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dirkgently1066

Outrunning The Black Dog

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Whilst this thread will cover my current save, it is more than that. It is about my journey of self discovery during my recovery from mental illness, using FM to highlight the seemingly insignificant daily triggers that can set off anxiety and depression.

Writing has become it's own therapy for me and I use a combination of blogs, short stories and flash fiction to explore the many facets of mental illness.

If you would like to read more, please visit my website at http://1066allstars.webs.com.

About Me

I have been playing FM since the very beginning. Well I remember entering attendance figures as the copy protection in the very first Champ back on my beloved Amiga before sinking far too many of my teenage years into my favourite incarnation, CM 93/94.

I have stuck with it ever since but over the years, my enjoyment has waned. It is tempting to blame the game, as so many do on the forums, but there is more to it than that.

Every year it starts off the same. I spend the months before release reading up on tactics, both real life and FM. I set my mind on how I want to play, boot up, look at my team and... choose 4-4-2. Then I convince myself that I've got it wrong but, rather than change course mid-game, I start over, this time choosing 4-2-3-1. Then I lose and I rage quit, starting again with 4-4-2. Then I start to doubt myself and...

You get the idea.

Aside from the obvious OCD issues, there is more at play than meets the eye. Last year I entered therapy for issues with anxiety and depression. Having done so, I can see how so many of my trigger points are tied up in FM. What should be a game, a fun break from reality, had turned into an arduous slog but finally I understood why. I had brought my real life issues to bear on FM: decision making, self belief, comparison to others, perfectionism.

This year was to be different but having owned the game a week, I have already started again about 8 times. Clearly something needs to give.

So, after taking inspiration from another forum member, I have decided to ditch my old ways. No more starting as Liverpool, it is time to separate real life from fantasy. No more preconceived ideas of what tactics to use, better to let them develop organically with my team and transfer policy.

Let's find out if Football Manager can be therapy.

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Where to start?

So, game loaded and already my first decision; what leagues shall I run?

Already I am feeling the anxiety of not wanting to get it wrong. Even though there is a feature mid-game that lets you change your mind, I feel as though I have to get it 'right' from the start.

I recognise this from therapy as 'black and white' thinking. Time to develop shades of grey. Let's go in.

I'll run 13 leagues across 8 nations; All leagues from England plus the top leagues from France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland and Spain.

France, Holland and Portugal will be view only, the others will be playable. I may alter this later if I fancy, say, some South American action.

I have chosen an Advanced database to ensure all International and Continental Rep players are in.

Estimated computer speed is 2.5 stars so might be a bit slow but I want to create a fairly immersive game world with job options aplenty.

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Team Selection

Now, here's the tricky bit.

My usual games are with Liverpool but, as outlined in the OP, these almost always end in disaster. So, I am going to the other end of the spectrum and will start at the bottom of the ladder, the Skrill South!

I still want some form of connection to my chosen team. My home (as in birth) town club, Hastings, aren't on the game, however my local team are, so I'll plump for Sutton Utd, famous for their FA Cup exploits a few years back.

I start with a £5k transfer budget, so any team restructuring is likely to come from freebies and loan deals. Youth facilities appear non existent and coaching staff are a bit thin on the ground.

Blimey, it's a bit different to the Premier League isn't it?!

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Meet the team

First things first, a player meeting. We have a media prediction of 4th so I think we can be confident. I tell the players I think we can achieve promotion. A couple of these wimps disagree but I have no intention of hanging around this league for too long.

Looking at my team report, there are clear strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths - Former Welsh international keeper Jason Brown, aggressive midfielder Lee Sawyer and experienced sniffer Jamie Slabber up front.

Weaknesses - no left backs.

Ah, that could be a problem. In fact generally the defence looks pretty weak. I have one good looking centre back (Charlie Clough) and 41 year old Paul Telfer at right back. Might need to dip into the loan market sooner than I expected

Tactics

I want to keep things fairly simple at this level so, notwithstanding the need for a left back, we'll go with 442. Philosophy will be rigid to ensure I have a greater degree of control. Given the limitations of my squad, I'll utilise 'limited' roles in defence and ask the team to play more direct. No need for roaming or creative freedom.

To supplement this, I'll break with tradition and use a target man up front with a poacher alongside him, which should suit my best striker. In midfield, I'm torn between a ball winner and a B2B. My two best centre mids both suit B2B but I would prefer to utilise a defensive role in there somewhere and I'm concerned how much they'll drift with that role. I'll plump for one of them as a DLP and one as a B2B. It may not suit one of them perfectly but I think it will offer the tactic better balance.

Mentality will be standard and I'll adjust on the fly. Given our limited training time as part-timers, I won't ask them to learn more than one tactic at a time.

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First Impressions

First match is the usual game against the U21s. A resounding 3-0 win with the most satisfying part being a goal by my B2B midfielder, scoring exactly the sort of goal I imagined from that role. The bad news is that my left winger, one of the better players in the team, tore a hamstring and will be out for 3-4 months. Bugger.

In terms of new players, I have submitted some contract offers and will make a decision on players as and when they accept.

I have also arranged some more friendlies to get the team used to playing together. Apart from one glamour tie against foreign opposition (and a rejection from Liverpool), I have plumped for small, crappy teams so that we can hopefully generate some confidence from picking up wins.

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My first signings!

31 year old left back Fred Murray joins on a free to plug a worrying gap.

Also in is former Spurs prospect Cian Hughton, a versatile right sided player who I anticipate playing at RB.

I have also brought in midfielder Ollie Devanney on loan to give me an extra body.

I am still in need of more quality but I have to be careful to not to stretch the wage budget, Ideally I'm still in the market for a centre back and a striker.

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In my current Canvey Island save, Sutton have just spawned a future "leading Prem attacking midfielder" through their youth system in the second season. Hopefully you have the same luck!

Always enjoy a good lower league English career so will follow with interest.

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Pre season

Bit of a mixed bag. Early matches were pretty poor with no real chances created and we were on the end of some hefty thumpings.

Finally got a good 6-0 win against the might of Potton after switching from Standard to Attacking in the second half. Think I'll stick with standard as my base and alter dynamically during matches.

Followed up that win with a 3-1 triumph over Wooton to end the month.

Surprisngly, my expected star striker has not delivered as yet. My goals have come from Marvin Williams, who I had expected to be a sub but who has worked his way into the first team. I'll keep tabs on Slabber, perhaps a tweak to his role will help him.

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Despite the goals of Williams, I still feel that Slabber is the better prospect so I decided to alter his support duty to attack and switch Williams Poacher duty to DLF support instead. First game played and Slabber's rating shows no improvement. I'm not willing to alter my tactics long term for someone not performing so I have switched the roles back again and will rely on Williams for now.

My scouts have come up trumps with some good loan recommendations and I am delighted to bring in striker Adam Birchall and left midfielder Mitchell Pinnock. No cost to me and here for the season so great pieces of business that should give me some good options.

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Pre season debut for Adam Birchall and he notches a hattrick in a 4-1 win with the (so far) disappointing Slabber grabbing the other before picking up a strain that puts him out for 4 weeks.

After what looked like a threadbare squad, some good loan signings and free transfers have given me some reasonable options. I'm still a little wary of the defence but not a lot I can do about it right now.

Tactically, I'm not convinced by my set up. It's early days but the 4-4-2 seems to give the opposition far too much space. I'm reluctant to change as the players are still getting used to it but I am considering employing a DM and moving to one up front. Big problem with that is that I don't have any natural DM's

Anyway, more good news as another loan signing comes in. That's all my long term loan slots taken up but I'm happy with my transfer business.

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In my current Canvey Island save, Sutton have just spawned a future "leading Prem attacking midfielder" through their youth system in the second season. Hopefully you have the same luck!

Always enjoy a good lower league English career so will follow with interest.

I'd settle for League 2 level midfielder at the moment!

Thanks for reading.

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August and September

An interesting start to the season and plenty of trigger points for me.

We started with a surprising 1-0 away win at Eastleigh, tipped for a 2nd place finish, before securing a resounding 3-0 win at home against Staines. However, this good work was undone by a disappointing 3-2 home defeat to Bishop Stortford.

This was my first major trigger. As petty as it sounds, I came very close to switching off the game just because of this one defeat. The 'all or nothing' negative bias told me that I had failed, my tactics suck and the save would go downhill. Recognising this mental health trap for what it was, I ignored the negative voice and carried on.

