An American Abroad: The Second Day, and Beyond

25 June, 2014

My second day in the manager’s chair started early with a press conference called at Ladysmead to introduce me to the media. I use the term press conference rather loosely, as there was only one journalist there. Mark Hampson of The Non-League Paper asked me several questions, touching on the ambitions of the club and the expectations laid out by the chairman. I ensured him the club was aiming for big things and the chairman was fully behind that. He had some more questions about what competitions were our main focus and where we wanted to improve our squad. It was a pretty straightforward interview, but soon he was off, no doubt headed to cover a more interesting story.

Already I was taking charge of the squad in our first friendly match, which was really just a kickabout with the reserve squad so that I could see everyone in action. The senior side opened up scoring early, with winger Jed Harper-Penman smashing in a beautiful free kick from the edge of the area. Dan Western had the next big chance about ten minutes later, being played through by an excellent pass, but his shot was closer to the corner flag than the goal. He made up for it shortly before the half, as Harper-Penman played through his striker partner Emati-Emati who laid it off for Western to blast into the back of the net. Things got a little out of hand as first half stoppage time ticked away, with center back Steve Goss coming in a little too hard on reserve striker Barry Wilcox.

The reserve team nearly pulled one back just after the start of the half, with midfielder Tom Tricker sending a shot from the edge of the area just fizzing over the top of the bar. The seniors had a great chance to seal it up near the hour mark, but substitute Josh Searle’s long shot from a James Richards pass narrowly missed the top corner. With only a quarter hour left, we had another chance at a third goal with winger Jake Wannell sending a cross in straight to center back Tom Gardner’s head following a corner. Unfortunately the header was straight into reserve keeper Jon Hurley’s hands. With only a few minutes left, winger Wannell went down and had to be taken off. Following a throw in with only four minutes left, a quick one-two on the wing between fullback Richards and sub striker Jamie Mudge ended with Richard’s cross into the box falling right at Khaled Badavi’s feet and ending up in the net. The final whistle blew, and I had my first illustrious victory, 3 goals to nil over our reserves in a friendly.

3 July, 2014

It was time for our first real friendly. Elburton Villa FC, from the South West Peninsula League made the trip to Ladysmead from Plymouth. I had a much larger squad at my disposal for this match, as we’d had upward of ten players accept our trial offers. They’d all be with us for the next month unless someone else swooped in, so I was confident in finding at least a few players that we could bring in to improve the squad. Notable names include Giancarlo Borhy, a goalkeeper who had made a few appearances for Bath in the Conference Premier a few years back, and veteran midfielder Mark Robinson, who had years of experience in the two leagues above us with Weymouth and Dorchester.

Tiverton Town F.C. vs Elburton Villa F.C.
Friendly, Ladysmead

It didn’t take the visitors long to get going, as they registered their first short with only 30 seconds on the clock. Fortunately for us, striker Ritchie Swales sent his shot careening very wide of the goal. Swales had another chance soon after in the fifth minute, but put his shot from near the penalty spot quite a ways over the crossbar. Our first chance came just shy of ten minutes, as star fullback Richards sent a perfectly weighted cross to Jules Emati-Emati in the center of the area. Jules took the half volley but the ball went straight at the Elburton keeper Ward. Richards found himself in possession out on the touchline again in the 24th minute and played a pass through up the wing to trialist Mark Robinson. My belief that the former Dorchester man still had it was confirmed as his cross found the head of Emati-Emati who this time sent the ball of of Ward’s fingertips and into the side netting.

A few minutes later, a hard challenge from Tivvy defender Tom Gardner set up Villa fullback Spencer Peacock with a free kick just at the top of the box which Borhy watched fly high over his crossbar. Ten minutes later, Emati-Emati sent on trial winger Ryan Ashford through on the edge of the area and Dan Western took the cross on the full to give us a two goal lead. On the brink of the half, it was Emati-Emati again who found a loss ball following a corner but his shot could only find Ward’s hands. At the half, I made quite a few changes, not only to get a look at some more players on trial, but also to give a rest to some of our squad who were looking really winded.

Things in the second half were rather bland, with the first real chance not coming until five minutes after the hour mark. Substitute striker Owen Howe laid off for his partner Badavi on the edge of the area and Khaled’s screamer connected solidly with the corner of the post. The ball fell down to the edge of the six yard box, and Howe charged forward to tap in the rebound with the Villa keeper hopelessly out of position. Four minutes later the Villa almost grabbed one back, but substitute center back Craig Brunton headed just over the bar from a corner. Villa troublemaker Swales was nearly put through on goal with just over ten minutes left, but a quick reaction from our central defender Steve Goss cleared the danged. Less than two minutes later the action was back at the other end, as Ryan Ashford swung a cross in from the touchline and found the head of Owen Howe to make it four-nil to us. Before I’d even gotten back into my seat, on trial fullback Alex Faux sent a long ball forward and Villa holding mid Greening mishit his clearance. Badavi was past him in a flash, picking up the ball totally unmarked in the box and calmly slotting it into the bottom corner. Neither side made any more serious attempts in the last few minutes, and the final whistle blew to signal a five goal win for the Tivvys.

