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FM20: The English Football League thread

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Grimsby Town FC 21/22 Season:

With the new season starting, originally the plan was for another season to fight against relegation, however, when the new season actually started, that had increased to be a mid-table finish. It's meant that I have had to make a few more signings than I had actually planned.

Transfers Out:

Ludvig Ohman - Jonkopings Sodra IF - Free - he was out of contract, I let it run down and he's gone back to Sweden. Was on slightly high wages and it's allowed me to reinvest.

Elliot Grandin - Paris FC - 14.5k - was glad to get a fee for him. He wouldn't have played much being six choice in either central midfield, or third choice attacking midfield.

James Wilson - Blackpool - 59k - he was out of contract, but it automatically renewed as part of his old contract based on games. He was on 2.3k a week, so glad to get that off the bill.

Elliot Hewitt - released - was my back up right back, but he wasn't getting played so released and reinvested his wages.

Ahkeem Rose - released - was a tough decision, but I felt that he hadn't progressed as much as I had planned.

Ollie Battersby - released - simply not good enough.

James Hanson - released - another tough decision, but he allowed me to reinvest his wages.

Transfers In:

Charlie Wiggett - CB - Chelsea - free.

Jakub Ojrzynski - GK - Liverpool - free.

Ronan Darcy - ACM - Bolton - 220k.

Bradley Halliday - RB - Doncaster - free.

Giles Phillips - CB - QPR - free.

Brennan Dickinson - LW - Burton - free.

Josh Koroma - ST - Huddersfield - free.

Sammy Ameobi - LW - Forest - loan.

Overall, a very happy transfer window I think. Most of the signings will be for back up/on the bench, apart from Ameobi and Darcy, who will slot straight into the first team. Hopefully these take me to mid-table!

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@andy_gtfc That looks to be a reasonable amount of strengthening without too much outlay. Not sure if the new striker is going to turn you in to heavy goal scorers, and there doesn't appear to be much left-back cover. Hopefully Darcy and Ameobi add enough and the likes of Phillips, Halliday and Dickinson can perform when called upon. Good luck.

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10 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

@andy_gtfc That looks to be a reasonable amount of strengthening without too much outlay. Not sure if the new striker is going to turn you in to heavy goal scorers, and there doesn't appear to be much left-back cover. Hopefully Darcy and Ameobi add enough and the likes of Phillips, Halliday and Dickinson can perform when called upon. Good luck.

I still have Garmston and Massey for left back. Dickinson can cover there too, which will help. Koroma looks useful for me so far, and will give me a different dynamic up front rather than just two targetmen. I'm trying to keep it to two a position in each outfield position.

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1 minute ago, andy_gtfc said:

I still have Garmston and Massey for left back. Dickinson can cover there too, which will help. Koroma looks useful for me so far, and will give me a different dynamic up front rather than just two targetmen. I'm trying to keep it to two a position in each outfield position.

True, I forgot you also had Massey. I enjoyed managing Dickenson in the past, he started off more of a left-back so could just about do a cover job there. The idea of a different type of striker makes sense, as does the two players per position strategy.

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39 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

True, I forgot you also had Massey. I enjoyed managing Dickenson in the past, he started off more of a left-back so could just about do a cover job there. The idea of a different type of striker makes sense, as does the two players per position strategy.

Yes for sure. I'm already thinking long term too, and a lot of my players contracts expire at the end of the new season, so if needed, I could actually overhaul the squad there to get a push for the Championship. It'll be interesting to see how this season goes...

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Posted (edited)

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At the end of November 2020, my West Brom side was sitting pretty at the top of League 1 after 20 league games, six points ahead of MK Dons and comfortably clear of Derby. The Rams had also been relegated last season, and their manager's job was one that I did strongly consider in the summer before walking in to the hot-seat at The Hawthorns. So, how has it gone since? Below is a review of the season from December 2020 until the end of March 2021.

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As the end of 2020 loomed on the horizon, it was important to keep our foot on the pedal and to ensure that December saw no drop off in form. Central midfielder Jayson Molumby started the month in fine form with a goal in each of the first four fixtures (his form his since earned him a first full cap for Ireland), whilst striker Scott Hogan continued to deliver goals. Unfortunately, Hogan then got injured and neither Dwight Gayle or Aboubakar Kamara had really been firing to that point. A loss at play-off chasing Forest Green Rovers underlined Hogan's importance, but the team did bounce back to avenge a Shrewsbury side that had been the first team to defeat us back in October. 

That game sparked the start of a mini goal rush by left winger Kyle Edwards with three goals in four games, although the last of those was a disappointing loss away to a very ordinary Bristol Rovers side. The rest of January saw wins in all remaining home games, but away days proved more tricky with that loss in Bristol followed up by just one point in six from the next two road trips. However, this run of fixtures did finally see Gayle up his game in attack, with six goals in six games kick-starting his season. The month saw us maintain a very clear lead at the top of the table though, whilst also remaining in both the Leasing.com Trophy and, more importantly, the FA Cup.

