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noikeee's FM16 Euro/LatinAmerican Journeyman

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noikeee's FM16 Euro/LatinAmerican Journeyman



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Hi and welcome to yet another one of my careers. You may (or may not) recognize me from any of my previous FMCU threads, as I've been around since FM11, the latest being Barcelona'ing through the lower leagues - FM15 edition. I retain a slight hint of frustration after having fallen just a little short of a Champions League trophy on that one, but I was just too tempted to pick up FM16, and I hope to eventually rectify the lack of continental trophies in this new career anyway!

This is going to be my manager - I'm playing under the character of... myself, a 29 year old Portuguese with zero experience in football:

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If you know me from previous threads, you'll know my usual way of playing is to wander around the globe through various clubs - what's typically called a "journeyman career". For this reason, I have selected a large maze of playable leagues:

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Costa Rica and Latvia are add-on leagues from this pack, which people have recommended me as the highest quality expansion leagues around. Originally my plan was to include other exotic leagues to make it a truly global journeyman, specifically I wanted Egypt, Ghana, New Zealand, Japan. However none of those leagues are out yet, and the Asian/African leagues available by default from SI are a bit uninspiring, so I decided to confine myself to Europe and Latin America.

There's a bit of method behind this madness and I've got a loosely defined plan of how I want my career to pan out:

1) I'm going to start unemployed at the very lowest level, and it's been a very long time since I tested myself in UK&Ireland, where you find some of the deepest available football pyramids in FM, so that's a logical starting point. I want something slightly more obscure than the English Conference which is very popular in these boards, hence I'll probably take the first available job in Northern Ireland or Scotland. If this fails, I need an alternate route through another tiny nation where getting a job at a small club might be easier, hence why I loaded up Latvia. If EVERYTHING fails, there's still the option of getting a job back home in Portugal.

2) and 3) It's also been a long time since I managed in either Eastern Europe or Latin America - two of my favourite parts of the globe to play FM in. Once I get some rhythm going, I would like to take at least one job in both regions as my career progresses, therefore I've added a vast amount of Eastern European and Latin American leagues to give me options.

4) Another potentially interesting intermediate step is to try to dominate a mid-level European league, not necessarily in the East, and start making some progress in the UEFA competitions - something along the lines of Austria, Greece or Belgium sounds nice.

5) The ultimate goal, however, is to win the Champions League (and maybe the Libertadores). I rarely have the patience to try to do this in a smaller nation as it takes many seasons of perseverance, so a move to one of the biggest leagues should happen by this stage.

Will it really play out like this? I have no idea. Stick around to find out...

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Career summary

Berwick Rangers (Scotland) - 2015-2016



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No achievements.

Loughgall FC (Northern Ireland) - 2016-2017

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Mid-Ulster Cup winners (2017)

Municipal Turrialba (Costa Rica) - 2017-2020

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Liga de Ascenso Apertura finalists (2019), Clausura finalists (2020)

MFK Dolný Kubín (Slovakia) - 2020-2027

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DOXXBet Liga East Group winners (2025, 2026)

DOXXBet Liga runners-up (2023), champions (2026)

Promoted from DOXXBet Liga (2026)

Slovnaft Cup finalists (2026)

Fortuna Liga runners-up (2027)

Austria Wien (Austria) - 2027-2029

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tipico-Bundesliga runners-up (2028), champions (2029)

ÖFB-Cup winners (2028)

Dundee United (Scotland) - 2029-2032



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Scottish Premiership runners-up (2030, 2031), champions (2032)

Scottish Cup finalists (2032)

Sampdoria (Italy) - 2032-?



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No achievements yet.

Full list of career results

[b]Season  League                            Cups                                        International                      Notes
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Berwick Rangers (Scotland)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
15/16   League 2 - 5th                    Cup 2nd Rd, LgCup 1st Rd, TrCup 1st Rd      ---                                Resigned at end of the season
[b]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loughgall FC (Northern Ireland)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
16/17   Championship 1 - 10th             IRC 6thR, LC 3rdR, ITC 2ndR, MUC winners    ---                                Sacked; won Mid-Ulster Cup
[b]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Municipal Turrialba (Costa Rica)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
17/18   Ascenso - 4th (1/4f) / 5th        ---                                         ---
18/19   Ascenso - 3rd (fin.) / 3rd (1/4f) ---                                         ---                                Apertura finalists
19/20   Ascenso - 5th / 4th (fin.)        Copa de Costa Rica 1st Rnd                  ---                                Clausura finalists
[b]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dolny Kubin (Slovakia)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
20/21   DOXXbet Liga - 8th / 1st (RlgSt)  Slovnaft Cup 1st Rnd                        ---
21/22   DOXXbet Liga - 3rd / 9th (PrmSt)  Slovnaft Cup 3rd Rnd                        ---
22/23   DOXXbet Liga - 5th / 2nd (PrmSt)  Slovnaft Cup 2nd Rnd                        ---                                Runners-up
23/24   DOXXbet Liga - 3rd / 6th (PrmSt)  Slovnaft Cup semi-finals                    ---
24/25   DOXXbet Liga - 1st / 4th (PrmSt)  Slovnaft Cup 1st Rnd                        ---                                East Group winners
25/26   DOXXbet Liga - 1st / 1st (PrmSt)  Slovnaft Cup finalists                      ---                                Champions, promoted, cup finalists
26/27   Fortuna Liga - 2nd                Slovnaft Cup 3rd Rnd                        ---                                Runners-up
[b]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Austria Wien (Austria)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
27/28   tipico-Bundesliga - 2nd           ÖFB-Cup winners                             Europa League 2nd Qual. Rnd.       Runners-up, cup winners
28/29   tipico-Bundesliga - 1st           ÖFB-Cup 3rd Rnd                             ChLg GroupStg, EurLg 1st KO Rnd    Champions
[b]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dundee United (Scotland)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
29/30   Scottish Premiership - 2nd        Scottish Cup 4th Rnd, League Cup 1/4 final  Europa League 3rd Qual. Rnd        Runners-up
30/31   Scottish Premiership - 2nd        Scott. Cup 1/2 final, League Cup 1/4 final  Champions League group stage       Runners-up
31/32   Scottish Premiership - 1st        Scott. Cup finalists, League Cup 1/2 final  Europa League 2nd KO Rnd           Champions, cup finalists
[b]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sampdoria (Italy)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
32/33   Serie A - 8th                     TIM Cup 3rd Qual. Rnd

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Chapter 1 - This Doesn't Look Like Scotland To Me



Tuesday, 14th of July 2015, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Scotland, uh, I mean, England

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I wanted to start at an even lower level in Northern Ireland as they have some clubs with only half a star of reputation, but no jobs were available in the Championship 2 there and I didn't want to wait by holidaying for a while - so instead I took an interview with Berwick Rangers of the Scottish League 2. The board liked me and gave me the job, and I took the plane to Scotland... only to find out that Berwick-upon-Tweed, the little town Berwick Rangers are based in, is actually the northernmost town in England. According to Wikipedia at least:

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I hope I'm not taking on a touchy subject here as Wikipedia also tells me the town has changed possession between the Kingdoms of Scotland and England several times throughout history, although given they've been a part of England since 1482, I think I'm safe from controversy. Either way what matters is that we'll be taking on teams from north of the border, and I've got expectations on my shoulder already. With a media prediction of 3rd, the board quite legitimately wants us to qualify for the promotion playoffs.

