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Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. All football supporters have suffered the agony of hope. The "what could have been" moments. The heartbreak. The days when your social-media-obsessed striker couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat. Barbosa at the Maracana, 1950. Messi in the final of the Copa America, 2016. Baggio in the World Cup final, 1994. Ghana at the 2010 World Cup. Bayern Munich in Barcelona, 1999. John Terry in Moscow, 2008. For many, redemption comes in one form or another, some more glamorous than others. Titles won. Individual glories and accolades. The heartbreak simply another chapter in the broader narrative. For others, the heartbreak defines them. Haunts them. Overshadows all other accomplishments, triumphs and accolades. The moniker of the "nearly men" is applied, and supporters grow old thinking, "what if...?" This is the story of those teams. Well... Another story about those teams... Since its inception in 1955, 22 different teams have won the Champions League (and its predecessor). 18 teams have reached the Final, only to fall short: Arsenal (2006) Atlético Madrid (1974, 2014, 2016) Bayer Leverkusen (2002) Borussia Mönchengladbach (1977) Club Brugge (1978) Eintracht Frankfurt (1960) Fiorentina (1957) Leeds United (1975) Malmö FF (1979) Monaco (2004) Panathinaikos (1971) Partizan (1966) Roma (1984) Sampdoria (1992) Saint-Étienne (1976) Stade de Reims (1956, 1959) Tottenham Hotspur (2019) Valencia (2000, 2001) Similarly, 8 different nations have brought home the World Cup. Yet, 5 have reached the Final only to return home with empty hands: Croatia (2018) Czechoslovakia (1934, 1962) Hungary (1938, 1954) The Netherlands (1974, 1978, 2010) Sweden (1958) And, for the past few years, I've been obsessed with the idea of bringing glory to as many of these clubs and countries as possible. Credit where credit is due -- the idea for this challenge originated with @smp20, who proposed it during the FM15 cycle. My first documented attempt fizzled out early: [FM16] If You're Not First, You're Last. While success was only claimed in Malmö, that save laid the foundation for all that has come since. The second attempt was 116 pages of utter madness, spanning 18 months real-time, culminating in 2091 after claiming an obscene number of trophies with Hakan Telleus and his son, Gunnar Vikander. This was easily my favorite save of all time: [FM17] If You're Not First, You're Last (Redux). The third attempt saw Jean Bleu rampage across Europe with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and John Drake, claiming 6 Champions League and 5 World Cup titles in 29 years: [FM18] If You're Not First, You're Last (Re-Redux). I took some time off from documenting my saves during the FM 19 cycle, but with the imminent launch of FM 20 I'm back to give this another run. As per usual, there are generally no hard-and-fast rules beyond the concept of the save. On the club side of the shop, once I've won the Champions League, I must move on and can only accept a position with one of the sides listed above, or a club that manages to join this elite (!?) group of "nearly men." Likewise, if a club manages to win the Champions League under another manager, they are removed from the challenge. On the international scene, the same basic rule will apply - I can only accept an international management position with an eligible nation. If I win the World Cup, I must move on. Nations can be added to and removed from the eligible list, based on results at the World Cup. With respect to Czechoslovakia, I consider both the Czech Republic and Slovakia eligible. The only pure "rule" that I will invoke is the @Dave. rule, instituted during the FM17 version of this save. Quite simply, this rule means that my manager has to prioritize Leeds, by joining them at the first realistic (in-game) opportunity. (The rationale for the rule was that, as a Manchester United supporter, steering Leeds to glory should inflict a special kind of pain…just don't tell anyone that I've really enjoyed managing them in the '17 and ‘18 versions of the save...) The FM 20 version of the Nearly Men will launch here and on the FMCheapSeats blog shortly after the full game releases on November 19th. Don't worry, the same day-to-day shenanigans and updates that you've come to love, fear and dread (in equal measure) will be posted here. All major updates (seasonal reviews, tactical discussion, etc) will be cross-posted here and on the blog. In the meantime, if you're interested in a sneak peek at my manager, Nicolaj Bur, head on over to @Guimy's always excellent strikerless.com, where Bur is introduced in a post discussing my FM 20 beta tactic, I Want To Take His Face...Off.
