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[FM20] From Sheffield to South Africa


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3 hours ago, enterprise1 said:

How much is Esposito worth now? Any teams interested? If he keep's it up you're definitely due some hassle from the likes of Barca!

He is worth £54m, was £49.5m at the start of the season.

He still has his release clause at £80m for UCL teams, and as much as I'd like to get rid of it, I need to wait until the end of the season to get the extra salary in place to offer him a new deal. He's currently on £80k p/w, I'd imagine that will go up to £120k+ so needs to be budgeted for.

I'm surprised that despite that Man U offer at the start of the season, I've not had any other bids. Which is great, don't get me wrong. I'd be annoyed if he went off the boil because he was unsettled, it is just surprising.

Also, I frequently get, probably once a week, the "x team takes in Esposito performance" news item. He's constantly wanted by Real, Liverpool, Man U, Spurs and Bayern. Not PSG, surprisingly. But even when I see those news items, it usually says at the end that he's not all that fussed about a move. He was only "slightly" interested when Man U came knocking, so maybe he just has a really high loyalty rating?

14 minutes ago, TheWednesday said:

Only just found this mate so catching up from the beginning this evening and will be following, looks like you've worked wonders! 

Awesome to have you on board buddy, hope you enjoy the read!

Things have gone well, much better than I expected when I started, so no complaints here! Hopefully I can keep the upward trend going :-)

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We launch into 2023 with a lot to be excited about. Two highly talented Brazilian players are on the horizon, and we have a World Cup winner starring for us up front. The team is looking strong and we have the opportunity to do good things in the league, the FA Cup and the UCL.

So let’s see how things panned out in January and February.

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They Grow Up So Fast *Sob*

January brought with it some unexpected news that popular assistant Ciro Ferrara was not only wanted by struggling PL side Crystal Palace, but they made him an offer that he duly accepted.

It’s something I do really enjoy about FM. I like to see the evolution as I bring in staff and they go on to other, often bigger and better, things. I never try to retain staff or convince them to stay, instead preferring to look for a new candidate to start on the conveyor belt instead.

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The Italian was going to need some good fortune though. Palace lacked talent and looked fairly lost at this level. They were facing a serious uphill task to avoid the drop, but I did wish my former #2 all the best. We still had to play them again in the 2nd half of the season, so hopefully that would lead to a friendly exchange or two.

I do wish that in future FMs there would be the option for more interaction outside of the media between staff, with someone like Ferrara dropping me a line to pick my brain, or let me know how he was getting on. That would be cool. Or vica versa, since he's far more experienced than I am!

In his place, I signed Portuguese assistant Rui Pedro Silva. He left Wolves in 2019 when Nuno Espirito Santo got sacked, and since then he’d gone to Celta Vigo. With 18 for JPA and JPP, and reasonable stats on the training ground, he was a solid pick up. Happy to have him on board.

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Where’s Beadle?

When I wa’ a lad, in the most Yorkshire of Yorkshire tones, there was a hidden camera show on TV that ran for about 10 years. “Beadle’s About” was hosted by now deceased Jeremy Beadle, where they stitched up members of the public with contrived practical jokes only to finally leap out  and reveal it was all a wind up once said member of the public was at their wits' end. The whole thing was filmed, hilarity ensues, everyone goes home happy. Nobody got hit by a car or set on fire. There were no crazy stunts or explosions to grab the attention. The 80s and 90s were a simpler time.

Now.....do I feel like FM was deliberately making me play overly difficult teams in the FA Cup and League Cup? No.

Did I have a divine right not to have to play tough teams each season? No, I didn’t.

Would it have been nice to just once, one season, to have a relatively “easy” path to the later stages of a cup competition without facing a team from Manchester or Liverpool? It would. And it never, ever, happens.

Every time I sat through a Cup draw and saw who I was playing, I was half expecting the ghost of Beadle to jump and say “Ahhhhh! Got you! Had you going there! I bet you were starting to get really annoyed by all this!?”

Here’s the recap of our Cup opposition once again since we started this fun old tale:

2019/20

League Cup – Bradford A
FA Cup – Liverpool A

2020/21

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

2021/22

League Cup – Blackburn H, Chelsea A, Man U H
FA Cup – Stevenage A, Arsenal A

2022/23

League Cup – West Ham H, Man City A
FA Cup – Man City H, Wolves A, Liverpool H

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I can’t even be bothered to tot up the number of top 4 teams in that list. We’d drawn Liverpool in the FA Cup 5th round this year after managing to beat Man City plus a Wolves team that was flirting with the European places. That 3 out of the 4 years now with Liverpool in the FA Cup. I wonder how it’ll turn out?

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Money, Money, Money, Moooonnnney!

It wasn’t all bad news. After battling with the need to revamp the squad from Championship level to Premiership level to UCL level, we were finally beginning to attract transfer attention for players worth more than a shiny button and a half-chewed toffee. The first such offer came from China (of course!) for Ola Aina. I liked Ola, he was awesome for versatility, scored against Sheffield United early in his career, and was great as a right footed Inverted Wingback on the left. But…..everyone has their price.

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£34m rising to £36.5m was a decent fee for a player we picked up for £7.5m. It was satisfying to be able to bring players through like that. Sign a bargain, lift them up, move them on. The bank balance was healthier than ever.

Rober wanted to move on deadline day, so that was easy business as well. With young Douglas Segalli coming in, those were minutes I’d prefer to put into the Brazilian than anyone else, so off he went to Torino.

Noah Jean Holm (Saviour 1.0, now defunct) left on loan once again. He's developing, but not to a level where he'll do anything for me. No doubt he'll be off for good in the near future, but I'll still keep bringing him on as a player until that happens. I owe him that much at least!

Once Aina went to China, it left me with some cash burning a hole in my pocket. Ben Chilwell was now my LB of choice, but depth would be needed behind him. I went searching and found Marc Cucurella. A natural at either LB or M(L), he had enough about him defensively to be an asset, and he could get forward, dribble, cross, as required. He fitted the bill. £32m. Sure thing, just like that.

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It was a new record transfer, beating the £31m we spent on Esposito. Just under £75m outlaid in January. We were pushing on and weren’t afraid to splash the cash to do it. Both Brazilians would be a force for years to come as well, despite already being PL talents. It was a good month.

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Predictable

The one positive I could take from the FA Cup draw was that at least for a change we didn’t have to go to Anfield. Liverpool would be coming to us, but we were still underdogs by some distance.

They had conceded just 14 goals in 26 PL games, and I knew I was going to have to break them down if I was going to stand a chance. And my word, we certainly gave it a good go.

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But, it was all for nothing. 3 shots on target was all they needed to nick a goal, and try as we might, they didn’t budge. A 7.2 from the opposition keeper normally means bad things, but 3 of their back 4 were also on song and that was the end of the Cup dream for another year.

**Insert “I hate the Cup” text here blah blah blah**

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I Need A Nap

The harsh realities of the nonsense 2022 World Cup continued to be felt in January and February. All in all, we played 15 games, and that’s with just 2 FA Cup games and 1 UCL tie, a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Inter that would leave us very much up against it heading to Milan next month for the 2nd leg.

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Results very much affirmed where we are in the pecking order. We weren’t yet able to beat teams like Man U and Man City away, though we were pretty close with two 1-0 defeats. We did manage to overcome Man U at home, and Spurs continued to be my whipping boy with another spanking at Hillsborough. Everyone else was fair game, both home and away, and that was enough to keep us going up near the top.

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City look ominous again. Scoring more than anyone, hardly conceding. Perhaps Liverpool can keep pace with them, but I certainly can’t. Still, a gap was appearing between us and Man U in 5th, and we were a solid 10 points off Arsenal at the edge of the European places in 7th.

The games would continue to be crammed in the rest of the way, and I was certainly ready for the off season with 12 league games still to go. I don’t know about my players, but I felt tired, so they must have been exhausted!

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After battling through the perplexingly squashed 2022/23 season, the end was in sight. Taking the best part of 6 weeks out of the meat of the season to prance around in Qatar for the World Cup, Europe’s best and brightest were nearly ready to rest their legs and draw a line under another campaign.

How would it go for our mighty Owls? We had some players showing serious fatigue, and the list of players my physio told me “were jaded and could use a rest” was growing at an alarming rate. Still, I couldn’t take my foot off the gas, but at least this couldn’t go on forever.

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The Owls, Um, Hoot Once Again?

Even when trying to be optimistic, it was hard to feel that we’d done anything but let ourselves down in the opening leg of our first ever UCL knockout tie. Inter were ok, but we were the better team and failed to make it pay. Going to Italy following a 0-0 draw put us firmly on the back foot. Could we rough up the Nerazzurri for a famous win?

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Following on from our awesome 1-1 draw with 10 men against Madrid back in September, we’d pulled off another stunner of a European upset. We made hard work of it with two late goals that left me feeling decidedly edgy, but the boys saw us home.

I loved the 23 fouls and only two yellow cards. That was a classic tactic for this team, and the ref had failed to stamp it out. Two Italians in the form of Giordani (who was playing a lot despite being 18) and Esposito both took the opportunity to impress on home soil, and we were through to the next round.

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Where’s The Love?

As I’m sure most readers will probably agree, things were going, shall we say, rather well? From Championship to Premiership to UCL, and although we had yet to actually win anything, what had been achieved was still impressive.

Did anyone else in my FM world care about it? They most certainly did not.

Since the start of January 2023, so a little over a few months ago, the following teams had appointed new managers:

Everton – Antonio Conte
Roma – Ronald Koeman
Brighton – Steven Gerrard
West Ham – Paul Hirst?!?
Crystal Palace – My former assistant Ciro Ferrara
Chelsea – Roberto Mancini

Not one of them approached me, or even showed an interest. Perhaps some sides felt I was above them? Some perhaps felt I was below them? Maybe it was that I’d only been a manager for around 4 years? I don’t know.

But then it finally happened, and Arsenal took a punt on me!

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Old Stan the Walrus had offered me an interview and wanted to know how I could take them forward. They were looking like they might end up missing out on the European places altogether and were one of the main casualties of my rise up the table. There were only so many seats to be taken on the bus to Europe each year, and by taking one with my upstart Owls, we’d firmly kicked Arsenal out the door. Perhaps that’s why they’d taken notice?

Oh yes. Oh yes yes yes. They had a great squad. Under-performing, but I could turn that around! This is my big break! Some recognition for my achievements!!

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Then they hired Patrick Viera instead.

Understand this one very clearly. It is now my intention to crush Arsenal into the ground. It will be so. I will make it so.

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All Good Things Must Come To An End

My flirting with Arsenal was fun, but who knows if I’d have actually gone through with it. The team that I’d assembled at Wednesday was very appealing, and you know, I’d kind of grown quite attached to them anyway.

With a sense of pride, we embarked on the Champions League Quarter Finals. In true to form fashion, we’d drawn probably the strongest team in Europe, Man City, but hey, why break the habit?

We once again gave it a proper go, but ack, this one really did sting.

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Close. Oh so close. And we had to do it with 10 men, for a change. Still, it showed the strides we were making. We weren’t a million miles away from a team that were more than likely about to win their 3rd PL title in a row, plus they were the reigning UCL champions. We did well, it just wasn’t quite enough.

Although our adventure ended at the QF stage, there was still one more positive we could take from our first foray into the UCL. We were absolutely filthy.

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We played six group games, and then 4 knockout games, and managed to collect 30 yellows and 3 reds. Amazing. If Europe wasn’t aware of our tactics, plenty were now without doubt. If you wanted to play us, get ready for a fight. Class!

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What Else Did They Expect?

It was hard work constantly chasing the teams near the top. They were just so strong, with so much resource, such a fine margin for error, and that made for a constant uphill battle. What I did like was when I could be the big team and look down on another team that needed putting in their place. If only there was a team like that around in the Premiership? Who could it be?

The end of April saw us take a trip to Bramall Lane to face a Sheffield United team that had clawed their way to mid table. Our last trip to the Lane was back in August of 2020, a 2-2 draw between two well matched teams. This game was highly unlikely to play out to a similar script, especially since we’d already beaten the Blades 3-0 at Hillsborough back in October, with Esposito grabbing a brace.

I was correct.

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Another two for the Golden Boy. Will Hughes got us up and running, Cucurella and Palombi scored as well. It was a beautiful thing. The sort of game that will live long in the memory of every fan, like a certain game from 1979, for example.

Cheers for having us though, guys. Glad to see you’re staying up, we can’t wait to play you twice again next season!

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What Do We Want? More UCL Football!

The away day fun at the Lane was followed by a fairly routine 2-0 victory over West Ham to take us to five games unbeaten in the league heading into May.

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Two 1-0 losses to City were annoying, I felt like we could have taken points off them both home and away but ultimately, we’d come up with zero. I was also frustrated to only draw 1-1 with Vieras Arsenal, the new nemesis. They were dire. We smashed them. For the 2nd year in a row, it ended in a draw. Yet more fuel for the burning fire within.

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It was tight, but we were playing to decide 2nd, 3rd and 4th and really, that wasn’t a bad place to be. I had Chelsea away, Southampton away and Liverpool at home in May, so it was still possible (though unlikely, hopefully) that’d we’d drop lower than 4th, but I think in truth we’re still on for the UCL next season.

Ciro Ferrara's Palace dropped into the Championship, hopefully they stick with him and he can bring them back up. They looked doomed from the start, sadly.

Three games to go. Just three. And if FIFA ever put a World Cup in season again, I quit.

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Happy Face, Sad Face

Couldn’t quite find anywhere else to fit this in, but I had some great striker news in April, and some terrible striker news as well.

Espositios two goals against Sheffield United were, of course, very enjoyable. But they also took him to 51 Premier League goals, a landmark not to be sniffed at. And although he’s slowed down this season compared to his debut campaign; he had reached the milestone in pretty quick time.

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He had made 67 PL starts, 1 sub appearance and got himself to over a half century of league goals. That was some going for a striker who wasn’t even 20 yet, playing on a team that was over-performing with a squad of less than household names. It did put him in some lofty company though.

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A little bit gutting that the Italian Stallion couldn’t top that list, he did have a bit of a lean stretch in the 40s, but when you consider the credentials of the players on that list, the fact he was joint 3rd was remarkable. His international record this season was also impressive, including a goal to win a World Cup. What a talent he is.

It wasn’t all good news though. This one left me, head bowed, long sigh, not good....

Spoiler

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He had been back in full training for 1 whole day. 1 day. Completed his rehab. Completed his phased return to training. Boom. Done. See you in another six months.

Absolutely devastating. He could have been really solid for me, and now, well. He probably was done in truth. If he did get back to playing, it was unlikely to be for me. He wasn't even Leigh Griffiths 2.0, he'd gone past that. Two ACL's in just over six months?!

So harsh.

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We had three games to go to cap off our 4th season, 3rd in the Prem, and potentially seal a 2nd straight season finishing inside the top 4. We had drawn 2-2 away at Chelsea, which opened the door for both Man U and Spurs to draw level with me on points. All three of us won our penultimate game, leaving things finely poised for a show down to end the year.

Let’s see what happened to wrap the 2022/23 season as we head into the summer months once again.

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Final Day Drama, As Always

When the fixture list came out, I didn’t like the fact we were facing Liverpool to end the season one little bit. I was of course hopeful that whatever the campaign held in store for us, we’d have locked it up and have it in the bag before this game came around, but it wasn’t to be.

All tied up on 83 points, Wednesday, Man U and Spurs were set to fight it out for 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The silver lining was that we were guaranteed UCL football regardless of how things panned out, we couldn’t drop out of the top 4.

Man U had the better goal difference, but mine was better than Spurs. Man U were at home to Wolves, likely to win. I was at home to Liverpool, tough. Spurs had Norwich at home, which they should win but Norwich were a solid team these days.

The whistles are blown across the country, we are underway. Man U raced out to a 2-0 lead. Probably game over for 2nd. I go 1-0 up thanks to who else, it’s Esposito. Spurs are 1-0 up. Norwich score, 1-1. 2-1. 2-2 at HT. That game is wild! As it stands, Man U 2nd, I’m 3rd, Spurs need one of us to slip up and to pull their own finger out.

It didn’t happen. Spurs actually slipped to a 3-2 loss. Man U jogged home at a canter, and I managed to put the finishing touches on a dominant performance against an our of form Liverpool. We still only won 2-1, but if you’d asked me a year ago how long it’d take before I’d batter teams like Liverpool, my guess would be a lot longer than a year.

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Our progress had continued. From Championship to PL, 11th to 4th to 3rd. It had been a solid 4 years. Arsenal snuck into Europe, much to my annoyance, and Chelsea squeaked in via winning the League Cup.

Despite searching high and low, I don’t think I recorded my usual end of season break down stats, so let’s go with the following and I reckon I’ll not be far off:

  • We probably fouled a lot of people. More than anyone in the league, I'd imagine
  • We probably picked up more yellow cards than anyone else, because we like kicking people
  • Our stats going forward for crosses completed, shots on target, and especially chances created, were probably really good.

I also didn’t get my usual graphic on salary spent compared to the teams around us, but I am pretty sure we moved up from 16th in salary spent a year ago to around 12th or so. It was still a quality achievement to finish where we did considering what we were spending each year. Jolly good!

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One Small Step Along The Road To Recovery

As usual, May was the opportunity to pester the Board for further upgrades to the club’s facilities. Specifically, my immediate priority was to get the youth facilities up the scratch. We had taken another step up the rung in that regard during the season, but it was slow going. There was, however, some good news.

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After having no youth level at all for a year, we were now at the bottom of the pile with a level four set up. There was still a long way to go, but at least we were now going in the right direction.

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Change Is Coming

My yearly meeting with the Board to thrash out a new agreed vision had become somewhat of a non-event. Their requests were generally the same, apart from last season when the top man wanted me to sign high profile players and I politely told him to jog on.

