The month started well with another win over Old Firm foes Rangers, followed by a win in the return leg over Basel to book us a place in the Champions League Quarter Final. The next game we secured our first trophy of the season beating Kilmarnock in the League Cup Final.
Champions League Quarter Final Draw
A busy month for the club, despite losing to Barcelona over two legs we done extremely well and have an excellent base to build on next season. We also wrapped up the SPL title with a last minute goal over Ross County to claim the double. This was followed by a Scottish Cup Semi Final win to make the domestic treble a strong possibility. The draw with Dundee United seen us come back from 3-0 down to share the spoils.
- Gary Hooper – torn groin muscle out for 6 or 7 weeks
- Victor Wanyama – damaged elbow faces two weeks out
The month went pretty well despite the two draws where I rested a few players. We managed to score a lot of goals and the new two of the new signings got their first goals. An excellent 6-2 win over Aberdeen seen us into the Scottish Cup Quarter Final.
Three good and fairly cheap additions were made to the squad. Jose Baxter and Celso Borges both add a threat from behind the striker which we lacked. Iwas delighted to tie up Blackpool right back Neal Eardly on a pre-contract but missed out one Belgian winger Nacer Chadli.
February was a good month apart from the surprise loss to Inverness, however the win over Basel in the last 16 made up for it and looks to all but have booked us a place in the Champions League Quarter-Final. A win over Motherwell also secured us a place in the League Cup Final.
We got a good budget to strengthen the squad in January, it will be helpful as the squad is quite thin.
September went well with the only loss being at the San Siro another Champions League win over Valencia secured a place in the last 16. Straight clean sheets in the league seen us pick up maximum points and secure the top of the table.
A rotated squad put East Fife out the Scottish Cup allowing my first team squad to rest and claim the top spot of the group. We stretched our lead at the top of the table despite losing to 2nd place St Mirren at home.
Champions League Group
Champions League Last 16 Draw
- Gary Hooper – fractured ribs 6 weeks
- Victor Wanyama – back strain 4 weeks
- Beram Kayal – twisted ankle 3 weeks
We had a good run in October, despite the draw with St Johnstone in which I rested players for the Valencia tie. We managed a run of clean sheets in the league and the squad showed real signs of jelling. We also beat Old Firm rivals Rangers in the League Cup 2-0 which was very pleasing.
Gary Hopper put us in with a real chance of progressing through a tough group with a goal in the dying minutes of the PSG game. The loss to Hearts and draw agains St Mirren was disappointing since we had been 3-0 up at one point. We made amends with three straight wins including one over 7 time winners AC Milan.
Champions League Group
The packed fixture list took its toll on the players meaning I had to promote Lewis Kidd, Paul George and Marcus Fraser to the first team. Several players picked up injures the main being;
- Kris Commons – broken ankle facing up to 4 months out
- Victor Wanyama – Sports hernia 4 weeks
- Marcus Fraser – Groin injury 3 weeks
Pre-season went by without much fuss, it gave me the chance to decide on my starting XI and see the areas which need improving. The win over Bordaeaux was particularly pleasing as we were 1-0 down at half time.
August was a good month in the Champions League. We sailed through the qualifying round and won a hard fought playoff against a stubborn Helsingborg. Due to the Champions League matches we only managed to play the one SPL fixture but picked up the three points.
With a budget of only £2 million and £330 for wages I had to sell a few fringe player (more than I would have liked). I managed to raid the SPL and sign some cheaper, and in my opinion better, replacements that boost our homegrown numbers. My star buy of the window was winger Gary Mackay-Steven who fits perfectly into my formation and could be a long term successor for Kris Commons. I was disappointed to miss out on Bressan and Wellington Nem who both opted for Anzi.
Qualification for the Champions League Group Stage means we have a healthy balance and the board have agreed to upgrade both the youth and training facilities and will cost a total of £6.5 million.