My perseverance was rewarded. We remained unbeaten throughout the rest of August and September, picking up good win last time out in a 4-0 thrashing of Gosport that leaves us top after 11 games with a record of 7-3-1.

Our defence is the best in the league, shipping just 7 goals. At the other end, we are 2nd highest scorers with 18.

Despite this, I have still not been satisfied with out tactics, another trigger point. This is a real bugbear for me because it really hits on belief and identity.

We started with a rigid 442, playing a direct, disciplined system. I became concerned that there were too many gaps between the lines, the shape was, quite literally, too rigid. After flirting with a 433, I decided to stick with 442 for now as it suits my players. However, we have moved from Rigid to Balanced.

I have also been playing around quite heavily with the team instructions. I had thought that our poor passing levels would suit a more direct game but in fact all that happens is a big punt downfield goes astray and we concede possession. Against my instincts therefore I have shifted to a shorter passing game to try and control games better. To compensate, I have ramped up pressing and tightened marking whilst also amending my limited roles in defence to traditional FB / CB roles.

Despite sitting top, I am concerned that goals have primarily come from my poacher, loan signing Adam Birchall. After a bit of tinkering, I have changed his role to an Advanced Forward and his partner to a DLF (unless Marvin Williams plays, who seems to operate well as a False 9, a role I may explore further) in an effort to get him more involved with team play.

This appeared to bear fruit almost immediately. My B2B midfielder (Sawyer), who has underperformed to now, has come alive in the last couple of games.

Still some fine tuning to do but a promising start as we head into October.

And, perhaps more importantly, I am really enjoying the save so far.

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Merry Christmas!

Rare territory for me on FM as I pass through the Christmas period and into the New Year.

At the end of the year, we sit proudly top of the Skrill South after notching up a record of 15-6-4, blasting a division best 42 and a second best defence conceding 23.

I have made several adjustments during the period, trying to settle on a way of playing. I changed my midfield pairing, alternating between B2B + DLP, BWM + DLP, BWM + AP and CM's. Ultimately, I have settled on a BWM and DLP as I feel it gives a good balance of aggressive closing down and creativity whilst also offering some protection to the back four.

Up front, Adam Birchall remains the star performer, netting 21 times in 31 starts. I altered his role a few times, finally settling on an AF paired with a TM support. I felt he was too static as a poacher and at this level, I need everyone to contribute. To support the TM, I have settled on mixed passing to give my limited skillset players more tactical options.

Overall, I am satisfied. There have been no real standout performers, just consistency.

Black Dog Watch

No thoughts of rage quitting but some definite triggers.

* An identity crisis over the way we play. I feel like I should play a short passing game, then I should play long ball. I recognise the futility of should statements and reject them. My style has evolved organically from watching and reacting to what I see.

* Anxiety. I feel like it can't last, our form will dip and we'll fall out of the promotion places. I feel like if we don't go up this year, I'll rage quit rather than face another season in this division. Or as a healthier alternative, I could have confidence in my methods and results thus far and continue to play the game in a balanced methodical way. And hey, if we don't go up, I can always leave Sutton and try my luck somewhere else.

* Obsession. I can't stop thinking about my save!

Overall, I am really pleased with how things are going, both in terms of the save and also my approach to the game. My triggers remain but I am observing them without judgement, allowing them to be and then dealing with them. So far, so good.

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Really enjoying this one. I always found I wanted to get out of the Conference North/South as quickly as possible, but then I loved managing in the Conference Premier so would aim to stay there for a few seasons.

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Interesting read so far, and I can relate with the 'black dogs' part. Best of luck putting Sutton Utd on the footballing map!

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Going great so far, hopefully this will continue. Nice to read you are enjoying the save most importantly.

Really enjoying this one. I always found I wanted to get out of the Conference North/South as quickly as possible, but then I loved managing in the Conference Premier so would aim to stay there for a few seasons.

Exactly that. Even as a lower league fan I hate the North/South divisions on here but the Premier is, in my opinion, the best league. And I am not just saying it because it took 8 years to get out of it with CU!

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Thanks for your positive comments.

I have never blogged about my game before and wasn't sure quite how to approach it and whether people would be interested in reading, so it is a real motivator to know that others are enjoying the read.

Black Dog Watch

No game time today because of work (boo!) but lots of mental health stuff going on.

*Obsession. I am concerned at how much time I am spending on the game, either playing it or thinking about it. It is a positive in the sense that I am thinking about it (and want to play it) because I am enjoying it. However, I need to ensure there is a healthy balance. I braved a peek out of the curtains the other day and apparently there's something called a 'real world' out there...

*Fear of success. Yesterday I noted my anxiety at a fear of failing. Today I realised that I am also scared of succeeding. What happens if we get promoted? How will I do in the league above? Will I have the judgement skills to sign the right players? This is a core mental health issue for me. If you stay under the radar, no-one expects anything of you and it's easier to over achieve. But if you are brave and stick your head above the parapet, there's a chance someone might shoot an arrow through it. This is a challenge for me to conquer. I can either hide behind my shield or I can stand up and be counted.

Random Thoughts

Playing in the Skrill South throws up some interesting match highlights...goalies kicking the ball straight to the opposition striker who says 'thanks very much' ans sticks it in the onion bag...

...mid match, players forgetting that they know each other and all turning round and running away from the ball...

...groups of players, rather than focusing on their own job, start chasing the ball around in a pack, like that time at school when the teachers made you let the girls join in with the lunchtime match...

...Corners going out of play...

...Corners almost going straight in...

...'crowds' of five people in the stands...

...comedy giant hoof goal kicks...

...route one punts down field that somehow manage to outwit my centre backs, allowing the world's slowest striker to out pace them and take a free shot...

...my awesome goalie who somehow manages to keep his calm during most of this mayhem...

And finally, a word of praise for the cloud save system, possibly the greatest innovation for FM / Steam in the last couple of years.

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It's the middle of February and the big games are coming thick and fast.

We are away and clear at the top with a 5 point advantage and a game in hand. The chasing pack keep interchanging positions, resulting in a 'top of the table clash' every few games. The main pursuers appear to be Boreham Wood and they lived up to their name, holding us to a bore draw at home. Not a bad result for us, the onus was on them to win.

Our current record is 18-7-5 with 48 scored and 25 conceded.

Adam Birchall continues to be the stand out performer and Jason Brown in goal is a life safer. Sadly he won't negotiate a new contract and Birchall is on loan so wherever we end up, I'll need to bring some new players in.

The funny thing is, Birchall isn't very good. We are creating up to 6 clear cut chances a game but often can't convert. Despite that, he just banged in his 25th and 26th goals of the campaign in a gritty 2-0 win at home to Havant, with us being reduced to 9.

Sadly it appears our excellent run in the FA Trophy is about to come to an end. We drew Skrill Premier league leaders Cambridge in the semis and got battered 5-0 at home. Second leg up next, I'll be resting key players for the league campaign ahead.

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Champions!

Wow, what a season.

With 4 games still to play, we are crowned champions, racking up an impressive record of 25 wins, 8 draws and just 5 defeats. We are also top scorers with 70 goals and have the meanest defence, conceding just 32. We currently boast a 14 point gap to second place.

I am astounded to be honest. When I started this save, I had visions of struggling in mid-table mediocrity and quickly getting bored, before quitting and running away from this blog in embarrassment. Instead, I can look back at the season with immense pride.

The bulk of our goals have come from Adam Birchall, ably support by left winger Mitchell Pinnock (an impressive 9) and contributions from across the team. In general, my loan signings have been excellent and I will need to replicate their success in the Skrill Premier.

I remain concerned tactically. The 442 employed this year has been successful but the better teams have opened us up. I have started early training for a 4-1-4-1 to give us some more defensive strength ahead of what is likely to be a difficult campaign next year.

Black Dog Watch

Definite anxiety about the next season. I will need to sign new players which means making decisions, something that anxiety makes more difficult. In the past, rather than make a decision, I have signed multiple players for the same position whilst at the same time, not selling anyone just in case I get a decision wrong. This is simply unsustainable on the budget I'll have so I will need to be decisive. This may seem a small issue but it is a big mental health trigger for me.

But that is for another day. I have four games in which to enjoy my success and try out some new things.

