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It's Cup month apparently, so we'll go through that first:
Bit of an odd game - scored with our first attack, sat back as their midfield 5 dominated ours but failed to break through, then blew our chance to ice the game at the end.
We don't have any proficient penalty takers in the club too, which has been made all too clear when the coaches are suggesting that Theron Cupid take them.
I think we gave way too much respect to Roma United here, being somewhat satisfied to let them have the ball and have the occasional counterattack.
Our chances went up in flames when Wood got his second yellow, and Roma took full advantage to earn a vital win, despite a late flurry of chances on our part.
You have to feel sorry for Roma tbh - having won the 1st leg and leading on away goals at the half in this leg, being blown to pieces in the way that they did would've been mortifying.
That said, what an incredible second half - Barnett and Connolly were at their very best yet again, the former with four assists to add to his goal too.
But the MoTM had to go to Abijah Lewis and his hat trick - another dominant performance from the young striker.
They'd beaten us earlier in the league, so we could leverage that and avenge that loss, in no better an occasion than a cup final.
Back to the league, where the entire Cup XI was rested:
Our B-Team was probably more concerned with not losing tbh, and to that end we succeeded, keeping a desperate George Town at bay.
Bodden Town and Elite are effectively out of reach at this point, but being 6 at the halfway point of the season with 2 games in hand and a cup final is much more that I can ask for really.
Oh and remember how I wanted to rest the Cup XI?
"Oh give them a few minutes in the U20s, they can't possibly get hurt right"
It was a cautious start from both sides and it was looking like we'd go into the break goalless, but for a run and cross down the left from Barnett, which Thomas unfortunately diverted into his own net.
We came out of the 2nd half and scored the second almost immediately, before Lewis made it 3 in under the hour.
Cayman replied with 2 goals of their own sandwiching McLaughlin's effort, but we did just enough to seal the win.
Oh yeah, trophy number 2 lads.
Both Elite and Bodden Town crashed out in the first round too, which definitely made the cup win significantly more possible.
We've also had the draw for the other cup competition:
Rather (very) unusually, the fixture list doesn't display the cup tie, instead showing the league game - also against Academy - on the same day.
No idea if it'll fix itself come the day, but I really hope this thing doesn't crash on me already.
Ok, back to the league:
Managed to forget to switch out Hernandez the cup keeper, who (bless his heart) is nowhere near as good as Leighton Coleman.
Granted the loss wasn't his fault, but Coleman would've saved those I reckon.
At leats McLean got a couple of goals after some time out with injury and only coming back recently.
I took the loss as an opportunity to do some squad rotation, particularly since this game was just 3 days after.
Undeniably nervy - the 1st meeting earlier was a close 1-0 win and Scholars with their 4-2-3-1 was inevitably keeping the ball well.
But of course we were always going to have chances with Ebanks-Cupid up top - unfortunately he (and late sub Lewis) fluffed their attempts.
The first XI was back in town against Cayman Brac, but it looked like we were headed into another winless streak when Solomon curled it a sumptuous shot for a shock opener.
Thankfully Connolly put those fears to rest with a quick reply, before we put the game away in the 2nd half.
We've got games in hand on our direct opponents above us, as well as everyone below which gives us a very handy buffer, but we're basically at least 8 points behind the top of the table.
Rather annoyingly, Scholars have also kept themselves just out of reach for now. Still, with a cup title in hand this season has been undeniably fruitful no matter what.
Lastly, the annual youth intake has arrived:
I'll give you guys a proper rundown on the ones I've decided to keep once their trials finish next month.
We started very well, as our strike pair gave us a 2-goal lead in under 2 minutes, but a lack of communication led to Connolly's own goal and a bit of nerves about us.
Barnett added a goal to his earlier assist for a (yet another) MoTM performance, before Academy had a late consolation to bring back those nerves.
But a win's a win, a it's a first step to a cup double.
East End have been an annoying bogey team for us, having not beaten them in an official game since I took over last season.
And so it continued, as we eventually succumbed to their increasing control on the game.
Shocker as Tigers cave yet again.
A bit more difficult this time as our bumper schedule necessitated some rotation, but once McLean scored we never looked back.
We were listless this game, attack was out of whack and our defence couldn't hold - one of those days I suppose.
Admittedly I should've been much braver than simply playing on the break, because they were definitely there for the taking.
They didn't have their shooting boots on in the 1st half, as were we, but giving up so many chances to a superior side was bound to bite us in the arse eventually.
A late siege on their goal didn't bring the equaliser, but it definitely highlighted how vulnerable they were to chances as we were - if only we'd gone at them earlier.
A completely different outfield 2 days later properly backfired on us, as Academy avenged their cup loss pretty convincingly.
Oh and quelle surprise, we can't take penalties.
4th is well within our grasp if we can stop this recent slide, though we're equally likely to tumble down the table.
Such an annoying drop in form again though, but with 6 games this month something simply had to give.
At least the club had a bit of a positive at the end of the month:
You may or may not have noticed that I've taken a pay cut, and it turns out I probably should've too:
I could well have bankrupted the club with my requests for facilities upgrading, oops.
