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[FM20] From Sheffield to South Africa


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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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With June wrapped up, we were firmly into the summer. No time for a holiday though, we had pre-season to plan, a new tactic to bed in, signings to make and an unwavering desire to craft a master plan that would keep us in the Premier League.

It was an eventful two months, and it culminated in that start of the club’s first season back in the topflight since 1999/00. It had been a long time coming, and we were going to do our best to make sure it wasn’t a one and done deal. Here’s how it played out.

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Call and Answer

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Something happened early in the summer that I wasn’t expecting and it threw up an interesting dilemma. England flopped at Euro 2020, topping Group D with wins against Scotland, Kosovo and Poland, before a shocking 2-1 loss in the 2nd round to Serbia.

It wasn't coming home (though the team was), and just like that Southgate was gone, waistcoat and all. The media were all over it. Names were flying into the hat from all angles. Sam Allardyce even got a mention! Curiously, my name got a mention as well. Now that was unexpected!

Well, what to do!? On the one hand, I feel a commitment to this story, it is after all why I upgraded from FM19 to FM20 in the first place and what hopefully brought people in to read (thanks for that, by the way). But I think deep down I also know this will end up being more of a managerial journey than a single club effort that will evolve into something entirely different as time passes by. We can’t all be Arsene Wenger, after all.

Was that point now though? A single season was a bit hasty to cut and run, especially after actually getting promoted. I pondered it. I went to make a brew.

Then I sent my CV to the FA. I had to. It’s England. My country needed me!

I was getting my pants in a twist for nothing, they didn’t want me anyway. Gave the job to the incredibly uninspiring Graham Potter from Brighton. Deary me.

Still, on the plus side, it means the same opening will 99% be available once we crash out of the 2022 World Cup, if we even qualify. Who knows where I’ll be by then, but it did highlight that maybe I wasn’t as committed to Wednesday as I could have been after a single season of success. That said, would I have taken the job if it have been offered? Well....who knows.

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Summer Shopping

The movement in and out of the club ahead of the new season was decidedly one directional. With the number of players that were out of contract last season, plus Fletcher retiring, I didn’t actually have all that much squad depth to work with. Trimming players that weren’t up to scratch would have meant having no players at all, so the “big clear out” to get ready for the Prem never really materialised.

The only players to leave of note were Kadeem Harris, who did so little in the Championship it was alarming, and somehow, he was worth over £12m. I couldn’t turn that down, and he absolutely didn’t fit into my defensive winger/pressing philosophy. He got sent to China for £9.75m, of which I got £8m up front. Sadly he couldn’t go until January 2nd 2021, but it was still good money even if I couldn’t spend it now.

Kieren Westwood was the other to go. A promotion clause in his contract had bloated his salary to over £40k p/w and I just couldn’t stomach that. In the end I got the board to terminate him (ha!), his contract I mean, and we just took the hit. It gave me more salary to work with at least.

Coming the other way, we had plenty. So much for keeping the cash in the bank, eh?

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Burner and Ola Aina both projected as solid upgrades at fullback, with Aina also able to play the full length of either flank fairly comfortably. Alireza Jahanbakhsh was drafted in to help on the right of midfield, with Harris going and Reach needing to swap back to the left as a winger in my new system.

Sportiello looked too good to pass up, the cut price fee drew me in and he should compete well with Dawson. His arrival got Wildsmith pouting, but hopefully he cuts that out soon enough.

In midfield, it was a contrasting story. Guendouzi was a measured acquisition. He completely fit the engine room mould, 18 for teamwork. 17 work rate. 15 stamina. 15 technique. 15 tackling. Awesome. He was exactly what I needed and wasn’t a burden to me if we did go back down. Sergio Gomez on the other hand. Well, he was pretty much the opposite.

I saw the wonderkid tag. I saw the price. He is incredible technically, and his physical stats were passable (barely). I couldn’t resist. He was basically a much better, younger, less Scottish Barry Bannan, so why not? I’ll just spend a year trying to smash a square pegged play maker into a round hole box to box midfield role and then wonder where it all went wrong.

Up front, Andy Carroll was recruited (with an injury clause in his contract, of course) and given another shot at the top flight after a single season back at Newcastle that hadn’t gone particularly well (they did get relegated in 20th, after all). His height and physical presence should help me even if he doesn’t really have the wheels to chase around up top as a pressing forward.

Dawid Kownacki was the big money move. I was putting all my eggs into his basket. A prototypical pressing forward, he was on £80k p/w and I needed goals. Hopefully him and Griffiths would deliver. If we were going to stay up, we’d need to be cutting edge (no plastic spoons here!).

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A Short Trip Across the City

The undoubted highlight of the new season was renewing the cross-town rivalry with Sheffield United. As I was busy working away to get promoted, they had finished a highly respectable 9th place in their first season back in the Prem. Locking horns down at the Lane was something I couldn’t wait to do, but I had to be realistic and acknowledge we were very much the underdogs.

In truth, it was a belter of a game for the neutral. For me, I was a bit gutted.

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We had the lead late on, but couldn’t hold it. An even contest, pretty open, and my new team was still bedding into the system. It proved to be my first point of the season (more on that shortly), and at least we hadn’t got a hiding from Big Brother across the city. Oh, and two new signings scored, so that was a positive as well.

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Early Results/Table

After a promising pre-season, August ended about as well as I expected when the fixture list was announced back in June.

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It was pleasing to give a beating to Norwich, don’t fancy their chances much this season but who knows. The opening day trip to Old Trafford went as planned, they absolutely mauled me and I was happy it was only 3. The loss to Palace annoyed me though. In both the Man U defeat and the loss to Palace, we missed a pen when trailing 1-0 that could have changed the course of both games. Griffiths missed the pair of them, so that wasn’t good for him or me.

The draw with United was a positive, as was a rare victory in the League Cup. My first cup game win as Wednesday manager! Onward and upward!

It left the table looking like this:

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Not bad at all. It was interesting to note that SUFC hadn’t picked up any other points aside from drawing with me. Leeds were also struggling, as were Norwich. I didn’t bother to grab the top end of the table, can’t see much need for seeing it this year.Time to rip off a 10-game winning streak and prove myself wrong!

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Tactical Dividends

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The switch to a new pressing 4-4-2 was still a work in progress. I wasn’t yet ready to cast it aside, though the game against Man U did show me that a much more defensive away day set up was required. More importantly, I’d managed to come away with a few goals that highlighted the system at work.

The most important one was against United:

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Right winger Ola Aina presses the United wing back into a mistake, as both strikers moved up to cover the centre backs inside and there's a high press across the pitch. Unable to pick an option, Aina steals the ball before doing the rest with a tidy finish into the far corner. It was exactly what I wanted my players to be doing.

Hopefully as the team became more familiar with the system, it would continue to produce these kinds of results. We shall see.

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Belting Goal Bonus – Matteo Guendouzi

For all my fawning about the young Frenchman’s attributes as a box to box midfielder, I forgot to mention that he has a 12 for long shots, which isn’t the worst. He put every bit of it to good use to delight the Hillsborough faithful against Norwich though, get a load of this rocket:

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A little give and go with Liam Palmer, then biff! It also didn’t even make the top 3 for Goal of the Month. Disgraceful!

Catch you all in September!

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Ditto the post above. Thanks for linking the pressing forwards article. I haven't needed to implement a pressing style in my Crewe save up to now, but reaching the championship I'm going to need something different. Interested to see how your tactic develops in the prem. 

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20 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Great update :thup: I really enjoy your style of writing. 

Less scottish Barry Bannan had me cracking up :lol:

Please don't play him as a box to box midfielder though!! 

Thanks dude, I really appreciate the kind words!

I must admit I’m torn between trying to adhere to the system, or to play him in his best position. Not sure how I’ll end up going with that one but it may be I’ll do both and see what gets the best results. 

20 hours ago, granarian said:

Ditto the post above. Thanks for linking the pressing forwards article. I haven't needed to implement a pressing style in my Crewe save up to now, but reaching the championship I'm going to need something different. Interested to see how your tactic develops in the prem. 

You’re welcome. I found it a really interesting piece so figured I’d share it. It really is hard on the players as the intensity bar is nearly full, but that’s where the physical attributes come in. Really important to have players who excel at what you need.

I’ll have another post either on Friday or Monday for Sept/Oct, so you’ll have a better idea then, stay tuned!

