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[FM22] Irn Bru Rangers - A less stereotypical career than one might think...


FiftyBeforeThirty
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EDIT: If you wish to skip over the first few years, I am looking to do a catch-up post every page, so keep an eye out for that.  For now, if you would like to skip forwards to the end of Season 3, probably the craziest month (give or take a day) of Football Manager I've ever got to play - you can do so by clicking here:

 

After flitting between saves lately, I think I've finally landed with something that I can get my teeth into; a save with Irn Bru Rangers.  One might immediately assume that I've made a sweeping stereotype about Steven Gerrard's former team, or that I've created my own club in the Scottish Third Tier to bring to glory, but both assumptions would be wholly inaccurate...

 

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Founded in 1958 as Rangers Football Team, before becoming Hong Kong Rangers FC just 2 years later, the side has been a relatively slow progression side.  They have won the top tier of Hong Kong football just once; in the 1970-71 season, just 6 seasons after topping the Second Division for the first time in their history.  The latter also represents their most recent trophy; coming in the 2011/12 season, their only silverware this side of the turn of the millennium.

Technically, the team is currently named "Biu Chun Rangers" due to sponsorship reasons, however Football Manager has them billed as "Irn Bru Rangers", but I'm not complaining!

According to sources I have found, an interesting managerial situation is currently occurring, in that HKR currently have 3, yes 3, "co-head coaches"...I can't say I've ever seen it before, but for the purposes of the save, we will of course be becoming the head coach of the side.

There's quite a lot to digest with Hong Kong football as a sum, there being just 8 teams in the top tier is one of them.  Each team plays eachother twice before splitting into a single-round Championship/Relegation battle with 4 sides each.  With just 17 games played, each side plays less than half the number of games as teams in the big leagues of Europe, and so playing time is very restricted.

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The current teams in the league; Hong Kong U23s are a squad of...you guessed it...just U23 players from the nation which could be interesting. Resources Capital is probably the oddest name I've seen for a club since...well, Lee Man, as a matter of fact.

It would appear that the main contenders for the title are Kitchee SC (the current holders) and Eastern AA - both holding the top 2 spots in each of the last 2 seasons. Through the last decade, however, Kitchee SC have never won 3 straight titles (which isn't saying much...), so perhaps it is our turn to upset the apple cart, having not finished in the top 3 since I started secondary school...

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We will hope to put an end to the Kitchee domination of the League from our first season; but it is far from an expectation!

One of the main ideologies I'd like to bring to the side is that of a youth-only challenge (my first, so be kind!).  I will not be signing any players as a result, instead relying on the youth facilities of the club, and developing these along our journey.  Fortunately for me, the youth recruitment level is 5 stars - the maximum - through some stroke of luck, although the junior coaching and youth facilities leave a lot to be desired, and that's disregarding the sub-par training facilities the clubs are currently armed with.

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With minimal reputation and a very skewed setup, this save is likely to take a lot of time, patience and TLC...still, 1 out of 3 isn't bad.

 

The current team at my disposal is an interesting one; a handful of high-quality foreign players with a collection of reasonably talented, but aging, Hong Kong nationals means that we will have to look to the future with this save; I'm certainly not expecting us to set the league alight with our current squad and with the above imposed restrictions, there's no telling how long it will be before we can make a real chase for the title, or even begin to back ourselves for such an event.

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Unfortunately it isn't "that" Juninho, though I do recognise a few of the clubs some of our foreign players have turned out for.

 

So buckle up, and enjoy the ride, as we look to conquer Hong Kong, Asia, and perhaps the world with Irn Bru Rangers!

Edited by FiftyBeforeThirty
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Pre-season through September

I haven't quite worked out how often it is that I'll be updating the thread, but certainly in the early stages, monthly or bi-monthly progress reports seem more than reasonable.

As you would expect in the 1st pre-season of a youth challenge, there was little to no activity. No forays into the transfers market, and no outgoing players either.  A couple of members of staff joined us and a few started coaching courses, including myself for my 1st qualification.  The pre-season results were rather more of a spectacle than our recruitment drive, as you can see below;

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We pulled off successive victories through pre-season and took the form into the season. 1 goal conceded and 8 scored in just 4 competitive fixtures is an outcome I can settle with.

Our start in the league continued our fine form from the friendly success.  Victories against Resources Capital, Southern District and HKFC put us top of the league, tied with 2nd.  A small caveat would be that we came up against far from the best opposition, though looking at holders, Kitchee SC's form, I'm pretty content with our early progress.

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Topping the pile, albeit by a singular goal.  Kitchee SC haven't exactly been...wait for it...top draw!  I'll get my coat!

Next month we face off against Lee Man, the aforementioned Kitchee SC (after the international break), Eastern AA and Hong Kong U23s.  I'll be looking to go into the stop-start winter months on top of the pile, hopefully with a cushion over any rivals behind us.

So far so good for the Irn Bru Rangers.  Surely it's onwards and upwards from here...

Edited by FiftyBeforeThirty
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2 hours ago, anagain said:

Hong Kong is an interesting choice of location for a save. Don't think I've seen too many down there. Good luck.

I can recall around a decade ago someone on a former FM fansite taking a team through 50-odd seasons in Hong Kong, but besides that, I've heard few people with a save. Hopefully I can put a case forwards for a Hong Kong save to others in the future!

1 hour ago, Tikka Mezzala said:

Absolutely detest Rangers, but this is actually quite cool! :D 

Best of luck. 

Glad to hear it didn't put you off!  I've been unable to confirm, but cannot deny, the existence of a "Tennents Celtic" in the second tier ;) 

Thanks to you both for the comments!

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October 2021

A month full of surprises.  Some good results, some poor results, and a Cup that sprung out of nowhere!  Let's dive in and disect.

The three scheduled league games went about as well as they could have, Lee Man were certainly riding a high going into the game, and we were really unlucky to concede late on after pressing and pushing all game in search for a second.  Kitchee SC were, quite frankly, pushovers.  We won comfortably and the scoreline could have been more.  Against Eastern AA, we took a single chance well throughout many made opportunities.  While not thrilled with our finishing, our defending once again provided a solid shift, handing us a 1-0 win, and continuing our unbeaten run.

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A small gap opening up for us at the top with Eastern beating Lee Man, and us beating Eastern.  The compact standings throughout the 3 "groups" of teams will certainly make the split interesting when it comes to pass.

Just before this game, however, there was a Group stage draw for the "Sapling Cup". A 3rd Cup, something else to add to the collection.  All thoughts I had...until I read the rules and spent more than 10 seconds looking at our squad.

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Whilst "Yeung Dik" (I know; I'm "mentally 5") has been one of our top performers this season, we don't particularly possess great quality nor depth of players at a young age, certainly not fit for the matchday squad in such a competition.  The results certainly show how difficult this tournament will be, at least until we can improve our facilities and develop some younger talent.  I'm not particularly downbeat, and thankfully the squad don't seem to be either, but we certainly could do with a morale boost next month as we start off with a league game against Hong Kong U23s who are bottom, before the continuation of the group stage of the Sapling Cup.  The top two teams qualify, and frankly, I don't particularly care for progressing in the tournament, I just hope that we can find our feet in the league again, after the rotation.

Edited by FiftyBeforeThirty
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November 2021

 

Overall, November was a drastic improvement and saw us develop our margin from "slight" to much more comfortable.  Maximum points, 4 consecutive clean sheets and through to the Sapling Cup Semis...what was it that I was worrying about last month exactly?

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An almost flawless month from us, flying high in morale and in all competitions right now. What more could I ask for?

 

The league table, as mentioned above, has seen teams fall off of our pace a little, as can only be expected when you've only dropped 4 points in the opening 10 league games.  Our goal difference is solid and the chasing pack, aside from Lee Man, are squabbling over the final 2 spots after the split. Hopefully we can continue to get results and improve our standing at the summit.

