The Football League or Bust – The Autumn Statement

In many ways, football is about movement; be it the revolving door of management, the positioning of the defence, or a clever run off the ball – both on and off the field, movement is key to success. In terms of transfer dealings, movement is also exactly what was needed in the autumn at Moss Lane and there was a significant amount in both directions, as certain positions were strengthened and players deemed to be deadwood were moved on. Continue reading

The Football League or Bust – Nailing the tactic

With the last article being heavy on squad detail and images, this time we’ll be looking at a part of playing FM that is renowned for its brevity… I’m joking of course, tactical discussions can be among the most meandering and silly discussions we have as fans of football, but it is an absolutely necessary part of the game and these can heed insight and even revelations.

Whether it’s an overarching philosophy or a basic game plan, nailing one’s tactical colours to the mast nice and early will make the management job a lot easier. Such is my belief anyway and I’m itching to make sure my counter-attacking 4-3-1-2 looks solid as we move through the early run of fixtures. Continue reading

The Football League or Bust – Meeting the players

At higher levels of football, I always imagine the first meetings of team and manager to be awkward affairs with overdone politesse, long pauses and the lingering feeling that both parties are sizing each other up.

I may be wrong but the further down the pyramid you go, I imagine these pressures and mind-games to be much more low key as both manager and players are usually just very pleased to be employed in football at all – particularly at semi-professional clubs where contract security is not exactly top of the agenda. It is with this mindset that I approach man management at Altrincham; aloof characters will find themselves out in the cold and there will certainly be no fawning over specific players on my part. Continue reading

The Football League or Bust – Intro


“FM 2017 will be different.” – I told myself whilst in the midst of an in-depth VfL Bochum save on FM 2016. (Sorry my updates petered out. In short, I managed nearly three full seasons, the second two of which were spent barely staying in the 1. Bundesliga)

“Next edition I’ll do a proper journeyman save in Asia or South America.”, I thought.

“Something properly out of my comfort zone… Try some wacky formations too for good measure.”

Then – in the real world of football – after performing quite admirably for a team of their stature during the previous season and a half in the Conference National, my beloved Altrincham went on an awful run from January-April, winning two of seventeen games and looking more and more certain for the drop. With long-serving manager Lee Sinnott sacked mid-way through the horrid run in March, the turmoil continued and escalated. A 5-0 thrashing of already-relegated Welling United in their last home game ended up being of no consequence; a 3-0 loss away in their final outing at Braintree brought the curtain down on a season to forget. Alty would be playing in the Conference North again. Continue reading

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 7: The academy

Although it was last discussed in detail at the start of the project, you may remember that a big part of my plan for VfL Bochum was to use their already good youth facilities to develop players with the long-term aim of having a production line of talent. What should make my job much easier is that the board agree with my sentiments with their only real philosophy of note being 
“Give Youth a Chance” ; they should be very pleased with me favouring the long-term strategy by giving game time to youngsters – even if it means it could cost us points in the short-term. Whether or not these players stay and become part of the first team squad is really not too important in the first few years and we could honestly use the funds from transfers to develop the facilities further anyway. But to really become a top contender in Germany (and then Europe), we will need a sustainable model and that means year upon year of talented players to support and eventually become part of the first team squad. Continue reading

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 6: Meeting the forwards (with squad summary)

What is football without goals? Some scholars would have you believe that the best possible result in football is 0-0 as it means the tactical discipline of each side was perfect; others would be more pleased by a 5-5 thriller comprising composed finishes, power headers and 30-yard thunderbastards – I am torn between the two.

The scholar in me likes a clean sheet as much as the next guy but the kid in me wants the joy of the goal and – when it comes to football – the kid in me always wins eventually. The scholar may recognise the need for a sound structure, but it is the kid that drives risk taking on the pitch – be it a skillful take-on, instinctive strike or a daring run. The real skill (of course) is balancing these two strands of thought to create frequent, high quality opportunities without leaving yourself vulnerable at the back.

So after some inner reconciliation between the kid and the scholar (and some theoretical tactical noodling), we are left with a system that should provide at least some chances to score. The only part of the puzzle left to discuss is the lucky lads at VfL Bochum who get to play the hero by converting chances into goals; the forwards; the strikers; Die Stürmern. Continue reading

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 5: Meeting the midfield – The wide men


Not every team needs a player capable of pulling all the strings – indeed, sometimes it’s better to have capable playmakers all over the park. But to win games you need to score goals, so at some point you start to rely on your players’ brains and feet to fashion chances, be it from a moment of magic or an overall plan coming to fruition. The best strategies normally contain a good blend of both with a well thought out structure/platform that allows certain players to provide the ingenuity needed to beat the opposition defence.

With my decision to mitigate my chosen formation’s weakness by locking down the centre, the vision was to create a relatively consistent platform that allows the two wide men to be a bit more loose in their role. I’m not letting them off the leash altogether, but the Wide Playmaker on the right will Roam From Position whereas his counterpart on the left will be given an attack duty to encourage him to take more risks, be this on the ball by trying riskier passes or off the ball by moving into more advanced positions. We’ll start this section of squad analysis by looking at the candidates for the playmaker role: Continue reading

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 4: Meeting the midfield – The central pairing


The Midfield. Das Mittelfeld. That crucial area of the pitch that is simultaneously a creative hub and a defensive screen; where passing patterns are woven and opposition attacks destroyed. Usually containing players with talents varied like the instruments of an orchestra, they can be tuned to sound as bombastic as an Italian opera, as balanced as a Viennese waltz or as playful as Brazillian samba. As the cliché tells us – it can be where the game is won and lost. Lucky then that the incumbent VfL Bochum manager built quite a varied midfield for me to work with, combining steely defensive players in the centre with lightweight but creative attackers out wide. In this article, I’ll be looking at the central area of midfield where a trio of very capable players should give me the central lock-down that my tactic depends upon. Let’s take a look at the contenders…
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Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 3: Meeting the defence

There’s nothing quite like that palpable atmosphere in a football stadium – with its tension, mumbles and an energy you can almost taste. My first few times in the Ruhrstadion (AKA rewirpowerSTADION for sponsorship reasons… *grumble grumble modern football grumble*) I was transfixed by the tifo displays, the sea of flags, the constant drumming, the megaphones and the almost other-worldly tunes they sang. Perhaps not as tempestuous as Italy or South America, from my perspective the German fan culture still has an edge that seems to have long left the UK. It doesn’t feel dangerous, it feels alive. And they chant and chant and drum and hiss and cajole and chant some more. The Bochum fans in particular have some great catchy chants and one of them is responsible for the naming of this series of articles.
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