Concord Rangers - Season 8 (2024/25)
After coming close to a top 4 finish and Champions League qualification last season, only to throw it away in the last few games of the season, I was hoping for a better season this time round. Winning a trophy was an aim as well, having failed to win a single one since becoming manager.
A nice bit of news before the season began, for the team, and especially for the player involved, was the inclusion of winger Julian Insaurralde in the Team of the Year, alongside players such as Paul Pogba, Kevin De Bruyne and Harry Kane.
And talking about players, there were a fair few changes to our playing squad over the summer.
First team players Kieran Dowell, Scott McTominay, Ben Godfrey, Ashley Fletcher and Hamza Choudhury left the club. They had either not performed well last season or weren't going to get much game time this season. The rest of the players leaving the club were youth team players. Two of those, goalkeeper Angus Henry and central midfielder Ross Grimes were sent out on loan.
Six new players (not including the two from the youth team) joined the club on permanent deals. These players were strikers Vincent Aboubakar and Enoch Eastmond, and midfielders Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Marko Grujic, Afriyie Acquah and Nadiem Amiri. Maitland-Niles would mainly be used as cover at right-back.
Joining them were five loan players. Warren Fisher (CM) and JJ Wall (AM RLC) both rejoined the club for a second consecutive loan spell. Ben Brereton (ST) came back for his third time on loan with us. Dominic Michael, who could play left-back and pretty much everywhere across the midfield, and Adi Beattie (CB) completed the incomings.
So, we've got the squad assembled for the upcoming season. Now we just have to see how they do...
We began our attempt to win the League Cup away to Scunthorpe. Three goals in the first half saw us comfortably on our way to the next round.
Championship side Watford were our next League Cup opponents, and they started the game much better than us, leading 2-0 after around half an hour. We managed to half the deficit before half time, and eventually showed our quality in the second half with four more goals, seeing us safely through to the quarter finals.
Chelsea were between us and a place in the League Cup semi finals. The game finished goalless after 90 minutes, and it looked like extra time wasn't going to separate us either, and that we were heading for penalties. That was until Charly Musonda scored with almost the last kick of the game to knock us out.
Not a bad cup run then, but a last minute loss always makes things worse. I think I'll blame the fact my players weren't expecting it to be 20°C in December!
January saw the start of our FA Cup journey. A missed penalty after 30 minutes made no difference, as Sheffield United were easily beaten.
Southampton would provide a harder test in the Fourth Round. A late strike from Insaurralde saw us through to the next round.
Where we were up against Man City. They opened the scoring after less than a minute, and a red card to defender Marco Wright didn't help our chances. However, Brereton managed to equalise with around 15 minutes to go, and then scored again in injury time, and we had won the game!
Everton were the visitors in the quarter finals, as we aimed to progress further than in the League Cup. We managed this very easily, winning by five goals.
We got a chance at revenge in the semi final, as we played Chelsea, who knocked us out of the League Cup. The scoreline in this game was the same as in that one, but this time it was us who progressed thanks to a 1-0 win.
Our first ever final! Manchester United were all that stood between us and FA Cup glory. We thought we'd opened the scoring midway through the first half, only for celebrations to be cut short by the linesmans flag. Then, minutes later, United opened the scoring through Anthony Martial. Things got worse ten minutes into the second half, as they doubled their lead through de Jesus. Brereton then got himself on the scoresheet with less than 20 minutes to go, and we were back in it. Five minutes later though United managed to restore their two goal advantage thanks to Victor Lindelof. Insaurralde then scored soon after to reduce the deficit, but unfortunately that was where the scoring stopped, and we had been beaten 3-2.
Very proud of the players for getting to the final. On another day we might have won that.
After qualifying for the Europa League last season, we were placed in a group alongside Shaktar, Molde and FC Voluntari. It couldn't really have went much better, and we won the group easily.
In the first knockout round I got the chance to come up against my rival team, Celtic. The first leg was completely dominated by us, and we had one foot in the next round.
Two goals in the first ten minutes killed this game completely as a contest, and we we eventually won the game 5-1, sealing an 8-1 aggregate win.
Things wouldn't be so simple in the second round. Barcelona were our opponents, and they had the advantage going into the second leg.
What a game! A brilliant away performance at the Nou Camp saw us score four goals, and we were through 5-4 on aggregate!
Anderlecht were up next in the quarter finals, and we were on top for the whole game, the only surprise being that it took until the 78th minute to add to our lead.
We then scored four away goals for the second round in a row, as we wrapped up a 7-1 aggregate score.
We only managed the three away goals in the semi final vs Valencia though...
But we made up for it in the second leg, as Ben Brereton hit the back of the net four times in a 6-2 win, and a 9-3 aggregate win meant we were in a European final!
It was a familiar opponent in the final, as we came up against Leicester. Unfortunately, this meant Ben Brereton was unable to be included in our squad due to the terms of his loan.
We had a big let off in the first half as Leicester were awarded, and then missed, a penalty. We were definitely missing the presence of Brereton, and the with an hour gone, I bought on 21 year old Enoch Eastmond, for only his 15th appearance of the season to partner Aboubakar who had started the game in Brereton's absence, as I changed formation and went with two strikers. This move paid off, as Aboubakar set up Eastmond in the last minute, and the young striker made no mistake, scoring his seventh goal of the season, and winning us the Europa League!
Brilliant! We'd finally won a trophy!
Now, if you remember, the main aim of this career was to win the Premier League and Champions League. So, let's find out how the Premier League campaign went...
Looking back on it, finishing fifth last season was a good achievement, even if it was a feeling of disappointment at the time. If we were to meet one of the main aims of our career though, we would have to do even better.
Premier League Results
3-0 vs Bournemouth
1-1 vs Swansea
6-3 vs Nottingham Forest
3-4 vs Liverpool
1-1 vs Manchester United
2-7 vs Tottenham
4-0 vs Arsenal
1-1 vs Newcastle
1-4 vs Southampton
2-0 vs Huddersfield
2-2 vs West Ham
3-0 vs Chelsea
3-4 vs Manchester City
4-0 vs Everton
1-1 vs Leicester
1-1 vs Brighton
2-0 vs Stoke
0-3 vs Ipswich
2-5 vs Bournemouth
2-0 vs Swansea
1-3 vs Nottingham Forest
5-1 vs Leeds
3-0 vs Liverpool
3-2 vs Manchester United - our dreams of an invincible league season were over.
5-1 vs Tottenham
2-3 vs Arsenal
3-1 vs Newcastle
1-1 vs Southampton
1-3 vs Huddersfield
5-1 vs West Ham
2-1 vs Man City
2-2 vs Chelsea
2-1 vs Everton
4-1 vs Leicester
1-2 vs Leeds
3-2 vs Ipswich - An important result? 👀
1-0 vs Stoke
4-0 vs Brighton
So, how did that leave the table?
That result at home to Ipswich had guaranteed it. Concord Rangers - Premier League Champions!!!
The board were so happy that they made plans for a new stadium, and let me name it. The Aaron McClean Stadium didn't fit the character limit, so Concord2025 would become the new stadium name, a reminder of the year that Concord Rangers completed their journey from Vanarama National League South relegation strugglers to Premier League Champions, without spending a single penny on transfer fees.
Player Stats - Appearances
Player Stats - Goals
Player Stats - Assists
All that remains now from my aims at the start of this save is to win the Champions League. That will have to wait until next season