Goals: Emati-Emati (24), Western (35), Howe (65, 82), Badavi (85)

A solid result in our first real pre-season match, even if it was against a club two leagues below us. Very good performances from several trial players meant I was going to be looking at offering contracts in the near future, or at least I hoped. We had five goals from four different players, all strikers, but in both this match and against our reserves, I noticed that our flat 4-4-2 was leaving us outmatched in the center of the park most of the time. I decided that I would attempt to introduce my favored flat 4-5-1 shape and see if it was within the grasp of the squad.

8 July, 2014

It was time for our next pre-season friendly, against Garw S.B.G.C, who had come all the way from the the south of Wales. We had a few new players on trial with the club, but unfortunately I had not been able to work out a contract with any players that we were keen on. Just about everyone I had available to play was knackered and we’d have a tough time keeping up fitness against the club from the South Wales Senior League. This was also the first time that the lads would be lining up in my favored 4-5-1 formation, which had the possibility to embarrass us entirely.

Tiverton Town F.C. vs Garw S.B.G.C
Friendly, Ladysmead

Our first real chance came five minutes into the match, with midfielder Matty Bye sending forward Jamie Mudge through to the edge of the area, but the Welsh clubs goalkeeper Menayese managed to deflect the shot away from his net. Two minutes later, we had another real opportunity as trial defender Didier Moundi sent a pass flying all the way upfield to Mudge. Our striker was through past the Garw defense, but a risky sliding tackle from the Welsh defender Steven Fayers dispossessed Mudge on the edge of the area. The first goal finally came in the thirteenth minute, as the result of a beautiful build up play. Bye had the ball in the center of the park and found fullback Jamie Cheeseman out near the touchline. Cheeseman cut in and laid the ball forward to Robinson who quickly found Mudge near the penalty spot. Menayese could only parry the shot, and the rebound found Robinson on the corner of the six yard box. A silky smooth tap in slid right past the near post as the Welsh keeper could only watch.

The rest of the first half passed without much excitement at either end. Mudge nearly had a goal just before the whistle, but his header from a Cheeseman cross pulled short across the goal and went behind. The second half started out just as quiet, and it wasn’t until ten minutes in that a real chance was found. We were awarded a free kick about 30 yards out, but midfielder Josh Searle’s shot went straight into replacement keeper Karl Klein-Davis’ hands. Searle came close a few minutes later, as he got a cross from winger Ryan McKechnie at the top of the box, but the shot skimmed the top of the crossbar. Most of the rest of the second half saw a total lack of quality at either end of the pitch, with the Tivvy boys having a rather frustrating habit of building all the way up to the box and then giving the ball away stupidly.

The final whistle blew with things still at 1-0. Not a flashy victory like our first friendly, but I was far more impressed by this one. We had managed a staggering twenty three shots, although only eight were on target. The even better news was that our opponents managed only a single shot the entire match, and that ended up closer to the corner flag than the net. For a squad full of trialists and exhausted players, it was a solid defensive display for our new formation. Hopefully, if I put the hours in on the training pitch with the boys, we could keep the impressive display at the back and really improve on finding that killer final ball.

Goals: Robinson (13)

I was really hoping that the time spent working on the new shape would pay off, because our next friendly wasn’t going to be nearly as easy. Plymouth Argyle of League Two would be sending their reserve squad down to Ladysmead. These were full time professionals, and the fact that it was only a reserve squad did not make the prospect any less daunting. As the squad were gathering their things after the match, I headed over to the office to have a word with Chairman Wright. As he invited me into his office, I explained to him that perhaps the club should start to look for a senior affiliate. We had very little money to work with, and all of the players I’d talked to so far about contracts were looking for wages that would take up almost half of our entire budget. He wholeheartedly agreed that having a parent club that would loan us players for free would really be a boost in our push to promotion. Having been assured that the board should reach a verdict within the next month, I headed home to start planning for our intimidating next match.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

I’ve decided that it’s time to head in a different direction with my FM blogging. Due to a combination of struggling to feel like doing updates (even though I am still playing, at the end of January in my third season) and checking out the FM Stories section on the official forums, I will be attempting to do a save with updating in that style. It doesn’t have anything to do with my actual in game performance, I just have not been able to get myself interested in taking all the screenshots and doing a public save in the format that I’m used to.

