Welcome back to my trip down memory lane and my mission to finish what I started on my first somewhat successful Football Manager save! We’re still doing yearly run-downs leading up to December 2020 and my current position in charge of Leicester City, but if you’re still following along I appreciate the readership. In this update, I will reflect on the 2016/17 season, which still feels like a low point to me even after the years of not playing the game. Early on in the season, I would be fired and forced to depart from Oxford United, and after a couple of months waiting for a vacancy in a higher English division, I would join Charlton Athletic for half of a season.
If you’re new to the series, click here for a link to go to Part 1 and the 2013/14 season overview. If you just need to brush up on a few things, click here for the last update, which covered the 2015/16 season.
After the successes of my last three years in charge of Oxford United, which included a 2014 League 2 trophy, a 2014 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, and a 2016 League 1 trophy, I’d like to say that our chances in the Championship were looking good. I’d like to say I spent another three years with the team working our way into the Premier League, but it just wasn’t to be.
During the 2016/17 season, I managed precisely five Championship games and I saw us lose to Crystal Palace in the second round of the Capital One Cup after an excellent 2-0 win against our rival Swindon in the first round.
The very clear problem to me early on in the season was that while the budget given to me by the board was sufficient to be competitive in the transition from League 2 to League 1, it was not good enough to bolster my squad for Championship and fallen Premier League teams, and by the end of August we were so far without a win in the league.
I went into the boardroom to ask Mick Brown, our chairman at the time, to give me some much-needed funds for the wage budget so I could finalise some essential signings that had so far been unobtainable before the transfer window slammed shut on me. He refused. I’m not going to lie, I was jaded after going from years of success to failure, and with team morale dipping, I made the foolish decision to criticise the board’s lack of ambition and failure to give me the resources I needed in a press conference following a heavy 1-7 defeat against Sheffield Wednesday.
Two days later, on Monday, August 29, I was called into the boardroom to answer for the headlines in the papers saying that I felt like Chairman Brown was no longer on the same page as me and that he was crippling our efforts to be successful.
I told him outright that I hoped a public comment would force his hand if his favoured manager who just signed a 5-year contract at his request was saying that things weren’t working in our current state. He called me out and said I needed to give him a good reason not to fire me. I tried to bullshit my way out of it by saying the staff and dressing room had my back, and they’d be disappointed if I was forced to leave. Needless to say, I was walking out of the chairman’s office with my head down in disappointment that everything I worked so hard for would have to continue on without me.
I was out of a job from the end of August until almost December. I had my name attached to many high profile Championship and lower-level Premier League jobs, as was the case in the past when there was a managerial vacancy, but nobody openly fired anyone until mid-November when Charlton Athletic let go of their manager. I was at the top of the shortlist already and I didn’t even send in a resume on my own! I went in, sat through the interview, and I walked into the month of December with a new job.
I didn’t find Charlton Athletic to be a particularly glamorous job for me, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t remain invested in the team beyond the end of the season, and I was keeping my eye out for a more exciting opportunity.
We had a great run in the league under my management, though. After sitting near the relegation line and the drop looking likely, I set up a 4-3-2-1 with a defensive midfielder and two wingers, and we turned the team’s fortunes and win-less run around with some structured counter-attacking play that was noticeably different from the fluid attacking play that I was known for under Oxford. Despite not being invested in the team itself, I was invested in proving myself as a manager who could work with anything I was given.
By the end of the season, we finished in tenth, the highest spot Charlton had seen in several years. I wish it was an eventful season full of highlights, but despite creating a winning/drawing streak that would see us end the season with 20 wins, 9 draws, and 17 losses, the losses held us back, and even I had my fair share of them as well.
As I joined the club in the middle of the season, I missed the initial transfer window. I wasn’t responsible for much of the transfer business. I brought in three players – Enrico Zampa, Jordan Pickford, and George Melis – and I was responsible for a million dollar sale of Ryan Hardie to West Brom and a $975k sale of Vladimir Stojkovic to some team in the Middle East, but most of the transfer work was accepting my Head of Youth Development’s recommendations to loan out younger players.
I filled the team out only so far as I needed to meet the demands of the season, but I didn’t have any long-term plans because even after a month-long break from the save, I was still attached to Oxford and didn’t have the motivation to plan for the future with Charlton, a league opponent to my favourite team, unless something clicked that I found worth sticking around for.
I did have a good time, though in some aspects. Lee Clark was brought in as my replacement at Oxford, and I remember having a laugh because he said I was a poor fit for Charlton and they’d be relegated under my management. And there was some comment about him being able to succeed with Oxford where I failed. Well, by the end of the season I was in tenth, and Oxford had their first of two consecutive relegation’s to League 2 under Clark’s management, and he was out of the job as soon as the team’s relegation to League 1 was confirmed. Every time now that I see Lee Clark as the subject of a press conference with me, I make sure to give him hell in the papers as a piece of petty revenge, though I generally kept a good relationship with as many coaches as possible.
This is Charlton Athletic’s best eleven for the season. For what we had in the team, it was a solid seven months in charge, and Nuttall, Delogu, and Arfield enjoyed some of the best soccer of their careers during this season, even if it was only lacklustre thanks to the poor initial ratings from the first half of the season and from all the poor form I had to work to overcome.
This was a shorter update, aside from my reflective nattering, but there’s not really anything of interest to get into. This was a short half-season gig with Charlton, and we didn’t win anything or have notable success since we were a solidly average mid-table team.
In the next update, we’re going to look at a job I actually didn’t mind that much. I spent 14 months in charge of West Brom after they approached me to leave Charlton for them, and I got my first taste of Premier League action since getting into Football Manager and playing in League 2.
We only have two updates left until we get into actual gameplay with Leicester, so thanks for the patience. After the next update, we’re also going to briefly touch on a year and a half of two international jobs and a half season in charge of Leicester before we finally make it to the current season and hit that “Continue” button for the first time in two years!