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[FM20] From Sheffield to South Africa


Rumple43
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NAVIGATION

My career has taken a few twists and turns since it began with Sheffield Wednesday in 2019/20.

  • To view the start of my Sheffield Wednesday career, read on, it starts in the post below!
  • To view the start of my career with Ajax Cape Town in South Africa in 2025/26, CLICK HERE.
  • For a recap of my seasons to date, including league positions and anything I've won, CLICK HERE.

Most of all, thanks for popping in and checking my thread. It really is awesome of you and I massively appreciate it!

 

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Becoming the pride of (50% of) Sheffield - A Sheffield Wednesday (and probably other places) career

Things are tough at Hillsborough. In the last 20 or so years, the club have dropped out of the Premiership (they were a founding member of the league in 92/93), pottered around the Championship, been down to League 1 twice, and fortunately, bounced back up to the Championship again (twice).

But all that was mostly fine. On the other half of the city, bitter rivals Sheffield United were providing an element of comedic relief. A trip to Wembley and being within a whisker of promotion to the Prem before a 1-0 loss to Burnley was great in the early 2010's! As were the six seasons spent in League 1 shortly after that. You don't mind your own shortcomings quite so much when you have a reminder close by that things could always be worse.

Then it changed. And United got their act together. Wednesday tried to follow suit, and failed. A lost playoff final against Hull in 15/16 was followed by playoff woe once again the following year. United were rising through the divisions, finally booking their place back in the top flight for 2019/20.

Wednesday had gone for broke, and gambling it all to reach the promised land had resulted in some bloated contracts, an ageing squad, and a club teetering against the harsh realities of the dreaded Financial Fair Play.

So here we are. A team in decline. A chairman who pushed the club right to the door of the Premier League, only to have it slammed in his face. A cross-city rival that has shrugged off the shackles and forged ahead. The fans want success the club might not be able to deliver, and the financial backdrop doesn't really bear thinking about.

Great place to start a new game I reckon! 

Background

I picked up FM20 a few weeks ago after a lengthy FM19 career that saw me reach 2040, 3rd place on the all-time manager leader board (Pep was uncatchable!) and plenty of success before slowly losing interest. FM20 dropped to £20, and lock down in place, I pulled the trigger.

Sadly, I'm a Wednesday fan. Always have been, in my mid 30's now. I remember when the Owls won the League Cup back 90/91, with that team making up the bulk of my footballing heroes growing up. As documented above, it's been a slow descent since in recent years, and when I have picked up FM in the past (I've played a few versions here and there before 19), I've pretty much never managed Wednesday. Now they're in fairly dire straights, I figured it might be time.

I'm a writer by trade, that's what I do and posts will be fairly whimsical, somewhat casual, and more than likely blunt in places. I'm also a grumpy northern type, so there will no doubt be comments to the effect of "not like when I wa' a lad" and "honestly, youth of today" before we progress very far at all.

Full disclosure, I will be playing ahead of the stuff I post. I am already at the end of season 1, and there's a few reasons for this. For one, it's good to get ahead in the game before you write to make sure you focus on the right things. Like having a great end to a book but then not knowing how you're going to get the story there. It all needs to have some flow, otherwise it's a naff read. Equally, there needs to be some foreshadowing to tell a good tale. If something good happens, what took place in the build up that made it so enjoyable? As I say, I like to write, and it's what I do. I also enjoy wasting my time on FM, so this feels a good mix.

Aims & Objectives

The general aim is to stop the club's decline. A long term goal would be to become the #1 team in both Sheffield and Yorkshire, going past United and Leeds on the way to fame and glory! But for now, I'll just be happy to keep the club afloat and not get canned within the first six months.

Play Style & Set Up

Again, nothing of particular note. I'll be using the official 20.4.0 database update, so it's a little different to the one that the game ships with, and starting in early pre-season.

I don't use any kind of intel from online/forums/shortlists about top bargains/wonder kids and all that. If my scouts or analysts don't find someone, I won't be seeing them and they won't get signed. Of course I'll keep my own eyes open, players may come across my radar through news or their performances, but I like to think things will be fairly organic.

In relation to that, I can't see many players flying in and out of the club. Probably because finances won't allow it, but also because things can veer off into being a bit unrealistic if they do. In the last 25 years, Wednesday have had one player from Brazil and two from Argentina. To suddenly get an influx of South American wonder kids doesn't feel all that genuine.

I also like to use my staff as they should be used. A Director of Football will negotiate things for me. A Technical Director will look after my staff and their training needs. My assistant will be a big help on the training pitch. It wouldn't happen in real life to hire these people and have them sat doing nothing. If I hire them, it'll be so they can do their jobs.

And finally, I am going to post an update every two months of in-game time, so six updates will cover a season.

For each update, there will be five points. Five areas. Five things of note that have happened. That's it. You may get a bonus from time to time if I'm feeling generous, but that'll be the format I'm taking.

I think if I cover every detail of what is happening, it gets so bogged down people will be bored. I will also probably get bored. Too thin on info and there's no investment when reading. I'll probably whack some gifs into things, get some screen shots, a few highlights to break things up, but posts should be a fairly easy read that people are happy to dip in and out of.

So here we go. I'll put an intro post together now, and I look forward to any interaction that people have. I really enjoy knowing people are reading and following along, so don't be shy jumping in if you want to chat. I'll give each of my posts a header image, so you can see which posts are "write ups" and what is regular chat (if there is any haha!).

Cheers guys, fingers crossed!

Edited by Rumple43
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Below is a recap of my completed season's to date, should anyone wish to browse over them.

Spoiler

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Where to get started then? After we do the usual hand shaking and introductions, it's time to get down to business.

The Manager

This is me. Perhaps not much to look at, but hopefully a shining beacon of managerial mastery!

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I'll probably be more of a press type guy rather than Tiki-Taka, and in truth I'll probably go for a 4-1-2-2-1 formation. My stats are ploughed into being a 5 star attack/possession coach (gives me more flex to find coaches), with key mental stats (Determination, Discipline, Motivation) all maxed out. I'm a former pro (if playing a bit at school counts), and I have my Continental Pro badge (recommended for the level of the club, apparently). After watching some of the performances Chris Turner's Wednesday side used to put out in the early 2000s, I'm surprised having a coaching badge was a prerequisite to manager the Owls in honesty.

The Facilities

We'll start at the top and work our way down. We need to take a look at the bricks and mortar before we both browsing for furniture. If the foundations are shaky, it doesn't matter what we put inside.

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Meh. It could be worse. The ground is a great size (though we won't fill it), and I've spent many a rainy Tuesday night sat on the Kop as some 2nd rate  side plays us off the park so can confirm that the bar/concourse/pie standards are up to scratch. Hillsborough is in "good" condition, has under soil heating, and the pitch is still sound. Good job, with all that beautiful expansive football I'll be playing......

Everywhere else, I'm seeing a lot of "adequate", which I think sums the club up very well. Great analysis facilities, so I'll have plenty of info on how adequate everything is, but like pretty much everything at S6, the facilities need investment.

With what I'm being given to work with, I'm sure the fairly sub-standard offering will be matched by some realistic aims for the coming seasons.

Board Expectations and Vision

Incorrect.

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Well, this is just a bit of a mess. Let's break it down.

  • This isn't a very good team. They have reasonable but not great players, and recruitment in the last few years has been somewhat off the mark. Only two players (Barry Bannan and Dominic Iorfa) are on the division's "Key Players" list, and I'll talk more about the Bannan Cannon shortly.
  • The media has us pegged for 11th in their pre-season predictions. This doesn't fill me with faith.
  • The playing squad combined with the overambitious expectations don't really lend themselves to "attacking" and "entertaining" football. It's smash and grab stuff. Hardly likely to fill fortress Hillsborough with punters, but points mean prizes. Feels like I'll play open attacking football and lose, or try to win playing tight and annoy the board......

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  • By the end of next season, I'll be in the Prem. Easy as that. Transformation complete! 

After the positivity surrounding the club's infrastructure, and the slightly OTT board aims for the club, let's take a look at the war chest of financial clout I'm being given to achieve such heady goals with! Here's the exciting bit!!

Finances - Transfer & Wage Budget

The club's finances are deemed "okay". That may be generous.

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£6.4m in the bank. Zero of which I can spent. I can only retain 50% of what I make. And I've got £2k left in the wage budget and nothing in terms of flex to move between budgets.

This isn't going well.

Players

Finally, let's look for good news on the pitch. We don't need a deep dive, but let's see what weapons we have. As we're looking semi-long term and working with zero cash, we'll sort by potential to see if any unfortunate soul has the sort of future that means they'll be sticking around at Hillsborough long term.....