All of last season’s targets remained in place for the coming campaign, though signing high profile players made an appearance once again. Back and forth ensued, with the Chairman once again relenting and it would be business as usual going forward once again.

There was something else to note though.

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Under "Owner Status", our favourite part-time Yorkshireman Dejphon Chanisiri was looking to sell up and get back making tins of tuna for a living instead. I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little hurt that he wanted to break up our dream team, but all good things must come to an end.

Really, the vultures had been circling for some time with the occasional consortium rumour flying around. All I could do was wait and see what developed. If someone came in that wanted to move me on, there wasn’t much I could do about it, but at least I shouldn’t have much of a problem finding work these days.

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Where’s the Love? There’s The Love!

After watching team after team recruit for a new manager without so much as a sniff my way, Arsenal came calling. Only to annoy me though, as they picked Patrick Viera to fill their vacancy anyway. That probably annoyed me even more, but all was not lost. It was End of Season Awards time!

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In short, if there was something to win this year, it was in a box and on its way to Sheffield. Esposito had won Footballer of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year, Top Goal Scorer and Players’ Young Player of the Year. That lad was going to need a bigger mantlepiece, or whatever the word for mantlepiece is in Italian. I ran out of superlatives for him ages ago, he is just too good.

Perhaps due to Espositio’s continued brilliance, I scooped up the Premier League’s Manager of the Year award. It was the first one I’d won, and it underlined that I was actually doing something right even if other clubs didn’t have a desire to try and poach me. Speaking of which….

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Is It Time?

The Liverpool job came up. They weren’t happy at missing out on the Champions League and Carlo Ancelotti was on his bike (Klopp had long since gone to enjoy life at Madrid). Atletico were also looking for a manager after a year of underachieving. Both were tempting. If I could get an interview at Arsenal, surely these kinds of jobs weren’t miles away.

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Man U were also fairly miffed that City were consistently beating them to the top spot, and Oles job was very much under threat. Was that another potential avenue to explore?

 

For me at Wednesday, I just didn’t know what the future held. I wasn’t uninterested in managing the Owls, far from it. The team was fun and the squad was continuing to improve despite being very close to the top of the pile. The constant grind to compete with the top teams despite not necessarily being able to match their resources was tiring, but it was still a fun challenge to navigate.

Perhaps something would come up that interested me, but they’d have to come to me rather than me going to them. Given how little interest there has been for my services to date, it’s likely I’ll be at Hillsborough a good while longer yet.

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11 hours ago, Rumple43 said:

It's gone quiet in here recently, wondered if the new forum update had turned off posts from other users haha :D

Ha ha!  It has seemed to be quieter in general.  Guess the effect of FM21 being on the horizon...  I'm still checking in!

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The ghastly 2022/23 season was finally done with. As I flicked over the calendar on my imaginary desk, I looked out of the imaginary window of my imaginary office at the imaginary youth players running around my imaginary training ground. I think (or would imagine) that I was pondering that the 2022/23 season was stupid, and shouldn’t be attempted again. I was also probably going mad, as it was June, and I had no youth players to run around. They were all on holiday.

With my commitment to Wednesday potentially waning at the back end of last season, perhaps I was just ready for an off-season. To get down to the same squad building, transfer dealing, planning and preparation that I probably enjoy more than the actual games. But I didn’t really know where to start. Something about this summer just felt a bit, off?

I couldn’t put my finger on it, so let’s continue with June and see how we go.

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When In Doubt, Cheque Book Out

As I generally did when I wasn’t sure of something, I went out and spent some money. Or more accurately, I did my usual scouting and due diligence for players I wanted to buy. As I seemed to be continually bringing in CM loan targets (McTominay, Caballos, Paqueta to an extent), I figured I should probably start laying down some firmer roots in the area and getting in someone permanently.

McTominay, the Captain, had been drafted in once his loan finished, but I needed someone along side him to be a bit more attacking. But who? It was time to play Blind Date again!

Behind door number 1 was this little Belgian wonderkid, who I liked an awful lot!

Spoiler

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Pauly had a lot going on for a 19 year old. That first touch, ooooo! The passing, ahhhh! The technique!!! Solid physical stats, very good mental stats for 19. Plus a positive personality type in resolute. He was the real deal. Sign me up!

Behind door number 2 was another cheeky number my scouts had found me, this time from Portugal.

Spoiler

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A very similar prospect, still the wonderkid tag, still the positive personality, but his stats didn’t quite pop like Pauly. That said, Joao Brito was still looking like he would be a very good player, and if the price for Pauly was obscene, he might be a good back up option. We all saw how that worked out when I took the back up plan of Esposito!

Finally, we had a player my scout had found for me a few years ago that I’d kept tabs on. From Barca, tick. Wonderkid, tick. Perfectionist, tick. Let’s go to door number 3!!

Spoiler

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You can’t beat the Perfectionist personality in my opinion, so that was a huge plus. The long term injury wasn't ideal, but shouldn't be an issue. He still wasn’t quite as good as Pauly when directly comparing, and he was a lot more expensive. Still, three worthy candidates. Time to ponder, check out some potential price points, and circle back to this one later in the summer.

What, you thought I was going to choose now? I never do that. That’s how I get you to come back and read my next update 😉

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Hi, Long Time Admirer, First Time Buyer

Whilst I pondered my attacking midfielder trio, there was one piece of business I did make quite quickly in the summer and it represented a bargain in my eyes. Well, two actually. I signed Esposito to a new contract. £140k a week seemed like a steal, but more importantly it removed his UCL release clause, which was huge news. Now I could knock back any offers that came in, though strangely none had for about 12 months now.

Alongside the Italian Stallion I also had Simone Palombi, who last season knocked in a highly respectable 17 goals in all competitions, with 6 assists to boot. Fininho was of course still going to be a threat and he was developing nicely, but I couldn't resist this one.

Spoiler

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In terms of fitting my system as a pressing forward, Kean brought me something that even Esposito couldn’t offer. I had the feeling that the Italian Stallion would score even if I put him at right back, but Kean had bounced between Everton (usurped by Fabio Silva) and then Brighton, where Steven Gerrard had ground him into the floor. I’d looked at Kean for three straight transfer windows without making a move, but this time I had to make it happen.

Always enjoying a reclamation project, I picked him up for £15.25m, with only £10m of that coming up front. I liked the deal a lot. If he plays to his attributes, him and Esposito could be ridiculous. He joined and was immediately worth twice what I paid for him. This was going to be good.

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Another Horror Show

With a slightly less hectic summer slate than last year, I am able to stick the new season fixture release back into it’s usual June slot. This helps my brain a bit more, I like it when everything fits together properly.

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As you can see, that is a mighty grim looking first five games. The saving grace is that I play three at home, and that Arsenal and Man U are both at Hillsborough, but Man City 2nd up? Away? Ack! Way to kill the momentum before it starts!

A trip to Bramall Lane to face United would end my September, and my final game of the season was…..Man U. Away. Liverpool at home last season. Man U away this season. Come on, guys!?!

Best hope whatever I’m doing is wrapped up by final day again, eh?

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There’s Something In The Air….

As I mentioned at the start of this update, the summer felt decidedly strange. Every player I thought about taking a punt on, clubs wanted ridiculous money. My trio of potential midfielders were all going to cost me an obscene amount. Other teams were signing players and making plans and I was going nowhere fast. It was odd.

One team who were making new managerial plans were Liverpool, who thought I might be a good bet to replace Ancelotti. They’d be right of course, I’d be awesome at that club with their desire for attacking football and my ability to deliver attacking football. Plus the transfer budget. Oh my, serious money!

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They hired Allegri instead. Add Liverpool to the list of teams I intend to crush at every opportunity.

I’ll keep plodding along. It felt slow going, but maybe the off-season master plan will come together later this year. An August effort rather than being set and ready in June or July. Fingers crossed anyway!

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Won’t Get Fooled Again

The Who were onto something with Won’t Get Fooled Again. As Roger Daltrey belted out some immortal lyrics, one of them came to mind in late June as I continued my curiously slow summer. “Meet the new boss,” Daltrey warbles. “Same as the old boss.”

It seemed very apt as I ventured out into the staff market and found myself another new Director of Football. In reality, the position is above me as the manager, and so technically, they're my boss. But at this club, I’m everyone’s boss apart from our favourite pseudo-Yorkshireman, Mr Chansiri. Total and complete power. It's the way it has to be.

Spoiler

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So I brought in a new DOF, for him to pretend to be my boss while I’m actually his boss. But he did have the stats I wanted. 20 for JPP, 20 for JPA. The perfect man to get a 2nd opinion from on the really good players my scouts found. They do the leg work, he gives me the final verdict. Perfect.

That is, if I could find anyone that wanted to sell me a player without ripping me off. The slow burn off-season continues…..

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32 minutes ago, Rumple43 said:

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The ghastly 2022/23 season was finally done with. As I flicked over the calendar on my imaginary desk, I looked out of the imaginary window of my imaginary office at the imaginary youth players running around my imaginary training ground. I think (or would imagine) that I was pondering that the 2022/23 season was stupid, and shouldn’t be attempted again. I was also probably going mad, as it was June, and I had no youth players to run around. They were all on holiday.

With my commitment to Wednesday potentially waning at the back end of last season, perhaps I was just ready for an off-season. To get down to the same squad building, transfer dealing, planning and preparation that I probably enjoy more than the actual games. But I didn’t really know where to start. Something about this summer just felt a bit, off?

I couldn’t put my finger on it, so let’s continue with June and see how we go.

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When In Doubt, Cheque Book Out

As I generally did when I wasn’t sure of something, I went out and spent some money. Or more accurately, I did my usual scouting and due diligence for players I wanted to buy. As I seemed to be continually bringing in CM loan targets (McTominay, Caballos, Paqueta to an extent), I figured I should probably start laying down some firmer roots in the area and getting in someone permanently.

McTominay, the Captain, had been drafted in once his loan finished, but I needed someone along side him to be a bit more attacking. But who? It was time to play Blind Date again!

Behind door number 1 was this little Belgian wonderkid, who I liked an awful lot!

  Hide contents

Pauly.png.47e58c1499c423ab23c579a464e3fc13.png

Pauly had a lot going on for a 19 year old. That first touch, ooooo! The passing, ahhhh! The technique!!! Solid physical stats, very good mental stats for 19. Plus a positive personality type in resolute. He was the real deal. Sign me up!

Behind door number 2 was another cheeky number my scouts had found me, this time from Portugal.

  Hide contents

Brito.png.52beb4484a77a6ce10a656d674a883aa.png

A very similar prospect, still the wonderkid tag, still the positive personality, but his stats didn’t quite pop like Pauly. That said, Joao Brito was still looking like he would be a very good player, and if the price for Pauly was obscene, he might be a good back up option. We all saw how that worked out when I took the back up plan of Esposito!

Finally, we had a player my scout had found for me a few years ago that I’d kept tabs on. From Barca, tick. Wonderkid, tick. Perfectionist, tick. Let’s go to door number 3!!

  Hide contents

Moriba.png.cf90e2e3b68c49bafdb22a80b1ee9af4.png

You can’t beat the Perfectionist personality in my opinion, so that was a huge plus. The long term injury wasn't ideal, but shouldn't be an issue. He still wasn’t quite as good as Pauly when directly comparing, and he was a lot more expensive. Still, three worthy candidates. Time to ponder, check out some potential price points, and circle back to this one later in the summer.

What, you thought I was going to choose now? I never do that. That’s how I get you to come back and read my next update 😉

 

 

:lol: :lol: Genius!!  Made me chuckle did this section...  Tricky one, for me between Pauly or Moriba...  If it was me, i'd go for Pauly.  Looking forward to seeing who you go for...

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15 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

:lol: :lol: Genius!!  Made me chuckle did this section...  Tricky one, for me between Pauly or Moriba...  If it was me, i'd go for Pauly.  Looking forward to seeing who you go for...

That's how I get you coming back for more :-D

Appreciate the kind words though, always great to have you reading along.

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We meandered slowly into July. The signing of Moise Kean felt like a distant memory. We still had about six weeks until the season opener and although I had ideas for potential new recruits, making them into confirmed signings was proving troublesome. I didn’t want to sit back and let one of my rivals snap up someone I’d got my eye on, so it was time to go all in and start using some of that Premier League muscle.

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The First Domino To Fall

Whilst I continued to puzzle my midfield trio of possibilities, the only other piece of business I concluded was to sign Adam Hlozek from Sparta Praha. He was an AM(R) with no knowledge of how to play M(R), but I figured that since he was still pretty young, a retraining project was on the cards. At worst, the idea would flop and he'd still just be a highly rated AM(R) prospect that I could turn a profit with, we shall see.

I continued to potter about. Putting in reasonable bids that would get rejected. Putting in inflated bids that would also be rejected. It was a frustrating time and teams weren’t about to budge. Then a window of opportunity presented itself.

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He was a real rock for me, and he was one of the best centre backs in the Premiership, but he wanted to move and I couldn’t complain at the price I got.

Originally signed for £12.5m, I’d got two seasons out of Bastoni, 81 games in total, with an average rating of 7.21. That’s pretty impressive for a D(C), and it had been enough for him to secure his first ever Italy cap as well.

As sad as I was to see him go, the £40m or so that I’d get to spend from the sale would give me some momentum to get out and make some transfers of my own. I also felt like I could replace Bastoni for a much cheaper price, so that was a double bonus.

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And The Winner Is….

With my newfound financial clout, I went back to Belgium and leant more heavily on Club Brugge to secure the services of Bernd Pauly. After looking at all three options, there wasn’t a cheap deal to be had for any of them. I figured if I was going to chuck big money about for one of them, I may as well get the one that I wanted the most.

£36m, that could eventually rise to £42.5m. It was done. A drop in the ocean for a top 4 team, but for me it was a sizable outlay.

Spoiler

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He was on track to be a world class centre mid in my eyes and would make an incredible tandem in that spot with Sergio Gomes, who was still developing nicely after we picked him up for about £3.5m many moons ago.

I didn’t have any qualms in thinking I’d be able to give him the football and the training development to reach 4.5 stars or more of potential, and the whole deal made me pretty excited for the future!

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Raising The Stakes

With Bastoni leaving and Pauly coming in, we were quickly moving in to the realm of serious money changing hands each transfer window. No longer an imposter to the top 4, we were certainly doing business like a top side, and grabbing the results to match.

August closed the transfer window, and as always, I had further players to scoop up.

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Jerome Onguene was the man tabbed with replacing Bastoni, and I quite liked what he had to offer. A powerful guy with solid physicals, he should slot into the team from day 1.

Zinchenko was available at a fairly cheap price after becoming another forgotten man at City. With the ability to play D(L), M(L) and most of the positions across the midfield, he was a great utility pick up for a squad that usually struggled for depth.

Donny van de Beek was the latest central midfielder to join on loan, I was beginning to become quite attached to the players who had come along and filed that role over the years. It was somewhat of a tradition now.

With all the moves considered, the only piece of the puzzle I felt still needed addressing was between the sticks. I’d been looking around Europe for the most suitable option, and after some more pondering, Onana was recruited.

It does mean that that once African Cup of Nations time rolls round every other January, I’ll be losing Iorfa, Onguene and Onana, but that’s something I’d have to live with.

Going the other way was once again a smattering of loans for development, existing players heading back to the Championship and Bastoni’s mega deal.

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Penny had done well, he was perhaps a fringe PL player but with the options I had down the left, he could be moved on to enjoy some football elsewhere. Dawson was the same, he’d done ok and could maybe do a job in the Prem, but with my eye on a new keeper and Onana eventually coming in, I knew he could go to pastures new.

Some other prospects left on loan. Martins, Milani, and Johnstone amongst them. Urhoghide was a top prospect a few years ago, but his development hadn’t matched the club's and he was allowed to leave. I was excited to get Okada out to Roma as they were going to use him as a first choice keeper and they were in the UCL, so that was some brilliant experience.

Ljubomir Nogovic was a young Serbian CB who I liked the look of, but as Serbia don’t join the EU until 2027, he doesn’t have a work permit. I planned to loan him out to Poland to get one, but he had no intention of going. I didn’t expect this to be an issue, so for now he’s gone back to Serbia for a season.

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Starting With A Bang!

The new season was upon us. Newcastle won 4 games on the bounce to end last year and give themselves some breathing room from the relegation scrap. Whilst they were no doubt delighted to be in the top flight for another season, they weren’t celebrating the fact for too long.

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If we wanted to make a statement to the rest of the league, that was probably it. More alarming was that we scored 7 goals and Esposito didn’t get a single one. A great debut from Kean though, he was off and running and hopefully that form will continue.

If the Newcastle was a shot across the PL’s bows, our 2nd game of the season was a direct hit.

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Aye, aye! Have that! Not many teams will go to the Etihad and win this season, what a result. POM for Kean in game 1, POM from Onguene in game two. The new signings were getting it done, and it was pleasing to see an 18 year old Giordani making a mark on the big stage against Man City’s huge budget squad.

Could this be the year? Too early to say after 2 games, but we couldn’t have started any better!

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Nowhere To Look But Down

With 2 wins from 2 as we opened the new season, we quickly made it three from three with a try hard win away to Burnley. Maybe it was because we were on a come down from the City result, or the players were a bit complacent, but it really was a scrappy game. At least we won though, that’s what matters.

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Whilst I would imagine that China’s tourism has taken somewhat a nosedive in the last 12 months in real life, I was more than happy to send my imaginary team to the Far East for what proved to be another successful pre-season.

3 wins from 3 and the awesome goal difference meant just one thing…..

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We were top dogs. Nobody above us, everybody below. Granted, some of the big guns, Man U and Liverpool in particular, had also won 3 from 3, but hey, it was still nice to see.

Now we need just need to keep it going for another 35 games. Easy!

