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[FM13] Second Star to the Right...

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Sept 2045

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It's been a hectic start to Kent life, with midweek league games abounding. I expected quite a few of those with a 46-match league season but not quite to this extent. I didn't really have performance expectations, only knowing that the board wanted a top half finish. The DoF (who was redundant at Milan, as I vetoed every move he tried to make) added a couple of loanees, the right-winger Gibbs (I'll resist NCIS references) from Watford and a short-term first choice keeper McShane from Crystal Palace, both only until January.

I had a feeling we had a decent bit of quality for this level so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when we won 6 of our first 7 matches, and a promotion challenge was definitely on the table. However we struggled after that, and we only had ourselves to blame. We should definitely managed far more than 2 points from the following 5 matches with the chances we had. It was a relief when Mansfield broke twice to give us the win at Harrogate, especially as we'd had them on the ropes for the entire half. That puts us back in the playoff places having only just dropped out and if we're a bit adrift of the automatic place I at least have my eye on the playoffs for nowm though there's a not of a very busy season left to play.

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Gold Cup 2045

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I think I forgot this before. The Mexican senior team won the Confederations Cup earlier in the summer (beating England in the final) and the B team claimed the Gold Cup. Canada are runners-up yet again (and have been semi-finalists a number of times as well) after beating the USA but remain empty handed.

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Dec 2045

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Very frustrating indeed. After defeat to MK Dons (as close as you can possibly get to a 3-0 loss when you really should have won) I lost patience with on-loan keeper McShane, which wouldn't help us up front but could stop is from being punished as much and our permanant keeper Ludlam has been more solid. We immediately started to fire again, even briefly touching top after beating Havant and Waterlooville.

However much like after our strong start to the season, as soon as I was considering us to be strong promotion contenders, we suddenly developed a fundamental flaw and dropped down. Last time it was our finishing, this time we just can't hold a lead, including in top of the table 6-pointers (at the time) against Forest Green and Hyde, and at the moment we are in a fight to make the playoffs having set our sights even higher earlier.

In the cups, we had Eastleigh first and turned around a poor start to win, before having a decent showing at Watford (even having a goal disallowed which would have given us the lead). In the FA Trophy we beat fellow BSP sides Bristol City and Barnet (though only after a dull replay where we suddenly came to life in extra time), setting up a last 16 tie with Hayes and Yeading, our first cup match against lower division opposition.

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Seems your side is teasing you with some good runs and getting your hopes up only to start letting you down again, hopefully they get themselves in to gear for the last 19 games or so 

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On 16/08/2017 at 21:19, Dexter_Morgan said:

Seems your side is teasing you with some good runs and getting your hopes up only to start letting you down again, hopefully they get themselves in to gear for the last 19 games or so 

So far they're not. Occasionally you get a feeling that a team is looking a lot better than its results are showing and this is one of those times. 

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Interesting change of settings! 

I think it was the right time to leave for new grounds. Watching you work your way up with Gillingham should be interesting.

 

But what about Skjold now? :O 

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4 hours ago, Benjoe said:

Interesting change of settings! 

I think it was the right time to leave for new grounds. Watching you work your way up with Gillingham should be interesting.

 

But what about Skjold now? :O 

It may not be going according to plan right now but it's definitely the different challenge I was after.

As for Skjold, I must admit that has been on the back burner for a while. Here is the final table last season and how it stands now...

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They're just about  clinging on to survival, but it's going to be hard to do anything more. They haven't quite risen as far as I was imagining before pulling the plug on the money I was able to give them. I was planning on giving them a big payment (maybe 30M or something) to tide them over before I left but I didn't have the opportunity because of how suddenly Gillingham came up, so they're really on their own from this point on.

They have considerably improved their facilities (and reputation) but that's it. They're not awash with money, have the same small stadium, and their manager took the job the last time they were getting relegated from the Second Division East. They really need to upgrade on him but their success makes him safe, no other club will be interested in him and he's still young (they were his first club) so they won't be getting rid of him through retirement any time soon.

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On the bright side, you're only one point behind Blackburn. I bet Alan Shearer and co never saw that coming back in 94/95.

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On 21/08/2017 at 01:31, noikeee said:

On the bright side, you're only one point behind Blackburn. I bet Alan Shearer and co never saw that coming back in 94/95.

No (and we're actually ahead at the time of writing) , especially looking up what was happening with Gillingham back then and they were struggling to survive in the football league both on and off the pitch. Mind you that was 50 years ago by this point. ;)

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May 2046

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This is probably the most frustrating season of the career so far. Expectations were set by a strong early start which seemed to suggest a promotion push but that fell apart quickly. At first we were maybe a little unlucky that we couldn't turn chances into goals and points but as we sunk deeper in a mid-season run of just a single league win in 11 we turned into a genuine mess. The FA trophy proved to be a welcome distraction for a while as we had a run to the quarter-finals, losing to eventual league winners Northampton.

Before the first cup game against Northampton, I decided to switch a few things up tactically. The winger was now a winger again rather than an advanced playmaker (radical I know) while also trying to keep things a bit more organised and simple. It didn't help in the FA trophy but there was a clear improvement in the league. After wins against Dartford and Northampton, only a stoppage time equalizer at Ebbsfleet prevented us from eliminating the gap to the playoff places altogether in just 3 matches, which in hindsight was a sign of things to come.

Even after a narrow defeat at MK Dons (where a penalty miss summed up the fact that we should feel disappointed at now having grabbed a draw), we looked to have stopped our previous nosedive down the table, getting some solid results without looking spectacular. Unfortunately after 'failing to take our chances' and 'not holding on to leads' earlier in the season, we could add 'conceding late goals' (including winners) to the list of flaws that have cost us more points this season than I'd care to count, and we ended up collapsing under the weight of incompetence, having otherwise managed to stay just a few points off 5th.

There are three players who come out of this season with any credit, Sparks, Charlton and Byrne. The rest were prone to either shocking inconsistency or serious runs of bad form. Things were especially bad in goal where McShane was eventually dropped, then his loan spell expired. Ludlam looked more solid for a while but he too proved to be so costly that I started to wonder why I even bothered with a keeper (well, laws of the game aside). The crowning glory came at Eastleigh when a pathetic dive for a ball caused him to helpfully push it at the feet of an Eastleigh player who must have thought Christmas must have come early.

I didn't expect an easy ride at Gillingham, and maybe if we had been in a similar position most of the season rather than have that deceptively good start I wouldn't be so annoyed but we should easily have been a lot higher. Only near the end did performances really dip again to match the results. Sometimes you rack up the wins without looking convincing, other times you look decent enough on the pitch but can't make it count, and this the most extreme example of that I remember seeing. It still counts as an improvement of 3 places and 9 points over last season, which is a small step in the right direction, but we could easly have taken a much bigger stride

There were a few potential factors counting against us, like a lack of depth (with fixtures coming especially thick in the first months of the season), a few mid-season loans not helping with a settled squad, taking time to develop tactical familiarity, a few younger players featuring, getting into such a mess that it would be difficult to properly recover, and with a few players being released I have room to try and reinforce this summer while hopefully keeping a more settled squad, even if it'll remain a bit on the small side. The potential is there, I just need to find the key and blow away some cobwebs in order to do a lot better next year.

Star Player: Our two new forwards had very different seasons. Mansfield started brightly and had his moments, but not very often (to the point his 18yr old backup who had pace and little else proved to be more reliable for a lot of the season). Byrne had his weak games up front (Mexes he is not) but 21 goals and 16 assists is a pretty good return.

