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  1. The Beck Era It’s hard to imagine that 25 years ago Cambridge United, lead by Dublin, Taylor, Claridge and Co, were one game away from taking their place in the inaugural Premier League. That they got so close to the promised land – and ultimately didn’t make it – was largely down to their eccentric manager John Beck. Beck arrived in Cambridge as a player before becoming assistant to Chris Turner and then taking over as boss in January 1990, when Turner moved into a directorial role. He inherited a side that had already hit rock bottom – the U’s had to apply for re-election in 1986 – and was ready to bounce back. As a player, Beck was a stylish midfielder noted for his ball-playing ability, and grew up under the tutelage of Dave Sexton at QPR. Ironically the style of play he chose to employ as a manager could not have been further removed from the fluent passing game of Sexton’s Rangers side of the 1970s. Beck’s teams were – and still are – all about getting the ball into what Charles Hughes’ infamous coaching manuel describes as Positions Of Maximum Opportunity (POMO). This meant a lot of long balls played into the corners for wingers Philpott and Michael Cheetham, who would either attempt to win a set-piece or aim a cross at towering forward pair Taylor, who had been plucked from non-league football in Suffolk, and Dublin, a converted centre-half released by Norwich City. If his football was positively pre-historic, in other ways Beck was way ahead of his time. He employed a statistician in the days when OptaJoe was a mere pixel in his daddy’s eye, and introduced conditioning techniques like ice-baths, which are now common-place in the game but which, 25 years ago, seemed completely alien. It was a curious mix, but it worked. Mid-table when Beck took charge, United stormed up Division Four in the second half of the season, eventually squeezing into the Play-Offs thanks to a sixth place-finish, then winning through to the final where they beat Chesterfield 1-0. Fitter, stronger, and faster than most opponents, they fared even better in the Third Division, clinching the title 12 months later thanks to a 2-0 final day win over Swansea City at the Abbey. Both promotions were all the more remarkable given that they were achieved alongside runs to the FA Cup quarter-finals. Though United were eventually vanquished by top-flight opposition – Crystal Palace and Arsenal respectively – on both occasions, they achieved some notable scalps, thrashing First Division Sheffield Wednesday 4-0 and dispatching Bristol City 5-1, a game that included a stupendous 20-yard volley from Philpott. No one outside of Cambridgeshire expected the team to be able to make the step up to challenge for promotion again, but Beck had assembled a talented squad: pocket-sized goalkeeper John Vaughan was dubbed The Legend by supporters for his prowess between the sticks, defenders Liam Daish and Alan Kimble would go on to enjoy long careers in the Premier League, and midfielder Richard Wilkins might have joined them if injury hadn’t intervened. Up front, Taylor and Dublin had competition from a young Claridge, signed from Aldershot. The free-spirited Claridge was never going to be an easy convert to Beck’s methods and the pair clashed from day one. Writing in his autobiography, Tales from the Boot Camps, Claridge recalls turning up for his debut with dirty boots, as was his habit. Beck promptly dropped him from the team. The pair would later come to blows at half-time during a league game after Claridge committed the cardinal sin of dribbling inside when he should have laid the ball off to a team-mate. Faced with the prospect of superior opposition, Beck’s tactics got more extreme and the manager cranked gamesmanship up to the max. The team trained on the playing surface at the Abbey Stadium to try and make passing football as difficult as possible, while the grass in the corners of the pitch was grown extra long to help hold the ball up. Opposition complained of boiling hot dressing rooms, deflated practice balls and tea topped up with a whole bag of sugar. But as long as the results continued those supporters didn’t care what opposition managers thought. The U’s started the season in unbeatable form and went top of Division Two in November, thanks to a 2-1 win over Ipswich at Portman Road. At this point the Premier League founders must have started sweating. Little Cambridge and their ugly, anti-football weren’t part of their grand plan for a footballing superleague – having the U’s in there alongside Liverpool and Manchester United would have been like the cast of TOWIE gate-crashing a party at the Bullingdon Club. They needn’t have worried. Having been embarrassed by United once, teams found a way of countering their tactics in the second half of the season and, though Beck’s side rallied to finish fifth, Leicester City, a team the U’s had dispatched 5-1 earlier in the year, romped to a 6-1 aggregate victory in the Play-Offs. Taylor had already been sold, sent to Bristol Rovers along with £100,000, as part of a baffling swap deal which saw the U’s receive the hopeless Devon White in return. That summer, Dublin joined Manchester United for a club record £1million, Claridge went off to Luton, while Beck lasted three months into the 1992/93 campaign before getting the boot. United were relegated at the end of that season and have arguably never recovered. Claridge is sure that, had Beck been a little more flexible, the team would have reached the top flight. “Beck will always say we got so far because of him and his methods,” he said. “I maintain it was in spite of them. I believe he stopped us being what we really could have become.” He may have a point, but this would seem to me a harsh assessment of a manager who turned a squad of unknowns into one of the most feared sides in the lower divisions. Beck will never be everyone’s cup of tea, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that his favourite quote comes from American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To be great is to be misunderstood”. But, whether you consider him a misunderstood genius or a bit of a lunatic, few would argue that his time in the Cambridge hot-seat was the most exciting period in the club's history.
  2. I used my mouse on FM17 without any trouble at all. With FM18 beta once I programe the side buttons to match the existing ingame shortcuts, they work just once then never again. Is this a known issue? I doubt it has anything to do with the mouse and it's firmware as this is the only game ever I've had an issue with, and as I mentioned it worked perfectly with FM17.
  3. Help! Whenever I get to the 17th June, 2018, the start of pre-season, my game always crashes and then displays a following message: 'Application error: a serious error was encountered and the application will close'. I tried overwriting the save file but it didn't work. I'll upload a screenshot of the error message and the crash dump file below. FM 2018 v18.0.2.1032507 (2017.10.31 22.42.03).dmp
  4. Hi, guys. I've noticed in the beta, you can't seem to manage an under 21 or under 19 international team, just the main squad? Do you think they have removed managing under 21s, under 19s from the main game too or is it just because it's beta?
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