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[FM 21] Kedleigh Heath (Create-a-Club)


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I love stories. I enjoy reading them, telling them, and writing them. That's why I became a history teacher. That's why story time has always been among the things my daughter and I have always enjoyed the most.

I also enjoy all kinds of games, including simulation games. They create stories of their own, so websites where people write and read these stories naturally had the potential to draw me in. I've spent time perusing quite a few of these sites, especially this one.  

This morning, I decided to make things official. I signed up for the forum so I can begin to tell a story of my own. Actually, it's not my story alone. I'll have some help bringing it to you.

My daughter Zoe loves football. (Yes, even though we are American, we call it football at our house.  Neither my wife nor my daughter pay the least bit of attention to the American version.) It's another of the things our family has always enjoyed together.

Football Manager has been one of my favorite games for some time now. Zoe doesn't play FM, but she enjoys sitting beside me on the couch and following along as I play. I've bought the game faithfully since 2012.  For a while, I wasn't enjoying the newer versions as much, but I've decided to give FM 21 an extended trial.  

Zoe and I thought about which club we might like to manage.  We thought about journeying to a far-away land where we know nothing about the football culture, but she decided she wanted to see at least a few familiar names in our story.  Then, she noticed the Create-a-Club feature.  "That might be fun to do together!" she exclaimed. 

That's all it took. 

Now it was time to decide what kind of club we would create.  We decided to base our club in England, where we might recognize more of the players we'd be drafting for our bespoke team.  Both of us enjoy streaming Championship, League One, and FA Cup matches nearly as much as we like watching the Premier League.  We also decided we'd like to watch our club grow, so we'll be replacing a League One team with a decent budget.  We picked MK Dons; our apologies to any supporters who just saw their favorite club transformed into something different!

I think we spent the better part of an hour playing with a name generator, trying to come up with an English-sounding name for the home of our imaginary team.  We finally decided on Kedleigh Heath Football Club.  

The Gardeners, as their supporters often call them, play at Remembrance Park.  (Zoe is quite proud of that name).  Honesty compels me to admit that we used the Editor to improve the quality of Kedleigh Heath's training facilities, junior coaching, and youth facilities so they're as good as any in League One.  We both want our club to produce talented young players whom we can follow, either at the Heath or at the clubs they might represent in future.  

Zoe is designing the Gardeners' kit as we speak. Once she's finished, I'll be back to show it to you, and then we'll put a team together for you to meet. We hope you'll enjoy our creation, and the story I'll tell about it.  Please feel free to stop by and comment.  

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Posted (edited)

Here are Zoe's creations.  The club store is already taking orders!

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The home strip uses my university colors.  I'm not sure what her inspirations were for the away and third kits, but I like them.  

The goalkeepers will wear a pink strip at Remembrance Park and an aqua one away from home.

 

 

Edited by Narrator C
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Good luck with that. Since you have the editor maybe you put Zoe as a background suggardady or at least a chairman... that should keep you on your toes. And dont worry about replacing MKDons, they wont be really missed.

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Good luck with Kedleigh :thup:

 

MK Dons are a good club to replace, I am doing the same, not gonna upset many people by doing that.:)

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4 hours ago, Muttley84 said:

Good luck with that. Since you have the editor maybe you put Zoe as a background suggardady or at least a chairman... that should keep you on your toes. And dont worry about replacing MKDons, they wont be really missed.

Thanks!  I think that's a very good idea, but I couldn't find a way to edit any the board members' characteristics.  Zoe is currently an all-action chairman/consultant/recruitment analyst/kit designer, and I am expecting her to also provide team selection guidance, tactical suggestions, and a variety of other advice.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

3 hours ago, Maw74 said:

Good luck with Kedleigh :thup:

 

MK Dons are a good club to replace, I am doing the same, not gonna upset many people by doing that.:)

Thank you!  The more I read about how that club came to be, the more I come to understand what you and Muttley are talking about.  Hopefully the Gardeners will become a beloved club with thousands of loyal supporters (and dozens of them on the FM Career Updates board). :)

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Posted (edited)

Meet the Gardeners

We had so much fun picking the original Gardeners team!  

Zoe and I sat down and talked about how we'd like Kedleigh Heath to play.  We decided to set up in a 4-3-3 with a defensive midfielder, so we picked our players to play the roles we wanted.  I'll tell you more about our tactical vision as I introduce our players to you.  

In this post, you will meet the goalkeepers and full backs.

Goalkeepers

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We're giving Kelleher the chance to wear the number one shirt for us.  We wanted a sweeper keeper, and Kelleher is very well suited for this role. Besides, Zoe likes his name.  Muyters, a solid veteran, and Christiansen, a promising youngster, fill out the goalkeeping corps.  All three are determined players who won't let their heads drop if they concede a goal.

 

Full Backs

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Quite a few of these players are versatile enough to fill in at various positions, but I'll profile them in the group where they will feature most often.

We want our right and left backs to push forward in possession, so we looked for players with the ability to play well with Support or Attack duties.  Right back Droste isn't young, but he is still fit and athletic.  Hard-working and tenacious, Purrington will start at left back. Both of them have very strong mental attributes, too.

Cirkin is a great prospect who is not far from first team football.  Randall and Seddon are also available, and we wouldn't hesitate to put either of them on the team sheet for a crucial match.  

We selected a Bent Book from a shelf full of young full backs.  We hope the story ends with him wearing a winner's medal.  Cassanova, a former Spurs scholar, is even more promising.

Create-a-Club allows you to customize a player or two, and we took advantage of this feature to bring a young Gardener to life. There's a story behind his creation, too.

One day, Zoe was watching me play FM when a player on the other team rifled a long throw into the area for a big lad to head home.  She had never seen this happen before, and she was fascinated.  