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With the excitement of beating City and slapping Newcastle 7-0, the new season was already going well. If the good form was going to continue, we’d need to beat some top sides as Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea were lined up in September and October. That said, we’d already beaten Man City at the Etihad and confidence was sky high.

We also had Sheffield United to play in October and considering last time we faced them at the Lane we won 5-0, that was a fixture I was very much looking forward to!

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I Do Love A Derby!

Gearing myself up for a trip to face little brother across the city, for once, the balls of a cup draw fell more favourably for me. First time for everything, eh?

The 3rd round of the League Cup pitted me against another local foe in the shape of Barnsley. I hadn’t played them since our opening season in the Championship, 2019/20, winning 1-0 at Hillsborough before a 3-1 victory at Oakwell. They were languishing in League 1 again, and what better game to set me up for United?

We started well. Loads of possession, two clear cut chances in the opening 15 minutes, then a pen after 19 minutes. Got the reserves out to an extent, Moise Kean is on hand to tuck it away for 1-0.

Half hour gone. I’m up past 10 shots on target, still 1-0. Barnsley score. 1 shot, 1 goal. That’ll be 1-1.

We persevere. Piling up shots and chances, it eventually tells. Another pen, 38 minutes, that’s two for Kean. Going well, we head into half time. But wait, another goal. It’s 2 shots now, and 2 goals, and we’ll head to the dressing rooms at 2-2.

Are you kidding me?

The 2nd half is me assaulting their net in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever managed on FM, and the final stats were ridiculous.

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We got there in the end. How did their keeper make 26 saves and only get a 6.8?!?! Still, my 100% record against Barnsley remained intact, but we sure did work hard for it.

I couldn’t help but feel it had been an opportunity missed to grab some momentum before playing United. Sadly, I was correct.

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An annoyingly even game without much quality. For whatever reason, we just never got going. We had fresh legs as I rotated the starters back in, but they just came out flat.

In the end we got a point, far from the 5-0 drubbing we’d dished out previously. Still, I’m also unbeaten in my career against United, but that’s about the only positive I could take from what felt like two points dropped.

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Feeling Unstoppable

There was something that I was missing from the 0-0 draw at United, the stalemate extended my unbeaten run. A few matches later, that streak hit the 20-game mark.

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It had snuck up on me for sure, but I delved into my schedule and dating back to last season, we had indeed gone 20 games without a loss. It was even more impressive when you consider who we’d played:

Arsenal (H) 1-1 (this one still annoys me, even now)
Man City (H) 2-1
Chelsea (a) 2-2
Liverpool (H) 2-1
Man City (a) 1-0
Arsenal (H) 1-0
Man U (H) 2-1

Seven difficult games, and we’d not tasted defeat in any of them, adding another 13 positive results onto the pile. We had pretty much become an established top 4 team. The last few years I felt like I was squeaking into the UCL places, now I felt like I belonged there.

It was a nice feeling.

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The Vultures Are Coming

Back in the summer, we’d discussed our favourite Yorkshireman, Delphon Chansiri, was looking to sell the club. Rather predictably, my news feed in October was greeted with the following message:

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£708m eh? Not bad going. Perhaps I’d have to figure out a new persona for Tom O’Neill. Lovably Irish whiskey magnate, perhaps? I hadn’t decided. Either way, it felt inevitable that the club would be sold sooner rather than later. No mention of sacking me, so that is a good sign!

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200 Not Out

After clocking up 20 games unbeaten, it turned out that October was a month for landmarks. Approaching an away game against Spurs, I was greeted with the news that I was about to take charge of my 200th game as a manager.

What highs we’d experienced! Promotion, and the Forestieri wonder goal! Premier League survival! Champions League football! A draw away against Real Madrid! It had been a fun ride.

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1,583 days had flown by. Not literally, it had taken me ages, you know, wife and kids and that, but it had been a good laugh. 56% win percentage for a team that snuck into the Premiership and managed to survive wasn’t to be sniffed at, and the +130 goal difference was pleasing. Wonder how many fouls and yellow cards I’d racked up?!

How did we mark the tremendous occasion? We got spanked 5-1 by Spurs.

Thanks boys. Love you to.

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It Had To Happen Eventually

Not to toot my own horn, but doing this thread is quite the undertaking. When I’m playing, I’m a good season or two in front of what I’m writing, and I need a system for grabbing content as I go to then write up at a later date.

However, any system is only as good as the user, and for September and October, we experienced user error. I completely forgot to grab the results and league tables haha!

I can however tell you what happened, I just don’t have the nice screenshots. So apologies, you’ll just have to have it long hand this time.

SEPTEMBER

Arsenal H 1-0
Man U H 2-1
Leipzig A 4-1 UCL
Leicester A 2-1
Barnsley A 3-2 EFL Cup

OCTOBER

SUFC A 0-0
Ajax H 4-0 UCL
Norwich H 2-0
Spurs A 1-5
PSG A 0-1 UCL
Chelsea H 2-0

After 3 wins from 3 to kick us off, beating other top teams like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U was huge. The fact our first dropped points of the season came against bitter rivals Sheffield United was terrible, as discussed. The Spurs result was horrific. We were so, so bad.

The UCL group of Red Bull Leipzig, Ajax and PSG was more than reasonable. I figured PSG would beat me twice, but we had managed to run them close in Paris and who knows, we might spring a surprise against them at Hillsborough in November. Either way, having already beaten Leipzig and Ajax, we looked good for 2nd place and a path through to the next round as a minimum.

Again, no pretty screenshot for the table, but looking at past positions I can tell you that we had relinquished top spot. Our dropped points against Spurs and SUFC meant we’d taken 25 out of a potential 30 points from our first 10 games. Aside from losing to me, Man City had gone unbeaten, so they led the way with 27 points. That was tough to take, but I was well aware of how narrow the margin for error was to win the league. There was a reason City had won three titles on the bounce, they just didn’t drop many points.

Still, things were going well. We had a platform to build on, our new players were bedding in well, and we were still in the running across the various competitions we were in. Roll on November and December!

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Belting Goal Bonus – Hans Hateboer

We ended October beating Chelsea 2-0, with Hans Hateboer scoring the winner. It was a sublime team effort, for sure.

I’ve had to speed the highlight up to get a lot of the passing in (and there was plenty before we reached that stage), but Chelsea’s defence couldn’t get near us. For a team that prides itself on physical work rate and an aggressive edge, it was some silky smooth pass and move stuff with the Dutch right back eventually biffing one into the far top corner. Quality!

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See you in November!

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On 30/10/2020 at 09:32, Rumple43 said:

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With the excitement of beating City and slapping Newcastle 7-0, the new season was already going well. If the good form was going to continue, we’d need to beat some top sides as Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea were lined up in September and October. That said, we’d already beaten Man City at the Etihad and confidence was sky high.

We also had Sheffield United to play in October and considering last time we faced them at the Lane we won 5-0, that was a fixture I was very much looking forward to!

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I Do Love A Derby!

Gearing myself up for a trip to face little brother across the city, for once, the balls of a cup draw fell more favourably for me. First time for everything, eh?

The 3rd round of the League Cup pitted me against another local foe in the shape of Barnsley. I hadn’t played them since our opening season in the Championship, 2019/20, winning 1-0 at Hillsborough before a 3-1 victory at Oakwell. They were languishing in League 1 again, and what better game to set me up for United?

We started well. Loads of possession, two clear cut chances in the opening 15 minutes, then a pen after 19 minutes. Got the reserves out to an extent, Moise Kean is on hand to tuck it away for 1-0.

Half hour gone. I’m up past 10 shots on target, still 1-0. Barnsley score. 1 shot, 1 goal. That’ll be 1-1.

We persevere. Piling up shots and chances, it eventually tells. Another pen, 38 minutes, that’s two for Kean. Going well, we head into half time. But wait, another goal. It’s 2 shots now, and 2 goals, and we’ll head to the dressing rooms at 2-2.

Are you kidding me?

The 2nd half is me assaulting their net in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever managed on FM, and the final stats were ridiculous.

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We got there in the end. How did their keeper make 26 saves and only get a 6.8?!?! Still, my 100% record against Barnsley remained intact, but we sure did work hard for it.

I couldn’t help but feel it had been an opportunity missed to grab some momentum before playing United. Sadly, I was correct.

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An annoyingly even game without much quality. For whatever reason, we just never got going. We had fresh legs as I rotated the starters back in, but they just came out flat.

In the end we got a point, far from the 5-0 drubbing we’d dished out previously. Still, I’m also unbeaten in my career against United, but that’s about the only positive I could take from what felt like two points dropped.

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Feeling Unstoppable

There was something that I was missing from the 0-0 draw at United, the stalemate extended my unbeaten run. A few matches later, that streak hit the 20-game mark.

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It had snuck up on me for sure, but I delved into my schedule and dating back to last season, we had indeed gone 20 games without a loss. It was even more impressive when you consider who we’d played:

Arsenal (H) 1-1 (this one still annoys me, even now)
Man City (H) 2-1
Chelsea (a) 2-2
Liverpool (H) 2-1
Man City (a) 1-0
Arsenal (H) 1-0
Man U (H) 2-1

Seven difficult games, and we’d not tasted defeat in any of them, adding another 13 positive results onto the pile. We had pretty much become an established top 4 team. The last few years I felt like I was squeaking into the UCL places, now I felt like I belonged there.

It was a nice feeling.

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The Vultures Are Coming

Back in the summer, we’d discussed our favourite Yorkshireman, Delphon Chansiri, was looking to sell the club. Rather predictably, my news feed in October was greeted with the following message:

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£708m eh? Not bad going. Perhaps I’d have to figure out a new persona for Tom O’Neill. Lovably Irish whiskey magnate, perhaps? I hadn’t decided. Either way, it felt inevitable that the club would be sold sooner rather than later. No mention of sacking me, so that is a good sign!

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200 Not Out

After clocking up 20 games unbeaten, it turned out that October was a month for landmarks. Approaching an away game against Spurs, I was greeted with the news that I was about to take charge of my 200th game as a manager.

What highs we’d experienced! Promotion, and the Forestieri wonder goal! Premier League survival! Champions League football! A draw away against Real Madrid! It had been a fun ride.

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1,583 days had flown by. Not literally, it had taken me ages, you know, wife and kids and that, but it had been a good laugh. 56% win percentage for a team that snuck into the Premiership and managed to survive wasn’t to be sniffed at, and the +130 goal difference was pleasing. Wonder how many fouls and yellow cards I’d racked up?!

How did we mark the tremendous occasion? We got spanked 5-1 by Spurs.

Thanks boys. Love you to.

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It Had To Happen Eventually

Not to toot my own horn, but doing this thread is quite the undertaking. When I’m playing, I’m a good season or two in front of what I’m writing, and I need a system for grabbing content as I go to then write up at a later date.

However, any system is only as good as the user, and for September and October, we experienced user error. I completely forgot to grab the results and league tables haha!

I can however tell you what happened, I just don’t have the nice screenshots. So apologies, you’ll just have to have it long hand this time.

SEPTEMBER

Arsenal H 1-0
Man U H 2-1
Leipzig A 4-1 UCL
Leicester A 2-1
Barnsley A 3-2 EFL Cup

OCTOBER

SUFC A 0-0
Ajax H 4-0 UCL
Norwich H 2-0
Spurs A 1-5
PSG A 0-1 UCL
Chelsea H 2-0

After 3 wins from 3 to kick us off, beating other top teams like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U was huge. The fact our first dropped points of the season came against bitter rivals Sheffield United was terrible, as discussed. The Spurs result was horrific. We were so, so bad.

The UCL group of Red Bull Leipzig, Ajax and PSG was more than reasonable. I figured PSG would beat me twice, but we had managed to run them close in Paris and who knows, we might spring a surprise against them at Hillsborough in November. Either way, having already beaten Leipzig and Ajax, we looked good for 2nd place and a path through to the next round as a minimum.

Again, no pretty screenshot for the table, but looking at past positions I can tell you that we had relinquished top spot. Our dropped points against Spurs and SUFC meant we’d taken 25 out of a potential 30 points from our first 10 games. Aside from losing to me, Man City had gone unbeaten, so they led the way with 27 points. That was tough to take, but I was well aware of how narrow the margin for error was to win the league. There was a reason City had won three titles on the bounce, they just didn’t drop many points.

Still, things were going well. We had a platform to build on, our new players were bedding in well, and we were still in the running across the various competitions we were in. Roll on November and December!

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Belting Goal Bonus – Hans Hateboer

We ended October beating Chelsea 2-0, with Hans Hateboer scoring the winner. It was a sublime team effort, for sure.

I’ve had to speed the highlight up to get a lot of the passing in (and there was plenty before we reached that stage), but Chelsea’s defence couldn’t get near us. For a team that prides itself on physical work rate and an aggressive edge, it was some silky smooth pass and move stuff with the Dutch right back eventually biffing one into the far top corner. Quality!

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See you in November!

Just signed up to say I saw you pop up on the FM Facebook group linking to this thread and I've been following all of your Sheffield Wednesday updates on here since. I'm really enjoying them (great format), and looking forward to seeing how you get on this season... Premier League Champions!?

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On 31/10/2020 at 18:45, milktoday said:

Just signed up to say I saw you pop up on the FM Facebook group linking to this thread and I've been following all of your Sheffield Wednesday updates on here since. I'm really enjoying them (great format), and looking forward to seeing how you get on this season... Premier League Champions!?

Who knows, but fingers crossed. Chasing City is so hard, they just so rarely slip up. Really fine margins of error. Especially when we're not able to beat teams like Sheffield United! :(

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On our merry wagon would continue to roll into November and December. The club was still keeping a firm foot in the UCL places, hoping for a Man City slip up that may never come. That couldn’t be the thought process though, we just had to concentrate on our own game.

A takeover was still in the pipeline, hopefully it would be concluded before the January window otherwise it could be a serious spanner in any potential transfer plans.

How would 2023 end? Hopefully better than 2022 and that stupid World Cup in Qatar! I’m never gonna let that one go.

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More Derbies Than A Triple Crown Winner

I’m not a horse racing man, never have been. Don’t see the point, and I’ve never been much of a betting man either (plus I’m truly terrible at it when I have had a punt), so the title of this first segment is about as much as horse content as you’re going to get. If you’re looking for horse chat, you’ve neigh chance….

Shocking puns aside, we had already played Barnsley (ridiculous game) and Sheffield United (annoying game), but there were still more derby games to enjoy. Leeds had joined the Blades in the top flight, and that meant more opportunities to stamp my authority on the local whipping boys.

Plus, and this is the best bit, Leeds are laughably bad.

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We didn’t put the game to bed until stoppage time, and that made me nervous considering how much we dominated. But…we did win. Another nail in the coffin for local competition, and I have no issue with that. There’s no room for parity here, it is a one horse race.

Damn it!

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Slipping Through My Fingers

With the way the Premier League fixtures tend to fall, top teams rarely seem to play at the same time. As such, I’d frequently pull out a result, edge closer to City at the top, only to watch as they duly matched my result when they played later in the weekend.

Try as I might, I couldn’t close the gap. They just didn’t falter. The same couldn’t be said for us.

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But why are you focusing an entire segment on a crappy 1-1 draw with a rubbish team? Simply because, it was exactly the sort of game that was holding me back from challenging for the PL title.

Dropped points against poor sides, especially at home, are a killer. Until I could find a formula for overcoming such results, I was going to be shooting for the top 4 and nothing better.

I didn’t want to admit that the season was done before Christmas, but in terms of a title challenge, it was beginning to go that way. This was a low point, for sure.

1227526134_3PNG.png.40d5748ab35e3f4f3e38b923f2035102.pngDo The Hokey-Cokey

Come on guys, sing along with me!

“You put your money in. You take your money out. In, out. In, out, and shake it all about!”

This consortium thing was a nonsense. After the initial approach, it wasn’t long before I got the following:

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Old Tom had decided his preferred the whisky business over buying a highly successful football club and was thinking of pulling the plug. Oh no! But wait! There was more:

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Turns out that everyone had kissed and made up, the deal was now back on! There would be an announcement in the next few days, and my potential new boss was touting relaxed rules about the club’s vision. I wasn’t really fussed about that as the current vision matched my style perfectly anyway.

I waited. And then the big news came through:

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Old Tom was full of hot air! Maybe he wasn’t the big shot he made out to be, not like adopted Yorkshireman and Tuna aficionado Mr Chansiri.

Buying a football club must be a complicated affair, but I was somewhat sad the whole thing fell through. Mainly because I wasn’t interested in going through all this faffing about again.

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A Speck On The Horizon

Overall, November and December included a lot of good, but just enough bad to annoy me. Like sitting down in a beer garden on a hot day, with a thirst that’s desperate to be quenched, and you enjoy those first few gulps of your tipple, only to notice there’s still lippy on the top of the glass.

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Dropped points at Brighton. The home draw with Fulham. And then a shocker to end the year on Boxing Day away to Everton. It was all too much despite the positive wins.

There were good vibes from the Champions League. I went hard at PSG but they did enough to win at Hillsborough. The rest of the group was handled with ease though as I sealed 2nd spot in the group in style, particularly the 7-1 mashing of Leipzig.

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An 8 point gap was already established to City, who aside from a single draw after losing to me, had ben faultless. I couldn’t claim the same. Still, we were 5 points ahead of 5th. Always good to keep our grip on the UCL places.

As for Leeds, they were embarrassing. And it was great to see. 6 goals scored in 18 matches, and 3 points from a possible 54. Good effort lads.

Derby hold the record for fewest points in a PL season with 11 back in 2007/08. That one could be under threat, so stay tuned.

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I Take It All Back

One thing I didn’t mention in the previous section was our League Cup run. Yes, I know. A successful set of results in a domestic cup. I am as shocked as you.

