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About Rumple43

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  1. Info and screen shots sent. If anyone else has any interest in players or staff, mine or otherwise, also happy to help. I do love talking FM, after all :-)
  2. He already looks to have hit the ground running, which is exactly what I was after. If he maintains the output he managed in August, it's going to be a ridiculous season haha
  3. I'm currently a few years ahead of my write ups with my actual FM game if you want me to drop you a DM with a few screen shots?
  4. My striker conundrum continued into July, but it needed to end soon in order to get whichever new player I chose into the club and ready to go for pre-season. I didn’t want a deadline day scenario where the team has already played a few games before someone comes in, then they’re not up to speed until say, the end of September. It became my #1 priority, so let’s get into how the rest of the summer and the first few games of the season began. Eeny, Meeny, Miney….errrr I still couldn’t decide which striker I wanted, so I began to explore all three options. Fininho was the cheapest of them trio in terms of valuation, but he had a £23.5m release clause for foreign clubs in his contract and I didn’t have that kind of capital up front to drop all in one go. The most I could commit to up front was about £18m, then the rest would have to be spread out through instalments. It meant my first potential foray for the South America was probably off the table, for now at least. In my heart, I think I was leaning towards Pellegri, but Esposito represented a pretty credible back up option. I contacted Monaco. Despite being worth £3.7m, they wanted serious money for their young striker. North of £50m. That was a stumbling block. Perhaps not the bride, but a pretty tasty looking bridesmaid, I contacted Inter about Esposito. As the most expensive of the three at £11.25m, I didn’t fancy my chances. Surprisingly, their demands were fairly modest. I could probably strike a deal for around £30m, with around £12m-£14m now and the rest in instalments and bonuses over the coming years. It seemed like a good option, even if he wasn’t my first choice when I started. However, he also wanted £95,000 a week, and a lot extra on top. That was even more than Kownacki. That brought me back once again to an indisputable truth of my rise through the standings and the progress the club was making. If we were going to get anywhere, we needed to start spending. It was the club’s biggest deal to date by some margin, but Esposito was on board. If you want quality, it is going to cost. I reckoned I could give him the service, last season's stats suggested as much, I just needed him and Kownacki to do the business once they got the opportunities. It was an exciting time, full of potential, and I was hoping for the best. Wrapping Up The Summer Spending In the end, it was another busy window. I was still battling against the fact that the players leaving the club were still of Championship standard, and as such, not worth all that much, whereas the players I was bringing in were costing me a hefty sum. Hopefully we would be able to remedy that in a season or two, but for now it was still far from balanced. Having already covered Findlay, Hughes, Vasiliadis, Sarr, and Bastoni in my June update, I then managed to wrap up the Esposito deal for £31m and still had a bit of room left to bring in some quality on loan. McTominay was going to be this season’s Matteo Guendouzi, and I also managed to tack on the option of buying him for £14.5m should all go well. He was worth over £30m, so that seemed like a potential steal. Lucas Paqueta I’ll cover in more detail shortly, but he had the potential to provide me with real star potential from Liverpool and I was really happy to get him. He played best as an AM(C), but in truth he looked good enough to play pretty much anywhere. Going the other way, the roster turnover to make us more PL ready was still ongoing: Thankfully, I was able to send Noah Jean Holm back to the Championship to recapture his form and continue his development, though his ceiling now looked to be 2.5/3 stars at best. Kader Bamba went back to France, he’d done a job for me but didn’t fit how I now wanted to play and he wasn’t PL quality. Borner also went back down a level, that was an easy decision given the arrival of Sarr and Bastoni. The only other move of note was the departure of Kiko Olivas. With his “successor” in Stuart Findlay now waiting in the wings to, well, not do much of anything for me most likely, Olivas went back to Spain. The less said about this one the better, it hadn’t worked out. Well, Well, Well! The opening fixtures for the season looked enticing when they were announced, and they provided me with a solid look at my new and improved Wednesday team. How did we do? We did well! A comprehensive opening day win, and two goals on debut for Seb Esposito! A game I expected to win, but it was comprehensive, and you can’t do much more than that. Whilst that win was probably on the cards, this one wasn’t. The early season felt like a fight in the early Batman episodes. Team came out at me, and BAM! POW! BIFF! A great effort from