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[FM22] An Adventure in Europe's Outskirts (Currently Managing: CSKA Sofia)


Saintmat
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The European Adventure

A self-imposed challenge to find success outside of Europe's elite.

Background

I have been playing FM now for over a decade, however nearly all of my saves in the game have been classical "dynasty" approaches where I steadfastly stick to managing one club to glory, until I get bored! Usually these saves take place in countries where the sky is the limit, once you reach the top your resources are more or less unlimited and maintaining dominance becomes mundane. This year I wanted to try something different.

In FM22, my overall goal is to find success outside of the elite leagues of Europe. I have a craving to find something new, to explore new leagues and new teams. To this end I will set myself rules, these are designed to keep my approach in check and make sure my time playing the game always feels fresh, whilst also taking a realistic and immersive approach to career progression.

The Rules

  1.  I may not manage a club in the countries of the top five European leagues (i.e. England, Spain, Germany, Italy or France).
  2.  I may not manage a club in the UK or Ireland.*
  3.  I must attend all job interviews offered to me at eligible higher reputation clubs.**
  4.  I may not spend more than 4 seasons at a single club.
  5.  And of course, no use of the in-game editor or save-scumming.

*This rule is perhaps an extra unnecessary imposition, but is simply to prevent me from drifting too close to home!
**There is an exception to this rule, which I will come to!

The Setup

I have loaded a save that includes every division available to me in Europe, in the FM22 base game. This is with the exception of the leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France, where I have loaded the top division on view-only. The reason for this is to make sure the mechanics of the game world function as normal - clubs in these divisions will hopefully be managed by the AI as typically as possible but I will not have access to them.

In preparation for the save, I took myself through each of these divisions to explore which clubs I might want to target. I have produced a list of around 40 "cool clubs", basically teams that I have some degree of affinity for whether that be their history, their club colours or even just because I liked the name! Here is my exception to rule 3, if I am at a "cool club" and wish to see out my 4 seasons with them, then I will be able to veto attending interviews at higher reputation club.

To start with however, I want the authentic FM journeyman experience. So I will start the game unemployed, at the very bottom of the ladder. My manager, or "character", setup is as follows:

  • I am a 32 year old unemployed French-Canadian coach.
  • As a youth player I trained in Germany, however was released before turning professional.
  • I had a semi-professional career in the German and Canadian lower divisions, before retiring early to pursue coaching.
  • I have a National C license.

The Objectives

What does success look like for this save? I suppose my general objective is to bring success to clubs that have not seen it before, both domestically and in European competition. More precisely however, I would like to achieve the following.

  1.  Manage for 30+ seasons.
  2.  Manage at least 10 different clubs.
  3.  Manage a top-tier team across 4 different countries.
  4.  Manage at least 3 clubs from my "cool list".
  5.  Learn 5 new languages (in addition to the English, French and German already spoken by my manager).
  6.  Topple a top-team in any league.*
  7.  Win the Conference League.
  8.  Win the Europa League.
  9.  Win the Champions League.
  10.  Win European silverware with a club in a country that has never had European success.
    •  Champions League, any club not from Holland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia.
    •  Europa League, any club not from Holland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey.
    •  Conference league depends on in game outcomes!

*By this I mean to break the stranglehold of certain clubs that maintain a significant competitive advantage over their rivals, for example Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia or RB Salzburg in Austria. My definition of a top team is a little loose as some have leagues have a couple of teams that dominate, so I will assess whether I have met this goal on a case-by-case basis. 

I am under no illusions that all of this may not be possible, certainly without the time build the standing of an individual club - but this experience is about testing myself. I want a real sense of satisfaction when ticking these off, so the bar has been set very high.

In documenting my save here, I hope it will stay as a record of my achievements. However if anyone reading this is still looking to find their project on FM22 and would like to give this (or a variation of it) a go as well, I would be very interested in hearing where they end up.

Edited by Saintmat
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Season 1 - September 2021

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Knattsprynuféelagið Þróttur Reykjavík

Iceland - 1. delid Karla

Naturally my first step in starting the game was to apply to every club managerial job going and see what stuck! I received interview offers from 5 clubs, across Iceland, Bulgaria, Belarus and (2 from) Turkey. Of these, I received just one job offer - Knattsprynuféelagið Þróttur, or to you and me, Throttur Reykjavík of the Icelandic second tier. Although my options were limited, I was actually pleased to be offered this job as I had thought it looked the most interesting of the potential options to me. I'd not managed in Iceland before but had noted the short season length being a particularly interesting characteristic.

Not a lot of information was available about Throttur. I enjoy the club crest and colours, being a Southampton fan, made me feel at home! The club hasn't had any great period of success and make up one of a number of Reykjavik based clubs in the Icelandic system. The stadium is literally adjoined to the national team stadium, however I've been unable to ascertain whether there is any link between the club and the national team setup. If anyone knows anything about this club and would like to inform me please make yourself known!

As for the squad itself, well it is very very young. The average age is 22, and the first team is comprised primarily of young players who have come through the academy, even younger loanees from Icelandic top tier clubs, and a smattering of imports from abroad. The media prediction was 11th, or second bottom, so the bar wasn't particularly high for my first job of the save. Without much of a budget to change the squad, I set out to make do with the players at my availability. Setting out with a somewhat pre-historic rigid 4-4-2, hoping to make use of my wingers Kairo Edwards-John and Viktor Elmar Gautason, and physical forwards (Sam Ford and Robert Haukson).

Season Outcome

Prediction: 11th
Actual Finish: 4th

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Taking over in May, a quirk of the Icelandic season is that it is done and dusted by September. In my 22 games we managed a 4th place finish, just 3 points outside of the top two. Unfortunately a poor run in June gave us too much to do as we hit form in the second half of the season. Our highlights included beating local rivals Fram 3-2 after going behind 1-2, and dispatching eventual runners up Fjolnir 4-0 after the arrival of striker Vice Kendeš. Kendeš was brought in to replace Sam Ford, who was on a non-contract agreement with the club and understandably departed on a free to Exeter City.

I experimented with a more progressive 4-3-3 approach at times, with mixed results. The main issue with the squad is a lack of strength and quite often we will lose 50-50s which put us in compromised positions. However there is possibly something to build on here. As mentioned there are a number of young prospects and some of these players stepped up when needed, notably 16 year old Hinrik Harðarson who became the clubs youngest ever player and scored 3 goals for me.

Now the long Icelandic winter is ahead of me, I will keep an eye on managerial movements across the continent in case a particularly interesting job comes up - although plan A is to build on this years finish and return Throttur to the Icelandic top division.

Edited by Saintmat
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Will be interesting to see how you get on. I'm also managing Throttur and will be posting my career shortly. Incidentally Grindavik who finished 12th in the league in your first season were right at the top of the league in mine!

Iceland is an interesting league to manage in, with a number of English players and managers who appear to be plying their trade. Ex Newcastle man Danny Guthrie is playing for Fram.

 

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Season 2 - September 2022

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Knattsprynuféelagið Þróttur Reykjavík

Iceland - 1. delid Karla

Oh man, where to even start with this season. After spending many hours hammering the continue button and re-shaping my squad, the Icelandic football season restarted in early February with the League Cup. As this wasn't the most important competition I used it as an opportunity to experiment with a more positive approach, against sturdy top division opposition. Whilst my team showed promise, unfortunately we were far from clinical enough to make it work, and ended going out in the group stage with 4 draws and 1 loss from 5 games. The Icelandic cup threw us a wobbly, and after 120 mindnumbing minutes, we lost 8-7 on penalties to divisional rivals Kordrengir. Our league season began considerably better, with immediate reprieve against Kordrengir and a late draw to eventual league winners Grotta.

