Shelbourne Part 6: Work To Do

 
 

A good friend once told me that the Irish make whiskey in order to punish themselves. Or perhaps I should say that he warned me that the Irish make whiskey in order to punish themselves.

I had laughed when he said it, which was easy to do sitting in a dive bar in Southern California at 10 at night, trying to decide which of the bottles behind the counter looked the least dusty. At 10 in the morning, though, with my head pressed firmly against my desk, not actually pounding the desk but feeling as though it was, I wasn’t laughing. At that moment, I wished my friend was there so that we could debate whether the Irish made whiskey to punish themselves or to punish me.

Then I remembered that he, like the rest of my friends, family and indeed, everything my life had been up until a few months ago, was thousands of miles away and that I was in an office in Drumdondra, Dublin. Slowly it came back to me that, through some turn of events I still didn’t fully understand, I was now trying to manage a football team in the second division of the Irish football leagues. And that I’d just come up short in the one task the board had set for me. Actually I’d fallen short twice. They had wanted me to get the team promoted by winning the league, which I had failed to do. I had also failed in getting promoted through the playoffs, losing on penalties. Sometimes, I reflected, you put your faith in people and they repay you by totally letting you down when you’re really counting on them. The shots my striker and star winger had taken, and missed, replayed in my head.

The phrase “don’t hate the player, hate the game” kept turning over in my head, like some sort of repeating Vogon poetry line.

I tried to push it away, but just found my brain become enmeshed in questions... Who was the player? What was the game?

As I lay flopped on the desk, I wondered whether Ireland had pain relievers sold under the name brand Excedrin or if there was some other brand name that I needed to search out to get rid of this headache. Then I reflected that if any good had come from this strange journey from my home in Southern California, it was that the migraines that had plagued me since adolescence had not followed me. Before this hangover I hadn’t had a headache since arriving.

I thought back to the first time one of those headaches had come to me, when I was about twelve. Although I was always a voracious reader as a kid, just keeping my eyes open hurt. Listening to music on the radio had the potential to bring jarring pain and newstalk radio quickly became repetitive. Podcasts hadn’t been invented yet, let alone FM podcasts.

I had lain in bed all day, head hurting and stomach queasy, barely moving. When he’d gotten home from work, my dad came in to check on me. I’d groaned, likely making things seem even worse than they were, so he’d stayed and read to me. I remembered feeling simultaneously like a little kid and grown up when he said he was going to share a book that he had recently read and liked. That feeling deepened as he read to me the story of two pilots wrestling with the nature of reality. I didn’t understand it, but I understood what my Dad was trying to communicate in sharing with me. Or I thought I did. Or I think I thought I did. In any event, I hadn’t felt that grown-up again in years.

I was brought back to the present with an actual crash, as someone came in and put a stack of papers on my desk. The sound echoed through my head painfully and I quickly lifted it off the desk to see if the pain would stop.

It did not.

Luckily, no further such outbursts occured, so I kept myself upright and tried to focus on the papers that had just been deposited on the desk. After spending what seemed like a long stretch of time trying to resolve what the top sheet said, I realized that there was still someone in the room with me and decided to just ask that person what these papers were.

I looked up from the desk, wincing as more light entered my eyes, to see my personal assistant, who was more like my personal nemesis, looking at me.

“You’re better than this. You are. You have to be,” he told me.

“Eh…” I replied.

“We’ve got to go through the squad and pick out who’s going to stay with the team and who you’re going to cut loose,” he continued.

I tried to shrug to indicate that I knew that, but since I winced again at the movement, I wasn’t sure if my assent came across, so I said “I know that.” It came out very raspy and then I started coughing while he just stood and stared at me.

As I glared at him through my coughs I made the international hand motion for “let’s get on with it,” then remembered that it didn’t matter much, since he wasn’t an actual person, allegedly. Then I remembered that it didn’t matter, that he’d know the hand motion since I did.

“I’m sorry again about the punch,” I started. He waved that off with a hand movement that I recognized as one that I would have used.

“No need to say anything about it, it was a stressful situation, by design,” he told me.

“But still, it was wrong of me to get caught up in the moment and I know that you are…” I trailed off, not sure how to finish the sentence.

“... just another version of you?” he prompted.

“No,” I set my jaw and stared at him, “I was going to say ‘responsible for my being here,’” I finished, thinking back to the memo he had written and left for me to find just before the playoff final.

“Sort of,” he agreed, nodding. “Mostly not though. I think you’ll find that ‘this too shall pass,’ to coin a phrase,” he joked.

I thought back again, this time to the moments just after the shootout which had sealed our fate in the lower division for another season. Just after throwing the punch at my personal assistant I had walked over back to the dressing room, having to hear during the entire walk the sounds of the Cabinteely players and fans celebrating their win. It had been so close, but they were moving on and we weren’t. 

I also heard the jeers of the handful of Shels supporters who were still in the crowd, some of which were very specific about what they wanted to do to me or certain members of my family. I stared up at the stands for a few long seconds, not really seeing, before I realized my presence was making the jeers worse and headed down the tunnel. I steeled myself and tried to rapidly gather my thoughts for the talk I would need to give the team to try to console them, keep them ready to come back next year and do it all over again. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and prepared to enter the room.

As I reached out my hand for the door handle I heard the shouts of “We are going up, I say we are going up” coming from the other locker room. Shouting, laughing, stomping, cheering. Then I heard a more frantic voice that sounded as though it was right next to me saying “He’s waking up I said he’s waking up!”

I stumbled, reaching for the door. “It’s not time yet,” I heard a voice answer. “Send him deeper.”

Just then Alan Byrne came down the tunnel and stood next to me. He’d been a stalwart presence on the squad throughout the season, though not one of our best players. He must have seen in my eyes that I wasn’t right, although he couldn’t have known the reason why. “It’s not our time yet,” he told me, “But don’t let it send you off the deep end.”

Looking around I saw that we were alone in the tunnel. It must have been the pressure getting to me, that was making me hear voices.

After I’d spoken to the players I lingered in the dressing room a bit, then made my way out. 

The next night at the end of season awards I’d sat sullenly speaking enough to fulfill my duties, but mostly just sipping on a drink in the back of the room as the team of the season was announced.

 
 

After everyone else had gone, I’d sat by myself while the staff cleaned up, still nursing a drink. That was my memory of how I’d gotten here anyway. Punishing myself.

I brought myself back to the present and tried to get myself focused on the team and what we needed. I’d have to stick it out, headache or no. Punishment for punishing myself.

“All right,” I thought, “I’ve got work to do. I tried to cut through  the fog in my brain and think of what the team lacked? Better finishing by the strikers? Definitely. Or, wait, maybe it was better service to the strikers we needed. Who could think through a headache like this?

My assistant was still standing there, and I became aware he was shaking his head at me. “You’re better than this,” he repeated. “This is terribly cliche.”

“What,” I asked, “an American who doesn’t have any soccer knowledge trying to fake his way through a job?”

“That too,” he agreed, “but I was thinking of coming to Ireland and ending up hungover. It’s too much.”

He put a bottle of tablets on my desk and walked out. “Anadin Extra” I read on the label and quickly took the recommended dosage.

I picked up the stack of player reports he’d left on my desk and then put them down again. We’d scored the second most goals in the league and allowed the second fewest and had come close to winning the league and even closer to winning in the playoffs. I didn’t need to look through all of these reports to know who had let me down in the 11th hour. What this team needed was a new striker and a new winger, so I set out to read through the reports and find them.

A few weeks later, my head clear again, we found our new winger. Just as training camp was starting we signed Cory Galvin on a two year deal for decent wages, but not at the top of what we were paying. 

The striker was tougher to find and it wasn’t until the end of camp that, out of panic and fear of missing out more than anything, we brought in Jack O’Keefe, despite the fact that at 19 he hadn’t developed much beyond what our 17-year old prospect Daire Dixon possessed. 

In fact, I had a feeling I’d be looking at both of them during training, wondering why I had 

As for the striker and winger who let me down, well I probably don’t need to tell you what happened to them. I got sentimental and brought them back too.

Most of the outgoings were staff, as I got rid of the assistant manager, the head of youth development and rejiggered our scouting team. When the dust settled at the start of the season our staff compared favorably with the rest of the league, with the exception of sports science and data analysis, where the board wouldn’t let me hire anyone. 

 
 

Alan Byrne, who’d come to my aid in the tunnel, was our new assistant manager. Although lacking in some areas, he was a clear improvement.

I was feeling good about how things were coming together while I worked in my office late the night before the opening game of the season when the Chairman walked in, wearing medical scrubs. My eyes darted up and down his outfit, since I’d never seen him out of a full three piece suit before. He looked at me, looked down at his clothes and then suddenly he was back in his regular suit.

I shook my head to clear it, not quite sure what I’d seen, as he came toward me with his hand outstretched. “Mr. Rafferty, I know you know that we on the Board expect you to win the league, but I wanted to come tell you once again how important this is. Not just for us as a team, or you as the manager, but for you personally, it is important that we get promoted this year. Also…” he paused, “... I’m not at liberty to say more, but there are larger forces afoot which make it important as well. In fact, I would say many people in positions of power have conveyed to me that it is imperative that you guide the team to the best possible finish. Our way of life may depend on it. Your government is counting on you.”

“I didn’t know the Irish government had taken such an interest in football. Is this something to do with things across the border due to Brexit,” I asked, genuinely puzzled.

“Not the Irish government, your government,” he replied, adopting a flat, midwestern American accent, “the government of the United States of America.”

WIth that he left before I could even open my mouth again. I slumped back down in my seat. Where a few minutes ago I had worried that we might lose some sponsors if we didn’t have a good season, now I was afraid I was in the middle of something of international significance. What was going on?

I finished filling out the squad sheet thinking to myself “well, I suppose we’d better win it so we can find out…”


For those who haven’t read my dispatches before, the earlier parts of this series can be found at my blog.

I also have a slack channel where I do more day-to-day description of what is going on in the save, it’s at #olddog-shelbourne on FM Slack. You can also find me on Twitter.

To end my posts, I like to have a song that I consider the end credits. For those who may not be able to see the below video due to regional rights issues, it’s “Work to Do” by Lee Fields & The Expressions. It’s a live version I enjoy, but any version will do to soundtrack the end of this post if you’re so inclined.

 
 
















Counter Attack – FM Style

 
 
 
 

Q. "You got the victory today despite only having 38% possession. Was that part of your plan, to allow the opposition to have the majority of the ball and then look to catch them on the counter attack?"

A. "We had a plan coming in to the match just as we would any fixture. That's all I'm prepared to say on the matter." 

Jose Mourinho once famously said "‘If you don’t play Counter-Attack then it’s because you are stupid". A bit extreme from the Portuguese legend but then again we would expect no less from a man of Jose's notoriety. However, I believe what he meant by this is that, if your team is not set up to break on the counter and catch the opposition off guard after possession is won, you are missing a golden opportunity to not only score goals but ultimately break teams down by absorbing pressure and waiting for the perfect moment to break with pace and punish the opposition accordingly.

In FM terms, this is generally referred to as Direct or Fluid Counter Attack Style. This style is one of the main and most effective strategies I have incorporated in my current Tenerife save, whereby our game plan against superior opponents is to close down the opposition in our own half, regain possession of the ball and subsequently turn defence into attack by breaking on the counter via pace on the wings and a quick direct passing style to get the ball forward as soon as possible. Having started off FM19 in the La Liga Secunda Division (SD2), the price of gaining promotion and climbing up towards the higher echelons of La Liga is that we were often the inferior team over the first two or three seasons and as such we had to adapt when playing stronger teams, particularly when playing away from home where we were often the outside bet to win or draw the game.

Before

After

The Strategy

As mentioned above, the objective of this strategy is to soak up pressure, regain possession and convert defence to attack as quickly as possible by moving the ball up the field at speed and catching teams on the break by playing the ball in to space and being clinical with our finishing. When I think about what this should look like in a match situation and envisage how I want us to successfully implement a Counter-Attack strategy in Football Manager,  I picture that epic Wayne Rooney tackle & assist in the MLS recently where he tracks back, closes down his man, makes the tackle and then gets the ball back up the field as quickly as possible in order to catch their opponents on the break - resulting in an awesome goal to win them the game in the dying moments: 

 
 

  

To implement this, our Team Instructions are set up as follows:

  • Cautious Mentality - as described on the Tactics screen, a Cautious mentality is "best employed for matches in which you expect to lose the battle for possession but feel you can break with some regularity". In previous versions of FM we had the option of a "Counter" mentality, and for me Cautious is basically a reincarnated version of this and perfect for implementing a Counter Attack style of play

  • Using a DMC or Anchor Man (Lucas Tousart) to win back the ball and play neat passes to a Box-to-Box Midfielder or Advanced Playmaker ahead of him who are technically more astute and can deliver cross-field passes with pinpoint accuracy; Alena in the AP role has 17 Passing, 17 Technique, 18 First Touch and 15 for Vision, while Matt Smith gives us 16 Passing, 16 Vision and 15 for both First Touch and Technique – between both of them they offer serious quality on the break when it comes to delivering long passes out wide to our onrushing Wingers / Inside Forwards

  • Focus Play Down Both Flanks – as per the above, using our full-backs and our midfield trio to get involved in winning the ball back and initiating counter attacks from our own half means that we should be able to create space out wide and distribute cross field balls to either flank where our Wingers/Inside Forwards can capitalise and run at defenders

  • High Tempo – we generally have superior pace and speed within the team, meaning we should be able to attack on the break and expose teams at the back with runs from the likes of Brenner, Sancho and Xadas. Again, we are trying to be explosive on the break once possession is won, therefore we try to maintain a high tempo and pace as soon as we convert defence into attack

  • Direct Passing Into Space – once the ball is won, the goal is to move the ball up the field as fast as possible; I generally instruct one of our wide-men to have very little defensive duties, so that they are available to push forward away from their man and be an outlet for long passes on the break where they can run in to space and either cross from wide or cut inside on goal

  • Attacking Width (Wide) – playing Sancho and Xadas as Inside Forwards, the objective here is to have them hug the line when breaking forward using space and width available, before cutting in at speed to either get a shot on goal or create chances for Brenner up front

 
 
  • Full-Backs instead of Wing-Backs - because our young Full Backs have a decent combination of Tackling, Anticipation, Positioning and Acceleration and therefore are both fast and can read the game, we don't need to play them as Wing-Backs because they can naturally break quickly after winning back possession and rapidly release the ball to our our Attacking players in order to move the ball up the field as quick as possible. By playing them as full-backs it gives us a better chance of marking and closing down the opposition's wide players without getting too exposed when attacking 

 

Right Back - Acceleration 18 & Tackling 17 🔥

 
 

Left Back - Acceleration, Anticipation, Work Rate

 
  • Absorbing Pressure & Closing Down – with a flat back 4 and a DMC ahead of them, we don’t mind sacrificing possession and inviting the Home team to come at us with the expectation that we can then close them down in our own half, regain possession, pump the ball forward to our wide players (or Brenner up top) and ultimately win the game by being more clinical in front of goal and taking our chances

 
 
  • Breaking from the back – with quality Full Backs that have decent attributes in terms of first touch, dribbling and passing we use quick kick-outs / goalkeeper distribution to break from the back also, where they can turn and find our midfielders or wide players in space to get the ball forward as soon as possible

 
 

The Result

While the above outlines the intentions of this strategy, it's important to ask the question - does this actually work? Is Counter-Attack football effective in Football Manager? We have just finished our fourth season as Tenerife manager, and for most of the season we went with a Counter-Attacking style for all of our away games and fixtures against superior opponents (on paper) - I didn't realise until the season ended, but in addition to finishing 2nd in La Liga we also had the best away record for the whole season, even better than Champions Real Madrid:

 

La Liga Table - Away Form

 

I won't claim that it works on every single occasion, however this strategy led to some cracking results including away wins over Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Roma as well as a smashing 6-3 Home win over Real Madrid where despite having much less possession, we stuck to our plan of breaking them down, absorbing pressure and being far more clinical in front of goal by taking our chances and punishing them on the break:

 

Decent Away form

 

To cap things off, our piece de resistance was scoring an almost mirror image of that Wayne Rooney assist above whereby Lookman (on loan from Everton) tracks back to make a perfectly timed tackle, and then pumps the ball forward at pace into the path of the onrushing Joveljic who smashes home an 85th minute winner - this epitomises our Counter Attack strategy and is exactly what we set out to achieve when using this tactical style.

