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Tom Ashley

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  1. 12 September 2014 Rudy Mathiesen was frustrated. He closed his office door, reached up to link his hands behind the back of his head, and sighed deeply, looking up at the ceiling. These movements prevented him from hammering the door, or perhaps the top of his desk, with a balled-up fist. His Lyngby club were languishing in sixth place. They had been as low as eighth, following a disappointing loss to Viborg FF at home, before bouncing back with a 4-1 result over bottom-dwellers Brønshøj. The Royal Blues had required extra time to see off minnows SC Egedal in the first round of the Danish Cup. Even the youth and backups Rudy had sent out for the Cup tie should have handled that match with ease. The team was far from where he wanted them to be, and Rudy was feeling pressure. Nobody else--not the players, not the board, not the supporters--had expressed any real displeasure, but that didn't make Rudy's feelings any less real. Early in August, right after a brace from Morten Dahl had powered the club to victory at rivals AB Gladsaxe, Jacob Nielsen had come to see him. He had heard FK Austria Wien were interested in him, and he wanted his manager's blessing to leave if the Austrian club put in an offer. Rudy was taken aback. He understood Austria Vienna's interest; Jacob was a fine player. He could also understand Jacob's reciprocal interest. He was about to turn 31, and if he were ever to make a move, now was the time. The lure of the larger club with its case filled with trophies, playing in its nation's top flight, was undeniable. Jacob might be able to earn a nice raise, too. But Jacob was the club's captain! Rudy was counting on him to solidify the team's support behind him. The manager decided to promise Nielsen that if Austria came in with a bid that matched the club's valuation, he would agree to the sale. Nielsen was happy and, fortunately, none of the other players complained when the Austrian club made an offer of just over £100,000--twice what the club thought Nielsen was worth. Meanwhile, striker Morten Dahl was firing in goals right and left. He scored twice against AB. He came on at the 80 minute mark in the Cup tie, and proceeded to score a hat trick, including two in extra time. Goal-a-game strikers tend to catch scouts' eyes, and this had been the case with the 24-year-old hitman. Several clubs, both in Spain and in the Middle East, were expressing interest. Rudy turned down one offer after another, and the bids kept coming. Now the offers were approaching half a million pounds. "I'd like to go to Osasuna, if they'll make another offer," Dahl told him. "If they bid what these other clubs have been bidding, we can make a deal," the manager replied. The Spanish transfer window closed without another offer from Osasuna, but the Middle Eastern clubs were still in the running. Among them were Lekhwiya Sports Club...the Qatari side who lured manager Leif Erikson away from Randers while Rudy was coaching there. His contacts in Denmark had obviously tipped him off to Dahl, and now he was looking to add a fellow Dane to his team. Yesterday, Lekhwiya put in a £480,000 bid for Dahl's services. The board couldn't resist an offer that trebled the amount they thought Dahl was worth. The Qatari club was said to be paying Morten ten times what he'd been making at Lyngby, so it was hard for Rudy to blame the lad for wanting to leave. Still, earlier today, Brian Bendtsen had tapped on Rudy's door. "I'm disappointed that you felt it necessary to sell Morten," he stated. "He was one of our key players." Rudy looked the right back in the eye. Brian had come to him like a man, not moaning or threatening to turn the players against him. He deserved a fair answer. "I'll be replacing him with a better player." "Thanks, boss. When you put it that way, I understand it better." Rudy had already planned to bring in another striker, but whether or not he could find one as good as Morten Dahl was a fair question. He and the team's head scout, Bendt Kruse, both had connections in Holland. They had taken advantage of those connections to find a good midfielder, Jeffrey van Dijk, to fill Jacob Nielsen's spot in the team. "He's going to be as good as Nielsen," Kruse insisted. "His technique is better, and he's five years younger. He's not as fast, but we aren't putting together a track team." Rudy was impressed with van Dijk, too. Once he was match fit, he'd be very hard to prise from the first eleven. And, while he was checking out van Dijk, Kruse found another intriguing Dutch player, a versatile veteran called Richard Adelaar who wanted to keep playing football and was willing to move to Denmark to do so- on an amateur contract! "My wife and I are English teachers," Richard explained, in perfect English. "We can get jobs teaching in Copenhagen. I just want to play football." Adelaar could provide cover all along the back, or as a central midfielder. And, he might have been an amateur player, but he had a professional approach to the game that Rudy sensed would help the club stay focused. Neither Richard nor Jeffery spoke any Danish, but everyone at the club--players and staff alike--spoke at least basic English. Many spoke four or five languages. Rudy, for example, was not only fluent in English and Danish, but he also could converse easily in Dutch and German. He had a basic understanding of Swedish and Norwegian. Even as a teenager, he had found learning different languages fascinating, and as a player and a coach, he'd challenged himself to learn new ones along the way. Now, he needed to figure out some new ways to inspire his team to victory, too.
  2. 22 July 2014 When Rudy took over at Lyngby stadion, the club had ten other coaches on its staff. His assistant, a young Swede called Nils Johansson, was a very good man manager with a talent for working with young players. But there was something about Nils that kept Rudy from connecting with him. He learned that Nils was good friends with Christian Pedersen, and had in fact gone to Flemming Lose's office to express his displeasure with the decision to dismiss the manager. "You might give some serious thought to bringing your own man in," Lee Wilkinson advised. "It's essential that you be on the same page as your number one assistant. That's why I asked the board to promote you at Randers." The idea was in the back of Rudy's mind, at the very least. On the other hand, Rudy especially liked Thomas Hansen, the manager of the Under 19 team. If Thomas hadn't been so good at his job, Rudy might have asked him if he'd like to be his assistant. He also got on well with goalkeeping coach Frank Nyborg, who lived in the same Lyngby neighborhood where Rudy had rented an apartment. Frank and his wife, Amalie, had Rudy over for dinner once a week. Rudy was pleased to discover that the Lyngby players were well-suited for the style of football he wanted to play--the style in which he'd thrived at Hearts. Rudy envisioned a team that took care of the ball, but didn't value possession for its own sake. A team filled with players who could read the game, make smart passes, and pick apart opposing defenses with precision. A team that worked hard, a team that could pressure opponents and win back the ball. A team that would be fun to watch. There were two capable goalkeepers: Ulrik Wind and Jack Jensen. Both were comfortable on the ball, and their ability to do more than whack the ball up the pitch would be crucial to the style Rudy wanted to play. Jensen was especially popular with his teammates. Right back Brian Bendtsen and left back Magnus Jakobsen were well-rounded full backs. Bendtsen was especially effective when he joined the attack. Jakobsen, only 20, had loads of promise. Morten Fabricius was a good backup for Jakobsen. When Rudy met his starting center back pair, he had to look up at them. They were each a shade under two meters tall, and had a good three inches on their boss, a tall man himself. Neither Henrik Vinther nor Mathias Kjelgaard were quick, although Kjelgaard could run once he got going. However, both were formidable in the air, and Kjelgaard was an especially tidy passer. Anders Rasmussen was a good third center back, who could also fill in on the right. Veteran Jacob Nielsen would be a fixture in the center of the park. He could play effectively as the most defensive member of a midfield trio, where his marking and tackling skills would be highlighted. Or, he could play farther up, where his pace and technique made him an offensive threat. In any role, his composure and his passing range allowed him to dictate the tempo of the game. Rudy had brought in only one player in the month he'd been in charge: free agent Christian Lohse. A versatile player who had earned four caps at the U21 level, Lohse had a skill set similar to Nielsen's. Peter Pedersen, Jannick Laursen, and Thomas Visti gave Rudy three more options. He planned to rotate all these players, with only Nielsen likely to be anywhere close to everpresent. Wide men Troels Hansen and Lasse Sørensen could torment defenses with their pace and crafty dribbling. Sørensen, in particular, was a dangerous weapon. Strong with either foot, he could cut inside and attack the box directly, or stay wide and whip in crosses. Troels would start on the right, with Lasse on the left. Christoffer Pedersen and Kasper Overgaard were experienced pros who were comfortable in supporting roles. Another talented winger, Andrew Cele, would be sidelined until spring with damaged knee ligaments. Morten Dahl was the team's best center forward. He wasn't especially fast, nor was he a tricky dribbler. He read the game well, however, and could play in his teammates or finish himself. His backup, Mads Madsen, was tall and powerful, and was especially willing to press opposing defenders and win back the ball. Lyngby was known for the quality of its youth setup, but there were only a few young players whom Rudy thought might one day be stars. Forward Jesper Pedersen (19) was fairly close to being ready for the first team. Defender Sune Simonsen (16) was still far from that point. Rudy had his scouting staff, headed by capable Bendt Kruse, on the lookout for talented teenagers who could blossom under the right conditions. The board expected Rudy to lead De Kongeblå (The Royal Blues) into a position where they could challenge for the league title. Two clubs from the First Division would earn promotion to the Superliga. "Lyngby belong in the top flight," Søren told his grandson on the telephone one night. "See if you can't take them there."
