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Yeah, that first promotion definitely did feel good!  Thank you for the tips - I had been a bit scared to use very defensive so will probably try that for injury time.  Also good tip about the fullbacks.  I actually play with wing backs (in the DR/L space if that makes sense).  Do you think changing them to full backs to close out a game would be helpful?


The Mentality Masterplan is here.  Its looks complicated but its not really once you get to know it.  I now approach all away games starting cautious and all home games as balanced and then adjust accordingly depending on if we dominate.

I have just completed another season too - I'll look forward to reading about your exploits in the Championship!

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Arnoldinho: Buxton FC

2028/29 Championship

Transfers ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ League Table ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances


This update will be a bit different to usual with far more about off the pitch activity (where a lot happened) than on the pitch (where not much did).


Offseason and Transfers

With only one player who I was confident was up to standard for the Championship, my goals for the summer were three-fold: extend Ray Dowell’s contract; sign as many other Championship quality players as we could afford; and max out loans to plug the gaps. We achieved two of these. We inked a new deal with Dowell (although I couldn’t get his Premier League clubs release clause above £5m) despite a lot of interest from Wolves. But the move up to the Championship had clearly not boosted our rep by a huge amount and so we struggled for new signings, last year’s loanee Mitchell Newell being the only player of any real quality being willing to join us, for a club record £500k. Ex- Man Utd forward Werner Breugelmans was the best of the rest as we signed our usual crop of young Premier League rejects.

Championship football did however seem to increase the quality of players we could get on loan, and so as well as getting Coleman and O’Rourke back we were able to bolster our defence with a pair of England U21 internationals - Spurs’ Liam Smith-Barmby at CB and Man City’s Steve Meichan at RB. Bournemouth Attacking Midfielder Anthony Garside completed our loan contingent. I entered the season a bit disappointed we hadn’t got more but confident of staying up.

The January transfer window however was an unmitigated disaster. Our top target was Andrew Pitman - easily the most wonderkid-esque player my scouts have ever advised would be willing to sign for me (and they thought his wages would be affordable too). He was due to be out of contract at Liverpool in the summer but for some weird reason foreign clubs could offer him a contract in January whereas I couldn’t. Once Dundee Utd offered him a contract, Liverpool were willing to sell him to me for a few hundred k plus sell on clauses, but having spent my transfer budget on Newell I simply couldn’t afford it. And so he agreed to sign north of the border and we missed out. Does anyone know if its deliberate or a bug that foreign clubs can come in with an end of contract offer before domestic ones?

Literally the very next day, top of the Championship table Wolves came in aggressively for Dowell. At first I had no intention of selling but his agent advised he would be unhappy if he wasn’t allowed to talk to Wolves, and then I managed to negotiate them up to £5.5m plus sell on fees. Given it was obvious that in a few months Wolves would be a Premier League side and able to activate his £5m release clause (and that in the meantime we were bumbling on in mid table with not much to play for) I decided to pull the trigger. The board and fans were not impressed. I was just annoyed it didn’t happen in time for me to get Pitman.

There was actually another reason I was willing to let Dowell go: I thought I had already identified his replacement. My scouts were right that Arsenal U23 keeper Theo Barnes was available for a few hundred thousand; but they were wrong about his salary demands which were more than the board would allow, despite special pleading from me. Whereas the Pitman situation felt like a game bug, here I screwed up - I didn’t realise that if I shifted more from the transfer budget to the wage budget so that the wage budget had huge space, the board would allow me to go higher in what I offered an individual player. (This misunderstanding has also cost me a chance to sign Steffan Coleman who will be going on a big salary to the MLS at the end of his contract despite being keen to sign for us). End result: we sold our best player and signed no-one. Gah!

League Campaign

I said I expected to finish in the teens and the aim was closer to 13th than 19th. End result: slap bang in the middle at 16th! For most of the year we were better than that, winning slightly more than we lost. But a dire run of form in the aftermath of selling Dowell (for much of which our backup was also injured) when we won only 1 in 9 pushed us out of the top half. Still, relegation was never really a threat so the board and fans were quite content.

Tactically, we used a mix of the 4-3-3 with a DM against the bigger clubs and a high press 4-2-3-1 in games we expected to win. This worked reasonably well and will be our approach for the foreseeable future.



