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18 hours ago, Emerion said:

Just wanted to leave a comment saying how much I've enjoyed following along so far! Hopefully you can find a consistent striker for next season to push on to the next level

Thanks, appreciate it. Me too, I've had enough of Mitrovic and transfer-listed him, he's never playing for me again.

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Posted (edited)

April 2022

The youth facilities are being upgraded again, they'll take six months but (I think) once completed they'll be at the top level.

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We've picked up another affiliate club, CD Feirense in the Portuguese second tier. This is to get players from their youth set up potentially coming through for us instead, so that's something to look out for.

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We continued to have a decent little run in the league as we made it five games unbeaten. Three consecutive clean sheets was also nice. We then lost convincingly to two of the heavy-hitters, but in between those ties we gave Swansea a hammering. Lyanco scored a double, and he's now reached eight goals for the season. Off the top of my head, I believe all eight of them have been headers from corners.

And sound the alarm, a striker scored a goal! Nicolas Santos-Clase chipped the keeper for his first goal since the end of December, and the first time any of our strikers have scored in the league in 2022.

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Last year we hit 40 points, so to surpass that with five games remaining showed a definite improvement this year, and I'm glad we avoided the end of season collapse of 2020/21. Our final two games are against Newcastle (6th) and Arsenal (4th), so tough games to end the season but hopefully we can add to our points tally and hold off the teams below.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Liverpool already have the title sewn up, they've won six games in a row while Manchester United have dropped points all over the place, and the engravers can get started on the trophy now. Brighton are relegated, Swansea need a miracle or they're joining them, and the final spot will be taken by one of Brentford or Leicester.

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Edited by DaneBramage
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May 2022

I must have done something to upset to upset the FM Gods. Immediately after I praise Lyanco he broke his leg in training. At least it's the end of the season and most of the time he misses will be over the summer.

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Ugh. The loss to Arsenal was hard fought, but the performance against Newcastle was disgustingly poor.

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We were overtaken by Bournemouth in the final month, but still managed to finish in 12th place, a climb of three places from last season. We ended up with four more points, and our goal difference was much improved. Last year it was -37, this time it's just -4. We only scored four more goals, but managed to concede 29 fewer.

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Aleksandar Mitrovic ended the season as top scorer for a third time in a row, this time just about hitting double figures. All of these came before Christmas though, and since then I've just got fed up with him and dropped him to the reserves. I've already arranged to sell him to Norwich in the summer. 

Tom Cairney was the top assister for a second time, one ahead of Sebastian Szymanski. Tom Cairney also had the highest average rating (for a third time), but this was shared with Lyanco who equalled his score. Tom Cairney also won the player of the year award for a third time, and while he's deserving of it, my vote would have gone to Lyanco.

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Chris Jericho (20a) took part in a lot of games this year, although most of them were off the bench. He's now made the most appearances of our academy graduates, but is yet to have any goal contributions to his name.  

Sammy Guevara (20b) and Stewart Gardner (20c) were the only other graduates to get any first-team action this year as they both made a few appearances, mainly in the cup, but were competing for the same right-back spot. With the assist he got this year Stewart Gardner (20c) has possibly put himself further up the pecking order.

Wardlow (21b) spent the second half of the year on loan at Crewe, where he helped them to the safety of 18th in League One. He made a significant contribution with six goals and one assist in his 15 games.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: A couple of awards were won by Manchester United players, as Marcus Rashford claimed the top goalscorer award with 25 strikes, while at the other end of the pitch David De Gea was the best goalkeeper with 23 clean sheets. Two more awards were claimed by Arsenal, as Lucas Torreira was the top creator with 12 assists, while Hector Bellerin had the top average rating of 7.52. A couple of big managerial names were relieved of their positions after disappointing league finishes, as Pep Guardiola and Frank Lampard were given their P45s by Manchester City and Chelsea.

Elsewhere in England: Giovani Lo Celso came off the bench to score the only goal for Tottenham as they beat Sheffield United in the FA Cup final. Wolves won the Championship, and Norwich and West Brom will be joining them in the Premier League next year. Huddersfield won League One with a mighty 114 points. 

Elsewhere in Europe: Leicester won the inaugural Conference League, Arsenal won their second Europa League in three years, and Liverpool completed the English clean sweep by beating PSG 3-1 in the Champions League Final. PSG smashed all comers in the league though, winning Ligue Un with a 33 point gap over 2nd place and Kylian Mbappe scoring 30 times. Bayern Munich made it 10 Bundesliga in a row. Under the Zinedine Zidane/Cristiano Ronaldo management dream team Juventus won back Serie A. This also helped Zizou up to 16th in the all-time worldwide Hall of Fame. Further up the list Carlo Ancelotti jumped into 3rd after winning La Liga with Real Madrid, and Jurgen Klopp is now in 8th after Liverpool's success.

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Have really enjoyed catching up on this thread. Hopefully you'll be able to find the answer to your problems in front of goal this summer and kick on in to the top 10. 

3 Seasons of continuous improvement is definitely something to be happy about (Even if this side makes you mad at times)! 

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On 19/07/2021 at 10:36, smplfc123 said:

Have really enjoyed catching up on this thread. Hopefully you'll be able to find the answer to your problems in front of goal this summer and kick on in to the top 10. 

3 Seasons of continuous improvement is definitely something to be happy about (Even if this side makes you mad at times)! 

Thanks! That second line is spot on - I know things are going well with the upward trend, but the individual results and performances at times makes it easy to forget that. 

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June 2022

We got a bit of cash for a couple of academy graduates who left to try and find first-team opportunities elsewhere, but by far the biggest name to leave this month was Aleksandar Mitrovic. The fans were unsure about the decision to get rid of him, but I'd just had enough. It was time for him to go. Selling him to another Premier League side isn't ideal, but we've got a lot of money for him which was swiftly re-invested in replacements. His Premier League record under me was 15 goals in 55 games, which isn't terrible, but was frustratingly inconsistent.

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Four new players arrived, though one was already at the club. The loan spell of Paolo Ghiglione was made permanent due to a clause in his loan deal. He wasn't spectacular by any means last year, but was fine as a back-up option on the right-wing, and can also cover right-back if needed.

We went big on not just one, but two strikers. First was Danylo Sikan, who was listed as a wonderkid when he was first scouted at 20. Has yet to really show his immense potential, but that could just be due to lack of gametime. Scored a few goals in the Russian top tier a couple of seasons ago, and in the most recent season provided four goals and four assists in just 11 league appearances for Shakhtar.

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I had to pay a bit more than I wanted for Abel Ruiz, but it looks he should be a very good player, with more improvement to come. He's instantly equal with our top earner, so there'll be pressure on him to justify his wages. He came through the Barcelona set-up where he never got a chance, but after a £7 million move to Braga he scored 29 goals in 79 games. Has been prolific for the Portugal Under 21s, but no senior cap yet.

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A potential gem here. Roman Yershov was found by my Russian scout and he has bags of room to grow. Already looking pretty decent, he made 11 appearances for Zenit in his debut season. 

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea brought in Quique Setien as their new manager. Jose Mourinho has added another top Premier League team to his CV, taking over at Manchester City,

Elsewhere in England: The national team got off to a bad start in the Nations League with a 1-0 loss to Slovakia, before a 94th minute winner was needed from Raheem Sterling to beat Turkey.

Elsewhere in Europe: Quique Setien resigned from Barcelona after finishing 2nd in La Liga. Manchester United weren't messing around, spending over £180 million on three new players. 

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July 2022

Our bank balance is looking very healthy, and our facilities are either at the highest level possible or well on their way to reaching that point. Although our reputation or stature hasn't reached the next increment, it must have improved a bit as we are now the 14th most reputable club in the country.

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Our success so far is reflected in the increased expectations around the club, as the board now want a mid-table finish, and the media think we'll finish 13th. The bookies have us at 250-1 to win the league, I'd suggest going for Liverpool at 2-1 favourites is probably a better use of your money. They still think relegation can't be ruled out, with odds of 8-1 to go down.

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A few players left at the end of their contracts, no one who'd played much during my time at the club though.

Aboubakar Kamara didn't get much of a look-in last year and I don't fancy his chances this season either, no one wanted him on a permanent basis but Huddersfield have taken him on loan for the year, with an optional £5 million fee I hope they activate. Wardlow (21b) turned down going to either of my League One affiliates, but agreed to go to Wigan in the same tier instead.

Liverpool made a couple of bids for Lyanco, I've knocked them back for now but this has unsettled him which is worrying.

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I wanted a new central midfielder and Jude Bellingham was my main target after Brighton's relegation. But it wasn't happening, they wouldn't shift on their £50 million valuation, and we can't afford that.

Instead I ended up taking Ronaldo Camara on loan for the year from Internazionale. He had a poor season last year with Hellas Verona, but there's tonnes of potential and he was impressive when he was with the Benfica B team before his transfer to Italy.

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This is what my squad now looks like going into the 2022/23 season.

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Due to the upcoming winter World Cup the league season started early. The goals didn't though, as we kicked off our campaign with a bore draw.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Massive news in Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp resigned after three title wins in a row (plus two Champions League victories) to take over at Barcelona. Any disappointment Liverpool fans were feeling would quickly have turned to excitement though, as a week later Pep Guardiola was unveiled as their new boss.

Elsewhere in Europe: Lots of big business around Europe, in particular from PSG as they signed five players at more than £30 million each, including N'Golo Kante and Georginio Wijnaldum. To replace Wijnaldum Liverpool bought Declan Rice from West Ham. Kante was part of an exodus from Chelsea as they sold five players for a total of £240 million.

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August 2022

We continued our slow start to the season with a bore draw against Watford, so I hoped the EFL Cup game against Birmingham would be a good chance to get on track. Things looked good in the first-half as both of our new strikers got off the mark for the club, but we fell apart in the second-half and allowed the struggling Championship club to draw level. The game went to penalties, Joe Bryan missed the decisive spotkick, and that was the end of our participation in the competition. Disappointing, not just to go out to a side we should have beaten easily, but also to miss out on further games we could have given to our backup and young players.

