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[FM20] From Sheffield to South Africa


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6 minutes ago, johnstonpickle said:

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.

I'll not lie, I had a look at Berge lol They still wanted a lot of money for him though, a good £30m+, and rightly so as he is quality. The other issue is he doesn't really fit my formation/style, so I parked that one and went looking elsewhere. Good on you for going across the city to manage though, I don't think I've ever managed United in any version of FM, though there's a first time for everything!

I often wish I'd split my save at the playoff final and then intentionally lost one of the games to see what another season in the Championship with potential administration would have been like. That is probably my biggest regret so far. Not sure I'd have spent the time playing that save, I'd have happily simmed it month to month on holiday and just watched how it unfolded, but I would have been very interested in it.

I'm still very pleased with how this save has turned out thought, but I do also wonder what direction I'm going to go. I don't think I had particularly lofty aims when I started out and I seem to have met most of what I was hoping to achieve within a few year. Now aside from the natural progress, get better, finish high up the table, win things, I'm not quite sure what to aim for.

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12 minutes ago, Rumple43 said:

I'll not lie, I had a look at Berge lol They still wanted a lot of money for him though, a good £30m+, and rightly so as he is quality. The other issue is he doesn't really fit my formation/style, so I parked that one and went looking elsewhere. Good on you for going across the city to manage though, I don't think I've ever managed United in any version of FM, though there's a first time for everything!

I often wish I'd split my save at the playoff final and then intentionally lost one of the games to see what another season in the Championship with potential administration would have been like. That is probably my biggest regret so far. Not sure I'd have spent the time playing that save, I'd have happily simmed it month to month on holiday and just watched how it unfolded, but I would have been very interested in it.

I'm still very pleased with how this save has turned out thought, but I do also wonder what direction I'm going to go. I don't think I had particularly lofty aims when I started out and I seem to have met most of what I was hoping to achieve within a few year. Now aside from the natural progress, get better, finish high up the table, win things, I'm not quite sure what to aim for.

Yeah it's fair to say he does become a World Class midfielder as time goes by! For some reason I do love managing the other South Yorkshire teams, I've always had ambitions of getting all of them up into the Prem over the course of a save but never managed it.

I've never actually managed a team that went into administration mid-save, so that would've been a good challenge. Tempted to start another one with Wednesday actually, inspired by this thread...

I think your aim has to be to break into Europe as soon as possible. The type of player you could attract along with the extra cash will go a long way to breaking the true elite's hold on the top 4. Once you've done that, you've got every chance of building something capable of winning the league! I think we are alike in our love for the realism that FM can provide at times during the early days - wheeling and dealing players that you actually know IRL. I think the idea of getting promoted and challenging at the very top with random foreign players is a lot more attractive than the reality.

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On 18/08/2020 at 14:41, johnstonpickle said:

Yeah it's fair to say he does become a World Class midfielder as time goes by! For some reason I do love managing the other South Yorkshire teams, I've always had ambitions of getting all of them up into the Prem over the course of a save but never managed it.

I've never actually managed a team that went into administration mid-save, so that would've been a good challenge. Tempted to start another one with Wednesday actually, inspired by this thread...

I think your aim has to be to break into Europe as soon as possible. The type of player you could attract along with the extra cash will go a long way to breaking the true elite's hold on the top 4. Once you've done that, you've got every chance of building something capable of winning the league! I think we are alike in our love for the realism that FM can provide at times during the early days - wheeling and dealing players that you actually know IRL. I think the idea of getting promoted and challenging at the very top with random foreign players is a lot more attractive than the reality.

Despite how tempting it is to do otherwise, I've stuck to my ethos of only signing players that my scouts find for me, and trying to recruit "properly". As I move through from Championship to Prem to upper reaches of the Prem, I have less issue bringing in European players as that is still fairly realistic. Most sides do have a lot of European players, I'd say.

I'd like more English players but my Academy isn't producing good ones, and buying them is mental expensive!

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We roll our way towards the end of 2021, with one eye on 2022 and the other on making sure we continue our good form since the start of the season. We’re now rubbing shoulders near the upper half of the table, and it’d be a real shame if we couldn’t maintain our lofty position the rest of the way.

Let’s see what happened in November and December to wrap 2021.

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What A Difference A Year Makes

Our first season in the Prem was an up and down affair. A lot more up than down, I’ll admit, but there were still some low points as we tried to get up to speed with the step up in quality.

One such instance was at the Emirates as we took on Arsenal in late September, being completely outplayed and falling to an almost flattering 5-1 defeat.

How things had changed in a year.

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Early goal, tight at the back, clean sheet, won the possession battle, plenty of fouls to break play up, steal all the points and back on the M1 to go home.

It pleasing to be beating the best teams in the country, and now we’d started to do it away from home as well. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too much longer before we were one of those big teams!

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Building An Empire

November saw the final licks of paint put on some shiny new facilities at Middlewood Road. The Board had agreed at the back end of last season to upgrade the training facilities, and to sort us out our own youth facilities.

We now had Excellent Training Facilities, this was good news! However….

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We now had Basic Youth Facilities. The ones we were renting were classed as Superb, so that was a significant drop. We would be starting from the bottom it appears, with the lowest standard you can get. Can’t say I really see the logic in that, but looks like I’ve got no other option. Can’t see this getting any better for quite some time either as we can only really make one upgrade per season and we probably need 5/6/7 upgrades to get to a level suitable to a Premier League club.

Just when I thought that side of the club was beginning to look up as well!

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The Future Is Coming

And with basic youth facilities, it wasn’t going to be very good!

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That is a lot of negative points, and not a lot of positives. At this stage, I assume we’re just recruiting any old local kid who can kick a ball, see if they pan out or not.

I didn’t really have the spare money to be buying youth in and developing them (not that I had the facilities now, either), so this wasn’t one I could solve overnight. It was still going to be a long while before I got intake previews that were a lot more positive than the one above.

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The Saviour 2.0

Still, it wasn’t all bad news. I was unlikely to have any young prospects of my own any time soon, but for £31m, I could just buy someone else’s.

Sebastiano Esposito was making a mockery of the Premier League. It was incredible, like he was some sort of cheat code. It didn’t matter who we played, home or away, if we were playing good, bad or indifferent, if it was sunny, raining, fog, snow, you name it, didn’t matter.

Esposito was still going to score. He was inevitable

Spoiler

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He’d played 20 games and already scored 14 goals, good for top spot in the PL at 19 years old. In short, he was a dirty, dirty man. He felt a bit like a programming error, I didn’t know what to make of him. But I did like it!

The frightening thing is he was only going to get better, based on what the scouts said before I bought him and my coaches said now he was at the club. Either he was going to blast me into Europe, or I was going to get £100m plus for him. Seemed like a pretty sweet deal either way to be honest!

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Legitimate Contenders

Between Esposito’s brilliance, the team gelling as the season went on and some useful contributions from players like centre half Alessandro Bastoni and surprise package Will Hughes (who was quickly establishing himself as a nailed on regular down the right wing), we were flying. Owls, flying, ha! Yeah, anyway….

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The only thing I could complain about was the two home draws against Burnley and Brighton, as they were both fairly average teams and we had a load of a chances without scoring. Those games happen though.

The Chelsea loss was less acceptable, but they’re still a top team and have spent a ton of cash like all the top sides have. With Hakim Ziyech (£35.5m), Jadon Sancho (£97m), Lautaro Martinez (£87m), Luiz Felipe (£25.5m), Jose Gaya (£59m), Ferland Mendy (£43m), Federico Bernadeschi (£91m), Boubacar Kamara (£45.5m) and Benjamin Pavard (£73m) purchased in the last 18 months alone, they had an embarrassment of riches. Still, with a few breaks, they got a pen via VAR in the 78th minute, added a third in the 87th minute as I gambled forward, it was a game we could have won as well.

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It all came together to look like that by the end of 2021. Sat in a UCL place, who could have imagined it?! Certainly not me, and certainly not the media. 1000-1 to win the league and we were 7 points off leading the way as we passed the halfway mark.

Made me wish I’d stuck a cheeky tenner on it now haha!

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Without really meaning to, and without a great deal of song and dance, we’d quietly assembled a team that was challenging the top four. It was all rather bizarre. It didn’t feel like two minutes since we were scrapping through the Championship, the last gasp Forstieri winner at Wembley, clawing to stay in the Prem (and doing it rather comfortably). It was all a bit of a blur.

Were we set to move onto the next frontier and fight in Europe already?! There was still a long way to go, but a good January could certainly set us up for a solid run in.

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Cleaning Out The Cupboards

As nice as it would have been to throw the dosh around in January and make a real statement of intent, we simply didn’t have the money. Buying the likes of Bastoni, Esposito and Sarr in the summer, plus forking out for the wages of McTominay and Pacqueta, this Yorkshireman's pocked were well and truly closed.

