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[FM13] Alice in FM-land

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9 hours ago, Constantine said:

Hey, you might be drawing a lot but you're not losing either. In these situations, i found that often team just click bit further down the line and go on a monster spree. Hopefully that'll happen with your side and promotion race becomes a bit more interesting.


1 hour ago, Sheriff7 said:

Draws aren't bad if you play good,because good results will arrive soon or later.;)

Thank you both. In my experience when you take over an underperforming team mid-season they often struggle to perform until the end of the season when they get the chance to 'reset' their fortunes and be a lot better the following season. So far things have gone better but it's only with the 3 wins in our last 5 league games that our position has really improved at all. I still think the bar is too high to end up as serious challengers this season given how far off we were when I arrived but it's not impossible and it should set us up nicely for next year.

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Jan 2017



Well that was a rubbish couple of months, and a very frustrating one. You may have noticed that we made up for that undefeated run by losing a lot of games. What you may not know is aside from the last match, all the goals we scored in those defeats saw us take the lead. We bounced back from the first defeat to beat the team top of tke league, but the second win (taking us to 5 in 8 at the time) came at the cost of one of our defenders and both our right wing options all being out injured until about this point. However I'm not sure that entirely explains why the defence became so woeful, though in hindsight the Nailsea defeat set the tone for what was to come, including a 3.6 rating for our otherwise excellent keeper. Depending on how things go I might not even get that single full season, but we'll have to see.

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Tough run! Defeats from winning positions are the hardest to take. Hopefully the injured players come back and help out soon.

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On 14/06/2021 at 15:51, 13th Man said:

Tough run! Defeats from winning positions are the hardest to take. Hopefully the injured players come back and help out soon.

Yep, it's frustrating seeing the defence look so woeful. I've made a few changes that helped in the long-term at Exeter but it might take a while before they make a difference. There was one positive though. That guy  Spencer who keeps scoring actually broke the club record for most goals in a season a few games back. He only needed to get 11 goals to do it (and that's in all competitions) so it was quite a low bar :D

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6 hours ago, deltablue said:

That guy  Spencer who keeps scoring actually broke the club record for most goals in a season a few games back. He only needed to get 11 goals to do it (and that's in all competitions) so it was quite a low bar :D

Ha! Club record!!!

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7 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

Ha! Club record!!!

Yes well we've only had 4 seasons of the save but that's still enough time for you to expect someone to have got more, especially as they've already had a season in this division and it's a 42-game league season. :D

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  • 3 weeks later...

Apr 2017



It's nice to be able to get back to this over the past couple of days and finish the season. We left off on a bad run of form where the defence were absolutely useless and the same guy was scoring all our goals to usually give us the lead only to see it all slip away. It looked like the same thing was happening again when we went 2-0 down to Cribbs Friends Life only to sensationally come back to win. After that I was delighted to have a dull 0-0 away to old rivals Appledore, our first clean sheet in 2 months. After that we were just fine. There were a couple of moments where were looked like we were creeping into the top half but we weren't quite consistent enough to make it happen (much to the board's annoyance), it still presented a decent improvement over the situation I inherited and we finished the season in style with that 4-1 win over Almondsbury UWE.

The close season saw some positive news, of a kind. I had fully expected budgets to keep shrinking to the point that it wouldn't take long for the situation to become too difficult to manage and I'd have to move on. It was therefore a surprise to see the budget actually remain the same for next season (with a small increase in fact), along with the fact that I was already taking a decent chunk out of the wage bill with players being released. That gives me a lot more room to operate in getting new signings (not that there are any clear areas to potentially and realistically improve on) and as long as things didn't go too badly I might manage a decent stint at this club after all.

Star Player: It could only be Spencer given his goals, which we were worryingly reliant on. The veteran forward has been in the semi-pro leagues for a while but actually enjoyed a decent League One/Two career with Cheltenham for most of the 00's. We should get one more good season out of him.