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I think I actually took over a slightly too easy job - the stadium is pretty big for this level with a capacity of 4500; and we have an incredible 186K€ in the bank. I wanted a slightly bigger challenge but I'm yet to try the FM16 match engine and might be on the back foot for a while, so I guess that evens it out.

Squad

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There's not much to work with here, unsurprisingly. Particularly annoying is that everyone's on a short-term contract. These lads are rated highest by my assistant manager:

Michael McKenna (MRL, AMRLC) - Appears to be the most creative of our players.

Darren Lavery (AML, ST) - Pacey forward.

Ewan McNeil (D/WBR) - This kid can cross a ball! And he might still improve quite a bit in the future.

Goals

I just want to get some rhythm going, start figuring out the game, and not get sacked in my first job. I'd be happy simply by meeting the board's objective of going into the playoffs - promotion in itself is not a huge priority yet.

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Good luck!
Good luck in Berwick, hope to see you in South America at some point too!

Thanks.

And Mexico.

I'm more likely to end up in Costa Rica, Uruguay or Colombia. I loaded up Mexico (and Argentina and Brazil) mostly to give me some competition in the continental trophies. But I won't rule it out yet...

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I'm going to try going to a slightly higher level of detail than my previous career when I posted only once per season, the plan is a mini update at the end of the first transfer window (this one), another after the winter transfer window, and a final season update.

2015/2016 - Pre-season update - Berwick Rangers



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Transfers

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We brought in mostly kids, the one I'm most excited about is Mark Hill (DM, MLC) on loan from Celtic, also winger Cammy Fraser, striker Thomas Carberry and centre-back Josh McArthur. I continued to be unhappy with my centre-backs even after bringing in Josh, so in deadline day I decided to pay a mighty transfer fee of 2K to bring in Steven Black who looks like a great update and possibly our best signing.

It was also interesting that a lot of clubs were interested in 2 (newgen) kids from our U20s, eventually I decided to sell Craig Ferguson for a decent fee of 10,5K€ plus, crucially, a 40% share of his next sale. He seems to have great potential and the club doesn't allow us to give out contracts longer than 1 year, so this looks like the best way we could - hopefully - cash in on him.

Squad

This means that after the transfer dealings the squad now looks like this:

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Looks too large (my squads always do) but we've got long term injuries to right-back Euan Bauld and striker Calum Helm, also I wanted to get rid of one centre-back and didn't manage to.

Fixtures

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There's not escaping one fact: from the point I was appointed (past the North Shields match), the fixture list stopped looking green and started looking red.

There are a few mitigating circumstances - we were given some truly HARD matches vs English League 1 sides Hartlepool and Bury, and Queen of the South who play 2 divisions above. In-between, we were too knackered by too many fixtures and injuries to properly contest Annan, and I was still adjusting tactics anyway. When things settled, we nearly performed a huge shock in the League Cup as we were beating Falkirk (2 divisions above us, again) 2-0 away by the 87th minute when 2 extremely late goals tied it, then they killed us in extra-time.

Then the league started. We looked the best side on the pitch in the first 3 matches and I know what I missed out tactically in the 2 draws there - which I've fixed since. It looked like finally we were on a upturn, only to absolutely crash with an awful performance vs Arbroath: 0-5 is a very harsh result, but their 3-5-2 really did seem to counter our 4-4-2ish formation perfectly.

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Summary

Bit of a rough start but I'm going to assume the huge defeat to Arbroath was an anomaly, hopefully we won't face many 3 CB formations often. Otherwise, it looks as if the team is finally starting to play some decent football, and I'm confident I can start making some progress here. We need to finish top 4 to please the board and we're hardly far from there at the moment.

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Oof. Harsh start. What seemed to be the mismatch with the 3-5-2/4-4-2?

The 3-5-2 naturally counters 4-4-2s very well in real life, no wonder it was so much more popular back in the 80s/90s when 4-4-2s were much more prevalent. A 3-5-2 gives you a spare man in the centre of defence vs the 2 forwards; and an extra man in midfield vs the 2 centre midfielders. The only area where the 3-5-2 loses out is by the flanks. There's 2 ways to do exploit that, but even then neither are very easy to do with a 4-4-2 and certainly not with my counter-attacking fluid 4-4-2 with restrained fullbacks: either you wait a bit and tell the fullbacks to go up, overlap and make it 2 vs 1 in the wings; or you tell the wide midfielders to stay up behind the backs of the opposing wing-backs, available for a quick ball - which they won't tend to do if they're wide midfielders (ML/MR) like the 4-4-2 uses, instead of modern wingers (AML/AMR).

To make it even worse, even if we managed to make it 2 vs 1 down the wings, we then don't have a decent aerial threat in the middle (apart from my new signing Thomas Carberry who is a bit of a plan B I keep on the bench) - the way we create danger is mostly by some clever movement (well, clever movement for Scottish League 2 standards) between the lines to drag out the opposition defence until the space opens up for a through ball. Very hard to do that against a 3-5-2 as essentially their wing-backs drop back, make it a back 5, and now there's a lot less space to play that ball in.

So I probably need to make a whole new tactic if I want to win these matches. However, it's really only against Arbroath and their 3-5-2 we've been found out. Ever since the Falkirk match, which was right about when I started settling on a tactic, we've been playing pretty well and seem to have an edge against the AI 4-4-2s which is what we often face. Then in the 2 matches I've played since the update and the 5-0 defeat, we faced both a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-1-1 with unchanged tactical settings, and won and dominated both matches. It's just working and I'm not sure how much effort should I be putting to invent a plan to counter the specific circumstances of a particular opponent and a very bad day.

Good luck. :thup: Hopefully you'll turn it around soon.