The “story” format I feel like I will have more success and motivation with. I can do it right along with my save, typing on my laptop while playing the game on my desktop. I won’t be posting blog updates for every match, obviously, but since the format will have me writing something about every match, it’ll be more involved. Right now I sort of dread doing updates, because I ‘m just taking screenshots and covering three months or more with a few broad paragraphs. Maybe I have a lot of unknown, pent up creativity that just needs a lot of writing to come out. Maybe I should stop blathering about why and just get on with it?

For the record, my journeyman save (which I’ll still be playing) is sitting right at the close of January 2017, still in charge of Nottingham Forest. We’re currently sitting in 10th place in the Premier League with 29 points. I spent a massive amount of cash in the pre-season, most notably on Martin Odegaard. I’ve also just managed to grab Roberto Soldado from Spurs for just 750k in January. Highlights of the season include a 4-0 win over Liverpool and just recently a 5-0 slaughter of Tottenham who were top of the league at the time. Staying up looks all but secured heading into the latter part of the season, with us currently 13 points clear of the drop zone and being able to get good results. I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to doing an update or two on that save, probably at season’s end. Anyway, onward into the great unexplored frontier!

 An American Abroad

Since this is a “story” save, my manager will be myself. Luckily, this is the first year in FM that I can use my actual birthday. I’m a 25 year old American from the humble and unknown state of Delaware. I’ll be setting my badges and prior experience to as low as they can do to reflect reality. I’m using a large database with several edited files. First and foremost, I’m using the England Level 9 database by 4ndyMUFC. Additional edited databases are: Germany down to level 5, Wales down to level 5, and the full Scottish pyramid system. I’ve loaded all the English Leagues, all the Welsh Leagues, Scotland down to the Highlands/Lowlands Leagues, all the German Leagues, both Irish Leagues, and both Northern Irish Leagues. France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain all have their top league only loaded in view-only mode. We’ll be starting in June 2014.

Introduction

My name is David. I’ve been a fan of football for most of my life. Being American, it’s been very hard to get much except the top leagues from Europe. Domestically, we have the MLS, and I’ve been a staunch supporter of the Philadelphia Union from their inception as the closest team to where I spent most of my life. There are leagues in the US under the MLS, but there is no pyramid system; no promotion or relegation. There’s no supporting a top flight team but really being die-hard about the small club who’s ground is a mile away. The magic of the FA cup doesn’t exist in America. The thrill of your local team, who can’t even afford a spare set of shirts, pulling out a heartstopping victory over a team several divisions higher and several hundred million pounds richer just can’t be found.

I’ve never spent much time playing the beautiful game in any official capacity. As a child I spent a few years playing recreational for the youth club nearby, but never anything competitive. The closest thing to a real match I’ve ever played was an 11v11 pickup game at a field near the University of Delaware, where a group of us who happened to be there played against some sort of u-19 team from Cameroon. I happened to end up playing on the Cameroonian side and even managed to score a goal against my best friend who’d been a goalkeeper in youth and high school. The coach that was there with the Cameroon team said I had good instincts for a striker, which I thought was rather generous considering all I did was chip a through ball that was sent perfectly in for me. A fairly serious back injury kept me from even that minimal amount of involvement through the first half of my twenties.

With the aid of a popular simulation game for the PC, I managed to at least pretend I was involved. I realized I’d never be able to play in any sense other that perhaps a recreational adult league, but clicking away as a computer manager gave me an understanding of tactics and management, as well as a knowledge of the various league systems and rules matched by what I can only assume is few Americans. Following on an idea that even I considered extremely preposterous, I gathered up my money and belongings and decided to move to the UK. My destination was Devon; I’d been able to trace the roots of my family back quite a ways and why not move to where my ancestors had come from?

I put months of time in researching all of the non-league clubs in the area, still completely going off the nigh impossible assumption that I’d ever be able to get a job at any of them. As the money I had banked up to undertake this adventure began to run low, it seemed I could either admit this was all a silly dream and move back to the States, or perhaps find a lowly job in Exeter where I was staying. Just as it seemed that I was at a dead end, I saw in the papers that the manager of nearby Tiverton Town F.C. was stepping down. There was no chance, I thought, but I got in contact with the club anyway and explained my absurd situation.

The board, perhaps only because the departure of the previous manager had left them much worse off financially, actually invited me down to Ladysmead for an interview. I really had no idea how to prepare myself. Accomplishments on a computer game don’t really make for a good CV. I headed to the meeting with Chairman David Wright hoping that a solid tactical plan and a knowledge of the football system completely unexpected from an American just might be able to land me the job. Unbelievably, he must have been impressed by one of the two. The interview ended with him offering me a firm handshake and a one year contract at 2,800 pounds a month to be the new Tivvy manager.

