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WolverineBrother

Can Soton win with kids?

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After watching Southampton horribly mismanage their youth, refusing to sell while there was still hope, then giving them away at 21-22, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I will take Soton to glory with homegrown kids, or die trying!

So the self imposed rules for this save is as follows:

Build the team around the current crop of youngsters (Targett, Ward-Prowse, Reed and Gallagher) And give at least 450 minutes of premier league football per season to the selected 2nd tier talents, unless they can get an appropriate loan.

And the interesting rules, namely transfer rules.

I am not allowed to buy players in positions that I have a promising talent (that is good enough to be involved in the first team, 15 year olds do not count). Meaning no left backs, no MC, and no target man striker for the foreseeable future.

I am only allowed to buy one foreigner (non UK/Ireland) every 2 years.

I am only allowed to buy one player over the age of 19 every 2 years.

These transfer rules mean that I have to develop my talent. And that I have to make sure I keep our top players on contracts.

The goal: Winning the Premier League with a completely home grown at club starting 11. And if I do that, why not the CL as well?

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In terms of tactics I have elected to play exciting, attacking and possession oriented football. I am no Tiki-Taka fanboy, I pick possession based tactics in FM because it is the easiest way to win. And with the strict transfer rules I will be imposing on my self, I felt going the easy way tactically would take some frustrations out of it. If a patch arrives that makes a pragmatic Simeone style a viable option, I will look into it. Because in real life, it is the only way to compete with the bigger teams, and I do want a bit of realism.

Back to my tactic.

It is a 2-3-2-1-2 narrow formation. 2 central defenders, wing backs and a deep midfielder, 2 central midfielders, an attacking midfielder, and 2 strikers.

I play a controlling mentality with a structured team shape, and all the instructions you would imagine with a possession based tactic. I can't post attachments (will look into why) and if I can I will post screenies of my tactics and formations, etc, because I just realized explaining everything with just words will be way too tedious...

So, first transfer window is up. Should I buy an established player, maybe a foreigner too, and then have to wait 2 years before I can do it again? Or should I keep calm and see what shakes lose next season? Or try my luck with some promising youngsters? I will let you know my decision shortly (and it most definitely will not involve Balanta or one of the twin like Argentinians with the similar names...Romeo/Romero?). Going off the beaten path here folks...

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Well, maybe I am going down the beaten path a little. The temptation to sign Martin Odegaard overtook me. On the bright side he is only 15 and will qualify as home grown in the future. In addition I have made deals for Dele Alli and Joe Gomez, but they are loaned back for the season.

Squad numbers reflect my determination to build the team around the home grown talent.

Matthew Targett - 3

James Ward-Prowse - 8

Harrison Reed - 7

Sam Gallagher - 9

Obviously Odegaard will get number 10 when he arrives so I left it free for him...

Also I tried to get rid of Yoshida and Mayuka to free up some rotation space for other youngsters, but no luck. Oh well, they will be gone next season anyway...

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First game of the season is done, and it proved to be a memorable affair for the virtual Spurs fans who had taken the trip to the coast, as Soldado ruthlessly demolished us with a first half hattrick, in an otherwise even game.

We edged possession 52-48 % which is nice considering Spurs have a vastly superior squad, and we are a long way from comfortable with the new tactics, as well as fielding a lot of youngsters and new signings who have not had time to gel.

Spurs did outshoot us 2-1, and even though both teams created 3 CCC's and 2 half chances, the much higher number of shots did the trick for Spurs.

The most pleasing thing about the game was that when Harrison Reed came in for Tadic in the second half, he was easily the best player on the pitch, and created literally all our chances, and had an assist to Sam Gallagher. So our goal was a beautiful homegrown affair. Very cool finish by Gallagher too against Loris. Disappointing then that Mane missed the open net after taking the ball past Loris in the first half. Could have been a game at the end, but it was not to be.

Ward-Prowse and Targett also performed well, and I think St Mary's will soon be a dreaded place to visit for big and small alike.

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First season done and dusted (actually I am in the third season now, but been having too much fun playing to make time for updating). And what a season! Let me tell you!

I had expected a proper tussle to manage to get the mid table finish my board was demanding, not because the team is very bad, but mainly because I am determined to develop our youngsters, and perfectly willing to sacrifice short term results in order to give them the minutes they need to grow. Turned out not to be so. After 30 games played we were actually in the title fight against Chelsea and United. Alas, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, our form dissipated and did not return. Making us finish 3rd, 20 points adrift of the other two. It was heartbreaking result after heartbreaking result at the end there, and there seemed to be nothing I could do to arrest the slide. If the season had been 2 games longer, we probably would not have qualified for the CL, even though we were 13 points clear of 5th spot with 8 games to go. We ended up with 71 points, 4 points clear of City in 5th.

