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Tom Ashley

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    Diss Town

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  1. You've Got To Have a Dream [FM 14]

    @BluesGuy : Thanks very much! I didn't attend Davidson, but a good friend of mine did, and I spent some time on their campus. My own alma mater doesn't play Division I soccer, and I wanted my character to have a decent playing career. 15 August 2013 I've been on the job here at Diss Town for about six weeks now. At first I thought I might want to ask the chairman, Danny Bennett, to allow me to bring in a new backroom staff, but after some consideration, I decided to stick with the current situation. They're all nice enough fellows, and good enough at their jobs, especially for a club in the County Leagues. The best of the lot is Steven Williams, my assistant, who just hung up his boots at the age of 48. He's a former center forward who would like to see us play an attacking formation like a 4-3-3, but I don't think we have the players for that style of football right now. Steven knows the lads well, so I've been leaning on him pretty heavily while I get to know them. Our squad is small right now--only sixteen players, and two of them are still schoolboys. There's no money in our budget to bring any more in, unless I want to push my luck with the board. And, what's more, the best player in the team is a non-contract player. He's a Welshman called Rhys Collins. I've been using Rhys at right back, but he is comfortable anywhere along that side of the pitch and at center back. He can do a job at striker, too, so he'll be in my eleven as often as he's fit. The goalkeeper looks like a good one, too. His name is Norman McShane. He's 19, and with some additional work on his positioning he'll possibly be too good for our league. For now, he's an automatic choice for our number one. He's also the only 'keeper in the team. Center back Neil Clough is the club's captain, and our unquestioned leader. Since I arrived, several clubs have tried to prise Neil from us, offering 25 percent of his next sale price. I've turned them down, because I think we need his presence on the pitch and his steady play in the heart of our defense. I've been tempted by the offers, though. Center back is the one position where we actually have a bit of depth. Besides Clough, we have James Cameron, a big lad who plays in the mold of an old school English center half, and Anthony Peers, the best in the team at marking and tackling. The left back is Steve Adams, a well-rounded footballer who seems to do most things fairly well and nothing spectacularly. I'll take that. We've been training to play 4-4-1-1. On the right side of midfield is Joe Collins, the team's elder statesman at 32. Joe excels at the mental aspects of the game, and he is the club's vice captain. Pacey Jamie Harvey mans the other flank. Our best central midfielder is Ryan Leggett, a tenacious player with a balanced set of skills. Ryan can fill any role in our midfield, depending on who else is on the pitch. He is a full foot shorter than the 6'5" Cameron, his best mate. Craig Billings frustrates me. He's got the physique of a decathlete, and more than enough technical skill for this level. He's also a slacker of the first order, who usually looks like he's running uphill. I like Chris Cooper's attitude a lot better. Chris is a work in progress as a player, but his attitude is first rate. Leggett is well-suited to play the point of our midfield triangle, which means using both Billings and Cooper. I can also use versatile Brian Middleton, who can do a job in any position from the midfield forward. I've had Middleton in the first eleven most of the time during the preseason. Collins is probably our best striker, but he's so much better than the alternatives at right back that he's going to play there for the time being. We have other decent options to lead the line, including Martin Williams, a big, powerful striker, and David Bruce, who has more pace and can finish but otherwise lacks Williams' finesse. A pair of youngsters round out the team. Simon McKie is a right-sided midfielder, a very athletic player who plays with verve. I nearly mistook the other lad for a Under 13 who had cheekily wandered over to senior team training. I thought about shooing him away. He might have been five feet tall. Even Ryan Leggett has a few inches on him. I asked Steven who he was. "That's Gavin Sturdy," he told me. "He's how old?" "Sixteen. He's a scrappy lad, though. He can play anywhere you want, except in goal. That motor of his never stops." After the first week of training, I was already a fan. Steven was right. Gavin threw himself into every drill with gusto. I could tell that his teammates respected his pluck, and wouldn't go out of their way to rough him up. Still, when things did get physical, he picked himself up and went right back into the mix, and I soon saw that Gavin gave as good as he got. Sturdy is quite a fine name for the lad. We played seven friendlies during the preseason, all at our home grounds, Brewers Green Lane. We did well, winning five, drawing one, and losing one (0-1) to a Histon side that plays in the Conference North. Williams and Bruce each scored three goals. Better yet, we only conceded two goals ourselves. Is it too much to expect us to keep up that form as we enter league play? Is that the first dream I'll have to put aside? Again, we'll see. The Premier Division of the Eastern Counties League awaits.
  2. You've Got To Have a Dream [FM 14]