the boys and another day sending the Hillsborough faithful home happy. Four different scorers, contributions from all over the place, and we even went down to 10 men late on. It was a super 2nd half performance and showed that a top half finish could be on the cards. It was also the 2nd year in a row I’d beat Spurs at home, I was beginning to become a bit of a bogey team for them! Long may that continue! Fast Start, Positive Moves As good as it was beating Brentford and Spurs, the result against Norwich annoyed me. We were still far from the finished article. The Spurs result was great, the win against Brentford was expected, the Everton point was a tough and gutsy performance, and the Norwich game wasn’t good. A mixed bag, but I was happy with life. There we go, finishing in the top half was on already. Joint 2nd high scorers in the division, and up there with the big boys. I was preferring to look upwards now than down to see where the issues might be, always optimistic! Plus, we were above Leicester, Arsenal, Spurs and Man U!! But still early days, of course. Shame we couldn’t just finish the season here and move on. A Bit Of Class It’s probably good to finish on Lucas Paqueta. I’d picked him up from Liverpool as a bit of an afterthought. Following the signing of Esposito, I’d kind of drawn a line under my transfer spending, then on a whim just had a gander at the loan market and saw McTominay and Paqueta sat there. Couldn’t say no. The tricky Brazilian didn’t really fit into my formation, but I figured that I could play him in M(C), or M(L), or even up front at a push, he was that good. It’s not often I was going to get a chance to get a £57m talent, but he looking like he could be the bit of quality my team needed to take us to that next level. His opening month was a mixed bag. 2 goals, and assist, two man of the match awards and a red card. He loved giving people a kicking (which suits my team perfectly), but hopefully he’d continue the goal output as well. Fingers crossed for this lad, he has a chance to really make a splash for me.
  5. They didn't know anything last season when they thought I was going to finish rock bottom and I came in mid-table, so bring it on!! :-)
  6. We had survived 2020/21, Wednesday’s 1st season back in the top flight since the back end of the 20th century. It hadn’t been easy, but in the end we were safe with room to spare and after analysing the campaign, I had plenty of thoughts for how we would continue building for next season. I didn’t want to do too much too quickly, but I also didn’t want to be stagnant either. Let’s take a look at how June panned out, shall we? Being the Early Bird Before the transfer window had even opened, I set about spending my dosh. It wasn’t really a difficult decision, I was fairly sure I knew what I needed and the type of player that would now fit my system. By the time the window got underway, I had four players lined up and a 5th on the way. Vasiliadis I’d had my eye on since mid-December, he was a tenacious centre mid with a ridiculous work ethic, natural fitness, teamwork streak. At the time, his current team Paderborn were looking like relegation candidates in the Bundesliga, and eventually they did indeed drop out of the top division. It made recruiting him easier, that’s for sure. Will Hughes went down with Watford the same season we came up, so he’d spent 2020/21 in the Championship. He hadn’t played all that much, but he looked a good fit for me down either the left or right wing and as a sucker for a cut price deal, I pulled the trigger. Some might wonder why a bit part player in the Championship was on my radar as I looked to upgrade, but that felt like the beauty of this new system. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and utilising a player’s strengths might mean getting something out of them that their previous teams had struggled to do. Sarr and Bastoni look like they could well be my CB pairing for a good few years. Both have room to grow and should develop with first team opportunities and regular Premiership football. I was beginning to get into the realms of spending more on players, but these both felt like solid acquisitions and worth the price tag. Then there’s Stuart Findlay. He felt like Kiko Olivas 2.0. I’d agreed to sign him at Christmas, and by the time the end of the season rolled around, my team was much better, and the calibre of player I wanted was higher. Like Olivas, Findlay made sense when I clicked the sign button, but 6 months later it was a questionable decision. Never mind, can’t hit the jackpot every time. Déjà vu Interestingly, the new fixtures came out and for the 2nd year in a row, I would be hosting Leicester at Hillsborough on the last day of the season. It went well for me the first time, a 2-1 win when I was already safe from the drop, so hopefully lightning would strike twice? Outside of that, playing Brentford and Norwich in the first three games was handy, as was playing at home on Boxing Day. No local derby games on the fixtures this year though I wasn’t really sure what the new season would bring, but I think if I’m being honest a top half finish would be a good result. We shouldn’t get sucked into the relegation fight unless we seriously regressed, and in