate, okay? In fairness, he's a good defender - good at marking, tackling, reading the game, and should also provide a bit of leadership at the back.
In other news, I've promoted a couple of youngsters due to my coaches talking them up. Per-Olof Lundqvist is a right back/wing back with seemingly a fair bit of potential. He's not right now at the level needed to be first choice but I plan to get him used to playing first team football and see how he goes. In a couple of years, he could be an important player for us. I've also promoted Johan Andersson, another local boy who will become my third choice and rotation keeper. He's just below Svensson and Vestermark but his potential is persuading me to get him some game time. My lack of faith in Svensson and Vestermark could also see him quickly rise up if he's ready to take his chance.
I'm feeling positive about the season ahead, the first team is a million miles better than what it was last season but we lack strength in depth. Two or three injuries could really cost us and that's where my worries lie. Still, there's only one way to find out how this gamble ends. Bring on the new season.