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[FM21] Hometown Heroes


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June 2020: Preface

I’ve always been hesitant of managing my hometown club, particularly as my username gives a pretty good idea of what my actual name is. However, in a town of nearly eighty-five thousand people – I’d like to think that there is more than one Ben who enjoys this past time and, maybe, more than one Ben who enjoys diving as deep into said past time as I do.

Inspired, hugely, by @Jimbokav1971 and his trip ‘home’ – I’m doing the same. This is my journey. Born and raised less than a mile away from the club and having actually played for the youth levels of this club, I feel that this is something I can really get into.

Edited by _Ben_
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June 2020: Redditch - an introduction

Typing ‘Redditch’ into Google sees this as one the top results:

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However, as mentioned before, Redditch is home to me. Where I grew up.

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First mentioned back in 1348 and named after, you guessed it, a red ditch near the River Arrow, there isn’t a huge amount to say about it. In the 19th century, it was the pioneering centre of the needle industry and later prominent industries were fish-hooks, fishing tackle, motorcycles and springs but the biggest claim to fame is, probably, the fact that John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin fame) was born here, Harry Styles (of One Direction fame) was also born here and, allegedly, Ozzy Osbourne lived here for a bit. 

About 10 miles south of Birmingham and 15 North West of Stratford, it’s both a hotbed for commuters and also a really difficult decision about where you say you’re from as nobody really knows where Redditch is. You’re more likely to know Redditch born Jacqui Smith and her expenses scandal or Jacqui Smith and her renting of adult films from the tax-payer’s money rather than actually know where Redditch is or who comes from there. With a population of just about 85,000 people – it is, apparently, the 233rd largest town in this country but is home to only a couple of sportspeople of note: Nottingham Forest winger Joe Lolley being the main one.

Over the years – the town has been home to small pockets of different communities. In the 1960s, there was a particularly strong Jamaican demographic, thanks, largely, to Windrush. In the early 1990s, a large Pakistani contingent took over and, more recently, there has been a large influx of Eastern Europeans. As of 2011, 3.1% of the population was Pakistani, 0.7% Caribbean but a further 1.3% mixed White and Black Caribbean and 3.9% Eastern European – giving Redditch the highest BME % in the whole of Worcestershire.

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All of these links will become apparent in the next few posts…

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June 2020: Redditch United

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Redditch United Football Club is an English football club based in Redditch, Worcestershire. The club participates in the Southern League Premier Division Central and play their home games at the Valley Stadium, which has a capacity of 5,000 with seating for 250 people.

Established in 1891, the club has only really tasted success at a local level but did spend a few seasons at Conference North level back in the mid-2000s.

They survived relegated from the Southern Football League Premier Division Central (level 7) at the end of last season, despite being 24th out of 24 teams due to the scrapping of the league following the COVID lockdown – registering just 3 wins from their 33 games.

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There are two teams in Redditch; United and Borough with the latter appearing at level 11. However, Redditch United operates a widespread junior and women’s football scheme and has served the community well for a long time. Again - there will be more on this link later on.

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June 2020: Aims of the Save

As with all of my saves - I'll be going in depth across a wide variety of different areas. So much so, that I'll introduce these in a few posts over the next hours/days as I get things prepared to start my save. In no particular order:

 

  1. Improving the standard of football in the Midlands
  2. Player Development
  3. Staff Development
  4. Financial prudency
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June 2020: Aim 1 - Improving the standard of football in the Midlands

Below is my wonderfully created map of the midlands, with added logos for the teams that play here:

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Whilst this is a relatively footballing rich area - the level that these clubs play at is actually quite poor, with the vast majority playing below the professional levels on the pyramid.

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My plan over the course of this save is to not only develop Redditch United as a club, but also, initially, to feed off the bigger clubs around me and, simultaneously, develop those smaller than ourselves. Whilst I'm not into narratives per se - I want to focus some updates on the growth of these clubs, too.

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June 2020: Aim 2 - Player Development

As always, I will be focusing hugely on player development, with the majority of the players come through my academy. However - as this is not truly a youth only save, I will be recruiting players but, for immersion sake, from a narrowed pool of players. I want to pay close attention to players who come from local areas - below are listed some of the towns near to Redditch:

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I plan to focus recruitment also on an area that is close to my heart and, as I mentioned before, based on the demographics of Redditch. As mentioned, this town has the highest percentage of BME people across the whole of Worcestershire. This is interesting for me as it is known widespread that the professional game doesn't represent the proportions of BME people in this country. Below is some information I gathered regarding South Asians in the Premier League - in accordance with the large Pakistani population that Redditch has:.