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End of season review

So my first season has finished. A really satisfying campaign as we seal the league with an 11 point advantage.

I have been pleasantly surprised throughout. Not just by our form, which after some early wobbles really turned out well. But also by my approach. I didn't become fixated on a single tactic, nor did I go to the other extreme of becoming a tinker man just for the sake of it. Instead, I found a happy medium that allowed me to react dynamically, picking a system, philosophy and roles that suited both my players and the goals I had set.

Next season will be interesting. I have relied on some key loan signings this year; Adam Birchall and Mitchell Pinnock have been outsanding and the squad has been bulked out by other good quality players. I have a lot of below average players that I now need to carefully manage out, whilst being careful not to move them on too quickly. It's a delicate balance; I need the space in the wage budget but I need the bodies in the squad.

One signing has been made already. A 15 year old striker, dubbed by my scout as a potential Premier League striker. His stats look good and I'm excited to have him on board. If I am unable to secure Adam Birchall next season, this guy could potentially step straight in. I'll also try and sign someone as a tutor.

As for general squad building, this is Black Dog territory but I will give myself time and space to think. My initial instinct is to just hit continue until I get to the new season so that I can get started and find out what happens. But the best strategy will be to take my time. There is no rush, this is a long term save. I may find that I am in this division for a while so I need to build the team logically and sensibly.

Thanks for reading along so far, here's to a new season in the Skrill Premier!

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Congrats on promotion - can you post a screenshot of your new striker?

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Season 2

Here we go, our first season in the Skrill Premier.

A few movements in the squad but actually not that many changes to the first team. I managed to secure strikers Adam Birchall and Ryan Bird on full time contracts, whilst Mitchell Pinnock returns on loan. I have also added new midfielders and some squad players and I am happy with the overall strength in the squad.

I am particularly interested in the development of my regen striker. I have used him as a sub so far in a False 9 role and he has already grabbed a couple of goals.

1lsk.png

Early results have been good. One defeat and three wins, including an away win over AFC Wimbledon. Early signs are promising.

Black Dog Watch

Lots of second guessing. Lots of assumptions that my tactics are wrong and that I should try something else. I recognise this as a lack of confidence, something depression is very good at fostering. For now, I will go with what brought me to the dance, however I am training the team to also play 4141/433 and 4411 / 4231.

1k83.png

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That Gibbons looks like he could become class - already got the speed and finishing certainly for this level. Also, Ryan Bird is a terrific signing. IRL he plays for my team Cambridge and he's a beast of a man. Those two could form some partnership.

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@smp20 I have been introducing Gibbons from the bench but my main man from last year, Birchall, has been disappointing. If not missing chances, he plays like a player from Kick Off, the ball just bouncing off him back into danger areas.Think Gibbons will get a run in the first team. He's good enough to play a variety of roles and has already spanked in a couple of rippers.

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Really annoyed; approaching Christmas in my second season, sitting top of the league after 22 games. Saved my game to the cloud but when I booted up next day, the save is gone. I have rebooted and tried on other machines but to no avail.

There is a silver lining. The save in question saw us dumped out of the FA Cup to Skrill South Tonbridge, as well as some general poor form. The Tonbridge game was fascinating, in a car crash kind of way. We took an early lead before eventually drawing 3-3 at their place. In the reply, we were completely outplayed and were dumped out 0-3. What intrigued me was that they created 11 clear cut chances against me. I have never seen such a high number so either they are a team of supermen (which sitting 11th in Skrill South seems to dispute) or there are some holes in my tactic that I need to address.

At this stage, I'm not sure I have the desire to replay the missing two months. I have other things going on and my save needs some real work. But I was looking forward to taking some time to understand what was going wrong and to see if it was something tactically that could be fixed. I'll have a little break and hopefully get my mojo back.

Black Dog Watch

* Pre-save game issues, I continue to be concerned by my obsession with the game. I stayed up until midnight, playing through poor form, then spent an hour in bed mulling over some tactical issues.

* A lot of my mulling was spent thinking how I wanted to play. It was only after obsessing over this for a while that I realised the point of this save in the first place. I need to remind myself therefore that my success to date has come from building organically, that is playing to the strengths of the team, not a pre-defined idea of what 'should' work.

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Ah that's a killer, only two options. Go back two months and replay, or start over. I say bite the bullet and go back two months, who knows you may end up better off.

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Urgh, well that didn't work out any better. Beaten 3-1, no need even for a replay this time.

I tinkered with some of the tactical settings. I am concerned that we are giving up too much space in front of the back 4 so I amended my BWM to a CMD. I am also worried that my TM is too static so I tried a F9. No tangible benefits for either change. I also loosened off our marking to give the players more time to react but apparently Tonbridge are just our bogey team.

I actually hit exit towards the end of the match and was about to rage quit. I just about stopped myself. This save is about the journey, I musn't allow myself to become derailed by one bad result. It is difficult though, this result has the reek of failure, especially coming on top of my save game issues.

Right, back to the tactics board. For now, I'll revert to my previous settings. They are not perfect but they have served me well so far. It may simply be that my players are overachieving and occasionally we get found out.

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Another close shave with a rage quit. Lost a top of the table clash to Barnet which really hacked me off.

Again, managed to resist but two close calls are demonstrating that I'm not in the right frame of mind for an FM session. I have been in a fragile mental state the last few days and it is manifesting in my game time.

I'm ending today's play time with a comprehensive victory over Salisbury so reasons to be hopeful for my next session.

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I've lost count of how many times I've hit that little x in a temper, but stopped short of confirming it! Good luck.

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Champions! Holy crap, that was a really tough season but somehow we ended up on top of the pile.

After my save game disaster mid-season and slump in form, I really feared the worst but a strong end to the season saw us wrap up the league with a game to spare.

It was a close run thing for a while. I kept trading places with Barnet and the crucial moment came in a visit to their place. They were on a 10 match unbeaten run and the game was heading for a drab 0-0 when my substitute smacked in a beauty of a free kick to give us a 1-0 victory. We never looked back from there and, whilst we lost a couple of games, we had built enough of a cushion to stay the course.

Black Dog Watch

Well, where to start?

*During the season, real life intervened in a big way as my Dad died. I wanted to use FM as a respite but most of my mental health triggers reared their heads. Perhaps this isn't surprising, it is understandable under the circumstances that my depression may be triggered but it is interesting to observe quite how clearly this manifests within FM.

* The biggest issue was anxiety. I was so desperate not to fail, my black and white thinking taking over and convincing me that anything less than winning the league is a complete disaster and would necessitate rage quit. Then, I would remind myself that I paid for this game and if I rage quit and never play it again I will have wasted money and that would make me a pathetic loser and.... on and on.

* As ever, the obsession is a big problem. I appreciate that a good game is 'addictive' but the amount of time I spend thinking about my game is unhealthy. I have a new baby on the way soon and yet all I could think about was this game. I would think about it on the drive to and from work, whilst at lunch, whilst making dinner, whilst tossing and turning in bed. I would put the kids to bed and, after spending a token amount of time with the wife, sneak upstairs to my PC. I obsessed to the point that the game stopped being fun again, especially after my save game problem. I simply had to play because I had to win, anything else was a catastrophic failure. I justified it on the basis of 'I just want to get promoted and then I can step away for a bit' but I know this is folly. As soon as I start the next season, their is a big risk that this obsessive thinking cycle will start again. I want to address this and may have to consider rigidly rationing my game time.

*Another recurring theme is that of identity through tactics. As our form faltered at one point, I started tinkering with roles and duties until I lost track of what I was trying to achieve. I became obsessed (again) with figuring out how I should play, what roles I should work. I stumbled back on the right path almost by accident and it was an eye opening realisation of what had brought me success in the first place. It was no good trying to theoretically plan out what roles and duties would work together, I needed to build organically, play to strengths and actually watch and learn from the game. The turning point came when I changed my superstar teenage striker, Andy Gibbons, from an Advanced Forward to a False 9. The game rates him 5 starts in this role and 4-4.5 in other roles but I had never used it as it didn't fit with how we should play at this level. The results were instantaneous; Gibbons scored twice and ran the game, then was instrumental in a 7-1 mauling. I had learnt my lesson. Yes, there has to be balance, you can't play a team of 11 strikers just because they are your best players. So notwithstanding the odd compromise, I cleared my mind and set roles and duties that suited the players and worked logically within the system I was playing and, just as crucially, I reacted to what was happening in front of me dynamically. When heavy favourites, I attacked aggressively for the first few minutes of the game. After scoring, I would switch to control and dominate the game, switching to standard or counter late on as required. Away from home, I would not be afraid to use defensive or counter where required, otherwise I would start with standard and react when something happened.