As an aside, and more a precautionary tale, I don't currently have an assistant manager. There isn't one to start the game. I assume the star ratings on display are provided by current Head of Youth Development and former Wednesday utility man Steve Haslam (played over 140 games, scored just 1 goal, and after six years was released and went to Halifax. So he was either playing above his level, or suffered an awfully sharp decline at the prime age of 25??). Either way, Haslam has a 12 for judging CA, and a 14 for judging PA. As much as I may want to get excited about some of the ratings below, I probably shouldn't.

Goalkeepers

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Well, that isn't a terrible start. There's a clear number 1 in Dawson, a solid number 2 in Wildsmith (though he is injured for 6/7 months with torn knee ligaments) and then Westwood. The Irish stopper probably serves a purpose for now with Wildsmith out, but at £30k p/w, his days will be numbered. No choice but to bring that wage structure down and see what we can do with the extra wiggle room.

Defenders

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More here to get excited about! Iorfa should be a solid first choice defender. He's preferred as a D(R), but he's not attacking enough for my liking (I'm a wing-backs/overlap/get crosses into the box kind of guy) and he's shaping up a lot more like a ball playing D(C). Frustratingly, two potentially solid contributors in Matt Penny and Joost Van Aken are on season long loans and can't be brought back. This is further compounded by potential captain material in Tom Lees being out four to five months with a torn hamstring.

Still, Urhoghide, Rice and Odubajo offer solid hope for the future, as does Jack Lee.

A back line of Fox/Palmer - Borner - Iorfa - Palmer/Odubajo looks likely, with youth rotating in. Bit thin at D(C) though (Hutchinson could do a BPD job), and not liking the look of Bates on loan.

Midfielders

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Highly likely that Hutchinson (captain material) and Pelupessy (very much not captain material) will battle for the DM(C) spot, as the only real options I have. Hutchinson is mega injury prone though, so I don't like the cover there.

Luongo looks nailed on as one of the two starting CMs, and Barry Bannan (Out 4-8 weeks with a tight calf) should probably be the other. His set piece prowess should also be of use. Kieran Lee is another highly injury prone option, I'll wait for the wheels to fall off for him as it's 100% coming before Christmas.

That's about it though. Prospect Liam Shaw may be pressed into action with Bannan out, or I'll see what I can do on the loan market (should I be able to free up the cash), and it seems inevitable at some point that whichever player out of Hutchinson and Pelupessy isn't playing DM(C) ends up in midfield at some stage.

Wingers

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This is the strength of the team, making the use of an AM(R) and AM(L) essential.

With Reach and Harris at the club, plus Da Cruz and Murphy both in on loan, and Forestieri capable of playing AM(L), there's a lot of solid options to choose from. With Reach having a solid left foot, there's also the potential for Inside Forwards/Inverted Wingers as well.

Conor Grant needs to learn to be an AM(L) rather than a M(L), but that's easily done. Preston and Hidalgo also appear to have potential.

Strikers

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It's like someone has been managing Wednesday like they're Real Madrid. What do we need? More strikers! Expensive strikers! That's the answer!!

Rather than balance things up with say, a left back, or a centre mid, we're going with Fletcher (£30k p/w), Forestieri (£25k p/w), Winnall (£16k p/w), and Rhodes (£35k p/w!!!!). Chuck in Connor Wickham on £30k a week from Palace on loan. Oh, and man mountain Atdhe Nuhiu as well.

Josh Windass serves no purpose to me as an AM(C) as I can't see me deploying one. He'll be off back to Wigan as soon as possible, so that's a saving at least.

There's options here, of course, but there's an awful lot of dead wood as well. If I'm going to raise any funds, it's probably going to come from the strikers. Winnall, Nuhiu, and if I'm really lucky given his bonkers wages, Rhodes, all seem the most likely candidates.

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This isn't a great squad, it doesn't have top six players at a number of positions, it lacks depth, and most alarmingly, at £477k p/w, Wednesday's wage budget is the 5th highest in the Championship. So. Much. Money. Spent really poorly.

Time to get to work!

Edited by Rumple43
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Thanks guys, should be a fun ride.

No idea why I’ve always stayed away from managing the club I support, I usually start unemployed and see where I end up. 

On 19, I started unemployed and go my first job turning round a floundering Stoke, then went to England, Liverpool, Italy, Celtic and finishing with Leipzig. Lots of variety, but time to bite the bullet and try to fix the Owls!

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So, it’s time to get down to business. After being somewhat underwhelmed by the off pitch side of the club, and taking into account the Board’s slightly over ambitious aims, I’m ready to start clicking the continue button a few times. Let’s dive into our five points for July and August 2019, taking us past the close of the transfer window and into the season proper.

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Transfers Out

Before anything could happen, we needed some sales. However, throughout the window, it felt a bit like I’m running a stall at a car boot sale. You want to sell stuff you no longer want or need, people are shuffling along having a browse, but ultimately both you and the potential buyer know that what you’ve got is tat. Nobody is finding a bargain, and my ability to leverage a good deal is becoming increasingly unlikely with each passing day.

My sum outgoing for the window end up as follows:

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A number of players went out on loan for development opportunities. Jones was 4th choice GK so of no real importance.

The only transfers of note were Sam Winnall to QPR and Nuhiu to Charlton, both for a cut-price £1m fee. Still, this did free up some wages and at least put something into the pot to work with.

In terms of failures, I couldn’t shift Rhodes. The best I managed was a loan offer from Birmingham where I still paid 100% of his wages. Unsurprisingly, I passed on that one. I also tried to move Westwood but couldn’t get any takers as he’d only just signed a new contract before the game began. So they’re both staying put until at least January.

It doesn’t show up on the graphic, but I also sent Josh Windass back to Wigan (as covered in my intro post) and Jacob Murphy was perhaps the hardest decision to make. Paying £15k of his £25k p/w wages, he featured in a few early season games for me before coming down with Shin Splits. Expected to be out for around 2 months, I didn’t want his wages on my hands and with capable replacements waiting in the wings (har har har), so I terminated his loan deal as well and sent him back to Newcastle.

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Transfers In

Like a young kid with pocket money burning a hole in my, well, pocket, what world beaters could I now bring in to take me to the promised land?

Not a lot. Here’s what I settled on:

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The process of properly scouting players seems longer in FM20 compared to 19. I also don’t have many scouts, and the whole thing was somewhat delayed anyway (covered in point #3). So not just wanting to take a punt on any old pro, I made the three well-reasoned acquisitions above via the loan market.

Lansbury was needed to add depth to M(C) as I await the impending implosion to Kieron Lee’s knees/back/hips, and whilst Barry Bannan returns from his injury. The same went for Baker from Chelsea. He has 16 for corner taking, 15 for free kicks and 17 for pens, which I am quite sure will come in handy throughout the season. Simpson has BPD potential and should do well, he has the quality to be a starter/depth option.

I would have liked a LB, but that was about the best I was going to manage. I’m still lacking star power as well, though there isn’t a lot of that just lying around on the loan market.

I did find a 4 star M(C) for free that I brought in on a trial and then got excited about when he wanted to join me. Michael Krohn-Dehli, last played in Spain for Deportivo, and a decent 1-season flyer at 36 years old. He wanted £4.5k p/w. I offered £6.5 p/w in case anyone tried to jump me for him. In the end he went and signed in Saudi Arabia on a 1-year, £21k p/w deal. Still, the dream was nice while it lasted.

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Staffing

It was never going to last for the chaps already working at S6. Nothing personal lads (and a few women), but you’re just not very good. The money from player sales also helped in the revamp, with about 75% of the new staff coming in on a free and the other 25% needing a bit of compensation from their previous employers.

All in all, 33 staff left the club and were replaced. Some walked into already empty positions, such as new Director of Football Ged Roddy (14 judging CA, 17 judging PA) whilst others joined in the wake of departures, like old Head of Youth Development Steve Haslam being shown the door for Dean Melanson (15 for judging CA and PA, 20 for working with youngsters).

All the hires improved the club and some should be able to stick for three/four/five years even if I progress up through the leagues. Some have a more limited appeal and could go within one or two years, but all of them were an upgrade.

U23 and U18 staff also got the same treatment as did the medical and recruitment sides. The only issue was that recruiting new scouts slowed down my ability to look for potential new players. That’s just something I’ll have to live with, but all my recruitment team have a better eye for talent than their predecessors.

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Early Season Results

Pre-Season went well, with six wins and a draw against a variety of teams (mainly Dutch). I was finally ready for the big curtain raiser at away to Reading!

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It didn’t go to plan. It was a fairly even game, all told. They were perhaps the more threatening, but a pen out of nowhere early in the 2nd half changed things. A goal proved elusive, but at least we didn’t get battered.