honesty, spending some decent cash should make us a stronger team than last year. That was the aim, anyway. What Have We Got To Do?! I have two schools of thought about the media on FM. Either they are completely incompetent, or they actively hate me. I can’t decide which it might be, but they didn’t seem to have much time for me or my team. I can’t really blame them if they didn’t like me, after all I send my assistant to every press engagement possible, but still, give us some respect boys! It was an improvement, I’ll say that. Last year we were predicted 20th with 1000-1 odds of winning the league. We were still 1000-1, but at least we’d moved up in their estimations. The public opinion was still that we’d be in the mix at the bottom and that lit a bit of a fire under me. It wasn’t going to happen. Time to put into action the most important piece of the summer master plan. Pick A Striker, Any Striker In my May update, I’d recapped my maiden season in the PL and found a few interesting tit bits. We were #1 in the league for cross completion, and #1 for chances created. It therefore seemed straight forward logic that if the chances were there, we just needed someone to put those chances into the net with more frequency. I’d already bought my two centre halves, it was time to look at the other end of the pitch. The scouts were dispatched! They brought back some interesting choices, two solid options and one selection that certainly piqued my attention. It was like an episode of a certain dating show from the 90’s that was presented by a ginger scouser that most are probably too young to understand. Let’s play…..Striker Blind Date! First up, behind door number one, we had…….Pietro Pellegri from Monaco. Now he does look fairly exciting. “So Pietro, why should we pick you?” “Well, if you choose me, I’ll be sure to put the ball into the net for you. *wink*” “Ooooooo, what a lad!” In truth, I couldn’t decide if he was going to just be a great striker, or if he could also be a great pressing forward. He looked more the former (low aggression, average work rate, teamwork), but did it matter? I couldn’t decide. The price was reasonable, so that helped a little. Let’s move on to door number 2. Behind #2, our scouts have chosen…..Sebastiano Esposito from Inter. Everyone loves an Italian, don’t they?! “Tell us Sebastiano, why should we choose you?” “Well, I’ve got 16 for natural fitness and I can keep going….all season long.” “Oh my! It is getting hot in here!” The same issue with Pellegri loomed over this Italian stallion. 13 for work rate, 10 for aggression, 12 for teamwork. He had all the right stuff in all the right places as a striker with room to grow, and as he was two years younger than the guy behind door number one, he had age on his side as well. It was so hard to decide. Let’s see if door number three makes up our mind. Door number three is a real wildcard, get your samba beat going because it’s…..Fininho from Brazil. Come on down love, let’s have a chat. “Tell us darling, why should Wednesday pick you?” “You’d better believe I know how to finish, you can bet I’ll get the job done.” “Isn’t he lovely, ladies and gentlemen?!” And he was. At 17, he had ridiculous technical ability with the ball, 16 for dribbling and first touch, 17 for finishing. All that natural fitness! And the aggression, pure aggression!!! But he was fairly raw. And the least PL ready of the three. Could I afford to be outlaying a large chunk of my budget for someone that wasn’t likely to see the first team for a year or two? Oh, and he was dual national Italian, so not a work permit issue in sight! Argh! I couldn’t decide. I went off to ponder it for a bit. Too big a decision to rush. Feeding Me A Load of Nonsense Flirting with Fininho did make me ponder one of the original things I’d mentioned when I very first started that game: When I wrote that, I figured we’d be lost in the Championship for a while and bungling about trying to make some headway. But instead we'd taken the fast track to the Prem and were striving to be a top half team. There’s a reason that cheap South American newgens were so attractive, and that because they can take your team to another level. I was torn. It felt like a moral choice, or a logical choice. Head over ruled heart, I went to knock on the chairman’s door. “I’d like to request an affiliate club please.” This felt so wrong. I knew it was wrong. I said it anyway. “I….I want to bring in youth prospects to strengthen the club going forward, first option to buy and all that.” Ugh. I said it. “Certainly! A smashing idea!” This is absolutely how middle aged, Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri speaks, by the way. And so it was done. I actually left it in the hands of my Board to sort out, they were drawing up the short list and I’d pick the winner. I went away to feel ashamed with myself. They came back a few days later. The verdict was in. Chester, Ebbsfleet, York or Barnet. You see, I clearly picked the wrong option and never really specified that I needed an affiliate from outside the UK, say, in South America, to poach these players from. Not only had I tried to sell my soul, I’d done it wrong anyway. I declined all four. I’ll revisit this one down the line as well. What a mess!