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The bottom clubs stay the same, and the chasing pack shuffles a little. Considering halfway through the month we had 2 games in hand, it's all settled down a little bit, and is looking positive.

 

Not all is well in Hong Kong, however, as Eastern AA have sacked their manager, despite sitting 3rd in the table. Performances lately have taken a hit, but a 1-month struggle, where they only managed 1 singular point was too much for their board.

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Talking of boards...is there a dark cloud looming?

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December 2021 & January 2022

With only 2 games played in December, I figured I'd continue on with January, and now I have quite the post to update you with.  Lots has happened, mostly positives, and we're looking fantastic as we head into the final stages of the season and hope to find ourselves pushing on all 4 domestic fronts.

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One of the more obscure and interesting emails I've had in FM...unfortunately, despite the assertiveness that I should be proud of being their manager, this match never came through...there's always...next year?

 

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Apparently the chairperson (are they a chair, are they a person, no they're a chairperson!) got bored of the rumours so squished them like that mosquito at 4 in the morning.

 

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An interesting, but not particularly positive facet for us.  We will be in a playoff (I assume that to be the round before the group stages).  I don't hold out too much hope, but neither did I for this season and look how that's turned out...

 

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How does FM capture the essence of social media so dang well?

 

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Upcoming youth prospects.  With our top scorer and lone striker, Leandro Bazan, leaving us (despite my best efforts), I'm hoping that my Head of Youth Development isn't pulling my leg.  Generational talents are something I'm a little excited at, but I've definitely seen this phrase once too many times in FMs past.

 

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We signed a new 2-year deal. The chairperson gave me a 1-year extension initially but with a little haggling (£125/week less) I got him to give me the extra year.  Not as though I can spend that money, anyway...

 

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To say that we've been "in form" might be an understatement. Might.

We've certainly had an eventful couple of months, and 2 months where we haven't even played a single game at home, in any of the 4 competitions we're playing in right now.  The game against HKFC was 7-0 at half time and we were absolutely outrageous to watch.  The draw against Lee Man was frustrating. We scored a penalty, conceded a penalty, had 2 goals disallowed, scored a fantastic goal from a 20+ pass move, and then conceded to a long ball in the 80th minute.  Unfortunately, as mentioned, our striker has found form at a time where he's likely to leave the club.  There are a few players who are likely to do so - mainly foreign or older players.  Our overachieving this season may just be the knife in my back next season, though the board only expect us to be the "best of the rest" team, so perhaps there is hope to be had still!

 

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Our first final against "E Double-A", as I've affectionately come to know them as.

We have a rescheduled gain against Eastern to kick of February, followed by this Cup Final; our first in Hong Kong.  I'm hoping we can continue our good form against them (4 games, 3 wins and 1 draw, aggregate score of 8-2) in both of these games.

Meanwhile, in the Sapling Cup we will take on Southern District, though that won't take place until the end of May, we still have 2 games remaining in the FA Cup Group Stage also; against Lee Man and Kitchee SC.

 

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With a number of games in hand, we managed to secure our spot in the Championship Group, the 3 games will take place from March to April.  We will keep 100% of our points tally so, technically, could secure the title before even reaching the Championship Group stage!

 

Unless anything changes, I'll be updating the thread month-on-month, and hopefully push getting the season wrapped up this evening.  I'm certainly entertained with the save, and every game feels different, despite only 8 teams in the league and cups, because I never remember what competition it is that we're playing in...

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February 2022

Valentine's Heartache

 

A month where we had the chance to secure 2 pieces of silverware, and came away with none...technically.

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A tough loss to take. A couple of their penalties were within sneezing distance of the keeper...it just wasn't to be.  And, of course, their equaliser came in the 90th minute on the counter, from a slender angle.

 

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In more positive news, Lam Ka Wai, our chieftain in the middle of the park, and designated penalty taker (hence most of the goal tally), was awarded the Footballer of the Year.  A stalwart in our midfield and, thankfully, a player with us next season unless anything goes horribly wrong.

 

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All I can say is, whoever named these awards wasn't the brightest.  A Ukrainian winning "Hong Kong Goalkeeper of the Year"!  In seriousness, our player/goalkeeping coach has been solid between the sticks, and even pulled off 2 saves I thought to be impossible, whilst limping around on sprained ankle ligaments.  Well deserved award!

 

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We faced off against the winless Hong Kong U23s in our final game, unbeaten in the regular season.  I had a feeling that the script was written, and when they took the lead early on (only for it to be disallowed) a poo went bungie-jumping.  Thankfully we secured a relatively comfortable 2-0 win and my underwear survived another day.

 

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Before we even reached the Championship Group, I guess we technically won the title...but haven't.  I guess it'll push through when we play our first game in the Group as opposed to beforehand.  Slightly annoying, but I'm content nonetheless.  Hopefully we can end the season on a high in the final 3 league games. We face both Lee Man and Resources away from home, however, and Lee Man, our "bogey team" if you could call them that, are our final opponents of the season.

 

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The month's results in full.  2 goals conceded against E Double-A was disappointing, but a 1-0 win against Lee Man to (hopefully) break the curse will do me fine!

 

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This is how the run-in looks.  Keep in mind that the Hong Kong FA Cup will have a Semi-FInal (which we've already qualified for) and Final that we will hopefully play in, the Sapling Cup Final may also be on our schedule.  If we can put 3 Cup Finals under our belts I will be happy regardless of their outcome.

 

With at least 6 games, and at most 9 games, left in the season, I'm hoping that we can round out my first managerial season in Hong Kong, FM22 and this career nicely!

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March - April 2022

Every End Has a Beginning, and Every Beginning Has to End...

The League season has finally run its course and what an update we have in store.

We have youth intake results: was the 5* prospect report accurate? Did we manage to secure the League title? Is the Chairperson a chair or a person?  Roughly 66% of questions will be answered in this update!

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We did indeed secure the League title, but due to...social distancing regulations (?) I wasn't allowed to celebrate with the team.  And, of course, it had the most easily misconstrued name bang in the middle of the screen for the entirety of the ceremony. Shenanigans!

 

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Probably the best record I've had after 1 game in Football Manager!  Can you beat it?

 

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Omitting, for the sake of brevity, the 5012349 messages about us winning the title.  It is the club's first for 51 years, and we are going to be playing in the AFC Champions League.  That's just about the gist of proceedings.

 

And now, the moment you have all been awaiting for literal seconds...the youth intake!  And by golly, it's a doozie!

 

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Filth.  Absolute filth.  Left me dribbling for a little while.  A player that we can hopefully look to develop into a powerhouse in the league.  I fully expect him to join a Chinese Super League team at some point in the future, but for right now I'll enjoy a 4* current ability, and the fact we've got him on a decent length contract. 

Oh, but that's not all!

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OK, so maybe they were a little quick to pull the "OMG BeSt StRiKeRs EvA" card.  But he's pretty solid for a Hong Kong player.  14 finishing with 13 determination and 12 composure to boot.  I'll take that every day of the week and then some!

What's that?  You don't think this is the full story?  You're absolutely spot on!

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Perhaps I'm getting a little too excited about the future, but this fella certainly can do a job for us.  With a Left Winger, Striker and Right Winger all under the age of 16, and all with excellent physicals I'm pretty content with what we've been given. 

 

We signed a few more of the youth intake players, just ones that I thought have a 1% chance of success, to £15/week contracts, and I'm hoping that we might possibly see them pop up every now and then.  For now, I'm not going to nickname them with all of the added text to decode about what season we got them, their ability and potential etc., as I love the authenticity of the names in the game.  Being able to name almost all of the players in the squad already is the part of FM I adore!

