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[FM 20] The Nearly Men, Vol. IV: I Am Not A Demon. I Am A Lizard. A Shark. A Heat-Seeking Panther. I Want To Be Bob Denver On Acid Playing The Accordion.


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PSA: the Champions League final will be live-blogged at FtCS on Monday, February 3rd. Kickoff at approximately 8pm London time, I'll post the link once it's available!

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13 hours ago, Bitner said:

The Club world Cup will count for the nearly men in the future:

Cheers,
Bitner 

If you were going to add the Club World Cup, that would mean adding the Brazilian, Argentinean, Ecuador, DR Congo, Moroccan, Japanese and Emirates leagues to the game.

It would be more realistic if he did an Asian save than going through that torture.

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Just now, HawkAussie said:

If you were going to add the Club World Cup, that would mean adding the Brazilian, Argentinean, Ecuador, DR Congo, Moroccan, Japanese and Emirates leagues to the game.

It would be more realistic if he did an Asian save than going through that torture.

Definitely not going to happen, in the end.  My laptop would melt!

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However Long The Night May Last, There Will Be A Morning

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FK Partizan / Ivory Coast - Season Review 2037/38

It's hard to believe that this chapter is coming to a close.

We've built something here. Something that should last.

For a time, it felt like we had built more than a football club. A life. But that life has been ripped away.

For my part, I'm ready for a clean break.

South Africa for the World Cup. Then, we'll see where the winds take us. There are already offers in hand, but they aren't the right "fit" for our footballing philosophy and goals, and wouldn't serve to supplement the development of Ivorian youth, either.

For now, I just want to get as far away from Belgrade as possible.

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After last year's final, I knew we were capable of making a run this year. The tactical tweaks worked a treat, even if the youthful nature of our 2nd XI meant that we were dropping points domestically. Of course, we were also facing teams who would stack 10-11 men behind the ball and play for a scoreless draw.

In the Champions League, that's where our quality and tactical nous showed. Let's be clear, the new tactic, codenamed PM Haaientand isn't perfect. But we ran through the knockout rounds, utterly dominant with a relatively young squad -- our oldest player is 25, with only two 24 year-olds.

The tactic itself is part of a collaboration with Guido Merry and Gareth Clarke, and will be detailed in a forthcoming post on strikerless. Watch this space.

For now, though, it is time to move on. Nicolaj has resigned from Partizan, and is en route to South Africa for the World Cup.

Goals for 2038/39:  Make a run at the World Cup with the Ivory Coast. Wait for the "right" club job -- meaning, a club that can serve as a developmental base for the Ivorians.

Squad | League Overview | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

Fixtures 1 | Fixtures 2 | Fixtures 3

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European Review

As documented in the 2037/38 Open Thread and live-blogged final, Partizan beat Sandro Schwarz's Atletico, 2-1. Mission accomplished for Partizan, but more anguish for Atletico.

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Champions League Overview | CL Knockout Rounds

In the Europa League, it was an all-Italian affair, as Rui Faria's Roma beat Frank Schmit's Atalanta, 3-nil.

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Europa League Overview | EL Knockout Rounds

In the Europa Conference League, Philip Cocu's PS-****ing-G beat Ricardo Sa Pinto's Everton, 1-nil.

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Europa Conf. League Overview | ECL Knockout Rounds

In the active leagues, Albert Celades' Wolves successfully defended their Premier League title. Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus won their 17th straight Serie A title, their 26th in 27 years. Miguel Cardoso's Sevilla claimed the La Liga title, the 4th time in 6 years that neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid have won the title. Hugo Lloris' Lyon shook off their Champions League exit at the hands of Partizan to win their 3rd straight Ligue 1 title. Julian Nagelsmann's Gladbach reclaimed their Bundesliga title, their 7th in 9 years. Baba Toure's Club Brugge defended their title in Belgium, their 9th in 12 years. Paolo Fonseca's Panathinaikos won their 14th straight SuperLeague title, 39 points clear of Josef Husbauer's Panachaiki. Finally, Nikola Moro's IFK Norrkoping won the 2037 Allsvenskan title.

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Save/Challenge Overview

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Cross-posted at From the Cheap Seats.

Edited by ManUtd1
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Brilliant tenure in Partizan, it's always one of my favorite places to see you work your magic on these saves. The squad building was a work of art and the slow but sure rise to the top was very satisfying to witness. I can't wait to see where you go next, there's so many good options on that list!