The only explanation I have for the loss of form is that my young team simply does not have the mental fortitude and experience to handle the pressure that comes with fighting for the title, or even a CL spot. If that is the case, it would make me so happy. What an amazing journey it will be to take these youngsters, and molding them into winning machines. But it will take time. And a 3rd place finish, with dismal form to end the season is just what we need to avoid the board demanding we win the title next year.

The most memorable games must be a 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea where we went down 2 goals in the first ten minutes, and battled back in the second half with goals from Sam Gallagher and Sadio Mane. Also a 3-1 win from City (2x Ward-Prowse, Reed) and a 3-0 trouncing of Chelsea in the Capitol One Cup. Payback is sweet. Goals by Davis, Long and Tadic sealed our place in the semi final. Hull was easily dispatched in the semi final, and in the final awaited Manchester United. In the league we lost 4-0 at Old Trafford, and won 2-0 at St Marys.

We played probably our best game of the season, 62% possession, 23 shots, 8 on target, 4 CCC's, 6 half chances, 2 in the woodwork. United had 4 shots in total, 1 on target. It was the most delightfully frustrating thing ever to watch. But in the end, Rooneys 44th minute strike went unanswered, and we finished second. But I was so proud of my boys.

So, like I said, the season ended in heartbreaking fashion, but after the emotion had settled, it was obvious to everyone involved that it had been a spectacular season. 2nd best league finish in club history for my young Saints. Can't wait to let rip in the second season.

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But first I will go through the transfers.

First season transfers were as follows.

The only important activity in the first window was selling Artur Boruc for 675K. I was going with Forster, and wanted to save his salary. I did make deals for Joe Gomez (3.4 mil) and Dele Alli (2,5 mil) but both were loaned back to their clubs. And of course the deal for Martin Odegaard (2.5 mill), but he his too young and will join us in January.

In January it all kicked off in a frenzy!

Out:

Shane Long to Newcastle for 7 mill

Jay Rodriguez to Sociedad for 10.75 mill

Paulo Gazzaniga to City! for 475K

In:

Patrick Roberts from Fulham for 9.75 mill. I saw Fulham was runaway leaders in the Championship, and I knew I could never get him if they were promoted. So I threw in a panic bid, and what do you know, they accepted. What a talented lad he is!

Saido Berahino from West Brom for 9 mill. We obviously needed some firepower after selling Long and Rodriguez. I thought Bera would be just the man to provide it.

So, Martin Odegaard was my foreign signing, which means I can't buy another foreigner (outside UK and Ireland) until january 2017. Saido Berahino was 21, which means I can't buy another player over the age of 19 until january 2017. Let us hope I made the right calls...

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Some stats from my youngsters for the season.

Matthew Target (18) - 26 (22) games - 2 assists

Lloyd Isgrove (21) - 14 (7) games - 1 assist

Josh Sims (18) - 4 (4)

Patrick Roberts (17) - 7 (4) - 3 goals - 1 assist

Martin Odegaard (16) - 20 (14) - 3 goals - 3 assist

James Ward-Prowse (19) - 33 (28) - 8 goals - 4 assists

Harrison Reed (19) - 41 (30) - 5 goals - 11 assists (By far the biggest positive surprise!)

Saido Berahino (21) - 16 (15) - 9 goals - 2 assist

Ryan Seager (18) - 23 (15) - 6 goals - 1 assist

Sam Gallagher (19) - 25 (21) - 9 goals - 6 assists

Chris Regis (17) - 3 (1) - 0 goals - 1 assist

Jake Hesketh (18) - 12 (9) - 1 goal - 2 assist

Jason McCarthy (18) - 10 (4) - 1 goal - 1 assist

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So preparation for the second season.

First some of the players fronted by Schneiderlin, felt "just" qualifying for the CL again was not ambitious enough. I told them to get right in the head. Fortunately, the board did not share their sentiment and demanded a respectable league position. I cheerfully accepted.

Then some transfers.

Out:

Gaston Ramierz to Tottenham for 12 mill

Graziano Pelle to QPR for 4.3 mill

Emmanuel Mayuka to Bournemouth for 500K

Pablo Dani Osvaldo to Bordeaux for 13.25 mill

Sadio Mane to Barcelona for 15.5 mill (with clauses that will eventually make it 20 mill. Also worth noting that I did not have to sell, and I did not "want" to sell. But I want a certain level of realism, and when the game does not provide it, I provide it myself. So when Barca comes for one of your guys and offer 50% more than they are worth, you have to take it. Plain and simple. Did negotiate in some good clauses, so pleased with the fee overall.)

In: (I am afraid that because of the limitations, there will mostly be regens in this column at least from next season, so not really worth listing. I will list transfers for the first team, and show screenshots of particularly interesting regens later.)

John Soutar from Dundee Utd for 2.6 mill

Lewis Cook from Leeds for 5.5 mill (loaned back)

Ali Coote from Dundee Utd for 2 mill (loaned back)

Craig Wighton from Dundee for 1.2 mill (loaned back)

Scott Wright from Aberdeen for free

And two extremely exciting regens from Forest and Bolton respectively for a combined outlay of 10 mill. I hope they can do the PL...