 
 

  

Thanks for reading, hopefully you found some of this useful and applicable to your own save wherever you are in the FM world! Feel free to share thoughts, feedback or questions either on Twitter or via my own blog any time - thanks again and good luck for the rest of FM19!! 

Cheers,

MaddFM.

The Red Revival: Research & Development

 
 

Manchester United confirmed their third piece of transfer business on Friday with an agreement in place to sign OGC Nice winger, Allan Saint-Maximin for a fee reported to be in the region of £9m. Saint-Maximin, along with Daniel James & Aaron Wan-Bissaka, will join the club when the international transfer window opens on June 11th.

These signings are the first piece of tangible evidence that Muelensteen’s rebuild of the first team at Old Trafford will revolve around the recruitment of young, energetic players, with potential prioritised over experience.

When looking at a squad which needs major reconstruction to fight for Championships it’s hard to pick one position to strengthen when there are arguments to strengthen in every area of the pitch.

With up to 25 players leaving the club this summer Muelensteen will need to work quickly to identify his first, second and even third choice targets as he looks to have his identity stamped on the club before the club start their Premier League season against Leicester City.


Squad rebuilds are not usually as drastic as the one we’re about to undertake. If we are building from the back we can tick off the goalkeeping position. David De Gea and Dean Henderson are a fantastic number 1 & 2 so that’s the first area ticked off the list.

The centre back position remains the priority. Jose Mourinho had identified the need for a defender last season and unfortunately the board were unable to get a deal done. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailley will be retained meaning two replacements need to be identified.

At full back the club are in a healthy position, Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot & Aaron Wan-Bissaka have potential in abundance leaving only cover for Shaw required.

In central midfield there is always uncertainty over Paul Pogba’s future and with the departure of Ander Herrera & Nemanja Matic there is some work to be done in the middle of the park. We will be looking for two Deep Lying Playmakers and a Box-To-Box midfielder.

With the acquisitions of Allan Saint-Maximin & Daniel James the attacking areas are strong with Martial, Rashford and Lukaku set to stay with the club there may only be one more signing needed to bolster the attack.

 

Current Squad & Transfer Targets

 

The Systems

Identifying playing staff is all well and good, but to make sure you approach the right players, first you need to understand your playing style. In a throwback to the Fergie era we’ll have a 4-4-2 system to revert to when we’re approaching squeaky bum time. We’ll also be running two variants of a 4-3-3, one more controlled, the other very attacking. This United team will be fast, energetic and determined. These tactics, I hope, will get the best out of the players we’re looking to bring in to the club.

 
 

Deals - Out

At the time of writing there have been 16 players leave the club, most notably:

  • Ashley Young to Arsenal for £5m

  • Scott McTominay to Burnley for £7.5m (plus add-ons)

  • Matteo Darmian to Burnley for £9.5m (rising to £13m)

  • Marcos Rojo to Watford for £11.5m (rising to £16m)

  • Sergio Romero to Young Boys for £7.25m

  • Nemanja Matic to Lyon for £21.5m (rising to £27.5m)

  • Chris Smalling to Monaco for £13.25m

  • Alexis Sanchez to AC Milan on loan (Milan are paying £100k p/w wages, £275k p/m loan fee with a £6.75m mandatory fee agreed for next summer)

  • Phil Jones to Eibar on loan (Eibar are paying £40k p/w wages & a £95k p/m loan fee)

The plan was never to maximise our income, in-fact, quite the opposite. A decision was made to take a hair-cut on a number of players to rejuvenate the atmosphere around the club.

Deals – In

First through the door was Scottish full back, Kieran Tierney. Tierney has long been linked with a move to the Premier League and will compete for the left back position with Luke Shaw.

 
 

Next in was the first of our playmakers, Bruno Fernandes, signed from Sporting Lisbon. Fernandes was arguably Portugal’s best player at this summer’s Nations League and has been linked with a move United for some time.

 
 

Tip: During the contract negotiations, Fernandes’ agent asked for £115k p/w in wages – when checking his scout report I was advised that he would be looking for a minimum of £80k p/w. Agents can be fickle so you need to be careful not to annoy them making them cancel negotiations so I decided I would meet them in the middle. I would offer £95k p/w and increase the Agent’s fee to help grease the wheels which would save me nearly £4m over the course of a 4-year contract. It’s not a huge deal for Manchester United, but for smaller teams this can really help you maximise your profit year on year.

 

Opening Negotiations

 
 

Terms Agreed

 

The next player to walk into Carrington was Chucky Lozano. The explosive Mexican winger was a bargain signing from PSV Eindhoven at £20m and will fill the remaining attacking slot in the squad.

 
 

A day later and the Sky Sports News ticker flashes yellow with the news that Slovakian central midfielder, Stanislav Lobotka, has joined Manchester United.

 
 

With the squad taking shape, United find themselves in a familiar situation with no new central defenders signed. There was a deal to be done though, Abdoulaye Doucouré joined from Watford providing the squad with some much-needed Premier League experience and quality.

 
 

Centre backs at United are like buses, you wait for ages to sign one and then two arrive at once and it’s two defenders that have been linked with the club over the summer. In come Harry Maguire from Leicester & Issa Diop from West Ham.

 
 
 
 

Pre-Season

With so many new recruits it is important to integrate them into the playing squad as soon as possible. With 12 friendlies arranged there will be plenty of opportunity for the squad to familiarise themselves with our 3 tactics and we’ve included a Team Bonding session every week leading up to the start of the new season.

 
 
 
 
 

Updated Squad List

 

It’s been a busy summer for Manchester United and as the transfer window draws closer there is still plenty of work to be done.

In #3 we will look at squad depth and the tactics that we will start the season with and as we said in the opening post we would love for this save to be interactive with our community so if there’s any subjects you want us to cover please ask in the comments or on Twitter.  

The Red Revival: The Devil is in the Detail

 
 

Manchester United have today announced their appointment of Rene Meulensteen as the new manager at Old Trafford. 

 
 

Fifty-five year-old Meulensteen brings a wealth of footballing experience to the job and will take charge of first team affairs with immediate effect. He replaces previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who failed to qualify for the Champions League finishing in 6th place in the Premier League.  

In a brief statement, Meulensteen said; ‘Ole’s a good guy, he had a tough job replacing Jose. His impact on arrival showed me that there are a core group of players willing to put a shift in for the shirt and those that aren’t WILL be moved on. I’ve spoken with Mr Woodward about our strategy moving forward which will include a Director of Football and we will be working hard over the summer to build a squad in line with our ambition’.  

 

 

This series of posts is set at the end of the 2018/19 season using a custom start date and updated transfers as of July 7th 2019. In this series of posts we will be looking at how to utilise the transfer market when buying and selling players, the use of a Director of Football and how we plan for a project. 

The first day in the job sees an approach for former Porto & Paris Saint Germain Director of Football, Antero Henrique. There were two candidates I was interested in bringing to the club, Antero Henrique & Mattias Sammer, I chose the former due to his adaptability attribute as I want him to integrate into the club as quickly as possible as we’ve got a lot of work to do. 

The Manchester United squad does not need much introduction each position filled with an international player, international players that have been stealing a living. It doesn’t take long to filter out a shortlist of names that I want out of the club and I will work with Henrique to find new employment at the earliest opportunity. 

 

Goalkeepers

 
 

Defenders

 
 

Defensive Midfielders

 
 

Midfielders

 
 

Attacking Midfielders

 
 

Forwards

 

As Henrique has only just joined the club, I have initially set the asking price for the selected players and have asked Micky Phelan to put the feelers out. 

When you return for #2 we will look to see how well Micky got on, whatever is left will be handed to our Director of Football to dispose of and we will start looking at the next generation of Manchester United. 

 

 

I would love for this save to be interactive with our community so if there’s any subjects you want us to cover please ask in the comments or on Twitter and the same goes for realistic transfer targets, we could sign De Ligt, Milinkovic-Savic etc and make it the same as every other save, or we can look at making players fit the philosophy; fast, attacking football with a strong British core. There have been lots of ‘Saving United’ posts, videos & streams and this will no doubt end in a similar fashion, with us being victorious but I hope with your help we really look at creating a realistic future for the red side of Manchester. 

[FM19] The Paris Project - Episode 2

 
 

Written by @JordTheDesigner

The Parisians

“Getting rid of Cavani, Silva, Alves and Buffon is a bold move for any manager but by a new manager at PSG, with the level of scrutiny and expectation from the board, Eric Moreau may already be setting himself up for failure. ” - Jose Mourinho on Bein Sports (August 2019)

Implementing the project

The Ile de France has always produced some of the best youngsters that France has to offer, teams from all across the country send their scouts around the outskirts of Paris, looking to sign the next big star of French Football. Monaco, Lyon and Marseille frequently find a gem and convince the Parisian players to move further afield. PSG’s new manager Eric Moreau wanted to change all that, he wanted to make sure that young Parisians dreamed of playing for PSG and knowing if they were good enough they’d be offered a pathway to the first team. Before the appointment of the 37 year old, who had played his football in the lower leagues of France, there was only 3 players born in the region who were part of the first team squad.

 
 

By the start of the season that had changed to 15, through signings and promoting players to the first team. Former youth products Kingsley Coman and Moussa Dembele were brought back to the club after the sales of Angel Di Maria and Edison Cavani, despite the Uruguayans stand out season, Eric Moreau looks to place his trust in his more youthful forwards. Julian Draxler, Juan Bernat and Jese quickly followed the two South American’s through the exit door, Moreau had little need or want for bit part players on high wages. Moreau’s project began to attract the attention of the worldwide media when Buffon, Dani Alves and Thiago Silva were all told that they could leave. Buffon returned home to Parma whilst Dani Alves and Thiago Silva found themselves in the Premier League for Liverpool and Arsenal respectively. The last to leave the now heavily depleted squad would be Kevin Trapp, Mazxim Choupo-Moting and Layvin Kurzawa, leaving the team with 14 first team players and youngsters who could play a part throughout the season.

 
 

Tagy Ndombele was the first of the Paris Project signings through the door, a strong centre midfielder with an eye for a through ball, Moreau believes that Tagy can be his Yaya Toure in the midfield. With both left backs sold and no real standouts in the academy, Mathieu Gonclaves was brought in from Toulouse and instantly loaned out to Orleans in the second division, Mathieu would be one for the future. After spending most of the season injured, Bernard Mendy has transfer listed by Man City and was quickly on a plane to Paris, the attacking left back would be appointed as vice captain in the coming weeks. Alphonse Areola was the only recognisable goalkeeper at the club after Frankfurt offered to give Remy Deschamps first team football, Bingourou Kamara was swiftly brought in and will compete for the number 1 spot.

With no number 10 at the club, Moroccan Amine Harit was brought in from Schalke after his £21.5m release clause was activated. After a stand out pre-season Harit could prove crucial to PSG’s European challenge. The final signings for the first team were the experienced striker Wissam Ben Yedder and exciting centre back prospect Evan N’Dicka who was scouted by Man United and Arsenal before PSG struck early and brought the heavily sought after French Under 21 star to the club.

 
 

The Paris Youth

Maolida, Quinas, Konango Mbon, Touati and Massengo were all brought into the reserve team to develop and push for the first team football in future years. Maolida, Touati and Quinas all left on loan valuable experience. With the reserve team and youth team each containing 25 players, the development system were a lot more streamlined and  and players who wouldn’t be good enough in the future for the first team were let go.

After numerous meetings with the board, no progress was made with increasing the youth coaching or gaining an affiliate, this combined with the loan restrictions that only 7 players can be leave on a domestic loan meant that the development pathway was still as vague as ever, hopefully by January this will have some progression.

One positive for the youth development was the PSG will feature in the UEFA Youth League and the Premier League International U23 cup, allowing some of the players to gain experience against the best youngsters in Europe.

 
 

The Asian Experience

Pre season consisted of nine friendlies and the Trophee des Champions which was played in China. The first two friendlies were played around France with Niort and Paris FC playing host to the richest team in France, both games saw seven goals with PSG winning 5-2 and 6-1 respectively. The first of two tours was next on the agenda as PSG traveled to the Benelux region playing affiliate Antwerp, Sevilla, Feyenoord and Ajax. Three wins, 13 goals scored and only four goals conceded was a big confidence boost for the youthful PSG team.

The second tour saw PSG with all the new signings bedded into the team by this point travel to Japan ahead of the season curtain raiser. Kashima Antlers were the first team that newly appointed captain Presnel Kimpembe would lead his team out for. A professional performance saw the French side take home a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Harit and Coman. With two games in four days and only a three day break until the Trophee des Champions, Moreau played two differing starting XI’s in the games against JEF United and Sanfreece Hiroshima. The rotation proved no issues as PSG scored nine across the two games and came away with convincing wins, a good sign ahead of a tough Ligue 1 opening few games with Lyon and Marseille on the horizon.

