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.
Thankfully it appeared my prematch instructions had a little more effect than a few days ago and we raced into a lead with my new favourite midfielder Ebby Nelson-Addy smashing in for the second straight game within 10 minutes. From that moment on we dominated the game but it wasn’t until winger Elijah Chilekwa scrambled in a second after an hour that I could sit more comfortably on my cooler box. Lee Hughes then added two more to make the scoreline more reflective of our supremacy until once again a worrying lapse in defence allowed milkman Nick Batchelor to bag a late consolation. Ultimately I should have been pleased with a 4-1 victory but as I fought my way through the few dozen fans still left at the end of the game I still felt some disappointment, knowing Brede and I still had a lot of work to do with my leaky defence before we faced Vanrama North opposition.
Thankfully the next morning Patrick had some good news for me and had identified veteran defensive midfielder Craig Stanley as a realistic coup. The box-to-box player once of Walsall-fame was interested in joining a resurgent City and it transpired we could take advantage of his non-contract situation with Barwell to negate any transfer fee. Unfortunately someone of Craig’s calibre wasn’t prepared to come cheap and I had to obliterate my current wage structure to land him on a highly lucrative £350 a week contract. Hoping this wouldn’t be leaked to the rest of my loyal, but depressingly underpaid team, I agreed the terms and prayed to the gods that Anthony would sanction the deal.
Not content with the recent find under his belt, Patrick landed another coup by sniffing out a local English Trial Day organised by the England Players’ Association. I raced to the tournament, praying that I would find someone capable of filling the current left wing void.
As feared / expected, the trial day was a complete disappointment. I had hoped to pick out the next Craig Stanley but instead was presented with a conveyor belt of crap that could barely run in a straight line, not that my current team was a great improvement on that. However I did spot one young lad who looked like he could fit into my new setup quite nicely. Aidan Austin (annoyingly dubbed ‘AA’ by his vocal dad on the sideline) was quick enough to do some serious damage this season, and his passing and crossing skills would add significant threat to an otherwise fairly blunt attack.
Unfortunately, AA was being represented by his dad, who must have believed he had in fact fathered the next Craig Stanley with some of the ridiculous figures being quoted during our transfer negotiations. However, with only three weeks to go until entertaining Harrogate at home in the season opener, I quickly folded and begrudgingly negotiated a third – potentially club-crippling – inflated contract much to AA Senior’s smug satisfaction.
Much to my delight – and horror – over the next few days Anthony sanctioned both deals. While both were undoubtedly quality players, these two additions had wiped out what little wage budget I had been gifted effectively meaning shipping out a number of players if I wanted to bring anyone else in. Unfortunately a few phone calls later confirmed a lack of interest in any of my current first team, let alone the many on my rejected list, so I was going to have to make do with what I had for now.
These two had better be good…