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Things picked up. My defensive mindset was no doubt irking the Board, but aside from the QPR away day, we were tighter than a Yorkshireman’s purse strings. Beating Barnsley was of course a big deal, and the grind it out wins at Preston and Millwall were also important.

I’m unsure what happened in London to end the month, but it could be that QPR end up being solid by the end of the year. They were certainly better than us. At least Winnall didn’t score one of them, that would have annoyed me even more.

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The Magic of the Cup (Part 1)

Ah, cup football. The romantic notion of David v Goliath, the underdog, the Cinderella story. If we ended up struggling in the league, perhaps one of the cups would provide a welcome distraction. Who knows, one or both could end up being a decent money spinner and we all know the coffers could use that!

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Oh come on boys! Yes, I rotated, but I still had a good team out. We had plenty of chances, 15 shots, 8 on target, for 1 goal. The longer it stayed at 1-0, the worse I started to feel, and then yeah, that was that.

It was the sort of game where sat in the dressing room after the game you want a feedback button for “that’s why you’re all second choice, and why you won’t get many chances this season if I can help it.”

Overall, the less said, the better. I was going to focus on the league anyway.

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Belting Goal Bonus - Kadeem Harris

I couldn’t end this update without including the winner against Preston from Kadeem Harris. A worthy way to settle any game, it was an absolute beauty. Enjoy this one as a signing off gift. Oh, and it didn’t even make the top 3 for goals in August!

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Let’s hope the league form continues into September!

Edited by Rumple43
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Despite this being the wrong side of the city, really enjoyed the in-depth review. £1M for Nuhiu is borderline daylight robbery! 

 

Hoping it may take you as long as 2040 this time to eclipse the Blades!

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40 minutes ago, Greeny96 said:

Despite this being the wrong side of the city, really enjoyed the in-depth review. £1M for Nuhiu is borderline daylight robbery! 

 

Hoping it may take you as long as 2040 this time to eclipse the Blades!

I don’t know what you mean. It should only take a season or two :lol:

Only kidding, but really appreciate the post.

As for Nuhiu, it was mostly circumstance. My formation only has 1 striker and he’s about 5th in the pecking order. I needed the cash, and the rest is history. 

Same for Winnall, to an extent. He was unlikely to get much game time so off he went for whatever I could get. 

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So things appear to be going reasonably well, and I’m as surprised as anyone. We aren’t the whipping boys we could have been, and the first six games of the season produced some decent results. With the transfer window slamming shut, what we don’t have now will have to wait until January.

Could the momentum be continued? Let’s take a gander at what happened in September and October.

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What Goes Up….

We bounced back well from the QPR defeat, posting a solid 3-1 win over a struggling Huddersfield side before following it up with a narrow 1-0 victory over 2nd place Fulham.

Then the wheels fell off.

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It was inevitable really. The Boro game was eerily similar to the QPR game, same score line, same limp away performance. I smashed Hull and couldn’t get a goal. I hammered Wigan and couldn’t come out on top. Same story with Cardiff and Stoke in honesty. It was all highly frustrating.

The team has the cutting edge of a plastic spoon. I wanted razor sharp precision! It was proving to be elusive.

Over and over it would repeat, struggling to make chances count and squandering good performances. I’d say my formation wasn’t attacking enough (we were set up to not get beat, rather than to beat teams) but we were still creating plenty of chances. Like a cross-eyed fisherman, no matter what we tried, nothing ever ended up in the net.

We dropped like a stone to 9th, and next up were Leeds to end October.

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Leeds

YEEEEAAAAAAHHHH! This was a good one and completely unexpected. We couldn’t buy a win and they were in 2nd at the time. This was great for the fans.

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In truth we were probably the better team. An early goal helped, as did repeatedly kicking them to the tune of 21 fouls and seven yellow cards. The late goal made for a nervous last five minutes, but the boys hung on for a valuable win. In the end both teams got fined for the lack of discipline, which I thought was grand!

I managed to give Isaac Rice a sub appearances to continue his development. He’s not featured a ton but with all the injuries I’ve had (more on that shortly), I’ve managed to keep him in and around the first team.

The win lifted us up to 7th. We’re back in touching distance of the playoffs and all is well in the world again.

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Progress so Far

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All in all, things are alright. Far better than I thought at the beginning of the season, and if you’d offered me 7th place after 14 games, I’d have snapped your hand off pre-season.

  • Brentford, Leeds and QPR have formed a tight trio at the top, in that order (which gives some context to the 1-3 away defeat against QPR, and highlights how good the Leeds win was).
  • Behind them are Reading in 4th (more context following our opening game loss), Fulham in 5th (who I’ve already beaten) and Forest in 6th (Lewis Grabban is on fire, killing the top scorer charts)
  • Charlton and Barnsley look destined for League One (No tears shed at S6 over that one!)
  • I’m top of the division for both fouls and yellow cards. I’m fine with that. We don’t have a lot of quality so it probably helps to be aggressive.

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Good job the Physio doesn’t get Paid Overtime

I accept that injuries happen. I don’t really know what an “average” number of injuries should be. But I do feel that I’ve had an awful lot of them so far. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a lot of depth, so the loss of a first team player is felt that little bit more. I’m not sure, but it has been tough to navigate at times.

Here’s a list of every moderate and major injury between the start of the season and the end of October. I’ve not included minor injuries, but considering those can still last for around a week, that could be two games missed, maybe even three:

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Lees, Wildsmith, Palmer and Bannan all started the game with their injuries, just to be clear.

Hutchinson has suffered two major injuries now, and Pelupessy has also been out. That’s left me pretty short at DM(C), which hasn’t been good. Bannan has been drafted in back there a number of times and considering he’s the size of a 14 year old (5’7”, 9st 6lbs), that’s not ideal in the Championship.

Morgan Fox has also been out twice, the first of which was two days after the transfer window shut and I hadn’t been able to find a suitable left back for depth. I’ll not lie, I uttered a few choice words when that news popped up.

As predicted, Kieran Lee has fallen over. I knew it was coming sadly. He’d done very little apart from score our goal in the Bradford League Cup loss (and missed a pen in the shootout) that shall not be mentioned again. His contract is also up at the end of the season, so he’ll be gone. The takeaway here is that I’ve been short at M(C) as well.

It's worth noting that I do add extra sessions into my weekly training set up. Whilst the calendar looks pretty full at first glance, I try to ensure the overall load each day stays relatively low. I only add in things like shadow play, ball retention, chance conversion, set pieces, team bonding and community work. They all have a pretty low impact, it’s not like I’m chucking sprint sessions all the time. Still, all but three of the injuries listed have occurred on the training pitch.

It’s something I’ll keep an eye on going forward.

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With so Many Players Out, It’d be Nice to Get Some In

I have some scouts. They’re not great but they’re something at least. My board will let me have four scouts and a Chief Scout. One is looking for talent in England, one is in Scotland, one in Spain. My Chief Scout is French, so it made sent to send him out there, and the last one watches my next opponent.

I only tell my scouts to recommend players that have 3.5 PA or better, just to narrow things down. I’d say of the guys that my scouts bring back for me, 99% of them fall into one of two categories:

  1. They cost way more money than I have.
  2. They’re 16, won’t be of use to me for another two/three/four years minimum, my scout has 10% knowledge of the player and also reckons they have 5 star potential.

Turns out every time I send said scout away to get 100% knowledge of the next Ronaldo that they’ve unearthed, they’ve fairly average and it was mostly wasted time. As for point 1, I’m unsure how to remedy that apart from to search for loose change down the back of the SWFC sofa or to find a team stupid enough to take Jordan Rhodes off my hands (Ha!).

So, imagine my surprise when my scouts recommended someone that might be of actual use and wouldn’t cost a small fortune.

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Here he is, Noah Jean Holm. At first glance, he appears to tick a lot of boxes for me.

He’s 18, but still of a quality to fit into my first team, and he “should” get better over the coming years. Tick!

He’s worth about £100k, and can be had for between £800k and £1.5m. If I can shift someone in January, and with money left over from the sale of Winnall and Nuhiu back in August, this could also be a tick!

He comes from a top academy (back in the day, this used to be a Spanish side, usually Barca, who just seemed to churn out ridiculous players for fun). Leipzig seem like a new kid on the block, so this can be a tick as well!

He’s scored 18 goals in 19 games for the U19s this season. Tick!

He plays as a target man, is 6’1”, so even at 18 he should have enough about him to stand up to the Championship. Tick!

It feels rare that the stars are going to align for me this season to get excited about a good player that I might be able to sign, so I may as well jump into this one with both feet.

He’s going to be the saviour. He’s going to get me to the Premier League. I’ve just found the next Messi.