I smiled at her. "Watch this," I told her. At the sound of those words, my wife turned to us and arched an eyebrow. She's learned to be wary whenever she hears those words.

"It's just a YouTube video," I reassured Zoe's mom.

So, we watched about two minutes' worth of Stoke City's Rory Delap launching long throws, set to the music of Holding Out For a Hero.

Rory Delap; A Heartfelt Tribute to the Beautiful Game

Since Delap is now a coach, we couldn't have the genuine article.  We created Norwegian teenager Thor Kasteren instead, complete with a Delapesque 20 for Long Throws.  Kasteren Possesses Long Flat Throw, too.  No footballer on the planet can perform this skill better than Thor.  Zoe giggled when she discovered he weighs only 121 pounds.

Like Delap was, Kasteren is far more than a one-trick pony.  He should develop into a valuable player, brave, aggressive, and fast.

Edited by Narrator C
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Meet the Gardeners, part 2

Center Backs

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We want the Gardeners to play from the back, so having center halves who are comfortable on the ball became a priority.  My daughter is a center back herself, so she was especially interested in choosing some Ball-Playing Defenders for Kedleigh Heath.  

Whatmough lists John Terry among his idols.  Like the Chelsea legend, Jack is two-footed, determined, and brave.  He'll start regularly, and he'll be partnered by one of several players who could all do a job here.

Gerson, a Luxembourger who has played his club football in Scandinavia, can be useful in a variety of roles.  He's a classy player, but he has the edge you'd associate with a tough League One center half. Lars speaks seven languages, proving his versatility extends beyond the football pitch. 

I seem to find a way to sign Sandberg every time I play Football Manager.  He's quite good in the air, and he's young enough to develop into a star.  He begins the season under a specialist's care for a hip injury that will sideline him for three or four months.

Clarke provides toughness, stability, and leadership; he'll be our vice captain, and he'll play quite a bit.  We can also use Droste here, when we want more pace in the center of our defense. 

Speaking of pace, our young center backs seem to have lots of it. Hall and van Meurs are especially quick.  That's a good thing, because the senior players at their position are not.  Tucker is worth keeping an eye on, too.  He is a hard man in the making, with a volatile combination of high Aggression, high Bravery, and low Composure.  

 

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Posted (edited)
23 hours ago, anagain said:

I enjoyed reading this. I especially enjoyed Bent Book and the Rory Delap tribute.

Thanks, anagain.  When you see "Bent Book" in a list of players, how can you resist clicking on him and seeing what kind of player he is?  In this case, he's a feisty young right back.  He will tackle anything in the vicinity of the pitch. 

I'm not sure if a player who lacks pace at 15 will ever have it, so he might not develop into the kind of attacking full back we like. I suppose he could be taught the art of playing DM.  His "polygon" is shaped a little like that of a defensive midfielder.  Here's a comparison of Book with Peer Koopmeiners, who is three years older than Bent and will play regularly for us this season.  Bent's polygon is, naturally, the smaller green one. Peer's is the blue one.

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When we first watched the Rory Delap tribute, Zoe asked "Did that only work against teams that wore blue shirts?"  Sure enough, every goal in the first half of the video is scored against a team in blue.  Everton, with a beardless Tim Howard in goal, seemed particularly susceptible to Rory's magic.  

I can hear Tony Pulis announcing his team sheet before a game:  "All right, lads. Today we're going with Delap and 10 players who are at least six foot three."

Edited by Narrator C
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Great introductory posts and nice to see something that can be enjoyed with father & daughter both actively involved. 

As has been said, nobody will mind that you picked MK Dons to replace :thup:

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Meet the Gardeners, Part 3

Central Midfielders

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We're organizing our midfield with a holding player in front of our back four, a standard CM (whose role might change depending on our opponent) and a playmaker.  

Sparv seems to have been placed on Earth to play the Half Back role.  His tackling, marking, and mastery of the air will serve him well when he drops between our center backs.  His calmness and passing ability will allow him to do his part when we're in possession, too.  Tim is also the club's captain.

Until we saw his injury record, it was hard for us to believe Rossiter has made only 42 appearances in his senior football career.  He might get that many for the Gardeners this season...if he can somehow manage to stay healthy.  He can provide us with an authoritative midfield presence if he's on the pitch, so it's worth a chance.  

At the age of 20, Koopmeiners approaches the game with the mental acuity of a veteran.  We'll try him as the creative member of our midfield trio, but he can also perform in the other two roles.  

Borkeeiet is another player I like to have in my team.  An all-action midfielder, we will find a way to get him on the pitch as often as possible.  And he's only 21, so he could still be getting better. Our back room team thinks so.

We like Close a lot.  He is comfortable being a squad player and he does his job, which might involve varied midfield tasks, with a professional attitude.  

Randall and Blume can play in the the middle of the park, but both of them are more useful elsewhere.  

Among a number of promising youngsters, Clarkson is the closest to being ready for regular duty. Unlike the younger lads, Leighton is already with the first team.  Hogg and Raymond have especially positive personalities.

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25 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Great introductory posts and nice to see something that can be enjoyed with father & daughter both actively involved. 

As has been said, nobody will mind that you picked MK Dons to replace :thup:

Thank you, Jogo. I'm having lots of fun with this, especially because my daughter is, too.  I asked her if she wanted a copy of Football Manager of her own--she's 11, and my wife and I would have no problem with her playing it--but she said "Thanks, but I think I'd like playing it with you more than I would by myself." 

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1 minute ago, Narrator C said:

Thank you, Jogo. I'm having lots of fun with this, especially because my daughter is, too.  I asked her if she wanted a copy of Football Manager of her own--she's 11, and my wife and I would have no problem with her playing it--but she said "Thanks, but I think I'd like playing it with you more than I would by myself." 

