You know at some point I’m going to have to accept that maybe, just maybe, I actually know what I’m doing.
A satisfying first season draws to a close and sees us crowned National League South winners. Our total of 87 points from 42 games leaves us a comfortable 12 points clear of second place. With 81 slotted into the onion bag we are the division’s top scorers whilst the 44 conceded is only bettered or matched by 2 other teams.
With 27 league goals, Elliott Romain is 3rd top scorer in the division and 4th best rating, right winger Taylor Tombides a respectable 6th. Interestingly from a team perspective we don’t score that highly in many categories. Our end of season form carried us over the line (more on that in a minute) and our division record of 17 without losing underpinned our strong performance but we had no stand out areas in terms of possession, crosses etc.
Now, about that form. After the heady days of our unbeaten run we ended up losing 5 times, comfortably the lowest of any team. Despite that, we had a real wobble in the mid-late season when we couldn’t buy a win. Two separate patches of form saw us fail to register a win in 4 and then 5 games. We were never in danger of not coming first (a position we held since week 2) but nerves certainly kick in when a 15 point advantage slips to 7. One of the lessons learned is to try and remember the level I am playing at. These players are poor, inconsistency and individual errors are inevitable. And besides, losing just 5 games is pretty good and reflects our ability to come from behind to salvage something, even if I rue the 12 draws that perhaps could have been victories.
Tactically I stayed true to the 442 bar the odd game here and there but continued to experiment with roles, duties and shape. I remain concerned over some of the gaps my team leaves and it seems inevitable that I will move to either an AMC or DMC based formation. At the back of my mind I have this vision of a wing back driven formation, eschewing wingers. But at this level I have come to accept the limitations of the players available, the lack of time for training and development and the lack of resources to effect material change.
Black Dog Watch
- My starting comment in this post was half in jest but there is some truth to it. Having finally got going, this is the second time in my FM history that I have taken a side at the lowest available level and got them promoted. It speaks to my underlying confidence issues that despite a huge points advantage I still refused to believe we would go up and constantly second guessed my tactical decisions.
- In the midst of poor form, my default position is to desperately chop and change. I lose faith in what brought me to the dance. And where I did recognise gaps and flaws, I lacked the conviction to do anything about them, my return to my original 442 set up borne out of both a desire to uncomplicate and a fear of screwing things up.
- Stepping back though, I gain some perspective. Yes, I was fairly rigid in my tactical options but that was be design of simplicity. That I could recongise the flaws in my set up is good. That I was unwilling to do anything about them speaks less to my anxiety than it does a recognition that I did not have sufficient tools with which to complete the task. At another club, at another time, I may have more flexibility. But in the here and now I made the best of what I had.
So, What Now?
The end of a season inevitably brings thoughts of what comes next and my final anxiety swirls around this point.
There is the obvious stuff; squad building for a new division, managing budgets, how well I will manage my own expectations if we don’t challenge immediately.
But then there is this nonsense. I set out above how I would look to move on once a goal had been achieved but I was struggling to pin down what my goal with Eastbourne would be. Was it sufficient to get promoted? Must I get them to the football league. Ridiculously I started to think of it from the team’s perspective, as if they were real. What would be achievement to them?
After a bit of soul searching, I came to the conclusion that to stay too long at Eastbourne would risk it becoming Sutton version 2. If I struggle in the National League I may lose enthusiasm for the save, If I get them promoted, what next? Will I feel like I need to get them to the PL?
This save is meant to be about being selfish. It’s all about me. I don’t want the stress of trying to build a squad. I don’t want the journey of consecutive league promotions. I want the Jose Mourinho save, albeit the budget version, where I get in, win and get out. If I land somewhere I like, mayhaps I’ll stay. Otherwise I want to get out and experience the (FM) world.
On that basis then, this is where the Eastbourne experience will end. Where next, nobody knows, although I hope to be linked with better jobs than relegated Margate! Time to visit the vacancies board…