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Squad Stats

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World Cup 2046 - Australia

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I knew it! With my Milan players failing to find success at international level I had a feeling that having left Italy that would suddenly change in the upcoming World Cup, held in a land down under (where women glow and men plunder). It was also the tournament where Italy finally came out on top after so many near misses in the past (especially in the 2020's). Cardia (who some idiot decided to sell to Real Madrid for just 7M) was firmly re-established as their No.1 after losing out for a while due to the competition he had at club level first from Thomas (the victor in that struggle with the other two out of the door just after left) than Requena, while Pirozzi bagged a goal in the final, bookending one he scored in the opening game.

The USA were surprise finalists to say the least, and didn't have the toughest run to the final (aside from a semi against the French), while at the other end of the scale, reigning champions England went out in the first round, as did Portugal but they haven't made it past the quarter-finals of either major competition (often falling in the group stage or not even qualifying at all in the case of the World Cup) so that's not so much of a shock.

Jamaica (which in Mexico is the name of Hibiscus tea) were notable surprise packages. They had made a couple more World Cups early in the save but were bottom of their group both times. This time they qualified at the head of a 3-way tie with Ecuador and the Czech Rep and hammered Paraguay in the next round but were easily beaten with 10 men by a France side with Thomas, Angloma, Hajji and Mexes (along with Trabelsi and Rousvoal on the bench). Mali also made it out of the group stage in their first ever World Cup (impressive given they've only managed it once in their last 8 AFCONs), with a strong Egypt side also flying the flag with their second semi-final appearance, which really stands out along a record that otherwise consists of group stage exits and failures fo qualify.

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Summer 2046

The financial situation actually improved a little last season, admittedly due to cash injections but otherwise we were holding pretty steady anyway, at least early on in the season with a high density of games, certainly not ending up quickly diving deeper into the red as I feared. However we were still very much in it so I guess I couldn't be too surprised that the board cut the wage budget again to 15kpw, compared to 20kpw when I took the job at the end of the season before last.

I had actually released the players on expiring contracts a little early since wage budget room is top priority, but had far less to work with to add to a squad of just 15 players after I had done that, and once against I was having to do more with less. I couldn't even renew the contracts of any staff members (aside from a single coach) because I couldn't offer them enough. I hadn't bother too much with the wage budget when renewing player contracts last season but now I needed to make 1kpw an loose upper limit, though not necessarily getting rid of the higher earners already in the squad since that would leave me without a majority of first teamers.

There were a few priority areas to deal with early on. We were in danger of being winger-less, with Gibbs' loan deal only having lasted until January and the permanent winger being one of those released because he was asking for too much. Winger/forward Buckfield had been a surprisingly decent stand-in but he was only 16 and of limited potential. The left-back I inherited was already getting old (currently 33) and was one of the major culprits when things went wrong last season, proper forward backup would also be nice, then there was the goalkeeper situation.

I already made my opinion of Ludlam known last season, so I jumped at the chance to replace him with a keeper who wasn't really an upgrade but at least the same standard for a lower wage (he was one of those earning over 1kpw, and therefore vulnerable if I felt he was expendable), and was surprised that Hamilton actually wanted him when trying to offload. Scottish defender McCabe (who had been good until the final run) was both our most valuable player at 110k and highest earner at 1.8kpw so I gambled with selling him as well once I saw I could actually get that much for him from Sheffield Wednesday.

Not only could I get in a replacement but putting what little of the fee I got back for transfers into the wage budget instead gave me room for a couple more signings, including a second keeper, something I had previously considered a luxury we didn't have the budget for. That took us above the wage budget (something I had been planning to avoid this time, after loans then contract renewals busted it last season) but only by under 300pw so we can hopefully get away with that.

I do feel we have a better squad than last season, with more depth, even with a few weaker backup players remaining. It's still hard to tell how we should be doing with 7 new faces and how much we failed to perform as well as I thought we should have last season. I feel we can definitely do a lot better, especially as I've tweaked the tactics again (the full back settings this time) to further adjust to not being able to get away with as much attacking and creative ambition than at Milan.  While I hesitate to set the sights too high after the experience of last year, we definitely have the potential to have a far better season if we can get our act together.

Signings

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Sept 2046

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I'm alive, just ;)

With a few tough games early on, we needed to hit the ground running with a win against Wigan and got it from a hat-trick by new boy Gallagher, putting the continually underachieving (and much higher paid) Mansfield to shame. The odd thing about that win was that with the score at 0-0, new keeper Pead went off injured. I don't really have a sub keeper even with 7 subs anymore and certainly not with 5 so you can imagine my surprise at racing to victory  with an outfielder in goal for the rest of the match. Given he cost us a point at Portsmouth (a reminder that even in this relatively small pond, we're far from being the biggest fish) it almost felt like we were better off without him but after the twin nightmares of McShane and Ludlam last year, it's still good to see him settle down to being a  solid (if unimpressive) No.1.

The early results were mixed. They may have been some of the tougher games but I couldn't rely on regularly winning the 'easier' ones so it still looked like we'd struggle to improve significantly on last season but despite taking on a few injuries (twice as damaging as normal circumstances in terms of games missed because the schedule, with midweek breaks being a rarity in the first few months)  we were able to get some good form going to charge up the table and into the playoff places, including a good win at Bristol Rovers (who were in League 1 just 2 years ago).

There were a couple of later stumbles but that still gave me 'manager of the month' with 6 league wins from 8 and allowing us to hold onto 2nd, with the gap to Portmouth remaining steady. After last season's false dawn I'm still wary (given we're part of a large group of teams still very close together) and there are very few games I can feel too confident about but we seem able to get the job done, at least enough to stake a claim to a playoff place. In some ways this is what I signed up for, really having to fight for success (and I can't claim we've looked that great in most matches), feeling pleasure (and frustration, of which there has been plenty so far) with individual league results again and a sense of potentially achieving progress.

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Good start but as you say plenty of teams close by and when you don't 100% trust your team yet it is hard to be optimistic but hopefully you've addressed last seasons problems  

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20 hours ago, Dexter_Morgan said:

Good start but as you say plenty of teams close by and when you don't 100% trust your team yet it is hard to be optimistic but hopefully you've addressed last seasons problems  

Partly. Last season saw a surprising amount of wasted domination and defensive idiocy. There have still been some facepalm-worthy moments at both ends and I still think we should be doing better but it's definitely a step in the right direction for the most part. 

It's not just the team but individual players. Spence was brought in as a promising replacement for the 33yr old Ramm at left back (who has rarely been better than mediocre throughout his career) but has had a terrible start to give the veteran more action than I planned. 

Mansfield had 'star striker' written all over him, especially after a debut brace, but quickly regressed to the point where everytime I see him advancing on goal I know he's going to mess it up, which is rather depressing. I guess since the team in general made such a poor first impression it will take time to feel confident. 

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I was right to be worried that a bit of bad form could be right around the corner. We only managed 2 points from 3 games against struggling Barrow, Dover and Bury, the last being the first of 3 straight defeats. However we were in nowhere near as bad a situation as we quickly sunk to last year and with a win over Eastleigh saving us from a win-less October in the league, we soon managed to get back on the tail of the playoff places, though not being about to quite break in. The Wigan defeat (where we were actually second best, in contrast to a majority of our bad results) knocks us back a little but we can hopefully keep ourselves in playoff contention for a lot longer this time, despite a mixture of injuries and a hectic league schedule (which should soon ease off) making it hard to replace tired or poor performing players. Our 'first choice' winger has been out since early on for at least half the season and we've been without our main playmaker Charlton (consistently one of our best players) in recent weeks, though there have been a bunch of others for at least a few weeks at a time.