Finally, as promised there are the youth prospects I've signed:
McLaughlin doesn't quite count - he's tall af and will also be trained to play in the centre.
Roach-Ruiz and Andre Solomon-Williams are both absolute wastelands technically, but possess some pace and are somewhat willing runners, and I can definitely have use for guys like them.
I'm counting on Ruiz Martinez's good Vision to be our primary playmaker of sorts, though he'll need a lot of work on his other Mental attributes before he can start regularly.
Benjamin Solomon-Williams was the last of this bunch to be signed - good enough in the air, good enough determination, not as good as Cupid for now but who knows a year down the line.
We weren't to have the fairytale run of the President's Cup repeated here, and unfortunately it's probably shown again that Martin Hernandez is levels below Leighton Coleman - both goals were arguably preventable with a more capable stopper, but nevertheless we keep faith in our cup goalkeepers over here.
We went back on level terms just as half time was approaching, and while both sides had chances at the winner we eventually went the distance to penalties.
It's times like this when you need your senior players to step up, like a captain for instance. Well for Leighton Robinson he came off the bench and promptly missed his penalty in sudden death.
Granted he's rubbish at penalties (the whole team is), but it stings that little bit more when it's your captain who ballses it up.
Bit of a pity they didn't win the whole thing so we couldn't say at least we lost to the winners, but they did beat Elite which is equivalent to a cup win in most cases.
The team was still finding its way back from that terrible loss to Academy, and we clearly weren't on top of it when Williams opened the scoring.
We're still very capable of chance creation though, but despite the equaliser (Abijah with a sweet cross for McLean after some good buildup) we were pretty wasteful.
I don't think I'll ever be as pissed at us scoring 7 goals.
Sunset played with 3 up top and they tore us to shreds in the 1st half, with 2 goals for their rewards. Thankfully for us there was good reason for them being near the bottom of the table, and we tore them an even bigger one in the second half. The number of chances that Lewis and McLean missed though, the could've had 5 each easily - double hat tricks though, that's some feat in itself already.
A massive, massive smash and grab win.
Andre Wilson left me with plenty of egg on my face when he struck home the opener from just inside the penalty area. Bodden Town should've built upon that lead, but as usual their 4-5-1 relied too much on their sole frontman being on form, and he hasn't been performing against us for some time.
Someone who did perform this game was Abijah Lewis, who used both his height and speed to great effect (helped on by a couple of errors from the Bodden goalkeeper) to earn us the shock win.
An emphatic way to end the season, and revenge over North Side after the Cup exit.
North Side were the more accomplished side as seen during the cup tie, so we went with a more conservative approach this time round, which paid off handsomely.
Winning 3 of our last 4 made up for the 3 straight losses earlier in April, and resulted in us climbing back up into 4th in the end.
Bit of a shame that we finished 13 points behind Scholars though, considering we were 3 ahead halfway through the season.
Oh and the title race was as tight as the table suggested - it took literally the final game of the season (Elite played theirs a week after Bodden's last) to decide its fate (quelle surprise, Elite won).
Dominated the league in terms of individual performances, but our susceptibility to disastrous dips in form need to be remedied if we are to mount a serious title challenge.
Nevertheless, some encouragement in the form of both Ian Bennett and Jessus Connolly (the leagues top 2 for Average Rating), and top scorer Abijah Lewis.
Pretty surprised that Emcuna Ebanks-Cupid was the best signing of the season, though to be fair to him he did step up well when Lewis wasn't available.
I'm pretty certain his indispensability also contributed to a fair few knocks over the season, particularly as we were chasing the President's Cup - next season will hopefully see more rest for him.
Also, no flair? No problem.
Obviously it's a bit of a worry that he's got a low ceiling, but that's a problem for future me to figure out.
Also affected by injuries over the season, but he made great work of his time on the pitch - 13 goals and 6 assists in 23 starts is cracking stuff.
Bingo, but with the CIFA FA Cup holding the keys to the CFU Cup Championship (aside from the league obviously) we'll need to go for that next season.
Bit of a shame, but absolutely the right decision because we sure as hell couldn't have afford either of these.
It's not all bad news though:
We've managed to pour more cash into the youth setup, which probably means I'll be playing the long game with regards to challenging for the league.
It's the preseason we've all come to expect - friendlies with teams we'll be playing in the league, good results but not necessarily good performances.
Been playing almost exclusively a Counterattacking system, which could be a problem when we need to turn on the screws against a team happy to sit back.
Indeed when we first played more attacking against Roma we proceeded to lose.
Both the board and the bookies think we're comfortably midtable, which I'll gladly take since we've already shown we're far more than the sum of our parts.
In fact I've got so much faith in this current team that no signings have been made this transfer window, which explains the rather short update here.
Quick tip guys, don't play attacking football if the team's not familiar with it, even if the opponents are there for the taking.
Dire game from the strikers, and Connolly was the most suspect in the backline with the foul that led to the penalty.