  7. Thanks matey, appreciate you popping in and the comment as well. Writing my story out is definitely giving my game an extra dimension and I’m really enjoying doing it to, which is a bonus! Hopefully we keep progressing, it’s been a fun ride so far.
  8. No, that one was in the November/December update. They canned him, so Thomas Frank left Brentford and took the job. About a week or so later, Wilder took Frank's job at Brentford! United went down, Brentford stayed up, so I get to see Mr Wilder next season but not United!
  9. Aye, both of them ended up biting the dust in the end sadly. There's no guarantee either of them bounce straight back either. I scouted United's team once they went down and apart from Berge and Patrick Roberts, they didn't have a lot of quality. If they can keep hold of either of those guys, and Lys Mousset, remains to be seen. Also, United and Leeds are going down with Southampton, Newcastle are already in the Championship, West Brom have been strong, Birmingham and Blackburn are on the rise, same with Derby, so as always the Championship will be a real dog fight to escape from. We'll see what happens. Hopefully by the time either team comes back up I'll have moved on to bigger and better things and I'll crush them whenever we play!
  10. Here we were, we’d made it to the end of the season. Some players had gone, some had come in. We had defied the odds and secured our Premier League future for a second year, and we had the chance to send bitter rivals Sheffield United back down to the Championship if we could just do the business at Hillsborough. About that…. Sheffield United This was set up perfectly. Coming off the back of the Norwich win, we were on the up and United were floundering. We were at home, where we’d been really strong, beating Spurs, West Ham, Wolves, Everton and taking a point off Man U. The Blades would surely crumble. They absolutely didn’t. In truth, their PL future depended on getting a result. It was massive for them, and maybe in hindsight, we were just playing for a mid-table spot. Going 1-0 up early, I fancied we’d run away to a large and famous victory. It never happened, and the equaliser was an absolutely world class finish from Danilo Cataldi. He’d shown his quality with the strikes against Bournemouth back in the February, this one was unstoppable! Wrong net lad! What you doing?! No keeper in the world is saving that one. Then they scored against the run of play and 2-1 down, I feared the worst. Fortunately, Andy Carroll popped up with an immediate equaliser, he was fit for once and still dominating in the box, and that left me about 25 minutes to find a winner. We had to wait, but that made it even better. United could practically taste a valuable point, it was in their grasp. Then….it wasn’t. Yes Palombi. Yes, Yes, Y-E-S. Hillsborough erupts!! United are finished. Done and dusted. All that’s left to do is check if results went against them and they’re pretty much down, or if they still have something to play for. The Fat Lady is Warming Up…. As it turns out, United were still very much alive. In the penultimate weekend of the season, they beat Palace 3-0 at home, and everyone else around them lost. That left the final weekend poised on a knife edge. Five teams. Two relegation places. 1 point between them all. The fixtures were as follows: Leeds v Sheffield United Manchester City v Southampton Brentford v Brighton Tottenham v Bournemouth I’ll not lie, I didn’t fancy Southampton’s chances of getting anything at the Etihad. United had the easiest draw of all away to already relegated Leeds, and Brentford and Brighton could potentially send each other down. Bournemouth away to Spurs was dicey, but Tottenham had been poor all season long (we took 4 out of 6 points off them). For what it was worth, I had 6th place Leicester at home and a win would give me 11th place in the final standings. But who cares about that?! Kick off comes. Southampton are quickly behind against City. Then it’s 2. Then it’s 3. They are surely down and we’re not even 20 minutes in. The goal difference is killing them as well, they slip to 19th and need a miracle. Half an hour gone, United are down to 10 men. Erik Lamela on loan from Spurs has got a straight red, and Leeds score 2 minutes later. United are now down as well. But wait, a goal before the half, 1-1! There’s hope yet for the Blades. Early in the 2nd half, Bournemouth go 1 up against Spurs. Brentford do the same over Brighton. Southampton ship a 4th and then a 5th. United need to do something and fast. Instead, they let in another goal! Back breaker!! Leeds are going down, but they’re determined to drag United down with them. Into the last 10 minutes. Spurs and Brighton both find an equaliser for 1-1. Largely irrelevant. Southampton give up a 6th. Stoppage