I don't think that I'm necessarily going to be signing players from India and Pakistan considering the level of football, but it will be interesting to monitor and analyse the diversity of newgens produced through the club.

Club football

  • A Commission for Racial Equality survey in 2004 found only seven professional British Asian footballers playing in the UK; the same survey also found only ten British Asian players at Premier League academies. By February 2008 the number of professionals had dropped to just five, and less than 1 in 100 of young players in Academies throughout the entire English football league system were Asian. Current professionals, such as Adnan Ahmed, have publicly spoken out about the lack of fellow Asians in the sport.
  • Roger Verdi, of Indian origin, was forced to change his name because of racism, and had to move to the United States to start a professional career.
  • Zesh Rehman, of Pakistani origin, was the first British Asian to play in the Premiership. Rehman later launched his own Foundation in May 2010, with the intention of helping young British Asians in football.
  • Anwar Uddin, of Bangladeshi origin, was the first British Asian to captain a side in the top four divisions of English League football.
  • In 2011, British-Pakistani footballer Kashif Siddiqi founded the Kashif Siddiqi Foundation, with the aim to encourage increase the participation of British Asians in association football.
  • In October 2013 the Football Association announced plans to encourage an increase in British Asian players and coaches.
  • In December 2015, Yan Dhanda became the second professional Asian player in the Premier League, after Neil Taylor. Dhanda signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Liverpool.
  • On 28 November 2017, Hamza Choudhury made his Premier League debut for Leicester coming on as substitute in the 83rd minute of a home win against Tottenham Hotspur. He is the first player of Bangladeshi descent to have played in the Premier League, as well as the only Bangladeshi to currently play in the Premier League.
  • In February 2019, Adil Nabi said that he wanted to be an inspiration to other British Asian footballers, in the same way that Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham had done for black players.
  • In October 2019 there were "just 12 players of South Asian heritage across the Premier League and the English Football League".

International football

  • Correct as of November 2015, Neil Taylor is the only British Asian to have won full international caps for one of the home nations, making over 40 appearances for Wales since his debut in 2010. He also represented Great Britain at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
  • Frank Soo, of Chinese heritage, played for the England wartime team and remains the only player of East Asian heritage to do so.
  • In August 2007, trials were organised by the Pakistan Football Federation in Rotherham, South Yorkshire for British Pakistanis players to attend a training camp with the Pakistan national team.

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For other players that I sign - I really want to own certain markets. These markets are planned to not only match my in game manager but also hit regions that Redditch has had strong historical links with - Windrush nations as well as the current Eastern European migration. I would like to set up strongholds in the following nations:

  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Ireland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Windrush nations - mainly Jamaica
  • Poland
  • South Asia
  • USA

I have chosen the USA as my manager will be American (more on him later) but also because of the ever-growing list of imports:

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Missing from there are the likes of Brad Guzan, Brad Friedel and a host of other players who have forged a decent career in this league.

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I will not go into too much detail about my own focus on academy players and developing them as that is readable in other threads - particularly my Voltaco save:

As always - my priority will be on player development through personality development and whole squad growth - which is slightly different from the every player for himself ethos I adopted in South America. I'll have a new challenge of no B team games (as I did with Guadalajara in FM20) and a hectic schedule but I have never experienced the youth levels and that is something that interests me.

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My model, then, looks something like this - once again drawing from the previous post about building and (initially) stealing from the local area:

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June 2020: Aim 3 - Staff Development

Building from the focus on player development - I really want to spend time analysing how to develop my backroom team into the best it can be. I'll spend time analysing personalities and attribute growth as they go through their badges. 

I think that is an area that I have largely overlooked and can't wait to get my teeth into it!

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June 2020: Aim 4 - Financial Prudency

Away from the rags and riches of the Premier League - there isn't much money! Add in what SI has confirmed about COVID and budgets and it needs to be monitored. My plan is to run a steady ship from the ground up, analysing wages, expenditures etc and making sure we are always operating within our means.

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June 2020: Game Setup

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I've retained all current international players, which should give me some interesting newgen re-generation once they retire and also the players from the Regional Premier Divisions - which is where Redditch currently play.

EDIT: I'm not used to running this many leagues but if this feature of the Playable/View-Only (which is amazing) can be switched mid-game, then I'm likely to take out the central European leagues and re-add them once we get to a position whereby they 'matter' - e.g. for recruitment or for competition.