    I'm going to give story writing another go. I'm playing FM 14, with a database that extends the English system down to the County Leagues. I'm using "fake players," so all my characters are entirely fictional. My name is Tom Ashley. I'm about to turn thirty years old. I don't have a wife, a girlfriend, or a pet. I do, however, have a job. Actually, I now have two jobs. That's how this story begins. On second thought, perhaps I should back up a bit, to my days as a schoolboy. I didn't usually have a girlfriend then, either. I was too busy with two other loves: football and my studies. I was better at the latter than I was at the former, but I was good enough at both to attend an American university on a scholarship, and a good one. I played at Davidson College, in North Carolina, and took a degree in history. I liked the USA, but not well enough to stay there, so I came back home to Norwich and got a job teaching at my former grammar school. I found the time and the energy to turn out for semi-professional clubs from time to time, and once or twice I was told I might be able to do better than that if I went all in and concentrated on my football. Maybe I could have. I'll never know, because I didn't want to risk quitting my teaching post, not making it as a footballer, and finding myself with no place to turn. I suppose trying my hand at coaching was the next natural step. I began taking my badges three years ago, and now I have a National A license. Don't get me wrong. I love teaching history. Every class, every day is different, and I enjoy the vibe, the atmosphere of a school. But I've never let go of my desire to be part of the world of football. I'm very lucky to have the chance to pursue that desire. Fortunately for me, my headmaster is a football fan, and he gave me his blessing, more or less, to look for a coaching gig. I figured I might land a spot on a club's coaching staff, maybe working with the youth teams. Instead, I got an offer to manage a club--and a semi-pro club, at that! Diss Town Football Club has been willing to take a chance on me. Diss isn't far from Norfolk, twenty minutes or so by car. The team trains on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the headmaster was kind enough to let me take a lighter teaching load. It will make for some long and tiring days, but if my players can work at their jobs and come to training afterwards, so can I. There's a song from a Rogers and Hammerstein musical my mum used to sing to me. It's called Happy Talk. I've never forgotten one line from the song: You've got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true? What's my dream? Right now I'm not entirely sure. I might want to go all in this time, pursue football management as a career, and see how far I can go. I might want to keep teaching while I manage a smaller club like Diss Town, and do both for thirty years. I do think I want a pet, though. Probably a girlfriend, too. Let's see which of these dreams I can make come true.
  3. Franjo: A Journeyman Story

