Dafuge Challenge – Barwell FC – 2023-2024
After back to back promotions the last two years I knew the squad probably wasn’t good enough to go up again but I never thought we would struggle with relegation. With the club going professional I put some key players and my staff on full time contracts. The start of the year was tough. We had five strikers on the roster and all but two started the season with injuries. Two of those were long term. Last years top scorer Kyle MacFarlane missed basically the entire year only making 6 appearances. We stabilized after a month or so though and started moving up the table. We spent the entirety of the season from then on between 4th and 6th. We didn’t do well in the Cups this year which helped us focus on the league while getting through injuries. The club finished the year in 5th and got Scunthorpe in the playoff first round. In an even home and away we fell 2-1 on aggregate.
We participated in three Cups through the year and didn’t do well in any. It might have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed us to focus on the league while we got healthy. In the EFL Cup we beat Plymouth in round one and then were trounced by Villa in the 2nd round. In the EFL Trophy we finished bottom of the group without winning a match. We did pick up two wins in the first two rounds of the FA Cup against Port Vale and FC United of Manchester but were knocked out by Brentford.
Jack O’Reilly(Man City), Will Houston(Tottenham), and Erkan Yilmaz(Manchester Unites) were all signed after last season ended. We also picked up Fin Azzaz(West Brom) and Greg Williams(Wolves) in the preseason and both saw lots of minutes. Stuart Tomlinson (Birmingham) and Jacob Edwards (Swansea) were loaned in for the year and played well. Mark Scully (Stoke) was also loaned in but he got hurt for a couple months in preseason and came back and got hurt again a couple matches in. I cancelled the loan to save the wage bill. Zain Walker and Harry Thomas-Barker were both mid-season loans from our affiliate Bristol Rovers to help in the 2nd half.
Financially the club topped the million mark in the positive this year. A large chunk of the gain was from the leagues TV money share and the Brentford Cup match getting on TV. The wage budget for next season almost doubled so really looking forward to getting some new players in. We also had to sell Elijah Dixon-Bonner. He was demanding to be moved. I didn’t want too but I also didn’t want the squad morale to drop so I sold him for the “club record” 77k.
All in all it was a very successful first season in League Two. While a 3rd consecutive promotion would have been an accomplishment I am alright taking another year down here to get the roster right and setup the club going forward. The extra wage budget should let me bring in a couple top notch starters and some good young players off youth contracts from the Premiership in as depth and developmental. I want to be back competing in the Cups next season.
- Top Players:
- Terry Taylor – Again our anchor in the back-line. Want to get him locked up longer this off-season.
- Mike Gordon – Didn’t find the goal this year but did setup 7 as a fullback.
- James Ball – Fans player of the season. The guy played a ton of matches and led the team in rating. 5 goals and 9 assists as our box to box mid.
- Jacob Edwards – Loan from Swansea. Wasn’t able to sign my top 2 left wing targets. Loaned him in and he scored 9 goals.
- Max Thompson – Scored 18 goals in his second season. Won League Two player of the Year and refused to sign a new contract. As of now a couple weeks into preseason not signed elsewhere yet. Might look back later to try and sign at a discount
- Greg Williams – Free from Wolves. Lead the team with 20 goals on the year.
- Will Houston – Free from Tottenham. Signed as a backup central mid. Played in a ton of games and scored 5 while assisting 6.
- Jimiel Chikukwa – Sankoh had a down year on the right but Jimiel picked up some of the slack. Need to improve this position in the off-season.