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The 2038 World Cup is upon us, which means we've got to take a close look at the Ivory Coast squad -- a full review is up at From the Cheap Seats!

The World Cup review itself will be posted shortly.

 

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South Africa 2038 - World Cup Review.

A frustrating 1st match against the United States, as we missed a penalty and wasted numerous chances in front of goal. Our best player, Kante, failed to show up. He was awful. We nevertheless managed a 1-nil win, which was more remarkable for how sad was than anything else.

We follow that up with an utterly shambolic, embarrassing 3-1 loss to Scotland. It was as ugly as you'd expect from that scoreline. Yet, thanks to the miracle of the 48-team World Cup, we progress. Which isn't as ridiculous as it could have been -- we at least had 4 points Cameroon, Angola, Paraguay and Ireland all advanced with 1 point. Belgium and Turkey advanced with 2.

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In the Second Round, we faced Chile who had won Group F. We utterly dominated but were unable to create meaningful chances, with 3 goals called back thanks to VAR. 30 minutes of extra time didn't see a winner. So we went to the lottery of penalites. Both teams buried their first 5. Ruthless. In sudden death, Gouamene saved Chile's 6th penalty...only for Trazie to miss our 6th. After both sides scored their 7th penalty, Gouamene saved Chile's 8th penalty, only for Keita to miss his. Gouamene saved Chile's 9th and, third times' the charm, Sangare buried his penalty to send us through, 7-6 on penalties after a scoreless draw.

In the Third Round, we faced Paraguay who had finished second in Group H, with 1 point. The situation felt dire. We had only scored 2 goals in 300 minutes of play, one of which was a penalty. Kante was gassed, so we put in Didier Kone...who smashed one off the bar in the 1st minute. We grabbed an early goal off a corner thanks to a towering header from Karamoko Fofana, but then errors took over. We fail to clear a loose ball when given a chance...bundled over the line for the equalizer. Gouamene fails to sweep a ball up, watching the Paraguayan forward stroll past him for their 2nd. Silly mental errors. Schoolboy stuff. As the clock ticked down and we wasted chance after chance, it looked like that would be the end of our tournament. Complete domination, a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal. The hallmark of our tournament. Until the 92nd minute, when a speculative cross found Ange Diallo unmarked at the back post. 2-2. Back on level terms. Not 2 minutes later, in 4th minute of injury time, Paraguay were reduced to 10 men after Didier Kone was taken down on the verge of a 1v1. But we could not take advantage in the 30 minutes of extra time. Tired legs, ugly football. Reduced to the lottery of penalties, again. And, again, Gouamene was the hero saving 3 of Paraguay's 1st 4 penalties. We hit 3 of ours, meaning we advance 3-2 on penalties.

To face Belgium in the quarterfinals. At this point, after 2 matches going to penalties, we were utterly gassed. Not just tired legs. No legs. We didn't play all that poorly, but the Belgians took advantage of every mistake. They were ruthless. We were not. We go out, with a 4-1 loss that hurts but doesn't surprise given the tournament we had.

Of course, the FA was ****ing chuffed, because they'd only expected us to reach the Third Round. That merely confirmed that had been watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire reruns, because the football on display was grim. 4 years of dominant, fluid football...turned to **** for 3 weeks in South Africa.

 

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Give that man a new contract.

The good news is that they were so "pleased" with our "performance," that I didn't get sacked. I genuinely thought that was possible, especially during the Scotland and Chile matches.

So we will have the chance to redeem ourselves. We're going to change up the tactics, though, and switch over to the new PM Haaientand. That is assuming, of course, that I can get a club job that will allow me to support Les Elephants, retraining players, etc...but news on that in the next installment.

How did the rest of the tournament go, you ask? The only eligible teams to reach the quarterfinal stage were the Ivory Coast and AI-managed Croatia. Other potentially eligible teams of note included Jose Chamot's Paraguay, AI-managed Colombia, Jim Brennan's Canada, AI-managed Ghana, and Silas' Portugal, each of whom were eliminated in the Third Round.

Of course, we were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Lior Refaelov's Belgium, who reached the final after beating Vincenzo Montella's Italy, 1-0, in the semifinals. Croatia also managed to reach the final, beating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's England in the other semifinal, 1-0.

