Category Archives: Queen’s Park

Part IX: Down in the dumps (aka League 2)

It happened. We got relegated.

News screen that says Queen's Park got relegated

Sacked and relegated: what a CV I’m carving out for myself in this FM17 career.

The players showed the sheer lack of respect you’d expect them to show for a manager who only ever played Sunday League drivel.

But you could argue that Queen’s Park don’t play at a much higher level – and I could make a genuinely strong case to say I actually earned more money playing Sunday League football in Grimsby than managing this confused bunch of shysters.

As the home of the Scottish national team, Hampden is used to seeing some inept performances. But none stooped so low that they reached the gutter and slipped away into the sewerage system under Glasgow.

The strike force of every team in League 1 went through us like piss through snow. It was embarrassing to watch, let alone manage.

Queen's Park results

After conceding five at Ayr, the players wanted to make doubly sure that I didn’t like that sort of thing by conceding another five at Dundee Utd in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup.

I let them know, in no uncertain terms, that it repulsed me. So they stopped conceding five and simply lost the next seven games by smaller margins instead.

That made it 11 defeats in 12 (or 10 in 11 in the league). We hit rock bottom.

Perversely, during this run, St Mirren came in for Ryan Porteous, a distinctly average 19-year old centre back I picked up on a free in the summer after he’d been released by Hibs.

Then East Fife stole a centre back that hadn’t even made his debut for us. John Tennent – an ex-Morton player – couldn’t turn down £80 a week in the charming town of Leven.

A 1-0 win at home to Ayr kept us in touch with Albion, who had jumped above us into the relegation play-off spot, but three draws and two defeats in our last five games sent us down.

We won two of our last 26 games. That we went into the last game, at home to Montrose, with a chance of surviving remains one of life’s biggest mysteries.

But old habits die hard. We couldn’t score. One goal would have given us three points – and a stay of execution – as Albion were losing at home to Peterhead. In fact, a 0-0 draw would’ve been good enough for us if Albion lost by three goals.

They were two down at one point, but pulled a goal back – and it ended 2-1, so the final table looked like this:

League 1 end of season table - Queen's Park bottom

24 goals scored in 36 matches. It was an abomination of a season for us.

For those who are interested, Albion beat Brechin in the play-off semi-final but lost to Cowdenbeath in the two-legged final, so they’ll join us in League 2 next season.

And I say ‘us’ because, incredibly, I haven’t been sacked. I’m not sure how I’ve dodged the bullet… but the atmosphere is sour. The board aren’t angry with my mismanagement of the team; they’re just disappointed.

Well, I’m beyond disappointed with this shower of shite – just look at the goals column:

Queen's Park's squad statistics for the 2017/18 season

That’s right. My top scorers ended up with seven goals each. Connor Murray, who went off the boil in January, didn’t score in his final 10 appearances, while Carlo Monti isn’t even a striker. I think four of his seven were direct free kicks.

But the two players who really boiled my piss are Andy O’Connell and John Carter. Here’s Mr O’Connell’s incredible statistics for the season (and please bear in mind he’s a striker):

Andy O'Connell's in-game statistics (no goals all season)

I hope you’ve got a thing for high numbers because John Carter’s ‘goals scored’ column is an absolute whopper:

John Carter's statistics (no goals)

So, as you can see, I was always going to have a bitch of a season if two of my strikers couldn’t manage to score ONE measly goal between them.

Both complained, at various points of the season, about not being given a chance in the first team. I gave them chances, alright. I started O’Connell 14 times with a strike partner in Murray. Did he repay me?

“Andy O’Connell says his lack of goals is concerning him,” reads the headline. Then he comes knocking on my door asking to start more games.

You can imagine my response.

Right now the players are all on holiday. Well I hope they booked a really expensive trip to the Maldives that fell through – and they can’t claim the money back because it wasn’t ATOL protected.

That would be sweet justice.

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Part VIII: The toys have left the pram

Oh my god, we’re actually awful. I mean, we’re falling to pieces.

That sliding sound is our season going down the pan. You know that really rubbish run of results that got me sacked at Chorley? Well, the same’s happening here.

One win in nine. Six points from a possible 27. And my defence, which knew how to keep the occasional clean sheet to get my strikers off the hook, has dissolved. It’s crumbled. Something has officially ‘gone wrong’.

Queen's Park results - 1 win in 9

We’re now 8th and looking nervously over our shoulders at Stranraer and Albion, who are slowly closing in on us.

Technically, because I’m not getting paid to manage Queen’s Park, it’s not my full time profession – therefore it’s technically not possible to be ‘unprofessional’.

Which is handy, because I’m now going to a) blame my players, and then b) blame the game.

Yes, I’m lashing out.