  3. Rudy Mathiasen had never enjoyed drawing much attention to himself. Perhaps that's why, as a young footballer, he never wanted to be a star striker, like many talented lads. He preferred to play as a defender, calmly going about the business of keeping opponents from endangering his team's goal. He grew into the role, literally and figuratively; he was six feet, three inches tall and powerful. Rudy enjoyed his studies as much as he did his football. At age nine, he listed his career choices as "footballer," "architect," and "writer." As it turned out, Rudy got the chance to pursue the first goal on his list. His career took him from Plymouth Argyle to Leicester City, and from there to the Premier League with Fulham at age 19. If you lined up all the center backs in the top flight on the goal line and had them race to the half-way line, Rudy might have finished last. However, such was his sense of positioning that he actually seemed quick. He was also two-footed, and he was exceptionally comfortable on the ball. He hit a mean dead ball, and regularly took free kicks for every one of his club teams. The complete picture was that of a versatile, promising young star. England manager Nigel Woodley wanted just this sort of ball-playing defender for his squad, so he handed Rudy his first cap in 2001. He became a regular in the England team, and played with distinction in the 2002 World Cup. Rudy's place in the game seemed secure as he moved into his mid-twenties. Then came 2005, and everything changed. Rudy was dating a lovely woman called Meredith Bass. The couple were talking about marriage. Then, on a rainy February evening, the car Meredith was driving was hammered, head-on, by an intoxicated driver's vehicle. Meredith was pronounced dead on the scene. Six weeks after Meredith's accident, Rudy pulled up lame after a sprint (or what passed for a sprint, in Rudy's case). His hamstring was badly pulled, and he missed the remainder of the season. In the meantime, Tracy Faulkner took over the England job. Faulkner's ideal center back was mobile, able to run with pacey attackers. Even at his physical best, Rudy was not that sort of player. He earned his 27th England cap that August, and then Faulkner never picked him again. Rudy played another year at Fulham, and when his contract ran out, he considered retiring from football. He was close to finishing his degree, and while he no longer aspired to a career in architecture, the thought of teaching English literature and coaching young footballers had its appeal. Instead, he ended up accepting a contract from Heart of Midlothian. Once again, his life took a turn, but this time it was for the better. Rudy's manager at Hearts was Alex MacDonald. A Scotland center back with nearly 80 appearances for his country, Mac paired Rudy with Liam Nicholls, whose electric pace combined well with Rudy's smarts and power. Rudy's zest for the game returned in Edinburgh, and he played so well for Hearts that it was rumored Faulkner was considering him for England duty again. Before the 2009/10 season, MacDonald installed a new formation that employed a defensive midfielder, and he tapped Rudy for this new role. He performed it with aplomb, neutralizing opposing attackers and displaying the full range of his repertoire of passes. Mac also encouraged Rudy to take his coaching badges. That, too, would change the trajectory of his life. In May 2011, Rudy made his final appearance for Hearts, and announced he would be making the transition into a coaching career. He had offers from several League One clubs, and he could very well have stayed with Hearts. But Rudy had other plans, which would take him from Britain and connect him to more of his family's roots. Most profiles written about Rudy in his playing days mentioned that he was the grandson of a Danish international. Søren Mathiasen patrolled the right wing for several Danish clubs and the national side in the years following World War II. He married an English woman and settled in London, raising a family that included Rudy's father, Patrick. While Patrick was never more than a Sunday league player himself, he encouraged his son to bond with his father over the game. Now Søren was nearing ninety, but his eyes flashed as blue as ever, and his mind was still sharp. When he learned that Rudy intended to pursue coaching, Søren was quick to offer a suggestion. "Go to Denmark. Complete the circle." Until that moment Rudy had assumed he'd remain in Scotland or England, where he figured his connections would make it easier for him to land a position. But as soon as those two short sentences escaped his grandfather's lips, Rudy felt something stir inside him, as trite as that might sound. He was happy in Britain, but there was also nothing tugging at him, making sure he stayed there. He had neither partner nor children, and he rented his apartment in Edinburgh. During the summer of 2011, Rudy sent his CV to a number of clubs in Denmark. He was fortunate to have learned Danish along with English as a child. More than one club official was surprised when Rudy spoke to them on the phone in perfect Danish. In July, he accepted a position as a coach with Randers FC, and he was off to Denmark. Rudy knew right away he had made the right choices. He loved coaching, loved imparting his knowledge to players, loved discussing the game with the other members of the backroom staff at Randers. He got along well with manager, Leif Eriksen; the fact Rudy refused to make jokes about exploration and Vinland at Leif's expense didn't hurt. When the board shook up the coaching staff at the beginning of the 2012/13 season, Rudy wondered what his fate might be. Eriksen was sacked; he tapped into his namesake's urge to explore and set off to manage in Qatar. The new manager was Lee Wilkinson...an Englishman. Rather than bring in his own assistant, Wilkinson tapped Rudy for the job as his right-hand man. Rudy might have happily stayed at Randers for several more seasons. He still didn't like being the center of attention, any more than he had as a young boy. But Fate intervened, once again. Lyngby Boldklub were founded in 1921 in a suburban area north of Copenhagen. Four years later, Søren Mathiesen was born there. He grew up in a house on Caroline Amalie Vej, and he began playing for the local club at the age of ten. Lyngby were a lower league team then, and while the talented young winger soon outgrew them, Søren never forgot them. Nor did the club forget him. In the spring of 2014, Lyngby decided not to renew the contract of their manager, Christian Pedersen. Chairman Flemming Lose and his board wanted a new man, one who would provide the club with the energy it would need to climb out of the First Division. Lose had been paying attention to Rudy, and he liked what he had seen. The fact he was a Mathiesen, from the line of one of their old-time heroes, was even better. Lose asked the Randers board for permission to speak to Rudy about the possibility of taking the top job at Lyngby and, to their credit, the board gave him their blessing. So did Lee Wilkinson, who told Rudy he was ready for a club of his own. Rudy, however, still wasn't sure. Again, it was Søren who convinced him. "You're ready. It's the next step. Take it. It's a good old club, and you can make it better." So it was that on 26 June 2014, Rudy Mathiesen sat at a table in the headquarters of Lyngby Boldklub. On his left sat Lose, and on his right was the club's managing director, Sebastian Madsen. Rudy wore a royal blue track jacket with a club patch, and a somewhat shy smile. He signed his name to a one-year contract while camera flashes popped around him. Rudy was managing the club where his grandfather's distinguished career had begun. He'd get attention now, whether he wanted it or not. Football Manager 15. Denmark, England, Holland, and Germany loaded. Fake names, so my characters will be entirely my own, for better or for worse.
