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[FM20] From Sheffield to South Africa

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also, if you decide to do another thread like this for FM21, can you link it here, so i can follow it?  This has been a great read (and not just because it is the Owls....)

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On 25/03/2021 at 18:59, rlipscombe said:

also, if you decide to do another thread like this for FM21, can you link it here, so i can follow it?  This has been a great read (and not just because it is the Owls....)

Oh my lord, I finally got a 5th page haha That 4th page was getting massive!!

No plans to get FM21, even now it's gone down in price. 20 still fills my needs and I get so much more from enjoying a game world that I've watched evolve than starting with one that's up to date when I begin.

I'm currently on the fence about posting my next adventure as it'll be a lengthy undertaking and once I start, I'll need to see it through. Write ups and collecting all the info does take time, but it is enjoyable so I'd imagine I will :)

Plus, I still seem to be picking up a minimum of a couple of hundred views each update, even if I only get a few posts from time to time. 

While there's some interest there, I should probably keep going!

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23 hours ago, Marcussy said:

Just started and finished reading this in the last few days - brilliant! Would defo be interested in reading more about this particular FM universe.

Awesome, great to have you along and thanks for taking the time to go through the stuff that has been posted to date.

I'm not that far from starting the next chapter, just lining it up now. Should be in the next week or so, providing the UK bank holiday doesn't interfere with things in any way.

Have a great long weekend!

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On 01/04/2021 at 14:44, karanhsingh said:

Great wrap up, and look forward to seeing where you go next! 

Thanks matey, great to see you back again :)

It was a fun run with Wednesday and I'm really pleased with how well this thread appears to be going so far.

New update should be around next week I reckon!

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From Sheffield to South Africa - A Sheffield Wednesday, Ajax Cape Town (and probably other places) career

So, here we are. Sheffield to South Africa. A fun little change of direction, I’d say!

As you will have seen, I decided to call time on my Sheffield Wednesday career once I won the Premier League. Was there merit in defending my title? Trying to win the Champions League? Bringing further Cup glory to S6? Absolutely, without doubt.

But it wasn’t something I was overly drawn to, and after six seasons. I fancied a change. With the team I’d assembled, most of them young and ready continue improving year after year, I felt it was more a question of when, rather than if, I’d take over the world. That just didn’t tick the right boxes for me. I was more interested in climbing mountains than staying at the top of them.

Instead, welcome to Cape Town.


Why Ajax Cape Town? For one, at the time I was winning the Prem with Wednesday and pondering a change of direction, I happened across this little piece of news that I found rather interesting.

Specifically, this caught my eye from Ajax’s own press release:

“After the strategic reorientation, which was reported in February 2020 during the presentation of the half-year figures, Ajax concluded that the ambitions and results in Amsterdam are in too great a contrast to the development of the football market in South Africa.

"Ajax has expressed the ambition to reach the top of European football and in recent years the South African football market has not produced enough talent at the level that Ajax strives for.

"Moreover, Ajax does not see sufficient potential for the future.”

Ouch! That’s a fairly blunt way of getting dumped.

The fallout from the split is that Ajax Cape Town no longer exists in real life, they have rebranded to Cape Town Spurs. They are still on FM20 however, and it made me ponder what might have been.....

Aims & Objectives

Based on the rather damning statement above from the boys in Amsterdam, I wanted to prove them wrong:

  • Could I help kick start the development of South Africa as a footballing market?
  • Can I produce the level of talent required to send successful players to Europe?
  • Is there sufficient potential for the future for the country to become a footballing power?

So there we are. Can I improve the club to a level of ability and sustainability that we consistently win, produce a sufficient level of player that they can make it in Europe, and push the National Team forward whilst I’m at it?

In truth, I don’t know. But we’re going to try!

Play Style & Set Up

I will be continuing my career rather than start as a new manager. That means my reputation will stay at 4 stars thanks to my PL win, and my badge will be Continental Pro. I am a pretty top manager and coach, attributes wise. Far higher than what is currently in South Africa, that’s for sure.

I’ll also still be using the official 20.4.0 database update as I’m not starting a new game.

As I’m six or so years into the game, my FM universe has already started to play out. I don’t use online lists or recommendations, but they’d already be of little use now I’m well into my career.

Wonderkids and bargains have long since been snapped up, and the next generation of talent are newgens anyway. My own player and staff knowledge will no doubt be of use, but I’ll continue to utilise my staff to scout and assess players as my only means of evaluation.

Full disclosure – I do have an FM editor, but I only use it for finding out the ratings of my facilities on a 0-20 scale rather than the written descriptions you can see in the game. I don’t use it to look at players, otherwise, what’s the point in playing? Each to their own of course, but I don't see the point.

For my Wednesday career, I tried to limit unrealistic transfers until I reached the higher end of the PL, at which point I somewhat cashed in my morals and started plundering South America. It is a shame I’ll take to my grave.

I’ll not lie, I’ve no idea what sort of transfer approach I’ll be employing in South Africa so I can’t give any hard and fast thoughts on this one. Since I do have an ethos of developing SA youth, it seems counterintuitive to pack my team with foreign players, but we’ll see where that balance ends up.