The Beginning

24 June, 2014

My first order of business as manager was to meet the squad I’d be in charge of. I introduced myself, acknowledging that I was completely unknown to the club and whole football system in general. It may have just been that British politeness that I’ve heard so much about, but the whole squad welcomed me warmly. The captain told me that he was excited to work with a fresh manager. The rest of the squad agreed; they felt that I could be a source of new ideas that could really help the side. We soon hit a stumbling block, as when I announced the ambition the chairman had shared with me of making the playoffs most of the lads seemed to think I wasn’t being ambitious enough. Not wanting to cause a big row on my first day, I told them that perhaps they were right, and we should set our sights on promotion.

A meeting with my small backroom staff later that morning went even better. Everyone seemed generally excited at the prospect of working with me. There wasn’t much tactically to discuss yet, however, as I hadn’t introduced my system. We managed to figure out who we wanted to be taking set pieces, and I set to work laying out how I was planning on playing the squad. I opted to keep it simple and go first for a flat 4-4-2 formation.

I spent a large portion of the day with our scout Jon Peacock, as well as Assistant Manager Stephen Herrera. We only had 18 players at the club including those on non-contract terms. Not only did we lack depth, but Herrera advised me we were sorely lacking quality in certain areas for the first team. The main order of business was to identify players that we could offer a trial to. Discounting the players already signed to terms at the club, we had less than a thousand pounds a month to use on wages. Having players come in for a few weeks on trial would give us a good chance to see them in action and have a good idea where we wanted to spend that wage money.

There were five strikers at the club upon my arrival, although only Jules Emati-Emati and Dan Western had real quality. Luckily they were both on part time contracts, so I wasn’t too worried about losing them any time soon. Midfield and defense were fairly weak areas, with fullback, centerback, center mid, and wide mid each only having three players able to play the positions. Our weakest area without a doubt, however, was in goal. We had the choice of 16 year old Jake Aimson, who my assistant assured me showed some potential, or 28 year old Chris Wright who was to my relief not related in any way to our chairman. Wright, I was told clearly, was not good enough for the squad. However, he was on a massive 300 pounds a month. Not much to do there, as I certainly didn’t expect that anyone would come in and buy him.

The rest of my first day on the job was spent with my staff contacting players that we thought we should bring in on trials. I also decided to schedule two more pre-season friendlies than what was currently on the calendar. We had a long, grueling season ahead of us, and I wanted to make sure that the squad was both fully fit and in full understanding of our tactics before the season started.

FM15 Journeyman: 2015/2016 End of Season Update

2015/2016 Season

Roda JC – Eredivisie
February/March/April/May

roda-kerkrade-s

Eredivisie
2015-01-26_00001

2015-01-26_00003I have to say that I’m fairly impressed with what we managed to accomplish this season. For a newly promoted team, even one that bounced straight back up, to finish in fourth above the likes of PSV, AZ, and Twente is no small feat. Our results heading toward the end of the season were a mixed bag, but the streak that started with the win over Go Ahead and ended with the loss to Utrecht in the penultimate match really cemented our place towards the top of the table. Losing to Utrecht was both infuriating and embarrassing, because if we had won what should have been an easy game we’d have come third and not had to do the playoff.

I felt confident drawing AZ in the first round of the European places playoff, as I’d taken 7 out of 9 points from the three times I faced them as a manager. Our solid home display in the first leg added to that confidence, and the away leg turned into a complete circus. We were 0-3 down by the half and I tore into the players in the locker room for throwing away such a strong 1st leg position. I spent the first fifteen minutes after halftime screaming “GET AN AWAY GOAL” until finally Paulissen found the back of the net. AZ pegged us back almost immediately, and then Paulissen scored right back. I was about pulling my hair out at this point, and then AZ scored yet again. That had us level on aggregate with the advantage to us on away goals, but they kept coming and kept coming. Striker Opoku finally settled it playing as a left winger with less than ten minutes left.

Drawing Twente in the second round wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the first round. They had given us problems in the past and I knew we had a fight on our hands. Young star Tahiri started us off strong (albeit half an hour in) at home in the first leg, but they got one back in the second half and sent us into the away leg needing at least one goal. We didn’t get it, gave a horrible account of ourselves, and let them get two more to crush our hopes of a second consecutive season in Europe.

