“When the final whistle blew, the lads went wild, jumping up, screaming, hugging each other, with congratulations all around. I threw my arm over my assistant’s shoulder yelling “we did it, Oli, we fuckin’ did it!” before joining the jubilant players — my boys both young and old, who defied the odds to secure promotion to Division Ten — on the pitch to celebrate. We had, of course, mathematically won the league already, but now that the dead rubber was out of the way, we were finally able to celebrate in earnest. Though we failed out of all of our cup competitions, the league title was ours, and our young club was ready for its first baby-step up the ladder that is the English soccer pyramid.”
The first season in charge of AFC Bolnore on my quest to take them to the Premier League has come to an end, and we are victorious! Next stop is the Mid-Sussex Division Ten!
Before we get carried away, let’s back up a little bit and cover the events leading up to the finale. As you’ll recall from the previous post, our form was slipping as we struggled to hold together a team that was splitting at the seams following a dispute with vice captain and wanker Drew Shore.
Our first match back following the conclusion of the events of the last post was a league match against Hartfield II, which we took in a 1-3 victory that we comfortably earned, holding over 60% of possession and making 17 shots at the goal, compared to their four, which only yielded one last minute point for them.
Following the Hartfield match, we had our promotion confirmed, making the last games of the season outside of the Brian Hall Challenge Cup final meaningless. We’re now one step closer to the goal of getting them into the Premier League!
Our next game was a comfortable 3-0 home win against Jarvis Brook III.
I’m not covering these games in too much detail as they’re dead rubber and not interesting, just look at the stats and league table if you wish.
Our next match was the Brian Hall Challenge Cup final against East Grindstead Meads at home at the Bolnore Recreation Ground. I really felt that this was a game we should have comfortably won, but it came just days after our previous match, so my quality players were worn out. Those who had adequate coverage got to rest, and those that didn’t have suitable players for backups had to play tired. Though we were arguably the better team, the one goal to them proves that in football anything can happen. Still, we made it to the final on the board’s minimum expectation to be competitive, so Tony’s delighted for us.
Our penultimate match of the season was another win against Scaynes Hill II. It was a game that we had a comfortable enough hold on, though as usual we see a late consolation goal.
Last up, we had one last match to play in before the season was officially over.
“Listen up,” I said as I glanced slowly around the dressing room making eye contact with each and every one of my players. “Listen, up guys… You lads, as you would say. I’m proud of you. You’ve worked harder than hell for the last eight months. You’ve played your hearts out and you’ve given the people of Bolnore village something to cheer for. Despite our ups and downs as a team, it’s been a good year for us. I want you to enjoy this day. Let’s give all of the fans who have been here rooting for us rain or shine something to go home and celebrate!”
Here we go! We ended the season with a 4-1 win. To be fair, it was the weakest team in the league and a win was always on the cards, but it’s nice to end the season on a good note, and three more points to add to the final score certainly doesn’t hurt. Hey, don’t worry Danehill, as least there’s no going down further than you already are!
Here’s the schedule for our team, showing our runs in the cups and in the league, as well as our competitions screen. As you can see, with 42 points from thirteen wins, three draws, and two losses, we won the league ahead of Crawley United, who will also advance to Division Ten with us. We were knocked out of the Tester Challenge Cup in the second round, we made it to the quarterfinal of the Mid-Sussex Junior Cup, and we made it to the final of the Brian Hall Challenge Cup and finished as runners-up.
Our goals for next season include challenging to promote to Division Nine as soon as possible and ideally in that season since in theory there isn’t that much of a quality gap between us and the teams in that league, and I’d like to challenge for at least one or two of the three cups in our next time at it, since I realise with experience playing them that the quality difference between the teams we played and ourselves is such that it’s probably ours to take as long as we can have a squad able to meet the demands of the league and three cups, an issue that was evident in trying to field fit players this season when the squad wasn’t as great as I would have liked it.
Here’s the player stats overview for the league. As you can see, unsurprisingly, our team was the best team of the lot, holding the best average ratings, having two of the most prolific goalscorers in the league, having the most player of the match awards, four of the five top assists, and also the most yellow cards, although that last one is admittedly not so much of an accolade as it is a concern. But, hey, you’ve got to be willing to take risks to get a reward.
As for the morale problem, which was the focus of the last update, I didn’t update on it in detail, but Drew Shore eventually backed down and decided he was no longer unhappy, and while I have one or two upset players still, the squad as a whole is no longer upset and are back to living harmoniously.
I think I might still end up sacking the vice captain, though. He may be our top player for average rating and assists and a quality left winger, but there’s not a shortage of amateur players to sign and between hissy fits, missing training, and other misconduct, I can certainly think of better vice captains and rolemodels for the younger players to look at on the training pitch. The way I see it, just because he plays doesn’t mean he can be a pain in the butt to me. Let’s call it a 50-50 chance whether he sticks with the club next season or is told to hit the road. I could keep him and he could probably be a good player, but I’m sure we’ve all had our FM players that just irked us and we hated despite their results, yeah?
As you can see, in April I finished getting my National C license and since the club has been making a steady, though minuscule, profit over the season, I was able to ask Tony Wilkinson to hook me up with another training course.
With the first season over, with my objectives for the next season, player updates, etc out of the way, let’s take one last moment to compare my original managerial stats to my stats after a year of coaching and the acquisition of my first coaching license.
My increases aren’t by much, but it’s a start! I’ve also increased from a Local reputation coach to a Regional reputation coach.
As a final note, I found out where AFC Bolnore plays at with some Google, a bunch of websites from places around Haywards Heath, and the team’s Facebook, which didn’t show an address, but had a good picture of the field to compare to Google Maps. The Tim Farmer Recreation Ground just south of the Bolnore Primary School in Haywards Heath.
This is the real life “Bolnore Recreation Ground”. It’s not exactly the Bridge, but then again, the goal was to start at the bottom of the pyramid and make our ways up to the Premier League.
I’ll be back soon to give an update on how the start of the next season is going.