Keeping The Faith… with Raith Rovers. Part II – Squad Overview and Pre-Season.

Squad Overview and Key Players

Goalkeepers

Raith Rovers FM20

Ross Munro is on loan from Ross County and is by far and away from our Number 1, with consistent attributes and decent mentals, especially for his age I expect him to be a mainstay between the sticks. 

We are only paying him £160 per week and I would love to extend this for a loan for a further season.

David McGurn will play the backup role, at 39 years of age he is also my GK Coach and with decent coaching attributes, I hope to tie him down to a longer contract coaching contract at the end of the season.

Robbie Thomson is well and truly the third choice, he is also injured for the first half of the season and will no competitive third reserve squad will be released at the end of the season.

Defenders

Raith Rovers FM20

We have reasonable quality in defence but the lack of depth is worrying.  This is something I have tried to address in the transfer window but many serious injuries this season could really affect us.

David McKay is the standout defender at the club.  At just 21 he most certainly has his best years ahead of him and should remain a mainstay at the heart of the defence for the foreseeable future.  He has good defensive attributes and excellent mentals, for his age and is a potential future captain.

Kyle Benedictus will be his partner at the heart of the defence and is also club captain.  Bene has been at the club for 5 years and whilst not outstanding attributes is more than ample at this level.

Iain Davidson has been at the club since 2004 (despite a brief stay in Dundee), but at 35 years of age is very much a fringe player.  I am hoping before he does hang up his boots his fairly determined personality will rub off on a few of the younger players in the squad.

Jamie Watson will more then likely be my first choice Right Back, and similar to David McKay could make the position his own in the long-term if he fulfils his potential.


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Michael Miller is a utility player who can also play in a defensive midfield role but will primarily be used as a back up to Watson.

Kieran McDonald will start the season at Left Back but this is a position I will look to improve the future if the opportunity arrives.

Jack McCourt was brought in on a free transfer, having previously played for West Bromwich Albion.  At just 20 he currently sits just behind McDonald in the pecking order but with well-rounded attributes is more than an ample backup and will be pushing for a first-team spot come to the end of the season.


Central Midfielders and Wide Men

Raith Rovers FM20

In central midfield, we have our star player and talisman, Regan Hendry.  Hendry was signed from Celtic on a free transfer in the Summer and will be the heartbeat of the team as well as vice-captain.  Depending on the tactical setup he will operate as either Deep-Lying or Advanced Playmaker, the first name on the team sheet.

Brad Spencer is a tough-tackling midfielder but has limited technique, is likely to play regularly in League 1 but as we make the step up it is likely that his limited technique and mental attributes will see him move on.

Ross Spencer will be a backup rotation option and is unlikely to have a long term future at the club.

Fraser Murray is an attacking midfielder on-loan from Hibernian and will likely play alongside Hendry if we go with a midfield 3.  On only £350 per week he could also do a job in the Championship if we manage to extend his loan.

Tony Dingwall is nothing more than a utility man and will likely be moved on at the end of the season.  Can also play on the wing if required.

Two of our strongest players are wide men, unfortunately at the start of the save both Daniel Armstrong and Lewis Vaughan are injured for 3 – 4 months.  This will see us having to build a tactic to make do with what we have before they come back, but this will then have to be amended to incorporate them mid-season.

Armstrong is a traditional winger and I will look to have him stretch the play on the left-hand side of our attack.  Lewis Vaughan is a right-footer who likes to cut in from the left, however, it is likely that he will play up top in a two or on the right as a more traditional winger.  Along with Hendry, both will be key to not only this season but how we build going forward.


As a fun bit of trivia, on FM17 I signed Lewis Vaughan for my Hibernian side where he would go onto score the opener at the Nou Camp…

… taken on my phone at the time to show a work colleague.

Kieron Bowie is a prize asset but unfortunately has a transfer arranged for just £150k to Fulham at the end of the season (already in the game, I’d have got a lot more for him!).  He will still be given game time, particularly at the start of the season.

Armstrong Oko-Flex comes in on loan from Celtic.  He is only 17 and can play on both flanks, the deal was a no brainer with the aforementioned injuries and Celtic wanting none of his wages covering.

Strikers

Raith Rovers FM20

Steve McLean, veteran Target Man is on loan from Hearts.  At 37 years of age his experience could be vital in our push for promotion but his £950 per week wages is something I could have done without. Could be useful in a two as a Target Man but unlikely to be mobile enough to play on his own up top.  Will more then likely release in January is the option is there.

