We get inside FMDoop’s mind as the 1860 Munchen boss discusses the rise back to the Bundesliga, transfer decisions & ‘the next step’.
Lewis Hathaway (or FMDoop as he’s come to be known) walks over and pulls up a chair.
‘Not bad, eh?’ he grins as he looks out over the Munich skyline. We are interviewing Doop at the luxurious Bayerischer Hof hotel that overlooks Munich and is very much in keeping with the glamour of a footballer’s retreat.
1860’s story has been heavily publicised, their relegation to 3.Liga in 2017 & the subsequent financial difficulties that saw them relegated to the Regionalliga Bayern for 2017-18 were the lowest of lows. But in readiness for the 2018/19 season Die Löwen decided to do what many teams around them have done and employ from the young English talent pool. Since his appointment Doop has taken 1860 back to the Bundesliga with 2 back-to-back promotions and despite the prediction that he would take them down again he kept the Munich side in the top division after a good old English relegation dog-fight.
‘It’s been a struggle, the hardest of my career. I’ve had to move my family, learn the language & make the fans believe that we can go again.’
We asked about that difficult first season - ‘For me, it was a no-brainer. 1860 is a team with a lot of history in Germany, I knew there had been some difficulties at the club and I would be walking in to a club that was still rebuilding but it was a project that excited me. At first, I moved here without my family, I didn’t see the point in disrupting their lives when I couldn’t be sure that this was a job with a future – no manager’s job is – Munich to Heathrow is less than a 2 hour flight and those hours travelling gave me time to analyse and reflect. The playing staff I inherited was thin and I had to rely on loan signings, Franck Evina & Okyere Wriedt really helped us get out of the 3.Liga. After that first season I moved the family over. We bought a house in Harlaching, close to the training ground, and life felt great. We’d been promoted, I’d signed a new contract & with my family close by I could spend more time at the training ground working out our strategy for my first season in 2.Bundesliga.’
Doop’s second season in charge saw another promotion winning the 2.Bundesliga comfortably, 8 points ahead of Bochum. We asked him about the preparation for that season and how he achieved what he did on a shoestring budget.
‘I sat down with the chairman (Michael Scharold) before the season and he made it very clear that there was still no money to strengthen the squad. I know it's not what any manager wants to hear, but his honesty actually let me get on with my work quickly. I knew I’d have to work the loan system again and as long as I got the mixture right I was confident that we could challenge again. Loan signings can be tricky, most of the time they don’t want to come and play for you and they definitely don’t want to play for you if the chips are down. I like to think that we can offer them something, I have some non-negotiables when a player joins our club & if they honour them I guarantee we’ll give them the opportunity to showcase their talents to their parent club, which was certainly the case for the Danish lad, Marcus Ingvartsen, that we took on loan from Genk. He scored 18 goals that season & went back to Genk as a first team regular. As we approached the winter break that season, the Chairman called me and said that he’d managed to release a few hundred thousand for us to strengthen the squad as there was a good chance we could secure back-to-back promotions. I signed Timothy Weah from PSG for £160k. Tim was a lad with bags of natural talent, but I’m sure I only signed him because I had a poster of his Dad on my wall as a kid! As the season was drawing to a close we had managed to give ourselves a cushion at the top of the table and it started to sink in. We’re going to playing in the Bundesliga next season.’
We started to get talking about the tactical systems he employed at 1860, his use of and old-English 4-4-2 mixed with some German efficiency gave him an identity as a tactician.
‘We played 3 different variations of a 4-4-2. Nothing too special, other than playing with an inverted winger. I liked the role. I liked what it could give us. I wanted him to cut inside, leaving lots of room for the wing back to bomb-on behind him. Depending on the opposition we would either drop the centre midfielders into holding roles and play more direct or push them forward pressing on the opposition when we sensed an opportunity. The systems were simple, I didn’t want to over complicate the players as most of them would only be around short-term and I couldn’t rely on them to learn an NFL-style playbook.
When we guaranteed promotion to the Bundesliga I knew there was a chance that these systems could get found out and by the time we’d reached the winter break we were second bottom of the league. Scoring goals wasn’t the issue, leaking them was, so we decided that a change to five at the back might give us an extra man in cover, plugging holes & restricting our opponent which worked to a degree, we finished 15th and five points clear of safety.’
Doop had to rely on the loan market again that season, the addition of Borussia Dortmund loanee, Aleksander Isak, was one that caught the eye. His impressive return of 20 league goals and 5 assists helped 1860 secure their Bundesliga status and we wanted to know if there was a chance we could see Isak return next season.
‘It’s unlikely, a player like Alex is one in a million and we were delighted when Dortmund agreed a deal for us to take him on loan. This lad will go on to be a superstar, he trained right, he had the right attitude & more importantly, he delivered when it mattered. I made an enquiry that winter to see if we could make the move permanent in the summer, but Michael Zorc was having none of it. Thankfully our scouts had identified a young lad at Red Star who we believed could match Isak’s potential so we went signed Dejan Joveljic for a club record £5.2m instead.’
Outside of the first team there has been much talk about the work 1860 have done with their youth setup and the emergence of their future stars.
‘It goes back to simplifying everything’ - said Doop ‘when you have a club with no money but a reputation it made sense to put some focus on to our youth setup. We could recruit from the Munich area where there is some fantastic talent. Sure, Bayern would get them cream, but there is enough to go around. As a manager in my first year with 1860 it was hard to devote time into this area of the project as I wasn’t sure I would be around to see the fruits of our labour in 3 or 4 years time when they are eligible to be included in the first team. But we’ve had some great intakes over the last 3 years, lads like Smirnov & Bingol are now training with the first team and Matija Marcius is being linked with every club in Europe despite not playing a game for us.’
The 2021/22 season is nearly upon us, 1860 have not only secured Bundesliga status but they have also managed to secure some high profile, albeit aging, players that are were out of contract. We wanted to know how the club managed to bring in players such as Troy Deeney, Cesc Fabregas & Sami Khedira over the summer.
‘Agents. They can be your best ally or your worst enemy, but thankfully for me I’ve got a good relationship with a few of the top UK companies. The Fabregas deal was easy, he wanted a year in Germany & then a year in Italy to finish his career, a one-year deal is like a loan signing, there wasn’t much risk. Troy and Sami were similar, they were in their Twighlight years and opportunities for top division football were few and far between. I’m hoping that a few experienced pro’s will help influence the younger players in our squad.’
1860 Munich have a strong foundation to build on. Last season is behind them and it’s the first time in six years that the club starts a new season in the same league they finished in. They have a squad whose recipe is ¾'s youth plus ¼’s experience plus a manager who is determined to make sure this club becomes sustainable, doesn’t rely on loan signings & makes progress year on year.
Thanks for reading. As most of you know I’ve been streaming this save on my Twitch channel, but a house move and a job change saw me take a break from streaming over Christmas, I hadn’t lost the bug I just had some real-life issues to deal with! Then Teach & I began talking about a new network save, it’s where we began on Twitch & something we both really enjoyed and we’re now streaming 4 or 5 nights a week which doesn’t leave much time for me to stream the 1860 save. What it does allow is for me to have an offline save, something I’ve craved for the past couple of Football Manager editions, knowing that I can just pick the save up whilst I’m chilling out of an evening or weekend has made me love the save even more which is why I’ve decided to keep updating you through Twitter & now in blog form. We decided on an interview style post to update the first 3 years at 1860 and if there’s anything else you’d like to know, please feel free to ask me – I don’t get bored talking about this save!
Make sure you’re following me on Twitter for live updates and I look forward to knowing what you think.