Hallo and welcome back to Falkirk. After a mixed fifth season, I get back after the Summer holidays more motivated than ever. If the previous seasons saw Falkirk grow into one of the top clubs in Scotland, this is the year when we shall start becoming the most dominant club in the Nation, it’s time to unthrone Celtic!
Last year the squad was a very good one, but perhaps we lacked some depth to cope with four competitions and I had to overplay certain players. This year my focus into squad-building will then be to concentrate of few targeted transfers that add quality both to our First XI and to our backups.
Starting with those who left us, the main transfer out this season is Ryan Fraser. It’s one departure I was neither expecting nor welcoming, but Burnley met his € 7.5M release-clause and at this point, I didn’t want to enter a wage war against an EPL team. Came in as a free-signing two years ago, Fraser had been phenomenal for us, but the nice profit we make sweetens the deal. Ashley Fletcher leaves as well, the most attentive of you will have understood why – I will deal with O’Hara return later. Connor Randall, our main right fullback also agrees to leave for a potential fee of € 750K.
We collected around € 12M that were reinvested in signings four players for the Senior squad, plus some youngster that will integrate our academy. The main signing is the return of club-grown wonder Striker Kevin O’Hara. We sign him back for a mere € 1.5M. With Everton relegated to the Championship, a lot of their players wanted to jump the sinking ship, I could not miss who has been the best Striker I had so far in this save, a Bairn through and through. The fans also appreciate “the return of a National hero”!
Mason Holgate, also from Merseyside, will become our first-choice right fullback, coming for only € 950K – he is a clear upgrade on Randall. Another signing I am really keen to see in action for Falkirk this season is Ryan Christie. Transfer-listed at Celtic, I poached him for € 1.5M, a young Scottish winger who perfectly suits our identity. His future backup, Harry Wilson, comes from Birmingham and is the biggest singing of this season with a € 5.75M fee. Last but not least, Matt Grimes will reinforce our midfield by becoming a valuable replacement.
Again, we stick to our 4-1-4-1. Given the increased quality, players are now instructed to use shorter passes to help keep possession and control games. With O’Hara and Carreiro becoming our main Strikers, I will use a Complete Forward for our man upfront.
Jack Hamilton (GK) – 27, Scotland – Already at club
No changes between our posts, Hamilton has proven last season to be a great keeper. With him only 27 and Malone his promising 20 years old replacement, I shouldn’t worry about this position for foreseeable future.
Mason Holgate (FB) – 24, England – In from Everton for € 950K
I needed an upgrade on Randall and Holgate was available for peanuts, at 24 he is still young but with plenty of experience in the EPL. His solid defensive attributes will help us improve an already solid defense.
Dawid Augustyn (DC) – 21, Poland – Already at club
One of our many young promising players, Augustyn did an impressive debut season last year. At 21 he is already a well-rounded defender with excellent physical attributes.
Steve Burchill (DC) – 19, Scotland – Already at club (promoted from U20s)
Yes, my defense is only 20 years old on average, but Burchill, a club-grown prospect, feels ready to make the big step into the First XI. Good defending attributes and excellent physical and mental ones. My coaches tout him as one the best of his generation, I decide to risk playing him to accelerate his maturation. It will be the first year without Danny Wilson in the First XI since his arrival, but the experienced Scottish centre-back is still in the squad and can take over the youngster is need be.
Lee Foran (FB) – 22, Ireland – Already at club
Another product of Falkirk youth academy, at 22, Lee Foran is already an important member of our squad and he is starting to emerge as an Irish international as well.
Jordan Rossiter (DM) – 24, England – Already at club
It has been a great signing last season, in his position and playing as a Defensive Midfielder, he is crucial in recycling possession.
Stephen Mallan (WM) – 25, Scotland – Already at club
Our magician, holder of the club record for more assists in a season, Mason has grown into a wonderful player since he joined three years ago and is now an established Scottish International.
Craig Sibbald (CM) – 26, Scotland – Already at club
At only 26, Sibbald is about to start his tenth season at Falkirk and already reach the bar of playing 300 matches for the Bairns. Unique.
George Byers (CM) – 25, Scotland – Already at club
The perfect companion to Sibbald, a pair of cultured midfielder that can take the game on their own.
Ryan Christie (WM) – 26, Scotland – In from Celtic for € 1.5M
I couldn’t have found a better replacement to Fraser, another Scottish talent to keep faith to our philosophy of either developing youth or bring local talent. His versatility is another advantage and I hope he can prove Celtic wrong by winning the title with us after having been badly treated by them.
Kevin O’Hara (ST) – 23, Scotland – In from Everton for € 1.5M
What to say more about the return of O’Hara, an icon of the club, we even made a profit of € 1.1M having bought him back for a lesser fee than the one we received. Good dribbling and finishing, but I am in love with his 20 in determination and 16 in work rate mean he is both a finisher and a work-horse pressing opposition defenses. Now that the club has grown meanwhile, I hope he will stick with his formative club.
Five youngsters will have the possibility to prove themselves in the Senior squad. Hutcheon and Duff will reinforce our midfield and along with Matt Grimes will be the backups of Sibbald and Byers. Malone will be our backup keeper, while Mastrorilli, an Australian centre-back, is being retrained to become a Defensive Midfielder. This is because of his height, not enough to be a great defender, but he has good enough attributes to become a solid midfielder. Aka, a wonderful winger, will allow Mallan to rest a little.
To become the best club in Scotland, we need to be the best in and off the pitch. I made a complete overhaul of my staff and we now are the best in basically every department from coaching to scouting.
I have also signed a bunch of former players like Ballack, Bergkamp or Vidic, renowned for their determination and their professionalism in order to infuse these values into our players and youngsters in particular.
With such improvements, I aim for the title, last year Celtic distanced us by more than 20 points, there will be no such capitulation this time! Domestic cups will be used to rotate players and give the youngsters some time on the pitch. In the Champions League, well, for that I just want to do as best as we can and proudly represent Scottish football in Europe.
That’s all folks, thank you all for reading!