That's brilliant. If Zoe is reading this (or feedback is being relayed) I hope she will enjoy developing this new club with you for a long time yet.

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Posted (edited)

Meet the Gardeners, Part 4

Forwards

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Our usual shape will include a front three, and we structured our team with that in mind.

Zoe is intrigued by the concept of the Raumdeuter.  We're going to give it a try. We might be the only club in League One who uses such an "exotic" role, but fortis fortuna adiuvat, right?  As we did with Thor, we decided to create the English version ourselves.  The result is Shackell, a nifty left-footed right winger who will be given license to do his thing in the final third.  

We made Shackell a youngster, so he might not be ready for prime time just yet.  That's fine, because Blume and Edwards are, and Christensen probably is, too.  Bror has little interest in tracking back, but as long as we can live with that, his creativity can be put to good use on either wing (or as a midfield conductor).  Gwion is athletic, crosses the ball well, and demonstrates lots of professionalism.  Toby cuts in on his strong left foot when he plays on the right, stays wide when he plays on the left, and spools off clever passes from either position.  

Ireland international Curtis will be our first choice to lead the line.  He is a confident finisher with lots of pace.  Sørensen, who has been on the fringes of the Newcastle squad and has been loaned out to several clubs in England and Holland, will hopefully find a home at Remembrance Park.  He is a big, strong forward whom our staff think has lots of upside.

We just realized that our other center forwards are 16, 16, and 15 years old.  The youngest and the best of them, Abrahamsen, caught Zoe's eye first, because he hails from the Faroe Islands.  After she found the Faroes on a map, she encouraged us to add him to our team.  Bárður is one of the three fastest players in the team (Hall and van Meurs are the others), and he is the most skilled passer among the strikers, so he's far from a novelty act. 

Now that you've met the players, I'll introduce you next to the back room staff we've assembled (in much less detail).

Edited by Narrator C
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53 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

That's brilliant. If Zoe is reading this (or feedback is being relayed) I hope she will enjoy developing this new club with you for a long time yet.

Zoe does read along, and she joins me in thanking you! :)

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5 minutes ago, Sabine said:

This is an absolutely heart warming thread.  :)

Agreed, it's lovely.

16 minutes ago, Narrator C said:

Zoe does read along, and she joins me in thanking you! :)

Very welcome! In respect of the ramdeuter, that is an exotic choice for League 1, but why not? I only really used that role once (Son for Tottenham in FM21 BETA) but it worked brilliantly in a 4231 / 4123 and should (with the right player) do so in 433.

Edited by Jogo Bonito
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Posted (edited)

Meet the Manager

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Cameron Ross, dressed for training

We decided a League One club would be highly unlikely to hire a manager with no credentials or experience, so we decided to make Cameron a 36-year-old former professional footballer with a National reputation and a Continental A coaching badge. 

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Cam's reputation (1.5 stars) is equal to that of eight of his players, and less than that of Tim Sparv, Peers Koopmeiners, Tobias Børkeeiet, and Wout Droste.  His players won't be pushing him around, but they won't be asking for his autograph, either. 

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A trend has been detected.  

Then again, Lars Gerson is 30.  Droste is 31. Tom Clarke is 32. Sparv is 33. Tom Muyters is 35.  

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Edited by Narrator C
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16 minutes ago, Sabine said:

This is an absolutely heart warming thread.  :)

Thanks, Sabine!  The responses I've gotten from people who are reading along are equally heart warming, I assure you.  :)

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Posted (edited)
48 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Agreed, it's lovely.

Very welcome! In respect of the ramdeuter, that is an exotic choice for League 1, but why not? I only really used that role once (Son for Tottenham in FM21 BETA) but it worked brilliantly in a 4231 / 4123 and should (with the right player) do so in 433.

We like to use the "polygons" to evaluate players.  They allow us to get a good, quick look at what kinds of players they are.  Son's polygon (in green) isn't terribly different from Shackell's (in blue).  Son's numbers are better, but so is the Premier League.

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Incidentally, Gwion Edwards' polygon is shaped even more like Son's.  

Edited by Narrator C
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The Back Room

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We've had fun assembling our staff, too.  At first, we thought we would do things "the right way," sending out adverts and waiting for applicants to respond.  We decided to use the Staff Search instead, and when we spotted someone we might like to hire, we began negotiations when we could.

Haycock is an experienced coach who is good with younger players, a quality we think will serve him well with our youthful squad.  

Warrington, Ingram, and Doolan all turned out to be newgens.  The newgen staff members seemed more willing to talk to us than "real" ones were.  Our HOYD selection was especially important, since we want to concentrate on building our club through our youth program.  Warrington has a Fairly Professional personality, and his tactical preferences are similar to Cameron Ross's.  We sent out adverts for general coaches, and we'll see who might be interested.

When we created Cameron, we gave him connections to countries that are connected to our "real" family's heritage, or to countries we have visited or want to visit.  Cameron's second nationality is Dutch, and he also speaks German, Danish, and Norwegian.  Head scout Schrijver knows the Low Countries well, as well as Germany and the Nordic countries.  His knowledge might not help us yet--I don't think we can scout outside the British Isles--but if the club grows, Hans might help us uncover some Continental gems...will Brexit allow us to take full advantage of his connections?  Nisbet is an English newgen, so his familiarity with the domestic game will be helpful.

Henry is the youngest staff member I've ever seen in FM.  He won't turn 21 until October 17. 

 

 

 

 

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The U19 Staff

Again, leave it to Zoe to come up with a fun idea.

We were looking for potential staff members for our Under 19 team.  "Wouldn't you know some former players who might want to coach with you?" she asked me.