Lewis Allan came in from Hibs in the Summer after a number of loan moves to lower league clubs, quick striker with a good engine but single figure finishing and composure won’t cut it in the long term.

John Baird is another journeyman striker with an average record in the lower leagues.  Even if we opt for two upfront he will see limited game time and will be moved on at the end of the season.

Jack Smith has pretty decent potential and could see himself given opportunities if Lewis Vaughan plays out wide and Lewis Allan doesn’t score enough goals, hoping that training with the likes of McLean will him mentally down the line.

Whilst we are covered in most areas across the pitch and we have some good young talent the depth of the squad could be a real issue if we suffer injuries to our stand out players as the difference in quality between the likes of Lewis Vaughan to Tony Dingwall is huge.


Transfers

Raith Rovers FM20

As I have alluded to in the squad overview section the transfer activity was minimal.  We had a strong enough first 14 or 15 so I wanted to add depth but without breaking the bank.  (Section on finances to follow in my next update).

I have already spoken about the decisions to bring in Jack McCourt, Fraser Murray and Armstrong Oko-Flex, in addition to this Logan Martin is an attacking midfielder I previously I managed at Dundee United on FM18 and has decent potential as does 17-year-old Patrick Turner who was also picked up on a free.

There has been no outgoing transfer.


Backroom Staff

No matter what level the club is at, one thing that I deem crucial is to create the best possible backroom you can.  When I came into Raith we had one coach and no scouts.  When hiring coaches fitness, attacking, defending and mental is what I look to cover initially with technique and tactical coming later if spaces/funds are available.

I soon went about bringing in the best available talent I could and managed to sign the following …

Raith Rovers FM20

Michael Brown is one of my favourite players from my younger days as a Manchester City days, he also has managerial experience and is a very good defensive coach at this level.

Ally McCoist is a household name in Scottish football and is a solid attacking coach with the potential to become my assistant manager further down the line, as a former manager of Glasgow Rangers he has a wealth of experience

Jackie McNamara is in a similar mould to McCoist but from the green side of Glasgow, he will look after the fitness coaching side of things.

Football Manager legend Niclas Alexandersson, Mbo Mpenza, Matthew Walmsley and John McMaster all come in to bolster the scouting team, ensuring that Scotland and England are both covered as priorities as well as a range of European and Scandinavian countries.

Iain McKinlay comes in from Clyde as a head physio with a 20 attribute for physiotherapy.


Pre-Season / Betfair Cup – Fixtures & Results

Raith Rovers FM20

Pre-season in Scotland can be a strange affair at the best of time.  As the domestic league starts on the first weekend of August, the Scottish FA currently deem it sensible to have the group stages of the Betfred Cup run throughout the last two weeks of July.

For anyone not aufaix with the Betfred Cup, it initially starts with 8 groups of 5 sides, with the top side (plus 4 best runners up) going through to the knockout stages.  However, the groups are seeded so it is pretty much nailed on that all the SPL sides progress whilst the lower league sides play what are glorified friendless as opposed to seeking out more lucrative pre-season opportunities.

Needles to say, we made little impact on the group stage, with a penalty win over Championship side Alloa the highlight.

The pre-season friendlies were used solely to build up fitness and work on a short term tactic with the players I had available, as well as give games to various triallists and little was gained.  Moving forward I will have to be a lot smarter about how I get the best out of pre-season but in terms of fitness, tactical tweakings and financially.

Tactics / Tactical Philosophy

I had planned to do a full section on my tactical setup for the season and my philosophies in general, however with what I have already alluded to with Vaughan and Armstrong both out for 3-4 months it is almost going to be a case of creating two tactics, one to get us through those initial months, followed by a second to get the most of out of two of our key talents.

When managing in the lower leagues, I find it critical to work with the talents you have and getting the best out of your key players.  With this in mind, Regan Hendry will be our playmaker (either Advanced or Deep-Lying) and the tactic will be built around this.  I always look to play attractive football, whilst making sure we are solid defensively.

In my half-year review I will give a full rundown of my tactic, as well as how I expect it to evolve going forward as the quality of player at the club improves.

Going forward I intend to bring out an update every 3-4 in-game months which will doubt be shorter and snappier. With an update on how the season is progressing, any tactical tweaks and how things are looking financially.  As well as this I will do a couple of player profiles, where I will give you the lowdown on an established first team and a young prospect on the cusp of the first team.

As I mentioned in my first post I extremely new to this so any feedback is gratefully appreciated.

Cheers for reading … If indeed you still are!
Phil.

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