After a convincing title win and promotion last season, we headed into Season 2 with high spirits and – at least on my part – high expectations. To have had as successful a season as we did last season using the 442 and soaking up pressure to hit teams on the break, I was hopeful that we could carry that ‘shithouse’ energy into Season Two, and surprise the league.
It feels like a lot, so soon after the Introduction, to be talking about an overview of my first season in charge of Los Verdiblancos. However, despite a lack of time to play since launch, I took advantage of the festive break to power through my first season at El Sardinero, and there’s a lot to talk about!
As I discussed in Money, Money, Money, the club’s finances are in dire straits, so any and all recruitment for the season had to be run on a shoestring budget; and by a shoestring budget, I mean zero budget.
Where possible, I moved players on for fees, which saw us bring in almost £120k by selling Jordi Figueras for £60k, and Pablo Andrade for another £60k, rising to £80k in future.
However, with the financial situation at the club, I had to delve into the free agent market in order to replace the outgoing players, and bring in additional quality for the new season: Overall the aim with all the new signings was either short-term deals for high reward, or longer contracts, in both situations minimising the amount of clauses and additional incentives in players’ contracts, to avoid further ransacking the coffers.
All of our new faces played a major part in our season, which I was delighted by – Manolo went out on loan for the season, where he made 25 appearances, scoring 5 goals from the right side of midfield.
The remainder of our new signings stayed with the first team, and all played a big part in what turned out to be a successful first season in Spain.
I set us up to absorb pressure and hit teams on the break – and looking at our Analyst’s overview of how the season went, our defence probably didn’t have as much to do as I’d thought they would, but the solidity and style was still present:
By contrast, our attack were insanely efficient: we outperformed our xG by 30 goals across the season, particularly I feel due to how efficient our attack was in the first stage of the league.
To explain that: the Spanish 2nd Division B2 – which is where we found ourselves in our first season – has multiple stages to the league season. The league is split into two groups, which then split into promotion and relegation stages, and a playoff. The exact structure of those groups confuses me still, but the Promotion stage culminates in Promotion Playoffs, while the Relegation stage sees 5 teams going down. The Playoff seems as if it’s the middle teams from each group, facing off with two teams also gaining promotion.
Our group stage went insanely well: our two losses came against Bilbao B, and Barakaldo, who also joined us in the Promotion group. We also managed to put together a decent cup run – knocking out Real Majadahonda and Huesca before pushing Atletico Madrid all the way to the 120th minute of Extra Time before losing 2-1 to an exceptional Milik strike.
As we moved into the Promotion stage, I had no idea what to expect; or really, how the promotion stage works: so in my head, the best thing to do, was to win every game…
…And that is exactly what we did – we rocked in at the top of our group unbeaten, and continuing to display the kind of compact, counter-attacking football that we’d shown all season, securing a spot in the promotion playoffs.
We breezed through the first round of the Playoffs to set up a second round tie against Marbella – only a strong first-leg showing got us through that, and we had to really dig in in the second leg to secure the win, and the title.
Overall, our first season in charge was a massive success – we managed to minimise the chances we gave to the opposition teams, while also maintaining efficiency at the other end of the pitch. Next season, it looks like the board are looking for more of the same from us, with the club vision now including Defensive, Direct, Counter-attacking football!
All we need to do next season is give a good account of ourselves; i’ve still got concerns about being able to repair the club’s financial damage, especially given the level of the loan repayments which we have to contend with monthly. As far as I can see, the only way out of the financial hole we are in, is tight control of our wages, and offloading as much of our deadweight as possible.
I am excited for Season 2 in Santander, despite the challenges which will come with it.
As we saw in the Introduction, Racing Santander have had more than their fair share of turbulent times in the past – this turbulence and specifically the financial difficulties brought about by incompetent ownership and successive relegations inform a huge part of the long and short term plans for the club.
As I moved through my first day at the club, it became apparent that over the next (hopefully many) seasons, my aim of returning Santander to the top levels of Spanish football would involve more than a couple of promotions and some big-spender loan deals for Premier League wonderkids in a couple of seasons.
“Make Santander Great Again” seems to be the board’s motto for this save, and while on-pitch goals leave me with a fair bit of scope after this season, the off-pitch expectations look like they will be much more demanding.
I am expected to win the League this season, but thereafter the board don’t seem to have much expectation for future success in the Second Division. Off the pitch, I look like I have two seasons to turn around the club’s financial situation, and repair the damage done by the club’s turbulent past.
Lets look at the damage, shall we?
Off the bat, £500k in the bank doesn’t look like a complete disaster, but we are already over-spending on our wage budget for the season, and the picture doesn’t get any rosier when we dig deeper into our debts and projections:
Honestly, looking at these graphs makes me happier about the conversations I have with my credit card companies…
It’s obvious that turning the club’s finances around will be a big ask, especially in the two-season timeframe I have been given. With virtually no sponsorship income from the league, and meagre prize money on offer, it looks like – for now at least – we’re going to have to develop our own starlets, and sell them off to the big clubs to fix the hole in our finances.