The only move we could afford to make was a necessary one though, bringing in some support between the sticks. Cam Dawson and Marco Sportiello had been alright, but an upgrade was found in the shape of former Man U trainee Pierluigi Gollini, who’d also spent time at Villa but was at Atalanta when I picked him up.

Spoiler

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He was an upgrade and addressed one of the areas of the team that was still lagging behind since our promotion.

Going the other way, it was once again a case of shifting out players who weren’t good enough for this level and releasing youth players who didn’t make the grade to go enjoy pastures new.

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Liam Palmer had been a great servant to the club but went back to the Championship. The Michael Duffy experiment hadn’t worked, but was still worth a shot. Cheick Keita came to the club when Morgan Fox left and I had no left backs on the books, but in truth he wasn’t good enough and he went Stateside to play some SAAAWWWWKER with Chicago.

The main transfers of note were Sportiello going to Southampton and Leigh Griffiths departing. Sportiello had his head turned and for some reason really wanted to move. I wasn’t going to stop him, but it was a bit of a strange one. He was first choice, and Southampton were a step back in terms of stature. Still, this was also another reason for going and getting Gollini, of course.

Moving Griffiths on broke my heart. He could have been class. Instead, for the princely sum of £5.5m (and a lot of work for my medical team) I’d got 3 starts, 4 sub appearances and three goals from him. He never recovered from his ACL injury, he wasn’t good enough once he returned and I needed the wages. It was the logical decision.

But….I was sad to see him go. There was nothing I could do about how his time at the club had gone, but I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for what could have been. Good luck to him.

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I Now Despise the Cup

It was that time of year again. Shockingly, I hadn’t drawn Liverpool away in the 3rd round, instead playing my reserves against Stevenage for a highly uninspiring 1-0 win. At least it wasn't like Bradford away (nod to the long term readers there!). However, it was just delaying the inevitable as I ended up with Arsenal at the Emirates in the 4th round.

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I literally don’t know why I bother. At least Kownacki bagged a couple of goals, but all in all, it was another brief and frustrating Cup run.

I didn’t know what else I could do either. You can change your tactics. Buy new players. Run your club in a different way. I can’t change the cup draw, and it seemed to give me the shaft year after year.

The “magic” lives on…..

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Football Managers Probably Have A Low Life Expectancy

Early February brought forth an interesting result that made me question how far the club had come in the last six months or so.

I played Brentford away, and it wasn’t a classic. We should probably have won, but in the end, had to settle for a point. They aren’t very good. Bottom of the league in fact.

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The result annoyed me greatly. But, did it have a right to? I am over performing, massively if I’m being honest. I haven’t got the sort of money and resource that the teams around me do, not even close. We still had a pretty small squad. Did I have a right to be in the top six? Or annoyed if I couldn’t sustain it?

I wasn’t sure I had the answer to those questions, but pushing up the table had created a form of pressure in itself. A pressure of not wanting to regress of fade back to another mid-table finish. That wouldn’t have been catastrophic, it wasn’t relegation, but that in itself now felt a little bit like failure. We had demonstrated we could get into the mix with the big boys, so surely the aim was to maintain that?

It somehow felt a lot easier and more relaxed when the aim was just to avoid relegation and we’d managed a comfortable mid-table slot. Now there was a pressure to push on, and I wasn’t sure how that sat with me. I was kicking every ball, despairing if things didn’t fall my way, elated when we got an unexpected break.

The joys of management, I suppose. But it sure was becoming hard work.

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Just How We Drew It Up

As the points continued to flow into the club like a Saudi oligarch pouring money into a top UCL team (looking your way Man City....), I was enjoying watching my team play. For full disclosure, I tend to play with commentary only and goal highlights on, purely for speed. One of the goals against Villa did catch my eye as a great example of how this formation was working though.

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Now firstly, Villa were down to 10 men at this point, so there is extra space to work in, but it does show how this formation and set of roles works in the final third. I’ve labelled each player so that you can see where each position has moved to.

  • The two CD are set to stay back, and they’re playing 2 v 1 against the 1 remaining striker.
  • The two CMs are both sat fairly central, and both set to box to box so are occupying a similar space.
  • Both defensive wingers pull wide and give the formation some width from ML and MR, though the formation is set to about 50% attacking width so they’re not totally out to the touchline.
  • Both Inverted Wingbacks push right up, adding an extra two players into the midfield and in this instance, creating a nice six-man umbrella to knock the ball around. It also gives the opportunity for any of those six players to look for a run in behind, should it be needed. However, with these guys so far forward it leaves just two guys back and does illustrate how easy it can be to get caught on the counter should we lose possession cheaply.
  • Both strikers are a bit close together in this screenshot, but they’re both in the right place at least.

In the end it was all a bit much for Villa as I ran over them 4-1, but I did like this screenshot for showing how the team was set up to play. It’s been effective and seemed to be getting better and better as we continued to push up the table.

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The Year of the Underdog

Looking around Europe, 2021/22 was proving to be the year of the underdog, and that suited me perfectly. After some strong results that lifted us within touching distance of City in top spot, a glance around the leagues showed that Valencia were top of La Liga, Hertha were 3rd in the Bundesliga, and Lille were joint top in France. Change was afoot, clearly, though who knew if they, like me, would be able to stay the course.

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Typical result against City away, Arsenal away, and a couple of disappointing ones at home against Everton and away to Brentford. We bounced back in style though, thrashing Burnley and Bournemouth.

The less said about the FA Cup, the better. As always.

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The annoyance of those dropped points against Everton and Brentford was that they would have put us top of the league. Instead, we were just about holding on in 2nd, with Liverpool, Spurs and the rest close behind. It sure was tight at the summit, and further played into the pressure I felt to continue producing results despite playing against significantly stronger opposition with much deeper pockets.

Still, there’s a 13-point cushion down to Everton in 8th, so I figure aiming for Europe in whatever form, UCL or Europa, seemed a reasonable proposition.

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Belting Goal Bonus – Patrick Burner

I liked Burner. He has a great name for a physically gifted fullback, and although he wasn’t a standout Premiership player, he still had enough about him to get the job done. I got him for just £825k off OGC Nice, and he was now worth well over £8m. Also, he was from Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean that I would imagine isn’t well renowned for producing top level footballers.

Anyway…..remember the screen shot above against Villa? And how the tactic sets up going forward? Well one of the reasons I saw that very set up was because it was part of a goal highlight, a very good one in fact. Enter, Patrick Burner.

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Blaaaaaady hell! What a strike! We could knock the ball around that six-man umbrella, or the right back biff one of those in!

According to his player history, that was the first goal of his career at the ripe old age of 25, having never scored for Nice and that being his maiden goal for the Owls. What a way to do it!

It also reminded me of one of the best Wednesday goals I’ve ever seen, also by a right back, and also from that part of the world (roughly). I’ll leave you with American John Harkes and his worldy against Derby in 1990. Peter Shilton was in the net that day, never stood a chance!

And on that note, I’ll see you in March for the run in.

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Another good update @Rumple43.  Feel your frustration at those dropped points.  Nonetheless you're still flying (putting me to shame).  Good luck for the run-in.

 

(Also, good to see that John Harkes goal again.  Some happy memories there - Good to see Nigel Worthington and Phil King teaming up on the left hand side in the build-up! :) )

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16 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

Another good update @Rumple43.  Feel your frustration at those dropped points.  Nonetheless you're still flying (putting me to shame).  Good luck for the run-in.

 

(Also, good to see that John Harkes goal again.  Some happy memories there - Good to see Nigel Worthington and Phil King teaming up on the left hand side in the build-up! :) )

That yellow SWFC away shirt is the only Wednesday shirt I still own. They ran a reproduction of it a few years back and I couldn't resist. Yellow and sky blue, what's not to love?! Haha!

And yes, the team is killing it. Just got to see if we can stay the course now. My blood pressure doesn't enjoy striving to finish that high up the table, but it's all part of the fun! :)

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8 hours ago, Rumple43 said:

That yellow SWFC away shirt is the only Wednesday shirt I still own. They ran a reproduction of it a few years back and I couldn't resist. Yellow and sky blue, what's not to love?! Haha!

And yes, the team is killing it. Just got to see if we can stay the course now. My blood pressure doesn't enjoy striving to finish that high up the table, but it's all part of the fun! :)

It certainly is!  As for the away shirt, it was a good one.  Not sure if keen on this upcoming seasons effort or not yet...  I THINK i like it...

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11 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

It certainly is!  As for the away shirt, it was a good one.  Not sure if keen on this upcoming seasons effort or not yet...  I THINK i like it...

Thinking out loud, I do think that this is something I'd enjoy in FM to keep the game evolving. It's probably impossible due to the licencing that is in place, but it would be good if kits changed over time. The whole game changes over time with teams going up or down, new players, newgens, players retiring and becoming staff, facilities get better and worse, but kits always stay the same.

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would be a good feature - to choose the kits every so often.  not sure what effect that would have on the game interface though.  I have previously changed the kits as they appear on screen via people online creating 'fantasy' kits but it doesn't change the interface colours.

