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Everything posted by arnoldinho

  1. 10 games in to Season 12, the good news is that we are unbeaten! The bad news is that so are three other teams... Wow the Championship is a tough league to get out of!
  2. Arnoldinho: Buxton FC 2030/31 Championship Transfers ¦ Squad ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ Playoffs ¦ League Table ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances A veeerry slow season as real life has got in the way, but I have finally completed my 11th season with Buxton. Offseason and Transfers The summer saw the end of an era with the departure of club legend Paul Glatzel. Having not cut it at Championship level, both club and player felt it was time for him to move on and he went to Exeter for £165k. Disgruntled Byron Clough also left, and a record number of younger players went out on loan. Meanwhile, we only spent money on one player – a princely £50k on a new left back as Ryan Corrigan joined from Hearts. Averaging over 7 for the year, he proved to be a solid signing. Other than that, it was the usual parade of free transfers. Most were young players with future potential, and our improved reputation means we are now able to get the cast offs from the very best clubs - although Jamie Alexander from Everton was perhaps the best of the bunch. But we also picked up a very useful looking striker/inside forward in Anthony Woodward, a 24 year-old released by Norwich. On the loans front, we were able to bring back five who had made such a big impact last season (Markscheffel, Smith-Barmby, Warrington, Jones and Robson), not only giving us real quality but also promoting squad stability. The January transfer window was a very profitable one for us. In the last update I mentioned Lubos Jarolim, our rapidly developing Hungarian 17 year old. Well, he continued to grow in leaps and bounds, and soon we were getting offers north of £5m for him. That was too good a money to turn down for a player still probably two years off the first team, and so when we managed to negotiate Brighton up to a £7m deal that could rise to £11m, we cashed in. Then later in the window Bristol City came in out of the blue for Jonathan Fisher, who had continued to be talented but inconsistent (and who I had never quite forgiven for his red card in the playoff final) so we cashed in on him too - £5m the eventual fee, although the board are unhappy I didn’t get more for him. This actually gave us some transfer money, but as we are still a very small club for this level I remain cautious to splash unless the right player comes up, and this time the only guy who did (an 18 year old centre-back who looked better than Jarolim and Norwich were willing to sell me for £900k) told me hours before the window closed that he didn’t fancy the move. However, I couldn’t resist spending some money and so I popped it in to wage budget and got two more loanees – Louie Bryan a forward from Man Utd and Jordan Huddell a midfielder from Spurs. The former was useful, the latter pretty useless. My conclusion: when you can have only 5 loanees in the match-day 18 its feasible to have 6 in the squad, but 7 is a waste of money. League Campaign With the core of the previous season’s squad back, I was aiming to make the playoffs again. We did, but it was a bit of a rollercoaster along the way. Aided perhaps by team cohesion being high, we started strongly, losing just once in our first eleven matches and spending three weeks in the automatic promotion positions. A couple of defeats in October – including at eventual champions Burnley – dented our ambitions, but 13 points from a possible 15 in November meant we were still flying high. Then the wheels fell off a bit. December was miserable and we won just 2 in 10 through most of February and March which saw us slide out of the playoff places altogether. Injuries didn’t help, with new captain Jordan Rossiter and talisman Steve Jordan enduring lengthy periods on the sidelines, and loanees Derek Robson and Liam Smith-Barmby both on and off the physio’s table multiple times. But the spring international break came at exactly the right time. Rejuvenated from a rest, the team came back from the break to guts out a 3-2 win against Swansea before two comprehensive victories over the Easter weekend combined with a slip-up by rivals Cardiff saw us creep back in to sixth. But our last three games included champions-elect Burnley, and then Cardiff themselves in the penultimate match. A 90th minute penalty against Burnley earned us a creditable draw, and so it all came down to the Cardiff game. Win and we’d guarantee a playoff spot. A draw would keep it in our hands going in to the last day. A loss and Cardiff would leapfrog us again. I needn’t have worried. In our best performance of the season we dominated from start to finish and won 3-0 in the Welsh capital. The Bucks were going back to the playoffs again, finishing on 77 points after a final day draw with Brentford in which we handed debuts to several young prospects. Remarkably it was the fourth season in the previous five in which we’d finished 6th in our division! So our old friend the playoffs loomed. Once again we were clearly the underdogs when compared to Crystal Palace (our first round opponents), Birmingham and Villa. But we were the form side, and a strong 2-0 first leg victory over Palace at the Silverlands gave me belief that we could actually do it. I shouldn’t have dared to dream. The second leg was a disaster. I juggled my loanees to bring in both Markscheffel and Smith-Barmby and shore up the defence at the expense of a forward. It proved to be a mistake. We created not a single attacking highlight all game, and even with our best centre-back pairing on the field, we couldn’t withstand constant Palace pressure, especially with Ryan Corrigan suspended at the worst possible moment. We lost 3-0 and were lucky it wasn’t more. A really limp way to end a good season. Cups Were disappointing. Playing a rotated squad, we lost to Paul Glatzel’s Exeter in the second round of the Carabao Cup – ouch. In the FA Cup we drew Premier League Sheffield United, and earned a creditable draw at home thanks to a goal from top scorer Ethan Fenlon. We then lost the replay 1-0 in extra time, in a dull game the BBC must have really regretted deciding to televise! Such is the bizarre nature of board expectations that the board were more annoyed by this defeat to a Premier League team (because we didn’t reach the fourth round as per our objective) than the one against League One Exeter (because we did reach our second round goal). Go figure. Finances Are in the black (and even more so than the screenshot shows as this was before we received another £4.2m in solidarity payments) but wouldn’t be without the £12m of player sales. Our wage budget is 20th in the Championship but can’t realistically rise much higher until we get in to the new stadium – which has now progressed to the planning permission stage. Looking Ahead There’s really only two ways forward: wait for that stadium, or luck a promotion in the meantime on the back of outstanding loanees and then wallow in the Premier League money, even if we come straight back down first time around and have to use the parachute payments to rebuild. So coming up is another summer in which we try to sign two or three quality players on frees, whilst filling out the squad with talented loanees and grabbing talented youth rejects from Premier League clubs to develop and sell for a profit. We start from a reasonable position this time around though. Of the starters we own, only Rossiter – whose physicals have now gone completely post injury – absolutely needs replacing. And with Jones and Warrington have already confirmed loan extensions for another season we basically have four starting spots (2x CB, DM, AML) to fill. Three of those can be loanees if needed (although probably not Markscheffel who Arsenal say they want to start integrating in to their first team). So I’m in a reasonably flexible position to sign the best players willing to join me almost regardless of position rather than constantly scrambling to fill gaps. Our first target may well end up being one Derek Robson, who is coming to the end of his Liverpool contract. Although injury prone, on his day he can be a complete game-changer and if released I’m hoping my good relationship with him means he can be tempted to the Silverlands permanently. I also have my eye on a young DM not getting a look in at Man City and an English midfielder who has been in Serie A for four seasons. Doubtless others will crop up as the summer goes on. Equally doubtlessly I will be outbid on most. Patience remains the name of the game for the time being. Career Summary
  3. I believe the way they do it (or used to do it at least - I’m a few years out of date) is that you could only update your save from one version of the game to the next but if you wanted to skip a year you could get a free demo of the game for the year you missed, load your save in that to update the file and then load that save file in the new version. A little time consuming but didn’t require purchase of the game every year to work.