  4. Unfortunately, this story is going to come to an abrupt, frustrating end. I enjoyed advancing through my first season at North Plainstown. Our winning streak ended with a loss to Central Hillsfield, the only side Aidan and the boys seemed unable to vanquish. Central went top after the next round of matches, when we drew and they won. Chris Mills became a fixture in the first team and kept firing in goals, but he still decided he wanted out in January. I let him leave for Central Plainstown, and they promptly stuck him in the reserves. Jamie-Luke Rutter left, too, which made it necessary for me to scramble around to find a new front man. Enter Scottish free agent Steven Boyd. The Celtic trainee was an immediate sensation. Youth intake day brought a very strong graduating class into the team. Midfielder Wes Atherton and center half Ian Wood stepped directly into the first team. Central Hillsfield kept winning, but so did we, and the title race continued into the spring. In early May, captain Callum Burton played the hero role as North defeated amateur side Health Service to win the FA Cup. That victory ensured us a spot in the Europa League. Then, in the final round of League fixtures, we defeated East Hillsfield while Plainstown Institute upset Central Hillsfield. The Premier League title was ours! Instead of the Europa League, we'd now be playing in the Champions League. The opportunity to qualify for Europe from a tiny nation was one of the reasons why the North Rona save appealed to me. I was looking forward to writing about the lads' experiences with European nights. The board nearly tripled our wage budget, which meant I might be able to find some intriguing new players...and give the champions some well-deserved raises. Then, I discovered a glitch in the system. The draw for the First Qualifying Round came and went, and we weren't included!! Some quirk in the database rose up and shattered our European dreams. Caveat utilitor. On a more positive note, my brief adventure in North Rona inspired me to keep writing, so I'll be beginning another story later today. And I won't be basing it on a save with a database I'm not familiar with already.
  5. The Captain's Rest was one of the more traditional pubs on the island of North Rona. As such, it attracted those who considered themselves "old Ronans," those who believed they understood best what being Ronan was all about. On this windy, drizzly December evening, the Captain's Rest was warm and inviting, The sounds of friendly banter and laughter filled the main room, which smelled of fried food and good ale. Strings of brightly colored lights had been hung along the bar, a tip of the cap to the holiday season. Joe Clarke and Paul MacFarlane sat at their favorite table, pints at hand. Both of them supported North Plainstown; Joe had a season ticket, while Paul, whose work sometimes took him off the island for weeks at a time, never missed a match when he was at home. "You have to admit they're playing good football, Joe. They haven't lost since August. They haven't let in a goal since October." Paul had his facts right. North were enjoying strings of six consecutive wins, and eight matches without a loss. "That they are," Joe conceded with a nod of his head. "He's got them playing well." "Better than they have in years, mate." Joe nodded again, and took a sip of his pint. He set it down, and sighed. "True, but there's something about it that doesn't feel the same. Harris is a good manager. I'm not doubting that. He's brought some changes we needed around here, but..." Paul smiled and shook his head. "But you look out there and see lads wearing North shirts who didn't play for the club from the time they could walk?" "You have to admit it doesn't feel quite the same, Paul! "You're right. It doesn't. We're winning! That feels different! We're top of the league, and that feels very different!" Paul was the more sophisticated fan of the two. He noticed the way Aidan switched from his preferred formation, 4-3-3 with a defensive midfielder, to 4-4-2 when his analysis of North's opponents revealed a weakness that he could exploit. North were also much more dangerous from set pieces now. Dale Minor was a threat to score from free kicks, and the crowd at the National Stadium had learned to expect good things when he stood over a corner and the big lads, like Jeremy Hope (6'6") and T'Nique Courtney (6'2") moved into the box. The team's success was even more impressive given the number of injuries they had suffered. Nick Sadler the physio was the busiest man in the club, caring for a parade of players suffering from everything from colds to strained knee ligaments. Every member of Aidan's preferred eleven had missed at least one match. Joe lifted his glass, finished its contents, and set it back down. "I admit being top feels good. I won't mind one bit if we get some European football next season. And we're still in the Cup, so there's hope for a double. I just wish there were more of a...local feel." Paul smiled at his friend. "I hear there's a group of young lads about to move up to the Under 21s that might be ready to push those first teamers for their spots." "We'll see, won't we?" Joe and Paul shook hands, and Joe waved to the barkeep as he stepped out into the chilly December air. Wherever Paul had gotten his information, it was in fact accurate. When the Premier League was created and North Ronan clubs turned professional for the first time, the standard of youth football on the island improved, too. The hopes of playing at more than an amateur level attracted athletic boys and kept them interested. The boys who had been ten or eleven when talk of creating a professional league began were now fifteen and sixteen, and the most talented of them might indeed be skilled enough for men's football...even if their physiques were still not robust enough to handle the rough treatment the older fellows might dish out. Would any of the graduating scholars from North Plainstown be among those who were prepared to make their mark on the Premier League? That question wouldn't be answered until March, and it was still December. It was looking like a very festive holiday for North Plainstown FC and their supporters.
  6. 1 November 2014 Chris Mills handled the situation perfectly. The club's vice captain, Chris expected to be a first team player. To be fair, Chris Duguid had given him that assurance, not Aidan, but Aidan hadn't told Chris otherwise, either. In the season's opening month, he'd started the Independence Cup tie and come on as a substitute in two league matches, as the manager had preferred Jamie-Luke Rutter as the team's single striker. Rutter had yet to seize the job with both hands, however, and Aidan had actually been thinking about giving Chris a start or two in the league when Chris came to him with his concerns. Therefore, it was fairly easy for Aidan to make Chris happy. Aidan switched to a 4-4-2 for North's away match to Central Plainstown on 28 September. Central had struggled against teams playing that formation, and their struggles continued as North romped to a 3-1 result. Mills got the first goal when he steered home a Dale Minor free kick. A week and a half later, the same two sides met in the Second Round of the FA Cup. This time Mills was absolutely electric, scoring a hat trick in a 5-1 victory. Even more good news came when Gareth Mastouras came on for the second half, replacing T'Nique, who had added "makeshift right back" to his CV. Another break came next. The rhythm of the North Rona season felt so strange to Aidan, who was used to the congested fixture lists of the English lower leagues. What's more, it wasn't possible for the club to schedule friendlies during the breaks. Aidan tried to break up the training routine with contests--Deji Omoboye was especially good in their crossbar challenges--and the lads seemed to enjoy the evenings out Aidan and the coaches planned for them. "Remember, the season here is only 14 games long," Trevor Stones pointed out to Aidan. "I've always wondered why teams don't play each other four times, rather than twice. That would still be only 28 games." "It's a question of space," Trevor replied. "There are only two stadiums on the island, and ten teams share each one." Aidan nodded. In his way of thinking, each match had roughly the same impact on the table as three matches did back home. A long term injury, like the ones Luke Simpson and Jeremy Hope suffered, or the hamstring pull Ben Joyce was now rehabbing, could do treble damage to a team's season. At the same time, however, a good run of form could have the opposite effect, and that's what seemed to be happening to North Plainstown now. Despite the injuries that forced Aidan to adjust his lineup constantly, the lads were flying high. When Plainstown Institute of Sport, last in the table, faced them at the National Stadium, Aidan's boys took some time to take hold of the game--but when they did, they did so with gusto. Mills scored again, his sixth since he was brought back into the first team. T'Nique teed up Andrew Thompson for a goal. Young wide man John Dawson scored within a minute of his introduction, in place of Omoboye. And Jamie-Luke Rutter, who came on for Mills, got his first league goal. Their 4-1 victory took North to the top of the league. They and Central Hillsfield both had 11 points from their first six matches, but North had a five-goal advantage on goal difference. And, so far at least, nobody seemed to care one bit that Aidan usually included four Englishmen in his first eleven. Being top of the table tended to make such things matter less.