In the final itself, Croatia prevailed, 1-0, over Lior Refaelov's Belgium. The match itself was dire...but those are the breaks.

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Of course, the good news is that this result means that: (1) Croatia have completed the challenge; and (2) Belgium are now eligible. So let's update that tracker, shall we?

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The other good news is that Nicolaj Bur has recently interviewed for a new job...

All that I will say for now is that we'll be doing something we've never done in a Nearly Men save, to-date...

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Patience is a virtue, Leo.

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Gotta be Spurs, right? Or Atalanta 

 

Think I enjoy guessing the next club as much as anything else 😄

 

I’m sure you mentioned ‘youth only’ at some point too, but not sure how that’d help Ivory Coast

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2 hours ago, Joe. said:

Gotta be Spurs, right? Or Atalanta

I'm pretty sure he did Spurs on FM17 after they became eligible at some point in-game.

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5 hours ago, Joe. said:

Gotta be Spurs, right? Or Atalanta 

 

Think I enjoy guessing the next club as much as anything else 😄

 

I’m sure you mentioned ‘youth only’ at some point too, but not sure how that’d help Ivory Coast

It's not Spurs or Atalanta... And as much as I'd like to go youth only, you're right. That wouldn't help the Ivory Coast... :brock:

3 hours ago, Rikulec said:

I'm pretty sure he did Spurs on FM17 after they became eligible at some point in-game.

I had to double check this to be sure, but the AI won the CL with Tottenham in 2086 after they became eligible.  Hakan did go to West Ham for one year (2050/51), part of the streak where he win 3 CLs in a row, with different clubs: Club Brugge in 2049/50, West Ham in 2050/51, then Monaco in 2051/52, before moving on to Fenerbahce.

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Great work with Partizan! I really enjoy their leg of the save for some reason, and the new systems intriguing also, I can't wait for that update. 

13 hours ago, ManUtd1 said:

All that I will say for now is that we'll be doing something we've never done in a Nearly Men save, to-date...

Now don't ask me why cause I don't know, but I really get the impression that this more than just a club you haven't managed before, that seems too inside the box for some reason. I may be straying way too far from said box, but you haven't activated the Championship to manage Leeds have you? As technically being as you have to take over as soon as they're manageable you'd have to take over I believe, correct me if I'm wrong. Or alternatively the second tier of another nation with more lenient foreign rules. But something says Leeds in a new league to me. I'm probably not even on the right lines and way way way too far outside the box with me thinking but thats what my gut says.

I'm going to look a right wolly when its something obvious aren't I?

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July 2038.

I didn't think I would be nervous. I hope it doesn't show.

Zlatan, Jesse and I are meeting to decide between the various job offers that have been pouring in for our managerial trio...I cannot count how many times I've had to reject Zlatan's demand that we call it a "managerial menage a trois." But that's beside the point.

Truth be told, I've all but decided. I know what I want to do.

Jesse will go along with whatever Zlatan and I decide. He's not going to rock the boat. Regardless of where we land, though, I need to give him more responsibility.

Zlatan is the first to arrive. For once, I told him to remain inconspicuous and he seems to have listened. No flashy car, no flashy clothes. It would stick out like a sore thumb, even here in Amsterdam. Not like Zlatan could ever truly "blend in."

Jesse arrives minutes later, easily the least-recognizable of our trio, the one with the lowest public profile.

The owner of the restaurant is a close friend. No one makes Italian-Belgian waffles like Horst. Sure, people needed time to warm to the savory-sweet combinations on offer, but once you've tried a true Belgian waffle, slathered with marinara sauce, you won't go back. Trust me.

Horst takes our order and heads back to the kitchen. He's no "ITK" snob on social media, and will this one between us. He's closed the restaurant down for us. No staff. No other patrons. No prying eyes.

"Jesse, what are your thoughts, brother?"

"You know me, Nico. I could go either way. Italy is lovely, but it isn't home. And Germany...it feels too soon. Nagelsmann has really got Gladbach in a groove, and I don't think that we want to undermine the very thing we helped create, you know?"

I nod. There's a wisdom in that. I notice, however, that Jesse hasn't mentioned the French connection. It doesn't even seem to have occurred to him that I'm seriously considering it. I have my reasons. I look to Zlatan.

"The Zlatan agrees. It would be very much no the Zlatan, going back to the Germany now. Very much Tevez to the City. Not Zlatan. What are you thinking, Boss?"