  4. Now you mention it, I think I remember that discussion. I suppose what I'm saying is that I'd hope a blank sheet of paper would allow the foundations of the game to be designed in such a way that this sort of approach could be built in from day one, not have to be retro-fitted in a difficult way that required tons of testing. I'm on very shaky ground here as I know nothing about programming (!) but I guess its part of my wider point that a big revamp should be a chance to look at under-the-hood fundamentals.
  5. I too really appreciated the honesty - both about what's coming and what hasn't worked to date. It gives me more confidence about the future of the franchise and frankly makes me more likely to continue to support it by buying FM24 even if I know a big change is coming the year after. A graphics overhaul and the ability to carry saves over from version to version are both really big deals for me (currently mainly still playing FM20 - small kids mean playtime very limited!). And I'm really pleased to see the women's football pledge being followed through. I hope that a once-in-two-decades overhaul also allows for some fundamentals about how the game works to be revisited, and that the community can be brought in to this discussion. Not just feature requests but what is it that will create a platform for the game to continue improving over the next decade or more. The sorts of things I'm thinking about are: - The level of simulation realism in FM is incredible but can also be overwhelming and means it takes a long time to play. Could there be an overhaul of how the different 'modules' (for want of a better term) within the game work to allow you to really customise your FM experience. For those who want a full simulation and enjoy micro-management, you can turn on everything (training, press conferences, player interactions, data analysts etc). For those who want something faster or that's more like a game they can turn those off (yes I know I can delegate a lot to your assman but player morale is still affected by what they say at press conferences, wonderkid progression still reduced if they screw up U18 training etc). Or anything in between based on the individual player's preferences. - Online options have improved in recent years with fantasy draft, but still feel like they are add-ons to a game designed in an era where less was online rather than something that is fully integrated in to the game. I'd hope a whole new version would offer some fairly fundamentally different ways to play including centrally hosted online servers that can accommodate larger numbers of players than a home-hosted network game, and where time advances automatically and some features are disabled in order to ensure a faster game experience. I hope the community can be a part of such big picture discussions about what sort of game they want for the next decade, not just invited to throw in specific feature requests. That would really build on the excellent start of today's blog.
  6. Arnoldinho: Buxton FC 2029/30 Championship Transfers ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ League Fixtures 3 ¦ League Table ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances Offseason and Transfers Taking stock after our first season in the Championship, I decided I had been a little harsh in the view that of the players we owned only Mitchell Newell was Championship calibre. Jordan Rossiter at DM and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson at LB had shown they were also up to the task. Unfortunately they were also the oldest two players in my squad. So there was still lots of work to do in the transfer market, and actually some money available after Dowell’s sale. First through the door was Attacking Midfielder Jonathan Fisher, released by Nottingham Forest who in this save seem absolutely determined to throw away talented young players whenever possible. Just behind him was Theo Barnes, the goalkeeper I had targeted in January, now that I had worked out how to manipulate my wage budget. Then for the first time in the save, we broke the million pound mark in signing a player. Striker Ethan Fenlon had been a target on a free the previous summer but had gone to Bournemouth who had stuck him in the reserves. A wasted year for him and a wasted million quid for us, but I was still happy to have him, especially since Forest were not keen on O’Rourke coming for yet another loan spell. But Fenlon wasn’t our record transfer fee for long – on the eve of the season the opportunity presented itself for us to sign West Ham midfielder Steve Jordan and we jumped at the chance. Best in an attacking midfield role, he’s also able to play as a playmaker. As usual, loans were also high on the priority list. With so many attacking-minded players in the squad you’d have thought I’d focus on defence – and indeed I did bring back Steve Meichan from Man City, and was delighted to add Arsenal wonderkid centre-back Chad Markscheffel for the season. Luke Warrington from Spurs also looked like a straight replacement for Steffan Coleman in a playmaking midfield role. But I couldn’t resist a couple of forwards as well – Chelsea’s Martyn Jones and Liverpool’s Derek Robson were both too good to turn down. Amongst the usual array of incoming youth, an interesting standout was Czech 17-year old Lubos Jarolim. A centre-back, he was very unusual for a youth prospect in having well developed technical (14 tackling already) and mentals, but weak physicals (9 acceleration, 8 pace, 7 strength). I decided to take a gamble on him and a year in it is looking tasty – with some intensive individual quickness training he is already up to 12 acceleration and 10 pace. If I can get him a couple more notches higher next season, I’ll then switch him to strength training. If he pulls that off too he’ll be a real quality centre-back, and ought to qualify in due course as home grown at club to boot. I’ve already rejected multiple offers to loan him out so that we can intensively focus his training. For once we were also busy in January. Old friend Michael Lovatt was able to join us permanently for the princely sum of £72k. But the big one was that we were able to buy outright Steve Meichan. Not only did this mean adding a quality (England U21 quality) right-back to our squad, but it also freed up a loan spot. Last season’s loanee Liam Smith-Barmby was available and so we snapped him up to play alongside Markscheffel. Having played one game and scored one goal (before getting injured), Forest were now willing to loan out O’Rourke again, so I took a risk and took him on – meaning we had six loanees to choose five from for each match. Conscious that we are also going to have to continue to be a selling club, I also let Werner Breugelmans go to Southampton in a deal worth around £2m depending on appearances. A nice piece of business for a young player we’d picked up on a free 18 months earlier, and had hardly set the world alight since. Give me Steve Jordan any day. League Campaign The first half of the season went pretty much as I expected. We were basically a bit better than the previous season – winning slightly more than we lost, and drawing a lot. At no point before Christmas did we win more than two in a row or lose more than two in a row. Fenlon and Fisher took a little while to get going, but were effective by November. Luke Warrington was a revelation as a playmaker in midfield, spraying the ball all over the park, and Martyn Jones was a constant threat cutting in off the wing. Robson looked good when he played too but was injured a lot. But then the January transfer window had the reverse effect to the previous season – giving us a real boost and sending us flying up the league. From the start of February to mid-April we lost only one in thirteen, moving gradually from mid-table obscurity to outside shot for the playoffs to genuine challenger to occupier of 6th place. At one stage we went six matches without conceding – Markscheffel and Smith-Barmby (used to playing as a pairing with England U21s) absolute rocks at the heart of the defence. A 3-1 reverse at league leaders’ Derby on Good Friday almost allowed Hull to catch us for the last playoff spot, but wins against Portsmouth and Blackburn, sandwiched either side of a creditable draw away at also-playoff-bound Southampton meant we were in. Derek Robson’s 6 goals in our last 10 games a bit factor in getting us over the line. This I felt was a heroic effort from the team, but I had zero expectations for the playoffs – we had taken just four points from the other three sides all season, the only win having come when we FMed Cardiff 1-0. And in the semi we had Birmingham who had trounced us twice. But they were out of form and we were flying, and we hit them with two first half goals in the first leg at the Silverlands. Jordan Rossiter was sent off early in the second stanza but we clung on to take a 2-0 lead to St Andrews. There the match was almost identical in reverse. Birmingham came out of the traps rapidly, scoring twice early and looking like they would exert their superiority. But then they had a man sent off and we were able to turn things around, starting to apply