Squad Stats


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On 04/07/2021 at 21:02, Carambau said:

A pity Spencer is so old already... 

I agree, but we should have him for another year and he will hopefully still be good.

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Summer 2017

This summer was a pretty straightforward one, aside from the long time at this level that tends spent fiddling about with player search fields and trawling through and comparing large numbers of players to find the one you might actually want to get. In this instance I knew what positions to prioritise. First would be a left back as we had just the one guy who was more of a central defender. Second on the list was a central midfielder as while we got a few decent ones (and central defenders as well) in the last youth intake, they made a rather wobbly start. After that was a forward, not so necessary but trying to upgrade your front line is always a good idea and I found a potentially good partner for Spencer.

That seemed to mostly fill up my remaining wage budget well enough... except I had forgotten that the players set to be released (making up almost a third of the wage bill) were still at the club at the time I was player searching (just after the reset date). That meant I didn't need to restrict myself as much as I needed to (including on player wages) and could search for more players, with the focus being on defenders and one central defender being brought in. That being said, practicing strict wage discipline is a very good idea at this level, especially with the potential for a bad financial situation to lead to big budget squeezes (even if that didn't happen this time around). I set a rough limit for myself of around £30-35pw (maybe up to about 50 if I need to), and while that excludes large numbers of players who might easily want at least a few times more than that, very few are actually any better and therefore worth paying much more than that. I've also learned that I can bring players wage demands down a lot more that I thought I could on this version (thanks to other clauses admittedly), which will be an invaluable thing to take forward and keep the wage situation managable.

I wouldn't say I've really upgraded the team that much, but I identified and filled the necessary positions the best I could. Maybe we don't need that much of an improvement to be promotion contenders anyway, especially since often (though not always) when you take over an under-performing team during a season, they can still struggle until considerably improving with a fresh start the following year. I hope the same thing applies here, especially without having made too many signings (though more may yet come). The board expect a top half finish, which would be the bare mininum for me. At this level I'll always be hoping to get at least one promotion with a team before too long and I feel like I at least have a bit of time to try and get it here.











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Sept 2017



One thing I've noticed at these levels is how much busier the first half of the season tends to be. As you can see it wasn't quite the start I was hoping for. A draw against relegated Welton Rovers and a narrow defeat away to Appledore (who narrowly missed out on promotion last season) seemed like tough matches to start off with, even if the league table currently says otherwise. The poor start continued through more winnable games, and we seemed to be back to 'all our goals see us take the lead but still not winning' territory again. I decided to fiddle with the tactics after the defeat to Bristol Manor Farm to make things more conservative and we seemed solid enough in the following match against Devizes. That was followed by two wins, though one of those was in the FA Vase and we still found ourselves in the bottom 3 after defeat to Nailsea, with visions of not being in a job for much longer.

At that point I noticed that I hadn't changed the creative freedom (which was still on 'more expressive') along with my earlier tweaks and that helped do the trick as three wins took us up from 20th to 6th! Quite a few players struggled early on (especially the new signings) but already seem to be doing a lot better now. I still think that's likely to be a high water mark for the time being, especially as the winds of fortune can (and usually do) shift regularly, and playing on a little seems to have confirmed that suspicion. Still, it's nice to have bought quite a bit more time at least and hopefully have a more settled mid-table season from this point. One can dream!

There were also two new signings, helped by the fact that there are no transfer windows below the Conference National, just a deadline sometime in March. Easter's scout report popped in my inbox right after the opening match and he was a potential minor upgrade in defence (being able to play across the backline as well), while Brice was on my radar in the summer but had an injury that means the board blocked the transfer at the time. However I didn't have long to wait until he was close enough to recovery to make the deal, potentially improving the right-back position. I doubt I'll be open to get any more players. Six new signings easily seems like enough and finding players good enough to make more moves will be tricky anyway.