We had a brilliant win at West Ham in the 3rd round of the FA Cup only to meekly succumb to Portsmouth in a 4th round replay during our terrible run of form. In the Carabao Cup we lost at the first time of asking - on penalties to Blackburn.



We sold out every league game bar one, when Plymouth fans didn’t fill the away end on a damp November Tuesday night. More importantly still, Dowell’s sale has made us financially far more secure. In the immediate aftermath I got the board to upgrade several facilities, and to agree to a small extension to the Silverlands. But before work could even begin on the latter, at the end of the season the board decided to start preparations for a new stadium instead. No details yet on capacity and financing so not clear whether this is or isn’t good news!


Looking Ahead

The Championship is clearly going to be a slog. Next season’s goal is to win more than we lose. We have some transfer and wage budget to play with - hopefully some quality players will be willing to sign for us this time around…


Career Summary


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Gainsborough Trinity

After our close-run promotion last season it was clear that we needed to strengthen again for the Vanarama National and I have to say I was actually quite pleased with the talent we managed to bring in.  I decided to have a look at some youth players that were being released by some Premier League teams and the fact that I was able to get them in on a trial before their contract was up was a bit of a game changer for me!  I picked up Chris Knowles from Leicester thinking he would be a decent new striker but realised he actually made a much better central midfielder so I played him there mostly.  I also picked up Aleff Diego from Man Utd who seems a decent talent for this level, and also striker Layton Stewart after he was released from Liverpool.



The signing of Layton Stewart was actually a bit cheeky.  When I offered him a contract, so did about 10 other clubs most of which were in leagues above me.  In the end he rejected all the contracts to go on trial with someone else.  Having realised this, I just offered him a contract again and because he had just rejected everyone, I guess no-one else offered him one again so we got him kind of by default.  This was very pleasing as he finished the season as my top goal scorer with 25 league goals.

With losses to Dagenham & Redbridge, Yeovil and Darlington our initial form over the first two months was a little choppy but we soon hit our stride and actually started playing well!  This rise eventually led us to top of the table.  We did not stay there.  The usual collapse came around the turn of the year but we managed to steady the ship and start winning again.

We got dumped out of the FA Trophy in the second round which the board were not ecstatic about.  I have not managed to do well in this trophy ever at Gainsborough for some reason, but we actually had a decent run in the FA cup.  Wins over league 1 opponents Tranmere and Wycombe in the first two rounds meant we were in the third round draw for the first time!  Who would we get…


Boom!  They don’t get much bigger than that!  A sell-out crowd saw us capitulate against Man City, not that I was expecting to win it.  I do find, however, than in any big game I will have someone sent off… Maybe telling the team to stay on their feet will help?

We also had a bit of a transfer saga. Joe Grayson was attracting some attention from teams in higher leagues.  Both Ipswich and Millwall bid for him.  I rejected the bid from Ipswich but the board accepted a £300,000 bid from Millwall.  Not a bad chunk of change for this division but I did not want to lose my best player..  I begged with the board to reconsider by explaining to them that as Joe was an influential member of the dressing room his departure might cause big issues.  Incredibly they agreed and no-one else came in for him so I managed to keep him until the next transfer window at least.  Phew.

Anyway, no more cup runs to distract us meant we could focus on the league.  Eventually we managed to make our way back to the top of the table.  In a remarkable copy of the Vanarama National in 2023 in real life, in 2023 in-game it was Notts County and Wrexham who we were battling against.  Both teams were very strong but with 3 games to go I was top of the table by a single point.  Our destiny was in our own hands!  All we had to do was win the last three matches and we would be out of this league at the first time of asking.

Next match, an easy fixture against Barrow beckoned.  We bossed the match but none of our 15 shots on target found the back of the net.  The game finished 0-0.  Wrexham also faltered but Notts Country won their match to go top with two matches remaining…. Nooooo!  I was furious.  I wanted to never play FM again and throw by laptop in the bin. 

Eventually I came back to the game to play out the final two games and try not to lose in the Playoffs.  Next match was a home tie against second bottom Woking.  We came out of the blocks quickly and went 2-0 up in 20 minutes.    Then just before halftime Thelo Aasgard gets himself sent off!  Why?  We were cruising… Ugh.  OK, second half they pull one back but we manage to hold on for a win.  God this is stressful.  I check the Notts County result.. yep they win too.