I tell them. I plead my case. Impassioned.

An awkward silence ensues.

Slowly, Jesse starts to nod. "I can see it, Nico. A clean slate. The chance to build something, to bring a club out of the ashes...a phoenix rising."

Zlatan scoffs. "Do not be the silly, Jesse, the phoenix is mythical creature. No exist. And, if we are talking about fake beasts, then the Zlatan wants a penguin."

"Zlatan, penguins are real."

"That's the spirit, Boss. Penguins are real to the Zlatan, too."

I sigh. We aren't getting anywhere. If I try to explain this to Zlatan -- again -- he'll just take us deeper down the rabbit hole. I need to cut to the chase.

"Zlatan, think about it. You love champagne. You could have all the champagne you want, if the football on the pitch is good enough. And there's a vibrant supporters' group, lots of energy in the stadium, the local youth are heavily engaged. We would have a free hand to do whatever we want."

Zlatan perks up.

"Not that, Zlatan."

For a moment, Zlatan looks like he's about to argue. But he manages to restrain himself. For now.

One final objection, albeit half-hearted. "The Zlatan hates the French, Boss."

Now that just isn't true. "Don't be ridiculous. You hate PSG. There's a difference. And if we do this...we could help put the final nails into their coffin, yeah?"

Zlatan is beginning to warm to the idea. "It would be a step down, Boss. The Zlatan is not sure."

"Everything is a step down from Partizan, Zlatan. That's the point. We could go anywhere. Anywhere at all. But where's the fun in doing the obvious. Why not go somewhere and build a legacy?"

"If are the doing this, can the Zlatan get a penguin?"

Jesse groans.

"Anything you want, Zlatan."

page break

 

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Oh, yes. We're going to build something and, in the process, do something we have never done in the Nearly Men saves -- drop into the second tier to take over an eligible side.

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Stade de Reims are a club with a rich history, but have been stuck in Ligue 2 since suffering relegation in 2028/29. I'm not one to dwell and detail a club's history.

In-game, we have no staff. Few players in the first team squad (although 3 halfway decent keepers, for some reason). And a Board with shockingly little ambition.

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Having hired the managerial menage a trois that is Nicolaj, Zlatan and Jesse, their short term goal is to reach the Ligue 2 promotion playoffs, but they'll also be content if we remain mid-table cannon fodder for the next 5 years.

That $18 million transfer budget is far more than I expected. It will go a long, long ways in recruiting young Ivorians who can be molded to suit our tactics.

Image result for stade de reims stadiu"

Our new home, the Stade Auguste-Delaune.

I think we can aim a little higher, have more ambitious goals. We don't have to tell the Board, though.

What are we trying to do with Stade de Reims, you ask?

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And if we can help sink PS-****ing-G in the process, all the better.

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1 hour ago, OJ403 said:

Great work with Partizan! I really enjoy their leg of the save for some reason, and the new systems intriguing also, I can't wait for that update. 

Now don't ask me why cause I don't know, but I really get the impression that this more than just a club you haven't managed before, that seems too inside the box for some reason. I may be straying way too far from said box, but you haven't activated the Championship to manage Leeds have you? As technically being as you have to take over as soon as they're manageable you'd have to take over I believe, correct me if I'm wrong. Or alternatively the second tier of another nation with more lenient foreign rules. But something says Leeds in a new league to me. I'm probably not even on the right lines and way way way too far outside the box with me thinking but thats what my gut says.

I'm going to look a right wolly when its something obvious aren't I?

Quite a good guess, actually!  I've thought about it before, but haven't ever done it.  I'm REALLY excited about this next stop on the journey!

Partizan is always good fun.  I don't know why, but I love managing there!

1 hour ago, rodesire said:

5-4 to AI lol

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38 minutes ago, ManUtd1 said:

Quite a good guess, actually!  I've thought about it before, but haven't ever done it.  I'm REALLY excited about this next stop on the journey!

I really wanted to say France as well cause of the lenient African player rules. Fingers crossed it'll be good fun, no reason it shouldn't be

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31 minutes ago, Tacchi said:

The best pick from the remainder of the nearly men!

I will admit that some clubs are less appealing than others... This is brilliant. Can't wait to get going.

I'm hoping to start getting the squad sorted in a few hours. Haven't played a single moment since posting the update!

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Congratz on winning a final (finally).

Reims is probably the most exciting team you could take over now.