Thanks, we already started to do that and I'm confident we'll continue on that trend.

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2015/2016 - Mid-season update - Berwick Rangers



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Transfers

The main point of a mid-season update was to show off my transfers, supposedly, but I did, errrrm, absolutely nothing in the transfer market. I just found no player that was already available and capable of improving my squad; whilst squandering the remaining wage budget anyway, in 2 players that will arrive for next year.

Scottish Cup

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I was pretty happy to have been drawn against lower league Selkirk, and we dominated the match, creating far more chances than them, only to concede 2 stupid goals. This sparked a replay where the story ended up being exactly the same, bringing the game to penalties. They missed first and I thought we had it in the bag, only for Finn Graham and Jonny Fairbairn to then miss ours. It was a frustrating, undignified cup exit.

League 2

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Past the Arbroath 0-5 slaughter, we started September with 2 happy wins and all seemed well again. I thought I'd found the right tactical formula in my 4-4-2 (with an advanced winger up to AML and a withdrawn midfielder to DMCL). But not really, no. Despite playing well in most matches, we struggled to get any more wins and I started fiddling and fiddling with the tactics going nowhere. At a point we dropped to 7th.

I was losing all faith, and midway through the match against East Stirlingshire in December I tried something radical - bring our underperforming creative player Michael McKenna from his AML position into AMCL, effectively leaving a flank completely open. He immediately assisted our top threat Darren Lavery for a goal. This gave me an idea to go back to a 4-1-4-1ish formation, bringing McKenna into the middle permanently, introducing someone else to shut out the left flank, and getting rid of the 2nd forward who had been underperforming all year anyway (be it Blair Henderson or Thomas Carberry, either as DLF or DF). It worked magnificently with 3 wins in 4 matches. However these last 2 matches we struggled again, and I'm yet again doubting whether I've really found the magical tactical formula for my side - as the goal of a playoff spot fades away.

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Summary

It's a shame the teams ahead of us have suddenly opened a gap, as 2 matches ago we were closing in back on them, and it looked like we were just about to finally enter the top 4. Now East Fife has got a 4 point advantage, and if we're to meet the board's goal we need to cut that in the remaining 13 matches. It's not looking easy, but I reckon with so much tactical fiddling I must've learned something, and must be closer to a solution than I was at the beginning of the season.

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I appear to be screwed. Seems a very strange request however, they want 10 points from the next 5 matches when there's only 4 to be played until the season ends... I guess they're gonna sack me after the first match next season then?

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The game has gotten so much more demanding with the sack talk etc. Hope you avoid the sack!! Good luck mate!

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I got 3 defeats in 4 matches and suddenly dropped to 7th, that's why. I don't find it unrealistic I should have my job threatened, but not with a 5 matches goal when there's 4 to play. Unless we still make it to the playoffs and play a 5th match, in which case I shouldn't be sacked as we'd have met this season's goal!

I'll fill a bug report later.

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2015/2016 - End of season update - Berwick Rangers



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League 2

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It was all going so well. With the help of the revamped tactic, another 2 wins and 2 draws in February boosted our points total enough to momentarily claim 4th, the league position we needed to achieve. I really thought, yet again, I had found the right tactics.

However we were all extremely reliant on the talents of forward Darren Lavery and when he went missing for a couple of matches everything went to **** pretty quickly once again. March and April were extremely frustrating as we lost 4 almost consecutive matches, despite not being outplayed in any single one of them. The league was now super tight and we dropped to 7th, the board had had enough and gave me that ultimatum of scoring 10 points in 5 matches. Puzzlingly, we somehow ended the season on a positive note with 2 consecutive wins but it was too late and we missed the playoffs by 2 points.

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Summary

I'm afraid my first season in Scotland has been a failure, even if the margins were quite tight (it's hardly a massive shame to finish 3 points behind 3rd, which was our pre-season media prediction), and I can take a lot from what happened as a learning experience. However the board ultimatum of having to score a lot of points from few fixtures seemed to remain active for next season, so instead of having to deal with that and possibly risk get sacked, I decided to let my contract expire and find a new club earlier. Bizarrely they retained me on a rolling contract, so I had to take things in my own hands and resign from the manager post at Berwick Rangers.

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2015/2016 - Season review - Berwick Rangers



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Squad and tactics

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This was the setup I used throughout most of the 2nd half of the season, as I abandoned a lopsided 4-4-2 that wasn't working - funnily enough the very first tactic I tried had been a similar 4-1-4-1 like this which I had first scrapped after 2 friendlies. The idea of this one pictured, was to try to take the best out of our two best players (in theory) McKenna and Lavery in their best positions, whilst providing a solid base around them. It only worked to some extent, and in retrospect I regret giving so much attention to trying to maximize the performances of McKenna who was disappointing most of the season. I believe this setup also made us far too reliant on through balls to forward Lavery and right-winger Morris. When Lavery was on a bad day we struggled to score.

For the final 3 matches I tweaked things inspired by Cleon's The Art Of Counter-Attacking thread over there in the Tactics forum, so I gave my right-winger a support role, and the forward became a DLF/A (despite that role not really using Lavery's pace to its fullest). Seemed to work pretty nicely and could be a setup to repeat in the future.

Youth watch

Berwick seemed to have quite a decent youth setup for our level. These lads came out of the youth intake this year:

Cameron Scorer (ST)

Iain Bishop (MC / MR)

But the youth academy star of the season was Rob Thompson (AML, AMC) who improved dramatically and was started to be followed by some of Scotland's top tier clubs.

Top 5 players of the season

5. Michael McKenna (AMC, AML, ML) - Such a disappointment. Looked like our brightest player on paper, but I spent most of the season trying to figure out how to best play him and never reached a proper conclusion - struggled as wide midfielder, struggled as inside forward, had glimpses of promise as AMC but then was rarely consistent. Still made some impact as the player with most assists - 9.

4. Mark Hill (ML, MC, DM) - This was a very successful loan signing as this 17 year old kid contracted to Celtic shown some promise as a midfielder, then as I tweaked the tactics to push McKenna from the left wing to the middle, a spot opened up on the left and Hill seemed to interpret a defensive winger or wide midfielder role pretty well. Was just called up to Scotland's U19s and should have a bright future.