Usually the month of January would see a lengthy transfer update too, but there were no new acquisitions needed and no signings were made. On the outgoing front, I was happy to sell Gibbs, Townsend and Phillips, but no other clubs were interested in taking them. The first two (along with Grosicki who is out on loan anyway) will all leave in the summer, whilst Phillips will be offered out again having reached the age of 30 and with younger options available to me. I did consider selling Kamara but the injury to Hogan stopped me from doing so, and might have terminated one or two of the loans (not because of bad form, more because I had enough options from my permanently contracted players) but none of them had the early termination clause anyway. I've been trying since the summer to convert Ben Osborn's loan in to a permanent deal, but at that stage he would still not agree to start talks with us on that.

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February 2021 was a perfect month in terms of results. All five league fixtures were victorious, and progress was also made in the Leasing.com Trophy. Anybody who has read my updates over the years will know how much I despise this competition, but for a change I have decided to take it seriously as a club the size of Albion was capable of competing on more fronts than others. It did take penalties to see off a plucky Bristol Rovers, but the reward for that is a glamorous (!) Wembley showdown against Rochdale in the final on 4th April. The month also saw the return of Hogan from injury, which was timely in his quest to win the top scorer award in League 1. My preferred 433 has at times been binned in order to play a more attacking 424, which allows me to unleash Gayle and Hogan ahead of two attacking wingers.

The opening match in March saw an FA Cup Round 5 encounter with Chelsea. Although there were slim hopes of pulling off a shock, it went the way most would expect, and the West London side emerged comfortable 3-1 winners. The remaining four league games however went entirely to plan, with a 100% record stretching our run of consecutive league wins to 10. By this point, Derby had risen to 2nd  and that left MK Dons stuck in 3rd. The final mixture of March saw my side head to the land of the concrete cows knowing that a point against the fake Dons would end their extremely remote hopes of catching us and thus would clinch promotion with six games to spare. As you can see on the right of the below image, my side did a very professional job and a crowd of 13,586 which included 3,068 away fans (why didn't they give us more tickets?) saw us come away with a well deserved 2-1 win. I was delighted to have bagged promotion for The Baggies and with so much to spare, and the fans and board were equally ecstatic. 

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As you can see from the table below, the title is pretty much a formality already. There looks likely to be an interesting battle between Derby and MK Dons for the second automatic promotion slot though, and I hope it will be Derby after the ticketing fiasco mentioned above. Ipswich look to have given themselves far too much to do, but 4th-8th is quite closely grouped together. Of this group, I'd like to see AFC Wimbledon or possibly Oxford come through but the loser of the Derby/MK Dons battle will be strong favourites.

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The board have announced the provisional transfer budget for next season, and it's going to make us capable of back-to-back promotions. It must be said that I had an unused transfer budget of around £25-£30 million this season anyway, so the increased funding doesn't drastically alter my approach to the market. I've set a few players for release already (Gibbs, Townsend, Grosicki) and have finally got a deal agreed with Osborn and his agent to sign for £3.1 million in the summer. The other three loan players have also contributed to the successful season, but I might not try to renew Eric Garcia, Conor Gallagher or Molumby . The first two are out of reach for a permanent transfer and I can use the squad to cover their roles. Molumby is out of reach too, but there is still a potential that a new loan offer might be pushed through. One thing that definitely needs looking at is the left-back position, with both of my naturals there about to be released. I have used Osborn there more than the other two combined, but will certainly need a strong defensively-minded option for certain fixtures as Osborn is still learning his trade in that particular role. 

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I'll play out the rest of the League 1 season now, and of course have the Wembley date with Rochdale to look forward to. Some players still have individual targets to achieve, particularly Hogan who leads the goal charts at the moment as he has done all season. An end of season review will follow once I have completed the campaign. Up The Baggies!

Edited by Jogo Bonito

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Posted (edited)

Well that's me just coming off now, continuing tomorrow...

I somehow find myself top of the league after 13 games, winning 8, drawing 5. Ameobi and Darcy have made a difference. Ameobi has 7 goals and 3 assists, and Darcy has assisted 5 so far! Some bad news though, I've just lost Darcy for 4-5 weeks, so I'm hoping that doesn't affect me too much.

Edited by andy_gtfc

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2 hours ago, andy_gtfc said:

Congratulations on promotion! @Jogo Bonito

Thanks Andy. Cracking start you've made & hopefully tomorrow it can continue.

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20 hours ago, Adamm90 said:

Looking to start a long-term game in League Two, or the Conference. Any recommendations?

Crewe!! :)

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Posted (edited)

Congrats on your promotion @Jogo Bonito - sounds like a cracking season! Must admit I can’t help but feel jealous when I see your transfer budget for your return to the Championship! 😂

Back-to-back promotions has to be the aim? Any interesting sides in line to be relegated from the Premier League, that might challenge you? 

Edited by Dong21

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I have uploaded my video  FM20 - How to get a League 1 Team into The Premiership

if anyone is interested?

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1 hour ago, Dong21 said:

Congrats on your promotion @Jogo Bonito - sounds like a cracking season! Must admit I can’t help but feel jealous when I see your transfer budget for your return to the Championship! 😂

Back-to-back promotions has to be the aim? Any interesting sides in line to be relegated from the Premier League, that might challenge you? 