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As you can see, the team is getting ever younger. So how did they fare in the PL season 2015/2016?

Actually the season played out almost exactly like the last one. Except we were better!

Well not in the CL. We went head first out of the group, finishing last with 4 points. But small margins could have made it so very different. We lost 2-1 at the Bernabeu, with Real scoring 2 in stoppage time. We got 4 draws against Olympiakos and PSG, but we clearly deserved to win 3 of those games. First time jitters from the youngsters I suppose. And that is fine. Only one way to learn.

And we were leading the league for about 15 weeks. We were much better than last year. Until we were not. The "rot" set in earlier, and harder. Sending us reeling from 1st to 5th in 10 rounds. 22 points behind Liverpool. And even though we got 2 points more than last year, it was not enough to secure CL football. To make matters worse, we had our CL faith in our own hands at home to Everton in the 37th round. A draw would seal a CL place for us. But we threw it way in the 88th minute, losing 1-2. We could still qualify, but away to Chelsea in this form, not much hope. And we lost 2-0 at The bridge. Did not deserve to lose, but we lost. The theme of the last quarter of the season. Did not deserve to lose, but we lost...

Again after letting go of the emotions, it was another great season for this young Southampton team. We are establishing us as one of the very top teams, and one day soon we will not crumble at the end. And when that day comes, we will be champions!

Also, I blame it all on Saido Berahino. He could not score to save his life for the second part of the season, and missed more sitters in the last 20 games than Andy Cole did in his entire career! For the final stretch I replaced him with a 16 year old regen who scored 6 goals and made 3 assists in the 11 games he played, and he almost single handedly restored our belief. But I still think he will be a star (both of them actually).

I would post screenshots, but it won't let me (if anyone knows why I get the red exclamation mark when I try to add screenshots, I would be grateful for a tip)...

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Interesting challenges you have set yourself with Southampton,.

On FM, Press ALT+F9 and then go to My Documents>SI>FM15>Screenshot :thup:

Then whichever image you want to upload it on Imgur.com and copy the IMG code and paste.

Hope this helps :D

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Preparation to the third season.

I have a sneaky feeling that this season will be harder than the previous seasons. Maybe it is that feeling that we have been significantly overachieving for the majority of the last two seasons. Maybe it is the fact that I have decided to give another couple of youngsters key roles this season to further help their development. And maybe I am just a pessimist.

Anyways, here is the transfer activity.

K3GSEuH.jpg

As expected, a bunch of youngsters in, but at least there was not a lot of important outs. Stephen Davies was no longer needed, so I let him go. James Wilson is the only big signing, and I hope he can push Berahino to better performances, and chip in some goals of his own.

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I also picked the team for the Euro League. Out of 25 players, 9 were homegrown at the club, and 19 were homegrown in the country. Pretty amazing stats there, and shows that I am moving towards an all homegrown club. I have picked up so many promising youngsters around 16-17 years old, and 5-6 years from now, we should be fielding all homegrown teams pretty much week in-week out. The only position that causes me worry is the GK. I don't know how I am going to find someone who can push Forster for a starting spot. International scouting is not very good, and there are virtually no UK/Irish GK talent to be found. Hope to get lucky and get one in the youth intake.

A few words about the youth intake. It has been amazing both times for us. There are probably 7 players from the two intakes that my coaches feel will be excellent first team players down the road. So that part is going swimmingly.

Now all that remains is finding ways to win when the stakes get high.

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Unlucky to miss out on fourth spot by few points.

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Unlucky to miss out on fourth spot by few points.

Unlucky and just not good enough I think. We played Everton in the 37th round at home, and lost it in the 88th minute. A draw would have sealed 4th for us. But my youngsters lost their heads and let one in, even though we completely controlled the game, and were defending deep and not taking any chances to try to make sure we got the draw. Oh well... Who knows, maybe we can get lucky and win the Euro League instead? That would be nice.

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I have decided to drop Dusan Tadic, in spite of his two extremely prolific seasons. He seems to be soft mentally, and never plays well when we are struggling. So Martin Odegaard and Patrick Roberts will be first choices with Dusan as backup. We will see how that goes. There are also 3-4 very young players I want to groom this season. 2 DMCs that I want to replace Wanayama and Cork in the long run, Nick Hider who came in and bagged 9 goal points in 11 games at the end of last season, as well as a very talented MC I bought from Bolton. They will play a lot more than their abilities justify, and I am sure we will drop points as a result. But I want to take the long view, and the board is not very ambitious, and still only demands a respectable position, so I think we can do it. The Champions League might have to wait. But Ward-Prowse is making noises about leaving for a CL club. I told him I would let him go if a club met our valuation. I value him at 60 mill...

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