some pressure against ten men. Credit to Brum, they kept attacking even when short-handed, and it was end to end stuff until Ethan Fenlon popped up in the last minute of normal time to send the visiting fans in to raptures and the Bucks back to Wembley yet again. As seems to be tradition in this save, the playoff final threw up a ridiculous selection conundrum. This time we lost both our starting central midfielders. Jordan Rossiter’s suspension following his red card in the semi first leg was extended to a three match ban, and then Luke Warrington was called up to England’s youth squad for the Toulon tournament. Despite England’s first match not being until a whole week after the playoff final, it was apparently absolutely essential he join the squad training camp beforehand and so we were without him too. It showed. We lacked snap in the midfield, struggled to get Jordan (who had dropped deeper to playmake in Warrington’s absence) on the ball, and had Jonathan Fisher sent off as we limply succumbed one-nil. We were at least spared the humiliation of Breugelmans rubbing it in when he came on as a sub and hit a 30 yard screamer that went just over the bar. But it wasn’t to be on the promotion front. Now one for five at Wembley in this save. Cups Not much to see here. We lost at the first time of asking in the FA Cup, a rather limp 2-1 defeat at Elland Road just before we made our stellar January signings. It was probably a blessing in disguise as it avoided fixture congestion during our amazing run. In the Carabao Cup we achieved the board’s goal of reaching the second round by beating League One Walsall, before losing to Premier League Burnley on penalties in Round Two. Finances We hit the lofty heights of 22nd biggest wage budget in the Championship this year. We are now established at the level, albeit still as one of the smaller market sides. But we have a reasonable wage budget and a few million of transfer budget, enough to go shopping. My only grumble is that the board don’t allow me to keep much of any transfer revenue recouped, reducing the scope for wheeler dealing. We went one better than last season, selling out every single home game. The new stadium is not much further forward: the board are still looking for an appropriate site. But they have said that they are targeting a 13120 (precisely!) capacity all-seater. That feels about right, as long as they find a site that is expandable further in future if (when?!) we reach the lofty heights of Europe. Looking Ahead Its always gutting to lose a playoff final (believe me, by this point I know). But there’s no way we were ready for promotion, and would undoubtedly have come straight back down. However, our great run has made me more optimistic about getting out of this division sooner rather than later. The board want top half next season. That’s probably about right, but there’s a lot of volatility to that outlook depending on the loans situation. If we are able to get the same group back next time around I would expect us to make the playoffs again, at minimum. But if they’re not available and the loan market dries up for any reason, I could see us moving backwards rapidly. So we have to keep plugging away at making our own signings. My goal is 15 Championship quality players, who can then be supplemented in the squad by loans and up-and-coming youth players. As 33 year old Borthwick-Jackson will leave this summer, at the moment I think we have 8 who cut the mustard: Barnes, Meichan, Lovatt, Rossiter, Jordan, Fisher, Newell and Fenlon. So still some way to go. On a sad note, I think this might be the summer we finally say goodbye to Paul Glatzel. He has been legendary for us on this save, but for two successive seasons the Championship has proved a step too far, and I simply don’t have the financial prowess to be able to afford the luxury of passengers for sentimental reasons. And he’s still young enough to make a big contribution for somebody in League One or League Two. Career Summary
  7. Congratulations @nehpets81 - promotion from the National at the first time of asking is a great achievement! How are the finances looking after that cup run? Such a pity you drew Man City at home - if it had been an away tie you’d have been set for years! Thanks for the mentality link - I’ll have a good read of that when I get the chance. As for me I’ve just finished my next season (it took me so long to write up the previous one that I was most of the way through before I’d even posted!) so will try to post that update later this week. But suffice it to say it was considerably more exciting than the previous one…
  8. Arnoldinho: Buxton FC 2028/29 Championship Transfers ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ League Table ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances This update will be a bit different to usual with far more about off the pitch activity (where a lot happened) than on the pitch (where not much did). Offseason and Transfers With only one player who I was confident was up to standard for the Championship, my goals for the summer were three-fold: extend Ray Dowell’s contract; sign as many other Championship quality players as we could afford; and max out loans to plug the gaps. We achieved two of these. We inked a new deal with Dowell (although I couldn’t get his Premier League clubs release clause above £5m) despite a lot of interest from Wolves. But the move up to the Championship had clearly not boosted our rep by a huge amount and so we struggled for new signings, last year’s loanee Mitchell Newell being the only player of any real quality being willing to join us, for a club record £500k. Ex- Man Utd forward Werner Breugelmans was the best of the rest as we signed our usual crop of young Premier League rejects. Championship football did however seem to increase the quality of players we could get on loan, and so as well as getting Coleman and O’Rourke back we were able to bolster our defence with a pair of England U21 internationals - Spurs’ Liam Smith-Barmby at CB and Man City’s Steve Meichan at RB. Bournemouth Attacking Midfielder Anthony Garside completed our loan contingent. I entered the season a bit disappointed we hadn’t got more but confident of staying up. The January transfer window however was an unmitigated disaster. Our top target was Andrew Pitman - easily the most wonderkid-esque player my scouts have ever advised would be willing to sign for me (and they thought his wages would be affordable too). He was due to be out of contract at Liverpool in the summer but for some weird reason foreign clubs could offer him a contract in January whereas I couldn’t. Once Dundee Utd offered him a contract, Liverpool were willing to sell him to me for a few hundred k plus sell on clauses, but having spent my transfer budget on Newell I simply couldn’t afford it. And so he agreed to sign north of the border and we missed out. Does anyone know if its deliberate or a bug that foreign clubs can come in with an end of contract offer before domestic ones? Literally the very next day, top of the Championship table Wolves came in aggressively for Dowell. At first I had no intention of selling but his agent advised he would be unhappy if he wasn’t allowed to talk to Wolves, and then I managed to negotiate them up to £5.5m plus sell on fees. Given it was obvious that in a few months Wolves would be a Premier League side and able to activate his £5m release clause (and that in the meantime we were bumbling on in mid table with not much to play for) I decided to pull the trigger. The board and fans were not impressed. I was just annoyed it didn’t happen in time for me to get Pitman. There was actually another reason I was willing to let Dowell go: I thought I had already identified his replacement. My scouts were right that Arsenal U23 keeper Theo Barnes was available for a few hundred thousand; but they were wrong about his salary demands which were more than the board would allow, despite special pleading from me. Whereas the Pitman situation felt like a game bug, here I screwed up - I didn’t realise that if I shifted more from the transfer budget to the wage budget so that the wage budget had huge space, the board would allow me to go higher in what I offered an individual player. (This misunderstanding has also cost me a chance to sign Steffan Coleman who will be going on a big salary to the MLS at the end of his contract despite being keen to sign for us). End result: we sold our best player and signed no-one. Gah! League Campaign I said I expected to finish in the teens and the aim was closer to 13th than 19th. End result: slap bang in the middle at 16th! For most of the year we were better than that, winning slightly more than we lost. But a dire run of form in the aftermath of selling Dowell (for much of which our backup was also injured) when we won only 1 in 9 pushed us out of the top half. Still, relegation was never really a threat so the board and fans were quite content. Tactically, we used a mix of the 4-3-3 with a DM against the bigger clubs and a high press 4-2-3-1 in games we expected to win. This worked reasonably well and will be our approach for the foreseeable future. Cups We had a brilliant win at West Ham in the 3rd round of the FA Cup only to meekly succumb to Portsmouth in a 4th round replay during our terrible run of form. In the Carabao Cup we lost at the first time of asking - on penalties to Blackburn. Finances We sold out every league game bar one, when Plymouth fans didn’t fill the away end on a damp November Tuesday night. More importantly still, Dowell’s sale has made us financially far more secure. In the immediate aftermath I got the board to upgrade several facilities, and to agree to a small extension to the Silverlands. But before work could even begin on the latter, at the end of the season the board decided to start preparations for a new stadium instead. No details yet on capacity and financing so not clear whether this is or isn’t good news! Looking Ahead The Championship is clearly going to be a slog. Next season’s goal is to win more than we lose. We have some transfer and wage budget to play with - hopefully some quality players will be willing to sign for us this time around… Career Summary