 

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As if the results of our youth development program weren't enough; the proof can be found in the pudding, as Lai Lok Kan scores on his debut, a goal assisted by none other than Yeung Chun Hung's (wayward shot) incredible pass.  Top prospect, Wong Chun Kit and Yeung Chun Hung started on debut, and the former could have broken the deadlock after just 7 minutes, firing straight at the keeper from a half-chance.  

 

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We have certainly had an interesting first season. A couple of records on the "final day" (before the Cup Semi-Finals), and awards out the kazoo.  Let's look at one in particular:

 

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Yeung Dik Lun...I dare you to guess why I have banned myself shouting his name when he shoots!  The thing that stood out to me here, is the pass completion ratio stat.  90%, starting off the season as an 18 year old.  He played every league game for us, and possibly every Cup game also.  He's been ever-present alongside Lam Ka Wai in the center of park, and I'd dare to say that he is another individual in the squad with a bright future ahead of him.

 

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The results in the last 2 months.  We reached the FA Cup Semi-Final, where we play Hong Kong U23s, who survived relegation on the final day, with HKFC going down (the easiest team to type, thanks Sports Interactive!).  We took our foot off the gas in April, and lost our unbeaten run, in all competitions and in the League; our only loss of the season.  It technically doesn't take effect on the main League Table, but it does give us something to aim for next year.  The record League points tally is literally 51 points; maximum, so that's an objective for upcoming seasons, for sure!

 

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The final, and strangest looking league table you might ever see.  Resources' manager moved to Kitchee SC (the team who have won 8 of the last 11 titles) in the middle of the season, only for his new team to not make the Championship Group cut, and his old team to finish 2nd in the league.  Not quite what was planned, I'm sure.

 

We have 2 Cup Semi-Finals, and hopefully finals to play. I'm hoping that the lack of results hasn't put us too far off course, as I'd love to wrap up the season with a domestic treble.  The off-season will be very interesting this year with departures of experienced players and the transition to the youth-only style.  But that's a tale for another day...

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May 2022

Cup-sets

We are back, with more screenshots and bad formatting than ever before!  2 Cup Semi-Finals were guaranteed going into the month, could a treble be on the cards for us in our first season in Hong Kong?  Let's find out...

 

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A superb showing as we break any stigma of Cup curses after our defeat in the Senior Challenge Shield Final.  You could say we had some pretty nice runs in both Cups, but quite frankly we had the Group of death in the FA Cup and dominated Lee Man in the Sapling Cup Final after losing our opening game 4-0.  I'm more than content!

 

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After the FA Cup Final victory I entered the Hong Kong Hall of Fame as the 8th most successful manager in modern times.  We have some way to go before topping it, Chan Hung Ping won 6 titles and 4 Cups across 3 different teams!

 

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Seemingly a screenshot with very little, but something I found rather amazing from our Sapling Cup Semi-Final.  It wasn't that we scored 3 in 4 minutes, it's the fact that the first pairing of goalscorer and assister have a combined age of 30, the second have a combined age of 65!  This was also Kit's second goal for the club, his first opening the floodgates in this match.

 

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More news on the Kit front, as Wong Chun Kit broke multiple records throughout the season.  This was another fantastic game for him - he is our youngest ever debutant, scorer and broke domestic records also!  A bright future awaits, I have to feel.

 

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Of course, the news of our treble was pretty surprising, it caught me off-guard!  We routed the competition on the regular and were a phenomenal watch!  Our xG in the four games this month was around 2-3 and we should have scored more.  A fantastic season with the results to back up our superb showing.

 

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Our best lineup in the Season Overview.  A couple of things to note; Juninho has been training with a team in Brazil for some months now, and Fernando Lopes & Shlyakotin both refuse new deals with us due to feeling we can't support their growth.  It may take some getting used to, especially since our defence has been so solid on all fronts this season - but hopefully their "replacements" can take inspiration from this season's results.

 

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And, apparently, this is what happens when you tell the team - coming off of a treble - that you want them to finish in the top half...Gotta love FM!

 

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Our top player in the Sapling Cup...our right back...with 8 goals in as many appearances and 3 assists to boot.  His goal in the Semi-Final - a 30 yard free kick no less - was perhaps the pick of the bunch.

 

The AFC Champions League is a turdstorm.  We wait until March for our Playoff game, and if we reach the Group Stage (I don't think we will) then we will have to play through the summer break next season - which seems more than just a little unfair.  I'm quite glad that we can all but secure 2 trophies before the Champions League comes into things, and I'm hoping that we can develop our youth prospects as the season develops.

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A must to follow given I'm from HK. IRL the Rangers are one of the most long-established senior clubs, though quite a yo-yo club in the last two decades as it heavily depends on sponsorships for staying alive. It therefore positions itself as a pipeline for quality young players (which means youth intake at nearly no cost!), with a few washed out veterans signed up every offseason to keep the ball rolling.

Edited by johnloch
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3 hours ago, johnloch said:

A must to follow given I'm from HK. IRL the Rangers are one of the most long-established senior clubs, though quite a yo-yo club in the last two decades as it heavily depends on sponsorships for staying alive. It therefore positions itself as a pipeline for quality young players (which means youth intake at nearly no cost!), with a few washed out veterans signed up every offseason to keep the ball rolling.

Can't tell you how true I've found most of this has transferred into FM. Financially it's impossible to keep afloat, even with the AFC Champions League (it looks like). We definitely had a good pipeline last year, a couple of months away from the 2nd intake at the moment, and it also makes the 5* recruitment make sense!  

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End of 2022

Growing Pains

With a little delay, a new update arrives!  Action from the opening half of the season follows, so sit back, relax, and enjoy!

 

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Remember I said that I found the U23 thing kind of cool. I don't. It's dumb. They called 5 of my players, including Young Player of the Year and stalwart of our midfield, Yeung Dik Lun, for "military service" i.e.; playing for Hong Kong U23s.

 

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I have no option to recall the players, and they are paying nothing for their services, as well as being able to play them against me.  Playing time is hardly kept, apart from Yeung Dik Lun who they seem to be heavily relying on.  I'm far from impressed, and however accurate it is, it's an irritant I'd rather not have to deal with.

 

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In terms of transfers, we were as quiet as you would imagine. Juninho left to Botafogo-SP on a free and Kim Min-Kyu left to Kitchee SP for 11.75k. Both our Ukrainian in goal, and our Argentinian left back have left the club since they did not want to extend their deals.

 

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Although the season so far appears to have gone well, I can't help but find our play style a large step down from what we had last year.  We've been a lot less solid at the back and it's cost us later in games. Juninho's absence was one I underestimated, he definitely made key chances for us, although another regen, Chui Ho Yin, has 6 goals and 3 assists in League starts so far this season from that position, at the age of just 16.

 

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We've certainly continued our presence in the League.  We've been formidable.  The only dropped points coming to Kitchee due to a 90th minute equaliser after pulling out all the stops to get the team to hold on.

 

We've yet to have had the AFC Champions League draw or anything in that regard. I'm not particularly looking forwards to it as last year there were 3 Korean, 2 Chinese and 1 Japanese team all piled into the bracket.  Perhaps we'll strike lucky with our draw, but I'm not keeping my hopes too high.  A good start to continuing on from our start last season, even if it does feel a little more dull so far.

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January 2023

Fatigue

It certainly wasn't a run-of-the-mill month. Our first Asian Champions League round was not, as I thought, the playoff, and instead the 1st qualifying round.  So let's get into it.

 

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It was always going to be a difficult month, especially with the congestion at the start of the month. We failed to score for the first time while I was at the reigns, and then repeated it in the league.  We were almost faultless against the Malaysian opposition, but it just wasn't to be on the day, as they converted a 94th minute winner.

 

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Meanwhile, in the match against Resources Capital, Bazan saved us from the uncertainty of penalties with a sumptuous free kick, worthy of winning any match.  Since this is the first time I've seen it, I thought I'd include this comment from him.