  7. 20 September 2014 Aidan's first match at the helm of North Plainsfield was not a thing of beauty, but it was satisfying nonetheless. Andrew Thompson arrowed in a free kick just past the hour mark to provide the first goal in a scrappy match, and Chris Mills, who came on for Jamie-Luke Rutter, scored five minutes from time to complete North's 2-0 victory. Mills's goal was what Aidan was coming to recognize as a classic North Ronan goal, albeit an especially well-taken one. Center half Jeremy Hope ran down a long clearance from a South defender and looped an even longer ball back into South's end. Hope's ball was lovely; from beyond the midline, he arced the ball into the path of Mills, whose perfectly timed run into the box left him with nothing to do but chest the ball down and fire it in at the near post. Aidan continued to help his players learn to take care of the ball and play in a more measured style, but their instincts, developed through years of playing on the island, still led them to "hit it long and let the fast lad run to it," as Trevor Stones described the traditional Ronan offensive system. North lost their next league game, away to Central Hillsfield, after the same side eliminated them from the Independence Cup on penalties. Harry Maguire's spot kick allowed them to salvage a point at Hillsfield Institute. Aidan's first weeks on the job, then, brought a mixture of results, and the results from the physio's room were less positive. Jeremy Hope twisted his knee in the Institute match and would probably be out for a month. Right back Luke Simpson returned from a similar injury, only to fall victim to a hernia that Nick Sadler thought would sideline him until late October. Gareth Mastouras was already out of action after injuring his back lifting weights. Just like that, North were missing three of their five best defenders. Aidan had already made a priority of shoring up the team's back line. Just that week, he had signed a young left back called Dale Minor, whom he remembered as a youth player at Carlisle United. Now 20, Minor had spent the past two years with Curzon Ashton, who released him in early August, Hard-working and technically adept, Minor was exactly the kind of full back Aidan wanted, and he immediately became a fixture in the first eleven. Dale was the fifth English player in the team now and, while Aidan still worried about the way the supporters might react to this influx of foreign players, the opportunity to bring Dale in was too good to pass up. A few days after the Institute match, Aidan was watching an Under 21s game when a player caught his eye. Tall and muscular, the young man imposed his will upon the game from midfield. Aidan thought he knew the U21s fairly well, but he'd never noticed this player before. At least, he'd never seen him do anything like this. The player was T'Nique Courtney, a 19-year-old who had indeed never distinguished himself as anything more than a squad filler...until now. Aidan had also been looking for a central midfielder with a varied set of skills. Could T'Nique be his man? And, when Aidan asked him if he'd ever played center back, T'Nique replied that he'd be willing to try if it meant he'd get a chance in the first team. And, since T'Nique was a hometown boy, the supporters would be delighted to see him in the lineup. Now the league took a three-week break, partially to accommodate a round of international fixtures. Thompson reported for duty with the North Rona Under 19 team, and Aidan and his staff put the others through their paces in training. Courtney seemed to take to playing center half fairly well. He made his debut on 20 September, when North hosted East Hillsfield, part of a makeshift defense that included left back Nathan Jones playing on the right side. Twenty minutes in, North earned a throw from deep inside East's end. Courtney, unsure about his assignment, looked toward his coaches with a quizzical expression. "Get up there. Get up there," Trevor shouted, waving his hand to instruct T'Nique to move forward. Chris Mills took the throw from Jones and chipped a high ball into the box. T'Nique rose up and thumped a header past the East 'keeper's outstretched hand. He wheeled off to celebrate, pumping his fists into the air to the delight of the supporters. Aidan was delighted, too. "You're a wizard, Trevor," he said to his second-in-command. Central took advantage of the weakened North back line to net an equalizer in the second half but, all things considered, the result wasn't a poor one. And, perhaps, a new folk hero was born.
  8. 10 August 2014 The passion with which North Ronans followed their teams was magnified by their close proximity. Four of the eight Premier League teams were based in Plainstown. Besides North Plainstown and South Plainstown, there were Central Plainstown and a side from the Plainstown Academy of Sport. All these clubs called the National Stadium their home ground. The other four clubs hailed from Hillsfield: East, West, Central, and the Hillsfield Academy side. They all played at Hillsfield Stadium. "Every match is a derby in North Rona." Max Palmer had said that to Aidan that night back in Leicester, when Max first told him about North Rona football. Then, Aidan had dismissed it as hype. Max was prone to that kind of thing, after all. Now, Aidan realized Max had been exactly right. Aidan took one last look at the notes he had prepared on each of his first team players. Over the past six weeks, he had watched, advised, cajoled, bantered with, warned, and hopefully inspired them. He'd added to their numbers and diversified them. He had revised his notes from time to time, as he learned more about his players and how they responded to competition. Goalkeepers Jamie Crook (age 20) : Solid ‘keeper who is comfortable sweeping behind defense. Kept cool while facing strong sides. No glaring weaknesses. Clear first choice. Andy Goodchild (16): Promising youngster. Quick reflexes. Very good in air. Lacks determination. Full Backs Luke Simpson (27): Hard working right back. Tough tackler. Comfortable on the ball, but prefers staying back. First choice when healthy. Liam Campbell (25): Tough mentality. Good leader. Athletic, but not very fast. Crosses well, but doesn’t like to dribble. First choice for now, but a more attacking full back is a priority. Nathan Jones (17): Left back with lots of pace. Very small, but tough. Good backup with promise. Center Backs Jeremy Hope (19): Big, strong, very good in air. Left footed, but can also play right back. Decent passer. Still raw; needs work on mental aspects of game. Rotation option. Jon Cox (16): Right footed. Best passer among defenders. Fit and athletic, but not fast. Rotation option with promise. Gareth Mastouras (17): High fitness level. Hard worker. Right footed. Not technically sound. Lacks pace. Natural leader, tough kid. Good backup. Central Midfielders James Seward (17): Strong, hard tackler, plays with edge. Makes simple passes, good vision. Good ball winner. Best number 6 in team, can play CM in 4-4-2. Harry Maguire (24): Natural leader. Very athletic. Works hard. Decent technically. Outstanding penalty taker. Backup #6/defensive CM. Ben Joyce (24): Well-rounded midfielder. Determined, hard working. Composed player. Good technique and first touch. Sees pitch well. Best number 8. First choice. Andrew Thompson (16): Athletic midfielder. Good with both feet. Box to box midfielder with promise. Will start as part of 3 man midfield; backup in 4-4-2. Also good AMR. Paul Stewart (17): Very tough. Has pace and stamina needed for ball winner. Technically raw. Can paly on left wing. Useful backup for now. Wide Midfielders Deji Omoboye (20): Star