3. David Banjo (DM, MC) - One of my most reliable players, was a starter as DM all season long.

2. David Morris (MR) - Inconsistent and highly frustrating at times, but also often one of our most dangerous players that had some sparkling matches. Loved to hit home crosses delivered by our left-back. 7 goals and 5 assists.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON - Darren Lavery (ST)

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By a massive distance our most important player. His pace and goals were a lifeline all season long - he ended the division's top scorer with a total 23 goals in all competitions - but also proved a bit of a tactical problem as I was unable to get a good strike partnership going, all other strikers being a massive letdown, but was a bit unsuited to play as lone striker on his preferred role of AF/A to take use of his pace. Also highly annoying at times with his "shoots from distance" PPM.

[b]Season   League                 Cups                                       International                      Notes
**************************************************************************************************************************************************
Berwick Rangers (Scotland)
**************************************************************************************************************************************************[/b]
15/16    League 2 - 5th         Cup 2nd Rd, LgCup 1st Rd, TrCup 1st Rd     ---

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Good luck with your next job!

I'm gonna need it. I've went mad and took over something hard. Details in just a minute...

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Chapter 2 - Village of 282



Thursday, 7th of July 2016, Loughgall, Northern Ireland

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My original plan was to start in Northern Ireland not Scotland, so after a false start it made perfect sense to me to go search for a job in my intended original location. The club that decided to give me a chance is Loughgall Football Club, of NIFL Championship 1, the Northern Irish second tier.

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I didn't have any idea that Northern Irish football was so much less competitive than Scotland, but after a quick look at the clubs available it was clear that anyone outside the top tier clearly isn't on a par with even the Scottish League 2 where I was playing at, as almost every player are on non-contracts. I definitely don't mind managing at a lower level for now, particularly after an underwhelming start so it makes sense to drop down a level, but what really showed me what a massive drop this is, was a look at the village Loughgall FC are based in. According to Wikipedia, they've got a population of.... 282. My previous home Berwick has 12000 people. Amusingly Loughgall's stadium holds 3000 spectators so I presume they expect to pack it once the entire village and another 9 similar neighbouring places decide to all attend a match.

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Loughgall, despite being a club that represents the tiniest of places, have somehow been all the way up in the Northern Irish Premiership pretty recently, from 2004/05 to 2006/07. I arrive at the club after a pretty successful season as they've finished 3rd last year - the fact the job opened at all is explained because previous manager Paul Kirk retired from management. Finances aren't great at a -76K€ negative balance.

Squad

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I wanted to do something different tactically but with a surplus of wingers and fullbacks and a complete lack of strikers I doubt I'll go far from the counter-attacking 4-1-4-1, and might even unashamedly copy Cleon's famous setup from the Tactics forum. What's interesting about this squad is that not a single player is paid anything! That'll come cheap. We do have a wage budget of 4K€/month so presumably I can attract a star or two on paid contracts, but could this annoy the others? And will it prove impossible to hold on to players when everyone's out of a contract?

Our better players seem to be:

Ross Black (DL / DC) - Actually a pretty damn awesome full-back for this level. Could do with a little more pace but he isn't a million miles off the level of players I had at Berwick.

Neil Alderdice (DC) - Experienced centre-back.

Tom Carlin (M/AML) - Pretty damn good in all key areas except he can't dribble past a 5 year old. I don't think I've ever had a winger that can't dribble. Must teach him "knocks ball past opponent" PPM as soon as possible.

Goals

The board expects a top half finish. I might've just flopped in a previous job, but that's a very unambitious goal that I'm more than confident I can deliver. There's also a ton of cups - Irish Cup, League Cup, Intermediate Cup and Mid-Ulster Cup, what the hell? I'm not sure how that works, but what I really want from this season and from my stay in Loughgall is to get some momentum going into my career and start moving forward.

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2016/2017 - Pre-season update - Loughgall FC



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Transfers

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I was under the impression we had a budget to sign some players on contracts, but turns out most of my wage budget is to pay... myself, the staff and the fees per appearance of all players on non-contracts, which appear to be the biggest deal breakers in negotiations. I also believe I made a big mistake on signing assistant manager Trevor McLernon on a massive 1,6K€/month so between Trevor and myself we're both taking almost the entire wage budget.

This has made negotiations with players difficult, and we couldn't avoid losing midfielder/winger Gareth Thommons to Carrick as I couldn't give him the appearance fee he wanted. We're also on the verge of losing centre-back Ricky Copeland which would be a big blow. But we also managed to sign 5 guys that I'm pretty happy with so far. Both wide midfielder Cathair Friel and striker Chris Trussell scored on their debuts, and Barrie Kelly has looked dangerous going forward from a DR position; with Matt McManus also having a decent first few matches as DM. Midfielder Stuart Muldrew is probably the least exciting of all 5 but adds squad depth.

Squad

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The squad now looks more balanced, but it remains to be seen if we'll manage to hold on to all players as there are no transfer windows at this level, anyone can be grabbed at any time.

Fixtures

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I'm quite happy with what has been a very promising start. I tweaked my formation dropping the AMC to MC making a very standard 4-1-4-1, and it has gone to plan exactly from the beginning. We've been grinding out results every single match, and whilst we're very restrained going forward - apart from the full-backs which I tell to bomb upfield as often as possible - we've still managed to score in almost every match. The curious thing is that if you don't count friendlies not a single player has scored twice, with the goals coming from all over the pitch. This is usually a good sign (we're not over-reliant in one player), and these results have put us in an early lead of the table.

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Summary

Provided we don't lose our key players and the club doesn't go into financial meltdown (things aren't looking great there), there's no reason we can't keep going on good form and get a great result in the league this year. I'll just whisper this very quietly as it's still early days, but I'd love to get promoted this year already.

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2016/2017 - Mid-season update - Loughgall FC



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Transfers

(Transfers)

The hiring of an expensive assistant manager has certainly come back to haunt me, as now we're way over the wage budget and when the other teams come knocking for our players we cannot offer them better terms; neither can we find many players willing to join us. We were kind of lucky that the only players that left us during this period were star centre-back Neil Alderdice and his backup (who also played often at DM) Kevin Anderson. I searched as much as I could for replacements and the best I could get were youngsyers Jack Martin and Dean Browne. Not great but that'll have to do.

Championship 1

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Geez, I take back completely what I had said about the team seemingly playing well under my counter-attacking setup. We just forgot how to score at all, and this put us in a hell of a lot of trouble. 2 wins in September/October slightly masked what otherwise has been an abysmal season, where we play some of the dullest football ever seen and don't seem to have any clear idea on how to reach the opposing area. Slight changes coming into late November/December finally gave us another win, a cracking 4-2 at Dergview but it's clearly far too late to rescue the season.