Right, firstly I think it’s worth pointing out that we scored in our last six consecutive games. Sadly, five of them were defeats, and a four were heavy. We conceded three at home to East Fife, four against Dumbarton and Airdrie, and a magnificent five against Ayr.

In three of those four heavy defeats, their star striker scored a hat-trick, and each of those defeats followed a similar pattern:

No matter what formation, personnel or mentality I start with, the opposition scores from their first attack – normally the player I told centre back Adam Cummins to mark, and normally within the first 10 minutes.

If there’s a danger man highlighted by my scout before the game, he has a worldy. There’s no stopping him.

We miss all the chances we create – which aren’t many, to be truthful. Strikers are missing sitters and the keeper’s having ‘one of those games’.

They’re having ‘four of those games’ in my case.

It’s normally 2-0 before half time when one of their unstoppable wingers (who puts in 430 unstoppable crosses) has a ‘he certainly didn’t mean that!’ moment.

Goals three, four (and sometimes) five follow. With the game well out of sight and, ironically, my tactics all over the place because I was chasing the game, this is when we usually get our goal.

Every goal comes from a cross. I’ve tried marking the wingers, I’ve tried standing off them. I’ve tried closing them down, staying on my feet… nothing works. I am powerless to stop crosses – and my two centre backs, who are decent in the air if nothing else, lose every header.

And those six goals I’ve scored? They’ve all come in the last 10 minutes (81, 83, 85, 87 and two on 89, to be precise).

My latest defeat – 3-1 to East Fife – included everything I’ve just covered. The concession of an early goal; two down by half time; a hat-trick for their star striker who I tried to mark out of the game; all goals from crosses.

We had 17 shots. They had 17 shots. We had 52% possession, and clear cut chances were two apiece.

I’ve played 50 games now, as boss of Chorley and Queen’s Park, and I’ve scored a magnificent total of 41. My win percentage is a rather pathetic 24.

I knew it wouldn’t be long, given that record, before I resorted to a massive, childish whinge. And when I work out how to get my tactics right in the future, I’ll read this article back and probably feel a teensy weensy bit silly.

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Part VII: Cow’s arse, banjo – that old chestnut

I’ve scored 10 goals in 14 league games and yet we’re SEVENTH.

This is incredible. Apologies for the rather excitable caps lock, but I’m actually at a loss to explain how we’ve done this – especially when you consider that one of my summer signings, striker Andy O’Connell, has scored precisely no goals in 11 starts, and one of the surviving members of last season’s squad, fellow striker John Carter, has also scored no goals.

I’ve never worked with such a goal-shy squad as this. The mere thought of shooting seems to fill them with dread.

Things did not get off to a good start in the league after we won one and lost four of our first five games. This kept us off the bottom thanks to the general ineptness of Albion Rovers, who kindly offered us that solitary win.

Six weeks later we would lose to them through an injury-time goal.

But sandwiched between those head-in-hands moments we found some form after I had this novel idea of applying some tactical consistency. We, ladies and gentlemen, embarked on a FIVE-MATCH unbeaten run, which included three wins and two draws.

Since we can’t score, you won’t be surprised to learn that both draws were 0-0, with one of them being away at leaders Airdrie.

I cannot confirm nor deny that we played well in any of those wins (so we were rubbish, then) – conceding more shots and more possession to our opponents on each occasion – but who’s counting shots and passes when you’re actually scoring goals for once?

Then we came back down to earth with a bump, with a heavy defeat to Forfar and that ball-shrivelling injury-time moment against Albion.

But something incredible happened at East Fife. With just 20 minutes to go, and 2-0 down, we scored TWO GOALS to snatch a point! I know!

“Would you believe it!” shouted Jeff Stelling on Soccer Saturday. In a moment of rare unprofessionalism, he forgot where we was, ripped off his microphone and climbed onto the desk in front of him, jumping up and down like an ape to announce: “The team that can’t score goals… have scored two… to DRAW AT EAST FIFE!”

Yes, I’m making good use of the caps lock on this post. I’m aware of that.

I then absolutely battered Ayr at home and lost 2-0. Now that was a kick in the nads. For the first time this season (and possibly for the first time since I’ve been managing Queen’s Park) we comfortably outplayed another team, but once again my so-called strikers gave an impeccable demonstration of how to get dropped for the next match.

Chance after chance after chance went begging. You have it. No, you have it. No, I don’t want it.

Oh, for god’s sake, one of you just STICK IT IN THE SODDING NET.

“That was a sitter,” says the commentary. “He’ll kick himself for missing that.”

No – I’ll kick him for missing that.

The next game proved that my back-up strikers are no better. Given a chance at home against inferior opposition in the Scottish Cup, they were somehow worse and we ground to a goalless halt against Selkirk.