June saw our best spell of the season, winning 4 on the bounce before a hugely disappointing 2-0 home loss to local rivals Fram. Thereafter we hit a patch of inconsistent form, but coming into the edge of July had done enough to keep us within touching distance of the top 2 at that stage, Grotta and IA. With our prospects high and competition tight, we started August incredibly well, briefly going top after a comeback win over Vestri. Sadly, that was where my players seemingly decided that they'd done enough and our end of season form tanked, including a 2-1 loss to bottom side Throttur V. Despite this horrific series of events, going into the last day we unbelievably still had a shot at promotion, alongside 40% of other teams in the league, courtesy of a 3-0 turning over of Fram. All we had to do was win, and hope Fram lost again.

What followed was possibly the most heartbreaking FM experience I've ever had. After 90 minutes of virtually no highlights, and with Fram losing, our opponents winger with 10 for free kicks, decided to curl a free kick into our top corner.

We finished 6th.

It took every iota of my being not to rage quit.

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So, where now? Well my contract is expiring in October, and I must say I am quite feeling like now might be a good chance for a clean slate. I am finding the long Icelandic winter rather tedious to get through and feel that perhaps this is the right moment to look for pastures new. My manager has learned Icelandic (1/5 ticked off for objective 5!), and I'm not convinced there is anything particularly new to be learned or gained by staying. Perhaps I will change my mind, but for now I am anticipating a new challenge in the near future.

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On 23/11/2021 at 21:43, chile_paul said:

Will be interesting to see how you get on. I'm also managing Throttur and will be posting my career shortly. Incidentally Grindavik who finished 12th in the league in your first season were right at the top of the league in mine!

Iceland is an interesting league to manage in, with a number of English players and managers who appear to be plying their trade. Ex Newcastle man Danny Guthrie is playing for Fram.

 

I'll keep an eye out for yours! Yes it's quite a volatile league, I think that goes for the top division also as Valur (last season's champions) sit in the relegation places with one game to go.

There really are some great players. My assistant manager and backup midfielder is ex-Man Utd youth player Sam Hewson, who if memory serves me right was a good pickup on much older versions of FM!

And 3rd bottom Vestri this season have had no other than ex-Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo doing everything possible to keep them in the league.

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On 29/11/2021 at 18:30, Saintmat said:

What followed was possibly the most heartbreaking FM experience I've ever had. After 90 minutes of virtually no highlights, and with Fram losing, our opponents winger with 10 for free kicks, decided to curl a free kick into our top corner.

We finished 6th.

It took every iota of my being not to rage quit.

Ouch, that's tough, I'm sure that karma and the FM Gods will reward your restraint.

  

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Season 3 - May 2023

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FC Sellier & Bellot Vlašim

Czech Republic - Nárdoní Liga

So, after giving myself a couple of FM-free days in the wake of the end of season 2, I actually ended up veering towards a 3rd attempt at promotion with Throttur. Initially I flip-flopped with my decision, applying for a few jobs but after receiving no offers I eventually signed a new contact in September and plowed on with the long Icelandic winter. By December I'd started to assemble a team which may or may not have succeeded, but as you can already tell, I never went and found out. After requesting on multiple occasions to complete my next coaching badge, a request in January was turned down once again because doing so would "make me a more attractive prospect for other clubs". In a decision I admit was laced with some mixture of boredom and frustration, I threatened my resignation... which was duly accepted.

Screw 'em.

Fortunately, the job market was rife with opportunities. With no master to please, I cast my net wide and assessed what came in. I was offered two jobs, one in the 2nd tier of Slovakia with an overachieving but dirt poor team, and another in the 2nd tier of Czech Republic. Enticed by a £100k transfer budget and a significant step up in reputation, I signed on to become the new manager of FC Vlašim.

The first port of call was to find out a little about my new surroundings. From what I can tell, Vlašim is a club that has never had any great deal of success. Based in a small town outside Prague, the club benefit from an affiliate relationship with Slavia Prague, frequently taking youth players on loan for their first experience of senior football. The in game records only go back to 2009, but seem to indicate (at least in that time) this is a low-to-mid table club that hasn't experienced the top-flight.

The situation in January saw the club sitting 3rd bottom, just above the two relegation spots. Despite a considerable amount of financial damage, I was afforded a rather large budget to reform the playing squad and fortunately a rather large mid-season break in which to do that. In my experience transfer fees at this level are never quite worth it, so I shifted it all to the wage budget and set about finding the best unattached players I could find.

The squad itself seemed ok, not the best, but definitely under performing their ability. In a fascinating example of FM-AI logic, the club had spent £86k in the previous summer on two right wingers... despite not playing a formation that used wingers... and so had not actually given a debut to a player with the agreed playing time "star player". Really makes you think.

One of the primary issues was a lack of goals, so the main focus of my efforts were to improve this situation. I picked up two strikers of neatly complimentary styles (i.e. big man, little man) and a handful of squad players to beef up my options. The season started relatively well, with the highlight definitely being a 4-2 win over Opava in my 2nd competitive game courtesy of absolute banger from ex-Juventus youngster Nicholas Penner. However I was soon to discover this team had another fairly serious issue - the two starting center backs were just awful.

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A heavily compressed April nearly saw me out of the door before my journey with Vlašim could take off. In the course of 7 games I failed to pick up a win, conceding 7 goals and scoring just 3. The offensive performance generally did not fail to create chances, but we frequently conceded cheap goals. About halfway through this run I ended up replacing my two CBs with a Slavia Prague loanee (Vlček) and a Croatian free transfer (Stanić) - sadly to little effect. With my reputation not being high enough to really convince the players of my ability, and with relegation looking like a real possibility, I headed into the final 3 games in desperate need of a win. Playing fellow stragglers Blansko, we took the lead only to concede yet another equaliser in the 86th minute. My head was in my hands, but in a stirring last gasp effort, central attacking midfielder Filip Blecha popped up to score a last moment winner and secure our survival.

With my job done I used the last two games to experiment a little more tactically, and with the freedom granted by survival managed a credible 2-0 win over 5th place Viktoria Zivkov.

Going into my 4th season, I plan to see where I can take this Vlašim team. Most of the player contracts are up in the summer, and I've managed to **** off one or two of my new signings after accidentally making a couple of promises I couldn't keep. Consequently some of the clubs better players may not be staying on, but where there is hardship there is opportunity.

I'm sure everything will eventually straighten out.

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On 01/12/2021 at 11:11, chile_paul said:

Ouch, that's tough, I'm sure that karma and the FM Gods will reward your restraint.

  

You'd have thought so wouldn't you! :rolleyes:

 

On 30/11/2021 at 19:10, DefinitelyTaylor said:

I often quite enjoy the Icelandic divisions but it can be a very acquired taste. A tough ending to the season but hopefully, as it seems you've made your decision already, you can find a suitable club to take over.

I did enjoy my time there, particularly how the very compressed league season really piles on the pressure to get a result each week. Ultimately though having to churn through months of pressing continue with a rather large game file just wasn't all that fun and I couldn't risk the same level of disappointment for the effort.

The beauty of this save though is I could quite easily end up heading back if the right opportunity came up!

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  • 1 month later...

Season 4 - May 2024

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FC Sellier & Bellot Vlašim

Czech Republic - Nárdoní Liga

So, without getting ahead of myself...

 

šampionů! šampionů! OLE OLE OLE!!!

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:D:D:D:D:D:D

*Ahem* let's get back to the start shall we!