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Irish League Cup

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The first of 4 cups. We did well vs fellow Championship 1 side Dundela, which put us in the next round against one of the biggest teams in Northern Ireland, Linfield. It's telling that this was pretty much our finest performance of the season so far - a defeat. We took Linfield to extra-time but then they finally nicked a goal.

Intermediate Cup

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The least important cup, but this was still an embarrassment. Lower league Dunmurry somehow scored a goal with their only shot but we still beat them with a late goal; then vs H & W Welders from the Championship 2, they took us to extra time, then they scored, we still equalised but they beat us on penalties.

Mid-Ulster Cup

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Craigavon were very easy opposition, but we still benefitted a lot from possibly the greatest moment in Cathair Friel's footballing career so far. The wide midfielder had an insanely good match scoring 4, including even a cracking curling long shot, as he normally hits those 50 yards away from goal. This puts us in the next round vs Armagh which should make for a close match.

Irish Cup

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We were uninspired vs Desertmartin, but somehow still beat them. Dollingstown are from the Championship 2 and we should be favourites there.

Summary

Wow, this turned into quite the nightmare pretty quickly. With my best players at the risk of being poached and no budget to replace them, and horrible football and results, there's a pretty good chance I won't be here in Northern Ireland for long. My job already doesn't feel very stable, 9th isn't good enough to appease the board, hopefully in the remaining 6 fixtures we can still recover some ground.

I've been spending a lot of time in the tactics forum and getting some advice, and thanks to those changes if we count the cups we've just gotten 3 wins in the last 4 matches so it's not all negatives (and we're still competing in 2 cups), but I've had far too many false starts in this career already, to take any improvements for granted.

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This reminds me of something... I got this message with only 2 games to go again, too.

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2016/2017 - End of season update - Loughgall FC



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Transfers

(Transfers)

Over the course of the final few months of the season, we lost backup left-back Ryan Moffatt, backup forward Anto Burns, and youth player Steven Shannon. I brought in young centre-back Garreth Daly on loan as a desperate measure to add some squad depth, but he never got to play.

Championship 1

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We really weren't improving much at all, and the end of the season was another sorry run of bore draws, cagey defeats and a continued serious lack of goals. After the Dundela defeat and with 2 games to go, the board gave me that ultimatum of 8 points in 5 matches. I got 1 single point in those 2 and I thought I was clear for this season, but then... the league splitted.

Yeah I hadn't really read the league rules and was caught by surprise by that, as we now had an extra 5 matches to play. Bafflingly we actually did alright vs Larne and Distillery and now a win vs Knockbreda would give me enough points to save my job. And we were the better side, went ahead twice, only for Knockbreda to tie again on the 79th minute and push me back to unemployment.

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Irish Cup

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This was the heaviest defeat of all season (for how bad we were all year, we did succeed in not conceding many goals) as Carrick from the Northern Irish Premiership proved far too strong and clinical for us. We still did alright in this competition, however.

Mid-Ulster Cup

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... but not as well as in this one. An early single goal by Trussell vs Armagh put us in a semi-final vs Glenavon from the Premiership. That was supposed to be an impossible opponent for us, but not only we held on for 60 minutes, Trussell scored again to tie the match a little later, and we held on again all the way to penalties. We scored all 4 and were through to the final, somewhat surprisingly.

In the final we were to meet our parent club Warrenpoint and again we were underdogs, of course. But it didn't look like it on the pitch with a very divided match. A crazy spell of goalscoring saw all 4 goals of this match within 10 minutes in the second half, but then things settled and it all went to penalties again. And again, we scored all 5, whilst Warrenpoint had missed one of their first. LOUGHALL LIFT THE MID-ULSTER CUP! This is a bit of a minor, regional cup, and Loughgall had already won it twice in the past (2004 and 2008), but it's still nice to win it, particularly after knocking out 2 teams from an higher division.

Summary

The sacking was far from unexpected, but I really couldn't see it coming that we'd still lift a trophy this season. This makes it a positive end to my career here... right? Right?

I haven't really decided what am I going to do next, but looking at the available lower reputation leagues it means I'm probably stuck between Scotland and Northern Ireland again, retreat back home to Portugal (which is slightly boring as I've done it so many times in the past in other careers), or try an overly wacky league system in Costa Rica. There would also be the option of Latvia but the Latvian 2nd tier is bugged as all the clubs don't hire managers. As I'm struggling at the moment and need more employment avenues, I've decided to add the Belgian second and third tiers too; plus the Icelandic league system, although the later only comes active in next November - I'm in April and won't be waiting that long for a job. So odds are I'll find myself in Belgium but don't rule out all the other options.

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2016/2017 - Season review - Loughgall FC



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To take all of these screenies I actually had to load up a savegame from right before the final match in which I got sacked. In all my FMCU careers I don't think I've ever had to do this before, which must be a good sign that I don't get sacked often!

Squad and tactics

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This is what I ended the season with, after tons of advice in the Tactics Forum. Didn't seem to help much...

I'm probably done with counter-attacking for a while and might try something more proactive in my next job.

Youth watch

It's not like I got to take much use of them but we did get 4 players in the youth intake with 3 stars or more of potential:

David Moran (AMC / MC)

Graham Maher (GK)

Kevin Stewart (MC / DM)

Steven Williamson (MLC)

Top 5 players of the season

5. Chris Trussell (ST) - Was absolutely dreadful for most of the season, yet still by a large margin our better forward - speaks a lot of our other options... Still ended up as top scorer (9) and with most assists (5).

4. Cathair Friel (MR) - Mildly anonymous, then somehow scored 4 goals in a single crazy Mid-Ulster Cup match, then broke a leg.

3. Tom Carlin (ML) - Probably would've been about 300 times better if he was actually capable of dribbling at all, but still had an okay season.

2. Matthew McMahon (MC) - The only part of our squad that actually looked strong was our pair of midfielders and McMahon held a place in there most of the season.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON - Stuart Muldrew (MC)

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I'm sorry I only found out about his abilities late in the season (he didn't look that good on paper), as he ended up by quite a margin our player with the highest average rating. I suppose this is because he passes the ball well.

[b]Season  League                 Cups                                        International                      Notes
**************************************************************************************************************************************************
Berwick Rangers (Scotland)
**************************************************************************************************************************************************[/b]
15/16   League 2 - 5th         Cup 2nd Rd, LgCup 1st Rd, TrCup 1st Rd      ---                                Resigned at end of the season
[b]**************************************************************************************************************************************************
Loughgall FC (Northern Ireland)
**************************************************************************************************************************************************[/b]
16/17   Championship 1 - 10th  IRC 6thR, LC 3rdR, ITC 2ndR, MUC winners    ---                                Sacked; won Mid-Ulster Cup

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Blimey, let's hope you find a decent chairman to work for in your next job!