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Great to see you’re still tearing this up! Imagine the scenes if you were to win the PL. I imagine the expectations would ramp up?!

Esposito almost seems too good!

Not wanting to hijack this thread in any way, but I did start another game with the Owls, inspired by this thread...and coincidentally Forestieri scored the only goal in the playoff final to get us promoted first time around!

I have chosen to recruit only from the EFL and transfer listed PL players in an attempt to make it as challenging as possible 😆 

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23 hours ago, johnstonpickle said:

Great to see you’re still tearing this up! Imagine the scenes if you were to win the PL. I imagine the expectations would ramp up?!

Esposito almost seems too good!

Not wanting to hijack this thread in any way, but I did start another game with the Owls, inspired by this thread...and coincidentally Forestieri scored the only goal in the playoff final to get us promoted first time around!

I have chosen to recruit only from the EFL and transfer listed PL players in an attempt to make it as challenging as possible 😆 

I keep thinking, there's no way it's going to last as these teams are chucking proper money about. Then I play some more games and win a bunch of them and still stay up there near the top. The season has to end eventually though!

I have no words for Esposito and I'm a fairly articulate guy haha

And you're fine. I love talking FM, there's just so much to it. Plus, I love thinking that this story/thread has inspired anyone to give their game another go and try something, that's really cool. Glad you managed to get promoted as well, and good luck with that recruitment policy. Hopefully you have better success with youth products than I've managed as well!

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Heading into March 2022, we were on the cusp on doing the unthinkable. Wednesday were challenging for the title as just two points separated us from leaders Man City. The rise of the club had been as swift as it was surprising, but we had the potential to pull it off if we could just string some results together in the final few months of the season.

It wouldn’t be easy, we were still batting well above our average, but it was still possible.

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Hurry Up And Wait

The fixture list for March was decided odd. I can only assume that some games were moved due to my opponents being involved in other competitions, the FA Cup (I can’t imagine I’ll ever be involved in that for long) or in Europe (maybe next season?), plus there’s an international window, but my March contained two fixtures.

Just two. In 31 days.

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I actually had to arrange two friendly games against European sides to give my non-internationals a run around. They would have been in a shocking state otherwise. It felt quite bizarre that after the building excitement of games, wins, points since Christmas, to get this close to the end of the season and now have a huge gap, well, it was bizarre. It also meant my April schedule was a little busier, and I had some brutal games to boot.

Arsenal (H)
Liverpool (a)
Watford (H)
Chelsea (a)
Spurs (a)

Oooooh boy.

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About As Exciting As A Trip To The Dentist

But before all that…..let’s go back to some off-field developments. March was always a fun month as it was time to reveal the youth intake for the new season!

In my previous seasons to date, one in the Championship, one in the Prem, the best I’d managed was a 2.5PA prospect. I mean, and take this one as a lesson kids, who knew that selling off your youth academy would have such a drastic effect on the standard of players brought into the club at a young age?

Actually, I should revise that. Selling the facilities wasn’t that bad in itself. The facilities we got to replace them were rented but of “superb” quality at least. It was building the new facilities back in November/December that caused the issue. They were now back to “poor”. Was it better to have our own poor facilities, or superb rented ones?

To cut a long story short, for whatever reason, there’s no world class talent on the horizon.

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Two potential 3 star PAs, one of which I’ll have to retrain as I don’t use attacking midfielders. Same story with the 2.5 PA batch, two of the three players will need to be retrained, if they even make the grade.

With an increasing frequency each day, my decision to find a Spanish affiliate and start trying to abuse the work permit route seemed a lot more justifiable.

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I Feel Violated

Chasing City and keeping in front of the likes of Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal was always going to be a big ask. Add in that the list of fixtures I mentioned above was rock hard and it was a highly potent mix, ripe for disappointment. So it was imperative that we got things going on the right foot. Unbeaten in the two games(!?) through March, Arsenal were first up for us at home. They were down in 6th and I fancied my chances based on recent form.

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Devastating.

It was a truly offensive performance from FM at the worst possible time. I honestly couldn’t do anything but just shrug and huff a bit as the final whistle went. I wasn’t even angry (and I’ve done my fair share of laptop throwing/fist smashing/general expletives at FM), I just didn’t know what to do.

Like, really?

It was a crushing feeling. It felt like my title hopes had been sat on by a very large, fat man, just squashing the life out of them completely. It proved to be the case as well.

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The Dream Is Dead

The Arsenal result was a kick in the plums of the highest order, and although there were brighter spots, the month ended with two crippling losses that allowed City to pull away once and for all.

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Taking a point off Liverpool at Anfield should have been seen as huge. Following the Arsenal draw though, I just felt like I needed all three points, as near impossible as that would have been.

The Watford win was straight forward. Despite somehow winning the League Cup, they were probably going straight back down.

And then we got outplayed. Simple as that. We weren’t as good as Chelsea or Spurs, and it showed. Both teams are stacked and should 100% be challenging for the title, Chelsea especially. I listed their talent back in November, but the fact they spent £97m on Sancho alone just blew me out of the water.

The run in had left my title bid in tatters. Then again, this wasn’t exactly my original aim to begin the season and as I’ve suggested before, you shouldn’t really be upset when you’re overachieving and it can’t be sustained. Just be glad it’s happening.

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All Is Not Lost

So the underdog story didn’t have a fairy tale ending, but that didn’t mean the season was a write off. There was still the highly likely possibility of European football if we could string a few wins together to end the season. Would it be of the Champions League variety, or the Europa League variety, who knew?

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We were on the outside looking in for the UCL places, but we did have a game in hand. Win it and we’d have our destiny in our own hands with a pair of games remaining. However, that was all easier said than done….

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The optimist here would say:

  • At least you have two home games
  • At least your destiny is in your own hands
  • The home games are against Norwich (10th), and Leicester (13th)
  • We played Leicester at home the final game of last season and won

The pessimist would say:

  • Man U away. You kiddin’?
  • Oh, and Norwich have won 3 and drawn 1 in their last 4 games.

Having to go to Old Trafford and get what was most likely to be at least a point PLUS then hope that if I couldn’t get a win, Chelsea would also drop points….well, that just seemed like a tall order. Plus my team was running on fumes a bit. We didn’t have a huge squad and the team had played a lot of games between them.

We were just three good performances (plus a bit of help) away from the Champions League. But it also felt that between us and the finishing post there was a huge canyon still to cross. Best get learning to fly, eh?

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Three games to go. Three good performances between us and a Champions League place. But, we were facing off against some strong teams, notably Manchester United, and then we still needed to hope for some results to fall in our favour elsewhere.

Could we pull it off and book a ticket to UCL football?

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All’s Fair In Love And FM

I beat Norwich, fairly easily as it turned out, so that was one game out of the way. Now it was time for the big one!

Ohhhhh, how I chuckled. I really did. I sat at my desk, just uttering a soft, guttural, prolonged laugh as the final whistle went and the post-game stats filled my screen.

After Arsenal last month. After Brentford. After however many other games I’ve posted about in three years. It didn’t tip the balance, but it was something.

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As politely as possible, and I do truly mean this, Man U can take that one and stick it right up their arse. They have spent so much money as well. They still have the talents of Rashford, and Greenwood, and Fernandes. And they couldn’t get it done. We even had 10 men for the last 25 minutes and still hung on. The heroes of Old Trafford! As the kids say these days, mega lolz.

Let’s not forget, Man U are also battling for a UCL place, just a few points behind me and Chelsea. That result would have been a shocker for them. That made me love it even more.

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The Final Countdown

Do do doooo do, do do dut do doooo!

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You see what I did there? Final Countdown? Europe? Cos of the UCL? No? Ok, moving on….

It was all set up for another cracking end to the season. The Man U result had left things delicately poised, but also out of my hands.

  • Chelsea sat in 4th, on 74 points, with a goal difference of 38.
  • I was in 5th, on 74 points, with a goal difference of 25.
  • Man U were in 6th, on  71 points, with a goal difference of 37.

Depending how the FA Cup played out and who won that, it was possible that 6th place wouldn’t get a European spot. If Chelsea got a point or more, Man U won, and I lost, I’d be in 6th. Man U were playing already relegated Bournemouth at home, Chelsea had 2nd place Spurs, but it was at the Bridge, and for the 2nd year running I was playing mid-table Leicester at home to close my season.

So what to do? All I could really do was win. The goal difference was out of my hands barring something ridiculous. At a minimum, a point would guarantee me 5th. A win and we could see what Chelsea were doing, I had to better their result regardless

The whistle goes, kick off time. Bam, 4th minute, Cataldi slots one in. 14 minutes, Kownacki joins the party. He has been overshadowed by Esposito this season, but he really is a class act. 2-0 up, coasting. A glance at Chelsea, still 0-0. Oh how I’d love to be watching that game right now. Strangely, Man U are still 0-0 with Bournemouth. Half time comes, no further goals, so far, so good.