There, that should do it.

Edited by Rumple43
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Thanks @karanhsingh!

Ill not lie, I’ve never heard of him IRL :D

But from what my scouts have said, and looking at his attributes, he could be a tidy little prospect. And also, in my price bracket! That’s the most surprising thing!

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14 games in, we closed October with a big win over rivals Leeds United and grabbed 7th spot in the table. As we head through the gruelling stretch of cold, wintery games that make up November and December, how will our patchwork side fare?

It’s been a fun ride so far, and most importantly, not so unbelievably bleak that I want to turn it off after every crushing defeat. In fact, I’m even becoming slightly optimistic.

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 The Board See Sense, But I'm Not Sure Why

Here’s one of the more curious things to happen, and I don’t know exactly when it happened as I either missed the news update or the Board just did it and didn’t bother to tell me. I can just imagine the phone conversation now:

Chairman: “Just to let you know, we’re changing our league expectations for the season.”

Me: “I mean, I can understand why. You wanted the playoffs, I’ve got the team over performing. With some good results and a bit of investment, I reckon we could make a run at the automatic promotion places if that’s what you want.”

Chairman: “No, we only want a mid-table finish now.”

Me: “Eh?”

So, there we are. The Board have moved the goal posts. In my favour, I should add, but it’s still a bit of a strange one. I was meeting their expectations for potential playoff football, only to be told they now don’t want it and will happily settle for a slide down the table should we be so inclined. It gives me some breathing room from the potential of being sat in the job centre, but yes, I don’t know what to make of that one.

Thanks, I guess?

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The Elephant in the Room....That We Can't Afford

A live look in on my Chairman, browsing over how the finances are shaping up:

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Eeeeeesh. So, we did have £6.4m sat in the bank when we booted this game up, but things are grim.

Despite the board wanting me to merely “work within the wage budget”, I feel I’ve been much more accommodating than that and where possible, have tried to slash dead wood, trim out bad contracts and save money at every turn. Getting rid of Jacob Murphy was a good example, choosing to retain his £15k p/w rather than having him sat out for a few months, even if I could have kept him until January or the end of the season.

It hasn’t done much good. We’re losing about £2m a month, so go figure. The club is already about £80m in debt from various loans, so maybe we’ll get another? We’re 2nd in the division for attendance behind Leeds, and that still isn’t enough to make a profit. Far from it, in fact.

My history of finance in FM is pretty much that you start the season with X amount in the bank, slowly bleed cash throughout the season as you buy players and lose money, fall into the red, then come the end of the season, prize money and TV money top the finances back up and off you go again. So I’m not mega concerned, but it doesn’t look like I’ll have much to work with in January.

Best put the man crush for Noah Jean Holm on the back burner as well.

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Eee Aye Eee Aye Eee Aye Oh

It’s happening. Like, actually happening. We’re…..good?

November and December are kind. Santa has come early. Swansea feel my wrath with a 5-0 slapping, and we’re the form team in the division through November.

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A draw against West Brom away, happy with that. Brentford are still top. Forest are also in the playoffs. Everyone else got what was coming to them.

I don’t really know how it happened. Adam Reach was in great form. He has been wildly inconsistent, up and down like a tart’s pants for the most part, but for once he’s strung some quality together and won himself the November Player of the Month award with five appearances, four goals and a 7.52 average rating.

If he could maintain that I’d win the league at a canter!

Tactically, we’d come out of our shell. I had been rocking 2 variants of the same formation all season. The first was my more reserved version, for playing away or against tough teams, and was deployed for a lot of the early going:

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The roles were mostly set to support, the full backs weren’t as adventurous. Some things (the CD/BPD combo, the BBM/AP combo, the striker as an AF) remained regardless. It was a high tempo pressing set up that relied on fast breaks forward and great player fitness to continue the press across the pitch.

Some player roles changed as required. Kadeem Harris played "better" as a winger when he was AM(R). I use quotation marks there as "better" for him is a 6.6 rather than a 6.4. Sam Hutchinson was a great Ball Winning DM(C), but when Barry Bannan filled in, he was a better Deep Lying Playmaker. Still, the ethos and shape of the formation stayed the same.

As things improved, the set up evolved to become more aggressive:

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I felt we needed more going forward. We weren’t the smash and grab team I thought we might need to be. I haven’t truly settled on the IF/IW debate for my wide players, and with the inconsistency of Reach and Kadeem Harris (wonder goal against Preston aside), I couldn’t really settle on something that truly clicked.

Still, whatever was happening was getting me the goods, so let’s continue with it.

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First it Giveth….

Tom Lees is back. That a bonus as he’s captain material and a real leader (plus a top mentor as well). It also gives me more depth at centre half (Borner and Simpson/Iorfa may be better than him if we’re going on straight ability), though it does probably mean that Isaac Rice can depart on loan in January to continue his development elsewhere. His occasional sub appearances have been handy, but he needs something more regular.

Whilst I was buoyant about Lees, the footballing gods decided I needed a dose of balance in my life. On-loan striker Connor Wickham provided it, in the shape of torn knee ligaments that would keep him out for 3 months.

On the plus side, it happened on Boxing Day, so I only had to wait a few days before shipping his broken frame back to Palace and saving myself £30k p/w in the process. He’d done…..ok I guess (7 starts, 1 sub, 2 goals, 1 assist, 6.91). Still, he wasn’t exactly setting the division alight and if I wanted a highly overpaid striker to not really do much for me, I still had Jordan Rhodes.

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Happy New Year

We closed 2019 in 5th, and there was only a point separating Forest in 4th, me in 5th, Reading in 6th and West Brom in 7th.

QPR have built a 4 point gap in 3rd, and Leeds and Brentford were beginning to make the promotion places their own, with The Bees looking particularly strong.

The whole thing still had an air of disbelief about it. Maybe I’d talked the squad down too much pre-season? Maybe the wages had put me off seeing what some of these players could be? Maybe watching them in real life had blurred the lines between FM and reality?

Either way, it was all going surprisingly well.

See you in 2020!

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Thanks guys, very kind! It just seemed a logical way to do it. Not too much, not too little. And even though each piece tends to run to about 1200 words (Which sounds a lot on the face of things), the fact it's broken down probably makes it more readable.

Glad you're both enjoying things anyway, I'm certainly liking being able to share my game with people rather than just boring the odd one or two friends with what I've been up to!

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We’ve made it to January. Far from potential mid-table mediocrity or even the prospect of a bit of a bun fight down at the bottom, the Owls are proudly sat in 5th, defying pre-season predictions. With the transfer window open, it’ll also be interesting to see if we can engineer some player movement both in and out of the club.

Let’s take a dive into January and February and see how things panned out.

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The January Spending Spree

Spending spree is a bit of a stretch given our finances, but there was some business done in the January window. Firstly, let’s take a look at who left the club:

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The promising Osaze Urhoghide and Isaac Rice both left for first team football, as did a now fit again Joe Wildsmith. Playing regularly in the Championship should help the young shot stopper immensely.

Most importantly, Jordan Rhodes is also gone. I had to eat £15k p/w of his salary (until the end of this season) in order to do it, but that still clears up an extra £20k p/w.

The salary saving on Rhodes, plus sending the injured Connor Wickham back to Palace allowed me enough excess wages for a few moves the other way. Here’s what I managed to pull off before the window closed:

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In terms of spending money, I pulled off the first two permanent signings of my Wednesday career. It only took seven months!

Here's Holm, in Spoilers, should anyone wish to avoid such things.

Spoiler

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I had to wait until Deadline Day, but I managed to sign Holm (the saviour) for £1.2m. I’d imagine he’ll pass that price tag within his first month or two at the club and regardless of how he develops a profit should be made.

He has enough encouraging attributes in the right places to interest me, with room for growth. 14 determination is good but not great for his development, and he is touted as “the next John Carew”. Unsure if that’s a positive or not!

It’ll all be fine when he bangs 20 goals in between now and the end of the season. No pressure for the young lad.

Spoiler

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This guy was only picked up by my scouts in mid-January so I’m pleased I managed to get a proper look at him and still seal a deal before the end of the window. Again, took until Deadline day but at least it happened.

Bamba had fallen out of favour at FC Nantes and was looking to leave, and I needed a solution at AM(L). Kadeem Harris has continued to reward me whenever I pick him with a 6.5 maximum performance and absolutely zero production. Forestieri was still sulking about wanting a new contract that I couldn't afford to give him. Da Cruz was also hit and miss. It was hoped the young Frenchman would be able to solve that issue (Angel Gomes was loaned in from Man U to offer a further option down the left), but regardless, he’s already worth three times what I paid for him and with a resolute personality and 16 for determination, he has sure fire mentor potential as well.