* Managing dynamically like this may be obvious to some. Indeed I have read similar advise on these forums down the years but ignored it in the pursuit of my imagined ideal, the should mindset. But putting it into action for myself and seeing the benefit is liberating.

* During some of my most difficult times, I felt a bit like David Moyes. I was so scared of losing that I would try to shut up shop at 1-0 or even 0-0, instead of killing the game off. Despite the obvious evidence, such as me being top of the table and the divisions top scorers, I had no confidence and was always terrified we would lose. The result? A self fulfilling prophesy. By playing negatively, we invited teams on to us and threw points away.

*At some point, I will have a decision to make. We will be in League 2 next year which is likely to be a big step up. I suspect that job offers may come my way if I continue to have success and I'll need to consider whether I stick or twist. This has the potentially for anxiety, a fear that whatever decision i make will be wrong. But I hope to embrace is as an opportunity, whatever decision I make will be right. I have the option of course to save my Sutton game and start a new file with any new club, allowing me to step back to Sutton. But I feel it is important that I make a decision, rather than making a non-decision. Still, that is for the future.

Whilst this has been a difficult season, with some very close calls for rage quits, these were the reasons for starting this blog; to explore my mental health issues and how they manifest within FM and to see if I could use this game as both an escapist form of entertainment and also a form of therapy. And clearly it is working. My game time has highlighted a number of fundamental mental health issues; confidence, fear of failure, decision making, guilt, shame, anger and many more. The first part of recovery is recognising the problem. In my case, with the benefit of previous therapy, it was more a case of reestablishing the problems. In that sense, mission accomplished.

So, much work to do, both in game and in my mind. But for now, perhaps a break is in order. I'll be back with some pictures of the season just gone and will resume the thread in a few days as Sutton United hit League 2!

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Champions! Holy crap, that was a really tough season but somehow we ended up on top of the pile.

After my save game disaster mid-season and slump in form, I really feared the worst but a strong end to the season saw us wrap up the league with a game to spare.

It was a close run thing for a while. I kept trading places with Barnet and the crucial moment came in a visit to their place. They were on a 10 match unbeaten run and the game was heading for a drab 0-0 when my substitute smacked in a beauty of a free kick to give us a 1-0 victory. We never looked back from there and, whilst we lost a couple of games, we had built enough of a cushion to stay the course.

Black Dog Watch

Well, where to start?

*During the season, real life intervened in a big was as my Dad died. I wanted to use FM as a respite but most of my mental health triggers reared their heads. Perhaps this isn't surprising, it is understandable under the circumstances that my depression may be triggered but it is interesting to observe quite how clearly this manifests within FM.

* The biggest issue was anxiety. I was so desperate not to fail, my black and white thinking taking over and convincing me that anything less than winning the league is a complete disaster and would necessitate rage quit. Then, I would remind myself that I paid for this game and if I rage quit and never play it again I will have wasted money and that would make me a pathetic loser and.... on and on.

* As ever, the obsession is a big problem. I appreciate that a good game is 'addictive' but the amount of time I spend thinking about my game is unhealthy. I have a new baby on the way soon and yet all I could think about was this game. I would think about it on the drive to and from work, whilst at lunch, whilst making dinner, whilst tossing and turning in bed. I would put the kids to bed and, after spending a token amount of time with the wife, sneak upstairs to my PC. I obsessed to the point that the game stopped being fun again, especially after my save game problem. I simply had to play because I had to win, anything else was a catastrophic failure. I justified it on the basis of 'I just want to get promoted and then I can step away for a bit' but I know this is folly. As soon as I start the next season, their is a big risk that this obsessive thinking cycle will start again. I want to address this and may have to consider rigidly rationing my game time.

*Another recurring theme is that of identity through tactics. As our form faltered at one point, I started tinkering with roles and duties until I lost track of what I was trying to achieve. I became obsessed (again) with figuring out how I should play, what roles I should work. I stumbled back on the right path almost by accident and it was an eye opening realisation of what had brought me success in the first place. It was no good trying to theoretically plan out what roles and duties would work together, I needed to build organically, play to strengths and actually watch and learn from the game. The turning point came when I changed my superstar teenage striker, Andy Gibbons, from an Advanced Forward to a False 9. The game rates him 5 starts in this role and 4-4.5 in other roles but I had never used it as it didn't fit with how we should play at this level. The results were instantaneous; Gibbons scored twice and ran the game, then was instrumental in a 7-1 mauling. I had learnt my lesson. Yes, there has to be balance, you can't play a team of 11 strikers just because they are your best players. So notwithstanding the odd compromise, I cleared my mind and set roles and duties that suited the players and worked logically within the system I was playing and, just as crucially, I reacted to what was happening in front of me dynamically. When heavy favourites, I attacked aggressively for the first few minutes of the game. After scoring, I would switch to control and dominate the game, switching to standard or counter late on as required. Away from home, I would not be afraid to use defensive or counter where required, otherwise I would start with standard and react when something happened.

* Managing dynamically like this may be obvious to some. Indeed I have read similar advise on these forums down the years but ignored it in the pursuit of my imagined ideal, the should mindset. But putting it into action for myself and seeing the benefit is liberating.

* During some of my most difficult times, I felt a bit like David Moyes. I was so scared of losing that I would try to shut up shop at 1-0 or even 0-0, instead of killing the game off. Despite the obvious evidence, such as me being top of the table and the divisions top scorers, I had no confidence and was always terrified we would lose. The result? A self fulfilling prophesy. By playing negatively, we invited teams on to us and threw points away.

*At some point, I will have a decision to make. We will be in League 2 next year which is likely to be a big step up. I suspect that job offers may come my way if I continue to have success and I'll need to consider whether I stick or twist. This has the potentially for anxiety, a fear that whatever decision i make will be wrong. But I hope to embrace is as an opportunity, whatever decision I make will be right. I have the option of course to save my Sutton game and start a new file with any new club, allowing me to step back to Sutton. But I feel it is important that I make a decision, rather than making a non-decision. Still, that is for the future.

Whilst this has been a difficult season, with some very close calls for rage quits, these were the reasons for starting this blog; to explore my mental health issues and how they manifest within FM and to see if I could use this game as both an escapist form of entertainment and also a form of therapy. And clearly it is working. My game time has highlighted a number of fundamental mental health issues; confidence, fear of failure, decision making, guilt, shame, anger and many more. The first part of recovery is recognising the problem. In my case, with the benefit of previous therapy, it was more a case of reestablishing the problems. In that sense, mission accomplished.

So, much work to do, both in game and in my mind. But for now, perhaps a break is in order. I'll be back with some pictures of the season just gone and will resume the thread in a few days as Sutton United hit League 2!

Sorry to hear about your loss. Well done on the promotion however!

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Season Review

So here it is, the final league table (albeit playoffs yet to be completed).

frzj.png

Here is my team of glory hounds

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And here's my main man, regen superstar striker Andy Gibbons.

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And my performance of the season, mauling Hereford on their own patch.

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Perhaps the funniest thing to happen was a takeover of the club. After numerous failed attempts, my new owner is Barry Hearn!

Looking ahead to next season, this kid came through the ranks last year. He is a natural DM, a position I don't play, but I hope to retrain him to a CMD.

lm5y.png

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Season 3

Decided to leap straight in to the next season.

Player recruitment was a challenge this year. A number of contracts came to an end and so out when about 10 players. It was the right thing to do but, combined with some loans ending, it has left me a bit short. I also had to recruit some extra staff.

I went into the free transfer market and secured permanent signings for a new CB, RB, CMD, DLP and AF. I also added on loan signings for LB and LW. My final piece of business, the day before our first match, was to secure a new GK.

Overall, I am relatively satisfied with the strength of the squad, notwithstanding the comments below. However I have exceeded my wage budget, which is a bit disappointing.

