Our first stop on the journey is Belfast, Northern Ireland. Glentoran FC is a club with quite a lot of history. They’ve won the Northern Ireland Premier League, the Northern Irish Cup, and the Northern Irish League cup over 20 times each. The last league win came back in the 08/09 season and the club has been steady in the middle of the table ever since. Glentoran make up half of the “Belfast Big Two” along with Linfield, who are odds on favorites to win the league. At least we don’t have any added pressure in the derby.
This is The Oval, our new home. Nestled right near the port, the stand is actually falling down despite what the bright coat of paint may lead you to believe. Requiring constant maintenance to keep it within health codes, the capacity is limited to around 6,000 for safety reasons. We’ll just have to give the people such entertaining football that it’ll be worth the risk to come see it in person.
Not likely. We’ve got a little bit of talent, quite a bit of potential, and one of the more unbalanced teams I’ve ever inherited. When I arrived we had only one player capable of playing right midfield and no right wingers. With little room in the wage budget and the transfer chest empty, there wasn’t much I could do to increase depth. An unfortunate injury could leave us being forced into a very strange formation. We’re just going to pretend we never said that…
Calum Birney is without a doubt the most talented player at the club right now. A rock solid defender that could win a header off Andre the Giant, he came to me the first day to let me know he wanted to leave for a bigger club. Good news is that no offers have come in despite shopping him out, so it looks like he’ll end up staying with us. I have no doubts this lad directly translates to more points on the table.
Craig Faulkner is easily my favorite young prospect. He’s only sixteen and LOOK AT THOSE MENTALS. With some game time and age I’m hoping he’ll fill out some of those weaknesses a little bit more. As one of only two players of any quality that’s able to play in a central AM position, Craig won’t have a problem seeing first team action. Could be a very exciting player in a few years.
I only had around £800 to work with in wage budget and brought in three players. Kevin Amuneke came in to provide a challenge to first choice striker Ruairi Croskery. At the request of my assistant manager, I’ve got him learning to drop back into an AMC role as well. Matthew Clarke looks like he could be an absolutely massive signing. Fairly solid all across the board, he’s got the quality to compete for first choice left back right away and loads of room to grow. Ian Parkhill rounds out my new additions, brought in to give us badly needed depth on the right wing. He’s not going to change the world or even sell any shirts, but competence is all I’m asking from him.
To start I’m going to have the team line up in a 4-4-1-1. The roles and instructions are going to evolve as we go along, but the lack of depth in certain areas really limits the shape. Ideally I’d like attacks to run through the Advanced Playmaker, who will have options on either wing, as well as ahead and coming in from deep.
We’ve come in with only two weeks of preseason left. There’s not much time to get everyone fit and on the same page. The start of the season could be rough, but I really think that once everything starts to click we could have a solid top half team here. Which is good, since top half is the board’s expectation. The league is a 38 match season that splits into two groups of six after 33 matches. The exciting thing is that this league actually has European qualification places for both the Champions League and the Europa League. A 3rd-7th place finish would land us in a playoff for a Europa League first qualifying round place. European football in the second season of a journeyman? Could we really do it? Tune in next time to see how we start!