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HockeyBhoy commented on: Now I would walk 500 miles...
So, it turns out my short-term Swansea save really would be very short! Now unless this new save experiences any crashes, bugs or any other issue, this should be my long-term save!




Barnstaple is a small-town in North Devon, with a population of ~20,000. Founded in 1904, Barnstaple Town FC play their football at Mill Road, an estimated 5000 capacity stadium with 250 seats. Life in Barnstaple is extraordinarily ordinary, so its time to give the town something to get its name on the map!

The aim of course, will be to win the Champions League... however, to do so we'll have to climb out of the BetVictor Southern League and make our way through the leagues, trials and tribulations.

The Club has been through some difficult time in recent seasons, changing management three times in the last three seasons, so the aim may well have to be to keep my job to start with!


This leads nicely into the Club's five year plan. For the current season it looks like I'll be tasked with securing a Mid-Table finish, whilst Cup competitions have no real relevance to the Board this year. Expectations it seems, are low.

Meet the Squad


I've got my work cut out for me in terms of building a squad for the coming season, but what we do currently have is exceptionally good for this level... its just a shame there's only four of them.


Jordan Aghatsie - 21, DC - an absolute rock at the back and a league-leading player it would appear. The ideal defender, good in the air, quick over the ground and capable of marking a man out of a game at this level. A solid foundation.


Liam Gregory - 25, LB - the team seems blessed with top, top defenders. Absolutely rapid going forward and capable of putting in a good challenge, I can't see anyone coming in to be an upgrade in this position.


Jed Harper-Penman - 25, AMR - a quick, tricky winger who looks set to give opposition defenders nightmares with his high flair. It'd be foolish to pick a system which doesn't involve Harper-Penman.


Saddam Bello - 25, ST - two good defenders and two good attackers already in the squad it would seem. The ideal striker for this level, quick enough to get in behind and good enough to win aerial balls put into the box. I'd expect Saddam to score over ten league goals this season.

Additionally, I handed contracts to some of the younger players in the squad, leaving the squad looking like this at present:


What's Next?

A long summer awaits me now, with no doubt hundreds of players getting looked at and even more coming in on trials. The task now is to build a squad to secure a mid-table finish, but with the quality we already have in the squad in confident we'll be able to go further. We'll see what the squad looks like come the first match of the season!
Summer Transfer Window 2019


With only a handful of players on the books prior to the start of the season, the task was to build a squad capable of achieving a mid-table finish at the least, whilst also doing the Club proud. Fourteen players have signed for Town so far, and more look set to sign in the coming days and weeks. I'm relatively happy with the signings I've made, and instead of introducing all of the players, let's take a look at the standout signings...


Steven Arthur - 16, DC - 16 years old and in search of his first taste of men's football, Steven Arthur comes in and goes straight into the backline. Already a star at this level, he could be one of the players which sticks around for long enough to rise up a league or two. A solid defender at this level and with impressive mentals too, Steven should have no problem adapting to senior football.


Rhydian Williams - 19, DR - adding to our already strong defence, Rhydian relocates from South Wales to North Devon. Quick and strong in the challenge, that is all that will be asked of him at this level. Track back, win the ball, get rid. A star player in our backline for sure.


Ryan Lane - 22, MC - a player that I had my eye on all throughout the window, eventually signing after other moves fell through. Ryan should come in and be the heart-beat of the side in the middle of the park. Naturally a ball-winner, I'll use him as a deep-lying playmaker alongside another one of our better signings. A fairly technical player for this level, possessing good vision, passing and set-piece ability, I'll look to him to be one of our primary creators.


Jack Leask - 18, MC - another quality player in the middle of the park who possesses a little bit of everything. Whilst not being exceptional in any particular area, he is certainly better than most in all departments. If he can strike up a good partnership with Lane, we could have a very capable base to build from.


Will Pinckard - 16, ST - another youngster looking to make his mark on men's football, Will joins the side and is our strongest attacking player. Will has good stats in key areas. His dribbling and finishing would make him a standout player at this level, whilst his work rate and pace should see him capable of chasing down a long ball. I've got high hopes for him this season.

