I have several saves going on Football Manager. Currently, my favorite is helming FC United of Manchester, the Red Rebels, that I’ve named ‘Eurosnob’ as a nod to all the MLS Fanboys out there.
In simulation, I was able to guide the team to the playoffs the the Vanarama National League North and promotion to the Vanarama National League. This was quite the surprising jump according the digital pundits in game. Now at the fifth tier of English football and solidly semi-professional, I must institute a plan. First and foremost, FC United need to avoid relegation. This is a daunting task.
It is early 2019 in-game, the team has 24 points and 7 wins. I suspect we’ll need between 10-12 wins or a solid 50 points to stay up. Things aren’t looking bad but aren’t looking good either.
I’ve some major issues in the squad. The first being a general inconsistency especially in defense, the second is an injury plague has struck my striker core, and the third is an impertinent and impatient midfield which comes crying to me for playing time nearly every day even though they’ve failed to string together two matches of even middling success. Frustration is creeping in.
My 3-Year Plan is made up of simple goals: avoid relegation, solidify position, and push for promotion. If everything goes to plan, then FC United will stay up this season, sit firmly next season, and then get promoted in year 3. This is the hope. We’ll see…
Success! In fact, the team pulled out a couple of upsets to just peak into the middle of the table.
Freddy Yao in central midfield, James Hooper on the left wing, Lloyd Allison in goal, and Jason Gilchrist at the tip of the spear were the top performers. Gilchrist impressed with 18 goals while Hooper’s 11 assists weren’t too shabby. The defensive line was in shambles most of the season. I had to rely on loanees to really stabilize it.
Going into the summer, there are several issues to be addressed. First, as mentioned, the defense must stabilize and be deepened. Currently, the squad lacks competent fullbacks and the current centerback pairing may not be able to play at this level. Second, there is no counterpart to Hooper on the right wing. Joel Logan has been playing well, but he often struggles and seems more comfortable on the left. Yao has been a rock in the center of the midfield but he needs a proper partner. Lastly, there is scant depth at every position.
I think with four or five new signings with some loanees to buttress, the team could push for a top half finish come 2019/2020.
As the season began, FC United performed well enough. I had hired a whole new coaching staff upgrading the defense and ball control duties with the reasoning being the counter-attacking style had granted us the best results the prior season. The addition of several journeymen players to the squad I also hoped would improve team moral by introducing an experienced leadership core.
I think both of these moves paid off. For the first two thirds of the season, United were a surprise. The squad raised as high as second in the table and for three months seemed like a lock for the promotion playoffs. At first, I thought perhaps my inclusion of a cash bonus in the new contracts had provoked this but then the team spiraled out of contention. The final third of the season was nothing short of a fucking nightmare.
A confident nine match unbeaten streak (only one draw) was followed by a stunningly bad thirteen match winless streak (eleven loses, two labored draws). The team plummeted out of the promotion chase ending the season 14th in the table.
Although an angry season, the squad did succeed in accomplishing the season’s goal–solidification in the league. However, there is going to be a massive turnover going into the final year of this 3-year plan due to player attitude and quality.
Again this season Jason Gilchrist, Freddy Yao, James Hooper, Joel Logan, and Lloyd Allinson did well. However, Yao, Gilchrist, and Logan may have all plateau-ed in terms of skill. New signing Felix Nmecha (formerly of Manchester City) proved more than worthwhile and partnered well with Tom Warren (ex-Everton) in central midfield. Strikers Andrew Nelson (ex-Sunderland) and Curtis Morrison (ex-Guiseley) although frequently out due to injury put up some promising stats.
However, the team still lacks a defensive core that is convincing and until that is successfully addressed I have grave doubts about next season. If promotion is going to happen, massive personal upgrades are necessary.
Picked to again to struggle against relegation, my FC United side proved the in-game pundits wrong by immediately ascending to the top of the league and staying there. Over the course of the first half of the season, United refused to relinquish the top spot. At one point, I had a ten point lead over second place going into January. It was looking as though the 3-Year Plan was coming to fruition. And then, as it seems to always happen with this team, a switch was flipped.
I can’t figure out why this team runs only hot or cold–scalding or bone chilling. I also loathe that the recent versions of FM give players too much power. And by power, I mean incessant whining when it is they themselves that are failing miserably to even acquit themselves in a mildly professional manner. You score an own goal and get two yellows in the the first half? Yeah, you get fined. You get fined two weeks salary and dropped to the U18s to think about what you’ve done. You don’t come to me saying ‘Well, I think my defending as been pretty good.’ What made this infuriating was the milestone I was able to reach with the team you’d think afford me more respect.
One thing saved this club this season and it wasn’t the shoddy defense. Andrew Nelson exploded with goals (34), and although Jason Gilchrist seems to have gotten as good as he is going to get, he also produced better than he ever has in the past (23 goals, 17 assists). James Hooper had a career season for assists (14) while his opposite field partner Joel Logan was sold off for a tidy profit. Yao and Nmecha were unspectacular but consistent. Allinson seems to have hit a wall. Inconsistency and inadequacy still bog down the centerback and fullback positions.
I think a combination of familiarity and bonuses for reaching the playoffs motivated the squad to aim high.
However, in March the team was only able to pick up 4 points out of a possible 18 sending United tumbling permanently out of first place and struggling to stay in playoff contention. Player petulance, complacency, and injury dragged the team down. What few points were collected in April were enough to lock the team into the playoffs.
A superb run in the playoffs lead to the ultimate goal–