First game in League 2 was a tough away fixture to Portsmouth. The first thing I noticed was the crowd. It was strange seeing more than 5 people cheering! Anyway, we had little to cheer after getting thumped 4-1, not helped by one of my CB getting a red card.

Next up were Crawley in the League Cup. They are in League 1 so the 4-3 defeat was a decent effort.

Final game of the session was a 3-2 win over Hartlepool. A good result, but after racing to a 3-0 half team lead, I am bitterly disappointed at our second half performance.

Still, enough signs that we can score goals in this league which should be a good basis for 1) staying up and 2) pushing on.

Black Dog Watch

* I have a real inferiority complex. Crossing the threshold from non league to league 2 makes me feel like I am leaving a small pond and entering a big sea. The moment where we turned professional signified a change and I suddenly felt like I couldn't manage. I needed new staff, better players, more sophisticated tactics and I simply wouldn't be up to the task.

* This manifested in my team building. I have experienced this before but I basically panic buy, signing players, any players, to bulk my squad out then at the end of window, convincing myself that my squad is weaker than the one I had at the end of the last season. Basically, I feel as though my judgement isn't good enough at this higher level, that I am only good enough for the bottom rung. This is a fundamental mental health issue for me and I am not surprised that it is one of the clearest to shine through in FM.

* Despite this, I have an internal contradiction whereby I expect to get promoted. Even though I don't think I am good enough, I still consider myself a failure if I'm not the best. This manifests by signing players arguably out of my price range. I may have been better setting a realistic targte of staying in the league and recruiting accordingly. Instead, I convinced myself that i must get promoted, thus spent a bit more.

* Allied to this, I overspent on wages, even after adjusting my budget. Panic has now set in that unless we get promoted, I will bankrupt the club. And of course we'll never get promoted because my player recruitment was so poor so I'll have to jump before I am pushed and take whatever job offer comes my way, thus ruining my save, making me a failure...etc.

* Of course the truth is that I made some mistakes but that's okay. I also conducted some shrewd business. Some of my concern stems from the attachments I form. I find it difficult to move certain players on, always believing that it is better to stick, rather than twist. This has been as true in real life as in FM, my loyalty to an employer ultimately contributing in a big way to my mental health issues.

* Ultimately, I think it comes down to decision making and confidence. I lack the confidence to back my own judgement. I seek the approval of others, never trusting myself. I convince myself that others know better, that I don't belong, that I will be found out. I used to spend hours scouring the tactics forums, not for outright guidance but rather to find someone, anyone, who used the same system as me, so that I could be validated. If no one else did it, I must be wrong, right?

* And yet every challenge I have faced, I have stared down. Two back to back promotions, despite being nowhere near favourites. Tactical flexibility, adjusting dynamically to what I am seeing. Operating within budget during my two promotions. Good player recruitment. I have done pretty damn well. Yet I still find it so hard to believe.

Finally I come back to the issue of obsession. I was playing until 1am last night, despite knowing that my kids would wake me up at 6am. I spent at least 30 minutes in bed thinking about the game then woke up at 4am thinking about this post. I want to play it right know. It has become unhealthy. So, I am applying a self imposed ban and will step away for 1 week. This was always intended to be a long term save, I don't need to complete a season every couple of days. I have read that life is what happens while you are busy making other plans, so time to stop planning and to spend some time living. I expect to find this incredibly difficult to achieve. Even as I write this, I am justifying in my mind loading it up right now.

Thanks for reading along so far. I hope you have enjoyed the thread, both from the football and the mental health angles, and perhaps some of you have even found it relevant to your own games or real life issues. If you would like to read more, don't forget to visit my website (1066allstars.webs.com) where I write extensively on mental health in the form of blogs as well as flash fiction and short story metaphors, plus a bit of other silliness along the way. You can also follow me on twitter @Dirkgently1066.

Cheers,

Scott

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So it's Thursday and I haven't played since Sunday and I feel...pretty good!

I came close a couple of times but a combination of good matches to watch on TV plus catching up with The Walking Dead provided ample distraction.

It has been beneficial too. With a few days away, I have some useful perspective.

Black Dog Watch

* It is very noticeable that, since taking a break, I have barely thought about the game. For the first time in a long time, I was able to sit and watch a Liverpool match and simply enjoy it, without wondering how I would implement this that and the other into FM.

* I had come close to some rage quits and the break has again given me perspective. This is a long term save. I have just been promoted twice on the bounce, a great achievement. If I get 'stuck' in this league for a bit, who cares?

* Whilst watching the Liverpool game, one comment from the commentary team threw me. They made reference to Gus Poyet instilling a certain playing style and it made me feel that I lacked an 'identity' in FM. I had a passing thought (pardon the pun) that I should restart my save, this time insisting that I must play a short passing game right from the start. This is of course nonesense. I have based my success on logic, on playing to strengths and making the best of what I have, not forcing myself down a pre-conceived idea of what I think I should do. Style can come later, results matter for now.

* It was interesting to note my reactions to defeats. My first instinct was to rage quit, to run away. This happens in real life too. When I face adversity, I don't want the confrontation, it is easier to acquiesce. But challenges must be confronted head on if they are to be overcome.

* Also interesting was that my desire to rage quit dissipated the worse we did. I lost about 5 games on the bounce (I would load up and check but that would break my self imposed ban!) before finally changing tactics, sacrificing a striker to introduce a DM. Immediately I stopped conceding goals and picked up a couple of wins. It was fascinating to me to experience almost a humbling. Once again, my preconceived ideas had been shattered like the illusion they were. Hard work would bring success and that was something I could do. The pressure was off. My team are crap, at least at this level, and we'll do well to stay up. Expectations were realigned and I suddenly felt much more comfortable. I know that I am good enough to prevent us getting relegated. Slowly, as I continue to learn, I build confidence that I can do more than that, but it is important to build logically, I don't have to apply undue pressure to succeed. It will come.

If you've enjoyed the mental health aspects of this career update, please stop by my website and check out my latest blog, looking at the importance of the choices we make, http://t.co/MNs389JiJh.

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Really enjoying your writing.

Identity can be a number of things too - why not be a manager that is not afraid to change his style to suit the conditions, rather than one who always plays the same way?

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Mid Season review

Uurgh, tough going this year. I have hit a point that I was really dreading, where my form drops through the floor and I really begin to worry where the motivation will come from to continue.

After a mini revival (well, we won a game), we have slumped to 21st. We are still a distance away from the relegation places but we are shipping goals for fun. We also seem to be conceding an inordinate amount of penalties, 4 in 3 three games at last count.

The players still often run around like headless chickens, running into each other and literally falling over, or the ball just bouncing off of them back to the opposition. I have to assume that some of this is that the players are rubbish but I have some players on loan from better clubs so there must be something else going on to.

At this stage, I'm just not sure what to do. I have tried altering my tactics, trying to keep in mind the lessons I have learnt about playing organically and to strengths. Ultimately I have reverted to my 442 as it has brought me the most consistent success. Problem is, it just doesn't look right. I don't have enough movement between the lines, players are static and there are gaps all over the place. Other teams just walk straight through us. At this point, I just don't know what to do.

I tried implementing a shorter passing game to retain possession but our goals dried up. I may have to reluctantly switch to limited roles in defence. This will likely result in more long balls but it will hopefully also make us a bit tighter at the back and take some pressure off the rear guard. Perhaps I can marry this with a lower defensive line given the lack of pace / ability / brain cells of my CB's.

Black Dog Watch

I find the most disappointing element is that we are a place below our start of season prediction. One thing I enjoy about playing as lower league teams is overachieving, which we have done the last 2 years. This year, we are either at our level or just below which makes me feel like I am adding nothing to the team or, worse, that I am responsible for holding them back, that they would be doing better without me.

I really only have 2 good players; my regen striker Andy Gibbons and an on loan winger. Neither are playing well and I feel like I am squandering their talents.

I was also interested to note my reaction to an unhappy player. I took it really personally, as if I had committed a grave sin by making him want to leave. After bunging him on the transfer list, I immediately relented and put him back in the team. A similar thing happened when I fined a player. He asked to speak to me and straight away I felt guilty (guilty I tell you!) and I was so nervous when I selected the option to tell him to stick it, desperate for him to agree with me (he did).

I think I have realised that I made some big mistakes at the start of the season. I didn't have a vision in mind when I built my squad, I just added players. As a result, I have no left footed CB's, a surfeit of B2B midfielders and a lack of players with leadership qualities. I may need to clear out and effectively start again.