Thank goodness we've got our annual 3 points up next, though even Tigers gave us a hard time in the 1st half.
The introduction of the recently fit Ian Barnett changed it all, with 2 pinpoint crosses leading to goals (could've had a hat trick of assists had the finishing been better as well).
Early doors, though losing so early does get my goat quite a bit.
That said with the other challengers having dropped points (make that everyone) it does mitigate the impart of our opening day setback.
I know it's Elite and we were always going to struggle, but it was still incredibly frustrating to watch us go 3 down by the half, which flattered us such was the awfulness of our backline.
Lewis so nearly hauled us back into contention, but there was only so much 1 man can do. We were fortunate to no lose by more thanks to Coleman's penalty save.
Oh fuck sake.
We did very, very well on the day, playing on the break and sitting back against Town's usual 4-5-1, and we found ourselves 2 up going into the break.
We continued to defend and looked well within reach of a vital rebound win, only for Cupid to well, capitulate - concede a late freekick and a caution, then deflect that FK into your own net? Terrible stuff.
Finally a win this month.
Cayman Brac weren't at 100% on the day, and Lewis opportunistically put them to the sword early, before Barnett did what Barnett does with a goal of his own.
Scholars already have a significant lead, but at least everyone below us have at least played the same number of games, so we won't be looking at a tumble down the table for now (I hope).
Apologies for the absence lads, but I've just played out the season:
We had a fantastic run of wins through February and March, but other than that it has been a frustratingly inconsistent time.
Oh and no draws since December, and only 2 for the whole campaign.
That said, spare a thought for Future, whose fairytale run to the title was thwarted by a Scholar's own overachievement, missing out on the title by virtue of having scored 1 goal less.
And we thought Man Utd had it bad...
Well we'd won it previously, so I'm not too fussed at all to have gone out.
It did mean a death knell of sorts for Martin Hernandez though, the goalkeeper with terrible shotstopping ability who has led me to concede my punt on him has arguably failed.
I wouldn't give us too much credit here - Elite played 2 games in the previous 4 days, and a third in 5 would clearly too much for anyone.
Pretty miffed about this one though, having seen us battle real hard for over 80 minutes and holding on the a lead for on hour, only to let slip late in the game.
And we can't take penalties apparently.
(It's the usual suspects really)
The pair have a real Aubamezette vibe going on, with a straight poacher pairing up with an all rounded support striker.
Obviously you've got the likes of Ian Barnett and Jessus Connolly delivering the goods as well - I don't see us moving on from this setup any time soon.
We also had a youth intake:
A pretty dreadful intake tbh, with a single standout:
Ian Ebanks-Cupid can certainly keep up physically, but his complete lack of passing ability is serious cause for concern.
Didn't help his cause that he got himself sent off in the season close against Roma; still, he'll be around, and he's the only one kept around in his batch.
Mr. Challenger decided to retire and obviously I wish him a happy virtual retirement in his virtual world.
The new guy's not a tycoon unfortunately, so we'll have to continue building the hard and long way.
A short update, but a bad one as well:
Well what can I say - being slapped left, right and centre.
A new-ish defensive partnership showed its teething problems, with both Cupids (Alejandro and Theron) clearly needing a lot more time to gel as a regular centreback pairing.
Not that that's our only problem - Abijah Lewis looked worryingly off colour throughout and finished preseason with only 1 goal.
Per the usual, midtable is where we're expected to be. Judging from our preseason though I'd take that right now.
A great start to the season with only a blip against Future preventing us from having a perfect start.
... Then Bodden Town came along. Terrible result, made worse by my desire to chase the game instead of cutting my losses.
Then Elite did one over us, then Academy, then Roma nearly did as well as we finished the 1st half of the season winless in 4.
Bottom half despite having more wins and losses, but we're not in a good place right now so I can completely see us getting worse.
President's Cup draw's been made as well:
Elite in the 1st round, probably Academy in the next, lo and behold 2 sides that we've lost to this season.
If there's any positive to be had from COVID-19 it's that I finally got time to sink into this again:
Well our terrible form did continue for a bit, but you see that unbeaten streak at the end of the season? More draws than wins notwithstanding, that's what we have to do on the regular next season.
Academy though, fantastic season led by their strike partnership and the AM at the tip of their midfield diamond - we had no answer to that in both league encounters this season.
Players of the season were the usual suspects of McLean, Jessus Connolly, Barnett and Abijah Lewis - they've now established themselves at the top of the player hierarchy with a good 4 seasons of good performances.
Or else it's another wasted season in midtable mediocrity.
This isn't the cup we want to win (having won it already) but hey, we still managed a semifinal appearance.
But Bodden being the jammy twats they are weren't going to let go of the lead they had in the 1st leg of the semis.
This one though, we (I) absolutely blew it.
We'd steamrolled the opposition in the 1st 2 rounds but decided to keep it tighter against Future.
As a result we weren't able to get attacks going and after we conceded anyway that was that.
And Future didn't even go on to win, mildly annoying that.