Similarly, I have previously always tried to utilise my staff where possible. However, I have no idea what quality of staff I’m going to be able to employ, so it may be that I end up doing a lot of the heavy lifting myself in Cape Town. We shall see!

Previously, I enjoyed a two-month, five point update system for my Wednesday career. I liked that, but I’m not sure it will work here so it needs to go on the back burner.

As I see this one being a bit more a long-haul project with more specific goals in place, I’m going for the following update method instead.

I’ll be splitting each season into three:

  1. The summer/off season – 1 June to late August (which will be an intro post for season 1)
  2. First half of the season – late August to mid-February
  3. Second half of the season – mid-February to end of May

The South African league season is split into four quarters anyway, with periods one and two up to January, then there’s a month break, then three and four run up until mid-May.

Each update will have six main points relating to the aims and objectives I’ve outlined:

  • Team – The on-pitch stuff, results, competitions, transfers etc.
  • Youth – Prospects that are coming through, plus my own players that have left and how they’re getting on.
  • Structure – The off-pitch stuff, staff, board, facilities, finances etc.
  • National Team – Results, rankings, plus any major competitions
  • Other – A recap of anything else I’ve found, plus I’ll be keeping an eye on SWFC of course.
  • Stats – Because I do enjoy numbers, I’ll be keeping an eye on some stats to see if we are trending in the right direction. Is anything I’m doing having any impact at all?

Each section will be hidden behind a spoiler tag which you can expand for some detailed discussion, screen shots and so on, but I’ll also do a TL;DR for each section in case anyone wants to just see what is happening at a glance. I'd imagine updates will come every few weeks as they'll be longer than the ones I did for Wednesday, so don't expect a fast flowing torrent of information now I've shifted to the Southern hemisphere!

So that’s it. Each season will be three updates, split into six sections, and you can skim or deep dive each section as you wish. Still nice and bite sized I hope, but not too thin that nobody knows what is going on.

I’ll not lie, the first season is light on screen shots. This wasn’t deliberate, but looking back, it doesn’t have the depth that I’ve put into subsequent seasons. For one, I didn’t know if this was going to be something I’d write up or if I’d stop after SWFC, and two, I didn’t know if South Africa would be fun, if I’d find this could be a viable story, all that jazz. So yeah, stick with me. Season 1 may be a little heavy going, but it will (hopefully) get better haha

Wish me luck!

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And there it is!

10,000 thread views.

That is class, and far exceeded my initial expectations.

When I started, I just figured it'd be me posting here rather than bugging my friends, talking to myself and knocking the occasional update out!

Thank you all so much, to people who just read, to those who post, and to anyone who pops a head in going forward. I appreciate it!

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On 08/04/2021 at 21:48, rlipscombe said:

it's been a great read @Rumple43 - looking forward to seeing how you get on in South Africa

Thanks matey, very kind indeed. Looking forward to SA, somewhere I've never been to on FM and a country I know pretty much zero about from a footballing perspective. 

Gonna push those frontiers and see what we can achieve, and prove real-life Ajax wrong!!

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Posted (edited)


South Africa is now booted up as a playable league, it’s time to have a peek at what the game has been doing in the background whilst I’ve been conquering England with the mighty Owls.

My knowledge of South African football starts and ends at the World Cup they hosted, vuvuzelas, Kaizer Chiefs (because of the band), and the fact Orlando Pirates are based there (and have a fun badge that is popular to use on FIFA Ultimate Team)

Let’s have a look at what I stumbled upon once I took over at Ajax Cape Town. As always, click the spoiler for a proper read, or feel free to skim the Too Long, Didn’t Read (TL;DR) sections instead. I won’t judge you for it, honest…..


Team – On the pitch



The Club

So, a whistle stop tour of the club’s history, which will now be known as ACT as typing Ajax Cape Town every time is a thrash haha

Cape Town Spurs (as they were at inception, and are again now in real life) were founded in 1970 and continued happily in South Africa’s upper tiers until around 1997. At that point, local neighbours Seven Stars sold highly rated 19-year-old (and still current South African national team record goal scorer) Benni McCarthy to Ajax Amsterdam. McCarthy was a success, and the Dutch side began casting a more interested eye towards South Africa as a whole.

The transfer and subsequent impressive performances by McCarthy set in motion a series of events that results in the formation of ACT.

Cape Town Spurs and local rivals Seven Stars amalgamated and joined in a venture with Ajax Amsterdam to form the club I’ll now be managing.

It has all the pieces you could want. Two local clubs united to pool resource, support and momentum, additional funding from a European powerhouse interested in youth, and a rich hotbed of young talent to develop and ship off to the bright lights of European football.

Moderate success followed. Three pieces of silverware were nabbed in the 2000’s, and the club finished as runners up in the South African Premier League in 2003/04, 2007/08 and 2010/11 (missing out on the title that season on goal difference!)

Results declined in the 2010’s, with the clubs’ eventual relegation from the topflight in 2017/18. This is where real life and FM split.