But as the cliche goes, it meant we could concentrate on the league. We went to Southampon and Abel Ruiz pounced on a poor backpass to score for a second game in a row, before Lyanco added a second late on (a header from a corner of course). Speaking of Lyanco, he put in two transfer requests during the month, and I turned them both down. With four years still on his contract there's no need to panic about him wanting out.

Chelsea continued their reign of supremacy over us (six games, six losses), but we ended the month with a slightly fortunate win over Everton. They went to ten men late in the first-half, also giving away a penalty in the process. Abel Ruiz put it away to score his third goal in six games. Yes, one was against a Championship side, one was a defensive mistake, and one was a penalty, but after last season I'll take strikers scoring however they can. The second-half felt like it was one way traffic, as pretty much all of the highlights showed our goal being bombarded, but Marek Rodak put in a sterling effort between the sticks to keep a clean sheet, and hold on for the win. 

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A fine start so far, even if it's not been the most exciting to watch. We only have three goals in five games, but that's been enough for two wins. And four clean sheets in this time is an excellent achievement.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea are top with a 100% record, and already have a +15 goal difference. Arsenal are two points behind in 2nd, with 17 goals of their own. Leicester, Everton, West Ham, Watford, and Bournemouth are all yet to register a single win.

Elsewhere in Europe: Liverpool have added a couple of big signings, bringing in Dejan Kulukevski and Caglar Soyuncu. Hopefully signing a centre-back will cool their interest in Lyanco. Touch wood, it looks like this may be the case, as he's decided he's no longer unhappy about the transfer offer being rejected.

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September 2022

Chris Jericho (20a) had only been getting a few substitute appearances this year, so when our Polish affiliate asked to take him on loan it made sense to let him go. Jagiellonia Bialystok are top of the Ekstraklasa so it might be tough for him to get gametime there too, but if they can keep it up a winner's medal would be a good experience for him.

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We were 2-0 down against West Ham before a change of formation and personnel at half-time. Ronaldo Camara came off the bench to score his first goals for the club and draw us level, before we conceded a heartbreaker in the 89th minute. But we didn't give up, and Alfie Mawson scored a header from a corner during stoppage-time to steal a point.

We were rubbish in both of the next two games.

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September was a tough month with three away games, especially with two of them being against big sides. Disappointed with just the one point though, we should have beaten West Ham. Conceding 10 times in three games has given our goal difference a distinct turn in the wrong direction.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea still have a 100% record at the top, with a five point gap over Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Newcastle. Bournemouth are stuck at the bottom with just one point, while West Ham and West Brom join them in the bottom three.

Elsewhere in England: The national side has their Nations League campaign back on track, picking up a win over Italy and a draw with Turkey.

Elsewhere in Europe: Only four major moves on deadline day. Chelsea and Manchester City both brought in talented young players, while West Ham spent a lot of money on two players probably past their best.

Spoiler

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October 2022

I've requested for our training facilities to be upgraded. This will take a year, and cost nearly £5 million.

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Utterly inept against Liverpool. Crap in every way possible. Lucky not to lose by more.

After a tough run of fixtures a home game against bottom-of-the-table, managerless Bournemouth made for a pleasant change. We scored early but then made life difficult for ourselves, not pushing on and allowing Bournemouth to equalise. The game-changing moment came when Ronaldo Camara was summoned from the bench, and we went to an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation. In his 30 minute spell on the pitch he provided two assists for Abel Ruiz to complete his hat-trick.

We kept this formation against Burnley, and produced another very good win. Abel Ruiz scored again, but star man was Sebastian Szymanski with a double. This was good to see, I get plenty of training updates saying he's developing well as a footballer, but rarely does he provide the on-pitch performances to match this hype. An early mistake from Lyanco left us 1-0 down after just five minutes against Leicester, but we were the better team, even if weren't taking our chances. I told the team at half-time to keep going, and we got our just rewards. An Abel Ruiz penalty levelled the scores, and deep into injury-time Igor Diveev scored a header at a corner to grab all three points.

Abel Ruiz did pick up a knock late on which will put him out of action for a couple of weeks, but luckily with the World Cup beginning in November he'll only miss one game.

Current tactic below. Taking a DMC out of the team and adding in an AMC has helped a lot with giving the striker more support. It also gives the wingers another option (although invariably they still choose to hit the defender every time).

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I'm very happy with the improvement this month. We've had a gentler run of fixtures and with that we've put together three successive wins in the Premier League wins for the first time during my time here. Eight strikes in four games also gives our goals scored column a nice boost.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: 12 games, 12 wins; Quique Setien's Chelsea are flying at the top of the league. Under Pep Guardiola Liverpool have put together a run of nine wins in a row, but they sit five points behind. Brendan Rodgers was fired by Bournemouth (20th), and under new manager John Terry they finally picked up their first win of the season.

Elsewhere in England: Bristol City top the Championship, Derby lead League One. The national team beat Slovakia but lost to Italy, finishing 2nd in the Nations League.

Elsewhere in Europe: Jurgen Klopp has won all 12 of his La Liga games with Barcelona so far, stretching out a 13 point lead already. Thomas Tuchel also has a 100% record with PSG this season, 10 wins from 10 in Ligue Un.

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Posted (edited)

November 2022

We've added a fifth affiliate club as League Two Salford join the ranks. A little underwhelmed by this, was hoping for another foreign club.

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The work being done on our youth facilities was completed and they are now classed as excellent. So I immediately requested a further upgrade, for just over £5 million.

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Just the one game and it was against Arsenal, so obviously we lost (five games, five losses). Two second-half goals made the scoreline look a little better, but in reality they battered us. 

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We had three players called up for the World Cup. Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa and Daniel James both have a load of caps already, but if Lyanco plays he'll be making his debut.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: With the World Cup giving everyone seven weeks off, a few chairmen used that as a chance to ditch some underperforming managers. Aston Villa (17th) booted out Erling Moe and replaced him with Regis Beunardeau (from Lille), Leicester (18th) got rid of Robert Siboldi and brought in Antonio Conte, and West Ham (19th) gave Roberto Martinez his marching orders to bring Frank Lampard back to the club.

Elsewhere in the World: Flamengo won the Brasileiro for an 8th time.

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Edited by DaneBramage
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December 2022

Very similar youth preview to last year. A good group of players apparently, with nothing to back that claim up and a wall of yellow instead. Might be time to look for a new HoYD.

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I set up a couple of friendlies in December so the players would be ready for returning to competitive action. It didn't work, they were ****ing awful.

It was amateur stuff against Newcastle, like they'd never even met each other before. Unbelievably bad. Rotation was always on the cards for the cup game, but as a punishment every single player was dropped and I made 11 changes. The second string were just as bad, and our FA Cup run, just like the League Cup run earlier in the season, was over before it even started.

After the West Ham game Danylo Sikan complained about my team-talk, and swiftly found himself on the transfer list.

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We're back to being completely useless. We're ten points above 18th place, and if we don't get a good amount of points from our next three games (Wolves, Norwich, West Brom), I can easily see us being sucked into a relegation battle.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea have finally lost a game, getting hammered 3-0 by Tottenham. They still have a two point lead at the top though.

Elsewhere in the World: There were some big casualties in the opening stage of the World Cup as Germany, Portugal, and Argentina all fell at the group stage. The largest win of the tournament also came at this stage, when the Ivory Coast destroyed Saudi Arabia 8-2. England were knocked out in the second round by Belgium. Brazil beat Turkey 2-1 in the final to win their 6th World Cup, the goals being scored by Fabinho and Casemiro. Fabinho was also the tournament's top scorer with five, all from the penalty spot. Lyanco made one appearance, playing the last 15 minutes of the semi-final.

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January 2023

A few younger players who were on the outskirts of the first-team were sent out on loan to get some senior gametime, and a recent academy graduate still on a youth contract was stolen away. The bigger deals though involved a couple of players in the senior squad being allowed to move on to sides in China.

Harrison Reed was integral to our promotion from the Championship, but since getting to the Premier League he'd been playing less and less each year, and had been little more than a bit-part player this season. He asked to leave and I wasn't going to stand in his way. Shenzhen originally offered £12.5 million, I upped it to £22.5 million, and it was a done deal. 

The second player going to China was Marco Friedl. He was our first choice left back and not someone I was looking to sell, but at the same time he was solid and dependable rather than spectacular, and there were definitely better options available. So when Wuhan Zell came in offering silly money it was an easy decision to accept it.

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We went shopping for Manchester United cast-offs, bringing in one player on a permanent basis and one on loan to the end of the season. The money for selling Marco Friedl was immediately used to bring in his replacement at left-back, Brandon Williams. He'd been scouted a long time ago but I'd dismissed the chances of being able to sign him, and he was a regular for Manchester United in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 season. But over the last 18 months he was rarely getting picked. I wondered if he'd been injured but there was nothing in his history, so I guess he'd just fallen out of favour with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

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After the Harrison Reed sale we were looking a little light in midfield, but there weren't any candidates I wanted to bring it mid-season. But James Garner was available on loan, so he'll work as a stopgap until the end of the season.

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The third signing for the senior squad was Boris Radunovic. I wasn't necessarily looking for another goalkeeper, but I was starting to get annoyed by Marek Rodak and his habit of conceding at his near post. The Serbian's contract was running out in the summer so I was lining him up on a free, but after we got stuffed by Liverpool I started to consider an earlier move, and then I noticed he had a release clause for foreign clubs of less than half a million. His value has gone up 1600% after joining us.

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We also brought in two younger players for the Under 23s. Mikkel Bjerg and Jeremie Charpentier both have a lot of room to grow, although the potential of the latter has dropped since his initial assessment.