There was at least some success in the cups to help make up for not quite being good enough in the league. Maidenhead was nice and easy in the FA Trophy (which is great because it means being free to save the team later on) with Blackburn being our next opponents. Fleet was also a cruise in our first FA Cup match. Like last year, we drew a League 1 team away, and having had a goal disallowed against Watford last year which would have given us the lead, we actually managed to do so against Port Vale, holding on (helped by a surprising lack of threat from them in the second half) to claim a decent scalp.

League 2 Bournemouth were next at home and we also managed to pull off a 1-0 win, even if we had to fight a lot harder to hold on to the lead this time. That put us into the 3rd round but the draw wasn't exactly glamorous, as we'll be at home against the winner of a replay between Blackburn (and it would be just typical to get them in a cup again) and League 1 Leicester, though if it is Blackburn that would at least guarantee 2 non-league sides in the 4th round, with Tamworth vs MK Dons as another tie. The only other non-league representation will be the winner of Ebbsfleet (the only team below the BSP left) or Mansfield up against League 2 Barnsley.

Getting to the 3rd round and knocking out 2 higher division teams on the way already makes for a cup run I'm very happy with, especially the away win against Port Vale (2 divisions above, never a bad achievement). The potential of a good cup run or two is what attracted me to Gillingham in the first place and it sort of makes me wish that I'd done more lower league English management in the past, even if getting out of the BSP seems quite a challenge. We can definitely go further though even Blackburn wouldn't be easy opponents, but it really wouldn't be the end of the world if we didn't. It definitely helps to show a bit of our potential even if we're not quite doing in in the league yet.

It would be interesting to get Ipswich in a cup sometime, even if we had no such luck the first time around, and speaking of which...

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Go home FM, you're drunk! I've virtually never even seen Ipswich get into the Premier League under their own steam in my saved. More recently they seem to go down to League 1 quite a lot, as many of you will know from your own saves. They did spend a season down there 18yrs ago in this save but bounced back up. They first made the Premier League in 2038/39 (this is currently 2046), then again 2 years later after relegation, managing to stay there this time. They've mixed sneaking into the top half with just keeping clear or relegation, and were just 16th last year with their team mostly looking mid-table quality, so even within the context of the save this is quite a shock!

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Jan 2047

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We definitely look better this season but remain a side that rates a 'B' rather than a promotion standard 'A', or even 'A-'. On our day we can beat any team in the division and our results against the teams above us have mostly been good, or at least decent, but we still drop too many points we shouldn't right when we look capable of achieving something. The New Year defeat to Blackburn left us 6 points adrift of the playoffs, and a poor showing at Wrexham after taking the lead left us 3 points behind, having briefly lost the game in hand we've otherwise been carrying for a few months. However the current situation is hardly bad. Just a little bit more and we can still make the playoffs.

As if this league wasn't hard enough to get consistency in (though the the schedule seems to be a bit unbalanced for far more fixture congestion in the early weeks), we've also been heavily involved in the cups. We got and beat Blackburn on the big occasion of the 3rd round, having conquered MK Dons in the FA Trophy in midweek, but then we drew the Dons again in the FA Cup (really not the 4th round tie I was hoping for), meaning we've faced them and Blackburn in both cups as well as the regular league fixtures. They were fresher with their midweek league game just before that having been postponed and we lost our key playmaker Charlton for a couple of months to injury in the Wrexham defeat and they just had the edge, winning 1-0. After that we threw away a lead at Welling in the FA Trophy, denying ourselves a semi with Hyde which I felt gave us a good chance at making the final. Ipswich have dropped off the pace in the Premier League as well (and are stuggling to hold on to the CL places), adding to a poor end to January after a few mostly good months.

Our cup run has helped our financial situation. The club were 500k in the red when I arrived, slightly improved on that thanks to cash injections in the first season but a 160k profit in January alone takes us up to just 165k in the red, with no cash injections this season. That's probably as good as it's going to get for the time with no more cup games and less frequent home league matches (the downside of the league schedule easing off) but it's still progress.

Contrast Blackburn (a clear example of this being a tough division) who are 'insecure' with a 3.2M loan debt (against a 1.5M value, still higher than our 1.1M with a 925k debt, though that's spread out thinly enough that it doesn't impact us too much). They're actually running Ewood Park at under half capacity due to it's very poor condition. This is their 5th year in the division (though had briefly dropped down a few years before) and while we may not be making the progress I was hoping for, they help remind me that things could be worse.

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1 hour ago, Dexter_Morgan said:

Still a bit to go so hopefully you pick up enough to make the playoffs. 

Hopefully. I had hoped to be making quicker progress (expecting the main challenge to come with moving up the leagues after getting promoted to League 2) but it wouldn't be the end of the world to narrowly miss out this time since we're definitely showing promise and moving in the right direction. 

Unfortunately FM progress is going to be slow for a while. I have chronic tiredness issues and I appear to be slipping into a bad patch in recent weeks. I find it hard to play FM when I'm too muddy headed, especially when things aren't going smoothly. I'm also heading to London this weekend to see my niece (who is actually 5 days late and counting so fingers crossed). 

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Looking forward to see how it goes when you get back in to it, pointless playing for the sake of it if you aren't feeling it mate, :) 

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Playoffs more than possible here, just need to hit a patch of good form.

Hope you get better and that everything's fine with your niece. :)

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On 9/17/2017 at 08:25, Dexter_Morgan said:

Looking forward to see how it goes when you get back in to it, pointless playing for the sake of it if you aren't feeling it mate, :) 

 

1 hour ago, noikeee said:

Playoffs more than possible here, just need to hit a patch of good form.

Hope you get better and that everything's fine with your niece. :)

Cheers guys. I'm definitely feeling a bit better. Still haven't touched FM but am gearing myself up to do so soon. As for my niece, she's currently 10 days late ;). Otherwise everything is looking good and she will be here by the weekend. She's going to be half-Greek, as if we didn't have enough nationalities in the family already... English (with a bit of Scottish), Mexican, French, Catalan (completing my own 4 identities), Basque (?), American, Canadian, Italian, Argentine (well Italio-Argentine), Swiss and even Australian (I have Swiss-Australian second-cousins, my first cousins alone count for most of the rest). My sisters could even count as being Chilean by birthplace. 

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Played through the February matches today. Won't do a full update yet (not even for the Asian Cup and AFCON) but the league table looks very interesting...

 

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9 matches left, and there is a very tight race between ourselves and 4 other teams for 3 playoff places. It's been a tough race for sure. We've been on good form since November (with the occasional blip) and haven't managed to get back into the playoff places, though we have come very close a few times. We have 3 home games in a row coming up, against Barrow, Hyde and Bury, providing an opportunity to rack up more wins to hopefully give us an edge. I've also just passed 100 matches in charge of Gillingham already, having not even been here for 2 years yet!

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Need to work on that goal difference, man. Winning 2-0? It's the time to increase the mentality! :D

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2 hours ago, noikeee said:

Need to work on that goal difference, man. Winning 2-0? It's the time to increase the mentality! :D

That's not our biggest worry, trust me ;) Update later this afternoon. 

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Mar 2047

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We kept ourselves in the playoff hunt in February, bouncing back from our multiple cup disappointments (especially when I saw that MK Dons drew Newcastle in the 5th round, exactly the sort of tie I had been looking for in the previous couple of rounds as something that would have given us another little financial boost) to win 3 matches out of 4, all away. The disappointment came against MK Dons again (fast becoming my nemesis at Gillingham, especially as they are likely playoff opponents if we make it), when we took the lead before conceding a penalty, seemly falling apart after that.