1500 fans made the trip to Shenzhen for the game against Coupe de France winners Strasbourg, the team responsible for the sacking of Thomas Tuchel. Eight of the fourteen players to feature were born in the Paris region, whilst another two, Tim Weah and Kimpembe are both home grown at the club. Within the first four minutes, the travelling fans had reason to celebrate as Kingsley Coman tapped home a Bernard Mendy cross after Strasbourg failed to clear Neymar’s dangerous cross the goal free kick. Two minutes later and Neymar delivered another valuable free kick with compatriot Marquinhos towering above his marker and heading past Sels to give the Parisians an early 2-0 lead. Ten minutes later, with Strasbourg struggling to get out their own half, Mendy and Coman again combined to put PSG 3-0 up and out of sight. From the 30th minute on the game descended into a keep ball session with Ndombele and Neymar finding the net in added time to give PSG an eight Trophee de Champions, overtaking Lyon’s record.

 
 


[FM19] Backing The Blues - The Blueprint

 
 

Written by @InvWingbacks

Player development is something that's been talked about, written about and argued about for as long as I can remember. I'm sure there's a right and a wrong way to go about it, but one of the best breakdowns I can ever remember reading is that of Cleon in FM14 with his Ajax side, which you can find here. Since then, I've tried to build a pathway and development structure at every club I've managed, with varying degrees of success. Training and Mentoring in this year's FM are very different to what I'm used to, so no doubt building that pathway will be more difficult this year.

One of the biggest things I took away from Cleon's Ajax thread, was the TIPS system that Ajax use with their youth development:

Technique - Does what it says on the tin; ball control, technical proficiency and strong playmaking ability.

Intelligence - Again, relatively straightforward; the ability to think ahead, spot the right pass or position, and know how to execute that.

Personality - Within Ajax's system, players have to be leaders, team-players and disciplined. There are of course other elements of a player's personality (Cleon picked out Flair, for example) that have to be considered as well.

Speed - I mean...go, fast!

One of the things that Cleon did point out in FM14, and which remains true until now is that the I, P and S are more latent within a player - Technique can be coached but the other 3 are more intangible and players will have to have at least a base-line level before they make the grade at Ajax.

Now, at Ajax a lot of this initial assessment takes place in the younger age groups. On FM we only get our hands on newgens at the age of 16 (roughly) so there's not as much micro-management possible as I would like.

In terms of implementing my own version of Ajax's development system, I'm already conscious that there are a few aspects that i'm going to have to change. My first step this season is cutting down all of the players in the Under 18s and Under 23s who do not fit into the 16-player model that Ajax use. I think 16 players per squad is ideal for maximising player development and training contact time, as well as game-time in both age groups. In terms of the senior squad i'm looking for a 25-man squad, however with a transfer ban in place that squad is probably going to be a bit more makeshift than I would have liked.

My Under 23 and Under 18 squads both have 16 available squad spots, made up of 2 goalkeepers, 1 fullback on each side, 3 central defenders, 4 central midfielders, 1 winger on each side, 1 attacking midfielder and 2 strikers. By limiting the amount of players in each squad i'm hoping to be able to spend more time developing the individuals and it will be easier for me to monitor their progress.

For our Under 18s, I'm going to take a crack at building my own training schedules, focusing mostly on technicality, and each player will be training in their tactical roles to build familiarity with the system. Results aren't important to me at youth level which allows me to focus more on development and moulding players into individuals capable of having an impact on the first team.

While I work on figuring out training, my Under 23 team training will be left in the hands of the team's manager, while players will receive more tailored individual training. Eventually my plan is to have team training work on more physical and tactical aspects at Under-23 level, with individual training fine-tuning players' technical ability.

Once a player moves to the senior squad, I need his physical ability to already be at a solid level, so that I can continue to develop their technical ability as they get first-team football. The only limitation on promotion to the first team is that if a player's not ready by 23, he gets 1 shot out on loan, before he gets sold: from intake to first team that's 6 years for a player to make his mark at the club, with a relatively clear pathway to development. Realistically i'll be lucky if there's 2 players each year jumping up to first-team, however I'm hopeful that by developing players carefully and getting them to a strong position within our youth setup, we can make a decent return on our investment into youngsters.

Twitter: @InvWingbacks


[FM19] The Paris Project - Part Two

Written by JordTheDesigner

Nothing In Reserve

In part 1 of the series, it was blatantly clear that PSG haven’t utilised their youth system to its full potential over the last forty years or attracted the copious amounts of players who have grown up in and around Paris. In the second article, I look at how PSG’s young players, anyone under and including the age of 21, did last year and see if any of them can make the grade for the first team next season. The current number of players to analyse currently stands at 59 who are in the threshold.

It’s important to note at this point that I simulated the first season to give myself enough in-game data to do these comparisons. I will be taking over at PSG under an alias of a former player on the 2nd June, two days after the French Cup final which sparked the sacking of Thomas Tuchel after the defeat to Strasbourg.

The Reserves

In the new French league system most Ligue 1 clubs have a reserve team playing in the National 2 League, the 4th tier of French football which is unlike Spain and Portugal who can have B teams play one league under the senior side. French rules also dictate that reserve teams cannot be promoted from the National 2.

In the 2018-19 season, PSG reserves won the league by a comfortable 10 points from FC Nantes Reserves and Vannes OC. The reserves dominated the league from start to finish, which was reflected in the team’s statistics, with the club leading the way for most clean sheets, most goals scored and highest average possession. The reserves scored four more goals than Nantes and conceded 6 less than Stade Briochin.

A statistic that stood out was that Kimpembe covered the most ground for the reserves and made a staggering 13 appearances for them, being man of the match three times, two less appearances than he made for the first team. The inclusion of Kimpembe in the reserves springs real concern about the selection of the younger players in the first team and how valuable Tuchel saw them as. Alphonse Areola, Colin Dagba, Choupo-Moting and Julian Draxler also made 10 or more appearances for the reserves. Only one player under the age of 20 made more than 10 appearances for the Reserves, prompting further questions about the ability of the youth.

The player in question was Virgiliu Postolachi, who made 20 appearances and found the net six times. The 19-year-old also featured three times off the bench for the main team, scoring once and averaging 7.03.

Although there was the odd highlight from the reserves, it is deeply alarming that so many first team players made so many appearances in the fourth tier of French football.

Players on Loan

The club had seven players out on loan for the duration of the season, with five of these players over the age of 21. Incidentally every player out on loan was worth more than any player left at the club outside of the first team. The following players were on loan

The impact of the loan spells is difficult to gauge for Trapp, Jese, Robail and Rimane as they are all at an age where they need to be playing football and as a result will be move on in the summer.

Descamps did well at Clermont, however there is still a large doubt how he will perform in Ligue 1. Clermont finished 4th in the league but failed to win the playoffs, however Descamps’ contributed to helping the side to the second least goals conceded in Ligue 2, only Ben Leroy made more clean sheets. The plan for the 22-year-old will be to loan him out to either an affiliate in a top league or for him to get first team experience in Ligue 1. With age on his side due to his position, a decision on his value to the first team won’t be decided until he’s in his mid-twenties.

Samuel Essende’s loan spell was nothing less than a disaster, making no appearances in a top division suggests that he need to drop down to a second-tier next season and be reassessed in the summer. Timothy Weah impressed in his small chances of football at Celtic, with the likes of Choupo-Moting likely to move on, the American will be given a chance to show his worth in Ligue 1 next season, predominately from the bench.

An Extinct Pathway

Currently the route to the first team is very unclear and a major jump from playing for the U19’s or reserves in National 2 to playing for the best side in France. The only realistic affiliate that can give players any realistic experience in a competitive league is Antwerp.

Therefore, the current pathway looks like this:


Consequently, we don’t have a clear and reliable pathway to aid both player development and help the first team out when there are injuries. The plan is to gain an affiliate in Ligue 2 and then another affiliate in another top league which allows a clear development pathway and a means of assessing players in a realistic way.

 
 

The new look pathway, would in theory, look like the following for a 16-year-old:

- Stage 1: Plays for Reserves

- Stage  2: Ligue 2 club

- Stage 3: Top division club

- Stage 4: Club who has European football

- Stage 5: PSG First team

It is worth noting that a player can be fast tracked or held back at different stages depending on their current ability in comparison to the first team needs.

From the two review posts, it is clear that first I need to sort out the player development pathway and dramatically review the average age of the squad. The next post will look at the players who have left the club, the look of the squads from senior to under 19 and the progression of acquiring more affiliates.

NB: Whilst not an official transfer policy, most of the signings will be of players from the Ile-de-France region.






Mid 90's Milan - Part 9

Written by Dave Black @cm9798

Hello! Welcome to the final edition of Mid 90s Milan. So far, we’ve been ruddy brilliant. We’re just a few points away from securing the Serie A title. The Champions League final will see us take on Man Utd. Before all of that though, we take on Brescia in the second leg of the Coppa Italia. That’s Italian for Italian Cup. We’re 2-0 up from the first leg, I like our chances.

Brescia are a Serie B team. Not even a very good one, they’re 17th out of 20. I already ran through their squad in the last episode so I won’t again but this is a dour encounter. We are very poor, it’s 0-0 for 89 minutes before Brescia score a consolation. A bad result and probably the dullest cup celebration ever.

Still, a cup is a cup.

There are just four games to go and we’re 9 points ahead. Even we would struggle to throw this away.

Away to 17th placed Reggiana looks like a great opportunity to seal the title. However, our goalkeeper is dismissed after two minutes and we’re behind to the penalty. That’s bad. Then Desailly gets sent off for a professional foul and they score the penalty. That’s really bad. It’s soon 3-0 and then Boba commits a bad foul and we’re down to 8 men. Crikey, talk about choking. We lose 5-0. One of my worst days in management.

Juventus lose 4-0 and only Parma winning stops us winning the title in the worst of circumstances.

I’d rather win the league at home anyway. Fiorentina smashed Juventus 4-0 a week ago so I could think of better opponents. Batistuta, Oliveira, Rui Costa and er, Francesco Baiano will be out to get us. We only need a point.

It’s dire. But it’s gritty. We’re falling over the finish line but nobody says you’ve got to cross the line standing upright. 0-0 brings us the title – the Italian way.

Well thank goodness. All we have to do is survive the last two league games without getting injuries before the Champions League final. Davids and Albertini are already injured, plus the filthy trio who are suspended from a few weeks ago. Oh and Savicevic. He’s banned too. He has 29 assists this season, by the way. We’re away to Parma, who are 2nd. Thank goodness we already have this sewn up.

We’re actually brilliant for 80 minutes. Costacurta scores twice from set pieces and it’s vintage us. Then we concede two in the last 10 minutes and it’s annoying but pointless.

We finish at home to Juventus. I tell you what, I’m really pleased this didn’t go down to the final two games. Our battered side are hanging tough and even when we go behind to Moreno Torricelli, George Weah equalises and then pops up with a late winner to finish the domestic season on a high.

Our first win of the night. We end up being 10 points clear, I don’t know what all the fuss was about.

One final game then and it’s the Champions League final. Savicevic and Albertini are ruled out through injury but otherwise we’re full strength.

Man Utd are without Giggs and Beckham due to injury but oddly have opted to leave Scholes and Solskjaer out of the 16. Chris Armstrong has been signed from Spurs and makes the bench.

The final is in the Nou Camp where Man Utd have some history…albeit in the future.

It’s a bit of a basketball match to begin with, end to end only without the scoring. Then on the stroke of half time, we let Denis Irwin head in from a free kick. Where to start with that? We’re struggling but the introduction of Dugarry from the bench pays immediate dividends. No wonder Steve Bruce signed him. Roberto Baggio curls in a free kick 7 minutes later – they should make a game about his free kicks. It’s a momentous night. CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE.

It hasn’t always been vintage but we’ve got the job done. The treble. Let’s take a look at some numbers.

Weah ended up running away as top scorer, not really sure why Maldini outscored Baggio and the entire midfield. Savicevic and Baggio were assist machines whilst Maldini and Desailly were our top performers.

That’s it from me. What a journey we’ve been on. Thanks for putting up with me and I’ll hopefully see you around. Bye for now.


A word from the #WeStreamFM Team: It’s been a pleasure to have Dave contribute to our website, many of us have been fans of his work for a long time and we look forward to working with him again in the future. Thanks Dave.

Make sure you’re following Dave on Twitter: @cm9798
His website: https://cm9798.wordpress.com/
His books: The World According to Championship Manager 97/98 | The World According To Championship Manager 01/02











The West Ham Way - Part One, Staff.

 
 

Written by FridayNightFM

The West Ham Way – Staff

What is ‘The West Ham Way’? – A question asked by Sir Alex Ferguson when defending Big Sam back in 2013. To be honest, there isn’t a definitive ‘way’ but as a lifelong supporter, who isn’t someone that calls for it, I believe The West Ham Way to be fairly simple; attacking football with a never say die attitude. In this series for westreamfm.com I want to talk more about my personal approach to Football Manager rather than give you hard and fast facts. So, with that, let’s get cracking with the first week in the job!

This save came about after a discussion with @FM_Razz when we were getting the SortitoutSI real life fixtures mod working, he wanted a save and we spoke about West Ham which got my FM synapses firing. I decided to take over after the season had finished, West Ham finished 11th, 10 points behind 7th place so there will be plenty of opportunity to challenge for the Premier League B title, currently held by Watford.

On my first day in the job I decided to focus on a staff overhaul. West Ham aren’t blessed with a huge backroom team and on first look the backroom staff were way below standard. If you have listened to this week’s 5 Star Potential Podcast you will have heard us talk about DDM – Determination, Discipline & Motivation – these are the key attributes I (& nearly everyone) use for the basis of any staff recruitment. Before we start the recruitment stage, we must start the clear-out:

 
 

Before I start talking about my staff recruitment, I’ll point out that there are some excellent articles that can walk you through creating a 5 Star coaching team, FMFutbolManager’s FM18 article is up there with one of the best and will give you some great tips and a clever staff calculator:

https://theresonlyoneball.com/2018/05/29/my-approach-to-finding-the-best-coaching-staff-in-football-manager-2018/ .

Director of Football

I’m 100% hands-on when it comes to incoming transfers, but over the last couple of iterations of Football Manager I’ve been more than happy to let me DoF offer first team players I’ve listed for transfer to other clubs, I’ve also become partial to allowing them to decide if all other staff should be given new contracts and handle the negotiations… risky, I know. For this save I’m also allowing the DoF to set assignments for the scouting team and I’ll let him handle the scouting meetings. The link above to FMFM’s website has a great DoF article that’s well worth a read if you haven’t already.

