So i’ve decided to start at Stalybridge or StalyVegas to those in the know. At this point they are pretty much my FM team after I first chose them at random in Premier Manager from 1992.
I’ve experienced ups and downs over the years with them and hopefully this time will be no different.
Season 1 – Stalybridge Celtic, National League North
Fun Fact: Stalybridge has the public house with the longest name in Britain – The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn – and also the one with the shortest, Q.
Board Expectations: Mid-Table
Players In: 1 @ £0
Players Out: 0
The squad was already quite stable and more than adequate for at least a mid-table finish and possibly a promotion push so I decided to only purchase a right-back as I wanted to let every player have a chance and prove their worth.
Like a comfy pair of slippers I felt right at home straight away although we had a stuttering start and I had visions of an early sacking after the board and fans started making noises about my suitability as manager. Former players too were sticking their oar in to stir the pot by constantly questioning my ability.
I managed to make it to Christmas and we stabilised somewhat settling in mid-table, bouncing around between 12th and 14th never really finding any form but it was enough to keep the wolves from the door.
Late on in the season we got a massive win against local rivals Curzon which spurred us on to win the last five from seven and finish in a respectable 7th place although we never looked like getting a playoff place and finished 8 points behind 6th.
Onwards and upwards then, but changes in personnel were most definitely needed to push on to the next level and a few who underperformed would need to be shown the door.
Cups – no comment.
Season 2 – Stalybridge Celtic, National League North
Board Expectations: Make the Play-Offs
Players In – 9 for 0k
Players Out – 8 for 300k
A good few purchases in vital positions and things were looking positive. I removed some deadwood and the squad looked twice as good, I was optimistic for a promotion push.
Early in the season I was offered the Wrexham job in the league above but decided to turn it down as I was really getting my teeth into the job in hand. Still, to coin a phrase used far too often in the game I was “flattered by the interest”
We started badly again but I put this down to the squad needing time to gel. After ten games we went on a great run and got ourselves into a play-off position where we stayed all season ending up in 3rd place and very nearly gaining automatic promotion, but on balance a play-off place was probably what we deserved.
So on to the playoffs where we faced local rivals Hyde in what proved to be a mouthwatering encounter.
The first leg was away and after a 2-0 defeat things looked bleak and we were never really in the game, my own fault really as i’d tinkered the team a little too much.
Back at Bower Fold for the return match and I was not confident at all. We went in at half time with a 1-0 lead but that was against the run of play so I expected very little in the second half.
As expected it was a tight afair until they had no less than two players sent off for ugly challenges and we took full advantage by pulling one back straight away.
With the game nearly over and extra time and penalties looming up popped my 4th choice youth centre half who had been drafted in at the last minute due to injuries.
He headed home calmly from an in-swinging corner kick to send the fans and myself into raptures!
We played Guiseley in the final who we’d had the better of during this campaign so I was quietly confident that we could get past them and earn promotion.
And so it proved. We had saved our best performance of the season for the final winning 3-1 but after going 2-0 up we never really looked in danger.
I couldn’t be happier with this promotion especially after how shaky my start in Tameside had been. I’ve no idea how big the step up will be but hopefully we can hold our own.
I’ve grown attached to a lot of these lads so I’m going to give them a go in the league above. I’m just hoping that that loyalty won’t cost me.
Cups – no comment
Season 3 – Stalybridge Celtic, National League Premier
Board Expectations: Avoid Relegation
Players In – 7 for 0k
Players Out – 6 for 0k
Another few solid purchases and I was confident I could keep the club in the division, the players I had already I felt were up to the task even though a couple of my better players left on Bosmans but they were replaced by sufficient quality.
A good start for a change and we were solid in mid-table all season,
We finished in a more than respectable 13th place.
I got a job offer from Chesterfield which I turned down around Christmas time but after that there was lots of speculation linking me to other jobs and after our solid finish I decided to resign and head for pastures new and after such interest I was confident a new job would be mine for the taking.
A rash decision in hindsight but those flash league clubs with their four figure attendances had turned my head.
Cups – managed to get to round 3 of the FA cup but were comprehensively beaten by championship outfit Sheffield United 4-1 at their place.
During the summer I applied for various league clubs with no success and was seriously regretting turning down Chesterfield and leaving Stalybridge.
I’ve always been an overly loyal manager in previous saves, on the various incarnations of FM, preferring to be sacked than walking out, so I had made a conscious decision to be more ruthless and ambitious this time.
It was October until I got a job offer of interest but more of that to follow.