Rousing team talk at the break, let’s push on, finish strong, rah rah rah!

55 minutes, Leicester score, 2-1. Ack! Still, we have time, we’re in control, and it was against the run of play. A nervous glance at Chelsea, 0-0. Man U are now 2-0 up. If I choke it from here, I’m 6th.

Oh Kownacki! You beautiful man. Then Bastoni! Then Kownacki for the hattrick! Bastoni with a 2nd!!! Talk about floodgates opening, 4 goals in the last 20 minutes!! That eased the tension somewhat haha!

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So I knew I wouldn’t be finishing 6th as Man U couldn’t catch me now I'd won. But would it be the Champions League in 4th, or the Europa League in 5th? Full time at the Bridge.....

Spoiler

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Get in. Never been so glad of a goalless draw in all my life. Thanks Spurs! And with that, we’ll be playing in the Champions League next season.

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Job Done And Then Some

So, we had done it. Mission Accomplished. From wanting to be a top half team, to suddenly challenging for the title, to dropping off and then being happy to hang on to the top 4, it had been a roller coaster of a season.

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We’d improved by 29 points, 10 wins and 27 goals from a year ago. More importantly, we had moved up 7 places from 11th to 4th.

As always, I delved into the season stats to see how my team had performed across the campaign. It made for interesting reading:

  • At 645 fouls (17 a game on average), we had managed to improve on our total from last year. Remarkably, we weren’t top though, Brighton had 656 fouls. It was clearly a season for kicking people!
  • We were 3rd for tackles won at 1,204, which amazingly was exactly the same as we had managed last season. What are the chances of that over 38 games?!
  • We had 111 yellow cards, up 8 from last year, but we also had a lot more red cards with 6, which was joint top in the Prem.
  • Offensively, we had improved across the board. We were 1st for cross completion again, going from 31% to 33% this year. We were 1st for chances created at 140, up 20 from 20/21, and we topped the charts for shots on target ratio with 51% of our efforts.

As always, it’s good to look at the salary and transfer fees. Green lines for anyone spending more than us on salary or net transfers yet finishing below us in the table. Still a lot of green!

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We were certainly slotting in with a high amount spent on transfers, mainly because we weren’t getting as much back in from the Championship calibre of player we were still selling, but being 16th out of 20 teams for salary was still impressive. Bournemouth outspending us by over £4m to finish rock bottom! Good effort!

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How Good? As Good As A Really, Really Good Thing

How had we managed such a rise up the table? There were a number of factors, but in truth, the main one was our Italian Stallion, Seb Esposito. He had been unstoppable, frankly.

I had covered his exploits in the November/December update, and the fact he was tearing the league up. He didn’t really slow down in the 2nd half of the season either, which really wasn’t a surprise.

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Better than Kane. Better than Rashford. Better than anything City or Liverpool had, despite finishing 1st and 2nd. It was the most goals by a Wednesday player in the top flight since David Layne scored 28 in 1963/64, so it’s safe to say he was already the most prolific striker the Owls had had in a long time, since David Hirst most likely.

And he was still getting better. At 19, the stuff he was achieving was outrageous, and I absolutely loved it!

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If he was 2nd in Europe only to Mbappe, all 180m euros of him, it seemed like pretty good going. All I had to do now was try to keep the vultures away, that would probably be easier said than done!

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There’s Always Something. Always!

There was pure optimism at S6. The fans could be proud once more. We were more than just the pride of 50% of the city, we were the best team in the city by a distance. United were now down in the Championship, we were in the Champions League!

So, what’s the catch? Well, it wasn’t going to be finances with the Premier League prize money sloshing around, TV revenue coming in each season, and now the prospect of UCL cash as well. So that only leaves….

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It turns out that starting at the very bottom rung with the “basic” youth facilities that we’d built wasn’t going to impress the authorities. So they had removed our category one rating, but what had they moved it to? It was a sliding scale, with one being the highest for the best of the best, and four, containing National League, and National League North/South type sides, being the worst you go. Turns out there is actually another category.

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As the news item had suggested, our category one youth rating had been removed. It had not been replaced. We had no rating. We had a zero.

I’m guessing we won’t be playing in the U18 Premier League again next season then?

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20 hours ago, DaneBramage said:

Great season, congrats. 

Nice timing to start getting Champs League money too, not going to be getting good youth players any time soon.

The whole thing is a shambles haha I really does annoy me as getting good youth prospects in and watching them grow can be really satisfying. Still, it isn't slowing us down on the pitch and that is the main thing.
 

6 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Great stuff, congratulations on the 4th place finish! Looks like Esposito is becoming a monster

I can confirm, he is indeed a monster. Not of this world. Absolutely no respect for the rest of the PL. Can't wait to see what he manages to achieve going forward, should I be able to keep hold of him. I'd want £150m+ for him easily!

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1 minute ago, Rumple43 said:

The whole thing is a shambles haha I really does annoy me as getting good youth prospects in and watching them grow can be really satisfying. Still, it isn't slowing us down on the pitch and that is the main thing.

Honestly speaking now that you're in the European places, even if you were to get a good youngster it would be minimum 3 years before he would be anywhere near ready to turn out for the club. 

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Help! I need your input. Yes, you!

In this write up, I have just completed my 3rd season, finishing a remarkable 4th in 2021/22. In my game, I am pretty much three years further ahead at the end of 2024/25.

It has been highly enjoyable, and that enjoyment has been increased significantly by this thread and the input from the people who take the time to post. This forum is a crowded one, so anyone who chooses to send something through and interact is truly appreciated. 

I am at a cross-roads of my game. I have a new area I want to explore, but I'm unsure if it would be of interest to the people currently reading. And no, it isn't the England job, the FA can take a running jump, hiring Graham Potter over me :D

So to find an answer to that question, I wanted to get a straw poll from the people in here. I've done over 20 updates and each one gets around 250/300 views. Again, big thanks to anyone who pokes their head in, I really appreciate it.

If anyone has the time to spare, can you suggest which of the following vague options reflects your thoughts?

  • I follow your story because you're Wednesday/In England/The Prem, and I'm interested in that type of story
  • I like your story for the style/layout/mix of stupid GIFs and I'd probably keep reading regardless of what you were doing
  • I think you should try something new, but just make a new thread so that people can find it and don't get confused
  • I grow tired of your constant updates, I was planning on tuning you out soon anyway so you may as well stop posting

Thanks guys (even if you're the 4th option)

 

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16 minutes ago, Rumple43 said:

Help! I need your input. Yes, you!

In this write up, I have just completed my 3rd season, finishing a remarkable 4th in 2021/22. In my game, I am pretty much three years further ahead at the end of 2024/25.

It has been highly enjoyable, and that enjoyment has been increased significantly by this thread and the input from the people who take the time to post. This forum is a crowded one, so anyone who chooses to send something through and interact is truly appreciated. 

I am at a cross-roads of my game. I have a new area I want to explore, but I'm unsure if it would be of interest to the people currently reading. And no, it isn't the England job, the FA can take a running jump, hiring Graham Potter over me :D

So to find an answer to that question, I wanted to get a straw poll from the people in here. I've done over 20 updates and each one gets around 250/300 views. Again, big thanks to anyone who pokes their head in, I really appreciate it.

If anyone has the time to spare, can you suggest which of the following vague options reflects your thoughts?

  • I follow your story because you're Wednesday/In England/The Prem, and I'm interested in that type of story
  • I like your story for the style/layout/mix of stupid GIFs and I'd probably keep reading regardless of what you were doing
  • I think you should try something new, but just make a new thread so that people can find it and don't get confused
  • I grow tired of your constant updates, I was planning on tuning you out soon anyway so you may as well stop posting

Thanks guys (even if you're the 4th option)

 

For me, the options for me are as follows:

  • I follow your story because you're Wednesday/In England/The Prem, and I'm interested in that type of story
  • I like your story for the style/layout/mix of stupid GIFs and I'd probably keep reading regardless of what you were doing

 

I am a Wednesday fan and am also doing a save with the Owls.  Whilst it is depressing to see how well you are getting on compared to myself, i do enjoy reading your progress.  I do also like your layout, as it make sit different to the normal 'plain text' updates.  For me, if you want to do slightly reduced updates in order to get caught up a bit that is fine by me.  Ultimately i personally want to know how badly i am doing in comparison to you!! :)

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17 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

For me, the options for me are as follows:

  • I follow your story because you're Wednesday/In England/The Prem, and I'm interested in that type of story
  • I like your story for the style/layout/mix of stupid GIFs and I'd probably keep reading regardless of what you were doing

 

I am a Wednesday fan and am also doing a save with the Owls.  Whilst it is depressing to see how well you are getting on compared to myself, i do enjoy reading your progress.  I do also like your layout, as it make sit different to the normal 'plain text' updates.  For me, if you want to do slightly reduced updates in order to get caught up a bit that is fine by me.  Ultimately i personally want to know how badly i am doing in comparison to you!! :)

 

15 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Option 3 for me, something new! Obviously after we hear about how things turn out at Wednesday for you. Didn't realize you are so far ahead of the updates. 