 

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The "state" of our team in the 92nd minute of the AFC Champions League match.  As you can tell, we were run off our feet by the end of it, so it's no real surprise we conceded.  I attempted to keep a substitute in hand for extra time, so perhaps it was my own fault.

 

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The league was the top priority for the last 2 games of the month. There is potential for us to seal the title before the split, once again. We will also have the Senior Challenge Shield Final against, who else, Kitchee SC (they can't get enough of us!).  We definitely started looking more like ourselves in the final game of the month, and hopefully we can use the result to kick on.

 

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And, finally, if you've been following, you'll know that January is "sneak-peak" month, and we found out that we have a "Good intake", not quite the same quality as last year, but in some positions that we definitely lack depth, especially central midfield.  We shall wait and see how we look in April when they officially come through!

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February 2023

Best Served...Cold

In a month where we could claim revenge for the penalty shootout last month, and where I learned even more about the Asian continental competition..."structure", there were ups, downs and so much more!

 

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I suppose when you're on top of the game domestically, this kind of situation will arise. I had to take my pick from a lineup of our own stars.  It was an easy decision, in truth, Lau Hok Ming has been phenomenal, and through 22 games had an 8.21 average rating, among the highest I think I've ever seen.  I'm happy to see Chui Ho Yin make the 5 man shortlist, at just 17 years of age.  The newgen definitely has a bright future, and I don't think this will be the last time we see him in the awards action.

 

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As mentioned, I still haven't quite worked out how the Asian continental competitions work.  It seems like the "Conference Cup" has 4, 5 or 6 different symmetrical leagues for different regions.  We have Resources Capital, who finished 2nd in the league last year, and Ryomyong of North Korea in a "winner takes all" double round-robin.  I remain hesitant to draw optimism from this, we certainly haven't been in ideal form this season, so beating Resources Capital will be hard enough, let alone foreign opposition.

 

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The awards continue to pile in, as Lau Hok Ming claims Footballer of the Year and Fans' Player of the Year, from the heart of our defence no less!  Leung Hing Kit won Goalkeeper of the Year, though I've not been particularly impressed with his performances this year.

 

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The outcome of games this months, at last. We lost our first League game all year, and failed to concede once again.  We demolished Kitchee, claiming sweet revenge, and then proceeded to draw 0-0 with Resources Capital, just after the Conference Cup draw.  We need a win against Sha Tin in our last group game to progress into the Semi Finals and keep our chances of a domestic quintuple sweep alive!

 

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Finally, the Championship Group is poised...not so finely.  Eastern AA, Southern District and Kitchee will attempt to stop us going back-to-back, though we require just 2 points from our remaining 3 games to clinch the title.

 

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I will likely set the next update for the end of April, such is the nature of the upcoming schedule. We play our first 2 Conference Cup fixtures, including a trip to North Korea, our final 3 League games, and the final FA Cup Group A game first.  The Semi-Final for the Cup will take place in May, or the last week of April (I'm not 100% sure), and I'm hoping that our regular schedule, including continental fixtures, will aid our match fitness as we look to progress on the 4 remaining fronts this year.

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March & April 2023

"You can't win anything with kids!"

Prospects. The name of the game for this bi-monthly update. Asian Conference Cup East Asian Zone Group Stage action, youth intake, a domestic quintuple on the cards, all to play for as the month began.

 

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The first big motion of the month saw both the chairperson and director decide to call time on their careers, and an embargo and takeover happened in less than 2 days.  Our new owners wiped off the debt at the club, and saw us in the positive for the first time in around 15 months.

 

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To test their willingness to join me on this process, I tried to ask for an increase to junior coaching (accepted) and youth facilities upgrades (rejected).  I expected neither and got one, so that's a win in my books!

 

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Before we even kicked a ball in the league we secured the title. A domestic treble secured, with 2 more trophies still to play for domestically, and the far flung ideals of lifting the Asian Conference Cup.

 

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Meanwhile the youth/rotational talents shone in the Reserves League, winning by quite a margin in the end.  A fantastic result!

 

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Unfortunately the domestic sweep dreams are over, after losing to Sha Tin, who were later relegated from the top tier.  We didn't play well enough in a few games this month, but we got decent results for a team struggling to perform.  We go into the second half of the Conference Cup top of the group, after both Ryomyong and Resources Capital drew in the other game.  I'm unsure what we can pull off in the tournament, but I'm definitely optimistic after this start!

 

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Another season, another title. 10 dropped points in the end, with 2 defeats.  Our goal difference suffered in the second half of the season, as did our results, but with the fixtures being so randomly assigned I don't think I can complain too much!

 

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Here they are! The class of 2023!  13 elite talents is possibly the best outcome imaginable, and the other 3 "role players" can do a job as well!  A few will require some changes to playstyle or to position, but I'm definitely happy with the outcome.

 

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The top talent coming out of the youth pipeline this season.  OK determination and some solid stats there, I'm definitely excited about the prospects of this youngster in the midfield, with 2 fantastic Hong Kong players that can show him the ropes as well.  I feel as though this is the first year with newgens that I've been excited in any of the previous Football Manager saves I've had (there's been plenty!).

 

We approach the final month of the domestic season with the Sapling Cup Semi-Final and potentially Final left to play, either side of the semi-final we will play the Conference Cup games to round out the East Asian Zone Group Stage.  The winner qualifies for the East Asian Zone Playoff Final (since this is technically the Semi-Final) so I assume the winner of the Final then goes into the East Asian Zone Final, the winner of which goes into the Interzone Playoff Semi-Final Groups, the winner goes into the Interzone Playoff FInals and the the overall Final...but that's just a guess, and I have absolutely no idea. :D 

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End Of Season 2022/23 (Season 2)

All's well

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Not a great deal to mention at the end of this season. We lost in the Sapling Cup Final, despite showing glimpses of our previous form throughout the rest of the month. Quite unlucky, but a domestic treble and success at continental level too.  I don't believe that the Conference Cup continues until September, but I'm not 100% sure - as ever.

 

A positive season behind us, and our second in management behind us.  Next season I'd like to aim for a quadruple as well as potentially pushing one step further in the AFC Champions League if we can. The squad depth will hopefully be higher and I'm praying that Hong Kong U23s don't screw us over again this year, but I'm not counting on it!  I've started my National B Licence (I never like doing it in the middle of the season honestly, besides, I have plenty of time) and I'm hoping that it might help with both training and perhaps results when things get tough. Over the pre-season I don't foresee much upheaval, besides some dead wood leaving the club and some staff probably leaving us, but they can be replaced.  Onwards and upwards!

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4 hours ago, johnloch said:

Impressive class of youth intake! Based on what I've played before, newgens will dominate the league very soon given the lack of real-life talents in the HK domestic league.

Definitely feels that way! I'm just hoping the U23 side can't steal them for more than 1 year or I'll be irked to say the least!

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August 2023

Turk-menace-tan

The AFC Confederations Cup swung around once again in August. We are now in the Inter-zone Semi-Finals, both legs are played this month.  We will then go to the Inter-zone Final, the winner of which plays for the trophy, so a lot on the line over the next couple of months!

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Only one player "called up" for "military service" this year.  I can't quite put into words how glad I am that none of our youngsters have been poached again, especially with how good some are becoming!

 

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After the AFC Asian Cup, won by Uzbekistan after they beat South Korea in the Semis and Japan in the Finals, there were a few jobs going, but Hong Kong was not one of those. I tried for a couple of jobs, Vietnam offered me the job but I declined, it was more of a "testing the waters" opportunity for me.

 

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The draw for the AFC Interzone Playoff.  As mentioned, if we win the Semi & Final we on to face the West Playoff Final winner in the absolute Final.  Sagadam first up, from Turkmenistan. The issue for me in Asia is I have no idea of the quality of some of these teams!