I don't have anything to complain about the Loughgall chairman. If anything I'm surprised I didn't get sacked earlier. This club finished 3rd last season, I reckon it's more than fair I get sacked when I'm 10th and still in danger of relegation with 2 matches to go...

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Chapter 3 - Football Next To The Volcano



Friday, 21st of July 2017, Turrialba, Costa Rica

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With no jobs available in Belgium, I decided to go for the obscure, wacky league format. I took the plane across the Ocean to take charge of Asociación Deportiva Municipal Turrialba, of the Costa Rican second tier, the Liga de Ascenso. I looked up a picture of the city but Turrialba is better known not as the name of the club or the city, but as the name of the nearby volcano that erupted as recently as this year.

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This appears to be a midtable club, as over the last 2 seasons, with the Apertura/Clausura type seasons here (even at the second tier level!) we have finished 7th, 5th, 6th and 5th. I guess I'm aiming at a finish position between 5th and 7th then...

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Finances are actually pretty healthy as we're only using about 25K€/month of our 44K€/month wage budget. This is a very large increase on my previous Northern Irish budget of 4K€/month!! We're also professional, not semi-pro like Loughgall were, and the stadium is also pretty nice with a 3500 spectator capacity. Quite frankly this all is a considerable step up from Loughgall, despite this club sounding very obscure.

Squad

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What isn't a step up is the squad. Very few of our players are aged over 20, and not many of them are any good. I foresee a lot of dealing in the transfer market...

Our finest stars according to the new assistant manager I just hired:

Juan Santamaria (DC) - First thing I did was take the captaincy off him, which probably wasn't a great start, as after hiring the assistant manager I then realized he's the highest rated player in my team.

Fabricio Hidalgo (ST) - Our best forward is 16 years old!! Quite a pretty good player actually.

Bryan Cordero (GK) - Good goalkeeper.

Goals

I just don't want to get sacked, the first 2 seasons were painful enough, I need some stability. I'll be starting from scratch however, as I'm tired of dull counter-attacking tactics (which weren't working) and am planning to try some sort of proactive 4-2-3-1 instead. Might backfire spectacularly or just be what I'm missing.

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2017/2018 - Pre-season update - Municipal Turrialba



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Transfers

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The midfield was clearly the area we were lighter in with no proper players, so we brought in Portuguese MC Bruno Taborda (my nationality helped there), plus Kenneth Gamboa and Luis Salazar on loan. Meanwhile Dennis Sequeira was a pretty big boost to our defence, whilst we also picked up an extra winger for each side: Jason Salazar covers the left and Randall Acosta the right. All 6 seem quality players.

Squad

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I'm pretty damn happy with this now, it's not a Champions League winning squad but it's well balanced with plenty of options without going over the top (quite a few of these players are third choice youngsters).

Fixtures

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The friendlies were mildly promising but I set them up vs minor sides so couldn't take many conclusions from that. Specially since we got a very tough calendar to start with - the first 3 matches were against 3 of the 4 strongest teams in our group, and there's a very large gulf in quality between them and us. So it wasn't that surprising to lose the first 2 matches heavily, although we got an excellent result at Cariari Pocosi. That set us up nicely for the following 2 fixtures against easier opposition, that we dominated and won whilst playing some fun attacking football.

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Summary

I don't know if we can hold on to this form, but at least what we're trying to do now is a hell of a lot more fun to watch than my previous tactics, so I'm pretty excited. Finishing 4th as we stand right now would be amazing, as the team hasn't done that in the previous 2 years and it would give us a ticket to the playoffs.

Realistically, even if the tactics work consistently, it's going to be a very hard long term project to try to get out of this league. Let me give you an explanation of the league format: it's got Apertura / Clausura type seasons so that decides 2 champions per year, on each half-season. However, it's also divided into Group A and Group B. As the groups finish, the top 4 teams of each group qualify into the playoffs, which decide the overall champion for the Apertura / Clausura half-season.

However, imagine we win the overall Apertura, we'd still need to go into the Grand Final to face the Clausura champion, and only the winner of that gets promoted, a single team going up to the top division (there's no Grand Final when the same team wins both Apertura and Clausura). A tremendous task when plenty of teams in both our group and the other group are much stronger than us. Also let's hope all of this actually works as intended, as I'm always wary of bugs in these edited-in leagues...

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2017/2018 - Mid-season update - Municipal Turrialba



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Transfers

(Transfers)

The transfer window shuts down very late here in Costa Rica and we hired another 4 players throughout September: defenders Henry Espinoza (my most expensive signing yet, at a 5K€ transfer fee), Miguel Chacón and Juan Pablo Vargas; and midfielder Sergio Bejarano.

Liga de Ascenso - Apertura - Group B

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The trend of beating the smaller sides more or less comfortably; and nicking a point here and there vs the bigger sides continued. There was a very clear gap between these two packs of teams, and we soon found ourselves among the big ones fighting for a playoff spot. We were holding on to 4th with a close challenge from Escazu, and we visited them for a big decisive match. It ended up being our finest performance of the season, a magnificent 4-0 win, and we qualified for the playoffs right there with 2 matches to go.

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Liga de Ascenso - Apertura - Playoffs

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Having qualified in 4th, we were to face in the quarter-finals the winners of Group A, Jicaral, which looked like tough opposition on paper. They fielded a defensive flat 4-5-1 formation that completely frustrated us for both legs, these being the only competitive matches of the season so far we failed to score. This didn't kill Jicaral's own offensive threat as they took their chances well, and their qualification for the semi-finals was never in doubt as the far superior side.

Summary

I'm very happy with our performance in the Apertura - looking at reputation, budgets and the media prediction we should've been together with the lower half of teams, not mixing it up with the biggest sides. Qualifying for the playoffs is a feat I'm proud of. This raises the bar for the Clausura however, can we qualify for the playoffs again, and can we go further than the quarter-finals?

Nevertheless what's clear is that this is already going way better than Scotland or Northern Ireland. I'm enjoying playing this, and that explains why I've posted like 5 updates in 2 days this weekend!

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2017/2018 - End of season update - Municipal Turrialba



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Transfers

There was no further transfer activity as I decided not to do anything on the Winter transfer window.