So we decided to search for former internationals who were willing to discuss coming to Remembrance Park to work.  Although Cam did not play for England, he would undoubtedly know men who represented their countries.

We were delighted to add to our Under 19 staff three coaches who, between them, earned 264 caps.  All three of them are beginning their first coaching jobs, and all three have a talent for working with young players.

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Sneijder is six months younger than Cameron Ross.  Perhaps Cameron, whose second nationality is Dutch, was Wesley's teammate at Ajax.

We hope Manchester United icon Evra can pass his Determination on to his young charges.  

Zoe was especially pleased with the hiring of Barry, whom she recognized from having seen him play on TV. We would like to see Gareth shape our players into Resolute characters like himself.

We're trying to figure out if we should hire all the coaches our board say we can hire, or if by doing so, we'll run the risk of spending too much money.  

 

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Great, you've (both) had a busy time behind the scenes but seem to have found some nice staff members. It's good to see Gareth Barry involved.

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15 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Great, you've (both) had a busy time behind the scenes but seem to have found some nice staff members. It's good to see Gareth Barry involved.

We're pleased with our staff, too.  It wasn't easy to find players we remembered who wanted to work in League One.  Until recently, unless a footballer didn't play in one of the big European leagues (especially in England or Germany, which have been easier to watch in the USA), in MLS, or as a star for his national team, we weren't going to be familiar with him.   There are probably players who would be very familiar to supporters of Football League clubs whom we didn't recognize at all.  In our world, Barry is humble enough to work for us, and we're delighted to have him.

Now we can stream games from the Championship, League One, and League Two, the Eredivisie, Serie A, and the Danish league.  We can watch international matches, too; Zoe especially enjoys watching small European nations play against each other.  We are apt to see all kinds of players and staff we recognize now!

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Posted (edited)

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We're comfortable with the club culture at Kedleigh Heath.  We especially look forward to watching our young players establish themselves in the first team.  I'm never quite sure how to satisfy the "attacking football" or "entertaining football" briefs.  I hope a Positive mentality will be ambitious enough for the board.  Personally, I'm entertained by a 1-0 victory, but I'm not sure the board will be.

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I like the Five-Year Plan feature.  It gives us a clear picture of what we need to accomplish in order to keep my job.  Basically, we need to finish in the top two places by next year, and gradually establish ourselves as a fixture in the Championship, a team that's on the verge of contending for promotion.

Now we're wondering how Brexit will affect the Gardeners, since we picked so many players from the Continent.  We looked at our League One opponents, and for most of them, a player from Scotland or Wales seems "foreign."  I think we counted 15 non-British/Irish players in our team.  We might have to do a significant squad makeover after 2022, when most of of players' contracts expire.

Edited by Narrator C
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Squad numbers time!

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I'm a real nerd about shirt numbers, so I had fun with this, too.

I'm surprised nobody wanted the 10 or 11 shirts.  Is the universe trying to tell us there are two exciting forwards, who might want those prestigious shirt numbers,  making their way to Remembrance Park before the season ends? 

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What the Pundits Think

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We're expected to be mid-table scrappers, in a group of four clubs on 33-1 odds to win the league.  Fourteenth place would look a lot better than 18th; we would much rather have six clubs between us and the relegation zone than two!

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Our Irish gloveman is tapped as the best goalkeeper in the league!  The media are impressed with Tim Sparv, too, although they can't seem to fit him into their 4-4-2.  Lars Gerson is their pick at right back...and we're probably not going to play him there. Do they know something we don't know, or are we the clever ones here?

Zoe is proud of herself for learning to pronounce Kelleher's given name correctly.  

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4 hours ago, abulezz said:

This is awesome - I love Create-A-Club saves and this one has that special, extra touch!

Thanks so much, abulezz.  We're glad you are enjoying it.  I think I've spent more time over the last two our three editions of FM creating various clubs than actually playing the game using them. :)

Now, a word to all of you who are following the story.  I know people always say "Write for a forum because you want to. Don't write for anyone else," and I completely get that.  But at the same time, as a writer who is new to the forum here, it is incredibly encouraging to read comments and see upvotes.  Zoe and I enjoy interacting with your posts, so please continue to chime in whenever you like.

I had lurked here at FM Career Updates for a couple weeks before I decided to post.  I noticed the way people commented on each other's threads,  and the vibe seemed very friendly.  I'm very glad to see that my observations were correct.  I appreciate the welcome very much. 

The fact my daughter is absolutely loving the experience would be enough to keep me writing, but it helps to know that Zoe and I aren't the only ones having fun.  

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, deltablue said:

I'm looking forward to this ;)

Thanks, deltablue!  We're really enjoying ourselves, too.  I hope it's a good, long ride.

 

Getting to Know You

Goodness, there are a lot of things to explore in FM 21!  As I mentioned before, I never really connected with the last three or four editions of the game.  The bizarre appearances of the aliens who were brought to Earth to serve as FM newgens sent me back to the world of FM 14, where players looked like humans.  So, features like Dynamics seem very new to me.  

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I'm not surprised to see Sparv emerging as our Team Leader.  He wears the captain's arm band for club and country. 

Zoe has taken an interest in the Mentoring system for our club, and she made Tim the leader of a group containing defenders and midfielders.  (She also grouped the goalkeepers, with the veteran Tom Muyters, and the forwards, headed by Gwion Edwards.  

Clarke, the vice captain, and Gerson are also establishing themselves as strong forces in our team.  We are pleased with this, because their personalities are very positive.  I only wish one of these leaders were younger. They're all in their 30s, and won't be around forever. Fortunately, there are some solid citizens among the twenty-somethings in the Influential Players group.

We're not sure if we should be concerned about the way the Social Groups are shaping up. The Core group has all the English players, save one.  It does say this group is fairly professional, but we're still wary of the development of flag-waving nationalist cliques.