    VAMOS HERÓIS!!! Congratulations on your come-from-behind victory and on your promotion! And, again, you tell the story with style. That's quite a cliff-hanger you've left for us, too. Looking forward to learning what comes next...
  4. @Rashidi : I've started a lower-league save, and I've got a player who has the attributes to make a good Enganche at our level. My best striker is a fairly good lower-level approximation of the player you describe as a "Diego Costa"-style striker--decent first touch (especially for his level), strong as an ox, brave, hard-working, and determined. I've never tried the Enganche role. Do you think my "bully" center forward can pair well with an Enganche, and if so, what role do you think might be the best for him? Thanks!
  5. Thanks for these replies, gentlemen. You're giving me lots of food for thought, and that's why I posted my questions in the first place. @Vince Lombardi : I think I see what you mean when you mention that everyone's making mistakes at the lower levels. If they were all executing perfectly, it wouldn't be an accurate representation of lower league football. There are fast men and big, strong men, and if they had better technique and a better feel for the game, they wouldn't still be playing at lower levels. @Cuenca Guy : Yes, I have a custom database that includes leagues below the Conference. I'm looking at starting with a team in the County Leagues, and at that level there are plenty of players who have 5 or below for most attributes. I'd guess the players in the lower leagues from some of the countries that are part of the out-of-the-box database aren't much better. I read somewhere that Football Manager's game engine isn't really suited to work well with leagues below the seventh or eighth tier in England. If that's the case, I might not try to manage lower than that.
  6. Thanks for your replies. I had a feeling that assembling a squad of players of Speedy's ilk might be the best idea. There seem to be more of them available in the lower leagues, too. I might have to wait until I'm managing a bigger club to make my dreams of playing truly attractive football come true. From that, it seems to follow that a simple tactic, with very basic roles and duties, would be the right choice to enable Speedy and his mates to do their thing. Do any of you ever try to employ more "specialist" roles with lower level clubs? And, if you do, how well does it work?
  7. I have a question about the capabilities of lower league players. By "lower league," I mean leagues with players whose attributes often don't exceed the lower single digits. I've wondered if it's possible for teams at this level to play effectively with a tactic that requires them to do anything but whack the ball up the pitch and run after it. I'm wondering which of these scenarios would be more likely to happen? Scenario One: My players don't have much technical skill and they don't always make good decisions; their attributes might not be higher than 4 or 5. However, their opponents aren't smart or skillful either. In fact, I've managed to find players who are better at these aspects of football than most of their opponents. As a result, we make some mistakes, but we play a style that's somewhat pleasing to watch. We can play out of defense when I want us to. We can string together a pretty passing sequence from time to time. We might not have as much physical prowess as the other teams in our league--for example, our pace and strength are below league average--but we can capitalize on our relative advantage in other areas and contend for a title. Scenario Two: Although my players are comparatively better, technically and mentally, than our opponents, they're still rubbish. That average score of 5.50 for Decisions might be one of the better marks in the league, but it's still low, and as a result, if I try to have our players do anything more than the bare basics, they'll screw it up with alarming regularity. Meanwhile, week in and week out, we're bullied by the physically dominant teams in our league. Their pace and strength get the better of us every time, and I'm sacked for failing to keep us out of a relegation battle. I'd appreciate hearing from any of you who have more experience with FM than I do, which will be many, many of you. Cheers, Tom
  8. Franjo: A Journeyman Story

    I'm possibly the newest member of the FM Stories gang, and I spent some very enjoyable time last night reading your story. You have a way of making your characters come alive, whether they be players or staff. It's impossible not to root for them. Keep up the great work, Franjo!
  9. A Manager's Tale (FM 14)

    10 November 2013 There's not much good to be said for our play in the Essex Senior League the past few weeks. A month ago, I might well have considered us among the group of teams that had a chance to win the league. Now, after taking only three points from four league contests, we're looking more and more like a mid-table club. We lost a tough match to Takeley at home on 12 October. It's fair to say we were the better team almost all day long, but they scored twice and we scored once, and that's what matters. Russell Stares was in goal for us, and he looked fairly good. Three nights later, we were off to Hampshire to meet Blackfield & Langley for an FA Vase tie. Dean Griggs was the hero, firing in a hat trick, while Ellis Attwood and Ben Fish also found the net. It was a happy bunch of Braves who boarded the coach for the ride back home. Unfortunately, our form didn't carry over to the league. We lost at home to London APSA (0-2), and at Basildon, skipper Frankie McMahon's brace gave us a two-goal advantage we promptly tossed away in a 2-2 draw. Ben Cunningham marked his return to action with a late equalizer at home to Stansted (1-1). Today, we hosted Bowers & Pitsea, another of the better clubs in the league. They looked like it for first hour, too, and scored three times. Then Dean Griggs took the match by the throat; within ten minutes, he'd put in three himself and pulled us level. That's how it ended, and I had to compliment the lads on how bravely they clawed their way back into the match. Still, we're twelfth in the 20-team league, one of a group of four teams on 19 points. We've scored 19 and conceded 19 in 13 matches, which puts us last in that group of four. There's work to be done here.
  10. A Manager's Tale (FM 14)

