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Blyth Spartans – Championship Promotion Playoff

Well, we’re there, finally. We were a bit unlucky to finish 3rd in Coca-Cola Championship after a long difficult season. We played very well lately but it wasn’t enough, we had to fight for promotion in the playoff. The first step was the semifinal against Southampton, the team that finished 6th. I was happy to play the first leg away from home, I think that’s always an advantage.

I was hoping for at least a draw since the last away game against them finished 1-1 back in October. And we played pretty well in the first half but my defense was a nightmare, we were making huge errors and Southampton didn’t need an invitation to score. At half time the scoreboard indicated a disaster for us, it was 3-1. I made all three substitutions at half time, we had to show some determination out there. Immediately after the break one of the players that came in as a substitute, midfielder Adam Kay, stepped up and banged in a shot from 25 yards out! His first goal of the season! We kept piling up the pressure but also kept on missing shots from all around their penalty area. That was the game until the 77th minute when the unlikely hero stepped up again – another shot from 25 yards out and another goal from Adam Kay! He didn’t score all season long and now he was making an exhibition!

It finished 3-3 but we could have won it if we would have paid more attention in defense. However, it was a good result that gave us a lot of confidence for the second leg.

1 southampton vs blyth playoff semifinal first leg

A few words about our unlikely hero, Adam Kay. I brought him on a free transfer in 2010 from Burnley and he was a constant presence in our team throughout the last few season. This year he was a backup for the first team but he did well every time I needed to send him in. He never argued about deserving more first team football, he continued to work hard in training and I guess he got what he deserved, a moment of glory for the anonymous midfield worker.

2 adam kay may 2013

We had to win the second leg at Croft Park and I felt that it was entirely possible, we defeated Southampton 3-1 with only 10 men in our last league game. They looked better in the first half and even scored the opening goal in the 25th minute. We reacted well and the first 45 minutes ended all square, 1-1. We had to do more in the second half, it was a big opportunity for us and we just couldn’t afford to miss it. My players fully understood that and produced a thrilling display in the second half, superb 45 minutes of football. Southampton were looking powerless as we scored 3 goals! A great victory, and we were through to the final!

3 blyth vs southampton playoff semifinal second leg

The bad news was that we had to play against Stoke in the final, they defeated Cardiff quite heavily in the other semifinal (2-0 away and 3-1 at home). Stoke were the only Championship team that defeated us both home and away in the league games. In fact, they were the only side that defeated us at Croft Park, 2-0 in September. I knew their team by heart, their numerous strengths and the few weaknesses but in the end it was all up to my players, they had to prove that they deserved promotion. We had good morale and I hoped that it could make a difference in what I expected to be a very even game at Wimbledon.

It began perfectly for us, left back Kris Paterson sent in a shot from 25 yards out and their keeper could only push it off the underside of the bar! We continued to push forward and we scored again in the 9th minute! But the linesman had nothing better to do than flagging, it was offside, the goal was disallowed :(

Stoke seized control and they pegged us back immediately, Danny Pugh placed a perfect shot from 25 yards out in the 12th minute.

Seven minutes later my left back managed to ruin everything he did by scoring a goal, a big marking error and Nikola Drincic made it 2-1 for Stoke.

We went back to attack and we did pretty well, we were creative and determined enough to create chances. But unfortunately we missed three huge ones before half time, it ended 2-1.

I expected my lads to keep on going forward in the second half but for some reason Stoke took control of the game again. We just couldn’t find the right tempo, they were winning all the tackles in midfield. Things were looking bad and they got even worse in the 70th minute… Alan Smith picked up a through ball, everybody thought he was offside! Everybody except the linesman… Smith banged it in, it was 3-1.

I wasn’t hoping for anything at that point but my players showed a great deal of determination, they immediately went forward and we were piling up the pressure on the Stoke defense again.

75th minute… Dimitriu Copil curled in a perfect cross from the right, it went past the keeper, Christian Short was in the box, ready to push the ball in… Tordoya got to the ball first but could only push it into the net! We clawed one back!

Three minutes later Christian Short was running on the left wing behind their defenders, he passed the ball into the middle, Gary Horner blasted it on the volley… Westwood pushed it away with a fantastic reflex… But it only went a few yards to the right… Copil was there and couldn’t miss… It was 3-3! Get in!

Stoke were looking shocked! Their manager changed the tactic, they switched to a 4-2-4 immediately after our third goal, they desperately wanted to score.

But they just couldn’t get forward, my defense and midfield were intercepting everything!

Only two minutes to go and we are still attacking. Chaurant picks up a ball, takes a look and then sends in a through ball into the penalty area. Perfect pass, Christian Short picks it up, swivels on the ball to get clear of their centre back… And shoots! It’s past the keeper, heading for the far post… It hits the post… and goes in! It’s in! 4-3! Magnificent fightback! Superb!

The referee signals 3 minutes of injury time, we’re hanging on in there… The clock shows 94 minutes and 30 seconds… Come on, ref, blow that damn whistle! Just breathe in and out, into that whistle! 94 minutes and 46 seconds… What’s that sound? The whistle, it’s the final whistle! We’re through, my Blyth Spartans will play in the Premier League! It’s a dream that is finally coming true, fantastic!

4 blyth vs stoke playoff final

I just can’t describe the joy, it’s beyond words. From Blue Square North to the Premier League in 5 seasons, that’s what I call a fairytale!

Striker Christian Short, our hero from the final game, was also our top goalscorer this season. He scored 13 goals but I expected much more from him.