time. United get a 2nd! They’re a goal away from safety at 2-2! Can they do it…..? They…. Can’t. I beat Leicester with a last second Dominic Iorfa goal. That was nice and 11th is an incredible way to end the season, winning our last four games for good measure. Tight as you like at the bottom but United, Southampton and Leeds all depart. It was a wild way to end the season. Part of me wanted United to go down for obvious reasons. Part of me wanted them to stay up so the Steel City rivalry could continue. It just wasn’t to be for them. End of Season Review It had been a thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable season. I was delighted that we’d not only stayed up, but also overachieved. The Board felt the same. We were on a high. City were ridiculous and blew everyone away by some distance. My 34-point target ended up being more than enough, with 29 being the magic number in the end to stay up (plus goal difference of course). Our home form had proven to be key. Played 19, 9 wins, 3 draws, 7 losses. 30 points at Hillsborough was massive in keeping us going throughout the season. Circling back to the tactical changes made at the start of the season, looking at the final stats, we had done exactly what we planned to do. I wanted a team that was horrible to play against and was more than up for the fight of staying in the division. We’d ticked those boxes: We topped the league by a mile with regards to fouls (624, 2nd place had 553). That’s over 16 per game! We led the league in tackles won with 1,204. We led the league in yellow cards at 103, 2nd place had 94. More encouragingly, there were serious signs for growth: We were 1st in the league for cross completion (31%, 2nd was at 24%). We led the league in chances created with 120. Arsenal came 3rd with 86 points and had 119 chances created as the next best team. It suggested that if we could be a little more clinical and recruit more quality up front, the system could bring forth serious goals and the potential for further improvement. That was very pleasing. It would be a big focus during the summer. My favourite stat was in terms of salary and money spent: In the graphic (which is sorted by salary spent per year), we are 16th out of 20 teams for money spent on player wages. I’ve put a green line under any team that spent more in salary or transfers and still finished below us. That’s a lot of green lines. In short, we had done brilliantly, and what’s more, we’d done it by spending less that plenty of other teams. Excellent. What a Difference a Year Makes Finishing 11th had given us a whopping £19.98m in prize money. The club was on a financial footing that it hadn’t experienced for many years, and certainly not since this game began 2 years ago. Most pleasing from my perspective is that we had managed to turn a profit even without the prize money, including the transfers we’d made (£40.5m spent, £12.25m received). There wouldn’t be anything from the administrators now, they were a long and distant memory. They were however a prudent reminder as I planed for my 2nd season in the Premiership. Players still needed to have relegation wage reductions in contracts. We needed a stable base and smart decision making, otherwise the club could easily end up back at square one. If we went too big, too soon, it could back fire. But all that said, it was still much better having money and being careful with it than having none at all! All About Youth Selling our youth facilities to stay in business was probably the low point of last season. It was necessary, but it wasn’t pleasant, and it was always going to set the club back a number of years. With all that prize money sloshing around, it was time to go and have a chat with the Chairman. In truth, it wasn’t a hard conversation. The Youth Facilities were being built/repossessed/upgraded (however it worked) and would be ours once again. We were also getting an improvement to the main training facilities, and both would be ready in early November. With those upgrades in progress, we’d managed to apply to get our Youth Category raised to the highest level, 1. We were at a 2 in our first season before it all went belly up, so this was a great improvement. The U18s played in the Professional Development League (Tier 2, basically) in 2019/20, and then in 2020/21 they had dropped to Tier 3, the Youth Alliance League, which is mainly populated by League 1, 2 and Conference National teams. The fact we were in there as a Premiership side was a shambles. But for the upcoming season, we would be taking our place at the U18’s top table, Tier 1, the U18 Premier League. Everything was continuing to trend firmly upwards, but it would take another good summer to avoid slipping backwards against stiff competition. Time for another busy off-season!