    10 October 2013 Our journey to the Gorton area of Manchester for the Second Round tie in the FA Vase was an inspiring success. Rather than rotating the squad, I elected to go with our first eleven. The FA Vase competition is open to teams in the ninth level of the English system and below, so it’s a trophy we could conceivably put our hands on. I’d like to see if we can make a nice, long run. We took command of the match quickly with goals from Ben Fish and Dean Griggs, but we threw Abbey Hey a lifeline when Simon Kitchener failed to collect a looping Callum Roberts header cleanly and instead batted it into his own goal. Center half Grant Pack, who had come forward for a free kick, knocked in a pass from Jon Taylor to give us back our two-goal advantage, but Kitchener allowed a soft goal later on to once again put the outcome in doubt. Still, we rode back to London with a berth in the Third Round. We faced London Bari next, at Capershotts on Sunday, the 15th. I replaced the wobbly Kitchener with Russell Stares, recently recovered from the flu, and the ‘keeper rewarded my confidence with a clean sheet. Alfie Murray, getting the start in the midfield, scored the game’s only goal on the half hour mark. Still, the match was not without its low points. Right back Elliot Ludlum came up lame, with a pulled hamstring that might keep him out of action for a month. I pulled a promising youngster called James Palmer from the under 21s to fill in while Elliot is healing. Ben Chart will also have a chance to see what he can do. A week later, a tough Enfield side came to town. Our ten points on the season had us fifth in the table, with Enfield just above us on 12. I’d have to return to Kitchener in goal, as Stares banged his head in training and was unable to dress. Simon allowed another soft goal, but it didn’t matter much—not with a rampant Jon Taylor storming up the right side, bedeviling the Enfield defense and scoring a hat trick. Taylor’s first goal was in the books before most of the (small) crowd had settled onto the terraces, coming only 31 seconds into the match. Our 3-1 victory enabled us to swap spots with Enfield, moving into fourth. We ran our unbeaten streak to six games with a 1-0 decision away to Southend Manor, with Taylor doing the honors once again. However, we lost our new forward, Ben Cunningham, to a twisted knee. Fortunately Henry Gillespie had just returned to training. Gillespie and his fellow convalescent, James Snape, were both back in the eleven for a tricky away fixture at Barking. The Blues entered the match third in the league, while we stood second. Their defense has been imperious; they allowed only two goals in their first seven league matches. I perused their scouting report, and noticed the Blues had been eating teams alive when they played 4-4-2 against them. I decided to employ our second tactic, a 4-1-2-2-1 with a defensive midfielder. In retrospect, it might not have been a good idea. Barking’s defense was as good as advertised. We got off only one shot all day, and it wasn’t on target. Meanwhile, Kitchener let in another goal he shouldn’t have—a Barking winger got on the end of a long goal kick and belted it toward the area, only to watch in surprised delight as Kitchener lurched out to capture it, missed it, and watched it skip merrily into the net. Barking got another goal (a legit goal this time) and ran off 2-0 winners. The pundits had a go at me for changing my formation, but I’m not sure it would have made a bit of difference. Still, our season is off to a bright start,
  11. A Manager's Tale (FM 14)