Couple of signings:
As much as I want to convince myself that Joshewa Rowe's lack of reflexes won't matter or Hernandez's Professional nature and potential will come good, the reality is that you need a someone who can actually make saves for a goalkeeper.
Browning is that goalkeeper.
4 L from 8 - need I say more?
In fairness most of the teams we played are the top teams, organised like so because I wanted us to work on a more reactive approach as an alternative game plan - evidently didn't work out.
Our performances in preseason didn't serve to dispel the pessimism the bookmakers have regarding our chances this season.
Only 1 major signing this window:
Wilson was inexplicably released from Bodden Town and I snapped him up after a short trial.
He was injured for significant parts of preseason which doesn't bode well, but as a fairly quick striker with a good header on him we could have gotten ourselves a fantastic target for our wingers' crosses.
EDIT: I think I've found out why Wilson was released:
Back to my main issue though, I'd forgotten to mention a 2nd major transfer:
Another pickup from the Bodden Town discard pile, Welcome went from playing 89 games over 4 seasons for Cayman Athletic to zero in his sole year there - no wonder he hates it there.
It is also a bit of a shotgun approach to sign another starting GK not 6 months after your last one, but if you've followed my time here you'll appreciate my issues with goalkeepers - Hernandez, Coleman, Rowe, Browning, they're either prospects who don't make the step up or seasoned professionals who've jumped.
Welcome would belong to the latter category, but I'll be glad to have him for as long as he's around.
Not gonna lie, it's becoming a chore to manage here - getting back into it I realised why I wasn't as reluctant to give it up for work as I thought I would.
I'm seriously considering leaving at the end of the season if don't win a cup at least.
Why did we only play 8 games in half of a 26-game season? Beats me.
In any case it went about as good as it could get given our teething problems during preseason.
Indeed we find ourselves amongst the top dogs, having played a few title challengers already.
But with the table as tight as it is it's not hard to see what a midseason collapse can do to our aspirations, especially seeing as that was what precisely happened last season.
Then again, with Demion Wilson still not firing on all cylinders we do have significant untapped potential in this side.
You'd think that the month's break would at least coincide with some cup ties at least, but no:
It's no longer a biggie if I get drawn with a big team since I've won it already, but I couldn't help but utter a bit of 'bollocks' under my breath.
Our straight wins the year before continued when the league resumed, leading to a stonking run of 9 straight wins. Elite inevitably had to tear us a new one and stopped out run, but we came back with another landmark win against Bodden town to kickstart another unbeaten run.
We didn't play to anywhere near the swagger we had in that winning run though, probably because we were beginning to crack under the pressure of a title challenge.
Nevertheless, despite Elite and Bodden breathing down our necks (not to mention my own misguided attempt to gee the team up for the run in, which damn near broke team spirit)...
GET IN, Champions of the Caymans!
5 years of faffing about and we've finally bore the fruits of our labour.
We've got the real crown jewel out of the way now, but what about our cup aspirations?
Mental game this - we'd already gone with a cup squad bar McLean, so there was half an expectation that Bodden would put us away.
To our immense credit though, we kept toe-to-toe with them and with better luck could've finished them off in normal time.
In the end it was penalties which saw them break mentally and us go through.
Ohhhh I hate Dwayne Solomon so much, he's so bloody good.
Fortunately we eventually pulled through - this would prove to be our only win against them this season.
I'll have to hold my hands up and take the blame for this, but lesson learned - the way to play against a flat 4-5-1 is not a 4-3-3 Wide, you go 2 up top and go at them instead.
We did learn this lesson, beating them in the league a couple days after.
So that's the President's Cup, what about the Cup I actually need to win?
Turns out North Side have two great strikers, bollocks.
I was mulling over signing either Demion Wilson or Ebanks at the start of the season no less, how'd I like them apples eh.
At least it'll ensure that I stay for 1 more season, to have a taste of the Carribean Club Championship and another shot of this accursed tournament.
A storming season in general, and now I find myself with only 1 more title to win before I leave for pastures new.
Not that you could tell though, so many great strikes over the season.
It's actually quite annoying that he failed to score in the final 2 games of the season having secured the title - he had a chance to break the league's seasonal goalscoring record with just 1 more needed, and he even ended up having to share the top scorer accolade with 22 others this season.
I still can't quite get over his game against Roma though, scoring 2 goals before inexplicably getting himself sent off with a hour of play to go - wanted to drop him but with a subsequent pileup he made a quick return anyway.
Incredible season yet again from the left winger, who manages to terrorise opponents' right backs even if he doesn't provide assists.
And my days does he provide assists.
Now normally in this trio (quintet now) the third would be Jessus Connolly, but he's had an injury ravaged season and his complete lack of ability other than pace finally caught up with him, in a way that has managed to not affect Barnett yet.
Preseason went well enough - a bit of complacency on our part, but we did turn up against the Big 2 of Bodden and Elite.
Still failing to beat Scholars is a bit of an annoyance though.
Underpromise and overdeliver, always live on that mantra lads.