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I said we needed good points from our next three games, and we got them! Three straight wins for a second time this season, and 10 goals in this time. Abel Ruiz got a couple of these and has already reached double figures for the season. We were still a bit leaky at the other end though, in particular the Wolves and Norwich games being end-to-end action where both teams could have scored half a dozen times.

We got hammered by Manchester City, not helped by Lyanco getting sent off for two yellows. We rebounded nicely with a comfortable win over Sheffield United, and Brandon Williams impressed with a MOTM performance on his debut. The games were coming thick and fast and with another game coming on 1st February, I played the second string against Liverpool, with just Marek Rodak keeping his spot and Lyanco playing on his return from suspension. Danylo Sikan scored in the second half, but we were already five down at the time. He was the only player to come out of this game with any sort of credit though as everyone else embarrassed themselves. Marek Rodak conceded a couple at his near post and a couple from long range, while Lyanco got sent for two yellow cards for a second game in a row.

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I'm very pleased to be taking a screenshot that includes the European places. I'm under no illusion that we'll stay quite this high, but we are on track for a top-half finish and should easily surpass our previous season totals of 40 and 44 points. 

The Manchester City and Liverpool thrashings did horrible things to our goal difference though, and we've conceded at least 13 more than each of the six sides directly around us. We're racking up a lot of good results, but we just can't stop the big teams. I think at the end of the season I'm going to check the previous meetings tab against each of the sides left in the Premier League, to see just how bad our record against the top six is.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea are still top, but Liverpool are now only one point behind and have a game in hand. West Ham, Leicester, and West Brom make up the bottom three. Mason Greenwood and Sadio Mane are top-scoring with 11 goals each.

Elsewhere in Europe: Real Madrid have won six games in a row, Atletico Madrid five games. It doesn't matter though, Barcelona are 15 points clear with 17 wins out of 17 in La Liga. 

Elsewhere in the World: A ridiculous transfer window saw three players move for more than £100 million. Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City all spending massive money probably explains why they thrash me every time (and the tactically competent managers of course). 

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Posted (edited)

February 2023

I didn't have a clue what the result was going to be against Tottenham. We took the lead, then immediately they equalised with a great solo goal. Then we went 2-1 up, and again within minutes one of their players had travelled 70 yards with the ball before hitting a cracking strike to pull level. It looked like the game was going to fizzle out for a draw until we won a corner deep in injury-time, and Igor Diveev buried a header in the bottom corner. The Bournemouth game was much more straightforward and we also managed a rare clean sheet.

The midweek fixture against Manchester United saw a lot of rotation and with that came the expected loss, and that quickly turned into three successive losses. We were simply abject against both Sheffield United and Aston Villa. At Bramall Lane Marek Rodak again conceded at the near post for the first and then everyone switched off at a corner for the second. When we hosted Villa they scored in less than a minute and from there it was always an uphill battle. We did equalise after half-time and when Villa went down to ten men the game was there for the taking, but if anything they played better a man down and punished us.

With a bit of a gap until our next game I scheduled a friendly against Bromley, to get us back into the winning routine and get our scoring boots back. We won 5-0, and I also set a couple of additional chance conversion training sessions that week. Then we played Watford, and went 1-0 down within two minutes, another terrible start to a match. But we showed our spirit and fought back to go 2-1 up less than 20 minutes later, and from there we held on. The stats would suggest this was a comfortable win, but we had to make two goal line clearances to take all three points.

Sebastian Szymanski was on fire this month with four goals and two assists. This is by far the best season he's had with us, with 15 goal contributions so far he's already equalled the last two seasons combined.

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I'm annoyed by the losses to Sheffield United and Aston Villa, but that is mitigated by the win against Tottenham. We haven't had many wins over the big six, so that's one to enjoy. 

Next month is a short one due to international fixtures, just three league games in March. We have Manchester City at home, then trips to Norwich and Wolves. I'd hope for at least four points from the latter two matches, if we can beat Norwich that could be very important in the battle for a top-half finish.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea are still top, but Liverpool now have two games in hand and sit only three points below. Aston Villa have dropped into the bottom three (doubly annoyed that they beat us now), joining West Brom (seven losses in a row) and Leicester (eight losses in a row). 

Elsewhere in England: Brighton are top of the Championship, Millwall lead League One, and Blackpool are top of League Two. Naby Keita and Paulo Dybala scored as Liverpool beat Arsenal 2-1 to win the EFL Cup.

Elsewhere in Europe: In the 20th game of the season Barcelona have finally dropped points in La Liga, drawing with Real Valladolid. 

Elsewhere in the World: The Asian Cup was won for a fifth time by Japan, beating Lebanon 2-0 in the final.

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Edited by DaneBramage
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March 2023

I played these games last night but was too angry to write them up at the time. It was atrocious. The only game I'm happy with is the loss to Manchester City. No shame in losing to one of the top teams, and at least we kept it competitive. On another day we would have caused an upset. 

Norwich was a big wasted opportunity. They were right above us in the league at the time, so it was a midtable six-pointer. And they're probably just as annoyed about it as I was. We just didn't turn up and allowed them 25+ shots. Our goal came from a nice pass and finish, but we owed the point to Boris Radunovic in goal, making 13 saves.

And then came Wolves. We went 1-0 up, and 2-1 up, and 3-2 up, yet still managed to lose. I can't blame the attack; three goals should be enough to win any game, and this included Sebastian Szymanski reaching double figures for the season. I can't blame Boris Radunovic either, he outdid his last performance with 14 saves this time. But the defence (or lack thereof) were appalling. Every chance they could get to give the ball away, or miss a tackle, or just stand to the side and let a player run through, they did.  It was absolutely miserable.

And the game's stupid broken discipline system wouldn't let me fine any of them. I had to settle with warning each defender for the poor performance, and anyone who complained got a warning for poor conduct as well.

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Our form column doesn't make for pretty reading, and with a game in hand both Newcastle and Norwich could pull away from us. But we've reached the 40 point mark, and we only need five more to beat our previous best. Just need to stop conceding so many goals (easier said than done of course), we have the fourth worst defence in the division.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Florin Andone of Norwich is one ahead of Marcus Rashford at the top of the goal scoring charts.

Elsewhere in England: The qualifying campaign for Euro 2024 began with a win over Iceland, and a draw with Bulgaria.

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Posted (edited)

March 2023

Youth intake number 4. I'm not impressed.

The contract of my HoYD is up in the summer, and although he looks good on paper, I think it's time to let him go and get someone fresh in. Two dodgy intakes in a row is quite enough.

That being said, there are a couple of bright spots. Although there's no one with huge PA coming through, we do have two at 4.0 star potential so hopefully at least one of Darby Allin (23a) or Lance Archer (23b) can become a useful midfielder for us in the future.

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Edited by DaneBramage
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April 2023

After a terrible March we started April with a home tie against bottom-placed West Brom, who had both the worst attack and defence in the division. With our crap form and crap morale I feared an upset, but instead we ran out comfortable 3-0 winners and Boris Radunovic kept his first clean sheet for the club. Newcastle were one of the teams in the midtable battle with us, but we lost ground to them as they scored the only goal of the game. Luckily we were up against another team in the relegation area next, so had the perfect opportunity to get back on track when we hosted Leicester. Although we'd been playing better with an AMC in the team, the actual players in the position weren't doing well, so I brought in 18 year old Jeremie Charpentier for his first start. He repaid me with a MOTM performance, scoring his first goal and also creating another (though he wasn't officially credited with the assist). 

I have no idea how we beat Arsenal, a side we'd lost to every time in five previous encounters. This was the middle game between two more winnable fixtures, so I put in the second string, pressed Instant Result, and hoped for the best. And the best happened. When the scoreline popped up I assumed I'd forgotten whether we were the home or away team, and was chuffed when it clicked that we had beaten them, and beaten them heavily. The fully rested first-team then came in to beat Burnley, and Chris Jericho (20a) scored his first senior goal. We ended the month with a loss to Chelsea, it looked like we'd be good enough for a draw but ultimately their superior quality showed.

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I'm very happy with this month. 12 points from a possible 18 is a great return, and we've halved our negative goal difference. Beating Arsenal was a surprise, although I'd have happily swapped that to beat Newcastle instead. Can't win them all though.

Due to the Newcastle loss we sit below them in the league, and they and Tottenham both have a game in hand over us. If everything goes perfectly in May we could potentially finish as high as 6th, and barring catastrophe, we shouldn't finish any lower than 9th.

Our final three games are against Everton (13th, away), Southampton (12th, home), and West Ham (16th, home).

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: After winning 10 games in a row Chelsea have pulled out a five point gap at the top over Liverpool, who have a game in hand. At the bottom West Brom are relegated, Leicester look doomed, and then it'll likely be one of Aston Villa or Bournemouth joining them. There's a three-way tie at the top of the goal charts, with Marcus Rashford, Florin Andone, and Abel Ruiz all on 18.

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May 2023

A fantastic end to the season. The Everton game was a cracker for the neutral as we went 1-0 down, then 2-1 up, then were drawn back to 2-2 in the dying minutes of the game. But we kept plugging away, and deep into injury-time a Brandon Williams cross found Paolo Ghiglione at the back stick to steal all three points,

The Southampton win was more straightforward, as a goal in the opening minute gave us an early advantage that was never relinquished. On the final day West Ham were a tougher opponent, but for a second game in a row Abel Ruiz scored from the penalty spot and that was enough for the victory.

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Lovely stuff. While we had a strong end to the season, both Newcastle and Watford fell away, and that opened the door for us to clinch 7th place, and a spot in the European Conference League play-off.

Our defensive record was one of the worst in the league, but we scored three goals on seven occasions during our final ten games, and it meant we recovered our goal difference to just -1.

This was a brilliant improvement on last season, as we finished five places higher and 17 points better off.

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I have regularly bemoaned our lack of a prolific striker in recent years, and Abel Ruiz has shown the difference a proper striker can make. An excellent addition to the team, he ended up with 22 goals overall, and the 21 scored in the league were enough to take the Premier League golden boot.