  11. Thanks mate, it was all fairly straight forward in the end. Got a good start to create some separation then avoided getting pulled back into things as the season went on. Now to make sure we keep moving forward and don't get pulled back in season 2. As exciting as it would be, it doesn't seem to be happening. The message that pops up seems to be the same the times I've had it, then nothing else comes of it. Could all change like, but for now I'll just keep going with Mr Chansiri and see if we can take over the world!
  12. We’d hit the 34-point mark with room to spare, and the team was looking safe for a mid-table finish. We’d performed remarkably well, with our home form in particular making us a tough team to play against for all but the very best. January had seen new faces come to the club (mainly Italian) and some players leave (both young and a little older). We now faced what was always the most important stretch of any season for me, March and April. 7 of our remaining 10 games fell into those two months, and performances would no doubt go a long way to deciding if we were going to continue our push towards the top 10, or slump a little further down the pecking order. Leeds It has been a miserable season back in the Prem for Leeds. I can’t say I was gutted about that, but they were all but relegated when they only had 10 points in the bank by Christmas. Of those 10 points though, three of them came courtesy of beating me 1-0 at Elland Road in December, that was deeply disappointing. I think it was fair to say we owed them a bit of pay back. If we could put the final nail in their coffin (or close to it) in the process, all the sweeter. As usual, it didn’t go to plan. We’ve all had them. Getting “FM’d”. In short, the entire 90 minutes resembles the substance that comes out of the back of a male cow, and you literally want to smash your computer into tiny pieces by the full time whistle. The fact we still managed to get a point was zero consolation. I was furious. Looking to the Future After releasing so many former youth prospects in January, it was nice to get a look at the next set of youngsters in March. I mean, in theory it was nice. The reality wasn’t as good. There’s nothing there that is going to worth cultivating for the future, though that isn’t surprising given the current set up at the club. With a youth level of three and the fact we don’t even own our own youth facilities, pulling in awesome young talent was a bit of a far fetched notion. Maybe something we can work on in coming seasons, but for now it was a bit of a let-down. There's still an awful lot of work to do on this front, and it certainly isn't matching the forward movement a lot of other areas are enjoying. Catching the Eye It wasn’t all bad news off the pitch though. If we were an appealing prospect for a takeover before the season began, our general success in making sure we didn’t yo-yo straight back down to the Championship had also begun to turn more heads. The rumours were once again getting knocked back, but it was hard to avoid thinking that the vultures were circling. I’d still like to think my job would be safe given the achievements to date, but nothing was certain. Still nothing formal of course, we will continue to keep a watch on this one. It’s not been a fun 2020 January wasn’t good, though February had those two draws and a win. March and April? Let’s just say I’m glad that we had already hit the 34-point mark! Don’t get me wrong, there’s some very difficult fixtures in that list. Away to Chelsea and West Ham went as expected, though the West Ham game was particularly poor. The Leeds game I covered above, and the Liverpool game was unfortunate, as was the City game. We matched both teams but they're just so good. Either way, it had left me slipping down the table a little quicker than I’d have liked and the win away to Norwich was huge to stop the slide. In truth, I think I was just overachieving. The form we’d had in 2020 was probably a lot more like what should have been expected when we came up. It was only our surprising results in the first few months of the season that shifted expectations. This was probably more of what was originally forecast, it had just taken longer to arrive. Losing sucks but I couldn’t really complain. It had been a brilliant season regardless. The Only Thing That Matters Despite everything that went before the Norwich win, that victory in Norfolk did secure one very important thing. We were safe. Mathematically with three games to go, we would 100% be playing Premiership football again next season. It was an excellent feeling. The same couldn’t be said for my Yorkshire counterparts. Leeds were already down, they had been well off the pace all season (apart from when they played me, annoyingly). Sheffield United were also in a tight spot, and I had them at Hillsborough as the first game of May. A result in my favour could very well push the Blades right to the brink, especially with their terrible goal difference. We were dangerously close to becoming the undisputed top dog in Yorkshire, how quickly that had turned around! Next month we’ll wrap the season and see where we can finish. One thing is for sure though, we aren’t going down!