The summer of 2023 was my first opportunity for a proper squad overhaul. In total 16 players left the club, 14 on free transfers and 2 for transfer fees totaling £60k. Despite mounting debts, I was given a wage budget of £50k a month. At this level of the game, transfer fees are a waste, so I focused my efforts exclusively on players with expiring contracts and loans from Slavia and clubs in the Czech top flight. After scouring the release lists of the clubs in most of the top European divisions, I managed to assemble what I considered to be a vastly superior squad to the one I had inherited. Whilst on paper the team did not have any stand out stars at this point, there was strength in depth for every position on the field. Pre-season was comfortable, and the squad seemed to take well to my now much more attacking 4-3-3 shape, having mainly used either balanced or positive mentalities in season 3.

We were in danger of losing all of that momentum after the season opener however as we crashed to a 3-0 away loss to out-and-out league favourites and recently relegated Sigma Olomouc.

Apparently that kicking was exactly what we needed - in our next match against Viktoria Zizkov, we won by a mere 7 goals to nil :eek:

Not helped by a raft of injuries to our defenders, we found it hard to hold on to leads. No match exemplified this better than conceding a two goal cushion late to a Jihalva side that had done nothing of any real note all game. We managed to keep getting the odd good result until September, when our form really took off. After losing to Varnsdorf, the team went unbeaten in the league for 12 games (spanning the long winter break). Oddly, the match that stood out and told me that this squad were in a chance of doing something special this season was actually our 3rd round exit to Jablonec, at that time 3rd in the top division and in good form. We dominated them from the first whistle, accelerating into a comfortable 2-0 lead and not giving them a sniff, until they pulled back a scrappy goal following a fortunate deflection. We went on to create more chances but couldn't find that 3rd goal to make it comfortable, and in the 4th additional minute Jablonec got their even scrappier equaliser. From there on extra time was a foregone conclusion, with my team exhausted and unable to deal with the opposition resurgence. At the end of the game, we came away with an xG of 3.73 to their 1.55 - a 4-2 loss was harsh, but to me the message was clear, we can mix it with it with the big boys.

By the end of March we were mixing it at the top of the table. My main rivals at this stage were Opava, and Varnsdorf, two teams who like us were predicted a low-mid table finish at the beginning of the year. Opava in particular were flying prior to the winter break, but had spluttered in the immediate games after the season resumed. A 1-0 win over Vitkovice took us to the top of the league, however we then put in easily the worst 60 minutes I've seen the team play all year against Jihalva, losing 1-2 at home to the low-mid table team (meaning a total 65 minutes of poor play against the same team across two games, cost us 4 points... it's a wonder I enjoy this game!). This was followed by an equally damning 0-1 loss to rivals Varnsdorf, and we rebounded back to 3rd.

The next match, away to Trinec, didn't start much better. We conceded two goals in the first 5 minutes from absolutely nothing. At this point I was resigned to another season of disappointment, echoing the frustration of my last season in Iceland. Step up our season superhero - Danill Sukhoruchko. Our Ukrainian deep lying forward had started the year in imperious form, but had found goals harder to come by when the opposition bothered marking him. At 2-0 down, Sukho decided enough was enough, grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck and proceeded to kamehameha his way through the Trinec defense, scoring a hat-trick and ending the game with a 10.0 rating.

I could have kissed the man.

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This seismic event kick started the season back into life, and we finally started showing what we were about again. The next 7 games saw us take 6 wins (and a small speedbump of a loss to Sokolov - another emerging bogey team), but Opava were not letting up. Going into the final game of the season, we sat at the top once again with 64 points to Opava's 62. For context, the champions of the previous two seasons had amassed 57 and 53 points, so this was no typical year. Taking the lead on the penultimate game of the year, with a 2-1 reversal of SK Lisen, we just needed a point to take home the title. The complicating factor was that the game would be away to Brno, who themselves needed a win to secure a playoff spot and were lead by the top scorer in the division, Imad Rondic. On the other hand, our talismanic striker Sukhoruchko had picked up an injury a few games prior ruling him out to the end of the season. Anything less than a point and we would rely on Opava losing to Vyskov.

The game did not start well. Brno evidently had much more quality on the pitch, and we were lucky to not go down a goal in the first half. We rode our luck until the 70th minute, when finally my players put their foot on the ball and decided to start playing. At the 79th minute, I went wild (and possibly scared the neighbours a bit) - this time the hero was Daniel Kozel. This player was one I had kept on from my first half season with Vlasim, mainly as a rotational option for the mezzala position. Kozel isn't a particularly gifted player, but what he does do is work his bollocks off and seems to come up with clutch goals. Making a trademark late run into the box, Kozel got away from his marker and connected with a short low cross from winger Radek Matulka.

Brno were in trouble, and inevitably came back with a response. We were under pressure for the next 10, holding out until we finally gave Imad Rondic one too many chances on the 91st minute. Then things went from bad to worse, right back Artur Vashchychyn crashed into the Brno left winger and got himself sent off at the 93rd minute. Switching to a defensive shape and pulling players back into a 4-4-1 I attempted to stifle the game. In the 96th minute (of 4 added on), we lost the opposition striker Mandic and - with my heart in my mouth - he chipped our keeper... AND SENT IT WIDE.

That's enough heart attacks for one season!

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And so with that, Vlasim were promoted to the Czech Prvni Liga for the first time in their history, and I secure my first trophy in FM22! Sukhorochko ended the year as the second top scorer in the league, but so many other players excelled themselves across the course of the season. It will certainly make my decisions for who to keep and who to move on a lot harder. There are definitely some areas of the pitch I anticipate us needing to strengthen, and I can also see offers coming in for a couple of our stand out players too - it is set to be an interesting summer.

Some other achievements can also be ticked off the list. My manager is now fluent in Czech (2 out of 5 languages learned), and in terms of general progress the board funded me for the National B, and now the National A during the summer break. Let that be a lesson to Throttur!

I'd like to give a season in the top division a go with Vlasim and see where that takes me, so there are no immediate plans to move on, but if the right offer comes in then who knows!

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.... šampionů! šampionů!... OLE OLE OLE!!!

:D

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On 08/12/2021 at 06:24, karanhsingh said:

Nice, I like the objectives you have set out. Good luck with this. 

Btw, which clubs are on your cool list?

Thank you!

Quite a few, there's only one in the Czech Republic (Bohemians 1905). I'm already wanting to add some that I missed but that feels like it might be cheating so I'm sticking with these ones for now! I'll copy/paste the full list below.

  1. - Austria Vienna (Austria)
  2. - Rapid Vienna (Austria)
  3. - Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)
  4. - KAS Eupen (Belgium)
  5. - Hajduk Split (Croatia)
  6. - Bohemians 1905 (Czechia)
  7. - B 93 (Denmark)
  8. - HJK (Finland)
  9. - FC Inter (Finland)
  10. - Panathinaikos (Greece)
  11. - PAOK (Greece)
  12. - OFI (Greece)
  13. - Feyenoord (Holland)
  14. - Sparta Rotterdam (Holland)
  15. - Debreceni (Hungary)
  16. - MTK (Hungary)
  17. - Ujpest (Hungary)
  18. - Beitar Jerusalem (Israel)
  19. - Bodo/Glimt (Norway)
  20. - Lillestrom (Norway)
  21. - Moss (Norway)
  22. - Tromso (Norway)
  23. - Valrenga (Norway)
  24. - Viking (Norway)
  25. - LKS Lodz (Poland)
  26. - Academica (Portugal)
  27. - Braga (Portugal)
  28. - Boavista (Portugal)
  29. - Belenenses (Portugal)
  30. - Nacional (Portugal)
  31. - Dinamo Bucharest (Romania)
  32. - FC Rapid 1923 (Romania)
  33. - (the other) Steaua Bucharest (Romania)
  34. - Torpedo Moscow (Russia)
  35. - AIK (Sweden)
  36. - Djurgardens (Sweden)
  37. - Elfsborg (Sweden)
  38. - GAIS (Sweden)
  39. - Hammarby (Sweden)
  40. - IFK Goteborg (Sweden)
  41. - Stockholm Internazionale (Sweden)
  42. - Grasshoppers (Switzerland)
  43. - Vaduz (Switzerland)
  44. - Dnipro-1 (Ukraine)
  45. - Metalist 1925 (Ukraine)

 

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  • 2 months later...
Posted (edited)

Season 5 - May 2025

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FC Sellier & Bellot Vlašim

Czech Republic - První Liga

Good lord, this season took a long time (in my defence, some quite significant life changes have occurred since my last update!). June/July 2024 seems like a distant blur right now!