Oussama Idrissi was our top creator with 10 assists. Sebastian Szymanski was just one assist behind, and he was also our second highest scorer. This, along with his seven MoTM awards and 7.20 average rating was enough for him to win our player of the season vote.

Special mention has to be made to three of the players who joined in January, and really strengthened us as we pushed on in the second half of the season. Boris Radunovic took over between the sticks, and the amount of goals we conceded was heavily reduced, from 1.88 per game to 1.17 per game. Brandon Williams was an upgrade at left-back, and while he still has the occasional brainfart, he gives us a lot more attacking impetus and we won seven out of 12 league games that he played in. And James Garner has really made the deep-lying playmaker role his own, making five assists in 15 appearances with an average rating of 7.30. The latter two may not be good enough for Manchester United, but they're plenty good enough for me. 

During May I offered Manchester United £16 million for James Garner and this was accepted, so he'll be joining on a permanent basis in the summer.

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Chris Jericho (20a) had an unsuccessful spell at Jagiellonia Bialystok, where he was recalled early after just five sub appearances. He was a regular off the bench for us in the latter half of the season, and got his first goal and assist for the club.

Towards the end of the season Darby Allin (23a) made his debut, and also made an assist.

Wardlow (21b) spent the year on loan in League One with Wigan, where he made a big impact. In 49 games he scored 20 goals and assisted seven more.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea bottled it. They needed just two points from their final couple of games, and instead let slip a 2-0 lead to only draw with Bournemouth, and then got hammered 4-0 by Manchester United on the final day. This allowed Liverpool to take the title on goal difference. Abel Ruiz was the league's top scorer with 21 strikes, while Bruno Fernandes was the top creator with 15 assists. Alisson kept 24 clean sheets, and Mateo Kovacic's average rating of 7.58 was the best in the league.

Elsewhere in England: Brighton won the Championship, and will be promoted along with Leeds (2nd) and Swansea (play-offs). Millwall won League One, Northampton won League Two. Manchester City beat Manchester United on penalties after a 1-1 draw to win the FA Cup. This pushed Jose Mourinho up to 6th place in the England Hall of Fame.

Elsewhere in Europe: PSG only dropped seven points all season, and won Ligue Un by 33 points. Kylian Mbappe was the top scorer for a fifth year in a row. There was a big upset in Germany as Bayern Munich's reign of dominance was ended and Bayer Leverkusen won the Bundesliga for a first time. Jagiellonia Bialystok were also first time winners of the Ekstraklasa. In his first year at Barcelona Jurgen Klopp won La Liga, and he's moved up to 5th in the worldwide Hall of Fame. Pep Guardiola completed a very successful first season at Liverpool by winning the Champions League, defeating (yes, you've guessed it) Manchester City 2-0 in the final. Pep Guardiola has now entered the England Hall of Fame in 8th place.

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Excellent season there @DaneBramage and really looking forward to see what you do in the transfer window with European Football on the horizon.

Good to see Szymanski taking off and Ruiz is proving to be a great signing up top. Although changes in Jan helped reduce your goals conceded, is that where you'll be looking to strengthen most?

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On 02/08/2021 at 11:36, smplfc123 said:

Excellent season there @DaneBramage and really looking forward to see what you do in the transfer window with European Football on the horizon.

Good to see Szymanski taking off and Ruiz is proving to be a great signing up top. Although changes in Jan helped reduce your goals conceded, is that where you'll be looking to strengthen most?

Thanks, it went a lot better than I thought it would! I was just hoping for a bit of improvement, but finishing best of the rest exceeded my expectations.

I was planning on doing a bit of a squad review at some point, check where the strengths are and where I have players with potential coming through, but the Olympics are taking up most of my free time at the moment (and let's be honest, work time too). I quite like my defence though, it probably could use some improving, but I think bringing in at least one more quality central midfielder is the priority for this window.

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June 2023

At the end of the season Tom Cairney put in a transfer request, saying he wanted a new challenge. We'd literally only just qualified for the Conference League, would that not count as a new challenge? But he had slipped out of my first team and often wasn't even making the bench, and it was clear his best days were over. So I wasn't going to stand in his way, and getting £7.75 million for a 32 year old is a good deal. We will be paying most of his wages for the next year, but even after we take that into account we still get about £6 million out of this.

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The main reason that Tom Cairney had been moved out of the first-team was the arrival of James Garner on loan. Our form was much approved after his introduction to the side, so it was a no-brainer to make it permanent. My initial bid of £16 million was accepted straightaway by Manchester United. I expected that they'd go higher, so perhaps I paid more than I needed to, but I think he'll be worth it.

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I also brought in a player to fill the more attacking midfield role. Faustino Anjorin had been on my radar for a while, I was interested in him last summer when his Chelsea contract was expiring, but New York Red Bulls got in there first and took him to America. He scored five teams and assisted 10 more during 25 games in the US, so I met his release clause to add him to our ranks.

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Elsewhere in England: Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling both reached 25 goals for the national side in a 3-0 Euro qualifier against Switzerland.

Elsewhere in Europe: Lionel Messi brought his career to an end, finishing up with 462 goals in 580 games for Barcelona. Chelsea broke the £100m mark on a single player again, while Manchester United and Tottenham also went big. Jack Grealish finally got his move away from Villa.

Spoiler

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Elsewhere in the World: South Korea won the inaugural Asian Nations League.

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July 2023

Everything's going in the right direction, and with improvements currently underway for both senior and youth training facilities, it won't be long until everything is maxed out.

We're now the 8th most reputable team in England, behind the big six and Newcastle. We're also 61st on the European list now, and 73rd on the Worldwide list (between Espanyol and PSV on both).

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We've added a South Korean affiliate to try and tap into the Asian markets. I've activated the K League, which should kick in for the 2024 season.

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The board want a mid-table finish, while the media think we'll finish 8th. The bookies have us at 150-1 to win the title, and 12-1 to be relegated.

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Balls. Manchester United were testing the water last months with bids of around £25 million, but they were put off when I pointed at the release clause. Unfortunately when I did the same to Arsenal that didn't detract them and they stumped up the cash. I did make a last ditch attempt to keep Sebastian Szymanski by offering him a new contract, but Arsenal could offer much higher wages than we could and off he went.

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Obviously that left me needing a new right-winger. I had money to spend and a few targets, but wages were the problem. There were a couple of players that we agreed a transfer fee for, but the deals then fell apart when the players wanted well over £100k per week. In comparison, our maximum is £75k at the moment. So I took a look at loan possibilities instead. Reiss Nelson had seen his gametime at Arsenal dwindling in the last few years, and with Sebastian Szymanski now there, his opportunities would have been reduced even further. Thus he went in the opposite direction, joining us for a year. This gives me time to assess more options for next summer, or see whether he's worth keeping around.

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My scout in Australia found a centre-back with some potential. Immediately after joining his PA slipped from 5.0 to 4.0, but Gioacchino Cassone is a cheap punt and we'll see how he develops. He'll go into the under 23s for now.

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Alfie Mawson was given the captain's armband to replace the departed Tom Cairney, with Sebastian Szymanski originally selected as his deputy. Unfortunately this lasted just a few weeks until he left the club as well, at which point James Garner was named vice-captain instead.

This is how my squad looks going into the new season. I'm not actively looking to make any more additions at the moment, but if we get into the Conference League that may change to accommodate the extra games.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Nuno Espirito Santo left Norwich to join Valencia, and he was replaced at Carrow Road by Slaven Bilic. This left Leeds without a manager, so they brought in Erling Moe.

Elsewhere in Europe: Tottenham have had a nightmare month, losing three of their top attacking players. This included Harry Kane joining PSG for just £57m. Bizarrely though they had mainly been using him as a midfielder in the last two seasons. Richarlison has been sold for massive money again, now attracting fees of over £200m throughout his career.

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Elsewhere in the World: Mexico won the Gold Cup for a ninth time, beating Jamaica on penalties. Ivory Coast won their fourth African Cup of Nations, beating Morocco 4-1 in the final.

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Posted (edited)

August 2023

I signed one more player during August. I didn't really plan to, but when your scout finds you an 18 year old Brazilian wonderkid with a release clause of under £10 million, you just have to go for it. In 34 appearances for Santos Pedro Sartori scored 10 times and provided another seven assists.

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Performances and results have been inconsistent at the start of the season. We took an early lead against West Ham, then missed a bunch of chances to extend it. Then we made a complete hash of a free-kick inside our own penalty area (see above), and we were level. We scored again late on as Faustino Anjorin hit the target on his debut, but were pulled back immediately. Luckily Paolo Ghiglione hit a winner in injury-time, as we just about scraped all three points from a game we should have won comfortably.

We didn't learn from our mistakes, and against Wolves again we twice conceded equalisers after going ahead. We started badly with Abel Ruiz missing a penalty, but at least there was a bright spark with Pedro Sartori getting his first goal for the club.

The second-string then came in for the Europa League tie against Shamrock, and we beat them easily. The first XI then came back in to play Manchester City, and put in a sterling effort to keep a clean sheet and nab a point. The reserves were called up again to take on Shamrock in the second leg, and when we were two-up inside the first ten minutes it looked like we'd run away with it. But the back-ups failed to follow up on their previous good display, and a pathetic second-half showing allowed Shamrock to get back into it and nearly embarrass us.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Liverpool, Everton, and Chelsea have a 100% record after three games. Southampton are yet to pick up a single point.

Elsewhere in Europe: Liverpool met Jude Bellingham's release clause to bring him to Anfield for just under £50 million.

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Edited by DaneBramage
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Posted (edited)

September 2023

Danylo Sikan was intended to be my main signing of last summer, but quickly found himself overshadowed by Abel Ruiz. A bad reaction to a warning for poor performances didn't endear him to me, and he found himself on the transfer list just six months after signing. I'd written off him as a big money flop, but at least we made a considerable profit on him.

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The FM Gods hate me. Our first game after selling Danylo Sikan was obviously against Bournemouth. And obviously he scored, and obviously they won. It's a stupid game anyway.

