After a brief period of inactivity (blah, blah…something about being busy) ROSS BELL is back at the helm of Leeds United in season 3 of his Football Manager challenge. The Premier League awaits his return…
Let me catch you up on all the goings on at Elland Road in the time I’ve been away.
First my transfer business. Last season was successful but to take the next step we need better, so never a manager to be sentimental about signings, flops Jake Bidwell (£1.8M) , DeAndre Yedlin (£800k) and Piet Velthuizen (£600K) all exit the club with only Piet bringing in any sort of return on the initial outlay. Chris Wood and Eunan O’Kane both leave for a combined £20m with free agent signing from last season, Jon Toral, moving on to Stoke for just over £20m. Former captain Liam Bridcutt rounds out the big money deals departing as he joins Everton for £8m rising to £10m.
With a now threadbare squad I hit the transfer market hard to fill in the gaps. Nathanial Chalobah is first through the door for the criminally low fee of just £450k. I then raid Liverpool to sign full back Kieran Tierney and oft injured talisman Danny Ings. Tonny Trindade De Vilhena (great name) arrives from Holland for £11.5m with Jese just topping that fee arriving for £12m. A few others also join; including Emre Mor on loan and Marco Van Ginkel on a free transfer. Lastly, I had Glenn Shaw join my youth ranks last season who is described as a Wonderkid possessing 5* potential and already 3* current ability, that alone has saved me splashing any serious money on another centre back.
Squad in place, it’s time to cobble this bunch of misfits into some sort of tactic. I stick with the base 4-2-3-1 that worked pretty well last season only making changes to how often we press the ball which – hint – is an awful lot now.
Ten games into the season and we are looking solid at the back and the new high pressing game is working well with us registering 5 wins and 2 draws, with 2 of the 3 losses coming against Arsenal and Liverpool. We shall just skip over the disappointing 1-0 loss on the road to Bournemouth. Any hopes of recreating last season’s League cup heroics are dashed as Arsenal beat us for the second time in the space of three games.
January comes and goes with not a whisper of transfer business; the only highlight gaining a measure of revenge over Liverpool by thrashing them 5-2 at Anfield. Hull and Nottingham Forest are dispatched in the 3rd and 4th rounds of the FA Cup respectively setting up a 5th round clash with Manchester City. Danny Ings takes matters into his own hands smashing 4 past the hapless Claudio Bravo in the City net to set up a showdown with Spurs in the quarter-final stage. Ings again nets 2 as we move on with a 2-1 victory in the back pocket. West Ham in the semis then, and things are going swimmingly until Saido Berahino nets a 91st minute equaliser for the Hammers. Two goals in two minutes from Ings and Roofe see us through to the final and we are rewarded with the final of all finals for Leeds – against the old enemy, Manchester United.
League wise – post January is, sadly, a tale very similar to last season with inconsistent form blighting any faint top four hopes. The penultimate game of the season sees us taking on already crowned champions Manchester United; they unfortunately aren’t in the party mood and batter me from beginning to end. The final score of 5-2 is flattering to us, it could have been so much worse. Final day sees us taking on Stoke with us being one of three teams in with a shout of that final Europa League spot. Stoke win 1-0. Game over in terms of the challenges I set myself at the beginning of this series; I needed European football in season 4. League hopes dashed, I still have the FA Cup final to cling on to.
Jese, Jese, Jese. I both love you and hate you in equal measures. You put me 1 up after 13 minutes with a lovely near post header. We win a penalty after 19 minutes but De Gea saves Jese’s effort. Van Ginkel makes it 2-0 and we are cruising, 3-0 would have been nicer though Jese! Inevitably goals from Pogba and Belotti level things up before, with 15 minutes to go, we win ANOTHER PENALTY, Jese steps up again and does the reverse of Cantona in ‘94 and smashes another pen straight at De Gea. I throw my mouse across the room and pause the game. If I smoked, now would be the time to light up. But then a hero from a time before the Jese’s and Van Ginkel’s comes to the rescue. Kemar Roofe steps off the bench to score a 90th minute winner and sends Leeds into the highest form of European competition – if you ignore the Champions League, obviously.
Cup in hand, I then get news that all the club’s debts have been cleared and we are well in profit for the year. Targets met for another season, it’s going to be a very busy summer again at Elland Road.
See you next time.
ROSS BELL – @RossBell1984