So, to recap, in season 4 I took FC Vlasim to the První Liga for the first time in their history and was set to embark on my first season of top flight management. The squad had excelled it's ability in achieving promotion, and so I was faced with the age-old FM challenge of reshaping an over-performing and under-prepared team for a slog of a season, on a limited budget. The only two players I really considered might cut it were our star striker, Daniil Sukhoruchko, and the goalkeeper, Ureche. One feature of the Czech leagues is a really sharp turnaround from post-to-pre season, and with little time to work with I set about a mass player trial operation to find the best value amongst Europe's soon-to-be released players.

So this exercise went on for a couple of weeks of in-game time, my squad was starting to form nicely and pre-season matches were set to begin, but then out of the blue a curve ball was thrown my way...

Remember last seasons cup exit at the hands of top flight Jablonec? Well as it turns out their manager had retired at the end of the season, and I must have made some sort of impression because apparently I was sat right at the top of their shortlist! Now, ordinarily I would ignore these overtures and plow on with my underdog story, but that's not what this save is all about. As per rule 3, I must attend all interviews offered to me at higher reputation clubs, and on 7th June, Jablonec came calling.

Dutifully, I turned up and had a polite conversation which seemed to go well, and sat and waited by the door. I shouldn't have really because they did not make a quick decision. June and most of July came and went, pre-season continued in earnest at Vlasim, and with just a week to go before the season proper began, the letter finally came.

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After all that effort and preparation put in at Vlasim, I pulled up my roots and headed North, to the small glass-makers town of Jablonec nad nisou close to the Polish and German borders. I'm not going to deny that letting go of my boys at Vlasim was a hard thing to do (especially knowing how the AI tend to treat your former employees!), but I think after the season I ended up having this choice will seem justified.

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FK Jablonec

Czech Republic - První Liga

In terms of the history of the club, Jablonec appear to be something of an overachiever given they hail from a historic town of 45k people and play in a 6k seater stadium. Ever-present in the top flight since 1994, they have somewhat consistently achieved top half finishes and European qualification on a number of occasions, with the best finish being 2nd in 2010. They maintain a healthy competitive rivalry with fellow top flight side Slovan Liberec (just 30 mins up the road), and the slightly further away Mlada Boleslav. As with many clubs of this size in the Czech Republic, there is an emphasis on home-grown talent and positive attacking football, and this is very much reflected in game with the club cultures. So while Jablonec are certainly not a big dog in the league, they provide a good fit for my approach to the game and a firm platform to have a go at the considerably better equipped Prague sides, as well as the historically successful Viktoria Plzen and Banik Ostrava.

So what was I walking into? Well to start with I had a tough act to follow. The team had finished 3rd in the regular season, but were brutalized in the final Championship group round of games, picking up just 3 of 15 points and losing out to mid-table Mlada Boleslav in the European playoff match. Despite that disappointing end of the season, I thought that theoretically the club should have a good amount of talent if they made a 3rd place finish right? My initial assessment of the squad told me this was true, but it was, to put it lightly, top-heavy and generally on the wrong side of 30. There was no shortage of attacking talent, however at the other end of the field I was left with just two aging contracted center backs who frankly looked ****, and one left back. Much like my experience of Vlasim, I wasn't given a hugely generous budget to work with, but unlike that experience, here I did not have time on my side. To make matters worse, the coaches and players had seemingly spent pre-season sat around drinking and playing blackjack or something because not a single friendly had been played since the end of last season.

Well what do you do when you have a week before the season starts, an unfit team unfamiliar with your tactical approach, and a squad in need of rejuvenation? You panic of course. In my haste, I picked up a couple of overpriced foreign talents I had some amount of residual reputational-based knowledge and set about the unavoidable start of the season. Naturally, as FM has a tendency to throw these things your way, my first game would be against my dear boys of Vlasim. I'm not going to lie, losing this one would have been pretty embarrassing. Fortunately however I was spared that fate and we took the 1-0 win courtesy of an 80th minute goal from our winger Vanicek. The rest of July was less successful, but in August after a few weeks of training the squad started to find its feet. We took 3 wins and 2 draws after an adjustment to the more positive qualities of the squad.

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The big story in August however was not our form. Despite my reservations about the overall quality of the squad, I had inherited one considerably talented newgen youngster in the form of 18 year old midfielder Jakub Strnad. He had broken into the first team at 16, played every game of the season before my arrival, was a cut above the rest of the squad when it came to his ability to see and hit a pass and clearly still only just developing. So it was entirely unsurprising when the perennial wonderkid-hoggers of this world turned up and started a bidding war. Ordinarily I'd have held out for as long as possible, but in this instance the club had accepted a release clause of £5.5m in his contract and this put me in a weak negotiating position. Seeing as £5.5m would be a club changing amount of money anyway, I sought a deal for this fee, plus the option of a loan back to the end of the season. On 21st August, Manchester City coughed up the money and I didn't even lose a player. Now I had just 19 days to make the most of this unexpected windfall before the transfer window closed, so I set about making my much needed adjustments.

With the club philosophy asking me for young players for the first team based in the Czech Republic, I scoured the national youth teams for anyone who looked vaguely talented and available, picking up two footed wide forward Kevin Huňa and a promising newgen creative midfielder called Adam Ambros (for a fee which I should admit I got a bit carried away with). My best decision of the season however involved driving all the way back down to Vlasim, leaving a fat old bag of money on the doorstep of my former employers, bundling Daniil Sukhorucko into the back of a van and hightailing it back up to Jablonec. No one was going to ruin my beautiful boy.

It took a little bit of time after my transfer business concluded before we found any rhythm with our form. September saw some promising performances, and my first true big scalp with a 1-0 win over Slavia Prague, but not really a great run of form. Then in October things nosedived quite dramatically, leaving us briefly in the bottom half of the table, the loss to Zlin being particularly painful. In November however, we truly found our feet and once again I had some old friends to thank. We visited Vlasim (now playing at a larger capacity ground in Prague) who were bottom of the table, on the back of a narrow win against Bohemians. At this point Sukho (as I will now take to calling him), had failed to making any significant mark on the first team, scoring just one goal in a half-dozen appearances. Something about the blue and white stripes of our opponents however really got him going that day, and reminiscent of his barnstorming turns in the previous season, he finished the game with 4 goals.

Sukho was back baby :cool:

We proceeded to win 3 of our next 4 games before the winter break, only losing to a Sparta Prague side who were romping ahead in the league.