On my game, ACT won promotion back to the Prem in 2019/20 (the season I went up to the Prem with Wednesday, funnily enough), and they’ve been there ever since. In real life, ACT remain in the First Division.

In 2023/24, the club finished 4th in the league, qualifying for the CAF Confederation Cup (equivalent – Europa League).

2024/25 was a hugely mixed bag. The club won the CAF Confederations Cup, the first continental title in their history. They also finished 15th out of 16 teams in the Premiership, staying up after surviving a relegation playoff. This got their manager binned, unsurprisingly.

That takes us to the start of 2025/26, where our story begins!

The club has some rivals of note:

  • Cape Town City are the cross-town rival, making up the “Ikapa Derby”, this will be the big one as we also share a stadium.
  • Santos F.C are part of the “Old Cape Town Derby”, but aside from friendlies, I can’t see me playing them. They’re down in the second division, so two leagues away.
  • Cape Town All Stars are now defunct, but are still listed as a rival. They form the “New Cape Town Derby.”
  • Hugely successful Orlando Pirates are listed as a competitive rather than geographical rival.
  • Stellenbosch FC are a local rival but have no official derby and are currently in down in D1.


As mentioned previously, this first season is screen shot light and text heavy, so apologies for that.

I’ll try and keep this brief!

The standard of domestic football in South Africa is…..not good.

If we’re talking average size of club, think in terms of larger League 1 perhaps, Ipswich, Charlton, Wigan, they were the closest I could find in terms of comparisons. The infrastructure is there at least, in terms of stadium size and finance, but that's about it.

In terms of player quality, think a little lower. Bottom of League 1, top of League 2 perhaps. We aren’t talking world beaters here, that’s for sure. That also shows the size of the task at hand. We’re looking to push League 1 and 2 players into the Champions League and Europe’s top sides.

In terms of what we have to work with now though, the squad is all over the place. It doesn’t fit the 4-4-2 I’m going to play, and we only have 1 actual striker. Our best player is Siboniso Mathebula, a low work-rate left winger who at least has some flair and leadership, oh and he can take free kicks, but he’s the best of a bad bunch all round.

25-year-old Cole Schoeman is going to have to fire us to success as the only guy I’ve got up front. He’ll have plenty of opportunity, that’s for sure haha

The squad is also fairly thin in a lot of places. Fortunately, I need to bring the youngsters through and by the looks of things, I won’t have a choice on this one.

It should also be noted, and this will come as no surprise, I have an existing senior affiliation with Ajax Amsterdam. I know, shocking, right? But hopefully that will help with bringing in some quick reinforcements.

In terms of registration and squad building, South Africa has a limit of five non-SA players registered at one time, so you could have more if say, one left in January and you got another one in. Players U21 of any nationality don’t have to be registered though.

Competitions and Objectives

So there are a few different competitions in South Africa, most of which we are in. I’ll outline them below, as well as providing a handy “English to South Africa” comparison.

ABSA Premiership – ABSA is the sponsor (Amalgamated Banks of South Africa, for those that care). In real life, the sponsor has just changed to DStv, a pay TV company. Anyway, this is the league. The top dog. The Prem. Based on last season’s shambles, the board’s objective for this one seems sensible.

2025/26 objective – Avoid relegation.

Orange CAF Confederations Cup – Orange (as in the telecoms company) is the sponsor, and CAF is Confederation of African Football (equivalent – UEFA). This is the Europa League comparison, it’s the 2nd tier of continental football. The top competition is the Orange CAF Champions League (equivalent - UEFA Champions League, funnily enough!)

The format is as follows, with all rounds apart from the final being over two legs. The group stage is 4 teams, playing home and away, top two go through. The Champions League works in an identical format, only there’s no 2nd round, goes 1st round then group stage.

Prelim stage --> 1st round  --> 2nd round --> Group stage --> Quarters --> Semis --> Final

Despite winning this one last year, the Board are being a lot more conservative.

2025/26 objective – Reach the group stage.

CAF Super Cup – Fairly simple, the winner of the Confederation Cup and the Champions League meet, exactly as they do in Europe.

As we won the Confederations Cup last season, my first shot at silverware as part of this new venture will actually come pretty quickly. That said, the Board aren’t interested.

2025/26 objective – Not bothered! Do what you like. Play yourself in goal for all we care!

Telekom Knockout – Another sponsor named tournament, this is a 16-team knockout competition, single game elimination, so no home and away. Only Premier League teams enter, starts in October and is done in December (equivalent – League Cup, Carabao, Rumbalows, Milk, Carling, Worthingtons, “insert sponsor name here” Cup, but much smaller).

I only need to win 1 game in this, so progress from round 1 to the quarters basically. Will probably be down to who I draw and if I’m home or away I reckon.

2025/26 objective – Reach the quarter-finals.

Nedbank Cup – They do love their sponsors in South Africa, money, money, money. This is the FA Cup. The prelim round is in December but Prem teams don’t enter until the 1st round in February. The final is mid-May. Single game knockout again.

1st round, 2nd round then quarters, which my rather unimaginative board has again pegged as a target, just like the Telekom.

2025/26 objective – Reach the quarter-finals.