The Beginning of the End June 2018 A dreadful wind dashes through the rainy Prague night. It flies straight past the skyline-defining Prague Castle, refuses to be enchanted by the gorgeously-lit Old Town Square, and even crosses the iconic Charles Bridge without a moment of pause or wonder. So fast and committed to its path is it, that one might have thought it was running away from something. Something terrible. It doesn't stop once it's past the banks of the Vltava; it keeps heading away from the city until it's gone, never to return. That gust of wind was lucky... the 3 million people who called this city home wouldn't be. Praguers had already started to notice the changes, but before now they were subtle, fleeting. Maybe they had picked up on how rarely the sun had actually shone this summer, and how in its place were gloomy, overcast skies, rain, and increasingly vicious thunderstorms. Maybe they had read the news and seen the sharp uptick in the city's crime rate. If they were in the right place at the right time, they may have even heard the low rumblings coming from beneath the Prague Castle, the source of which was anyone's guess. There would be a lot more guessing to do now. It had been raining and thundering all day; that was new to no one. But suddenly, for a few moments, everything stopped, as if the clouds had run out of ammunition and required a reload. Once they fired their weapons again, however, the very nature of the storm had changed. The lightning had only been intermittent before, but now it was non-stop, the sky flashing bright and going dark every few seconds, like a faulty film projector. The lightning travels from cloud to cloud, as if someone were playing a massive game of "Connect the Dots" in the sky. Then, in a quite spectacular moment, the full picture is revealed, the path drawn by the lightning bolts having somehow solidified and suspended itself across the horizon, but this time its illuminating hue having shifted from a bright white to an ominous dark crimson. For a few precious moments, the entire city of Prague bears witness to the image of a monarch's crown painted in pure red electricity, looking down upon its subjects on the streets below, already self-assured of its majesty. And then the image disappears, but not before releasing an earth-shattering broadside of thunder, the sheer power of the noise even fiercer than the Allied bombs dropped on the city over 70 years before. When the noise dissipates, things appear to have gone back to normal, the clouds having run out of bullets for good this time, their hunger for violence sated. But when the rain resumes, it is not as it was before, as anyone exposed to it would soon discover. For the raindrops had inherited the crimson color of the sky it fell from, and its taste would have made any vampire lick their lips. It was bloody strange. There was no denying it now: things were changing, and they were changing for the worse. For the rest of that night, everyone in Prague wished they could be like that gust of wind. Cheers @BoxToBox This begins The Red Jackals of Prague. Thanks for reading. (Cross-posted on From The Cheap Seats)
Nordic Journeyman- The Aim Hello and welcome to my new save, which I hope will be a worthy successor to my previous adventure, a two-year-long, narrative-driven, award-winning monster of a thread known as Hans Kaiser- Baldness Über Alles! This is a save I've wanted to do for a while now, inspired by several excellent career threads based in the Nordic countries such as @Rikulec's "Frozen Throne" journeyman, @withnail316's "Scandinavian Shankly" saves, and @ManUtd1's various stints at Malmö on his "Nearly Men" epics. I've long held an admiration for these countries as well, which made my trip to Iceland in 2017 all the more enjoyable. Watching a match in Grindavik was my first live football experience, and it's one I'll certainly never forget. I could've done a worthwhile save in Iceland or any one of these nations individually, but I've decided I want to go in for the long haul and achieve glory in all of them. That being said, it's time to look at the goals and rules for this save. Goals: -Win the top domestic league and top domestic cup in Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. -Win the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup with a club from one of these countries. -After all required trophies are won, become the manager of Borussia Dortmund at the soonest opportunity and attempt to establish global football dominance using a core of players from Nordic nations. -Win the UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup with a Nordic national team. Rules: -I cannot leave a country until the top domestic league and top domestic cup have been won, if applicable. I will certainly try to win any other domestic trophies that are available in the nation, such as league cups or super cups, but I won't let a failure to win such competitions stop me from moving on. -I can take a job in any division of the country I'm in, there's no requirement to win lower divisions. -I'm allowed to switch jobs within a country, though I will have to have been at the previous club for at least two seasons to do so. -Once a country has been "completed", the next country I go to must be the next-highest ranked in UEFA's country coefficient ranking, unless a country I have not yet been to has fallen behind the country I was managing in previously in the ranking. In that case, I will go backward. Game Setup " All available Nordic leagues have been set as playable. The top two divisions in Germany, England, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal have been loaded as view-only, as well as the top division in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Russia. I plan on making the German leagues playable once we're near the point when I can move to Dortmund. I'm using Riddler's Faroe Islands file and @The Good Rebel's excellent Greenland file for this save, which replaces Kiribati in the database and takes Kazakhstan's place in UEFA, who have moved back to AFC. I believe this will be the first thread in FMCU history to head to the world's largest island, so no matter how this save goes, it'll have made some history in the process. I can't wait to get started, and hopefully you lot are too! Týr! Týr! Týr!