19 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Another smashing update, always a good read. Not a bad start in the PL and good luck as things continue.

Much better than expected. The Man U game was hard. The gulf to the top sides is insane. Chelsea just bought Sancho for £104m, and Man U spent over £160m in the summer window. 

Beating Norwich was good, but it’s more interesting to see that other teams are struggling for points so much. I’m not sure we’ll be great, but it already looks like it could be a fairly low bar to get over if we’re gonna stay up. That’ll help! :-)

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The season was underway, and so far, it wasn’t a disaster. We had a win at least. Money had been outlaid. We had a clear tactical plan. Now we just needed to put it all together and hope for the best. We didn’t need to be great, we just needed to be the 4th worst team in the division. The seven league games in September and October would go a long way to showing how we stacked up, for better or worse. Was it going to be an uphill struggle, or could we build some early momentum?

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Don’t Jinx it

The first win of the season against Norwich to close August was good, but the start of September gave me some real belief that we might well be on course to give two fingers to the media’s prediction of 20th place and finish somewhere other than rock bottom of the standings.

Stealing a point away to Leicester helped, but it was the home game against Southampton that really perked me up.

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They were struggling, and this was the sort of game we had to win to compound their form and make sure we weren’t down there with them. Three goals, a clean sheet, won the possession battle, created lots of chances. It went perfectly. Home form would always be key to a successful campaign, but we were scoring goals and looking solid.

Could we do it? The team looked up to it, that’s for sure. We just needed to keep it going, avoid the injury bug, and get a bit of luck along the way.

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Man Down

Ah, it was all going so well. Leigh Griffiths was exactly what I hoped he would be. The arrival of Kownacki and my desire to give Carroll’s physically and height a shot meant he’d slipped to #3 on the depth chart, but he’d started 1 game, had 3 sub appearances, and scored 2 goals, including one in that Southampton win. Encouraging.

But it wouldn’t last.

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Season over. And he’s 30, will be nearly 31 by the time he recovers. I liked the trio of Griffiths, Kownacki and Carroll, taking the pressure off a 19-year-old Holm who wasn’t Premiership ready. Now we were getting a bit thin, and I had little faith that Carroll could remain fit for a prolonged stretch.

It was a tough blow to take, especially when things were on the up.

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A Healthy Dose of Reality

My growing confidence following the Leicester draw and the Southampton win was quickly tempered with a trip to the Emirates. It was a reality check that was probably overdue, and a lot more like what the Man U game could have been like on another day. In classic BBC News fashion...."If you don't want to know the score, look away now."

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Belurgh. Sergio Gomes got sent off. We got hammered all over the park. It wasn’t good, and showed just how far away we were from the top of the table. The season was never going to rest of the results we got against teams like Arsenal, but it didn’t do much for morale.

Still, the only real defeat from a loss is if you didn’t learn anything at all and that most certainly wasn’t the case here. As much as it sucked to watch, the cogs were already spinning and change was afoot.

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Back to the Tactical Drawing Board

I didn't bin things entirely. That would have been too drastic and wholly unmerited given the success we’d had in other games But we did need to toughen things up. Shipping goals would see me sink like a stone and would have been a sure fire route to relegation.

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I tinkered with the fullbacks first, they needed to be a lot more compact when we were away from home or playing a top team. The Inverted Wing Back is good, but they push up and pretty much leave the two D(C)s on their own. Any team that can counter quickly or knock balls over the top has a field day, as Arsenal showed me with little mercy.

I also took out a striker and put in a DM(C). Too many top teams play a 4-2-3-1 with the AM(R), AM(C), AM(L) trio. That holding midfielder would hopefully be able to take away the central player pulling the strings (James Rodriguez had a goal and a 9.0 rating for Arsenal in that role, Luis Alberto had a goal and an assist for Man U doing the same thing). The fullbacks could then be a lot more man to man with wingers, limiting the openings we were giving up.

We had to get tighter, and it needed to come sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed.

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Results and Table

The Arsenal result and the tactical tinkering sparked us back into life.

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The draw with Brighton was terrible. We hammered them and gave up a goal on two shots on target. The Brentford win was key. As a team that we went up with, it’s always good to use them as a yard stick of your own progress. It was a big victory and suggested hope on another front (which I’ll cover shortly)

The Cup run was nice while it lasted, and the new super defensive tactic got a run out at Old Trafford (with some of my reserves/kids against their first team). Sad we lost on pens, but we kept them out and that’s what mattered.

As for the Tottenham result, that was massive. They’re really struggling and Mourinho is 100% going to get sacked, but if we can get results like that, we really are going to be fine. Getting as many points in the bank before Christmas was always going to be a big deal, and they were 3 of the best.

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So much for not needing the top of the table! I’m closer to the top 6 than the bottom 3. Compared to the relegation candidates below, we’d done very well. A 5-0 win over Norwich, a 2-2 draw with SUFC, a 3-0 win over Southampton, a 3-2 win away against Brentford, a 1-1 draw with Brighton, a 1-0 win against Spurs. If we had to go head to head with those teams later in the year, I felt good about doing it.

I’d set a goal of 34 points for the season. That was the magic number in my head. 18th place Watford went down with 30 points the previous season, and 34 points was good for 16th that year. The fact I was already close to halfway there by the end of October really was so far beyond what I could have imaged pre-season.

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Pressing Goal Alert – The System Still Works

As mentioned previously, I was going to keep tabs on how the pressing approach was going for me. As another example, here’s the winner against Brentford:

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The fullback gets into a mess following some pressure from Ola Aina and opts to punt a wayward pass across the pitch. Guendouzi seizes on it in a flash and picks it off. He draws in two defenders before dishing it inside for Kownacki to smash home. Perfect.

Things were on the up, with a lot of reasons to be positive. Bring on the end of 2020!

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great write up as usual @Rumple43, and good to see some progress.  I personally am struggling a little for goals right now, and am hoping for a good January window to see if i can kick start form in my game.  You offer some things to consider in your save.  keep it up!

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1 hour ago, rlipscombe said:

great write up as usual @Rumple43, and good to see some progress.  I personally am struggling a little for goals right now, and am hoping for a good January window to see if i can kick start form in my game.  You offer some things to consider in your save.  keep it up!

Thanks matey, very kind. I’ve put a big emphasis on the new tactic, and on set pieces. I use extra sessions in training to focus on those things as well, usually at least once a week with attacking corners, set piece delivery, and defending from the front. It’s been helping for sure. 

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1 hour ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

Doing very well with the Wednesday.

Absolutely! Tucked in nicely in mid table, all a bit of a surprise in honesty. Unsure that the fast start will be maintained, and apart from Griffiths I’ve not really had an injury issue yet either. 

Still plenty of time for the wheels to fall off in the long winter months tho! :-)

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6 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Another good update, you seem to be doing as well as could have been expected! 

Pretty much, way better than expected in fact. Not really sure what it is that's helped us the most, but maybe the Prem just wasn't quite as far away as I thought. The top of it is, for sure, but there still a pack of teams in the lower reaches that can be beaten. Plus the odd team like Spurs that are having a real off year, that helps as well.

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So it appears we aren’t a laughing stock after all. We’ve won games. We have points on the board, and we’re much closer to mid-table than any of the mess near the bottom. Still, it was a long season and current form wasn’t a guarantee of future success. Plenty could and probably would still go wrong, but for now it was ok to be pleased with what we’d achieved.

As we head towards Christmas and the January window, let’s see how November and December went and if we could keep our unlikely form going for a bit longer.

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The Premiership Money Tree

There were some big things to highlight by the end of December that were important to the club’s progress. One of them was most certainly the state of the finances, which were now beginning to get back into shape thanks to the constant flow of cash that the Premier League TV deal creates.

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It should be noted, this image was taken on 2 January 2021 when Kadeem Harris transfer fee dropped into the bank, but it was still a healthy picture. We were generally making a small profit or a minor loss each month, even with our loan repayments. We had managed to cover my August player recruitment. The wages were under control. Pleasingly, Hillsborough was also rocking. Our average home attendance was over 36,000 (91% of capacity) and that was good for 10th best in the league.

Now I just had to get the Board to sort us out some Youth Facilities again.

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Being Objective about Objectives

Another interesting development with regards to the club and my own person goals came in the 3rd week of November. It appears that whilst I was flying way higher than my pre-season prediction suggested, Sheffield United were having no such luck.