  9. Hi @nehpets81 - I’m so sorry, I thought I had set an alert so I got notified when a reply was posted on this thread but it didn’t seem to work for some reason and so I’ve only just spotted your last update. Congratulations on the promotion! Feels good to have the first one under your belt, doesn’t it?! Grayson looks an amazing catch for your level! Like you I’m not quite sure about League One (although he’s still relatively young so may grow with you) - but he’s good until at least League Two, so good that you got him locked in to a contract. I’m interested in this flow chart on mentality that you referred to - could you share a link? Closing out games is hard, and I don’t have a foolproof method by any means. But what I’ve tended to do with reasonable success is to go to “Cautious” quite early (and tone down how attacking my fullbacks are in their role/duty), but then only switch to “defensive” for the last ten minutes and “very defensive” in injury time. At about 80 minutes I set passing to shorter, tempo to lower, and time wasting to max to try to keep the ball. I also always keep the counter instruction on and also run at defence so my midfielders will take the ball forward in to space rather than hoof it clear and enable the opposition to start another attack right away. Hope that helps a bit. The National can be hard I’m afraid. But it kind of depends who has come down from the football league. With only one automatic promotion spot it only takes one “big” club to get relegated and then boss the league for the rest of you to be left scrambling for playoff places. On my phone now so can’t easily add the link but if you follow the link in my post above to my season four you’ll see I got lucky when Swindon completely imploded in the last couple of months of the season. Hope you have similar good fortune! As for me, I have completed my first season in the championship, just haven’t managed to write it up yet. I’m travelling for work this week but will try to post something early next once I’m back home to my PC and the saved screenshots.
  10. Arnoldinho: Buxton FC 2027/28 League One Transfers ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ Playoffs ¦ League Table ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances Offseason and Transfers Our quietest off-season so far. Other than a gap at left-back, I knew we had a squad good enough for League One, so was content to sit back and try to find those players willing to join us either on loan or (preferably) permanently, who could kick us over the promotion finish line. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson quickly filled the LB hole, and Jordan Rossiter was added as an experienced League One DM. But other than that our bigger targets weren't interested in permanent deals and so we were back fishing in the loan market. Here however we did rather well. Former loanees Michael Lovatt and Rob O'Rourke returned and we were able to snare two excellent players in Leicester's Mitchell Newell (able to play anywhere in the attacking third) and Man City's Steffan Coleman - a Welsh U21 international centre-midfielder with an incredibly bright future. On the other side of the equation a lot of our younger players were sent out on loan, especially after the January transfer window. Dean Ashley was the only sale. Rather than transfers, I spent more time on tactics. I really wanted to stick with the 4-3-3 (or to give it its official title the 4-1-4-1 DM Wide) that had brought us up the leagues but recognised this wasn't allowing us to break down top teams. Consequently I produced a second version using the same shape but a high press and more attacking instructions - the theory being I could flip between the two to suit the opposition. League Campaign For much of the year this felt very much like the previous two seasons - we were one of the better teams in the division but never in danger of challenging the very top sides. We won five, drew two and lost three of our opening 10 which felt extremely typical. Switching to a narrower tactic (we tried both 4-4-2 diamond and 4-1-3-2 narrow) didn't work and by February we had slipped out of the playoff places. A return to a wide formation saw a change in fortunes, including an incredible 8-0 drubbing of Cambridge, but things really clicked when we flipped the high press version of our 4-3-3 in to a 4-2-3-1. Suddenly we were able to sustain pressure against weaker teams, converting chances and turning draws in to wins. It wasn't a magic bullet, but from there on we only lost twice more (once when injury ravaged) until our playoff place was secured in the penultimate round of matches. Knowing by now the scheduling bug that means the first leg of the playoff semi comes just three days after the final league game, I rested the entire first team and played largely youth for the last match of the season, an entertaining 3-5 home loss to Wrexham that also saw stalwart Victor Sodiende score in his final game for the club. I was worried the morale hit from conceding five might outweigh the fitness gains, but I needn't have been concerned. We dominated the first leg against Rochdale, helped when they had a man sent off after half an hour with the score at 1-1. We went ahead soon after (O'Rourke's 20th league goal of the campaign) and then crucially in stoppage time CB Michael Lovatt powered in a header from a corner to give us a deserved two goal lead going in to the away leg. There too we played a hugely professional game, monopolising possession in the first half, equalising almost immediately when Rochdale scored to give them hope early in the second and then adding a cherry to the cake when Lovatt repeated his stoppage time heroics from the first leg. So off to the home of football for the fourth time in eight seasons, and our third successive playoff final. Could we break the Wembley jinx? Yes we could! After a tense first-half, the highlight of which was a Steffan Coleman 25 yard screamer, Charlton were swept aside in the second - Coleman again and O'Rourke sealing a 3-1 victory. After three seasons that felt like thirty, we were finally promoted to the Championship! Cups We played 13 cup matches this season, bringing our overall total games to over 60. In the FA Cup, we made it to Round Three via wins over Torquay and Rochdale, only to be disappointed with a home tie against Mansfield coming out of the hat. We made hard work of it, drawing 1-1 at home and clinging on to win the replay 3-2 having been 3-0 up. Our reward was a fourth round tie against... Championship Millwall. About as bad a draw as could be - clearly stronger than us, but fewer than 10,000 watched the game at the New Den where we forced a replay with a late equaliser. But we weren't good enough at home, going down 3-0. Naturally, we instead got the big team in the cup competition without revenue sharing! Chelsea were our third round Carabao Cup opponents after comfortable victories over Curzon Ashton (now a league club!) and Exeter in Rounds 1 and 2. We performed extremely creditably at Stamford Bridge, only losing 1-0 after parking the bus for 80 minutes and then almost bagging an equaliser when we suddenly threw everything at them in the last 10. The Leasing Trophy was less interesting. We played the youth, snuck through our group despite losing two of our three matches and then lost on penalties to Bolton in the second round. I was incredibly unbothered. Finances Not much to report here. We are losing money but not disastrously. The challenge will be balancing the books on Championship salaries. I decided against asking the board for any facilities upgrades this year, I want any money we do have in to the wage budget! But I did persuade them to increase our scouting range to all of Europe, which I think will be invaluable in looking for bargain signings as we are going to need to do. Looking Ahead The club's status and reputation continues to grow, as does my own. But a big challenge awaits, neatly encapsulated by the fact that all eight of our playoff goals were scored by players on loan! Of those in our squad who we actually own, we only have one player (our Goalkeeper Ray Dowell) who is properly of Championship quality - and he only has a year left on his contract and is attracting the interest of big clubs. So we are going to need to try to upgrade where we can, use loans to bring in some quality, and ride our luck a bit. But I do think we can stay up. The Championship has a gulf between some huge beasts - Newcastle, West Ham, Southampton are all now down there after PL stints (Southampton's relegation and our promotion means our affiliation will be cut) - but also some smaller clubs who yo-yo a bit between the Championship and League One. We need to make sure we beat the latter group, including by ensuring the former group don't hammer us so much that morale takes a battering. My overall goal is to finish "in the teens" - and if its closer to 13 than 19 I'll be especially pleased. The board expectation to battle against relegation gives a bit of flexibility, but after the struggles getting out of League One I really really don't want to go back down. Career Summary
