Welcome back to life in the Vanarama National League. Part 1 and Part 2 lead you to here. The January sales opened again and from the chime of midnight on New Years’ day we started getting bids for Micky Inchcliffe. I had promised Micky back in August that I would sell him to a bigger club if our valuation of him was met. Little progressed for most of the month for Mickey until the final day. By which point D’Margio Wright Phillips and Mark Helm had both been sold as neither had managed to break into the first team, and both were only on 12-month contracts, so we cashed in at the first opportunity. Wright Phillips would join local rivals Burton Albion for £25k plus add ons. And Mark Helm would join Charlton for £19k plus add ons.
Back to Mickey. Millwall had been feathering us with bids well below our valuation since the opening of the transfer window. But on the last day Crystal Palace, Huddersfield, Millwall and Stoke City would pledge offers around the £1.4m I had been wishing upon. We accepted the offers and Mickey went with Stoke.
One thing I hadn’t mentioned was the approach from Hearts in the Scottish Premiership for myself in December. Hearts were languishing in tenth in December and had sacked Craig Levein. I accepted the invitation for the interview. And got offered the job, but rather than following in Nigel Clough’s footsteps I thought I should finish what I had started before venturing elsewhere. We also got approached by Hibernian in February, this time round I declined the offer.
On the Pitch.
The first three league matches of 2021 saw the youth team draw all three matches. Boreham Wood, York and Dagenham and Redbridge all made life uncomfortable for the first few weeks of January. We drew 1-1, 1-1 and 0-0 respectively. A 3-0 away in the Fa Trophy helped boost confidence, as did the reverse fixture against Wrexham where we won 3-0 at home.
January and the weather at Keys park started to see matches at home become postponed for a waterlogged pitch. The pitch had become a mud bath by the end of December. I then searched the board request menu but couldn’t find it, to be rehoused at another temporary home ground. We just had to endure the embarrassment of postponing a few games until the weather picked up.
As we progressed into February, we began to see daylight between us and the chasing pack. Our form had returned and so did our eye for goal. Maidstone, Gateshead, Eastleigh and Sutton all losing to us due to the improved performances that Eddie Beans and Lee Sticks were starting to put in. We did stutter against Cirencester Town in the Quarter Final of the FA Trophy but the second bite of the cherry (the replay) saw us play more like our usual selves. We won 4-0. Beans bagging a hattrick and Sticks banging in another of his rocket freekicks.
March would see us dominate and end the month within touching distance of winning the league title early. Five league victories and two big wins over Leamington in both legs of the semi finals of the FA Trophy. We would beat Leamington 9-1 on aggregate and also pull off a massive 5-0 away win against Leyton Orient in the league.
April would see us keep our foot on the gas to look to claim the title as quickly as possible. We first beat Macclesfield 1-0 away and then beat Salford 3-0 at home. Our next fixture would be Hartlepool at home on a Tuesday. We got confirmation of the League Title win on the Monday, I am guessing the administrating team of the league were too busy with Easter to pass on the confirmation any earlier as there hadn’t been any games played on that Monday. We won 3-1 to lead the celebrations Herman Maragh scoring two and proving that the youth setup at TS could be one to help build the club in the future.
We then lost at the Hive against Barnet 2-1. I had given most of the regular first team a well-earned rest and chose to use several promising youngsters in the side.
May would see us close the League season away at Fylde we would win 1-0 through a Billy Bose goal. But a second yellow card for Henry Harness would see us play the final 30minutes with ten men. With Henry wanting out this could be his last actions as a TS Sports player.
We then had two weeks of intense training to be prepared for the FA Trophy final at Wembley against Hartlepool.
Unlike last year where we were very much the underdog. This year’s final would see us take the game to Hartlepool. Liam Walsh would break the deadlock on 13minutes with a powerful drive from outside the area. Hartlepool would then go a man down on the stroke of halftime.
Leftback David Lynch would score our second, three minutes after the restart. And for some strange reason we then went into coasting mode. Hartlepool got a penalty on 88 minutes and duly scored from the spot. We then woke up for the last few minutes of the match to ensure our hard work had not been in vein. We won the FA Trophy for a second time.
With the imminent arrival of “League football” to the TS Sport faithful I then received news that the club had been through takeover changes. Which wrangles as I had put Dave Hackett as owner and was really building this save/story around the RL legacy that he had built. The story will continue, but I now feel I am less likely to want to stick around if I do get the opportunity to move to a significantly bigger club.
On that bombshell I will crack on with some game time and start making notes for 2021/22. Catch me later!