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Having successfully navigated these choppy waters, I found myself with time, money and a convincing sense that the team was taking shape. Tactically, the team seemed to be performing well with a mix of a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1, so I opted for some refinements rather than revolution. My main focus then was on transfers and contracts. My first port of call was to pick up Martin Vitik, a central defender on loan from Sparta who had made a strong impression in the first half of the season. His contract was due to expire at the end of the season and he saw good sense to continue his career somewhere he would be getting game time. I also moved on Milan Ristovski, one of our many forward players who was something of an expensive jack of all trades. Crucially he had not settled into the new system, so I snapped up an offer of £1.2m from Craiova in Romania. Two free transfers arrived in midfielders Martin Calderon and Michael Kingsley, two players I had trialed with Jablonec at the start of the year but now their wage demands had dropped quite considerably I could justify their acquisitions. My most exciting purchase however was Adam Pospech, an 18 year old physical center back who has been playing first team football in the 2nd division at a very high standard for the past 2 seasons.

Naturally then he only managed 94 minutes of action in our first two games of the restart, before FM and a Mlada Boleslav striker decided to break his leg. :seagull:

Clearly this incensed the team somewhat and we smashed them 6-2, Sukho picking up a hat-trick of course. In fact Sukho managed 7 goals in the opening 3 games, and in general the team were absolutely flying. This was followed by a rather painful 2-0 home defeat to local rivals Slovan Liberec, which I can only put down to an unfortunate clash of styles where we very much come out the loser. Our form however meant we were competing to finish in the top 6, and thus qualify for the end of season Championship group, and on top of that we had quietly made our way through the early rounds of the Pohár. The next 4 games saw us beat Slavia (again), Viktoria Plzen and Banik Ostrava, and Mlada Boleslav in the quarter finals of the cup. These results more or less secured our top 6 finish and put us through to the semi final against Viktoria. We pulled the same trick twice, taking a 2-0 victory and sending us to a cup final.

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Into May and the Championship group then. First up was Slavia, who we'd done the double over in the regular season but obviously still posed a major threat. Honestly we should have taken our 3rd win against them, dominating the game and nullifying their threats, but two key mistakes cost us the game. We bounced back with another win over Viktoria, and took the lead against Sparta, only for mistakes (tactical and individual) to cost us that one. Up next was a crucial game against Banik Ostrava, who we'd failed to beat in our previous two encounters. A few tactical tweaks then and we came away with a 2-0 victory on the road. This was to be all she wrote for our league campaign though. Slovan Liberec, who had been miserable in every other game during the post-season, turned up with a view to stinking the place out. They very much achieved what the came for, and we sank to a 1-0 home defeat. Must do better next season in these derby games!

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I am however slightly skipping ahead there, as prior to the Liberec game we faced off with Sparta Prague, in the Pohár final. We'd taken 3 Ls from 3 games against league champions Sparta, in fact they only lost 1 game all season. Clearly this was going to be a difficult encounter. I did however harbour some quiet confidence, in the recent 1-3 defeat we might have lost the game but overall our strategy of a very high line and a hard-pressing midfield made things a lot more difficult for them than they would have liked. My confidence was raised further when the team sheet told me that Sparta had rotated heavily for this one (despite already wrapping up the league by this stage). This was good, but it did mean that they had more pace in behind and so the super high line was dropped back a notch.

We started fantastically. Sparta were unable to get out for the opening exchanges and we won a penalty on 18 minutes when Dalbert clumsily went through Vanicek on the edge of the box. Joy turned quickly to despair as Sukho stepped up only to see his penalty saved by Joao Virginia. Fortunately the early pressure paid off again, this time Sukho played provider, releasing Huňa over the top and he cut it back for boy wonder Strnad. We were under the big boy's skin and they didn't like it. After another 10 minutes of relentless pressure, Sean Klaiber went in heavy handed on our star left back Zeleny and forced us into an early change. This was of some significance, as our setup relies on his overlapping runs down the left hand side and I did not have a natural left back on the bench. I expected the tide to turn here but Sparta did not respond to our setback. Half-time arrived without much further action, and I had nothing but praise for my team. Into the second half then, and still no response came. On 54 minutes another highlight, this time a 30 yard free kick being stood over by Strnad.

I should add some context at this point - we would not be keeping Strnad any longer than this season. Man City agreed to the loan extension but the player did not want to stay on, and to be honest I don't blame him. As talented as he has been for us, Strnad only featured in about half of this seasons games. I found it difficult to get the balance right for him and his performances suffered, so I could not keep him in the team. I put him in the team for the final purely based on his performance against Sparta in the league, ahead of one of our stand out players of the season, Adam Karabec.

Evidently, he decided that he had a point to prove today. Strnad is not a great free kick taker by any stretch, but you wouldn't know that from watching this. He hits a powerful, curling ball around the outside of the wall and post which flies into the bottom corner of Joao Virginia's net. This was well and truly his game.

Then finally the Sparta response came. Two first teamers come off the bench, and just 2 minutes later with us penned back one Sparta CM pings the ball over the top to the other CM for that classic FM22 unmarked midfielder run goal. I was expecting this to be the moment for the momentum to shift.

Not so. We swing a corner into the box and the ball is taken down clumsily by the Sparta defender and his hand, and the referee points to the spot for the 2nd time in the match. This time it's Strnad who steps forward to lay claim to his hat trick. Unfortunately, and slightly unbelievably, Virginia makes yet another penalty save. I am distraught!

And so we wait for our profligacy in front of goal to come back and bite us. And yet it does not. Sparta stir but do not threaten, and I cut them off at every pass. As their frustration builds, so does their yellow card count, and we keep the Czech giants at bay.

By 90 minutes we have exhausted them, and young right winger Tomas Langr releases Sukho behind the center back. My Ukrainian dreamboat makes no mistake from open play, crashing the ball to the keepers right. We've done it, the game is won and I'm in bedlam. I barely even notice when minutes later, deep into injury time I did not believe existed, my makeshift left back for the day is released behind the Sparta lines and cuts back for Sukho to ram home his 2nd and our 4th.

I don't have the words to describe how good that one felt. 4-1 against the near unbeaten league champions and frankly it could have been more. Their keeper finished on an 8.5 and not a single other player got close to a 7.0, I think that tells you everything about their performance on the day.

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šampionů! šampionů! OLE OLE OLE!!!

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:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D

What a season, what a post. This has taken me an entire afternoon to write. Well done if anybody has made it this far!

What next then for season 6? Well most of the transfer business has already been settled. Contracts have been signed and I know (mostly) who will and won't be around for the next year. I have spent a bit of the Strnad money on another player Man City had been targeting in January but declined to go in for, a left winger from Slovacko who had been tearing up trees in the top flight at just 19. Needless to say I am excited to see him in action.

I am also keen to see if Sukho can top his last year with us. He finished as top scorer with 22 goals in the end, not bad for a player everyone rated as 2 star when I brought him in.

My goal with Jablonec more broadly would be to have a shot at objective 6, topple a big team. Undoubtedly Slavia and Sparta maintain a significant financial and competitive advantage, and the presence of two of these teams makes things even harder - I'd be relying on both of them having weaker seasons, and Viktoria and Banik being unable to take their place too. I also have my first European campaign to look forward to. We are (I think) being spat out into the 3rd qualifying round for the Europa League. Success in that competition could be tricky, but I could see us having a fair shot at getting through some rounds in the Conference League, which could potentially fulfill objective 7.

I have about 3 seasons to make that a reality, but being the ambitious sort I am always on the lookout for better opportunities - and definitely a chance to manage a team from the cool list. Let's see how this summer pans out!

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Edited by Saintmat
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Season 6 - May 2026

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FK Jablonec

Czech Republic - První Liga

Part of me misses those halcyon days in Iceland where I could crack out a whole season in the space of a week, but then I don't think this would be so much fun!