  11. Wonderful to see I'm not alone @nehpets81! Perhaps we can challenge each other for the title of slowest completers of the dafuge challenge ever That's a decent first season, although I can imagine frustrating after flying high early on. You'll see from my previous posts that I've often found in FM20 a pattern like that. In my case at least I think it is that my low reputation means teams underestimate me at the start of the year, allowing me to catch them on the counter-attack. But then once they see me as a leading team and start to play more defensively I don't have the quality to break them down. Do you think the same might be true for you? Good luck for season two anyway! I've just completed another season which I'll try to write up later today or tomorrow.
  12. Arnoldinho: Buxton FC 2026/27 League One Transfers ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ League Table ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances Offseason and Transfers As planned, I used the offseason to take stock and refresh some of the club’s systems and strategies after a rapid rise from non-league football. I increased the size of my backroom staff and upgraded in several areas. I did a proper audit of the mish-mash of young players coming through my u-23s and u-18s and came up with a proper player pathway system for how many youngsters I want to bring through at any given time, how I want to train them, when I want to send them on loan, and how I might ease them in to the first team. On the back of this (and an increased wage budget), for the first time in the save, I brought in a handful of younger players not for immediate first team use, in particular Nigerians Peter Saraki (AMR) and Mansa Sissoko (DL) both of whom saw first team action in the EFL Trophy and a handful of other games. I also persuaded the board (finally) to improve youth recruitment, the first step in what I suspect will be a long road to not being dependent on Premier League and Championship cast-offs. Strengthening the first team squad however proved much harder. Our reputation had seemingly not risen enough to attract a much wider pool of talent, and even with the increased wage budget, we could be comfortably outbid by other sides at the same level. We did really well in snagging – albeit not in a position of great need – England U20s GK Ray Dowell when he was released by Manchester City. Injuries and international call-ups meant he only played half the games, and he wasn’t stellar to start with, but he was firmly established as our number one by year end. Other than Dowell though, veteran Jason McCarthy (RB) was the only summer signing to be a first choice starter for us, although Sam Dunn also saw a decent amount of game time in midfield or as an inverted winger on the right. Dean Ashley was a panic signing towards the end of the window who largely warmed the bench. We did much better on the loan front. We were able to negotiate deals to bring back previous loanees Rob O’Rourke up front and Kieran Bonner in defensive midfield. We failed to land Michael Lovatt for a second time around, but ended up going one better with Brighton CB Will Fish who was our top average rating player and made the players’ League One team of the season. Midfielders Thomas Francis (Bristol City), Oliver Wilson (Newcastle) and Neil Wood (Stoke) all made contributions in midfield at different points, although I never quite felt I got the most out of any of them. League Campaign This was a very frustrating season that culminated in our second successive playoff final defeat. Again it didn’t feel like we deserved to go up. Whilst we started the season strongly, and were in and around the playoffs all autumn, we had a lot of draws and seemed to lack a clinical touch. A purple patch from Christmas until mid- February – including five straight wins - catapulted us up in to the automatic promotion places briefly. But then the wheels fell off. We won just two of our next ten, and scored only four goals in two months. I tinkered with the tactics a lot (probably too much) trying different roles, instructions, mentalities and ultimately even briefly a different formation, but nothing seemed to make a difference. It took an 88th minute wonder goal by substitute Saraki in our penultimate league game to book our return to playoffs (and stop Forest Green securing automatic promotion), and we dropped to sixth when we only drew our final match – albeit that I played the reserves to rest the best players for the playoffs. The Goals For and Against columns sum up the season well – we had the second stingiest defence in the league but only scored the twelfth most goals. In the playoffs however we came out of the traps flying against Rotherham. Whereas in the previous season my big players had gone missing and then got injured, this time captain Paul “hates big matches” Glatzel got two goals in the two semi-final legs against Rotherham and O’Rourke got three. Having been 3-1 up I was annoyed when we conceded late in the first leg to open the door to Rotherham, but the away match was probably our best performance of the season. We scored early to restore the two goal advantage, soaked up the pressure and hit them on the break for another, and then closed the game down effectively. Were we clicking at just the right time? No, as it turned out. In the final we dominated the opening twenty minutes, netting a sixth minute penalty (O’Rourke again) and coming close on a couple of other occasions. And then we just disappeared. Plymouth, irritatingly led by Attacking Midfielder Jonathon Britton who I had considered trying to sign myself in January, mounted a deserved come from behind victory with goals either side of half-time, the second a penalty of their own. And when I tried to throw the kitchen sink at them for the last 20 minutes, to be honest we looked more like conceding on the break than equalising. To cap it all, Glatzel was sent off in the 86th minute. Maybe he does hate big matches after all. We are now 0 for 3 at Wembley in this save, and another season in League One beckons. After the final whistle, I was more irritated than gutted. Cups Cups followed a similarly non-eventful pattern to last year. We went out of the Carabao Cup at the first time of asking – although losing to Mansfield was considerably more embarrassing than last year’s reverse at Leeds. In the FA Cup we won through the first two rounds only to be beaten comfortably by lower Premier League opposition (this time Huddersfield) in Round Three. Our young players did us proud in the EFL Trophy group stage, and then nabbed an injury time equaliser and penalty shoot-out win in Round 2. But Sheffield Wednesday were too much for us in Round 3. Finances Not much to say here. Depending on the size of the visiting team, we are getting 4000-5000 consistently, which is a good fit with our 5950 capacity. We lost money on the year, but not catastrophically (the graph on the finances screenshot doesn’t yet reflect solidarity payments for League One). We do need to move onwards and upwards – or sell a few players for big money – before too long though to avoid becoming marooned. Annoyingly, but probably sensibly, the board won’t invest in any facilities until we have some more money in the back. Looking Ahead I am trying to figure out whether this summer I need a tactical overhaul or a squad overhaul, or both. Clearly we need to score more goals. At the moment I am leaning towards refreshing my tactics to create a new version with the same shape that is better at breaking down teams who sit back against us, plus having a clear out of the attacking players bar Glatzel and maybe Sodiende. Six players, including club legend Korede Adedoyin (who just didn’t cut it this year unfortunately) and underperforming top earner Oumar Traore, will definitely be released. A few more might go the same way, and I could sell one or two for small fees if we are able to pick up new signings. But it’s going to be tough. I’m yet to pay cash for a player on this save but we might break the duck as it doesn’t seem as many players are out of contract this summer for some reason. Brighton are potentially willing to sell me Will Fish for £50k but he wants double the wages that the board will allow me to pay, even for a Star Player. So I think we’re likely to be relying on some more loans again next year, and have asked the board to try to find another senior affiliate after Southampton had nobody to offer me this past season. Next season the aim has to be automatic promotion (although the board only want top half). But then again I said that a year ago… Career Summary
