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This is my first time of writing about the game/series which has consumed so many days (and nights) of my life so far. Having started playing CM2 at 7 years old, I was hooked and must have played thousands of hours on that version alone, as I was still playing it when I was 21! I bought all the Championship Manager games that followed but growing up without internet meant I was oblivious to the split and the creation of Football Manager. That was until a discussion at college where my friends told me that Football Manager was the one to be playing now so on the way home I bought FM08. Thanks to those friends, I have spent over 1000 hours on pretty much every version since then. 

Where does Braintree fit into this, especially as a Sheffield United fan? Well, I fancied starting at the bottom in England and working my way up and my way of picking my team was to choose the best name. Braintree fitted the bill on FM08 and I started with them. I learnt as much as I could about them from Google and began my save game. Many hours later, I had successfully taken Braintree Town from the Conference South to the Premiership, narrowly missing out on the title (finished second to Arsenal) just as the next iteration of FM was released and that save game was lost to the archives of time. I did, in typical Football Manager obsessed fashion, write to the club and got myself the home and away shirts (I think they thought I was crazy!)

I have followed Braintree's results in real life ever since, from their promotion from the Conference South, to the playoff heartbreak a year ago under the Cowley brothers and then the disappointment of relegation from the Conference last season. I've been looking for a way to get me back into FM this year, after my main save has grown stale. I am going to try and repeat (and better)  what I achieved on FM08 by getting Braintree promoted all the way to the Premiership. For added realism, I have simmed the first season and made sure Braintree were relegated so that, just like in real life, I will be starting in the Conference South. Please note, this will all be done on FM Touch on the iPad as I don't have the time available any more to play the full fat version of FM.

So without further ado, meet the new manager of Braintree Town:

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With just Sunday League experience to my name, I have taken over following the final game of season 1, the team having been relegated to the Conference South. 

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When I start a save game, I like to control everything from top down to start with to make sure my blueprint for long term saves is implemented immediately. This meant removing all the staff, as none were particularly good compared to what I could bring in on frees. With a new team of staff in place, I needed to assess the playing staff. The squad is looking quite thin on the ground and lacking quality in key positions. Lots of players are out of contract this summer. I have signed up a couple of them to new deals but set the majority for release, due to them either being not good enough in my eyes or wanting far too much money for the level we are at. 

I then scoured the free transfer market for anybody that would improve the squad, particularly the key positions we are desperately short in (GK, DC and AMC). I will be using a strikerless tactic that I was using on my main save this year – a risk for this level, yes, but I want to start as I mean to go on. I am therefore looking for technical players above anyone else and furiously hoping that I'm not setting myself up to fail right from the start. 

Before I even had chance to begin my purchasing exercise, Rotherham enquired about one of the midfielders already at the club. Rated as 4 stars and with the potential to be a good league 1 player, he was considered a talent. Valued at 22k, I managed to negotiate the fee upwards of 200k. A massive amount for this level and enough to help me strengthen my team going forward, far more than I could have done without this money.

 

A few hours of trawling through all the released youth players, the player search and the scout reports I had available, and I am pleased with the squad I have been able to assemble. I have a good blend of young players and experienced heads, with a squad that should be far better than most if not all the opponents in the division, on paper. The season preview has us as 9/4 favourites to win the league and the media's ideal team has 9 Braintree players in it going into the season. This makes me think I've done well recruitment wise. 

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The board's expectations for the season seem reasonable. I will be aiming to win the league and try and get as far in the cups as possible as any prize money will be a big boost to the club. 

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I was approached by 4 big teams wanting to play friendlies against us. Normally I like to play smaller teams to boost confidence but a combination of gate receipts plus the challenge of playing these better teams was too good to turn down. My theory being that if we can compete in these games, we should have no issues in the league. The first game of my tenure was at home to Southend, our parent club. A pleasing performance and an excellent result to start things off. I never read too much into friendlies but it gives me confidence that we are heading in the right direction already. The remaining friendlies are against Burnley, Norwich and Forest. 

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I will be updating as I go along, hopefully I will achieve the aim of reaching the Premiership. And hopefully someone might enjoy reading my first attempt at writing! 

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Following the Southend victory in the first pre season match, we lost the remaining three friendlies. Burnley beat us 4-2 but we played and competed very well. Norwich won 2-0, including a 93rd min penalty but again we did ourselves proud. The Forest game was embarrassing. They ran riot in the first half hour, scoring four before thankfully easing off. 

The opening league game was frustrating. We dominated proceedings, but conceded against the run of play with Oxford's only attempt on target. A red card shortly after meant they played with everyone in front of their own goal. We managed an equaliser but couldn't break them down a second time.

Any dent in my confidence for the season was short lived with some excellent performances and results that followed. The players have taken to the Strikerless pricinples and are producing some beautiful football. If my players were more clinical in front of goal, we could have scored three times as many goals as we have so far. I'm not going to complain though as for this level, I am delighted with the football and how easily we are beating our opponents so far. 