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United were 19th at the time and frankly, it wasn't good. They weren’t in huge danger as there were still plenty of games remaining, but early season form had been poor and Wilder had paid for it with his job. I suppose after finishing 9th then not really upgrading the team, they must have stagnated, that or he just didn’t get the same out of players.

Either way, my original personal objective to surpass United and also become the #1 team in Yorkshire seemed to be coming to fruition a little too quickly for my liking. Leeds were bottom of the table, and it felt a little like I was going onwards and upwards as my rivals did the exact opposite.

It felt like it might not be too long before I’d achieved what I set out to when this game began, and I was only in the middle of my 2nd season. Hopefully one or both teams can pull their finger out and make a fist of things.

Maybe I needed new objectives, or maybe my objectives just weren't very good to begin with. If anyone has any suggestions, answers on a postcard please.

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Even the Saviour Needs A Break

There was no denying that Noah Jean Holm had fired me to the Premier League. His impact from signing to the end of last season was huge, and he scored a lot of important goals. That said, the Premiership wasn’t being kind to him.

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With Andy Carroll and Leigh Griffiths both injured, the reliable and so far fairly impressive Dawid Kownacki also decided he needed to give me a headache and he to went for a spell on the physio’s table as well.

That left me with a stretch of about six or seven games where Holm was my only fit “senior” striker, and at 19, I probably have clothes in my wardrobe that are older than him. He also wasn’t bought with my current system in mind, and although he has time to grow, the lone striker/pressing forward role isn’t really one he fits. It wasn't a good mix.

Sad to say, the young lad is currently bereft of confidence, playing up front on his own, and he hasn’t scored yet this season. He’s gone 18 games without a single goal, and it feels brutal every time I play him.

His form matched my general return in November and December (which I’ll get on to shortly), but at times it was tough viewing. Hopefully I can get some additions in, get some players back from injury, and send Holm off on loan to the Championship in January. That would probably do him the world of good. Right now, I feel like I’m just grinding him into the floor.

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November Rain and Christmas Cheer(s)

A combination of the striker injuries and a tough run of games meant that the team suffered in November and December. That said, we still picked up some valuable points in our quest for what was now looking more and more like a successful campaign avoiding the drop.

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Liverpool and Man City away was always going to be grim, but at least we picked up a big win at home to West Ham in the middle. The Leeds result was a shocker, total one-way traffic in our favour only to lose. We just looked incapable of putting the ball in the net, but that’s what happens when your only fit striker is gun shy.

Still, results picked up around Christmas with two huge wins and seven points from a possible nine to end 2020. We were never going to sustain any kind of form to push up the table, but we were regularly picking up points and the teams below us couldn't manage the same.

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Pulling 14 points away from trouble, and we were now less than 10 points away from the 34-point target I’d set before the season began. With the group of Norwich, SUFC, Southampton and Leeds all looking pretty iffy, my thoughts of relegation were evaporating very quickly. I wasn’t the only one thinking that either.

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Moving the Goal Posts (Again)

To end 2020, the Board had decided that they would offer me some flexibility in my season aims. We were far exceeding our goal of bravely fighting relegation. In fact, we were laughing in its face! So they thought it was a good idea to re-evaluate, and in honesty, I had to agree.

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They offered me a number of options, but in the end I erred on the side of caution and simply went one step up from “Bravely Fight Against Relegation” to simply “Avoid Relegation”. As nice as it would have been to shoot for a mid-table position, that was far from guaranteed and I didn’t want to come under pressure if I couldn’t maintain what essentially was an over-achievement from August to December.

At least moving the goal posts made sense from the Board this time, and it did also net me a little bit more money to spend in January. Exciting times at S6 as we head into the January window!

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Another great update which is thoughtful, well-written and laid out. These posts really do capture the mood of your time with The Owls.

Sorry to see Chris Wilder be sacked (but that's football unfortunately). Even more sad to see young Noah struggling, I can really feel the suffering there (you and him).

It's quite amazing that in 1.5 seasons you have got the club to where it is, keep up the good work.

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1 hour ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Another great update which is thoughtful, well-written and laid out. These posts really do capture the mood of your time with The Owls.

Sorry to see Chris Wilder be sacked (but that's football unfortunately). Even more sad to see young Noah struggling, I can really feel the suffering there (you and him).

It's quite amazing that in 1.5 seasons you have got the club to where it is, keep up the good work.

Thanks matey, really appreciate that.

Having to throw Holm to the wolves was rubbish but I didn't have anyone else to play. It's him starting and a 16 year old striker on the bench, who has even gone on a few times. The Wilder one was strange. He left United, and Thomas Frank decided to jump ship from Brentford and take his place. Wilder was then appointed as Brentford boss a few weeks later!

As for the progress, it's boggling my mind. I'd love to tell you I've been save/reloading a ton to fly through the leagues, but I just don't see the point. I'd rather fail and write an interesting story about that instead. What we're doing is just working, and I'm as surprised as anyone!

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1 minute ago, Rumple43 said:

Thanks matey, really appreciate that.

Having to throw Holm to the wolves was rubbish but I didn't have anyone else to play. It's him starting and a 16 year old striker on the bench, who has even gone on a few times. The Wilder one was strange. He left United, and Thomas Frank decided to jump ship from Brentford and take his place. Wilder was then appointed as Brentford boss a few weeks later!

As for the progress, it's boggling my mind. I'd love to tell you I've been save/reloading a ton to fly through the leagues, but I just don't see the point. I'd rather fail and write an interesting story about that instead. What we're doing is just working, and I'm as surprised as anyone!

Strange managerial merry-go-round indeed. Hopefully you can get some reinforcements and Noah can have some pressure taken off before he decides to head for the Ark...

I agree 100% on this, the journey of highs and lows is the reason I play Football Manager and I sometimes cringe (even in my own games) at unrealistic success. It doesn't mean save and re-load is behind everybody's achievements at all, but I often wish for me personally that it was harder like in much older versions where success really had to be earned.

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54 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Strange managerial merry-go-round indeed. Hopefully you can get some reinforcements and Noah can have some pressure taken off before he decides to head for the Ark...

I agree 100% on this, the journey of highs and lows is the reason I play Football Manager and I sometimes cringe (even in my own games) at unrealistic success. It doesn't mean save and re-load is behind everybody's achievements at all, but I often wish for me personally that it was harder like in much older versions where success really had to be earned.

Agree on this, for sure. It's strange. I played so many season on 19, so maybe I got used to it or the standard that I was at, but it does just seem easier on 20. Bit of a strange statement to make for a game with no difficulty setting or slider, and also perhaps too early to call given I've only had 18 months. Not sure what to make of it, but your response was reassuring at least :-)

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Nice updates. Sad to see Sheffield Utd struggling, I can see why you feel conflicted about that. I have noticed that they always get relegated so either they are underrated in the game or Wilder has them playing out of their skin in real life. 

I agree about the game being easier perhaps, however I will also say that once you reach closer to the top the difficulty level goes up a few notches rather quickly! Which is how it should be. So for example you can do what Wilder has done IRL or indeed wolves did as well, but to go from there to breaking into the top 6, the top 4 and eventually competing for the title is very hard indeed. 

As for objectives, maybe some club records you can go after? Something from the clubs history? Find the new Benito Carbone? What's the Boards stated objectives in the game

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6 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Nice updates. Sad to see Sheffield Utd struggling, I can see why you feel conflicted about that. I have noticed that they always get relegated so either they are underrated in the game or Wilder has them playing out of their skin in real life. 

I agree about the game being easier perhaps, however I will also say that once you reach closer to the top the difficulty level goes up a few notches rather quickly! Which is how it should be. So for example you can do what Wilder has done IRL or indeed wolves did as well, but to go from there to breaking into the top 6, the top 4 and eventually competing for the title is very hard indeed. 

As for objectives, maybe some club records you can go after? Something from the clubs history? Find the new Benito Carbone? What's the Boards stated objectives in the game

I figured with United finishing 9th in season 1 they might continue to do well but not to be. Will be interesting to see if they falter IRL in 2020/21. They’re not down and out for sure, but they’ll probably be battling the rest of the way. They still have some quality as well, especially Berge, but they’re fairly light up front. Would just be nice to continue that rivalry if we can, can’t wait to play them at Hillsborough near the end of the season!