BetVictor Division One South


And this leads us in to the end of the first month of competitive league play.

An opening day loss at home to Larkhall got the season underway, and the visitors looked good value for money, with our goal coming in second-half stoppage time. We followed this up with a comprehensive win over Sholing before beating fierce local rivals Bideford by a single goal, but the hosts had a number of chances late on to get back into the game.

After this we were thrashed by a Melksham team, who scored four goals via Louis Monelle, all of which were absolute quality goals - hats off to the lad. It was our turn to batter a team just days later, as Cirencester stood no match for us, losing 5-1.

Between this and our next game we came crashing out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle, with City of Liverpool having the edge over us in a tightly contested affair.

Finally, we closed the month out with a high scoring loss to Moneyfields in a game where we threw away a 2-1 lead to lose 2-3 at home. These things happen in football and we'll dust ourselves off and go again.


So mid-table it is so far after six games. For the most part we've looked ok, capable enough to give any team a good game, but every now and again we just don't turn up it seems (see the games against Melksham and Moneyfields). To be fair, the squad has only just come together and will take time to gel, become familiar with each other and so on. With a game in hand we only sit outside of the Playoffs by a handful of points, which I'm sure we could make up over the course of the season. It certainly feels like there are more positives to be taken, but anything could happen!
Ahhh a properly lower league game!

Best of luck, hope this game survives!
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

@Dan , @Grimnir cheers for the support lads, I'm excited to see what happens on this journey!


January 2020


Let's kick things off with some good news. With my previous deal with Town due to expire at the end of the season, my work up until this point has been deemed good enough to secure me a contract lasting until the end of next season. Superb, if it weren't for this then I'm sure this would be one of the most short-lived careers going, and I can't be having that after my Swansea save ended so abruptly!

BetVictor Division One South


We last touched base after a month of competitive football, with Barum sitting around mid-table. So after 4 more months and 19 more league games played, how exactly have we fared?

September was a mixed bag in terms of league form. Comfortable and impressive victories over Willand and Paulton got us underway before being held a home to Slimbridge. Dumped out of the cup straight after before back-to-back home losses to Highworth and Cinderford - teams who I'd argue we should be beating.

We got back to winning ways with an away trip Winchester, and our form in October was much better. A draw to Evesham saw us gain a point from a gain we weren't in before Totton took all three from us at Mill Road. We picked up three points of our own away to Basingstoke soon after. A double-header against Clitheroe in the cup rounded out the month.

November wasn't particularly kind to us. In six games we picked up seven points, but more concerningly we lost to the teams above us, meaning the likes of Highworth and Bristol MF could extend a gap over us.

We were better, but still not great, in December. After drawing away to Thatcham last month we replicated the same result at home, before seeing ourselves out of another cup. We ended the year with consecutive victories in which we scored four goals.


All of this means that we currently occupy 6th place in the league. Given our form, I'm pretty surprised! We've managed to lose nine games yet still sit just three points outside of the playoffs, although Evesham do have a game in hand. Considering we're expected to finish mid-table you could definitely saw we're overachieving as things stand!

Squad Review


One thing I've come to realise is that playing in the lower leagues, the squad is always changing. There are always players who become available, or who become desperate to play, or even players that you find through chance.

This brings me on to some of the players in the squad that we've signed during the season. Akpobire came in to provide some real quality up top, and the Englishman has been a real quality player for us. Similarly, Sokolik joins after not receiving a better offer all season.

I'm sure as well you've noticed a few non-English players in the squad too. I decided to have a look through under-19 and under-21 National Teams, and I was able to find players who spawned into the game without a club. This led me to sign Michel Boutet and Daniel Lindberg, who at sixteen years old become among our best, and the league's best players.

Standout Players


Rydian Williams - whilst the average ratings may not show it, Rydian has been quality for us at right-back this season since signing from Swansea. He plays his role excellently, clearing the ball and distributing well when called upon.