UEFA Europa League

2015-01-26_00002

Our unlikely European continued as we entered the first knockout round against Haifa. Ayite grabbed a quick brace to give us two away goals and a solid position away in the first leg, and an even better display at home sent us into the second round as well deserved winners. I got my wish of a draw against my most disliked team in Arsenal, although I never really had much hope our giant-killing streak could extend that far. It didn’t, and after giving up four goals at home we never stood a chance, but a 6-2 aggregate loss isn’t that bad for such a mismatch of clubs. We gave a good account of ourselves against a vastly superior team, and Arsenal went on all the way to win the trophy. My feelings about our run were confirmed when I got this e-mail shortly after they won the trophy.

2015-01-25_00002

Quite an honor, and one I feel we truly deserved. A squad that was given no hope by board or media to get out of the group stage not only won their group but got to the second knockout only to go out to the eventual winners.

Player Spotlight

2015-01-26_00010Not much of a surprise that Tahiri ended up back here at the end of the season. An incredible season for a player that didn’t turn 19 until halfway through the season. 18 goals and five assists in 28 appearances is just incredible for a kid playing at this level and he probably deserved even more than his five player of the match awards. Easily the standout player of the year, he singlehandedly won this club points and I have no doubt a lot of credit for our impressive season goes to this young star.

2015-01-26_00011Sneijder was a player that I signed heading into this first season back in the top flight mainly to provide quality depth in the midfield. He didn’t see much of the pitch in the beginning of the season and eventually got fed up and complained about game time. He ended up making a solid number of starts throughout the season, and although I wouldn’t really say he’s a player of the season, he put in a string of very solid matches towards the end of the year and earns at least a mention for this last segment of the season. Six goals and eight assists from a player who spent most of his time in a deep lying playmaker role in midfield is a solid return.

Other News

As soon as May started, my inbox became flooded with offers for job interviews. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a full half of the Bundesliga table got in touch with me, as well as several clubs from the 2.Bundesliga, as well as a few from France, England, and even Espanyol in La Liga. I was pretty set on staying put, looking to build on a successful season here rather than head for mid to low table mediocrity in Germany or France. One interesting offer I got was from Cardiff, and it gave me pause until I did some research and saw that they had just been relegated from the Premier League and wanted me to pick up the pieces heading back down into the Championship. Certainly better than most of the other offers, but it just wasn’t for me.

I was fairly well convinced that I’d be staying at Roda, as every offer that came in was from roughly the same level of club and they just didn’t appeal to me. Then, I got an offer that caught my interest and stroked my ego.

2015-01-26_00004It turns out that Nottingham Forest had finished second in the Championship this past season. They’d finally gotten their longed for return to the Premiership, and was their first choice candidate. I attended the interview, drawn by the allure of the English top flight, inflated that they would want me, a relatively unknown American manager with just two seasons of experience with an obscure Dutch club, above all other candidates to be at the helm for their return to glory. The interview went pretty much as expected, with a lot of time spent on my lack of experience. I left feeling hopeful but preparing myself for another season in the Eredivisie.

2015-01-26_00012

I was so thrown off by the offer I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. Ever since they asked for the interview, I had been torn. I’m a follower of the Premiership first and foremost, and a storied club like Forest wanting me in the boss’ chair for their return was a very tempting prospect. On the other hand, I’ve grown quite attached to Roda, with the amazing cup win in our first season and our unbelievable run in both the Eredivisie and the Europa League this year. I asked for a week’s delay and did some scouting and planning for my possible third year at Roda. Although I do love the club, the aggravation and deflation right at the end of the season of losing all our drive and missing out on Europe was still fresh in my mind.

A meeting with the players, most of whom were still very unhappy with me about the whole goalkeeper with a father younger than him scandal, went very poorly. The whole squad seemed to think that anything less than winning the title was a total lack of ambition on my part. I certainly have spent the past two years here punching well above our weight, but we were still some way off Ajax and the other top clubs. The board were not willing to give me anywhere near the cash I’d want to try to please the players and win the title, and that put the last nail in the coffin. Forest came back a few days later expecting an answer after my delay.

692

FM15 Journeyman: 2015/2016 Mid-Season Update

2015/2016 Season

Roda JC – Eredivisie
November/December/January

roda-kerkrade-s

Eredivisie

2015-01-24_00001 2015-01-24_00005Due to the fairly lengthy winter break, the list of fixtures for this update is significantly shorter than the beginning and end of the season. I can’t say I’m too terribly disappointed, as we’re still keeping up with the top pack fairly well, but a slight slump in form and too  many draws means we’ve slid back from briefly occupying first on a few occasions. At least now everyone has evened up on games played so the table is a lot more representative. Although taking a point from Ajax and Feyenoord is still a good return for a side of our stature, knowing that we’ve beaten both of them in the recent past makes it slightly disappointing. The club, under my direction as well as in real life have developed a knack for upsets against PSV, but a totally embarrassing display means that run is over for the time being.