So, it's become tough going at the moment. I will try and push through and just make it to the end of the season. The good thing is that the play off system keeps things interesting so if I can add sensibly next year, and sort out a way of playing, anything could happen.

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They think it's all over...oh, it is.

And so I have finally succumbed to rage quit.

After a record setting 15 game winless run saw me sink to second from bottom, I finally threw in the towel mid-way through a soul destroying defeat to bottom club Grimsby.

I am incredibly disappointed. I really enjoyed this save. I achieved two excellent promotions and had high hopes of gradually taking Sutton all the way to the top but it just became too frustrating. I was happy to spend another season in this division but I just couldn't tolerate the failure of dropping down a level. There is something symbolic about dropping out of the league proper.

At the end, I just didn't know what to do. The players became disillusioned and frustrated, tactically we were a mess and I lost all perspective on what to do about it.

I'm not sure what I'll do now. I may start another save at some point but right now, I just couldn't face it.

Black Dog Watch

*Well, let's get the obvious out of the way; I feel like a failure. I feel like a quitter. I feel disappointed, angry, sad and frustrated.

* I am frustrated because I couldn't figure it out. I reacted, I amended, I evolved but I just couldn't get it right.

* If I never play it again, I will feel like I wasted my money and my time. I will feel like a failure.

* If I play it again, I am worried it will never be the same and I will always be chasing something I lost. Plus, I haven't figured out what went wrong. I feel that I would be doomed to repeat my failure.

At some point, I'll revisit this thread to absorb what I learnt. My real life mental health issues came right to the fore during this experience and it will be a real shame if I don't take anything away from it.

Thanks to all of you who have shared my experience through this thread, either through reading or commenting, you kept me motivated during some tough moments! I hope you enjoyed the ride and perhaps were even able to take something from it yourselves.

Cheers,

Scott

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A real shame as I was enjoying this thread. I hope you come back to FM at some point.

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What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

Shameless plug alert!!!

When I started this thread, it was always intended to be about more than just the game. I would discuss tactics, results and comedy own goals sure, but I wanted it to be more, a chance to explore my real life mental health issues as they manifested within FM.

In my most recent blog (http://1066allstars.webs.com/apps/blog/show/42006983-one-last-blog) I commented on the importance of change and the fundamental truth that we must all choose how to live our lives.

With that in mind, I too am presented with a choice.

I can do what I have always done; consider quitting the game as the end, a point from which there is no return unless I completely start again, punishing myself by making me go right back to the beginning, chastising myself the whole way through that I had the dream game and I threw it away.

Or, I could do something different; reload an old save.

Heresy! I hear you cry...oh no wait, that was me. Quiet stupid inner voice, the adults are speaking.

Method, Results, Conclusion

Now, if we are to go back in time (God bless you 3 month auto rolling save) then we need to Baldrick this. My cunning plan is to learn from the master.

The Twelve Step Guide

1: Understand the core strategic concepts:

If I were to approach FM having never played it and just looked at the names of the styles, my gut reaction would be to go for Fluid, 'cos that's what the blokes on the telly always say teams need more of.

However, my FM experience tells me that Fluid systems can be difficult to get right. And anyway, I'm a bit of a control freak. I want to tell the players how to play and I intend to have some specific roles. So I will go with Rigid.

2: Adapt the roles to the player.

Hmmm, not sure I'm at this point yet. Part of my problem on FM is changing things just for the sake of applying my own mark. For instance, having set up my base tactic, my immediate reaction is to add something, say, play narrower or drop deeper, purely on the basis that, if I don't, it isn't really my tactic. These alterations may become necessary but I'll make them based on an informed judgement, not just because.

3: Become aware that the strategy names are more plastic than they seem.

Now this is an interesting one. I had great success in the last 2 season playing a Standard mentality. In The Save Who Must Not Be Named I became more and more regressive, packing the defence and playing on the counter before getting ripped a new one. Then, in a pique of frustration, I would go all attacking before getting ripped a new one. So in short, I haven't got a clue.

Based on wwfan's comments, my 442 probably suits a more attacking game, It is I think my own inferiority complex that makes me want to retreat into a defensive mentality at the first sign of trouble (*cough* David Moyes *cough*). This is perhaps another area that needs to develop organically. I will give myself a platform by training a Defensive, Standard and Attacking variant and will need to (gasp) use my judgement as to when to play each one.

4: Focus on roles and duties and their combinations.

Okay, I think I've got this bit. I will be playing 442 for now as my squad is set up for it. I will play a standard goalie with two CD on Defend and two FB on Auto*. Two wingers will have attack duties, flanking a DLP defend and a B2B support. Up top, I will restore my TM to offer some variety and relief to our play, paired with a poacher.

I am open to changing these roles based on how games develop but I think this is a logical starting point.

* I had an aborted / trial restart yesterday where I tinkered with an asymmetrical formation, using an attacking WB on one side and a supporting FB on the other side. My attacking WB got 2 straight MOM awards, despite playing like a donkey the rest of the season. There may be something in that but I'll keep it on the bench for now.

5: Look at the team comparison pagers

How exciting, I've never used this before. Well my team appears to be young, short and fat. Other key highlights include;

* Lowest average wage (very interesting and explains why this is such a challenge)

* Lowest player value (natch)

* Worst decision makers

* Worst teamwork and work rate

* Amongst lowest for leadership and aggression

* Defence is slow and poor positionally but good in the air and strong

* Midfield is slow and lazy with poor technique and poor...well, everything in truth.

* Attack has good movement but other than that, average at best

Some fascinating insights that I had genuinely never read until writing this thread. So based on these conclusions, I shouldn't demand much of my defenders other than sticking their heads on the ball. My midfield won't run, pass, shoot or tackle, which is a bit of a hindrance. And my strikers can't score. Blimey, no wonder the last save was so crap. At this stage, I'm not quite sure what to do with all that information so again, I'll park it for now with a view to implementing once I understand how my tactic plays out. The one change I will make is to set my CD as Limited. These guys really do suck.

6: Use the team instructions to develop and save a favoured playing style

Well my team is crap technically and lazy to boot, so options are limited. I have left the team instructions alone deliberately at this point but the points I learnt about my players above should help me to reach logical conclusions about the changes I may need to make as we go.

7: Before each match, consider looking at the weather conditions and the opposing team's formation

Very much so. I intend to start most games with standard and adapt on the fly. I will exploit the wings where the opposition has no wingers and will not be afraid to go more direct when necessary. My team lacks technique and stamina so short passing / high pressing options are pretty much out.

8: Look at the opposing team formation or player condition / skills and consider using OIs to counter them.

I was feeling lazy and so set my assistant to apply team instructions at the start of the match. Given he is an incompetent buffoon, I will relieve him of this duty and pay more careful attention.

9: Play the match dynamically

This is something I think I have been doing, however my last save ruthlessly exposed that a lot of what I considered to be football truths were just half baked, unfounded beliefs. As Yoda might say, I need to unlearn what I have learned. I will make mistakes and we'll take a tonking now and then but with a bit more thought and a lot more re-watching of games, this is an area I can develop.

10: Realise that team talks are contextual

I struggle a bit with this for a couple of reasons. 1) I am never sure how good we are. I always assume we are crap and the underdogs so don't expect too much of my team. 2) I am terrified of getting it wrong and upsetting my players!

11: Never stop learning.

Oh yes. That's one of the themes of this thread.

12: Finally, if you get stuck and frustrated come to visit the tactics forum

I may just do that.

So there we have it. A 12 step program to get my game back on track. No playing time tonight. This thread took me far longer than I thought and, rather than jump in impatiently, I'll wait until I have some proper time to invest. It has gone horribly wrong once, this time I want it to last.

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You know nothing, Jon Snow

It is staggering just how little I actually know about building a tactic.

First game back in and we stride to a comfortable 2-0 victory away. 'We've cracked it', I tell myself, before promptly going on a 4 game winless streak. I actually had some additional insight playing FIFA. Setting up my team in a 442, I came to realise the folly of pressing to high and playing direct against a team that has packed the midfield.

I got a bit impatient and chopped and changed player roles. First a poacher, then an Advanced Forward. First a Target Man, then a DLF. First a DLP, then a CMD etc, etc.