I am hoping that we keep this run going. We have picked up a few bad injuries so far which has left me low on cover in a few positions, especially on international weeks as we have 3 players on international duty. 

 

1ph3G4q.jpg

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12 hours ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

Smashing it so far.

Thanks - so far so good.

I have continued to strengthen the squad by adding depth to the midfield and attack to cope with the busy demand of fixtures over the Christmas period. This was as a result of us losing our first game of the season, at home against Oxford City, who we drew with on the opening game. I played a complete rotated team to save all first teamers for the FA Cup match. We were poor and deserved to lose. Simple as that. However, that one minor blip aside, let's look at how things are shaping up since the last update:

 

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Two blips. Oxford City which I have mentioned and the Eastbourne game where I rested key players because of the fixture build up and it backfired and we struggled. Other than that, we dominate most games and have been very consistent. 

The FA Cup was my priority to try and bring in some much needed money. We got lucky with the draw in the qualifiers with some easy ties, before a trip to Doncaster in round 1. I expected to lose heavily to the league 1 side but we completely outplayed them and deserved the win. Doncaster managed just one solitary attempt on goal. In the second round we played league 2 side Eastleigh. They hit the woodwork twice in the first ten minutes, and we looked like we were in for a struggle before a goal on the break settled us down. 2 more goals in quick succession buried our opponents and put us into round 3! We have been drawn at home against Championship side Charlton. At the time of the draw they were 21st. Whilst I wanted a big premiership side for money reasons, I do feel that if we play to our best, we can beat an out of form, low on confidence Charlton. 

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The league table shows just how well the first half of the season has gone. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going and clinch the title comfortably.

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The Eastleigh FA Cup game. Aside from a poor start and getting lucky with two friendly bounces off our woodwork, we were the better team, shown by the match stats. Bodes well for our future that we can dispose of league teams in this manner.

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My favourite match so far. When everything comes together and the team all play to their potential, we are unstoppable. Hampton equalised to make it 1-1, which in my narrative in my head angered my players and made them punish the opposition for daring to score against us! 

Thats where we are up to so far. The FA Cup third round is on the horizon and I'm hoping we turn up and give Charlton a run for their money. 

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FA Cup Third Round

Well this one hurt a lot! We were the better team after the stupid mistake early on which led to their goal. They tried to bully us physically but we stood up to the challenge and they ended up with two men sent off. Sadly, we just couldn't break them down despite controlling most of the game. The positive was it was picked for TV so we got £140,000 for the TV rights. 

ebix4Pg.jpg

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Loving this !  I live in Braintree :)

I managed them on older FMs and got them to the Prem etc, problem I found was the fanbase never caught up with the clubs success, i.e always low attendances and also the commercial deals were always the lowest in the Prem despite being in the CL etc.

I think newer FM's are better for this but its still going to be an issue.

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5 hours ago, mrdanbartlett said:

Loving this !  I live in Braintree :)

I managed them on older FMs and got them to the Prem etc, problem I found was the fanbase never caught up with the clubs success, i.e always low attendances and also the commercial deals were always the lowest in the Prem despite being in the CL etc.

I think newer FM's are better for this but its still going to be an issue.

Thanks for the positive feedback. I'm pleased that it's not just me enjoying this adventure. I hope that when we reach the Premiership we don't encounter such issues. However, on FM16 I took Weston Super Mare to the Premiership and we got there with a 3500 seater stadium. Financially we were a million miles away from the big teams. For me, as a big fan of moneyball, is makes it all the more fun trying to compete in an unfair game. 

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End of season 1

In my last update, we had just suffered the disappointment of being edged out by Championship side Charlton in the FA Cup third round. With the league pretty much wrapped up already, I was hoping that the players wouldn't take their feet off the gas and would continue steamrolling their way to the title, and the FA Trophy. 

Thankfully, complacency didn't become an issue and the Braintree juggernaut continued gaining momentum and broke all sorts of records. 

The final league table. My only real disappointment being the single defeat when I rested all my key players for the FA Cup. However, it was the correct decision because we won the FA Cup tie that followed that loss. 

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The player of the year nominations were full of Braintree players.

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A reoccurring theme in the Manager of the month awards...

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Bizarrely, I didn't even come in the top three for manager of the year! 

Lots of my players are deserving of praise for their contributions this season. I'll pick out just one, in my attacking maestro. Way too good for this level and his goals and assists have been vital in some key wins along the way. He has just signed a new 3 year deal so I should hopefully have him for a while.

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22 days after he final league game, we made our way to Wembley for the FA Trophy final. Having brushed aside several conference national teams, we were up against another in the final. I had all my key players available and went into the game confident that as long as we turned up, we would win.