When it came to recruiting a Director of Football for West Ham I looked for the following attributes:

  • Determination

  • Level of Discipline

  • Motivating

  • Judging Player Potential

  • Judging Player Ability

  • Adaptability

It’s a personal preference, but when I’m managing in the Premier League I’ll start with a 15 attribute search and match 5/6. I’ll lower the range depending on the result. When I’ve found some suitable candidates I look at their World Knowledge and I prefer someone that’s well travelled but only if it’s to countries that are relevant to the save.

So after some deliberation I took a punt on FM favourite Lutz Pfannenstiel.

 
 

Compared to his predecessor and using my own criteria, this is how he stacks up:

My Assistant

What makes you chose your right-hand man, nostalgia, attributes, reputation? For me it’s always the best assistant available with good DDM mixed with a high tactical attribute & an assistant that matches my current preferred formation.

Why a high tactical attribute? Simple, I like my assistant to organise the opposition instructions from the offset and I’ll tweak them where I see fit. The tactical attribute description is ‘How tactically astute the staff member is. More tactically-astute personnel will not only be able to coach that side of the game more effectively but any advice they may offer is likely to be more accurate and informative.’.

My new assistant is former Sporting Lisbon assistant manager, Nuno Presume. His DDM is 38/60 which to some may be lower than they would like, but I’m a fan of his Adaptability attribute which matched with his Tactical attribute earned him the role as my number two.

 
 

Compared to his predecessor, Rubén Cousillas, there’s not a lot in it, but as Rubén is Pellegrini’s loyal assistant I wanted to keep it realistic.

The Coaching Team

Much like the above it’s all about knitting a coaching team together. At West Ham there are only 4 available ‘Coach’ positions so the staff I have chosen to bring in are specialists in Defending, Attacking & Technical.

  • Guiseppe Irrea – Defence

  • Torsten Frings – Defence

  • Martin Stranzl – Mental

  • Luca Pavoni – Attacking

  • Ricardo Dionisio – Fitness

  • Xavi Valero – Goalkeeping

 
 
 

What you’ll notice from these recruits is that their strong DDM attributes support the best available coaching attribute.

 

As the save progresses and I’m able to increase the size of the coaching team we will start to add more tactical and technical coaches to the team.  

--

So, there we have it, the first look at the team behind the team that will contest the 2019/20 season. If you want a link to my staff views, just send us an email request or ask on Twitter. As I mentioned at the start of this piece we discussed how we build our backroom team on Episode 90 of the 5 Star Potential Podcast which you can listen to here. If you are interested in finding out more about our styles of play, make sure to ask us by tweeting @5StarPod or in the #5StarPotential section of our Discord channel.

See you next time when we’ll be looking at the style of play.

Who Loves A Football Manager Challenge?

Written by Steve Robbins

Welcome to my first ever blog post for WeStreamFM, first and foremost I want to thank Chris (Curty) and Joe (FridayNightFM) for the opportunity and taking a punt on me.

When thinking about what should be my inaugural written piece for the site I felt there was only one place to start, something I’m renowned for in the FM Community and that is Challenges (yes I know some love them, some hate them but I’m definitely the first of those options).

Over the past 2 versions of FM I’ve created my own challenges for my main saves, these were spawned from my love for interesting, tough, long saves with a set achievement to gain at the end of it.

I won’t go into my own challenges on here, instead I’m going to show you my three favourite challenges from around the FM Community, maybe one of them might give you an idea for a save if you’re struggling.

Pentagon Challenge

The Pentagon Challenge in my eyes is probably the most famous challenge about. I tried it (and completed it) on FM15 and have tried and failed a couple of times since. This challenge for me has it all, you travel the world, see new places and you get to play (and hopefully win) the big competitions along the way.

So what is the premise of this challenge?

There is one main aim and that’s to win the 5 Continental Champions Leagues from around the globe which are available within the base FM package (no edited/added leagues)

The 5 are:

  • European Champions League

  • African Champions League

  • Asian Champions League

  • North American Champions League

  • Copa Libertadores

Now there are some rules embedded within the challenge to make it just that little bit harder, these are:

  • You must start unemployed

  • You must start with Sunday League Reputation

  • You must start with no coaching badges

Start the save, load the leagues and you’re ready to roll! Win all 5 and you will end up as one of the FM gods because this challenge isn’t easy and not for the faint hearted.

So what tips can I give you for this challenge?

Start in Africa or Asia, starting with no badges or rep means you will struggle to get jobs anywhere else, you could start low low down in Europe but obviously you have a long way to go to win that Champions League, starting in Asia/Africa means getting a job easier in a higher tiered league, it is also the easiest 2 Champions League to win, whilst there you can build up your rep and badges to then move onto bigger things.

Keep badgering the board to go on those coaching courses. More than likely they will agree unless the finances are in a state. The quicker you get those badges the quicker you will get better jobs.

Want to make it harder? Then you could keep attribute masking ON, this means making more use of your scouting network.

Want to add extra edited leagues? Then you could add the New Zealand leagues and make it a “Hexagon Challenge” by adding the Oceania Champions League.

British/Irish Steel Challenge

If you thought the Pentagon Challenge was tough then this one is off the scale! The British/Irish Steel Challenge has been around a while and I’ve only ever seen one person complete it!

This challenge is one for people who like very VERY long saves, so what do you have to achieve?

Obviously looking at the title you need to load ALL of the British and Irish Leagues up, the aim then is to win EVERY single competition available to you within those Nations. Yes it’s tough!

So let’s have a look at what competitions you have to win?

  • England (12)

  • Premiership

  • Championship

  • League 1

  • League 2

  • National League

  • National North

  • National South

  • FA Cup

  • Carabao Cup

  • Checkatrade Trophy

  • Community Shield

  • FA Trophy

Scotland (7)

  • Premiership

  • Championship

  • League 1

  • League 2

  • Scottish Cup

  • Scottish League Cup

  • Scottish Challenge Cup

Ireland (7)

  • Premier Division

  • First Division

  • Senior Challenge Cup

  • League Cup

  • Munster Cup

  • Leinster Senior Cup

  • Presidents Cup

N Ireland (9)

  • Danske Bank Premiership

  • Bluefin Sport Championship

  • Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League

  • Northern Irish Cup

  • League Cup

  • County Antrim Shield

  • Steel and Sons Cup

  • Intermediate Cup

  • Mid Ulster Cup

Wales (3)

  • Premier League

  • Welsh Cup

  • Nathaniel MG Cup

There sure is a lot! 38 in total.

The one thing that has always confused me with this challenge is what happened if you go up without winning the league? Now some people have said you HAVE to win the league as part of the challenge but I know most people (and the person who completed it) said being promoted was OK to tick off a competition. For me this would be the way to go or you be here for about 10 years trying to win every one!

So what are the rules for the challenge?

Well a bit like the Pentagon Challenge you must:

  • Start Unemployed

  • No Coaching Badges

  • Sunday League Reputation

But there are a couple more

  • Attribute masking must be ON

  • You can only sign players who are English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish

This is probably one of the toughest challenge you can take on but it is one of the most enjoyable especially when you starting ticking those competition off!

The Dafuge Challenge

Named after the person who created it, this challenge has been around for a good few years over on the SI Forums. This is a challenge for those people who like to stick to just one club.

The aim of this challenge is to take over a club which was previously unplayable and take them all the way to Premier League and Champions League glory.

When I talk about “Unplayable” this means taking over a club which wins promotion to the lowest possible league at the end of the first season in-game.

The Dafuge challenge solely bases itself around the English leagues so you would need to sim a season and when the league resets itself for the new season (Usually June 24th/25th) you take over a team which has won promotion to the National League North/South.

This is a really tough challenge but a really fun one for those that like to build up a team.

The easiest way to find out those clubs which have been promoted is to click on the Globe Icon on the top toolbar in-game.

 
 

From there select Nations and England from the drop-down

 
 

Then on the left hand side select “Season Summary”

 
 

Once in here scroll down to below the National League North/South and it will tell you the teams who have been promoted.

 
 

Now this challenge is based on England but there is no reason why you can’t do this in any nation you wish. The more obscure the nation the tougher it will be to win the Champions League!

I hope you enjoyed the read. I really really enjoy challenges in FM although I know not everyone feels the same as me. This is why FM is such a brilliant game, we all play in so many different way.

So have any of you played any of the challenges above? How did it go? Has anyone completed any of them?

I’d love to hear how you have done.

Thanks for reading

Steve















Mid 90's Milan - Part Eight

Written by Dave Black

Hello! Welcome back to Mid 90s Milan. This is the penultimate episode as we’re about to enter the month of April. The business end of the season will see us look to push on towards the Serie A title whilst competing in the latter stages of the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. Here’s how the table looks:

Fresh from getting the manager of the month award for March, we welcome Bologna to the San Siro. They’re missing star man Kennett Andersson so it’s Igor Kolyvanov up front. Who you ask? This Russian striker won’t be on many people’s radars but he was a star man for my all conquering Coventry team in play by mail in the 90s. This one goes out to you, KJC Games.

Oh, the game. It’s dull. We’re sort of lucky to get a 0-0 draw. Not ideal but when news filters through that Juventus have lost at home to Atalanta it’s a good day afterall.

Time for a famous Thursday night as Bayern Munich roll into town for a Champions League semi final. We’ve got an immediate break – both of their goalkeepers are banned so Rizzitelli the striker is in goal. That’s got to help.

It’s an impressive squad but having a striker in goal will undermine it somewhat.

Rizzitelli makes a few saves early on but eventually Boban scores and Savicevic heads a second. Thomas Struntz takes over in goal and makes more saves than Rossi, who is beaten by Christian Ziege. We win 5-1, it probably should have been more but either way, I think we’ll be in the final.

From Thursday night frolics it’s back to the Sunday shift. Juventus conquerors Atalanta provide the opposition but we have none of the problems our rivals did. Future Juventus man Filippo Inzaghi scored twice in that game but he has a much quieter day here and we win 4-1. Baggio’s free kick in the first minute set the tone for the day and despite a brief setback, it’s an easy win.

It’s another few weeks out for Costacurta. Baresi’s old limbs will have to keep going.

The Coppa Italia final is over two legs. That’s really annoying. Anyway, Brescia are 17th in Serie B and really shouldn’t be in the final. They have a great banter squad though, including flying left winger Andrea Pirlo, a defender called Manfred Binz and Bismarck. What I like about Bismarck is that he simply signed from the J League. No details given.

Yes, he was named after Otto von Bismarck (according to Wiki). He’s actually got caps for Brazil and never played club football in Europe.

The game itself you ask? Routine. One hand on the cup.

Back to league action now and Napoli are our visitors. They’re 8th and bang average. Weah opens the scoring and although Napoli level for three minutes, Desailly converts a penalty. I don’t know why the computer chooses him for the pens, it’s not a manager choice (which is stupid).

9 points clear with four games to go. I like those odds.

Off to Munich now then and Bayern’s two goalkeepers are still banned. For goodness sake lads. Rizzo starts in goal but Struntz and Helmer both take stints in goal. Weah takes matters into his own hands and plunders a hat-trick and although Bayern show admirable courage, they never look likely to overturn a huge deficit. We’re in the final!

Man Utd gave Ajax a good thrashing too. They’ll be a tough opponent in the final for sure, Cantona is averaging 8.88 in European matches which is quite fearsome.

It doesn’t tell me where the final will be played other than it being a neutral venue. That rules two stadiums out at least.

That seems like a good place to finish. We’re well set for the treble. We’re odds on for two parts of that and then there’s the Champions League. Here’s the table:

I’ll be back next week to draw a line under what has been quite a successful journey. How did Milan make such a mess of things with this squad? It turns out everything is easier on Championship Manager. See you next week!












[FM19] Introduction - Backing The Blues

Written by InvertedWingbacks

The Race for Top 4. While Manchester City and Liverpool sprinted off into the distance to scrap over the league title, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all seemed to play a game of hot-potato with Champions League qualification, each out-doing the other with their apparent intent to avoid finishing in the Top 4. In reality, any of those four clubs could have provided a reasonably interesting Football Manager save, but with the added spice of an incoming transfer ban, I've opted for Chelsea.

Using SortitoutSI's custom start database, and a bit of help from Doop, and a DaveAzzopardi video, i'm taking over at Chelsea on April 29th; all league fixtures are up to date, and accurate to real-life. I've added Chelsea's 2-window transfer ban, so other than the deals that have already been agreed (Pulisic, for example), the squad I have is what I need to work with for the next season, which will mean an intense focus on developing Chelsea's existing youth and creating a pathway for the talent from Under 18 level right up to Senior football.

I'm starting the save from April 29th, but I decided not to be in control of how the team's season ended. The SortitoutSI update has all the real league fixtures, but the game randomly generates all of the cup and european ties, so while I was on holiday, we kicked off my time in charge with a decent league run, having already won the Carabao cup against Liverpool. In the end, Zola managed to nail down Champions League football for next season, finishing 4th in the league.

Obviously, I can't take any credit for those performances, but I can certainly use them as a yardstick for where we should be aiming in the coming few seasons. I think a lot of our goals for the new season will depend on how our summer transfer window goes. Obviously, I'm unable to sign anybody, so if we do (as I expect) lose a couple of big names such as Eden Hazard, then the next season or two could be difficult.

There has been a lot said about Chelsea's youth development. They regularly win honours at youth level, but seem unable to translate those performances at youth level into developing players who break into their first-team squad. My aim for this save is to turn that narrative around, and create a pathway from youth football into the first team. To do so i'll have to spend a lot of time learning in more detail about training and player development in FM, and figuring out how I can implement that with the squads from youth level through to senior level, in order to give our players the best chance to make it at the highest level.

I'm leaving my 'goals' for the save relatively open-ended. The aim is essentially to have fun with what is truly a massive club, and build a reputation for developing our youngsters. The first steps will be establishing a tactical style and looking at what youngsters we have available, and then moving on to building an idea of how I want to work training with the players to maximise their potential and developing a pathway into the senior squad.

Twitter: @InvWingbacks



'Dubbed the next..' The Football Manager Crystal Ball

Written by MaddFM

 
 

🎵 Suggested tune: "Que Sera Sera (What will be will be)" - Doris Day 🎵

Football Manager has always been famous for predicting the footballing future, and for recognising a young player's potential long before the real life football community catches on or makes a move - so much so that a number of well-known clubs and managers have taken to actually playing/utilising the game in order to ensure they are up to date with the highest potential and most sought after wonderkids that SI continue to identify through their outstanding scouting network and wide range of researchers and contacts all over the globe.