After beating Barnsley (just), we saw off another lower league team in Nottingham Forest, before we ran into the inevitable big team. Fortunately we were at home and able to scrape past Liverpool 1-0. That gave us Man U over two legs in January, something to very much look forward to.

With three more good results, we could get our hands on the club’s first bit of proper silverware since 1991. The schedule to begin 2024 was tough though. Between the two games with Man U, we also had Chelsea away, plus Spurs and Man City at home. We literally couldn’t afford any more dropped points, plus we could reel City in if we could beat them.

Oh, and I had Sheffield United at home coming up. They had it coming after the lacklustre performance earlier in the season.

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Belting Goal Bonus – Simone Palombi

Let’s wrap 2023 with a cracking goal by forgotten man Simone Palombi. Overshadowed by Esposito and Kean up front, the reliable Italian hadn’t figured much for the first team. With a League Cup game against Forest on tap though, he showed me what I’d been missing.

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No messing! Maybe I should play him more. Get a load of that run and finish!

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What a class way to start the week!

A big thanks to everyone that pops their head in to read my little thread, and for anyone that voted for me as the Best Newcomer in the 11th Annual FMCU Awards.

Really cool to be recognised in something that has been going for so long, and great motivation to keep going with the stuff I enjoy doing.

But also, thanks to you all for reading and keeping the thread ticking over. You're all awesome people.

As a reward, I'll have another long and drawn out post/update for you later today :D

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With the consortium bid now quashed, we could get on with January and once again having a poke around for ways to strengthen our team. It felt like we needed to get to the next level, but I wasn’t sure how.

I couldn’t throw endless money at the situation to catch City, we didn’t have it (though we did have plenty). Perhaps my young players just needed time to develop? Either way, it felt like a balancing act that I didn’t quite have the answer for yet. It was a strange feeling. A bit like failure, but whilst experiencing loads of success.

Anyway, here’s January and February.

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Bring Em In, Clean Em Up, Ship Em Out

In what was now becoming somewhat of an annual event, January meant the sale of a left back. Last season, Ola Aina had unexpectedly left the club after a serious bid from China. Whilst seemingly minding my own business, Spurs had come knocking with an equally serious bid for Ben Chilwell.

He was doing well for me, I liked him as a player, and he was also English (which can’t be overstated in terms of squad registration balance). But £50m straight up was £50m. Plus he wanted to go. So off he went.

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Bought by City for mega bucks and never really utilised, I’d picked him up for dirt cheap (by international footballer standards), got 18 months of quality for him, then sold him for 150% profit.

I said it with Aina and the same was true here. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had for signing players on the cheap and selling them for big money. I just had a hole to fill at left back now, but more on that later.

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Lightning Can Strike Twice

A date marked in the calendar for some time, I was looking forward to playing Sheffield United again. At Hillsborough this time as well. I felt they got a let off when we played back in October and as the more powerful of the two clubs, the balance needed to be re-addressed.

Plus, they were struggling against relegation. As per usual, what kind of neighbour would I be if I didn’t stick the boot in whilst they were down there? It worked well last time they were in this position, so it felt like the thing to do.

Spoiler

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Oh, come off it! Insert your choice of expletive --here--

Much the better team, and they score 2 goals on three shots. Zinchenko wasn’t content with scoring in their goal, he scores in ours as well. The graphic also doesn’t show that we had two goals ruled out by VAR, and their pen was awarded via VAR. Not sure who was working up in the video booth that day, but I’m guessing it was this guy.....

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So, there it is. Two draws against SUFC for the season. I felt like I had egg on my face. Across the town, the were probably very smug indeed.

I hope they stay up now. If I can’t play them next season, I’m going to be left to stew on this one for even longer. Ugh.

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I Knew I Loved The Cup Really

As has been mentioned multiple times across many updates in this thread, I really do love the cup. I do, honestly. We were here to give it our best shot against Man U for a chance to go to Wembley, could we do it?

First leg:

Spoiler

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We shut up shop and nearly got away with it, but 1-0 wasn’t a bad effort. Strong performances from the spine of the team, with Segalli, Onguene and McTominay all playing well. We didn’t go much up front, but that wasn’t really the point. All to play for in the 2nd leg.

Spoiler

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Easy as that. Just how we drew it up. An absolute tonking, if I'm being honest. Impressive play across the board, with youngster Bernd Pauly getting us underway before my two favourite Italians took over.

And it was Man U’s first team as well. No kids here. So why can’t I do this consistently in the league? If I could, I’d win the title easy! Still, we were going to Wembley!!

I’ve always said I love the Cup.

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Don’t Take Your Coat Off

As January wore on, I still had the money from the Chilwell deal sat in my back pocket (though how big your pockets would need to be to hold £50m? I suppose you could just have a cheque?).

I probably should have got another left back in, but Cucurella could play there. As could Zinchenko at a pinch, and Malang Sarr was a reasonable defensive option, though he lacked the stats going forward since he was mainly a centre half.

So what to do?

Buy a 19-year-old wonderkid striker of course.

Of course!

He was good though.

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Pauly seemed to be working out pretty well, so I figured I’d go to the Belgian well once again. For those keeping count, I now had Esposito and Kean, plus Fininho, and then Palombi as well. And now M’Barga. That was too many, so as quickly as my new acquisition came in, he went out again. On loan though, to Norwich.

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There was some other business to cover off.

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Vandevoordt also went out on loan to get some first team football, and back up Gollini grew bored of watching Onana every week and also jumped ship (to Man U, where he 100% won’t play.)

The sad news was of course the permanent departure of Noah Jean Holm. He was someone I would continue to track throughout my career and he was largely responsible for blasting us to the Premier League and getting this whole story up and running. Good luck to him.

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Playing For 2nd

So where did that all leave us? Good question.

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More silly dropped points, though we were unbeaten in the PL over the two months. Norwich, United and Everton all stick out for obvious reasons. It was frustrating to have beaten Chelsea and Spurs but to have dropped points elsewhere though, that was an annoyance.

Two positive performances in the FA Cup (avoiding big teams so far!), the League Cup that we’ve already covered, and then a demolition of Porto in the UCL. That’ll give me a chance to send my kids out for the 2nd leg and give the senior players a rest.

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Still, the league is done and dusted. Man City hadn’t dropped a single point in January and February. They were just too good, the pockets were too deep. We had conceded 24 goals, they had conceded 6. Six. In 26 games. How can I compete with that?

So we were playing for 2nd place. A 9 point gap existed before we’d drop out of the top 4, so it was once again the goal to maintain a UCL spot. If we can ever improve on just staying in the top four, I’ve no idea. The money it generates will at least help, who knows.

I’ve never been so deflated by going undefeated for two months and being 2nd in the league.

Edited by Rumple43
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In light of Wednesday's recent decision to sack Garry Monk, I just want to say.....I am available :D

Come on Dejphon, one Yorkshireman to another, you know it makes sense!

This thread is all the proof you need haha :cool:

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59 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

Lol. Rumple43 and Sebastiano Esposito dream team. Make it happen!

It would be the first call I'd make hahaha

Listen, Dejphon, I know a guy, alright? He's gonna be MEGA!! :D

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7 hours ago, Rumple43 said:

In light of Wednesday's recent decision to sack Garry Monk, I just want to say.....I am available :D

Come on Dejphon, one Yorkshireman to another, you know it makes sense!

This thread is all the proof you need haha :cool:

could do worse....  

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We were once again angling for a top 4 finish, though due to our own frailties and Manchester City’s lack of them, the title race felt like it was pretty much already over. But, we were still making strides forward. Young players were developing. Teams we used to lose to now gave us draws, sometimes wins. We were making progress, but how fast and how long it would take to reach the top, if it ever happened at all, was another question.

And with that jolly, optimistic filled intro, here’s March and April!

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Over 30 Years In The Making

I’ll not lie, I was as surprised as anyone to have finally made a fist of a cup competition. It was the League Cup, but hey, it was better than nothing. We had reached the Final, with just recent whipping boys Spurs between us and glory.

I had a solid record against the London side, beating them every time I’ve played them at Hillsborough (usually by 3 goals or more, strangely), but results in the Capital have been more iffy, including a 5-1 drubbing earlier this season. That said, it was still a final, anything could happen.

I was torn between going for it and wanting to hang back. Attack seemed the way forward, but we tried that in the 5-1 battering and it didn't go well.

In the end I went with 4-1-4-1, keep it tight. We conceded after 10 minutes.

I switched to 4-4-2. We responded and scored 3 goals by the 34th minute!! Clearly, I should have just gone after them from the start. They nick one in stoppage time, we’re up 3-2 at the half.

2nd half is nervous. No further goals. 5 goals in the 1st half. Scrappy in the 2nd. One half of Wembley is chewing their nails off, the other is desperate for a goal to get the game level. 82 minutes, Spurs get what they need. From a corner as well, where I’m usually so reliable. 3-3, ugh. Next goal wins it….nope. Extra time!

Spoiler

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The Captain comes through in the clutch, young Segalli pops one in for good measure, and that was Spurs dead and buried once again. Cracking game for the neutral, less enjoyable for me.

Still, it didn’t matter. We had won our first piece of silverware!

Spoiler

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We’d beaten Liverpool, Man U over 2 legs and Spurs in the final, but it was Wednesday’s first major trophy (playoff wins aside) since the 1991 League Cup. Moise Kean’s six goals were handy, he was developing into a real beast. We also now had a Europa League place as a safety net, but we weren’t going to settle for that with a top 4 spot still on the cards.

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The World Has Turned Upside Down

So here we were, March 2024, Sheffield Wednesday – cup winners. I didn’t think that would happen any time soon. In fact, I was beginning to enjoy actively hating every cup competition we had to enter. But no longer. That was the old me. The new me loves the cup, and it wasn’t just confined to the League Cup either!

After dusting off Burnley in the FA Cup 5th round, we played, naturally, Man City. At the Etihad no less. That is a place where teams go to die…..

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Not us though! We even had the chance to miss a pen and still win. Life was made easier by playing against 10 men for a half, but I reckon City could beat 90% of the teams in the world with only 10 men, such was the squad they’d assembled.

Just look at those defensive match ratings! The boys had done good, and onto the FA Cup semi-final we go!

If there’s something I’ve always said, I do love the cup.

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I’ll Not Lie, I’m Not A Fan

Life was good. We were a comfortable top 4 team. We had won the League Cup. We were into the last 4 of the FA Cup, and we were still alive in the Champions League as well. So, what could possibly go wrong?

The finances were very healthy, no debt here, no administrators. We weren’t likely to randomly sell off part of the club again, and I was universally loved by the club, fans and board.

I'm looking round for the issue here. Hmmmm. Ah yes!

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So my options were Ed Woodward and the guy who runs Lazio, or getting sacked by some fella I’ve never heard of? Awesome! It wasn’t quite Cake or Death, but in truth, it was a fairly obvious who I was rooting for in that particular race.

I always imaged I’d leave Wednesday to go and take over England, but maybe this is the way I go. Time will tell. I get to enjoy the consortium hokey-cokey first anyway, that’ll be fun.

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They are……Inevitable

Quarter Finals of the Champions League. As a new found lover of the cup in general, I was quite looking forward to this one!

We’d drawn Man City, because, of course we had. I had already beaten them at the Etihad in the league, and then again in the FA Cup. I’d also grabbed wins against them at home before to, so I was fairly optimistic.

A 3-1 win at Hillsborough, awesome. All to play for going to the Etihad. Another famous European performance on the cards?

Spoiler

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No. Ugh, so close. Again! They are just too good. I went defensive with the 4-1-4-1, then switched once they’d scored twice. It didn’t work. For the 2nd straight season, City had knocked me out of the quarter finals of the UCL by seriously narrow margins.

We were getting closer, but we weren’t there yet. Damn it.

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User Error 2.0

Earlier in this season, I’d managed to brain fart my way into failing to grab a screen shot of either the league table, or my results for that two-month block. Vowing to myself that I wouldn’t do it again, I managed to forget once again just a few updates later. I did, however, only forget the league table this time. I do apologise, but here’s the results:

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The League Cup final was great. The losses to Liverpool and Wolves were not. It was becoming a calling card for the season, just sloppy performances that halt the momentum.

The Porto loss was irrelevant, I was 7-0 up from the first leg so sent out the weakest team I could. It worked as well, my rested first team then beat City in the FA Cup. Speaking of which, we beat Norwich late in March to book a spot in the FA Cup final, another shot at a trophy!

Getting to the final of both cups, plus the QFs on the UCL meant we had a busier than usual May due to rearrangements. We were 4th in the league but had two games in hand. The upshot was that if we won those outstanding games, our final day trip to Old Trafford would be irrelevant as we’d have already locked up 2nd spot. That was a big if though.

Rearranged fixtures hadn’t been kind to us. We now finished the season playing Man City then Man U. At least we had three easier games against Burnley, Brighton and Leicester, all at home, as a lead in.

5 league games remain, but the PL title is well and truly out of the window. City should seal that as earlier as next week, but we could still play for 2nd. Plus, there was the FA Cup final still to go. Lots to look forward to in May!

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good to see some silverware in the trophy cabinet again - the League Cup is obviously still a popular trophy down S6...  Not sure Sheridan ever struck a shot quite as sweetly! Unlucky in the CL but fingers crossed for 2nd in the League and the FA Cup Final.  Good luck!

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5 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

good to see some silverware in the trophy cabinet again - the League Cup is obviously still a popular trophy down S6...  Not sure Sheridan ever struck a shot quite as sweetly! Unlucky in the CL but fingers crossed for 2nd in the League and the FA Cup Final.  Good luck!

I always remember Les Sealey getting a little touch on it, but only enough to put it onto the inside of the post. Frankly, that made it look even better I reckon haha

Still, as you say, at least there's a trophy back in the cabinet at Hillsborough! Could have the FA Cup in there soon to, now that'd be something!!

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5 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Cake or death :lol: love the Eddie Izzard reference! 

Congratulations on the Cup win, and good luck for the next one :thup:

Gotta love a bit of Eddie :-)

Cup win was most unexpected, as a long time reader I'm sure you can understand haha

Final itself was pretty wild as well!

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May was a strange month. We had more games than usual, with 4 games in a row all at home. We had the FA Cup final, plus the prospect of getting fired by a new chairman looming over me. Quite the contrast in emotions, but all I could do was concentrate my efforts on the pitch and leave the rest to take care of itself.

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Falling At The First Hurdle

So here’s the plan, guys. Listen up. We smash Burnley, then Brighton and Leicester. We’re on such a high we then knock off City, and then we can take it easy at Old Trafford knowing we’re already guaranteed 2nd place. Ok. Ready? Go!

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Looking back on it to write this section up, I can say, “Gee whiz, that sure was an unfortunate result!” At the time, I was furious. Mouse throwingly, keyboard slammingly, saying lots of words I wouldn’t want my kids to hear furious.

But, it’s not like we we’d lost the title. That was now decided, though it turns out it would have been decided ever if I’d won. What it really meant was that getting 2nd place would require beating City then winning against Man U. We’d probably still got 3rd even if we didn’t.

But damn it guys, this one was an offensive result. April or May always seemed to throw one up, and it was never any easier to take.

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Storm In A Tea Cup

I’d be lying if I said that results like the one against Burnley didn’t take the gloss off wanting to play FM. I’m a very black and white chap, analytical. It’s in my nature. When you consider the stats against Burnley, you’d have to say the odds of me winning are overwhelmingly in my favour. Chance. Probability. I like those things. And get annoyed when they don’t go pan out.

So the fact I could still get binned off by a new chairman taking over the club didn’t feel like as much as a bother now as it had when I found the news out. Turns out, it was all hot air anyway.

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Sadly, like the take over attempt that had come before, the whole thing collapsed when the consortium actually needed to pay up. The bid from Woodward and co. fell apart shortly after in similar fashion. It was back to business as usual.

Mr Chansiri was now “looking to leave the club as soon as possible” so it would appear this kind of nonsense would be coming back around sooner rather than later, but at least I hadn’t been handed a P45 after all my hard work.

Well, that is until the next potential bid comes in of course.

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Time For a Big Finale

We’d dropped the ball against Burnley. But we beat Brighton. Then we beat Leicester. My word, we even beat City! We did the double over them! They dropped 11 points all season, and 6 of them were against me.

But we still had to beat Man U. It was a straight shot for 2nd and 3rd. I needed a win or a draw, they needed a win. Liverpool couldn’t catch either of us from 4th, and then there was a big drop down to 5th and the Europa places.

We needed our rousing finale. One last pull from the well of big results, bringing forth a performance the fans were craving to secure our best ever finish to a PL season! Could the boys do it? One last time??

Spoiler

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Could they balls. We got spanked. In truth, it probably could have been far worse than 3, but we ended the season on a downer, despite locking up our second straight 3rd place finish in the Premier League.

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Sadly, Leeds managed to get their act together over the last 8 games and cobbled together enough points to beat Derby’s record low of 11. They were still hopeless though, and back down they went.

United also turned a corner, keeping themselves up. After two disappointing draws against them, I was happy to get another shot at my rivals next season.

Arsenal, the nemesis and now under Viera, hadn’t even made the European places. Chelsea would get a spot if I won the FA Cup, otherwise Wolves would get a place and they’d miss out.

The usual glance over the end of season stats revealed a similar tale to year’s past. We were 3rd for yellow cards and 1st for fouls. We were also 1st for shots on target and 1st for chances created. Kicking people and scoring goals, it’s what we do.

We were also up to 8th in the salary table, and for transfer money spent. We were no longer a minnow success story, that was serious cash, but we were still a mile behind teams like City and United, plus Spurs and Liverpool.

Speaking of City, this was their 4th PL title in a row (they won the UCL as well). Their point totals in those 4 seasons were 103, 89, 96 and 103 again this season. They scored 95 goals, conceded just 13 in 38 games. 13! That was the bar I needed to clear if I was going to topple them. Yikes.