QbdKupW.jpg

A very pleasing performance and a welcome 50k prize money for winning. 

Having beaten all the conference national sides we have faced this year, I don't think the squad needs a major overhaul for next season. I will aim to improve the weakest links and try to get the loan players I had this year back again. Once I have assembled my squad and been given my objectives for next season, I will report back with my next update. 

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Got any screenshots of the attributes for the key players?  

 

What is your wage spend?  How are the overall finances? 

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10 minutes ago, mrdanbartlett said:

Got any screenshots of the attributes for the key players?  

 

What is your wage spend?  How are the overall finances? 

iPad is just charging so once it's ready I'll screenshot the key players and finance screens and upload them. 

Finances look decent because of the two cup runs and the player sale at the start of the season. If it wasn't for those, we'd be in the red already. 

One thing I've learnt from my Sheff Utd save is not to overthink the finances. My job is to get the results and keep the board happy. I will put the best team on the pitch I can and let them worry about the money because if I get us to the Premiership, the money won't matter anymore! That's the plan at this stage. 

 

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Damn you're doing amazing! What are your tactics mate?

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1 hour ago, Kubson said:

Damn you're doing amazing! What are your tactics mate?

I have mixed a few together and on my long term save I spent ages tweaking it. It's a combination of Guido's Strikerless tactic, a tactic I saw on another FM forum called Pandemo (which I have used as the base) and then I have improved the attacking threats by using wingers at wing backs and strikers at AMCs. 

To protect the leads and keep clean sheets I change to a flat back 5, with a flat 4 in midfield and 1 AMC, mentality defend, time wasting often, retain possession, slow tempo, structured and disciplined. 

I would recommend having a look at Guido's Strikerless work and Pandemo by doktacleavon. Both excellent and once you tweak them to fit your style, team and system, it works a treat. I only had such a good start at Braintree because I have done 20 seasons at Sheff Utd on my other save using this tactic. 

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3 hours ago, mrdanbartlett said:

Got any screenshots of the attributes for the key players?  

 

What is your wage spend?  How are the overall finances? 

Screenshots for you below.

Finances

I pay little attention to this area other than to check the main balance.

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Players

Let's start with my Goalkeeper. Unhappy and transfer listed at Brentford last summer, I snapped him up on a two year deal as he was rated 5 stars for my team and a potential league 1 keeper. A big reason for the number of clean sheets this season.

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Next up is my best centre back. Great attributes for this level.

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I am blessed with some excellent centre mids and attacking mids for this level. Below are the best of these. 

ZLXav76.jpg

sr7xU7Z.jpg

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1 hour ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

That was very easy.

Indeed. I expected a good season but never thought it'd be so successful. However, I'm currently panicking in July as my transfer business and prep for season 2 is not going well and I have none of the confidence I had this time a season ago! I also don't have chance to play FM now until Monday so can't even fix it for a few days!

Proper season preview to come in the near future, once I stop panicking and assemble my team of avengers... I mean footballers! 

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15 hours ago, mrdanbartlett said:

Some great players for that level!  Great start, what a points haul!

 

Thanks again! I have tied some of them down to new deals but lost the loan signings who won't come back or sign permanent deals. Squad looking thin currently. Need a miracle to get a team assembled before the first game. 

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To be honest you walked the league so even if you sign nobody you will still finish well above relegation in the league above. 

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Also I always found with the lower leagues I made my best signings in August/Sept - AFTER the deadline has passed, as the free agents tend to lower their sights/demands a bit then and can be snapped up, when before they were holding out for a bigger club/more wages.

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On 28/07/2017 at 09:54, mrdanbartlett said:

To be honest you walked the league so even if you sign nobody you will still finish well above relegation in the league above. 

As true as this is, I'm aiming for a promotion challenge, so really need to improve the squad.

On 28/07/2017 at 09:56, mrdanbartlett said:

Also I always found with the lower leagues I made my best signings in August/Sept - AFTER the deadline has passed, as the free agents tend to lower their sights/demands a bit then and can be snapped up, when before they were holding out for a bigger club/more wages.

I wish I had known this before I panic-bought, as I am already WAY over my wage budget and under pressure from the board to reduce it. Signed too many players on high wages already.

that said, here is my season preview for season 2.

Season 2 Preview

Following the successes of season 1, and the fact we beat multiple conference and league sides comfortably, I want to be challenging at the top end of the league. The conference is quite difficult to escape, with only 1 team getting promoted and then a playoff lottery for the next 4 teams. I don't want to get stuck here at this level, especially as I've made a mess of the signings this year and financially I need to get promoted this season to offset this mistake.

The boards expectations for this season seem fair:

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The media preview has us as the third best team in the league on paper. 

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Having had a look at York's team, they are way better than we are on paper and have players like Nathan Delfounenso! I would expect them to win the league, with us fighting for second place. 