Diskerud was a forgotten man at City, and he was happy to leave Manchester and hop the Pennines for some first team football, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah was a depth pick up. Able to play D(R), D(C), DM(C) and M(C) at a push, he seemed like a good answer for my constant injury woes.

Speaking of which….

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A Broken Record About Being Broken

It certainly isn’t getting any easier to put a good team out. Although the injury epidemic has clearly eased since its peak of 15 in August, if you look at the graphic below it tells the story:

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With my Physio expecting a rough total of 86 injuries by the end of the season, we’re already on 64 already by 21st January.

Again, it could be the way I train with extra sessions. It could be that Wednesday have a number of injury prone players (accurate for FM if true as it’s certainly true IRL), or maybe I’ve just been unlucky. Maybe it’s a combination of all three.

I’m hopeful the January reinforcements will be enough to cover the injuries I’ve been battling all season, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they end up crocked as well!

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The results in January and February were a real mixed bag:

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The wins were obviously good. It was great to get 2020 off to a flyer with the victory over Hull, though they were poor and we went back to our plastic spoon impression, with the failure to kill the game off nearly costing two points.

Doing the double over Barnsley for the season was a bonus, as was the 4-0 win against basement side Charlton. Nuhiu was starting, he did very little.

The draws with Wigan and Derby never should have been draws. I gave Derby a tanning and couldn’t win, and got battered by Wigan but hung on for a point. It was another questionable away performance in the North West, but all was even in the end.

The loss to Leeds wasn’t a surprise. They’re still 2nd and looking like they’ll join Brentford in the automatic spots come season’s end. The mid-February run was a killer. We just kept shipping goals. Couldn’t stop it, no matter what I did. I tried changing keeper, only for Westwood to let in three goals in the first 25 minutes away to Birmingham.

Fortunately the Charlton game allowed us to end the run, but the lack of production dropped us back down the table. Finishing with the Derby draw that should have been a win, February wasn’t a good month.

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Hold(ing) On

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As if instructed by the wailings of Liam Gallagher himself to “Hoooooowwwwwld Ooooooon”, we were doing just that. Just being the key word there.

Four points from a potential 15 to end February had seen the Owls slip, clinging on to 6th on goal difference. With Leeds and QPR both battling for 2nd behind clear leaders Brentford, they’d created a gap up to the automatics and playoff football was looking like the best we’d manage even if things did turn around.

West Brom had snuck into 4th, Reading in 5th, and then Forest and Fulham snapping at my heels in 7th and 8th. Four points separated all five teams, with just a single point to split 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th. It was a costly time to go cold, and if it continued, we’d likely be down in 8th or 9th in no time.

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The Magic of the Cup (Part 2)

So, the magic of the League Cup never materialised, but that’s for nobodies anyway! The real dream is the FA Cup, where heroes are made. Everyone remembers an FA Cup story, from Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang to Ronnie Radford in ’72.

With the finances continuing to take a nosedive, a nice little earner of a cup run was most certainly what the doctor ordered.

Then we drew Liverpool. At Anfield. This isn’t going to be pretty.

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I sent a reasonable team out. A bit of rotation, but I still hoped it’d be respectable. At 3-0, I suppose it was. I tried the kicking them tactic and that worked to an extent, but they still had a ridiculous 40 shots.

Cam Dawson certainly earned his corn as he saved 15 of 18 shots on target, but all in all it showed what a herculean distance there was between where I was and the top of the Prem. If we did manage to somehow scrape promotion, is this what was in store for next year!? The stuff of nightmares!

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Belting Goal Bonus – Lewis Baker

This one did make the top 3 for the month of February, but I still don’t think it was as good as the Harris goal back in August.

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That’s when we were 3-0 at Elland Road against Leeds. I hoped it might kick start us into life for a 2nd half comeback, but it never materialised. Was a poor game, that bit of magic aside.

Right then! 10 games to go, nine of which fall into March and April. Points were proving hard to come by and we needed a change of fortunate. Would we be able to find it? Or would we be satisfying the board with a mid-table finish?

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47 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Great update, and I like the two permanent signings (but agree, unsure whether being labelled the new Carew is a positive thing). Good luck for the rest of the season.

He needs to be labelled the saviour! Haha!

Fingers crossed we can get out of the funk that came with the end of Feb. That was no fun at all.

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With 10 games to go, the Owls are on the home stretch and still clinging on to a Championship playoff spot in 6th place. Could an unlikely promotion place be confirmed? Or would February’s dip in form continue and ultimately derail the season?

It was a very interesting two months in March and April, let’s take a look at how things panned out.

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I Said he was Going to be the Saviour

Noah Jean Holm has been a lot of fun after we picked him up on deadline day. He came off the bench for his debut against Millwall and was fairly quiet, but he started the following game away to Barnsley, scoring one, setting one up, and he became an early fan favourite in the process.

It was a bit of a false dawn. The derby day production against Barnsley couldn’t be replicated and he went cold, as did the rest of the team as February turned into a tough month. March and April were a different matter though, for him and for the club.

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Holm scored both goals in the 2-2 away draw at table topping Brentford, breathing some belief back into the squad. He scored against Forest in a massive win with playoff implications, then he bagged a goal and an assist against another playoff rival in West Brom (with Kader Bamba getting the winner in stoppage time).

March was a very good month. 10 points from 12, and seven points from a possible nine against sides also in the top 6. Momentum was picking up like a steam train.

The loss to Swansea was perhaps inevitable, they’re mid-table but still possess a talent squad (file that one in the limp away game folder), and the Preston draw was infuriating (file that in the plastic spoon folder). Some things never change.

The victory against 3rd place QPR was huge, with another stoppage time winner and two more goals from Holm. It was also the result that sealed us a playoff place, though it took the win against Huddersfield and the Fulham draw to confirm that we’d be 4th regardless with a game still to go.

The relief was massive. I couldn’t believe the team had managed to stay the course and now we were within touching distance of something that seemed pretty far-fetched back in July.

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January Transfer Smugfest

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With a playoff place now secured, it was a good time to reflect on how we’d made it happen. Plus, it was good to stop and enjoy some self-celebratory back slapping at business that had worked out in our favour.

While I continued cobbling together a large pile of gold to make a Noah Jean Holm statue outside Hillsborough, here’s what he managed between signing and the end of the regular season:

17 appearances from a possible 17 (15 starts, 2 subs. He didn’t get injured!)
10 goals (1/1 from pens)
2 assists
4 POM awards
7.24 average rating

Lewis Baker and Adam Reach both had eight league goals in tied 2nd place, and they’d been with me the entire season. To say Holm came in firing was an understatement, and his contribution was massive over the three months.

Kader Bamba was a mixed bag. He totally embraced the AM(L) position in that he was just as inconsistent as all the guys that had played the position before his arrival. He had bright spots, like the West Brom winner, but I would have liked more:

14 appearances from a possible 17 (10 starts, 4 subs)
2 goals
2 assists
1 POM
6.75 average rating

Angel Gomes didn’t do much better (9 starts, 9 subs, 2 goals, 6.80 rating), suggesting it might just be something about the wide positions in my tactic that didn’t inspire consistent output.

Diskerud had done well under the radar. Playing in 17 games, he gave me a 7.02 average and worked really well in the middle with Baker, keeping Bannan out of the side for long stretches and giving me some actual depth.

And as predicted, Timothy Fosu-Mensah ended up being the Swiss Army Knife I needed, featuring in 14 games and playing in four different positions (2 assists, 6.93 average)

Oh, and Jordan Rhodes did nothing. 9 games, 1 goal, 6.71 rating as Hull finish 17th. I’m taking that as a win as well.

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Objective Completed

The season so far could be deemed as nothing other than a success, and that would still be the case regardless of how the playoffs panned out.

I’d exceeded the Board’s revised target of a mid-table finish and hit some other objectives as well. They were “satisfied” with my attacking football, and very pleased with how entertaining the football was. The two Cup failures didn’t seem to bother them, and I’d been great with the wages, staying well below their budgeted figure.

It all meant the Board were delighted with me. Even if we couldn’t pull off the unimaginable and find a way to the Premier League, it all boded well for next season and a renewed sense of optimism regarding pushing the club forward in the long run.

However, performance on the pitch was most certainly not being matched at Board level.

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Things Were Going from Bad….

I must admit, with the intense stretch of fixtures and clawing hard for every point I could get, I’d taken my eye off the ball elsewhere. In early April, this news item popped into my inbox:

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The total debt wasn’t a surprise, we were about £75m in the red from various loans anyway, but the month to month damage to the overall balance was substantial. That £6m or so that we had in the bank during the summer? That was loooooong gone.