A little while ago I changed the expectations from respectable league position to challenge for a Europa League spot, which we look to be still on track for and hopefully our slaughter of ADO is a sign of good things to come.

UEFA Europa League

 2015-01-24_00009

2015-01-24_00004

A very intense group from start to finish. The last update ended with a nervy 0-0 draw away at Napoli, and the return fixture was absolutely the complete opposite. I had gotten into a bit of a row with Rafa Benitez prior to the match, and after getting three goals in the first six minutes it looked like I had certainly shut him up. I think the lads must have felt the same way, because they slacked off and let the Italian side score four in a row without putting up much of a fight. Long term loan star Adam Reach smashed one in from outside the box with a little over ten minutes left, but it just wasn’t to be as Napoli grabbed another shortly before the final whistle.

While we had a goal bonanza, Spartak and Betis drew, leaving the group completely level on five points and wide open with two matches left. We did fairly well in the first half in Spain, taking a two goal lead into the locker rooms. Real Betis came back out on fire, scoring three goals and turning the match completely on it’s head. A great goal from hot prospect (and super sub) Brian Jacobs got us back level, and highly impressive rightback “Henk” grabbed us a dramatic late winner. We welcomed the Russians knowing that just a point would qualify us to advance. Things looked very bright early, with loanee Jordan Ibe finding Tahiri for a goal almost straight from kickoff, but things quickly turned as Spartak just drowned us in pressure. We went in at the half knotted up at two, and defended our hearts out for the final 45.

The final result had us topping the group on goal difference, which is absolutely brilliant for a club only in their first season back in the top flight and with a relative lack of European experience or success. We’ve drawn M Haifa from Israel in the first knockout round, with the winner advancing to play either Arsenal or CKSA Moscow.

Transfers

2015-01-24_00006

Not much activity here, although due to some disputes with players I would have liked more. Verbauwhede was actually brought in as a backup because number 1 Verbist was having a hard time settling and wanted a friend or countryman. Verbauwhede is not only a fellow Belgian, but is also listed under Verbist’s favored  personnel as his father, despite being two years younger. On the plus side, even though my scout rated him only as a decent backup, when he arrived and my assistant manager (who has much better skills at judging players) seems to think he’s actually a fair bit better than Verbist, who has been in fine form the past two years. On the negative, despite being a countryman and father(?!), this did not seem to phase my unsettled keeper in the least bit and he’s nearly cost me my job.

Biemans wasn’t getting much game time and was sent to our affiliate upon their request. van Leer was released because he had ended up being fourth choice and wasn’t happy about the lack of game time, but no one would buy him, even for free. Plat, one of last year’s stars, simply wasn’t getting much match time due to not really doing anything when he did and initially asked to leave. Multiple deals for him fell through, until NEC swooped in with a loan offer on deadline day. He gets to play more, they pay 80% of his 11.5k per week, everyone’s happy. Duven is a pretty solid prospect that simply wasn’t able to get any match time, and I agreed to let him to go Den Bosch only as long as he would be a first time player. We should have had another out, as midfielder Faik wasn’t getting any match time and wanted to leave, and although I accepted a bid for him on deadline day, he screwed around with his contract negotiations and the deadline passed. Somehow, he blames me, even though I offered him out and accepted the bid, but these are the things we managers have to deal with.

Player Spotlight

Henk Dijkhuizen

2015-01-24_00007

First up is our standout rightback whom I’ve ended up simply calling Henk, partially because I’m entirely unsure how to pronounce his surname, and partially because I just really like the name Henk. (I think setting a nickname might be in his future). He has consistently been one of the best players on the pitch week in and week out, even if the stats this season don’t outright show it. Most notably he scored our dramatic late winner over Real Betis which was neither a header nor from a corner.

Jordan Ibe

2015-01-24_00008

A player that a lot of fans of English football may well be familiar with, Ibe was brought in on loan from Liverpool and has been outstanding. He doesn’t have many appearances in the league, mainly because I play a flat 4-5-1 domestically and he’s been training to play in a wide midfield role. A goal and three assists in six appearances in a role that he’s just learned is a very impressive return, I think. He’s also been instrumental in our Europa League success so far, starting almost every match and grabbing an astounding three goals and two assists.

Other News

Not much on this front this time, mostly just more crappy offers from struggling English teams. I did get one interesting interview offer, from Schalke in Germany, which I actually attended despite my relative lack of interest in leaving Roda. Schalke ended up not offering me the job, but my attendance of the interview ended up with Roda offering me a new contract which I graciously accepted after a week’s delay to see what Schalke ended up doing. Nothing else of note really, except for the strange player interactions mentioned earlier.

