After the promotion to League One £350.000 was invested to improve the youth facilities, a huge investment yet again for the club, but nevertheless something that hopefully will take the academy to the next level.
There where some transfers this season as well, with several players leaving on a free and a new club record transfer fee received.
- Slav Huk – Povazska Bystrica – £12,5K
- James Dickson – Free Transfer
- Nicky Wheeler – Free Transfer
- Josh Wilson – Free Transfer
- Dom Plank – Wolves – Free Transfer
Dom Plank returns to the club after his scholarship at Wolves expired and he wans’t offered a pro deal. He will go straight into the first team squad and play a backup role for Briggs and Chudy on the wings. Plank got great potential, and I’m really looking forward to see how he can develop and contribute to the team.
We took League One by storm and won seven of the first nine games, and only lost one of them. In the opening game Ryan Seager scored our first-ever goal in League One, as he did in the National League and League Two.
Top of the League after nine games shocked everyone, including myself. Unfortunately it didn’t last as we only won two of the next 15 games.
After the start we had it was a quite a shock that our form dropped that much, but on the positive side of things we did score goals and create chances. Alfie Rutherford is runners up on the top-scorer list with 11 goals in 19 games, and Matt Briggs is ranked fourth with six assists so far.
We underperform on xG by -10,1 and has the highest NP-xG/90 in the League with 1.49 so far. Those stats gives great hope that things will turn around in the second half of the season.
As you can see below, the xG table paints a very different picture than the table does.
We were also knocked out of all three cups before Christmas. However, I do feel that we can be satisfied with our cup runs with a third round knock out in the Carabao Cup and reaching the second round in the FA Cup. Salford got the better of us after a replay, and scored the decider in the 85th minute. No big money for us this year either, but we keep taking steps in the right direction.
The second half of the season didn’t go that much better for us, as we continued to struggle big time.
I tried going back to the 3-5-2 formation that we had huge success with the first two seasons, but to little or no luck. We broke the club record for most matches without winning when we lost against Shrewsbury in January, and made it twelve games without winning. Looking back, we only won four games in the league in four months and we plumitted down the table. From the 35 to the 41 round we were in the relegation zone, and in the penultimate round we secured our place after Matt Briggs winner in the 82nd minute. Great relief and finally the horrible first season in league one is over.
We won the last game as well, and ultimately ended 16th.
Having a look at xG table again those numbers would have taken us to 8th place and just 2.2 points away from the playoffs. That tells me two things: 1. We create chances and are a good attacking side 2. We need to improve defensively, and fast. That will be the first priority during pre-season, and a possible change of formation could be necessary.
There were some great moments for the academy along the season. We got our first international when last seasons graduate, Shane Hanlon got called up to represent Northern Ireland U18 in the summer.
Later in the season Alex Chudy became our first England youth international when he got called up for England U18. Siguroli has become a regular for Iceland U19 and aforementioned Hanlon has taken the step up to the U19s for Northern Ireland.
Shane Hanlon broke the record and became the youngest player in League One when he made his debut in September.
Alex Chudy has been one of our star players this season and started the season in immense form. He was so good that he was named Player of the Month and Young Player of the Month in August, and Young Player of the Month again in September. Unfortunately he got injured after that, and played in a team underperforming big time. At 17 years-old he still managed to score seven league goals and had three assists.
We had eight new debutants this season, with several youngsters getting minutes in the Papa John’s Trophy. Some of the ones worth mentioning are Freddy Leather playing 10 games in League One and we finally have a keeper giving Dan Lincoln competition for his place.
Adrian Henry established himself as a member for the first team and played 45 games in all competitions.
The most surprising one was Steve Stewart, for last years intake, who started six games against the end of the season and did his things extremely well as a holding midfielder.
It’s getting quite the habit for us now, and for the third season in a row our intake has the potential to be a golden generation. It could be something with the level we’re playing at, however the quality of the players coming through are getting better for each year.
Keeping in mind that we’ve struggled defensively all season our prayers may have been heard with this years intake. Five of the six players classed as Elite Talents are defenders, and the biggest talent of them all is a centre-back, that looks a lot like Virgil van Dijk!
The two players with the most hype about them this year is Adam McGronigle and Chris Anderson. McGronigle is a determined central midfielder with a great first touch, great vision and good leadership. If we treat him right and manage to develop him correctly we could have our next playmaker and future captain for the first team here.
Chris Anderson is the second one, already deemed good enough for the first at 15. His looks reminds a lot of Virgil and hopefully he can develop to be half the player Virgil is. That’s good enough for me!
With 15 tackling, 17 bravery and 13 determination he’s a great defender already. Although he lacks a bit of height for now, but at 15 years-old I expect that to change in the next couple of years.
Our cost per graduate is increasing every year, due to our investments and a higher cost to run the youth setup. That’s in line with my ambition and what I want to do with the club, so it’s money I’m more than happy to spend. I want that number to become even higher down the road, as more money spent often means better quality and as we go along the number of new graduates to play for the first team probably will go a little bit down from the first few seasons.
After a rough season I’m looking forward to the next one! I hope you’ll follow along for the ride.
Thanks for reading.