  13. The end to 2020 was a bit of a bumpy one. Between tough fixtures, an injury crisis up front and a few underwhelming performances, things weren’t going quite as well as they had. That said, we did turn things on during the Christmas period, and it gave a welcomed sense of optimism heading into the January window. Let’s see what the first two months of 2021 would bring, with a chance to keep moving forward in our first season back in the Prem. The Italian Job During Wednesday’s most recent peak in the late 90’s, the team had boasted the talents of two Italians in Benito Carbone and Paulo Di Canio. Both made a great impact (Paul Alcock flop aside, of course) and they scored some great goals, like this one and these to! The January window brought with it somewhat of an Italian influx. I’m not quite sure why, but the best players my scouts brought back were routinely from Seria A. It did also help that Lazio appeared to be having somewhat of a fire sale, selling me two great players for dirt cheap prices and in truth it could have been as many as four players if I’d had the cash. Following the summer purchase of Sportiello in goal, the arrival of Palombi, Cataldi and Magnani boosted the Italian contingent in the squad whilst also adding some much-needed quality and depth. Palombi looks to be a useful Pressing Forward that should help to address the long term and potentially career derailing injury to Leigh Griffiths (he is over 30, after all). It should also act as cover for the injury prone Andy Carroll and goal shy Noah Jean Holm. Cataldi can play DM(C) as well as M(C) and should prove to be a solution for when Guendouzi returns to Arsenal and to address Sam Hutchinson's general decline. Magnani was needed as an upgrade at D(C), replacing some of the bit players that weren’t likely to see much action. Rober also arrived to do a similar job. Neither stands out as a top player, but both were worthy additions for the price tags. Michael Duffy was an interesting one. He was playing in the Irish Prem, and I’d scouted him a few times. Every time my scouts were high on him, and I liked his stats and personality (Resolute). I needed depth on the wings, but it just seemed too far fetched that an unknown, uncapped 27-year-old would be available on a free and of Prem quality. Either way, I took a punt and we’ll see what he does. As for players that left, it was a lengthy list: Tom Lees wasn’t getting football and despite his great leadership and mental stats, he didn’t want to stay. Van Aken was a similar casualty. He wasn’t good enough for the PL and his contract was up in the summer. I was happy for him to get some football and let him go back to Holland early. Luongo returned to the Championship as he’d hardly featured for me, and the Kadeem Harris transfer finally went through. A number of youth prospects left the club, some on loan and some permanently. It’s always a shame to see players that were once full of excitement reach the end of the road with you, but they simply hadn’t managed to realise their potential and the step up from the Championship to the Prem hadn’t helped. Neither had selling the youth facilities. Moses Odubajo was probably the most notable departure on that front, he just hadn't progressed enough to be retained, so off he went. Isaac Rice and Osaze Urhoghide continue to be my best breakthrough potential prospects, whilst Joe Wildsmith is in danger of stagnating. He needs to get himself going at Millwall or he isn’t going to make the grade. The Magic of the Cup (Part 3) Last season’s efforts at a Cup run were abysmal. We lost to Bradford (!?) in the League Cup, then drew Liverpool away in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, which ended as predictably as you’d imagine. Wins against Stoke and West Brom had taken us to the League Cup 4th round in October this season before a loss on pens at Old Trafford, but so far the “Magic of the Cup” was well and truly absent. So here we go with the FA Cup once more! And…….it’s Liverpool. At Anfield. Again. Two years in a row. Dawson saved a pen at least, that was a highlight. And some of my fringe/youth players got a run out, but largely it was a waste of time. 33 shots! I mean, they didn’t actually need to bother with a keeper and they would have still won. The gulf to the top 4 remains as huge as ever. Storm in a Teacup Much was made of the herculean task to stay up when the season began (mostly by myself, though the media prediction of 20th also played a part) and in truth, it hadn't really played out that way. There were plenty of poor teams that looked far more directionless in the top flight that the Owls, not least our cross-town rivals and the boys in white just up the M1. That said, January and February were awful. Things started well with a really gutsy win away to a struggling Brighton, but that was it. The Arsenal loss we were 1-0 up going into the last 10 and bottled it. We hammered Brentford and lost. We were absolutely dire at Everton. Palace was a tight one where we didn’t get the breaks, it happens. Just harder to swallow when you’re searching for points. February was a little better, and in isolation two draws against top sides like Man U and Wolves should be seen as positives but really, I wanted to stop the rot. We finally got a win against Bournemouth thanks to Danilo Cataldi (more on that later) but it had been a tough stretch. 