The Secondary Group contains all the players from other European countries.  All of them speak English well, so they can communicate with their teammates, but they do seem to have bonded separately from them.  We're tempted to find an American player and see where he ends up.

Then there is Spencer Shackell, who has not yet bonded with his teammates.  Perhaps it's simply because he is new; maybe it's because we created him in our Player Development Laboratory.  Zoe has her own idea about this situation.  He's English, but his Raumdeuter nature causes him to "feel a German vibe," as she puts it. 

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As you can see, Spencer isn't unhappy. Zoe senses that he simply enjoys his solitude.  The Watford Müller just does his own thing.

And, just because we can, we decided to make Spencer fluent in German, too. ;)  We would give him the 25 shirt, if Wout Droste didn't like it so much. 

 

Edited by Narrator C
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Nice to see you are really going in to this deeply and obviously feeling connected to it. With your in-depth assessments at every stage, your seasons are going to take for ever :lol: (just like mine, sadly). 

Should comments and responses sometimes dry up or be slower, please don't lose the enthusiasm. People will catch up eventually in and around their own saves and chip in, so don't be put off by that. Enjoy at whatever pace you go :thup: 

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42 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Nice to see you are really going in to this deeply and obviously feeling connected to it. With your in-depth assessments at every stage, your seasons are going to take for ever :lol: (just like mine, sadly). 

Should comments and responses sometimes dry up or be slower, please don't lose the enthusiasm. People will catch up eventually in and around their own saves and chip in, so don't be put off by that. Enjoy at whatever pace you go :thup: 

There is so much to look at, but you're right about the connection we're feeling to the Gardeners.  At some point, I may tire of writing about everything I see, but right now, it's only making me more excited about seeing what the future holds.  

I have a skin with an Instant Results button, so it's possible I might use that feature when I want to accelerate the pace of my save.  I think I'm less skilled at the match management side of Football Manager than I am at other parts of the game--team building, for example. I don't consider myself any better than an average tactician, and I'm not great at making in-game adjustments.  For those reasons, an Instant Result might turn out better than the result I'd get if I tried to do too much coaching myself. :)

Zoe's attention span seems endless for an 11-year-old...but she's still an 11-year-old.  (I teach kids who are two years older, and Zoe focuses way better than many of my students.)  She might want the story to move faster, so she can see how the careers of our players turn out.  I haven't asked her about this yet.  

Thanks for your comment about comments.  I'm taking more time to read other people's threads now, so I can see how these trends change.  It's all been a lot of fun.

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September 2020

I hadn't planned on writing about our progress quite so soon, but a lot happened during the first month of the season. I was afraid I'd forget too much if I didn't post about it soon.

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The Gardeners sailed through their preseason; this didn't surprise us, as we only scheduled one match with a team at our own level.  That's the one we drew, away to Crewe Alexandra.  The biggest story of the run-up to league play was the performance of Elias Sørensen.  Our Danish hit man scored nine times in the preseason, knocking in four against hapless Thame.  Even if Sørensen's form was the result of bullying lower league defenders, we figured his confidence would be sky-high, and we rewarded him by giving him a starting position as the real business of the season began.

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There's the team sheet from Cameron's first game in management.  He'll frame it and display it on his office wall.  

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We chose nearly full-strength sides for the Carabao Cup ties--Lars Gerson and Tim Sparv were away on international duty against Peterborough--and we weren't too disappointed with the outcome.  We demonstrated lots of tenacity against Luton; we went down 2-0, roared back, and a stoppage-time goal by Ronan Curtis sent the game to penalties.  Losing to a Championship side in that manner is far from embarrassing. However, we also lost Sørensen, who strained his hamstring and won't be back in training for another month or so.  We rotated the team for the Papa John's Trophy match and it turned out quite well.

The swashbuckling style we demonstrated in our friendly matches hasn't appeared yet in League One play. Away from home, we've been impregnable defensively, but we aren't threatening our opponents, either.  We were slightly better at home to Lincoln City, although the xG analysis (two goals from an 0.64 xG) implies we just got lucky.  Curtis popped up again with an important late goal, this time earning us three points with an 85th minute strike.  

Off the pitch, we have continued to fill out our staff.

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We found another coach with a glittering resume for our U18 team:  Geremi, capped 112 times by Cameroon and the holder of an array of champion's medals. 

We added Lewis Craig to our first team coaching staff, too.  Lewis has been a youth coach at Burnley and the Under 18s manager for Salford City. Zoe and I have deliberately looked for coaches in their 30s, as we envision a back room team that sticks together and grows with the club.

We'd been wondering how Brexit might affect Kedleigh Heath.  My personal assistant, Daisy Battersby, soon sent me some answers...

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There are 16 foreign players on the books at Kedleigh Heath.  Zoe discovered that only one of them--Elias Sørensen, who signed for Newcastle in 2016--will have been in England long enough to gain English nationality by 1/1/2024.  Two or three of the EU nationals will probably be too old to be part of our plans by then.  I wonder how difficult it will be for some of the others to get work permits? 

 

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It certainly will be harder to sign non-British players from 2021 and your sights should be set more on British players. From my experience, it seems slightly easier to sign foreign players (EU nationals or non-EU) that are based in other countries, compared to those based in UK. This is the first FM where the Brexit rules have really affected UK clubs. Long term games in England are now much harder than they have been before in FM history.

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35 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

It certainly will be harder to sign non-British players from 2021 and your sights should be set more on British players. From my experience, it seems slightly easier to sign foreign players (EU nationals or non-EU) that are based in other countries, compared to those based in UK. This is the first FM where the Brexit rules have really affected UK clubs. Long term games in England are now much harder than they have been before in FM history.