MTN 8 – Yet another telecoms firm! But this one is a pre-season competition featuring the top eight (get it, from the name?) teams from the previous season’s Premiership standings. After the train wreck of last season before my arrival, that ain’t us. Well, not this year at least.

Strangely, the quarters are single game knockout, the semi final is two legs, and the final is a single game. Either way, the only thing you need to know about this bad boy is the prize money. 8m Rand goes to the winner, which in more familiar terms, is £1m. That’s a huge amount at this level. I’ll earmark this as one to win as soon as possible!

2025/26 objective – Didn’t qualify, losers!



  • The club (hereby known as ACT for ease) is coming off a season where they won the CAF Confederations Cup (Europa League) but finished 15th and narrowly avoided relegation.
  • ACT has a few rivals, but the big one is cross-towners Cape Town City, who we share a stadium with. It’s like Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield United all over again….
  • The squad is a mess, with only one recognised striker and few players that will fit into my 4-4-2. Our best player is a semi-lazy AM(L) with a bit of flair, so that’s not ideal.
  • The board has set out some fairly modest aims, including avoiding relegation, plus a win or two in each of our cup competitions.
  • ACT has an existing senior affiliation with Ajax Amsterdam that I’ll probably need to tap into if I’m going to fill my squad out in a meaningful way.


Youth – Prospects and potential



It’s difficult to say who is a solid prospect at this stage as I don’t really have a firm grasp on the standard of football in South Africa, the standard of my own team, and how I stack up compared to Europe’s top sides.

Once I know that, it’ll be easier to peg who I think can ultimately make the grade.

Plus, and it's just a minor note this one.....I fired most of my staff when I arrived (nice guy that I am, but they were terrible), and now I don’t really have a good read on most players. Egg on my face there!

By using what little intel I have from my remaining staff, I can say this as a rough rule of thumb:

  • I have five 16-year-olds who I reckon will translate to 4/5 stars for PA
  • I have one 23-year-old who has 4.5 stars for PA
  • I have about four 16-year-olds with 3.5/4.5 stars for PA

In short, there’s something here to work with by South African standards, but if that will translate into creating players that are then able to compete in Europe, I’m far less certain.



  • You can just read this bit. But basically, I don’t know much about the youth players at the club, for reasons that will remain largely ignored.....
  • There does seem to be some talent at my disposal, but that’s by South African standards. If they’ll make the grade at the top level very much remains to be seen.


Structure – Off the pitch



So the club is….unspectacular on the pitch. How about off it? Any chance the club’s training ground gets sold before I’ve completed my first year?


No complaints here, the stadium is an absolute stunner.


The official capacity for Cape Town Stadium seems to vary, but FM has it pegged as 64,100.

Built in 2009 ready for the 2010 World Cup, the stadium was one of 10 used across the tournament. The site has since hosted other sports, rugby, cricket, tennis, plus concerts. It is also shared with rivals Cape Town City.

Whilst it is undoubtedly a spanking good stadium, it is also hugely impractical. As you can imagine, there aren’t many 64,100 seater stadiums in League 1 and League 2, for good reason as well.

The average attendance for ACT last season was 13,943.

Steppenläufer Tumbleweed GIF - Steppenläufer Tumbleweed Windy GIFs

In real life, it appears the stadium is despised locally. It is a huge tax burden for the city, is hardly used, is massively oversized, has few tenants outside of ACT and Cape Town City (who hardly have any fans anyway), and most citizens are already calling for it to be demolished.

That’s legacy for you, FIFA. Thanks guys.


So the stadium is huge, and the rest of the club is actually fantastic.

Shaquille ONeal Excited GIF - ShaquilleONeal Excited Shaking GIFs

Turns out all that money from Amsterdam can pay for a thing or two. As mentioned previously, I have an editor installed to grab the facility levels as numbers rather than text, so I can tell you the club’s facilities are as follows.

  • Training facilities 18/20
  • Youth Facilities 18/20
  • Youth Importance 20/20
  • Youth Recruitment 17/20
  • Junior Coaching 15/20

Tasty. It was one of the reasons I was drawn to ACT originally, but yes, those facilities should help me in my quest to push South Africa into becoming a footballing superpower!

The only downer is that the data analysis facilities are pretty much non-existent. Seems odd that so much of the club would be excellent and that has been left behind, but no bother. An early area for improvement.


Ahhhh, here we go. This is more what I was expecting. The stadium is tops, the facilities are stunning. The staff are poor.

It’s a twofold issue in fact. The existing staff are poor, both compared to what other clubs in South Africa have but certainly in comparison to where I’ve come from. But also there’s large swathes of jobs that have no staff member at all, including no reserve, U21 or U19 staff pretty much.

What staff we do have are replaceable. My average rating for each training area at present is 1.6 stars for the seniors and 0 stars for the U21s, as I have no staff.

The standard is loooooow, but at least I know where I’m starting and it’s a clean slate to work with for the most part. We don’t need to pay off staff if we hardly have any employed!


It was always going to be a shock to the system to go from the excess of the English Premier League to South Africa, but this is quite the step!

In the bank, we have a solid £1.2m. That seems fairly healthy.