Apologies, should probably have been a bit clearer in my point as you both raised it. I've currently written about another season's worth of content that I'm just waiting to post. I just try to give 3/4/5 days between posts so I'm not spamming them out.

So I've posted to the end of season 3, written to the end of season 4, and played to the end of season 6. All good on the writing front, that's one of the things I enjoy the most.

Also, with my new idea, if I do start a new topic on here, I will still be continuing my "game world" and manager as it were. I don't plan on starting fresh in that regard. A lot of my enjoyment from FM comes from the world evolving and how it all branches off and becomes unique, so I'd rather continue down that road for a new venture than starting over.

Appreciate the feedback, if anyone else has anything else?

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2 hours ago, Johnny-Trotter said:
  • I like your story for the style/layout/mix of stupid GIFs and I'd probably keep reading regardless of what you were doing

Thanks mate, I do enjoy a good/bad/terrible GIF :-)

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3 hours ago, Rumple43 said:

 

Apologies, should probably have been a bit clearer in my point as you both raised it. I've currently written about another season's worth of content that I'm just waiting to post. I just try to give 3/4/5 days between posts so I'm not spamming them out.

So I've posted to the end of season 3, written to the end of season 4, and played to the end of season 6. All good on the writing front, that's one of the things I enjoy the most.

Also, with my new idea, if I do start a new topic on here, I will still be continuing my "game world" and manager as it were. I don't plan on starting fresh in that regard. A lot of my enjoyment from FM comes from the world evolving and how it all branches off and becomes unique, so I'd rather continue down that road for a new venture than starting over.

Appreciate the feedback, if anyone else has anything else?

How do you manage the writing so far behind where you are in the actual game, I would never be able to do that! 

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18 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

How do you manage the writing so far behind where you are in the actual game, I would never be able to do that! 

I have an excel sheet where I document what the five topics will be each 2 month block, and I also make a few notes on each one to go with the relevant screenshot or GIF. When I go back to write stuff up, I marry up the notes and the image (and largely use my memory since it was probably only a month or so ago IRL), and go from there.

And then I also have a larger folder system where I store the screen shots for each update as I go, and a folder for the content I've written/posted. It's a finely tuned, somewhat OTT, set up :-)

 

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2 hours ago, Rumple43 said:

I have an excel sheet where I document what the five topics will be each 2 month block, and I also make a few notes on each one to go with the relevant screenshot or GIF. When I go back to write stuff up, I marry up the notes and the image (and largely use my memory since it was probably only a month or so ago IRL), and go from there.

And then I also have a larger folder system where I store the screen shots for each update as I go, and a folder for the content I've written/posted. It's a finely tuned, somewhat OTT, set up :-)

 

It works though! :thup:  I wouldn't be able to do that (relying on my memory) at all - not any more anyway!

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The summer began with us planning for 2022/23 and the Champions League. We were a Champions League team! No doubt we’d have it tough with such a low coefficient rating, and finishing in 4th, but that didn’t matter. We were at the top table. The “toppest” table there was. And we needed to make sure we had the pieces in place so we didn’t dribble soup down our shirt during the starters.

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Time To Pay The Piper

I had weaved my way from house to house, city to city, playing my tune and getting the Wednesday massive to follow me. We had left the depth of the Championship behind, we had risen up the Premier League, and now we were in the UCL. I had done my part, and it was time for the Board to do theirs and pay up.

They offered me a 3 year contract, and I wasn’t into that. I wanted to be here for the long haul (unless England came knocking potentially), so I pressed for a four-year deal. After a significant back and forth, it was agreed. You’d like to think after everything I’d done a longer contract would have been better for the club, but never mind. I tried not to take offence.

They had kept the same vision in place from last season. Play attacking football, tick. Play entertaining football, tick. Make the most of set pieces, tick. Play high tempo, pressing football, tick. I did all those last season and planned to do them all again. Then the sneaky Chairman tried to slip one in.

“Sign high profile players for the first team”.

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Yeah, I’m not gonna do that. I don’t want my hands tying by needing to buy big players with big price tags just to tick a box. I’ll buy the best players, young or old, and win thanks. More back and forth. Eventually, the board relented, again.

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The competition aims were wide of the mark in my opinion, but as they were in my favour, I didn’t bother to change them. I was certain I’d finish in the top half of the table, and in truth, I expect to be in the top 6 if I spent wisely and kept hold of Esposito. I also figured I’d make the group stage of the UCL, even if it meant playing someone in the final qualifying round. The FA Cup and League Cup I couldn’t care less about as I was going to get shafted with the draw anyway!

I’d also managed to get the board to do their annual summer improvement of the facilities, ready for October/November time. Who knows, maybe we can get our youth rating back at some point?!?

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One Man’s Trash

One of the first things I needed to decide on once the summer had finished was what to do with Scott McTominay. He had done well, though nothing crazy. I had inserted an optional fee into his loan deal of £14.5m, even though he was worth £26.5m.

Man U didn’t want him, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to outlay that amount of cash straight up for him. £7m and the same in instalments you’d probably pull the trigger, but I had a lot of players to buy, upgrades to make, and I wasn’t sure if he was worth it.

Spoiler

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I loved his mental stats, the 19 for work rate, 19 for team work, 18 for determination, high numbers for bravery, anticipation, aggression, and his physical stats were solid as well. Technically he wasn’t there, but that’s fine, I didn’t want him to do that kind of a job for me. Just get the ball off the opposition then give it to someone on our team who can play a bit. Do the donkey work for me.

I had until the end of his loan to make a decision, 30th June, so I didn’t have to rush into anything just yet. I figured I’d let some other transfers unfold first, see where those negotiations took me and what money they used up. If I got close to the deadline and he was still an option, I’d think about it more. Still, a 7.10 average over 30 starts and two sub appearances in the Prem was going to be hard to replace elsewhere for under £15m!

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What Have I Done?!

With the bottom literally falling out my youth structure, the conclusion of the season and the loss of our youth category pushed me over the edge. I went, cap in hand, to the chairman once again.

“Yes?”

“I want a new affiliate club. In Eastern Europe. Somewhere like Serbia or Poland. I want one so I can exploit youth prospects and get them work permits. That is what I am going to do”

“I see.”

“I don’t even care. I said I wouldn’t but you sold our academy and now all our young prospects play like they’re wearing clown shoes. Sort it out.”

“Ok.”

And so it was done.

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Last season I negotiated a deal with Alicante so I could send South Americans their way. Now I was locking it in with Cracovia in Poland as an alternative. It meant that within three or so seasons, I could get a work permit for any teenager in the world.

I didn’t feel as bad this time, I felt as if I had little other choice in the arms race to stay up at the top of the Prem and remain a European force down the line. Ok, ok….I did feel a little bit dirty. But what else was I going to do?!

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Shopping With A Heavy Heart

As previously mentioned, one of my main aims for the summer wasn’t so much bringing players in, but making sure that my players didn’t leave. I wanted to add to what I had, not replace players that had done well getting me here.

Dawid Kownacki was my big blockbuster move to keep the team in the Premier League when we were first promoted. At £14m, his purchase took up a sizeable amount of my budget and for a team that had flirted with administration just a few months earlier, he was a gamble.

But….the gamble absolutely paid off. He was our top scorer and top performer in his debut season, scoring 14 goals and enjoying a 7.09 rating. Partnered with Esposito last season he had continued his solid form despite the Italian’s antics, scoring a further 17 goals, providing 4 assists and finishing with an even better 7.13 average.

But but….he had a release clause in his contract. And his efforts for me hadn’t gone unnoticed by Europe’s elite. I knocked back a few bids, but ultimately I knew the writing was on the wall. All I could do was make sure someone at least met his release fee of £38.5m, which Man U duly did.

I didn’t want to lose him, but for a brief moment I remembered that despite my rise to up the footballing ladder, we were still a small fish in a big pond. We were getting bigger, I’ll admit, but stopping a player from moving to Man U for a fair price wasn’t something I was going to do, even if in this case my hands were tied.

Besides, it gave me significant cash to go shopping!

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Chilwell was a steal. The never-ending turnover of players at City had left the England international as a cast off, one I was more than willing to give a new home to at a dirt cheap price given his ability. Once I saw that Kownacki was likely on his bike, I looked around for his replacement. Embolo was an exciting young player and had all the stats I wanted for a pressing forward, plus he could potentially play as a M(R) or M(L). I pulled the trigger there as well.

I also mixed in some youth with the extra cash, with both centre back Milani and goalkeeper Vandevoordt looking to have bright futures. Vandevoordt in particular looked very exciting, hence the price tag, but he was dubbed “The Next Thibaut Courtois” which seemed a pretty decent indicator of his potential ability.