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Pre-season last year was insightful. We played much better teams and were beaten but not embarrassed. I feel this helped set us up for the season we had. However, I wanted to boost morale as well, so this season I arranged the friendlies. Again we beat Southend, and again it was fairly straight forward. Two easy games for morale followed with comfortable wins, where I played different XIs in each half. I then played the team I support, Sheff Utd, and we played so well until conceding in the 87th minute. Very disappointing but if we can perform like that against Championship teams, we should do alright in the conference. Likewise, beating SPL side Hearts was a great boost for team morale and my confidence heading into the new season. 

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The summer transfer dealings were poor to be honest and I wish I had planned it better to start with. Way over the wage budget and with too many high earners, the squad hasn't been assembled with the same care I did in season 1. I need to learn from this for next season. 

Hopefully we can take our pre season form into the league campaign and start strongly. 

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One of my key players got injured in the friendlies, forcing me to look to the loan market for an AMC to give me cover and depth. Let me introduce you to the player I chose:

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As you can see by his stats at the bottom, he is bossing it for me! A hat trick on his debut, and goals in almost every game so far. He is the key man in my team right now.

Here's how the league campaign has started:

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We can't defend. It's annoying me as we defended so well last year and kept a huge amount of clean sheets. As you can see, they elude me this year. However, whilst the attack functions like a well oiled machine, I refuse to tinker with the defence. I'll take winning by out scoring everyone. 

The league table as it stands:

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York have been surprisingly terrible, languishing in 13th, with less than half our points total so far. With the squad they have, they are majorly underachieving. As mentioned previously, due to my financial mismanagement, we simply have to go up this year as we are losing over 40k a month currently... oops!! 

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From my experience you will always lose money until the champ/premier league unless you get a lucky draw in the cup, so as you said no point worrying about it as once in the Prem its never an issue. 

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So this happened:

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And this:

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Which resulted in our worst run of the save so far:

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I'm just relieved that the players decided to bother in the FA Cup tie, meaning for the second year running we have qualified for the 3rd round. We have been drawn away at Premiership side Leicester. So that's probably where the run ends. I'm not bothered about the FA trophy as I want the team to focus on the league and stopping this bad run.

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7 hours ago, mrdanbartlett said:

From my experience you will always lose money until the champ/premier league unless you get a lucky draw in the cup, so as you said no point worrying about it as once in the Prem its never an issue. 

Yeah I think you're right. Finances have detoriated badly, although FA Cup helps again. Hopefully we can continue winning on the pitch and one day reach the premiership. Having amassed a lot of hours on FM over the years, I know if we can survive the first season in the Premiership, the money makes it easier after that and that's when the fun can begin. 

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16 hours ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

A 33:8 goals record after 10 games and you were moaning about a poor defence?

Haha I always look for areas to improve on. Yes we are scoring plenty but the stupid mistakes the defenders keep making which result in goals conceded annoy me. The next update will highlight why in more detail. 

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Season 2 Review

I left the last update following a poor league run and a win in the FA Cup 2nd round. The draw pitted us away against Premiership side Leicester City. I feared the worst, especially after conceding so early. But my players performed valiantly and impressed me greatly. Shame that it was an own goal which knocked us out but I can't complain at only losing 2-1 to a side 4 divisions higher than us!

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Back to the league campaign and our form was patchy to say the least. I previously touched upon how I was getting annoyed by silly defensive errors. Most of our goals conceded were individual mistakes. The amount of times we have gifted goals to opposing strikers with wayward passes around our own area... The saving grace has been the attack. We managed to outscore opponents more often than not. 

The big problem came when McLoughlin, Stewart, Hitchcock and Martin all got injured for between 6 weeks and 6 months. With those guys missing, we really struggled going forward and suffered our worst spell of the season, seeing us fail to pick up a win in 7 matches. Once these guys started to return, the wins picked up again.

Thankfully, Hitchcock and McLoughlin avoided further injuries and were instrumental in the run in, securing the league title and retaining the FA Trophy. I previously said I wasn't interested in the FA Trophy, but after winning the first couple of games, I decided to try and win it for the money on offer. 

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My two star players played massive parts again this season. Hitchcock is mine and is still under contract and I will try to get McLoughlin back on loan again for next season. Whether they let him come back, we will see when the window opens.

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The positivity of another good season soon took a hit when the board announced the budgets for Braintree Town's first ever season in the football league...

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With very little money available, I have already begun scouting for players whose contracts are running out this summer. I have a shortlist which I will be working from to try and fill key positions. I will then have to raid the loan market to provide cover and try and get some stars again like McLoughlin to give us a chance next season. 

After the poor preparation last summer I am trying to do a better job this time round. Until I see the season and media previews, I am unsure where to set the bar for my expectations next year. I don't think I can repeat the first two seasons performances this time round. The step up in quality will be too much and with no money, I won't be able to bridge the gap. I do however feel we shouldn't be struggling at the bottom end either. At this stage I think a mid table finish would represent a realistic and achievable goal.

