ROSS BELL is now in his fifth and final season of his mission to get Leeds United back to the pinnacle of English and European football – with a healthy bank balance to boot. Here’s the penultimate instalment of his blog.
It all comes down to this, the fifth and final season of this save. Let me remind you of the initial premise of this challenge: get Leeds United back into the Champions League whilst turning a profit year-on-year within 5 years.
To this point we have been successful, having established ourselves back in the Premier League as a solid mid table/Europa League level club. We have also made a profit every single season to this point, but if I can’t qualify for the Champions League this season, these real life 24-plus hours of real gameplay will have been a waste.
I need to spend and I need to spend big, and whilst doing this will raise all too familiar feelings to Leeds United fans, the end will hopefully justify the means (I’m sure Peter Ridsdale said much the same).
Youri Tielemans is first through the door for £17million quickly followed by Julian Draxler who was transfer listed by Wolfsburg and promptly snapped up for the sum of £29.5million. Recently relegated Everton are forced to part with the majority of their squad so I snapped up Tom Davies for £7million. Douglas Costa is next in at Elland Road for £11.5million and with that I think I’m finished.
But two days before the transfer window shuts Draxler reminds me that I promised him that I’d improve the squad. Apparently, he was not happy with his fellow new signings. So, with a little messing around with my budget, I found the room to make a record transfer by bringing in Christian Pulisic for an eye watering £46million. To round it all off, a season long loan is arranged for Raheem Sterling and I’ve parted with a combined £117million. I offset some of the outgoings with combined sales totalling £33million.
The season started badly with two losses. The panic set in, so I switch formation to an incredibly hipster 3-4-3 after retraining Danny Ings to play as an attacking midfielder. Employing a strikerless system, brings about a change in results straight away and we go on a decent run to get ourselves into the top 5 at the turn of the year. After qualifying for the Europa League last season, I get handed a fairly easy group, which we progress through with ease (4 wins 2 losses). The League Cup gets underway and we progress nicely through to the semi-finals where we beat Liverpool over two legs setting up a final against Arsenal.
Again, I leave the January transfer window well alone and forge on with the season trying to compete on four different fronts. One guy you may have noticed on the incomings image was a free transfer from Molde – Alexsander Angvik. He’s a 19-year-old Danish striker whose form has frankly been out of this world when using him as an attacking midfielder. He hit the ground running and freely banged in the goals, especially in games when I’ve been struggling; he seems to always pop up with a much-needed contribution.
The League Cup final against Arsenal starts badly going a goal down, but we pull it back to 1-1 before immediately conceding again. The score remains 2-1 up until the 81st minute when Chris Smalling turns the ball into his own net to take the game to extra time, which comes and goes without a highlight. Penalties then. Young goalkeeper Joel Buchanan is a hero saving two Arsenal spot kicks as we net all of ours. One trophy in the bag, it’s on to the final run in of the season with the FA Cup, Europa League and Premier League all still up for grabs.
To be continued…
ROSS BELL – @RossBell1984