Here’s an overview of month to month profit/loss (they’re all minus numbers, unsurprisingly):

September 2019 -£1.23m
October 2019 -£3.07m
November 2019 -£2.24m
December 2019 -£2.40m
January 2020 -£2.81m
February 2020 -£2.67m
March 2020 -£1.32m
April 2020 -£2.47m

The fact that March 2020 could be described as a “good” month because we only lost £1.32m tells the story. The administrators were knocking on the door. If I was desperate for success before this news, it was 100 times worse after it.

The fact the Board found money for me to buy anyone in January is a miracle, and possibly negligent to the club’s future. To their credit, Holm, Bamba and the boys on loan had done their bit, but the news still wasn’t great.

It didn’t get much better, either.

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….To Worse

By mid-April, I was back to buzzing again. We’d enjoyed the QPR result to seal a top 6 place, and then beat Huddersfield to all but lock in 4th. The playoffs and the success it could bring might be enough to stave off the administrators and get the club heading back in the right direction. It really was a big deal.

It was like the Footballing Gods needed to even the equation out again. On the one hand, things were on the up. There was a potential light at the end of the tunnel. That needed to be swiftly counter balanced, and it most certainly was:

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The club was going to the wall. Cut off a branch to save the tree. If the pressure to reach the playoffs was bad, this felt far worse. If we couldn’t pull money in through promotion, next season would be bleak indeed. I'd gone from being happy to make the playoffs and "lets just see how it goes" to knowing that promotion was a lot more essential to the club's future.

It had become Premiership or bust. Literally.

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Wow, this is something I have never seen before. It seems like the financial side of the game is a really interesting challenge for you. 

Best of luck with the play-offs, assuming you haven't already played through them. Do you have a lot of contracts expiring in the summer? That could help save some more wages.

Interestingly on my current save in Germany I got RBL as my parent club and they sent Holm out on loan to us - doing pretty well.

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Another nice update and a pat on the back for keeping on-pitch and off-pitch outcomes so different.

I've not seen that before either, but it adds a great layer to your game. I'll be controversial here and say to me it will be much more interesting if you don't go up.

I managed Reading diligently in FM maybe about four years ago and they failed FFP. That was a good one for me, as I never had anything else remotely like it. Yours is a much deeper issue where the club itself is in jeopardy.

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13 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Wow, this is something I have never seen before. It seems like the financial side of the game is a really interesting challenge for you. 

Best of luck with the play-offs, assuming you haven't already played through them. Do you have a lot of contracts expiring in the summer? That could help save some more wages.

Interestingly on my current save in Germany I got RBL as my parent club and they sent Holm out on loan to us - doing pretty well.

In terms of players out of contract (I've not offered anyone an extension yet, nor will I be able to until I know how the season will end), we have:

26 Pelupessy - 16(10) 12k
32 Jones - 0 £3k
31 Lee - 3(2) £15k
32 Fletcher - 13(3) £30k
29 Forestieri - 18(9) £25k
25 Fox - 22(10) £8k
30 Hutchinson - 19(1) £20k
26 Odubajo - 9(4) £5k

I've put their appearances as starts (subs) in so you can see who has featured, plus their age and salary of course. £118k all told, so over 20% of my wage budget. That's not even counting the loan player that will go back, so closer to £150k when it's all added together.

Fox I'd retain if I don't go up, but he will have to go if I get promotion. He's been my go to at LB but more because I don't have anyone else than because he's great. I'm unsure Forestieri will stay regardless as he's been moaning at me all season. Fletcher and Lee have both had a lot of injuries and probably need moving on as they're both also over 30, that isn't a good mix. Jones has been out on loan all season and is my 4th choice keeper.

The season after, so the end of 2020/21, the following are up:

34 Westwood - 7 £30k
29 Lees - 6(3) £25k
27 Reach - 39(2) £20k
30 Bannan - 29(5) £24k
26 van Aken - 0 £20k

So that's another £119k as well.

Of that list, I'd say only Reach could cut it in the Prem, and he wouldn't be great. Bannan could at a push but he's declining now he's hit 30 as well. Westwood is on a huge chunk and not playing due to Dawson being of a similar ability but with much more potential. Lees has been injured since the season began so hardly played, van Aken started the game on loan and I can't recall him, plus I'm paying 100% of his wages :mad:

In truth, regardless of what happens, by the end of next season I can and probably should have a pretty new team. Lots of players over 30, or close to it, and not a lot of production for quite a lot of money. Bad combination!

13 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Another nice update and a pat on the back for keeping on-pitch and off-pitch outcomes so different.

I've not seen that before either, but it adds a great layer to your game. I'll be controversial here and say to me it will be much more interesting if you don't go up.

I managed Reading diligently in FM maybe about four years ago and they failed FFP. That was a good one for me, as I never had anything else remotely like it. Yours is a much deeper issue where the club itself is in jeopardy.

In honesty, I'm kind of with you on that. On the one hand, the goal of playing FM is often the progression, go through the leagues, be a better manager, better jobs, win major trophies and leagues.

It could be interesting trying to rebuild a team from nothing. Part of me doesn't want to go up either, just to see what it's like!

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Makes a lot of sense! The wage bill reduction should hopefully give you some room to manoeuvre. 

Dawson is excellent I have had him once before in the premiership. Reach I haven't managed but I think he could cut it eventually and I am a fan of anyone who can bang them in from range :D

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1 minute ago, karanhsingh said:

Makes a lot of sense! The wage bill reduction should hopefully give you some room to manoeuvre. 

Dawson is excellent I have had him once before in the premiership. Reach I haven't managed but I think he could cut it eventually and I am a fan of anyone who can bang them in from range :D

15 for long shots is fun for sure. Prefers to play AMR as an Inverted Winger/Inside Forward. Can also play anywhere down the left, LB, WBL, ML, AML, and I've had to play him CM (which he can do ok) with the injuries I've had.

My main issue with him is consistency. He had that month in November when he absolutely killed it, but so often he goes missing and puts in a 6.3 or 6.4. It is hugely frustrating!! My assistant report on him says "Fairly consistent performer". I'm not having that for a second haha!

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2 minutes ago, Rumple43 said:

15 for long shots is fun for sure. Prefers to play AMR as an Inverted Winger/Inside Forward. Can also play anywhere down the left, LB, WBL, ML, AML, and I've had to play him CM (which he can do ok) with the injuries I've had.

My main issue with him is consistency. He had that month in November when he absolutely killed it, but so often he goes missing and puts in a 6.3 or 6.4. It is hugely frustrating!! My assistant report on him says "Fairly consistent performer". I'm not having that for a second haha!

LOL yes he does seem like a blow hot blow cold kind of guy. 

BTW I meant to ask do you play Penney? I never managed to buy him but was always intrigued by his attribute spread - poor man's Marcos Alonso for me. 

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1 minute ago, karanhsingh said:

LOL yes he does seem like a blow hot blow cold kind of guy. 

BTW I meant to ask do you play Penney? I never managed to buy him but was always intrigued by his attribute spread - poor man's Marcos Alonso for me. 

Out on loan all season at St Pauli, so no, I've not had a chance to have a look at him. Both him and van Aken would have been a massive help this season as starters, not just as depth. Penny would 100% have been my 1st choice LB. Instead I get to pay their wages, can't recall them, and they play for someone else.

He looks pretty promising though, for sure. He lacks the defensive ability to be a LB I think, his tackling and marking are terrible, but there's potential to fit him in somewhere with a bit of work.

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9 minutes ago, Rumple43 said:

Out on loan all season at St Pauli, so no, I've not had a chance to have a look at him. Both him and van Aken would have been a massive help this season as starters, not just as depth. Penny would 100% have been my 1st choice LB. Instead I get to pay their wages, can't recall them, and they play for someone else.

He looks pretty promising though, for sure. He lacks the defensive ability to be a LB I think, his tackling and marking are terrible, but there's potential to fit him in somewhere with a bit of work.

Oh I didn't realize that. Pretty unfortunate. 

His defending definitely leaves a lot to be desired therefore the comparison to Alonso :lol: hope he does well for you next season

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1886245306_TitleMay2020.thumb.jpg.50ac8b49e9c84f4b4c78b5d8095b2d1c.jpg

We’d reached the playoffs. The club’s finances were being held together by sticky tape (that we couldn’t afford), but we were three games away from a potential place in the Premier League. That really was all that mattered now.

Let’s look at how the curtain fell on the 2019/20 season.

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We Found Out Who We’d Be Playing in the Playoffs

The final game of the regular season in early May was a strange affair. We had Middlesbrough at home, we couldn’t move up or down from 4th, and they had nothing to play for in 9th. We ended up beating them easily, with another two goals from Noah Jean Holm, and one from Barry Bannan.