Last match, a tricky tie against Stockport.  It is a tense opening 20 minutes until this time they have a man sent off!  Amazing.  We capitalise and win easily.  We had done all we could.  Notts County were playing Maidstone, a team who were already relegated which did not bode well.  We check their result and bad news…


It looks like we are never going to win the FA Trophy in this save!  Somehow Notts County had failed to score and we win the league by one solitary point!  Incredible scenes!  We have now turned professional, spent a couple of Million adding a few extra seats to the stadium and embark on strengthening the team for the task ahead.

Although we were very happy with the new recruits and Layton Stewart got second highest goalscorer in the league, once again it was Joe Grayson who absolutely bossed the league.  His average rating of 7.71, 21 assists and 14 player of the match awards were the highest in the whole of the Vanarama National.  Considering how close it was in the end, I don’t think I could have been promoted without him.

In the end Aleff Diego played his part but didn’t play as well as I hoped.  He has now become a natural in the right midfield spot so hopefully next season he can fulfil a bit more of his potential.

I’m still buzzing from the promotion.  This game really does give some highs and lows!




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Congratulations @nehpets81 - promotion from the National at the first time of asking is a great achievement!

How are the finances looking after that cup run? Such a pity you drew Man City at home - if it had been an away tie you’d have been set for years!

Thanks for the mentality link - I’ll have a good read of that when I get the chance.

As for me I’ve just finished my next season (it took me so long to write up the previous one that I was most of the way through before I’d even posted!) so will try to post that update later this week. But suffice it to say it was considerably more exciting than the previous one…


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Thanks, yeah I'm very relieved to have gone up. I was sure that the draw in the third to last game had cost us the League.  I think we were quite fortunate in that there was no run away team. With three games to go there were still three teams with a chance to win it. Interestingly none of them did well in the playoff.


The finances are ok-ish but not great. we have about 20k of debt.  Our stadium is tiny sadly so of course the game was a sell out but it could have been very different if it was away.  Shame we couldn't request a change of venue.


Your latest season sounds good, looking forward to hearing about it 

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Arnoldinho: Buxton FC

2029/30 Championship

Transfers ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ League Fixtures 3 ¦ League Table ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances


Offseason and Transfers

Taking stock after our first season in the Championship, I decided I had been a little harsh in the view that of the players we owned only Mitchell Newell was Championship calibre. Jordan Rossiter at DM and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson at LB had shown they were also up to the task. Unfortunately they were also the oldest two players in my squad. So there was still lots of work to do in the transfer market, and actually some money available after Dowell’s sale.

First through the door was Attacking Midfielder Jonathan Fisher, released by Nottingham Forest who in this save seem absolutely determined to throw away talented young players whenever possible. Just behind him was Theo Barnes, the goalkeeper I had targeted in January, now that I had worked out how to manipulate my wage budget. Then for the first time in the save, we broke the million pound mark in signing a player. Striker Ethan Fenlon had been a target on a free the previous summer but had gone to Bournemouth who had stuck him in the reserves. A wasted year for him and a wasted million quid for us, but I was still happy to have him, especially since Forest were not keen on O’Rourke coming for yet another loan spell. But Fenlon wasn’t our record transfer fee for long – on the eve of the season the opportunity presented itself for us to sign West Ham midfielder Steve Jordan and we jumped at the chance. Best in an attacking midfield role, he’s also able to play as a playmaker.

As usual, loans were also high on the priority list. With so many attacking-minded players in the squad you’d have thought I’d focus on defence – and indeed I did bring back Steve Meichan from Man City, and was delighted to add Arsenal wonderkid centre-back Chad Markscheffel for the season. Luke Warrington from Spurs also looked like a straight replacement for Steffan Coleman in a playmaking midfield role. But I couldn’t resist a couple of forwards as well – Chelsea’s Martyn Jones and Liverpool’s Derek Robson were both too good to turn down.

Amongst the usual array of incoming youth, an interesting standout was Czech 17-year old Lubos Jarolim. A centre-back, he was very unusual for a youth prospect in having well developed technical (14 tackling already) and mentals, but weak physicals (9 acceleration, 8 pace, 7 strength). I decided to take a gamble on him and a year in it is looking tasty – with some intensive individual quickness training he is already up to 12 acceleration and 10 pace. If I can get him a couple more notches higher next season, I’ll then switch him to strength training. If he pulls that off too he’ll be a real quality centre-back, and ought to qualify in due course as home grown at club to boot. I’ve already rejected multiple offers to loan him out so that we can intensively focus his training.