The run of home matches in March didn't go according to plan. Gallagher had reached the 20-goal mark in January but had failed miserably since, with some really shocking misses. Mansfield (having seemingly failed as a reliable first choice) seemed to hit some much-needed form, to the point that for the first time in pretty much ever I chose to give him an injection so he could play against Dover (which paid off) after Byrne got sent off for a handball right at the end of the previous match (not wanting to go without both at this point if I could help it) but we were stuck without him while he finally got treatment, and he had to be slightly rushed back after Byrne's own injury later in the month.

We paid the price against Barrow for the Scot and the Irishman's inability to hit a barn door at 20 paces, though didn't really lose any ground and a good win against Bury (with Gallagher finally scoring again, the first of a couple of goals in the month) actually took us into the playoff places for the first time in months, with a 2-point margin. That didn't last long as we conceded a penalty against Hyde, only scraping an equalizer, then did the same at Havant, only the equalizer wasn't enough, allowing them to go above us. A win against Eastleigh put us back on the tail of the playoff places (a depressingly familiar position for most of the season) with 4 matches left.

Our rivals don't seem to be too consistent. Having only managed 7 points out of 15 for the month we're only really a point worse off than we were before. We go to Bristol City next, which I have to admit I don't feel too confident about, followed by home games against Bath and Dartford, finishing off at already relegated Tamworth. In theory we should get a decent points haul from those final fixtures but we've been held back by dropping too many points against opponents we should have beaten so we can't take anything for granted.

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May 2047

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Oh dear :( Starting off with Bristol City, we looked to be holding our own and be good value for a draw before an insanely stupid backpass from Sparks opened the door for them. They got another but we should have done better with that one as well. Results elsewhere did not go in our favour and we found ourselves 4 points adrift. However I knew all was not lost. Once I got promoted with Ipswich having been 4 points and a couple of places off the playoffs with 2 matches left. After we took the lead against Bath, we looked to be closing to a single point, but failed to make it safe and were severely punished for it. Knowing we'd struggle to get a winner with our poor record of converting chances, my spirits seriously dropped when we conceded that equalizer.

With the Dartford match just 2 days later, I felt the pressure was off enough to make a few changes to replace tired players, but after we took the lead it looked like we'd have a second chance at getting to within a point of the playoffs. This time we managed to re-take the lead after conceding but it still wasn't enough and I felt like screaming when they made it 2-2, though a last gasp Portsmouth winner in their game meant that it didn't matter so much. We couldn't even get the Tamworth game right, conceding yet another penalty (only once I think have I seen a miss while at Gillingham) with Gallagher only salvaging a small amount of pride at the end.

It's easy to say that we were unlucky but that would be misleading. For a while it seemed like we had a decent record against the top 5, though Woking (who we beat both times) just failing to miss out damages means that record, which reads P: 10, W:4, D:2, L:5, though we did do the double over runaway winners Bristol Rovers and we can add another win (though also a defeat) against MK Dons in the cups. What really let us down were the weaker teams. We started October with just 2 points from 3 matches against struggling teams and were on the back foot ever since. Then in March we only managed 4 points from 3 home games in a row that should have been 9, or at least 7. Bath was sort of the final nail in the coffin, and it's telling that we ended up with just the 10th best home record compared to the 5th best away record. We just weren't good enough, close, but stuck at least one step behind almost the whole way through.

We did manage to finish 5 places higher than last season with 10 more points, but we still should be doing better, both in a lot of matches and overall. The season schedule doesn't help, especially as it starts 2 weeks into August instead of one (as it standard for the lower leagues) and ends a few weeks before every other playable division (even the BSN/S), so it really shouldn't be as intense as it is, especially with a lot of the midweek matches in the first few months rather than spread out.

I do still think we have one of the strongest teams in the division (though it's worrying that Portsmouth stay down given they're the one team that looked far superior on paper), and while we're not progressing as well as I had hoped, I still think there was good improvement. It may seem a little odd to claim we were more consistent when we slipped up so much but the end of the season was only the second time we went 4 league matches without a win, compared to last season where a strong start was followed by disaster with occasional bright spots. We were also a lot more solid, especially with a more reliable keeper (though that was a very low bar indeed).

It's going to be hard to progress from this point on. We've constantly been running above the wage budget so if I want to take advantage of snatching players on expiring contracts I have to release players early and the payoffs from that have wiped out our financial gains. Even failing to get rid of Whitehead I've taken us from 2kpw over (after contract renewals and the youth intake) to 1.3kpw under but that won't last when the budget is slashed again. I did manage to make economies replacing players last season and can just focus on using whatever I have on a few low-paid squad players (Gallagher on 375pw is the standout example) which shouldn't hurt us too much, especially if it means far fewer signings this time, but it's up to the existing players (especially Spence, now Ramm is life-expired) to finally get their act together.

I don't intend to leave any time soon but the longer this lasts, the tougher it will be, even with some sellable players and plenty of room to get more value from the wage budget. Promotion is within our grasp and we need to grab it while we can. I feel anything less than the playoffs next year will be a disappointment.

Star Player: Sparks was one of my initial signings, from Dover. Averaging 7.39 and 7.48 he's probably been the best player over the two seasons, though I might feel like I have to try and sell him (like I managed with McCabe last year) if I can find a replacement.

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Squad Stats

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2 hours ago, Dexter_Morgan said:

Bad luck, hope next season is the one you finally get out

It was pretty depressing to see it all thrown away so completely at the end there, though otherwise it was exciting stuff being so close to the top 5 for so long. I'm already getting the impression that this is an utter pain of a division to get out of, with just 2 places (and one automatic) for 24 teams, a schedule packed into a season that's a few weeks shorter than it should be (and compared to all the other English lower leagues) and not spread out evenly, plus some other decent-sized teams in there as well. However if my patience does eventually pay off (especially as promotion would help the financial situation) it's going to be so rewarding. I've already reached the top, and in some ways this career seems to be turning into series of minor one-club projects so I'm in no hurry to move up or on.

I made some tactical changes last summer which seem to have helped but I'm thinking of returning to the 'Mattersburg'. As much as having a DM seems like a good idea in theory, it's only even been used while already successful both at Milan and Panathinaikos in the FM16 career. While there has been minor progress with it at Gillingham it still isn't delivering the goods like the 'back 5' variant has for a few years now, including all my achievements in this career. I've always tried not to over-think things tactically and change things up without being certain I need to, especially as football is a chaotic game and it makes sense for players at this level to make a lot of mistakes but sometimes you can see that a team should be doing a lot better so I guess it won't hurt to return to what I know.

As I was just finishing off that last line I got the call letting me know that I have officially entered uncle-hood!

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AFCON 2047 - South Africa

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Lots of international update incoming as I catch up on the earlier two along with the summer tournaments from the Americas. Ghana haven't really featured on the radar much, having failed to make an AFCON final so far in the save. They don't seem to have any particularly excellent players but still managed to claim a first continental win for 65 years. The Ivory Coast managed to win 4 out of 6 tournaments between 2029 and 2039 (Ghana becoming the 4th different winner in as many tournaments since) but had to settle for second here after what looked like an excellent final. South Africa had a decent smattering of top 3 placings and picked up a 3rd.

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Asian Cup 2047 - China

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Japan remain kings of Asia. South Korea beat them a few times in earlier tournaments but they have been Asian champions 5 times of the past 6, with only China breaking that run, and no clear rival as their closest competitors have been a mixed bag. They were actually only second in their group behind Indonesia, who had a squad almost entirely made up of domestic-based players, a 10M rated forward at Betis being the main exception. They unfortunately lost out to hosts China while Japan overcame two big hurdles in South Korea and Australia to deliver a silver medal to Qatar.