Onto season 6 then, in Jablonec. This time round I had a full summer to mould the squad. As mentioned in the last post, I had picked up a left winger (Kasalek) for a small sum, but my main priority was replacing our goalkeeper who had signed a contract with APOEL after I failed to notice he'd moved in the last 6 months of his deal. After weighing up a few targets, Gianluca Saro from Crotone was who I ended up going with. Certainly not an outstanding keeper, but a solid all rounder. Other than a few depth signings, on loans and free transfers, I did not conduct much other business and the core of the squad remained the same.

In pre-season, I was introduced to a trophy I hadn't come across before - the Czechslovakian Supercup - played between the winners of the Czech Pohar (us), and the Slovakian Cup winners (Slovan Bratislava). As a fan of these localised cross-border competitions, I was excited to see my team in competitive action against non-domestic opposition. We ended up playing out a corker of a game, coming back from a 2 goal deficit to win 3-2, courtesy of a last minute Karabec winner.

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The season opened with last year's once-defeated champions, Sparta Prague. Not the start I would have picked, but fresh off the back of our Supercup victory, we repeated the trick pulled in the Pohar final of last season with a 3-1 win. Unfortunately we couldn't back that up against Slovacko, in a classic case of "being FM-ed" to a 0-1 loss, then squeezed out a slightly underwhelming 1-0 win over lowly Teplice. As August arrived, so did our bow in Europe. We'd been drawn against Basel in the Europa League qualifying rounds. There were harder teams we could have faced, but Basel didn't look like pushovers. That certainly proved to be the case, in the first leg we huffed and puffed but they never looked in any sort of discomfort. Given the sizable difference in budgets and pure reputational stature, I didn't think we stood much of a chance in our home leg. Instead my team put in a great performance and took the tie to extra time with 1-0 90 minute lead. In extra time however I learned a lesson in paying attention, Canadian Liam Millar came off the bench and I didn't reset our opposition instructions, and he duly scored. Sukho put us back in it, but in the 120th minute Millar struck again.

Demotion to the Conference league didn't seem like the worst thing in the world. We had one qualifying round to get through, and participation in the group stage would guarantee a good chunk of money for the club. We drew Standard Liege, again a good team but not one I would necessarily expect to beat. Sukho had other ideas. The Ukrainian hitman scored a hat-trick as we smashed the Belgians 5-2 in a topsy-turvy game. The second leg ended up being more hairy than I would have liked, but an early Kevin Huna goal put us just far enough ahead to make it through.

Meanwhile our league form had suffered with the fixture pile up. A credible win over Banik Ostrava was followed by a disappointing draw at Bohemians, and a loss to early leaders Viktoria Plzen. Fortunately things picked up soon after with a 3-0 win over promoted Pribram.

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From here, things really started to pick up. In the Conference league we drew a group of Atalanta, Ferencvaros and Dnipro-1, with our opening game against the Italians. If the gulf between us and Basel and Standard was big, that was nothing compared to a Serie A club. Lady luck was on our side however, as they picked up an early red card. They did go ahead courtesy of Chukweze, but my superlative defying striker Sukho struck again for an equaliser and we saw out a very very credible 1-1 draw. The league and cup form continued to improve as well, with a particular highlight being a 3-1 win over rivals Slovan Liberec who had given me so much trouble the previous year.

We didn't turn up in round 2 of the Conference league, but in hindsight a 0-0 draw in Ferencvaros was not a bad result. It was around this time I started getting a few job offers. Slavia Prague were having an awful campaign and were consigned to 14th place. Following my self-imposed rules, I attended the interview they offered me 2 days before we were due to play. After weighing this one up however, I decided that a 3rd job in the Czech Republic was not a step I wanted to take. I decided that if they could offer an increased transfer budget and a few more concessions I would make the move, but Slavia did not take the bait and picked someone else. Perhaps sweeping them aside 3-1 put them off me or something? Another 3-1 win followed against Dnipro, with that man Sukho popping up with a brace yet again.

November was not quite so successful. Promoted Brno were having a great season, but were extraordinarily fortunate to come away with a 2-1 win, having lost the xG battle 1-3. Imad Rondic who had been so strong in the Nardoni Liga just ended up having that sheer force of will that we couldn't deal with. This was then followed by 3 games in 6 days, and that issue was compounded by being taken to extra time in the cup. Away to Dnipro we didn't have the legs but ultimately a 1-0 loss could have been worse. This culminated with our second win over Sparta Prague however, who like their rivals Slavia, were not having anything like a stellar campaign. Next in Europe was the away leg at Atalanta. This time, we were the recipient of an early red card, and so went through the rest of the game in damage limitation mode. Despite that setback, my team rallied and we held out for another credible European result, a 0-0 draw.

At the end of November I was faced with yet another interesting juncture. Fenerbahce this time were seeking out my services, and this one would be a harder proposition to turn down. Purely on a financial level this would be another level, and in any case I had to seriously consider the job given the objectives of this save. In the end however, the choice was taken out of my hands and they went with somebody else. At the very least it is nice to know my achievements here were not going unnoticed!

A few more matches followed before the winter break. We were FM'ed for a second time in the season by bottom side Teplice, but did follow that up with a 2-1 win over Mlada Boleslav. For the last European group round we actually stood a chance of qualification. It was basically between us and Ferencvaros for the 2nd place spot behind Atalanta. In another huge European night, we rained down on the Hungarian champions and came away with a 5-1 win, so we would be heading to the first knockout round. With Christmas rolling in, we left for the month and a half break with a 3-0 win over Banik Ostrava in our pockets. 

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The January window saw little change in the squad makeup, other than the addition of Marek Mihal, a diminutive and pacy striker to give us a different sort of profile up front, to compliment Sukho. In the league we were neck and neck with Viktoria Plzen, with no other challengers particularly close, so naturally the first game back in from the cold was against Viktoria. Despite a dominating performance we only scored 1 goal, and naturally when you don't take your chances the game punishes you, in this case with another late goal. Back onto Europe and we had been given a rough draw of Sporting Lisbon who had dropped in from the Europa League. This was less than ideal and in the first leg we did not show up at all. Sporting quite clearly had the quality and frankly should have scored more. Ahead of the second leg we found our feet again, this time a last minute winner of our own and Kevin Huna coming up clutch to see away Mlada Boleslav. I'd fended off some reasonable bids for him in January, so was pleased to be rewarded for keeping him around! So, a trip to Portugal was next on our list. To be quite honest, I expected very little here. Losing the home leg made this a near impossible task. However, in an incredibly open game, Huna stepped up for the second match in a row to curl home a last minute goal and took the tie to extra time. Then we did it again, a near post corner to Martin Vitik and at 120 minutes we were heading through to yet another round.

I began to wonder if something special might be happening...

March arrived and this was the month of Okyere Wriedt, who had gone from star man when I turned up at the club, to a utility option and the fringes of the squad, and back to being an integral part of the first team makeup. A draw with Pribram aside, this month in the league was good, not least because Viktoria had started to drop an alarming amount of points and I was pulling away. Sparta Prague however were not far behind, and I knew that with the Championship group to follow the regular season, I would need as big a cushion as I could muster. In Europe we had an easier draw, Maccabi Tel-Aviv of Israel. Of course Maccabi are still a much richer and talented team than my Jablonec, but we'd developed a certain confidence in these fixtures and clearly feared no one. At home we won 4-0, more goals from Sukho, then away we only took a 1-1 draw but the damage had been done.

In April things started to get a bid mad. The Pohar returned and all of a sudden we were looking at a full month of 2 games a week, with more of that to follow if we managed to be successful. Gulp!