The transfer budget for this season is £120,000.

The wage budget is £31,000 per week.

Just to put that into context, the last deal I did for SWFC was to buy Tommy Doyle from Man City for £32.5m, and he earns £135k a week.

That is quite the contrast!



  • The club has a massive stadium that it doesn’t even come close to filling. It’s a stunning venue that was built for the 2010 World Cup, and it is shared with rivals Cape Town City. To say it is hugely disproportionate to what the club needs is an understatement.
  • ACT have facilities that rival most teams in the world, and they outstrip every other team in South Africa. That includes youth facilities, junior coaching and youth recruitment.
  • The staffing structure is in a shocking state, with huge gaps across the club where nobody is employed. Those that are employed aren’t good at all.
  • Current training levels are 1.6 stars average for seniors, and 0 stars average for U21s, as I have no U21 staff!
  • There’s £1.2m in the bank, with a transfer kitty of £120,000 and £31,000 per week to spend on wages.


National Side - Bafana Bafana



I think it is fair to say that the grand FIFA plan to award the 2010 World Cup to South Africa to kick start their emergence on the footballing stage has failed to materialise thus far.

2010 is still the last World Cup that South Africa qualified for, and they did that as the hosts anyway. The country also hasn’t won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) since 1996.

In fact, Bafana Bafana as they’re known, have probably gone backwards since my FM game has begun.

The side didn’t make the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Won by Italy and “Saviour 2.0” Seb Esposito, my feelings on that particular competition as a manager are well documented in this thread. The CAF sides that made the tournament were Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, DR Congo and Cameroon.

Likewise, the results at AFCON tournaments have also been poor. Although the country has made it out of the group stage of each other the last three tourneys, that’s about as good as it’s gotten. Crashing out at the 2nd round (basically the first knockout game once the group stage is completed) in both 2021 and 2023, they went one step further and lost in the QFs in 2025.

That means South Africa haven’t reached the final four of their own continental tournament since 2000. That's a hefty stretch for such a country.

At present, South Africa are ranked 76th in the world, behind countries such as Iran, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Panama.

Not good.

The country does have some quality. Teboho Mokoena has been at Celtic for a few years and is worth around £11m, he’s a solid M(C). Centre back Rivaldo Coetzee played for ACT many moons ago but left in 2018 to go to rivals Mamelodi Sundowns. In 2023 he went to Dynamo Kiev, so he’s in the Champions League as well. Left winger Siphesihle Ndlovu is perhaps the other notable star, clocking in at about £13m for Sampdoria, top half of Serie A.

There are other reasons to be optimistic. The reconfiguration of the World Cup to expand the number of teams that qualify has opened the door on that front. Previously only five CAF teams made the cut and this has increased to nine for 2026, with South Africa sealing one of those spots. That means they’ll be in North America this coming summer.

In 2020, 2022 and 2024, South Africa also won the African Nations Championships (abbreviated as CHAN, for some reason). The CHAN happens every two years, alternating with the AFCON. It is a CAF tournament where only players from domestic leagues can be selected. A form of B Team tournament if you will, but it’s specifically aimed at domestic talent across African nations. That suggests there are at least some solid domestic players in South Africa.

There will be another CHAN in January of 2026, so about 6 months away.



  • South Africa have floundered in recent years and currently sit 76th in the world rankings.
  • The country last appeared at the World Cup in 2010, when they qualified as hosts. The missed out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but will be at the 2026 World Cup due to the expanded format.
  • South Africa haven’t won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) since 1996 and haven’t made the last four since 2000. Since my FM game began, the team has made the QFs just once.
  • There are some talented South African players scattered amongst Europe’s top leagues, and the African Nations Championship (CHAN), which only features domestically based players, was won by South Africa in 2020, 2022, and 2024.


Other – Because some things don’t fit anywhere else



Not much to cover in this section as we’ve only just moved on.

It speaks quite highly of the job I did at Sheffield Wednesday that Thomas Tuchel was lured from the bright lights of PSG to replace me at Hillsborough.

The Owls’ top brass paid £20m in compensation for his services, that felt like quite the compliment indeed!

The club didn’t really buy anyone in the summer outside of players that I’d already lined up before my departure.

Tommy Doyle came in, as did a young full back from PSG (funnily enough!) called Cyril Sylla. Goalkeeping prodigy Tiago Pimenta finalised his deal and moved to S6, as did the Mid-Western Ronaldino, Reinaldinho.

The only bit of business that Tuchel did of his own was to sign newgen Jaud Kayembe from AS Monaco for £2m. He’s 17, so I won’t judge him quite yet, but he could turn into a handy player and for that price, the club will 100% turn a decent profit on him.

On the international front, Paul Hurst is still gearing England up for the 2026 World Cup, which is now just a year away. I’ll be sure to keep an eye on that one as well, but I am 100% certain he will fail and I should have his job right now.

Still not bitter, honest.


  • Again, not a super long section if you want to glance, but Wednesday paid £20m in compensation to PSG and signed Thomas Tuchel to replace me.
  • Wednesday did very little business in the summer apart from to finalise deals I’d already lined up.
  • Paul Hurst and England are a year out from the 2026 World Cup, and I should have his job were it not for the FA’s incompetence.