Liga de Ascenso - Clausura - Group B

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After a boring December in which we were out of the playoffs and spent the month playing friendlies instead, the league resumed in January with the start of Clausura. The fixture list was the same as before so we had to start with a string of tough matches again, and 2 defeats put us on the back foot. Also our top forward José Antonio Pérez picked up a long term injury and that made things difficult in theory. Thankfully we did great against the smaller sides with 4 wins in a row, and were soon back into playoff contention just like we had been in Apertura.

However there was one new development in the league this time: the emergence of another surprise side, Generacion Saprissa, who kept up with the lead pack making it harder for us to break into the top 4 and the playoffs. They beat us in February and that definitely was a set back, although an unexpected win at AS Puma as Pérez returned from injury, gave us surprise points. We recovered with another 3 wins in 4 as we went yet again through the easier fixtures, and it set up a thrilling final match. Heading into this Generacion Saprissa were 3rd on 27 pts, we were 4th on 26, and AS Puma were 5th on 25. AS Puma had an easy match hosting Cofutpa though, so effectively it was a head-to-head contest between us and Gen. Saprissa for the final playoff spot.

We needed a win and promptly opened up an advantage twice in the first half, with former Gen. Saprissa player Roy Sanchez doing a great revenge act on his previous club with a goal and a assist. We were winning 2-1 at half-time. However to my dismay they turned it around with 2 goals in quick sucession in the 2nd half. Amazingly this was still good enough for us as Puma were surprisingly losing at home to Cofutpa, but they also turned their game around with 2 goals, and put us out of the playoffs, as we failed to turn up in the 2nd half in our own match.

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In the joint league table, one that sums all points from Apertura and Clausura, and puts teams from Group A and Group B together, we came 7th out of 18 teams. This is used only to decide which team gets relegated, and it's safe to say we were never in danger as we finished 44 points ahead of poor Cofutpa.

Summary

I am a little disappointed we were unable to qualify into the playoffs this time, but this was still a very positive season as we spent the whole year mixing up with teams that are far better than us. If I can start improving my team in the transfer market, or wait for all my many young players to develop, I see no reason why we can't start seriously bidding for promotion, although the promotion playoff system is brutal and unpredictable.

I'm loving it in Costa Rica and ideally would like to settle here for a while, maybe some 3 to 5 seasons, as I've had a far too hectic start to my career with 3 clubs in 3 years. However there's a very big problem brewing - there's a bug in my game and I'm unable to sign any scouts (all want too high wages), whilst my chief scout's contract is about to run out and he doesn't want to renew. Sadly this wasn't fixed with the latest patch. I'm trying to get around it by telling my chairman to hire staff, if that doesn't work I might have to leave the club as I can't imagine playing without scouts these days is much fun.

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2017/2018 - Season review - Municipal Turrialba



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Squad and tactics

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This is obviously an immensely different setup from the ones I used at Berwick and Loughgall - it's far more attacking, and far more fun to watch. I'm currently preparing a mega lenghty thread in the tactics forum that will explain it in loads more detail, so I'll keep it to there instead of flooding this thread with more tactical talk.

Youth watch

I got an "amazing" youth intake with loads of players that had 3, 4 or more stars of potential, but forgive me for being a little skeptical that they're all going to be world beaters, maybe just maybe this is because my club is so crap everyone looks a potential star by comparison. Here's the better guys that were spawned:

Alejandro Navarro (MC / ML)

Anthony Mora (GK)

Esteban Jara (M/AMR)

Joshua Hernandez (DLC)

Roberto Arias (DC / DR)

William Castro (AMR / AML)

We already play plenty of extremely young players in our main team, of course. The obvious star is 18 year old striker Jose Antonio Perez as you're about to see, but looking at our usual starting 11 there's another 5 players under the age of 21: defenders Dennis Sequeira (on loan) and Miguel Chacón; midfielders Luis Salazar (on loan) and Jorge Solano; and winger Bernal Drummond. There is quite a lot of potential in our team...

Top 5 players of the season

6. Bernal Drummond (AML) - Sometimes I pick 6 players even though this is top 5, because I feel I either had a 6th amazing player, or someone that wasn't that great but still contributed a lot and therefore deserves a mention. This is the latter. I honestly don't think he's a great player at all, but his high-up positioning resulted in goals - 9 goals, plenty of them pretty important.

5. Henry Espinoza (DL) - Whilst he's tasked with a very offensive role, I don't feel he contributed that much in attack directly, with only 4 assists. However, he was by a large distance the guy in my defence that got higher ratings, as I found him very reliable, much more so than some of the other jokers.

4. Jorge Solano (AMC) - Most of the season I couldn't decide between him and the other AMC Daniel Fernandez but he ended on a run of great form and made the place his own.

3. Bruno Taborda (MC) - A great signing from my home nation Portugal as he justified the high wages we're paying him. Had some amazing controlling performances from midfield as I played him most often as a deep-lying playmaker (but sometimes also as CM/S).

2. José Antonio Pérez (ST) - It was almost a coin toss between him and Sanchez as to who had to be player of the season, as both were magnificent. I started the season expecting my other forward Fabricio Hidalgo to excel, but instead Pérez soon claimed the place his own and scored a ton of goals in Apertura. Sadly he picked up two serious injuries throughout Clausura and that kept his numbers lower, as I felt he could've scored more than the 17 goals he did.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON - Roy Sanchez (MR)

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An amazing return of 16 assists as Roy barged past defenders with his incredible pace and delivered perfect crosses all year long. I installed the new patch with some 5 or 6 matches to go and it did seem like it wasn't as easy for him to gain the byline anymore, but he still made 3 assists and 2 goals in this period so I can only expect him to remain at this level for next season. What a class act and I don't care that he's only ranked at 2 stars by my staff, apparently.

[b]Season  League                            Cups                                        International                      Notes
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Berwick Rangers (Scotland)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
15/16   League 2 - 5th                    Cup 2nd Rd, LgCup 1st Rd, TrCup 1st Rd      ---                                Resigned at end of the season
[b]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Loughgall FC (Northern Ireland)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
16/17   Championship 1 - 10th             IRC 6thR, LC 3rdR, ITC 2ndR, MUC winners    ---                                Sacked; won Mid-Ulster Cup
[b]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Municipal Turrialba (Costa Rica)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[/b]
17/18   Ascenso - 4th (1/4f) / 5th        ---                                         ---

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My chairman has hired not 1, but 3 (!!) scouts. So it's safe to say I'll be here in Turrialba for quite a while longer. :)

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2018/2019 - Pre-season update - Municipal Turrialba



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Transfers

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We primarly reinforced defence and our attacking midfielders. At the back, Dennis Sequeira joined permanently after being here last year on loan. He's also joined by U20 international Luis Luna, both had to be given generous contracts to be persuaded, and I expect them to fight for places. Whereas right-back Alejandro Camacho is more of a backup for Miguel Chacón.

