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.