So there we are. Introduction completed!

That was longer than expected, I do apologise. As predicted, it was text heavy, and hopefully you stuck with it. Only a few more updates then season one will be in the rear-view mirror and you can have more shiny pictures to look at going forward!

Thanks guys.

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

I finally managed to have a read through a what a save you have here, well written with so much depth. 

Looking forward to seeing how it goes in South Africa! 

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21 hours ago, ToMexico!! said:

I finally managed to have a read through a what a save you have here, well written with so much depth. 

Looking forward to seeing how it goes in South Africa! 

Thank you matey, very kind of you to say.

Hopefully things go our way, and I'll keep an eye on your thread as well :-)

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  • 2 weeks later...


So, with the introductions out of the way, it was time to dive in. Two footed as well, no messing about. I was a little apprehensive about what could be achieved, at least in the short term, given the quality of both the playing squad and the staff that were already in place. We had to start somewhere though.

Just to recap, the Premier League season in South Africa is split into four periods. The first is eight games and lasts just over two months from late August to 1st November. The second is seven games and ends in mid-December. There is then about a six-week break for the AFCON or CHAN to take place.

Period three begins about a week into February, with eight games until mid-March. Period four is then mid-March until mid-May, with those seven games wrapping the season up.

My approach was going to be a simple one. I was going to try and replicate everything I did at SWFC as closely as possible, budgetary constraints aside, as it was a proven formula in terms of tactics, approach, training and so on. Would it work in South Africa? We were going to find out!

Oh, and once again, apologies for the amount of text. It will get better soon, promise!


Team – On the pitch



So, what were my first impressions?


Right off the bat, this was almost a semi-pro set up, amateur in fact. The team trains once a day, occasionally twice. That wasn’t going to cut it, and these boys were about to be in for a rude awakening!

In keeping with what I did with the Owls, it’s two sessions a day with an extra set piece/technical/team building/low impact session on top. Mainly focussing on ball retention, pressing, defending from the front, all those types of things.

It seemed like the combination of poor coaches already at club kind of went hand in hand with the lousy schedule, so both will be overhauled.

Early success

Pre-season went well, 4 wins and a draw against some fun sides, including Steenberg United, Cape Omoya United and Mpumalanga United. Catchy!

I won 4-1 and then 2-0 in the CAF Confederations Cup prelim round, so that was positive to.

I went into the CAF Super Cup against ES Tunis, a powerhouse and six-time CAF Champions League winner from Tunisia, with pretty low expectations. The team was still trying to mesh with my system, the one striker thing wasn’t ideal, and the lack of M(L) and M(R) in a 4-4-2 was an ongoing concern.

That said, we won 1-0. The revolution had begun! I’d love to say some 18-year-old local product had popped up with the winner, but that would have been too perfect. Instead it was left back/left mid Rodrick Kabwe, my only non-South African player in fact!

It’s worth noting it was also the club’s first ever CAF Super Cup, so we’re breaking new ground already. Excellent all round.

I also continued my solid form in the CAF Confederations Cup, knocking off Senegal’s AS Academie Generation Foot 6-0 on aggregate to meet the board’s objective and reach the group stage. Another tick.

Transfers – part 1

As previously discussed, the squad was a bit of a mess. Sadly, I somewhat shot myself in the foot early on this one and my initial ability to bring players in was seriously hampered.

Here was my thinking, see if you can spot where the pitfall is:

Step 1 – Come into club, look at existing staff.

Step 2 – Realise existing staff are abysmal, sack 95% of said staff immediately.

Step 3 – Hire much better staff.

Step 4 – Success!

10 points for anyone that said step 3, because after firing pretty much all my staff, I realised that unlike yours truly, nobody actually really wanted to come and join my one-man crusade in South Africa to raise the mighty ACT into a global superpower.

It took some back and forth for my lofty desire for top class staff to drop and align with what I could actually appoint, and the meeting point between the two was disappointingly low. Crushingly low in fact haha

That also applied to my scouts, so I was pretty much recruiting blind during my first summer as I pondered getting some early reinforcements in.

In the end, I settled on picking up a young 19-year-old centre back from Ajax on a loan called Ardit Strakosha, and I bought Sundowns keeper Reyaad Pieterse for a whopping £17k. Both were easy on the registration front though, Pieterse is South African and Strakosha doesn’t need to be registered until he’s 21.

Still, hardly the sweeping squad changes that we probably needed. But that was largely my fault so the less said the better. Moving swiftly on!

Results + table

Yes, finally a screen shot! And a chance to drop a spoiler inside a spoiler, class!



I’ll say this, there’s a lot of green there! Gutted to knocked out in the Telekom 1st round, but I did say during my intro that reaching the quarters would largely depend on the draw I got and away to Kaizer Chiefs is probably one of the hardest draws I could have received. The board agreed, no harm done.

We were unbeaten in the league at the halfway stage, 15 games. 12 wins, three draws, but annoyingly one was against rivals Cape Town City. Still, it wasn’t a loss. I also never lost to Sheffield United, Barnsley or Rotherham, so the derby streak lives on.