Thankfully we won the replay 2-0, but even now I’m struggling to work out why, as a team that broadly plays 4-4-2, we can’t score more goals.

Hilariously, Carter – who, it turns out, hasn’t scored since March 3 (before I took over) – is wanted by Forfar. Let me just remind you that Forfar beat us 3-0. They don’t need a striker who can’t score.

My news feed is essentially ‘Carter vows to end goal drought’ and ‘O’Connell hasn’t scored in 16 hours of football’ and ‘Connor Murray says he won’t let his lack of goals affect him’. To be fair to Murray, he’s scored five in 14 starts, so I don’t have beef with him.

But if there’s one player that infuriates me more than any of my strikers, it’s 32-year old left back Iain Campbell.

As one of the million players I signed in the summer, his stats suggest he could be pretty decent. Only a lack of competition prevents me from dumping him in the reserves or selling him to Stenhousemuir, because he has absolutely nailed the ability to get an average rating of 6.20 every single game – but twice, from absolutely nowhere, he gets 7.80 and wins the man of the match award.

These are my results since the last update:

Queen's Park results

And here’s how the table is looking after 14 games:

League 1 table, Queen's Park 7th

I believe we have Dundee Utd away in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, where we’ll no doubt get battered and not score.

Strangely, five of my next six games are at home – where we’ve been marginally better at scoring – so I’m hoping we can get a few more wins under our belt ahead of the obligatory bad run that will see us slip closer to 9th now that Albion appear to be getting their shit together.

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Part VI: Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits

Raised on a diet of broken biscuits.

You know, I was actually naive enough to believe, just for a moment, that some of my half decent players would turn deals down elsewhere to stay at a club that didn’t pay them a penny to play each week.

In the end, 15 of my players went to other clubs (including Montrose, Queen of the South, Clyde, Forfar, East Fife, Dumbarton and Dunfermline. Ayr United nicked three of the buggers).

It was a chastening moment.

Faced with a bunch of friendlies that started before June was out, I had five players – my worst five players from last season. I think two of them made the bench at one point, but to be honest I couldn’t tell much difference in quality between them and the greyed out ‘filler’ players in my reserve squad.

The departures included my world-beating right back Ross Millen, who is clearly destined to win international caps now that he’s signed for East Fife. Mate, I thought you’d find a better club than that.

The strangest transfer was my reserve goalkeeper, Andrew Murphy, signing for Rotherham on a two-year, £1,000 p/w deal. He must be a cat, because he’s definitely fallen on his feet.

Anyway, to cut a very long (and very boring) story short, I spent hours sifting through the players that were released by other clubs to see if I could assemble some sort of team ahead of our first friendly against Kelty Hearts.

This I did, but I was like one of those shoppers on Black Friday who bursts into Asda as soon as the store opens and buys a big TV just because it’s there – without considering whether the telly’s actually any good.

So I blindly bagged myself a load of bang average players from the bargain bin.

Now, I had been doubting my ability as a tactician given how rare victories have been for me on FM17, but I’m glad to say that even with a bunch of barely-human misfits I was able to assemble them in some sort of formation and instruct them to beat a fellow amateur side 4-2. It was actually a half-decent performance.

We weren’t convincing in our 1-1 draw at Clyde, and the 2-1 win at Darlington 1883 was, if I’m honest, lucky.

Then followed a couple of catastrophes. We were very lucky to lose by only two goals at Partick Thistle, and then we got an official dicking at Oldham. They could’ve scored ten but settled for just the six.

For those of you who know a bit about Scottish football, you’ll know their season starts with four group games in the Betfred Cup. We won just once – on penalties – so the less said about that, the better.

By this time I’d signed enough players to fill the bench on match days. I don’t recognise any of the names in real life, but a couple of them – Carlo Monti and David Turnbull – look like they might actually be quite good.

This is Monti:

Carlo Monti stats

And here he is, scoring a superb goal against Albion Rovers:

But it’s Groundhog Day. After three games we’re in a familiar position:

League 1 table - Queen's Park 8th

Here are my results so far – slightly worried about the amount of red on this list:

Queen's Park's list of results

The board isn’t overly concerned at this point, given that we weren’t expected to progress in the cup and that the media expect us to finish 9th. However, the players are still playing like the bunch of strangers they really are, and my tactical inconsistency probably isn’t helping.

I think I should be awarded Manager of the Year already on the sole basis that I managed to get around 14 players to sign ‘contracts’ at Queen’s Park that are literally worth nothing.

Oh, and the 16-year old promoted from my youth set-up who was described as the best thing since sliced bread?

Pinched by Dunfermline within two weeks.

With no ability to tie even half-decent 16-year olds down (a sentence that will attract the attention of the internet police, no doubt) there’s no hope for building a bright future.