One of my favourite features of Football Manager is to scout and find wonderkids / hidden gems who are "Dubbed", "Touted" or "Labelled" as the next {Insert Football Legend name here}. While this doesn't always mean that the player is guaranteed to rise to stardom and become an absolute superstar, I've always enjoyed unearthing a top youth prospect that has the potential to reach the ability of an already well known footballing icon - not only does it give an indication of the type of player they may aspire to be, it is also a great way of connecting the FM alternate universe to real life football which for me is the reason I have played the game relentlessly for over 20 years now since that fateful day when I swapped my copy of Sensible World of Soccer 95/96 for a copy of Championship Manager 2 with a mate at aged 10, and to this day have never returned it to him 😆.

The addition of FM19 to my Steam library not only means another 1000+ hours of trawling through random European and South American U-19 squads in the hope of finding a never-seen-before wonderkid - it also completes a 10 year collection of Football Manager games on Steam (the older ones are still piled up in boxes on my desk), and as such I think it is fitting to look at a selection of the best and most interesting Football Manager media comparisons that were made between FM 2009 and FM 2019 and analyse where SI have either hit the nail on the head or had a swing and a miss when it comes to predicting the future and dubbing/touting a youth prospect as the next big thing.

A decade of FM on Steam

The addition of FM19 to my Steam library not only means another 1000+ hours of trawling through random European and South American U-19 squads in the hope of finding a never-seen-before wonderkid - it also completes a 10 year collection of Football Manager games on Steam (the older ones are still piled up in boxes on my desk), and as such I think it is fitting to look at a selection of the best and most interesting Football Manager media comparisons that were made between FM 2009 and FM 2019 and analyse where SI have either hit the nail on the head or had a swing and a miss when it comes to predicting the future and dubbing/touting a youth prospect as the next big thing.

10 years of Media Comparisons

1. Chris Smalling - "Dubbed the new Rio Ferdinand" (FM2009)

Straight Swap?

In January 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson beat Arsenal to the signing of 20 year old highly rated England U21 defender Chris Smalling from Fulham for a fee reported to be in the region of £7 million - roughly 14 months after the release of Football Manager 2009 in which the game had an 18 year old Smalling "Dubbed as the new Rio Ferdinand" while he was still playing in the Fulham Reserve side, an interesting comparison considering the two ended up playing side-by-side IRL during United's title winning campaign the following season. Rio on the other hand, has not once but twice broken the record as the most expensive defender in history after his £18 million and £30 million moves to Leeds and Man Utd respectively; needless to say Smalling would have big shoes to fill (no pun intended 😋).

 

Smalling’s FM09 Profile

 

Future Team Mates

How do they compare?

In order to compare the two we will look at each player in FM terms by comparing both players at their peak. Smalling, currently 29 years old is arguably in his prime now in FM19 and we will therefore measure him against a 29 year old Rio Ferdinand which requires us to go back to FM09 to get a like-for-like comparison:

 

Ferdinand’s FM09 Profile

 
 

Smalling’s FM19 Profile

 

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐★

Overall, FM didn't do a bad job in predicting Chris Smalling's inevitable rise to the pinnacle of English and International football - it's fair to say he is not at the same level as Ferdinand in terms of football ability and defensive solidarity and overall Ferdinand is certainly the stronger of the two, however as FM predictions go this was definitely one of the more accurate and we will give it 4 stars on the MaddFM Media Comparison scale 😎.

2. Connor Wickham - "Dubbed the New Alan Shearer" (FM2010)

 
 

There are arguably not many boots that would be bigger to fill than those of Alan Shearer, particularly for a young English Striker that spent four seasons on the red side of the Tyne-Wear derby. Before that however, Football Manager 2010 predicted that it would be 16 year old Connor Wickham who would fill those boots and become the new Alan Shearer, and despite playing at Premiership level (on and off) for the past 8 or 9 seasons, it hasn't quite happened for Wickham who currently plies his trade for Crystal Palace in the Premier League. Shearer on the other hand is one of the best Strikers to have graced the Premier league, and was prolific at both domestic and international level for close to 15 years scoring 379 career goals in 734 appearances.

 

Wickham’s FM10 Profile

 

HOW DO THEY COMPARE?

It's easy to forget that Wickham is still only 26 years of age, and certainly has a whole lot of football ahead of him. In FM terms he is not a bad target man based on his attributes, however unfortunately he does not come close to Shearer's ability or achievements and this is one of FM's more unsuccessful attempts to predict the footballing future in-game.

 

Wickham FM19 Profile

 

Shearer’s CM9798 Profile

Madd FM - 15. Shearer vs Wickham Attributes.JPG

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐⭐★

Even though he still has plenty of years of football ahead of him, Wickham is still a long way off reaching the ability and goal-scoring heights of Alan Shearer, therefore we are giving a two-star rating to this media prediction.

3. Marco Verratti - "Could be the next Andrea Pirlo" (FM2011)

 

Pirlo isn’t impressed…

 

Football Manager 2011 told us that a 17 year old youth prospect at Pescara had the potential to become one of the greatest Italian midfielders of all time by tipping Marco Verratti to become the next Andrea Pirlo - high praise indeed for a player who was only 2 years old when Pirlo made his Serie A debut for Brescia in 1995. Verratti showed signs of incredible talent from a very young age, and hasn't failed to live up to his potential whereby at the age of 20 he was already playing Champions League and International football for PSG and Italy respectively. While Pirlo has almost enjoyed unparalleled success during his time at Milan and Italy, Verratti has also shone at the top level and as media predictions go this was one of FM's finer attempts at looking in to the crystal ball and picking out a youth prospect destined for success on the big stage.

 

Verratti’s FM11 Profile

 

HOW DO THEY COMPARE?

Pretty close! In terms of ability, there is not a lot between the two from an FM perspective, with Pirlo narrowly edging it and rightly so based on his overall contribution year on year for both Milan and Italy over the years. Verratti has a long way to go to replicate Pirlo's achievements and honours gained however this is one prediction that FM can be proud of and hopefully Verratti can push on to emulate some of Pirlo's achievements for both club and country.

 

Verratti’s FM19 Profile

 
 

Pirlo’s FM09 Profile

 

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Five stars may sound generous, but if you think about it and look back at all of the occasions where we have seen the best FM youth prospects fail to live up to the hype surrounding them - SI were fairly on the ball when their researchers spotted 17 year old Verratti's potential and dubbed him the next big thing in Italian football, therefore we will give them 5/5 for a top effort.

4. Sean McGinty - "Touted as the next Mick McCarthy" (FM2010)

 

Sean McGinty alongside Man Utd youth teammates Pogba and Lingard

 

Who?? My thoughts exactly...but when FM2010 came out, it seems that the SI researchers saw something special in 15 year old Irish teenager Sean McGinty, so much so that they labelled him as the next Mick McCarthy who was one of the best defenders of his generation during the 1980s.

 

McGinty’s FM10 Profile

 

How do they compare?

McGinty was part of United's FA Youth Cup winning side in 2011 alongside the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Michael & Will Keane, Sam Johnstone and Ravel Morrison - however he never managed to make the grade at United and struggled to make the transition to professional football. Following multiple loan spells, he eventually ended up playing lower league football at Aldershot and Torquay before signing for Partick Thistle in 2018. McCarthy on the other hand, played at the highest level for both club and country and sadly McGinty never lived up to his potential as a teenager in FM10.

 

McGinty’s FM19 Profile

 
 

Mick McCarthy - courtesy of @MadScientistFM's 85/86 Custom DB

 

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐★★★★

Unfortunately for McGinty this was a complete swing and a miss for FM Media Comparisons and he never managed to fulfil his potential as is so common in modern day football.

5. Jonjo Shelvey - "Dubbed the new Glenn Hoddle" (FM2012)

 
 

I had previously seen a 16 year old Jonjo Shelvey compared to Michael Carrick in FM2009, however it was in FM2012 that we began to see Jonjo Shelvey announce himself on both the FM stage and IRL also, so much so that he was touted by FM researchers as the "next Glenn Hoddle" within the game. Bearing in mind that I am a 32 year old Irishman, I never really had the opportunity or cause to see Glenn Hoddle play live during his prime and my main introduction to Hoddle was when he managed England in the 1998 World Cup finals (as well as all that Eileen Drewery nonsense :P). However I have since learned that not only was Hoddle a talented midfielder and fully-fledged England international, but that he was also one of the most technically and tactically astute players of his generation and an absolute powerhouse of a midfielder during the 70's and 80's. Were SI on to something here in comparing a young Shelvey to Hoddle?

 
 

HOW DO THEY COMPARE?

Slightly biased being a Newcastle fan, but in terms of midfield style and looking at the attributes where both players are strongest - I reckon that it's a fairly close comparison overall; Shelvey is of course nowhere near Hoddle in his prime however the two are very similar and I think that FM did a decent job in tipping Shelvey to emulate Hoddle's creative and forceful playing style.

 

Shelvey’s FM19 Profile

 
 

Hoddle FM Profile courtesy of @MadScientistFM's 85/86 Custom DB

 

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ ★★

Perhaps Shelvey should give Eileen Drewery a call? 😋

6. Dani Pacheco - "Touted as the next David Villa" (FM2010)

Around the time that Rafa Benitez was building a Spanish revolution at Liverpool following their earlier Champions League successes, a young Spaniard was just signing professional terms at Anfield following successful youth spells at both Malaga and Barcelona. Such was his goalscoring prowess that Dani Pacheco was nicknamed "El Asesino" (The Assasin) by his team mates at Barcelona, which led to a high profile move to Liverpool and therefore a powerful media comparison by Football Manager comparing him to another Spanish goal machine - David Villa, who not only was prolific in La Liga during spells at Zaragoza, Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, but is also Spain's all-time goalscorer with 63 goals in 98 appearances.

 

Pacheco’s FM10 Profile

 

HOW DO THEY COMPARE?

Alas for Dani Pacheco, his Liverpool career never really took off and he eventually returned to Spain following numerous loan spells away from Merseyside. Most recently I have crossed paths with him during my #RoyDeLosRovers save with CD Tenerife where he plays his football with Malaga in the second tier of Spanish football; definitely La Liga quality however he is quite far off the ability and goalscoring instinct that David Villa showed year after year in Spanish football.

 

Villa’s FM10 Profile

 
 

Pacheco’s FM19 Profile

 

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐⭐★★★ 

Safe to say that David Villa in his prime was a far superior striker to Pacheco who is also currently in his prime years in FM19, therefore we will give this comparison a 2 star rating on the MaddFM Media Comparison scale.

7. Raphael Varane - "Labelled the next Philippe Mexes" (FM2012)

 
 

This for me is another great FM Media Comparison in that it was one of the more rare occasions where the youth prospect has actually exceeded their more senior counterpart. In FM2012, Real Madrid had just signed a 17 year old Raphael Varane from Lens and SI wasted no time in comparing him to another well known French Central Defender both in FM and IRL - Phillipe Mexes, who I remember signing all the way back in the CM4 days as a young CB at Auxerre before he went on to complete high profile moves to Roma and AC Milan.

 

Varane’s FM12 Profile

 

HOW DO THEY COMPARE?

Fast forward to 2019 and Raphael Varane is one of the best Centre Halves in the world having just recently won the World Cup with France at just 25 years of age. Few would argue that there are many better defenders better than Varane, and he has not only fulfilled his earlier FM potential but has exceeded all expectations to become one of the best world football.

 

Varane’s FM19 Profile

 
 

Mexes’ FM09 Profile

 

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

One has to go back to FM09 to find a snapshot of Mexes in his prime - I'd forgotten what an absolute beast he was in FM back in the day, so much so that his attributes are actually better than those of Raphael Varane in FM19!! Not sure if SI were a little too generous or not as I feel that present day Varane is far stronger in real life - either way, another successful media comparison for FM and we will give a 5 star rating to this one.

8. Jose Baxter - "Dubbed the next Jermaine Defoe" (FM2011)

I fondly remember taking over Everton in FM2011 and not only having an epic save where Marco Boriello was an absolute beast up front, but also coming across a youth prospect in our reserve squad by the name of Jose Baxter who was "Dubbed the new Jermaine Defoe" by the FM elders. At the time I wouldn't have put as much thought into star potential ratings and attributes etc, and thought I had hit the jackpot with this sure-to-be-a-shithouse 18 year old striker. He showed glimpses of brilliance during the save however I never got the best of him and I believe I ended up selling him to one of the Bundesliga sides. By contrast - Jermaine Defoe needs no introduction, having entered the history books by becoming the 20th player ever to score 100 Premier League goals as well as being in the Top 10 all time highest goalscoring charts in PL history. Definitely not a bad comparison to have for a young 18 year old from Liverpool.

 
 

How do they compare?

I would imagine that the fact Baxter became Everton's youngest ever goalscorer at the age of 16 years and 191 days had something to do with his initial evaluation as becoming the next big thing in terms of young English Strikers, as well as the fact that he became the youngest player ever to start for Everton the same year that FM09 was released. Unfortunately, his career almost peaked too early and he struggled to break in to the Everton first team, staying until 2012 before being released and signing for Oldham where he currently plays his football in League Two.

 

Baxter’s FM19 Profile

 
 

Defoe’s FM10 Profile

 

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐★★★★

If we compare the current 26 year old Baxter to a 26 year old Defoe from Football Manager 2010 - well, there really is no comparison and Baxter was another unfortunate victim of the premature hype and over-zealous media comparison that we have seen quite frequently over the years. FM is a great but cruel game!

9. John Bostock AND Jack Wilshere - "Dubbed the new Paul Gascoigne" (FM2011)

I suppose it wouldn't be Paul Gascoigne without having not one but two youth prospects needed to emulate his success as a footballer and an all round top bloke/lunatic. Football Manager 2011 stared in to the crystal ball for both John Bostock (Tottenham) and Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) and foresaw that they both had the potential to be the next Paul Gascoigne, which in footballing terms is praise indeed when we think of Gazza's all round natural ability and football technique.

Bostock showed incredible talent at a young age, becoming Crystal Palace's youngest ever player in 2007 aged 15 years and 297 days before later moving to Tottenham in 2008. Unfortunately his career never really got going at White Hart Lane and a series of loan moves ultimately ended up with him being released from the club in 2013; still only 27, he now plays his football in Ligue 1 with Toulouse.

 

Bostock’s FM11 Profile

 

By contrast to Bostock, Jack Wilshere's career flourished after he became Arsenal's youngest ever player, and he went on to play close to 200 games for the Gunners while also being a regular in the England squad from 2011 onwards; he finally left Arsenal in 2018 after a loan spell at Bournemouth and signed permanently for West Ham just in time for FM19.