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Season 3 Preview 

Going into this season was all about avoiding the mistakes I made going into season 2. Better planning, better recruitment and better financial control. That was the plan and it started well. I made detailed plans using pen and paper, drew up a shortlist of targets and transfer listed everyone I didn't need. 

The plans were great, this time it was going to be different. Yeah, best laid plans and all that...

I managed to get NONE of my targets. NONE! Either I couldn't afford the wage demands, they chose to sign with their current clubs or chose a competing offer elsewhere. This meant I was back to square 1 and really annoyed that all the planning and effort was for nothing. 

Back to square one, major holes in the squad and time running out. I had to come up with another strategy. I quickly got rid of all the players I didn't want, bar one who nobody wants and went to work on the free transfer market. With no real transfer budget, free transfers were my only hope of assembling enough players to provide me with cover in all positions. 

My first move was to make an offer for my superstar on loan last season. 

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Not only did he agree terms, he didn't want much money and was available on a free at the end of his contract. A great start to the summer signings. 

I worked hard on going through the released lists from the leagues above and had my scouts draw up reports on anybody I thought looked decent. The majority wouldn't discuss terms or wanted too much money. However, I picked up a few decent players, notably Aaron Kuhl who is a major coup for my club. 

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Having not been able to sign any of my key targets, I am not as optimistic as I was previously about our chances this season. Having looked at the media prediction and board expectations, I feel avoiding relegation will be my aim but hopefully we can achieve more than that.

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I have arranged pre season friendlies the same way as last year. A couple of tough games against much bigger teams and a couple of easy morale boosters against local sides. I just want us to get off to a good start. Momentum plays a big part in football and if we can start well and continue where we finished last season, we might just overachieve again. We shall see! 

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Posted (edited)

Pre-season was a mixed bag on and off the field. 

I got a little bit excited at this:

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Great signing for this level and exactly what I was looking for to provide depth to my attack as currently I only have McLoughlin, Stewart and Hitchcock, all of whom pick up injuries quite frequently. 

Talking of injuries, just days after Fletcher signs:

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Major injury for McLoughlin is a huge blow for us. Stewart also got injured in the same friendly and is out for 4 weeks. My goalkeeper Bonham has been injured for the last two months, and will miss the start of the season. So I'm missing 2 key strikers and my only decent keeper. 

The friendlies were a decent enough exercise:

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Following the injuries in the Billericay game, I cancelled my final friendly (would have been against a local side) as I can't risk losing any more players before the season opener. We have beaten Eastleigh in the FA Cup in both our previous seasons, however with key players missing, I'm expecting to lose. 

Edited by BuryBlade

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20 hours ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

Very well done winning the non league double.

Thanks! Really enjoying this save so far. 

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0GE60K6.jpg

Another good addition for this level. Adds experience that we were lacking following my forced recruitment of young free players.

Predicted to finish just above the relegation zone, the start to the season has been good. My strikers are struggling a little bit and may have found their ceilings as they are anywhere near as prolific as last year. A lot of goals have come from elsewhere so far, which is good in one sense but I need the strikers to step up a bit mor. However, considering our budget, and the step up in class, I'm delighted so far. 

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The waste of time Checkatrade trophy saw me play a complete reserve side as I had no intention of staying in that any longer than necessary. The league and FA Cup are my focus this year. 

The 7-1 demolition of Oldham is a particular highlight, showing that when everyone is fit, and everything comes together on the day, we are unstoppable. 

VKqgWDl.jpg

 

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16 hours ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

Making it look very easy.

The wheels have fallen off a little bit since... Writing up 2 more updates now to be posted shortly. 

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Well after a great start, the wheels have fallen off a little in this, update 1 of 2 for today. Loads has happened since the last update, so 2 monster updates needed to cover everything!

Update 1 - On the field Progress

Morale plays such a huge part in football, and that is no different on FM. Keep the good results going, morale stays high and hot streaks occur. Results start to slip, morale dips and it can become difficult to break the bad run. A good start can so easily peter off with a bad month. 

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We left the last update at the Plymouth game. Performances had started to dip already at that point, with two 0-0 draws in a row. We managed to halt that minor blip with a few wins, but the defeats started coming thick and fast, beginning with an awful performance at Cheltenham. 3 league defeats in 4 games soon followed, with the FA Cup matches providing much needed relief from a league campaign that was falling apart in front of me. 

Having battled to a 0-0 draw away at Shrewsbury in FA Cup round 2, we dispatched them in the replay to set up a tie away to league 1 side Gillingham. I expected a tough test and probably defeat with the form we were on, but amazingly, we ripped them apart with ease, and if anything, were guilty of wasting many chances. 