Cheers,
Bitner

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On 05/02/2020 at 15:12, rodesire said:

Second tier? Siiiiiiiiii

It's delicious. Champagne football in the sub-farmers' league.

2 hours ago, Bitner said:

Congratz on winning a final (finally).

Reims is probably the most exciting team you could take over now.

Cheers,
Bitner

I'm really excited, even if the team needs a ton of work.  We're a blank slate, which is both good and bad...

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Incredible read as always mate. Don't wanna be 'that' guy, but how does Zlatan always sign for you at every club you join? When I leave a club and I try to poach my ass man he very rarely wants to join me unless I've gone to someone massive, definitely not Partizan to the French second division. 

Best of luck, wonder how long it'll be before you bring that Champions League trophy to Reims

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1 hour ago, bigmattb28 said:

Incredible read as always mate. Don't wanna be 'that' guy, but how does Zlatan always sign for you at every club you join? When I leave a club and I try to poach my ass man he very rarely wants to join me unless I've gone to someone massive, definitely not Partizan to the French second division. 

Best of luck, wonder how long it'll be before you bring that Champions League trophy to Reims

Thanks, man!

Peek behind the curtain... If he doesn't sign, I might just nickname the existing assman since Zlatan is a narrative device. However, there may come a time when Zlatan fails to join Nicolaj...as a part of the story...

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December 2038.

Adapting to life in rural France has been far easier than I expected.  Zlatan spent the first few weeks pacing (“like a caged lion,” he claimed…), but once we got into the rhythm of things, life has been remarkably good.

Quiet.  But good.

Having a free hand and low expectations has a way of making you see everything with a silver lining.

Not that we’ve needed to get by on optimism.

The lads have taken to our tactical approach like ducks to water. 

Sure, the pundits had a good laugh. Champagne football in Ligue 2?

Who's laughing now, fellas?! As if we'd change our approach.

The lack of European football has meant extra time for scouting, so we’ve taken it to heart.  Zlatan has also spent time pondering the philosophical question – if Ligue 1 is a “farmers’ league,” then what is Ligue 2? 

Jesse, for his part, has spent a lot of time on his blog, preparing to release his magnum opus – a 31,273-word essay on how the Harry Potter movies betrayed the essence of the books.  The word count is apparently very important.  I’m just glad he has a hobby.

It’s the holidays here in the countryside outside Reims.  It’s beautiful.  Our time in Belgrade seems like another life entirely, and it has only been 6 months. 

We’re on track for automatic promotion.  A return to the spotlight.  Where our methods and philosophies will be tested anew. 

I wish she was here to see it.  Although when I voiced that sentiment, Jesse had the insight to question who I meant, Stana or Selene.  Honestly, I’m not sure at this point.

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Well done with Partizan. I think the reasons why Partizan is so satisfying (to read and I suspect to play too) are because a) they're from a league that's so far removed from being at the top of European football in modern times ; b) they have a brilliant youth system ; c) they have an excellent rivalry with Crvena Zvezda.

Serbia's one of the very few European leagues I've never tried, one for the list one day, I'd love to try either Partizan or their rivals. 

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5 hours ago, noikeee said:

Well done with Partizan. I think the reasons why Partizan is so satisfying (to read and I suspect to play too) are because a) they're from a league that's so far removed from being at the top of European football in modern times ; b) they have a brilliant youth system ; c) they have an excellent rivalry with Crvena Zvezda.

Serbia's one of the very few European leagues I've never tried, one for the list one day, I'd love to try either Partizan or their rivals. 

Thanks, man!

Honestly, I love playing in Serbia. Great regens, great rivalries to be had. Cu**aricki even became one this time around!

5 hours ago, noikeee said:

Oh and that future World Cup system is just **** poor. As soon as I saw the 3 team groups I was cringing. 

The revamped club world cup is the worst. The world cup itself... I don't like it, but at least we're seeing nations beyond the "usual" making waves. That's what I want, ultimately.

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The Ballad of Toothless Bob, Vol. 3 – Soon comes the day all shall die, even you, but never I…

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Previously, on the Ballad of Toothless Bob:

Volume 1: Nicolaj Bur risks disrupting the space-time continuum with a casual roll of the dice, while a Leeds United supporter known only as Toothless Bob prepares his army of children for the new season.

Volume 2: Toothless Bob and his army of children are forced to flee Yorkshire, one step ahead of the law.

