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[FM15] 12 Angry Railwaymen

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Not the most inspiring titles i know.

So i decided to take on Crewe Alexandra, and make it an English powerhouse. I'll keep it short with words as it's not my strongest points, especially with English, so bear with me.

Season 2014/2015




MANAGER: Robbie Savage


Robbie Savage, ex Crewe player and Welsh international, came with the promise to bring Crewe back to the top tier of English football, with the help with a solid academy. With a long term project, the plan is to use the youth facilities to develop future premier league quality players. At the same time, the first season goal is to avoid relegation from Sky Bet league 1.



mentality: counter, structured;

play from the back, sit deep (often), pass into space, high tempo, get stuck in.

Having the weakest team in the league, sure won't us take an offensive approach. Pre-season was used to access team's strengths and weakenesses.

Main points:

-Slow defence

-Low technical quality overall

-Low athletic presence

-Not so bad attacking pace

-Not so bad fullbacks

After some experimentations, we went with an adaptive 451 based around the triangular defence, sitting deep and hitting the space on the break. The classic Counter, sit back and hit them with no mercy. The defensive triangle is the core of the system. The two centerbacks, one pushing up when required whilst the other covers the space, are shielded by a strong and confident anchorman. The three complete an impenetrable core. Once it breaks, then we are in danger.

Besides this trio and the full backs, most of the remaining field players, use man to man marking. This way, every opponent is throughtly scouted and analyzed, so their weakenesses are exploited. Usually the team stands off the play and let's the other play. Except when the ball enters selective areas of the field.

This way, we are not a full pressing team, but a selective one. Depending on the opposition, we can man mark wingers, fullbacks, and usually playmakers and anchormans. With the objective to alocate the majority of their possession to their less technical players.

Offensive transition is from the back. In theory, i want my team to keep the ball in the back, inviting the opposition to raise their lines so then we can increase tempo and penetrate the space behind their midfield and between the lines. For this we employ 2 work horses in midfield, that either press the key playmakers or I usually leave a DLP-s between lines and give him more creative freedom. He is the one who controls tempo and launches fast counters.

Sometimes I don't have that DLP available. He has just injured himself for 6 weeks and It's a massive blow. The alternatives will be to use more physical players.

Basically that's our system in words. We also leave some to players. Especially the 3 forwards, who make many mistakes, but there's open space for them to use their space\flair.


It will be a very very difficult season, and not easy to avoid relegation with the weakest squad in the league and zero transfers made. Nevertheless, the first 3 official games have been a pleasant surprise. 3 wins, one against a championship side for the league cup. On all games we nullified the opposition to barely any CCC, and we hit them on the break. We weren't overwhelmingly strong in the attack, but we were a very tough side to break down. Combative and determined, just like Robbie Savage's playing days.


Next game: Rochdale, only 3 days after the win Barnsley and without our key DLP. I will write a match preview in the next post.

Thanks for reading.

PS: we have the son of Dean Saunders. I see a bright future in the lad. Keep in touch and don't miss the next game.

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I will follow with interest. I like watching teams grow and to learn about others tactics.

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I will follow with interest. I like watching teams grow and to learn about others tactics.

Cheers, hope you enjoy and feel free to share some tactical advice and/or squad management :)

PS: I'm not sure this is supposed to happen, but I'll have 4 away games in a row... Very tough times ahead.

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Pre-match Analysis



75% assists from left side!!

Low average height, but their top goalscorer is 1.91m tall! Also, one of the best heading teams in the league.

Key player: Ian Henderson, a winger, with 3 assists so far. Usually plays on the left side, although his best foot is his right...

2 league games and 2 confortable wins. Against Peterborough and Chesterfield. In both games they fielded a 4141.

Pre-match Tactics

We don't have much choice, so we will start with the strongest 11 available. No surprises here.


Woah, they have Juan Mata... joke, it's a 16y old, with no games played so far. Scary attributes though. Can't see them 100% but natural fitness and pace seem to be above 15... Hope the pressure is too much for him. Their best player, Ian Henderson, will play on the right this time. So my focus will be there surely. But they have other good players. I opted for Dalla Valle instead of Callum Saunders, because he is much better at marking. Very important win here.