Michel Boutet - what a signing this young lad has been so far! Sixteen years-old and a Belgium under-19 International, I'm not sure whether its a bug with the game that he's generated and was interesting in signing, but here he is! Lets say he's studying for his A-Levels at Barnstaple's Petroc College?! Anyway, he comes in and is a star player for this level in the middle of the park. I know we won't keep hold of him forever, he'll move on to bigger and better I'm sure, but I'm also confident that we'll cross paths when he does eventually head off. For now though, let's sit back and enjoy him!!


Kel Akpobire - since coming in Kel has been nothing short of lightning up top. For this level he's got the pace to get in behind and his dribbling, finishing and first touch are good enough to get him into position. Nine goals in eleven goals since coming in is nothing short of phenomenal and I'm hoping he can keep his form up for the rest of the season, though I doubt his numbers are sustainable!


George King - the other half of our strike force, George doesn't have the assistant rating to suggest he should be as good as he has been this season, but here he is after 25 appearances with 15 goals to his name! Fingers crossed him and Akpobire and stay fit and in form!
End of Season 2019/20

Heading into the New Year we were defying expectations by challenging for a playoff spot. The focus would be on solidifying this position and making a charge up the table during the back-end of the season. So how did we fare?

BetVictor Division One South


January started with an against-the-odds win over Frome, before being brought back to reality by Totton. A drab affair against Winchester saw two evenly matched sides fail to break the other down, sharing the points.

Heading into February and this is where the wheels began to fall off of our season. Cinderford, Slimbridge and Basingstoke are all teams who, at the time, we should've been getting points from, perhaps even winning. But after three games we only had two points to show for it. An expected win away to Paulton followed before a high-flying Bristol MF side took all three points despite being the lesser of the two sides.

Our form at the start of March looked set to get our league campaign back on track, beating rivals Bideford and Sholing back-to-back. However, our fortunes soured at the end of the month with poor performances against Cirencester and Melksham, the latter of the two confirming that we would miss out on the playoffs.

With nothing to play for, we ended the season with a third consecutive loss as Mangotsfield jumped ahead of us in the table on the final day.


So that's a wrap on season one! This season really could have gone either way, as things often do at the level, but to upset the odds and finish above expectations will be a silver-lining in what feels like a disappointing campaign!


Squad Review


No new names stood out in the second half of the season, which may lend itself to suggesting why we were so poor in the back half of the campaign. Perhaps we relied too much on our star players, perhaps the quality in depth wasn't there? Either way, I'm sure there will be a lot of activity in the summer, so let's try to not get too attached to the squad as is.
A pretty good first season that, not far off the playoffs and something to build on next season.
Cheers @Dan, I always find the first season in saves like this to be the hardest trying to figure things out!


So I'd initially planned to do an update at the halfway mark of the season, but seeing as we're still a few levels off of even the Vanarama South, I think for now I'll do concise seasonal updates until we reach a slightly higher level!

Fixtures and Results


Our first half of the season was not great, especially when you consider we were the bookies favourites to win the league!

A crazy September saw us play nine games across three competitions. League-wise we lost to rivals Bideford before suffering consecutive one-nil losses against Totton and Melksham, two sides also gunning for promotion this campaign. Across the next four league games we picked up a poor five points due to disappointing draws versus Mangotsfield and Blackfield, whilst we also managed a convincing win over Guisborough but a poor loss to Cirencester took the air out of our sails. Cup-wise we exited the FA Cup at the first round yet again whilst in the Southern League Cup we cruised past Yaxley.

Just a game less in October, with our fortunes seemingly improving although our performances may not have justified some of them! Comfortable wins against Winchester and Paulton at Mill Road seemed to lift the boys, and so too did an extra-time win in the cup. Midtable Cinderford brought us back down to Earth after controlling the game against us at their place before a dodgy patch of form ended the month with one win, two draws and a loss - seeing us out of yet another cup.

By the end of November we'd have played twenty-three games already!!! Our league form seemed to have taken a turn for the best, perhaps in response to only having that and the Southern League Cup to focus on. Draws against Moneyfields and Blackfield really should have been wins, but all of this was off-set by a strong win against Winchester, Larkhall and the all important derby versus Bideford. However, defeat in the Southern League Cup sees us out of all possible cups before January. Next season I'd like to see this change but for now we can focus solely on the league.