Cheers, it was easier than I would have liked but I knew I had a strong squad. I'm not sure much of that cash will be spent. Osborn has now signed for £3.1 million but I need a natural left-back too. The board won't let me sign anyone 24 or over, so my choices are going to be slim.  I think I've got a decent player from France (age 19) coming in, but he isn't as tall or strong as I would have liked.  I will have to pay over £4 million for him too, as others I wanted were either too expensive or (slightly) too old for the board to sanction.

Brentford are already relegated whilst Reading (who I got promoted) are going to join them. The other spot is probably for Middlesbrough, although Aston Villa, West Ham, Brighton, Southampton or even Norwich could get dragged down. Newcastle have won The Championship, with Fulham or Hull likely to go up with them. The other top six sides with a few games to go  are Crystal Palace, Bristol City and Leeds (Watford are 18th but safe from going down). I'm not saying we expect promotion again, but a play-off spot is achievable and I'd be disappointed not to be in the top 10. 

1 hour ago, nextqprmanager said:

I have uploaded my video  FM20 - How to get a League 1 Team into The Premiership

if anyone is interested?

I would be interested Stan, I think its alright to put a link in here :thup:

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Just about to get into December, and I am still unbeaten in the League. A few draws have crept in though, as we have now drawn 10 out of our 21 games this season. I'm out the Leasing.com Trophy and out of the Carabao Cup. Have progressed to the third round of the FA Cup though now. Darcy is back and firing again, so hopefully he can change some of those draws into wins.

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1 minute ago, andy_gtfc said:

Just about to get into December, and I am still unbeaten in the League. A few draws have crept in though, as we have now drawn 10 out of our 21 games this season. I'm out the Leasing.com Trophy and out of the Carabao Cup. Have progressed to the third round of the FA Cup though now. Darcy is back and firing again, so hopefully he can change some of those draws into wins.

Great stuff Andy, my unbeaten run with West Brom only lasted until October (14 games) so you're doing incredibly well.

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33 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Cheers, it was easier than I would have liked but I knew I had a strong squad. I'm not sure much of that cash will be spent. Osborn has now signed for £3.1 million but I need a natural left-back too. The board won't let me sign anyone 24 or over, so my choices are going to be slim.  I think I've got a decent player from France (age 19) coming in, but he isn't as tall or strong as I would have liked.  I will have to pay over £4 million for him too, as others I wanted were either too expensive or (slightly) too old for the board to sanction.

Brentford are already relegated whilst Reading (who I got promoted) are going to join them. The other spot is probably for Middlesbrough, although Aston Villa, West Ham, Brighton, Southampton or even Norwich could get dragged down. Newcastle have won The Championship, with Fulham or Hull likely to go up with them. The other top six sides with a few games to go  are Crystal Palace, Bristol City and Leeds (Watford are 18th but safe from going down). I'm not saying we expect promotion again, but a play-off spot is achievable and I'd be disappointed not to be in the top 10. 

I would be interested Stan, I think its alright to put a link in here :thup:

 

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@nextqprmanager  Good video Stan, I enjoyed that and thanks for sharing :applause:

Kalley, now why does he ring a bell? He was great at Grimsby for me.

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1 hour ago, Jogo Bonito said:

@nextqprmanager  Good video Stan, I enjoyed that and thanks for sharing :applause:

Kalley, now why does he ring a bell? He was great at Grimsby for me.

Thanks mate, just keeping a record for myself ; moving onto The Premiership soon.

Maybe Kalley won`t be Prem quality?

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3 minutes ago, nextqprmanager said:

Thanks mate, just keeping a record for myself ; moving onto The Premiership soon.

Maybe Kalley won`t be Prem quality?

Good luck in the PL. Most players in a promoted team probably aren't of the right quality so he might not be any worse than the others - but that doesn't mean he'll step up. Give him a go, I'd like to see him do it.

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2 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Great stuff Andy, my unbeaten run with West Brom only lasted until October (14 games) so you're doing incredibly well.

It's frustrating in one aspect, because even though I am currently 21 games unbeaten this season, I'm still 5 points behind Portsmouth, despite forcing them to their only defeat all season. My concern at the minute is if I do get promoted, I would have to replace a good 70% of the team as they wouldn't be good enough. Still, let's see where we are come the end of the season.

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Right, here's a challenge for anyone on line.

It's May 2021, and I'm looking to see if I can get a centre forward in the style of Cyrille Regis to spearhead my attack next season (Championship at West Brom). The board want me to sign players aged 23 or under so that would mean 22 at the start of the game at the most (24 or under now, as the board might tolerate that). The attributes I am looking for in order to be my modern-day Cyrille would be pace & acceleration, strength, heading, finishing etc. The wages would need to be no more than £25,000 per week and the transfer fee could be anything up to about £15 million (but remember this is second tier). An added bonus if he looks anything like Cyrille too....

I tried for Osimhen at Lille but he didn't fancy dropping to our level. I've got an £8.5 million bid and £20,000 per week wage accepted for Brewster at Liverpool but didn't know if I might find better. Mendes at Sporting is another that has the attributes and a bid of £2.9 million has been accepted, but he only scored 8 in 30 for Blackburn on loan at this level so is a risk. Awoniyi at Liverpool is an even bigger risk as he hasn't proven himself at all and has no WP, so even if I wanted to chance it, that might not be easy. A while back I tried for Rondon but couldn't afford the wages even if the board would overlook his age - a younger version of that kind of striker would be the aim.