EDIT 2: Because I need to holiday - I can actually run just the English league and add them all back in later on...

Edited by _Ben_
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June 2020: Manager

More thought probably goes into this part of the game than any other. I’ve been lucky enough to have a son in the vast majority of recent editions but, of course, couldn’t just settle for a ‘boring’ English youngster.

Normally, I settle for my favourite newgen from the last version but I didn’t feel that having Brazilians Joao Fernando or Geilton suddenly arriving in little old Redditch at a Conference North side very realistic.

Therefore, meet Noah Stazys-Cullman:

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(I didn't bring Geilton, but I brought his face!)

This American/Irish/Lithuanian (can't add three nationalities, sadly!) manager has a lot of depth to his identity. Noah is the third most popular boys name in the West Midlands and I have always had a big gripe with player names on FM, particularly for British players, so I want to experiment with this and have, therefore, gathered census data of birth names. Stazys is a pretty standard (according to Wiki anyway) Lithuanian family name as I pay homage to the Eastern European settlement in Redditch and I decided to use the double-barrelled attachment of Cullman, a town in Alabama to make a link to a) his American nationality and b) something I want to explore within the game going further.

Noah was born in Brooklyn, NY on May 16, 1986 as homage to Brooklyn Field Club – the first winners of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Born 72 years after their final victory. His favourite team is the ‘wannabe’ expansion team Las Vegas as I look to identify a link to a club in North America that I’d like to make with Redditch United.

Some in-game shots:

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Edited by _Ben_
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5 minutes ago, Ronaldo Beckham said:

Awesome opening post. Very detailed and I am interested in seeing how you get on. I live near Redditch so I like that the team is local to me. 

Good luck with your save.

Thank you! I've never managed to get a game with Redditch to stick but now seems like as good time as any! I'm glad that you'll be able to have some kind of emotional connection to them, too.

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10 hours ago, _Ben_ said:

 

EDIT: I'm not used to running this many leagues but if this feature of the Playable/View-Only (which is amazing) can be switched mid-game, then I'm likely to take out the central European leagues and re-add them once we get to a position whereby they 'matter' - e.g. for recruitment or for competition.

EDIT 2: Because I need to holiday - I can actually run just the English league and add them all back in later on...

I use view only a lot, but when you do add it as playable, the league history page only shows what you've don in game. So if you've done season 20/21, that bar graph will only show that season, so 1 line

And player histories are rubbish too. If you've done say 5 seasons, in the players history tab it'll miss those seasons out and only show the first season and the current season. So if you've got a first team player that's been at the club 8 years will only have stats for the first and current season. 

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Will follow this!

 

Interesting both you can Jimbo have gone back "home" as I was going to do the exact same this year. Normally I would start unemployed and take the first LL club that would appeal but this year I'm doing a dafuge-esque challenge and wait until Hitchin Town (where I was born) get promoted and take over them :) 

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19 hours ago, Conan21 said:

Will be following! 

Thank you!

8 hours ago, Justified said:

Will follow this!

 

Interesting both you can Jimbo have gone back "home" as I was going to do the exact same this year. Normally I would start unemployed and take the first LL club that would appeal but this year I'm doing a dafuge-esque challenge and wait until Hitchin Town (where I was born) get promoted and take over them :) 

He really inspired me, to be fair. I've always been anti-managing in England, for some reason, but I felt like a change!

8 hours ago, Toffle said:

Let's go Ben! I'll follow your adventures on FM21 as usual :thup:

I suggest that you rename after you the newgen that will remind you the most of the player you were there. It's alright if you had a low CA :D

That's a really good idea! I'll see what happens!

11 hours ago, bigmattb28 said:

I use view only a lot, but when you do add it as playable, the league history page only shows what you've don in game. So if you've done season 20/21, that bar graph will only show that season, so 1 line

And player histories are rubbish too. If you've done say 5 seasons, in the players history tab it'll miss those seasons out and only show the first season and the current season. So if you've got a first team player that's been at the club 8 years will only have stats for the first and current season. 

I had to read that a few times to know what you meant! Yes - I know, it's when it adds players in to the game. I'm not overly fussed with this as I'll add them several years before I need to face them and my plan is to not recruit too much anyway, which won't impact my own investment with my player statistics.

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June 2021: Initial board vision

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A nice, steady start for us - predicted to just stay up at this point.

I do really like this club culture though:

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Very much fits in to what I am planning to build over the long term.