For once we were also busy in January. Old friend Michael Lovatt was able to join us permanently for the princely sum of £72k. But the big one was that we were able to buy outright Steve Meichan. Not only did this mean adding a quality (England U21 quality) right-back to our squad, but it also freed up a loan spot. Last season’s loanee Liam Smith-Barmby was available and so we snapped him up to play alongside Markscheffel. Having played one game and scored one goal (before getting injured), Forest were now willing to loan out O’Rourke again, so I took a risk and took him on – meaning we had six loanees to choose five from for each match.

Conscious that we are also going to have to continue to be a selling club, I also let Werner Breugelmans go to Southampton in a deal worth around £2m depending on appearances. A nice piece of business for a young player we’d picked up on a free 18 months earlier, and had hardly set the world alight since. Give me Steve Jordan any day.


League Campaign

The first half of the season went pretty much as I expected. We were basically a bit better than the previous season – winning slightly more than we lost, and drawing a lot. At no point before Christmas did we win more than two in a row or lose more than two in a row. Fenlon and Fisher took a little while to get going, but were effective by November. Luke Warrington was a revelation as a playmaker in midfield, spraying the ball all over the park, and Martyn Jones was a constant threat cutting in off the wing. Robson looked good when he played too but was injured a lot.

But then the January transfer window had the reverse effect to the previous season – giving us a real boost and sending us flying up the league. From the start of February to mid-April we lost only one in thirteen, moving gradually from mid-table obscurity to outside shot for the playoffs to genuine challenger to occupier of 6th place. At one stage we went six matches without conceding – Markscheffel and Smith-Barmby (used to playing as a pairing with England U21s) absolute rocks at the heart of the defence. A 3-1 reverse at league leaders’ Derby on Good Friday almost allowed Hull to catch us for the last playoff spot, but wins against Portsmouth and Blackburn, sandwiched either side of a creditable draw away at also-playoff-bound Southampton meant we were in. Derek Robson’s 6 goals in our last 10 games a bit factor in getting us over the line.

This I felt was a heroic effort from the team, but I had zero expectations for the playoffs – we had taken just four points from the other three sides all season, the only win having come when we FMed Cardiff 1-0. And in the semi we had Birmingham who had trounced us twice. But they were out of form and we were flying, and we hit them with two first half goals in the first leg at the Silverlands. Jordan Rossiter was sent off early in the second stanza but we clung on to take a 2-0 lead to St Andrews. There the match was almost identical in reverse. Birmingham came out of the traps rapidly, scoring twice early and looking like they would exert their superiority. But then they had a man sent off and we were able to turn things around, starting to apply some pressure against ten men. Credit to Brum, they kept attacking even when short-handed, and it was end to end stuff until Ethan Fenlon popped up in the last minute of normal time to send the visiting fans in to raptures and the Bucks back to Wembley yet again.

As seems to be tradition in this save, the playoff final threw up a ridiculous selection conundrum. This time we lost both our starting central midfielders. Jordan Rossiter’s suspension following his red card in the semi first leg was extended to a three match ban, and then Luke Warrington was called up to England’s youth squad for the Toulon tournament. Despite England’s first match not being until a whole week after the playoff final, it was apparently absolutely essential he join the squad training camp beforehand and so we were without him too. It showed. We lacked snap in the midfield, struggled to get Jordan (who had dropped deeper to playmake in Warrington’s absence) on the ball, and had Jonathan Fisher sent off as we limply succumbed one-nil. We were at least spared the humiliation of Breugelmans rubbing it in when he came on as a sub and hit a 30 yard screamer that went just over the bar.

But it wasn’t to be on the promotion front. Now one for five at Wembley in this save.



Not much to see here. We lost at the first time of asking in the FA Cup, a rather limp 2-1 defeat at Elland Road just before we made our stellar January signings. It was probably a blessing in disguise as it avoided fixture congestion during our amazing run.

In the Carabao Cup we achieved the board’s goal of reaching the second round by beating League One Walsall, before losing to Premier League Burnley on penalties in Round Two.