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Saint-Denis, France; several blocks from Luis Fernandez Park. Exterior. Late Evening.

The distant sounds of a crowd echo down the narrow street.

Eric Clapton's It's In The Way That You Use It blares from the open door of the seedy bar on the corner. The bouncer's foot taps in time with the beat. The chorus kicks in, the lyrics as clear in his mind today as they were in '86.

PSG are hosting Marseille tonight. Law enforcement are out in force, but concentrated closer to the recently-built stadium.

In hindsight, that will be seen as a colossal blunder.

Raindrops begin to fall, as the music changes to George Michael's Faith. The bouncer begins to hum the instantly-recognizable refrain.

For now, he has little to do. He knows that will change once the final whistle blows, and the legions of disgruntled supporters of Le PSG descend upon the nearest source of cheap alcohol.

The winds pick up, as the bouncer watches the smoke curl from the tip of his cigarette. He knows it is a filthy habit. Maybe it is time to finally quit, for good.

The bouncer quirks an eyebrow, as he watches the wind carry his poorly-executed smoke rings off down the street...only to see leaves blowing along the ground in the other direction.

As the bouncer looks around, to see if anyone else has noticed this strange occurrence, he feels a strong chill. The night feels somehow, darker.

And that's when the screams began.

Later that same night. Luzarches, France. Interior of a non-descript home.

The front door shuts quietly.

"Count off, lads," insists a barbed voice, emanating from a man who stands cloaked in shadow. The sound of children counting quietly in various languages fills the room.

Satisfied, the man steps into the light, a soft chuckle rising from deep within his belly. "You know the rules, lads. Lights out. Keep quiet, and keep your heads down until we get back home tomorrow. No one leaves. No phone calls. There'll be time enough for celebrating once we know we're in the clear."

Several lamps are lit, as the children quietly begin to settle in for the night. Before bedding down, however, they each approach their garrista to pay homage. Nothing overly official. A handshake. A solemn nod.

This is not the first time they've pulled a stunt like this. Although it might just be the biggest target they've hit.

The "mighty" PSG may be stumbling as of late, but they still think of themselves as the kings of France. And they still pull a gate that other clubs dream of.

Which made them a ripe target for the man in this room. A man known to the West Yorkshire Police as Toothless Bob, a name he wears like a badge of honor.

The take tonight? Mid 7-figures. One simple hack. More than enough to keep them living well for a year or more. Time enough for the heat to die down.

The diversion? Necessary.

Maybe not "necessary" in the strictest sense. But some form of distraction was just good planning. Self-preservation. Making sure that Bob and the lads had 10 minutes where everyone's focus was on anything but them.

It was also good fun. A bit of mayhem never hurt anyone. Not permanently. At least, not since the Millwall match.

A heavy sigh, as Bob turns out the lamp nearest to him, closing his eyes. The Millwall lad was a mistake.

A mistake he'd pay for sooner or later. The Crooked Warden's rules demanded as much.

Give and take.

The Crooked Warden always collects his due.

Later that same night. Luzarches, France. Darkened interior of a non-descript home.

Bob wakes with a start, his heart racing. The images seared indelibly in his mind, even if they are clouded with the haze of sleep.

Nine shadowed figures, surrounding a dark figure kneeling in the center of the Santiago Bernabeu, the shadowed figures chanting, in a droning monotone. A woman dressed in white, watching on with approval.

As thunder rolls outside, Bob shivers. He can still hear the chant echoing in his head.

Soon comes the day all shall be free; even you, and even me...

Soon comes the day all shall die; even you, but never I.

It is the fourth night Bob has had the dream this week.

He's heard several of the children talking about it as well. Only, Bob hasn't shared his dream with the children. He dare not show them any weakness.

The detail he has yet to see, however, has reached his ears. Several of the children claim that the dark figure kneeling in the middle of the nine, is none other than Sergio Ramos.

Bob turns his head to the candle-lit oil painting on the wall. Sergio -- the Crooked Warden made flesh, the Son of the Son -- gazes back.

Like the Mona Lisa, the painting's eyes seem to follow Bob as he steps gingerly across the room, avoiding stepping on his young charges.

The irony of it all is that Bob truly cares for these children, like a father.

Bob steps up to the youngest of his charges. Their most recent "free transfer," in the parlance of their crew.