Also, it turns out that I've been a bit of a dolt with my bonuses - since our guys are all on non-contracts and I can't even pay transfer fees (well not for anyone who's even remotely interested in joining) I should've maxed them out to give the players a bit of motivation year-on-year.
Oh well, better late than never.
Made a couple signings as well:
He could well be our setpiece cheat code if he develops the rest of his game to a respectable level, but there's time yet.
So I went for another free agent in Nicholas Ebanks, who spent 11 seasons at George Town before leaving for Tigers, where he only played 4 terrible games (6.28 rating, yikes).
Still, terrible as he was at Tigers (and he was fighting a losing war trying to haul that lot up from the bottom) he's come in as our best RB, which says more about our quality obviously.
We also had the small matter of a Community Shield to contend with:
As comfortable a win as they come (after the 1st dismissal), we'll probably not have an easier game to win a title.
But at what cost?
Wilson also did his groin and would be out for a week or so, but this was bad - McFarlane that dirty twat
Now normally I'd disagree with this seeing as we're defending champions, but McLean's injury really did one on our title aspirations - I just hope he'll be back on form for our FA Cup and CFU Club Championship runs.
Let me introduce you to one Ally Mebrahtu - I was taking a gander at the Eritrean U19s, saw him as a free agent and decided to put in a cheeky trial offer.
He accepted, came in and showed potential, and was subsequently signed - though tbh it was more for the novelty of having a foreign player at the club than any real conviction that he'll come good.
Well consider me proven wrong, as he scored 7(!) in his 1st 4 games - he didn't offer too much with his general play, but give him a good cross and he'll score.
As for our performances, well we did one over Scholars (finally) and Bodden, but Elite avenged their Community Shield.
It'dve been a pretty buzzing start to the season had we not been shocked by Sunset - awful performance from us on the day.
As a result we find ourselves 2nd, albeit with a game in hand.
You'll also notice that Tigers have torn up the form book this time around, and they aren't playing - their passing combinations against us led to their penalty goal, and I resorted to playing with a deep block to counter them - serious contenders this season if Bodden or Elite don't recover in time.
Enough about them though - having 17 games for the rest of the season will be a problem though, with a continental competition to add to our domestic double header.
Speaking of which:
Easy on the surface, but we play them in the league 3 days before the cup tie, and you know how them back to back games can complicate matters.
Cheers bro, yeah it's been a long time coming.
I'd usually wait till the end of the season to post a season roundup, but enough's happened this January to warrant its own post.
A pretty rough start to the year, especially in our title-chasing context - our only good win was against a Cayman Athletic side who sacked their manager only weeks later.
We don't look comfortable with our formation and I suspect opponents have found us out unfortunately.
Would the President's Cup provide some respite?
Well we did beat Roma in our double header, but followed that up with a second ineffectual performance against Sunset, losing by one more goal than in our league encounter.
By the way, the Sunset beatdown wasn't over yet:
That's it, I hate the non-contract system.
What was he thinking anyway? Moving from a title-winning team where he's the all-time top goal scorer and a team that's built around him, to some midtable team?
For context, he was paid $70 p/w, he asked for $70 when I offered him a new deal as a response to Sunset's approach, and our highest-paid player is Demion Wilson with only $240.
I can't even play my players $400!
So in conclusion: Fair dos to McLean for getting that money, and Sunset are like that junkie who's managed to beat you to a pulp while yo were balling in the real world - unbeknownst to you he's also filthy rich and has stolen your girl with that green.
On a more serious note, Sunset now have a front 3 featuring McLean (who's already scored 2 in 2) and David Robinson - I think they'll win the title next season, and I hope to fuck that I'm not here to suffer them by then.
He wasn't our only departure this window:
McLaughlin's was completely my fault - I had neglected his game time in favour of milking Ian Barnett's excellent form dry, he made his unhappiness known, then left when Bodden came knocking.
Lo and behold Barnett's form has tailed off in recent weeks no less.
Roach-Ruiz though, he can leave - I had been trying to bank on his good determination and work rate to make up for his defensive inadequacies, but nope he's still useless.
I decided to sign a replacement for Roach-Ruiz only:
Jedd Wood's pretty poor himself, but with decent speed and our lack of time meant he'll have to do.
Let's have some positive news to end this update off:
I have no idea how good or bad these teams are, but they're all domestic champions so they much have something to them.
Lyford City are the only club to have contracted players, but their league season literally only has 8 games in it so that's basically 0 match experience for them.
If I were to hazard a guess Golden Lion would probably be the likely group winners - Martinquais teams aren't half bad from my previous experience.
Oh and only group winners move on to the 2nd group stage, so that's fun eh.
We're going to go about this chronologically - you'll see why:
Much like the OFC Champions League campaign many moons ago, our largely unheralded team tore up the form book and finished top of its group with some ease.
However, unlike that tourney we'd have to deal with a final group stage before we could catch sight of a knockout round, in this case the semifinals.
Not that we got there anyway - we started perfectly beating the Surinamese champions, but W Connection was just a bridge too far - despite missing half their starting XI to international duty, the champions of a country which has actually gone to the World Cup wasn't ever going to lose this.