A moment of clarity came during a pretty comfortable victory. I was 1-0 up and watching the highlights when it occurred to me that my BWM(d) and DLP(s) was okay but it offered me no runners from midfield, no-one breaking into the box to support the attack. And so I have stripped back all player roles. My base tactic is now just a standard 442 with a balanced philosophy and no team instructions. Basically I am taking the view that I don't know what I'm doing so there is no point in changing anything. It's a bit like being Tim Sherwood.

Black Dog Watch

* Well I almost rage quit last night. I just got so frustrated that we conceded another penalty and took another hiding. I stopped myself only with the thought that I would be a failure and this thread would be ruined again. Not a positive form of reinforcement but in this case, it actually served to keep me on track.

* Tactically I remain concerned that I don't have a clue. I thought I knew about football. I thought I knew about FM. Now, it transpires that I don't. Black and white thinking is coming in to play, whereby I am either the best or the worst. I am trying to develop that shade of grey that says, hey, you just need to learn.

* I think I have done the right thing in scaling my tactical instructions back for now but it makes me feel like I am adding no value. If I just use the base tactic and don't change anything, is it really my team? I feel like a fraud. I recognise that this is patently ridiculous as there is more to a successful team than the base tactic but it comes back to a recurring theme in this thread: identity.

* I don't know what sort of manager I am. Am I attacking or defensive? Adventurous or conservative? Flexible or rigid? As a Liverpool fan, I greatly admire how Brendan Rodgers has built a team capable of playing multiple formations and styles and would like to replicate this. Of course, my team is so poor that this is probably unrealistic for now, survival is the main aim. But I want more than I am delivering. I want a style and a method of my own, something to be proud of. Playing a base 442 makes me feel like the type of unimaginative, insular English manager I despise. Yet am I any more than this? I want to try new formations (I set up a 4-2-1-2-1 with the intention of having deep runners from midfield, inside forwards and overlapping wing backs to create overload opportunities on the flanks) but wimped out, too frightened that it would go wrong and I would ruin my save. So I went back to a rigid 442 with a TM and poacher. I am frozen by fear of failure, taking any set backs as a personal judgement of my own competence.

I welcome the thoughts of anyone who has managed at this level. Not specific tactics as such, it is important that I find my own path, but general comments as to what challenges you may have faced and how you overcame them.

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Kirk: 'Are you sure you won't change your mind?'

Spock: 'Is there something wrong with the one I have?'

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

My previous failings have left me scared to try anything new. When I had a smidgen of success, I became petrified of changing anything in case I broke the spell and effectively consigned any tactical plans pre this save to the bin marked 'stupid stuff you used to do.'

But there comes a point I feel where you need to put a marked in the sand, to say 'this is who I am.' Well the marker is going down.

30 games played, 16 to go. We are 15th having won 12, drawn 4 and lost 14. We have scored 34 and conceded 45. Our 40 point haul leaves us 13 points from a relegation place.

On this basis, I have a degree of breathing room to try something new. As Liverpool manager, inspired by Rafa's team of whenever the hell it was, I have always tried to implement a successful 4231 but, given my issues, have become paralysed by the squad I inherit, becoming rigid in my implementation of player roles and afraid to drift too far from 'what Rafa would do.'

At Sutton, I have no such limitations. This is my team and I want to start applying my vision. This may come down around my ears but I figure we should be safe from the drop so let's start implementing thins now ready to upgrade the team in pre season.

My long ball tactics were not working. We simply ceded possession too quickly. So I am introducing a classier short passing, patient game. I will utilise wing backs,a stop / cover system and two CM's (def and sup) in midfield. Up top, a DLF attack will link with an AMC support and two inside forwards. My hope is that I will start bothering teams near their end, keeping them away from my leaky defence.

This is a bit of a gamble, not least because my best player, Andy Gibbons, cannot currently play the AMR position I intend to put him in. However, his profile suggests it is a natural fit for him and I'm looking to the long term.

7yyw.png

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End of Season 3

We made it!

Phew. After a real pain of a season, we have finally got to the end and I'm still in League 2. Our final position of 17th is nothing to be too excited about but we're still here and still punching above our weight.

Now comes the real test. My only quality player, regen striker Andy Gibbins, has expressed concern over the level of players in the team. He wants better quality, otherwise I suspect he'll be off son. To compound the issue, he's still on a part time contract and I can't get him to renegotiate to a full time deal until I get him happy with the team!

I'm actually quite excited for next season. For the first time in my FM life, I will need to effectively rebuild the squad from scratch, This scenario used to terrify me. It was one of the reasons I was so anxious about getting stuck in one division but I am realising it is something to be embraced. I made some big mistakes last year, bringing players in out of desperation and being too reliant on staff reports, rather than my own judgement. I ended up with an unbalanced team.

This year, I have started early. I can't sign anyone until I ship some people out but I have set my mind on my tactics and am looking to recruit accordingly.

My 4231 experiment didn't last. I would like to revisit it at some point but for now, I don't think I have the personnel to pull it off.

So, it's back to 442 but with some tweaks. I have learnt repeatedly that long ball football simply gives the ball away, so we'll play it short. most of my bespoke player roles are gone too. The roles will develop organically based on who I sign. Gibbons will slot in as a DLF for now. I think he might be more but I also think that is the best fit for him in a 442.

My intention is to utilise a poacher and an AP in centre mid, with all other roles as default. Based on this, and referring to wwfan's 12 steps, I have switched to a fluid philosophy. I have reservations as I am not sure my team of lunkheads can be trusted with such freedom of expression but it makes sense and should give me defensive structure on one hand with attacking movement on the other. The key will be getting the signings right.

A big pre-season ahead then. I'll update further once I know how the team is shaping up.

One final thought: I haven't ruled out the possibility of taking another job. I won't go looking but if one is offered, I would certainly consider it. We'll see what happens.

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Black Dog Watch

It's interesting what a difference a couple of hours can make. Suddenly all my enthusiasm has gone, to be replaced by anxiety and uncertainty.

* I don't trust myself to sign the right players.

* I am worried that my team will be weaker than last year.

* I am worried that I'm about to let a player go who I might have needed.

This paralysis by fear has become a recurring trait. Self awareness is a wonderful thing but it is only useful if one uses it for a purpose. Or, to put it another way, what am I going to do about it?

1) Be logical. Identify the areas in my team that need strengthening, rank in order of priority and recruit accordingly, using a combination of scout reports and my own experience.

2) Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. It is no use ditching everyone just because of a self imagined line in the sand. Most of this lot can go but it may be wise to keep one or two, especially if they can play multiple positions. But the majority still need to go.

3) Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I need balance, leaders, technical quality, creativity and fitness. These are searchable stats on FM, this isn't something mystic. I just need to take my time and work logically.

4) Most important of all - have fun! I love playing FM but too often this save has become an exercise in wallowing in my mental health issues, not overcoming them.

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Cheat

Well my start to season 4 was an unmitigated disaster and I have ended that save. Luckily, having reverted to an older save once, I have no qualms about doing the same again. This is a game, not real life, and I have finally learnt to treat it as such.

I had intended to ditch all my old crappy players and bring in better ones. The trouble is, no good players wanted to join so I ended up with a team of even worse crappy players and an overall weaker squad. 4 straight defeats was enough for me before I quit.

I have a save towards the latter end of the last season which I will now pick up. The main issue now is tactically.

I went back and re-read some of my earlier posts in this thread and it is interesting to read how I managed this at the start compared to now. I was reacting to what I saw, being patient and learning as I went. As time has gone on, my old habits have resurfaced and I have starting clutching at straws, desperate to find a winning formula. I have tried short passing, fluid, rigid, inside forwards, ball winners, playmakers, defaults, all to no avail.

My main issue tactically is the gaps in my team and opposition strikers just wandering through the defence unchallenged. I think part of this is personnel, defence is an area for improvement next year but I'm sure some of it is tactical. My flirtations with a fluid strategy, despite my misgivings, seems to bring everyone closer together and offers a bit more stability over balanced and rigid, at least in my preferred 442 (preferred based on personnel).

So next steps are to pick up my last save. I'm about 33 games in so plenty of time for fine tuning. I will sign up most of my players again for next year. They may be dross but they're my dross. I can then supplement with better loan signings. Tactically, I'm torn. I don't know whether to revert to my promotion tactics or change to fluid. I perhaps need to revisit the 12 points above and focus on my team's strengths (or rather weaknesses).