Against Newcastle we wasted so many chances I didn't think it was going to be our day. But a couple of throughballs with pinpoint accuracy from our midfield gave the attack chances they couldn't miss and we picked up a good win. It was a similar story against Craiova, although at least with them being utterly hopeless themselves I didn't have any fear that we'd throw it away. A 2-0 win sounds comfortable, but we had 33 shots. It should have been double figures.

8-0. Pathetic. We just kept opening up and letting Manchester United dance through. I could only fine four players, I would have done all 11 if I could. 

An entirely different 11 were selected for the League Cup game against Ipswich, both for rotation and punishment reasons. This 11 were just as terrible, even against Championship opposition. We went one-down early on, eventually equalised an hour later when we went ridiculously attacking in the second-half to try and rescue the game, then lost on penalties anyway. More fines! Think we had more fines than we did goals this month.

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Crap. Crap performances, crap defending, crap goal difference.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea are the only team with a 100% record after seven games, two points ahead of Liverpool. West Ham, Southampton, and Leeds make up the bottom three. Bournemouth were the only club doing any major business on deadline day.

Spoiler

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Edited by DaneBramage
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Interesting to see how you do without Szymanski and Cairney. I know Cairney was your choice as he was getting past it, but he's been in that dressing room for quite a few years now!

Good start in your Europa Group, even if not spectacular in the Prem.

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October 2023

After the disastrous end to September we needed to see a massive improvement in October. We got back on the winning track against Burnley, but it wasn't a great showing. Boris Radunovic twice conceding long range efforts when there didn't look to be any danger, and that's the end of his run in goal. We were bailed out by Pedro Sartori coming off the bench and hitting a 94th minute winner. In the Conference League we had a much easier time of it, hitting Mura for seven in a bit of a walkover. We did this playing with ten men for over 80 minutes thanks to a stupid two-footed lunge from Daniel James, and he found himself on the transfer-list as soon as the game ended. He's been rubbish ever since joining, and this was the final straw.

Pedro Sartori had earned himself a starting spot against Everton, and he repaid this with an early goal and an assist in a MOTM display. The game went down to a tense finale though as an error from Brandon Williams opened the door for Everton to peg us back, but we held on for the win. The good times continued with a comfortable win over Swansea, and Pedro Sartori scored for a fourth game in a row.

We spent the first half hour against Anorthosis Famagusta apparently having a team competition to see who could have the worst attempt on goal. Abel Ruiz was the main offender, he's turned into an absolute donkey this season. Eventually Faustino Anjorin stepped up to put us into the lead with a fine solo goal, before veteran defenders Joe Bryan and Alfie Mawson combined from a free-kick to double the score. We lived life on the edge against Watford, as we relied on some last ditch saves from Marek Rodak (as well as some wayward finishing) to keep them out. But the backs to the wall effort allowed us to break away on the counterattack, and twice we capitalised on this for goals from Faustino Anjorin and James Garner.

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Perfect month! And this makes for some very nice viewing. We're mixing it up with the big boys in the league, and it would take quite a collapse now to not reach the next stage in Europe. 

Obviously our fixture list this month hasn't been the toughest and this has allowed us to put some form together, but you still have to beat the teams put in front of you. Pedro Sartori had a really good month, he's now on seven goals in 750 minutes this season. We scored at least twice in every game.

But I think the most influential changes were in goal and in defence. Marek Rodak took the gloves again, and conceded just twice in five games. And I lowered the lines of engagement, which has stopped us leaving too much space behind the back four.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea's pace at the top has been relentless, but Liverpool are almost matching them stride-for-stride. The top scorers are both at Stamford Bridge though, with Erling Haaland and Leon Bailey on eight goals apiece. Bailey is also the top creator with seven assists, one ahead of Sebastian Szymanski. Swansea are the only team yet to win this season, and are joined in the bottom three by Southampton and Leeds. Quique Sanchez Flores has paid the price and been given the sack by the Saints, and replaced by Cristian Stellini (from Cagliari).

Elsewhere in England: With three wins over September and October England remain top of their Euro 2024 qualifying group.

Elsewhere in Europe: Harry Kane has scored 12 goals in his first 15 games for PSG.

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November 2023

Excellent in Europe, not so much in the league.

I'm not bothered about the losses to Liverpool and Chelsea. Our combined record against them is 15 games, 15 losses. So another pair of defeats is just par for the course at this point. They're not just head and shoulders above us, but chest and belly button too. At least both were tight games and we didn't get whooped. But against Brighton we should have done better. We scored early then never pushed on, and as the game went on they grew more and more into it, until inevitably they grabbed an equaliser.

We smashed Craiova off the park with our second 7-0 win of the Conference League group stage. Wardlow (21b) scored his first goal for the club, but the star man was Fabio Carvalho. On a rare start he grabbed a pair of goals, plus a hat-trick of assists.

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Just one point from nine isn't very good, and we've slipped down the table accordingly. I've no idea why the form column thinks we've won five in a row, unfortunately that really isn't the case.

Qualification to the next stage of the Conference League is confirmed, and we'll be going through as group winners. One game to go, hopefully we can keep another clean sheet and complete a perfect defensive record.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea have only dropped two points so far this season, and already hold a seven point gap over Liverpool. Swansea, Southampton, and Brighton make up the bottom three. Ralph Hassenhuttl was given the boot by Swansea (20th) after picking up just four points from the opening 11 games, and was replaced by Jess Thorup (from Gent). Erling Haaland is leading the goal charts with 14 strikes.

Elsewhere in England: Aston Villa have an eight point lead at the top of the Championship. The national team lost to Switzerland but beat Luxembourg to qualify for Euro 2024.

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December 2023

A better preview than last year's, so fingers crossed for this centre-back and striker.

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Party's cancelled. Everyone go home. No cake and jelly for you. 

200 games in management should be something to celebrate. Instead I was treated to two of the worst performances you'll ever see as we were absolutely woeful against Norwich and Sheffield United. 

At least game 201 was a happier occasion as we picked up our sixth win in the Conference League group stage. And we carried this momentum over into the league with a dominating 3-0 win over Leeds. I wish we'd been better from open play, but we were clinical from set pieces. Abel Ruiz scored from the spot, and Joe Bryan twice assisted Alfie Mawson (once from a free-kick and once from a corner).

The winning form didn't last. We threw everything but the kitchen sink at Tottenham in the first-half, but Abel Ruiz and Pedro Sartori were both terrible up top and missed chance after chance. Of course Spurs scored with their first real shot on goal, and then they tore us apart in the second-half. I feared the Southampton game was going to go the same way as we had plenty of the ball in the first 40 minutes, but no end product. They're in the relegation places for a reason though, and eventually our pressure wore down their dodgy defence. Chris Jericho (20a) was fouled in the box, and Oussama Idrissi converted the penalty. Minutes later the same pairing combined for a second, and that was the game won.

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We continue to slide down the table, and if Bournemouth win their game in hand we'll slip into the bottom-half. I don't want to become a chequebook manager, but I think I may have to look for some significant reinforcements in January. In particular I'll be looking for a goalkeeper and a central midfielder. And if you discount penalties, neither of our two senior strikers have scored in the last ten games.

The Conference League was easy, just a shame we couldn't make it six clean sheets. 

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea retain their seven point lead over Liverpool, while Leeds join Swansea and Southampton (yet to win a game) in the bottom three. Watford (16th) and Brighton (17th) are just about clear of the relegation area, but both have opted to get rid of their managers. Quique Sanchez Flores has replaced Steve Merison at Brighton, while Steven Gerrard's old desk is still empty at Watford.

Elsewhere in England: Aston Villa lead the Championship, Hull top League One, and Plymouth lead League Two.

Elsewhere in the World: Corinthians won their 8th Brasileiro.

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Posted (edited)

January 2024

A couple of players left at the start of the transfer window. Aboubakar Kamara hasn't been in the first-team squad for a while now, he was firmly rooted in the ressies and had spent time out on loan, and we eventually managed to shift him on to Charlton.

Marek Rodak was my first choice keeper for a long time, but he lost my confidence last season and was replaced. He made his way back into contention this year, but after another game where he had a 'mare I decided it was time to get rid. We probably sold him for a lot less than he's worth, but with his contract running out in the summer I didn't have much choice in the matter.

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I had looked at Dani Martin last January, and did have an offer of £12 million (his release clause) accepted. But he chose to sign a new contract with Betis instead. Luckily there was still a release clause in place, and not much higher. So I activated it again, and this time the deal was completed. He is my new highest earner though on £85k a week.

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And then our transfer record was smashed, as we brought in Ryan Gravenberch from Ajax for £35.5 million. He's someone my Dutch scout has been recommending for years, and with a transfer budget of over £60 million burning a hole in my pocket it was time to make use of it.

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For a second year in a row we beat Arsenal, and again I didn't play the game but pressed Instant Result and hoped for the best. Maybe I should stop watching the games and just IR all of them. 

Or maybe not. Yet another cup knockout by a team in a lower division to us. By my count that's happened five times now in ten cup entries (one FA Cup, four League Cup). Scrap the IR experiment. 

The next run of three games was infuriating. We went behind early against Everton, then battered them, but could only get back on level terms and were wasteful in front of goal. It was similar against Swansea (in the relegation area), after conceding early we did go ahead, but missed so many more chances that the equaliser they got (against the run of play) was inevitable. At least we picked up a victory in between these two as Wardlow (21b) scored the only goal of the game against Watford. Incidentally, he is now described as a wonderkid.

The Arsenal IR magic didn't quite come off for a second time this month, as we only managed a draw this time. But that's now three unbeaten against them, after five consecutive losses previously.

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At the start of January I probably would have been happy enough with two wins and three draws for an unbeaten month. But the win against Arsenal was a bonus result, and the draws against Everton and Swansea were frustrating. Especially given that Swansea are deep in relegation trouble, we should be battering them.