The draw was good for round 4. A home tie against Everton! I thought it was guaranteed for TV money, but no, stupid game! Haha. 

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Our first sell out game at the expanded Cressing Road stadium. The eagle eyed amongst you will see mention to some new names in the news article. I'll focus on the off the field progress in monster update 2!

Back to the tie. I was hoping Everton would play a weakened side. Give me a chance. I don't want to be humiliated. 

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Look at the Everton team. Svilar, Barkley, Deulofeu, Bolasie, Lukaku... All individually worth more than my entire club... by about 10 times over at least! Everton have taken this seriously. I fear we could be in trouble here. 

I've stuck with the same tactic I always use. I don't change the set up to counter any opponent. I do however, adjust the mentality going into the gam. Normally we play standard or control. I have opted to use the Counter mentality. 

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Half time, 0-0. W have matched a team of superstars, well above our level. We have dominated the ball, and had twice as many shots on target. Very pleasing so far.

63 minutes on the clock. Mirallas picks the ball up and runs at the defence, throws himself to the floor with a triple pike. The commentary bar says it looked like simulation there by Mirallas (or words to that effect).

The referee, buys the con, and awards the diving cheat a free kick on the edge of the area. I already know how this ends. The underdog gets shafted by the cheating superstars, robbed in their cup final. Mirallas himself, the cheating w****r (virtual in game Mirallas not real life Mirallas just to legal clarification in case he reads this), is going to take the free kick, just to rub salt into the wounds.

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I feel robbed. Sick. Cheated. We have played so well up to this point and been punished by a dive. 

We tried to get back into the game, but my players were as deflated as I was. We didn't really create any clear chances, and barring a couple more attempts, failed to pose any real danger to Everton. 

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That said, little League 2 Braintree pretty much matched Premiership Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup. I'm very proud of their efforts and hopeful they can translate this kind of performance to the league campaign.

The fixtures that are missing between the two Fa Cup game updates are shown below:

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Defeat at Walsall was a blow considering they were second in the league and overtook us as a result. We bounced back well with 10 points from the next 12, leaving the table looking like this:

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At the start of the year, I would have laughed at any suggestion of us being in this position at the start of February. We need to finish strong and make sure we get promoted again. 

Next up, major transfer news from the January transfer window!

 

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January Transfer Window - Major Updates

I was all set for a quiet January Transfer Window. I didn't feel the need to sign anyone or sell anyone. I was happy with the squad and the way the season is going. However, about threee quarters of the way through the window, big team's came a calling for my players... not my key players though. My hot prospects who had barely played. 

Now I have a theory that the AI can 'see' or search by PA. on every save I play, they always seem to have better visibility of PA globally than the user does. These players, showcased below, were not even first teasers for me. I didn't think they were even league 2 level, yet much bigger teams have bought them, for way over their values. That's just my view so let's get to seeing the transfer dealings:

Outgoings

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Bought to be retrained as a RWB, Kerr played a handful of Cup and less important fixtures. Didn't look anything special for me. So when Cardiff and Derby came calling, and offered 150k, I was more than happy to sell, for as much as I could extort out of them. 

Next up was CM Johnson. Signed because the scout report said he had potential to play in league 1, he barely featured for me so again, with big money offers, he was sold.

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Backup goalkeeper O Neill was next. 

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Never played a single match, as he was THIRD choice for me, but Middlesbrough obviously see more than I do and paid good money for him.

Other backup goalkeeper also departed. 

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Decent money for someone who played just a few times.

Last but not least was another CM who again had potential but barely featured.

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I am a big believer in sell on clauses, so got these in on as many deals as I could. Free money in the future? Yes please!

This left me with a problem though... we now had no depth or backup in the squad at all! The next post will look at what I was able to do in the last few hours of deadline day.

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Deadline day - Incoming players

With major holes in the squad due to the departures, I needed to get a few players in quick. I couldn't find a goalkeeper either on loan or for sale that was any good so I simply promoted a youth player, who is not good mind, and will hope my starting GK stays fit.

The sales have put us in a great financial position so I had money and wage room available.

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I'm a Sheffield United fan in real life. So in game, I always keep any eye on how they're doing. On this save, it's not good. However, two of my favourite real life players were available. 

Paul Coutts is a CM who Chris Wilder has transformed in real life into a pivotal part of his team. He keeps things simple and plays the Pirlo role. Receive the ball, pass it on, move into space, receive the ball, pass it on. A great player who makes those around him better. So when I saw in game that they had released him, I asked my scout to run a report. He was interested, wages affordable and rated better than all my current CMs.

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My favourite player in real life is Billy Sharp. A Sheff Utd fan, captaining his boyhood club. Someone who cares as much as the fans do, who gives his all and scores goals. 30 last year to fire the Blades to the title and 100 points! I have signed shirts and photos with his autograph on them. He is Mr Sheff Utd and is as close to a modern day icon as we are going to get. Now in FM world, Billy has found himself unwanted at Bramall Lane by Manager Mike Phelan (unacceptable!) and has been listed for free. 