 

 

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@Jogo Bonito I have just had a look on my save, and there is someone called "Viktor Gyokeres" who looks decent, but technical stats aren't the best.  Kun Temenuzhkov might be worth looking at too. Maybe Tyrese Campbell too? I know his heading isn't the best, but other stats might make up for it.

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Well there is my first defeat of the season against 20th placed Luton. 2 shots at goal, 2 on target, 2 goals for them. 16 shots, 8 on target, 0 goals for me! Sounds about right...

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42 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Right, here's a challenge for anyone on line.

It's May 2021, and I'm looking to see if I can get a centre forward in the style of Cyrille Regis to spearhead my attack next season (Championship at West Brom). The board want me to sign players aged 23 or under so that would mean 22 at the start of the game at the most (24 or under now, as the board might tolerate that). The attributes I am looking for in order to be my modern-day Cyrille would be pace & acceleration, strength, heading, finishing etc. The wages would need to be no more than £25,000 per week and the transfer fee could be anything up to about £15 million (but remember this is second tier). An added bonus if he looks anything like Cyrille too....

I tried for Osimhen at Lille but he didn't fancy dropping to our level. I've got an £8.5 million bid and £20,000 per week wage accepted for Brewster at Liverpool but didn't know if I might find better. Mendes at Sporting is another that has the attributes and a bid of £2.9 million has been accepted, but he only scored 8 in 30 for Blackburn on loan at this level so is a risk. Awoniyi at Liverpool is an even bigger risk as he hasn't proven himself at all and has no WP, so even if I wanted to chance it, that might not be easy. A while back I tried for Rondon but couldn't afford the wages even if the board would overlook his age - a younger version of that kind of striker would be the aim.

 

 

Ben Brereton was brilliant for me in my Blackburn save. Adam Armstrong too. 

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Thanks for the suggestions guys. I like Brereton, Campbell and even Tyler Walker, but not really the style I was after. Most of my ideas would not get a WP (people like Okereke etc.) so I might just keep Gayle, Hogan and Kamara if I don't feel Brewster is right. Mendes, who currently earns £600 per week at Sporting thinks he deserves £40,000 per week in England. I might get him down to £25,000 per week but his attitude has put me off and he's no longer a target.

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Well 26 games into the season, and we find ourselves in 4th position, just 3 points off an automatic promotion place! Still, we have only lost one game, but we are back to our draws, having 12 of them. Max Wright has had a good season so far with 4 goals and 7 assists from 28(1) games. Sammy Ameobi is having a great season too, with 11 goals and 5 assists in 28(2) games. I might look at getting Ameobi in permanently, if the transfer is right.

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36 minutes ago, andy_gtfc said:

Well 26 games into the season, and we find ourselves in 4th position, just 3 points off an automatic promotion place! Still, we have only lost one game, but we are back to our draws, having 12 of them. Max Wright has had a good season so far with 4 goals and 7 assists from 28(1) games. Sammy Ameobi is having a great season too, with 11 goals and 5 assists in 28(2) games. I might look at getting Ameobi in permanently, if the transfer is right.

Excellent progress and being hard to beat is a quality in itself. Good luck for the remainder but a good season wherever you end up.

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Bolton Wanderers - Season 4 - Part 1

Asset Stripping for Survival

As I alluded to in my last post, the financial situation at Bolton was pretty dire going into the fourth season, our second in the Championship. This wasn't down to any mismanagement on my part, it was due to large debts sitting on the club's balance sheet. In fact I have done a lot to keep the club in the black, cashing in on large sell-on clauses in season one and selling Darcy for £8m in season two. Although we made player sales in season three and only brought in free transfers and loan players, there was no significant incoming of cash which I believe is why my budget was dashed so drastically. Our wage budget was decreased from £185k per week to £155k, when we were spending £185k per week, and the amount of funds I would retain from player sales was decreased to just 5%. I was placed in a very difficult position and I must admit I was very tempted to quit and start again with a new team. I do like a challenge, and a long-term save, so I thought I would at least give it a try.

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This season is the year of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar which means the season is paused for the whole month of November and the majority of December. The impact on me is that the season starts earlier and as such the transfer window finished early on the 21st July, meaning I didn't have much time to try and raise funds and enhance the squad.

I began by reviewing the squad and considering who I could dispose of. Atsu under performed last season, Clauss had been a liability for me at times, Burton had potential but in a position I was stocked in and Wright had come back half the player he was before his injury - as such I deemed all surplus to requirements and selling them raised me just over £4m. I only received a minuscule fraction of these funds, but the sales freed up some of the wage bill to make two signings. I was absolutely delighted, and quite frankly shocked, to be able to recruit Germany under-21s international Armel Bella-Kotchap. Lots of other teams were interested, but for some reason he chose Bolton. To put things into perspective as to how much of a coup this was, his transfer value was set to £13.75m on arrival. Bella-Kotchap's signing was important as Streete had also come back a poorer player after being ruled out for the entire second half of last season. My second signing was striker Ben Brereton from local rivals Blackburn. His goalscoring record for them has been poor but he has good attributes and is young, so I am hoping I can mould him into a player.