And despite my annoyance, we have managed to rise up the table. None of the teams around us had a strong month, it's all very close in the battle for the European positions.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea did slip up with a loss to Everton, but still have a six point lead over Liverpool. Manchester City are then a further 16 points back, so it's a two horse race at the top. Sheffield United have an 11 point buffer on the bottom three, so Leeds, Swansea, and Southampton all look doomed already. Speaking of the Saints (20th), Cristian Stellini was fired and Steven Gerrard replaced him. His old job at Watford (14th) was then taken by Gennaro Gattuso.

Elsewhere in Europe: Romelu Lukaku left Chelsea to join Fiorentina for £26 million. This took his cumulative transfer fees to over £300 million.

Spoiler

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Edited by DaneBramage
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  • DaneBramage changed the title to [FM20] Fulham FC - All Elite Football

February 2024

We seem to have hit the point in the season where our performances are just schizophrenic. There's never any guessing what kind of showing we'll put on. The opponent doesn't matter, home or away doesn't make a difference, form goes out the window, every single game just seems like a roll of the dice.

Against West Ham we were awful, and lost accordingly. We were just as bad against Burnley, but scraped a winner deep into stoppage time.

We started slowly against Wolves but grew into the game and ended up giving them a sound thrashing. On most other weekends we would have beat Tottenham, but three (THREE!!!) separate defensive howlers meant we left with nothing.

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We're hanging on in there, but there's a whole host of clubs just beneath us ready to pounce if we continue with our stop-start form.

Our goal difference has finally recovered from September's 8-0 defeat to Manchester United.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Chelsea and Liverpool both had perfect months, so Chelsea stay six points clear. Erling Haaland is now on 19 goals. Chris Wilder was sacked by Sheffield United (16th), and replaced by Ralph Hassenhuttl.

Elsewhere in England: Phil Neville was sacked by Wigan after just six months, as they were struggling in the lower reaches of League One.

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March 2024

We were terrible in the league. We were 3-0 up against the team bottom of the table, and we left with just a point. We also got beaten easily by the team in 16th. At least we beat Leeds, but that was more by luck than anything else. We went 1-0 down and I changed to an attacking 4-4-2 formation, figuring I'd rather go all out and risk a bigger loss. Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa somehow found himself shuffled up front, and promptly scored twice and won a penalty to turn the game around.

Away at Sporting Lisbon we ran into our normal problems, as the first leg was a similar game to one I've seen 50 times already in this save - bossed it, went 1-0 up, missed a bunch of chances, then conceded an equaliser. And the second leg wasn't looking any more encouraging, as our attacking contingent spent the first-half as ineffective as ever. But Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa was again the surprise saviour, hitting two long-range efforts after Joe Bryan had opened the scoring with a screamer of his own. We're up against FC Zurich in the quarter-finals.

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Really not happy with how this month has gone. There's no excuse for not getting all nine points from these games. That capitulation against Southampton is going to keep me in a bad mood for a long time.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: No change at the top as Chelsea still lead Liverpool by six points. Regis Beunardeau was sacked by West Ham (15th) and replaced by Chris Wilder. He didn't stay out of work for long though, as he took over at Bournemouth (14th) when John Terry was fired. The bigger news was higher up the table though, as Manchester City (3rd) booted out Jose Mourinho after less than two years, and just one FA Cup to show for his time there.

Elsewhere in England: Manchester United beat Tottenham 2-1 to win the League Cup, both goals coming from Dele Alli.

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March 2024

Youth intake number 5.

We've got a 5.0 star PA player come through this time, newly christened as Hangman Page (24a). Hopefully his strength and finishing will develop as at the moment he looks weak in both those areas.

There's not much strength in depth by the look of it, just two players at 3.5 then a lot just there to make up the numbers.

One new nationality as we have our first Grenadian turn up. There's actually a few from the Caribbean this year, as well as a couple of Nigerians.

Spoiler

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April 2024

We beat Liverpool! After seven successive losses to them, we finally managed to secure a victory over the Scousers. It was definitely against the run of play though, as they had three times as many shots as we did, but our defence put in a sterling effort to keep them out. The good times carried over into Europe, as the second string put on a setpiece masterclass against FC Zurich. We managed an early opener from the spot, then two free-kicks from Jeremie Charpentier were headed home by each of our centre-backs.

We should have beat Norwich, but our finishing was nowhere near good enough and their keeper put in a MOTM display. FC Zurich were then swatted aside for a second time, before a battling performance against Brighton saw us steal the only goal of the game. 

Chelsea beat us like they always do (I think they and Manchester City are now the only sides left that we've never beaten), but we ended the month strong with a bit of a goalfest versus Bournemouth.

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Considering we played both of the top two this month, I can't complain about three wins from five games. But while it's nice to have finally beaten Liverpool, I just wish we'd won the Norwich game instead. They're now three points ahead of us. The fight for the Europa League and Conference League places is very tight, and if Tottenham win their game in hand we're in prime position to be the team that misses out.

Our final three games are against the two Manchester clubs (3rd and 4th) and Newcastle (11th).

In the Conference League semi-finals we play Marseille.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: After Liverpool lost to us they then tasted defeat in their next two games as well, which allowed Chelsea to pull clear with a 16 point lead at the top to clinch the title. At the other end Swansea and Leeds have had relegation confirmed, but Southampton are putting up a great last-minute fight. Steven Gerrard has inspired them to go nine games without losing, including winning the last five in a row. But there is still a gap of six points to Sheffield United, so it may be too little too late.

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May 2024

We burst out of the blocks against Marseille, yet somehow found ourselves 3-1 down by half-time. Substitute Wardlow (21b) got one back with 20 minutes remaining, leaving us just one goal behind (and with two away strikes to our name) going into the second leg. But despite putting ourselves in a promising spot for the home game, we pissed it away. We had plenty enough chances to win with 26 efforts on goal, but we hit the woodwork twice, and only managed seven on target. The midfield in particular were especially poor. A massive missed opportunity, we should have made the Europa League final easily.

In between those two games the second-string got hammered by Manchester City. After the European knockout we took on Newcastle, and got defeated handily. After the game I threw a hissy fit and criticised every single player that had played, and transfer-listed Dani Martin, Brandon Williams, and Abel Ruiz. For the final game of the season, with nothing left to play for, I dropped all the senior players and fielded a team of kids.

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The end of the year was a big old damp squib, as we were knocked out of Europe and then failed to make it back in for next season. The thrashing from Manchester City also ensured we ended up with a negative goal difference. In fact, only the bottom three and Bournemouth had a worse defensive record than us.

We finished two places lower and six points worse off than last year. A really disappointing season.

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Goalkeepers: Boris Radunovic started the season in goal, before quickly finding himself replaced by Marek Rodak. His mistakes found him dropped and sold, and Maxwell Jacob Friedman (21a) came in for a while. He didn't let me down, but I was hesitant to make a youngster my first choice. Dani Martin was signed in January, but has turned out to be a bit of a duffer and was transfer-listed at the end of the season. So I'm looking for a new keeper again.

Defenders: I don't necessarily think of the defence as being the worst part of my team, but our defensive record perhaps shows otherwise. Joe Bryan is leaving when his contract expires and I got fed up with Brandon Williams being a liability so I transfer-listed him too, so I definitely need a new left-back. And probably a centre-back.

Midfield: Fine, I guess? Inconsistent though and definitely don't get enough goals or assists between them.

Wingers: Similar to my thoughts on the midfield. A few more goals, but no-one getting into double figures for assists is really poor. Could do with strengthening on both sides.

Strikers: Abel Ruiz was spectacular last year but has been awful this season. 16 goals doesn't look too bad, but only 10 came in the league so it's a big drop-off. He had one bad performance too many near the end of the season and found himself transfer-listed. Pedro Sartori was the new addition this season and did much better, also with 16 goals, but a higher percentage of these were in the league. Is a bit streaky though, and tends to go missing for a few games at a time. 

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Chris Jericho (20a) and Wardlow (21b) are now regulars in and around the first-team squad, racking up over 60 appearances between them this season. The latter is developing nicely, scoring a few goals and is now considered a wonderkid. The former doesn't really seem to have kicked on much though, I'm not convinced about his long-term potential.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman (21a) had a run in the first-team while we were between keepers, and while I'm not ready for him to be first choice, I am happy to pick him when needed.

Chris Jericho (20a) -- Wardlow (21b) -- Maxwell Jacob Friedman (21a)

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: After the season ended Manchester City poached Marcelino to be their new boss, fresh off of winning Serie A and the Europa League with Internazionale. Erling Haaland finished up as top scorer with 24 goals. Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked by Tottenham at the end of the season. Joining him in the unemployment line was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, fired by Manchester United one day after winning the Champions League.

Elsewhere in England: Leicester won the Championship, and Aston Villa and Sunderland joined them in promotion. Hull topped League One, and Notts County won League Two. Liverpool beat Leicester 1-0 in the FA Cup final.

Elsewhere in Europe: PSG won Ligue Un by 27 points. Kylian Mbappe was top scorer for a sixth year in a row, finishing eight goals ahead of Harry Kane. Bernardo Silva had an exceptional season as Real Madrid won La Liga, contributing 23 goals, 17 assists, and 22 MOTM awards.

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Worldwide Hall of Fame Changes: After winning the FA Cup with Liverpool Pep Guardiola jumped Sir Alex Ferguson to reach the top of the all-time Hall of Fame.

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June 2024

The overhaul begins. 

The £70 million we received for Abel Ruiz was a new record fee for the club. The decision to transfer-list him was probably a bit rash, but I was really annoyed with him at the time and once my opinion has gone against a player it's generally pretty difficult for them to get back into my good books. About £20 million was taken by the player and his previous club, but that still left us with £50 million, double what we paid for him two years ago. Brandon Williams was just a bad defender. Occasionally offered us something going forward, but too often was caught out of position leaving us wide open at the back.