I’ll agree on the top 4/6. As well as I’ve done against the teams 10th and down, (decent home form has helped for sure) that top tier still gives me a hiding, especially away from home. When they’re buying players for £100m+ each season, the gulf just gets bigger and bigger. May take some serious time to break through. 

The Board still wants me to Avoid Relegation before incrementally becoming more established in the PL. Not very exciting, but there’s always the possibility for a bit of a cup run each season. I suppose it’s more a case of just slowly adding more quality to the squad and slowly stepping it up year on year.

I could also get some satisfaction from fixing the club’s dreadful youth set up, that’ll take some doing and would probably provide a fair bit of enjoyment if I can cultivate a youngster or two from 15/16 through to the PL.

Or I’ll just bolt once Potter gets sacked from the England gig. I’m 100% going to get that job in 2022 once we bomb at the World Cup in Qatar :cool:

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The end to 2020 was a bit of a bumpy one. Between tough fixtures, an injury crisis up front and a few underwhelming performances, things weren’t going quite as well as they had. That said, we did turn things on during the Christmas period, and it gave a welcomed sense of optimism heading into the January window.

Let’s see what the first two months of 2021 would bring, with a chance to keep moving forward in our first season back in the Prem.

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The Italian Job

During Wednesday’s most recent peak in the late 90’s, the team had boasted the talents of two Italians in Benito Carbone and Paulo Di Canio. Both made a great impact (Paul Alcock flop aside, of course) and they scored some great goals, like this one and these to!

The January window brought with it somewhat of an Italian influx. I’m not quite sure why, but the best players my scouts brought back were routinely from Seria A. It did also help that Lazio appeared to be having somewhat of a fire sale, selling me two great players for dirt cheap prices and in truth it could have been as many as four players if I’d had the cash.

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Following the summer purchase of Sportiello in goal, the arrival of Palombi, Cataldi and Magnani boosted the Italian contingent in the squad whilst also adding some much-needed quality and depth. Palombi looks to be a useful Pressing Forward that should help to address the long term and potentially career derailing injury to Leigh Griffiths (he is over 30, after all). It should also act as cover for the injury prone Andy Carroll and goal shy Noah Jean Holm.

Cataldi can play DM(C) as well as M(C) and should prove to be a solution for when Guendouzi returns to Arsenal and to address Sam Hutchinson's general decline. Magnani was needed as an upgrade at D(C), replacing some of the bit players that weren’t likely to see much action. Rober also arrived to do a similar job. Neither stands out as a top player, but both were worthy additions for the price tags.

Michael Duffy was an interesting one. He was playing in the Irish Prem, and I’d scouted him a few times. Every time my scouts were high on him, and I liked his stats and personality (Resolute). I needed depth on the wings, but it just seemed too far fetched that an unknown, uncapped 27-year-old would be available on a free and of Prem quality. Either way, I took a punt and we’ll see what he does.

As for players that left, it was a lengthy list:

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Tom Lees wasn’t getting football and despite his great leadership and mental stats, he didn’t want to stay. Van Aken was a similar casualty. He wasn’t good enough for the PL and his contract was up in the summer. I was happy for him to get some football and let him go back to Holland early. Luongo returned to the Championship as he’d hardly featured for me, and the Kadeem Harris transfer finally went through.

A number of youth prospects left the club, some on loan and some permanently. It’s always a shame to see players that were once full of excitement reach the end of the road with you, but they simply hadn’t managed to realise their potential and the step up from the Championship to the Prem hadn’t helped. Neither had selling the youth facilities. Moses Odubajo was probably the most notable departure on that front, he just hadn't progressed enough to be retained, so off he went.

Isaac Rice and Osaze Urhoghide continue to be my best breakthrough potential prospects, whilst Joe Wildsmith is in danger of stagnating. He needs to get himself going at Millwall or he isn’t going to make the grade.

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The Magic of the Cup (Part 3)

Last season’s efforts at a Cup run were abysmal. We lost to Bradford (!?) in the League Cup, then drew Liverpool away in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, which ended as predictably as you’d imagine. Wins against Stoke and West Brom had taken us to the League Cup 4th round in October this season before a loss on pens at Old Trafford, but so far the “Magic of the Cup” was well and truly absent.

So here we go with the FA Cup once more! And…….it’s Liverpool. At Anfield. Again.

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Two years in a row. Dawson saved a pen at least, that was a highlight. And some of my fringe/youth players got a run out, but largely it was a waste of time. 33 shots! I mean, they didn’t actually need to bother with a keeper and they would have still won. The gulf to the top 4 remains as huge as ever.

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Storm in a Teacup

Much was made of the herculean task to stay up when the season began (mostly by myself, though the media prediction of 20th also played a part) and in truth, it hadn't really played out that way. There were plenty of poor teams that looked far more directionless in the top flight that the Owls, not least our cross-town rivals and the boys in white just up the M1.

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That said, January and February were awful. Things started well with a really gutsy win away to a struggling Brighton, but that was it. The Arsenal loss we were 1-0 up going into the last 10 and bottled it. We hammered Brentford and lost. We were absolutely dire at Everton. Palace was a tight one where we didn’t get the breaks, it happens. Just harder to swallow when you’re searching for points.

February was a little better, and in isolation two draws against top sides like Man U and Wolves should be seen as positives but really, I wanted to stop the rot. We finally got a win against Bournemouth thanks to Danilo Cataldi (more on that later) but it had been a tough stretch.

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34….is the Magic Number

For all the team’s flailing about in January and February, the win against Bournemouth had provided us with something more symbolic than anything, but it still felt good.

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With 10 games to go, we had hit the 34-point mark that I’d set as a personal goal before the season began. That put us 10 points above the drop zone and barring the sort of astronomical collapse that January tried to provide, things were looking good. We had done what we needed to do, and we’d done it with some room to spare.

It wasn’t so much that I was certain we wouldn’t drop off, I still very much had thought in my head (especially after January). It was more that I didn’t have any faith that the teams at the bottom would suddenly turn things around and come past us. 34 points felt pretty safe.

My thoughts switched from survival to a potential final finishing position. The prize money for 11th was £19.98m. 12th was £17.98m. 13th was still £15.98m. Those were massive amounts for a club that hadn’t had a balance over £7m since the game began. Far from settling for mid-table mediocrity, it was something to actively strive for.

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We Want More! We Want More!

With the team on the rise and our Premiership status looking more and more likely with every passing game, it was only inevitable that the Board made a decision on me in mid-January.

It was new contract time.

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The club loved me. The fans loved me. For the most part, the players seemed to love me. Chris Wilder (now at Brentford) most certainly didn’t seem to love me, and that was great!

I was asked to stick around until the end of 2023/24. Next season I would be tasked with once again “Avoiding Relegation” rather than bravely fighting against it. In 2022/23, I needed to be an “established Premier League team” and by the last year of my deal in 2023/24, we needed to record a top half finish. They were the goalposts to aim for, well, until the Board move them again of course.

Considering we were currently fairly close to the top half of the Prem anyway, it all felt pretty reasonable.

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Belting Goal Bonus – Danilo Cataldi

It’s no secret we were bang out of form heading into February’s final game at home to Bournemouth. We had taken 2 points from a possible 18 coming in, and we needed a win in the worst kind of way.

I present to you, Danilo Cataldi. He was ridiculous. Bournemouth had no answer for him, and I’m not really surprised.

He opened with this gem:

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Absolutely no stopping one of those. But he wasn’t finished, as he launched this rocket for his 2nd later on:

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His rounded out his hat-trick with a rather tame goal that was “only” from the edge of the area, but the masterclass was complete. It was a sweet way to win, and as always, neither goal made it into the top 3 for the month. I’m starting to think we’re getting overlooked on that front a little too often.

See you all in March.

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We’d hit the 34-point mark with room to spare, and the team was looking safe for a mid-table finish. We’d performed remarkably well, with our home form in particular making us a tough team to play against for all but the very best. January had seen new faces come to the club (mainly Italian) and some players leave (both young and a little older).

We now faced what was always the most important stretch of any season for me, March and April. 7 of our remaining 10 games fell into those two months, and performances would no doubt go a long way to deciding if we were going to continue our push towards the top 10, or slump a little further down the pecking order.

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Leeds

It has been a miserable season back in the Prem for Leeds. I can’t say I was gutted about that, but they were all but relegated when they only had 10 points in the bank by Christmas.