Not shown on the transfer page (I have never understood why this is the case on FM) are the loan renewals of James Garner and Filip Stuparevic, two of my key players last season. I chose not to renew the loans of Brandon Williams, Boubacar Fofana and Ronan Darcy. Williams was the hardest decision as, like Garner, I have had him for three seasons already, but with Boon and Marlon at the club I couldn't really justify a third left back. Darcy is a local lad with talent but I thought it was time I gave Harrop a chance in the team, plus his wages were expensive. I thought I would bulk up my squad with loanees with 0% wages covered, but basically no clubs would allow me this. Very disappointing in our quest for success on a budget. The only player I was able to secure on these terms was QPR centre-back Semi Ajayi. The benefit of his signing is this gives me the flexibility to play 5-2-1-2 with Ajayi, Bella-Kotchap and Lockyer at the back.

Our primary tactic was still to be 4-2-3-1 however and with the departures of Atsu, Fofana and King-Harmes (on loan) I quickly realised we were very short on wingers. I asked the board to intervene and negotiate the loan signing of Koln inverted winger Tim Lemperle and was surprised when they actually complied and covered his wages.

When identifying players who were surplus to requirements at the beginning of the window I also identified Conor Hourihane. Hourihane is a very good player who had had a good season for me but with his questionable injury record his high transfer value caught my eye. I was also aware I had some good young centre-mids who could benefit from an opportunity. I offered Hourihane out for his value and was pleased when lots of bids came in. Throughout the window, however, I agreed fees with clubs multiple times only for him to reject his personal terms. A stressful experience. In the end I had to accept bids from English sides, something I had been resisting doing throughout the window, which meant he finally left on deadline day.

As usual I had a large number of trialists at the club throughout pre-season with the hope that I would be able to offer some of them contracts when some money was raised. On the eve of the season commencing I hadn't been able to raise enough funds and we were looking likely to go into the new season with gaping holes in my squad. For example we had no right backs at the club after the sale of Clauss and the release of George Williams. I decided to assess my squad again and see if there was anyone else I could sell. Throughout the window I had bids for the young Barca-bred forward Fernandez, the highest being £4.5m from WBA. I had been rejecting these offers due to his high potential, but with the interest of the 'greater good' I decided to contemplate selling him. I offered him out for the release fee he had in his contract £11.75m. Southampton came in with a bid of £9.75m and the board accepted it - I was tempted to be annoyed about their meddling, but I would definitely have accepted it anyway. The one saving grace was that the deal included Gerard Fernandez coming back on loan for the season, increasing my options.

This large amount of funds meant I finally had some leg-room to sign up some of the trialists I had been hoping to sign. Experienced right-back Matt Lowton, box-to-box midfielder Josh Brownhill and inside forward Isaac Mbenza all joined the club on deadline day. After the transfer window had closed I noticed that relegated Leicester had released Jamie Vardy, who had already declared he would be retiring at the end of the season. His pace had depleted but his mental and technical stats are still exemplary. I entered into negotiations and was delighted to find he was interested in an 'impact sub' role and only wanted minimal wages, so I snapped him up. His experience should help my otherwise youthful squad. The final signing was utility midfield option Jose Rodriguez, a player with pedigree as he had passed through the Real Madrid academy.

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Pre-season started extremely early and went well, primarily due to the legion of trialists at the club that I was running my eye over. We started the season well, beating Oxford with both of my strikers getting on the scoresheet. The start to the season went downhill from there however, as we fell to defeats against Blackburn, Reading and Derby. I could tell this season was going to be a real struggle.

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August begun with three more league defeats. They were all close games in which we applied our new 5-2-1-2 formation, although it didn't stop us from conceding as hoped. Swansea and Brentford had been relegated from the Premier League and Forest pushed for promotion the prior season so these were always going to be tough fixtures. We picked up an important win against fellow strugglers Portsmouth - a win that gave me slight hope we could turn this season into something. It was a shame to go out of the EFL Cup but survival in the Championship is the clear number one priority, and we followed that game up with a 1-1 draw against Fulham, a game in which we were the better team.

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After the opening two months of the season we find ourselves in the relegation zone. The board have inexplicably demanded a mid-table finish, despite crippling us financially, so questions will soon be asked of me if I don't start to steer us up the table soon. I feel like the game recently has been Administrator 2020 rather than Football Manager 2020 as the focus has purely been on asset stripping. Now that is out of the way, the focus turns to trying to find a tactic that will see our team of underdogs succeed this season. We switched to a 4-1-2-2-1 against Fulham and played well, so maybe that will be the solution. Our main issue is a complete lack of goals with Wallem and Mbenza the only players to make it to two goals so far.

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I may get sacked as this continues but I can hold my head high that I have transformed the clubs balance sheet over the last two months. We are now £18m in the black and club debts stand at £22.5m, which appears manageable at current. Hopefully results improve and I can stay in the role, to make the efforts worth it.

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@Dong21 Wow, that's a difficult  summer and start. I think you've picked up some good players on free transfers and the loans will be useful too (well worth the sacrifice of your star man). Early days my friend and you've got them out of a -12 points deficit before so this will be well within your capabilities (given the time to do so).

