2014/15 – I Saido I’d win the league!

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).

ImageHaving 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.

ImageWe 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!

ImageWe 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.

ImageWe 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.

ImageLuckily 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.

ImageWe 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.

ImageFor 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.

ImageThe media named us the season’s overachievers, with Saido Berahino topping the scoring charts with 22 goals. From the championship, Rangers and Hamilton were promoted.

ImageNext 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.


Team Summary:

SPL: 1st

League Cup: Won

Scottish Cup: Semi Final

Top Scorer: Saido Berahino

Highest Average Rating: John Souttar (7.32)

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2013/14 – Welcome to Tannadice

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When looking for a new team to manage, there are a number of things that I look for. Good youth facilities, not a large amount of transfer funds and not being shoe-ins for the title are among them. I decided that I wanted to take a decent team from a small nation to European glory. I chose Scotland, as I have managed there before (Rangers and Montrose) on previous games. Now I couldn’t choose Celtic or Rangers, as they are far too big. I had recently heard a lot about the potential of Dundee United’s Ryan Gauld and Andrew Robertson in the news, so I decided that I would see if I could turn this inexperienced yet promising squad into serious European contenders.

When I arrived, I was pleased with the squad. There was a good level of depth so I felt I didn’t need to sign anybody, instead trusting the team’s young players. I let four of the younger players out on loan, as I felt they didn’t have the ability to fill in when needed, so it would do them good to get first team football. I decided on a 4-2-3-1 formation, as that seemed the best formation for the players that I had available. I was especially impressed with my centre halves, with Gavin Gunning, Calum Butcher and John Souttar all looking very impressive.

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Dundee United Transfers 2013/14

I had a few tricky friendlies, including Dinamo Moscow, Olympiakos and Sampdoria, and we managed to remain undefeated – winning 3 and drawing 3. Our opening match of the season was away at newly promoted Partick Thistle. The home team played with all the vigour of a newly promoted team and came storming out of the blocks. After they took the lead midway through the first half, but David Goodwillie equalised with less than 15 minutes left. We remained undefeated throughout the opening four games, drawing 2-2 with Inverness before beating Hibs and St Johnstone.

We faced lowly Stirling of the third division in the League Cup 2nd round. I rotated about half of the squad, bearing in mind that the next game was against Celtic and that we were away, so it would be more difficult. My rotated squad seemed to be doing the job, coming in at half time 3-0 up. I made three changes at half time, taking off Goodwillie, Gary Mackay-Steven and Paul Paton Рreplacing them with youngsters Jordan Garden, Scott Fraser and Chris Erskine. The team seemed complacent, and limped over the line with a 3-2 win.

Celtic were a complete behemoth, turning us over comfortably, 3-0, This was understandable though, as I checked afterwards, and five Celtic players were earning more money per week than my team’s weekly wage budget!!! No wonder the SPL is such a monopoly! But after that crushing defeat, we embarked on a seven match unbeaten run (not including friendlies). We brushed away Ross County, Motherwell and Hearts without conceding, and scoring 9 goals in the process. Another 3-2 victory at St Mirren saw us advance into the Quarter Final of the League Cup. A 4-2 victory against rivals Aberdeen was especially sweet, with a Goodwillie hat-trick and a Ryan Gauld free-kick securing the fans’ adulation.

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Then suddenly – a shock. Despite playing a mostly full strength team, Inverness battered us 4-1 at Tannadice in the League Cup. Ryan Dow had added a consolation goal, but it was embarrassing. But that went fully out of everyone’s memories come the weekend, as we travelled to Celtic Park. Our high pressing forced took Celtic by surprise, and after spurning several chances, Gary Mackay-Steven broke down the left, delivering a pin-point ball to Ryan Dow at the back post, who rose above Sebastian Coates to nod it home. The last 10 minutes were frantic! We sat back – hoofing away anything that came at us. Marc McCallum produced a number of good saves as we hung on to a great victory. Have that Neil Lennon!

I should explain. After the first game, I became involved in a large argument with Lennon after some inexplicable comments that he made about my squad and my ability. Like the classy manager that I am – I lorded over him after this victory – boasting how superior we were to his bunch of “overpaid primadonnas”.

We continued this form through to the end of the year, as we secured 8 successive victories, including 5-1 and 4-1 victories over Kilmarnock  and Ross County respectively. David Goodwillie ended 2013 with 13 goals, and he was clear at the top of the SPL top scorers list.But his loan from Blackburn ran out at the beginning of January, and they were determined not to allow him to continue playing for us Рwhat dicks!

Two defeats ended our run, but we bounced back with a 4-1 win over Hibs. This started another 8 match unbeaten run, including facing Partick Thistle for three games in a row. We smashed them 4-0 (Gauld x2, Dow x2) in the league, so I rested players in the cup. The youngsters could only draw 0-0, so I called the first team back in for the replay. Dow x2, Gunning, Gauld and Armstrong all netted in a 5-1 tonking as we advanced to the Quarter Finals.

ImageA defeat against Motherwell sparked a win-less run, with 1 goal scored and 5 conceded in 4 games. Celtic exacted their revenge on us with a 3-1 victory in the Scottish Cup – bloody Lennon! The loss of Goodwillie seemed to be hitting us now, as Nadir Ciftci (my only remaining senior striker) seemed incapable of scoring. After some light relief in the form of a 2-0 win at Hearts (Gauld and Ciftci – yeah Ciftci!!!), a draught struck again. We laboured to five games without a competitive victory, including a ding-dong battle at Inverness. They went 2 up early on, before Ciftci scored twice. After falling behind to a penalty, John Souttar equalised. Inverness grabbed an 88th minute winner, or so it seemed. But in the 93rd minute, young striker Mark Russell equalised with a fine strike from the edge of the box.

ImageWe finished the season with three wins, including away at Celtic! We secured 2nd place, and European football next season.

ImageAs the team of the year shows, David Goodwillie finished our joint 2nd highest scorer despite only playing until January! Calum Butcher was the player of the season, with all three centre backs getting an average rating higher than 7/10. Ryan Gauld was very impressive in his first season, and Ryan Dow seemed a constant goal threat throughout the year from the wing.

ImageBelow is the season summary for the SPL. A nice little stat was that we were the only team not to have a player sent off throughout the year! Good for us!

ImageNext season we will need to replace Goodwillie’s goals, and if we do could we win the league. We had finished 10 points behind Celtic, and beaten them away twice. Surely we could challenge with a bit of luck and some shrewd additions. Could we be successful in Europe? Probably not but we would give it our best. The main aim would be a trophy, be it the League, the League Cup or the Scottish Cup.


 

 

Team Summary:

SPL: 2nd

League Cup: Quarter Final

Scottish Cup: Quarter Final

Top Scorer: Ryan Dow (14)

Highest Average Rating: Calum Butcher (7.30)