 

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And, as you can see, we progress!  Chui Ho Yin was phenomenal, our newgen Central Attacking Midfielder struck 3 peaches in 2 games, bagging his first career hat-trick and putting us in the driving seat before the journey of over 6000 miles to Turkmenistan, where we pulled off a bit of a lucky escape, but the finish was sublime once more.  We face Johor Darul Ta'zim of Malaysia in the Interzone Playoff Final, which, again, I'm unsure about how it will go. We lost to a Malaysian team in the Champions League last year, so I wouldn't be shocked if fate repeats itself, especially considering our schedule around these games.

 

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We also play on the 1st of December, so 3.5 weeks of games non-stop to kick off the season. No friendlies between the second leg against Sagadam and Eastern AA as I'd rather we focused on building our fitness in training than a friendly.  We won the Community Cup last year, and beat Eastern AA a couple of times, including the Conf. Cup, so I'm hoping it won't be too difficult for us to go back-to-back and pick up our first win in the league.  Hong Kong U23s and newly-promoted North District shouldn't be the most difficult games in the world, and our December 1st game is the home game against North District.  Whether or not we can go unbeaten through September is a question only our players can answer with performances on the pitch.

 

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The league going into this season.  Sha Tin - relegated last season - ended up winning the FA Cup last year as a final hurrah. North District come up to join Southern District, I have no idea if that's a local rivalry or a long road trip for both teams...The main teams that I'm looking out for this year are Resources Capital, Eastern AA, Kitchee SC & Lee Man.  Southern District are probably in and around the worst of those teams, and U23s and North District will probably play it out for the bottom spot, I expect North District to go straight back down, in honesty.

 

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And a short look at our team for the first time in a while.  This was the starting XI for the Sagadam away leg.  As you can see, we've managed to put quite a few young players into, or on the periphery of, the starting 11.  Lo Siu Kei, the only injury, is a young, promising keeper who has unfortunately picked up shin splints within the first week of training, and will miss 2-5 months. Unfortunate, as I was hoping to use him in Cup games ahead of Leung Hing Kit this season.

 

Our 3rd year is underway, and I'm hoping to improve upon back-to-back trebles, honestly. We have a good squad, and have depth in youth, I mean the average age of our bench is 18.8 years, which may seem a little on the young side, but the key is that they are talented individuals capable of changing games, even at such a young age.  Onto the Community Cup, Interzone Playoff Final and League!

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September & October 2023

A tale of two

Having lost track of time with the dates, I suddenly realised I was halfway through October.  You'll see why I possibly lost track.  Unfortunately for us, Wong Chun Kit, our prodigal son as it were, picked up 2 big injuries, the second on his return from the first injury.  Restricted to just 3 games this season so far, he's due to return on October 30th. With the congestion inbound, I won't look to use him straight away, but he'll probably feature off of the bench.

 

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I cannot quite fathom nor accurately tell you how poor we were in September. We came into the new season riding some unknown low.  However, after reloading my tactic (I have no idea if this is just coincidence or not), we suddenly burst into life, showing the same kind of form that won us our first treble in Hong Kong.  We were unlucky against Johor in the second leg, but they dominated us at home and were deserved winners of the tie. They lost 4-3 in a classic Final to the Conf. Cup.

 

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After only drawing our first 2 league games we looked in an awkward position, but right now the team is on an enormous high and scoring for fun, and it's not just a single player outputting the goods, as you can see above.  The league is so close this year, I'm not quite sure how, and with Kitchee SC in last, by 5 points(!), it shows exactly how unpredictable the league is (although most of my assumptions were correct, just saying).

 

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I think this might be the first time I've had a reasonably kind group in the Cups.  Kitchee are obviously underperforming in the League, Hong Kong U23s started well, but have since faltered, and fell 4-0 to us in the Cup opener, and North District are the newbies to the top tier.  

 

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As you can see, we've definitely been unfortunate with injuries, but the strength in depth we've accrued despite this being "youth only" is quite sublime.  I'm very happy with the progress some of our youngsters are making and they are gelling well with the older sections of our team.  Perhaps an underrated individual is Yeung Dik Lun returning from Hong Kong U23s, he's been fantastic so far and definitely gives our 1st year youngster Wong Chun Ho grounds a platform to safely improve his game.

 

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Undoubtedly, we will have a couple of extra games in January, should we progress in the 2 Cup tournaments, but if you put together November and December, we've played 2 games a week since the 20th October, and, barring mid-late November, continue to do so every week until the end.  It's a little mental, especially with only 2 games in December currently lined up, but it's something we will have to deal with.  As mentioned before, I'm pretty happy with the strength that we have on the bench, and the positions have started to level out a lot more, especially compared to last year.

 

If we can conform to the standard that we set in October, I'm definitely seeing us going further than a treble this year, it just depends on how we play each match.  With the congestion, I'm slightly concerned, especially with some of our older players, but I'm sure that our younger players can be given a chance to develop during this time.  1 goal conceded and 19 scored in 5 games in October is perhaps the best month we've had, especially with consistency, since the 1st season in Hong Kong! Long may it continue!

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November & December 2023

Heads Held High

After a real Jekyll & Hyde performance in the last 2 months, November and December came around, and I wasn't sure which team would show up.  With a lot of congestion in November, eased slightly through international callups meaning we could postpone, there was plenty to contend with.

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The first time that we have been on any of these lists, so far as I'm aware.  The player?  Who else, but Wong Chun Kit, who, 17 years old, has 6 caps for Hong Kong.  He's had some battles with injury over the season, but he's pushing on when he's been around.

 

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I was tempted to take some of these jobs, but I decided against it, given that I want to progress the Hong Kong national team, so it would be logical to be available for that job.

 

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A stunning goal scored by Bazan, as we showed why I consider us the Harlem Globetrotters of football. The match engine improvements have been amazing so far, I have to admit, and this is part of the reason why!

 

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Given the potential for difficulties, I'll take it!  A couple of draws here-and-there, mostly late equalisers as our fitness was poor.  Chui Ho Yin has been a surprise package at Central Attacking Midfield, popping up with a second hat-trick of the season. Leandro Bazan, I'm pretty sure, has now overtaken his goals total for last year, and with Lai Lok Kan, one of our first-year newgens, biting at his heels for a spot, the run of form couldn't have arisen at a better time for him.

 

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Not much to talk about in regards to the league, only 3 games played in 2 months.  We've been patchy this season and it doesn't surprise me that Resources Capital are hot on our tails as a result. I'm hoping they'll find difficulties in one of the 4 remaining league games, our own run-in, on paper, is tricky, but considering we have 3 of the bottom 4 I guess we can't really complain - the other game is, of course, against Resources Capital!

 

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Generally pretty happy with how the squad has been doing. Lots of rotation and substitute appearances for some players, as a few injuries have hit us this year - harder than either of the last 2 seasons where we hardly had any. Lo Kwan Yee - our 38 year-old right back has 12 assists so far this season - he is our set-piece taker then again - but will be unlikely to return for next season as he would like to be a player/head of youth development.  On that front, Kilama and Lam Ka Wai are in a similar boat, except they are expected to retire very shortly. It may leave us a little short next season, but I'm already trying to get youngsters in their positions to push for a role this season.

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January 2024

New Golden Age?

A blockbuster month, as we have AFC Champions League action, our youth intake preview, and games galore!

 

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Disappointing for us, having made a decent impact in the Conf. Cup, this wasn't quite the news I expected.

 

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The Champions League draw gave us an opportunity for revenge against Johor Darul Ta'zim who knocked us out of the Conference Cup just 4 months ago.  After that, a potential trip to Vietnam and then Thai side, Chiangrai Utd if we could pull up a double-header of upsets.

 

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And, indeed we did!  We were leading 2-1 against Chiangrai as well, but fell down 3-2 and eventually conceded the 4th as we pushed for an equaliser late on.

