Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…

The title of this post genuinely describes my relationship with Football Manager. Of course, it’s also a famous quote from The Godfather Part III and Michael Corleone, played superbly by Al Pacino. But why that quote in particular for an article about FM?

Well, for many years and dating back to the very first Championship Manager releases, I was always deeply involved. Along with spending more time than was healthy playing the games, I also became part of the FM community, dedicating practically all my free time to the games, one way or another.

I was an active member of the Sports Interactive Community forums as heathxxx for many years, moderating the Tactics and Training section with great folk like Cleon and wwfan, regularly debating strategies, or posting in the Good Player & Team Guide section. There’s still a team guide I wrote for Granada CF there, which brings back fond memories as the first time anyone had written about the club’s history in English.

From Humble Beginnings

‘All in’ might be the best way of describing my involvement with FM, or borderline addiction. However, that changed when the real world of football started to consume more of my time. Following Granada CF from the fourth tier of Spanish football to LaLiga as a fan, along with doing the FM research, I’d already made a lot of friends at the club.

Upon reaching the promised land of LaLiga, I was offered the chance to work with Granada CF, looking after their English language communications and social networks, alongside running my own digital media outlet covering Spanish football. I spent so much time working, travelling around Spain for matches, interacting with staff and players at the club, I had little to no time for anything else; let alone time to play a decent FM save when I got home.

After six years working with Granada CF, eventually it was time to part ways. Other journalism and freelance writing opportunities came along, although I remain a regular at home games, even now they’ve dropped back down to the second tier. My work still keeps me busy, but I have a little bit more free time on my hands these days and yes, that itch to play FM has returned!

Granada CF

Image Source: Heath, uploaded

FM12 was the last release I played properly, FM14 the last one I owned, so it’s both daunting and exciting thinking about what I’ll experience when I start playing Football Manager 2019 when it finally gets released. I’m also pondering what my first save will be.

As a lifelong Manchester United supporter, I’m tempted to hoof out Mourinho, take his place, achieve the opposite of win the title playing attractive attacking football, then dominate everything FM19 throws at me with the Red Devils… Pep Guardiola and his blue upstarts won’t stand a chance!

Alternatively, I always enjoyed lower league saves. Starting in the lowest possible league in any given country, then seeing how far I can take them. In older versions of FM I always ended up signing lots of unknown gems from Réunion, but I don’t suppose they’re around anymore? Oh well, if not, I was always good at bargain hunting and signing freebies.

Some of the most interesting saves were completely random. Along with writing a lot of football content, obviously I read a lot too, so many of my FM saves were inspired by some historical information or anecdotal facts I’d learned about a club somewhere. After reading an interesting story about a team, that prompted me to try them in FM and create my own story with them.

Anyway, it’s been a while, but it looks like my return to the game I loved playing for years is just around the corner. FM… it pulled me back in!

Tartan Takeover

Imagine the scene. You’ve witnessed a club at the peak of its power, dominating European football and winning the European Cup back-to-back. People would have told you it must’ve been a dream because only five years previous the club in question had been dwindling in the Second Division of its domestic footballing pyramid. This sounds like something that could only happen in Football Manager, right? Well in fact this is the story of one man’s achievements that will forever be the challenge myself and many Football Managers will try to replicate. The amazing triumphs of Mr. Brian Clough and his Nottingham Forest team of the 1970s and 80s.

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RBL 2031/32 – Part 1 of 2 – A Season To Remember

It’s the morning after the night before. I woke up today with a renewed vigour, like the veil had been lifted on my life and all was now clear before me.

I’d imagine that the majority of you reading this will by now have heard the news of what happened on that fateful night the 29th May 2032 at the San Siro. When two juggernauts collide there can only ever be one winner and lo’, how many times I have fallen at that final hurdle to be pummeled by those I despise and humiliated by condescending bastards. Yet no longer…

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The Diego Diaries: Chapter 2 – A New Life In Naples

Seville. Diego Maradona is not meant to succeed in Seville, it seems. A failure as a player and a failure as a manager.

After 6 months without a job, I was approached by Napoli – the club where Diego Maradona as adored for so long. I may have left under slightly tense relationships but now I’m back and ready to restore the love the people of Naples have for me.

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The Diego Diaries: Chapter 1 – Intro & The Ill-Fated Sevilla Diaries

The Premise

For a while now, I’ve been fascinated by Monchi. The Sevilla Director of Football is one of football’s best dealers – buying some of the world’s best talents for low prices and selling them for a high profit. Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Sergio Ramos are just a few of the stars who have passed through Sevilla, earning the club a major profit.

It’s a model that is often used in the stock market – buy low, sell high, but Monchi has applied it to football.

This summer, he is off to Roma, where it will be interesting to see how he will transfer his methods.

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Storming the Crystal Palace: summarising three seasons of Football Manager action at Selhurst Park

After months of talking about it on the Deep Lying Podcast, my time at Crystal Palace has finally come to an end.

I’ve taken the team from a relegation threatened bunch of mediocrities to Premier League solidity and two cup semi finals. I bought in a bunch of talented youngsters – including Kasper Dolberg, Franck Kessie and Charlie Taylor – that the team can be based around for years and I’ve left the club in a better place than when I’ve started.

Of course, it would have been nice to continue. I turned down a contract from the board in the autumn of the third season and never received another one. And while I know I could have added another version of me to the game and carried on, I decided to do what I thought my in game character would do and take an ambitious job abroad to further my career.

Still, despite departing for the bright lights of Hoffenheim, there’s been plenty to look back on. So here’s my summary of my three seasons in charge of Crystal Palace which have, to be fair, been some of the most enjoyable I’ve had in the recent version of Football Manager.

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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