I'll start with standard OIs and my wingers marking their fullbacks which are pretty decent. Hard tackling on not so brave players and tight marking on Ian. Their CBs and DM are their weakspots. But I decided to set stand off on both defenders and man marking the DM for now.

close to the 20min mark


Pleased with the lads so far. Made a few adjustments. Set the lb man marking Ian as he was getting too much space. Their left winger still has space but it's the surprising cautious approach they started with. I'd rather give this fast youngster some space in front of my rb rather than anticipating in close duels and getting free passage. So far so good. 2 CCCs against zero attacks from a considerable stronger side. Ajose is losing too many balls as usual and I've tweaked my left winger into IF-S as he was not enough ingame. Let's see how it pans out.



Finally, at 3rd attempt, Cooper puts the ball in the back of the net. Well deserved I must say.


Some interesting things in this screen. When they changed to a simillar formation as mine and moved Ian to the left wing role, i also changed my wide players into wingers with attack duty, plus the exploit the wings shouts. I also set the DM Grant to BWM-S with the get further forward instruction. Just look where he is in the screenshot. Rochdale were being cautious and we were lacking penetration so that was a logical choice. With my striker marking the DM. They only had 2 creative units. My DM was basically doing nothing as their striker is an extreme roamer so he was best up the field.

They had a couple shots, one blocked, another was an easy save. But they will push the lines now. Will Crewe Alexandra crumble or hit them on the break?

FT: 2-1


Once they started to push up the lines i changed the DM back to an anchorman, and put fbs on attack duty to explore the wide areas.

They got the equalizer at the 70th minute by a long range cross with their winger appearing on the 2nd post. Against the tide of the match. Later we eventually did the 2-1 with a dubious penalty that I didn't understand, however, It was compeltely deserved and pleased by our performance. Still lots of work to do, improving the attacking phase and now with 2 more injuries. 4 away games in a row will sure provide more difficulties.

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Nice to see someone playing as my team but interesting that neither Davis nor Tootle are involved so far for you (although i'd imagine that's injury related).

Looking forward to following your progress.

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Solid start :)

cheers! though times ahead though, 4 away games in a row. I'd consider a success if we manage 7 points in those games.

Nice to see someone playing as my team but interesting that neither Davis nor Tootle are involved so far for you (although i'd imagine that's injury related).

Looking forward to following your progress.

Davis will return in 30 days, Tootle in a week. But I'm missing more Jamie Ness in the midfield as the defence has been great and Jamie's the only one playmaker.

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Pre-match: Swindon Town vs Crewe



-Fastest team in the league

-One of the weakest physically

-Attacking 352 formation

-Key player: Yaser Kasim, regista, deep lying playmaker. All around solid midfielder, with good passing, composure and tackling. Might be wise not to go hard on him.


Tactical decisions: Set my team to exploit the flanks. With their 3 man midfield, it would be tough for my 2 MCs, so i changed my DM into a BWM-S with go further forward. Their key player, Kasim, will play on the right side of the center mid position. Just in front of my DLP Liam Nolan. I also took a big decision of setting my fbs to close down less and sit narrower. This way they will hopefully stay compact with the 2 cbs against their 2 lone strikers, giving permission to the DM to help the two MCs ahead. Their WBs are man marked by my wingers. And Callum Saunders, as DLS-s will try to get between mid and defence lane, with no markings for now.

75th minute mark; Score 1-1


We have been superior throughout the match. Obika is the most dangerous player from them. But so far, only a couple chances. Their goal was a great work from Obika, receiving the ball with back to goal, and with a nice turn a round slots the ball in the corner. We scored from penalty and missed another. Shocking strike from Tate, who is having a not so good match. We are better now on the 75th but Atkinson was poor as usual, slow on decisions and losing too many balls. Took the risk and called Billy Waters for his role, but now as a CM-A, slightly more aggressive to make use of his pace and his better off the ball (still only 11 though lol). Haber came on too, to take advantage of his strength, hopefully he can make something happen.

78minutes bad news: Haber off injured from a tackle... Leaving us with only 10 men as the subs were used already. One more to the physio room. Robbie Savage shakes his head but immediatly encourage his lads.


Bitter end. Even after playing with 10 men we were more looking to make something happen than them. Bad rep for Swindon. Half their team on yellow and I don't know how some of them ended the match. Still, very proud of the boys, restricting a superior and unbeaten team to zero clear cut chances. We had to suffer, especially with no creative players on the field, making our counter much slower and predictable. But we could have won. Hopefully better luck next time.