  13. Arnoldinho: Buxton FC 2025/26 League One Transfers ¦ League Fixtures 1 ¦ League Fixtures 2 ¦ League Table ¦ Playoffs ¦ Cup Fixtures ¦ Finances Getting back on the horse (stag?!) I have no idea if anyone still checks in on this thread, but more than two years later I have picked up my Buxton save again. I was really enjoying this back in 2020 but the double whammy of the pandemic and parenting a toddler meant time vanished and FM slipped off the agenda. Emerging from the other side, I bought FM23, but couldn't really get in to it for various reasons and re-reading my previous posts decided I’d had so much fun with this save I wanted to go back to it and see if I could finish the job. And that I should continue to write up my seasons, if only for my own future self looking back on it (so even if no-one reads these I'll probably still keep posting!) The story up to the point we left it was that my Buxton team had secured surprise back to back promotions, getting out of League Two at the first time of asking. Starting my sixth season in charge (if you’re a real glutton for punishment here are seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 writeups), we were therefore getting ready for our debut League One campaign. Offseason and Transfers It was not my most successful offseason in the transfer market as I tried to be picky about targets having moved up a tier, failed to secure them, and then made a few panicked signings. Only three made regular first time appearances. Probably the best piece of business was the addition of Isaac Fletcher, a mediocre looking centre-mid but who just got better and better as the season went on. Oumar Traore made a valuable contribution in the final third (although not quite as much as his club-highest wage would suggest he should have), whilst Tareik Holmes-Dennis and Levi Laing bolstered the defensive line. We turned Ian Mayor’s loan in to a full-time signing but he disappointed on the wing as did mid-season signing Taylor Gardner-Hickman. We did however do far better in the loan market this time around. New parent club Southampton loaned us Michael Lovatt, who formed a brilliant partnership with Saul Shotton in the heart of defence. Hearts’ Kieran Bonner provided cover for them both, and got regular starts at DM. In January, Romaine Mundle (an attack minded CM from Southampton) and Rob O’Rourke (Striker from Nottingham Forest) added to our firepower going forward, although both tailed off at the end of the year – O’Rourke especially. In the other direction, a few promising youth players went out on loan for large parts of the year. Most notable amongst them was AMR/ST Nathan Williams, who was Morecambe’s leading goalscorer as they won the Vanarama National. But new defensive signings Michael Uche and Michel van Dikken also had successful stints elsewhere. Although my own youth system isn’t yet producing players of a high enough calibre, I am now at a point in the save where I can pick up Premier League cast-offs and treat them as development prospects rather than throwing them straight in the first team. League Campaign Following back to back promotions, the board only expected that we battle bravely against relegation. I thought we could do a bit better than that, but a mid-table consolidation was my realistic goal. The board looked right when we went down limply 1-0 to Southend on the opening day, and trailed by the same scoreline to Doncaster at half-time in match two with barely a chance created. But a sharp word in the dressing room later, suddenly we came out and looked like world-beaters, putting four past a shell-shocked Rovers team in the second half, and going on to win 7 of our next 9 games. As the autumn went on we consolidated in and around the playoffs, albeit some distance behind the very strong top three of Portsmouth, Ipswich and Southend, all of whom beat us comfortably. But we had more about us than I’d realised. A stellar run in January and February saw us win 6 straight league games and propelled us in to the second automatic spot ahead of Ipswich and Southend. As has often happened in this save though, once we became a big beast in the division and other teams started playing more defensively we struggled to break them down and score goals. The wins turned to draws, a remarkable 8 in 10 games at one point, and although this was still better than Ipswich who had an awful early spring, it led to us sliding below Southend and back in to the playoff places. A couple of wins to end the year ensured we bagged third and the top seeding and that we were able to rest the first team for our last match of the year in order to be fresh for the playoffs themselves. Our semi-final tie pitted us against Sunderland, in which we had two completely contrasting matches. At the Stadium of Light it was a tense 0-0 bore-draw, with The Black Cats playing very defensively from kick-off to final whistle. I went attacking late on, but overall wasn’t too disappointed to bring the tie back to the Silverlands all square. That didn’t look such a smart approach when Sunderland took the lead 32 seconds in to the second leg, triggering a topsy-turvey end to end game that saw us pull level twice and then claim a sweet victory when Victor Sodiende popped up at the back post in the 91st minute to volley us in to the final. Ipswich (who else) awaited us at Wembley, in a game that we had to wait 20 days for (something wrong with the FM scheduling module there methinks) - during which time we lost O’Rourke to injury and Sodiende picked up a knock. With our forward line so denuded, and the pressure of the occasion, it was hardly a surprise when we struggled to create much on the big stage. Fortunately our defence was solid as a rock through 90 and then 120 minutes, sending a bore draw playoff final to penalties. However, in the end it wasn’t to be – Sodiende and Holmes-Dennis the villains as Ipswich ran out 7-6 winners in the shootout to claim promotion. Cups It’s a mark of how far we’ve come as a club that an FA Cup Third Round trip to a struggling Premier League side – in this case Wolves – didn’t feel like a massive occasion. Unfortunately the players played like it wasn’t a big deal too, getting smashed 4-0 having efficiently dispatched non-league opposition in the first two rounds. We were one and done in the Carabao Cup, although we acquitted ourselves well in earning a 1-1 draw at Elland Road, only to lose to Leeds on penalties. In the EFL Trophy we made it comfortably through our group to meet the board’s expectations, then beat Preston in Round 2 before we came unstuck at Mansfield in Round 3 when we rested players due to January fixture congestion. Finances With an average attendance for the season almost double that of the previous year, we are now well established as a professional club. I underspent the wage budget by about 20% for most of the year, pleasing the board and further boosting the coffers. I did however max out the scouting budget buying packages, and have cajoled the board in to upgrading youth facilities and youth recruitment. No joy on the training ground yet but that’s next on my list. I want to keep the bank balance in the black but am also keen to dissuade the board from spending on the stadium, which we are in quite a comfortable place on right now (average crowd is about 75% of capacity so we are neither missing out on revenue nor having maintenance costs for tons of empty seats). If and when we make it to the Championship we are going to need to start moving towards being all-seater so lots of investment will be needed at the stage; better not to pour money in to stands we might be having to rip out soon I figure. Looking Ahead It’s obviously gutting to lose a playoff final on penalties. But once the initial disappointment had worn off I wasn’t too sad overall. Whilst we may have finished third in the table, Portsmouth, Southend and Ipswich really were head and shoulders above the rest of the pack and deserved to go up. We way outperformed expectations this year, but a third consecutive promotion would have seen us arriving in the Championship woefully under-prepared and at real risk of relegation. Instead I hope next year can be a really fun season pushing for promotion. And I feel I know which of my current squad are up to standard for that and which are not – we’ll be letting half a dozen or so first teamers leave at the end of their contracts and looking to sell a couple more to free up wage budget space. In their place I’m targeting seven new signings: a keeper, two defenders, two midfielders and two forwards. Now that I’m back in to the save I also want to do some proper spring cleaning of the club behind the scenes. On the players front, my Under 18s and Under 23s are a motley hodge-podge of players I’ve picked up along the way – I want to create a proper pathway for how I select, recruit and develop them. First team training could also do with an overhaul: I’ve relied too much on my assman since turning pro. In the staff department, now that we are financially stable I want to max out the number of coaches and scouts allowed by the board, and replace my Head of Youth Development to get one with a better personality and to match my preferred formation. I also need a new scouting approach: targeting Premier League youth cast-offs is becoming increasingly less effective, so we need a proper approach to assignments to allow me to identify talent through other routes, and have a system in place that can be easily expanded if and when the board start to allow me to increase my scouting range. So lots to do before a ball is next kicked, and thanks to the playoffs, a shortened off-season in which to do it. Career Summary