Spoiler

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Finally, I took the plunge and brought McTominay in, given the influx of money from the Kownacki deal, that seemed prudent. I also managed to bring in Lucas Paqueta for a 2nd season on loan. He was a handy player to have about the place with his ability and versatility.

The early summer moves had shaped up well!

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Everyone Has Their Limits

I’d seen the light with Dawid Kownacki and he went to Man U with my blessing to make a fist of things at one of the best clubs in the world. It felt….right. I was at peace with it.

Then Man U came knocking for Esposito.

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He did have an £80m release clause in his contact, which made me nervous, but it hadn’t been met here. Phew!

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A few things of note. One is that the release clause for Esposito is for teams in the UCL only, which, proper lolz, Man U are not. Because I am haha! The other is that I am alarmed that Man U have that kind of money to offer me. They already bought Kownacki from me from £38.5m, oh, and they bought Harry Kane off Tottenham…..for £194m. Yes. No typo. A 1 and a 9 and a 4. And now they have £42m spare for Esposito as well? And that’s what I’m meant to be competing against?!

Anyway, our Italian Stallion wasn’t really interested in jumping ship anyway, so knocking back the bid was fairly straight forward. Hopefully nobody else comes sniffing around, fingers crossed.

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Sir, We Have News! From The Lower Leagues!

Too much going on this summer, I needed an extra item.

After busying myself with the usual transfer dealings and players coming and going, I got a news item that gave me a review of the 2021/22 PL competition. We were chosen as the league’s “over achievers” there was no great surprise there. Three teams had been relegated, standard. Three teams promoted…..

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They were back. Sheffield United had secured their return to the Premier League at the first time of asking and after a brief one-season hiatus, the Steel City derby would be back on the menu for 2022/23.

Even better, United were now the underdog, and I had a top four quality squad to go up against them with. That could be fun 😊

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40 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

Nice update there, and seems like some good transfers.

How many years is it to get dual nationality in Poland?

From everything I could find online, I believe it is three. 

This is where I now send someone over there and it's like, 10 years haha

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19 hours ago, johnstonpickle said:

The game has changed now you're in the CL places! :D

I fear for what you'll do the Blades this season though...!

I can't wait, it could be awesome haha! They have somehow managed to keep hold of Sander Berge though, how I have no idea following a full season in the Championship. He's easily going to be their best player.

19 hours ago, hyrule_king said:

Very nice thread.

Enjoyed the way you haven't taken it too seriously.:applause:

Thanks dude, I really appreciate it. Always good to get feedback, and glad you're enjoying things.

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I've highly enjoyed reading this thread. I too purchased Esposito in my Ipswich save when I was attempting to consolidate our position in the Premier League. He was originally snapped up from Inter by Man City, but as usual found himself on the fringes! I got him for £25m I think. He did the job for us, but for one reason or another moved on a few years later. May possibly have been fairly injury prone? Let's hope you can keep him fit & happy! Keep up the good work :applause:

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On 18/09/2020 at 15:38, enterprise1 said:

I've highly enjoyed reading this thread. I too purchased Esposito in my Ipswich save when I was attempting to consolidate our position in the Premier League. He was originally snapped up from Inter by Man City, but as usual found himself on the fringes! I got him for £25m I think. He did the job for us, but for one reason or another moved on a few years later. May possibly have been fairly injury prone? Let's hope you can keep him fit & happy! Keep up the good work :applause:

My initial scouting report on him and my coaches now he's at the club both say that he could have a problem with injuries. So far though, I've managed to dodge that bullet and he's been pretty much nailed on every game I've played.

I try to console myself that if a big club does come knocking with an offer that I can't refuse, I should get well over £100m for him. That's at least something to go looking for a replacement with, assuming by Board don't keep 75% of it!

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There was no doubting that as off-seasons go, the build up to 2022/23 had been surprisingly busy. I wasn’t really sure why, it just seemed to have a lot going on. We had done plenty of early shopping and the team was really starting to take shape, and there was UCL football on the horizon. There was also the prospect of the unique/annoying 2022 World Cup, depending on your perspective. But enough of that, let’s see what was going on in July and August!

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Rekindle The Flame

Even though the fixtures came out in late June, there was just too much going on to fit this piece of news into that update. As such, using the creative licence I’ve given myself, I have put this season’s announcement into July. Because I can, whatcha gonna do about it?

The main take away from the announcement was a nice plush fixture to start the season, but overall, a fairly stern test over the first five games.

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Burnley at home was about as good as I could get, hopefully we’ll get the ball rolling in style before heading to Merseyside twice in the next four games. Everton away would be tricky, Liverpool away could be horrible, and a home tilt with deep-pocketed Chelsea in the middle.

The first Steel City derby would be in October before I went to the Lane in 2023, so that was something to look forward to as the bigger team. Hopefully we'll crush them to give the fans a cheer!

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A Journey Into The Unknown

The Premier League fixture list wasn't the only schedule of interest heading into the new season. With the seemingly endless number of qualification rounds now done, it was time to draw the group stages for the UEFA Champions League. Oooooo!

Would the balls be kind? Or was it going to be a group of death?! In the end, a bit of both I think.

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I won’t lie, there were more preferable teams in Pot 1 than Madrid, but that’s kind of the point of the UCL. You’re playing the best teams. They were more than likely going to be topping the group, but a trip to the Bernabeu is always sweet.

Reaching the Knockout rounds seemed like a toss up between myself and Benfica, and that seemed like a reasonable proposition. Enough time had passed since this game began for Europe’s elite to pick off some of their prime talent, but the Portuguese powerhouse were still a top side. Krasnodar might force a draw off someone to upset the order of things, but it seemed like beating Benfica would be my potential route out of Group A.

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What A Mess

With the 2022 World Cup slapped right in the middle of the season, my fixture list made for unpleasant viewing. Once you slotted the UCL group games into the mix, plus the opening round of the League Cup, things were getting busier than a cucumber in a women's prison.

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I was playing two games a week from the start of September until the World Cup break began in early November, though I suppose the other top teams were as well. With upgrades still needed across the board, the transfer policy had been slanted towards quality over quantity, meaning we didn’t have the largest of squads. That is where we did differ from the other big sides, and it was bound to cause problems at some stage.

This season was going to take its toll, and if we had injury issues like the ones we’ve experienced in year’s past, things would get pretty grim pretty quick.

Still, as is always the case with games in quick succession, there was the very real prospect of building up some momentum and getting on a roll. Before we knew it, we could be camped in the top 4, sailing in the UCL and already sat with the feet up waiting for the PL to resume after Christmas. That was the plan, anyway.

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Last Minute Bargains

As always, before the window shut there was still time to make the odd move to balance the squad up.

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There was an emerging trend in my purchases. Buying player that were already at the level I’d now reached would have cost me £75m+. UCL quality, match ready players don’t come cheap. I had now shifted my sights to youth, and finding the UCL players of tomorrow.

Like Milani and Vandevoordt earlier in the summer, other prospects followed. Kazuhiro Okada (Newgen goalie from Japan), Stefano Giordani (Solid looking right midfield Pressing Winger newgen) and Rodolfo Martins (Young CB Newgen from Portugal) were all under 20 and all had at least 4 stars of potential, plus the sort of early attributes that suggested they could be a success in my system, particularly Giordani.

Caballos was this year’s big money loan signing to go with Paqueta, and Hans Hateboer brought some experience and depth at RB. Going the other way….

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Hateboer’s purchase was also promoted by Patrick Burner wanting to leave. He had probably reached his limit with me in terms of potential, but his ever-increasing wage demands didn’t match an ever-increasing improvement to his ability. He was in the last year of his contract and was angling for a wage hike he was never going to get, so off he went. Football is ruthless, but he did have a great name. Plus, we'll always have that goal he scored against Villa. What a belter!

Dani Cataldi was also shown the door. He’d served a purpose, but the arrival of players like Vasiliadis and McTominay, plus Sergio Gomez was getting better and better, Caballos was now in on loan, the Italian was down the pecking order.

Other players left for their own development, including Matthew Johnstone, who is easily the best youth prospect I’ve created so far. He still may struggle to make the grade, but he’s better than what's come before him.

And with that, the window was closed.

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A Bit Of This, A Bit Of That

So what happened in August as the season got underway? In short, a bit of a mixed bag!

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Another stonker of a pre-season, with PSG the latest team to come to Hillsborough for my final marquee friendly and leave with their tail between their legs. Hope that bodes well for the Champions League!

The win away to Everton was a great effort, that’s a tough place to go, especially since they have Fabio Silva. The loss at home to Chelsea was rubbish, and defeat at Anfield was expected, though a close run thing. There was a rare sighting of a Cup win, beating West Ham, but no doubt I’ll draw someone huge in Round 4!

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Those two early defeats hurt, but we weren’t miles away. Tucked in nicely, in horse racing terms, yet to make a dash for it. But we did need to push on, and who knew how much we’d have left in the legs as the compacted sprint to early November rumbled on.