That's what we figured would be the case.  We're glad we used our Create-a-Club superpowers to improve the Heath's youth setup. Both Zoe and I wanted to be able to follow some talented young players, and now they will be even more important to the long-term success of the club.

We'll enjoy our Nordic and Dutch favorites while we can! :)

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Posted (edited)

THOR!

You may remember that Zoe's fascination with the power of the long throw inspired us to create a player who possesses this unique talent.

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Meet Thor Kasteren, a 17-year-old Norwegian right back who is currently starring for Kedleigh Heath's Under 18 side.

On 4 November, the young Gardeners faced Leyton Orient in the First Round of the FA Youth Cup.  We led 2-1 in the 88th minute when Kasteren, who had played well all afternoon, nodded a Clive Adams cross into the path of a wide-open Alex Tavernier for a very pretty goal.  

Some of the 280 spectators who had come out to Woughton on the Green were packing their things, preparing to savor the Gardeners' victory as they enjoyed the remainder of their day.  The ones who remained got quite a treat.

Orient kicked off, and one of their defenders misdirected a pass that went into touch.  Zoe and I looked at each other.

"Throw in! YES!" she exclaimed. 

Did the creators of Law 15 ever imagine their method of returning the ball to play could create such excitement?

I shook my head. "That's too far back."  

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Thor prepares to launch a thunderbolt.

The Orient defenders thought so, too.  Some of them marked Kedleigh Heath players who positioned themselves along the edge of the area.  Three others spaced themselves farther out, preparing to close down on Dante Cassanova, whom they expected to receive the ball from Kasteren.

Thor had other ideas.  Gods don't throw it short.

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Zoe calls this picture "Oh, SNAP!"

Thor fired his thunderbolt toward Leyton Orient's FAR post.  "Oh, SNAP!" exclaimed the red-clad defenders as they realized how badly they had underestimated Thor's power.  They turned and scurried toward their goal...but Thor's teammates, who knew full well their teammate's mighty strength, had already assembled to play their part.

Bárður Abrahamsen  stands 6'2" and possesses a Jumping Reach of 15.  He is also from the Faroe Islands.  Bárður is, therefore, uniquely qualified to take fullest advantage of the power of Thor.  There he is in the picture above, gauging the flight of Thor's missile, while four of his teammates rush to assist him, if necessary.  

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Will it go in?

Abrahamsen leapt up and almost casually met Thor's delivery with his head, directing it toward the goal. Orient goalkeeper Rhys Byrne stood, frozen, at the edge of the six-yard box, as if a spell had been cast upon him. For a moment, Zoe and I wondered if Bárður's aim was faulty. Had he simply steered the ball harmlessly over the crossbar?

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There's our answer.

The reactions in our playroom included "OH my GOSH! NO WAY!"  "That was AWESOME!" "Play that AGAIN!"  :hammer:

In 11 appearances for our Under 18s, Thor has recorded seven assists.  We haven't checked all the highlights to see how many have come from throws, but we think we remember at least four such occasions.  What's more, Kasteren is contributing to the team in other ways, too.  He completes 85 percent of his passes and records nearly three tackles per game.  His 7.23 average rating is second on the team to Abrahamsen, who has scored eight goals.  

Wesley Sneijder thinks Thor is close to being ready for the first team.  Perhaps it won't be long before he unleashes his fearsome wrath upon League One.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Narrator C
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13 hours ago, Fudal said:

This is such a feel good story already i’m loving it :)

Thanks, Fudal!  I'm glad you're enjoying it.  It's been lots of fun for Zoe and me to discover something else we enjoy doing together.  We're a "soccer" family--I played in school, Zoe plays now, and my wife enjoys watching it--so bonding over Football Manager is a natural thing for us to enjoy.  

6 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Brilliant, I can see the excitement of your long throw expert doing that for you! Great write up. 

Thank you, Jogo.  Until recently, Football Manager was a solitary activity for me. I might sit with my laptop in our playroom, while my wife and Zoe did other things.  We were in the room together, but we didn't interact very directly.

Now Zoe is on the couch beside me (when she's not hopping around, exhibiting joy or frustration over something that's happening in our game.  When Zoe squeals, etc., my wife will ask, "Is that Thor again?"   My wife is in the playroom with us, because she enjoys seeing us have so much fun. 

"We would be more than happy to let you join in," I offered. I married a very intelligent woman. She's smarter than I am, she knows more about football than she'd give herself credit for, and if she applied herself to FM, she would probably become a legendary manager. 

She thought for only a moment.  "Thanks, but that's your thing with Z," she replied. "She and I have plenty of things we do together. It's great to see you and her enjoying something else so much."  

She's right. She and Zoe cook together, do crafts together, and have "girls' days out."  All three of us play board games. It's been a while since Zoe and I discovered a new "just us" thing to do indoors, and it's been so much fun.  

6 hours ago, abulezz said:

Great update - keep them coming!

Thanks, abulezz!  Next up will be a report on October and November.  

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Perfect. I know what you mean about FM being a solitary game even when in the same room as my wife. Great that you found a common interest for you and your daughter.

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Posted (edited)

October-November 2020

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This Kedleigh Heath team is different from any other I've coached in Football Manager.  Usually my teams score quite a few goals, and I struggle to set up a solid defense.  This time, the opposite is the case.  We've kept seven clean sheets in 12 league games.  I would understand how this was happening if we were playing a very defensive tactic, but we almost always use a Control Possession style with a Positive mentality. We use a Half Back, and we moved our defensive line back to the Standard position, but otherwise we haven't made any deliberate attempt to be stingy.

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We are loving all the information our analysts can provide us.  Our defense is Quiet and Impenetrable.  No team in League One allows opponents fewer shots than we do.  And, since Caoiminh Kelleher saves 81% of the shots he faces, we don't let in many goals.  