We hit the lofty heights of 22nd biggest wage budget in the Championship this year. We are now established at the level, albeit still as one of the smaller market sides. But we have a reasonable wage budget and a few million of transfer budget, enough to go shopping. My only grumble is that the board don’t allow me to keep much of any transfer revenue recouped, reducing the scope for wheeler dealing.

We went one better than last season, selling out every single home game. The new stadium is not much further forward: the board are still looking for an appropriate site. But they have said that they are targeting a 13120 (precisely!) capacity all-seater. That feels about right, as long as they find a site that is expandable further in future if (when?!) we reach the lofty heights of Europe.


Looking Ahead

Its always gutting to lose a playoff final (believe me, by this point I know). But there’s no way we were ready for promotion, and would undoubtedly have come straight back down. However, our great run has made me more optimistic about getting out of this division sooner rather than later.

The board want top half next season. That’s probably about right, but there’s a lot of volatility to that outlook depending on the loans situation. If we are able to get the same group back next time around I would expect us to make the playoffs again, at minimum. But if they’re not available and the loan market dries up for any reason, I could see us moving backwards rapidly. So we have to keep plugging away at making our own signings. My goal is 15 Championship quality players, who can then be supplemented in the squad by loans and up-and-coming youth players. As 33 year old Borthwick-Jackson will leave this summer, at the moment I think we have 8 who cut the mustard: Barnes, Meichan, Lovatt, Rossiter, Jordan, Fisher, Newell and Fenlon. So still some way to go.

On a sad note, I think this might be the summer we finally say goodbye to Paul Glatzel. He has been legendary for us on this save, but for two successive seasons the Championship has proved a step too far, and I simply don’t have the financial prowess to be able to afford the luxury of passengers for sentimental reasons. And he’s still young enough to make a big contribution for somebody in League One or League Two.


Career Summary


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  • 3 weeks later...

Congrats on making the playoff final, I am yet to enjoy a visit to Wembley, but gutting to lose it.  Looks like like you are making real progress in the Championship, though, one more year to consolidate and let the club reputation catch up with your progress is probably not a bad thing.

I assume at this point you are filling out your stadium most matches?  Are you able to expand or have the board indicated that a new one is on the cards?

I have now completed another season, write up to follow

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Gainsborough Trinity - L2



After the successful season in the Vanarama National I was keen to keep the momentum going into League 2.  I am of the opinion that the difference in quality of both leagues is not that great so I was very confident of a top half finish at the very least.  Unfortunately when I told the players this in the team meeting they all got upset!

I added a bit of depth to the squad but the best players were still the players I had in the Vanarama leagues.  For the second season in a row Joe Grayson picked up the most assists, highest average rating, most player of the match awards and fans player of the year.  Incredible to think that my best signing all save has been a free transfer who approached me in the Vanarama North to say he was without a club!  Shows how good my scouting abilities are :-/

One thing I did notice is that Grayson’s performances were a bit more erratic this season.  I made him vice-captain and it seems that he does not play as well in some of the games when he was captain.  Is this is a thing?  Perhaps he is not very good under pressure maybe?  Have you experienced this?

Incidentally my top goal scorer this year is a player who has been with me on my journey up the leagues.  He has never been my best player but does stand out in the fact that his attributes have been improving through that time.  He keeps improving despite our terrible training facilities presumably as he has decent potential and a fairly professional personality.



We hit the ground running in the league with four straight wins but were dumped out of the Cabarao cup in the first round to Barnsley and failed to make it out of the group stage in the Leasing.com Trophy.  Never mind, this meant we could focus on what really mattered.  Is there a competition any more pointless than the Leasing.com trophy?  We enjoyed our lowest ever home attendance when a grand total of 226 people came to watch us lose 3-4 to the Leicester U23 team.  It was actually a pretty good game, but that was less people than when we were getting spanked week in week out in the Vanarama North!

 Unfortunately after losing in the cups our league form also took a bit of a dive, losing 3 league games in September.  Although strong up front and in midfield we really struggled in defence after the board accepted a bit for my best centre back.  I got a few potential replacement on trial before signing three potential replacements!  None of them were as good..

Nevertheless, form picked up and we went on another mini FA cup run… Once again making it into the FA Cup third round.    Could we get lucky again and get a big team? 