Sadly, the screen shots start and stop with the results above, so I’ll have to tell you I was top of the league, eight points ahead of Orlando in second.

With little squad depth, a number of kids were already playing serious minutes and more than holding their own (as results suggest).

Cole Schoeman was the saviour 3.0. Despite his 2.5 star CA billing, the 25-year-old had 17 goals from 23 games in all competitions. Go on lad!

Transfers – part 2

By the time the window opened again January, I had a much better handle on what we needed, I had some scouts in place, and most importantly, I knew that what we had already was capable of winning the league, give or take.

January consisted of four loans and a permanent transfer. On loan we had:

  • ST(C) Anderson Luiz (FLA)
  • ST(C) Ciro Bickel (GRE)
  • M(C) Jergo Meerdink (Ajax)
  • D(C) Klaus Bay (KOB)

Two strikers from Brazil. Both were recruited without me knowing half of their attributes, but what I could see made me confident they would rip up South Africa. I got in an attacking minded centre mid from Ajax in Meerdink, and then also picked up another CB in the shape of Klaus Bay from FC Copenhagen (more about that one in the club section).

The only piece of permanent business I made was to buy a 4.5* PA M(R) from Bloemfontein Celtic called Collins Nene. He looks pretty tidy for 17, should immediately get minutes in an area where I lack depth, and he cost me £74k. That pretty much ended my budget for the season, but hopefully he joins the conveyor belt of talent heading to Europe in a year or two.

Oh, and all 5 players are U21, so no need for registration issues either. Hurrah!



The club is set up in a semi-pro fashion at best, with limited training sessions planned each week. This has been remedied immediately. Get running, boys!

We won the club’s first ever CAF Super Cup, beating reputable Tunisian side ES Tunis 1-0. Our first trophy!

The club is unbeaten through 15 league games, with 12 wins and three draws. We drew the first Ikapa derby 1-1 against Cape Town City.

We’re top of the league at the halfway stage, leading second place Orlando Pirates by eight points.

We got knocked out of the Telekom Cup, but continue to go well in the CAF Confederation Cup, reaching the group stages and winning three from three so far.

Due to sacking off all the deadwood staff when I first arrived, recruitment has been slow. A South African GK plus a CB from Ajax on loan were brought in during pre-season, with four further loans in January plus the permanent signing of a 17-year-old South African M(R) called Collins Nene for £74k.


Youth – Prospects and potential



This is another short section.

Through 15 league games and a few cup matches, multiple players have featured. Some had impressed, some hadn’t, most had been fairly inconsistent. They are kids, after all.

Some players were beginning to emerge, and coupled with the rather unreliable star ratings from my rag-tag bunch of backroom staff, I could take a stab in the dark and say:

  • AM(C) Asanele Velebhayi looks a solid prospect, and at 22, he could be retrained to the attacking mid of my centre mid pairing. He’s played 12 games so far, with a rating of just over 7 and two goals.
  • ST(C) Teboho Byrne also looks fairly handy, and he’s scoring at more than a goal a game from my U21s despite being 17. He’s hasn’t scored in a handful of senior appearances so far, however.
  • DM(C) Asavela Burgess is 16 and clocking a 7.62 rating across 22 U19 and U21 appearances. He has also been given a smattering of first team opportunities, with mixed results. Retraining is also needed, like Velebhayi, to make him a M(C).

This is no doubt a section that will begin to flesh out once we get into future seasons, but they’re my early observations for now.



Not a lot to this section, so dive into it if you wish.

I’ve picked three players out that have impressed initially, 22-year old AM(C) Asanele Velebhayi, 17-year-old striker Teboho Byrne and 16-year-old DM(C) Asavela Burgess.


Structure – Off the pitch



Staff recruitment – part 1

Oh boy. Live look in at my first off-season from a staffing perspective:

Slide Drift GIF - Slide Drift Crash GIFs

I came in hot, and it didn't really pan out, to put it mildly.

In a lot of cases, I eventually signed guys just to have "someone". It turns out having a terrible member of staff was only marginally better than not having anyone, but a lot these early hires are on borrowed time before they’ve even walked in the door.

That said, I lucked my way into a solid Head of Youth Development. 55-year-old Paulo Noga had recently finished a stint at the Shandong Luneng Football School in China, and remarkably (unlike 99% of the initial staff members I approached), he wanted to join me!

With 16 for JPP and JPA, and 19 for working with youngsters, he was actually good. The sort of staff members I was hoping I’d be able to sign.

Alas, that trend didn’t continue. The fact the board would only give me a pitiful amount in staff wages combined with the complete dead fish appeal of South African football, recruitment was a long and disappointing thrash.

In the end, I managed to at least appoint a reserve, U21 and U19 manager, and an assistant manager for myself who was barely usable. Honestly, I don’t think I’d have trusted him to be a cone on the training ground every day. The English Premier League was a long and distant memory....