Of course, selling off players isn’t the only way to balance the books: Dictate The Game recently looked at some ways to make money which i’ll be using throughout this save – particularly arranging friendly tournaments: DTG suggested running friendlies throughout the season as well, but our squad isn’t big enough for such adventures.
During pre-season, I created two friendly leagues which featured some big-name teams (Villareal, Granada, Barcelona B and Bilbao B) which brought in a decent amount of cash ahead of the start of the season. We also managed to offload the large wage of Jordi Figueras (£5k/week) which, even with some new additions, brought our wage budget back under control:
Financially, we still run at a loss, however our starting position looks a lot healthier, with the club’s balance almost doubled. With pre-season wrapped up and the squad set, it is time to get stuck in on the field, but in order to be successful, I’ll have to keep at least half an eye on our finances across the year.
On the surface, the boot room was just like any other room in Anfield, but it can be argued that this room had more impact on Liverpool’s path to domination than any other.
The original members of the Boot Room were Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Reuben Bennett, Tom Saunders, Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran. Four of the six would go on to manage the club, with Bennett being the longest server of the sacred six.
It was very much the ‘Liverpool Way’ to promote from within once Shankly took the reigns. it wasn’t until July 1998 that Liverpool’s manager hadn’t also made an appearance for the Reds, with Frenchman Gerard Houllier joining and ushering in a new era of success. Whilst Houllier was an ‘outsider’, he had a trusty assistant with former player Phil ‘Thommo’ Thompson at his side.
Whilst not an official objective, there’ll be a preference to revive this culture of employing ex players as staff and giving them a place to develop.
On the back of Gerrrad’s appointment, I took the time to find players who Stevie had played with other his career as well as former Liverpool players who could make an impact on the current set of players.
Approaches were made for the following:
- Bolo Zenden (Coach)
- Javier Mascherano (Under 18s Coach)
- Dirk Kuyt ( Recruitment Analyst)
- Gerard Houllier (Technical Director)
- Sammy Lee (Under 18s Coach)
Whilst trying to get former players in seems to be a fairly simple task, I’ll also be encouraging current players especially the older ones to begin coaching courses as a way to develop them so they are ready to join the Boot Room on retirement.
James Milner and Adrian have both started their National C licenses and should have these achieved before Christmas.
The Boot Room progress will be frequently updated in future blogs as we get into the season properly.
Thanks for reading!
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Bob Paisley Challenge: Introduction
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From Bill Shankly to Jurgen Klopp and Kenny Dalglish to Rafa Benitez, many managers have left their mark on Liverpool, adding to the ever-growing trophy wall that proudly sits inside Anfield.
Klopp and Shankly are often bounded about it the talks of the greatest managers of all time, other managers in that list include Guardiola, Ferguson and Ancelotti. One name that doesn’t get enough of a mention in these circles is Liverpool’s most successful manager, Bob Paisley.
Thrust into the limelight after Shankly’ tenure came to an end; the next nine years would be a sea of red dominance both domestically and on the continent. Many credit Shankly for the success that came over the coming years from the men that made up the boot room, but Paisley changed the way Liverpool played and reaped the rewards on a club and individual level.
The Challenge is simple, achieve or exceed what Paisley did in his nine-year spell:
- Win 20+ trophies
- Win 1 big trophy every year (League/FA Cup/ Champions League)
- Have a 57.6% win rate or higher.
- Go 63+ league games unbeaten in a row at home
- Win the FA Cup
- Win 6+ Manager of the year awards
There’s a feeling of déjà vu happening at Liverpool over the last few years. Jurgen Klopp took over in 2015 with Liverpool a shadow of their former selves and has restored them to being one of the best club sides in Europe. Over 50 years earlier Bill Shankly picked Liverpool up by the scruff of the neck and dragged them into the First Division, despite only winning three trophies in his spell, Shankly laid the foundations for the success to come.
With Klopp acting as Liverpool’s modern day Shankly, the big question is who will be Paisley’s protégé?
When I was planning this save a number of ex-players and current background staff crossed my mind but I whittled it down to just two, Steven Gerrard and Pep Ljinders. Both have been touted as potential successors once the German does leave Liverpool.
There’s one key similarity between Gerrard’s playing career and Paisley’s that was a defining factor, one major trophy eluded them both. Gerrard’s is well known to all, the Premier League, whilst Paisley never won the FA Cup as a manager or a player and was dropped for the 1950 FA Cup final despite scoring one of the two goals in the semi-final.
Thanks for reading if you made it this far, I’ll be posting updates over on slack at #Jord713. Blog posts will happen once the occasion arises, mostly to track the progress of objectives and to talk about key managerial decisions, something that Bob Paisley was very good at getting right!
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El Sardinero, Santander. Home of Los Verdiblancos; one of the founding clubs of Spain’s La Liga. Established in 1913, Racing Santander are one of Spain’s oldest clubs. Joining La Liga as the 10th founder – having beaten Valencia, Real Betis and Sevilla to the honour – the club’s performances have failed to find any true consistency. Santander have finished as high as 2nd in La Liga ( 1930/31), but have never won the title.