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Posted (edited)

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The last update from The Hawthorns at the the end of March 2021 announced that my West Brom side had won promotion from League 1, but with a Leasing.com Trophy Final against Rochdale and six league games left to play, there was still some other business to finish. The title was almost a formality with Derby & MK Dons too far behind, and there was a chance to win a second trophy too.  Just two points were needed to get us to 100, and my side could also notch 100 league goals if they maintained their form. Scott Hogan was also keen to end up top scorer in League 1 too. 

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April got off to a perfect start, with a fine 4-0 win at Gillingham showing that the boys were not taking their foot off the pedal. This great win also saw the first of our remaining missions achieved, as the League 1 title was landed in Kent with a style that had typified our fantastic season. Next up was that trip to Wembley, where we faced Rochdale in the much-loved Leasing.com Trophy decider. Our lowly League 1 opponents from Lancashire gave us a fright when taking the lead, but we powered back in style to emerge comfortable 4-1 winners.

Having landed a domestic double, I was keen to go unbeaten for the rest of the season, and to reach my 100 goals target. Rochdale were also the visitors in our next league game, and this time did enough to prevent us winning, but we got back on track with a fine 3-0 win over play-off chasing AFC Wimbledon . A Blackpool side who were relegated put up a brave performance to hold us to a 0-0 draw as the 100 goals target seemed to have slipped away. Luckily up next were the only side in the table worse than The Seasiders, and we came away from Scunthorpe with another 4-0 win in the bag.

The final fixture saw us host an Ipswich side that had failed to make the play-off positions, and we needed three goals to hit the magic number. A crowd of 26,688 filled the stadium and we cruised in to a 3-1 lead at the break. Despite conceding a second after 92 minutes, we had finished the season with another three points and a 3-2 win that wasn't as close as it seemed. With it, there was also confirmation that we could claim to have literally hit a ton of goals - the last one being fittingly delivered by top scorer Hogan.

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As you can see from the final table, we had an incredibly satisfying season, with 112 points and exactly 100 goals bagged. That meant we ranked first in goals scored and goals conceded, and we also had no red cards from our 46 league games, which was a proud achievement. Derby had comfortably held off MK Dons to get the other automatic promotion slot, and Wycombe eventually snatched the last spot after beating Oxford 2-0 in the Play Off Final at Wembley. Promoted from The Championship were runaway winners Newcastle, Fulham and Bristol City (who beat Leeds in the PO Final). That means that Leeds, Crystal Palace and Watford would be amongst our competitors next season in the second tier, along with relegated top flight sides Brentford, Reading and Middlesbrough.

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The player stats for our squad across all competitions are shown below. We had used 24 men during the season, with a fair amount of rotation due to the numerous good options available to me. The performances were good across the board, and it wouldn't really be right to start listing individuals here as the stats speak for themselves.

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The same 24 players were awarded medals, and the reason for these images are that it shows the actual league stats for all the players. This shows who contributed most towards the title, and who was used more in the various Cup competitions. Again, it wouldn't seem right to start talking about specific players.

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The end of season awards might be a little surprising, but at least provides vindication of why I should sign Ben Osborn permanently ahead of next season. The midfielder had been used almost exclusively as a left-back despite being primarily a midfielder, and not having natural attributes for the role. Having now sealed a £3.1 million move ahead of next season, his place in the squad is assured whenever available due to the versatility that he could bring, Osborn also won the League 1 award for Player of the Year, which was a fantastic accolade for a player not being used in his most natural position. Hogan did (just) win the top league scorer award with 23 goals, by virtue of having played less fixtures than Ivan Toney. This pair were amongst the eight Albion players named in the divisional Players Team of the Year too.

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Ahead of next season, I have signed the aforementioned Osborn, and a new left-back to compete with him for that role. I've got the chance to sign Rhian Brewster from Liverpool too, and that one is being considered carefully. I'm keen to land a modern-day Cyrille Regis and he fulfils the board's desire to sign players aged 23 or under.  On the flip side, I'm not entirely sure it's necessary with Hogan, Dwight Gayle and Aboubakar Kamara already on the books. I've also decided at the last minute to extend Chuks Aneke's deal for another season as a fourth choice option.

Brewster would of course be a good addition, but he only scored six in 40 for Swansea at this level in 2019/20 and only made one goal-less appearance last season (for Liverpool). It's a big dilemma and if I do proceed, at least one of my other strikers will need to be sold - the order likely to start with Kamara, followed by Hogan and then finally Gayle.

Leaving the club will be Gibbs, Townsend and Grosicki as their contracts are not being renewed. Phillips is also available if anybody wants him, as he has younger players ahead of him in the queue and barely featured even last season. The remaining three loan men (after Osborn) will probably not be returning next season either. None of them are available within our remaining £30 million budget, and I'm keen to give the squad rotation places to some of the impressive Under 23 squad who won the Premier Division 2 title by 13 points with a 16-6-0 record from their 22 league fixtures. If any of the trio do return, it would be Jayson Molumby but that subject has not been brought up yet.