34….is the Magic Number For all the team’s flailing about in January and February, the win against Bournemouth had provided us with something more symbolic than anything, but it still felt good. With 10 games to go, we had hit the 34-point mark that I’d set as a personal goal before the season began. That put us 10 points above the drop zone and barring the sort of astronomical collapse that January tried to provide, things were looking good. We had done what we needed to do, and we’d done it with some room to spare. It wasn’t so much that I was certain we wouldn’t drop off, I still very much had thought in my head (especially after January). It was more that I didn’t have any faith that the teams at the bottom would suddenly turn things around and come past us. 34 points felt pretty safe. My thoughts switched from survival to a potential final finishing position. The prize money for 11th was £19.98m. 12th was £17.98m. 13th was still £15.98m. Those were massive amounts for a club that hadn’t had a balance over £7m since the game began. Far from settling for mid-table mediocrity, it was something to actively strive for. We Want More! We Want More! With the team on the rise and our Premiership status looking more and more likely with every passing game, it was only inevitable that the Board made a decision on me in mid-January. It was new contract time. The club loved me. The fans loved me. For the most part, the players seemed to love me. Chris Wilder (now at Brentford) most certainly didn’t seem to love me, and that was great! I was asked to stick around until the end of 2023/24. Next season I would be tasked with once again “Avoiding Relegation” rather than bravely fighting against it. In 2022/23, I needed to be an “established Premier League team” and by the last year of my deal in 2023/24, we needed to record a top half finish. They were the goalposts to aim for, well, until the Board move them again of course. Considering we were currently fairly close to the top half of the Prem anyway, it all felt pretty reasonable. Belting Goal Bonus – Danilo Cataldi It’s no secret we were bang out of form heading into February’s final game at home to Bournemouth. We had taken 2 points from a possible 18 coming in, and we needed a win in the worst kind of way. I present to you, Danilo Cataldi. He was ridiculous. Bournemouth had no answer for him, and I’m not really surprised. He opened with this gem: Absolutely no stopping one of those. But he wasn’t finished, as he launched this rocket for his 2nd later on: His rounded out his hat-trick with a rather tame goal that was “only” from the edge of the area, but the masterclass was complete. It was a sweet way to win, and as always, neither goal made it into the top 3 for the month. I’m starting to think we’re getting overlooked on that front a little too often. See you all in March.
  14. I figured with United finishing 9th in season 1 they might continue to do well but not to be. Will be interesting to see if they falter IRL in 2020/21. They’re not down and out for sure, but they’ll probably be battling the rest of the way. They still have some quality as well, especially Berge, but they’re fairly light up front. Would just be nice to continue that rivalry if we can, can’t wait to play them at Hillsborough near the end of the season! I’ll agree on the top 4/6. As well as I’ve done against the teams 10th and down, (decent home form has helped for sure) that top tier still gives me a hiding, especially away from home. When they’re buying players for £100m+ each season, the gulf just gets bigger and bigger. May take some serious time to break through. The Board still wants me to Avoid Relegation before incrementally becoming more established in the PL. Not very exciting, but there’s always the possibility for a bit of a cup run each season. I suppose it’s more a case of just slowly adding more quality to the squad and slowly stepping it up year on year. I could also get some satisfaction from fixing the club’s dreadful youth set up, that’ll take some doing and would probably provide a fair bit of enjoyment if I can cultivate a youngster or two from 15/16 through to the PL. Or I’ll just bolt once Potter gets sacked from the England gig. I’m 100% going to get that job in 2022 once we bomb at the World Cup in Qatar
  15. Agree on this, for sure. It's strange. I played so many season on 19, so maybe I got used to it or the standard that I was at, but it does just seem easier on 20. Bit of a strange statement to make for a game with no difficulty setting or slider, and also perhaps too early to call given I've only had 18 months. Not sure what to make of it, but your response was reassuring at least :-)
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