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Doubling Down

So the Premier League was done with, but the season wasn’t over. Since we now LOVED the Cup, there was one more opportunity for some success, with Wolves on the horizon in the FA Cup final.

A 2nd trip to Wembley this season was something to be proud of, and the League Cup was certainly an exciting affair. More importantly, we came out on the right side of the score line, too.

We had an issue at left back with Cucurella out, but that just meant plan B of sliding Zinchenko in there. Everyone else was fairly settled.

We started well. The Captain, McTominay, came up big once more. H was such a valuable player. His technical stats aren’t anything amazing, but he is a serious glue guy. We led 1-0 at the break.

64 minutes, Wolves enjoy a good spell of play since the restart, I pay for it and they make it 1-1. The boys are made of stern stuff though, and we start to turn the screw once again. 2-1, Sarr rises highest from a corner. Good lad! Moise Kean has underwhelmed, so on comes the young Brazilian Fininho. He makes it 3-1, job done.

But wait, a 35-year-old Sergio Aguero knocks one in late, 85th minute, 3-2! Nervous!! Can we hang on?!?

 

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Phew! Great game, but closer than it should have been. We had done the double, League Cup, FA Cup.

The club’s first FA Cup win since 1935, no less.

Plus 3rd in the Prem, and Quarters of the Champions League. Despite a few bumps along the way, it had been our best season to date!

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The Saviour….3.0?!?

We close the 2023/24 season with a quick look at an incredible campaign for our top Italian striker.

You mean this guy?

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No, no. Not you, Esposito. Though he did chip in 27 goals and 13 assists across all competitions. I mean this guy!

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Moise Kean came to us for the modest fee of £10.5m at the start of the season, after a few wasted years at Brighton. In one season alone, he’d already made his mark in showing Steven Gerrard and the rest of the Brighton top brass what they’d let go.

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44 starts, 6 appearances off the bench, 43 goals in all competitions. That includes 13 goals in the Champions League as well. Plus he’d managed to force his way into the Italy squad, scoring a trio of goals in as many games.

I think it was impossible for Kean to play like this, and for Esposito to perform like he did last season, there simply wasn’t enough of that pie to go around. But they were working well together, and that was a lot of fun!

Two of the most productive strikers in Europe, and you can go watch them both at Hillsborough every other week. Now we know it really is fantasy haha!

Edited by Rumple43
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  • 2 weeks later...

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Firstly, an apology to you all. Furlough has hit for most of us, myself included, and as a result I have less time at my computer these days. Not that I would ever do anything FM related between the hours of 9 and 5 you understand, ahem. But updates have been a bit slower to come out, and thank you for sticking with me through that.

Unless you've all buggered off, in which case, I doubt I'll get much interaction on these next few updates haha

With that said, here we are, once again, ready to start another summer. Time for some reflection, planning, and general stock taking.

Another 100+ point season from City in 2023/24 was a tough one to stomach. If I was to ever do the ridiculous and win the Premier League, one of two things would happen, but more likely both:

  • We would need to get a lot better, especially defensively.
  • Man City would need to regress across the board.

Having won 4 titles in a row, the blue side of Manchester didn’t look like they were going to take a step back any time soon, but it was possible they’d have an bad season. Unfortunately, an “off” season for them would probably still mean 85 or so points, but that'd be better than nothing.

Point one in the list above was potentially easier to achieve, but like all things, it’d require either serious cash to buy star power, or time to buy a prospect and bring them through. There’s no real quick fixes in this game.

As always, my mind was pondering. Let’s have a look at what happened to kick off the summer.

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The Coaching Carousel

I couldn’t decide if the wheel of change came around more frequently in the Premier League because I was up near the top, upsetting the status quo. With my occupation of a top four spot for the last three years, that meant three seasons for one of the “top” teams to miss out. Owners generally didn’t like that, and it meant that heads often rolled from a managerial perspective.

Spurs were first out of the gates this summer, kicking Marcelo Biesla’s bucket in mid-May. It caught my attention.

Atletico Madrid and Lazio both wanted a manager. Murad Musaev was very insecure after less than a year at Bayern. The Barca and Arsenal were also insecure. In short, this was my yearly test as to how committed I felt to my current project at Wednesday.

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I’ll not lie, the grind to improve a team that was in the Championship 5 years ago to the level of Man City, Liverpool, Man U etc. was hard work. The margin for error is so fine that once you drop more than 10 points in a season, a title challenge was well and truly toast. That takes its toll, and although there was plenty of enjoyment to be had each season, it was sometimes fleeting every time the big boys brought me back down to earth.

That said, my current squad wasn’t a million miles away from some of those top teams. So jumping ship for a bigger budget wouldn’t necessarily be a step forward.

I’ll probably do what I always do and see if anyone comes in for me. Plus, it’s the summer of 2024. That means it’s Euros time. Could now be my time? We’ll see.

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A Healthy Dose of Reality

I flip flopped back and forth throughout the early summer days between feeling that I was close to making a title challenge, and feeling I was a million miles away. Plus there was the potential for that England thing, nagging away at the back of my mind.

The more I looked at my squad, and looked at potential signings I could make, I settled further into an optimistic outlook that we were on the right track. Our young stars like Esposito, Kean, Pauly, Giordani, Fininho, Segalli, were all getting better, and would continue to do so the longer we went on. Why couldn’t we keep challenging the big boys? Even when top teams had tried to poach my starlets, the player in question often wanted to stay anyway. It was nice to see.

Then over the course of about a week, I got some serious slaps in the face from the hand of reality.

Within the space of 4 days, Man U bought Jonathan David for £67m, and then Joao Felix for £163m. £233m spent in less than 7 days.

Not to be left behind, Chelsea got in on the act. They weren’t even in the Champions League, they barely scraped the Europa League once I won the FA Cup. They signed Szoboszlai for £102m off Red Bull Leipzig, following that up with Abdou Diallo for £47m.

My transfer budget was £72m.

City hadn’t even got their cheque book out yet (later in the summer they’d sign Pedri from Barca for £114m), nor had Liverpool.

It felt like I was in an arms race with a water pistol, and everyone else had an AK-47. My mood took a swing back from upbeat optimism to outright pessimism.

The grind continues.

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Peeking Behind The Curtain

So, going toe-to-toe with the top sides didn’t really seem feasible after all that. I figured I’d try Plan B. What is Plan B? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Turns out, generally giving Spurs the business whenever we played them had led their top brass to looking my way once they needed a new manager. Could this be the window into winning the PL I had been looking for?

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Highly ambitious vision for the future, tick. I can do ambitious.

Very strong commitment to entertaining football, absolutely. That’s what I do, Wednesday fans love me for it. Tick.

Complete lack of experience winning silverware. Rude! I beat, YOUR TEAM, to win the League Cup just last season. I also won the FA Cup. What have you won lately? It’s ok…..I’ll wait. No? Ok then.

What did a club like Spurs expect in terms of a vision? One was to increase commercial revenue. Sign big name players from growth markets, seemed simple enough. Maintain one of the best youth systems in both the country and the world. Ambitious. I like it. I'm currently rebuilding my youth set up from a couple of cones and a half deflated football, so that should make a nice change.

They were also in the Europa League (since my upstart team keeps taking a UCL place each season) but they wanted to challenge for the Prem. Good luck there!

Still, I gave it a go. I did the interview, talked a good game, lied a bit (don’t we all in these things), and then said my goodbyes. It was an intriguing opportunity now I’d taken a look at it.

They picked Carlo Ancelotti.

You guys, honestly. You guys don’t know what you’re all missing out on. I’ll show you. Just give me £1bn and five years or so. You’ll see. Honest.

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Potter Problems

Nothing pottery related, nor Stoke either. It turns out that it was time to jump on the England rollercoaster once again and see where we ended up!

Euro 2024 had been a disaster. England had won the Nations League in 2023, but it hadn’t amounted to much. Potter even managed to fail at getting out of the group stage when three of the four teams qualified for the next round. Considering we were in a group with Ukraine, that was pretty spectacular.

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Come in Graham, your time is up!

A 3-2 win over Ukraine was followed up by a 2-0 defeat to Italy and a 1-0 wet blanket of a loss to Croatia in a do or die final game. Potter was out. After doing a quick search, I was by far the highest reputation English manager going.

It would soon be my time. Once the FA got its act together anyway.

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The Mid-Western Ronaldinho

I had an impending sense of closure. I was always sure I’d move on to the England gig, it really was the only other job that my heart was set on. As much as I’d been for some other interviews, I reckon I would have struggled to accept them even if those teams hadn’t been monumentally stupid and hired other people.

I still had a commitment to Wednesday though, of course. However long I was still in my current job before England came calling, I wanted to do what I could.

That included selling my soul a little bit more and buying another red-hot Brazilian wonder kid. This one was worth it though. To be honest, what red-hot Brazilian wonderkid WASN’T worth it?

Plus, this one had a name that made me laugh.

I could imagine the pre-season USA tour now. We’re booked to play in some mid-west backwater town, and Billy Bob and his wife Marge are looking over my team list.

“Hey Marrrge! Remember that guy, you know, the one who scored those goals for Brazil? Had the long hair and the teeth?”

“Sure thing, Billy Bob. I remember him.”

“I think this Sheffield Wednesday have a kid with the same name. How’s it spelled? Raaay-Nal-Dean-Yo”

“That’s him, right as always Billy Bob.”

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And so he was to be mine. Well, Wednesday’s. Reinaldinho. I couldn’t say it in my head without trying to say Ronaldinho but with that dumb accent.

Perhaps I was just going a bit bonkers. He was very good though, for an 16-year-old. My scouts loved him, plus he had the perfectionist personality. My word do I love the perfectionist personality.

I took the screen shot in July, but it was signed and sealed in late June. It was a good way to end the month as I waited to take my next step as a manager.

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15 hours ago, LondonOwl7 said:

I've enjoyed bingeing the entire 4 pages of this today. Following now, hoping this will satisfy my need to see Wednesday scoring goals until Pulis can buy a strike force in January.

Massively appreciate you dropping in and catching up! Hope you enjoyed!

Pulis just needs to buy Esposito and Kean. Easy as that. Goals will come naturally at a rate of about....70 or so a season! :-D

I watched the game against Stoke at the weekend, it was pretty dire. Tight at the back, but going forward, not good.

Edited by Rumple43
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I was at the start of what was likely my final few acts as Wednesday manager. I sit here writing, feeling like I’m penning my memoirs, a final note to those that will come once I am gone. On the eve of battle, I was ready to do my duty.

Well, not really. Just managing England. For queen and country! The mighty England!! It’s coming home!! Hurrah!!!

But a few more things before all that….

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The Curious Case Of Tommy Doyle

Cards on the table, I had a big thing going on for Tommy Doyle. He looked like an incredible young, English talent. City were under utilising him, as they do with most of their players. He deserved to be a focal point of a team. He deserved to be the focal point…..of my team.

As the summer wore on, I began to become more and more sure that he was the player I needed to take this team to the much mentioned “next level.”

I’d scouted him fully numerous times. The sky was the limit. He was going to be a star. The only issue was price. Aside from Raaaaynaldino, I hadn’t bought anyone so far this summer. I had the muscle to do it but it’d take a half upfront, lots of cash in instalments later type deal. Close to £100m probably, all told. Proper money.

If that was the cost of the “next level”, it would surely be worth it.

The negotiations ticked on. He wanted crazy money in wages. But, don’t they all at this level? I could overlook it. This was the big move we needed.

More time ticked by as the paperwork went back and forth. I had this nagging feeling. Like an itch you can’t ignore. It was too much money. Wasn’t it? Or was it just that it wasn’t value for money?

The final confirmation came in. Press here and the shiny, new player is all yours to take over the world with. Nearly triple figures. Just press the button. Press it. PRESS IT!

I couldn’t.

In my “moving to the next level”, crazy money haze, I somehow showed an alarming moment of clarity. How good is Doyle, actually?

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I NEARLY SPENT £100M ON A POORER VERSION OF A PLAYER I ALREADY OWN. Oh, holy moly. That was close.

As I’m sure you’ll agree from the screen shot, Doyle was pretty similar to Bernd Pauly. The Englishman had some ancillary attributes that were a little better, but for the highlighted skills for the position I wanted in my formation, the Belgian took the biscuit. And he was 2 years younger.

Oh, and he wouldn’t cost me £100m.

I pressed cancel. What an idiot I "nearly" was.

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Time To Be A Big Boy

As I sat back and contemplated chucking my entire transfer budget away on a duplicate of a player I already owned, a number of moves took place that boosted the club’s coffers significantly.

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It was time to move on from good players that we’d outgrown. We got good money for Vailiadis, Palombi and especially Malang Sarr. The twice ACL hit Breel Embolo also went, he had never recovered, as predicted. Youngsters left on loan, some went on a free.

The main thing though, by mid-July I’d increased my transfer kitty by nearly 100%.

My budget was now somewhere around £150m. With back loaded instalment heavy deals, that would give me the chance to really make a splash. It was time to fight fire with fire!

Looking at my team, we had quality pretty much across the starting XI, or we had some potential youth cutting their teeth and getting better and better. The only exception really, was at full back. It was time to remedy that.

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A casual £92m, rising to £107m with add-ons. Just like that.

But, in my defence, the Liverpool newgen wasn’t going to be ousting Trent Alexander-Arnold any time soon, and he could be one of the best right backs in the world with the right opportunity. I wasn’t done though.

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We were going all in. £56m for the Ukrainian left back, escalating up to £71m. Both Murray and Mykolenko were going to be perfect in my Inverted Wing Back system, they were class going forward and no mugs when defending.

Whatever the big boys could do, we were doing it to. Money talks!

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Kimpembe should be a solid depth option from PSG, as should Laimer from Leipzig. Not permanent deals so they can get shirty if they don’t play that much, but solid pieces to spread the load over a hectic campaign.

Luque and Romero were both dirty South Americans that couldn't get work permits. They'd be off to Spain, with a small piece of my soul going with them.

It was a good summer, all told. I'd moaned and complained about not being able to match the big boys in the league when it came to spending. I'd got my cash and picked my players. I'd set this team up for the long haul, I knew it.

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It’s Finally Happening. Finally!

And so it came. The inevitable. The moment I’d been waiting most of the summer for. It was a tough pull, given the excitement of the new boys coming in, particularly Murray. He looked to be a brilliant player, but I could still manage him for the national team of course, follow his career from there.

The news did eventually drop into my inbox. The top men at the FA had done their thinking, and they were ready for me.

Spoiler

 

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Um…..say what now? Didn’t catch you the first time....

 

 

 

I stared at my laptop, semi-dumbfounded, not quite sure what to make of that one.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been passed over by the FA, or other clubs for that matter. In fact, it was a growing trend that I was becoming semi-accustomed to. The next thing that eventually popped into my mind was, if they didn’t want me, who did they want? This is when it got waaay worse. Waaaaaaaaay worse.

Spoiler

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Words escape me. Look at that managerial history!!

I had been beaten to the National team by a man who had won League One in 2022 by Rotherham, was relegated from the Premier League with West Ham in 2023, and had gone back to the Prem this summer after winning the Championship playoffs. Like…..for real?? Where’s Jeremy Beadle?!?!

Before I park this one and let it be, I’m just going to run down a quick comparison between myself and Paul Hurst, the new England manager. The guy they picked. Over me. One moment:

Paul Hurst

  • P 244 W 120 D 56 L 68
  • Win – 49%
  • Goals For - 351
  • Goals Against – 275
  • Goal Difference - +76
  • 23 games of PL experience
  • PL record – W2 D6 L15 (including a 7-0 defeat to Man City)
  • Nearly every game as a manager is in the Championship or lower

Me

  • P 248 W 145 D 42 L 61
  • Win – 58%
  • Goals For - 461
  • Goals Against – 266
  • Goal Difference - +195
  • 4 seasons in the PL, three top 4 finishes, with a best of 3rd
  • Back-to-back Champions League QFs

I didn’t want to say that the FA were dead to me, but other teams that had interviewed me and declined my employment had done far less to earn my wrath than this steaming pile of a selection.

Good luck to you, Paul. Here’s to hoping you manage to bring it home.

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Another Middle Finger For Spurs

Winning the FA Cup last season meant another trip to Wembley in the shape of the Community Shield. It was always the Charity Shield in my day, but apparently, we can’t have the Charity Shield anymore? Either way, that pre-season cup thing, we were playing in that against City.

It was a fun game, truth be told.

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We were probably the better team, but I couldn’t be aggrieved at a 1-1 score line. We then did the business on pen to win our 3rd piece of silverware. You hear that, Levy?! More success! For me! Who knew?! How is your Spurs team getting along, eh?

The list of people who angered me in my fictional FM world was growing longer by the day.

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Aim For The Moon, They Say

So, England didn’t pan out. I was still a Wednesday man, and all I could do was continue aiming for the top of the PL and see where we ended up. If we didn’t get the prize we were looking for, coming close and finishing in the top 4 was still pretty good. With the new additions to the squad, growth was clearly still occurring. We were getting better.

Using the creative licence that I give myself since, well, this is mine to write, I included 1 game from September in this section as I didn’t have the space next update. That game was a trip to Bramall Lane to play United.

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Irritating that we conceded two goals on three shots, but we did absolutely smash them. An assist for Mykolenko, plus a hattrick for Moise Kean. Business as usual, and an overdue result at that.

Actually, don't say it too loud, but....everything was going rather well!

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Barcelona were the latest big name pre-season scalp at Hillsborough. The Community Shield win. 4 from 4 in the league including a tricky trip to Everton and a win over the local rivals.

And what’s more, there was even more still to cheer!

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Man City had already dropped points! They drew with Leicester, very out of character.

It’d be about my luck that City have a dip this season and Liverpool turn it on and record 100+ points. But less of that thinking. We had a league to try and win! Screw you England. You'll see!!