 

Wilshere in FM11

 

How do they compare?

 

Bostock’s FM19 Profile

 
 

Wilshere’s FM19 Profile

 

Gazza’s CM9798 Profile

FM Media Comparison Rating (Wilshere): ⭐⭐⭐⭐★

FM Media Comparison Rating (Bostock): ⭐⭐★★★

Bostock gets a 2 star rating mainly because the lad still plays at a relatively high level with Toulouse in France and also because he absolutely was that talented as a kid attracting interest from Barcelona and Man Utd when he was still in his teens; at 27 he still has plenty of football left in him. Wilshere on the other hand emerged as a far more successful player, and despite a career riddled with injury he has shone at the highest level, therefore is much closer to having become the next Gazza; probably not the only thing they have in common! 😄

 

Gazza (left) on the lash with Sheringham & McManaman; Wilshere (right) following suit

 

10. James-Ward Prowse - "Touted as the new Paul Scholes" (FM2012)

 
 

When asked about Paul Scholes, Pele once remarked "If he was playing with me, I would have scored so many more"; Zinedine Zidane called him his "toughest opponent"; Pep Guardiola was quoted as saying "he is the best midfielder of his generation". It doesn't take a genius to acknowledge that Paul Scholes was one of the greatest midfielders that the Premier League and even the world has ever seen, so much so that even Luis Figo once admitted being star-struck when coming up against Scholes and that's coming from a guy that played alongside the likes of Ronaldo, Raul, Zidane to name a few. Imagine how a 16 year old James Ward-Prowse must have felt when he opened Football Manager 2012 to find that he was touted as the next Paul Scholes?! (assuming he bought and played the game - how could he not have? 😄

 
 

How do they compare?

At just 23 it's hard to believe that Ward-Prowse is already in his 7th season in the Premier League as a first team squad regular at Southampton, and more recently earned his first competitive England cap in their Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro. His work rate, positioning, passing and creative ability make him one of the Saint's most effective players and it's interesting to compare him to Paul Scholes at that age who similarly had just kicked off his England career at Man Utd.

 

Ward-Prowse’s FM19 Profile

 

Scholes’ CM97/98 Profile

FM Media Comparison Rating: ⭐⭐⭐★★

Ward-Prowse has a long road ahead of him if he is to emulate Paul Scholes however at times he has demonstrated that he is a top class midfielder and if he continues his upward trajectory I would expect that he will not be a Southampton player for much longer (sorry Saints fans ✌️)

Honourable Mentions

Of course there are far more players that have been dubbed or touted as the next big thing within the FM universe, and please feel free to share your own thoughts or memories of great media comparisons over the FM years that have or haven't exactly worked out as planned (check out my own Twitter page or the WeStreamFM page to jump in the conversation). We can also give honourable mentions to Jack Rodwell (dubbed as the new Frank Lampard in FM10), Luke Shaw (dubbed the new Ashley Cole in FM12), Dedryck Boyata (the new Philippe Albert in FM11), Adam Campbell (labelled the new Michael Owen in FM12), Nedum Onuoha (touted as the next Jamie Carragher in FM09), Alex Oxlade Chamberlain (the new Chris Waddle in FM12) - the list goes on! Now it's time to stop looking at the past and take one last look in to the FM19 crystal ball to see who FM are now touting to be the next big names in world football in FM19.

Back to the Future 🕰️🏎️💨

1. Mickael Cuisance - "Could be the next Michel Platini”

At the start of FM19 Mickael Cuisance is an 18 year old French midfielder making his way at Borussia Monchengladbach, and usually ends up making a big money move to one of the top European sides after one or two seasons in the game. Preferring to play in an Advanced Playmaker role, the similarities with Michel Platini are evident when we look at his strengths in terms of passing, technique, vision and touch - Platini was widely regarded as one of the best players of all time and was famous for his creative ability and football intelligence which led to him winning three Ballon D'Or awards during his playing career. Praise indeed for Cuisance and it will be an interesting journey to see how he progresses in the game as well as in real life.

 

Will this ☝️ become this 👇 ??

 
 
 

2. Yann-Aurel Bisseck - "Touted as the next Jurgen Kohler"

I came across Bisseck while scavenging among the Bundesliga U-19 leagues during my Tenerife save, and once the scouts did their business and his attributes & potential became evident, it was a done deal he has been immense during our first three seasons at the club. At the start of FM19 Bisseck is touted as the next Jurgen Kohler, whose name will be known by anyone who watched football during the 1990's where he had spells at Bayern Munich, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund as well as earning over 100 international caps for Germany. Kohler is a living legend of German football - not only has he played in 3 Fifa World Cups and 3 European Championships (winning one of each in 1990 and 1996 respectively) - he also won two European club titles in very interesting fashion; winning the 1993 UEFA Cup final with Juventus against Borussia Dortmund, and then later winning the 1997 Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund against his old club Juventus in what was a reverse fixture of the 1992 clash. Bisseck certainly has a lot of potential in the game and in real life, and most recently he has become the youngest ever German player to have played in the Bundesliga - second only to another FM legend, Nuri Sahin.

 

10 years later? ⬆️⬇️

 

3. Arne Maier - "Touted as the next Stefan Effenberg"

 
 

Aside from frequently being confused with tennis player Stefan Edberg, Steffan Effenberg was a ferocious powerful midfielder who won 3 Bundesliga titles as well as lifting the 2001 Champions League trophy as Captain of Bayern Munich. Often a controversial character who at the time of retirement had amassed the most yellow cards in Bundesliga history (as well as tarnishing his own international career by giving the finger to Germany fans during the 1994 World Cup), Effenberg is widely regarded as one of the best German midfielders of all time and was voted as one of the greatest Bayern players of all time. Move forward to 2019 and it's 19 year old Hertha BSC midfielder Arne Maier being touted as the next Effenberg and has bags of potential as well as already having really strong passing, technique, composure, first touch , teamwork, stamina and natural fitness. Maier is one of the hottest prospects in FM19 and I previously tipped him as one of the best defensive midfielders in my earlier "DMC or not DMC" article which I wrote for WeStreamFM.com and if you can afford the £40 odd million asking price, he is highly recommended.

 
 

4. Antonio Marin - "Dubbed the new Mario Stanic"

 

Present vs Past?

 

Most of the FM Community will know of Antonio Marin and he is not only one of the best prospects in the game, he is also extremely affordable and attainable even if you are not managing in the top tier of whatever country you are managing in. His speed, dribbling and flair make him an extremely effective Winger or Inside Forward and the kid usually turns out to be a star in the game (as he hopefully will in real life!). Interestingly, Marin has also been touted as the next Mario Stanic by the experts at Sports Interactive - Stanic was part of a golden generation that helped Croatia finish in 3rd place in their first ever World Cup in 1998, narrowly losing out 2-1 to eventual winners France who needed two goals from one Lillian Thuram to advance to the final. He scored one of his 7 international goals at the tournament in a group game against Jamaica, and was capped 49 times for his country during a career in which he played at the highest club level for Benfica, Club Brugge, Parma and Chelsea. Not a bad comparison for a 17 year old!

 

Flair, Flair and more Flair

 

5. Fabio Silva - "Could be the next Eusebio"

 

Pele & Eusebio - legends of their time

 

What better way to start your career than to be compared to one of the best players to have ever played the game? No pressure at all, however at just 16 years old Fabio Silva has already shown glimpses of absolute genius and outstanding ability while playing in the Porto Youth Team, and as a result is tipped for greatness at the start of FM19 where he is tipped to become the next Eusebio who as we all know was one of the greatest ever footballers. Between 1961 and 1975 Eusebio scored 317 goals in 301 games for Benfica picking up 11 league titles as well as scoring 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal - only one Portuguese player has ever reached this level since in the form of one Cristiano Ronaldo, however if this crystal ball prediction comes to fruition it will be interesting to see what a player Fabio Silva turns in to - snap him up quick!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YmCRIRmN1c  

 

The kid has potential

 
 
 

6. Jonathan Burkardt - "Touted as the next Jurgen Klinsmann”

 
 

Not much is known about Jonathan Burkardt who is yet to score his first goal for Mainz 05 in the Bundesliga, however looking at his FM19 attributes he has all the potential to become a top Striker and possibly emulate Jurgen Klinsmann's successes as one of Germany's greatest ever forwards playing and scoring in 6 consecutive International tournaments between Euro 88 and World Cup 98, as well as winning the World Cup with West Germany in 1990 and the European Championship in 1996 with unified Germany. Klinsmann's playing career spanned almost 20 years with spells at Inter, Monaco, Tottenham and Bayern and at just 18 years old Burkardt could have a big future ahead of him.

 

Time to find a goal celebration JB

 

7. Emile Smith Rowe - "could be the next John Barnes"

 

"You've got to hold and give but do it at the right time"

 

I have to say I originally didn't know too much about Emile Smith Rowe, which I suppose makes sense considering he has yet to make his full Arsenal debut and is currently loan at 3rd placed Bundesliga side Red Bull Leipzig. However, after scouting and looking at him in more detail his attributes and PPM's are quality and it's not surprising he has been compared to what I suspect is a younger John Barnes when he was a beast on the left side of midfield for Watford and Liverpool alike. Not only is Barnes renowned for his rapping ability, he was also an outstanding footballer and won 79 caps for England as well as two league titles with Liverpool before the old First Division became the Premier League at the turn of the 1990s. Barnes was so good that Peter Beardsley once said of him "The best player I ever played with, bar none. For three or four years at the end of the ’80s, John was possibly the best player in the world." Jamie Carragher, whose career was just kicking off before Barnes left Liverpool also commented that "Technically, he's the best player I've ever trained or played with, he was great with both feet, they were both exactly the same. I'd say he's the best finisher I've ever played with (including Torres, Fowler, Owen)." Emile Smith Rowe if you are reading this - time to shine pal 🔥.

 
 
 

Barnes at 21

 

Barnes 10 years later

9. Felice D'Amico - "Dubbed the new Roberto Baggio

 
 

What to say about Roberto Baggio that already hasn't been said? Aside from winning both the Ballon D'Or and FIFA World Player of the year in 1993, Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail) was also the first Italian for over 50 years to score over 300 career goals and came fourth in the FIFA Player of the Century poll in 1999. Felice D'Amico on the other hand starts FM19 as a 17 year old Inside Forward on the books at Inter Milan, and if we are to compare the two then we can see some potential if we look at his Flair, Technique, First Touch and Off the Ball attributes- will he be as good as Baggio though? Only time will tell - Baggio was acclaimed for his creativity, technique and particularly his set piece ability which we don't really see in D'Amico however at 17 he has a lot of time to prove us wrong.

 

Should he grow a ponytail?

 

10. Gavin Bazunu - "Touted as the next Shay Given"

 
 

An both an Irishman and a Newcastle fan, this is probably the youth prospect I am most excited about in FM19. Gavin Bazunu is a 17 year old Irish Goalkeeper in Man City's U19 team at the start of the game, and his potential is immediately evident when looking at his attributes and scouting report. In real life, he is an Irish U17 international whose potential has been described as "scary" when he signed for Man City in 2018; in Football Manager he is touted as the next Shay Given which is certainly praise indeed considering Given spent over 20 years playing at the top level of English football and earned 134 caps for Ireland. What I always liked about Given was that he was as solid and consistent as goalkeepers come, and was a fantastic professional and role model for younger keepers at Newcastle such as Tim Krul and Fraser Forster while also playing over 450 games for the club; not bad for £1.5 million. If Bazunu even comes close to Given's ability and mentality, he is a certainty to hold a Number 1 jersey for both club and country and for Irish fans it is a mouth watering thought to have such a prospect coming through the ranks after what has been a difficult number of years at Irish youth level.

 

Luck of the Irish ☘️☘️

 
 
 

That's our Top 10 Media Comparisons for FM19 done - what do you think? Have you had crossed paths with any of the above already? Had any better ones? Please feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences below or alternatively via either my own Twitter page or on the WeStreamFM account; be sure to mention any other prospects or superstars that we have missed and share your own FM Media Comparison / Crystal Ball insights 🔮. Thanks for reading, feedback and retweets etc are always appreciated, you can also check out my own blog to read more of my FM content and be sure to also check out WeStreamFM.com and TeaandBusquets.com for more great content from other writers! Cheers and enjoy the second half of FM19 🤘, MaddFM (Paul).






Mid 90's Milan - Part Seven

Written by @cm9798

Welcome back to Mid 90s Milan! I’ve loaded up CM2 Italian League to try and correct Milan’s woeful 96/97 season and so far we’re doing quite well. It hasn’t been without stress – some big beatings threatened to ruin Christmas but the ship has been steadied. We sit top of Serie A with a 3 point cushion. We’ve got a Coppa Italia final to look forward to and soon a Champions League quarter final clash with Barcelona.

All of that lands me the manager of the month award for February. Will it be a curse as we head into March?

A home game with Vicenza doesn’t really seem like appropriate warm up for Barcelona. Albertini and Costacurta remain out but we should have plenty in our ranks. From the off though we are poor. Sloppy in fact. We also seem intent on throwing in some big challenges. Desailly is booked for one before Weah goes in dangerously on their centre back and it’s a red card. Uh oh. With over half the match to survive I’m not optimistic but if anything we are better with 10. We push hard but Mondini is equal to everything. Eventually, Savicevic beats him with a header. Relief, rejoice.

Lazio and Juventus both drop points and the cushion is 5 points.

The Champions league quarter final is played on the Thursday. Was that a thing? Who knows. I’m amused to see Luis Enrique is “just” a central midfielder here, he would be upgraded to the ultimate utility man for 97/98. Ronaldo however will probably destroy poor old Rossi.

We’re no further forward in terms of selection so it means Baresi will be tasked with dealing with Ronaldo. Please, not a foot race.

We get a Champions League classic. Two teams at the top of their game duke it out and swap great goals. A Weah solo run gives us the lead but Stoichkov chips in a leveller. The Bulgarian puts his side ahead with a curling free kick before Boban scores from 25 yards. Maldini wins it from a corner. Advantage Milan.

We’ll do it all again in two weeks. First though, we’re off to Sampdoria.

You may remember from a few updates ago, I am fascinated by Sampdoria’s squad. Sebastian “don’t call me Juan” Veron is a striker, who is on the bench. Dunga is in midfield with Mihailovic and up front is Roberto Mancini. He’s a star player but has only 4 goals in 15, so I’m not worried.