Our run ended on a damp squib, a dead draw against Santiago de Cuba.
Unfortunately this fairytale run had its consequences - we only played 1 game earlier in February, and with our March completely packed we had only around 2 months to finish 11 league games - you see that wasn't to be the case either.
But before that suicide run we welcomed yet another youth intake - normally I'd rant about how this "Golden Generation" was bullshit, but things were to be different this time round:
club'sleague's best strikers, a replacement/upgrade on Matthew McLaughlin, and a half-decent LB all straight out of the blocks - badgering the board to boost youth recruitment finally paid off, and not a moment too soon.
With literally 3 games a week every other week, we basically fielded 2 sets of starting XIs in alternate games - the youths were thrown straight in against Tigers to great effect.
It worked well for the most part (our strikers had to hard carry our defensive howlers at times) but we still weren't able to get one over our bogey teams for the season, Elite and Sunset.
As a result, going into the penultimate match of the season against Scholars we found ourselves still 2 points behind them, but with our fates realistically within our grasp - beat them, and go top going into the final day; draw, and we'd have to hope for a miracle:
Nicholas you apocalyptic idiot.
If you care to know, in our final game we beat Cayman Athletic 1-0, which in the league's infinite wisdom was played on the 2nd of June.
Finishing a point off last season's title-winning total, we definitely gave it a hell of a shot considering how ridiculous the scheduling was stacked against us.
But to blow it all in that few minutes... My days was that a fucking bottlejob.
But at least I'd won that already, now we had to turn our attention to the only trophy I hadn't lifted yet:
Demion Wilson turned it up against his previous club, a struggling George Town side who of course finished bottom.
(Funnily enough they would then turn to my U18s Assman for their next manager, a 19-year old Model Citizen who turned to coaching after his youth career fell through at Sunset.)
Like I said, Tigers aren't the whooping boys of seasons past - they had a great passing game now and were here to play.
Wilson had a poor game, and it was left to Encuma Ebanks-Cupid to save our skin this time round.
Right, note to self: Only play Wilson against his former clubs.
He started the scoring and we never looked back.
Man I wished I took my earlier advice - Wilson was offcolour yet again, and if not for Solomon we'd be talking about yet another season here again.
But eventually it was left to our newcomers to finish the job for us.
GET IN! Finally a sweep of the Caymans.
Not gonna lie, this cup run has been easier than most - we were always going to blow teams away with our sheer firepower, but our own mentality issues nearly cost us.
I think we had a few nominees for the Match of the Season, but they definitely had that low point nailed - that'll take some getting over.
Ian Barnett dominated Awards Night yet again, cementing his legend status at the club.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that basically no one watches football in the Caymans; I am surprised that we've become the most-watched though.
Players of the Season
Leighton McLean finally found his calling as a playmaker this season, distributing the ball excellently and chipping in with a couple of goals as well.
Not the best player around, but as we've seen with Barnett it's far more about understanding and fitting into the system than anything else.
Ally Mebrahtu started like a bat out of hell with 7 goals in 4 games, as opponents were most likely distracted by the fact that an Eritrean was playing football halfway round the world.
That novelty started to wear off though, as the goals started to dry up. Fortunately we had reinforcements by then and he was able to be stepped aside for more clinical strikers.
Not that he wasn't clinical himself - there was a point in time where any pass to him could reasonably lead to a goal.
Demion Wilson was the opposite of Barnett and McLean really - using his sheer ability to overcome his lack of suitability in the team. Or was it the other way round?
I really don't care any more, I'd about to leave and I don't have to deal with his patchy form ever again.
Ok I shouldn't shit on him given that this is a PoTY honour roll, so I give him credit where it's due - 4 goals in 4 in the FA Cup, dispatching of his former teams with surprising frequency, he's done well.
The other half of our winger corps, Neville Moxam went from strength to strength this year with 3 goals and 10 assists.
The upgrades made to youth recruitment means he'll likely be replaced soon, but for now it's his to keep, with Jessus Connolly as a willing Captain and deputy.
Those 4 are the highlights of this season, but given the sheer amount of games we played there needs to be at least a word o two for the rest of the squad:
-Nicholas Ebanks did pretty well for himself and showed the fans who disapproved of his signing that he still had a lot left in the tank.
-Shakur Welcome broke the seasonal clean sheet record with 13.
-Theron Cupid continued his towering presence at both ends of the box with occasional lapses of defending, and
-Raheem Solomon and Thomas Rivers-Elliot combined for 15 goals and 5 assists in just 16 appearances - if they continue to stay at the club they'll be a league-best strike pair.
So there we are:
Regardless of the board's willingness to up the youth coaching budget (they could up the youth recruitment but not this? Odd hill to die on), I was never going to stay anyway - time to move on.
So I applied for a couple other teams, but only one got to me first:
Well he asked that I withdraw my other applications, so yeah turns out they're the only who would get back to me.
One thing led to another...
And boom, I'm now at....... Googles
Hmm.... Can't say I know anything about them, but I didn't know anything about Latinos and Navutoka either, and that didn't stop me doing bits at both clubs.