PS: I usually play the game on full highlights, so It's more like a game per day. Sometimes 2 if I'm less busy :) Thanks for reading

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Didn't plan to document the game as the capital cup is not on our plans but I was pleasantly surprised. We successfully held the first half and made them frustrated enough. On the 2nd half we got our chances and one excellent strike from Saunders got in. As they are vastly superior, fielding the likes of Caulker, Sandro, Kranjkar and Charlie Austin, we didn't do any man markings or high press. We just sat back and tried our best with direct balls. Anthony Grant was a monster again, but the MoM goes to James Jones for his tidy play and assist.

On a sidenote, one more game, one more injury... Max Tootle out for 6 weeks, and things are getting very bad for us. The training workload is light. Only have one physio as the board won't allow any more.


Their only real chance came from a rebound, but not really anything very clear. Can't say they were unlucky. Great result for us.

Next up is Gillingham.

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Summary #August

(Will try a less intrusive layout this time)

So, just before the end of the month, we had to pay a visit to Priestfield, Gillingham. They came from an heavy defeat against Barnsley but undefeated so far at home. As expected they started with the standard 352 just like Swindon, where we conceaded a 1-1. They are a pretty average team. Not top5 strongest, but not top5 weakest either. Although they were seeded 24th, just one number above the bottom, which belongs to Crewe.

With that said, I didn't start with special markings this time, we went for our default strategy. And it started just fine when at the 5th minute Ajose dribbles past Gillingham's left winger with a lightning quick footwork, cuts inside and makes a stunning goal making it 1-0 for the visitors. We were superior during most of the game. Gillingham had a couple stints where they pressured us, but they didn't have much options besides long shots. The exception came at the 77th minute mark. Inman, that came as a sub, and by then responsible for marking their right wingback, was caught napping and the score was leveled. With less than 15 minutes to go, things weren't looking good, especially since Saunders was off injured as usual. We pushed the lines up because a draw would be a bitter result, given it is against a relegation candidate like us. Luck was on our side and Turton made justice with a 30m free kick. Naturally, it was a big blow on Gillingham. After fighting for 70 minutes they get the equalizer, only to see it all go to waste 7 minutes later. We kept looking for the counter and didn't give them a chance to attack only. FT 1:2 and 3 precious points for Crewe!

Month's summary

It was a surprisingly good month for us. Would never expect us to be sitting on top and with only 1 draw with 7 official games in. Eliminating Rotterham and QPR(!). We also made the treble with the monthly awards, just to show how spectacular we were. The manager of the month and both the youngest and best player awards, by Turton and Ajose, respectively.

End of August, also means transfer deadline. We concluded a deal to help fight our injury crisis and we lacked a proper DLP substitute. Alex Gilbey will be on loan till the end of the season but if he develops like I think he can, who knows.

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October's summary




Things dreams are made of.

The lads have been exceptional after the injuries mare we made it through alive. We were defeated from the League cup by a Newcastle side with no weaknesses to exploit. Still, we gave them a game and, with a bit of luck, could have discussed the result. We also went out of Johnstone's paint trophy but we were extremely unlucky against Tranmere, even though we rotated the team as we had a very tough game against Coventry a few days after. The team is in a great shape and things are looking smoother now. Finally our attackers are showing confidence and we can see it in beautiful flowing moves.

We, the last seeded team, had the toughest challenges so far, by fighting against Sheffield United. A big big club. But, it was in our home and the lads really wanted to win. The game started off with a flyer and we were in control all match. I was expecting a different approach from Sheffield, but they tried to play our tactics, with a 442 diamond instead of their typical 4141. They gave us the midfield, so we changed our typical counter game to a slower shorter passing one. And things went out beautifully.


Other than that, our 451 counter has been settling in and we never changed from counter nor our philosophy. We just dynamic tweakings during games.

I'm surprised things are workign so well, but It's mostly due some expcetional player's form. Everyone's been great but I have to highlight Grant's impressive form. He is our pillar in midfield and has a avg rate of 7.77. Just crazy. Cooper, as IF-A has 9 goals and 7 assists and just turned 18. Callum Saunders is 19 and has 8 goals in 10 games. Looking very promising.


Everyone's talking about Crewe these days. And most see us in the Championship next season. But it's too early to think of that. Our season's expection is still to avoid relegation. And the only thing in the mind of the players is the next game, against a strong Crawley side, who is 3rd right now.