The scout report came back as a quality player but wage demands too high. I gave it a shot anyway and managed to come to a deal (very expensive for my current set up) but it's Billy Sharp and he plays for me! 

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I think he will make all the difference for the rest of this season and hopefully will be able to bang in the goals to get us promoted.

I scoured the loan market and managed to get a couple of loans in to add backup to the first team. For a Transfer Window that brought in so much money, and to be able to sign some key players for nothing, I am very pleased.

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Season 3 Review

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A few poor performances cost me the chance of a third straight title. Walsall were more consistent overall and we missed out on the title on the last day. 

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Delighted to have defied the pre season predictions and have secured another promotion. Coupled with an excellent FA Cup run, we have had a great season on the pitch. The sales of fringe players in January also means it was a success off the field.

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Signed in January to help boost my promotion push, my favourite real life player didn't disappoint. Some excellent performances and key goals helped secure the points to keep us in the top 2 until the finale. 

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A fabulous year for Stewart who after a slow start, came to life and tore opposition defences apart. Having been with me since the start, it is nice that he is still able to perform at this level. I also feel that if he avoids injuries and continues where he left off, he could be effective in league 1.

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Another who after a starting slowly, found his feet and banged the goals in. Again, going to give him a shot in league 1 as I think he could still offer something. 

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Personal accolades are always welcome.

Just like in January, it didn't take long for teams to come sniffing for my players... but again, not my superstars! 

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Lots of clubs were interested around March so I simply played him in some games so that it would guarantee a move away. He wasn't good enough for me and I wanted to sell. 300k for a player valued at 26k is good business I think. 

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Harris played a rotation part for me last season but wasn't anything special so 300k from Boro was very welcome. 

I have begun my planning for next season as it will be a big step up from league two, with teams like Cardiff and Sheff Utd to play. 

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Season 4 Preview

We have made it to League 1! And somehow, still no one decent wants to join us. Don't know if this is a bug or not but I can't attract anybody who I deem to be decent to the club. You will we below by my transfer business that yet again, I'm shopping in the charity shops when my competitors this season are shopping at Waitrose and Selfridges. As per one of my favourite lines in Moneyball:

'There are the rich teams and there are the poor teams. Then there's 50 feet of crap and then there is us!'

My Moneyball approach so far, as a result of having no money before this season and now that nobody wants to join, has worked so far. I'm not so sure we can compete in league 1 though. The bookies seem to agree:

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The board don't seem so confident either:

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No point having all this money if nobody will join me. I refuse to waste it on improving youth or facilities as at this level it is pointless. Any players we produce at this level won't be good enough for the Premiership, which is my target. Once I get there, I will start improving infrastructure. For now I will keep my money and hope someone will join me soon that improves the squad.

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My transfer dealings in the bargain bucket:

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Because no one would join me, we had just 2 CBs left. I scoured the Premiership reserves and loaned some defenders on season loans. Not ideal but I have put together my team for next season. Unless I can attract better players, I don't see the squad being too dissimilar to last season. 

Of the players brought in on frees, the majority are released youth players who my scouts said were Championship potential. Not good enough for league 1 currently but I'll give them a go and they'll either come good or inevitably attract bids from bigger sides. 

The fixture list highlights the magnitude of the task ahead. These teams are miles bigger than us!

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As usual, my pre season prep involves a stern test against a big team. This year it's Arsenal. A couple of morale boosters follow and then our parent club Southend... again surely a bug that we are now in the same league but the board haven't cancelled the affiliation?!

I'd be interested to hear any suggestions as to alternative recruitment methods and bringing in players when the player search shows nobody decent? 

I have a feeling it's going to be a long hard season. Avoiding relegation will be my primary aim. An FA Cup run would be nice to keep the streak going. 

 

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My tip is this..........shortlists.....I keep a few:

- Good players = here I store good players who I'd  be interested in signing, nice to have a list as if someone buys your best LB you have a quick way of going and finding a replacement for example

- Good youngsters = here I keep tabs on hot prospects 

- Contract expiring = here I keep a list of players who might sign but whose contracts are running down

- Out of contract = I use this for ALL good released players, even ones who probably wouldn't sign, as after a while they will lower their demands and might be interested.

 

Using the 'realistic' filter on these lists keeps me updated with who I might be able to sign.  My old approach was to keep some budget by, wait until September/oct then go after the released players who weren't previously interested, I'm sure once I waited a year and signed Thero Walcott after he had been released, and I was at a fairly small club at the time.

Everyone has their ways but this was mine.  the problem you have is Braintree's rep will be v low until they have been a regular at this new, higher level, so you are always up against it when you have such a fast level of success. 