man. Good athlete, lots of pace. Can pressure defense with dribbling skill. Crosses ball well. Good finisher. Left footed. Can play AML or striker. Callum Burton (28): Club captain. Athletic wide man who will do his part defensively. Crosses well. Right footed. First choice; pressure from Thompson to keep spot. John Dawson (24): Versatile, can play on both sides. Right foot only. Lots of pace, not much skill. Backup. Russell Pollock (17): Very fast. Left foot only. Backup only. Tom Lloyd (17): Left foot only. Good mentality. Raw technically. Backup only. Center Forwards Chris Mills (25): Vice captain. Lots of flair. Decent pace. Better finisher than passer. Right foot only. Rotation player. Lee Groves (17): Good pace. Very composed in front of goal. Left foot only. Tough kid. Rotation player with promise. Jamie-Luke Rutter (20): Most complete player among CFs. Right foot only. Very tough mentality. Future captain. Decent set piece taker. Skills well suited for role. Staff not keen, but I am. Needs: 1. Attacking left back 2. First team center back 3. All-round central midfielder good enough for rotation 4. Center forward? JLR will get first shot at making position his own. The manager set the notes aside and filled out his team sheet. Luke Simpson would be unavailable, the knee he twisted in training four weeks ago still too tender for him to play effectively. Otherwise, Aidan would have his preferred first eleven available for today's match. It was a good thing, too. North were opening their campaign against South Plainstown. Even in a league filled with local derbies, the rivalry with South was especially fierce. Crook; Mastouras, Cox, Hope, Campbell; Seward, Joyce, Thompson, Burton (C), Omoboye; Rutter. Aidan put down his pen and pushed his lineup sheet to the other side of his desk. He stood up and tugged at the hem of his track jacket; it was navy blue, with white and lime green trim. He picked up the team sheet, took a deep breath, and smiled. In an hour or so, he'd be speaking to his players before a competitive match for the very first time. He'd addressed the team before each of their friendlies. He'd worn a captain's arm band for five years, and he'd spoken to his teammates before matches many times. This, however, was different. Now, he was the boss. It was time.
  9. 9 August 2014 Ben Joyce never thought he would be a football pioneer. A heady midfielder who saw the pitch well, Ben was released by his local club, Boston United, at the age of nineteen. He was picked up by another Lincolnshire club, Spalding United, but never got in a game. Five years later, he was playing amateur football and working. He figured his days of playing football for pay were over. A call from Aidan Harris changed that. Aidan's web of connections in the English lower leagues was still substantial, and through those connections he learned about Joyce. Needing a midfielder or two, Aidan offered Ben a trial. Ben accepted, and once Aidan and his staff took a look at him, they decided to offer him a contract. That's how Ben Joyce became the first foreign player on the books of a North Ronan football club. A Lincolnshire man should hardly seem "foreign" to North Ronans, or so Aidan thought. The prevalence of English names on the island reflected the fact that many of its earliest families had come from England, rather than from Scotland. In fact, it was the lack of ties many Ronans felt to Scotland that led them to support independence. Ben was a friendly lad, and he was immediately accepted by his new teammates. Would the club's supporters be as willing to welcome him? "I'm going to play devil's advocate here," Jake Whittington offered as the two of them sat over pints at the Captain Oliver Inn one evening. "Please do," Aidan replied. "There are going to be some folks who won't understand why you gave a spot in the team to a English lad when there's Ronan boys who could do the job just as well." "That's the point. I don't think there are. I think Ben's a better player than any of the Rona players at his position who are willing to join us." Jake went on. "The fans in the stands aren't necessarily going to see it that way." "Even if Ben proves to them he can do the job? Suppose he turns out to be the best player in the side. Won't they back him then?" "He'll need to be twice as good as the local lads, or some of the old timers won't be willing to look past the fact he's 'not from here.'" Aidan paused. He linked his fingers behind his head and leaned back a bit in his chair. "I've thought about this, too. Bringing better players into the side will make it more likely we win the league, or the FA Cup. If we do that, we play in Europe. Then we earn more money. We take some of that money and build up our youth setup. Then we produce better local players, and if they're good enough, we can send out a completely home-grown side." "Or you attract more players from England, or who knows where else. And before long, there's not a Rona lad in the team." Is he still playing devil's advocate, or is he telling me how he really feels? Aidan asked himself. He wasn't sure what the answer was. Another pause, as the manager weighed his words carefully. "You're right, Jake. There's no rule about foreign players in our league..." "There's never had to be a rule before, Aidan." "Yes. That's true. There's nothing that would stop us, or any other club, from sending out eleven Brazilians, if there were eleven Brazilians who wanted to play for us. But I'm not talking about doing that, Jake. I'm talking about a few players." Over the next few weeks, Aidan continued the process of strengthening the North Plainstown squad. Neither of his teenage goalkeepers, Andy Goodchild nor Shane Prior, were ready for regular duty with the first team. Their performance in the first pre-season friendlies made that apparent. Former Histon man Jamie Crook was brought in, and Prior was dropped to the reserves. The team had only one man who was truly comfortable playing as a defensive midfielder, a fellow called Harry Maguire who was not related to the Hull City center back by the same name. Matt Watkins located 17-year-old James Seward, who'd just been released by Barrow. James had an aunt and uncle living in Hillsfield, so he was willing to move in with them and continue his football career. Then came the move that seemed to epitomize the new direction North Plainstown were taking under Aidan's leadership. For about ten years now, Aidan had known a football agent called Jamie Sargeson, who represented one of his friends and teammates at Carlisle United. In mid-July, Sargeson contacted Aidan to let him know about a player who was looking for a new club. His name was Deji Omoboye, and Aidan had Watkins do a bit of checking. "Bring him in on trial," Matt advised. Aidan did just that. On 25 July, Omoboye was in the team for a friendly against Hillsfield Gazette. He scored the first goal of the game, moving quickly when the Gazette goalkeeper mishandled a shot, hammering it home. Five minutes later, he coolly floated a cross that North winger John Dawson headed in at the far post. Three days later, Omoboye signed his name to a contract. Deji might not have been up to the standards of the Conference, but in the North Rona Premier League, he had the makings of a star. So, on the eve of North Plainfield's Premier League opener, their manager was prepared to write out a team sheet with at least three, if not four, English players in the first eleven. And, unbeknownst to anyone outside the team's staff room, there were several other players from off the island on the club's radar, too. It was yet to be seen how this experiment would turn out, on and off the pitch.
