Welcome back to Falkirk! Well, I will not keep the mystery for long, it has been a magnificent season, actually considering where we come from, one of my best since I start playing FM 10 years ago.
BATTLING CELTIC DOMESTICALLY
I was born on 30 July 1985 (I know I’m getting old), but I’m telling you this to let you know that since the day I was born, only two Clubs have been crown Champions of Scotland. Almost 32 years and the title has been divided by the Auld Firm. The last non-Glasgow team to win the league was Aberdeen.
One of the aim of this save was to break this dominance. Since we joined the Premiership in 2017, the league went to Celtic in 2018, Rangers in 2019, Falkirk in 2020, and Celtic again last year in 2021. Although Rangers managed to win back the title in 2019 after their administrative relegation, it is clear that the big boy in the courtyard is Celtic. We already nicked a title in 2019, a historic achievement in itself, but last season 20 points difference between Celtic and us, showed us we had some road to go yet.
I’ve built a squad by keeping our key players and increasing quality, especially among the backups to be able to compete on all fronts and rotate the squad without losing too much quality.
The feeling this could be a great season got confirmed early in the season when we lifted the League Cup, the only domestic trophy still missing from our trophy cabinet.
The whole season went actually fantastic, O’Hara looked like he never left and scored a total of 21 goals. Everything actually went greatly and we did not lose a domestic match until 12 March 2022 as we set a new record of invisibility for the Bairns.
Particularly impressive was our defensive record, in 38 league games we conceded only 24 goals and managed to get 23 clean-sheets, an incredible record. Our solidity at the back didn’t deny us to be lethal in front of goal as we scored 62, averaging 1,6 goal per match while conceding only 0,71. The tweaks I’ve made to our 4-1-4-1 clearly worked wonders and all my players had an impressive season stats-wise.
That is the final table, we finish with a comfortable 9 points advantage. The gap had been even wider during the season. The next step will be to go unbeaten, but let’s not get over our heads yet.
But the war for Scottish football supremacy wasn’t over, a final battle awaited us at the end of the season, thanks to a great run in the Scottish Cup, we could directly face Celtic for the last remaining trophy to be adjudicated.
It was a tough and close encounter. Tension was in the air at Hampden Park as the Bairns were setting eyes to a first, historical domestic Treble. 90′ didn’t suffice to name a winner and only a fantastic Messi-esque solitary dribbling run by O’Hara during the extra-time gave us the coveted victory!
O’Hara’s goal GIF: http://imgur.com/Ea6z5Ao
A season to remember and to tell you grandkids about. The Bairns get where only Rangers and Celtic arrived before and we show our rise into Scottish football. Perhaps from now on, there will be talking of the New Firm!
BATTLING THE ODDS IN EUROPE
With such a wonderful season domestically our European run has been the cherry on top of a wonderful cake.
Having finished second last season, we have to pass through the qualifiers, we face Club Brugge and Olympique Lyonnais. We enter the Groups Stage only thanks to a strong 4-0 victory against the French at home. They beat us 3-0 on their ground but the goal difference let us through. And there the magic began, we totaled 5 victories in a group comprising Leverkusen, Fenerbahçe and Manchester City. Some amazing results that qualify us for the 1st KO round. Our victories included an astonishing 6-0 against Fenerbahçe and a superb double victory over Guardiola’s team (in 2022 he is still trophyless at City!).
We made history again, and again against an English side whose best player earns as much as our entire squad combined! Chelsea falls at Falkirk Stadium 2-0, and their victory at Stamford Bridge isn’t enough. We then faced Sporting, I thought it was actually a generous draw and I was already dreaming of the Semi-Finals. But they were clearly better equipped than us and eliminated us without appeal.
As an excuse, we could however say to have fallen to the future champions. The Portuguese side in fact repeated Porto’s achievement of 2004 and won the Champions League!
What bodes well for the future is that our U20 team did well like their senior colleagues and qualified through their Youth League group.
In the winter transfers window, we brought only two new players. Young Swedish giant Adrian Gyllingberg joined us from Hammarby for a € 2M fee. I signed him because Nuno Carreiro asked to leave after some Italian teams unsettled him. He leaves to Roma for only € 1.5M, though with a 30% on next sale profit clause. We still make a nice profit out of him, as we bought him from Manchester United for just € 175K. Gyllingberg is the perfect replacement and very similar in style. A big lad, a giant actually with his height of 2.05m, but with good technical attributes and possibility to grow.
Octavio Pacheco joined us from Maritimo for € 600K. A young and talented midfielder, he will cover for Rossiter in the DM position. With his great attributes both at defending and at creating, he perfectly suits what I look for in this position. With such a low transfer fee and still room to grow at just 19, it was a no-brainer
The Youth Intake was one of the few negative points of the season, a group of such poor players that I am not even showing you the screenshot as I didn’t sign anyone. On that regard, I convinced at least the board to improve our training facilities and I have the intention to increase our youth recruitment next season. With my philosophy of signing youth and local talent and the money we are making in Europe we are swimming in cash so it shouldn’t be a problem and my Board has been always very receptive to my request.
These are the main stats for the season, as you can see, signing Kevin O’Hara back turned out to be a great decision as he scored a total of 21 goals. Yannick Aka, our young Ivorian winger, has shown impressive progress this year and is challenging Mallan for a First XI spot thanks to his 15 assists and 10 awards as POM. They are my MVP for this year.
The Squad I’ve built last season proved to be very good, the main objectives will be to try to keep all key players and not drop in quality if one does actually leave us. In terms of competitions, it will be really tough to do better than this year, but a back-to-back league title should seal our status as the new and upcoming dominant club in Scotland.
In Europe, I am starting having doubts. Should I aim to a third place in our group to end up in the Europa League and have some chances? I don’t know, being a competitor by nature I couldn’t plan a defeat and to aim to the third position it would be risky and backfire to us. We will see.
Off the pitch, things are going well, money is not an issue at all. Training facilities are being upgraded, the next step is to improve our youth recruitment to have better intakes. The youth already at the club is growing well, so well that I am planning to sell some youngster with “buy-back-clauses” à la Barça as I cannot guarantee a place in the First squad yet.
One last word on the League, four Scottish teams qualified out of their group in UCL or UEL, meaning we will surely maintain our eighth place in the UEFA ranking, another good season and we could even overcome Russia and will guarantee to the Premiership winner a place in the first seed during the Groups draw. I hope the rest of the teams will do as well as they did this year. I already seen a big impact regarding the avarage value of our player and in more money coming through TV deals and sponsorship.
That’s all for now folks! Thank you for reading and see you soon for next season, until then Com’on Bairns!!