Next time we’ll come to the end of the season, with us pushing for European qualification and seeing how far our Europa League campaign can take us. Will the end of season update bring dramatic success? Disappointing failure? More players with fathers younger than they are?

You’ll just have to wait and see.

FM15 Journeyman: 2015/2016 Early Season Update

2015/2016 Season

Roda JC- Eredivisie
August/September/October

roda-kerkrade-s

Eredivisie

2015-01-22_00006a

2015-01-22_00001

Have to say that I’m very pleased overall with how the season has gone so far. A lot of draws, but for a newly promoted team we’ve ground out a solid amount of points in these first few months. The table is kind of wonky due to a large number of teams having a game or two in hand, but I’m still very happy with our position. Before the loss to Go Ahead, we’d picked up our unbeaten run from the end of last season and taken it up to a massive 18 games, including our first seven in the top flight. A lot of the draws saw us going down first (sometimes multiple times) before drawing level, so to me it’s gaining a point as opposed to dropping two.

Dutch Cup

2015-01-22_00002

Not a very glamorous run, and especially disappointing to go out as defending champions at the first match. It was a great match, to be honest, as thrice we went down and thrice we drew level, including twice in the last ten minutes. This match was played with a league fixture two days prior and a Europa League fixture two days after, so we had to deal with both fatigue and rotation. Extra time was a tense affair with several chances on both ends but no incisive finish. Penalties could have gone quite differently, but last year’s star striker Johan Plat took our first penalty and put it straight at the goalkeeper.

UEFA Europa League

2015-01-22_00006b

2015-01-22_00003

Another area where the team is doing much better than I had anticipated. Halfway through the group and we sit in 1st, albeit by a single point. I went into the first match agreeing with the board expectation of not really being able to get anything out of Europe. The reality was a surprisingly even match at home vs Real Betis, with us having a slight edge in both possession and shots on target, but neither team was able to convert. Our next match was a tough away trip to Spartak Moscow, with neither the media or fans expecting anything but a drubbing.  An early goal by new signing Ayite followed immediately by a second from loan star Jordan Ibe put us comfortably in the driver’s seat. Ibe grabbed his brace before halftime and we saw the result through, with Spartak only managing a late consolation goal.

I saw away to  Napoli as the toughest fixture of the whole group, and I’m very satisfied to come back from Italy with a point. They came at us relentlessly, holding us to 0 shots on target until well after half time. With a little less than 20 minutes to go, fullback Ard Van Peppen decided it would be a good idea to dive even though he was already on a yellow, earning himself an early trip to the locker room. Some tactical adjustments meant we were able to hold on til the end. The next match (both in the Europa League and overall) is the return fixture home vs Napoli. Having two of the last three matches at home gives me a good confidence boost, knowing that we could get results away to both Spartak and Napoli and picking up some points at home should be easier. Four points should probably see us through, especially if we can pick up a win over Betis or Spartak.

Transfers

Only one transfer since my last update, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Player Spotlight

Muhamed Tahiri

2015-01-22_00004This was our one transfer after the preseason. I had a scout on the UEFA U-19 Championship, who brought this kid to my attention. He scored 4 goals in 3 games for Belgium, picking up both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball, as well as a spot in the Best XI. I immediately put in an offer, surprised to find that his club was only asking 300k for him. We spent about a week on the edge of our seats as four or five high profile teams put in bids and discussed contracts. I nearly jumped out of my chair when I got the mail that he’d decided to sign for us. Despite being 18, he’s clearly our best forward, grabbing six in nine matches for us already (most as a False 9!). A massive, massive coup for the club.

Nathan Rutjes

2015-01-22_00005One of our star performers from last season, Rutjes is having a solid season so far this year. Playing as an attacking CM, he’s one of several points of our system that we can expect goals from, and he has a knack for banging in shots from outside the box seemingly out of nowhere. Maybe not quite as prolific for us as last year, but he is a clear first choice for the CM(a) spot.

I’m going to try to do this section every update, and highlight one or two players that have really made an impact during the timeframe.

Other News

I’ve been offered three job interviews in during October, all from England. Hull came in first, sitting 17th in the Championship. No way I’m going to leave this club sitting where we are for a relegation battle in the Championship, so I declined to attend. A few days later, Reading offered an interview, them sitting even lower in the Championship, a lowly 22nd. No thanks. Another couple matches go by, and now Sheffield Wednesday is offering an interview, all the way up the Championship table in 9th! No that I expect to be getting offers from top clubs, but leaving a club that’s sitting pretty in the Dutch top flight and in Europe for the English 2nd tier just is not appealing to me at all.