  14. Yes, that’s what just happened! It reset with the new season and I didn’t lose any scouts in the meantime (phew!). Perhaps a more interesting question then is why my scouting budget went in to the red in the first place. I bought a package I could afford and didn’t scout individuals outside of that range. Does scouting individuals within your range also cost? I had thought not from the message that comes up in game but maybe I misread/it wasn’t clear.
  15. Congratulations @_JHTB_ and @Rainbowz! Sandwiched between two fantastic promotion updates, I can see I’ve got my work cut out! @rlipscombe hope this new save “sticks” - look forward to hearing about it once you’re settled in.
  16. Arnoldinho - Sparta Petegem (Belgium) The Story So Far: Prologue - In Flanders' Fields Season 1 - Opening Skirmishes Transfers ¦ Squad ¦ Results - Autumn ¦ Results - Spring ¦ League Table ¦ Finances ¦ Supporters ¦ Manager Profile Initial Squad A look through the initial squad gave our man Ernie some cause for hope. But naturally having decided on a narrow shape during this save (for variety from my usual 4-3-3 and seeing the success others enjoyed with narrow formations on FM22), the best player was a winger! Gheerardyns was immediately set to train as a CM(A), and with Vanborm behind him at DM and Swennen ahead of him up front we thought we had the basis for a solid 4-1-3-2. With a passable goalkeeper and two reasonable defenders (a LB and a CB) as well, we went hunting to fill out the rest of the formation. Offseason and Transfers I realise I made a mistake in my opening post. I said the media prediction for the team was 13th, which it was, but only after summer transfers – when I took over it was rock bottom. A mark I think of how we were able to strengthen the squad in a limited way. As others have experienced, I found a lot of players were interested in theory in joining me, but ultimately chose other clubs over little old Sparta Petegem. I lost out on three midfielders to division rivals Oudenaarde alone. But we were able to sneak Amine Benchaib in to our squad before anyone else noticed. Good defenders however were really hard to come by, and I ended up signing three ageing players from lower league teams as stop-gaps. The fact that the top sides have U23 squads at this tier or one above/below also meant that it was surprisingly difficult to find good loan options. In the end, I manually got my scouts to do team reports on all of the sides in the second tier, which turned up some useful prospects. I overpaid on wages for attacking full-back Jorge Mentens, but was also able to pick up a very exciting young midfielder Steve Likebeli and several backup options (not that I told their parent clubs that…) to bulk out the roster. And then finally we rolled the dice on a new striker. Issaskar Gurirab had been recommended by a new scout I hired who had considerable Africa knowledge. A Namibian international, he was willing to consider a move to Belgium but only for a salary north of €1k a week, more than 10% of my wage budget. I demurred for the longest time, then – as I knew I would – panicked on the eve of the season and caved in to his demands. But recognising deep down that panic-signing a striker on top wages on the eve of the campaign almost guaranteed he’d be a flop, I even paid a bit more in order to ensure it was only a one-year contract: at least that way I could move on asap. League Campaign: Eerste Nationale (Tier 3) The start of the campaign was nothing short of astonishing. Despite a new team, new manager and new tactic, we came flying out of the traps winning our opening three games 3-0, 6-0 and 6-0. Far from being a flop, Gurirab was banging in goals all over the place – activating his 10 goals in the season bonus after just five games. I actually worried that I had stumbled upon some sort of exploit tactic. The rest of the autumn showed that wasn’t really the case – matches became tighter, but we continued to grind out lots of wins with the occasional big victory when defences couldn’t cope with our pacey front line chasing passes in to the channels: Swennen every bit as good as Gurirab. We tailed off towards the end of the first half of the season but went in to the short winter break sitting in 4th, one place off the promotion spots. It seemed clear that the second half of the season was going to be a six-horse race for three promotion places. Beta finished and the full game came in during the winter break. I was worried it would nerf my tactics but actually the spring started reasonably with some tight matches where we were able to grind out wins alongside a few narrow defeats (it seemed like after Christmas the big clubs started sending more good players on loan to their affiliates which made those matches harder). Our leaky back line meant games were exciting, and there weren’t many draws. We slid down the table a little and promotion started to seem unlikely. But with 7 matches to go we were only 6 points off the promotion places with a game in hand, and with a mixture of cellar-dwellers and title rivals still to face we were at least still in the hunt. Until the wheels fell off. After a busy stint of games every three days, a tired team capitulated to meek defeats in matches we should have won against Winkel-Sport and Tubize-Braine before being humiliated by promotion rivals Lokeren-Temse. We just couldn’t pick ourselves up and finished abysmally, with only one point from those last seven games (ironically against Oudenaarde with their squad of midfielders I wanted). Eventually, in the six horse race for promotion we somehow finished seventh. A huge disappointment given what might have been. Swennen cleaned up at the team end of season awards with fans player of the year, top average rating and even pipping Gurirab to the team scoring title 21-20 (although Gurirab missed several games on Namibia duty). Amine Benchaib made the Eerste Nationale team of the year. Cups Nothing to see here. We entered the Belgian cup a full month before the league season began, and when only half our squad was assembled. We beat a team we were supposed to beat by one goal before losing to a team we were supposed to lose to by one goal. No one was surprised, everyone was reasonably content, and on we went with the season. Off the field Both the board and supporters are delighted. The squad dynamics are good and they get on ok with our man Ernie (it would have been better if he’d not thrown his water bottle a few times in the last month of the season…). Social media followers have risen and we hope to see a corresponding rise in season ticket sales next year. We were able to re-sign Gurirab (phew!). But the finances are already a mess. We lost over €600k on the year despite me being within the wage budget. Indeed, even with a wage budget of 0 we would have lost money… I feared the board were going to slash budgets as a result, but they’ve actually increased the wage budget for next year slightly. Instead they cut my number of allowed scouts to zero! Fortunately, the current group are still under contract so we're ok for now. Still, we probably do need to start moving up the leagues relatively quickly to avoid getting stuck in a financial black hole. Reflections and next steps A classic case of an outcome I would have been delighted with at the start of the year feeling like a total failure by the end of it. As a result of that, and the unknown of how many good players the top tier sides will send to their U23 teams, I find it hard to know what a realistic expectation for next season is. But I do think we need to aim for promotion within the next two seasons at most. The inevitable clear out of the squad has begun with various dead wood leaving, and my plan is to go for quantity over quality – building as good a first team as I can and then supplementing that with non-contract players and loanees to bulk out the squad. I’ve just managed to bag Club Brugge as a senior affiliate which should help, although they do also have a U23 team in the tier above us who they might prioritise for their best loanees. However we acquire them, defenders are top of the list for an upgrade: we need to be quicker, with better positioning and anticipation, especially in this Match Engine.