We start like a train and that goal machine Maldini strikes from a set piece. Mancini equalises for a minute but Savicevic heads us in front. Mancini then scores from 25 yards to make it three goals in as many minutes, surpassing the number of goals scored in most Serie A matches in the 90s. We’re not finished yet either. We’ve lost two to injury but the sight of our own blood only serves to rile us up.

Mancini strikes from distance again just after half time as Rossi waves it in. Sav equalises but Simone scores a late winner. Just call us the entertainers.

Lazio are humbled 5-1 by Vicenza and the lead is 8 points. The pressure is off heading into the second Milan derby of the season.

Ganz, Djorkaeff and Zanetti are all out injured. They have spent £6m on Dario Hubner though and he partners Zamorano. Weah is banned (and also injured) whilst Eranio’s injury is timed well with Albertini’s return. Both he and Costacurta are less than 100% but they are needed.

Inter score with their first and only shot on target. Festa – who I called a clown during the preview a few updates ago – heads in from a corner. It looks like being a vintage Italian defensive display as we struggle to make a clear chance but Maldini pops up on the back stick to head us level late on. That’s three in three for the captain, scoring when we need him to most.

Lazio continue to drop points and Juventus win to move into second. The gap though is still 8 points.

Rossi is called into the Italy squad. He’s 32, uncapped and averaging 6.29. Oh Italy.

Weah’s back for the return leg with Barcelona. It continues where it left off, a slugfest. Both teams are landing heavy blows and with the score at 3-2 on the night, Pizzi takes the metaphor too literally and judo throws Albertini. He’s off, Weah scores from the resulting free kick and that’s that. Maldini scores for a 4th consecutive game to seal it – his 9th of the season.

Rossi’s injury gave a chance to 23 year old Pagotto. I don’t want to alarm anybody but in 2007 je tested positive for cocaine and was banned from football for life. Although this was reduced, he was 41 by the time it expired. Thankfully Rossi will only miss a week – but it does cost him his place with Italy.

Some big scores there but we’ll face the only team who scored more than us – Bayern Munich. Oliver Kahn will be suspended but they’ve signed Frank De Boer and Slaven Bilic. More on them next week.

The Internationals pass by without further injury incident, a miracle in itself. We finish March with a trip to Roma. They’re 10th and Balbo is out injured, so hopefully we can get away from the capital with the points.

Albertini scores but departs injured before half time. A torn hamstring will end his season, a huge shame. We look likely to hang on to all three points but a late goal from Del boy means we have to settle for a point. Juventus win to cut the gap to 6.

Albertini’s 7 goals and 13 assists will take some replacing. There are only 7 league games to go but with at least two Champions League games to come plus a two-legged Coppa Italia final there’s plenty of work to do. With the rate we get injuries we’re never far from a crisis.

Join me next week for the penultimate episode. April has a busy schedule for us. Not only do we face Bayern twice but there’s both legs of the final as well three Serie A games to negotiate. Some would say it is a pivotal month. Arrivederci!

Mid 90's Milan - Part Six

Written by @cm9798

Welcome back to Mid 90’s Milan. Last week, we may have crossed over from 96 to 97 but it aged me far more than one month should. Some heavy defeats and some equally industrial tackling left us bruised in every sense. Progression in the Champions League was secured but a future clash with Barcelona has us worried.

We did at least battle back to top the table, but there’s a long way to go. Too long.

We start this episode with a home game with bottom club Cagliari. They class Ramon Vega as a star player, which may go some way to explaining their plight. Another star player is Roberto Muzzi, but he has only managed 3 goals in 21 games. We have Savicevic and Dugarry back from long term injuries on the bench. We actually have a clean bill of health for the first time ever.

This one goes pleasingly to form. The only disappointment is we only score twice from 18 shots – but then again, future Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Marco Pascolo was in nets for them, so what can we really expect?

Juventus draw at home to Udinese so our lead is up to 3 points. A tremendous weekend.

Just three days later and we face Udinese in the cup semi finals. It is two legs but with the first leg at home, a big lead would be preferable. Star striker Marcio Amoroso is injured and they’ve decided to bench Bierhoff, but it doesn’t stop them taking the lead. George Weah though is starting to come into his own. He heads an equaliser before slotting a pen for 2-1. Savicevic gives us breathing space before Udinese turn to kill mode and cost us three players. Our clean bill of health didn’t last very long. Weah completes his hat-trick and we are left to count the cost of success.

Six weeks for Costacurta is the big news. Just a week for Savicevic and two for Boban.

Manager of the month for January! That makes up for that difficult December.

It’s soon apparent why Udinese decided to kick us to death. We’re off to face them in the league right now. As well as the three injuries, Desailly and Panucci are suspended.

Albertini goes off injured (sigh) and on comes young Ambrosini. Weah is running wild giving us the lead with a mazy run and finish but a header from a corner equalises. Weah scores with a header himself to put us back in front but then Ambrosini is sent off for a hack at Thomas Helveg. Francesco Coco then gets injured and I’ve used all my subs so we’re down to 9…

Weah completes his second hat-trick of the week against this opponent and despite a late Bierhoff free kick and a lot of pressure, we hold out.

Well done George lad. Six weeks out for Albertini but an International break gives us a few weeks to get some off the treatment table.

Maldini gets injured for two weeks playing for Italy. For goodness sake.

Can anybody play left back?

Quite the pickle. It’s bottom club Verona today, so we should win. It’s a disjointed performance, with 33 year old Galli at left back but a screamer from Boban and a late header from Weah secures the points.

Juventus can only draw 0-0 with Perugia. Five point gap!

It’s the return leg of the Udinese match and although we are 4-1 up they are comfortably ahead on the kill count. Coco and Desailly are back for us which is a relief. Vierchowod can barely manage one game a week at his age, two would be a serious risk. What’s important is, no more injuries! Davids even seals a late win on the night but it’s a comfortable progression.

We’ll play Serie B side Brescia in the final. More on them in April.

Our last game of February and indeed this update takes us to Perugia. They’re actually up in 7th and have had some success against sides you wouldn’t expect this season, beating Juventus and Inter. I can see why. We can barely get a kick and thoroughly deserve to lose. Food for thought.

The only plus from a miserable Sunday is Juventus losign 1-0 at Vicenza. Lazio won 4-0 and move into second as our nearest rivals.

There’s still 11 games to go and March is shaping up to be a pivotal month. Two matches against Barcelona, the Milan derby and tough games with Roma and Sampdoria. You won’t want to miss that so please join me next week to see how we get on. Tata for now.

The 4-4-2 Diaries - Squad Building

INTRODUCTION

In my last blog for WSFM, I documented my approach to conducting an end of season review where we outlined a strategy regarding the existing squad in terms of who to sell, re-sign or redevelop. The continuation of this is obviously reshaping the squad for next season by bringing in new players. I start by identifying what tactical approach we might use based on the players we are planning to keep and then identify transfer targets for the upcoming window to fill the squad gaps.

 
 

The End of Season Review for Sunderland produced a pretty clear result: rebuild. I had taken over just before the January window and already did the heavy lifting by dumping players with huge contracts that didn’t fit our preferred formation, style, or were simply crap. This left me with a small squad of players to get me through the rest of the year. The review process identified 8-10 players who’ll we planned on keeping so we now need to define an approach to rebuilding the squad for next season.

SQUAD GOALS

Based on the info from the review I defined some objectives in order to focus our efforts in the transfer window:

  • Tactical thoughts: Switch to a counter-attacking system. Solid in the centre of the pitch and more creative from wide positions.

  • No more Jack Rodwell’s. All contracts must be reasonable for a championship level club and within a set framework based on salary limits depending on the players’ squad status.

  • Squad limits: 2 players per position + 2 x Utility slots.

  • Each position either has a Key Player and a Backup or two First Team/Rotation level players.

  • Look for physical and technical type of players.

  • Use a DoF model. Identify transfer targets and then hand things over to the DoF to negotiate transfers in the first instance. DoF to handle transfers for Under 23s.

  • Develop a Younger Core.  First Team signings should be under 27.

THE PROCESS

  • Move all players that are not in our plans for next season to the Under 23’s and transfer list or set to release those players whose contracts won’t be renewed.

  • Review any unsolicited bids for players. We accepted bids for Max Power and Bali Mumba as both were expendable and the latter had his release clause met so the board signed off.

  • Build a preliminary tactic based on our goals defined above. Put existing players into their appropriate positions.

  • Review/Change Development Training for all first-team players to refine their role training and/or acquire new PPMs.

  • Setup my squad spreadsheet with our existing playing squad less any expected to be sold. I put an indicator next to each player to define if a player is a (1) Key Player, (1A or 1B) First Team/Rotation player, or (2) Rotation/Backup. Note:  I can only have a 1+2 or a 1A+1B combo for each position to control our spend.

 
 
  • Review existing watchlist. Remove any players that don’t fit our system or needs. Set wanted players from watchlist as Transfer Targets for the DoF to start negotiations.

  • Attend matches for any Targets still playing. If playing in England our season is usually over before European leagues so potential target may still be playing. Some of you may already be familiar with the @OfficiallyTeach pursuit already which includes announcing your intention to sign the player to the media.

  • Get DoF transfer suggestions for all positions needed and request scouting reports for any of interest.

  • When adding a player as a transfer target I select the desired squad status so the DoF can negotiate within those salary limits.

  • Let the DoF do his job. If he fails to negotiate a transfer, I usually let him take a second crack at agreeing to terms or step in myself.  On failed deals, there may be something funky going on with FM functionality or possibly demands from the player not necessarily in the club’s best interest to accept.

  • Review Transfer/Loan listed players.

  • My first preference is to bring in players on trial wherever possible before signing.  I will book extra friendlies to do so if needed or play them in the Under 23s and watch highlights.

  • When watching matches I select/highlight the player I’m most interested in assessing so I can track their movement both with and without the ball. Here, I’m watching Vlahovic track back:

 
 


IDENTIFYING TARGETS

There are countless ways to identify players to sign in FM. My personal strategy will depend on the funds available and the objectives I have set for myself with the save (e.g. youth dev, pure journeyman).  On my current save, given the financial constraints at Sunderland, we need to be creative rather than just giving the DoF a shopping list that would command massive transfer fees. We’re a sell-to-buy club at this point but I’m still able to use different methods to find players:

The Talisman - find that quality player that takes the squad to a new level.  There are plenty of disgruntled big-name players who you can snag on loan for a portion of their wages even if you can’t afford the transfer fee.

We came close but ultimately failed to land both Martin Odegaard and Mishi Batshuyi. We made some good signings but haven’t yet found that special player who can transform this team. I will save some budget for January and keep my eye out in the interim.

The Prodigal Son - few football narratives are as powerful as the return of a prodigal son.  

In January 2019 Josh Maja was sold to Bordeaux after refusing to sign a new deal with Sunderland. I’m hoping for a do-over. He’s here on loan for the season but we’ve got an option to buy him outright for £2M if all goes well.


The Prodigy - we all know those young players waiting for that opportunity to get in a load of games and let their talent blossom rather than stagnate on the bench at another club.  

We brought in Xadas from Braga for £875K and young Italian prodigy Luca Vido on a free transfer. The latter has been at Cagliari, Atalanta, Perugia and Milan but hasn’t settled yet despite his obvious talent.

The One You’ve Always Fancied - there’s usually a player or seven out there that you’ve never had the chance to manage and when the opportunity arises, you should...

Josh Vela from Bolton might seem like a bit of a random choice, but I’ve always liked the way he seems to dictate play from midfield. Misic from Sporting Lisbon was our first choice but we passed on him due to wage demands

The Does What It Says On The Tin  - we all have spots to fill on the team sheet and would love to have world beaters in every position but sometimes your wage budget dictates getting someone who is simply good enough to do a job at the level you’re at.

Callum O’Dowda will do a job on the left flank. He has a bit of a trick about him and will be industrious, so he’s a bit of a regular in my Championship saves.

The If In Doubt, Raid Benfica - we all know what a treasure trove Portuguese clubs can be and Benfica is the pick of the bunch. There is so much talent in the ranks of that club it’s not hard to find a stellar talent on the cheap for your squad.

Alex Pinto is our new starting right back and based on his first performances for us, I think I’m in love.

The DoF Suggestion - don’t sleep on suggestions from your DoF. I’ve found plenty of gems this way.

Claudio Reyna put me on to Yanna Regasel (backup right back) from Dusseldorf, Sabiri from Huddersfield (left inverted winger) and Gian Felicoli (starting left back) from Milan. All were signed on free transfers.

The One For the Future - Our Academy of Light kids are our first priority but we augment our Under 23’s by adding young players released from clubs with excellent acadamies.

We picked up Clarke-Salter from Chelsea and Reyna has been raiding Southampton for our Under 23’s.

The Phil Neville - players with good all-around technical and mental attributes that can pinch hit in multiple positions can prove invaluable. I don’t need them to be outstanding. I just want someone to do a job at full-back or in midfield from time to time.

We picked up Marcus McGuane who was sitting in Barca’s reserves for the past couple of years. He’s able to put in a shift in eight different positions in either midfield or defensive. He may never play more than a game to two for us, but he looked decent in friendlies and gives us a lot of value for money in terms of cover.

So at the close of the window, I think we’ve done some decent business with £12.5M in sales and only spending just under £4M. I am still pursuing a couple of free agents as I think we can get them on cheaper wages than their initial demands during the window, but overall I’m happy with the business we’ve done.  We’re nearly £100k under the wage budget and still have £2.4M in transfer budget remaining.

 
 

Here’s the completed spreadsheet:

 
 

Compared to the rest of the division we are way under our biggest rivals but I’m aiming for playoffs and/or promotion this season:

So between the End of Season Review and the above squad building approach that about does it for my approach to getting things ready for the new season. The situation with Sunderland is way more chaotic than my usual approach but it’s a rebuilding situation.  I’m keen to crack on with some games and stop blogging so I’ll leave it there.

Sparky, Out!











Mid 90's Milan - Part Five

Written by Dave Black @cm9798

Welcome back! This is all going rather well isn’t it? I took over Milan in 1996 with low expectations after their disastrous real life season. Turns out it is a lot easier on Championship Manager. We sit 4 points clear at the top of the table at the start of December. Sure, there’s been a lot of injuries, but we get patched up and we go again. Repeatedly.

We’re also through in the Champions League with a game to spare. This is a magnificent link to where we pick up today’s update, in the wonderful surrounds of Sofia as we look to seek a table topping finish.

For once, we are efficient. 87 minutes of efficiency in fact. And yes, we make it hard for ourselves but only for three minutes.

There are no easy draws in the quarter finals but Barcelona seems like a total stinker. Why couldn’t we get Steaua?