Huna stepped up in the cup, which meant that we would face Plzen in the Semi final at the end of the month. Our reward for the quarter final in the Conference league was Dynamo Kiev. At risk of repeating myself, this was yet another case of being financially, technically, mentally and physically outmatched, and yet another case of us upsetting the odds. Huna continued to establish his credentials as the man for the big occasion, collecting a brace in our home leg. The scoreline was in defiance of the performance of a very capable Dynamo side, and so going into the away leg I knew we would still have work to do. That proved to be the case, as Kiev took a well deserved 1-0 lead into the second half. However my main man Sukhoruchko was in one of those moods again, and against the side that let him go for free he ghosted in to the area on a deep run and slotted it past their keeper. We held out at 1-1 and booked our spot in the Conference semis. We couldn't could we?

Despite the congestion, we managed to maintain our pace in the league. At this stage I am making full use of the squad, essentially having two separate 11s to rotate in each game. With Viktoria Plzen in freefall and Sparta Prague spluttering, we tied up the regular season needing just a singular win in the Championship group to secure the title.

In the semi final of the Pohar, we take on Viktoria who despite their bad form give us a heck of a game, however after drawing level at 1-1 we put on the after burners and speed away to a 3-2 win. This sets up May to be another two games a week month, which will include an attempt at tying up the league title, retaining the cup and a shot at European glory. No pressure then.

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Into the Conference league semis, where we met Salzburg. In the home leg we start well, but Michael Kingsley loses his head early doors and hacks down the opposition LB in an attempt to win the ball high up the pitch. Thankfully we have some experience of this, and manage grind out another 0-0, where nothing really happens despite some intense Salzburg possession and pressure. I'm disappointing to lose Kingsley, who is a particularly unique BWM when it comes to his skill set, but at least we aren't going into the second leg with a deficit. Meanwhile we have the league to finish off. I realise this should be a more monumental occasion than it really is. Only one club outside of the "big 4" in Czech football has ever won the title, our arch-rivals Slovan Liberec. However it certainly seems like a foregone conclusion, moreso after Viktoria drop yet more points. We face Mlada Boleslav, who haven't really given us much trouble this season and have somehow snuck into the Championship group with distinctly low points total. Nevertheless I have to rotate for this one. Things don't start well, we concede a goal in the 1st minute, and a second in the 10th. Just before half time, on loan midfielder Novotny pulls one back and that is crucial as it allows us to get a foothold back in the game. A little tactical tweak at half time frees up Marek Mihal, our January signing, and quickly we have overturn a 2-1 into a 2-3. The momentum is ours, until the 85th minute when they pull us back, but it is too little too late. The Prvni Liga belongs to Jablonec!

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šampionů! šampionů! OLE OLE OLE!!!

With that, I am ticking off the first of my major objectives - topple a top team in any league. With a budget just a quarter of the size of Sparta Prague's and considerably smaller than Slavia, Banik and Viktoria, we have sauntered away with the title. As expected it did require a few poor seasons, but having so many of those happen at once was not so expected, and certainly not so soon. I'm not complaining!

Into the European semi second leg, and we faced a trip to Salzburg. As expected we come under some early pressure, but Sukho grabs a quality goal on the counter to put us in the lead. They pull back shortly after, but we maintain a grip of the flow of the game and come 78 mins, Eric Bailly rashly goes through Sukhoruchko and receives a second yellow card. This game still was not a foregone conclusion however, and we head into extra time for the umpteenth time this season. I'm preparing for penalties, but then, just after the restart, we score the best weirdest goal I've seen in my time playing FM. The Salzburg DLP intercepts our move and passes the ball back to his keeper, Ronning. Under pressure from Sukho, Ronning punts the ball long..... straight onto Sukho's head and into the back of the net.

I went absolutely wild.

Jablonec would be heading to their, and as far as I can tell their country's, first European club final. Awaiting us was Valencia, but more on that later.

With the league title ours, sights were set firmly on the Pohar final, with Banik Ostrava awaiting us. This was a side that had given us some difficulty in the past, but suffered from a crippling lack of consistency. A week prior we see them off 3-2 in the league (which would prove to be our only win in the Championship group!), in a game that should have been much more straightforward after their main CB was sent off in the first half.

You might have noticed that a lot of our games this season, particularly crucial ones, have featured red cards. I'd be interested to find out how many but unfortunately I don't really know how to extract that without purely counting them out. I mean I'm a meticulous nerd but that's too far even for me. Anyway, I digress - the point I was trying to make is, if you think you've seen all the red cards for this season think again.

The final is a tense and nervy affair, we edge the first half, and as the half time whistle approaches, the red mist descends once again on Banik. The culprit this time is midfielder Tetour, and all of a sudden the game opens up. But it wasn't done there. One minute later, Banik's other midfielder, Janos, slides in hard on Karabec and before we've even made it into the dressing rooms, we know we will be facing a 9 man team in the second half. This should be a cakewalk right? Well, yes it should, but Banik go for a low block and we struggle to break them down, through our own seasonal fatigue. So despite the considerable player advantage we end up needing extra time. Again. Thankfully, the old near post corner routine comes to rescue me from the indignity of losing a final with a two man advantage. Banik weren't done though. Well, with the red cards anyway. One of their substitutes decides he's had enough too, and on 120 minutes trips up our captain Houska, and they are down to 8.

I've never had that happen to me before, and I suspect I never will again.

1145393869_PoharFinal.thumb.png.53b0f141ce58eeb59b6183f0241a5ee9.png

And, at risk of repeating myself...

šampionů! šampionů! OLE OLE OLE!!!

Well that wraps up the double, just the 5th time a Czech team has achieved such a feat and the 1st time that team wasn't Sparta Prague. I'm certainly quite proud of this one! :D

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Of course, we still had the big one to play. A European cup final, against Valencia, at the Benito Villamarin, and a chance to tick a second major objective of mine from my list in one season. Now you might think this would be a step too far, but given how my team had surpassed every challenge thrown at us this season, especially on the big occasion, I had a quiet sense of confidence about this. This was reinforced when I read the odds were not overwhelmingly in Valencia's favour. And strengthened further as I noticed two of their key players were going to be ruled out through injury and supension. My team, although jaded from a long season, were all available for selection, and I could enter the match with my preferred first XI.

...

...

...

Sadly, this fairytale did not have a happy ending. :(

It took just 6 minutes for Valencia to take the lead, and frankly, we never really recovered from that setback. After about 30 minutes we established our foothold in the game and played some good stuff, but couldn't create that chance to see us through. As we tweaked things in the 2nd half, Sebastien Haller (whose physical presence had been a nuisance all game) lost his man on a wide free kick and crashed home a second. We continued to play well, but I got the feeling that Valencia were simply coasting through this one. In the dying embers of the game, Carlos Soler curled a free kick into the top corner. 0-3 was exceptionally harsh.

And with that deflating end to the season, I'm left to ponder what might have been, and what the future holds...

1978880042_UConfFinal.thumb.png.2714ab045bfabc3cc73b077ef6d8bd9d.png

 

Edited by Saintmat
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  • 2 weeks later...

Season 7 - July 2026

SK_Rapid_Wien_svg.png.9ce97465f25c9272cdc3e2940efa0688.png                               vs                            CSKA_Sofia_Logo_2020.png.defd6817583302cc3938704df1d72367.png

Weighing up my options.

In the interest of maintaining my momentum with these updates, from now on I'm going to try and do some more frequent but shorter entries here.