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Gold Cup 2047

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Mexico come out on top again, even beating the Americans in the semi-finals. Like in Asia, no one had a 100% or 0% record in the group stages, with Antigua and Barbuda managing to do their bit in an especially competitive Group B, though still finishing bottom. Canada, (perenial beaten finalists or semi-finalists) went out earlier for the first time in years, which they'll be a bit disappointed by, leaving Honduras (the most successful team aside from the big two) to be beaten finalists this time while Guatemala (a country you think about so little) managed to get to the semis, thanks to a managable quarter-final against Cuba.

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Copa America 2047 - Venezuela

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Mexico U23's managed to top their group, though admittedly it wasn't a tough one, being put in their place by Uruguay in the quarter-finals. A strong Chile side were the stars of the show to claim their first ever Copa America (2015 not counting in this timeline). They started as they meant to go on topping the group ahead of traditionally dominant Argentina and hammering Colombia in the final. The Colombians, who weren't outplayed as badly as the scoreline suggested, also had a strong tournament. Despite being in a group with Brazil and Uruguay, they were the only team with a 100% record in the group stage, without conceding a goal. They they completed a poor tournament for the Argentinians by knocking them out in the quarter-finals and took down Brazil again after that.

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Summer 2047

The first good news of the summer was that I was able to renew the contracts of all the staff this time. Last year all but a single coach left and it took until September until someone wanted the job of our GK coach.

I decided to act early while I still could, which meant turning my attentions to Scotland. It had already been a decent recruiting ground for players on reasonable wages, useful with a few holes to fill (including the fact that we just had a single spare central defender) but I had to admit that I was only looking for affordable depth. In practice (though not intentially) that also meant turning to young players, which I do a lot of even when not actively trying to. Firstly it's easier to attract players at that age when they have lower rep, and often on lower wages (at least in the short term) which makes them more managable options than established players of a similar quality. That may not help the team get it's act together.

Full-backs from England came next. Spence wasn't quite as bad later on last season than he was earlier but I didn't have confidence in him as Ramm's successor on the left so I was glad to get in Fatai from Eastleigh, the only player in the squad from outside the British Isles though he's spent his entire career in England. On the right Keane was managing fine and Allison could deputise so that wasn't so urgent but I still took the opportunity to get in Buxton, who was despite not being too quick was still more suited to play there then the alternatives, making those positions the only places I felt we really strengthened, and not by much, though I felt the current crop still had plenty more to offer so we didn't necessarily need to.

I had miscalculated how much we'd be over the reduced wage budget so having seemingly got my main signings done a few weeks before the reset date, I wasn't finished yet. I don't really go for loans, not on my own initiative anyway. I see them as a bit too short term (and I might have already started a revolving door), as well as something that can be exploited as a cheaty way to get in better players than you otherwise can realistically expect. However taking the opportunity to get a midfielder on loan from Forest opened up the door to offload Bristow (one of my initial signings 2 years ago who can't be said to have made more of an impact other than being solid) and Sparks (with a potential replacement already lined up, also on loan), getting rid of 2kpw. That still leaves us over but only by 95pw.

We still have 21 players in the squad, 2 more than last season, and it's that depth (as well as hopefully unlocking the team's potential) that I hope will give us a better season rather than having a stronger team, since we don't need that as much as we do a more reliable one. As time goes by it's going to be harder to do more with less every year (though I can definitely manage a bit longer if I have to) so we can't afford to stay still.

Signings

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Oct 2047 (Sorry, this'll be a long and detailed one)

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What a difference a day's play makes! We started the season in very frustrating fashion, failing to beat promoted Guiseley. I thought that beating Portsmouth was a good result but to my surprise they've suddenly turned into relegation battlers this season. I wondered if failing to get promoted back to League 2 last season would hit them hard but I didn't expect things to fall apart for them this quickly. Dover are also in serious trouble, which is a shame as they're the closest thing to a local club. They started the season with 9 losses in a row and only got a single point from their first 11. They have a few wins since but even without their 10-point penalty they would be 6 points adrift at the bottom and 12 from safety. Interestingly enough their main goalscorer has 12 goals, which is more than any of my players (Gallagher only just reaching 10 in the last match).

In the first couple of months we alternated between just being in the top half and on the tail of the playoff places (actually in them after the Dover win) depending on whether we won or not, thanks to a lack of consistency from anyone else as well. Forest Green won their first 5 and looked like turning into runaway leaders but then they lost form dramatically. However things were still starting to click as I finally feel I've got the tactical balance right between the competing considerations of the quality of the squad in relative terms (on paper at least the equal of pretty much anyone else) and the limited ability in absolute terms. The fact that I made a bunch of changes during my time at Milan didn't help, though in the end I went back to the previous system for this season.

There were still a few details to be worked out but after losing to Bath and failing to beat Welling at home I settled on something I was happy with. That was coupled with juggling the players a little as well. I had originally put faith in the on-loan Hatfield as a starting central midfielder but moved Allison up there instead. Routledge moved across to the latter's previous position and in came Diack, originally temporarily (I think Davidson was unfit after an injury at the time), and the young defender really surpassed expectations, similar to Gallagher (also signed just as a back-up available for a low wage) last season. It's probably no coincidence that our only defeat since Bath was the one time I tried to replace him with Davidson. I also tried to free-up the creativity of Chandler, including making him an advanced playmaker instead of a winger, the only innovation left over from Milan.

The fact that we hit our stride in October was all the more remarkable given the injuries we faced. The final two matches of September cost us our two main creative forces of Charlton and Chandler (the latter for 5-6 months!), followed by Mansfield for a month and a half a few matches later. Thankfully Byrne and Gallagher had finally started getting goals again but the former then went out himself for 2 months after giving us the lead against Bristol City, along with injuries to a couple of other players that month. Booth having to play with Gallagher up front (completing a 'second choice' attacking quartet only signed or kept to provide decent wage value as backups) made me feel that we were relatively toothless for a few weeks, so I wasn't too unhappy with a 0-0 draw at Hereford (which actually moved us a point ahead of Woking having previously only been top on GD) followed by a come-back at Barrow, though with an own goal having given us our equalizer only at the end did we finally get our attacking act together.

It's definitely starting to come together now, which is a relief as the start of the season only added to the frustration I was already feeling, though maybe that was because I've always had high short-term expectations for my time at Gillingham, my record otherwise being reasonable. The main challenge was expected to come later on with trying to move up the divisions, not with this first hurdle. We're not actually dominating a lot of opponents in terms of chances as much as last season but we are doing a lot more with them. Last season one goal seemed like all we were likely a lot of the time to get no matter how many chances we had. There were still some frustrating moments at the back early on (and question marks over the reliability of both left-backs) but we do comfortably have the best defensive record in the division and managed 7 clean sheets in a row before Barrow.

We still have to keep it up (which won't be easy) to maintain the push for the single automatic promotion spot, with playoffs always being worryingly uncertain, but having barely been in the playoff places before late-September since I arrived at least we're looking like serious promotion candidates at last. We're also almost half-way through the league season already which helps make it feel more real than if it was just early days. To finally beat this first hurdle will be a big thing, not just because the pressure to make some sort of progress will be off and I can relax a lot more but it would ease the financial situation as well, even if it wouldn't solve it overnight.

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Jan 2048

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November saw some very good news with a consortium takeover. The first thing they did was eliminiate the 450k or so that we were in the red, then take out a 170k loan to give us a bit in the bank, putting us in the black at last! It's great to be financially stable even if there still isn't much to work with. Even with an existing loan we're only repaying 5.5k a month which doesn't really impact us too much. The FA cup helped too. Having already played a home league match that month, it's hard to tell how much our 3rd round tie gave us (except we had already doubled the previous month's gate receipt income) but it was something like 350k-400k, helping our quick financial turnaround.

