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My first first season - Stoke City

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It's taken me a little while to get through it (pesky real life gets in the way), but I've just completed my first season of management in FM13. It took some time to find a club I wanted to manage - being a Man Utd fan I began with them, but quickly abandoned that save as I like to build a team and there's very little work to be done at United.

Eventually I settled on Stoke City as they're a good solid Premiership outfit, financially secure and had some players I really wanted to manage. The prospect of building upon the solid defence of Shawcross and Huth and trying to get the partnership of Crouch and Owen firing with Charlie Adam supplying the amunition was quite exciting (to me anyway).

Another appeal of Stoke City is that they have a lot of fairly average squad players that can be moved on to gather a decent transfer fund for rebuilding. So the first thing I did was sell Tonge, Delap, Sidibe, Sorensen, Jerome, Upson, Higginbotham and Whitehead for a combined £8m. The best bit of business being getting £3m from Everton for Jerome!

The August transfer window was tough though, I struggled to get any of my targets in and had to settled for signing only:

Michael Keane - £250k from Man Utd

Tsepo Masilela - £950k from Kaiser Chiefs

And then taking on a couple of loan signings in Guidetti from Man City, Riera from Galatasaray and Kozak from Lazio.

The season started well, I lost only 2 of the first 8 games to Arsenal and Man City, but in November and December things took a turn for the worse and I only won 1 game in 11 leaving me desperate for January to come so I could get some re-enforcements in. Finaly, when the transfer window opened I shipped out Glenn Whelan and Andy Wilkinson for over £3m in total and splashed the cash on:

Christian Brüls - £7.5m from AA Gent

Nicklas Helenius - £2.6m from AaB

Both had an instant impact, Helenius took over from Crouch as my lone striker - by this time I'd decided against persevering with Michael Owen - and Helenius scored in each of his first 7 matches. From January to the end of the season I lost only 4 matches, a run that took me to the final of the FA Cup.

That cup run was notable for knocking Man City out on penalties, Michael Owen redeeming himself for a poor season with an Extra Time winner against Everton in the semi-final and finally for an 88th minute penalty from Charlie Adam that saw me take the trophy with a 1-0 win over Arsenal. A-mazing!

In the league, I finished a highly satisfying 8th, dipping from my season high position of 6th in the last few games with a few draws thanks to a tired squad after a few injuries and cup replays.

I began the season mostly playing a flat 4-4-2 which served me pretty well for a while, but when form started to dip I switched to a 4-1-2-2-1 with an anchor man (Nzonzi) and wide wingers and that became really effective.

Stand out players were:

Shawcross - Ever-present in the league with AVR of 7.62

Palacios - Didn't expect much from him to begin with, but in 38 appearances in all competitions had AVR of 7.33

I'm now in pre-season and building for hopefully a Euro Cup run and qualifying for Europe once again. This should be helped by the transfer coup of the century - where I've just beaten Bayern and Juventus to the free transfer signing of Fernando Llorente!! I can't wait to fit him into my team.

All in all, probably the most enjoyable season I've had playing FM in a few years - and I've played a lot of seasons! Of course, being successful helps the enjoyment!

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