  17. For Belgium, reset date is 30 June. But because of the promotion/relegation playoffs you have to save the game at 2 April if you want to get different promoted teams.
  18. In Flanders' Fields - The Beginning After flirtations with Denmark and Austria, I have decided to give this challenge a go in Belgium. Our manager is Ernie Williams IV, a fictitious great-grandson of Ernie Williams of the 6th Cheshire Regiment who recounted one of the famous Christmas Truce football games between British and German soldiers on Christmas Day 1914. Ernie IV is now returning in his great-grandfather's footsteps to try to guide a Flanders side* to the top of European football - ideally bringing together English, German and Belgian players along the way. The first goal is to get Sparta Petegem in the top tier of Belgian football in time for their centenary in 2028, which would mean two promotions in five seasons. Ernie does however have his task cut out for him. Sparta Petegem don't have a great history of success. Their fans are loyal but small in number, and the stadium is rented, meaning finances are tricky. Youth and training facilities are not too bad for the Belgian third tier though. And their green kits are quite pleasant on the eye. *for any history buffs or geography experts out there, I do know that Petegem is actually further East than where the main battle lines were. I must have done a hundred reloads trying to get Westhoek (the team from Ypres, near where Ernie Williams' match allegedly took place - and whose ground had a new pitch paid for by the Premier League in 2014 for the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Day games) promoted but with no joy. And Sparta Petegem was just too great a team name to turn down! The Belgian lower leagues are notorious for complex structures, but the third tier is actually quite straightforward. 18 teams, 34 games, 3 up, 3 down plus 1 more in to the relegation playoffs. So 14th guarantees safety. We are projected to finish 13th, which would do me (and the board, and the supporters) nicely. The initial squad is not a complete disaster but not great either - I reckon there are six players in there good enough to be starters in a team that stays up, so we will need to do some shopping. Fortunately we have a few thousand € in spare wage budget to play with. Advance warning - with a young family and an upcoming house move I will play super slowly. But I will try to keep this thread updated and check in on others' progress (doubtless with some jealousy!) on a regular basis. Wish me Ernie luck!
  19. Playing in Austrian second tier, the league has a limit of 6 players on loan per season, but its saying I've hit the limit after 3.
  20. Thanks @Britrock and @Thebaker - all helpful suggestions. I have never looked in to Greece so might need to some digging. Overall, I’m wondering if my desire to start as semi-pro is the thing that I need to compromise on actually - it certainly opens up far more leagues otherwise. That said, I wonder if Belgium meets my criteria. Three tiers in game I believe (?) the lowest of which is largely semi-pro, some kooky league split formats (from our old friend Wikipedia it appears several have changed yet again this year), and some good youth coming through if I can snag them. Anyone got experience of managing there?
  21. Thanks so much @jmarchand - really helpful insights. Interested in what you say about Turkey. I read your updates on your save with interest and the non-Turkish rules kind of put me off. But based on what you say maybe I should give it a second look - I can certainly see why the prize money per win would be an intriguing system. Portugal is one I definitely could consider. I have clocked those slightly mental lower divisions which I think could be a lot of fun. Portugal saves do seem to be a slog to overhaul the top teams though. I have seen some of Zealand’s Austria save and it does look fun. But it appears the second tier is basically fully professional (?) and I do like the element of starting from semi-pro. Thanks for all the food for thought! Any further ideas welcome!
  22. Hi everyone, hope it’s ok to post this here but I’m keen to join this challenge for FM23 and looking for some advice on where to base my save. As I have some time off work this month I am looking to dive in as soon as the beta opens so keen to do my planning in advance! I’m a long time FM-er (CM93 was my first) but in recent years (young family) playing time has been limited and I tend to buy only every second or third edition of the game and have one very slow save that I drift in and out of. I’ve had a couple of attempts at the dafuge challenge which I found lots of fun but eventually lost interest in because there are just so many tiers to climb and seasons take so long! My last attempt got stuck in League 1 after eight seasons. I’m under no illusions that this challenge can also take a long time! But I’m hoping that the variety of playing somewhere different and the possibility of potentially getting to the top tier a little faster will help motivate me. But to get that right I need to figure out which country to play in. So can you help me find the right one? My essential criteria are: A league that is in the retail version of the game - as I’m looking to start straight away I don’t want to have to wait for custom databases to be created. In Europe but outside of the U.K. and Ireland - I want something that feels very different but to stick with Europe given all the UEFA licences in FM23. Not one of the other top European leagues (Esp, De, Fr, It - open to persuasion on Portugal) nor a really low ranked league (sadly I don’t have time for a build San Marino kind of save) - looking for somewhere in the middle. Starting in a lowest division that is semi-pro (I do want that sense of going from the park to the champions league) but with no more than four tiers in total - three preferable! Then my preferable criteria are: Not overly restrictive player nationality rules - I enjoy scouting the world once I have the money to do so. Relatively short seasons - 46 league games plus three cup competitions in England is a killer! Some sort of unusual league format (not just playing the other teams twice/4x) to keep interest up. Any advice on which countries might be good options appreciated! I had wondered about Denmark (any thoughts on how that shapes up against my wish list ?) but other ideas also very welcome! Wherever I go, not sure I’ll be able to match up to some of the fantastic success stories we’ve seen in the thread this year but I’ll do my best!
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