  10. 2 July 2014 After three days as manager at North Plainstown, Aidan was already developing a sense of the task that lay before him. Most of the players had enjoyed playing for Chris Duguid. They were disappointed to see him leave, especially those who hadn't been around the club long enough to have played for anyone else. The news that an "English manager" was coming to take his place aroused some suspicion, especially when they learned he had never managed a club before. Aidan's first meeting with the team was, therefore, only moderately successful. He was heartened by the fact that many of them shared his belief that a respectable finish--third or fourth in the eight-team league, Aidan figured--was a reasonable goal. Aidan sensed that leaving the existing back room staff in their places would be a wise move. He liked his assistant manager, Trevor Stones. About to turn thirty, Trevor was intelligent and worked hard, and he seemed to be very good with the team's younger players. Trevor seemed to have real promise as a coach, and Aidan was pleased to have him on board. Jake Whittington was Head of Youth Development. He didn't seem quite as good a fit for his position as Stones was, but he knew the club well and clearly loved it. He was also the only other member of the staff who held coaching credentials; he'd earned his National B badge. He already liked the team's scout, Matt Watkins, whose insights into the club's operation had helped him decide to apply for the job in the first place. Matt knew North Rona football well and, just as importantly, he agreed with Aidan's belief in the value of bringing in ideas about football from off the island. Physio Nick Sadler was young, eager, and bright. Aidan sensed that Nick, like the other members of his staff, wanted to become better at his job. An optimist at all but the worst of times, Aidan saw some potential in his staff, and dreamed of creating a back room team that won trophy after trophy together, the envy of all who followed football. In reality, a lot would need to happen before North Plainstown established that kind of legacy, and the first days of training made that apparent. Aidan was pleased to discover that, for the most part, the players looked like footballers. They were mostly fit and active, and most of them worked diligently in training. At the same time, however, it was clear that many of them lacked finesse. When the first team played an intra-squad friendly against the reserves and under 21s, Aidan lined them up in 4-4-2, the formation most of the players knew far better than any other. As Trevor pointed out to them, "Every team on the island plays 4-4-2. It seems almost exotic to see someone try something different." Trevor took the B side, and led them to a 3-2 result over Aidan's first teamers. A striker called Craig Richardson, who offered some pace and very little else, scored a brace for the reserves. Aidan liked what he saw from Jamie-Luke Rutter, a first team forward who looked to have some technical skill, and who pounced on a rebound and scored the first team's second goal. He was less happy with the goalkeeping, as Andy Goodchild (first team) and Shane Prior (reserves) both let in soft goals. That was two days ago, and since then, Aidan had developed an even stronger sense of what the club needed to do to move forward. This evening, Aidan sat with his staff at a table beside the small brick building that served as the clubhouse. It was too nice an evening to sit inside Aidan's office, a small, cramped space that got even smaller once five men tried to occupy it. "The first player we need is a midfielder, someone who can boss the game. We don't have an all-round player like that in the side," Aidan pointed out. "He won't be easy to find here in North Rona," Matt admitted. "West Hillsfield has a young lad who might be that kind of player, Lee Roden. But you're not going to get them to sell him to us." "We don't have any money to buy a player anyway," Aidan replied. "Anyone we bring in has to come in for free." "I played against a decent midfielder who's captain of the Emporium side now," Nick remembered. "But he's not likely to want to leave them behind and come play for us, not for a hundred. He's the main man there." "I watched him play last spring," Aidan added. "I wrote his name down: Michael Habgood. You're right, he's decent. But you're also right about him being happy where he is." Aidan paused. "If the players we need aren't here on the island, we'll have to find them elsewhere."
  11. 28 June 2014 North Plainstown Aidan shook hands with Paul Bunce. "Welcome aboard," the chairman said. "It's good to be here," Aidan replied. Three weeks earlier, Bunce had received the surprise resignation of North Plainstown's manager, Chris Duguid, who moved over to the Scottish mainland to take a job as Head of Youth Development at Buckie Thistle. Aidan learned about Duguid's departure while he was working a shift at Numbered Pages, a delightful book shop on High Street in Plainstown, two blocks from Government Square. Macy Watkins was shopping there, looking for a birthday gift for her husband Matt, an avid reader who made up North Plainstown's entire scouting department. "Matt thinks you would be a good fit for the job," Macy told him. Aidan shook his head. "I have a feeling they'll want a Rona man. I figure I'll need to work my way into things more gradually, working as an assistant, maybe doing some scouting, like Nick is doing." "Nick played amateur football here on the island. You played for Carlisle," Macy replied. Aidan laughed. How'd she know that? I played there for three years. And it's not like Carlisle are on television every week, he thought. "Does everyone in North Rona follow football?" he asked her. "Almost everyone. Most of us support a local club, and we follow the English or Scottish leagues, too...when we want to watch a little higher standard of play." Macy paid for the book she'd picked out. "Let me give you Matt's number. Give him a call. He'd be happy to talk to you more about the club." That evening, Aidan did just that. He and Matt talked for about half an hour about the state of things at North Plainstown FC. The next day, he contacted Paul Bunce and put in his application for the managerial job. Aidan wasn't surprised when Bunce admitted it wouldn't be easy for an English manager to win over Ronan football fans. "People here don't always accept change too readily. But I'm actually looking for a manager who will be willing to try new things. One who will stand his ground if he thinks he's right, even if the supporters start making noise." "I'd like to play a different style of football than I've seen the clubs here play," Aidan replied, careful not to give the impression he was turning up his nose at the direct play favored by North Ronan sides. "Ronan players are tough and hard-working. I think they'd be well suited to defending higher up the pitch, closing down more. I think they can learn to play short passes and pick apart a defense. "Combining what's best about Ronan football with some...fresher ideas might be what it takes to win." Aidan knew several other prospective managers applied for the North Plainstown job. Nothing seemed to happen on the island without Max Palmer's knowledge, and Max had heard plenty of talk at the Oyster House. He'd also heard none of the other candidates had expressed a desire to do anything but the things Ronan managers had always done, and that Bunce and the rest of the board were ready for a change. Aidan, then, wasn't shocked when Bunce called him and invited him to the club offices to discuss the opportunity further. That conversation culminated in a job offer and a handshake. Aidan Harris was now a football manager.
  12. January 2014 Plainstown, North Rona Max had been right about the wind. Aidan was still getting used to the way it whipped off the sea, snapping the blue-and-white North Rona flags that flew from their standards on the government buildings in Plainstown. As he sipped his tea, Aidan could look out the large front window of the main room of his apartment and catch a glimpse of the Atlantic. Aidan had moved to North Rona just after Christmas. With the help of a realtor Max had recommended, he'd quickly discovered that he could afford to rent a much nicer place here than he had back in Leicester. Now he was living on the sixth floor of an attractive newer building, an easy walk from the central square in Plainstown. Every third day or so, Aidan dined at the Captain Oliver Inn, named for the captain of a Revenue cruiser called Prince of Wales, who rescued a group of marooned sailors not far from there nearly two hundred years ago. He rented a Volkswagen Polo, so he could explore the island more easily. He'd motored down to Hillsfield, the other big town of North Rona, about fifteen minutes away. He enjoyed browsing the Emporium, which seemed to him to be a cross between a department store and an old-fashioned village shop. And he always made his way down to the Oyster House, at Hillsfield harbor. Of course, Aidan visited the two football grounds on the island: the National Stadium in Plainstown, and Hillsfield Stadium. All 20 clubs in the three North Ronan leagues played there, so there were matches there nearly every Saturday and Sunday. It didn't take him long to discover Max had been right about the quality of Ronan football, too. Every side Aidan had watched so far had played the ball long, daring the almost-constant wind to divert the ball from its intended path. Max Palmer seemed to know everyone on the island. He introduced Aidan to as many football people as he could. At the Oyster House, Aidan met Ian Reed, the president of the board at West Hillsfield. Ian took out his mobile phone and showed Aidan pictures of his club's modern training facilities. When Max invited him to visit one of the boxes at the National Stadium, Aidan had a conversation with North Plainstown chairman Paul Bunce. He chatted with Sam Busby, the assistant manager of the Justice Department side, about the status of the amateur leagues. Every conversation Aidan had made him more excited about the possibility of becoming part of what was happening in North Ronan football. Supply teaching in the Plainstown schools, together with what he'd saved from his years in League football, gave him enough money to get by for now. He wasn't sure what a North Ronan manager earned, but somehow he figured he'd find a way to get by. Something about this place felt right.