Of those 10 points though, three of them came courtesy of beating me 1-0 at Elland Road in December, that was deeply disappointing. I think it was fair to say we owed them a bit of pay back. If we could put the final nail in their coffin (or close to it) in the process, all the sweeter.

As usual, it didn’t go to plan.

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We’ve all had them. Getting “FM’d”. In short, the entire 90 minutes resembles the substance that comes out of the back of a male cow, and you literally want to smash your computer into tiny pieces by the full time whistle.

The fact we still managed to get a point was zero consolation. I was furious.

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Looking to the Future

After releasing so many former youth prospects in January, it was nice to get a look at the next set of youngsters in March. I mean, in theory it was nice. The reality wasn’t as good.

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There’s nothing there that is going to worth cultivating for the future, though that isn’t surprising given the current set up at the club. With a youth level of three and the fact we don’t even own our own youth facilities, pulling in awesome young talent was a bit of a far fetched notion.

Maybe something we can work on in coming seasons, but for now it was a bit of a let-down. There's still an awful lot of work to do on this front, and it certainly isn't matching the forward movement a lot of other areas are enjoying.

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Catching the Eye

It wasn’t all bad news off the pitch though. If we were an appealing prospect for a takeover before the season began, our general success in making sure we didn’t yo-yo straight back down to the Championship had also begun to turn more heads.

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The rumours were once again getting knocked back, but it was hard to avoid thinking that the vultures were circling. I’d still like to think my job would be safe given the achievements to date, but nothing was certain. Still nothing formal of course, we will continue to keep a watch on this one.

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It’s not been a fun 2020

January wasn’t good, though February had those two draws and a win. March and April? Let’s just say I’m glad that we had already hit the 34-point mark!

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Don’t get me wrong, there’s some very difficult fixtures in that list. Away to Chelsea and West Ham went as expected, though the West Ham game was particularly poor. The Leeds game I covered above, and the Liverpool game was unfortunate, as was the City game. We matched both teams but they're just so good.

Either way, it had left me slipping down the table a little quicker than I’d have liked and the win away to Norwich was huge to stop the slide.

In truth, I think I was just overachieving. The form we’d had in 2020 was probably a lot more like what should have been expected when we came up. It was only our surprising results in the first few months of the season that shifted expectations. This was probably more of what was originally forecast, it had just taken longer to arrive. Losing sucks but I couldn’t really complain. It had been a brilliant season regardless.

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The Only Thing That Matters

Despite everything that went before the Norwich win, that victory in Norfolk did secure one very important thing. We were safe. Mathematically with three games to go, we would 100% be playing Premiership football again next season. It was an excellent feeling.

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The same couldn’t be said for my Yorkshire counterparts. Leeds were already down, they had been well off the pace all season (apart from when they played me, annoyingly). Sheffield United were also in a tight spot, and I had them at Hillsborough as the first game of May. A result in my favour could very well push the Blades right to the brink, especially with their terrible goal difference. We were dangerously close to becoming the undisputed top dog in Yorkshire, how quickly that had turned around!

Next month we’ll wrap the season and see where we can finish. One thing is for sure though, we aren’t going down!

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well done @Rumple43.  It'll be interesting to see what happens on the takeover front.  I had a takeover on my game (second season i think).  No sugar daddy though.

Edited by rlipscombe
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12 hours ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

Good effort in comfortably staying up.

Thanks mate, it was all fairly straight forward in the end. Got a good start to create some separation then avoided getting pulled back into things as the season went on. Now to make sure we keep moving forward and don't get pulled back in season 2.

 

11 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

well done @Rumple43.  It'll be interesting to see what happens on the takeover front.  I had a takeover on my game (second season i think).  No sugar daddy though.

As exciting as it would be, it doesn't seem to be happening. The message that pops up seems to be the same the times I've had it, then nothing else comes of it. Could all change like, but for now I'll just keep going with Mr Chansiri and see if we can take over the world!

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Here we were, we’d made it to the end of the season. Some players had gone, some had come in. We had defied the odds and secured our Premier League future for a second year, and we had the chance to send bitter rivals Sheffield United back down to the Championship if we could just do the business at Hillsborough.

About that….

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Sheffield United

This was set up perfectly. Coming off the back of the Norwich win, we were on the up and United were floundering. We were at home, where we’d been really strong, beating Spurs, West Ham, Wolves, Everton and taking a point off Man U. The Blades would surely crumble.

They absolutely didn’t.

In truth, their PL future depended on getting a result. It was massive for them, and maybe in hindsight, we were just playing for a mid-table spot. Going 1-0 up early, I fancied we’d run away to a large and famous victory. It never happened, and the equaliser was an absolutely world class finish from Danilo Cataldi. He’d shown his quality with the strikes against Bournemouth back in the February, this one was unstoppable!

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Wrong net lad! What you doing?! No keeper in the world is saving that one.

Then they scored against the run of play and 2-1 down, I feared the worst. Fortunately, Andy Carroll popped up with an immediate equaliser, he was fit for once and still dominating in the box, and that left me about 25 minutes to find a winner.

We had to wait, but that made it even better. United could practically taste a valuable point, it was in their grasp. Then….it wasn’t.

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Yes Palombi. Yes, Yes, Y-E-S. Hillsborough erupts!! United are finished. Done and dusted. All that’s left to do is check if results went against them and they’re pretty much down, or if they still have something to play for.

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The Fat Lady is Warming Up….

As it turns out, United were still very much alive. In the penultimate weekend of the season, they beat Palace 3-0 at home, and everyone else around them lost. That left the final weekend poised on a knife edge.

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Five teams. Two relegation places. 1 point between them all. The fixtures were as follows:

Leeds v Sheffield United
Manchester City v Southampton
Brentford v Brighton
Tottenham v Bournemouth

I’ll not lie, I didn’t fancy Southampton’s chances of getting anything at the Etihad. United had the easiest draw of all away to already relegated Leeds, and Brentford and Brighton could potentially send each other down. Bournemouth away to Spurs was dicey, but Tottenham had been poor all season long (we took 4 out of 6 points off them).

For what it was worth, I had 6th place Leicester at home and a win would give me 11th place in the final standings. But who cares about that?!

Kick off comes. Southampton are quickly behind against City. Then it’s 2. Then it’s 3. They are surely down and we’re not even 20 minutes in. The goal difference is killing them as well, they slip to 19th and need a miracle.

Half an hour gone, United are down to 10 men. Erik Lamela on loan from Spurs has got a straight red, and Leeds score 2 minutes later. United are now down as well. But wait, a goal before the half, 1-1! There’s hope yet for the Blades.

Early in the 2nd half, Bournemouth go 1 up against Spurs. Brentford do the same over Brighton. Southampton ship a 4th and then a 5th. United need to do something and fast.

Instead, they let in another goal! Back breaker!! Leeds are going down, but they’re determined to drag United down with them. Into the last 10 minutes. Spurs and Brighton both find an equaliser for 1-1. Largely irrelevant. Southampton give up a 6th. Stoppage time.

United get a 2nd! They’re a goal away from safety at 2-2! Can they do it…..? They….

Can’t.

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I beat Leicester with a last second Dominic Iorfa goal. That was nice and 11th is an incredible way to end the season, winning our last four games for good measure.

Tight as you like at the bottom but United, Southampton and Leeds all depart. It was a wild way to end the season. Part of me wanted United to go down for obvious reasons. Part of me wanted them to stay up so the Steel City rivalry could continue. It just wasn’t to be for them.

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End of Season Review

It had been a thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable season. I was delighted that we’d not only stayed up, but also overachieved. The Board felt the same. We were on a high.

City were ridiculous and blew everyone away by some distance. My 34-point target ended up being more than enough, with 29 being the magic number in the end to stay up (plus goal difference of course).

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Our home form had proven to be key. Played 19, 9 wins, 3 draws, 7 losses. 30 points at Hillsborough was massive in keeping us going throughout the season.

Circling back to the tactical changes made at the start of the season, looking at the final stats, we had done exactly what we planned to do. I wanted a team that was horrible to play against and was more than up for the fight of staying in the division. We’d ticked those boxes:

  • We topped the league by a mile with regards to fouls (624, 2nd place had 553). That’s over 16 per game!
  • We led the league in tackles won with 1,204.
  • We led the league in yellow cards at 103, 2nd place had 94.