Ethan. Bright-eyed. Eager. Smart...almost too smart.

The hack tonight was his idea.

Bob nudges Ethan awake, whispering softly. "We need to talk, son."

Ethan nods.

In the morning, Bob shares the news.

Instead of going back to their home base in Germany, they're going to Madrid. The rest of the crew will meet them there.

Ethan shares Bob's concern. The dreams.

There can be only one meaning.

Sergio, the Son of the Son, is in trouble.

The answers to their questions -- and, perhaps, the woman in white -- surely wait for them at the Bernabeu.

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Next time, on the Ballad of Toothless Bob:

Bob arrives in Madrid with his army of child hooligans, planning to infiltrate the Santiago Bernabeu in search of answers and, if necessary, to protect Sergio the woman in white.

Edited by ManUtd1
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This is a great read! Just caught up over the past few days. Super stuff, Partizan was thoroughly enjoyable as was Panathanaikos. 

The first thing I did after reading was log onto my save and try to sign Zlatan :lol: he wants too much money though but looks like an excellent HOYD

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March 2039.

Spirits are high as we hit the business end of the season.

Sure, we are not invincible, having lost our first competitive match of the season in early January, away to Etienne Capoue's Auxerre. But we've been brilliant.

The pundits laughed at the start of the season, claiming that our football would be more Mountain Dew than Champagne.

But we're the ones laughing now. Top of Ligue 2 with 10 matches to play, 7 points clear of Guingamp, 13 clear of Troyes and Dijon. 60 goals scored, with only 13 against. A campaign worthy of the title.

And that's not all. We scalped Joshua Guilavogui's Nantes 2-nil at home. The Nantes that is in Ligue 1, and reached the Champions League knockout rounds, losing 3-2 on aggregate to Roma. Sure, their attention was not on us. Sitting 16th in Ligue 1...on the verge of a European knockout stage match...but it was still a scalp.

And we came close to repeating the feat against Matthias Kaltenbach's PS-****ing-G, losing 2-1 after extra time.

The frustration is real. Sure, the Parisians were the better team on the night. But the burning desire to get one over on the so-called "giants" of French football is visceral. I can feel it in my gut. Zlatan says I need to see a urologist. But I know he feels it, too.

Unless we fall flat on our faces, we'll be seeing them in the top flight next year. Not that anyone would dare vocalize that in the locker room.

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18 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

This is a great read! Just caught up over the past few days. Super stuff, Partizan was thoroughly enjoyable as was Panathanaikos. 

The first thing I did after reading was log onto my save and try to sign Zlatan :lol: he wants too much money though but looks like an excellent HOYD

Thanks for joining us, man!  Zlatan varies, from year to year.  In 18, his staff attributes were utter garbage in one save...I still signed him because reasons.

17 hours ago, rodesire said:

I feel like a demon gets free real estate in my head every time I read Bob

Bob's journey should prove interesting, then...he's pretty clearly a sociopath, more so than the '17 version, but...

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2 hours ago, ManUtd1 said:

Thanks for joining us, man!  Zlatan varies, from year to year.  In 18, his staff attributes were utter garbage in one save...I still signed him because reasons.

Fair enough! BTW where are you in the Hall of Fame now?

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33 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

That's phenomenal! However you could do a hat-trick of CLs with Malmo and Emery's trophies with Arsenal would still be the most unrealistic thing on your save!

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Not Everyone Who Chased The Zebra Caught It. But He Who Caught The Zebra, Chased It.

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Stade de Reims / Ivory Coast - Season Review 2038/39

The end of season celebrations are epic.  Champagne corks popping everywhere, throughout the Parc Leo-Lagrange on a beautiful late Spring afternoon, across from the Stade Auguste-Delaune.  Predicted to finish 5th, we took the title at a canter.

The players mix with the supporters, as Fallowfield Hillbilly (a Swedish Courteeners cover band who are, in a sad twist of fate, fronted by a balding Liam Fray with a combover) play a lazy version of their recent hit single, “Not Ligue 2 Forever.”

From the side of the stage, Zlatan chuckles at poor Liam.  “Morrisey with strings, yeah?!  Morrisey with terminal **** cancer, more like.”  Jesse and the lads howl, while Zlatan starts a conga line, ironically.  

I step away, resisting the calls to join the growing conga line.  I need to savor the moment.

The media are right to applaud.  We were dominant.  Champagne football in every sense, the most potent attack in the league, stacked on top of the best defense.