    12 September 2013 Our Essex Senior League opener saw us away to Greenhouse London on 17 August. We faced both a feisty opponent and blustery weather, and it took a late penalty from Ben Fish to salvage a 2-2 draw at Coles Park. The Greenhouse side exposed the lack of pace on our back line, as a quick striker called Dave Drummy gashed us for a brace. We also lost forward Henry Gillespie to a bad thigh strain, and we won't see him back on the pitch until early next month. I hoped we'd be able to take three points on our home debut, eight days later. The opponent , Tower Hamlets, were predicted to finish in the middle of the table, just like we were. A half hour in, a pacey forward, Jack Labadie, ran past Grant Pack like Grant's feet were encased in cement and easily beat Simon Kitchener. Then, as left back Barrie Burns and Pack scampered to beat Labadie to Kitchener's far post before the striker could get to a cross, Burns inadvertently knocked the ball into our net. Twice more, our lack of speed hurt us. The bright spots of this match were provided by substitute Jon Taylor, a 31-year-old veteran who came on in the 70th minute. He scored a goal, had another waved off for offside, and hit the bar with a third shot. Taylor thereby earned a spot in the eleven for our next match, against Sporting Bengal at Mile End Park. There were two more new faces in the club that day, too. I'd decided to add some pace to our squad, and I signed two free agents that promised to help remedy that deficiency. Mark Tierney is an athletic center back with a commendable work rate and a willingness to get stuck in. The very day he signed with us, James Snape came up lame in training and pulled a hamstring, so Tierney's arrival was well-timed indeed. Mark is 22 years old, so he also injects a bit of youth into our defensive corps. We also added a striker, Ben Cunningham. The injury to Gillespie offered him an opportunity to show us what he can do right away, and the 21-year-old was very active in 30 minutes of duty off the bench against Bengal. The big star, however, was Fish, who hit a brace as we won, 3-2. I don't like seeing us let in two goals a match, so I sent the boys out with a more defensive mentality against a good Clapton side on the 7th. A crowd of 24--a good one for the Essex Senior--greeted us at Clapton's ground, delightfully named The Spotted Dog. There was a new man in goal for us, too. I decided to give the shaky Kitchener a break, and since our other first team 'keeper (Russell Stares) was home recovering from the flu, I gave the number one shirt to youth teamer Danny Goff. Goff, a lad of sixteen, responded with a clean sheet, and Cunningham, getting his first start, rattled one home in the 87th minute to send us off 1-0 winners. Today we'll travel up to Manchester to face Abbey Hey in the Second Round of the FA Vase. The board doesn't expect us to go any farther, so if we can keep up our recent form, we should get a nice little lift.
  12. Bygmester Fuller

    I've been reading the stories here for a while now, and I finally decided to join up officially this week. I've started reading your "House of Flying Daggers" story, and I was happy to discover that I could join this story at its beginning. Great job with the player profiles--I feel like I know your Norway team already! I'll be following along.
  13. A Manager's Tale (FM 14)

    Thanks, Neil. I've chosen my team, and they fit the description of "lower division side" to a T. Or, perhaps I should say my team chose me. I let the game choose my club when I set up my game, and I went with the first small club that was selected. As for the wins, I'll see what I can do. 17 August 2013 As our story begins, I'm 32 years old, and beginning my managerial career at Eton Manor Football Club. We play in the Essex Senior League, in the ninth tier of English football. We don't have a stadium of our own; we share the Capershotts ground with Waltham Abbey, a considerably bigger club. Everything about us screams out "bare bones." My backroom staff consists of assistant manager Gary Wiltshire and Head of Youth Development Alan Barker. Our physio is Michael Webster, and our two-man scouting team includes Jamie Jenkinson and Stuart Turnbull. I hired Stuart a week ago. He's an Aussie, and he has a fairly comprehensive knowledge of football in Spain, too...which isn't helping us much, since we can't hop across to the continent to scout players anyway. Neither Gary nor Alan seem to be particularly skilled at evaluating players, so their perception of their skill might be wildly inaccurate. Truth be told, mine might not be any better. For better or for worse, then, here are my notes on the lads as we begin league play. Between the posts, I can choose between Simon Kitchener and Russell Stares. Kitchener is young (age 19) and very athletic, but he's got a lot to learn about the mental aspects of his craft. Stares is tough, good in the air, and smart...most of the time. He does have a tendency to roam from his area, which might lead to more than a few highlights (or lowlights, if he's unlucky). My usual tactic is a bog-standard English 4-4-2. In the back, I'll start Barrie Burns on the left and Elliott Ludlam on the right, flanking James Snape and Grant Pack. Burns can dribble and hit a well-placed cross, so he should pose some threat going forward. He also strikes a pretty dead ball. Ludlam has a good feel for the game, especially given his age (21). Pack is our vice captain. As long as we don't ask him to do more than the bare requirements for a center half, he'll be fine. He's a big lad (6'3") and he's good in the air. Snape, whom I'm tempted to nickname Severus, is slower than Christmas, but he is brave and determined, and he'll give his all for the shirt. He didn't play well during the preseason, but I'm still going to give him a real shot. On paper, he's our best center back. Young Ben Chart can deputize anywhere along the back line. I don't understand why my staff like Ellis Attwood and think James Crocker is rubbish. They are basically the same player--quite young (21), very fast, and somewhat skilled. Attwood plays on the left wing, Crocker on the right. I enjoy having several central midfielders whom I can mix and match, depending on the opponent and the state of the contest. The best of the offensively-minded players is a veteran, Frankie McMahon. I've awarded him the captain's armband. Steve Gleeson has the best all-round set of skills, able to do all kinds of things fairly well and none of them spectacularly. The most defensively responsible of the lot is Rhys Greenway. I just realized how little pace these players have. Greenway is 25, and he runs like he's 52. McMahon is fit, but he's not much quicker than Greenway. The others aren't much speedier. We have several players who are fairly comfortable in several positions: Tim Bowman, Alfie Murray, Mark Irving, and Jonny Wood. Their versatility is their primary asset, but they are all positive influences in the changing room. All but Murray are in their early 30s. If I stick around at Eton Manor for very long, I can envision these fellows joining my staff one day. The strike partnership that worked the best during the preseason featured Ben Fish and Henry Gillespie. Fish is the more skilled player, while Gillespie is tougher and cooler under pressure. They're both big lads. Dean Griggs, who can play as a striker or on either wing, scored a brace in our last friendly, forcing me to take a longer look at him. In general, we are quite good technically, compared to other teams in our league. We pass the ball well for our level. On the other hand, we are the slowest team in our division, completely lacking both pace and acceleration, especially among our forwards.
  14. A Manager's Tale (FM 14)