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The deal to sign Gerard Poiret was done quite a long time ago, but it could only go through now he'd turned 18. I don't really like the look of him any more, so we'll see how he gets on in the Under 23s and hope he develops well.

For a second window in a row I was looking for a new goalie, and touch wood, I hope I've found someone I can rely on now. I met the release clause of Maarten Vandevoordt to sign him for £23 million on the recommendation of a new scout. He had 32 clean sheets in 83 league games for Genk, and has a load of appearances for the Belgium underage groups. Looks like a big upgrade on Dani Martin, who I'm in the process of selling at the moment.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's unemployment didn't last long as he took over at Tottenham.

Elsewhere in England: The national team warmed up for Euro 2024 with a win over Moldova and a draw with Wales. In this second game Raheem Sterling won his 100th cap.

Elsewhere in Europe: The usual suspects in Manchester United and Liverpool have splashed the cash, but Norwich and Sheffield United have also both gone big. Thierry Mata (18 year old wonderkid striker with 48 Ligue Un goals already) was on our radar, but after we'd agreed a deal his agent tried shaking us down for more cash, and we pulled the plug out of principal. The Blades are now paying him £100k a week.

Spoiler

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Elsewhere in the World: The USA won the North American Nations League. New Zealand won the OFC Nations Cup.

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July 2024

After the sale of Abel Ruiz we have a ridiculous bank balance, so there's plenty of room to bring in more improvements this summer.

I keep thinking we must have maxed out our facilities, but I've just requested more upgrades for training and youth facilities for a combined total of just over £10 million.

We've fallen behind a few clubs in England, as we now sit 11th in the reputation list. We've also slipped back a few spots in Europe (66th), and fallen out of the worldwide top 75.

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We've finished in the top half the last two seasons, so the same is expected by the board again now. The media aren't quite so optimistic, predicting we'll finish 12th. The bookies have us at 1,000-1 for the title and 8-1 to be relegated.

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The exodus continues.

I offered Joe Bryan a new contract but he decided to join Rangers instead. At 30 I can't argue with that too much, but he will be a big loss to the squad. Over the years I've brought in other players to play at left-back, but we always seemed to end up with him back in there, so he goes with our best wishes.

The others can get stuffed though. Cody Drameh was always on the outskirts of the first-team, never quite breaking in, and always underwhelming when he did get a chance. Boris Radunovic made a decent start with us, but then his performances fell off a cliff and he was banished from the senior squad. Dani Martin was meant to be his replacement, but didn't offer the upgrade he should have. And I'm sure Daniel James must have had his moments, but I just remember him being trash from start to finish during his time with us.

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As players leave, so we have to bring more in. First up was Takefusa Kubo when his contract at Real Madrid expired. I don't know if maybe I was tricked by the allure of a Galactico, but he doesn't look anything special now. I'll give him a chance though, and since he was free, even if it doesn't work out we'll be able to sell him for a profit. And the finance team say he does wonders for our shirt sales.

Next in was Gianmarco Cangiano from Bologna. He'll give us another option on the left-wing.

And the third addition this month was Adonis, as we met the release clause to bring him in from Sao Paulo. The media description suggests he could be the next Ronaldo, so let's hope that turns out to be true. 

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As we approach the new season this is how the squad looks. I'm still after re-inforcements at left-back and centre-back.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Manchester United raided Fiorentina to bring in Simone Inzaghi as their new manager.

Elsewhere in England: The national team crashed out of Euro 2024 at the quarter-final stage, suffering a heavy 4-1 loss to France.

Elsewhere in Europe: After two years without a Serie A title Zinedine Zidane was sacked by Juventus. He wasn't out of work long, quickly taking over at Porto, where Cristiano Ronaldo joined up as his AssMan again. Leonardo Jardim was his replacement at the San Siro. Jose Mourinho found a new job at Lazio. Euro 2024 was won by France, beating Spain on penalties in the final after a goalless 120 minutes. There were two transfers over £100 million this month, as Kai Havertz joined Chelsea and Jadon Sancho joined Barcelona (in the second £100 million+ move of his career). PSG were busy, selling talent in excess of £350 million, but then spending over £200 million themselves.

Spoiler

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Elsewhere in the World: The Copa America was won by Chile as they thumped Brazil 4-2 in the final.

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August 2024

One final addition this month, as we brought in Daniel Raymond on loan from Liverpool for the season. He'll provide cover at centre-back and left-back, and already has 50 top-flight appearances split between Belgium, France, and Germany.

Spoiler

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A mostly good start to the season. We hosted newly-promoted Sunderland on the opening day, which gave us the chance to hand out an early whooping. The major danger zone was the right-wing where Paolo Ghiglione scored twice, before Takefusa Kubo came on for his debut and added another.

The trip to West Ham was a tougher proposition and I was satisfied when we came away with a point, and then we made it three unbeaten with a good win over Norwich. The early goals came from a defensive mistake and an own goal, but Gianmarco Cangiano scored his first goal for the club with a powerful strike in the second half.

The second string beat Championship side Millwall in the League Cup, but the winning margin should have been much higher. Adonis wasted seven chances, he has not made a strong start to his career here. And we ended the month with a loss. We battled away against Manchester United and with 25 minutes to go we went into the lead, somewhat against the run of play. We couldn't hold on though and they grabbed an equaliser later on, before stealing all three points in injury-time.

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We've gone to a 4-4-2 tactic for the start of the season and it's done the business at home with two convincing wins. We've struggled in our away fixtures though, picking up just the one point so far.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Manchester United and Liverpool lead the way with ten points each, while Sheffield United are yet to get off the mark at the bottom.

Elsewhere in the World: The Netherlands Under 23s won the Olympics. Ryan Gravenberch played three times along the way, scoring once.

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September 2024

One final signing on deadline day. We've probably overpaid for Samir Benrabah, but I like the look of him, and hopefully he can solve our left-back problem for a long time to come.

Spoiler

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"Right lads, we've made a good start to the season. Let's keep it going yeah?"

"Actually boss, we've got a better idea. Let's concede loads of goals! We know you'll let us off for the Manchester City and Chelsea defeats, but throwing away a 2-1 lead to bottom-placed Sheffield United, who are yet to score even a single point, that would be a fun touch wouldn't it?"

"At least tell me you'll get through to the next round of the League Cup?"

"Ugh, fine. I suppose, if we really have to. But we won't win in regular time. We'll drag it out to penalties just to annoy you even further."

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"Hey AssMan, Adonis has now gone seven games without a goal. Reckon he's ever going to score?"

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Liverpool have pulled a point clear of Manchester City. Watford, Sunderland, and Brighton make up the bottom three.

Elsewhere in England: In the Nations League the national team drew with Portugal before being Scotland.

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October + November 2024

This is the first time in this career I've thought that I was heading towards the sack. 

We came into October on a run of four league losses in a row, and although we beat Everton to snap that streak, two more losses followed to make it six out of seven. We'd even gone back to last year's 4-5-1 formation, but that didn't seem to help and we were floundering down in 15th and hovering dangerously close to the relegation area.

At this point I got fed up and started delegating all press conferences to my AssMan, and not bothering with the individual games and Instant Resulting them all instead. And somehow (my AssMan being a lot more competent than me?), things took an immediate swing for the better. We got through to the next round of the League Cup with no trouble, then won three straight in the league. Wardlow (21b) came off the bench twice in this run to score the winning goals.

Some things never change though, and for the fourth time in a row we lost to Newcastle at St. James' Park.

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We've managed to pull ourselves out of immediate danger, but losing more games than you're winning is never a good sign. We have six league games coming up in December, so we could do with another good month to get back into the top-half.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Liverpool and Manchester United are both going strong on 36 points, eight ahead of Chelsea and the chasing pack. Sunderland, Sheffield United, and Watford make up the bottom three.

Elsewhere in England: The national team beat Turkey and Scotland before losing to Portugal and the return fixture against Turkey. This was still enough though to top the Nations League group and qualify for the semi-finals.

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December 2024

Oh dear.

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The improved form continued as we picked up four league wins in December. Putting four past Villa was especially pleasing due to them having our ex-keeper Dani Martin in goal. Admittedly conceding three doesn't make our current goalie look much better, but at least the player I kicked out did worse.

We ran into problems when taking on members of the top six though. Manchester United knocked us out of the League Cup, while Liverpool and Tottenham both beat us in the league. On the plus side, we weren't thrashed in any of these games and all of them were lost by just the one goal.

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We've recovered from our dodgy spell and climbed up into the top-half, but a little gap has opened up between us and the teams in the European places.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Manchester United drew three games during December and slipped to five points behind Liverpool, but they do still have a game in hand. Gennaro Gattuso was sacked by Watford (17th) and replaced by Rudi Garcia. Antonio Conte was given the boot by Leicester (18th) after just two wins from 19 games.

Elsewhere in the World: Gremio won their third Brasileiro.

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January 2025

I often find that young players who are already at a club when I join struggle. They're overlooked at first because I use the senior players, then a couple of years in when they should be ready for more gametime, I already have 'my' academy prospects coming through and taking priority. And so it was with Fabio Carvalho, who had plenty of potential and probably could have become a fine footballer, but he was always on the outskirts of my first-team squad and didn't really get a fair shake because of the emergence of Chris Jericho (20a).

After just one goal in nine games Adonis has somehow seen his description rise and be considered a wonderkid. I've shipped him off on loan for the rest of the season anyway in the hope that he can find his shooting boots in Germany. He's scored twice in his first three games for Stuttgart, so let's hope he can keep it up.

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The deal for Edgar Gomez was agreed a while back but we had to wait until he turned 18 before he could move to Europe. At just £1 million he's cheap as chips and has tonnes of potential. Had already racked up over 50 senior appearances for Millionarios.

Spoiler

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We're still going strong in the FA Cup, even if the habit of conceding two goals per game is a bit of a dodgy one. Wardlow (21b) continued to stake his claim for more gametime with three more goals.