More importantly, West Brom in 5th were playing away against Nottingham Forest in 6th and I’d be playing the winner. 7th place Reading could still leapfrog them both with a win over bottom side Charlton (who were long since relegated, as were Barnsley and Cardiff), and a draw in the Midlands.

Once I went 2-0 up after 15 minutes and with Boro already looking like they were on the summer holidays, all eyes switched to the City Ground.

0-0 at HT. 0-0 after 60 minutes. 0-0 after 70 minutes. Reading score, they’re 1-0 up. We’re heading to Hertfordshire next week as things stand.

0-0 after 80 minutes. 90 minutes. Stoppage time. I’ve won 3-1, I barely noticed.

1-0 West Brom. 90+1, Hal Robson-Kanu. Off to the West Midlands we go!

And then Charlton score a 90+4 goal that couldn’t be more meaningless to their season, but at 1-1, it was a hammer blow to Reading. QPR, Wednesday, West Brom, Forest. The Royals were on the outside looking in, the playoff field was set.

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A Trip to the Hawthorns

In honesty, I wasn’t sure how I felt about playing West Brom. We’d drawn at their place back in late November 2-2, and I’d seen them off about 7 weeks ago at Hillsborough, winning 2-1. If we got a repeat of that over 2 legs, we’d be on our way to Wembley.

Callum Robinson (on loan from Sheffield United of all places) was their top scorer with 13 goals. Right winger Matheus Pereira was their top performer with a 7.26 average. He was on loan from Sporting and joining permanently at the end of the season for £8.25m. I was £11.28m in debt. That put things into perspective for me pretty quickly.

Strangely, we had a fully fit squad. As much as I’d battled injuries all season, I could pick my team without an issue.

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2-0 down after half an hour. This wasn’t really what I was after. Fortunately, a quick fire reply from the man, the saviour, Noah Jean Holm. I’m falling in love.

Adam Reach went off injured, and although he set up the goal, he was having one of his “meh” games. Far too many of those this season!

We dug deep. We stole an equaliser. It was complete trash, a header from the smallest man on the pitch! I’ve no idea what Barry Bannan was even doing at the near post.

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From there, we shut up shop. I assume the defence got a poor rating as they’d already conceded two, but in honesty, they were great in the 2nd half.

If I was West Brom, I’d have been furious. Still, cry me a river, I'd had loads of games like that this season. It was all to play for and back to Hillsborough we go!

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We’ve Done the Hard Part

In theory, the worst part was now behind us. All square and heading home, time to seal the deal in style. It didn’t really go that way, and in honesty, I wasn’t really surprised.

Adam Reach was out for 3 weeks, his season was over. Liam Palmer had been reliable all season but struggled in the 1st leg, he went out of the side, Iorfa went from D(C) to D(R), and young Jack Simpson came in to play next to Borner at the back. Bamba switched from left wing to right to cover for Reach, and Gomes slotted in on the left.

It was awful. A really bitty game, there wasn’t much quality on offer. No clear cut chances. I was fouling a lot to break things up (as always), and the majority of shots were off target.

Half time, 0-0. We might be the better team, but neither side was doing much of anything. I was nervous.

60 minutes. Still 0-0. Morgan Fox dreads big matches, they don’t get much bigger than this. I’ve got an hour out of him, off he comes, Palmer on.

75 minutes. Still 0-0. Nerves are getting the better of me. Free kick in the corner, Bannan trots over to go take it in front of the Kop. Swings it in with his trusty left peg, it finds the head of Borner! Hits the post!! Rebound! Who can get hold of it!?!

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Get in Jack Simpson, you beauty!! Hillsborough erupts, but there's still a way to go.

Time to shut up shop, 1-0 will do. I take off Baker, he’s gassed. On comes Diskerud, a bit of experience, he’s got nearly 40 caps for the USA. Steady hand, fresh legs. They have a few chances, Borner and co. stand tall at the back. Final whistle, made it! Off to Wembley we go!!!!

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Meeting Expectations in the Worst Possible Way

Forest beat QPR easily over two legs, 6th knocking out 3rd. Like West Brom, I didn’t know how to take the match up. We beat them at Hillsborough 2-0, we lost away 1-0. Neutral game though, all bets were off.

Angel Gomes went off injured in stoppage time of the 2nd leg win over WBA, he’s out. Reach remains sidelined. In the run up to the final, experienced head Steven Fletcher goes down in training. Only a knock, he should be available, but he won’t be 100%. Not good.

More frustratingly, Fernando Forestieri decides the week building up to the final would be the ideal time to go to the press about his lack of playing time and declaring he’s “likely” to leave on a Bosman. I have no great qualms about this, and he’s slipped down the pecking order since Holm’s arrival. I can’t offer him a new deal as we’re broke. In 28 appearances this season he has 6 goals and an average rating of 6.92. He hasn’t really set the world alight, but keep it under your hat Fernando, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

For team selection, we're getting down to the bare bones now, especially out wide. The underutilised Da Cruz comes in to replace Gomes, Bamba switches back to the left. Palmer goes in at left back to replace Fox, I don’t need him choking on the big stage. With Fletcher’s sharpness looking iffy, Reach out, Gomes out, Kadeem Harris out long term with torn ankle ligaments, despite his pouting, Forestieri gets a place on the bench by default.

The final is terrible. Like the game with West Brom, there’s no real quality. We’re probably 2nd best if I’m trying to be neutral. Lewis Grabban is a constant threat, he was top scorer in the division for a reason but he can’t break the deadlock either.

My lack of consistency on the wings has been an issue all season, no surprise, it resurfaces here. Bamba is rocking a 6.4. Alessio Da Cruz is a 6.4.  70 minutes gone, I need something out wide.

I look down the bench. There’s nothing. It’s going to have to be Forestieri wide left. He can have the last 20 minutes and take a pen if it comes to it. The commentary gives it the “Here comes Forestieri in what could be his last game for the club.” None of it fills me with confidence.

Time ticks on. Still 0-0. Things are getting unbearably tense. This is absolutely horrible, as expected. After the Bradford League Cup shambles, I have zero faith in the team if it comes to pens.

87th minute. A goal now would surely seal it, and Forest have a threatening free kick in the middle of our half. Long ball pumped into the box, Palmer deals with it, he’s been class. It falls to Forestieri on the edge of our area.

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The rest is history. I went mental. Couldn’t believe it!! I bring on Fosu-Mensah for the last few minutes but we don’t need it, Forest are down on the canvas and out for the count. The sort of goal and finish that goes down in club folklore, and it had sent us to the promised land. Get in!

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We are Premier League bound!

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We Win, But at What Cost?

The result is greeted by the usual exuberance. The fans love it. The Board love it. A few club legends line up to offer their congratulations, Nigel Pearson amongst them.

The Youth Facilities are now “Excellent”, but they’re not ours. Our Youth Category drops from Two to Three. The finances are no longer described as “Insecure”, the result has moved us to “Secure”, despite the currently negative balance. The Chairman quickly sees to that, putting a £12m loan into the club to clear our losses. That takes our net debt to £97m spread across four loans, with repayments on all four coming into play now we’re in the top division. That’s around £825k a month, but with £80m in TV money set to come in, plus some potential prize money to boot, the future of the club should be relatively secure.

The focus now shifts to next season. Pelupessy, Lee and Morgan Fox have been informed they won’t be getting a new contract, they struggled at Championship level, they’re absolutely not Prem level.

Steven Fletcher has elected to retire. Cult hero Fernando Forestieri had done enough to stir some sentiment in me with his goal in the final and I offered him a new deal. He throws it back in my face and tells me he's leaving anyway, classic Forestieri.

The board give me £40m as a transfer budget, and a £610k wage budget (I’m currently spending £471k p/w, but players to release and loan guys to send back, there’s flex to work with). With a bit more security I pull the trigger and sign a solid looking depth/starter D(C), Kiko Olivas from Real Valladolid, on a free. He should replace Simpson and stake a claim for minutes at the back.

Spoiler

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I need plenty of reinforcements across the squad and I seriously lack Premier League level talent. I also want to keep as much money in the bank as possible to avoid further financial issues down the line.

It’s going to be an interesting summer!

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49 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Lovely stuff, three very close games there but you edged through and probably saved the club as a result. Good luck in the PL, that's gonna be tough!

Huge leap, for sure.

I'm still not sure what to do in terms of recruitment vs finances. I think I'll probably tell myself I'll put the money first and try to get by with whatever I can find on the cheap, but then I know I'll end up blowing a load of cash on someone that my scouts find haha!

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4 minutes ago, Rumple43 said:

Huge leap, for sure.