Boom!  That will do!  And way too!  We also did not disgrace ourselves at all, and were even ahead at half time!  Unfortunately the Premier League quality showed through and we lost out to a free kick from Mason Mount on the 83rd minute.  Still, I can’t complain about that, and the fact that over 20,000 people came to watch the match 😊

A bit of a hangover from the cup meant we lost the next league match against Aldershot but then went on an 8 game unbeaten run to go top of the league.  Sadly we then got 1 point from the next four matches and found ourselves back in the pack.  With 8 games to go I thought we might be bottling it.  I read somewhere that if you change formation for one game and then go back to the old one it can kind of put the AI off so I did that.  It might be confirmation bias but it actually seemed to work, form improved and we raced to the top of the table, level with AFC Wimbledon but ahead on goal difference. There was one game left in the season.  Against…  AFC Wimbledon! 

It could not have been scripted better.  All we needed was a point.  Then this happened   In truth they were the better team but we only needed to hold out for a draw and they score the winner in the 91st minute.  So, we completely bottle the title.  Although we were promoted and it should have been a celebration, I can’t help feeling deflated by the fact that Wimbledon pipped us to the title.


Anyway, five seasons in and we are in League 1 so I have to be very happy with that.   Another positive is that we have been promoted into the same league as our parent club, MK Dons, so I am hopeful I can get a Premier league parent for the new season to actually loan us some decent players for once!


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  • 3 months later...


Arnoldinho: Buxton FC

2030/31 Championship

Transfers ¦ Squad ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ Playoffs ¦ League Table ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances


A veeerry slow season as real life has got in the way, but I have finally completed my 11th season with Buxton.


Offseason and Transfers

The summer saw the end of an era with the departure of club legend Paul Glatzel. Having not cut it at Championship level, both club and player felt it was time for him to move on and he went to Exeter for £165k. Disgruntled Byron Clough also left, and a record number of younger players went out on loan.

Meanwhile, we only spent money on one player – a princely £50k on a new left back as Ryan Corrigan joined from Hearts. Averaging over 7 for the year, he proved to be a solid signing. Other than that, it was the usual parade of free transfers. Most were young players with future potential, and our improved reputation means we are now able to get the cast offs from the very best clubs - although Jamie Alexander from Everton was perhaps the best of the bunch. But we also picked up a very useful looking striker/inside forward in Anthony Woodward, a 24 year-old released by Norwich. On the loans front, we were able to bring back five who had made such a big impact last season (Markscheffel, Smith-Barmby, Warrington, Jones and Robson), not only giving us real quality but also promoting squad stability.

The January transfer window was a very profitable one for us. In the last update I mentioned Lubos Jarolim, our rapidly developing Hungarian 17 year old. Well, he continued to grow in leaps and bounds, and soon we were getting offers north of £5m for him. That was too good a money to turn down for a player still probably two years off the first team, and so when we managed to negotiate Brighton up to a £7m deal that could rise to £11m, we cashed in. Then later in the window Bristol City came in out of the blue for Jonathan Fisher, who had continued to be talented but inconsistent (and who I had never quite forgiven for his red card in the playoff final) so we cashed in on him too - £5m the eventual fee, although the board are unhappy I didn’t get more for him.

This actually gave us some transfer money, but as we are still a very small club for this level I remain cautious to splash unless the right player comes up, and this time the only guy who did (an 18 year old centre-back who looked better than Jarolim and Norwich were willing to sell me for £900k) told me hours before the window closed that he didn’t fancy the move. However, I couldn’t resist spending some money and so I popped it in to wage budget and got two more loanees – Louie Bryan a forward from Man Utd and Jordan Huddell a midfielder from Spurs. The former was useful, the latter pretty useless. My conclusion: when you can have only 5 loanees in the match-day 18 its feasible to have 6 in the squad, but 7 is a waste of money.

League Campaign

With the core of the previous season’s squad back, I was aiming to make the playoffs again. We did, but it was a bit of a rollercoaster along the way. Aided perhaps by team cohesion being high, we started strongly, losing just once in our first eleven matches and spending three weeks in the automatic promotion positions. A couple of defeats in October – including at eventual champions Burnley – dented our ambitions, but 13 points from a possible 15 in November meant we were still flying high. Then the wheels fell off a bit. December was miserable and we won just 2 in 10 through most of February and March which saw us slide out of the playoff places altogether. Injuries didn’t help, with new captain Jordan Rossiter and talisman Steve Jordan enduring lengthy periods on the sidelines, and loanees Derek Robson and Liam Smith-Barmby both on and off the physio’s table multiple times.