As tiring as it would be, we needed a solid September and October. Fingers crossed!

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30 minutes ago, Rumple43 said:

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What A Mess

With the 2022 World Cup slapped right in the middle of the season, my fixture list made for unpleasant viewing. Once you slotted the UCL group games into the mix, plus the opening round of the League Cup, things were getting busier than a cucumber in a women's prison.

 

Ha ha!!  :D :D :D :D 

 

 

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2 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Another good update, what are the aims for this season? CL qualification again?

Pretty much! At the very least I'd like not to regress, if that is possible. Just stay in the top 4, though that could be a tough ask with the money those teams can spend. With how good we've generally looked though, top 6 should be the absolute minimum I reckon.

We might even enjoy a Cup run at some point, since we're now one of the top teams in the PL. No doubt I'll get Liverpool away again though, saying that!

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Great stuff sir! 

I enjoyed your story. It's like my preferred style of playing FM, take a classic championship team, gain a promotion in 1-2 years, then avoid relegation and slowly progressing to the top. I love it that way especially because you can build a good team without spending hundreds of millions for a single player, only because you're a top 6 team. You have to scout and negotiate your transfers wisely. The satisfaction when I get a top class player in a steal price, just because a top team bought him for a ton of money, never played him and wants to offload him, is priceless! 

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11 hours ago, mexles21 said:

Great stuff sir! 

I enjoyed your story. It's like my preferred style of playing FM, take a classic championship team, gain a promotion in 1-2 years, then avoid relegation and slowly progressing to the top. I love it that way especially because you can build a good team without spending hundreds of millions for a single player, only because you're a top 6 team. You have to scout and negotiate your transfers wisely. The satisfaction when I get a top class player in a steal price, just because a top team bought him for a ton of money, never played him and wants to offload him, is priceless! 

Completely agree. There's two types of player that fit your description, both of which I really enjoy. One is the Ben Chillwell type of player, that someone like City bought for mega bucks then forgot about just as fast, replacing him within a year or two with someone still fairly comparable and basically leaving him to rot in the reserves. I love getting those kinds of players at a cut price as they're still very good, they just need a new home.

The other is a totally overlooked player that would normally never get a shot at this level but has performed really well in a specific set up or system. Will Hughes fits into this category, as does Dominic Iorfa. Both have good versatility, Hughes can play anywhere across the midfield four and Iorfa can play RB or CB, which is useful. Neither is particularly good for the "eye test" in terms of attributes, but they just keep on chugging. They're not going to get you many MOM awards, but they won't do anything stupid and they'll still chip in with a performance from time to time. Love seeing those kind of guys thrive and carve out a place for themselves even as you progress up and up to what is probably a level above what they'd normally get to play at.

Oh, and thank you for the kind words. Very much appreciated! :-)

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Due to the 2022 World Cup and our first foray into Europe, our fixture list for September and October was crammed tighter than my summer clothes after a winter of one too many mince pies.

But the team was primed, in good form and ready to push on. We were going to give it our best shot, even if we were a little thin on the ground.

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Payback

I would say that throughout my time writing this story/blog/thread to date, the number of times I have written about “Getting FM’d” has far outweighed the number of times I’ve been the one doing the FMing.

I do think that in order for it to be a true FMing, one way or the other, the team getting absolutely spanked still needs to score against all the odds. Its one thing to have one or two shots all game and grind out a 0-0, its another to do it but still score and get something from the game.

So here we find ourselves, stood in the majesty of the Bernabeu, with 80,000 insatiable Madrid fans being introduced to my particular brand of 4-4-2 filth.

By half time, it was going great.

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Lovely stuff. We’d already collected 11 fouls for the cost of just two yellow cards, we’d done literally nothing in their half apart from have a single shot that found the net, and we’d repelled nearly everything that they’d thrown at us. I’m sure Real were loving it.

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And so it ended. We even played 35 minutes of the 2nd half with 10 men, it still didn’t matter. Just 3 fouls in the 2nd half, but one of them was by Lucas Paqueta who was walking the tightrope on a yellow and he was gone. Still, we stood firm, and gained a fairly famous point.

You can file that with the Man U game for results that FM can take and stick up its arse.

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Silly Season Continues

As the games wore on into October, I was beginning to get weary of two a week matches. And if I was, just from clicking buttons, you can imagine how the players were getting on. It wasn't that it was overly difficult, it was more the juggling act of constant squad rotation and having my hands tied that certain players couldn't play certain games because they were just too tired.

However, another issue raised its ugly head as the League Cup 4th round reached us. I had, predictably, drawn one of the best teams in the country in the early stages of a knockout competition. Shocking, right? I know. However, perhaps it was just a scheduling issue, or perhaps it was because we were both in the UCL and fixture space was slim, but the game got bumped into the start of an international window.

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Very true, Roy. Between the two sides, we had 13 first team regularly missing. It was a reserve game, or an U23 game in new money, but it was also head scratchingly dumb. In the end we lost on Pens, and I didn’t bother to screenshot the game as it was terrible and full of 2nd XI players and youth prospects.

Fittingly, it felt like the sort of shoddy contest the Cup deserved after all the draws I’d been given so far. Take that! But ultimately, we were out of the League Cup for another year.

I didn’t shed a tear.

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Leigh Griffiths 2.0

As another by-product of the ridiculous season, my players weren’t holding up as well as they could have. It wasn’t really surprising, but it didn’t make things any easier when we were playing two games a week.

Dominic Iorfa was the only player remaining in my squad from the start of the game, now a reliable back-up/fringe RB rather than the stand out CB that he started out as in the Championship. But he’d broken a toe and was out for six weeks. The highly-likable Will Hughes was also out long term, gone for two months with a broken leg. That thrust Giordani into the first team for stretches despite being 18 years old. Less than ideal.

Others were also banged up with smaller niggles, a week here or there, but when you play Tuesday/Wednesday and then Saturday/Sunday every week, even a one or two day injury can easily make a player miss a start. It did, sadly, get worse.

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The ACL bug was back. Embolo had started the season positively. He was doing well behind Espositio and Polombi, plus he’d seen plenty of opportunities with the departure of Kownacki (who still hadn’t made a single appearance for Man U). But that was the end of his season, and he was set to miss the World Cup as well.

All I could hope was that I somehow found the depth to keep rotating at CF, and that nobody else got injured. I also crossed my fingers that he’d come back fit and well, and not a shadow of his former self like Griffiths had.

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Hello, Little Brother

By the end of October, our battle weary team were ready to host the old enemy from across the City. Sat in midtable, the Blades had made more of an effort to be competitive so far this season and with a bit of luck, they might avoid bombing straight back to the Championship.

When I first came up, United were the established team, and I was the young pretender. Now the roles had reserved, and to boot, the game as at Hillsborough. I fancied my chances. The boys didn’t disappoint.

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It was pretty comprehensive. We thoroughly handled them and in truth, I’m a little disappointed the score line wasn’t more lopsided. It made for a fun hypothetical full time chat on the touchline.

Me: “So yeah, last time we met, we didn’t have this new kid up front.”

SUFC: “I don't recall.....”

Me: “You know, Esposito.”

SUFC: “Ah yeah, you didn’t.”

Me: “Well, it turns out he’s kind of a big deal. You didn’t see it cos you were back in the Championship. Have fun playing against him twice a season for as long as you can stay in the Prem, it's going to be a lot of fun for you.”

SUFC: **Makes a sad face, walks away**

Late April and a trip to Bramall Lane couldn’t come soon enough!

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Back Where We Need To Be

Beating the cross-town rivals was a great way to end an arduous stretch of fixtures. For the most part, things had gone well.

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We flubbed our lines in our first ever UCL game, losing a game away in Benfica even though we were the better team. However, the Portuguese champs had then drawn against 4th seed Krasnodar, and I’d stolen that point against Madrid, so all was well.

Our PL form returned, with just the one loss away to a strong Spurs side. We did lose that farcical game away to City in the Cup, but then did what we needed to do by seeing off Benfica easily at Hillsborough. It meant that UCL qualification was firmly in our own hands, with a win next month in sub-zero Russia being enough to seal 2nd spot behind Real.

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We had risen back into the top four, and with the mid-season break looming, things were going well. City still looked ridiculously strong, as they had for every season I’d been in the Prem. The rest of the top seven had a familiar look, apart from the name of Sheffield Wednesday, of course. But we weren’t giving up our European place lightly these days, and with the youth that we’d been forced to turn to in September and October, the future looked bright as well.

Still, there was a nagging thought in my mind. If England did flop at the World Cup, and Graham Potter got the chop, would it be my time? It was still the only job I’d shown interest in, though for now the FA had shown no interest in me. Still annoyed by that one, but it is what it is.

There was a possibility that the two games in November could be my last as Wednesday manager. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but maybe it wouldn’t come to pass. Maybe Potter would bring “it” home. “It” has been coming home for a long time, though.

But you never know.

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A very good update, as always. 