More encouragingly, there were serious signs for growth:

  • We were 1st in the league for cross completion (31%, 2nd was at 24%).
  • We led the league in chances created with 120. Arsenal came 3rd with 86 points and had 119 chances created as the next best team.

It suggested that if we could be a little more clinical and recruit more quality up front, the system could bring forth serious goals and the potential for further improvement. That was very pleasing. It would be a big focus during the summer.

My favourite stat was in terms of salary and money spent:

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In the graphic (which is sorted by salary spent per year), we are 16th out of 20 teams for money spent on player wages. I’ve put a green line under any team that spent more in salary or transfers and still finished below us. That’s a lot of green lines.

In short, we had done brilliantly, and what’s more, we’d done it by spending less that plenty of other teams. Excellent.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

Finishing 11th had given us a whopping £19.98m in prize money. The club was on a financial footing that it hadn’t experienced for many years, and certainly not since this game began 2 years ago.

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Most pleasing from my perspective is that we had managed to turn a profit even without the prize money, including the transfers we’d made (£40.5m spent, £12.25m received).

There wouldn’t be anything from the administrators now, they were a long and distant memory. They were however a prudent reminder as I planed for my 2nd season in the Premiership. Players still needed to have relegation wage reductions in contracts. We needed a stable base and smart decision making, otherwise the club could easily end up back at square one. If we went too big, too soon, it could back fire.

But all that said, it was still much better having money and being careful with it than having none at all!

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All About Youth

Selling our youth facilities to stay in business was probably the low point of last season. It was necessary, but it wasn’t pleasant, and it was always going to set the club back a number of years.

With all that prize money sloshing around, it was time to go and have a chat with the Chairman.

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In truth, it wasn’t a hard conversation. The Youth Facilities were being built/repossessed/upgraded (however it worked) and would be ours once again. We were also getting an improvement to the main training facilities, and both would be ready in early November.

With those upgrades in progress, we’d managed to apply to get our Youth Category raised to the highest level, 1. We were at a 2 in our first season before it all went belly up, so this was a great improvement.

The U18s played in the Professional Development League (Tier 2, basically) in 2019/20, and then in 2020/21 they had dropped to Tier 3, the Youth Alliance League, which is mainly populated by League 1, 2 and Conference National teams. The fact we were in there as a Premiership side was a shambles.

But for the upcoming season, we would be taking our place at the U18’s top table, Tier 1, the U18 Premier League.

Everything was continuing to trend firmly upwards, but it would take another good summer to avoid slipping backwards against stiff competition. Time for another busy off-season!

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11 hours ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

There go your two Yorkshire rivals.

Aye, both of them ended up biting the dust in the end sadly.

There's no guarantee either of them bounce straight back either. I scouted United's team once they went down and apart from Berge and Patrick Roberts, they didn't have a lot of quality. If they can keep hold of either of those guys, and Lys Mousset, remains to be seen.

Also, United and Leeds are going down with Southampton, Newcastle are already in the Championship, West Brom have been strong, Birmingham and Blackburn are on the rise, same with Derby, so as always the Championship will be a real dog fight to escape from. We'll see what happens.

Hopefully by the time either team comes back up I'll have moved on to bigger and better things and I'll crush them whenever we play!

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48 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

Another good update. Will be interesting to see how the second season goes. Did Sheff Utd keep Wilder in the job? 

No, that one was in the November/December update. They canned him, so Thomas Frank left Brentford and took the job. About a week or so later, Wilder took Frank's job at Brentford!

United went down, Brentford stayed up, so I get to see Mr Wilder next season but not United!

 

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39 minutes ago, Rumple43 said:

No, that one was in the November/December update. They canned him, so Thomas Frank left Brentford and took the job. About a week or so later, Wilder took Frank's job at Brentford!

United went down, Brentford stayed up, so I get to see Mr Wilder next season but not United!

 

Unfortunate. Both wilder and the team are underrated in the game. 

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13 hours ago, Draakon said:

Great thread, interesting read. I've really enjoyed it so far.

Thanks matey, appreciate you popping in and the comment as well. 

Writing my story out is definitely giving my game an extra dimension and I’m really enjoying doing it to, which is a bonus!

Hopefully we keep progressing, it’s been a fun ride so far. 

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We had survived 2020/21, Wednesday’s 1st season back in the top flight since the back end of the 20th century. It hadn’t been easy, but in the end we were safe with room to spare and after analysing the campaign, I had plenty of thoughts for how we would continue building for next season. I didn’t want to do too much too quickly, but I also didn’t want to be stagnant either.

Let’s take a look at how June panned out, shall we?

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Being the Early Bird

Before the transfer window had even opened, I set about spending my dosh. It wasn’t really a difficult decision, I was fairly sure I knew what I needed and the type of player that would now fit my system. By the time the window got underway, I had four players lined up and a 5th on the way.

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Vasiliadis I’d had my eye on since mid-December, he was a tenacious centre mid with a ridiculous work ethic, natural fitness, teamwork streak. At the time, his current team Paderborn were looking like relegation candidates in the Bundesliga, and eventually they did indeed drop out of the top division. It made recruiting him easier, that’s for sure.

Will Hughes went down with Watford the same season we came up, so he’d spent 2020/21 in the Championship. He hadn’t played all that much, but he looked a good fit for me down either the left or right wing and as a sucker for a cut price deal, I pulled the trigger. Some might wonder why a bit part player in the Championship was on my radar as I looked to upgrade, but that felt like the beauty of this new system. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and utilising a player’s strengths might mean getting something out of them that their previous teams had struggled to do.

Sarr and Bastoni look like they could well be my CB pairing for a good few years. Both have room to grow and should develop with first team opportunities and regular Premiership football. I was beginning to get into the realms of spending more on players, but these both felt like solid acquisitions and worth the price tag.

Then there’s Stuart Findlay. He felt like Kiko Olivas 2.0. I’d agreed to sign him at Christmas, and by the time the end of the season rolled around, my team was much better, and the calibre of player I wanted was higher. Like Olivas, Findlay made sense when I clicked the sign button, but 6 months later it was a questionable decision. Never mind, can’t hit the jackpot every time.

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Déjà vu

Interestingly, the new fixtures came out and for the 2nd year in a row, I would be hosting Leicester at Hillsborough on the last day of the season. It went well for me the first time, a 2-1 win when I was already safe from the drop, so hopefully lightning would strike twice?

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Outside of that, playing Brentford and Norwich in the first three games was handy, as was playing at home on Boxing Day. No local derby games on the fixtures this year though :(

I wasn’t really sure what the new season would bring, but I think if I’m being honest a top half finish would be a good result. We shouldn’t get sucked into the relegation fight unless we seriously regressed, and in honesty, spending some decent cash should make us a stronger team than last year. That was the aim, anyway.

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What Have We Got To Do?!

I have two schools of thought about the media on FM. Either they are completely incompetent, or they actively hate me. I can’t decide which it might be, but they didn’t seem to have much time for me or my team. I can’t really blame them if they didn’t like me, after all I send my assistant to every press engagement possible, but still, give us some respect boys!

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It was an improvement, I’ll say that. Last year we were predicted 20th with 1000-1 odds of winning the league. We were still 1000-1, but at least we’d moved up in their estimations. The public opinion was still that we’d be in the mix at the bottom and that lit a bit of a fire under me. It wasn’t going to happen.

Time to put into action the most important piece of the summer master plan.

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Pick A Striker, Any Striker

In my May update, I’d recapped my maiden season in the PL and found a few interesting tit bits. We were #1 in the league for cross completion, and #1 for chances created. It therefore seemed straight forward logic that if the chances were there, we just needed someone to put those chances into the net with more frequency. I’d already bought my two centre halves, it was time to look at the other end of the pitch.

The scouts were dispatched!

They brought back some interesting choices, two solid options and one selection that certainly piqued my attention. It was like an episode of a certain dating show from the 90’s that was presented by a ginger scouser that most are probably too young to understand.

Let’s play…..Striker Blind Date!

First up, behind door number one, we had…….Pietro Pellegri from Monaco. Now he does look fairly exciting.

Spoiler

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“So Pietro, why should we pick you?”

“Well, if you choose me, I’ll be sure to put the ball into the net for you. *wink*”

“Ooooooo, what a lad!”

