Johan Cruijff graffiti

The Cruijffbal Challenge #5

Welcome to my fifth season update of The Cruijffbal Challenge.

Prologue | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Picture me wearing all black. The mood is sombre and thousands of County fans are crying as I lay a wreath on the pitch at Meadow Lane. But nobody can die on Championship Manager, I hear you say. That is true. But this isn’t for a player. This is for our season. It didn’t go well.

We were relegated.

This is going to be a relatively short update. Let’s see how it all went so wrong.

The League

Apart from a 3 game unbeaten run, it never got better. Nothing I did seemed to work. We’d go 1-0 and then lose 3-1, 4-1, 4-2. There was a 6-0 defeat in there, our worse under my tenure. I tried different lineups, different tactics, tinkered with the tactics, bought more players in (breaking Cruijffbal rules). We were destined to go down.

We were the highest scorers in the bottom three and had the leakiest defence. Our points tally would put us in joint 3rd with Aston Villa as the lowest in Premier League history. Better than Derby and Sunderland I guess.

Notts County bottom of the table
Notts bottom.

The Cups

We faced Cardiff in the cups again. And lost again. This time we were entered into the second round of the League Cup and left after 90 minutes.

But the FA Cup was much better. Much better. We shocked Wolves and Leicester in the 3rd and 4th rounds, beat Blackburn in the 5th, and Hull in the quarters (both in the Championship). Our reward was a 4-0 annihilation in the semis against Man United (who beat City on penalties in the final). The other semi-finalists have technically qualified for Europe already so I’d like to think we’d get that Europa League spot but I don’t think the game is coded like that (or the rules work like that either). If it did, that’d be another goal achieved out of the burnt carcass of our Premier League campaign.

The Players

7 players were signed. £12.685m spent, £200k made back (compensation). I don’t want to talk about it. Well, I’ll talk about the players but that’s it.

Michael Haywood – Signed for £575k. Played 17(3), scored 4, 2 assists, 1 MOM, average rating 6.55. Haywood trades the black and white stripes of Tyneside for ours and while he couldn’t flourish as well as I’d have liked, he wasn’t too bad. And he’s 19 so there’s plenty of time for improvement.

Alex Maxwell – Signed for £825k. One for the future, a promising right winger who will probably get some playtime in the Championship as I try to rejuvenate the team.

Christian Oxlade – Signed for £725k. Played 13(3), scored 1, 1 assist, average rating 6.45. The COX is back (they must call him that, surely?) He’d played no games for Leicester at all after joining and I bought him back for more than 8 times as much as I got for him. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been a Pogba-like figure in our midfield. Nobody in the team was.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin – Signed for £5.5m. Played 33, scored 15, 4 assists, average rating 7.33. The first of a few panicbuys but this one paid off. Goals were drying up and I thought a new striker would help. He did in the FA Cup, scoring 4 in 5 but 11 in 28 in the league wasn’t enough to save us. He’s gonna rout the Championship. Hefty wages though.

Lys Mousset – Signed for £2.4m. Played 13(3), scored 2, 1 assist, average rating 6.63. This seemed like a shrewd investment. He’d been on my shortlist for a while but I couldn’t afford him and his wages would have broken out lenient wage cap. Well, that went out of the window and so did his previous form for Bordeaux. Maybe a step down will rejig his memory in goalscoring.

Tony Gallacher – Signed for £2.3m. Played 33, scored 2, 1 assist, average rating 6.91. Scottish left back with 20 passing, 15 determination, 14 flair, 14 positioning, and 15 set pieces. He’s talented alright. He played better than his rating suggests and a worthwhile purchase.

Jacob Hanson – Signed for £425k. Played 27, scored 1, 1 assist, 1 MOM, average rating 7.11. On the other side of our defence was Jacob Hanson from Bradford. A speedy agile right back with lots of determination, stamina, and teamwork. And a good crosser. It might not have shown with 1 assist but he was one of only a handful of players with a 7+ average rating.

The Money

Even with the panic splurges, we still have £17m in the bank with £16.75m to spend. End of year profit will be about £5m. That’s good going all things considered. Again, it’s mostly TV revenue but gate receipts went up and we broke attendance records a few times. Relegation will hurt that though. We’ll have to be frugal again – like I was SUPPOSED TO. Okay, Luke, don’t panic. Again. Deep breaths…

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

Staying for one season was too tall an order. But it was the second season in a row we finished above Forest (by default). I still plan to carry this on but it’s a damaging blow for the club. I’m not sure if I need to make wholesale changes or stick with what I have and hope we can make a go of it the second time around.

Join me next time to find out what happens.

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