The Gardeners have managed to achieve this defensive record while three of our better defenders have been missing for various reasons.  Lars Gerson pulled ligaments in his ankle and missed three weeks.   Tim Sparv has ongoing issues with a wonky knee, and was shelved for two weeks.  When these veterans are healthy, they are also sometimes on international duty.  Erik Tobias Sandberg, a promising young center half, has finally recovered from a nasty hip injury that kept him off the pitch for 10 months; he made his season debut against Stevenage on 11 October.  As a result, Tom Clarke has seen more or less regular action, and his presence on the team sheet invariably draws howls of protest from our supporters on social media.  It's also meant Jack Whatmough has played every minute in league play, but our fans adore him.  We do, too, because in a team full of players who take their training seriously, Jack is their king.  His weekly ratings surpass 9.00 on a regular basis.  

The fans loved the Ipswich match, when they saw four goals go in, including a late equalizer from Peer Koopmeiners.  We looked like absolute swashbucklers, after Ronan Curtis hit a brace against Gillingham...and we returned to our parsimonious ways with another signature clean sheet.  Then, with both Gerson and Sparv hurt, we dropped two straight games and fell to 14th in the table.  

A visit from a struggling Wigan side was all it took to revive us.  We unleashed a barrage of 14 shots on the Latics, and their 'keeper fumbled a Tobias Børkeeiet drive across the line.  Our largest crowd of the year turned up at Remembrance Park to watch us earn a typical Heath win:  1-0, through a Gwion Edwards goal at the hour mark.  

Look at this heat map from the dire 0-0 draw at Northampton.  We are in blue, on the right.

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Neither team put a shot on goal.  Northampton only attempted anything resembling a shot twice.  We used our team coach to travel to the match, while Northampton parked theirs in front of their goal. Meanwhile, we passed the ball around their half of the pitch with neither interference nor intent.  Said Zoe: "Umm, we aren't THAT good. Nobody should play that way against us."

We're pretty good at recovering when our opponents score first.  Zoe and I did look for players with high Determination, so we're pleased to see the Gardeners respond the way they did against Hull City.  This time we got some Raumdeuter magic from Spencer Shackell.  Against a good Shrewsbury side, Bror Blume took the role of space investigator, scored 21 seconds after the opening whistle, and got another goal after the break.  

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League One has been very competitive this season.  Optimists like us will point out that we're only five points from the playoff places. Zoe would add that we have two games in hand on four of those teams.  

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Two of the clubs in the bottom half have sacked their managers.  Peterborough sent Darren Ferguson packing, while Charlton just dismissed Lee BowyerNigel Adkins had just taken the reins at Peterborough when Shackell scored, deep in extra time, to send us into the second round of the FA Cup at the Posh's expense.  

We've done well in cup competition this autumn.  With our passage into the next round of the Papa John's Trophy secure, we called on as many squad players and youth as we could against our last two opponents.  Bárður Abrahamsen got the chance to make some history:

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Abrahamsen also made his full international debut against Andorra on 11 November!  If we understand the post-Brexit work permit rules properly, Bárður's appearances for his country could make it much easier for him to receive the proper authorization to play in England. 

Speaking of work permits:  Zoe and I decided to add a Director of Football to our staff. When none of the "real" applicants who answered our advert appealed to us, we signed a newgen called Ashley Kennedy.  We tasked him with finding transfer targets and negotiating with them, subject to our approval.  Ashley quickly moved to shore up our stable of strikers, arranging for us to purchase Chuma Anene from FC Midtjylland (Superliga) and Marc Heider from Osnabrück (Bundesliga 2).  Since their transfers won't go through until 1 January, both players will need to secure permits to play for us.  We'll keep you posted.  

Meanwhile, just this morning we received some good news in our inbox.

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Tobias deserves the honor. He's featured in all three roles in our midfield, playing each with skill and working nearly as hard as Jack Whatmough in training.  Then, he does this classy thing:

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We'll post another regular update after the New Year.  #UpTheGardeners

 

Edited by Narrator C
typos
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A good start there. I like the solid defence, personally. Hopefully your new players will get their WP.

Your post made me remember signing Anene from Crewe for Grimsby in a previous FM (19 or 20). I hope he does a decent job for you if he does join OK.

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5 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

A good start there. I like the solid defence, personally. Hopefully your new players will get their WP.

Your post made me remember signing Anene from Crewe for Grimsby in a previous FM (19 or 20). I hope he does a decent job for you if he does join OK.

Thanks! I like the fact we're tight at the back, too.  If I were creating myself in Football Manager, I would make myself a Ball-Playing Defender. (In reality, I was/am more of a No-Nonsense Center-Back, especially now that I have lost what Pace I once had. At best, I'd be a Towering Center Back.)  Zoe, on the other hand, is a cultured Defensive Midfielder.  :)

I was pleased when I saw Anene, too. He is fast and strong, and he looks like he knows where the goal is.  He is stuck in the reserves for Midtjylland, where he is scoring for fun.  I hope we can rescue him.  

Our DOF got Osnabrück to give Heider to us for a bag of footballs and six plastic cones (£1,300).  He likes big matches, and he's been very productive in the German second division.  I'm not too confident about our chances to get work permits for them, however. :(

 

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Posted (edited)

The "Clearout" 

The following dialogue is recorded as close to its original form as the participants can recall. 

 

DAD!  WHAT did you DO?"

I heard Zoe's wail of disbelief from the other end of the house. On second thought, there was too much ferocity in her voice for the term "wail" to be accurate.  I hurried upstairs to discover what I had apparently done.  I couldn't remember being a doofus recently.