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1st January summary


We knew we couldn't keep winning forever and December has been terrible for us. We lost Grant for a few weeks, who has been tremendous in front of the defence. Without him we aren't loking so solid and the last game's terrible performance from the centerbacks was a big proof of how important he is to the team. I'm not too concerned with how things are going. I don't see a reason to change the way we play since we keep dominating the games. Having more chances and conceading very little. Sadly, our attackers have been on a low, missing some shocking tap ins as well. Ajose, who has 10 goals from the right wing, was out injured for 3 weeks and Inman and Billy are just not up to the task.


We are still on top but we have to start bagging goals sooner than later if we want to keep it that way. In the last 5 league games, we only did 4 points. It's miserable. It's not acceptable even for our standards.

The performance from our attackers will need to be addressed. I will try a team meeting and see if it helps but Cooper has not been the same since a handful of PL teams have shown interest in his signing. He is developed very well and he will surely have a great future ahead of him. But he is still too young, only 18, and won't do much for him to play for the reserves of the likes of Hull or West Ham. I convinced him to stay for a bit longer but he is just not performing the way he used to.


We are still broke. Finances keep going down and as much as I would like to strengthen our team in the January window, It will only be possible as a zero wage loan. Let's see if something comes up.

Up next is Blackpool, who is sitting 3rd from the bottom of Championship and play a very simillar 451. It will be very very difficult for us but we want to go through.

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Who'se next?

Changed Cooper into a Ramdeuter and he got a rating of 9 after his terrible form lately.

We controlled the match throughout the game and deserved the win. Sadly, Jones is out 3 months... Very bad news. The lad was developing into a fine midfielder. Never puts a foot wrong and his above the standards of the league already. Hope he recovers well and his progress gets back on track. Only 18.

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Season 2014/2015 Update - March



Finally got back some form after being eliminated in the FA Cup by Arsenal, who is in great form in the PL. We lost many points and from an over 15 points difference to the 2nd team, we are now only 2 points ahead, for some games already. It has been exciting and at the same time extremely difficult, where one single mistake will cost us the leadership. It's a shame to lose so many points in the second part of the season, but credit to Bristol City who have been immense and have been stocking up wins. Oddly enough, our darkest period happened during the fitness training months and now, that training is back to normal, forwards got their form back and Saunders just did a nice brace against Rochdale last game.

Tactically, our team has grown a lot. I don't see as many mistakes from Kenny nor Cooper in the offensive transitions, it has been a case of bad luck in front of goal yes, but the fluidity is much superior now. Of course teams respect us more and we are not superstars so It's only natural to lose points. Nevertheless the lads have done brilliantly, in what is a very demanding system to play.

Take a look of Saunders second goal last game. We knew Rochdale were desperate, especially after our first goal. So we sit back and launched venomous counters. We limited them to long shots and other mistakes and in this example, you can see how Cooper, the left winger, is closing down the wing back nullifying their attacking options. With some luck, the through ball went on the back of their defence and in a couple seconds, half my team were in Rochdale's area. This is the kind of offensive transitions our system is based on.


Youth intake


Rather pleased with the intake, hopefully we got there a rb and a striker for the future.



Robert has an issue with taking decisions by himself. He still needs his mum to tell him if he should wether shoot or pass. Won't be easy to get that attribute to acceptable levels, in which it won't be an hidrance. But let's see how he develops. He has a resolute personality so tutoring him won't be critical. Also good in important games and should do a fine deep lying striker. Hopefully i can get him some game time in the main team.

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Bristol's schedulle


Yey, we won promotion. But it would be sad to lose the title after so much time at the top. Bristol City's run has been incredible, not losing for months. We got a draw at their stadium and it kept things at bay for us. However, 3 draws followed and now, they finally have their chance to overtake first place. As long as they win the match they have missing.

Board set new budgets which is ok, let's me plan on advance. With this amount it will need to be something cirurgical, unless i can really find good value in the free market.

Anyway, Bristol have it much easier and I can't see them losing points anymore. I had hopes they would lose against Sheffield utd or Oldham but they have been just too strong. They have an away game at Preston now, but we won there very easily a couple weeks ago. Everything is possible, but it will be tough. We need to keep last game's form and hope they slip.

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2 games to go. One very difficult away against Coventry, the same team that finally took points off Bristol. Need at least a draw and a win...

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Nice one in getting promotion into the Championship first season mate.