Next time, we’ll have pushed on into the new year, finished the group stage in Europa, and possibly had some transfer activity.

FM15 Journeyman: Oops, Starting With Season 2!

Hello hello everyone! I’m quite sorry that I suddenly stopped blogging and tweeting, personal life changed quite a bit for a while and I spent most of the year totally away from computers. I didn’t get to purchase FM15 until after Christmas, and after spending less than a season doing a save (where I, unknowingly went to Bolton, not knowing their financial issues) I decided to start a save with Roda JC in the Dutch 2nd tier to get familiar with the new game. It turns out that I got used to it quickly and started really enjoying the save. Since I was already 2/3 of the way through the season, I decided to just finish the season out and then start blogging and tweeting my save from the beginning of the second season.

 2014/2015 Season

Roda JC – Jupiler League

2015-01-18_00005

2015-01-18_00006

An incredible season overall. Despite the multiple runs of consecutive wins or unbeaten streaks, we ended up finishing in second due to Den Bosch having an even better season and staying just above us all year. Comfortably through the promotion playoffs, and I’ve taken the club straight back up to the Eredivisie.

The biggest accomplishment, however, has to be our amazing run in the Dutch Cup. When we drew PSV in the third round I was not expecting much, but we dominated the match. The scoreline isn’t really reflective, as we were 3-0 up at one point before they drew level. After the easy win against same level opposition, we again drew the top tier in Feyenoord, which I took as another death sentence. It was a much tighter match than PSV, although we still generally were in control. It took extra time for a breakthrough goal, but we got it early and held on well. Drawing AZ didn’t give me as much dread as the previous two, as I had seen we clearly could hold our own with the big boys, and we completely controlled the entire match. The final was sort of anticlimactic compared to the rest of the competition, embarrassing same level Sparta Rotterdam.

2015-01-18_00007

2015-01-18_00008

2015-01-18_00010

A very solid squad throughout the season, but Plat and Lagouireh were standout performers. Plat was a squad striker who wasn’t even really on my radar in the early season, but after a plague of injuries he got his chance and pretty much took over the first choice spot. 17 goals in all comps is respectable, especially since he spent the first few months hardly playing. Lagourieh was a winger that I retrained as a wide mid to fit into my 4-5-1 system and once he got settled in his new position, he absolutely made it his own. 7 goals and 10 assists added immensely to our success.

2015/2016 Season

Roda JC – Eredivisie

roda-kerkrade-s

2015-01-18_00015

We had a very short preseason, which is entirely my fault for getting too caught up in transfers and forgetting to schedule all the friendlies. All total blowouts against much lesser opposition, simply to build morale and fitness. Fitness is still looking pretty poor at the moment, but I’m still feeling good. Since we won the Dutch Cup last season, we both got qualified for the Europa League, as well as the Cruff Schaal, which is the Dutch supercup.

2015-01-18_00003

Another convincing win against one of the top clubs. Even after the first goal things were still nervous, as I had several new signings in the squad and we hadn’t had nearly enough time to get fitness up. They came our roaring after halftime, but we held our ground and eventually caught them on the break with returning loan star Reach grabbing his first goal of the new season. Even with PSV getting desperate, the lads played brilliantly and spend the last 20 minutes in more control than they had all match. Reach grabbed his second right at the end, just to make the scoreline look even better.

Transfers

2015-01-18_00011

2015-01-18_00012

2015-01-18_00014

2015-01-18_00013

Lots of movement both in and out. Shame the almost all of the dead weight went out on frees, but winning the cup last year gave us a huge boost to finances and I really just wanted to be rid of their wages. Ake and Ibe are both very exciting loan signings and I’ll be expecting big things from both of them. I’ve picked out three transfers to highlight, although all of them were important to add quality depth or to improve weak areas.

Kante is the first, who I actually signed in the winter but just arrived in June. He looks like a very promising prospect if I can develop him properly. To be able to grab a young player with that much potential on a free was too good to pass up. I don’t  think that Thorpe will be a star player, but he’s already good enough to be a rotation player with potential to be a starter, although despite what the scout says he may already be our second best centre back. Ayite, although getting on a bit, looks like a very good player, and will most likely be a first choice, although Plat(shown above) and our other striker Opoku will provide good competition (or support, depending on the tactic.)

I think I’m going to aim to do 3-month updates with this save, as doing monthly on a blog just feels like a bit too much to me. My computer is a bit of a dinosaur so it’ll probably take me several days between updates, but we will see. I signed a new contract at the beginning of this season for two years, but this is a journeyman save, so anything can happen. Cheers everyone, it’s good to be back it!