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June 2021: Finances

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We are predicted, like most lower level clubs, to make pretty big losses across this year. If I can work out how to stop the loss of circa £400k - I think this is imperative. It appears that our wage bill totals £5,486 p/w - totally just over £285k this year. This needs trimming, certainly but also I need to see how I can offset the other ~£120k losses.

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June 2021: Playing Squad

Here is the squad that I have inherited:

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Star players are few and far between but my assistant has picked out the following as top players:

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There are just three players in the U23 squad (a 43 year old, a 34 year old and a 19-year old newgen) and we, currently, have no U18 squad - which is maybe linked to our lack of youth level (I hope?)

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June 2021: Hierarchy

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A lack of team leaders is both a nice blank slate and also a worry for me. I think that some early recruitment will be set on bringing through an experienced head with a good personality.

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June 2021: Initial Meetings

I quite like this new meetings feature but think it'll wear off pretty quickly. Here are the results from our first chat:

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I've got a year to stay up, play some kids and improve the staffing - that seems like a wonderful aim.

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June 2021: Initial Player Development

Not much to really speak of right now, but there are a few players who I'll be looking to develop slightly differently:

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Despite being a centre back by trade, the 6'6" lad looks to me like an ideal anchor man. I've not delved into any kind of formation or style yet but he's far too slow to play in the defence, so I'll use the A(d) schedule to see how he can change, making use of his Teamwork, Bravery, Leadership and Work Rate.

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Probably the best player that we have - Taylor will move backwards and train as a IWB(s) - probably my favourite role for a full back, as seen below. He's decent enough on the ball for this role and his extra playmaking efforts from deeper may come in useful.

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Despite no good attributes, Kieran also lacks bad ones - and, given his 6'1" frame - could move to become a decent ball playing centre back, moving back from his CM position right now.

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July 2021: Building the backroom

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Some nice improvements here. I worry that we're now paying more for the extra staff - but I feel that it's necessary. We also don't have a unified backroom 'style' yet through either personality or playing style/formation but this is still early days.

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New Signing: Filip Marschall

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One of very few signings I have planned, Filip hits so many of my criterium, listed above:

  • Released by Villa as I look to profit from other academies
  • Half Polish as I look to recruit players from Eastern Europe as homage to the Polish communities within Redditch.
  • A player that can, potentially, be sold for a profit - although unlikely at this level.

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I've asked Aron Davies to 'welcome' him - remembering how useful it was to impact Personality and Media Handling. For comparison (and taken from FM20 so no idea if still correct)

Marschall - Balanced/Media Friendly.

As a non-newgen, that can mean that any of his attributes can be between 1-20. There are, however, no indicators that anything is especially negative, or, especially positive.

Davies - Fairly Determined/Level Headed

Fairly Determined
Determination 15-17
Professionalism <15, Leader <19

Level Headed
Professionalism 13-20, Loyalty 12-20

Therefore, we can narrow Davies' Professionalism to 13 or 14 - still a decent level this early in the game. This will, hopefully, develop both Marschall's Det (from 8) as well as his professionalism and loyalty.

Edited by _Ben_
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July 2021: Pre Season

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Not quite what I wanted but there wasn't a lot of teams willing to face us.

I've been working on a fairly simple 4-1-4-1 shape but I want us to make sure that we are really tight at the back this season as that's our best chance of staying up/

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August 2021: Kick off

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The first of, hopefully, many.

Hopefully, the introduction of the IR button will help me get through a season or so pretty quickly now so I can get fully immersed. I think I did two years at Volta Redonda on FM20 in a week so that's my aim here...

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September 2021: Clinical?

I'll try and update, in the early stages, every two or three months as not a lot is going on. However - I wanted to have a little look at Shaquille McDonald and the impact he has on our team - to keep my eye in with this kind of analysis, if nothing else.

He has scored 5 goals from 8 games at an AR of 7.31. More importantly, those 5 goals equate to all of my league goals this season. Here he is in comparison with players in both the Vanarama North and Vanarama South.

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There are three standout names (no attributes sadly as my scouting team aren't good enough to know any of them!) and Fielding has 4 goals from 3(3) appearances whilst Wilson has 1 goal from his 4(2) appearances. Digging a little deeper, I can see this:

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He's had the most shots out of anyone and, as mentioned, he's scored the most goals out of anyone. I'd like his conversion rate to be a little higher (Nabi has just the one goal) but it's clear to see that he's the key member of this squad and we'd have nothing if it wasn't for him!