In truth, I couldn’t decide if he was going to just be a great striker, or if he could also be a great pressing forward. He looked more the former (low aggression, average work rate, teamwork), but did it matter? I couldn’t decide. The price was reasonable, so that helped a little. Let’s move on to door number 2.

Behind #2, our scouts have chosen…..Sebastiano Esposito from Inter. Everyone loves an Italian, don’t they?!

Spoiler

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“Tell us Sebastiano, why should we choose you?”

“Well, I’ve got 16 for natural fitness and I can keep going….all season long.”

“Oh my! It is getting hot in here!”

The same issue with Pellegri loomed over this Italian stallion. 13 for work rate, 10 for aggression, 12 for teamwork. He had all the right stuff in all the right places as a striker with room to grow, and as he was two years younger than the guy behind door number one, he had age on his side as well. It was so hard to decide. Let’s see if door number three makes up our mind.

Door number three is a real wildcard, get your samba beat going because it’s…..Fininho from Brazil. Come on down love, let’s have a chat.

Spoiler

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“Tell us darling, why should Wednesday pick you?”

“You’d better believe I know how to finish, you can bet I’ll get the job done.”

“Isn’t he lovely, ladies and gentlemen?!”

And he was. At 17, he had ridiculous technical ability with the ball, 16 for dribbling and first touch, 17 for finishing. All that natural fitness! And the aggression, pure aggression!!! But he was fairly raw. And the least PL ready of the three. Could I afford to be outlaying a large chunk of my budget for someone that wasn’t likely to see the first team for a year or two? Oh, and he was dual national Italian, so not a work permit issue in sight!

Argh! I couldn’t decide. I went off to ponder it for a bit. Too big a decision to rush.

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Feeding Me A Load of Nonsense

Flirting with Fininho did make me ponder one of the original things I’d mentioned when I very first started that game:

Quote

“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.”

When I wrote that, I figured we’d be lost in the Championship for a while and bungling about trying to make some headway. But instead we'd taken the fast track to the Prem and were striving to be a top half team. There’s a reason that cheap South American newgens were so attractive, and that because they can take your team to another level.

I was torn. It felt like a moral choice, or a logical choice. Head over ruled heart, I went to knock on the chairman’s door.

“I’d like to request an affiliate club please.” This felt so wrong. I knew it was wrong. I said it anyway.

“I….I want to bring in youth prospects to strengthen the club going forward, first option to buy and all that.” Ugh. I said it.

“Certainly! A smashing idea!” This is absolutely how middle aged, Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri speaks, by the way.

And so it was done. I actually left it in the hands of my Board to sort out, they were drawing up the short list and I’d pick the winner. I went away to feel ashamed with myself.

They came back a few days later. The verdict was in.

Chester, Ebbsfleet, York or Barnet.

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You see, I clearly picked the wrong option and never really specified that I needed an affiliate from outside the UK, say, in South America, to poach these players from. Not only had I tried to sell my soul, I’d done it wrong anyway.

I declined all four. I’ll revisit this one down the line as well. What a mess!

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4 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

love the update!  looking forward to seeing which striker you go for.  As for the bookies and their odds, what do they know???

They didn't know anything last season when they thought I was going to finish rock bottom and I came in mid-table, so bring it on!! :-)

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My striker conundrum continued into July, but it needed to end soon in order to get whichever new player I chose into the club and ready to go for pre-season. I didn’t want a deadline day scenario where the team has already played a few games before someone comes in, then they’re not up to speed until say, the end of September. It became my #1 priority, so let’s get into how the rest of the summer and the first few games of the season began.

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Eeny, Meeny, Miney….errrr

I still couldn’t decide which striker I wanted, so I began to explore all three options. Fininho was the cheapest of them trio in terms of valuation, but he had a £23.5m release clause for foreign clubs in his contract and I didn’t have that kind of capital up front to drop all in one go. The most I could commit to up front was about £18m, then the rest would have to be spread out through instalments. It meant my first potential foray for the South America was probably off the table, for now at least.

In my heart, I think I was leaning towards Pellegri, but Esposito represented a pretty credible back up option. I contacted Monaco. Despite being worth £3.7m, they wanted serious money for their young striker. North of £50m. That was a stumbling block.

Perhaps not the bride, but a pretty tasty looking bridesmaid, I contacted Inter about Esposito. As the most expensive of the three at £11.25m, I didn’t fancy my chances. Surprisingly, their demands were fairly modest. I could probably strike a deal for around £30m, with around £12m-£14m now and the rest in instalments and bonuses over the coming years. It seemed like a good option, even if he wasn’t my first choice when I started.

However, he also wanted £95,000 a week, and a lot extra on top. That was even more than Kownacki. That brought me back once again to an indisputable truth of my rise through the standings and the progress the club was making. If we were going to get anywhere, we needed to start spending.

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It was the club’s biggest deal to date by some margin, but Esposito was on board. If you want quality, it is going to cost. I reckoned I could give him the service, last season's stats suggested as much, I just needed him and Kownacki to do the business once they got the opportunities. It was an exciting time, full of potential, and I was hoping for the best.

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Wrapping Up The Summer Spending

In the end, it was another busy window. I was still battling against the fact that the players leaving the club were still of Championship standard, and as such, not worth all that much, whereas the players I was bringing in were costing me a hefty sum. Hopefully we would be able to remedy that in a season or two, but for now it was still far from balanced.

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Having already covered Findlay, Hughes, Vasiliadis, Sarr, and Bastoni in my June update, I then managed to wrap up the Esposito deal for £31m and still had a bit of room left to bring in some quality on loan. McTominay was going to be this season’s Matteo Guendouzi, and I also managed to tack on the option of buying him for £14.5m should all go well. He was worth over £30m, so that seemed like a potential steal.

Lucas Paqueta I’ll cover in more detail shortly, but he had the potential to provide me with real star potential from Liverpool and I was really happy to get him. He played best as an AM(C), but in truth he looked good enough to play pretty much anywhere.

Going the other way, the roster turnover to make us more PL ready was still ongoing:

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Thankfully, I was able to send Noah Jean Holm back to the Championship to recapture his form and continue his development, though his ceiling now looked to be 2.5/3 stars at best. Kader Bamba went back to France, he’d done a job for me but didn’t fit how I now wanted to play and he wasn’t PL quality. Borner also went back down a level, that was an easy decision given the arrival of Sarr and Bastoni.

The only other move of note was the departure of Kiko Olivas. With his “successor” in Stuart Findlay now waiting in the wings to, well, not do much of anything for me most likely, Olivas went back to Spain. The less said about this one the better, it hadn’t worked out.

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Well, Well, Well!

The opening fixtures for the season looked enticing when they were announced, and they provided me with a solid look at my new and improved Wednesday team. How did we do? We did well!

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A comprehensive opening day win, and two goals on debut for Seb Esposito! A game I expected to win, but it was comprehensive, and you can’t do much more than that. Whilst that win was probably on the cards, this one wasn’t.

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The early season felt like a fight in the early Batman episodes. Team came out at me, and BAM! POW! BIFF!

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A great effort from the boys and another day sending the Hillsborough faithful home happy. Four different scorers, contributions from all over the place, and we even went down to 10 men late on.

It was a super 2nd half performance and showed that a top half finish could be on the cards. It was also the 2nd year in a row I’d beat Spurs at home, I was beginning to become a bit of a bogey team for them! Long may that continue!

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Fast Start, Positive Moves

As good as it was beating Brentford and Spurs, the result against Norwich annoyed me. We were still far from the finished article.

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The Spurs result was great, the win against Brentford was expected, the Everton point was a tough and gutsy performance, and the Norwich game wasn’t good. A mixed bag, but I was happy with life.

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There we go, finishing in the top half was on already. Joint 2nd high scorers in the division, and up there with the big boys. I was preferring to look upwards now than down to see where the issues might be, always optimistic! Plus, we were above Leicester, Arsenal, Spurs and Man U!!

But still early days, of course. Shame we couldn’t just finish the season here and move on.

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A Bit Of Class

It’s probably good to finish on Lucas Paqueta. I’d picked him up from Liverpool as a bit of an afterthought. Following the signing of Esposito, I’d kind of drawn a line under my transfer spending, then on a whim just had a gander at the loan market and saw McTominay and Paqueta sat there. Couldn’t say no.

Spoiler

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The tricky Brazilian didn’t really fit into my formation, but I figured that I could play him in M(C), or M(L), or even up front at a push, he was that good. It’s not often I was going to get a chance to get a £57m talent, but he looking like he could be the bit of quality my team needed to take us to that next level.

