After last seasons epic season in the National League (read here) where we missed out on the title and promotion on the last day of the season and then losing on penalties in the Playoff Final I had a busy summer rebuilding the squad for the new season.
Rebuilding The Gulls
The boards expectation this season is that we reach the Playoffs as minimum and have set the wage budget at £24,000 per week and no transfer budget. In addition to the National League the board expect us to reach the FA Cup 2nd round and reach the Semi Final of the FA Trophy.
We will also be competing in the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup along with other guest clubs from Northern Ireland, Wales and England which is an FM first for me and really like the idea of the competition. We have been drawn in the 3rd round of the competition away to Queen Of The South whilst fellow National League Club Notts County have been drawn away to East Fife. The board would like us to be competitive in the competition but will start as underdogs against Queen Of The South.
During the summer I had to make some important decisions regarding the squad who’s contracts all run out in June. By the end of Pre Season I had built a squad of 20 players made up of ten players from last seasons squad who signed new contracts, five loan players who come in on season long deals and five free transfers.
The players leaving the club in the summer included six players who were on loan last season : Central Defenders Joe Lewis and Robbie Cundy, Left Back Jackson Longridge, Midfielder Connor Lemonheigh-Evans, Winger Malachi Napa and Forward Virgil Gomis.
I was keen to keep Virgil Gomis at the club after his contract with Nottingham Forest expired at the end of June however the Forwards wage demands of £2400 per week in my opinion too high for the club especially after seeing that his wage at Nottingham Forest was £500 per week so I decided that Gomis was no longer an option however still without a club Gomis still without a club accepted a contract of £525 per week until June 2022.
I turned interviews down at Derry City, Stevenage and strangely Uruguay, not sure where that one came from.
Retained List 2020-2021
First choice keeper on £800 per week.
Scottish defender who was back up last season behind Cundy and Lewis will want to make his mark this season.
First choice right back last season and will continue to be first choice this season.
Young defender in the last year of his contract will improve being in and around the first team and looking for a new contract before the end of the season.
Back up right back with a good turn of pace on a 1 year contract.
One of the top players last season and expected to kick on again this season.
An important player last season predominant on the left side but can be effective playing inside.
Right winger with good finishing on a 1 year contract and looking to make an impression this season.
Last seasons top goalscorer and a crowd favourite I will be looking for more of the same from the Irishman this season.
Young prospect Koszela was in and around the squad last season and will be looking to force a way in to my plans in his last year of his contract.
Robert’s is a quality acquisition to the squad on £325 per week until the end of the season.
Pacy Centre Back on loan from Blackburn Rovers and expected to be an important figure in our backline.
Flying winger on loan from Wigan Athletic signed to provide cover on both wings.
Midfield playmaker on loan from Nottingham Forest where he starred in the academy and who was on loan at Woking last season.
Winger on loan from Accrington Stanley adding depth to our flanks.
Signed on a free transfer Bola was released by Arsenal after 4 years in their youth set up. A quality left back who at 21 years old can shine in our system.
Central defender who can also fill in at left back released by Aston Villa signed a two year contract on £575 per week who could become a decent Football League player.
Central midfielder who has already represented Northern Ireland at senior level signed on a free transfer after his release from Manchester United.
Signed on a free transfer after a season in League 2 with Salford City. 22 year old forward who can develop here at Plainmoor.
Irish centre forward born in Morocco signed on a free transfer after being released by Nottingham Forest and the man who will lead our line alongside Jamie Reid at the start of the season.
Signed In January 2021
Was on loan with us last season scoring 14 goals despite an injury plagued season but who was asking for a wage beyond our level after being released by Nottingham Forest at the end of the season. Still without a club Gomis accepted a contract of £525 per week until June 2022.
National League 2020-2021
A mixed month started very promising with an opening game demolition of Dagenham and Redbridge with us running out 5-1 winners in the end that saw both Yassine En-Nayeh 2 and Devante Rodney both make scoring debuts but unfortunately En-Nayeh picked up a knock that would keep him in the treatment room for the rest of the month.
Mungo Bridge got the equaliser in the 1-1 draw in the Devon derby against Yeovil Town. We then beat AFC Fylde 4-0 before drawing 1-1 at Havant and Waterlooville followed by back to back 1-0 defeats against Maidenhead United and Ebbsfleet United.
The month ended with a 3-1 win against Hartlepool that saw last seasons top scorer Jamie Reid get his first goal of the season and new signing and fellow Irishman Ethan Galbraith get his 1st goal for the club.
September started with the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup game away at Queen Of The South which ended in a 0-0 draw but we won on penalties to take us through to the next round.
The long journey from Scotland did not take its toll just 3 days later when we beat Macclesfield Town 3-0 with both wingers Jake Andrews and Kalvin Kalala getting on the scoresheet with ex Salford man Devante
A 0-0 draw followed against Wrexham before we lost 2-1 against title front runners Notts County with Yassine En-Nayeh scoring on his return to the side.