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On 11/12/2020 at 20:45, CornishGas said:

Been binge-reading this over the last few days, loved it all. Love your writing style 

Which do you hate more I wonder? Cups, The FA, or Spurs? :P

I now love the cups, having won 2 last season. They are a wonderful thing, and I am looking forward to them as always this season! :D

Spurs, they're no worse than other teams that didn't want me. Arsenal, Liverpool, they're all on the list but I don't mind Spurs as much as I tend to give them a beating whenever we play. Hard to be too grumpy when that happens.

The FA however. Well, they're just idiots haha

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So, here we are again. I typically think of this update as being the start of a season proper. July and August still contains transfer news and all that type of stuff, but September and October is nothing but football. The window is closed and we’re down to business.

Can we improve this year? August certainly suggested we could start well, though we were yet to play any of the big guns. We had beaten Sheffield United though, which is more than we managed last season.

Let’s see how things panned out.

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Oh Lord….This Again??

My previous experiences with consortiums trying to take over the club were far for favourable. As you may recall, one of the parties who showed an interest previously wanted to sack me, and in the end, the whole thing fell apart when nobody actually had any money.

Yet, here we were once again:

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I had grown attached to the persona I’d given to the last takeover candidate, imaginary whiskey magnate Tom O’Neill. I refused to be drawn into giving any kind of flamboyance to Will Willis though, it felt like wasted effort. He was bound to bugger off before too long and we’d be back to square one.

So for now, we’ll leave it Will Willis, potential new chairman. No back story. Plus, he has a truly rubbish name. Urgh.

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Well, That Didn’t Take Long

Turns out, there was egg on my face. Not for the first time, I should add, but I certainly got this one wrong.

About 3 weeks after their initial foray, local investor Will Willis had got the deal done as for once, he actually had some cash:

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There didn’t seem to be anything overly entertaining about giving a Yorkshire accent to someone from Yorkshire. It’s all a bit too, boring. Thai businessmen, that’s a different story.

Rubbish name or not, old Will was talking a good game though:

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I do like more money, especially since I’d spent about £130m on a pair of fullbacks just a few months ago.

We had ongoing work going on for both the youth facilities and the training facilities (as was always the case at this time of year, especially the pitiful youth set up), but the new chairman doubled down on those plans. Extending the completion date for the existing work, I assume the upgrades would be more significant than first planned since they were now taking long. We shall see.

And so it was goodbye to our good friend Dejphon Chansiri. We’d had some good times, he’d backed me and the club and helped us get this far, and his Yorkshire accent was second to none. He would be hard to replace, even if it was just from a humour perspective! Si’thi’, lad!

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Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

As the club welcomed the new owners, their first look at the new side was during a fairly daunting period.

During October, we had a stretch of fixtures that could well define our young season:

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Across the six games in all competitions, we have five away ties that included Lyon, Man U, Dortmund and Liverpool.

The UCL group was a tough one, as Lyon were always a solid side and Dortmund need no introduction. I’d never won my Champions League group, so that was a tricky proposition.

With the always narrow margin of error needed to pip City to a title, dropping points against anyone wasn’t good, even if it was Man U.

And we ended the month looking to keep our League Cup defence alive against Liverpool at Anfield. Easy as that.

Hopefully the new owners wouldn’t judge too hard, too quickly!

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1 Step Forward….

Despite our difficult fixtures, I felt the team was on the right track. We were getting better, good results, pushing on. The new signings were proving their worth. This was good!

So, how did we fare against Dortmund? Had we gone up to the “next level?” Were we ready?

Spoiler

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I can confirm, we were not ready. Repeat, not ready.

 

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I mean, the score line isn’t good. But it was an even game. Five goals on seven shots?! But either way, it was hard to dress up in any way other than we got spanked.

It didn’t seem like the sort of result that would happen to City, or another top team for that matter. I could look at myself and say that we didn’t go 4-1-4-1 as we often do against good teams away, but I honestly thought we were better than that.

We probably are better than that, we just didn’t show it.

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Two Side To Every Coin

The Dortmund defeat loomed over me and was compounded by the fact we had already lost to Lyon to begin October. In terms of getting out of the UCL group, things were fairly dicey.

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Not good, but it could be worse. The saving grace was that easier games were on the horizon. We still had Lyon and Dortmund to play at home, plus Olympiakos away. Our destiny was in our own hands, we just needed to be better. A lot better, actually.

It wasn’t all bad news though.

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We were still alive in the League Cup after sneaking through on pens against Liverpool, that was a good effort from a rotated squad.

We’d also managed solid wins against Arsenal, Brighton and Watford, and a draw away at Man U, though we did come unstuck at the Etihad in a result that filled me impending dread for how City will probably just go on and steamroller everyone again, me included. However, it hadn’t materialised yet.

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Top. An improvement on last year when we were 2nd at this stage, 10 games in.

It was tight as you like though, with City just one of a number of teams that could spring up and make a run at the title.

Still, I was glad to at least be a part of the pack, even better that we were narrowly at the front of it. We’d scored the most goals and conceded joint least. Lots of reasons to be optimistic as we head into November, I’d say!

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I wanted to pop my head in once again to say that I will be disappearing for a few weeks so things will no doubt be a little quieter.

The vast majority of my writing, playing and posting time comes during the week and over the Christmas and New Year period I doubt I'll be in front of my laptop much if at all.

Rather than just disappear without a word as this thread more than likely tumbles down the pages, I wanted to put something up to say I will be back, I'm just going off to enjoy some family time etc.

To everyone that has read, supported, followed, posted, thank you so much. It means a massive amount to me and I'm really glad you all get something from reading my updates.

Have a fantastic festive period, whatever you get up to. I'll be back again in 2021 to see if the mighty Owls can cling onto top spot in the Premier League!

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On 21/12/2020 at 13:38, Rumple43 said:

I wanted to pop my head in once again to say that I will be disappearing for a few weeks so things will no doubt be a little quieter.

The vast majority of my writing, playing and posting time comes during the week and over the Christmas and New Year period I doubt I'll be in front of my laptop much if at all.

Rather than just disappear without a word as this thread more than likely tumbles down the pages, I wanted to put something up to say I will be back, I'm just going off to enjoy some family time etc.

To everyone that has read, supported, followed, posted, thank you so much. It means a massive amount to me and I'm really glad you all get something from reading my updates.

Have a fantastic festive period, whatever you get up to. I'll be back again in 2021 to see if the mighty Owls can cling onto top spot in the Premier League!

Been enjoying these - will keep popping back every few days to check if there have been any updates.

I've been inspired by this to take a look down into the Championship (as a Manchester United fan I normally play as them, or another potential challenger) and have started a save as Swansea City. It's very tough working to such fine margins! The transfer budget is non existent, there's barely enough in the wage budget for a ball boy, let alone reinforcements and I have to be really tactical in sending people that I could really do with in the squad out on loan just to keep me in the black! So yeah... A lot different to what I'm used to!

Currently a miraculous second in the league at deadline day of the January transfer window - where I've just pumped all of my spare wages into bringing James Garner from Manchester United in for much needed midfield reinforcement (my best midfielder broke his foot and will be out until near enough the end of the season), and everyone else is knackered as my squad is currently only 16 players deep (out should I say thin). I have one natural left back so I'm praying not to lose him to injury, and Premier League teams are circling, looking to pinch my best left winger in Celina, and my two best central defenders in Rodon and van der Hoorn.

A long 17 games left to play, and I'm hoping to at least stay in the play-off positions. If we do manage to go up, we are definitely not equipped for the Premier League!

Anyway, I don't want to hijack your thread - have a great Christmas break!

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On 24/12/2020 at 08:37, milktoday said:

Been enjoying these - will keep popping back every few days to check if there have been any updates.

I've been inspired by this to take a look down into the Championship (as a Manchester United fan I normally play as them, or another potential challenger) and have started a save as Swansea City. It's very tough working to such fine margins! The transfer budget is non existent, there's barely enough in the wage budget for a ball boy, let alone reinforcements and I have to be really tactical in sending people that I could really do with in the squad out on loan just to keep me in the black! So yeah... A lot different to what I'm used to!

Currently a miraculous second in the league at deadline day of the January transfer window - where I've just pumped all of my spare wages into bringing James Garner from Manchester United in for much needed midfield reinforcement (my best midfielder broke his foot and will be out until near enough the end of the season), and everyone else is knackered as my squad is currently only 16 players deep (out should I say thin). I have one natural left back so I'm praying not to lose him to injury, and Premier League teams are circling, looking to pinch my best left winger in Celina, and my two best central defenders in Rodon and van der Hoorn.

A long 17 games left to play, and I'm hoping to at least stay in the play-off positions. If we do manage to go up, we are definitely not equipped for the Premier League!

Anyway, I don't want to hijack your thread - have a great Christmas break!

 

Apologies, just catching up with this one.

Love the update! Brings back memories of how razor thin I found the margins to be when I was in the Championship, and how much of a difference the right loan signings can make!

I didn't feel I was equipped for the PL either, but we made it work in the end. A few summer signings and a couple of loans and you'll be in better shape than you think. Seems like a world away for me now!

Keep me posted with how you get on, always love to hear from people who are following along. 

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On 28/12/2020 at 03:08, Rumple43 said:

Apologies, just catching up with this one.

Love the update! Brings back memories of how razor thin I found the margins to be when I was in the Championship, and how much of a difference the right loan signings can make!

I didn't feel I was equipped for the PL either, but we made it work in the end. A few summer signings and a couple of loans and you'll be in better shape than you think. Seems like a world away for me now!

Keep me posted with how you get on, always love to hear from people who are following along. 

Well, I did it! Despite a raft of long injuries to key players (6-8 weeks) between February and the end of the season leaving me at various points without Grimes, Ayew, Dyer, Bidwell, Roberts and probably more that I can't think of, I managed to gain automatic promotion (with a game to spare!)

The injuries to Bidwell and Roberts naturally left me with my nightmare scenario - just my fullback cover of Kyle Naughton on the impossible position of covering both flanks simultaneously. This called for a drastic change of tactics, playing a 3-1-4-2 with no defensive cover on either flank and no natural left winger. Results were patchy, but so were those of my nearest rivals. Leeds and Fulham couldn't keep up the pace, and despite a string of results described as 'disappointing' and 'concerning' by my board, I crept up to first place. West Brom, however, were making a late surge.

My injured players were rushed back through necessity - I needed to get back to my familiar tactic. Results were okay and Celina was on a hot streak, covering up some poor team performances with brilliant individual displays, but West Brom were relentless. With three weeks to go, I was overtaken on goal difference. Second place. One win away from automatic promotion, but the title was now out of my hands.

Game 45 was drawn. But West Brom faltered, an unexpected loss. Back on top. Promotion confirmed.

This led to me frantically running through my scout recommendations looking for players of the requisite quality for what was undoubtedly going to be a tough slog in the Premier League. Whose contract was expiring? Who was listed for transfer? I had a few targets in mind. With a transfer budget of around £40m and my wage budget increased from £350k~ to £500k p/w I needed to be smart, but I could strengthen in some key areas.

The last game of the season was up, and a draw or better would be enough. I was having plenty of chances but not taking them, and my opponents Reading were coming back into the game. West Brom were 2-0 down to QPR thanks to an early second half double from Eze and things were looking okay, but they'd been banging in the goals recently so anything could happen. My troops were flagging, so on came Grimes midway through the half to help me control the midfield. Then in the 82nd minute, we won a freekick within shooting distance. Up steps Grimes and confidently dispatches it with his left foot into the top corner. Game over. A team aiming to finish in the top half of the table with an eye to making the playoffs next season were champions!

Definitely going to be tough next season but I'll see what I can learn from your exploits to get in the best position to succeed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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After a self-imposed absence to eat my body weight in terrible yet delicious food, embrace the prospect of yet another lock down, begin said lock down and then get back to working once again, I have returned. 

As you may recall, we had ended October in the rarefied air of 1st place in the Premier League. Top of the tree. Numero Uno.

Of course, they don’t hand out the title in November, so now we had to make sure we continued the form that was required to stay ahead of the chasing pack. When that group contains both the clubs from Manchester, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and the rest, that was easier said than done!

Still, here we are in November. Let’s see what happened to wrap up 2024.

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These Never Get Any Easier

As I mentioned above, our main priority was to keep our form going. One of the reasons City keep winning the title, unsurprisingly, is they just don’t let up. There is no slowing down, no points dropped. That is what we needed to do.

So coming up against a strong Chelsea team in early November, we needed a performance. Keep that run going. No letting up.

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So what we said we wanted to avoid…..was pretty much exactly this. These results are a killer. If you are on top of a team, no matter who they are, you have to put the game away.

If I’m honest, we do score a lot of goals and I can’t complain about the players we have up top. They’ve been phenomenal, but you just have to turn a game like that into three points.

The red card didn’t help of course, but I can’t help but think the game should have been done by that stage. Not good.

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Tommy Doyle 2.0

As we continued on through November and into December, I still had the feeling that the squad needed more quality in the middle. I had flirted and somehow managed to abstain from my Tommy Doyle obsession, and rightly so in the end, so where else to throw my money?

Spain or Portugal, as it turns out.

One option that had been on the table for a while was Joao Brito. I took a long look at him when I eventually signed Bernd Pauly, and it’s not like he’d got any worse with time. As a 21-year-old, he had continued to improve.

The other option was former Leicester man Youri Tielemans. A great option to pair with fellow Belgian Pauly in the middle, Tielemans had jumped ship for Valencia a few seasons ago and was now plying his trade in La Liga.

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I liked Brito’s physical stats. I liked Tielemans’ mental stats. They were fairly close technically. The price, as always, was going to be the stumbling block. Valencia wanted £100m+. Similarly, Sporting also wanted an arm and a leg. I’d keep testing the waters up until the window opened, but the price for both might be a little too rich.

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No Need To Panic

I had mentioned in the last update that we had run into somewhat of a sticky situation in the Champions League. A schedule that included back-to-back trips to Dortmund and Lyon hadn’t been kind to us, with the game in Germany proving to be a 5-1 disaster.

Still, our destiny was still in our own hands. We still had Lyon and Dortmund to play at home, plus Olympiakos away. Three wins and we would be into the next round, which is always the aim.

Could we do it? Of course! In fact, we did it emphatically.

We gave Dortmund some pay back with a 4-1 win at Hillsborough, then went to Greece and beat Olympiakos 5-1. In a final game show down, win and you’re in effort with Lyon, the Wednesday faithful would not be denied.

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A clinical performance when we needed it, and it showed the quality this team possessed. When we turned it on, we really could give any team around a decent go. Consistency was the only real kicker, because if we could keep playing like this then anything was possible.

Either way, we ended up finishing 2nd behind Dortmund, booking our place in the next round. We found out shortly after we’d play Juventus in the 2nd round, who were 5th in Serie A. I quite fancied that tie considering the other group winners we could have been facing.

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When You Know, You Know

With January looming and the potential decision on a centre mid, a prospect happened to land on my desk that interested me.

Not literally, that would have been quite painful I imagine, but a report on a prospect, I should say.

As you can imagine for a team of my stature, my scouts are pretty much top of the range. Last summer’s new appointment, my 20 20 JPP JPA Director of Football, was duly dispatched to take a closer look. He was also fairly adamant this kid was a sure thing.

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With my current funds barely covering a potential move for Tielemans or Brito, could I afford such a move? His release clause was £28m, which was also enticing. That felt like a steal if he did pan out.

I did also have three really solid, young keepers though. Andre Onana had come from Ajax for north of £40m, he was my #1.

Maarten Vandevoordt was still being dubbed as the next Thibaut Courtois, and costing me £20.5m, I wasn’t chucking him out either.

Then there was the Japanese youngster I took a £4m flyer on in 2022/23, Kazuhiro Okada. He’d already gone out on loan to Roma and did great, and he was currently at Marseille, also doing great.

Did I need another goalkeeper? Was he a sure thing? In the end I went for it, he’ll arrive in January. If it means the development of Vandevoordt or Okada suffers, or if Onana gets displaced, that’s just the way it is. This kid looked like gold, even if it might also cost me a new centre mid in the process,

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Watch The Owls Fly!

So here we were, at the end of another year. Despite the disappointment of the 0-0 with Chelsea, I really didn’t have a lot else I could complain about:

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There’s a lot of green there, no doubt. We ground out some games where we weren’t at our best, but we also handed out some big wins as well. A draw away to Liverpool wasn’t even as issue because, hey, check this out!

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City weren’t doing much at all! Six draws and a pair of losses pretty much amounted to an entire season of poor results by their standards, maybe even two season’s worth, and it wasn’t even January yet. Pep’s men weren’t even in 2nd, amazing scenes!!

Without really paying much attention to it, I was somehow seven points clear. And it’s not like City had suddenly become completely inept, have a look at this:

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9 goals on 14 shots? I reckon Szymanski got sent off for Brighton just so he wouldn’t have to suffer it any more haha!

So here it was, our best opportunity to date to win the Premier League. Who would have thunk it? Not me, that’s for sure. But it was exciting!

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Belting Goal Bonus – Moise Kean

Two goals, in fact. But I don’t have a number 7 image so they can both go in here as point number six! 😊

Moise Kean was being sculped into the prototypical pressing forward and the results had been truly devastating. His output each game was wild, he pretty much always found the net, especially against former teams Everton and especially Brighton.

Here are two examples from the same game against Crystal Palace where he closed down everything and made a nuisance of himself.

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This one is comical, but also a perfect example of a pressing forward making life hard for the opposition’s back line. Probably not what was intended, but hey, they all count.

It didn’t get much better for Ciro Ferrara’s boys. As much as it wasn’t fun to pile the goals up against my former #2, it was fairly emphatic.

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Loose ball at the back, Kean is onto it in a flash to pick the defender’s pocket, the rest is history. Easy as that. It was beautiful to see, so figured you could all see it to.