On my way up to the playroom, I remembered I'd given Zoe permission to use my laptop to explore our Football Manager world.  For a moment, I was worried that I'd done something to destroy it.  I had no time to prepare an apology that would make this all better, and I knew it.

When I reached her, she turned to me with a ferocious scowl.  She pointed at the screen.  Cameron Ross's inbox was showing, and I immediately saw what had upset her.

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"Clearout? CLEAROUT???  Who is the new boss?  WHO DID YOU SELL?"  Under most circumstances, Zoe would never be allowed to raise her voice to Mom or Dad like this, and she knows it.  This, however, was not most circumstances.  

"I can't even click on this!  OHMIGOSH, Dad!"  

I took a deep breath.  And then another.  "Calm down, Zo."  Yeah, right, I thought. That's gonna work...

"I didn't sell anyone.  I didn't release anyone either.  I didn't touch it, I swear.  Open the email. Let's see what it says."

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We looked at the screen with quizzical expressions.  "Ummm...is there another Kedleigh Heath?  I thought we made that name up," Zoe was more confused than upset now, which was a good thing.

"If there is, our Director of Football went rogue and sold our cup keeper to them. He got a good deal, though."  

I clicked on Muyters' name, and there he was, still very much the property of "our" Kedleigh Heath club.  

Now Zoe was laughing.  "How can we sell players to ourselves?  We must be good at it. We did it 22 times!"

A feeling of relief washed over me.  I laughed with her.  "Let's see how much money we made."

Zoe is very organized, and she likes charts and tables.  She decided to make a table showing how much we apparently "paid" for our players. 

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Apparently, we got some of our players from ourselves on free transfers, including our number one, Caoiminh Kelleher:lol:

We looked at our club's financial page more carefully, and there's no sign there of all our transfer "business."  Long story short, there's apparently a funny glitch in the Create-a-Club system that can create "news" such as this.

 

P.S. Zoe's mom was at the grocery, so she missed all of this fun.

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Edited by Narrator C
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I know I said it would be a while before I updated, but I wanted to brag on Kedleigh Heath's youngsters a bit. They've enjoyed an excellent season so far.

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The identities of the team's biggest stars shouldn't be hard to guess, if you've been following along. 

Bärður Abrahamsen is joint top scorer in English U18 Division 3 football, with seven league goals, while appearing in only eight games.  He's possibly a bit too good for this level; how many other Division 3 players are full internationals?  We're not rushing him, however, since he just turned 16.

Thor Kasteren has also asserted his will on the Under 18 league.  We've already decided to promote him to the senior team, but he'll be available for U18 fixtures.  

The young Gardeners are more than a two-man team, however.  Wide man Alex Tavernier has seven goals in all competitions.  Left back Dante Cassanova has made more key passes than any player in Division 3, including eight assists, and he's fired in two goals from free kicks.  Thijs van Meurs and Matt Hall have been rock-solid at center back.  Robbie Raymond is drawing raves for his ability to control the middle of the park. 

Wesley Sneijder and his staff have the young lads playing the Kedleigh Heath way, too.  The youngsters pass with precision (81% completion) and, honestly, are more threatening going forward than their elders.  

Good things are happening over at Woughton on the Green!

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Tactical Thoughts

While we enjoy making it so difficult for our opponents to score, the heat map from the Northampton game--the one we shared above--got us thinking.  If teams are going to sit back and let us pass the ball around, we need to find a way to break them down.

Since we structured our team to play 4-3-3, we looked at the tactical pre-sets, searching for other approaches that might work well with that shape.  We decided to give the Vertical Tiki-Taka a try. 

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We've been using a Sweeper Keeper all along, and the roles for the center backs won't be different, either.  Hopefully that will keep the core of our defense working as well as it has been.  Our full backs are now wing backs, but we checked their attributes and preferred moves, and they should continue to play well in these roles.

The first real change occurs at DM. We've replaced the Half Back, an "outlet for quickly recycling possession," for the "dynamic and unpredictable creative outlet" that is the Regista.  That ought to put a bit more spice in our attack. Peer Koopmeiners' skills are well suited for this role, and Jordan Rossiter might be an even better fit. 

Several players could be the Mezzala, drifting into the half spaces.  Rossiter is, again, a possible choice, because Dribbling is a helpful skill for the Mezzala, and he's better at that than the other central midfielders.  Leighton Clarkson could also do a job here.  

There are several options for the Box-to-Box role. Tim Sparv, the very model of a modern Half Back, is less perfectly suited for any role in this tactic, but it's always a good thing to have your captain on the pitch.  (He can also play center half; he does for Finland.)  Energetic Tobias Børkeeiet is another very solid option.  

The front three still features an attacking Deep Lying Forward, but now he's flanked by an Inside Forward on the left and an Inverted Winger on the right.  Ronan Curtis, Bror Blume, and Gwion Edwards can all cut inside on their stronger right feet when they play here.  Likewise, left-footed Tobias Christensen will be dangerous as he moves inside from his spot on the right.  

Interestingly, it looks like Spencer Shackell, who is not a natural striker, has the best set of attributes for the Deep-Lying Forward role.  Elias Sørensen's scoring touch left him as soon as the matches started mattering and, as you've seen, we've struggled to get any production out of our front men so far.  Maybe it's worth giving Shack a try at leading the line. 

There is no Raumdeuter in this tactic, much to Zoe's disappointment. However, the Regista and the Mezzala seem to be sufficiently exotic enough to intrigue her.  :)

We'll let you know how things turn out!

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First look at the Class of '21

Since the story of our youth development will play a big role in our story, we were especially interested in the preview of our youth intake.

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A terrific group of players? A Golden Generation?  Yes, please!

We'll see how accurate Nick Haycock's evaluation turns out to be. 

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