 

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A thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes of football. One that I didn't expect to go quite as well.  We've shown some clear prowess in our run though, and I'm proud of what we've achieved.

 

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The league saw us continue pace while Resources Capital fell to a defeat, giving us a 6 point advantage now, with 3 games left before the split.  We had a couple of fixtures moved for the Champions League, I'm not really sure whether that was League or Cup related, but we remain in the driving seat, for a 3rd straight year.

 

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Our youth prospects look OK. If it is an "excellent intake" as highlighted, it may well mean another couple of very strong individuals, but I can't be sure.  We've been looking for a natural centre back to partner Lau Hok Ming for a while, and even though we have a couple of possibilities, the prospect of more does intrigue me.  In respect to the right-back position, it couldn't be better timed really. If we can come up lucky with a decent right-back this year I'd be very happy.

 

A thrilling continuation of our hard work paying off so far. Next month we have some pretty important games, League and Cup, including the Hong Kong Senior Challenge Shield Final.  I remain positive, as ever, about our chances of contending on all fronts, though I realise we have Conf. Cup matches in the latter stages of this season and it'll be tough to juggle the fixture congestion unscathed.

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February 2024

All Good Things Must End

 

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After almost 3 seasons in the sport, I finally reached 100 games in management this month. This was in the big game against Resources, so I was less interested than usual.

 

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This year, the Asian Conf. Cup East Asian Zone draw has put us in a 4-team group. We face each team twice.  Again, we face opposition from North Korea, and we will be going up against Benfica of Macau also.

 

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Albeit a record he made himself just 2 seasons ago, at the age of 33 Leandro Bazan has the opportunity to overtake his previous goalscoring tally.  Given that we have at least 10 games remaining, it's not particularly hard to do so, but he has gone through some shocking patches of form before.

 

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We fell victim to our own successes as a game we dominated against Kitchee came out as a loss for the first time in the League campaign this year.  We deserved at least a point, through stats alone, but it just wasn't to be, with the only stat that mattered in their favour come full time.  We picked up our 7th piece of silverware; winning the Senior Challenge Trophy for the second straight year, scalping Kitchee in an utterly one-sided Final as revenge.  They lost their manager after the game, and I'm not surprised after such a pummelling!

 

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It's a remarkably close League this year, with 1 game remaining.  Nothing is yet decided, as Lee Man and Eastern AA could potentially swap positions yet, and we are yet to claim the title, though (via our superior goal difference) could win it on the final day, should Resources Capital lose and we win.

 

A steady month, we received some karma for our good form over the last few months.  I just wanted to point out one last thing also.

 

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This...is why I gave up many moons ago, trying to tell what competition the game we were playing was in.  It's bonkers!

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March 2023

Forward Thinking

 

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As would be expected, our players dominate the regular season awards for the League. Having spoken about Yeung Dik Lun's return earlier in the day, I am happy to see his return as been recognised as he snaps up the Footballer of the Year.  Bazan has hit form I hadn't expected this season, and should probably have had more goals, so it comes as no surprise that fans are lapping up our forward maestro.  Leung Hing Kit hasn't always been called upon, but when he has he's done OK. I feel that he relies heavily on our defence, as when they have an off-game, he capitulates, but he does a job, and does it well.

 

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Two, albeit expected, retirements from senior players. Kilama will be 42 by the time next season rolls around, and Lo Kwan Yee has been an ever-present nature about his play, racking up almost 200 games with the club in his 2 stints here.  Both of them will be missed, but I am optimistic about the future...in case you hadn't noticed!

 

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A good month, lots of goals and solid performances, I really cannot complain.  Given that the final two Conf. Cup games are either side of a Semi-Final with Southern District, I'd like to try and qualify from the group with at least one of those games spare.  We set the tone well and have hopefully captivated some new fans, given the televised nature of the game.

 

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They couldn't deny us; Resources Capital, as we strode to our 3rd consecutive title. The last team to win 3 in a row, actually won 4 back-to-back titles, South China AA, between 2006/07 and 2009/10.  That, of course, is the new goalpost for us, to match and then, hopefully, beat their continued success, though we have some way to go before beating the longest streak, set by Seiko (now defunct) of 7 straight titles between '78/'79 and '84/'85.

 

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I realised that I hadn't thought about my contract for a while, and sure enough it was set to expire in just a few months. Thankfully I pulled off the same feat as last time, securing a 2-year deal.

 

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There's a lot left to play for, and I can't help but wonder how the Cups might screw us up with their scheduling in May.  As I've mentioned before, if we can have 9 points by the end of April, I will be ecstatic, as we can focus in on domestic trophies.

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April 2024

New Dawn

 

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A good end to the League season with so much more left to do.  We bounced back against Eastern AA in the Conference Cup and are looking good value.  Meanwhile in that Benfica (MAC) game...

 

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This happened.  Possibly the most domineering performance while only having a 3-1 score line.  Unfortunate not to win by more, but a lot of shots, a lot on target and an xG I don't recall ever seeing the likes of before.

 

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With the League season all said and done, we managed to win almost all of the awards again. Sun Ming Him of Hong Kong U23s (so not really) won the Young Player of the Year quite comfortably.  I certainly can't complain.  Lau Hok Ming is another gratifying award, as I feel that he is another under-rated performer week in and week out.

 

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The moment that you'd all been waiting for...it's pretty good!  Oh, the top guy?  You want to see him?  Sure!

 

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Absolute. filth.  What a player we have on our hands here - not as highly rated as our Year 1 rookie, but this guy blew my mind.  As a Hong Kong side, getting a player like this through the youth academy is not what I had expected.  Certainly looking forwards to seeing him in action - there may well be places for a few of the youth players in the Cups since they do not have a registration (I believe).

 

If I thought the future was bright before, I certainly do now!

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End of Season 2023/24

Dreams

OK. I'm still digesting the end of season I've just had.  I'm not quite sure how to encapsulate it perfectly and so the formatting of this post will probably be as bad as ever.  I feel that I need to ingrain the same chaos within this post as I've experienced over the last few hours, so whilst I apologise, I also don't.

If we didn't get through in a Cup, I have continued on the matchdays following it, so as not to spoil anything. Feel free to drink it in. Take your time. It's worth it!

 

Matchday 1 - Hong Kong FA Cup Semi-Final

Neutral Venue vs Resources Capital

Spoiler

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Result: 1-1 AET (5-4 penalties) Win

Comments: We pulled it off. After our last penalty shootout I didn't know what to expect, but some heroics in net by Leung Hing Kit - who was simultaneously beaten by and equal to the saved penalty - gave us the victory.  We face Eastern AA in the Final.

 

Matchday 2 - Conference Cup East Asian Zone Group I

Home - Rimyongsu (North Korea)

Spoiler

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Result: 2-0 Win

Comments: A solid victory before the international break. We outperformed them, and we now sit 5 points clear of Eastern AA in 2nd place (only 1 team qualifies).

 

Matchday 3 (?) - Hong Kong FA Cup Final (if applicable)

Neutral Venue - Eastern AA

Spoiler

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Result: 1-0 Win

Comments: We just got over the line!  Bazan beating the keeper in the first half, and clinging on with tired legs and heavy heads.  We face them again next, and avoiding defeat will mean we progress and can rest players on the final day of the Conf. Cup!

 

Matchday 4 (?) - Conference Cup East Asian Zone Group I

Away - Eastern AA

Spoiler

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Result: 0-1 Defeat

Comments: We just couldn't find the goal today, after dominating them.  We had the better chances, we just couldn't put the ball in the right place when it was time.  An 89th minute snatch-and-grab from them means that we have to beat their result on the final day, as we go to Macau to play Benfica, who just beat the North Korean side in our group...