    Thanks very much for the welcome, tenthreeleader. I'm still feeling a convert's zeal when it comes to world football. As for what I have in mind, I'm going to start with something very basic. I've loaded up a database that extends English football down to the county leagues, and I'll be taking over a team that's well down the pyramid. I will use the "random names" feature. Most of the real players who ply their trade that far down the pyramid aren't well-known anyway, and I like seeing faces on players' pages rather than generic black silhouettes. This way, my characters don't come with predetermined histories or expectations, and they can take shape any way the game directs them. I doubt there will be much of an original nature here. I know lots of stories here have taken place in England, but it's the football world I know best and the one I think will best keep my interest now. Hopefully, I'll make the story compelling enough to keep you readers' interest, too.
  15. A Manager's Tale (FM 14)

    Before I begin my story, I'd like to take a few moments to introduce myself. Compared to many of you, I am a Football Manager novice. I'm American, and I began playing FM in 2012, soon after I discovered the joys of following English football. Since then, with every passing year, I find myself paying less attention to the NFL and more to the Premier League. I recently started following other European leagues, too. I'm married, with a son and a daughter, and all four of us have discovered a common interest in the beautiful game. I'm still playing FM 14. I'll eventually buy a new version of the game, but I'm still enjoying this one for now. I figure I still have enough to learn about the sport itself to keep myself occupied, without having to also learn the intricacies of a new game, too. I first discovered this forum when I was searching for some tactical advice, and I confess to being overwhelmed by the knowledge of some of the regular posters here. I felt like a Grade 7 student who stumbled into a graduate seminar. I decided I'd come back once I'd learned a bit more on my own. Upon my return, about six months ago, I found myself in this portion of the forum. I began reading a few of the stories, and that's when I decided I'd give it a try myself. This is my first attempt at something like this, although I've always enjoyed putting words together. My story won't be anything fancy. For now, I'll stick to describing what's happening on and around the pitch, and if I find myself with the urge to flesh a few of the characters out more fully, I'll give it a go. I hope at least a few of you will take the time to read it. Any suggestions or feedback you might offer would be received gratefully. Thanks for reading, and I'll be back tomorrow with the first chapter of my tale. TA