6 christian short top goalscorer 2013

Our Colombian right winger, Mario Garay, made the most assists, 17, and also scored eight times!

7 mario garay most assists 2013

But our best player was undoubtedly Rhys Williams, our rock-solid centre back. He scored six goals and finished a season with an average rating of 7.19, the best in our squad.

8 rhys williams best player 2013

Here’s our squad, the 24 men that made history!

9 blyth spartans squad 2013

Take a good look because I’m sure you won’t see many of them again next season. After getting promoted I checked my assistant’s team report, and all those fancy 6 and 7 stars that he displayed at the beginning of the season turned into 3 or 4 stars for the Premier League. I agree that the squad needs to be heavily strengthened, but I’ll need some money to do that…

10 new team report

To prepare for the big stage of English football my board announced that the stadium will be expanded. Until the completion of the work we will play our home games at Sunderland.

11 blyth stadium expansion

I was happy that the board decided to expand our Croft Park, our fans deserved that. But the investment put a big hole into the club’s finances, we were 13.5 million euro in debt! I decided to sell a couple of players right away and that gave me some transfer money in return, before the new season. With that money I made the first signing, let me introduce young regen Spanish left back Andres Lara. He’s way better than my current centre back and I only paid 375000 euro to Barcelona for him! (I competed with Celtic for his signature) He is also very likely to improve in the future, he’s only 19 years old!

12 andres lara first transfer

I’m waiting to find out how the transfer budget will be. As far as I know the club will get around 30 million euro in TV rights for the Premier League season and I hope the board will give me at least half of that for transfers. I don’t think that any of my current players have what it takes to be a first team regular in the Premiership, so right now I think that I’ll try to get at least eleven better players. My scouts already recommended me a plethora of great Brazilians but I’ll have to wait for the transfer budget to decide. If it will be around 15 million euro I’ll have an average of 1.5 million for a player and that’s not luxurious by any means… What would you recommend, sign only 3 or 4 good players or go for a full first eleven?

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Dave
Dave
12 years ago

Well done mate, that is an outstanding achievement.

You have some tough decisions to make now re the team. Do you have any players that could cut it in the EPL if they had better players around them? This way you could fight the relegation battle just to stay up for another seasons TV money. I am always reluctant to bring too many new faces into the team straight away due to the problem of gelling together. What about going for the 3 or 4 with Premiership experience. Who went down from the EPL? Are there any players you can poach from relegated teams?

Lye
Lye
12 years ago

Congratulations!! That was a remarkable achievement…. I think probably you can get 1 or 2 star players and some cheap and good attributes players. I believe you need to buy some good central defenders as the strikers in the premier league is strong, powerful and fast. Too bad FM10 is coming else like to know how far your blyth team can go. Anyway keep it going, i think you can avoid relegation and surprise the big teams and the media.

Ahmed Shah
12 years ago

OMG !!! CONGRATULATIONS !!! BLYTH SPARTANS IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE !!! AMAZING !!! Your the best FM09 player I’ve ever known :-)

I agree with Dave that you need some experience from the Premier League. I dont know who would be available at 2014 or whichever year you’re in but some former Premier League stars would do good. I guess it all depends on the budget doesnt it……GOOD LUCK FOR THE NEW SEASON

Ahmed Shah
12 years ago

Another leak, Johnny ??? :-( Your spoiling our fun ;-) lol jk…

Ben E
Ben E
12 years ago

wonder if you can get knighted for outstanding contribution to football manager !!!!???? lol
well done mate you did it in style as always!!!
i’m gonna place my bets on you finishing sixth and winning the carling cup just to put pressure on you lol :)
congrats again.
Ben E

curt-koz
curt-koz
12 years ago

you did great , well done , how much money have you got then mate?

paine
12 years ago

Congrats for your big achievement, now you will be very busy in the transfer market, to strenghten the team for the premiership.

My piece of advice, don’t have too much faith in your assistent manager ratings of your players, judge them by yourself, lots of times my staff gave me very bad advices regarding my players present or future skills.

But you probably already knew that.

Good work!

rooneye
12 years ago

Yes! Get in there my son! :D You have done amazing so far mate and you even finished higher than I predicted, well done. At least your now out of financial trouble which is great, and who knows maybe with some good signings you can stay up and strengthen again to esablish your self as a premier league club, although I imagine your first season in the prem will be really really tough. Good luck though!

Michael Turner
12 years ago

Great work mate, doing heaps good. I reckon sign 3-4 new players, unless ur current squad is not up to scratch for the premier league. I saw in your player run down, and i feel sad that Rhys Williams is a Welshman, as he is actually an Australian.

Necdet Celal Güner
Necdet Celal Güner
12 years ago

Hi Johnny,

In my eyes, it was superb. I am also very happy about tiny Blyth stadium. At the end of the day; finance means a lot nowadays, unfortunately. Though post-modern football (for me the era started restrictions after Denmark’s win with thousands of backpasses) is hungary of those types Rocky & Apollo stories. (Greece was not a story that type! That was not a football, but a murder :)) That’s the reason why your blog is so appreciated. From a slumteam to the top, just one man’s dream in world’s populations comes true at the end. Noone could tell me that even chairman expects.

I relegated once with Shef. Wed, but I hope u won’t. 2013, the greats are still young enough to punish. Esp. MANU and Gunners.

Did you realise that determination level of coaches decreases during seasons whatever the achievement of the club?

I also used your corner tactic and I advise to send someone “to stand on far post”. And you may send your freekicks to the center, with your challenge keeper tactic. It works, I tried.

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