  13. October 2013 Leicester, England "You're Aidan Harris, right?" The man who bore that name turned to see a fellow who looked to be in his sixties or seventies standing beside him. He set his glass down on the table and smiled. "Yes, that's right," he replied. "You couldn't stop my mum getting past you if you kicked her walker away from her first." Aidan's visitor then turned back around and walked away. All Aidan could do was laugh. In truth, he was a far better footballer than anyone else in the pub that night. Nobody else there had been paid to play; Aidan had, mostly by non-league clubs, but for three years in League Two. Aidan was a center back and he looked the part, 6'3" tall and broad-shouldered. That, ironically, had been part of the problem, as some supporters saw it. You see, Aidan looked like an old-fashioned English center half, a hard man who would put an opposing forward on his backside if he dared come too close. But that wasn't really Aidan's game at all. When Aidan was eight years old, his parents broke up. His mother, who was Dutch, returned to the Netherlands, and for five years Aidan lived there with her. He learned the technical skills and sharpened the vision that made him comfortable on the ball, able to confidently pass it from the back and, at his best, split an opposing side with an arrow of a through ball. Back in England, however, he learned that some supporters would forget ten successful passes if he gave the ball away in a dangerous position while trying to make an eleventh one. One afternoon, Aidan hit a teammate in stride with a thirty-yard pass, leaving him with only the 'keeper to beat and an easy chance to convert. Half an hour later, he went up for a robust aerial challenge, hammered an opponent to the floor, and drew a yellow card. The crowd reacted more enthusiastically to the second action than it did to the first. While he never shied away from the rough stuff, Aidan was still more likely to replicate the first one, and that's why a grey-haired gent with a long memory walked up to his table with a less-than-flattering appraisal of his talent. "That was a good one," remarked Aidan's friend, Charlie Gardner. "Better than most," Aidan agreed. About half an hour later, another man approached their table. This time Aidan saw him before he spoke, and he stood up to greet him with a smile and a hearty handshake. "Max Palmer! What brings you back here?" Max returned Aidan's handshake with a clap on his back. "It's been a while, hasn't it?" "Join us, please. " Aidan introduced Max and Charlie, and Max sat down at the table with them. "What brings you back home?" Aidan inquired. "Vivienne's youngest sister is getting married, so we're back for the wedding." "Back to civilization, then?" Aidan tilted his glass and finished its contents. Max smiled and shook his head. "North Rona's not like that at all. The pace is slower, but it's comfortable, and it suits us fine." Aidan and Max had met in a history class at university, while Aidan was playing lower league football and studying for his degree. Seven years ago, Max and his new bride, Vivienne, had moved to North Rona, where Max now managed a restaurant called the Oyster House and Vivenne cared for their two little girls. For the better part of an hour, the three men talked about life in the tiny island nation off the Scottish coast. "Do they play football there?" Charlie asked. "They do," said Max. "Ronans absolutely love it. They make up in passion for what they lack in skill, shall we say." "There's a league there and all?" Charlie, who only paid attention to the Premier League, was now rather curious about North Rona. Max nodded. "The Premier League has eight clubs. They're the only professional clubs on the island. There are two small amateur leagues. One is sponsored by the government--the teams represent the Chamber of Commerce, the Health Service, and such. The other is sponsored by businesses on the island." Max's restaurant backed one of the six Corporate League clubs. As the conversation continued, thoughts began to turn over in Aidan's mind. He was thirty-three now, nearly thirty-four, still single. He had hoped to make use of his history degree, but had only been able to land a position as a supply teacher so far. He held a Continental C badge, too. Perhaps it was time to put it to use. Another hour or so went by. Charlie said his goodbyes. Aidan and Max continued their conversation. "There's a need for good coaches in North Rona, Aidan. The Premier League is all professional now, but the standard of play isn't where it should be. Ronans are very resourceful people, but when it comes to football, let's just say they're not very innovative." Aidan nodded. Max finished his pint and continued. "Two Ronan clubs are going to play in Europe next year. We know we won't be lifting any trophies there, but we don't want to be laughing stocks, either. Someone like you could come in and introduce some more modern ideas about football." "Then why not bring in some Spanish coaches? Dutch or German or Portuguese?" "That probably wouldn't do at all, Aidan. Ronans tend to be suspicious of people who aren't much like them. Vivi and I arrive; we speak English, we deliberately try to fit in. We did all right, and people accepted us. Now our daughters have been born there, and it's like we've been there all our lives. A 'foreign' coach comes in, with a 'funny accent.' and he'll be met with suspicion right away. "Ronans follow English football, down to non-league level. I saw a man wearing an Aldershot shirt the other day, and he wasn't a tourist. You won't seem too 'foreign.'" "I don't know, Max. It's intriguing, I admit." Aidan smiled. "You want me to manage your restaurant's club?" Max laughed and shook his head. "Oyster House are an amateur side. That's all we will ever be. No European nights for us, unless we win the FA Cup. You belong in the Premier League, where you can get somewhere. "Give it some thought. Unless you're content here..." Aidan sighed. "That's it, Max. I'm content, but nothing more. I'm not ready to be simply content." It was just past eleven when Aidan returned to his flat. Two hours later, unable to sleep, he got out of bed and opened his laptop. As he followed one link after another, the shape of his possible life in North Rona began to take shape. By the time he went back to bed--it was nearly four in the morning now--he had made up his mind.
  14. Hello, everyone. Finding myself in the mood to play FM and not feeling particularly excited about any of the careers I'd begun on any of the editions of the game I own, I began browsing various sites, hoping to find some inspiration. I stumbled upon a link to a fantasy database for FM 14 that caught my eye. Its creator decided to create a small football league system on the island of North Rona, a tiny, uninhabited speck of land in the North Atlantic. The "real" North Rona is far too small to support a football league; with an area of only 270 acres and a rugged landscape, it's hard to imagine a football pitch there, much less a league. The database editor took the liberty of making North Rona large enough to contain two cities, declare its independence from Scotland, and earn recognition from UEFA and FIFA in 2012. It's an interesting premise, interesting enough for me to download the file and check it out. I discovered it would work if I imported it into FM 15 and, after I made some minor changes with the editor (club names, mainly) I'm even more intrigued by it...enough to use it as the basis for a new story. You'll find out more about North Rona and its football league as the story develops. Scottish writer Kathleen Jamie described a visit to North Rona for The Guardian in 2006. I am borrowing the title of her piece for my story (I hope she won't mind). I also hope you'll enjoy my fantastic journey there, too. Football Manager 15; North Rona fantasy nation, Scotland lower league databases added. Players from England, Faroe Islands, and Denmark loaded.
  15. In the case of an away match, could "fee" be the amount of money it costs your club to travel to the match-- transportation costs, and lodging if it's some distance away? It would cost an English club more money to travel to Italy for a friendly, for example, than it would be to go to Scotland. I don't have the game open right now, so I can't check to see if the fees for different friendlies would match that supposition or not. Just an idea.