But the spring international break came at exactly the right time. Rejuvenated from a rest, the team came back from the break to guts out a 3-2 win against Swansea before two comprehensive victories over the Easter weekend combined with a slip-up by rivals Cardiff saw us creep back in to sixth. But our last three games included champions-elect Burnley, and then Cardiff themselves in the penultimate match. A 90th minute penalty against Burnley earned us a creditable draw, and so it all came down to the Cardiff game. Win and we’d guarantee a playoff spot. A draw would keep it in our hands going in to the last day. A loss and Cardiff would leapfrog us again. I needn’t have worried. In our best performance of the season we dominated from start to finish and won 3-0 in the Welsh capital. The Bucks were going back to the playoffs again, finishing on 77 points after a final day draw with Brentford in which we handed debuts to several young prospects. Remarkably it was the fourth season in the previous five in which we’d finished 6th in our division!

So our old friend the playoffs loomed. Once again we were clearly the underdogs when compared to Crystal Palace (our first round opponents), Birmingham and Villa. But we were the form side, and a strong 2-0 first leg victory over Palace at the Silverlands gave me belief that we could actually do it. I shouldn’t have dared to dream. The second leg was a disaster. I juggled my loanees to bring in both Markscheffel and Smith-Barmby and shore up the defence at the expense of a forward. It proved to be a mistake. We created not a single attacking highlight all game, and even with our best centre-back pairing on the field, we couldn’t withstand constant Palace pressure, especially with Ryan Corrigan suspended at the worst possible moment. We lost 3-0 and were lucky it wasn’t more. A really limp way to end a good season.


Were disappointing. Playing a rotated squad, we lost to Paul Glatzel’s Exeter in the second round of the Carabao Cup – ouch. In the FA Cup we drew Premier League Sheffield United, and earned a creditable draw at home thanks to a goal from top scorer Ethan Fenlon. We then lost the replay 1-0 in extra time, in a dull game the BBC must have really regretted deciding to televise! Such is the bizarre nature of board expectations that the board were more annoyed by this defeat to a Premier League team (because we didn’t reach the fourth round as per our objective) than the one against League One Exeter (because we did reach our second round goal). Go figure.


Are in the black (and even more so than the screenshot shows as this was before we received another £4.2m in solidarity payments) but wouldn’t be without the £12m of player sales. Our wage budget is 20th in the Championship but can’t realistically rise much higher until we get in to the new stadium – which has now progressed to the planning permission stage. 

Looking Ahead

There’s really only two ways forward: wait for that stadium, or luck a promotion in the meantime on the back of outstanding loanees and then wallow in the Premier League money, even if we come straight back down first time around and have to use the parachute payments to rebuild.

So coming up is another summer in which we try to sign two or three quality players on frees, whilst filling out the squad with talented loanees and grabbing talented youth rejects from Premier League clubs to develop and sell for a profit. We start from a reasonable position this time around though. Of the starters we own, only Rossiter – whose physicals have now gone completely post injury – absolutely needs replacing. And with Jones and Warrington have already confirmed loan extensions for another season we basically have four starting spots (2x CB, DM, AML) to fill. Three of those can be loanees if needed (although probably not Markscheffel who Arsenal say they want to start integrating in to their first team). So I’m in a reasonably flexible position to sign the best players willing to join me almost regardless of position rather than constantly scrambling to fill gaps.

Our first target may well end up being one Derek Robson, who is coming to the end of his Liverpool contract. Although injury prone, on his day he can be a complete game-changer and if released I’m hoping my good relationship with him means he can be tempted to the Silverlands permanently. I also have my eye on a young DM not getting a look in at Man City and an English midfielder who has been in Serie A for four seasons. Doubtless others will crop up as the summer goes on. Equally doubtlessly I will be outbid on most. Patience remains the name of the game for the time being.


Career Summary


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  • 5 months later...

Started this challenge with Biggleswade Town but got sacked 1 round before the end of season as we got relegated. It was struggle from the beggining, half of the first team were gray players so I had to bring over a lot of players and the wage budget was small. Beside my incompetence in managing the final nails in coffin were couple of defeats against other teams that were fighting to avoid relegation.