 

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On 15/08/2017 at 14:11, mrdanbartlett said:

My tip is this..........shortlists.....I keep a few:

- Good players = here I store good players who I'd  be interested in signing, nice to have a list as if someone buys your best LB you have a quick way of going and finding a replacement for example

- Good youngsters = here I keep tabs on hot prospects 

- Contract expiring = here I keep a list of players who might sign but whose contracts are running down

- Out of contract = I use this for ALL good released players, even ones who probably wouldn't sign, as after a while they will lower their demands and might be interested.

 

Using the 'realistic' filter on these lists keeps me updated with who I might be able to sign.  My old approach was to keep some budget by, wait until September/oct then go after the released players who weren't previously interested, I'm sure once I waited a year and signed Thero Walcott after he had been released, and I was at a fairly small club at the time.

Everyone has their ways but this was mine.  the problem you have is Braintree's rep will be v low until they have been a regular at this new, higher level, so you are always up against it when you have such a fast level of success. 

 

Thanks for your suggestions. I will have a go at making separate shortlists and keeping an eye on players who may become interested later on. Hopefully we can pick up some better players this way. 

On 15/08/2017 at 21:52, Nobby_McDonald said:

Another great season.

Three good seasons so far but I fear the rep being so low for this level will bring a halt to the Braintree juggernaut. I've seen people on the challenge threads who have won back to back promotions all the way through to the Premiership. Hats off to them as based on the recruitment this pre season, my team will be lucky to survive. 

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Oh I also keep a 'must buys' shortlist for my top targets/players I badly want.  Usually more applicable when managing a big club though as fewer players out there who will improve the XI.

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Posted (edited)

Have you got a better parent club yet? Since you are in league 1, I presume your parent club should be at least a lower premiership level. This can be useful in terms of loans or expanding your scouting knowledge. 

I invite many overseas young players to come on trial at my club, Wycombe. Particularly those whose contract expires after the season. Using this, I am able see if they are willing to sign for me, and if they are good enough for my level. The Scottish championship, Portuguese lower leagues, Finnish lower leagues and German reserve leagues are pretty good hunting grounds for such players. 

Keep up the good work! I will be following this closely to see how you cope with the consecutive promotions! 

Edited by inthisspace

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1 hour ago, inthisspace said:

Have you got a better parent club yet? Since you are in league 1, I presume your parent club should be at least a lower premiership level. This can be useful in terms of loans or expanding your scouting knowledge. 

I invite many overseas young players to come on trial at my club, Wycombe. Particularly those whose contract expires after the season. Using this, I am able see if they are willing to sign for me, and if they are good enough for my level. The Scottish championship, Portuguese lower leagues, Finnish lower leagues and German reserve leagues are pretty good hunting grounds for such players. 

Keep up the good work! I will be following this closely to see how you cope with the consecutive promotions! 

Thanks for your feedback. Always nice to know that there are people who are interested in how this is going!

As it is FM Touch on the iPad, I don't have any control over the parent/feeder clubs (which annoys me greatly). So, bizarrely, Southend are still our parent team, even though we are now in the same division. 

I will have a look at trying to get players on trial from the leagues you have suggested. I don't know how many players will be shown though as again, with it being iPad version, and only England loaded, the level of detail in the wider world is quite low. It is worth a go however as I am struggling to attract players. And the board won't increase the scouting range beyond UK so I can't even scout Europe yet! 

For anyone else following, apologies for the lack of updates. I've been away recently and not had chance to play. I will try to get some more games played and another update done in the next day or two.

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We began the season with a squad relying heavily on loans and last years players, thoroughly expecting to struggle and be stuck at the wrong end of the league table.

My usual pre season arrangement saw us lose heavily to a string Arsenal side, hammer 2 non league opponents and concede a 93rd min equaliser to Southend. 

The curtain raiser was at home v Peterborough. We raced into a 3-0 lead before completely falling apart defensively to allow them to make it 3-3. With ten minutes to go, we scored again and I switched to my ultra defensive tactic to see it out. 

I played a completely changed XI for the Cup game, happy to avoid any further fixtures. 

Back to the league and having gone 1-0 up at Port Vale, we were reduced to ten men, went 2-1 behind before rescuing a late point. 

Back to back defeats followed against Wimbledon and Coventry with us being outplayed in both games. 

The Wimbledon game also dealt us a massive blow:

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The way we have started, I think we could be in real trouble this season. We need to stop leaking goals and start scoring like we have done in the previous years.

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58 minutes ago, Nobby_McDonald said:

Finding the step up a struggle right now.

Massively! I'm not very good tactically so once things start to go wrong, I'm not the best at recovering them. The lack of players willing to sign, meaning my squad is not good enough, probably means this season is a write off already and I need to try and survive and put together a shortlist of potential signings (and hope they join next summer). 

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