An FA Cup tie against Boreham Wood kicked off 'cup season' and we disappointingly needed a replay to beat them. Like last season we then claimed two league scalps in the 1st and 2nd rounds, giving us a second 3rd round appearance in a row. We avoided a big tie last time, only getting Blackburn then losing to MK Dons, though hit a bit of gold this time. Norwich are the last team I want to face in cups right now but we put in a decent effort despite the fact that I forgot to go full defensive mode, both for damage limitation and energy saving. We managed a few decent counter attacks both before and after their first goal before we dropped off and gave them two more, and after the second goal I then decided to just ride it out which didn't stop a late Booth goal giving us a fairly respectable scoreline. 

We reached the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy for the 3rd year running, with Witham, Dartford and Gateshead not providing too much of a challenge. Guiseley were trickier but we eventually saw them off to make it 3rd time lucky with Hyde as our opponents in the two-legged semi, giving us a good chance of making the final, which would be fantastic.

The part of the reason why we struggled is that I kept Charlton (fit again, at least for a brief period), Mansfield (regaining fitness), and Allison (rested against Barrow) out of the team to save them for a critical MK Dons game, which ended up not helping as we ended up having the replay and the FA Cup 1st round tie (where those players did return) before that. However even after a draw against Wrexham we only lost 2 points worth of ground and the Eastleigh win took us top again, and with the exception of one brief time when Hereford won a game in hand, we've stayed there.

It hasn't been easy. Charlton got injured again for a bit, the Dartford match cost us Allison for a few weeks as well as Metcalfe for 2 months, leaving us without a wide man until Chandler returned in late January (earlier than I was expecting). Mansfield (who is competent on the left and has been used as sub winger quite a bit before) filled in only to go off injured himself the following match, though there were no lasting effects. In fact along with the proper injuries we've had a number of knocks and minor injuries using up subs, playing havok with our ability to rest players or take off underperforming ones. The FM gods are certainly throwing quite a lot in our direction, and I'm glad that while our form remains far from impressive and we've benefited from results elsewhere every time we've dropped points, it hasn't taken the serious hit I've worried about ever since the injury storms started to blow in late September.

However our luck might be about to run out when it comes to inconsistency from our rivals. MK Dons have already turned into our arch-nemesis and they've now won 3 league games in a row, a rarity for any team this season. If they hit their stride we'll be sitting ducks, with an equalizer conceded against Mansfield cutting our points lead to just 2. We also still have to face the Dons away in the league. We have 13 games left but the FA Trophy means the schedule won't clear up as much as it otherwise might. Things might start to get really bumpy again.

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May 2048

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We did it! I was worried that MK Dons were turning into an unstoppable force while we would struggle to shine but it seemed the opposite was true, at least for most of the run-in. Aside from that 4-win run in October, back-to-back league wins had been hard to come by so I didn't expect the run of form we had, especially having to face a lot of teams challenging in or around the playoffs, then again our form and logic have rarely been drinking buddies. I still felt a little worried after the Dartford draw which cut the lead to 5 points (and we still had to face the Dons away) but after Blackburn it was an 11-point advantage. From a personal point of view it was well timed, with our form and promotion charge helping lift my spirits again after receiving a bit of a tough blow on Tuesday.

We weren't over the line yet, with defeat to Hereford keeping MK Dons in the hunt, then they beat us with the better chances in an open match. They matched our win over Barrow then we went behind at Wrexham. I knew that with our goal difference advantage a draw would probably be enough so I was delighted to turn it around to win, which is probably just as well as we misfired against Eastleigh and fell to a stoppage time goal, so there were only 2 points in it at the end. The FA Trophy final added to a poor end to the season, as we took advantage of our long rest to have all the early chances but we were very blunt up top, not helped by the fact that I missed that Gallagher wasn't on the bench, though the Scot had been poor for months so I doubt it would have made much difference. A penalty gave them an extra time lead before they sealed it, but it wasn't the end of the world. We both went up, one of us took the league, the other the cup, so we're both happy.

After 2 seasons of what I felt were underachievement, and this season starting the same way, I was thinking 'I'm supposed to be better than this now', but maybe I was being too hard on myself, operating with ever-shrinking budgets in a league that's tough to get out of and with some bigger clubs who clearly weren't having the best time of it either. I guess my time in Sweden and Turkey has boosted my own personal expectations somewhat, but I'm still no 'super-manager' or miracle worker and even with all the reasons why going up wasn't going to be that easy, I doubt taking 3 years to get Gillingham out of the BSP will count as one of my biggest achievements. 

I think I also overestimated the size of the club. I'm mainly familiar with the time they spent in the Championship but that's the only time they've ever been a second-tier side. Their trophy cabinet lists two Southern League titles and a Southern League cup from the 1940's (a century ago in the game) and the old Division 4 (now League 2) from 1964! A stadium size of 11,500 isn't that big by league standards either, though I was able to compete with some big and tough sides in Turkey with a similar-sized stadium.

I have always had big long-term ambitions at Gillingham, even if the pace is already a little slow. Definitely getting up to League 1, hopefully the Championship as well. Could a debut Premier League stint be possible? The odds aren't good but it's certainly something to aim for. I certainly want to leave the club in a far stronger position than before. Limhamn Bunkeflo stayed in the Premier League for a few years and have regularly returned since, while Bucaspor finished in the top 2 for 9 out of 10 seasons after I left, winning 4 more titles, though they've dropped to mostly being a mid-table side (aside from a recent 3rd place).

Going from -500k to around 600k in the bank will help us a lot going forward, along with a potential financial boost from promotion (though League 2 is hardly going to make us a rich club), so hopefully we'll see the benefit of both in the new budgets. We'll definitely need it as I'm not set to release anyone this year, we're about 1kpw above the wage budget and promotion wage rises are going to kick in. I'm not too worried about the standard of out first choice players but the second choice ones were mainly around for low wages, while also being decent for the BSP. League 2 might be different so there's a lot I want to do to improve my squad options before focussing on better first teamers, and it might take some time to sort out.

Star Player: I often say that a particular season is a team effort and it's especially true of this one, but Byrne takes the credit again. He has 61 goals and 39 assists for the club since being one of my initial signings 3 years ago and hopefully he can deliver at a higher level.

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Squad Stats

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Brilliant work, chuffed you got out of that division as I could tell the previous 2 seasons weren't exactly what you had hoped for

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2 hours ago, Dexter_Morgan said:

Brilliant work, chuffed you got out of that division as I could tell the previous 2 seasons weren't exactly what you had hoped for

That's true though maybe I was being a bit too ambitious. We still went from 15th before I arrived to 12th then 7th (with a strong cup run) so there was still progress being made even if getting promoted to League 2 was always going to be the first major target. 

It really is a massive relief to go up and I'll be playing with far less pressure from this point onwards,  helped by the improved financial situation. I still want to eventually go up to League 1 and maybe even beyond but that is something to deal with a lot further down the road. 

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A couple more things to show you...

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Ipswich topped the Premier League for the first half of last season, though only just clumg on to 7th in the end. Being in the Europa League didn't really suit them as they got knocked out in the group stage while being in serious relegation trouble in the league. At the end of January they were 10 points adrift at the bottom! They managed to save themselves with a strong run of Spring form, including a derby win that helped relegate Norwich ;)

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Skjold had done very well to keep their heads above water in the Superleague for a few years after the Milan funding was withdrawn, especially as they hadn't managed to do any better yet at that point. It would be interesting to be able to fund them again at some point even down the line, and if they manage to at least stay a First Division team they will have gotten some benefit from it, along with facilities that were improved a few times.