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10 minutes ago, ajt said:

Loving all the detail you're putting in, including the map of the midlands :D

Shaquille looks like he's having a stormer, good luck with your save!

Thanks - the first couple of years are always a little dull. I like to get a few intakes in, get used to the game and feel a bit more immersed - so I'll try and throw in a few bits of extra info along the way. Who doesn't love a good bit of FM geography, too!

Yeah - well, he's literally the reason we aren't bottom of the league right now!

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August/September 2021

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This is a slog! When we've won, we've been alright but when we're not winning - we are absolutely dire. I've gone back to basics - maybe my naivety was to blame with a higher line and IWB at level 6 of the pyramid but now, armed with two very dull Full Back (s) and a standard line - I'm trying to keep the defence a little tighter. We allowed 0.84 xG against Spennymoor and 1.84 against KIdderminster, showing just how different those two results were, despite the same scoreline.

A nice win in the FA cup means we have met our target but I need to see how the next weeks play out as whether I'd like to focus on the cup run, and the money it brings, or staying in this league! 

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October/November 2021

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Tough going still. I'm happy with the St Albans win and the points against Hereford were a bonus as we try to take as many home points as possible. December sees us face Ashton Unite, Blyth and Gainsborough, all at home - so points next month are going to be very important.

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January 2022: New Signing

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Young Scouse Sean Wilson joins after release by Liverpool, as I realise that I'm going to have to reshape this team as the majority of the players are leaving at the end of the year as we cannot afford to keep them (compare his contract of £120 p/w to Aron Davies on £500 p/w and wanting significantly more). I want to rebuild slowly and methodically but I don't think I'll be able to rely on my youth system alone, at this point.

Positives:

  • Passing, first touch and technique is very good for this level
  • Tackling and positioning are an upgrade defensively, too
  • Anticipation and decisions are very good for this level (and maybe 1 or 2 above, too)
  • Naturally fit
  • Low wage and was eager to sign after a trial

Negatives:

  • Very low Determination
  • Right 'only' footed and I don't seem to be able to find where to develop that?
  • Despite coming from an academy - it's not local and doesn't necessarily fit my recruitment targets at this point.
  • Balanced/Media Friendly means I have no background on his personality.
Edited by _Ben_
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January 2022: New Signing

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Ex-Arsenal youngster Tim Akinola joins us to add some extra quality on the left wing.

Positives

  • A decent set piece taker - which we've been missing
  • Dribbling, technique and pace are good
  • Quite Determined

Negatives:

  • Volatile media handling worries me.

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He has just scored twice on his debut, in a thrilling 4-3 victory over promotion chasing Brackley - talk about an immediate impact!

 

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Squad Depth

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Above is my strongest XI - now made up of a few extra signings (Yfeko joins after release by Leicester and Pinnington from Wolves) and, overall, this is a decent line up. Aside from defender-cum-midfielder Lambert, who is the only product of my own club playing, all of these players have either dropped down the leagues or 'journeymanned' their way around the semi pro game before joining us; I'd rather focus on the former in the short term, now realising that my academy is not going to be good enough. It's been a while since I've managed this far down the pyramid and I'm having to re-adjust my own viewpoint on what 'lower leagues' actually are!

The problem comes from my depth outside of this XI:

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I could, feasibly replace all of these but my plan is to move slowly and carefully through recruitment at this point and, in an ideal world - build my team with three or four new players a season. I am, however, happy with the idea that these are largely on non-contracts, which isn't further depleting my already-barren coffers.

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December 2021/January 2022

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This is a very successful month as we have only lost twice and picked up good points against teams around us. Blyth have been on a similarly wonderful run after I picked them out in the last update as a team to beat but, unlike them, we just can't seem to shrug off the threat of the relegation places with teams picking up points from everywhere. There was 22 teams in this league last year but 1PPG was enough to keep teams up and that must be my aim again this year - meaning we need to score at 0.78 PPG over the remaining 18 fixtures to meet my target: hopefully doable.

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Takeover reports are still circling and I'm still getting the feels of this game and continuing to feel immersed by it. I will have my youth intake up soon and I'm undecided about how much detail to go into with it...

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When I started off with Bath in FM20 I discovered you need a couple of years to get the squad right. When I arrived there were very few players I wanted to keep so after the first season I released ALOT. After that you just pick up loads of ex PL club academy players. With your own academy it helps if the club philosophy is to develop your own academy players because then the club is more willing to update the academy, recruitment etc etc.

Interesting you got Akinola, I had him at Bath too 😁 Scarily clinical in front of goal I have to say.

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