  16. March 2014 The wind whipped down the narrow street, with a wintry edge that made Ryan zip up his jacket and tug his scarf tighter. The cup of coffee in his hand was warm, however, and as he paused at the corner, preparing to cross the busy street ahead, he took a long sip. He wasn't sure what he felt like doing this morning. He'd already been to the gym for a workout. He didn't feel like a trip to the market. He didn't really want another cup of coffee, but the café he'd just passed did look like an inviting place. Amsterdam was home, but there were still delights he'd never discovered. Ryan tossed his paper cup into a trash can, turned around, walked back to the café, opened the door, and went in. He bought another coffee, found a table and sat down. He had a paperback book in his bag, but he didn't take it out right away. Instead, he looked around, taking in his surroundings for a moment. He heard his phone buzz. It was a friend of his, a former teammate at Groningen called Wesley Bosz. The two of them had shared a flat during Ryan's first year at the club, before Wes met a local girl, fell in love, and moved in with her. Wes was a classy right back with lots of pace, talented enough to win 21 caps at the U21 level. Now he was in Italy, playing for Ternana, in Serie B. *** Ryan had told Wesley about his plans very soon after he made them. Wesley's reply was quick and simple. "Ever think about giving Italy a try? Johanna and I love it here." "I don't speak Italian, for one thing." "You didn't speak Danish, either. That didn't stop you, and you learned it, right?" Ryan laughed. "You have a point there." From there, the conversation drifted off in other directions, as their conversations tended to do. *** Ryan and Wes chatted for a few minutes before Wes asked how the job search was going. "If you want me to talk to a few people, I can. Maybe they can get the word out. You don't mind a smaller club, do you?" Wes inquired. Ryan paused for a moment. "Sure, I'd appreciate that. A smaller club might be a good idea, honestly. I can't expect a big one to take a chance on a lad with no experience." "I'll do what I can, Ryan. If you want to come check it out, we'd be happy to have you stay with us for a while." Ryan smiled. "Thanks, Wes. I might take you up on that. " On the surface, it didn't make a lot of sense. How would the conversation go? "Hello, Sir. Do you need a manager? I have this friend in Amsterdam who played professionally for a while and wants to give management a go. Would you like to give him a call?" Ryan shook his head at the whimsicality of it all. Still, his phone wasn't blowing up with job offers now, was it?
  17. Back in the winter, I started a story with a character I thought would be a lot of fun to bring to life--at least, the notes I'd made gave me that feeling. One evening, I tried to load the game up, and it wouldn't start. Then, life got too busy for me to devote the time and energy I'd like to give to a project, so I took several large steps back from FM for a while. Now, I'm back, and I've decided I'd like to bring Ryan Bellamy back to life. Please forgive me if I repeat the first post of my previous story. I'd like to keep Ryan's backstory as it was, because some of the possible directions for the story are based on what came before. FM15, "fake players," Italy, Holland, Denmark, and Norway loaded; Italy and Holland with some lower leagues activated through custom databases. Any followers would be gratefully welcomed! Prologue: January 2014 A manager once told Ryan Bellamy he would have been a better footballer if he hadn't been interested in so many other things. Perhaps he was right. A boy with fewer interests might have spent more hours kicking a ball around, rather than reading a book or poring over a map. He might have had more than two seasons in the Eredivisie and another in the Danish Superliga if he hadn't insisted on going to university. Latin, history, and calculus took time away from his workouts, time that might have made him good enough to play for Holland. A man who cared only about football wouldn't have hung up his boots at 28. Ryan had no regrets, because that was the life he chose. He pursued his coaching badges, because earning them allowed him to exercise his mind within the context of the only job he'd ever had. He was good at it, too. Now Ryan was thirty. He had made enough money to be free from worrying about where his next paycheck was coming from. He was single, and if there was ever a time when he could give a career in management a go, this would be it. Ryan's father was English, and his mother was Dutch. Ryan had never known his dad. Six months after Ryan was born, Paul Bellamy had returned to London for business. A drunken driver plowed into the side of the rented car he was driving, killing him instantly. Ryan's mum never remarried, and she remained close to Paul's family; Ryan had spent time in England, but he never played there, and he wasn't as well-versed in English football culture. For that reason, he didn't see himself cutting his managerial teeth in England. He realized he would probably have to give up the comforts of a well-appointed apartment in Amsterdam and take a job somewhere in the lower leagues. There might not be bookstores and restaurants and museums within walking distance. But he knew he had to start somewhere, and the philosophical turn of his mind let him understand that the journey might be every bit as rewarding as the destination. Now it was time for that journey to begin.
  18. Marks Corner Flag Tightly Avoids Scoring Goals (especially for high-salaried strikers) Hugs Opponent In Penalty Area Looks For Fouls Rather Than Attempting To Mark Opponent Plays Short Simple Penalty Kicks
  19. Dortmund is one of the German clubs I thought about. If I take Dortmund, I'm going to use the 19.1 database, so I can decide whether or not I want to sell Christian Pulisic. If I use the latest database, the deal's already done, and he's off to Chelsea. I also wouldn't manage Ajax with the 19.3 database, for basically the same reason. I'd be losing Frenkie De Jong to Barca in July and, based on another thread I was reading, I'm not sure where his transfer fee would go. I'd rather decide De Jong's fate myself. Thanks for the suggestion, Jordan.
  20. You're right; it would be easier with Ajax. I was thinking about picking them because I'm an Ajax fan. If I picked another Dutch club, I'd probably go with a team in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie. That might be even more fun. Thanks for the idea, Stevicus.
  21. That's a good idea, too. Perhaps it would be even more fun to "require" those players to come through the club's youth program. That would be fun with any club. Thanks, 1magine.
  22. Oh, that's another good idea! It's definitely something to think about...and a very tough task. Thanks, isignedupfornorealreason.
  23. I'm very much in the mood to start a new FM save, but I'm in an interesting "predicament." I can't decide what kind of save to begin!! I've never found myself in this position. Either I've been motivated to begin a particular kind of game, or I'm not in the mood to play Football Manager at all. This time, I'm thinking about how much I'd like to immerse myself in a career, but I can't seem to settle on exactly where I'd like to go. I'm going to play FM Touch, because I'm in the mood for a simpler, faster-moving game right now. I also know I'd like to write about it in the Career Update forum. I have a few general ideas, and I'll toss them out to see if anyone can give me any food for thought. Go to Scotland, and take control of one of the Old Firm, Hearts, or Hibs...and see if I can hold onto (or take) the dominant place in Scottish football and go on to European success. Those four teams have always intrigued me. Go to Germany, take over a large-ish club, and try to lead them to domestic and continental glory. Head over to Holland, manage Ajax, and make them a perennial European powerhouse while building on their reputation for developing great young players. Make my way to one of the Scandinavian/Nordic nations, pick an intriguing club, and see what I can do with them. I tend to enjoy managing clubs with strong youth programs, but I'm not really in the mood for a youth-only challenge. The final decision is mine, of course, but any thoughts some of you might have would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
  24. Here are a few I've seen goalkeepers display: Uses Long Throw To Give Possession To Opponent Dwells On Mistakes Falls Down Often Knocks Ball Past Goal Line
  25. Thanks, Bobby. It's been fun so far. I thought I'd be starting in Holland, but the opportunity with Molde was an intriguing one. So, here I am. Thanks for following!
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