In the league we won two more games, including a bigtime upset over Chelsea. Unfortunately we then came unstuck in what should have been a more winnable against Burnley.

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No change in position from last month, but the gap to the European places has grown by an additional point. And I think we can rule out relegation now.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Both Manchester United and Liverpool are still unbeaten after 24 games, but with two more wins Liverpool lead by four points. Norwich have gone nine league games without a win and have joined Sheffield United and Southampton in the dangerzone. This was enough for Slaven Bilic to be given the boot, to be replaced by Steven Gerrard. 

Elsewhere in England: Southampton lead the Championship, but are now managerless after Steven Gerrard's resignation. Peterborough top League One, Doncaster top League Two.

Elsewhere in Europe: The second biggest transfer of the last six years has taken place, Liverpool signing Ansu Fati from Barcelona for £143 million.

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February 2025

Another good month. We won the two league games we should have won, before the expected loss against Liverpool.

We had 32 shots against Arsenal, so not getting anything from that game would have been a travesty. We trailed for more than an hour before Igor Diveev got ahead of his marker to score at a corner. The game went to penalties and we were flawless from the spot. This puts us through to the quarter-finals for just the second time.

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We stay on the outskirts on the European places. Let's hope Tottenham's poor form continues and this'll give us an opportunity to overtake them.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Liverpool have increased their lead at the top and Manchester United now sit five points behind. Watford and Sheffield United are still battling to stay up, but with no wins in the last 16 games Sunderland should probably start preparing for a return to the Championship.

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March 2025

The month started with a bit of a stutter, as we conceded in the 89th minute and then the 96th minute to drop two points. Our ex-striker Danylo Sikan was of course one of Bournemouth's scorers. Another familiar face came back to haunt us against Leicester, as Aleksandar Mitrovic opened the scoring from the spot. But we got the last laugh as we blew them away in the second half to claim the win.

Against Aston Villa we again conceded while leading, but this time we held on for the win. And we reached the FA Cup semi final for a first time after a rotated side beat Tottenham. For a third game in a row we scored a penalty.

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We've put ourselves into a good position to make it back in to Europe, just got to keep this consistency going and make the most of our game in hand. 

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Both Liverpool and Manchester United had perfect months, so the Scousers stay five points ahead. There's no change to the bottom three.

Elsewhere in England: Chelsea won the League Cup for an eighth time, with a 2-0 win over Arsenal. The national team beat Slovakia in a World Cup 2026 qualifier.

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March 2025

Yeah, this is a bit rubbish. The preview gave away that there was nothing to be excited by, and it wasn't wrong.

On the plus side we've had players arrive from two new nations, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Spoiler

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April 2025

Our good run of form came to a halt as we struggled in April and went four games without a win. Most frustrating is the fact that lots of this damage was self-inflicted.

We should have beaten Newcastle, but Igor Diveev missed a 77th minute penalty. The game against Brighton was goalless until Alfie Mawson got sent off in the 50th minute, and they then scored from the resulting free-kick. We were one-nil down but still looking strong against Manchester City, until Samir Benrabah was dismissed on the stroke of half-time and ruined any chance of us getting back into the game. That was also the end of our FA Cup run.

At least there was a silver lining at the end of the month as we fought back from a goal down to beat Manchester United. Wardlow (21b) reached double figures for league goals in the process.

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We've dropped behind Tottenham but we're still in the fight with them for 7th place, and we do have a game in hand.

Our final four matches are away at Norwich (13th) and Sheffield United (19th), and home against Manchester City (6th) and Watford (18th).

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: With just three games left Liverpool now lead by eight points and will almost certainly win the title for a fifth time in six years. Sunderland are relegated, barring a miracle Sheffield United will be joining them, and it will probably be one of Watford or Everton also going down.

Elsewhere in England: The national team beat Norway 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier.

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May 2025

We started May with our game in hand, and wasted it with a disappointing loss. We then had two games in quick succession, so I opted to prioritise the midweek fixture and play the second string against Manchester City. We suffered the expected loss to City while Tottenham won their game to extend the gap to five points.

My gamble paid off though, as the fresh first eleven scored twice in the second half to beat Watford. Tottenham lost, and going into the final game of the season we sat two points behind them.

Spurs had the much tougher task, facing 2nd placed Manchester United. And their day started badly, going behind in just the fourth minute. Our trip to already relegated Sheffield United could have been a banana skin of a tie, but we navigated our way past them easily enough. Tottenham conceded another midway through the second half, and that was it. We'd overtaken them on the final day, and found ourselves back into the European Conference Lea...

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...oh balls. Balls balls balls.

We've equalled our best ever Premier League finish and points tally, but due to a cruel twist of fate we've missed out on European qualification.

As it turned out, Tottenham just happened to be in this season's Conference League final. One 3-0 win later for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, and they're back in Europe again next season. And we're not.

Balls.

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Goalkeepers: We conceded 11 goals fewer than last year, so there was a definite improvement between the sticks. Maarten Vandervoort only kept eight clean sheets though, so there's more to come. Maxwell Jacob Friedman (21a) is a more than capable backup, starting all of the cup games, and keeping a clean sheet in his one league appearance.

Defenders: Steven Sessegnon shone at right-back, ending the season as our top creator with 14 assists, the highest amount that anyone has managed in a single season since we reached the Premier League. Lyanco and Igor Diveev continue to be solid in the centre of defence, but Alfie Mawson is perhaps showing signs of ageing. Daniel Raymond was a fine addition on loan, but Liverpool want ridiculous money so I don't think a permanent move will be happening.

Midfielders: Ryan Gravenberch was the star man in midfield, as our record signing showed his class with the highest average rating, most MOTM awards, and was voted our player of the season. James Garner missed a lot of time through injury, and Josh Onomah's spell at the club is likely coming to an end with his contract up in the summer. Faustino Anjorin flattered to deceive, and I'm sure we're not getting the most out of whoever we use in the attacking midfield position.

Wingers: As inconsistent as ever. Paolo Ghiglione, Takefusa Kubo, and Gianmarco Cangiano all had spells when they impressed, but would then go off the boil for a couple of months. 

Strikers: Wardlow (21b) had a breakthrough season, finishing the year as our first choice striker and our top scorer. He did well, but this was necessitated by how poorly Pedro Sartori and Adonis performed, who found themselves shifted out to the right-wing and on loan to Stuttgart respectively.

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Without the early rounds of European competition to contend with there were less chances this year for academy graduates to get involved with first team action. Opportunities were then restricted further when I started using the Instant Result button on a regular basis rather than watching the games, and they suffered from the AssMan's reluctance to ever sub on younger players.

So it was only really the four players in the senior squad who got much gametime this year. Wardlow (21b) impressed, finishing the season as top scorer. As a result of that he now has a lot more goals than any other academy graduate, as well as also having more assists and more MOTM awards.

Maxwell Jacob Friedman (21a) is a good backup keeper and will surely one day be first choice, and he got 10 starts this year. Sammy Guevara (20b) also played a lot more than ever before, though I don't think he'll ever become a first choice right-back.

Chris Jericho (20a) got plenty of gametime, but didn't impress. Just two assists in his career from nearly 100 games on the wing is nowhere near a big enough contribution, and he just isn't progressing. I think it might be time to give up on the idea of him ever becoming an important player for us. I'll keep him around as a backup option for now, but if an offer comes in I think it might be best to let him go and play somewhere more his level.

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Elsewhere in the Premier League: Juan Hernandez of Leicester was the season's top scorer with 19 goals, while Paolo Dybala managed the same number of assists for Liverpool. Also at Liverpool, Alisson far outperformed every other goalkeeper in the division with 25 clean sheets. Everton were relegated for the first time in 70 years.

Elsewhere in England: Blackburn won the Championship, and Leeds and West Brom were promoted with them. Charlton won League One, and Doncaster won League Two. Chelsea won the FA Cup on penalties, after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.

Elsewhere in Europe: 

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England Hall of Fame: With another Premier League title for him and Liverpool, Pep Guardiola has jumped from 8th to 5th, above Jose Mourinho, Kenny Dalglish, and Matt Busby.

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June + July 2025

Our reputation has taken a jump up to the next level, and we've risen to being the 9th most reputable club in England. We're also ranked 50th in Europe, and 56th in the world.

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The board want us in the top-half again, and I'd be very disappointed if that didn't happen. The media predict that we'll finish 10th, and the bookies have us at 50-1 for the title. Also 14-1 to go down if you want to throw your money away.

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Kieron Bowie was a pre-arranged transfer before I arrived. He'd spent the last five years out on loan at various League One and Championship clubs, so when Aberdeen offered £10 million I snatched their hands off.

Josh Onomah never quite became an important player for me. I don't think he ever started more than half of our games in any season here. In my first few years he was still involved a fair amount, but last year that dropped massively so it was time to let him go.

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Just the one signing. A wonderkid on a free transfer, lovely. Emiliano Bonetti was refusing to sign a new contract with Juventus so we jumped in to snatch him away. Instantly valued at £30 million with 5.0 star potential, absolute bargain. Had spent the last two years on loan at Perugia, playing 68 times to help get them promoted, then consolidated in Serie A with a midtable finish.

Spoiler

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This is how our squad looks going into the new season. I'm not actively looking to sign anyone at the moment, but I can't rule out any last-minute action either. Another centre-back, possibly on loan, may be handy. 

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Elsewhere in England: The national team flopped in the knockout stages of the UEFA Nations League, losing in both the semi-final and third place game without scoring.

Elsewhere in Europe: Four teams spent more than £100 million on individual players, including Chelsea buying Eduardo Camavinga from Barcelona for £117 million, who then used this to buy Kylian Mbappe from PSG for £137 million. The UEFA Nations League was won by Italy with a 2-0 win over France.

Elsewhere in the World: The African Cup of Nations was won by Ivory Coast for a third time in a row after they beat Senegal 3-0. Benfica won the first version of the Club World Cup with its new expanded format, beating PSG 3-1 in the final.

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