So a club with some success, but with a lack of coaching staff I'll need to have a more thorough look to figure out what I've gotten myself into.
It's pretty odd if you think about it, but hey that's the power of FM eh.
I've finally gone through the squad, and with a couple of additions, this is it going into the new season:
Jahangir has potential but is pretty raw, Muhammed Khan is straight up trash, and without a deep knowledge of Pakistani football I scrambled for the best goalkeeper available.
Ahsnullah has played for the club before, so at least there's an element of familiarity if nothing else (probably nothing else).
Only addition here was Habib, as competition and backup to Ramzan, probably the league's best RB.
Uddin is a master crosser, hope that'll cover for his relative and diminishing pace, and cure my crutch of needing pacy wingers to make things work.
I like Hussain already - a DM who can tackle, is positionally sound and knows to stay back? Sign me up; can't say the same for Waseem Khan though, don't get his game apart from his speed and great first touch.
Aslam is tipped to be among the top scorers this season and topped the charts last time round though, so I'm pretty optimistic that things will come good once the league proper starts.
Most of preseason was spent playing nonleague sides - only League team was KRL, and that was a tense 0-0.
There are still significant teething problems, not least that the squad still doesn't back me as their gaffer.
On to the league though - what can we expect?
Well, despite playing 4 fewer games than in the Caymans, the September-February scheduling means we'll endure last season's fixture pileup, but for almost every week, and definitely every season.
Plenty, plenty of squad rotation then.
We've got the National Football Challenge Cup after the conclusion of the season, played out in its entirely in February.
We're tipped to finish somewhere in midtable, some distance away from relegation, so that's a base I can then work on.
Well, 2 months in an things are looking pretty promising - the regular squad rotation has been working well (bar a few occasions where U21 games were played way too close to 1st team matchdays and I failed at squad management).
It also turned out that it wasn't so much our strikers' profligacy than it was my inability to provide a presence up top. Thankfully our defence held firm for the most part, with 6 clean sheets in 11 - the fans still hate Ahsanullah though, imagine hating a guy who's kept a clean sheet in over 50% of his games.
Admittedly we've been mad lucky to have won so many games - you'll notice a stoppage time winner and a late penalty in just 2 of our last 3 games, which made for some bum squeaking.
Nevertheless, and unbeaten run's still an unbeaten run no matter how you square it, and with it we find ourselves at the top of the table with half the season gone.
Do I expect to win the title? No, but I reckon that with better squad management than the rest of the league (we've finished with ~5% better fitness than our opponents on quite a few occasions already) that alone will give us a decent shot at it
So with an unbeaten start and being at the top of the table we've got something good brewing here, but there are still issues:
Which led to this:
All of them are key players and internationals, so they're clearly not impressed with me who hasn't exactly made himself known thus far.
I was expecting them to give me a bit more respect though, given our great start and all, but alas it hasn't turned out that way.
The 2nd half of the season left off from the 1st, with us continuing our unbeaten streak.... Until we completely blew it against KRL.
We rebounded immediately with a late, late win over closest title rivals Pak Army, before storming to victory over Pak Railways.
At this point we were a point away from the title, and as is tradition I was prompted to hold a team meeting:
Yeah I need to stop giving these, ffs.
Of course the team crumbled under the pressure.
No matter though, Pak Army had to win all their games and better our goal difference to beat us to the title - they didn't, so that's the Pakistani league title at the first time of asking.
Finished off with a win and a draw.
And apologies to HBL, who were relegated on the final day after we beat them.
Waris is a shoo-in for the Team of the Season no doubt, though I am surprised at Khan's and Uddin's selections - they didn't exactly light up the league, and Khan only started half the games at that.
Personal accolades are nice, I mean I wouldn't refuse them you know.
But enough of the waffling, we've got another tournament to get into:
So the National Football Challenge Cup starts in February as mentioned, and will be over and done with by the end of the month.
I'm expected to reach the semis at least, but the title win should be a good omen for this tourney - if we don't choke the way we nearly did in the league that is.
No transfers in in the January window (Literally no point in signing anyone given that deadline day is on the eve of the final matchday.
Meh, he wasn't getting any game time; I can see him retiring soon as well.
Smh, don't even remind me of that.
Oops, a bit of a spoiler that, well you'll see what happened I suppose...
But first, the annual welcoming ritual:
Our early season form gave me enough leverage to badger the board into improving the youth coaching and recruitment.
It seems to have paid tangible dividends from the off, a couple of very decent players coming up:
As one Muhammad Khan leaves, another must take his place.
He's already rated as the best GK in the team; tbh after comparing him I can't objectively see how he's better than Jahangir - a goalkeeper that can at all handle the ball does count towards that I suppose.
Ahsanullah though, he will have to worry about his starting spot from now on, unfortunately.
Then we have a pair of somewhat talented strikers - Sajid Ibrahim can score goals but that terrible ball control will count against him, so it's Shahid Shah who will probably come through as the likelier future starter.