We have a big task ahead of us, though.  Stepping up to Ligue 1 will be no walk in the park. 

We’ve already begun to prepare, securing one-year extensions to loan contracts for Craig Jackson and Gervais Traore.  The next step is to active our optional clauses to purchase Szilard Dobias and Adjaho Meleke…and go hunting for more youth prospects.

Oh, and there’s a little thing called the African Cup of Nations to prepare for.

As Fallowfield Hillbilly begin their encore set with a reggae-electro cover of Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova,” I see her.

Selene.  Unmistakably her, dressed in all white.  Standing in the crowd, in the shade of a tree towards the back.  Staring right at me.  Holding my gaze.  As a devious smile crosses her face, she nods to me. 

I push my way down the stairs at the side of the stage.  I have so many questions. 

But by the time I reach the tree, she is gone.

I can feel my heart racing.  This isn’t over.

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One of the big goals for this past year, outside of the narrative, was fine-tuning PM Haaientand (the tactic used last year, in Partizan's CL-winning campaign, and now with the Ivory Coast).

We were predicted to finish 5th, so it isn't like we dramatically over-performed by winning Ligue 2. It was a big campaign, no question.

But we have to keep moving forward, now. Build up some squad depth. Prepare for what's coming.

A run at Europe requires 2 XIs. And while we have some brilliant youth in the squad...they need time to develop. And we need reinforcements.

Goals for 2039/40:   Finish mid-table in Ligue 1. Start building a side that can compete in Europe. Continue developing promising Ivorian talents. Win the Cup of Nations.

Squad | League Overview | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

Fixtures 1 | Fixtures 2

 

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European Review

In the Champions League, Julian Nagelsmann's Gladbach beat Marco Ianni's Inter, 1-nil.

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Champions League Overview | CL Knockout Rounds

In the Europa League, it was an all-German affair this year, as Murat Yakin's Wolfsburg beat Manuel Baum's Hamburg, 2-nil.

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Europa League Overview | EL Knockout Rounds

In the Europa Conference League, Jamie Steel's Newcastle beat Mauricio Pochettino's Lazio, 6-5 on penalties, after a scoreless draw.

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Europa Conf. League Overview | ECL Knockout Rounds

In the active leagues, Ognjen Vranjes’ Aston Villa won their first Premier League title since 1981. Marcelo Gallardo's Milan claimed the Serie A title on matchday 38, when Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus drew away to Mikel Arteta's Sampdoria. Miguel Cardoso's Sevilla defended their La Liga title, the 5th time in 7 years that neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid have won the title. Hugo Lloris' Lyon claimed their 4th straight Ligue 1 title. Antonio Conte's Schalke knock Nagelsmann's Gladbach off their perch in Germany. Baba Toure's Club Brugge won their 3rd straight Belgian title, their 10th in 13 yars.. Paolo Fonseca's Panathinaikos won their 15th straight SuperLeague title. Nestor el Maestro's Partizan didn't lose a step, waltzing to their 7th straight title with 107 points and a +93 goal difference. Finally, Nikola Moro's IFK Norrkoping won the 2038 Allsvenskan title, their 3rd title in 5 years.

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Save/Challenge Overview

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Cross-posted at From the Cheap Seats.

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10 hours ago, ManUtd1 said:

Not Everyone Who Chased The Zebra Caught It. But He Who Caught The Zebra, Chased It.

Instructions unclear, got a lifetime ban from the local zoo. 1/10 would not recommend.

Ligue 2 was just too easy, hopefully next year there's a little more challenge.

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2 hours ago, noikeee said:

Instructions unclear, got a lifetime ban from the local zoo. 1/10 would not recommend.

Ligue 2 was just too easy, hopefully next year there's a little more challenge.

Seriously.  When Miley Cyrus swings around naked on a wrecking ball, it's art.  But when I do it, I'm banned from Home Depot.  ****ing double standard, isn't it?!

2 hours ago, Mandy42 said:

Surely if you tranquillise the Zebra from range you don't have to chase it, and can just lazily walk over and teabag it? 

That might be the greatest sentence I've read, ever.  And, yes.  That is now my goal.  To teabag urCristiano, one way or another.

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Having read all of your FM17 adventure, I’ve caught up to date with this one. Fabulous work and Zlatan’s character is brilliant. Great work! 

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