Catch you in January!

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  • 3 weeks later...

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Apologies to you all, once again. Between full time furlough, home schooling kids, and general lock down life, I've simply not been at my computer very much the last few weeks (and when I have, it's been to do Zoom calls and maths work!) But here's another update, hopefully it is worth the wait!!

With 2025 dawning, we moved into January as the top team in the land. By some way as well, seven points the lead was as we looked to win our first ever PL title. It still felt like a big ask, but at the half way stage we couldn’t have done much more.

With some more savvy business in the January window, we were in with a shot. Really, that’s all you can do.

Here’s January and February.

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Getting Into The Export Business

Before I could get the Christmas tree down and start putting the decorations back into the loft, Beijing were already knocking on my door with an offer for Olexandr Zinchecko. It was a no brainer as well.

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He was a good player, not elite, and he offered me plenty of versatility off the bench, but for that kind of money, I couldn’t say no.

Plus, he wanted to move, and I was happy to let him. We were becoming quite the export business, flipping players for serious money. I quite liked it!

An extra £50m or so in the kitty to start the window should also come in very handy, but more on that shortly.

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Doubling Down

We were in the midst of some unprecedented success. If we could keep the club at the top of the pile, it would be Wednesday’s first top division victory since….checks Wikipedia…..1929/30.

So, as is logical, what does a club do when they are enjoying such success? Make sure it continues, of course.

That didn’t come cheap, though.

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I was a top manager. Not by my own admission, but with the results I’d put together and where the club was now in the footballing hierarchy.

£100k a week, 4 years, with various competition bonuses as well. It was done. It was nice to feel like the board wanted me and were happy to reward me with (imaginary) money.

I did also have to chuckle to myself. January saw Arsenal sack Patrick Viera as the Gunners sat on the edge of the Europa places. Roberto Mancini’s job was insecure at Liverpool as they were in 4th and a long way off my pace at the top.

I interviewed for both those jobs and got knocked back. And now I had a hefty new contract and a real shot at winning the title. It was a smug feeling, I’ll not lie.

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The Tradition Continues

I think tradition is often what pulls fans towards football clubs. A certain way of doing things, or a specific approach that fans can hang their hat on to say, yeah, that’s what my club does.

I had a few different things that I always seem to do on FM. I now had a specific way of playing. A consistent kick ‘em and kick ‘em style philosophy. High teamwork, work rate, and so on. Bring in young players and mould them into stars. Those kinds of things. You know what you’re getting as a fan.

One tradition seemed to have been born without me really paying attention, and despite noticing and then trying to work on it with permanent signings, I still hadn’t managed to solve the issue.

The on-loan centre mid.

Pretty much every season since I began the game, I’d pulled in a quality centre mid on loan that had featured plenty and done well for me:

2019/20 – Lewis Baker (Chelsea) – 44 games, 7.23 rating (Now at Leeds)
2020/21 – Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal) – 27 games, 6.85 rating (Now at PSG)
2021/22 – Scott McTominay (Man U) – 31 games, 7.11 rating (Still with me)
2022/23 – Lucas Paqueta (Liverpool) – 46 games, 7.18 rating (Still at Liverpool)
2023/24 – Donny van der Beek (Real Madrid) – 30 games, 7.18 rating (Now on loan at AC Milan)

This season, I already had Konrad Laimer from Leipzig, but he was more of a depth option and hadn't featured much. In January, I once again found myself hankering after a short-term fix in the middle of the park, so in came Arthur from Barcelona.

He wasn’t the only player I brought in during January either. With Zinchenko gone, I had a hole on the left that needed to be addressed.

Enter Ryan Sessegnon

Spoiler

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He cost me £53m, so about £15m less than I got for Zinchenko, but he was younger, better as a defender, and also English, which always helps with squad balance and registering players.

Plus he was a pretty attacking fullback, so could play M(L) and well as at the back. He seemed a sound investment, so fingers crossed for both him and Arthur!

1603958792_4PNG.png.72d61543d773d122c6b6cab184593c39.pngBeating The Old Lady

Though I'm not promoting domestic violence, of course! Flying high in the Prem was all well and good, but we had other competitions that needed our attention.

After a poor start to the group in the UCL, we had eventually shown our class to hand a couple of beatings out and finish 2nd. It would have been nice to finish top, something we still hadn’t done, but the draw for the knockout round had been pretty kind.

Juve were struggling in Seria A, and were off the pace in the title race. They had quality, of course, including de Ligt, Rabiot, Lautaro Martinez and an aging Roberto Firmino, but since they were out of form and the first leg was at Hillsborough to end February, I fancied my chances.

I was correct to feel good about the game, as it turns out!

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I guess that makes the 2nd leg a lot more straightforward! More importantly, it means I can rest my starters and give valuable experience to some youngsters.

The boys had done me proud. So much for struggles in the Champions League, eh!?

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Mind The Gap

January was a bit rough, starting with a loss to Man U and a draw with Arsenal, but things quickly improved with three wins in February.

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Results were going alright. Nothing startling, but enough to keep us ticking over. It was far from flawless, put it that way.

It was nice to beat Spurs, as per usual, but I was sad that my League Cup defence came to an end. My reserves let us down in the first leg at home, we never recovered from there.

Despite the far from perfect league form, the table at the end of February took my by surprise, big time!

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Without really noticing, we had pulled out a pretty decent gap to the chasing pack! City had drawn a remarkable 8 times, and Man U were potentially our closest rivals if they could win a game in hand to pull within 7 points.

Was it finally going to be our season? One Sheffield team sat at the top of the table. Another sat at the bottom. Based on what I set out to do when I first began this write up, this seemed too perfect to be true.

Could it last?

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Belting Goal Bonus – Vitaliy Mykolenko

I like beating Spurs. It gives me a great sense of revenge as they mugged me off back in the summer. My record against them is pretty one-sided, I’ve had to take the odd licking as a relatively new Prem team on the rise, but for the most part I’ve generally put a dent in their plans for success pretty much whenever we’ve played.

As if the desire to hammer it home to Spurs was permeating down to my players, Vitaliy Mykolenko popped up with a proper stunner against them in February, and I loved it.

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Perfect Inverted Wing Back play, drifting inside on the attack until he’s pretty much central to the goal before biffing one in past the helpless keeper from way out.

Hope Dan Levy was watching! You could have had this, Dan!!!

I'm still not bitter.....honest....

Edited by Rumple43
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  • 3 weeks later...

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Ah, here we are again. Still in lockdown. Still home schooling. Still furloughed from work.

It's been three weeks since my last post it appears, a shameful effort. Sadly, my time isn't my own at the moment. It's a shame that as we close in on what could be the defining moment of my story so far, I'm literally grinding to a halt with content, but that one is largely out of my control. Still, I can hope that absence from my FM whitterings truly does make the heart grow fonder.

Or, most will have forgotten what had happened and why they were here in the first place. Still, thanks for coming. I do appreciate it. Perhaps if one or two of you reply, this forum will finally move my thread onto a 5th page. This 4th one is getting insanely long now!

Back to the business at hand. The number of games remaining in the season was becoming excitedly small. I say excitedly, mainly because I had built a gap at the top of the table and if I’d had my way, we would have finished the season there and then.

We just had to keep this unlikely cart on the tracks for a few more months and a first ever Premier League title would be ours. Easy as that, right?

Maybe…..but maybe not!

Here’s March and April.

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The Secret Of Youth

For long time readers, many of you may be able to recall the brutal days at the end of my first season when the Board sold off our youth facilities in an effort to keep the club afloat and stop us from going into administration.

It’s been a constant struggle since to get our facilities up to scratch. Between building new digs for the youth set up, finding they were wholly inadequate for a PL club, losing our youth rating entirely then building it all slowly back up from nothing, it has been a tough old road.

But, there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel.

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I’m not quite sure how we did it, but we had produced a “generational talent”. What an Icelandic lad was doing at Wednesday’s academy I have no idea, and I certainly had zero chance to pronounce his name, but a 4/5 PA player was coming through the ranks. Wow.

Not only that, the other youth product I’d managed to produce in recent years was also beginning to look very much like the real deal.

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Again, I’m unsure why I’d have a Brazilian coming through at Hillsborough but I for one wasn’t complaining. Between the two of them, they could anchor my back four for a long time to come.

I didn’t think I’d be able to say it for a quite a while yet, but we almost have a productive academy set up!

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The Home Stretch

As I suggested to begin this update, the number of games left in the season was decreasing rapidly. As we neared the end of March, that number dipped from double digits to single figure. The excitement around the place was electric.

Liverpool at home provided a stumble, we drew 0-0. An overachieving Norwich up next to close out March? Beginning of the end? Start of the slide? Don’t count on it!

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It felt like a sign. The team were as good as I’d ever seen them, and we were taking no prisoners. Norwich were a top half side and buoyed by a fair few goals from my own on loan striker Augustin M’Braga, they were doing well. Still, the young Belgian couldn’t play against me as his parent side and we took the Norfolk side apart in his absence.

We were 10 points clear with 7 games to go, but 2nd place Man U had a game in hand so the gap was more likely to be 7 points. How did the run in look? Actually, not too bad.

We still had Palace a (15th), West Ham H (12th), SUFC H (20th) and Burnley a (16th) to play, so 4 of my 7 fixtures weren’t too difficult on paper.

I did have Chelsea a (5th) and Man City H (3rd) still to go, they could be tough games, especially if I came unstuck in any of the other matches. Still, it was all to play for heading into the final month.

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The One That Got Away

We did have other competitions to fight for though. After bossing Norwich, I was feeling like the team could top anybody.

Turns out, not true.

The Champions League was still a stage that we were yet to truly perform on. The best we’d manage so far was a pair of quarter final defeats to Man City and although our opponents this year were different in that we met Bayern this time round, the outcome was still the same.

We played well in the first leg in Germany. It was an even contest that we lacked a cutting edge in and lost out 2-0. It was 1-0 for the majority before Robert Lewandowski got a late 2nd goal to annoy me. Still, we were formidable at Hillsborough. 2 goals wasn’t an impossible mountain to climb.

I was right, it really wasn’t impossible. We just made it look like it was. Blaaaaaargh.

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The early red card. The early goal. Then nothing. Pure frustration.

We had a load of chances. Esposito had a real stinker when I needed him most. There were some other 6.5s knocking about as well. Then they scored a goal when really they’d created very little and that was the end of that.

Another season, another quarter final exit in the UCL. This one really felt like what might have been though…..

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Could It Be Set Up Any Better?!?

April progressed, we kept on chalking up the wins. Eventually the unthinkable became reality.

If I could win my next game, and Man U lost to Chelsea, I’d have won the title. 4 games remained, one to close April and then a trio of games in May, but this was my first chance to clinch it.

And what was that final game in April? Sheffield United, of course. At home as well!

And what’s more, a win plus Man U losing would not only give me the title, but a loss for United would also seal their relegation back down to the Championship!

I could win the title and relegate the Blades at the same time!!!

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It felt like the stars had aligned. After countless hours of playing, writing, happiness, frustration, I had arrived at a pinnacle of my FM journey at just…the…right…moment.

So what did we do? The stage was set perfectly......

Spoiler

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We annihilated them haha! A result that they’d have to sit and chew on in the Championship for at least a year, maybe longer. Zero shots in 90 minutes. 6 goals conceded. Oh momma! That is a whopping.

Full time whistle goes. Sheffield United are down, banished from the top flight! Celebration on the field with the cup……? No. Man U beat Chelsea 1-0. Damn it!!

The stars hadn’t quite aligned for me, but it was surely only a matter of time now anyway.

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So….So….Close

With three games to go, we were almost there. Touching distance.

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Mixed in with the euphoria of relegating SUFC and nearly being crowned champions, we’d been bounced out of the Champions League and sadly, the FA Cup as well. We’d defend neither trophy that we won last year, but we’d just about claimed a far more important prize!

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Man U had a game in hand to narrow the gap down to 7 points with three games to play, but I was confident we’d be able to get over the line. Spurs won the Mickey Mouse cup, maybe they were big time without me after all? :lol:

My remaining games were Wolves away, City at home and then Burnley away. It seemed almost impossible based on current form that we wouldn’t be able to get a win from at least one of them.

I couldn’t say it for certain yet, but I was pretty confident. We’re Premier League champions!*

* almost

See you in May.

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16 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

oooooh you tease!!!  Show us the title win.... :D  And as for relegating the Blunts with a thumping win....  :applause:

Haha, always leave 'em wanting more!!

It is surely only a matter of time though, unless I manage a monumental "wheels come off" moment over the last few games.

As for United, that was beautiful. Gutted that the stars didn't align to win the league and send them down, but still, can't complain! I'm still undefeated against them, but it may be a while before I meet them again.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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So here we are. It has been a long road. I couldn’t decide if it was longer than I expected, or shorter. More than 40 updates (this is #41) had spanned six highly enjoyable seasons as I tried to push Sheffield Wednesday to pinnacle of English football.

And now, I was one good result away from doing it.

Sadly, I also didn’t know what else to do. I suppose when you set your sights on climbing a mountain, there’s the elation from doing it, but then I’d imagine some form of natural come down once you’ve achieved your goal and wonder where to go next.

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The Wait Is Over

I pondered how to write this section, mulling it over for multiple seasons in fact, wondering what I'd do should I ever actually achieve my aim and win it all.

As a story teller, you always want the grand finale. The one, heroic act of brilliance when all feels lost, to steal victory from the jaws of defeat and paint that one immortal picture of your triumph.

I can’t do that though. Or if there’s a way, a more talented writer than myself if required!

As the dust settled, we were champions, and….it was a total anti-climax haha

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Our mighty crescendo of success to end the season was a really scrappy, hugely underwhelming 1-1 draw away to Wolves, and that point was all we needed to seal the title. The performance was nearly as messy as the edit on the gif above ha

Still, the title was ours and I’d finally done it!

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It was the first top flight win for the club since 1930, quite the wait! I should focus on the journey that got me here, rather than crossing the line itself. That felt like a much better story than grinding out a bore draw in the West Midlands then lifting the PL trophy.

I cast my mind back to the start of season, where I suggested the following needed to happen to win the title:

Quote

 

  • We would need to get a lot better, especially defensively.
  • Man City would need to regress across the board.

 

Well, we got 10 points more than the year before (92 to 82) and conceded just 22 goals, down 14 from a year ago. Our offensive output was the killer though, with 99 goals a solid improvement of 21 on the previous campaign.

And yes, City did regress. Fewer points, fewer goals scored, more goals conceded.

But never mind all the nonsense analytical guff, we are champions!!!

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Sing it, Frank

The season’s remaining two games also ended in a relatively low key manner. Beating City at home felt symbolic after wrapping up the title, then we had another bore draw against lowly Burnley, closing the season on a fairly tepid note. Still, we were top of the tree. Nothing could take that away!

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We scored more goals than anyone else (a lot more), and conceded the fewest goals in the league. Delving into the stats as I always do, we had the most fouls, the most yellow cards, the most crosses completed, and we were miles ahead for chances created (164, 2nd was on 108). It was the footballing model I'd spent multiple seasons creating, and it had carried us to a title.

The salary table also provided great reading. Buying two world class fullbacks meant that my net transfer spend was now up there with the league’s big rollers, so nothing to crow about there. In terms of salary though, my £111m a year was blown out of the water by Man U (£234m) and Man City (£250m), and we’d beaten them both.

We’d finally climbed to the top of the mountain, and we’d done it our way. Satisfying.

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Awards, Awards, Awards

There's no I in team, but there isn't an I in award either, so I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Alas, the end of a title winning season brought with it plenty of recognition (there is an i in that at least!). We had played some fine football, and the world had taken note.

Moise Kean knocked in 25 goals in 28 games in the PL, winning him the top scorer award as well as the coveted European Golden Boot for the top marksman in Europe. Well deserved, he was a difference maker.

Despite being around my team for a while now, Esposito won the Young Player of the Year, he scored 18 goals in 28 PL games (plus plenty more in other competitions!) with a final rating of 7.5.

I received my 2nd Manager of the Year award, though it was probably hard to give it to anyone else. Plus I’d have been hugely annoyed if they had. It felt like a nice middle finger to the FA, and all those other guys who took a pass on me, but I’ll try not to get too bitter about it.

Then there was this, which was pretty sweet indeed.

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7 selections out of 11 for the Players’ Team of the Year. Both my high-priced full backs, my young Brazilian CB, the LM/CM that I bought when I first made it to the Prem and developed along the way, my rising star CM and my two stud strikers who blasted me to a title.

We’d had a hell of a season, no doubt about it. Great work from the lads!

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Legendary

I think whenever you take over a club, particularly one dear to your heart, there is always an appeal to etching your name into their (albeit imaginary) history. To become one of the players or managers that fans associate with success. Becoming an icon, role model and the rest.

For me, my favourite player will always be Kevin Pressman. As a young goalkeeper myself many moons ago, I spent countless hours watching him and studying how I could get better. Plus he always played a blinder against United, that was class. There are a lot of players thought of favourably from around that era, but Big Kev was always my #1.

Even if it’s just for the fact he took one of the greatest penalties ever.

 

Could have had five keepers in the net for that one, no stopping it!

Anyway, I digress. Winning the Premier League had vaulted me into the middle of the three tiers of fandom at my beloved club, I was now a “club icon.”

Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Nigel Pearson, Roland Nilsson, Des Walker, John Sheridan, Mel Sterland, Lee Bullen and Gary Megson, my name would hopefully be talked about for years to come as a fond memory of “glory years.”

More appropriately, when times were grim (as they are now IRL), I’m sure fans would look wistfully to the sky and wish that they still had an Espositio (now a club legend, I should add), Kean, or Pauly, and that football sure was good during this era.

It was pleasing to know that I built that era, even if it wasn’t real.