After being unhappy with Bernal Drummond's performances as AML, I have brought in two alternatives in Randall Conejo and Eduardo Jiménez. The latter can also play AMC and has started with some pretty spectacular performances already, including a brace on his debut match. Kenneth Cerdas should bring serious competition to Jorge Solano for the AMC position; whereas I also picked up an excellent MR in Andrey Peña. He will have problems grabbing a place in the side as his position is held by player of the season Roy Sanchez, but I couldn't pass up a great player like that. My final signing was backup keeper Johan Guimarães.

We kept hold of all important players despite plenty of interest in striker Fabricio Hidalgo, but we got a new club record sale at an almighty 1,5K€ for disappointing winger Randall Acosta who I had hired last season.

Squad

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An enormous squad as I can't help myself to stack up on players, like always. This however pictures all 30 registered players - the reality is that quite a few aren't expected to play often, and will feature for the Reserves or U20s far more. Also I do need to seriously invest in backups as sometimes we play 2 league matches per week.

I'm slightly disappointed with my upgrades, some of my new players are nice but I don't feel like they've got that much talent to really push us to the next level.

Fixtures

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Pre-season was underwhelming. Losing to Liberia and Herediano was unsurprising as these are teams from a higher division, but most of our matches we seemed to win by dull 1-0s without displaying decent football, and some of them were against really poor opposition. We even lost to lower league Orión, and the only nice performance was in the final match vs El Roble where even then our defence decided not to turn up.

The league started with another defeat, to Generacion Saprissa, but we had dominated that match and I felt we were highly unlucky. Things got much better with an unexpected win over Puma; and then we've scrapped another 3 wins by the slightest of margins despite neither of my forwards Pérez or Hidalgo turning up at all yet. I'm not sure I'm fully convinced by the performances, but this has put us in a very nice early 2nd place at the moment.

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Summary

I wish I could file an official complaint to the Costa Rica Football Federation - we have been given a silly tough group for this season. Champions Limón are gone as they were promoted, but they were replaced by relegated Universidad de Costa Rica who are now like the league's bogeyman, much superior to everyone else. Meanwhile, all the other strong teams have remained whilst Brujas and Barrio México who are also pretty strong, have switched over from Group A. The only good news is that Aserri who are crap have also switched over, but we still could have done with the team that got promoted from Lower League instead of them.

This all makes this group much harder than last year's in theory, so I expect having a difficult time making it to the playoffs. However, to my surprise, we've started quite brightly. Who knows whether we can really keep up like this?

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Glad you're staying in Costa Rica! Good luck, next season!

Thank you sir. I'm glad I'm staying in Costa Rica too, really enjoying this league at the moment. :)

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Good luck tackling that tough group.

I played a few more matches beyond the update last night, and it's all going way better than expected. Think we're gonna make the playoffs and I'm pretty damn happy with that.

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2018/2019 - Mid-season update - Municipal Turrialba



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Transfers

This year I did my homework early and sealed all my transfers way before the transfer window shut at the end of September.

Liga de Ascenso - Apertura - Group B

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Our excellent start to Apertura ended predictably against Universidad de Costa Rica, a considerably superior side. What I didn't expect was to lose again immediately after vs Aserri, as they successfully frustrated us with a defensive performance. Still, we bounced back from that setback with a string of 3 wins in 4, taking advantage of some of our easier fixtures, and were perhaps a little unfortunate not to nick a win vs Puma as well. However, we were riding on our luck vs Escazu where a late comeback was made of a long shot and then a cracking way for youth product Alejandro Navarro to make his first team debut, by scoring the winning goal on the 89th minute from the penalty spot!

That was the first sign we were losing steam, and it was followed by a pretty bad run of 3 defeats where we really were far from our best. Most teams started to park the bus against us, and we didn't know how to handle it. Thankfully despite all that, we were still on a playoff position thanks to a large points advantage we had opened up earlier. The following fixture was as underwhelming as wins ever go, despite the weakness of Aserri we only beat them with a 80th minute goal again from our kid Alejandro Navarro, and that sealed qualification for the playoffs. I was unconvinced and a final day defeat vs Barrio México, even if I rotated the squad that day, did little to diffuse my lack of confidence in my team's performances.

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(notice 4th place Puma also qualified for the playoffs, but this screenshot was taken later when they had already been knocked out)

Liga de Ascenso - Apertura - Playoffs

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I wasn't very happy to know our quarter-final opponents were Jicaral just like last year's Apertura playoffs, when they beat us pretty convincingly. However, things went differently. To my surprise despite our recent poor form, we dominated the first match, and opened up a nice 2 goal advantage - only to concede a late goal. We didn't do as well away at their field, being a bit on the back foot most of the match, and eventually conceded one from a corner in the 2nd half, which tied the score on aggregate. However for once things went our way when substitutes Try Scott and Daniel Fernandez combined on a counter-attack for the winner (on aggregate) in the 90th minute, and we were through.

Cariari Pocosi were hardly nicer opponents next, they have given us a lot of very difficult games in the league. And under the watch of a record attendance of 949 people, they started the 1st leg strong, scoring first, but we turned it around superbly with 3 goals still in the first half, with even misfiring striker Fabricio Hidalgo finally getting his first of the season. The second half was still hectic with another goal for each team, and we brought a 2 goal lead for the trip to Cariari. And the tie was as good as over as soon as my winger Andrey Peña and my inside forward Eduardo Jiménez combined with a goal and a assist each. There was another goal for each team in the 2nd half, but it mattered little as we pulled another great win and were surprisingly through to the playoff final!!

The bar was raised again, as we met Universidad de Costa Rica, the theoretical clear best team of the division, who had beaten us twice in the 2 matches we'd played them. We wouldn't start particularly well again, as we struggled to create any danger at all in the 1st leg at home, and couldn't help conceding once as Universidad once again proved superior. The return leg wasn't much different as Universidad managed to combine attacking power with a very defensively resilient 4-5-1 formation, and ran deserved 2-0 winners, clinching the Apertura title.

Summary

I am delighted to have come as far as the final. It was a success to have made it to the playoffs in the first place, and I never imagined I could've gone another 2 rounds further. However that final was a reality check, that we've got a long way to go if we're to ever beat a team like Universidad de Costa Rica over 2 legs. I'm also slightly concerned about our form pre-playoffs as we were poor for a while, but that's nitpicking probably. Time to regroup and try to repeat all of this in Clausura next.

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