So, after six hard-fought games, the day had finally arrived.
The tweaking of tactics, recruitment of fresh faces and refining of individual training schedules all led to this moment. My first competitive match in the Vanarama North League at home to Harrogate Town, and with it, my first meaningful step towards Champions League glory.
Ahead of our penultimate game of the season I was dealt with two blows.
Firstly came the devastating news that my Chairman Anthony Sampson had failed in his attempts to identify a suitable senior affiliate club. This ruined my foolproof strategy of bringing in a dozen youngsters on loan from a high calibre Football League team and blowing away my semi-professional counterparts.
Having shifted out some undesirables last week and slashing £350 from the wage bill it didn’t take me long to undo most of that good work.
It took little persuasion by my Chief Scout Patrick Andersson to convince me to snap up young Burundi-born and exotically-named Mo Shariff on a free transfer. I was desperately short of depth on the flanks, and the fact that he could play on either side was enough to convince me to offer him £190 week (the grainy YouTube footage that Patrick shared with me also played a big part in assuring me that this kid could be the next Messi!)
Now I’m not one for figures but even I knew were were in a bit of a sticky financial situation.
On top of having no transfer budget I had been reliably informed that I had little ‘wiggle room’ (the descriptive didn’t help soften the blow as presumably the club’s accountant had intended) when it came to our transfer budget.
Having won all three pre-season games so far I welcomed the opportunity to get straight back into the action a few days later with a short trip up to Butlin Road to play Rugby Town.
The quality of opposition to date had – at best – been questionable. However with the team becoming more familiar with my high pressing/short passing tactic, and with a clean sheet in our last game, I’d convinced myself we were already fast becoming invincible. If I could take this pre-season form into the full season we’d surely walk it, wouldn’t we?
I wonder if any one has ever gone a whole season undefeated in the Vanarama North?
With two new signings up my sleeve I headed up to Wolverhampton for my first away friendly against Midland Football League giants AFC Wulfrunians.
The intimidating Castlecroft Stadium would prove to be a good test of nerve for my relatively young squad with 40-odd hardcore Wulf fans dotted around the terraces.
With a desperately unconvincing victory against the Stourport Swifts under my belt, and with my glamorous Chief Scout Patrick worryingly unable to identify any prospective signings, it was with some trepidation that I headed into an encounter with similarly low-level opposition in Bromsgrove Sporting.
As a ‘home game double header’ (we were sharing the Victoria Ground with our local rivals this season) I was expecting an impressive turnout for Tuesday night’s game and with 223 spectators cramming into the terraces I was not disappointed. In fact it was downright intimidating.
With the majority of my time at the club to date spent on establishing an elite backroom made up of former professionals brimming with domestic and European experience, today’s friendly against local rivals Stourport Swifts gave me a great opportunity to better understand what I had to play with this season.
I have to admit I was impressed with what I had seen from our few sessions together.
Over the coming days Brede’s appointment was confirmed, much to the surprise of our local media who were as shocked as I was that someone of his status would be willing to join my City revolution.
Buoyed by his addition I moved quickly to plug the other two outstanding gaps in my backroom team.
On reflection, perhaps getting rid of John so soon after my appointment wasn’t the best decision.
Not only is my Chairman now visibly miffed at my ruthless treatment of someone he obviously cared for, but more importantly it’s left me with quite a gap in my backroom set up.