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Nov 2017



During my last update I mentioned that having played a little into October it seemed like a run of a few wins to jump up to 6th would be the high point. Those of you blessed with the gift of sight can see that thankfullu I was wrong. I had played up to the FA vase defeat to Colliers Wood. They were in the level above but it was still frustrating to lose to a late goal, especially so soon after we had one of our own disallowed and have previously been denied a penalty. The other two results had seen us drop quite a bit down the table so I didn't expect us to suddenly go on a run of wins (making it 10 from the last 13 league games) to the point that we were briefly in 2nd during the match with Chard. I'm starting to think we might be in a promotion race after all, something I didn't expect was realistic early in the season.

The one blip (and I hope it was a blip) came in the Western League Cup. We had a bye in the 1st round, easily beat Almondsbury UWE (facing them for 2 games in a row) in the second before losing to Gillingham town. They were in the league above and we actually had the edge on chances, but it was a real off day (especially at the back) as they beat us comfortably. I like to think that was just a case of getting a poor performance out of the way, especially as I needed to swap a few regulars out due to their condition (something I hope doesn't ptove to be too disruptive, especially with swapping them back in again).

It's nice to see things finally start to go well, beyond the unbeaten run after I arrived. One thing I didn't mention last season (because in the end I didn't need to) was that the University of Exeter were actually challenging for promotion, though they missed out with fewer points than I got with them the previous season. It would have been hard to avoid the conclusion that I had made something of a mistake under the circumstances if they had succeeded. It's sad that they're struggling against relegation now it also adds to a growing sense that I made the right call, especially as our average attendance is over 3 times as high as the max of 50 that Exeter (and pretty much all teams who started in the amateur leagues) are stuck on. That as a limitation I needed to free myself from.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Feb 2018



FM giveth and FM taketh away. Our incredible autumn run took ended with a victory over table-topping Hanham, which saw is move into the promotion places. By this point I imagined we could potentially go up comfortably but it wasn't to be. Defeats in the next 3 games saw us drop to 8 points adrift and by that point I felt like only a quick turnaround gave us a good chance of chasing the top 2 again. I was wrong about that, which was both good and bad. Since then our form has stabilised a little, leading to just one defeat in the past 9 matches but only 3 wins, and they weren't particularly convincing ones either. I noted with interest that out gap to the top 2 remained mostly steady during this run, so it wouldn't have taken as much as I thought it could to get close again. Meanwhile we had a big enough margin to most of the teams beneath us that we still didn't drop down the table that much even if a lot of teams have gotten close enough that we would well drop quite a bit more with a poor end to the season.

I'm not expecting a serious promotion chase over the remaining 9 matches, even if the teams above us haven't been that consistent themselves recently. There's also the terrible start to the season we had which we did well to overcome in order to be where we were about half-way through the season. Hopefully if we can be more consistent next season (having fixed the tactical issues we had early on) that would give us a much better chance, even without being spectacular. The win over Brislington actually set a new attendance record for the division, demonstrating the potential of this club with a bit of patience. Actually you can't mathematically rule out this season either. I remember one season in the Championship years ago when I went up through the playoffs having been 4 points adrift with just 2 games to go. Failing that, I think this season would still present a decent step forward, much like this career has been so far (even with very little success).

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  • 2 weeks later...

Apr 2018



The end of the season went well for the most part. Losing away to Hanham (who were already promoted) after coming back from 2-0 down was less of a disappointment than the final day defeat at home to Chard, potentially due to a bit of complacency on my part due to it not mattering. It may not be clear from the previous league table screenshot or this one but during our run of 4 wins in a row we actually closed pretty close to the top 2 and for while after our comeback against Hanham it looked like we'd actually go into the final day with a chance of going up, though only a distant one. That left a final finish of 6th feeling a little underwhelming. It didn't help that we benefited a lot from the 3-month loan of Butler (who turned 17 during his spell), who got 6 goals and 5 assists in 13 matches, and he was gone by the final couple of games. No we can't get him back, I already tried, and he'll even play against us next year!

