Here we…here we go
Preseason has been and gone, the money has run dry, and our first season back in the Premier League is about to begin. This season was going to be tough as owt. But with the acquisitions made, I felt we could try and hobble through!
This feeling lasted for about 5 minutes, until on match day one, Brice was pulled from our squad through injury. A 3 week sprain. Cheers mate. Just what I wanted for an away trip to the “London Stadium” to play West Ham. We’d faced West Ham in the FA Cup the previous season, and struggled. Today would be no different. The game would start well, with Adam Hammill grabbing a goal in the 9th minute. But, of course, we’d only be able to keep the Hammers out for so long, and on the 62nd, West Ham equalised, and romped home to victory. Not the way we wanted to start the season…
We’d return to Oakwell for our first home game in the top flight in 20 years. The visitors, West Brom, would be tough. I was determined that Oakwell would become a fortress, and if we were to have any chance of surviving, we’d have to pick up points sooner rather than later. The game would be much more even than the West Ham game, both teams having chances, and testing one another. It would be us that would take the lead through former Baggie James McClean in the 32nd. The game would continue to be back and forth until the second half, when West Brom equalised, only for Tom Bradshaw to give us the lead again 2 minutes later. We’d stand firm, and after 90 minutes would claim our first win in the Premier League, 2-1!
Unfortunately for us, the win would come with a cost. Adam Davies, our goalkeeper, would pick up a knock, which would turn into a month long lay off. Not good when we only had a youth keeper as back up. I was left with no choice, I went cap in hand to the board.
“Please please please give me something…anything…just a little bit more in the wage budget…we’re making a profit, and we need players.”
“Yeah, go on then…”
Not my expectation if honest, and with an extra £400k a week set aside, and £3m still in my bank it was time to go Bargain Hunting!
With Davies out, my first port of call was a keeper. Tom Heaton of Burnley had been earmarked, but their valuation of the man was far too high for me. Instead, I took my own experience and went after Derby County’s Lee Grant, (judging him based on his role at Stoke so far in real life!). For £40k, it seemed a nothing deal, and firmed up the position. Whilst perusing the scouting reports, one name stood out. A legend from a past life who had could add another dimension to our midfield…I speak of course, about Rasmus Elm. Joining for £1.9m, the Swedish midfielder would provide a much needed outlet in dead ball situations, and had the type of footballing brain I so loved.
Our next match up saw us away to Swansea, in a game which saw us on the end of a 3-1 loss. Winnall would grab our goal, but Azmoun would be disappointing, and Swansea’s pace out wide would destroy our marauding fullbacks. It was a tough lesson to learn, especially considering Swans boss Andre Villas Boas had been slagging me off in the press. Thankfully, there would be another signing which would cheer me up. Another legend, and an experience professional to bring into the team…Claudio Pizarro.
Sure, at 38, it was a tall order, but everyone knows what he can be capable of, and that magic would be needed in South Yorkshire this season.
A welcome return to Oakwell would follow shortly, with the league giving way to the League Cup. We’d gone on a successful run last season, and whilst I didn’t intend on competing seriously for the trophy, the competition is always good to get morale up! Cambridge United were our opposition, and were totally outclassed. 2 goals from James McClean, an Own Goal and a Rasmus Elm driving shot would see us run out 4-0 winners.
Our final game of the month would see us take on Crystal Palace at Oakwell.A very back and forth game, James McClean would once again give us the lead, before Palace equalised. Thankfully, it would last just a minute, as Adam Hammill slotted home to give us a 2-1 win! The start of the season had gone well…
Last minute business
There’d still be room for some last minute deals come deadline day. I went into the day wanting a defender, a full back and a winger, the latter especially, as we had no pace out wide bar James McClean, and most of our chances last season came from pacey wingers!
So many deals were lined up, mostly loans, but nothing would seem to budge. It was frustrating, as we needed a few more legs, especially on the wings to help us going forward. Things started to move though later in the day, and before long we’d confirmed the loan signings of Real Sociedad defender Raul Navas, and former Barnsley boy, Mason Holgate.
A deal was also in the pipe line for Chelsea winger Lucas Piazon, and all was ready to go, until he decided to move to Hull City of the Championship over us…I will try not to take it personally.
The window SLAMMED shut, and we didn’t have a winger…this could be messy.