No, just exist. Turn up, play matches of football, entertain the sparsely populated national stadium as best you can, and go home.

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Part V: Queen Victorious

The Queen lives! Long live the Queen (in Scottish League 1).

Yes we survived, but in the most unconvincing fashion possible. Things were going swimmingly in our penultimate match at home to Alloa, 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go… and then we threw it away.

Hilariously, having lost the game 2-1, it actually assured us of our safety despite being just two points clear of the relegation play-off place because a) there are actually three other teams worse than us, and b) two of them had to play each other on the last day, so we couldn’t slip any lower than 8th.

We won our last game at home to Livingston, who had just been crowned champions. We took the form book, yeah, and wiped our royal arse with it.

It means that I won one, drew one and lost two of my four games in charge, scoring four and conceding five. Both those defeats came at home. You know, something tells me we’ll never make our stadium (literally one hundred times bigger than is necessary) a fortress.

I’ve had little time to get to know the players, so I’ve got to be pleased that they did the business.

And allowed myself a good, hearty chuckle at Chorley getting relegated on goal difference.

I have no idea what the summer will bring. As I’ve mentioned before, every single one of my players is on an amateur contract so the half decent ones will walk.

We don’t do such things as transfer and wage budgets at Queen’s Park. You can forget any of that stuff.

“Do you fancy playing for us? Yes, I know you can get paid more playing for Gala Fairydean in the Ferrari Packaging Lowland League – but do they play their home games at the home of Scottish football? I think not. No, we literally cannot give you a £1 goal bonus. Sorry.”

Here’s the final league table:

Scottish League 1 final table, Queen's Park 8th

And this is Josh Watt scoring what turned out to be our goal of the season. Foot like a traction engine, and all that (nice forward roll-and-punch celebration:

 

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Part IV: The reign of Queen Dick

When you’ve been sacked by Chorley, and you’re staring at the bottom of your pint glass in the corner of a pub frequented by just one regular who suffers from phlegm and catarrh, where else can you go?

Who’ll take a manager who lost 50% of his matches and couldn’t even motivate his side to score an average of one goal a game?

Queen’s Park. That’s where.

Yes, I’m now in the third tier of Scottish football, where all my players are on amateur contracts. I’m on an amateur contract. None of us are being paid a penny to turn up and play (or manage) games of football.

The fact that we’re in the third tier, and not fourth, is remarkable. What’s even more remarkable is that we play out home games at Hampden Park – a 52,000-seat stadium for 500 fans. If I know my fractions like I think I do (and I’ve always said betting is a good way to learn maths) that’s just under 1% of its capacity.

I’ve gone from being chucked by Chorley (who, hilariously, play their home games at Victory Park) to spending my Saturday afternoons in Scotland’s best stadium.

The fact that any of my players could walk out of the club at any time is a small price to pay to find a chairman that’s willing to give me a second – and possibly final – chance.

The situation is this: with four games to go, Queens Park are three points clear of the relegation play-off spot. My remit is to keep them clear. In fact, everything about this job is startlingly similar to the situation I was in at Chorley. Except no one gets paid.

I’m doing it for the love of the game. It’s work experience. It’s better than being at Sports Direct on a zero hours contract where they pay you peanuts and sack you for daring to take a long shit break.

I barely had a day to assess my squad before we took on second placed Airdrie at home – a team still with a chance of claiming the title – so I left things in the capable hands of my assistant, Chris Hillcoat.

We lost 1-0.

Same old story, really. We had plenty more chances – I was actually impressed by the way we played – but we conceded in the first minute and never looked like recovering, despite having more of the play.

Next up was a trip to Brechin, who occupied the relegation play-off spot. A defeat would see us swap places.

And if the game had finished in the 87th minute, that’s exactly where we’d be. But striker Anton Brady broke his barren spell to equalise in the 88th and we nicked a point. I say ‘nicked’ – again, we played fairly well, had more of the ball and created more chances.

That’s where things stand right now. With two games to go, Stenhousemuir (or Stenhouse Manure, as a few of us like to call them) are relegated – they’re long gone – and Brechin stay 9th on 34 points. Peterhead are in 8th on 35 and we’re in 7th on 36 (so the point actually moved us up a position.

There’s no time to look for reinforcements, so I’ll have to do this with the players at my disposal. I seem to have inherited a world-beating right back, who has four goals, four assists and an average rating of 7.25. His name is Ross Millen.

My two remaining fixtures are, unusually, both at home. We’ve got Alloa (in the play-offs but nothing to play for) and Livingston (top of the league with a four-point advantage over Airdie).

Also, my chief scout, Bobby Dickson, is amazing. No wonder we’re in the third tier if he’s in charge of recruitment.

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