2017-2018 Season Review: In Words

It's taken a while to make a start with this "wordy" version of the season review. Drafts have been written, scrapped and then started afresh. More than once.

The simple reason for this is that I've had difficulty in knowing where to start.

Off the pitch? On the pitch? Pre-30th December 2017 vs Post-December 30th 2017? The first third of the season? The middle bit? Or the last third? Or all of it in one great big lump?

Probably best if I just give you the segments yourself and you try and glue them together in whichever way you see fit. Here goes....

30th December 2017: Before and After

Off the pitch this is a landmark season.

On Saturday 30th December 2017 a new deal was signed which meant that the club became part of the Little Sports Group owned by ex-Cheadle Town player Craig Brennan.

 Craig Brennan (far left) with members of the committee after signing the deal on 30th December

Craig Brennan (far left) with members of the committee after signing the deal on 30th December

We stated at the time that the long-term benefits for the club would be manyfold but, even in the short space of five months, the change has been manifest.

Multiple "quick wins" such as sprucing up the clubhouse and streamlining many of the matchday operational aspects has gone a long way to raising the morale of everybody involved, morale that was in tatters following the trainwreck left by the mistakes made surrounding the ill-fated China trip last year.

The first indication that the long-term benefits would start to appear came last month when we heard that we were one of the two non-league clubs that had been awarded a £50,000 Buildbase Renevation bursary. We had been shortlisted for it last year but this time around we were better-prepared and our presentation to the Buildbase and FA bods at Wembley Stadium paid dividends.

 Craig Brennan (centre) with committee members Stuart Crawford and Brian Lindon during the presentation day at Wembley Stadium.

Craig Brennan (centre) with committee members Stuart Crawford and Brian Lindon during the presentation day at Wembley Stadium.

We will start to see the benefits of that award very soon. Watch this space.

We're a different club now. I would have put my mortgage on me having to write the club's obituary in another five years' time if things hadn't have changed. It couldn't carry on they way they were and we had to change and adapt to survive.

Exciting times ahead.

The Same, But Different

2016-17 saw us finish in 12th position; 2017-18 has also seen us finish in 12th position.

Progress? Depends how you look at it.

We lost some very experienced players last summer and, going into the first competitive league match of the season, the profile of the starting XI was much younger than 12 months previous.

Amongst those that moved on elsewhere was Rhys Webb who netted 26 goals. Was there a viable replacement that could get anywhere near that total for 2017-18?

Step forward Rick Whyatt, opening the scoring at Atherton LR on the opening day of the season and managing to net on 26 occasions by the time the final match had ended. As mentioned on the statistical review of the season his goals were worth an extra 24 points to us, which would have meant a bottom-of-the-table finish.

 Sir Richard Whyatt

Sir Richard Whyatt

Given the younger and hence less-experienced squad profile this season you might have been forgiven for thinking that we wouldn't fair as well in terms of league position but Anthony Trucca and his coaching staff have done a tremendous job in guiding us to that 12th spot.

So therefore you could argue that this season's 12th is a slightly better achievement than last season's 12th. Feel free to discuss otherwise in the Comments section below.

The Archetypal Mixed Bag

If you look at the win-draw-lose pattern for the whole season you will be met with a hellscape of inconsistency.

A fairly decent start over the first seven matches - including a decent 3-1 win at Sandbach United - followed by no win in five capped by a frustrating 0-2 defeat at home to ultimately hapless Nelson.

Another half-decent spell then followed, seeing us progress in the First Division Cup and League Cup, snatch a 2-2 draw on a feisty evening at Stockport Town and comfortably beat Cammell Laird 3-0 at home at the turn of the year.

Another bad spell followed, brightened only by a 4-1 battering of Alsager Town on their own turf which was only one of two wins in fifteen matches. The 0-5 defeat at home to Litherland REMYCA in the sapping mud of Park Road was a particular low point, as was an utterly depressing 1-2 defeat at home to Stockport Town who scored with their only two shots on goal all evening.

 Bacup Borough 1-5 Cheadle Town: one of the highlights of the season

Bacup Borough 1-5 Cheadle Town: one of the highlights of the season

Then it picked up again as we entered April with only one defeat in seven matches.

There was a fabulous fightback away at Eccleshall where we ran riot during the last ten minutes to come out 4-3 winners; a comfortable 5-1 leathering of Bacup Borough away from home; a decent 3-2 win at New Mills and also a fabulous 2-1 win at Cammell Laird.

The grueling fixture schedule saw us run out of gas for the last four matches, losing two and drawing two, bringing the season to a somewhat disappointing end.

Summer Sun, Something's Begun...

It will be an interesting pre-season.

Work on the ground to prepare us for next season will start as early as next week as the pitch is given some high-level treatment by the wonderful Phil Mottershead who has done a sterling job this season in the face of the wettest winter we've ever known.

There may also be some charity matches to attend at Park Road and, before you know it, July will be upon us and the pre-season friendlies will be here once more.

There's also big changes at league level for next season as the First Division is split into two regional divisions: North and South. We're expecting to be placed in the South section which will mean a whole host of new places to visit.

We'll be keeping you updated with all of the happenings from Park Road over the summer plus all of the big announcements from the league AGM in June.

As ever, watch this space and keep your eyes peeled on our social media channels.