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Edited by Jogo Bonito

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Blackpool FC - 19/20 Season

After spending my last 4 years of FM at the likes of Arsenal, Dortmund, Roma, then Arsenal again, I decided it was time for me to take a new challenge and experience the grittiness of the lower leagues. After reading warlock's excellent guide, two teams instinctively stood out to me: Derby and Blackpool. I decided on Blackpool due to their great kit and starting position of League 1, ensuring I didn't return to the PL too early. After finishing my first season, here's how I fared:

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Amazingly!! The board only wanted a playoff position, our predicted finish was 5th, but we managed to outperform all expectations and win the entire division, dispaying fantastic consistency the entire season. We started extremely strongly and pushed on from there, with 16 wins, 3 draws and a loss in our first 20 matches. Connor Ronan, on loan from Wolves, grabbed a well deserved Player of the Year award, for League 1, nailing 135 key passes across the season, an incredible 40 more than the next best player. Teddy Howe did strongly as a WB (A), with 12 assists and providing crucial attacking inroads through the right flank. Our strikers did fantastically across the season, getting the goals that were necessary for our tactic to work, and ensuring that we could outscore any opponent. Not shown is before on-loan Taylor Moore, a class defender who will be very hard to replace. We were knocked out in the first round of Carabao and FA cup, got to the semi-final of the leasing.com "trophy". Pretty proud of this group of players, however we've now got a much more difficult challenge: the Championship. 

The odds are very much against us, the board predicts "fight bravely against relegation" this year and "attempt to remain in the league" next year... not exactly ringing endorsements of our quality! Nevertheless transfer business is being conducted to improve our odds. Armand Gnauduillet was sold for 1.5 million to Atlanta United, which I now realize is less than I should have sold him for but am still satisfied, we've got some much needed money (board only allowed me 15% revenue!) in the bank for a player with 5 determination and teamwork and is 28. Cameron Carter-Vickers has been signed on loan from Spurs to replace Moore, Brewster loaned from Pool is already our best player and will be crucial in our attempts to avoid relegation. From Arsenal, who were selected as the senior feeder club, Sheaf has been signed on loan for depth while I would absolutely love to get Smith-Rowe, though he's rejected our offer once already. Last January I extended Ronan and Dewsbury-Hall's loan contracts to the end of this season, crucial for our survival hope. Tommy Hoban was signed on a free transfer then too, and is great value for money, valued at 4.1 million now, consistent performer and is Championship level. The jewel in my crown, however, is this player. 

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Signed for 400k from Hearts, he's a crucial upgrade to our right wing, valued at 600k already, rated as a Championship-level player at 19, and has high potential to play in the PL! With those technical stats I feel confident then he can be a brilliant player for us and also gain us a great profit. I'm satisfied with my transfer business so far though I am too dependent on loans, unfortunately that can't be helped. I also missed out on Kieran O'Hara from United due to being too stingy on wages, a decision I regret now, with my current GK being at League 1 quality and an upgrade necessary. 

I would highly appreciate any advice that the regulars here can give me, never been so low in the leagues before, but I am enjoying it greatly so far, its a different sort of challenge! Progress in the FA cup (which I desperately want to win, evoke memories of Stanley Matthews and co!), avoiding relegation would be best case scenarios for this season.

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Welcome @FlairRA and congratulations on your first season success at Blackpool. Nice update, and I agree with you about their great kits!

I am just about to sign off, but I thought I could show you this image of McDonald, who hasn't been used much by Hearts but does have good attributes here too (and you can see his face now to make it more realistic for you) .

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@FlairRA - did you use Ronan as a deep-lying playmaker? I have noticed whoever I assign that role too ends up having about 40-50 more key passes than anyone else in the division, and usually the highest rating too.

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Port Vale - An update

So, last time I chatted to you, we were flying high in my second season in charge, five points clear at the top of League Two and looking pretty good to send us into League One at the second time of asking...

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Well, that all went a bit wrong. We completely choked. As soon as the clock struck midnight on new years, it seemed like we forgot how to play, we went from losing one match to the turn of the year, to losing seven matches in total. We had a brief revival going unbeaten in the last seven, but a choke at home to Exeter in the final game prevented us from going up automatically, we missed out by one point.

So into the playoffs we went, 5th place Vale up against 6th place Cambridge, well how the second half went, you can guess the rest.

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A 2-0 defeat in the first leg left us work to do and a one goal victory in the second was not quite enough, we completely let it slip after being in the promotion places by no less than 10 points at the turn of the year.

2021/22 Season

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The less said about this season the better really. We nowhere near hit the heights of early last season and only recovered towards the end when I went back to what we know and what brought us into the promotion conversation. We only finished six points outside the playoffs but that was only due to 6 wins over the last couple of months. Maybe next season we finally push on and put two halves together.

2022/23 Season

We reach current day, where I stand now about two months into the new season. The Vale have an unlikely former Premier League man on their books but their top scorer from the last two years will be leaving in January as he seals a free contract move to Hearts. Will this man though be the unlikely hero at Vale Park until he retires at the start of January, will he help Vale get enough points on the board to make fans believe again?

The man giving the Vale hope again.

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After the highs of Blackburn and Middlesbrough, I am really struggling to get into a save. I've tried Crewe, Bradford and Sunderland (after watching the Netflix documentary). Just couldn't get into them. Need some suggestions guys. 

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2 hours ago, CityAndColour said:

@FlairRA - did you use Ronan as a deep-lying playmaker? I have noticed whoever I assign that role too ends up having about 40-50 more key passes than anyone else in the division, and usually the highest rating too.

Yes, he played as a DLP in a 442. With plenty of players around him he had loads of opportunities to get key passes which bumped up his ratings. 

