2047/48 End of Season Review
A very good season for the youth product side, winning SIX of the available seven cups, which means we have now finally won everything at least once since the change to only using academy-grown players! We lost our key AML Glen Daly early in the season for ‘8-10 months’ with a cruciate injury, giving Greek international Panagiotis Giannitsis a proper run in the side, rotating with young Ashley Field.
We once again walked the league, winning by a convincing 16 points over our North London rivals Arsenal. We remained unbeaten for the entire campaign, winning 32 and drawing 6. It is interesting to note that five of the six draws were against opposition that finished in the bottom ten, the other coming against Manchester City, but at that point the league was won and players were rested for the Champions League.
We were drawn into Group E alongside Bayern Munich, Rubin Kazan and Partizan. Neither Rubin nor Partizan caused any concern, but a 2-0 win for Bayern in the Alaba Stadium early in the proceedings meant that they were in control of the group, at least until we played them again, in the last group game. On a cold December evening in North London, a capacity crowd at the Reynolds Arena witnessed one of the best performances ever by the club… A crushing 8-0 victory over the Munich giants saw us take the group!
We drew Spanish side Betis in the First Knockout round, and to be honest, they were weak. A 5-1 win in Spain was followed by a 4-0 result at home to take us into the quarter final vs Marseille, who put up about as much of a fight as Betis did, with us winning 6-0 on aggregate. So into the semi we went, against Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. We were huge favourites, but we only managed to score three over the two legs, the resilience of the PSV defence was difficult to overcome.
The Athens-based final was against one of our fiercest European rivals, Juventus. We went into the break level at 2-2 after an even first half, and the second half was just as equal. It looked as though the game was going to extra-time, but in the 92nd minute Anthony Hewitt, the competitions’ top scorer, won the game with a simple finish from a good team move.
Our FA Cup run was one of the easiest I have ever had. Yeovil, Hull, Shrewsbury, Huddersfield and Swansea were duly dispatched by a mix of youth and experience, and our final was against Manchester United. Utd took an early lead, which was quickly cancelled out by Duncan Friar. Ten minutes later and United were down to 10 men after their Czech defender was given a straight red card. From there on, we were in complete control, and Hewitt won us the game on 53 minutes.
The Carling Cup is a competition the board gives no priority to, and with the ease that we keep winning it, it is no surprise. Colchester, Newcastle, Swansea, Arsenal and Manchester United stood between us and the trophy, and all were soundly beaten.
The Club World Cup semi was between us and Al-Hilal(KSA) which we comfortably won by three goals to one, while Flamengo beat Al-Ahly 7-0. We won the final 3-0.
The UEFA Super Cup was contested by ourselves and Lyon. Normal time ended goalless, but Panagiotis Giannitsis sealed the win after 109 minutes in extra time.
The only competition we didn’t win this season was the Community Shield, losing 3-2 to Arsenal. Who cares? Not me.
Three players were signed this season, and two of them have the potential to make the grade. Joel Westley looks like he could be the next Duncan Friar, while Craig Dempsie looks a very good, rounded forward. Warren Jenkinson looks to have decent enough current ability, but his potential isn’t great according to our Head of Youth Development, who with 20 for both JPA and JPP, evaluates all my players.
As each season passes, it is getting harder and harder to keep winning, as the original stars of the academy are passing their peak, and many of the new kids just aren’t anywhere near the quality. The other issue is that, due to the random nature of the academy intake, we’re almost critically short of players in some positions, especially at full-back and in the central mid/AMC areas. Unless we get a huge intake in the next couple of seasons, or change our policy on signings, I reckon that within a few seasons we will really have to fight to win trophies, rather than just expect to win them.