Hopefully they managed to get their wage bill under control though. It really shot up once I started giving them money, probably in the absence of anything else to spend it on at a low level, but the facility improvements and player fees probably has helped funnel their spending away from that. My big fear was that they would go into financial meltdown once I pulled the plug but the fact that they coped for a few years is a positive sign that hasn't happened (though I haven't really checked)

Speaking of relegations, I didn't actually realize that Portsmouth had gone down until I saw the posted league table screenshot. They had been in relegation trouble early on but looked to have pulled away. That may not hit them as hard as I originally thought as when I looked at the 'wage bill' table (a minor addition for this version that I absolutely love) they were only mid-table, a lot lower than expected with the standard of squad they had after coming down from League 2 a couple of years ago. What really struck me was that we were only 21st in the BSP, while being about 1kpw over our own wage budget, with just over half the wage bill of the highest spending team, Guiseley.

This is a situation I've very much gotten used to in this career. Even at Milan I don't think we were ever higher than 3rd in the wage bill rankings, and it took a long time to get that high, while in the CL we were mostly way down in the teens. Nor were we spending that much relatively speaking, especially if you consider 'net spend'. My time in Turkey had already given me a lot of experience of doing 'more with less', though again by the end we were 'ahead' of all but the biggest teams, although still with only a fraction of Galatasaray's budget. I didn't really look much in Sweden but it probably would have been a similar situation in the First Division Elite and definitely for the debut Premier Division season.

This year's Gillingham budget is vastly improved, up 10kpw to almost 25kpw with just over 50k as a transfer budget, with 5kpw to spare even after promotion wage rises, though I've rebalanced that to 150k and 3kpw spare (given we already have a 'full' squad and I can hopefully get rid of players to compensate for  the extra wages of new arrivals) to start off with. Even at this stage (though it's too early to compare with other teams in the division) it's clear that I'm going to have to compete with teams who clearly have more to work with, but that's never stopped me before ;)

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Summer 2048

It's a rare summer where I do what I set out to, but this year seemed to qualify. The first dilemma was that I wasn't geared to grabbing players on frees early on like I was forced to before, returning to getting started on the reset date, which still didn't stop me from grabbing a couple of players as their contracts ran out, then get a few more freebies later, having been put off before July by compensation payments which were high enough to make some 'free' signings too expensive. There was also the problem of how far the transfer budget could realistically go and how to rebalance it, not being used to buying players for fees at this sort of level, thankfully the answer was 'quite far' as modest 5-figure fees are still realistic.

The Irish left-back McEntee and forward/winger Dobson were the first too arrive. They weren't a big priority but they were simply the standouts among those players whose contracts were about to expire. With the loan of Carter from parent club Blackpool in January, we had two on-loan starting central defenders last season, plus Hatfield in central midfield (though moving Allison up the field meant he wasn't first choice) and quickly managed to remedy the former with a couple new central defenders (including our second Scottish player in that position named 'Davidson'), with another (yet another Scot, I think from the DoF) which I cancelled at the last minute since I didn't want to take on yet another for 1.7kpw at this point.

The first couple of weeks in July were complicated as players coming in often meant getting rid of someone as well, with the DoF handling those once I offered them out making them difficult to keep track of. There were a couple we had to give away otherwise we at least managed to get 'face-value' fees, all to Northern Ireland interestingly enough, especially in the case of Spence who was effectively part of an unintentional swap with McEntee where we got 30k and only gained 400pw in the wage bill.

The big problem was Charlton, who was a bit of a standout player when we weren't doing so well but often injury prone, worth 240k and our highest paid player (2.1kpw after promotion), but I failed to cash in on him as I hoped. I did consider releasing him like I did a lot in the past (costing us hundreds of thousands overall as having space in the wage budget to take advantage of expiring contracts was the overriding priority) once Oseni made him obsolete but with no budgetary need to it wasn't worth it, so we just have to wait a year.

A central midfielder was harder to come by. Turner was signed as a free agent partly with that in mind (but also as an alternative to Routledge in the BPD role) just incase, but aside from being one central defender short of a full '2 players per position' compliment, which wasn't a problem for a few reasons, we still didn't have a dedicated backup, and in fact Allison isn't a natural in that position himself. I did consider turning the clocks back a little for the sort of 'decent but unexceptional free agent who won't cost too much in wages' I was mostly stuck with having to make before, though the otherwise standout young candidate was sunk by terrible physical attributes, and I wondered if I could do better. After so many young signings, I went to a veteran who was available for very little as a short-term solution.

Even stuck with Charlton I was able to do a lot more than I expected with my budget. My first choice team hasn't been overhauled by that much but it was never going to be. Part of my previous frustration with not being able to challenge for promotion was that I felt we had a very strong core of players for the BSP who were probably fine for League 2 as well. Players who would have been clear upgrades were always going to be hard to come by, especially with budgetary considerations. However I do feel the squad as a whole is so much stronger with a few potential minor improvements to my first choice side, and that's all I think we'll need for now. I never look beyond survival the first season after promotion. We can probably do quite a bit better than that already but without knowing how much, making this a potential 'rangefinding' season at this level. If we can avoid too much stress about a potential relegation battle, that'll do me nicely for now.

Signings

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Euro 2048 - Austria/Switzerland

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Having not won anything internationally while I was their club manager, my former Milan players are now two from two since I left when it comes to the World Cup/Euros ;) Peric and Muller played for the victorious Germans with Djibo on the bench, all still at Milan, while Bouwhuis (now 33 and at Newcastle) is still a starter for the Dutch runners up while van den Hoogenband's tournament ended through injury after just 5 minutes of the first group match against Russia. Most of them should still be around for the 2050 World Cup, but not Milinovic who retired after this tournament, meaning he will end his career without a single World Cup appearance, though he should have in 2042 when excluded through injury even through he'd have been fit before the opening game.

Beyond that, Norway and Denmark had good tournaments in reaching the quarter-finals, with the Norwegians knocking our reigning World Champions Italy on penalties, and it's somehow appropriate that new champions Germany beat the previous winners Spain, also on penalties. Albania beat Portugal to qualify from their group and only went out in extra-time to a Czech side who reached the semis.

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On 10/8/2017 at 15:55, Dexter_Morgan said:

Busy summer for you, hopefully more than good enough to keep you up

I think so. I certainly can't be accused of doing nothing in the summer ;) I think we've now got a squad that looked pretty good for the lower leagues, even it'll take a while to gel, and I doubt the step up to League 2 is that big anyway. I'll still be focusing on how we're doing compared to the bottom 2 for a while but I'm more confident about how we'll do than I usually am after a promotion. As it happens I just started the season and it's been pretty good so far, with 7 points from the first 3 league matches, two of which were away, and a win over Championship Walsall in the League Cup. We also had a much bigger attendance boost than I expected for the one league game at Priestfield, over 6,000, having just broken the 4,000 average mark in the middle of last season. Lots of reasons to be optimistic about the future at the moment.

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Sept 2048

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For all my summer talk about improving the squad in general rather than the first XI, we had 7 newcomers in the team for the opener at Bristol Rovers, our predecessors as BSP champions, only leaving Pead in goal, Keane at right-back and the front pairing of Byrne and Mansfield (together for the 4th season). However, Gordon Davidson quickly lost his place to his namesake Steve, and it was a 50:50 decision between the two of them anyway to the point that the latter has the No.5 shirt, and some of the others have still played a role.