Sarwar Khan is the 3rd wheel of sorts in this bunch, but with finishing chops of his own I'll be a fool to dismiss his prospects.
And now for the Cup:
2 very decent wins put us in good stead for qualification to the knockouts, but after an absolutely appalling loss to Muslim FC we found ourselves in a hell of a pickle.
Thankfully we managed to still finish in top spot by virtue of goal difference, though it's arguable if we deserved it tbh.
A quirk in the drawing system meant we had an immediate chance at revenge, but even then we couldn't achieve that in normal time.
Muslim bottled it on their own on penalties, I'm not taking credit.
What an absolute embarrassment.
Waris and Moosa (despite his fortuitous goal) were terrible up top, either missing chances or finding themselves offside the whole time.
The defence couldn't defend, and the midfield couldn't do their midfielding either.
Dropped the while starting XI for the 3rd-placed playoff, I wasn't going to let their personal cup campaign end in a positive.
To their credit the newcomer youths did well for themselves, vindicating my decision.
So disappointed to have a good season end on such a downer - I wouldn't be surprised if this happens again going forward, such is the nature of a season-ending cup competition.
Players of the Season
Our player of the season at a canter, Asif Waris took the goalscoring mantle from Aslam (bless his heart, man tore his knee ligaments) and ran all the way with it.
19 goals and 6 assists in 19 starts is startling form no matter how you spin it - .... that said, you'll also notice that he failed to score a single goal in the cup.
I mean fair dos for carrying us to the league, but my days that fall off in form is hard to swallow to say the least.
Ok, so maybe I was wrong about Waseem Khan - he is one of our better performers all things considered.
He didn't start as many games as he probably should have as he didn't fit the left-sided inside forward role that I rocked with my wide 4-3-3, but as we reverted to a flat 4-4-2 his quality shone through.
Quite how it manages to shine through though, I still can't understand - lopsided technique, poor reading of the game, how do you do well with those?
On the opposite flank, Uddin was also doing his fair share of wing work, though not quite to the volumes that his 14 in crossing would have you believe.
Unfortunately he's also losing his pace in double quick time, so this next season will be one of reckoning, of whether his game can be adapted to suit his new weaknesses.
Time is on Sarwar Moosa's side, but like Waris he had his patches of inexplicable ruts.
Still, with paired with Waris up top the defenders could just pump the ball right up to them and there'd be a reasonable chance created - thank goodness for his speed.
Alright, let's end this season on a high note shall we?
Despite the definitely depressing end, we'd hit the minimum of a semifinal appearance in the cup, and coupled with our league success gave me yet more leverage to ask for new toys:
Find someone who supports you as much as the KPT board supports me.
I need to start remembering cutting down on early returns from holiday.... Playing 10+ friendlies is a genuine chore and a time sink.
But it was a good preseason, unbeaten and all, albeit having only played 2 top division sides so there's not much to be learnt.
I wasn't looking to sign anyone this time round either, instead using some of the youth players that have (been forcibly due to age) moved up from the U21s, so let's have a look at them:
His subpar passing dissuaded me from playing him in the 1st team with any sort of regularity, but now with his age and all it's either that or rotting on the sidelines.
Besides, that decent speed will help in midfield.
He's not too bad, with a good work rate and speed on him, and he can whip a decent cross from time to time.
That Low Self-Belief though, reminds me way too much of me.
Physical player, not much mentally or technically - I think there are better players in the U21s, but I'll stick with the tried and tested for now.
Nonetheless, can't hurt to have an extra goalkeeper around.
Now I was about to leave this as it was, but I had to deal with some unfortunate happenings:
Ali Ahmed I could do without, Amir Rehman can probably do a similar job around, but Wassem... ffs - so late in the transfer window too.
I tried looking for replacements, but for some reason not even players from relegated teams want to join the league champions.
So cometh the hour, cometh the man:
It shouldn't come as a surprise to you that fans have been vocally unhappy about the signing.
But he was released from Latinos (shocker), I didn't want him to go the way of Abijah Lewis and Jessus Connolly and retire so soon, and I needed a replacement left winger - some things just fell in place really.
I have no idea if he'll come good, but if I'm able to eke out just a fraction of that spark he had at Latinos I'll be counting this as a win.
Not that his signing inspired much confidence with the bookmakers though, lower midtable seems to be our area this time round.
Hope we'll prove them wrong though.
We also had the draw for the NFCC:
Annoying draw tbh, all 3 are current or recently relegated sides - will be a tough one this time round.
Another unbeaten start to the season put us in good stead for a 2nd title challenge.
Ian Barnett didn't disappoint either, with an assist in his debut off the bench and a goal in his 1st start!
There was such a good vibe that we decided to hold a testimonial for Asif Waris in the international break:
What followed were consecutive spanking by the land and naval forces (the Air Force was relegated 5 seasons ago if you have to know) and we were quickly usurped from our place at the top.
4 points off top is far from insurmountable, so fingers crossed we do claw back to the top or thereabouts.
Or not, if it means that we can emulate my final year at Latinos and win the NFCC despite blowing the league.