So, for my first of these posts, I wanted to briefly talk about a little dilemma I'm having right now. Before the Conference League final, my mind was made up. I would leave Jablonec at the end of the season and move on to new pastures. After handing in my resignation I applied for a range of jobs that interested me. Far from the first round of applications at the start of this save, I had accrued a degree of reputation and felt I could afford to be a little more selective in my eventual destination. Applications went in to four clubs; Rapid Wien, CSKA Sofia, Heerenveen and Ujpest. Additionally I received invitations to interview with Viktoria Plzen, Standard Liege and Zorya Luhansk.

From these seven clubs I am now faced with a choice of two. I turned down the three interview offers from Viktoria, Standard and Zorya. Part of the reason for leaving Jablonec was to add a new country and a new league to my manager profile, and having won everything in the Czech domestic game, there was nothing left there for me to prove. Standard Liege are a big name, but are financially in huge debt and besides, a move to Belgium is not what I imagined at this stage of my career. Zorya Luhansk I might have considered, but FM is still a form of escapism for me and I have made a conscious decision to avoid the Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian leagues, especially given the most recent update changing how these clubs operate. With Ujpest, this would have realistically been a step down, as they are a lower mid-table Hungarian team. I initially applied as they were on my cool list, but felt that maintaining some amount of realism was important to me and eventually decided to withdraw, despite being offered the job. Heerenveen was more straightforward, I interviewed but pushed my luck and they chose another candidate. This was no biggie as ultimately I see the Dutch league as a final destination for my manager and saving the country for a move to one of the big boys there feels like a good idea for now. I was more interested in seeing how far I would get in applying to a team in the highest ranked leagues available to me.

This leaves me with Rapid Wien and CSKA Sofia, who have both offered me the job. And frankly, I am a bit torn. So let's weigh up the options...

Rapid Wien        SK_Rapid_Wien_svg.png.9ce97465f25c9272cdc3e2940efa0688.png

Historically one of the most successful clubs in Austria, Rapid Wien (along with their city rivals Austria Wien) were one of the first clubs to go on my aforementioned "cool list". As a reminder, at the start of this save I made a list of clubs across Europe who I thought might be interesting projects, based on various subjective factors but typically some combination of current and historical status, and aesthetic qualities (basically do I like the name or the kit). Rapid like many teams in these parts of Europe now have ended up victim to the new money and dominance of Red Bull Salzburg. They boast a crazy 32 titles to their name, and intriguingly a single German Bundesliga, presumably won during occupation by Nazi Germany, but last won the Austrian title in 2008 and have been a long way short of challenging for some time.

In game, they have recorded a short series of mid-table finishes, rarely challenging in the end of season Championship group. They have just sacked Didi Kuhbauer (for a second time), and are offering me the following contract. I do not have great visibility of the squad and their attributes, but it is distinctly small and a rebuild would almost certainly be required. The facilities are ok, and they are not in European competition. Potentially this looks like a 2-3 year job at least, as I would be living under the thumb of RB Salzburg.

696456015_RapidWienContract.thumb.png.aa4e3eb90cf249d2c95c618b2d134b07.png

CSKA Sofia           CSKA_Sofia_Logo_2020.png.defd6817583302cc3938704df1d72367.png

So what can CSKA Sofia offer me? Well for a start they weren't on my original list, but if I recall correctly they weren't far off being included. Like Rapid, CSKA offer a similar tale of being a fallen giant now dominated by a new domestic force. 31 times winner of the Bulgarian Parva Liga, the "army men" as they are known fell into ruin in the mid 2010s, following a long decline in the absence of the Governmental support they had been receiving in the late 1990s. These days Bulgaria is dominated by Ludogorets Razgad, a team many will be aware of for their Champions League exploits. Despite being based in a small town of 25,000, Ludogorets have won every Bulgarian title since they arrived in the top flight in 2011, and are bankrolled by one of the richest men in Bulgaria via his veterinary pharmaceutical company. CSKA on the other hand were nearly dissolved in 2015, and only exist today thanks to some rather dodgy shenanigans, much akin to the MK Dons style hostile takeover of another club (in this case, Litex Lovech, who have also reformed). This caused a fanbase split, and now CSKA Sofia share their league with, well, another CSKA Sofia, named CSKA 1948 and run by a subset of the original fanbase, while the owners of the old-CSKA run the team offering this next job to me.

Thanks to this video from Hitec Sevens explaining this in detail - it is worth the watch! And you might also care to watch his video on Ludogorets Razgad too. Very interesting stuff.

In my save, CSKA have basically continued their trajectory as the perennial bridesmaids in Bulgarian football. The position is now available due to the retirement of... *checks notes*.... Alan Pardew! The old dog seems to have made the step up from his DoF role in 2024. Besides the time it took, it is scary sometimes how well FM imitates real life. The squad, in contrast to Rapid, is large and would probably require some amount of trimming. The club boast a wage expenditure of £3m a year, considerably more than their nearest rivals but even further from the £7m a year being pumped in by Ludogorets. The job basically looks to be to try and overturn the dominance of Ludogorets, and return CSKA Sofia to the top spot. Additionally, they will compete in a qualifying round in a weeks time to gain entry to the Conference League group stage, and so potentially I can have another stab at this competition and my objective of winning European silverware with a club in a country that has never tasted it before. If I take this on, I'll have a transfer budget of £4.7m, a wage budget of £413k and a two year deal. Notably, they are only offering £5.5k p/m in wages, less than I was on at Jablonec.

1395405171_CSKASofiaContract.thumb.png.9321a288f3105745d00ecef646002628.png

Pros and Cons

Rapid Wien 

Pros

  • On my original list. In fact many clubs from that list are no longer realistic options as they would be major steps down. I want to manage 3 from that list in my career, so this would be a good chance to get started on it.
  • The foundations and money are available for a rebuild.
  • A realistic step up, a bigger club in a bigger league than Jablonec.
  • £25k p/m contract represents a significant pay rise and would realistically be an attractive opportunity for my manager.

Cons

  • The job doesn't seem quite so interesting, and looks like it would have to be a long term project. For this next step in my career I think I want a two year job max.
  • I don't have great opportunities here to tick off other objectives. My manager already speaks the language, and I have already toppled a big team in my league.
  • As a watcher of Zealand's Floridsdorfer challenge, I'm actually quite familiar with the Austrian Bundesliga now and that mysterious allure of a new league isn't quite there for me any more.

CSKA Sofia

Pros

  • An interesting club history in an unknown new league. I quite liked the idea of taking on one of these 'schism' clubs (e.g. Steaua in Romania), so despite their absence from my original list I think they probably ought to have been on there anyway.
  • As long as I last I can potentially teach my manager Bulgarian, which will be my 3rd of 5 targeted new languages.
  • A squad packed with some of the best talents in the country, and youth facilities which raise the prospect of finding some good wonderkids to work with. I already see one in the squad who PSG are sniffing about.
  • Club philosophies that closely match my own (develop youth players and play attacking football).
  • A shot at the Conference League (admittedly this might be quite ambitious).
  • More of a short-term job than Rapid are offering.

Cons

  • £5.5k p/m is pitiful. I would want to try and negotiate this higher.
  • A hard grind against the might of Ludogorets doesn't sound fun. I would have this at Rapid too though.

And the decision is....

 

 

 

 

 

CSKA_Sofia_Logo_2020.png.defd6817583302cc3938704df1d72367.png

Ultimately, I think this seems like the more fun option. Passing up the opportunity of ticking Rapid off my cool list is a bit of a shame, but there are others on that list too and CSKA might as well have been on it too. The official list will have to wait.

So now it's time to pack my bags for Sofia....!

Edited by Saintmat
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  • Saintmat changed the title to [FM22] An Adventure in Europe's Outskirts (Currently Managing: CSKA Sofia)

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