Now, usually on a new Blog series, I’d take time walking you through our tactics, signings, and philosophies, but for this series, I figured I might as well launch straight into the story of my first season in charge of Crewe…mainly because it’s my first real success of FM19!
In this update I’ll talk through my expectations, how I recruited to fit the restrictions I’ve placed on the club, and then also walk you through our results…there may be mention of the term ‘Golden Generation’ along the way as well!
We headed into the 2018/19 season on the back of a 15th-placed finish the previous year. The bookies had us at 350-1 for the title, and indeed, they expected us to be involved in a relegation battle:
For me, seeing us predicted to finish so low was something of a shock – despite my adventures in An Idiot Abroad, I’ve always found it difficult to adjust my attitude towards the game to a point where I don’t always expect to win every game. It’s a by-product of continual Liverpool and other Premiership saves, and it’s a mindset I’ve tried to break out of this season.
Heading into the season with such low expectations, I almost felt as if the pressure was off, and we could take our time to find an identity and a tactic which worked. I started out with a couple of 4-4-2s which I thought might have been working, but eventually ended up with a tactic based vaguely on @FMGuru’s lightning bolt, but with some adjusted roles and TIs.
We had a massively restrictive transfer budget this season, which meant I only had the scope to bring in loans or free transfers. After scouting around extensively, I settled on two transfers to strengthen the squad (stats/attributes as at end of season):-
Tilt came in on loan from QPR for the season, and as you can see from the Screenshot above, he did well enough on the wings to make that loan deal permanent, with the transfer agreed just after the January window closed, and the £30k deal being completed in the Summer of 2019. Tilt was born in Walsall, which puts him well inside the 50 mile radius (39.5 miles) and I’m really excited for what he brings to this team, and the potential he has going forward.
Smith is still young, and we’re re-training him to fit our formation – he got limited game-time across the season but still had the skill to be decisive in a couple of matches and was a good depth option when we needed him. With only a year left on his contract, this is the season that Smith needs to impress, otherwise he’ll probably find himself looking for a new club relatively soon.
We crashed out of the Carabao Cup int he first round, but balanced this out with a solid showing in the Checkatrade Trophy Groups. What really got me was that in the first 3 months of the season, we managed just four wins in the league. By the end of the first 3 months of the season, we were 18th in the league, but only just. The win over Grimsby almost seemed to have stopped the slide and continual yo-yoing up and down the table, and I started to believe that maybe we could turn it around and make something of the season.
It was unreal to watch us play in this time, and I had already started looking for reinforcements in the January window, as we turned our attentions to solidifying our promotion campaign. We went into January sitting 5th in the league, and at the same time, we lost one of our key players in left-back Kevin O’Connell, who was recalled to Preston on January 1st.
As I’ve already alluded to, we needed to stregthen at left-back in January, which I did quite quickly, spending £26k to bring Mitch Hancox in from MK Dons. The left-back was born in Solihull, so is way within the 50 miles limitation, and he pitched in with some solid performances when called upon in the second half of the season
I have high hopes for Mitch; he’s got all of the mental attributes to succeed, but he needs to improve on his physical attributes to remain effective.
In the January window, I also took the opportunity to pick up another couple of young prospects for the future, to see if they could develop into useful players for the club:
Physically gifted, Abdo is already a relatively gifted striker, although does still need work on his technical attributes. Over the second half of the season he featured extensively for our youth teams, netting 8 times in 19 matches.
Manchester-Born Wassi was released from Manchester City’s Academy and picked up by Bolton in 2014. He seemingly failed to impress there, being released in 2016. We’ve picked him up and he spent the second half of the season with the Under 23s, playing 18 games and averaging a rating of 6.81. He still has a lot of work to do to reach his potential, but I think we can at least make a profit on him if he works hard.
The Results (Part Two)
It was disappointing to go out so early in the FA Cup, but Oxford massively out-played us in the replay, and I was content by this point to focus purely on the League, and trying to maximise our chances of securing promotion.
As you can see, we very nearly bottled it – after the loss to Forest Green Rovers, we were left having to beat Grimsby on the last day to secure the title; anything less would have seen us finish second…which, I grant you, would hardly have been a disaster, but I think I would have felt sick having come so close just to miss out on the last day!
In The End…
It was a fully insane season, in which we ended up topping the table by just 3 points. Across the season there were some real standout performances, most notably Chay Tilt with 23 assists and an average rating of 7.23 (the highest in the squad), and Jordan Bowery who finished the season with 26 goals to his name.
For his exploits, Tilt was named player of the season and young player of the season, and definitely made a name for himself, becoming arguably the first name on the team sheet. We’ve got a lot of work to do on the squad ahead of Season 2, but I’m massively optimistic for the future, helped mainly by this:
I’ll talk more about our Golden Generation in a future update, but there are several players in there who I think could have a future with the squad if we work them hard enough!
It’s a good time to be a Crewe fan!