 

Matchday 5 (?) - Hong Kong Sapling Cup Semi Final

Neutral Venue - Southern District

Spoiler

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Result: 2-1 Win AET

Comments: I have no idea how we've ended up in Extra Time here.  I made all 3 subs pretty early on in the 2nd half due to the fatigue setting in.  We then have Yeung Dik Lun, Player of the Regular Season, go down injured shortly before the second half of extra time starts.  Heartbreak starts to set in, we're off our game as the time ticks onwards.  Then, out of nowhere, Cheng Tsz Sum, the super sub, Mr Reliable full back, puts Wang Chun Hung through on goal.  He converts.  3 minutes left to see out, we scrape it, we win it, we take it.  Through to the Final of the Sapling Cup.  Guess who we face?  Eastern AA...

 

Matchday 6 (?) - Asian Confederation Cup East Asian Zone Group I

Away - Benfica (Macau)

Spoiler

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Result: 1-1 Draw

Comments: I played it realistically, so we pushed for the final 10 minutes, not knowing what would happen in the Eastern AA game, and not knowing whether we were safe to take our foot off the gas.  It's 1-1, they're down to 10 men, we push, they resist, we push harder, they start to crack.

The whistle.

I race through to see what happened in North Korea...

Rimyongsu 3

Eastern AA 1

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We're through...

 

Matchday 7 (??) - Hong Kong Sapling Cup Final

Neutral Venue - Eastern AA

Spoiler

Proceedings are level with just 5 minutes left, we take it to the byline as we so often do, Chan Yun Tung has possession, his back to goal, looking to the linesman, sweat pouring down his face. 

1-1, after all this time.

Legs heavy.

Heart aching.

 

A leg attacks his own, he goes down clutching his calf.

The referee blows the whistle.

He reaches into his pocket, produces a yellow card.

The second, for Wong Chun Hei.

He's off.

 

Tsoi Cheuk Man stands over the ball. 

15 years of age.

4 minutes left on the clock.

It continues ticking down...

 

He spots it.

Cheng Tsz Sum, on the pitch as a substitute once again, clears his man on the edge of the box.

Tsoi Cheuk Man swings his boot at the ball, as though he were a domineering presence on free kicks like his predecessor - Lam Ka Wai.

The ball skims the grass, bobbling a little on its way.

 

The crowd stir.

I bite further down on what remains of my nails on the touchline.

It falls in the wake of the Super Sub.

 

He pulls back a right boot and strikes cleanly.  

Everything's in slow motion.  The ball hurtles at goal, slight curl as it glides past the heads of defenders.

The keeper sees it early and dives. 

His glove trickles over the surface of the ball. 

 

The next thing I know it's over...

Spoiler

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Result: 2-1 Win

Comments: Wow.

 

 

End of Season Review:

Spoiler

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We did it.  A domestic quadruple - 3 games against Eastern AA out of our final 7, 5 out of our final 10!  2 Finals, a tight Group Stage affair.  We win it all.  I don't believe I've ever had quite that nailbiting of a finish.  It would've all been a little anti-climatic if we'd brushed Eastern AA aside in the Sapling Cup, wouldn't it? 

The games, the season, this career so far...without a doubt this is filling me with FM emotions long since forgotten.

 

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Confirmation of the quadruple. We seem to be sharing the Cup with Eastern AA an awful lot too!

 

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The lads.  Every single player you see here contributed.  Training efforts were through the roof, even when there was barely time to catch our breath at the end of the season.  30 goals for Bazan at the age of 33 (just turned 34), 14 for Chui Ho Yin who I had hardly paid attention to, 2 assists in 4 games for Tsoi Cheuk Man who only just signed a deal with us at the end there, 46 games - 42 conceded for Leung Hing Kit.  Every stat tells a story to me in here, and I'm almost gutted that I'm not good at story-telling, especially on FM save updates, because this was just about the most brutally challenging, high-octane and belief defying stint in FM management I think I've ever had.

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Near perfect.  We threw everything we had this season.  And this is only the beginning.  The squad are still young, can still provide oh, so much more.

It's got me.  Hook, line and sinker.  GG.

 

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Mid-September 2024

Dawn Approaches

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Probably not the worst thing that could have happened. Yeung Chun Hung (1 of the 2 players named that which we have...) is the only real loss here.

 

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A trip to Bangladesh, before a trip to either Malaysia (again) and Tajikstan!

 

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A start about as good as we could have hoped for.  Community Cup won (there's no extra time so that helped us), League started with a win and rotational squad, Conference Cup Interzone Playoff Final won, and...

 

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We won the coin flip, and will play at home instead of heading to Syria (quite the trip).  I don't expect much, but the team has put together some vintage performances at crunch time.

 

A very good start to proceedings as the new season starts. We've got the Cup Final, at home, in the middle of October, just before the Sapling Cup sprouts it's ugly head again.  We have a good chance to be competitive on all fronts, and if we can beat Al-Karamah, I'd expect the national co-efficient to rise...at least I'd hope.

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September & October 2024

Every Man Must Fall

 

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The temperature is rising, as we neared the end of the tournament.  3/5 are our players (not hard to guess which), I'd say that's pretty good going.

 

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The absolute shambles of a team I had to put out (regarding mainly the bench).  Without our first-choice central attacking midfielder and left winger due to suspensions for both, I'd say we were a little short handed.  We also did not have our best player Lau Hok Ming starting due to fitness concerns...in retrospect it would have been a good idea.

 

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We fell to defeat in a relatively even game, 3-1 the final score.  We played well and put on a show for the home crowd, but at the end of the day they were that touch more clinical and our defending was not up to our usual standard, to be expected with Lau Hok Ming on the bench, I suppose.  The income is gratefully received, though it could have been double.  The result and run are both topics to be proud of, but it does leave a rather bitter taste in the mouth.

 

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Ever-present (...well, except the Final), Lau Hok Ming won the award, I would imagine quite comfortably.  He's a real talent and I'm glad our defence is getting the kind of awards it deserves, especially the man in the middle.  I can't quite encapsulate how good he really is!

 

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Solid start to the season continued, Lau Hok Ming putting a few away for us, as well as Bazan who is now our penalty taker. The game against Southern District was a real kick in the teeth, especially right before the final, but a point is a point.

 

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Amazingly, Sha Tin - the yo-yos - have returned with a bang!  Certainly wasn't expecting them to be the team chasing us at the start of the season.  You may also note the relegated side were Kitchee SC last year - the team that have dominated the Hong Kong league over the last decade-and-a-half.  We've been solid - not much more to say than that - I certainly don't fear any team in particular this year, before we've had small rivalries which shift with the season change, but this year I'm pretty happy with how we've performed against nearly everyone.

 

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And finally, one for the pattern finders/lovers like me!  We face just 4 different opponents in our next 13 games - 12 of those games are against 3 teams alone.  I realise that almost every year is like this, but to see it so abundantly clear is quite amusing and yet satisfying all at once.  Hopefully they don't figure out that we only have 1 tactic and it's been the same for the last 3 years...

 

Next update will likely be the end of the year, unless something big happens in the meantime.  The only thing I can think of that might happen is the Hong Kong job becoming available, yet I doubt that even still.

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November & December 2024

Approaching Nirvana

 

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I almost broke the silence of posts just purely with this. If it isn't a cause of injury from the League & Cup name fixes pack, then my hats go off to SI Games.  This is phenomenal!

 

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Ever the one-up man, a friend posted a screenshot in Discord of a player scoring 6 in a game.  Albeit mine isn't in a "competitive" match (U18s vs adults), We have a 6 goal scorer and a 4 goal scorer.  More impressively they have 7 finishing...between them!

 

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A screenshot from one of our matches over the last couple of months.  Last year's youth recruit, Tsoi Cheuk Man, bagged a 13-minute hat-trick.  The 3rd was a penalty, the other two were from outside the box.

 

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While the finishing isn't the best, his composure is fantastic.  He's on a completely different level to any player in the League, perhaps the continent (that we've faced so far). I can't wait to get him on a full deal, because my God he deserves it!  The future is amazing if this is the kind of player we can consistently produce over the next year or two!

