After hitting all of his targets in season 1, ROSS BELL is, understandably, rather pleased with himself. But now for the big time – the Premier League. Can he steer a smooth passage for the notoriously unstable Leeds United?
Well that went better than expected. Promotion in my first season in charge was an absolute necessity for this save to continue. That happening, plus turning a profit, made season 1 a massive success. Now though, season 2 and the Premier League. The aim is obviously survival and if I can turn a profit in the process then that’ll be splendid. Being giving almost £90million in TV money to start the season certainly helps.
I set about the transfer market with the aim of providing just enough strength coming in to consolidate my position in the Premier League. With that in mind the back five is the first area I looked to strengthen with the acquisitions of Jake Bidwell (£5.75m) DeAndre Yedlin (£2.7m) Callum Patterson (Free) and Piet Velthuizen (Free) all arriving and Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson both converting loan moves into permanent deals.
I feel we have enough depth there to cover any situation. AMC is a position I desperately need to fill after Pablo Hernandez’ loan finished and he didn’t want to re-sign with me. Enter Jon Toral; a young AMC from Arsenal’s youth set up seems to fit the bill nicely with all the right stats in all the right boxes. Before the window shuts, Mo Barrow joins from Swansea on a permanent deal to add speed up top. Young Tom Lawrence joins on loan from Leicester for the season and we add depth up top with Joel Pohjanpalo coming in on loan from Leverkusen. In terms of out goings, a lot of lads who are never going to trouble the first team leave on free transfers along with finally shifting Bellusci – he’s now Hull’s problem – and Marco Silvestri joins AC. Milan. Transfer budget spent, tactics in place, it’s time to get into the grind of the season.
The season’s goal is to survive and not be humiliated in the process. Starting the season away at Arsenal isn’t ideal; we leave with a 2-1 defeat that could have been a lot worse.
Our first Premier League point since the early 2000’s arrives in the form of a draw at home to Stoke City followed by our first win away at fellow promoted team Derby County. The League Cup gets off to an inauspicious start as we need extra time to get past League 2 Plymouth Argyle. Five league losses in a row are only brightened by a League Cup win against Bolton.
Bottom of the table and struggling, I switch formations to a 4-2-3-1 after my trusty 4-3-1-2 is failing me. A Premier League win over Middlesbrough is followed by knocking Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City out of the League Cup. Patchy league form follows before a 4-0 victory against Ipswich Town in the League Cup quarter-final has me dreaming of another piece of silverware to add to the Championship trophy I already have in the bag.
January comes and goes without incident as I have no money to spend anyway. After my fine League Cup form, I look to continue that in the FA Cup but Newcastle put paid to that with a 2-0 win over us. Newcastle are also our opponents in the League Cup semi-final. A 1-1 draw at home is not the best result but a 3-2 win at St. James’ Park sees us book a trip to Wembley. League wise, continued patchy form really is the norm now; a win will be followed by a couple of losses, 3 wins and 3 draws, with a couple of losses in late February and early March enough to see us siting pretty in 14th place with no real fears of relegation and the team obviously aren’t worried about it either as we struggle to win another game for the rest of the season.
We just have the small matter of the League Cup final against West Ham United to play. I wish someone had told the players though as we never got out of first gear; Liam Bridcutt’s 6.6 rating the highest any player on the team achieves in a dispiriting defeat.
We finish the season in 14th place, we made the League Cup final and most importantly we made a profit … just. Mission accomplished for another campaign.
Now on to season 3 and a push for the top 7 and a Europa League spot is the aim and a lot of strengthening to the squad is needed.
ROSS BELL – @RossBell1984