With our first season of European football approaching, I really needed to replace David Goodwillie’s goals from the first half of last year. Luckily, I had just the man in mind – Saido Berahino (below).
Having spent last season on loan at Hibs, he knew the league, and had also scored quite regularly for them. I also an experienced striker/attacking midfielder, Matthew Amoah, on a free, who could act as cover for Berahino and Ciftci. I also bought 2 regens (1 in January) – a striker with 5* potential from my feeder club Montrose called Ian Cameron, and a defensive/central midfielder from Morton called Connor Miller. I loaned Miller back to Morton for the season, to give him first team football. I also loaned out a lot of young players who I didn’t think could really add anything to the team.
We started our European adventure with a trip to Iceland, with a game against KR (I’ve never heard of them either!). In the debut of the century, Berahino netted all three goals in a ding-dong affair, including a late 87th minute equaliser. Maybe I was underestimating them, or maybe my players weren’t quite ready for the new season, but one week later it didn’t seem to matter. Mackay-Steven got a hat-trick this time, and Berahino grabbed 2 on his home debut in the 5-1 demolition. Before we kicked off in the league, we faced quite a tough European tie, at home to Basel. Unfazed by their stature, Ryan Dow and Saido Berahino secured a 2-0 win at Tannadice, where Basel rarely troubled our defenders. A 4-1 win at Hearts kicked off our league campaign with a boom before we travelled for the second leg at Basel.
For some reason we just didn’t show up. Marco Streller (who was absolutely crap when I signed him for Rangers on FM09) scored an early goal and our heads just dropped. We managed to hold on – we were going through on aggregate. but late on, Streller added a second to take the match to extra time. After an uneventful half hour, a penalty shoot out looked the only way to separate us. Berahino scored.Frei scored. Dow missed – over the bar. Delgado scored. Gauld scored. Streller missed – saved by McCallum. Mackay-Steven scored. Diaz missed – hit the post. Armstrong scored – we were through 4-2 on penalties!
We won our games in the league before travelling to Genk. Ciftci and Berahino secured a 0-2 win, before we smashed them 5-0 at Tannadice, with four of those in the first 25 minutes. However, in between the Genk matches we lost to Dundee. How?!? I still ask myself that! We had control of the match, we had over 20 shots and 61% possession!! Dundee nicked a goal on the counter attack just before half time and another around 60 minutes (bloody Marc McNulty!). Berahino came off the bench (I had been hoping to rest him) to grab a last minute consolation goal, but I managed to lose my first league derby. Fucking John Brown – I hate that dick! Our poor form after Europe continued with a draw against St Johnstone.
We made our way to the League Cup semi-finals, with wins against Queen of the South (Amoah and Gunning) and Partick Thistle (Gunning and GMS).
In the EURO Cup, we were drawn in Group E with Roma, Mainz and PAOK. In a ding-dong affair, we beat Mainz at Tannadice, despite falling 0-1 and 1-2 behind. We then were edged out in a tight match at PAOK before winning a deserved point at Roma. We thrashed Roma at home (goals from Rankin, Souttar and GMS) but then lost in controversial circumstances to the Germans, who scored a 95th minute goal deep in to the 3 minutes of Fergie time. Our derby hangover continued as we slumped to a 0-2 defeat in the crucial final game against PAOK, sending us out of the EURO Cup. Let’s hope that will be our last EURO Cup game as we aim for the Champions Cup.
We continued to win in the league, taking maximum points from 11 out of the next 13 matches. We threw away a narrow lead (provided by that man again – Saido!) at Celtic Park and my players buckled away at Dundee. I mean come on… a full strength championship leading team who just beat Hearts and Motherwell together by 10-1 but can’t beat these amateurs! I despair. After a brief 4 game winning spell, we saw three straight defeats in the league which allowed Celtic to close the gap at the top of the table to just 3 points.
Luckily our cup success was continuing, with an emphatic 6-1 win at Motherwell, featuring a Berahino hat-trick and goals from Garden (2) and Paton. We brushed Falkirk aside with a 4-1 win and saw ourselves into the League Cup final with a 3-0 win at Hampden Park against Kilmarnock, giving us our first shot at a trophy.
We finally got the results we wanted from a derby, after drawing Dundee in the quarter final of the Scottish Cup, just days after playing them in the league. A full strength side hit 4 first half goals and another 2 in the second for an emphatic 6-0 thumping. JUSTICE! REDEMPTION! And we got got to do it all again the next game. In the cup I gave a debut to my new regen striker Ally Gallacher, who plays as a Target Man and has 4* potential. He was having a solid game, 1 assist as we led 3-1, but then the ball bounced up to him at the edge of the centre circle, he turns and leathers it. I can’t believe what I am seeing. I’m thinking: “What a waste! Another arrogant prick thinking he can sc… OH MY GOD WHAT A GOAL!!! YOU GENIUS!!!”. That boys and girls, is how you announce yourself to the city of Dundee.
We took on Celtic in the League Cup final, and they took the lead. Just as I was thinking that it would be just like usual – another Celtic defeat – however Saido banged in an equaliser before adding another, turning the game on it’s head just 5 minutes after going behind. Ryan Gauld added a third to confirm the win and at the end of the match Paul Paton lifted the Scottish League Cup.
Unfortunately we wouldn’t be adding a Scottish Cup to this, after going down 2-1 to Celtic after extra time. We looked to be through, but in the 68th minute James Forrest equalised before Virgil van Dijk nicked a winner.
Despite only winning 2 of the Championship group games, we had already done the hard work and secured an 8 point title win. Berahino’s goals powered us to the highest goalscoring team in the league, with our defence boasting the second least goals conceded. Celtic took the EURO Cup spot with St Mirren and Partick Thistle getting relegated.
For some reason, the Team of the Year screen mucked up and is displaying Berahino’s stats from the last 2 seasons combined. He was the star of the season, dominating the scoring. GMS and Nadir Ciftci stepped it up this year, Ryan Dow had another good season and local boy Marc McCallum had a solid first year as our number 1. The signing of Matthew Amoah seemed a big mistake and I shall be trying to get rid of him over the summer, as he is too whiny and doesn’t perform.
Next season, it will be interesting to see how we do in the Champions League. Hopefully I can re-sign Berahino and add some more strength in depth. I will be looking to retain the League, winning more games against Celtic, and the League Cup, whilst I would like to add the Scottish Cup to my trophy cabinet.
League Cup: Won
Scottish Cup: Semi Final
Top Scorer: Saido Berahino
Highest Average Rating: John Souttar (7.32)