Nice set of results there, both EPL and UCL. 

I really hate when one of my new transfers which I invested money and hope, gets injured and especially for several months. The worst is that when he's coming back, he almost never reaches the standards (at least in FM) 

Anyway, you're still in your season goals, but that squad depth and fitness issues when you're playing in multiple competitions, is a pain in the arse. 

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As it turns out, I was flapping over nothing. Stirring my own sentiment for the job I’d done at Wednesday and how hard it would be to leave was completely redundant once England made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, bowed out tamely to eventual winners Italy, and the FA quietly patted Graham Potter on the back for a job well done.

It would appear that simply being one of the World’s top eight teams was now sufficient for England, so perhaps Potter was the perfect man for the role. Either way, Seb Esposito was now a World Cup winner. There really is no stopping him.

With only a few games to cover, this update looks set to be a lot more off-field biased, but sometimes that does make for a nice change of pace.

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

With my tired squad now recouping for the most part as only a handful of my guys went off to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, I couldn’t escape the inescapable. I needed more players in and a bigger squad, otherwise the run from January to the end of the season would be another minefield of conditioning issues, injuries and heavy rotation.

There was an issue with that plan though….I didn’t have any money.

So, what to do? As was usually the case, I went sheepishly to the Chairman. This wasn’t like the bold, brash, confrontational, “You’ve sold my Youth Academy and I want South American newgens NOW” type chat. I’d basically used the money I’d been allocated, and then still needed more. When my kids ask me for more pocket money because they’ve blown through theirs, I know what the answer is. Still, I gave it a shot.

“Good morning, sir.” Sir seemed like the good way to go, I was asking for a favour after all.

“Ah, hello lad.” Dejphon Chansiri becomes more of a Yorkshireman with every day that passes.

“As you may have seen, the squad lacks some depth, and what with the fixture congestion and the injuries we’ve had, I really feel we could use a few new faces around the place in January.”

“That’s fine, how much is left in the budget I gave you?”

“Well, that’s the thing, you see.”

“Spent it all?”

“….Yes”

“No problem. Have £30 million more. Shut the door on your way out. Cheerio!”

£33.58m to be precise. Just like that. No strings attached. Cheers Delphon!

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That should be enough to get another few high-quality players in, or if I was feeling really greedy, one great player in. January was shaping up to be a lot more fun than I expected!

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To Be Good, Or Be Great?

November and December did contain 4 games, to be precise. One of them was the final UCL group game, where I was highly likely to secure 2nd place barring a massive, goal difference affecting loss to bottom side Krasnodar.

It never materialised and I left Russia with not only a 4-1 win, but 2nd spot in Group A. I’d imagine that fictitious me, sat in my little FM plane, flying back home to sunny Sheffield, was pondering if 2nd spot was really better than 3rd.

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2nd place meant a group winner in the next round, home and away. That was a tough ask. Even if I did manage to somehow win that tie, how far was I realistically going to go in the Champions League? Would 3rd place and a run at the Europa League have suited us better? I wasn’t sure, but it also wasn’t an option. We were heading to the knockout stages of the UCL, beating yet another Board target in the process.

The Europa League is a Mickey Mouse competition anyway….

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Getting A Brazilian

So, I now had some money burning a hole in my pocket. But how could I spend it? I had options, but I felt that my new ethos for buying high quality wonderkids/under-21 first team prospects was still the way to go. They can contribute now, they’ll be stars tomorrow. It made sense.

With Embolo still out long term and with the thought in my mind that he was going to “do a Leigh Griffiths” and never really get back 100%, striker depth was appealing. So was another option at the back.

I settled on two options, but how to decide? As usual, I went after both, and if needed, I’d make up my mind once it came to pressing the final confirmation button.

Spoiler

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Remember this kid? Hat tip to the longer-term readers, Fininho was still on my radar. Looking at those stats, how could he not be? He was destroying Serie A in Brazil, and his youth international record was nuts.

He would cost me £23.5m to activate his release clause, but if I tried to get a regular deal agreed with instalments to save my budget, no doubt the club would try to have me over a barrel. It still seemed like a solid piece of potential business and the bid went in.

As much as I loved Fininho, I was also falling in love with Douglas Segalli, and it wasn’t hard to see why.

Spoiler

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Another prospect that looked like he was only going to get better and better, I was struggling to find a reason not to put a bid in. Aside from only being 6’0” and not having off the charts physical stats, he still seemed a pretty solid prospect for a 20-year old.

Bid placed. Another instant acceptance as I met his £18.75m release clause. This was going well.

I had £33.5m to play with, but as I was activating clauses, I needed the money straight up. No instalments here. £23.5m for Fininho and £18.75m for Segalli came to…..£42.25m. Damn it.

As if spooked by the ghost of Leigh Griffiths, I went for Fininho. Everyone loves a striker, right? Brazilian. Newgen. Striker. It was like FM crack, I couldn’t resist. Not the most realistic Wednesday transfer, but neither was seeing the Owls in the Champions League. I think I parked those morals at the door once I started going after feeder clubs for work permit purposes.

A day after I confirmed Fininho, Segalli’s work permit came back and everything was ticked off. I didn’t have the money, but figured it was worth a chat with the chairman anyway. Off I went once again….

“You know how we chatted the other day, and I needed more cash for players, and you pointed out that I’d spent all my original budget? And then you gave me more money anyway?”

“Yes….” said Mr Chansiri, hesitantly. 

“Well, I’ve spent all that money now to. But I reeeeeeeally need some more for another player. He’s so good. Honestly, he is.”

“So you spent your initial budget from the summer, which from memory was about £75m. And then you came to ask for more money, and I gave you another £33m, and now you’ve spent that as well? And you need what, another, how much?”

“£18m.”

“18m?!”

“Um, £18.75m actually, if we’re being accurate about this.”

There was a long pause.

“And he’s really good, you say?”

“Oh yes! Very good indeed. And Brazilian, you know how they make for great footballers.”

“Alright then, but don’t tell your mother! Close the door on the way out.”

Daddy Chansiri had come up trumps again. And like the greediest of greedy kids, who’d eaten all my sweets, then asked for more money to buy more sweets, then bought myself a third helping as well, felt sick, got diabetes, then kept eating more sweets anyway….I now had not one but two Brazilian wonderkid newgens to show for it.

Awesome. But also dirty.

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The Golden Boy

The World Cup provided Seb Esposito with the perfect platform to display his incredible scoring prowess. With the sort of players that Italy could surround him with, he was even more unstoppable. In fact, the only time that Italy looked remotely beatable in Qatar was when they rather foolishly benched Esposito and played Ciro Immobile instead.

So it was no surprise that once the New Year rolled around, after all his goals in the Premier League, his goals in the UCL at the start of the 2022/23 season, his exploits at the World Cup, he was pretty much a dead cert for further honours.

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I mean, Italy won the World Cup Final 2-1 and Esposito scored both goals. What more could you want? Over the 12 months, he’d knocked in 34 goals in 41 games, with an average rating north of 7.60. He was officially the best player under 21 in Europe, and more than likely, the World. And he was wearing a Wednesday shirt. Class!

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Long Overdue

After my transfer exploits and general perusal of the World Cup, it was eventually back down to business. Early November had seen us beat Krasnodar before a 2-2 draw away at Arsenal in the league, and we still had two games to go before the end of 2022.

Esposito was seriously tired, as were a few of my other internationals, so they got 10 days of rest. We still beat Norwich 2-0 on Boxing Day, and then on New Years Eve we had the joy of the 3rd round of the FA Cup. I’m just going to leave you, dear reader, for a few seconds, to ponder in your mind who we might have drawn in the 3rd round. Hint, it wasn’t Liverpool, but it was close.

Spoiler

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And it didn’t matter, we did them anyway! No doubt Liverpool or Man U or someone like that was waiting down the line, but for now I’d taken another frustrating Cup draw and given it the two fingers. Even game, but Palombi was doing his usual no fuss, just score goals routine. He had become a fairly dependable Robin to Esposito’s Batman, under-valued, but still very valuable to me.

With Emblolo out and Esposito rested, I’d even resorted to playing 1 up front with Paqueta at AMC. Didn’t matter, we still got it done. What a great way to end the year!

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3 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Great update, love the Brazilian wonderkids! 

What is your usual shape - is it 442?

Default formation is a positive 4-4-2. For some away games against tough sides where I'd be happy with a draw, I go 4-1-4-1 cautious and sit back a lot more. If I concede in those games and need a goal, or I really fancy it late on against someone when it's 0-0, I'll switch to the 4-4-2 and have a go.

And yes, those Brazilians are going to do some damage for sure. My scouts have pulled a blinder on those two!

Edited by Rumple43
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19 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

great update as ever...  Love the chats with Mr Chansiri!! :D

Everyone's favourite Yorkshireman, right? :-D

He's the Chairman I wish I had, though to be fair, he's done pretty well by me so far with the amount he's chucked at the club!

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

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