The only signings of note, Noga aside, were as follows:

  • I signed former Blackburn keeper Bobby Mimms as a goalkeeping coach. This guy has had more clubs than I’ve had hot dinners, and as a relatively rotund fellow, that is some achievement. Wiki suggests he played for 13 teams in his career, and he’s had 13 different coaching jobs since 2001. Oh, and he’s won the Premier League with Blackburn as a player. Most recently he’d been knocking around India with ATK in Kolkata, plus SC East Bengal (and a stop with the Bangladesh national side in there to). Still, he was an 18/17/17 GK coach, and was gratefully snapped up.
  • I signed Arjen Robben as a coach. Yeah, that Arjen Robben. With 96 caps to his name, this was his first job since he retired at Bayern in 2019, and he was a 3.5 star possession – technical coach that I was happy to have on board.

The various signings allowed my coaching ratings to rise to the following:

  • Senior training – 1.6 star average to 2.4 star average, then up to 3.15 in January.
  • U21 training – 0 star average to 1.4 star average, then up to 2.9 in January.


I was yet to convince the board to really improve any of our already impressive facilities due to my limited time at the club, but one thing they did sign off was to improve the data analysis facilities.

I had, however, found out why those facilities were so badly lacking when everything else at the club appeared so shiny and new.

From what I can gather, data analysis isn’t a thing in South African football. I was led to this realisation when I was filling my staff, and went to search for available data analysts.

There are none. Perhaps I had ticked a box wrong, or set my criteria too high. I checked the search settings. Nope. It was set to show me literally any interested data analysts in the world, of any ability.


Sports Scientists were a similar story. There was 1 of those available for me. In the world.

So for now, I’ll just keep improving my data analysis facilities, even if I can’t find anyone to use them!


In short, these were looking pretty good.

In a rare turn events for a football club, we weren’t losing money. Good job as well, given the relatively meagre amounts we were talking about. Getting into the red with such a modest income would have been dire at this level.

So we are making cash, but not a lot.

My original £1.2m in the bank has increased to £2.3m, but neither my transfer budget nor my wage budget has increased.

Still, going well on the money front. Shouldn’t be selling the Academy any time soon!

A new affiliate

It appears that getting young loan players in that don’t need to be registered as they’re U21 will be a useful way to go.

With that in mind I went, cap in hand, to the board and asked for a new senior affiliate. They weren’t willing to give me the power to choose one, but of the teams they came back with, FC Copenhagen seemed the most likely candidate.

And so it was done, and that’s how CB Klaus Bay came to the club as well. Hopefully the stream of prospects from Denmark is as fruitful as the one from Holland!



The club brought in some new staff, but in a lot of cases they were pretty terrible hires.

We did manage to find a pretty good Head of Youth Development, a good goalkeeping coach in former Premier League winner Bobby Mimms, and Dutch winger Arjen Robben.

Training averages currently stand at 3.15 stars for the seniors and 2.9 for the U21s.

The club has begun upgrading the data analysis facilities, though recruiting both data analysts and sports scientists is proving highly problematic.

The club was slowly making money, with the finances up from £1.2m to £2.3m in the bank. Neither my transfer budget nor wage budget had increased however.

We have a new affiliate in FC Copenhagen, with a young CB already joining us from Denmark in Klaus Bay.


National Side - Bafana Bafana



Not a lot cooking for the national side, who managed a win over Sudan plus a pair of draws with Guinea-Bissau and one against DR Congo to scrap through to the upcoming World Cup. Hardly setting the world on fire, and they wouldn’t have made it were it not for the expanded format and more teams qualifying than in previous years.

They did have two friendly games in the period as well, pulling out a 2-0 win away to Libya, and a 5-3 victory on the road in Liberia. Not much to draw from those results either as both teams aren’t highly ranked, unsurprisingly.

There’s two final AFCON qualifiers for next January’s tournament still to play next month against Niger and Nigeria, but Bafana Bafana should have enough about them to still make it through.

In January, there was a CHAN tournament but despite SA’s recent success at that tournament, we didn’t even qualify. Very odd drop off indeed, but yeah, nothing to write about from the January break I’m afraid, just lots of guys sat around with nothing to do!

Only one other piece of business and that is ranking. South Africa is now 70th in the world, which is a small rise from 76 in the last update. It’s not much, but it’s something at least.



The team has qualified for the 2026 World Cup, but not by much, and they wouldn’t have made it were it not for the tournament's expansion.

There were also friendly wins away to Libya and Liberia, both of which are pretty poor opponents.

South Africa have two final AFCON qualifiers in March, but the team should qualify regardless. The tournament is next January, so a year or so to wait.

This season’s January break contained a CHAN tournament for domestically based national team player. SA didn’t qualify, despite winning the last three CHAN tournaments in a row.

We’re ranked 70th in the world, up from 76 in the last update.


Other – Because some things don’t fit anywhere else


Nothing To See Here Explosion GIF - NothingToSeeHere Explosion Explode GIFs


You don’t need to skip past this section as…..there isn’t one this time.

Nothing really interesting or worthy of note happened, so there’s nothing extra to add. I've kept you good folks here long enough as it is. I’d say you got off lightly, but given the amount of text above, you really haven’t!

One more update to go, then we’re through season one.

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