Back to domestic fun and a home game with Reggiana. They’re bottom of the table and really this should be our bread and butter. They have Franz Carr, who moved to Italy after leaving Aston Villa in 1996. He didn’t do particularly well.

We’re a bit laboured and when it’s 0-0 at half time, I’m concerned. We have a lack of options on the bench thanks to the injury situation and I can only throw on Blomqvist. That doesn’t help and their keeper gets man of the match. ‘sakes.

That is a bad result. It’s also an ill timed International break which not only sees Italy lose to Iceland but Costacurta and Panucci go off injured. Both will be out for a couple of weeks.

Fiorentina away is the last match before Christmas and we’re without Desailly, who is banned for three games following a misdemeanour a few weeks ago. That means the veteran duo of Baresi and Vierchowod have to deal with Batistuta. That will not end well. La Viola have a wonderful team. Alongside Batistuta is Oliveira (good dog – tweet me if you get this reference), Rui Costa and of course future Derby forward Francesco Baiano. Francesco Toldo is in goal so no matter how you look at it, this is a tough fixture.

The good news is, Batistuta doesn’t score. The bad news is that everybody else does. This was a battering. Rui Costa pulls the strings and the old lads are busy trying to stop Batistuta to notice. Happy bloody Christmas.

Amazingly, Lazio and Juventus both lose and we retain top spot. The turkey tastes a little sweeter – metaphorically.

Parma visit the San Siro and it’s another tough fixture. Parma have always had an exciting CM team – Crespo, Stanic, Chiesa, Dino Baggio, Sensini, Thuram, Cannavaro, Buffon…I could go on. Cannavaro was never really rated on the early CMs, I guess he was a late bloomer. For us, Maldini moves to centre back with Coco at left back. Davids is finally back from injury to line up in central midfield.

It’s a wild game and I’m starting to worry about Rossi in goal. He concedes two shots out of four and we’re indebted to Albertini for his late solo run and finish to snatch a draw.

That puts us third as our luck runs out. Into 1997 we go.

They celebrate new year’s a little differently in Italy. It’s apparently the perfect day to play the 2nd leg of Coppa Italia Quarter Finals. We are already 3-0 up against Serie C Ancona but it’s a little bit embarrassing to draw 2-2. Coco gets injured because he likes to follow a trend.

That’s no win in four and it’s time for Juventus away next. First though, the draw for the semi finals sees us tangle with Udinese. Serie B side Foggia hilariously knocked out Juventus, it’s a bit of a lopsided draw.

It’s time to focus on Juventus now though. Costacurta and Desailly are reunited at centre half and that will hopefully be enough to make us competitive again.

You know when I said I was worried about Rossi? Those chickens have come home to roost. This was HALF TIME.

Wow. That’s how it finished, mercifully. A goalkeeper scoring a two rating is frankly ridiculous.

Five games without a win and down to fourth. This has been a very poor winter indeed.

Midtable Piacenza should not be a concern to us but we are more vulnerable that ever at the moment. They have Taibi in goal though who is possibly an inspiration to Rossi at the moment. Eranio and an Albertini free kick build the platform before the lead is halved. A double from George Weah settles things and gets us back to winning ways.

Juventus and Lazio went head to head and drew 0-0. That is a good result for us.

We finish this update with Lazio away – a monumental game in the title race. We’re level on points with them and have scored the same number of goals, so it should be a tight affair. We are out of sorts defensively though and that makes any away trip like this a recipe for disaster.

Savicevic returns! He’s only 70% though so will have to be a sub. It’s quite the game, too. We’re 2-0 up inside 10 minutes as attack proves to be the best form of defence. Typically though Lazio come storming back, despite persisting with Jody Morris in central midfield. Naturally, it’s soon 2-2. Panucci is sent off for a terrible lunge and as we’re hanging on for a point, Desailly makes a lung busting run from central midfield to get on the end of a cross and win the day for us. Phew!

Juventus manage to draw 0-0 at bottom side Cagliari to cap off a great day for us. Let’s drink the table in.

Top and loving life. Somehow. Our goals against has taken a battering but we are nothing if not resilient.

Join me next week to see if Rossi has learned to catch. I feel it is imperative he does that before Barcelona turn up. Arrivederci!


















Mid 90's Milan - Part Four

Written by Dave Black @cm9798

Welcome back to Milan in 1996. I set about trying to reverse their disastrous season and so far, I’d give myself a B+. October was bittersweet for us. Our home form continues to keep us afloat. Our Champions League campaign has picked up momentum. We’re still in the Coppa Italia. This is all good. However, we lost the Milan derby, got humbled in Vicenza and we haven’t won an away game since September 29th. Thankfully, our next game is at home to Roma.

Although we are second you’ll notice Roma are nowhere to be seen. They are actually 13th, a disappointing season that plumbed new depths in their recent UEFA Cup exit to Middlesbrough. Star striker Abel Balbo is injured, but oddly Brazilian centre half Aldair has 7 goals in 14 games. A 19 year old by the name of Francesco Totti is filling in for Balbo, I don’t think he’ll amount to much.

Simone is in great form at the moment. He was man of the match in the Champions League win over Juventus and he picks up where he left off with two headed goals here. Savicevic also weighs in with two, though goal machine Aldair briefly has us worried. 4-1 probably flatters us but if the front three are clicking, I’m all for it.

Panucci will be missing for a month. We get a lot of injuries.

Napoli managed to win 3-2 at Fiorentina so we’re still chasing. We actually play Napoli next in the cup replay. If the first game was dull, this one certainly wasn’t.

We’ve drawn Ancona, the only Serie C team left in the competition, in the quarter finals. That could have been worse.

Bologna is our next destination as we attempt to correct our dodgy away form. We get the first goal for a change as Davids scrambles one in from a corner. Savicevic goes off injured and we can’t find a second goal despite spurning a hatful of chances. I await the sucker punch that never comes. It’s a win!

Three months out for Savicevic is definitely not a win. He’s got 16 assists to his name already. Added to his seven goals that means he has played some part in 23 of our goals which is exactly half of our overall total. His replacement, George Weah, only has one goal. But away to group whipping boys FC Croatia is probably as good an opportunity as you could hope for to kickstart your season.

A dull first half is soon forgotten when Maldini heads in a corner. Baggio curls in a second and the icing on the cake is supplied by Mr Weah when he rams in a rebound from a free kick. An easy win and two away wins on the spin. Our spot in the last 8 is secured.

Atalanta are the visitors to the San Siro and that means future Serie A legend Filippo Inzaghi lining up against us. They’ve seen the future and signed Otto Konrad from Salzburg – who would in fact move to Roma in real life.

The last thing we need is another key creator to go down. But a bruised thigh takes Roberto Baggio out of the game after just six minutes and means we’ll be without him for two weeks. Sigh. Luckily he’s replaced by French International Christophe Dugarry, our strength in depth is scary really. Anyway, Simone’s 11th of the season and a Boban free kick has us on the road to three points before that goal machine Weah seals the deal.

A good day is made even better by news of Napoli’s loss at Juventus. No shame in that of course but it does mean we are back in top spot.

Yet another cup game now and the Coppa Italia Quarter finals are over two legs. Why? Seems a little unnecessary. Costacurta whole heartedly disagrees and gets sent off after two minutes for a dangerous challenge. That’s a bit stupid but the fact my players’ bones are made of chipsticks is starting to wear thin. Davids is the next to go, pulling a hamstring and facing a month out. We’re 3-0 up by the time Dugarry tears his ankle ligaments. That’ll be a couple of months off. We win the match but it’s more of a war. We’ll see them for the 2nd leg next month but I might be better served putting out the reserves.

I’m awarded manager of the month for November. That’s probably fair, we have been excellent. We have somewhat of an injury crisis though and our next game is Napoli away. If we’re going to hold on to top spot we’re going to have to find a way of not playing Jesper Blomqvist.

We managed a 0-0 draw at Napoli in the Coppa Italia game so the same here would be the perfect start to December.

I’ve reverted to a 4-4-2 as I am down to two forward players in the absence of Dugarry, Savicevic and Baggio. At least the divine ponytail will return in about a week, the other two won’t been seen again in 1996. Boban and Eranio are on the wings with Albertini joined in central midfield by young Ambrosini. It might work.

It bloody is working. Weah and Simone combine for the opener before our flying Liberian is wiped out by goalkeeper Di Fusco. It’s a red card and when Weah converts the penalty, the result looks secure. However, it’s soon 2-1 and Desailly sees red for throwing an elbow. We manage to shut the game down with a series of defensive moves but a win is a win. An important win.

That’s better. The squad is in tatters but we’ve opened a small lead at the top. The squad is at breaking point and I can see why Fabio sought pastures new. On the other hand, it’s a resilient set of lads who have gone the month of November unbeaten.

Join me next time as we cross over into 1997. We’ve kept the treble hopes alive but our physio is busier than ever. See you next week.











Mid 90's Milan - Part Three

Written by Dave Black @cm9798

Welcome back! We’re up to episode 3 of Mid 90s Milan and so far, we’re getting by but only just. Trying to find the right formula for this star studded squad is easier said than done. We are however top of the Serie A table after five games and frankly, that’s all that matters. It’s a home game with Perugia to kick off October – an easy game on paper but they just toppled Juventus, so we can’t afford to be slack. We’re always kind of slack.

Perugia have two names of particular note. Marco Negri sits on the bench – he’d go on to score a lot of goals in his first season at Rangers before injuries curtailed that. They also have an 18 year old Ivan “called me Gennaro” Gattuso who has an aggression stat of 11 and therefore I can only assume is a complete unknown at this point. A rather bigger threat is a certain Massimiliano Allegri. The current Juventus manager is a star player for our visitors and is valued at £7.5m. We best keep an eye on him.

As for us, well I’ve had enough of Blomqvist’s subpar efforts so Stefano Eranio is in. Baggio gets us off to the perfect start, the divine ponytail meets a cross in the fifth minute and everything is good. As usual a second goal doesn’t follow and we are soon pegged back. Just after half time though and future Derby man Eranio gets on the end of a great ball from Baggio and it looks like our usual shoddy approach will scrape us through. Michel Kreek has other ideas though. He bends in a gem of a free kick (the text really sold it to me) and it looks like we’ll have to settle for a disappointing point. Substitute Dugarry has other ideas though. He drives a long range effort home in injury time. If playing poorly and winning is a sign of a good team, we’re unbelievable.

One more game to get through before the International break and we are without Boban, who stubbed his toe. Marcel Desailly has also broken a cheekbone to get himself two weeks off. They join Davids, Maldini and Costacurta in missing the trip to Vicenza. Wow.

Our hosts don’t have the most star studded of squads. They’ve spent £1.8m on Steve Lomas from Man City and he starts in the centre of their midfield. Right. The less said about our side the better. The centre halves are 37 and 36. Coco is a clown. Eranio and Blomqvist are either side of a midfield three. I don’t have a lot of hope for this.

We’re 2-0 down at half time. Vierchowod has looked every one of his 37 years of age. He scored an own goal and nearly gave away a pen. Lomas has ran the game. I need to do…something. Blomqvist has a 4.

What to do? Reiziger comes on to play centre back and Ambrosini, just 18, is on for Blomqvist. It’s soon 3-0 and I just want to go home.

The International break is a chance for us to lick our wounds. Quite literally in several cases. Maldini recovers to play for Italy but he gets injured at the hands of Wales. Another two weeks of Coco.

Still, we’re able to field Costacurta and Boban for the visit of CSKA Sofia in the Champions League. I rather foolishly said anything other than 12 points for the two games against CSKA and FC Croatia would be a failure. Thankfully this is not the banana skin it might have been.

We’re still on home turf for the clash with Sampdoria. Their squad is full of stories. Sebastian Veron (missing his Juan) is a 21-year-old striker, normally partnered by current Italy manager Roberto Mancini. He’s injured which is a relief as he’s a star player. Sinisa Mihailovic is classified as a left winger but still has 20 for set pieces. They’ve spent £1.2m to bring Dunga over from the J League. The Brazil captain is in midfield with Christian Karembeu. We are unchanged!

A tight game is opened up when Savicevic gets taken out in the box and Albertini does the rest. Veron might be missing his Juan but none of his ability as his measured chip levels things up. Savicevic smashes home a free kick and Panucci seals the points. Routine in the end, with the usual mid game struggle.

We trail Napoli on goal difference only but we go up against them next – in the cup. It’s an awful draw for a third round tie. I’m not really sure why Napoli are doing so well, their squad is unremarkable. Ayala and Cruz are a good centre half partnership but their star man appears to be Caio Ribeiro. He starred in the FIFA Youth Championships in 1995 which prompted Napoli to buy him, but he was rubbish for them. Just like this cup tie. It’s a replay. The only good news is that Desailly returned to the starting 11 whilst Davids got 20 minutes from the bench.

That’s big news because it’s the small matter of the Milan derby next. Maldini returns on the day of the game. I don’t care how unfit he is, he’s better than Coco. Inter’s squad is magnificent. Pagliuca is unbelievable between the sticks whilst penalty king Paul Ince lines up in midfield. Zanetti, Berti, Winter, Zamorano, Djorkaeff…the list goes on. They also have Gianluca Festa, which looks like an opportunity to me.

We are nominally the away side as we share the San Siro. I can see we’re in trouble from the first whistle. Ince is unbelievable and Zanetti ends up playing the perfect 10. We’re lucky to only lose 3-2. The front three were barely in the game and that’s a major concern. On the plus side, Davids made a big impression off the bench and Weah, also a sub, set him up. He’s been the biggest disappointment so far.

Well that stings. The last action of October comes against Juventus in the Champions League. We owe our fans not only for the derby shitshow but for losing the reverse game earlier in the group stages. Our task is made easier when Schottel commits a cynical foul on Simone and is dismissed. Albertini blasts the pen over the bar – it’s not my fault, I quite literally can’t select any set piece takers. Desailly heads in from a corner and Simone finishes a one on one. Good. The game is petering out until Del Piero pulls one back and it’s a mad final ten minutes. The woodwork is struck by both teams several times and I’m grateful to Desailly finishing the game with a burst forward from open play for no real reason. We had 23 shots to their 5, 15 on target. Peruzzi is the best but we still beat him three times. I need a lie down.

We are looking well placed to go through but Juventus haven’t done their side of the bargain. They’ve let CSKA make this a three horse race and I have limited time for that, especially as we need to go to Bulgaria yet.

We’re just one point off the top but it’s still fairly early days.


Join me next time to see what November has in store for us. Hopefully we can reclaim top spot and get through in the Champions League but in reality is will probably be more injuries and 4’s from Jesper bloody Blomqvist. Goodbye!