I'm still not sure what to do in terms of recruitment vs finances. I think I'll probably tell myself I'll put the money first and try to get by with whatever I can find on the cheap, but then I know I'll end up blowing a load of cash on someone that my scouts find haha!

That's known as 'The Wednesday Way' if you spend more than you can afford. I know you're keen to follow club traditions but....:lol:

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What a story! Great stuff and brilliant goal from the Italian there. Congratulations and best of luck for the new season. 

When I get promoted to the premier division I try to scout and purchase some of the best performers from the championship. 

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40 minutes ago, WillHoward42 said:

Great read this one. Part of me wanted to see you lose the play-offs, just to see what financial issues you would further encounter!

Me too, for selfish 'get the popcorn and watch' reasons :lol:

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18 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

What a story! Great stuff and brilliant goal from the Italian there. Congratulations and best of luck for the new season. 

When I get promoted to the premier division I try to scout and purchase some of the best performers from the championship. 

This appeals to me as well, I like to try and have an English spine to my team, but I just find Championship players, especially standout ones, are crazy expensive. Newcastle picked up one of QPR's hot young English players in the January window, Ebere Eze, a left winger, cost them £27m. Didn't help, Newcastle got relegated haha! As much as I'd prefer to avoid a foreign influx, I think it is probably inevitable.

And yes, the goal from Fessi was amazing. Couldn't believe it. I was equally impressed when he gave me the finger over a new contract after asking for one for about six months. What a guy!

17 hours ago, WillHoward42 said:

Great read this one. Part of me wanted to see you lose the play-offs, just to see what financial issues you would further encounter!

 

11 hours ago, ShaunG95 said:

Very good read, congratulations on the promotion!

Thanks to you both, thanks for popping in. A big part of me did want to lose in the playoffs just to see what would happen with the club imploding, but in the end I was happy to go up given the way the final ended, that was pure theatre! Hard work starts now, see if we can pull off another miracle in 12 months time....

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finally got chance to read your story after discussing it in the Sheffield Wednesday thread.  It was a great read.  Good luck next season.  I have found it VERY tough so far in the Premier League and had a few niggling doubts about trying something else but you have convinced me to keep on going.  :thup:

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13 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

finally got chance to read your story after discussing it in the Sheffield Wednesday thread.  It was a great read.  Good luck next season.  I have found it VERY tough so far in the Premier League and had a few niggling doubts about trying something else but you have convinced me to keep on going.  :thup:

Stay the course my friend, even if you do go back down you'll probably be in a way better position that if you hadn't gone up. That's the way that I'm looking at it anyway, especially with the financial woes I ran into late in season 1!

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1554441173_TitleJune2020.thumb.jpg.c3a8fe15960618998eb6f404f3fd2c85.jpg

The season was done, the summer was underway. The run in down the stretch had been tense, but it was all worth it to book a place in the Premiership. I was still stuck between wanting to keep money in the bank to improve the finances and getting together a squad that was capable of putting up a fight to stay in the top flight. On that front, I’d have somewhat of a revelation about how I was going to go about doing it.

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Back to the Drawing Board

I liked how the team had played last season (inconsistency on the wings aside), but I felt we’d need to step it up if we were going to avoid getting a hammering against the very best. In truth, that could well still happen, but if we could make our mark as a physical team and run ourselves into the ground against the sides around us, hopefully that would make a big difference.

After doing some reading on Pressing Forwards and Defensive Wingers (hat tip for this one, click here for more), I quickly began to realise this is what I wanted my approach to be to take us to that next level. Defend from the front, chase everything, be as hard to break down as possible. With that, the ethos for next season was set.

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We’re going to be rocking something like that, unless I play pre-season and it’s a disaster, but I’m hoping not. The pressing forwards and defensive wingers should be a pain, the box to box midfielders should make things congested in the middle in both defence and attack, and the Inverted Wing Backs should be able to move up and provide some support going forward.

The main issue is likely to be getting hit on the counter, but that may just be a price I have to pay. Now I just need to find some players that fit this system. High work rate, stamina, fitness, speed should all be at a premium. And I may be getting some help with my summer shopping as well.

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Show Me the Money!

Another unexpected announcement at Board level in early June certainly piqued my interest. I had become somewhat apprehensive about news from on high, given that the last two updates were that we were potentially going into administration, then that we’d sold our youth facilities. This one was more promising though:

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Turns out that getting promoted had put us on the map as someone worth investing in. If it comes to fruition, I have no idea. A big chunk of money would certainly be welcome given the recent uncertainty, but there’s also the possibility that the new regime wouldn’t be interested in my services.

The news item made it clear that all we’ve got for now is speculation, so just something to keep an eye on going forward. Still, would be nice to just magically wipe out that £90m worth of debt we’ve got lying about the place.

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New Faces on the Training Pitch

As I wrote in my July/August 2019 update after my initial staff overhaul, some of the guys I brought in were unlikely to be long term solutions for me even though they represented an upgrade on what was at the club when the game began.

With an increase to the club’s stature, we can attract a more impressive calibre of staff member and that inevitably led to me making some upgrades. We’ll deal with the most important one first, a new assistant manager.

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Mark Sale had done well as a stop gap option, but he didn’t tick the sort of boxes I want in my number 2 and how I like to play the game. Firstly, I like the Italian’s JPA and JPP skills, that’s always handy. Also, he has a manager background, good at working with youngsters and reasonable as a coach on the training ground.

In addition, and something that I utilise a lot, he has an unflappable media handling style. I don’t do my own press conferences, tunnel interviews, all that jazz. I find the stock answers repetitive and don’t really get much from that side of the game. As such, Ferrara will be sat in front of the microphones on a regular basis and whats more, he should be pretty good at it.

The other major change I made (I did make more moves, but these two were the most significant) was to get a new Director of Football in. I had to pay Santander to get him (the irony isn’t lost on me here), but he does what I need.

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His JPA and JPP stats are great, though he's fairly useless as a negotiator. These kinds of concessions have to be made for now, but once again he’s an upgrade over what went before him even if he isn’t perfect.

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Fixtures

Always a hotly anticipated part of any pre-season, the fixture list for the new campaign dropped in June. Whilst it’s true that everyone plays everyone twice, the way the fixtures fall can be massive. Playing a string of tough teams in succession, making sure you’re at home not away in the Boxing Day/New Years scramble, what your run in looks like, they’re all big things.

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Well, I can’t see us opening the season with a win, that's my first thought!!

More interestingly, we get our first dose of Steel City derby action before the end of August as we head to Bramall Lane 3rd game up. That makes the Palace game an important one I feel, as we don’t want to start off with 2 losses, then have to head to the Lane looking for points. Either way, hopefully Norwich will be easier. We will see.

Elsewhere Boxing Day has us at home to Everton, then away to Villa on the 28th, not too bad. The run in is Man City (H), Norwich (A), Sheffield United (H), Southampton (A) and Leicester (H) to end the season. Not too bad either. Could also be much worse.

All in all, I’ll take it, but that first game at Old Trafford probably won’t be pretty.

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Early Business

June was mainly taken up by shifting my staff around, getting a few more staff in, and sending my scouts far and wide to see what they could find. One player I already had an eye on though was Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths.

I had flirted with him back in January, though my financial restrictions and the fact he wanted £26k p/w proved to be a stumbling block. Still, he wanted to come, I had an offer accepted and then it fell apart at the last minute. With money now less of an issue and as he fit my new tactical approach pretty well (teamwork stat not included), I wasn’t afraid to go back and test the waters once more.

Spoiler

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If I was going to fight to stay in the division, I was firmly of the opinion that hard work and grit would be needed by the bucket load. I loved Griffiths set up, he seems like a real pest and his player traits of “Winds Up Opponents” and “Gets the Crowd Going” seemed like they’d be pretty useful as well. Especially against the Blades.

His age was a question mark at 29, but with a cut price £5.5m price tag, if he could give me just two good seasons to stay up, that’d easily be worth it. And just like that, he was my first signing of the new campaign.

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What do the Media Know Anyway?

As a bonus to wrap up, I couldn’t end June without talking about the pre-season predictions from the media.

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I mean, it was pretty good motivation if nothing else. It’s also good to know who might be down near the bottom with us. We play both Palace and Norwich at home in our first five games, plus SUFC away. Early points could be important if the media is on the money, but hopefully they are wide of the mark on this occasion! They were last season, look how that turned out....

Most importantly, we don’t have to be great. We just have to be the 4th worst team in the division next season. I think we can do it, but it’ll depend who we can bring in over the next two months.

Which feels like a good place to leave things for now.

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  • Rumple43 changed the title to [FM20] From Sheffield to South Africa

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