Welcome back! It’s been about 4 months since our last visit to the Retirement Home but as you’ll know if you’ve been following on Twitter, it’s been a summer of recruitment and rebuilding as we look to fight back from the Premier League relegation. We’ve got an immediate advantage compared to last season as only one player hangs up their boots and even then, he was about to lose his work permit. Good day to you sir. Let’s see who we can bring in…
First up is a former Dutch international. Sadly, it’s Regi Blinker. He might be good but is dribbling of 15 really any use when you have a pace of 3?
John Harold Lozano is a bit better. He can really head and doesn’t seem quite as sluggish as his new teammate.
Moises is off. He did a reasonable job when called upon but it’s not a huge loss that he heads back home to take up a player/manager gig.
Now here’s an old, experienced head. 107 caps for Iceland and reasonable shooting and set pieces. Again he also can’t run or create but these are tomorrow problems.
I’m over the moon to land Ian Walker purely so we have another qualifying goalkeeper, alongside Shaka Hislop.
I’m very happy with this signing. It’s not every day you sign somebody released by Barcelona but Barjuan Sergi was a top left back in his day. As long as Keith Gillespie isn’t around he should be able to hold his own.
A problem is brewing in that Luke Weaver wants to leave and somebody wants him. He has a big-club release clause so I won’t be able to stop him going. Hopefully they just don’t bid.
One more signing is this chap. It’s the old beggars can’t be choosers, I have no need for him in his position but we’re not exactly spoilt for choice.
I’m happy to report that every player in the squad will be 35 by November except for Luke Weaver. I do worry about his departure so I’ve taken the unusual step of organising two pre-season friendlies to test out the two old keepers in case of emergency. Firstly, it’s Gateshead. This is the lineup:
It’s not pretty at times and the goalkeeping is woeful but we manage to win the game. I hope Shaka is better.
With just a week until the season starts, Batistuta doing his shoulder in training is not smart.
Ah bugger, there’s the bid.
Lineup for the second friendly is similar but with a different goalkeeper.
Oh my word he’s awful. We manage to come back from 2-0 down but with a goalkeeper who can’t catch it’s brutal. Cox, Wood and Rogers in the same side is an innuendo paradise.
Off goes sideshow Luke Weaver.
In comes James Dungey, who I’ve decided is the man for the job. He’ll qualify in 6 years but hopefully he’s good enough, he’s got a tough job replacing Luke Weaver.
Here’s the squad then for the opening day of the season. Let’s see if we can bounce back.
It’s a home game with Bradford but I’m sticking with the three centre backs.
Bradford are filthy but Dugarry is the difference. They finish with 9 but a wins a win.
1-0 to the Retirement Home! An away League Cup tie this time and you know, maybe a new resolute Retirement Home will ease back to the Premier League?
No, no they won’t. We are battered by Barnet at home. The Bungalow is barely a third full. A miserable day.
We just about do enough to see off Luton in the 2nd leg, despite Onopko’s red card.
Another clean sheet, this time against Forest. Maybe that Barnet game was a one off?
We lose at Stockport, albeit narrowly. I’m already sensing a lack of goals could be an issue.
What will help? An injury prone yet flairy South African midfielder. He won’t help will he?
Pier sees off Wimbledon. We’re getting somewhere, I think.
A satisfying 1-0 away win at Swindon confirms my suspicions, a solid base might be our route out of here.
I find it remarkable that Lopez wants to sign for us. He’ll count as one of our three under 35s but he’s knocking on himself anyway. He has low adaptability which will hinder him but in Division 1, will that matter?
The irony of Pier scoring a hat-trick against Brighton is not lost on me. What a guy. We’re going to make it after aalllllll
We’re not. This was an absolute paddlin’ if ever there was one.
26 shots? That’s a paddlin’
Kidderminster always seem to do us over and Clinton Morrison has us behind early doors. The disaster really is that Dungey goes off injured and Ian Walker has to step in. Pier equalises and then puts us in front, what is this new found resilience we have? Well, we end up 3-2 down because Ian Walker can’t move. Dugarry equalises and no sooner have I piled into the away end but Clinton scores again. Life isn’t fair sometimes.
I can’t tell you how much trouble we’re in here. Walker is hopeless and Dungey is out for a month. We lose 3-1 at home to lowly Carlisle in the cup.
The visit of Cambridge starts badly and goes downhill from there. We’re already 1-0 down when Fernando Couto is sent off. Not good. In the second half, Walker commits a last man foul and he’s off too. 9 men and Shaka Hislop in goal. The penalty is converted, Clark makes it 3 and Onopko scores an own goal. At least we injure two of them. Urgh.
Barnsley show no mercy. It’s 3-0 after 9 minutes and 5 after 30. Thankfully they declare. The board are less than satisfied for the first time in my 10 and a bit seasons here.
A home defeat to Ipswich probably won’t help. Tony Hadley at the double.
God bless Duncan Jupp. His red card opens the door for us to just about overcome Carlisle. The deficit has been overturned and Lopez gets his first goal for the club.
Back to normal at Walsall with Hislop between the sticks. That’s not the good Hierro either.
Dungey is back! He’s 73% fit but he’s still better than the other two chancers. Here he is:
We manage to get a draw at Burnley. It was a close run thing but we hold on to stop the rot.
Batistuta climbs off the bench and scores the winner against Port Vale. At full time I hold him in the centre circle for close to 10 minutes, just whispering thank you in his ear. He doesn’t speak English but he doesn’t stop me, which I’m taking as a success.
We’re 17th, after all that. It’s quite a tight division though and I’m hopeful that as long as our goalkeeper doesn’t get injured ever again, we might be ok.
And so ends our bumper first episode back. It’s been a treat. I haven’t missed the stressed this lot cause me but in a sick way, I can’t wait to do it all again next week.