Not sure should I restart or try to take over one of the teams that will promote in two months?

Edited by Zed McJack2
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I got myself the job at Gosport freshly promoted to Vanarama South.

There is only 8 players in first team and 4 in under18 and except goalkeeper's coach no staff, so I have to bring a lot of men.

On the other hand comparing to Biggleswade Town's wage budget of 4.5k at Gosport I have 8k so it should be easier a bit.


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After about quarter of league games here is first update.

Its harder than I though and we struggle. We won just one league game and succeeded to make it 3rd round of FA cup with a lot of pain and replay game against Non league club. With 7 loses we sit near the bottom of the table after 11 games.



We brought 6 players 3 on loan 3 on free but we are still lacking at some positions and when someone is injured or cant play I have to put youngster or player that is awkward at that position. 

If you remove green players that are on trial you can see that I am weak at GK, DL, DR, ML and MR some of these trialist will probably improve squad a bit but I guess we will need some more players.



I hope we will get better results as half season approach. Ill update than.

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Gainsborough Trinity - L1

So, I'm back with the challenge that refuses to die!

I hit the ground running in League 1 with 9 straight wins but then life took over and I had a huge break from the game..

When I got back, I forgot how to play and the wheels fell off the campaign a bit.  Since then I picked up a few wins and with 3 games to go I was in second, 3 points ahead of 3rd placed Gillingham.  All I  had to do was get 2 wins as my goal difference was the best in the league by some margin and I would be promoted.

As usual my team completely bottled those last 3 games and gained... zero points!  Seriously I am not sure if there is something wrong with them but they (or maybe me) can't stand the pressure.

Thankfully Peterborough also bottled their run in with just 2 points from the last 3 games so we limped over the line in second.

No heroics in the cups that mattered as we were dumped out of the FA cup by Cheltenham.  We did get to the final of the Leasing.com trophy however but were beaten soundly by the Crystal Palace reserves.  That does not bode well for the Championship next season.


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A quick spoiler from this season.  I was not able to recruit nearly enough quality.  I am guessing my reputation has not been able to keep up with my rise through the divisions.

After 12 matches I have 5 points (all draws) and am rock bottom of the table.  Looks like I will get another chance at the coveted Leasing.com trophy next season.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Gainsborough Trinity - L1


So, this season was a pretty demoralising slog.  We broke a few records – number of games without a win and worst discipline for the Championship… ever!  I think my players considered nearly every game a “big” game which meant many red and yellow cards.

In all, at the start of the season we went 12 matches without a win, picking up 5 points and were rock bottom of the table.  The league form was terrible but probably the lowest point was an absolute humiliation in the Cabarao Cup against premiership Wolves.  We were thumped 5-0 but it could have been nearly double that.  We really were terrible.

The morale was terrible and I couldn’t see a way out.  Thankfully there was an extended international break so I arranged two friendlies against some local non-league sides.  The victories were a foregone conclusion but they still had a great effect on morale.  We started playing slightly better.  Our first win came against Luton in mid-October.  This did not really kick-start the season though and by the opening of the transfer window we were still bottom of the table.

The problem was we did not strengthen nearly enough over the summer.  I did not quite realise the gulf in quality between League One and the Championship as up to now we had found things kind of easy.  I was too worried about breaking my wage budget.  I changed this mindset over the Christmas transfer window.  Still no players wanted to join as a transfer but there were some potential loan signings.  I had my scouts give a team report of all of the Premier and Serie A sides and managed to lure a decent central defender, striker, right back and left winger to my team.  Their wages were huge compared to the rest but I figured they were only loans and if we didn’t make it, I wouldn’t have their wages on the books.

Slowly we started to pick up a few wins and draws.  We were lucky in that the teams around us were also pretty terrible.  Eventually we managed to haul ourselves out of the relegation zone and with four games to go we were about eight points clear of the relegation zone and only Middlesbrough could catch us.

Unfortunately we then suffered a devastating loss of form and got a big fat zero points from the last four games.  It seemed the team were really trying to throw away all the hard work.  Thankfully, although they fared better than us, Middlesbrough were unable to make up the deficit and we were safe with one match to spare.

Honestly this was a complete slog and not something I want to repeat!  If it wasn’t for those loan signings, who were Championship quality, we would be down for sure.



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