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@seastig cheers! I guess promotion was won with the fantastic first half of the season and then was a very tight battle for the title.


Season 2014\2015 - Review

Skybet League 1 Final table - Champions!

FA cup - 5th round (Arsenal)

Capital One cup - 3rd round (Newcastle)

Johnstone's Paint Throphy - 2nd round

Key players:

Callum Saunders

George Cooper

Nicky Ajose

The 3 front men, scored an impressive sum of 60 goals combined. Sadly, we decided not to pay the wages Leeds were asking for a new loan contract for Ajose. Hopefully we can find a suitable replacement in the market. Cooper is probably our best player, but our relationship broke down as he, somehow, decided i failed my promise to bring young players through the ranks that would improve first team. He should know it takes time. I'll let him go if a +5M offer comes in.

Season 2015/2016 - Planning

We started to upgrade some staff personal and will try to bring one quality scout to help strengthen the team. Right now we are too weak for the Championship. We need to understand which positions are good enough for now and which ones are critical. No matter what, we won't bring a new team, so the strengthning will be made in key areas. For instante the playmaker role is lacking since Gilbey's loan is over now. The next one will be a winger. Will try the best one i can get on this. But let's see how pre-season goes.

Other news:

-Bayern wins CL against CSKA Moscow!

-City claims PL title with Chelsea second

-Norwich, Blackburn and Leeds promoted to the PL. QPR, Burnley and Palace, down to Championship!

-Ronaldo wins Fifa Ballon d'or award.

-Mandzukic wins top marksman with 33 goals overall.

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Another one of Savage's former clubs too.

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Another one of Savage's former clubs too.
Ye, too bad they are in a terrible financial situation. I went into the interview and they asked me if I could improve their financial status and would be able to work with a very limited budget. Well I could, but I can't leave Crewe yet. They would probably go down.

Season 2015/2016 - Preview

With a very limited budget and lack of quality players available we didn't have a choice but to stick to the core group of players that brought us promotion last season. We upgraded the core sectors though. A commanding CB was a must as we were a bit literally short in the back. We got on more year on Gilbeys loan from Leicester which is great, but we needed a bit more punch to the vital playmaker role. So we splashed the cash on the Coventry star midfield John Fleck. And a few more promising signings I'll cover below.


Harry Wilson - We needed a good replacement after Ajose departure and we got this kid for the right wing role. He displays very good attributes and could be a key piece in our season. Too bad he injured himself in pre-season for 5 weeks.

Josh Harrop - Simillar player to Harry Wilson but we were really short on alternatives and especially after his injury. Harrop played for us last season and we are happy to have him back on loan from Manchester United. Capable of magical moments and consistent assists.

Alex Bruce - The upgrade we needed in the defence. Not very tall but he was the best we could find. Very strong fighter in the box, will never give a ball as lost. Just what we needed.

João Teixeira - Another free transfer but still with fitness problems. He is slowly getting back to shape and i expect him to battle with Saunders for the striker role. Yes, he has no experience in that position but that's what i bought him for. I believe he can become a very good false 9 or a deep lying striker. Hopefully he works hard to meet the high expectations I have for him.

John Fleck - Coventry star midfielder. We needed a very good counter attack launcher and we are pleased he accepted our offer. Expensive transfer for us and despite knowing he isn't the toughest player, I expect his left foot to give us many goals this season, although he didn't blend in with the squad yet.

Peter Pawlett - Aberdeen lad in all ways. Not the most professional type either, but immense talent. Only one start and 2 cameos but with 3 goals netted. Hope he can get his fitness levels on top soon enough so we can see more on that.

Vanja Savic - A backup keeper on loan from Man United. Impressive attributes for his age, promising future.


Pretty much like last season, teams are underestimating us again. We appreciate it but we also know it won't last forever. The quality gap is very big and I still don't know how we won against Watford. As shown in our transfer policy we didn't go full on and instead we opted to keep the core of the team. Our goal is to avoid relegation and consolidate the club so in a couple years we are ready for the jump. Who knows if we can't do the same as last year? I'm almost sure we won't, although I believe we can get a mid table position if we do well. But even if we got promotion, we would have no stadium, no wage budget, no staff, no fanbase ready to premier league. So we will do our best to stick around, play some good football and take the natural way of things.

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Nice result against the Vale firstly and yeah, agree that we need a few years in Championship to consolidate first before trying to get promoted.

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