His opening month was a mixed bag. 2 goals, and assist, two man of the match awards and a red card. He loved giving people a kicking (which suits my team perfectly), but hopefully he’d continue the goal output as well.

Fingers crossed for this lad, he has a chance to really make a splash for me.

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I'm interest to see how Vasiliadis  will perform for you.He could be in Greek national team calls for next nations league.

 

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1 hour ago, Sheriff7 said:

I'm interest to see how Vasiliadis  will perform for you.He could be in Greek national team calls for next nations league.

 

I'm currently a few years ahead of my write ups with my actual FM game if you want me to drop you a DM with a few screen shots?

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22 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

Good going! Esposito should do the business for sure

He already looks to have hit the ground running, which is exactly what I was after. If he maintains the output he managed in August, it's going to be a ridiculous season haha

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8 hours ago, Rumple43 said:

I'm currently a few years ahead of my write ups with my actual FM game if you want me to drop you a DM with a few screen shots?

If it isn't a problem for you defenitely.It will be very interesting to see his progress.:thup:

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10 hours ago, Sheriff7 said:

If it isn't a problem for you defenitely.It will be very interesting to see his progress.:thup:

Info and screen shots sent.

If anyone else has any interest in players or staff, mine or otherwise, also happy to help. I do love talking FM, after all :-)

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Thank you all for staying patient whilst I had the audacity to go and take a holiday. Hopefully the number of readers doesn't dip too far, I've quite enjoyed the small community of people who pop in and drop a message from time to time.

Before I went away, the new season had started well and there was plenty to be positive about. The team looked to be on a trajectory towards being competitive in the top half of the table, and our latest acquisitions during the summer had largely hit the ground running. Could it continue? It absolutely could!

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Mixing It With The Big Boys

One thing I found daunting last season was playing against the top teams. In a few of those contests, particularly the away ones (0-3 v Man U, 1-5 v Arsenal, 0-4 v Liverpool, 0-3 v Man City), the gulf between myself and the top four felt very big indeed.

Could we start to buck that trend? You betcha!

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Away from home as well, but I wasn’t having it off the format champions and they were dispatched as new boy Sebastiano Esposito bagged another brace.

It got better!

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Sir Alex would have been furious haha! We were the better team as well, it was comfortable. Fortress Hillsborough was still repelling all comers (mostly), and another pair of goals for Esposito. He needs to steady on or someone will come in for him at Christmas!

The best was yet to come….

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The King Is Dead

City had been supreme last season, finishing with 103 points and winning the league by some distance over Liverpool. They handled me no problem at the Etihad, winning 3-0, before besting me 1-0 in a tight game at Hillsborough.

That was last season though, and this season we are a different beast!

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Two late goals made for a nervous last 5, but it also put a much more even slant onto what was otherwise a one-sided contest. To say that we had comfortably outplayed the best team in the country/Europe/World felt far fetched, but it was true. Aside from a fairly serious calf injury to Lucas Paqueta, it was a perfect day at the office.

If we were beating teams like Man U, Spurs, City, Leicester, I don’t think we’ll be worrying about relegation or even being lower mid-table any time soon. This looked like a team built to stay the course, and that was pretty exciting!

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There Is No Magic In The Cup

I won’t continue the pretence that there is somehow “magic” to be had from Cup competitions. In truth, I was fed up with the Cup in general. Here were my opponents since we’d fired this game up:

2019/20
League Cup – Bradford A
FA Cup – Liverpool A

2020/21
League Cup – Stoke H, West Brom A, Man U A
FA Cup – Liverpool A

2021/22
League Cup – Blackburn H, Chelsea A, Man U H
FA Cup – Don’t know yet, but I’m going to put a sizable wager it’ll be a top 4 team from the Prem

I was annoyed on a number of fronts. For one, I wanted some choice fixtures to play some of my reserves/youth in. Aside from Bradford in year 1 when we were still in the Championship, I’d played three 2nd tier teams and a five top six Prem sides over three seasons.

The draw hadn’t come through for the FA Cup 3rd round yet, but I was certain I was going to be playing somebody ridiculous. Oh, and I lost to Man U in the League Cup as well.

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If we were to ever to continue our development and eventually taste European football, it seemed highly unlikely it would come via a successful cup run.

I've said it before and I'll no doubt say it again, I do hate the Cup.

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Selling My Soul

For those who can remember my exploits from June, I had gone, cap in hand, to the Chairman and asked for a feeder club to potentially exploit some youth from South America. When you put it like that, it sounds incredibly dodgy, but the work permit route through Spain for youngsters was a tease I couldn’t ignore as I made moves towards the pinnacle of the Premier League.

I just needed to go about it the right way. After selecting the right option to explore an affiliate abroad, the results were in. And there were options in Spain’s first division as well. Hercules de Alicante seemed like the best option.  Great training facilities, Adequate youth facilities, pull the trigger.

It was done.

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I didn’t have any players to send to them, nor was it likely I’d suddenly have the sort of spare cash required for 17/18-year-old wonder kids, but I’d at least cleared the hurdle of getting an affiliate club in place should someone come along.

For now, the focus is still very much on improving the first team, even if I’d made myself feel a little bit dirty in the process. It was a bit like wanting to cheat on the wife. I hadn't actually done the deed, but I had got someone's number, just in case. The temptation was there.....

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Dare To Dream

We’d beaten Leicester, Man U, Chelsea away in the League Cup, City as well. What wasn’t to enjoy? I wanted the team to progress from year 1, and we looked like we’d done that and then some.

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A pretty decent run, all told. The table didn’t lie either.

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We were above Arsenal, Man U, Spurs, Chelsea, and with over a quarter of the season gone we were firmly in the mix for a Champions League place. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to maintain it, but for now I was getting giddy at the prospect of taking on the best in Europe.

For the record, Wednesday had won the top division in England four times, 1902/03, 1903/04, 1928/29 and 1929/30. Their best finish in more recent memory was a 3rd place spot in the final year of the old Division One, 1991/92, with that league rebranding as the Premier League for 1992/93. Since that rebrand, Wednesday's highest finish in the PL was three separate 7th places. So, that's the goal to aim for this season I reckon as it could also potentially take me into Europe.

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Pressing Goal Alert – No Pressing Concerns With The Tactics

We laboured to a win over Fulham, but we did score another trademark pressing goal that has become a signature of the team’s approach.

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Clinical as it gets. Esposito lost the ball running forward, but immediately hunts the centre half and full back to win possession again, doing so pretty quickly. A sharp ball across the ball the box and Kownacki doesn’t miss those. Another satisfying team goal, we were certainly giving the fans their monies worth both home and away!

Let’s see how we can wrap 2021 in November and December, it's all starting to get a little bit exciting!

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1 hour ago, karanhsingh said:

Nice update and some huge results there! 

Even the big boys can't compete against the Pressing Machine! It is certainly doing the business, and I do like sticking it to the big teams as well.

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12 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

great progess @Rumple43, and good to see another update...

Yeah, unintentional but also unavoidable gap whilst I was away from the PC for a week or so. Glad to see you are still around though :)

The team is progressing, the rate of it is also pretty alarming. Should't be too long before we get a shot at Europe the way things are going, things are certainly trending up rather than down!

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Just tuned in to this thread and caught up in one long monster read. Love it!

As a Blade, I tried a Wednesday save on the beta, which went through until about 2027 before I lost the spark. Found equally similar issues during the first season with injuries, finances, the lack of potency and inconsistency of the wingers! After season 2 the financial situation gets very sticky indeed.

I won promotion in the 2nd season and after a year or two of staying up in the Prem it's pretty clear that you need to push the top 6 early doors, otherwise they just hoover up all the outstanding talent at a canter, making it really difficult to break in. From experience, the teams in the bottom 10 places constantly make horrendous recruitment decisions - such as spending £20m on run of the mill 31 year old players, at £100k per week, which I think contributes to the massive divide between the elite and the 'meh'.

Looks like you're doing a cracking job! I never managed to even qualify for Europe, I set myself a strict wage limit for the first few years (the loan repayments were astronomical) but then when I became establised I struggled to break the top 7 (probably the reason I got fed up!) so you're on course.

Hope the Blades bounce straight back up...if they keep hold of Berge they should.

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

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