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38 minutes ago, StePratt said:

After the highs of Blackburn and Middlesbrough, I am really struggling to get into a save. I've tried Crewe, Bradford and Sunderland (after watching the Netflix documentary). Just couldn't get into them. Need some suggestions guys. 

Luton seems a challenge?.

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Sorry to hear of your struggles to get out of League 2 @oakesypvfc but maybe David Luiz can inspire you. If nothing else, it should get a few more in to the stadium (either to marvel at him, or laugh at him). Good luck.

@StePratt It depends what sort of challenge you want really. A big club with a fair fan base or a smaller club without so much going for them? A longer game or instant success?

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33 minutes ago, nextqprmanager said:

Luton seems a challenge?.

Luton looks like a hell of a challenge. I would prefer better facilities to be honest.

15 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

 

@StePratt It depends what sort of challenge you want really. A big club with a fair fan base or a smaller club without so much going for them? A longer game or instant success?

I think I want a longer game. Maybe a club with little to no history but decent facilities to bring through the youth. That's what turned me to Crewe. 

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1 hour ago, StePratt said:

After the highs of Blackburn and Middlesbrough, I am really struggling to get into a save. I've tried Crewe, Bradford and Sunderland (after watching the Netflix documentary). Just couldn't get into them. Need some suggestions guys. 

Try Barnsley - restrictions on signing players over the age of 23, although in the same league as Blackburn and Boro. I'm enjoying my Notts County save, so far.

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Managed to take Sunderland to a replay in the second round of the FA Cup, and then beat them 1-0. Ended up with this..

 

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3 hours ago, StePratt said:

Luton looks like a hell of a challenge. I would prefer better facilities to be honest.

I think I want a longer game. Maybe a club with little to no history but decent facilities to bring through the youth. That's what turned me to Crewe. 

A random one, but how about Exeter? They have a strong youth system IRL but not sure how it is in game. 

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2 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

A random one, but how about Exeter? They have a strong youth system IRL but not sure how it is in game. 

I did look at Exeter, but I've gone for a team just 80 miles up the M5.

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4 minutes ago, StePratt said:

I did look at Exeter, but I've gone for a team just 80 miles up the M5.

Bristol? Rovers?

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1 minute ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Bristol? Rovers?

Had to be. Blue and White is in my blood.

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Just now, StePratt said:

Had to be. Blue and White is in my blood.

Excellent, my first save on FM20 was Bristol Rovers. A massively under-performing club, it should be great. Step on The Gas!

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Well we have battled our way to the final. Predicted to finish 16th in media pre-season predictions, we play the team predicted to finish 15th:

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They play that annoying 3-striker formation that I can never seem to counter, and beat us 5-1 only a month ago (although in fairness we had 25 shots and five CCCs in that game). They have scored 20 more goals than any other team in the league, but have also conceded a truckload, so it should be a fun game.

As an aside, I think this may be the season where the match engine has finally got to me. It's literally just the same few goals over and over and it is so common to dominate play, dominate the chances but lose or draw because you're not creating the "right" sort of chances (set pieces, far post crosses, counter attacks). I will see how I feel after I complete this match and the off-season however.

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On 25/11/2019 at 19:17, Jogo Bonito said:

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Bristol Rovers (BETA)

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League 1 table - a surprisingly easy and comfortable campaign

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The tactic that suited the team and players

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The squad that did it for me

The summer signings were Grant Ward (free), Aaron Connolly (loan), Jordan Shipley (loan), Jack Simpson (loan)

The winter signings were Omar Bogle (£82k) and Oliver Skipp (loan)

The players I let go in the summer were Kyle Bennett (loan), Michael Kelly (£20k), Alex Rodman (loan), Tyler Smith (loan terminated)

And in the winter Deon Moore (loan), Tony Craig (loan) and Victor Adeboyejo (loan terminated)

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decent! I just got the chair boys up via the play-offs.. absolute scenes! I don't think ill win a game in the championship unless I am very good with my summer strengthening 

no prem clubs want to loan to me as my squads so poor so im struggling massively already - any hot tips to survive the dreaded drop will be welcomed 

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@bman Congratulations on promotion with Wycombe. I enjoyed my season with Bristol Rovers (that was in the BETA version).

My best tip would be to try and get Molumby on loan from Brighton. He has been excellent for me as a box-to-box midfielder. Difficult to expand on that without knowing your squad, shape and style etc.

Play to your strengths that worked for you before is a good start. But if that really doesn't work after some time, I would try to be solid defensively and then make slow and subtle changes to tweak that with a more expressive style. If you're already scoring, just look at the defensive side and make yourself harder to beat. If you're solid at the back and in midfield, just try some minor adjustments to player roles or attacking shape perhaps.

Good luck.

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On 07/04/2020 at 09:46, Jogo Bonito said:

As you can see from the final table, we had an incredibly satisfying season, with 112 points and exactly 100 goals bagged.

Great season that Jogo, finished it off in style!

I have had a bad experience with Brewster, he underperformed whilst on loan in my first season. But his stats and potential are undeniable. In my save he is established in the first team for Liverpool... When you are used to lower league management it always seems a tough decision whether to spend large sums of money! 

Whatever you decide, I look forward to hearing about your summer business in your next update.

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