Johan Cruijff - the man "behind" Cruijffbal

The Cruijffbal Challenge #2

Welcome to my second season update of The Cruijffbal Challenge.

Prologue | Part 1

After your first full season at a club, you start to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Who your favourites are and who can go. When to change the system and when to give it time. I needed that stability for my second Cruijffbal season with Notts County as there were some tight moments towards the end but we got the much-needed promotion we needed to get into the Championship. But how? Let’s find out.

The League

Notts County League Table
99 not out.

We’d secured a playoff place and promotion before everyone else but the title race went to the last day. A bad January run of 4 defeats in 5 in all competitions threw us off a little but the biggest scare came in April. 2 points from 4 left us level on points with Birmingham. If it wasn’t for our superior GD, we would have dropped to second. The Keegan-esque 3-2 score lines crept in every so often but we maintained the best defence in the league. Gutted we finished on 99 goals though.

The Cups

Notts County League Cup
Derby defeat.
Notts County FA Cup
A decent FA Cup run.
Notts County LDV Vans Trophy
Walsall heartbreak.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t realise the League Cup match against Lincoln was a League Cup match. I still played a full strength team and lost after extra time but I wasn’t too fussed. Winning a cup is a goal but not as important as the league right now. I was annoyed by the Walsall result, losing from 1-0 up and to a last minute winner. But my FA Cup was intriguing and I made an effort with that. Why? Money. I was hoping for a home tie against a Premier League team and got my wish in the fourth round after wins over Braintree, Yeovil, and Sheffield Wednesday.

The Players

I signed 7 players in the summer for a total of £597k (including two frees). I only made £30k from sales and that was from compensation. A net loss of £567k. But the money spent came from promotion to League 1 so it was a justified spend, Cruijffbal-wise. Here’s how the acquisitions did:

Scot Bennett – Signed from Newport for £50k. Played 41, average rating 6.88. Not the best but he contributed to our strong defence even if the rating doesn’t reflect it. He’s 29 so he’ll stay for another year unless I find someone better.

Danny Uchechi – Signed on a free. Played 35(5), scored 14, 2 assists, 2 MOMs, average rating 7.15. He was 29 when I signed him so “against” the youth guidelines but nearly 1 goal in every 2 in the league was a good return. He’s got another couple of years before his contract is up.

Lawrie Mason – Signed on a free. Played 2(7), 1 assist, average rating 6.56. A 19-year-old with good stats on paper but being a left winger in a formation with only a DL meant he didn’t figure much. I might try him as a left back in cup games next season and see how he does. He has promise though.

Alexis Khazzaka – Signed for £12k. Played 49, scored 14, 6 assists, 4 MOMs, average rating 4.41. I took a gamble by scouting the Middle East and it paid off. Khazzaka is Lebanese but has French dual nationality meaning he avoided a work permit. For a central midfielder to score 14 goals is a revelation, considering his finishing and off the ball are under 10.

Drissa Traoré – Signed on a Bosman. Played 43, scored 4, 4 assists, 1 MOM, average rating 7.02. I think he played better than his average dictates meaning average ratings are overrated. He replaced Henry Lawrence as my main DMC and it worked.

Peniel Mlapa – Signed for £210k. Played 49(1), scored 25, 11 assists, 11 MOMs, average rating 7.84. The Togolese striker had dual Germany nationality and one of my scouts found him while on a Dutch scouting expedition. If I was a white football pundit, I’d compliment him on his athleticism and strength and ignore his intelligence and vision to be involved in 32 goals in all competitions (nearly 30% of all goals scored). Bad news: he has a minimum release fee of £800k. I should really look for a potential replacement in the summer. Just in case.

Boy Kemper – Signed for £325k. Played 44(1), 5 assists, 3 MOMs, average rating 7.31. Another player found in the Netherlands and the first acquisition under the anti-Moneyball rule. I paid slightly more than he his original value but now he’s worth £500k so I call that a win. Plus he’s 20 and clearly good at his job as a centreback given our defensive record this season.

The Money

My income has been double my expenditure due to TV revenue, gate receipts, prize money (for promotion/winning the league), and season tickets. It’s only going to increase being in the Championship with more TV matches and high attendances. But I don’t plan to overspend. What it will help with is increased wages as I try to lure better plays to Meadow Lane. I will not fail the rules of Cruijffbal!

The Aims

A reminder of the goals:

  • Level 1: Finish above Nottingham Forest
  • Level 2: Win a cup competition
  • Level 3: Reach the Premier League
  • Level 4: Stay for at least a season
  • Level 5: Qualify for Europe
  • Level 6: Reach the FA Cup final
  • Level 7: Win the Premier League
  • Level 8: Win a European competition
  • Level 9: Win the World Club Cup
  • Level 10: Reach a £1bn bank balance

Nothing achieved from the list but Forest got relegated which means we’ll be facing each other at least twice next season and I could potentially finish above them next season. I’m excited, especially for the money we’ll get in the home leg. Join me next time to see how my Cruijffbal challenge has gone.

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