It’s time for the next update to our AFC Bolnore save. Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re now in season three and Mid-Sussex Football League Division Nine following two consecutive title wins from Division Eleven and an undefeated league season last year. It will take 23 promotions from the bottom to make it to the English Premier League, which is of course our goal, and two are down!
We’re riding on a high, needless to say, club morale at an all time high, with the board, the fans, and the players ecstatic at our quick rise through the leagues since I took over. Can we keep the momentum going as we look to settle ourselves into this new league?
We’re under new management this season, with Harry O’Grady replacing Tony as the chairman of the club over the summer, and his expectations are just as high as Tony’s were.
As you can see, we’re expected to win the league, win the Tester Challenge Cup, win the Mid-Sussex Junior Cup, as well as win the Parsons Challenge Cup, which replaces the Brian Hall Challenge Cup in this division. I guess that last trophy is one we won’t be trying to add to our cabinet and club history.
I was doing deals through into September on transfers with players coming and going all through preseason, so I’ll skip over those until last and cut past the preseason fixtures. We lost all of those. I wanted to challenge myself and the team against different competition than what we’ve been seeing in the Mid-Sussex Football League, so I set up friendlies against semi-professional sides from the Counties Leagues, and our fully amateur side played rather predictably against them, being smashed.
Our opening league match was against Marle Place Rhinos away from home, which ended disappointingly in a 0-0 draw. We had most of the possession as well as about three times as many shots, but our rusty players weren’t quite in it and couldn’t get more than the crossbar, for the most part.
Our draw for the first round of the Junior Cup puts us up agains Wivelsfield Wanderers of our former Division Ten. This should be an easy match, since we were putting them in their place when we were in that league.
Our next match was a 4-2 home victory against Cuckfield Rangers III in the league. We could have had more attempts at goal, but I’m pleased that when we did get on target, we put it in the net, and we had a convincing victory.
I’ve now got my National A license and I’m making progress as a coach. I tried turning around to ask for a new class since we’re now with a 6 or 7 man coaching squad, if I remember right, and with our $10k from the Tester Challenge Cup last season and our generally turning a profit each month during the season, we’re sitting on a cool $20k in the bank at the moment… Unfortunately, Harry decided to get our relationship started by denying me a simple request that wouldn’t have affected my ability to coach, since the staff holds almost all of the training workload at the moment. C’est la vie, I guess.
After this match, we went to Handcross Village III in an away match in the league, and we had a very dominant 1-6 victory, holding 60% of the possession, having five times as many shots at goal, as well as less fouls committed by our side. We completely outclassed them, and this is the kind of result I wish we could consistently achieve.
Our next match was our Junior Cup fixture at home against Wivelsfield, and in another dominant match, we took the win and advance to the second round. We could have had a few more points at the end of the game, but this was during a transition time where we had a few players moved on to other teams, and this match was three days after our previous one, which leaves most of our amateurs still very tired.
Our draw for round two of the Junior Cup will put us against Division Six Danehill in October.
A couple of days later we got our first draw for the Parsons Challenge Cup that we will debut in, and we’re against Maresfield Village II from our Division Nine. We’ve not met before, but we have a strong squad and we typically do well against those developmental teams, so I’m expecting a comfortable match.
Immediately after that draw on the same day, we had to meet West Hoathly II at our home ground, and we lost 1-2 despite being in charge of this match. I really think this should have been ours to win, although I would have settled for a draw. However, our inability to actually find the net, as well as a couple of defensive blunders that validate last season’s decision that Sol Patterson-Bohner should only be a reserve had lead to a disappointing defeat in the league.
On to transfers, we’ve lost a few of our favorites from last season to teams in the higher amateur/semi-pro leagues. Ignore all of the free transfers out. We have an extremely large U18 squad, with everyone being players I don’t rate as particularly good, so I decided to release 18 or 19 of them on free transfers and get them out of the roster.
Transfers I do care about: we lost right-winger Shane Elworthy after one season, as well as rightback Alex Pike, goalie Louis Connor, and left-winger Brandon Dujon. These four were pretty important to our season last year, so we need to be very selective to find players who can match or exceed them in performances.
Coming into the squad are centerback Jon Wordsworth, who can move between centerback and rightback, though he will primarily be Oak Mapson’s replacement for centerback. Leigh Overton comes in as our new starting goalkeeper to replace Connor. I gave youth and reserve goalie Aiden Webb a few starts, and while he was solid, he’s still someone who I’m not confident enough with to have in the sticks all the time. Toby Adekune and Lee Smith are left and right wingers, respectively coming in to replace our lost starters.
I’m still in the market for a good right back. Wordsworth can do the job, but I really need him at centerback, and reserve Glyn Winters has been solid the last two years, so I’m willing to keep him in the starting eleven for a short while while I find a suitable person for the role. It provides him a good opportunity to impress and see if he deserves more play time. I’m also in the market for a center midfielder. The ones I have are really good, but I felt like we needed something special for midfield that we didn’t have that would compliment our forward three and our defense to put us further over the top.
Here’s our schedule for the start of the season. We had a good enough start, though not as great as I would have liked, considering we had a loss where I would have at minimum expected a draw. We’ve still got a lot of football to play, though, and these are class players here, so it should work out in the end.
Here are the league results so far. Ridgewood holds the lead with wins in all of their starts, Scayne Hill comes in second with three wins and a draw, and we’re in third with 2 wins, 1 draw, and a loss after four starts.
When we come back for the next update, hopefully we’ll be firing on all cylinders. We’ve just had a slightly bumpy start with the usual depth issues as our best are snapped up by the teams in higher leagues.
I’ll see you all shortly. Cheers.
P.S. Want to find some more Football Manager blogs, video series, or story-telling or want to share your own? Check out the new subreddit The Manager’s Corner, a subreddit spun off from the main FM subreddit and dedicated to such content.