I was happy with an away draw to start life in a higher division (and it would be been robbery if we'd held on to the win), so it was surprising to see us win our next 3 to be 2nd after 4 matches. Alongside that we progressed in the League Cup, beating Championship Walsall, then somehow beating Stoke away in a match I didn't even feel was worth trying to win! We just sat back defensive from the start, so were already in that mode after we took the lead, and I found it funny that we somehow proved ourselves capable of beating a Premier League team (and they were playing some good first teamers) without even trying.

We were already tiring which took it's toll with a first defeat of the season at home to Northampton, then a crushing early exit at the hands of Crystal Palace in the Paint Pot Cup. Even with a dull draw back in the league at Macclesfield we had only dropped to 4th and actually dropped slightly further after we got back to winning ways, at least until coming back from behind to beat Leicester put us up in 2nd again. In the League Cup, we faced Southend, who are an established Premier League team (they finished 8th last season. Stop laughing at the back) and this time we were firmly backed into a corner, doing incredibly well just to keep them out until after the 70-minute mark.

Interestingly enough the win over league leaders Altrincham is our only league game to have a multi-goal margin, as they have all been tight either way, though on balance we've managed to get the edge more often than not. I'm still not thinking about promotion. It's too early and it's too close between a lot of teams, so we could potentially be dropping down then getting back up a bit on a result by result basis. At least the pressure is very much off this time so I'm just enjoying having things go so well in League 2 already.

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Probably did you a favour getting knocked out of the cups, i've always found it hard to cope with them in leagues 1 and 2 and with your good start in the league i'd say that should be your priority anyway and hopefully get promotion 

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2 hours ago, Dexter_Morgan said:

Probably did you a favour getting knocked out of the cups, i've always found it hard to cope with them in leagues 1 and 2 and with your good start in the league i'd say that should be your priority anyway and hopefully get promotion 

Unfortunately the good start didn't last, which isn't too surprising especially with an un-gelled team. Up until this point in the season we've just had the edge in a lot of narrow games, and the margins have remained tight but we're now on the receiving end. I wasn't looking at promotion at that early stage and while a good run could still get us back into the playoff places at least, that's a goal for another season I think.

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Dec 2048

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As mentioned earlier, our good start really didn't last, which in some ways wasn't too surprising. It's been tight all season, with all but two league matches (both wins) being decided by more than a single goal, though you can add one cup win and two cup defeats out of 6 matches in total to that as well. From things just about going our way in the first couple of months, the reverse started to happen. Matches were being decided by a single lapse at the back (usually an opposition forward breaking away from the defender who was otherwise on him at just the right time) combined with a season's worth of near misses at the other end in October alone, meaning that a single goal usually had to be enough and it never was, a lot like when we were struggling in the BSP.

The cup tie with Sheffield United (high flying in League 1) didn't help either, eventually being decided in extra time in the replay (the only time in the entire tie they went ahead) after taking the lead 3 times. With hindsight we might have actually had a better chance if I had decided to shut up shop immediately both times, though that would have only happened if I didn't mind whether it worked or not (as I wouldn't in that situation otherwise, and we were already playing more defensively than normal) but that would have still involved holding out against a lot of pressure (I can't complain too much at losing in the end) and their quick double after we took the lead in extra-time denied me a third opportunity to make that judgement call.

At Gillingham I've taken to treating cup matches against higher-division opponents as an opportunity to get a little bit more money (and claim another scalp) rather than being unwanted games in an already crowded fixture list but we were already being stretched. I was usually having to make a few changes, with some positions seeing players swap most matches, not helped by a few injuries (and Coughlan and Grey being absent on international U21 duty a few times) which didn't cause any selection headaches but did limit the opportunities to rest players. Even when I could make the changes I wanted to that meant weakening the team and also having to regularly use players who were very unreliable.

We finally had a bit of a break going into December but kept shooting ourselves in the foot. Bristol Rovers saw Fatai go off injured (briefly leaving us without all 3 players who could play in that position) followed by a reckless straight red for the veteran midfielder Gowland, though we still might have claimed an equalizer. Bournemouth saw us take a late lead, then almost immediately concede a (controversal) penalty. Byrne looked like giving us the win anyway, ending an incredible 20-hour goal drought, but we could even get that right. It looked like the same was happening when going behind against bottom club Millwall but we did at least turn it around to comfortably win at last (in my 200th match at the club), closing the year with another victory despite two predictably frustrating defeats in between, especially for Chandler at Exeter after he scored twice to seemingly rescue a point after we were 2-0 down.

However the situation isn't too bad. I've still been looking down at bottom 2 for the most part rather than up at the top 7 and the safely margin has remained in double figures (and a lot of places) throughout, so we've been comfortably clear of any trouble. Even at the end of November we were somehow only 7 points from the playoff places, which does make it frustrating knowing we'd only have needed a few more wins to be in genuine contention, but it's not the terrible drop way down the table that it could have been, and at worst we're still merely around where I expected us to be this season in the first place.

Interesting news came from Turkey...

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I'm not sure why it says that he was a player at the club for 19 years, when it was actually 5 1/2. He went to Espanyol (who I think activated his release clause), then Granada, before returning to Turkey with Besiktas and then winding down his career in the lower leagues. His entire managerial career so far has been in the country as well, which makes sense as he ended up becoming Turkish while still a Bucaspor player (and ended up winning 70 caps). I still remember what it took to sign him, exploiting the fact that transfers never go through until all offers have been dealt with by lobbing £0 offers at Millionaros (since I had no budget at the time) which I scrambled to offload players to get enough together for the 625k I needed. Rather naughty of me I know but it worked ;)

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Woah, I was not expecting to be in this position! Macclesfield was actually a rare dominant performance but after no goals from 18 shots (8 on target) I decided to fiddle around with the attacking roles a bit. I still have a poacher as the spearhead like I have done since the dawn of time but the Complete Forward is now a DLF and the 'winger' playmaker has an attack duty. It seemed to work like a charm as despite a poor showing at an Altrincham side who were running away with the league, we just couldn't stop winning after that.

Closing the points gap to the playoffs was easier than the position gap (after Dagenham we were just a point off while still being down in 12th) but we soon found ourselves comfortably in them, aside from when we were 3-0 down at Rochdale (after conceding an equalizer against Woking) and looking like dropping out. We then closed the gap to the automatic promotion places, seemingly out of reach at one point. We managed to draw level with 4 games to go but that's as good as we've managed. Northampton managed to match our following 2 wins, setting up an exciting game with Newport (who the Cobblers had just beaten, putting all 3 of us level on points.

A win would probably have put us up (providing we avoided defeat in the final game) and it looked good when Byrne gave us the lead. Unfortunately we weren't so solid at the back as we had otherwise been, and Newport inflicting an early minor injury on our Irish goalscorer didn't help once they equalized. Charlton managed to ease us ahead (before being subjected to a minor injury of his own) but it still wasn't enough, and we go into the last round of matches as the team trailing in what remains a 3-way tie.

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Notts County away isn't the easiest, though we've cruised through quite a few fixtures like that on our run. I doubt Newport will drop points against Macclesfield, and the odds aren't great for Northampton at Bristol Rovers as well but you never know. All we need is one of those things to happen and a win will see us up. Even if we fail, we have the playoffs (and I fancy our chances on our current form), and even if we lose in those it would still be a fantastic first season back in League 2, putting us in a good position to potentially challenge for promotion again next year.

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As I expected, the other two both won. It was probably just that our match didn't matter in the end because from the start we were on the back foot and they could have easily won by 2 or 3 goals. We did managed to finally apply some pressure of our own later on but Northampton (who took far longer to win) had taken the lead by that point, closing a door that otherwise looked like it might stay open. If we had managed to avoid conceding either equalizer against Newport, we'd be up now instead of them. Instead, we face Notts County again in the playoffs, needing to do far better.

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