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True Love Lasts

I should probably close this update with a piece of business that took place almost as soon as the season ended.

My somewhat embarrassing man-crush on Tommy Doyle nearly led me to ruin before the title winning season had even begun. I had been a single button click away from spending nearly £100m on the lad, before realising I had a younger, slightly better version of Doyle in Belgian Bernd Pauly.

With City losing the title to yours truly, the Etihad was due its annual clear out as more stupidly expensive players came in and equally expensive but now forgotten player were binned off.

On the transfer list this year…..Tommy Doyle. Like the jilted lover, I had been forced to bide my time, but a love like that can never be extinguished. It was still burning bright, and I had the cash to make it happen.

Thanks guys, I’ll take him off your hands for £32.5m. What a way to end the season ha!

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great read as ever.  great to see that Pressman rocket again - no one was stopping that!  Great to see you finally secure Tommy Doyle.  Maybe he'll help fire us to CL success next season...  Owls in Europe...  Brings back the 'glory days' of Spora Luxembourg and an 8-1 win!!  (and those kits - my dad worked for Sanderson, the shirt sponsor, at the time - he even presented Jeff Winter with the match ball one match at Hillsborough!!)  Always amused me how they had to cover the logo for European matches as the sponsor could only be one line.... - True fact.  Check the white patch above the 'Sanderson'

 

 

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15 hours ago, rlipscombe said:

great read as ever.  great to see that Pressman rocket again - no one was stopping that!  Great to see you finally secure Tommy Doyle.  Maybe he'll help fire us to CL success next season...  Owls in Europe...  Brings back the 'glory days' of Spora Luxembourg and an 8-1 win!!  (and those kits - my dad worked for Sanderson, the shirt sponsor, at the time - he even presented Jeff Winter with the match ball one match at Hillsborough!!)  Always amused me how they had to cover the logo for European matches as the sponsor could only be one line.... - True fact.  Check the white patch above the 'Sanderson'

 

 

Europe is now the final mountain to climb! It feels like it is more a case of when than if, but that's assuming all the players keep coming through and developing.

I miss those Sanderson days, I associate them with generally being pretty good and not a laughing stock like we are now!

Tommy Doyle was a funny one, I couldn't be believe how close I got to signing him for nearly £100m and then how easy it was to get him for just over £30m ha!

 

4 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Well done, congratulations on winning the title!

Thank you friend, mighty kind of you! It has been a fun ride :-)

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So we’d done it. For those that stayed with this thread to this point from such humble beginnings, my heartfelt thanks and admiration. For those who have popped in and out, you guys are pretty awesome to! Every upvote and comment drives me on to keep saving screen shots, writing, posting, it is all truly appreciated.

Now that I’d managed to win the PL, I thought I’d throw in a post to summaries the squad that had done it. A lot of my updates mention the same names, Kean, Esposito, Pauly, or players get named when I buy them then are lost when they play regularly but don’t score etc.

So here it is, the Premier League title winning overview. It’s been a long time coming!

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At A Glance

I’ll split this one in two, one defensive, one attacking, that seems a good place to start.

Spoiler

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Top of the shop in terms of average rating, the only player who stayed with me for the entire course of this story so far. Dominic Iorfa, he baffles me. His attributes aren’t amazing. He isn’t a stunning CB, and he isn’t attacking enough to be anything but a defensive fullback (which I don't use and never will), but here he is. 19 appearances across all competitions and getting it done despite me crowbarring him into my system. No clue, but take a bow my friend!

With a 7.22 rating across 40 appearances, plus eight assists and being a part of the league’s best defence, the purchase of Mykolenko can’t be anything but a success. Same for Murray, both contributed and hit the ground running.

Onguene and Segalli were a formidable CB partnership, with the former making me feel absolutely justified for letting Bastoni go when Arsenal came calling.

I also love the production from the players that are basically backups. Hateboer is getting on and plays behind Murray, Renatinho is still only 18. Laimer, Arthur and Kimpembe on loan. All came in when needed, rotation, suspension, tactics, and they put in a shift.

For the keepers, it was the Onana show, but I won’t grade him too harshly on average rating since the man between the sticks always scores a low number each game. That goes double if I’m battering teams and he has nothing to do.

Spoiler

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Pauly is a beast. 49 apps, goals, assists, and still only 21. I leaned on him hard all season and he absolutely came through. Can’t wait to see how his career develops.

I also had a soft spot for Will Hughes. Another less than flashy signing, he fit into the Iorfa mould. He shouldn’t have contributing like he did, but he squeezed every ounce out of his potential and featured at a European level after basically being cast off by Championship standard Watford. Can’t knock it.

I don’t know what to say about Moise Kean. He was the ultimate hunch that paid off I think. Bouncing between Everton and then Brighton (?!?!), his attributed just said he should be perfect for the role I needed. As far as pressing forwards go, he ticked all the boxes. I took the chance and got rewarded.

In all my years of playing FM games, he might be one of the most accomplished strikers I’ve had, and in terms of one-off campaigns, this was a memorable one.

Esposito. The saviour 2.0. Another ludicrous individual, and one I nearly didn’t buy. When I think back to the toss up between Fininho (who I later bought anyway), Pellegri or the Italian Stallion, I think I chose correctly without even needing to look up Pellegri’s current stats.

I liked Sergio Gomes a lot. I took a fling on him after promotion knowing very little about him, I had a limited budget and he’s another hunch that paid off in a big way. I never truly settled on if I preferred him as my attacking CM, or as a LM, but with 10 goals and 10 assists, he chipped in regardless. A few times I came close to moving him on because he didn’t seem to “fit”. Glad I didn’t!

Hlozek was a fun one. At 20, he was a highly rated AM(R), which I have no use for in my formation. How would retraining him work? For £9.75m, I wanted to find out. As you can see, he is now 22 and a preferred M(R), he generally played pretty well. A fun experiment, but also a now versatile guy who could contribute going forward.

Like Hlozek, Stefano Giordani was a young right sided mid who had bags of potential. He hadn’t been at his best this season and he played a bit more than I’d liked for one reason or another, but he still showed more than enough that he can be a part of things going forward.

Sessegnon, Cucurella and McTominay had all had their moments, but hadn’t really been stars. Consistent. Adequate. But that was about all I’d got. Still, all teams need those players and they certainly weren’t a liability by any means.

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The Future – Goalkeeper and Defence

The team had excelled, understandably. Were we set up for sustained success though? I figured I’d break down some of the prospects in a bit more details, these were the kids that could keep on pushing me forwards.

Nick Murray – D (R), 21

Spoiler

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The jewel in the crown I think. Assuming England don’t just hammer Trent Alexander-Arnold into the ground, I can’t see a reason Murray won’t get 100 caps for England.

He is a perfect attacking fullback, and his blend of excellent physical attributes plus solid mental attributes are complimented by a few technical standouts, like his 17 for passing. Add that to his resolute personality, he is going to be a winner.

Pordur Fridriksson – D(C), 16

Spoiler

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Still no idea how to pronounce his name, and I’ll be buggered if I’m going to look up the keyboard shortcuts to type his name properly, but he did look like he was going to be a high-quality player.

I’d have preferred a bit taller than 5’11” and his strength wasn’t the best, but his key attributes were already at a reasonable level, he was a potential captain candidate down the line, and he had some standout mental attributes. Plus time to grow of course, both literally and figuratively.

Tiago Pimenta – GK, 20

Spoiler

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He hadn’t joined yet so I had to wait for my 20/20 DoF to get a proper look at him, but from everything I could see there was the potential he’d be my keeper for 10-15 years.

Considering keepers don’t usually reach their peak until around 32, this kid was already pretty good and had 12 years of growing to do.

Plus, perfectionist personality. Have I mentioned before how much I love that personality type? Haha!

With the three guys above, plus Rodolfo Martins (D(C), 20), Renatinho (D(R), 18, could easily have featured here were it not for Murray), Douglas Segalli (D(C), 23) and Frederico Milani (D(C), 21), the future at the back was bright for sure.

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The Future – Midfield

Reinaldinho – M(C), 17

Spoiler

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Ahhhh, the Mid-Western Ronaldinho. He was going to be a good ‘un. Not even 18 yet, look at that first touch. That passing. Those physical attributes, the determination. Oh, and another Perfectionist personality, plus he had a growing leadership stat.

Between him and Pauly, these two could take over the world. Speaking of which…..

Bernd Pauly – M(C), 21

Spoiler

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Another player I nearly didn’t bag after a game of eeny, meeny, miny, mo antics, Pauly had been worth his weight in gold and he was still only 21. Stunning first touch, passing and technique to go with killer vision, off the ball, determination, leadership, composure, plus the physicals.

I can’t see a reason why this kid won’t be a legend. If there’s one player that doesn’t play up front that I’m genuinely excited about from this team, it’s this gem.

I didn’t have quite as many prospects waiting in the wings in this part of the pitch, but Sergio Gomes (M(C/L), 24), Adam Hlozek (M(R), 22) and Stefano Giodani (M(R), 21) were all looking pretty solid. Plus my annual CM loan signing, of course!

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The Future – Attack

Sebastiano Esposito – ST(C), 22

Spoiler

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Since signing for me, he’d scored 88 goals in 135 games, including European contests and matches against some of the best teams in the world. The fact he was still only 22 was absolutely ridiculous.

He was already a World Cup winner and I didn’t really know how far he’d keep going. I’m excited to find out, but even if he stays where he is now, he’ll still be a world-beater.

I suppose the funny thing is that I don’t even play him how he’d prefer, as an advanced forward. I’m still forcing him to be a pressing forward, so imagine how bonkers he could be playing in his preferred role?!

Fininho ST(C), 21

Spoiler

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I still see Fininho as being like the young understudy, but considering Esposito is only a year older, that doesn’t really work.

His technical attributes were top notch, though his mental game could be better, especially his composure. Can’t knock his physical skills, and considering the best he’s going to be for me right now is 3rd choice after Kean and Esposito, pulling a player like Fininho off the bench felt pretty sweet to be honest.

The fact Italy could call on all three strikers was also fairly crazy, just play all three of them up front and win every game 10-7! Brazil really did let this kid slip through their fingers.

Augustin M’Barga – ST(C), 20

Spoiler

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Another interesting prospect that would star for most teams but might still struggle to get in mine, M’Barga had finished the season on loan at Norwich and scored nine goals in 18 games. Not a bad way to introduce yourself to the Premier League.

The fact he could also play down the wings was one to ponder, but he has plenty going for him and loads of time to develop. I just hope I have the space and opportunity to help him grow!

I was generally using 24 as a cut off here, but it’s hard to say that Moise Kean (S(C), 25) is over the hill considering he’s scored 47 goals in 63 games since he signed!

The three Italians plus M’Braga are pretty much my attacking options, but I wouldn’t say I’m thin at the area. There’s plenty to go at.

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Job Done

The future, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is bright. In terms of legacy, it was all going quite well.

As detailed above, we had a rich bank of youth coming through, the majority of which had already earned their stripes as part of the title winning team this season.

The youth facilities had gone from category 4 to category 3, so that was a step in the right direction. In December, further upgrades would be completed so there is no reason to think that we won’t be at category 2 this time next year. A far cry from a few years ago when we didn’t have a youth category at all!

The finances were incredible, the best in the club’s history. Success, TV rights, prize money and huge transfer fees had set the club up to not only having a healthy balance, but paying off most of the current debt.

The stadium was 100% full last season so the board agreed to expand things by a further 4,750 seats. That takes the maximum capacity to 44,562, further progress as we continue to grow.

As mentioned last update, I was a club icon, and Esposito already a club legend at the age of 22. We had quickly but successfully woven our names into the history of the club.

Most importantly, I was the undoubtedly top dog in Sheffield. Considering why I started this journey in the first place, it really was job done!

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Gone, But Not Forgotten

It was fun looking around at what we'd built over six seasons, when a cool little message dropped into my inbox. It was an annual message that I usually have a glance over then forget about, but this time, I was nostalgically drawn to it.

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It is, of course, where this all began. First story I'd ever written on here. Struggling into the playoffs. Overpaid squad. Financial oblivion. The last second winner at Wembley over Forest. That was a sweet memory, for sure.

It was fairly telling that no player from that team had really kicked on and become part of a top side. Most had settled back into the Championship/League One level, with a few of the better players being the ones I had on loan, like Baker, Simpson and Fosu-Mensah.

A couple of the older guys were without a club, and Hutchinson and Bannan had both retired. I'm surprised Hutch's knees lasted that long to be honest!

Still, it was a neat little full circle message that fittingly wrapped a historic season.

Cheers for getting us to the Promised Land gents, against all the odds. This one is for you guys to!

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I sat at my desk, as I had so many countless hours before. Seemingly endless days and nights had moulded into a six-year journey in the blink of an eye. Pouring over the sort of fine detail and tough decision making that had landed Sheffield Wednesday their first topflight title since 1930.

The Premier League winners medal still sat on top of the dark wood, one of the few elements of glistening light in what was now a room cast in darkness and shadow. The sun had long since set, only a desk lamp for illumination, allowing the silvery reflection from the medal to catch the eye.

The memory of lifting the trophy at Molineux would never truly disappear, but everything fades with time. The season had now wrapped, the dust had settled. The roar of the crowd, the shot of adrenaline on a match day, the euphoria of reaching the finish line at the front of the pack. Instead giving way to the long days of summer, planning, strategy, filling the mental reserves to go again once more.

A flick of the wrist sloshed the rapidly diminishing whisky and ice in a crystal tumbler, a sign that perhaps it was time to call it a night. Yet there was still something left unresolved, a mental itch without a scratch. I pulled out my mobile phone and called an old friend.

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“Dejphon, how are you?”

“Ah, hello lad. I wasn’t expecting to ‘ear from you. Well done on winning the league, it was what we always dreamed of!” His Yorkshire drawl was unmistakable, even after all this time.

I put a finger to my temple, rocking back on the chair and casting a glance out of the window to the deserted training pitch. “It was, but something doesn’t feel right. I can’t place it.”

There was a pause.

“What’s left after you climb a mountain?” the former chairman quipped, pausing for an answer that wasn’t forthcoming. “Unless you plan on retiring, you need to find another mountain lad.”

And there it was. The remedy to a problem that had bothered me not just this evening, but since I was stood on that podium in the West Midlands, trophy aloft. It was also the last thing I wanted to hear. The truth often is.

Realisation was setting in. Perhaps it had for a while, but in the back of my mind, far enough back that I could lock it away and keep it quiet. Sadly, thoughts like that have a way of breaking down the door before too long.

“City will come back, you know. United looked strong as well, better than I’ve seen them recently. And we never did win the Champions League,” I offered, without conviction. It was telling.

“True, but I think unless you plan on climbing this mountain over and over, we both know you need to find a new one. Goodbye lad, and good luck.”

The phone went dead. I let out a sigh and finished my drink.

With a rueful smile I stood up, dropped the silver medal into my pocket, then switched off the desk lamp for what would be the final time.

***************

The atmosphere in the press room was electric, long past standing room only, you could barely open the door for the number of cameras, tripods and reporters. I stood hidden from view behind an all-too-familiar veil, waiting for my turn. This room had been like home for six years, post-game, pre-game, highs and lows. But never like this.

I felt the phone vibrate in my suit jacket. I pulled it out to find a text from my agent, Mick.

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DO THIS? IT’S NOT TOO LATE.

I scanned my eyes across the message before another one quickly filled the bottom of the screen.

AND I STILL THINK YOU’RE MENTAL.

I let out a low chuckle. Always the businessman. He knew it was career suicide, but I wasn’t going to be swayed.

YES, SIGN THE PAPERS AND SORT MY TICKET, I’LL GO OUT TOMORROW MORNING.

I clicked the send button. No hesitation. It was done.

As I dropped the phone back inside my jacket, I heard the noise of the side door opening behind me as the club’s Press Officer Ella Dobson slid quietly into the room.

“Ready to go?” she asked, looking somewhat downcast.

“Aye, as I’ll ever be. And thanks for everything.”

I gave a smile, she did the same, then I walked out and towards the podium. A lone figure amongst a crescendo of camera shutters, clicking Dictaphones and reporters shuffling to attention.

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I sat down, unsure how to start, adjusting myself on the chair nervously. I remembered the notes in front of me, laid out carefully on the table, exactly where I’d placed them an hour or so before. Amazing how the mind can wander once the lights are on.

“Thank you all for coming, I really appreciate it.”

I reached for a glass of water. Give me a tracksuit and a field full of footballers any day. I continued.

“After much deliberation, I have decided to step down as the manager of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.”

A murmur went around the room. You can’t keep many secrets in the public eye these days, but there was still an audible surprise that this one was true. Within a few seconds, I realised I needed to keep speaking.

“I've loved my time in Sheffield, establishing this team as the best not only in this city, but in the country as well. Winning the Premier League was a dream come true, that’s what I set out to do and here we are.

“Taking this marvellous club, one that I’ve supported all my life, from the Championship to the top, that’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

A sense of relief swept over me. There was no going back now, it was done. I looked at the notes below me again, typed out and precisely ordered. I picked up the papers and shuffled them together before pushing them to one side.

“Thank you to the players, the staff, and all those that helped to make this possible,” a smile crept up on me as I thought back to some of the incredible people I'd worked with, for better or worse.

“When I first came to S6 there was plenty to do. I’m so very proud of what we achieved, but I feel now is the time to find myself a new mountain.”

I stood up. So much for the script.

“Thank you for all your support. We’re all Wednesday, aren’t we?”

The initial murmurs had been replaced by stunned silence, then a flurry of noise as reporters scrambled to ask questions that would get no answer.

I turned and walked back to the veil and with that, my time with Sheffield Wednesday was over.

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very emotional wrap up....  obviously well written as usual...  Couldn't spot any local journalists in the photos though.....

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

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