There's still a lot to feel optimistic about. We only won one match out of our first 8, then had another poor run after getting ourselves up to 2nd in December. That poor start to the season was before I made some tactical tweaks as well and aside from that shorter blip we've been much better and more consistent since. That adds to my personal goal of aiming for promotion next time, especially if I limit myself to just a few signings in the right areas (and I already know what I want) so we have a more settled side that would also benefit from the extra year's experience and the fact that I now know which players to favour. Mind you, it's not uncommon for me to think 'I'll go easy on the signings' then do a lot more than intended ;)

Our strengths and weaknesses are pretty clear. Until the final couple of matches we had the best defensive record in the division (Chippenham 'beating' us by one in the end), but only Warminster scored fewer goals outside of the bottom 8. Unlike last season when we relied on Spencer (who is now retiring), we at least had a lot more attacking depth. Our top scorer Molyneux is falling out of favour because he's too lightweight, constantly being muscled off the ball before he can get a shot off (though I don't know how much more often it's happening to him specifically than anyone else in a similar role). He lost his place to Kinder (a young forward whose opportunities had been very limited) for the final games of the season and you can see what an impact the latter has had. If he can be as good next season (and avoid the problems Molyneux had, which I haven't seen so far) then we might be a far stronger team for it.

The other news was that we had a takeover, and a surprisingly quick one given that at Exeter I was used to takeovers constantly being rumoured and falling through. The new chairman didn't really do anything other than take out a loan to get us almost 30k back in the black though. It won't last (and the 1.5kpw month payments sound painful at this level) but it has stabilised the financial situation (including keeping the budget intact) and if we can get promotion that will limit the damage somewhat.

Key Player: I really wanted to go for Kinder with the way he finished the season but he still didn't really feature enough to qualify. I couldn't really deny Molyneux as top scorer as well as being second-top for assists.


Squad Stats


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Summer 2018

This summer was a rare thing, a pre-season transfer window that went roughly as intended. I waited until after the contract expiry date so I had cleared as much wage budget as possible and immediately pounced on my first target. Warburton and Gibbons were (mostly) fine first-choice midfielders but we had little quality beyond them so another central midfielder was my first priority. Given I'm also looking at a player's performance history Nodwell seemed to fit the bill, especially as I was able to sign him from a direct rival. After that things were a little tricker, no thanks to my delaying. I was hoping to sign an experience central defender but the player I had my eye on no longer wanted to come for anything reasonable. That bumped that position a little further down the priority list, though I finished off my intended transfers by getting one anyway, even if it wasn't the experience I was going for.

I had a similar issue with my first-choice left-back target. On the face of it we didn't need one as Salt was a decent specialist left-back and Hawkins continued to do well filling in there, however the former ended the season poorly, underperforming compared to his two counterparts on the right and in light of the centre back issue above I wanted to still improve that area by making Hawkins specifically a central defender. Having lost my first choice, Bryce seemed a good young option, though was otherwise a gamble. I also wanted a new forward since the attack was the issue last year. Our options seemed fine on paper but underwhelming performance-wise and I wanted to try a better partner for the up-and-coming Kinder. Abiodoun seemed like a good all-rounder, helped by being able to play wide if needed. He's also the first foreign signing of the career, with a couple of early Welsh signings being my only non-English signings otherwise.

Four signings was perhaps one more than I intended but otherwise I feel it struck a good balance between improving the squad where I felt I needed to and not changing too much. In fact after the 4th signing I had essentially ran out of transfers I wanted to make. The target is promotion, simple as that. I already felt we had potentially improved enough after our poor start last season and hopefully we can show that we've improved more going into this season. Plus it's been 6 seasons of this career so far with a single promotion and no trophies, so I'm eager to add a bit more success by this point ;)










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10 hours ago, Northernpilgrim said:

Isn't the Western League fun! 😉

It'll be more fun to get out of this division at least ;)

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