Now how's this for a second half to a season!!!

For the first time all season we recorded three straight wins, with December seeing us beat Histon, Slimbridge and Cambridge!

Of course, this would inevitably mean we'd then go on to lose three of our next four, as we got off to a poor start to 2021. A lone win over Paulton punctuated some bad results, and even worse performances against Cinderford, Moneyfields and Cirencester - the reason for this being a mix of injuries and some panic changing of formation over-and-over again!

February was mainly about trying to recover from the losses of the previous month. Whilst we weren't winning games, it is important to not lose them. Score-draws against Melksham and Mangotsfield started and finished the month, whilst a goalless draw to a high-flying Totton side and an emphatic win at home to Chertsey filled the month.

Heading into March and things were really starting to heat up. Since changing to a 3-4-3 in December we'd looked a much better side, the one the bookies had predicted. Three points from Guisborough, another three in Felixstowe and three yet again from Coggeshall got the belief flowing in North Devon.

And this took us into April all but confirmed as a Playoff team. A narrow one-nil win against Cambridge sealed the deal and into the Playoffs we went. Now you'll be able to see a theme in these results! Bedworth went a goal up within the first ten minutes but despite this we looked like the dominant side, and eventually turned the tide to win the tie. Stamford were up next and going into the half we trailed 2-1, but after a few personnel changes and telling the boys to get at the opposition we were able to come from behind yet again! Into the final we went and surprise, surprise we quickly found ourselves two goals down. We rallied back to two-all before Northwood edged ahead once more, but my the end of the ninety minutes we'd managed to score twice more and complete a hat-trick of playoff comebacks!!!




I'm not one usually for looking back at league positions across the season, after all its where you finish the season that counts, not where you sat for the weeks preceding this. But just take a little look at this. For the first 10/15 league games we played a flat 4-4-2 and looked like a mid-table side at best, but after a few additions to the backline and a change to a 3-4-3 we climbed up the league to make the Playoffs in the last few weeks!



So here's a little look at the boys to have taken up this season, and as you can see we have some real star players in the side.


Alex Cull - since coming in mid-season, Alex has been a real step-up on what we had in the goalkeeping department. Keeping eleven cleansheets in his twenty-six league games I think speaks of how good he's been for us, and he stepped up in the Playoffs, making some very crucial saves.


Jack Bodenham - one of a number of centre-backs to come in as we switched to a three at the back. Jack was solid player for this year and was perhaps instrumental in stemming the flow of goals going past us. I've no doubt he can make the step up next year, provided the right additions accompany him at the back.


Michel Boutet - another superb season from a young Belgian "college student". Undoubtedly one of the premier midfielders at this level, his balls over the top and quick interplay in the middle of the park get us out of some tricky situations. Double-digit assist numbers for a second season in a row is not to be overlooked.


Andy Robinson - another mid-season signing, Andy came in to replace a departing player and made the position his own within a few games. In fact, bringing Andy in allowed me to move away from a Box-to-Box midfielder and instead allowed me to operate with a Ball-Winner, which really freed up Boutet to dictate from next to him. Whilst he isn't exactly a league leading player, the changes he allowed me to make really helped us push on!

Going into next season the board have already told me they expect us to reach the Playoffs again so we'll no doubt we'll be up against it and need to do some quality recruitment, but who knows what could happen at this level still!


Kel Akpobire - after an impressive debut year for us last year, Kel went on to score a further eighteen goals for us. What's surprising about this is that he never really looked like he'd hit a purple patch, he just seemed to consistently get in behind and score - call this his sophomore slump. When I tell you that him scoring eighteen league goals didn't make him our star man up front you'll get the picture as to how we got promoted.


Shamar Moore - the main man up top for us this year. I'm still wondering how we managed to sign Shamar given the bags of ability he has. My assistant rates him as being a Vanarama Nation level player and after thirty-four goal contributions in thirty-eight games you can't help but feel he's playing below his level. What a player he's been for us this year, we'll do incredibly well to keep hold of him!!!
Congrats dude, thats the first one off the list, few more to go yet...
Congrats! That formation change worked out tremendously. Winning via the play-offs always feels great!
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