On FM12 I enjoyed a successful couple of seasons as Guiseley manager, guiding them into the Conference and keeping them there. That’s about as far as I got, before FM13 came out. So a few weeks ago I decided to start up a Guiseley save on FM14 in a some kind of shallow effort to prove to myself that I won’t be buying FM15 when it comes out on Friday 7th November (but we all know I’ll be buying it, because I’m thoroughly predictable).
In short, my Guiseley campaign for 2013/14 was largely enjoyable – but it was top and tailed with some disastrous form. Four defeats from my first six league games was enough for the board to threaten me with the sack before August was out, and then, despite tremendous performances from that point on, I ended the season under the same pressure after finishing 4th and losing my play-off first leg 4-0 at home to local rivals Harrogate Town.
It’s worth pointing out that in the second leg I was 1-0 up and scored a second just before half time – but it was disallowed. We went on to lose 3-2, but had it been allowed to stand, maybe I wouldn’t have had to justify the 7-2 aggregate defeat to the board by blaming my players (and then having to grovel to keep my job, because they didn’t like that answer).
My only save of note on FM13 was with Solihull Moors, and I believe that’s well documented on this blog. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure I made the play-offs for three successive seasons and, if I’m not mistaken, I lost them all.
From the very start the board and fans expected promotion. My wage budget was relatively healthy for the Conference North and I had a transfer kitty of £6k (and anything that’s more than £0k is classed as a massive bonus at that level). I used pre-season to design and perfect my 4-4-2 while making some sensible recruitments on free transfers, but our performances varied wildly – beating Hull’s under-21s 3-0 and then losing 7-1 at home to Leeds.
The four defeats in six games to start the league season was what ultimately forced me to change from my favoured 4-4-2. It appeared the players I’d inherited were more suited to a 4-2-3-1 formation, and it worked a treat. I then lost just one of my next 13 games (winning 10 of them) and progressing to the FA Trophy 2nd round.
There then came a wobble in December when I played Harrogate four times. First up was a 2-2 home draw in the said FA Trophy 2nd round before a 3-2 defeat after extra time in the replay. A 1-1 draw at Wetherby Road in the league was followed by a 3-1 victory in the return fixture on New Year’s Day.
And then we found some rhythm again. For the rest of the season we would win a couple, draw a couple and then lose one, and repeat. There were some big victories in there too, including a 6-1 win over Vauxhall Motors and 4-1 wins over Stockport, Telford and, um , Vauxhall again. A 2-0 win at relegated Workington on the penultimate weekend of the season secured our play-off spot (eventual champions Histon were never in sight and won the league comfortably).
We then lost our final match of the season 1-0 at home to Gloucester, before the nightmare of the play-offs took place. A striker by the name of Jamie Reed absolutely destroyed us at Nethermoor, scoring all four goals in Harrogate’s win. The way the game was played didn’t really justify the end result, but our defence had become more vulnerable from February onwards. Luckily our front four were exceptional and simply scored more than our defence was letting in.
Top scorer for the season was Gavin Rothery with 19 from his position either behind the striker or from the inside right. Ex-Barrow midfielder Adam Dawson was exceptional – and interchangeable with Rothery – scoring 15 and assisting 16. Loan signing Dayle Southwell from Grimsby scored 6 and assisted 5 during his 17-game stint with us from the left.
As for the strikers themselves, Adam Boyes (on a season-long loan from Gateshead) scored 16, while out-and-out target man Craig Hobson got 8 from 27 starts. Oli Johnson, when he wasn’t injured, scored 4 in 15. He started the season well when all others around him were piss-poor, but his injury proneness was utterly ridiculous. He had six separate injuries before we’d even reached Christmas.
Goalkeeper Steven Drench was an ever-present between the sticks, while the back four of Danny Hall, Danny Ellis, Paul Morgan and Rhys Maynell were, in the main, decent – but they became particularly porous when they should’ve been stronger through playing together on a consistent basis. But then maybe that was due to the cavalier nature of the 4-2-3-1 and I shouldn’t be so harsh on them.
I’m now in the process of tying the likes of Rothery and Dawson to another year’s contract while releasing the average performers (and most if not all of the youth teamers, who have got zero chance of breaking into a team pushing for promotion any time soon).
I’m not too sure of my assistant manager Stuart Gray either. He’s said some bizarre things in the media on my behalf and ruined a couple of players’ confidence ahead of big games. I’d do the interviews myself but I don’t have time for stuff like that. It takes me long enough to get through one season simply planning the tactics and managing the games without getting bogged down with inane questions over whether Andy Holdsworth has the potential to rip the opposition a new hole.
So that’s where I am right now. My squad is about to reduce to just a handful of players and my scout will be working overtime to help me sign players that are an improvement on what I’ve had this season. I’m not sure whether to go back to 4-4-2 and be a bit more rigid, or whether I should try a new division in a new country. I’ll see what becomes available during the summer.