Another defeat this time at Chesterfield 1-0 followed before we ended the month with a 3-0 win at Plainmoor against Eastleigh with goals from Yassine En-Nayeh, Jake Andrews and on loan winger Ollie Crankshaw.
Jamie Reid is not having the same effect has last season up front but he got our 2nd goal in a 2-0 win against Chelmsford City after Yassine En-Nayeh at got our first.
A 2-1 win against Bromley was completed thanks to the widemen Jake Andrews and Kalvin Kalala getting on the scoresheet . Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup 4th round action saw Falkirk make the journey to Plainmoor and defeat us on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Kalvin Kalala
We then drew 2-2 against Barrow thanks to another Kalvin Kalala goal and an own goal. Kalala is in a rich vein of form and gets his 4th and 5th goals in 4 games against Bath City in a 4-1 win in the FA Cup 4th qualifying round.
Two back to back wins against Kings Lynn Town 2-0 and Harrogate Town 1-0 see us up in to 9th place in the table and signs that the team are gelling and we play well again in the final game of the month despite drawing 0-0 against Stockport County.
A 0-0 draw against Forest Green in the FA Cup 1st round away earns us a replay back at Plainmoor and a crowd of 4,623 our biggest of the season to date to see Forest Green beat us 2-1 after extra time despite a 2nd minute Jamie Reid goal.
Yassine En-Nayeh scored a double in a 2-0 win away to Darlington our 8th game unbeaten in the league and more importantly a complete performance. A superb performance against 2nd placed Barnet starts with a Jamie Reid penalty in the 35th minute which becomes a 3-0 lead at half time after Kalvin Kalala and Ethan Galbraith both get on the scoresheet. Yassine En-Nayeh added a fourth in the second half giving us a 4-1 win.
To end the month we draw 2-2 against high flying Dover Athletic with goals coming from Jamie Reid (back in form) and central defender Tyler Magloire. We are on a 10 game unbeaten run and looking like the side that finished in 2nd place last season.
December turned out to be a fantastic month winning all 5 league games and our 1st round FA Trophy game against Bath City 3-1. Our league games kicked off with a 1-0 win at Halifax Town with another Kalvin Kalala goal who then went on to get two more in our 4-0 win against Chesterfield with Yassine En-Nayeh also getting a double.
Another 4-0 win this time against Sutton United and another Kalvin Kalala goal gets us off the mark before goals from Jamie Reid, Armani Little and Devante Rodney complete the rout.
We go goal crazy when struggling Chelmsford City visit Plainmoor and end up on the receiving end of a 5-0 thumping with top scorer Yassine En-Nayeh grabbing a brace along with strikes from Armani Little, Jamie Read and Niall Watson.
We end the year with a 5-2 derby win against Yeovil Town in front of a crowd of 3,341 at Plainmoor who go home with plenty of festive cheer after seeing the Gulls extend the unbeaten run to 15 games after goals from Yassine En-Nayeh 2, Kalvin Kalala and Jake Andrews ensure we end the year on an high.
National League Table
We finish the year in 4th place just 3 points behind Barnet in 2nd place but a massive 14 points behind runaway leaders Notts County who have been in fine form so far this season in pursuit of Promotion.
New signing Yassine En-Nayeh is leading our goalscoring chart with 16 goals just one ahead of Kalvin Kalala who has been in the best form of his career returning an impressive 15 goals. Last seasons top scorer Jamie Reid is on 9 goals whilst Jake Andrews is on 6 goals.
Jake Andrews is on course to being the Assist King with 14 so far ahead of Armani Little with 10.
Kalvin Kalala is having a quality season, with the form player averaging 7.54
We are enjoying another good first half of the season and currently 15 matches unbeaten in the league. It would take an enormous effort to catch Notts County so at this point I think its only fair to say that whilst we will endeavour to win every game we play realistically we are looking at the Playoffs (the boards minimum expectation). We have reached January and I have decided to add Virgil Gomis to the squad because I think when the fixtures come thick and fast we will need to keep the quality of forwards up top at a premium. I believe retaining the 10 players who we have gives us a platform to introduce the new signings and I think our form before the New Year is a sign that the players have now got a very good level of team cohesion which I hope we can carry forward from now until the end of the season.
Whilst enjoying this save I have been reading a lot of material on the non league scene mainly from the South of the country because I am more familiar with the Northern Leagues. I am finished with starting saves in the top two tiers of any country now after experiencing a save lower down the pyramid. I will most certainly drop in to the National League North or South if I use the default database. If I use a database edited to the lower echelons of the pyramid I will start at Level 10. Definitely some interesting clubs in the non league scene that takes a lot more patience when managing.
Thank you for reading