 

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An absolute stormer of a run so far this year domestically.  We remain unbeaten in all domestic competitions and have only "slipped" to a draw twice so far.  The extra time against North District most recently was unfortunate with half of the team with minimal condition remaining, we could have honestly done with a 45 minute game.  We do not, however, have a game for another 2 weeks, which is well received!

 

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The earliest (by quite some way, I believe) that we have ever secured a berth to the final stage of the League.  Honestly, we've looked exceptional all over the pitch, and despite the struggles of Bazan up front (he's always been a streaky player unfortunately) we've found goals galore from our midfielders.

 

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The squad.  Some stunning stats in there, such as our right back continuing the legacy left before him, 10 assists and 3 goals so far.  You can truly gauge by this how young the team is exactly!

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January 2025

Fitness...or lack thereof

 

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Fantastic news for us, quite frankly. We've secured a Champions League Group Stage...for next year...as in next season...the middle of next season...I give up.

 

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We had ties against both Manchester clubs simultaneously, a team that's sailed solo around the world and then...yeah, I have nothing for Chonburi.  Not a favourable draw with the Australians kicking in early, but I have an eye on next year and potentially our first domestic sweep and quintuple in mind.  And a little revenge in the Conf. Cup wouldn't go amiss either.  I don't ask for much...

 

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The reason for our climb.  Interesting to see that the K-League has risen on top - they didn't win the Champions League last year, so I wonder quite how they got such an impressive jump.  I'm just glad we've improved our coefficient!

 

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3 saved penalties.  I don't think we've saved that many penalties in a shootout throughout the previous 3 and a half years!  Good result, a shame it couldn't come in normal time though, our fitness levels are diabolical at this point.

 

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A pretty damning article, I'd argue that we were better than believed and billed, but we keep going!  Yes, that is the Jordon Mutch, formerly of Crystal Palace, playing 90 minutes for them aged 33.  

 

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A little less comfortable of a month than I would have liked.  Our team, as I may have mentioned once or several hundred times before, is on their knees.  I don't particularly understand why, given that our training isn't particularly pressing, but I'll try figure that problem out at another time. 

Because you know what time it is!

End of January means it's newgen intake sneak-peak time!

 

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A little gutted.  We've still not got any dead-set defenders who have come through the academy yet, and our goalkeeping situation is pretty undesirable.  I'm happy with more striking options on the cards, and another midfielder or two won't harm.

 

Meanwhile, unfortunately it would seem that our Year 1 Youth Intake - Wong Chun Kit - will be leaving us at the end of the season.  He doesn't feel that we are playing "at his level".  It's a loss, but I'm not too disheartened; we have so many good talents in our attacking midfield trio that it's a headache trying to select starters - let alone subs.  We won't be able to pull in any money for him, and I'm kind of anticipating a change of heart, but that may just be a little too much on the optimistic side of things.  We shall see.

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February, March & April 2025

Inevitable

 

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Our Conference Cup group - for once it doesn't feature another HK team.  I'm still completely oblivious to how good these teams are meant to fair in comparison to us - I'm stilling having to tell the players we'll finish mid-table at the end of every season for goodness sake!

 

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Bazan has been in and out of the squad with patchy form, the only reason this hasn't been the case before is the lack of backup we've had.  The striker that came through the academy in my first year as manager is now rated at least as good as Bazan, who has dropped pretty quickly in ability.  Slightly sad, but I agree with his reasons.

 

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We won the League title once more (officially), thus completing a treble with the 2 domestic Cups still to play for.  

 

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Results for the last 3 months.  We've been very strong, and even when we get hit by multiple games in a week, we've handled it with a delicacy that we've not done so before.  Very happy with the turnout, even though we did leave it late a few times.

 

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And if you have been keeping up - you may already have noticed - we managed to pull of an invincible domestic season!  Honestly, coming into this challenge, I had not expected it to be anywhere near this quick for us to end up with an unbeaten record, but now it just makes me hungry to see how far we can go with it!

 

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Records, Awards and compliments out the kazoo!  We've swept the awards and our season unbeaten is recognised by having the longest (apparently) unbeaten streak...despite a team winning 17/17.  I'll take it though!

 

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And now, the part you've all been waiting for: the Class of 2025!  A little underwhelming, honestly, after being touted to have some unbelievable talents.  No doubt, many of the elite level players will either play for us, or another HK top tier side in the future, but for right now, I was hoping for a more talented Goalkeeper or Striker to pop up from the depths.  Unfortunately for us, most of the top talent of the intake play in positions where we currently have decent first-team choices, but with competition for places comes better performances, and better coverage should we require.

 

All in all, the season has progressed almost perfectly to this point.  We're level with April 25 in the Confed Cup group, and in both Cup semi-finals.  Things are going well, hopefully we can round out the season with a domestic sweep quintuple and progress on the continental front!

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End of Season 2024/25

Five Alive

 

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Wow.  What a season that was.  From the world of trebles, to a quadruple last year, to a complete domestic sweep this term.  Progression to the Conf. Cup Interzone Finals once again, 5 matches away from the secondary continental trophy in Asian football.  

 

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It looks pretty good to me from here!  An unbelievable haul this season, 15 trophies now for us in 4 seasons with Irn Bru Rangers.  

 

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After the first Cup win, I reached the Hong Kong league Hall of Fame Rank 1 spot, and the 5th cup put us 10 points clear of Chan Hung Ping in 2nd.  I'm not too sure why our "Super Cup" isn't counted as any of the trophies, but I'm not particularly fussed.  We're almost halfway to entering the Top 10 for the Asian region, though unless we move or get a number of AFC Champions League trophies, I don't see us competing with the likes of Scolari and the current managers of large Australian teams and the likes.

 

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Officially, our trophy haul.  Pretty gratifying seeing it all there in one list.  I'm not 100% sure which season the Conference Cup that's currently ongoing would count in, whether it would count this season as a sextuple, or (since we would have possibly won the Community Cup next year) whether it would reset the counter.  The former would be preferable, due to the added pressure of Champions League group stage football next season, but the latter does make me more inclined to short-term goals for a long-term project.  Either way, this year has been exceptional, and I'd love to repeat the feats!

 

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My career's overall stats.  The lack of fixtures mean I'm going to be 20-30 seasons deep before I'm likely to hit 1000 games managed, I'm pretty sure.  At 75%, I'm chuffed with our win percentage, but we may look to improve that more toward 80% in the coming season or two (I hope!)

 

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I tend to leave these for the off-season, but as soon as this season finished I wanted to try and get this done.  It'll take 4 months, but it will hopefully prove worthwhile and build my reputation sufficiently, should the national team job become available.

 

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The first team, and reserves combined.  There are so many tales hidden in the stats, as is always the case.  We've certainly had more considerations in the past for our starting XI, but I'm pretty happy at the job provided by others.  Bazan bagging a brace in his final appearance for us was a fitting end - 2 goals shy of 30 for the season, but he leaves behind a legacy that Lai Lok Kan may hopefully build on - if not I'll keep my fingers crossed we get a good intake for the striker position next year.

The one big loss for the upcoming year will be Wong Chun Kit, who still refuses to even open contract discussions with me.  If it was a financial thing, I'd feel better, but it's purely a playing level issue, and I'm 95% sure that the squad will still want me to tell them that we'll finish mid-table.  It's an oddity I've not quite solved, but I'd like to think that we have significantly improved both our reputation across the continent and the level of play in Hong Kong.

Last season everything was about the return of Yeung Dik Lun, but Tsoi Cheuk Man has been extraordinary, I've been so lucky to have a player of his quality, and at only 16 the sky is, surely, his limit!

 

We head into next season on an unparalleled high and I, for one, cannot wait to get started once more!

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