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Is it wrong to cheat?

I went back to my mid season save last night. After some tinkering, I settled on a Fluid 4231 that saw us go on a winning run that almost got us into the play offs. Then...I turned it off. My plan now is to start this save again, using my 4231 from the outset (I lost a couple whilst tinkering) and take us into the play offs. But more than that, I intend to get promoted, to the extent that I will save and replay games if I don't get the result I want.

Is this wrong? Is this cheating?

I have never played the game like this. I always took it more seriously, like a badge of honour that I played the 'right way'. Yet I know that this will get me through. If I go up this season, I'll be bang excited for the next season. Isn't that more important that playing with 'honour'.

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As a complicated season draws to a close (again) I am left with a lot to digest.

We are going up. 4 games left, 3rd place, 74 points after 42 games, 6 points ahead of 4th. After all is said and done, a great season. And yet...

Black Dog Watch

Lots going on during this save:

* I feel like a cheat, like I haven't earned this promotion. I played the game 'properly' and almost got relegated. This promotion has only happened because I went back and replayed. It makes me feel like a fraud. I feel like this thread has lost its value accordingly.

* I became so frustrated at points during the season, however I recognise now that my old behaviour patterns were coming into play. My success in the first two season came from developing my game organically, watching what worked (and what didn't) and adjusting accordingly. However this save became like my Liverpool games of old. I had tried a 4231 (referenced in an earlier post) which seemed to work so I reloaded this save expecting to waltz to the title. It didn't work out that way. Results were inconsistent but I stopped analysing. I would embark on a path of 'this must work because...', then get frustrated when it inevitably failed. I would sulk like a petulant child if I lost a game, resulting in me replaying blocks of the season.

* The moment of enlightenment came when I watched a match in full. I saw with my own eyes why my chosen 4231 wasn't working. I was trying to implement a system whereby we would flood the penalty area. One guy would hold the ball up top with 2 inside forward, on their 'correct' side, drifting in to become back post strikers. Wing backs would overlap to provide width and an AMC would offer an additional goal threat. We employed short passing and worked patiently into the box. It was a nice idea in theory but it didn't work. Once I accepted this and actually watched and reacted, I was able to fix the problems. For now, my 442 is back. I have also ditched the short passing game, the players are technically not good enough and whilst it offers some benefits, players are too often caught dithering on the ball.

* My tactical identity crisis continues but I think I am finally ready to embrace some advise offered earlier in this thread by CityAndColour, suggesting that my style can be 'a manager that is not afraid to change his style to suit the conditions, rather than one who always plays the same way?' In the past, I would have seen this as a weakness, believing that I had to have a definable style of my own. I have slowly accepted the folly of this and the wisdom of CityAndColour's advice. I don't care what my base formation is, as long as it gets the best out of the players available to me and gets results. As a Liverpool fan, there is no better example than the current boss. Brendan Rodgers clearly has some pre-defined philosophies but formation wise, he is very flexible, altering his shape to suit personnel and opponents. This is something I would like to emulate, in spirit rather than in terms of a specific tactical framework.

* I have one genuinely talented player in Andy Gibbons. I have lost sight of his best role and am concerned that I have squandered his talent. My management of him really hits on my confidence and decision making issues. The game refers to him as 'the next Michael Owen' and I have decided to try and embrace that by adding some PPM's and settling him into an Advanced Forward role. I am hopeful that, with the right partner, he can prosper next season.

* As ever, next season will be a test of my decision making and self confidence. Whilst being tactically flexible, I will need to recruit players who can add value to the team and the roles I strengthen may determine how the team is shaped. I am genuinely worried by this as it has been an area of weakness in the past.

* I am still worryingly obsessed by the game. Another enforced break will be due when this season wraps up. Real life will help as we have a baby due soon so my time will be required elsewhere but it is important that I step away. This season became a chore, something that I simply had to complete. At its best, this save overall has been fun and I need to allow myself to get back to that mindset, to simply play.

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I like this story very much. The best stories are from those that struggles to get success. I wouldn't mind if you stuck for 10 seasons in the same league. But I hate the cheating part. It's your save and you do what you want with it, but I know from experience that you will eventually lose interest in the game because of the cheating.

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I've really hit the buffers on this save and am hoping that by revisiting this thread, I can refocus on the issues at hand.

Firstly, the 'cheating.' I'm over it. I never 'cheated' in the sense that I didn't add a manager in or subvert the result in some way, I simply gave myself a chance to replay and to implement things I had learnt. Other than that, the results (and successes) were my own and I will not apologise (to myself) for them any further.

Secondly, I go back to the original point of this thread. Yes, it is about my FM save but it was always meant to be more than that. It was always intended as an exploration of my mental health journey, played out in FM. Mindfulness teaches us to notice thoughts and feelings, to observe them, but not judge. In that spirit, I acknowledge how this form of 'cheating' made me feel. It is cognitively interesting but time to move on.

It is pleasing to have reconciled this in my mind. I feels like a hurdle climbed and one that in the past has been a real stumbling block. An aspect of black and white thinking, of failure, of perfectionism, has been swept away. However...

Black Dog Watch

* The problem with restarting once is that the floodgates were opened. The logic being, if it was acceptable that one time, it's acceptable at other times. The problem is, it has exacerbated (or been exacerbated by) my anxiety issues. Allow me to explain...

* Perfectionism - if results aren't 'perfect' (based on self defined and inconsistent criteria), then it is a failure, resulting in switch off.

* Decision making - the knowledge that I can restart if all goes wrong does not act as a comfort, it has paralysed my decision making. During pre-season, I would sign a player, then question my decision before restarting from the last save to 'correct' the mistake. I would choose a tactical set up, lose a couple of games before deciding that I had got it all wrong and restart from the last save to 'correct' the mistake.

* Fear factor - as a contradiction to the above, conversely the knowledge that I can restart has removed the fear of failure. If it goes wrong, I can simply switch off and try again. But as with the other issues, this has not been a positive. Instead, I restart at the slightest setback, never committing, never allowing the game to breathe, to give myself a chance to play, to manage.

*Sense of failure - all the while, the voice at the back of my head would remind me how I had 'ruined' my save, 'wasted' my time, 'betrayed' my blog.

As with many aspects of mental illness, my hope is that, by recognising these thinking errors, I now have the opportunity to correct them. After all, self awareness is all well and good but only becomes useful when we develop and implement strategies to meet the issues we have identified.

With that in mind, time to talk tactics.

* I used 442 almost exclusively during my first two promotions and ultimately resorted to it during my third. Despite this, I continue to look for alternatives. It is interesting in that my approach to my tactics mirrors my real world depression and lack of confidence. Despite the success, despite all the evidence that it works, I continue to believe that my tactics (and, by extension, me as manager) are inferior and that I should be using something else, that others know better, that I'm getting it all wrong.

* My current save is a game in to my first season in League 1, so my transfer dealings are done. My squad is built for 442 so there is no point in fighting it, rather I would be better embracing it and try to focus on the aspects that made it successful. My anxiety and lack of conviction have led to me chopping and changing mentalities, philosophies, roles and duties with no real conviction or plan, just a desperate attempt to achieve instant success. I have lost the art of patience.

* And so it is back to the drawing board. Or rather back to what brought me to the dance. My most success came with a flat 442 with a Balanced philosophy, mixed passing with heavy pressing and tight marking. I utilised a standard GK, 2x auto FBs, 2x CBs (d), 2x wingers (a), a BWM (d) next to a DLP (s)in the middle and a TM (s) and AF (A) combo up top. It's not perfect but I built it logically to offer a balance of solidity and creativity. My experience has subsequently shown that tight marking can lead to increased fouls (and red cards in the case of my BWM) but I'll stick with it for now in the spirit of what I am trying to achieve and alter it based on the evidence the match engine throws up.

For those who have no experience of mental illness, aspects of this thread may appear to just be common sense or part and parcel of the game. But to me they are gut wrenching, psychologically tormenting decisions. But again, the point of this thread was to explore them, to understand them and ultimately conquer them.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoy my writing, please stop by my website where I post flash fiction and short stories, as well as blogs, exploring some of the aspects of mental illness www.1066allstars.webs.com.

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