The Football Manager Live Diaries - Part Five
Last time : Dukla Patrick finished their pre-season programme, having notched up six wins in sixteen friendlies, and finalised a squad with which to begin their assault on the Primetime Football Association Qualifying Division 4.
Now read on…
Well, it turns out that my previously-posted starting squad is already inaccurate – because Kim Jung-Kyum was snapped up by A.C. Bristol for his £10K “instant buy” price only two and a half hours after being put up for sale! This makes me wonder about whether I’ve done the right thing – but sod it, I’ve got an extra £7K in the bank (yes, only £7K – it turns out that that was what I’d paid for him originally, and so it’s clear that players “acquisition fees” change dynamically. OH WELL) and he’s off the wage bill.
It seems I haven’t picked the best time of night – logging on at around 11pm – to try and play my first match of the season. Everyone on my fixtures list is either in the middle of a game, or offline. I’d turned down a match upon logging in earlier, because I had something to write – clearly, though, given the timetable of the league I’m in, I’m going to have to try playing a bit more frequently when I get in from work, rather than later at night. Anyway, I decide to stick around until someone’s free, as it would be nice to get my first game in sooner rather than later.
Before long, 3 possible matches show up – one of which is at home, so I decide to kick off the season by hosting Salford, if they’ll accept. Which they do! Marvellous. We’re under way. It’s a frustrating start, though – we have good chances, but Salford, who have far more match practice (9 league games so far) go two up in 18 minutes with their only two shots on goal, before Roni pulls one back on 20. But it’s 3-1 just after the half hour, and looking pretty desperate. We’re just plain poor, and I don’t know how to arrest the slide. I bring on Araboni and Sancho at half time, and the latter sets up the former for a great chance at one point, but it’s sliced wide. This is starting to be a recurring story. What can I do to improve my strikers?
Well, I start to go on a transfer hunt, but get interrupted by a challenge from Stephen Hawking’s Football Boots. Why not? I make one change, starting Araboni for Buchanan, and it’s away we go. We’re low on possession, but again a couple of good chances go begging – Little Luis shooting wide a couple of times. It gets to half time tight as anything at 0-0 – and at this point I’d take the draw if it meant keeping a clean sheet and getting a point on the board. On 50 minutes, Vujovic – on for Garcia – powers through, but his shot is tipped over the bar. That’s as good as it gets, though, the eventual goalless draw seemingly the upper limit of our ability and our aspirations as we climb to a heady 16th place in the league. Sigh. Back to the striker search, then.
On looking for free agents with a finishing stat of at least 17 (out of 20), I notice that the only real affordable option is a name familiar to me – one Peter Thorne. Back in my old CM 97/98 days, in the game that I played at Uni, I wound up manager of Peterborough (having been sacked by Liverpool after a few seasons) and Thorne played up front for me in the early days. I remember him being something of a powerful, strong goal machine – at a mid-league level, anyway. Sure, he’s now 36 – but he’s got the golden 17 for finishing, 15 for positioning and 13 for heading. In other words, he might just be the “right place at the right time” striker I need, if I can pair him with a pacy ball-player (Roni would fit the bill). He’s basically a less good, but significantly cheaper, version of what I wanted Fowler for. At £5K acquisition fee, I put in a wage bid of £3K (just above his £2250 demand, in case anyone else nips in) and wait to see what happens. I think about playing another match, but it’s getting late – let’s see if we can strengthen the squad overnight with the protracted Taljevic bid, and maybe play another in the morning.
It’s actually the evening before I get on again, but I get challenged to play away to Mudhuts and Pies. I decide to employ a new formation, to try and mix up the attack. It’s a better performance, but we’re still struggling to score, and we concede to a corner on 43 minutes. Incidentally, the ease with which it’s possible to score from corners is apparently, according to the forums, one of the current biggest bugbears about the game. The fact that I can’t even score from one tells you how much we’re struggling to catch a break at the moment.
Of course, as I write that, Buchanan is played through by Garcia to slide home from six yards after 59 minutes. Can we hold on for another point? It gets even more tense with a disallowed goal for Mudhuts on 89 minutes, but we manage to get a draw. Sadly, it’s unsatisfactory for either of us – Mudhuts manager Marc Taylor is also without a win, himself in 7 games before this one, and it’s clear that if I’m not going to languish at the very bottom all season, I need to get wins against teams that are, as they seem to be, on a similar level to me. Incidentally, in news reports, we are now described as “industrious” and “hard working”. Oh, great. We’re Bolton, in other words.
As if to emphasise this, later that evening, the transfer of a 36-year-old workhorse striker goes through. I don’t care, I think this is brilliant. I can’t imagine him doing much for us – or even playing much – but I just like the idea of having him in the squad. He’s a player with whom I’ve won things in the past (even in an entirely fictional sense that’s unrelated to this particular game… but I can imagine), and he might just bring me luck. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, either, I give him the number 30 shirt. And after the latest round of money being doled out, the game is now telling me I have a larger transfer budget than before. Hmmm. With nothing still doing on the Taljevic front, I think it’s time I looked elsewhere for that creative spark. I can afford a £20K acquisition fee and £2250 wages. Let’s do some business.
Hmm. An 18-year-old French chap called Enzo Reale might not be the solution I need just now, but he does look a fairly decent young prospect. His wages are low, he’s transfer listed, and I consider it might be worth putting in a bid of £12K for him (he has an “auto-reject” fee of £10K). So I do. Meanwhile, I’ve found a decent-looking Spanish attacking midfielder, David Gonzalez. But is he just another Luis Garcia?
Hmm. I like the look of him, so it’s in with a wage bid of £2750. Meanwhile… I don’t get the French youngster. The bloody league leaders, bloody Oxford bloody unimaginatively named bloody United, have bloody signed him. FINE. Instead I go and put in a bid for a 34-year-old Irish central midfielder, because THAT’S WHAT I’VE BECOME. I buy old obscure players, because I can’t get the exciting young stars. I pretend that Peter Thorne will be my Peter Crouch, that Gareth Farrelly - the midfielder in question - will be my Xabi Alonso.
Actually, at the time of writing this, I’m in something of a quandary. I’ve been playing this game for a week now (it’ll seem like longer to you folks, since these articles are longer apart), and I’m definitely enjoying it as a game, but I don’t think I’m doing particularly well with my decisions so far. My team already looks poor, and destined to struggle. Now, ordinarily, I wouldn’t mind that – I’m no quitter, and hey, somebody’s got to occupy the lower positions. It’s my first season, and I’m never going to get sacked (as in “normal” FM), because it’s my club. I can do what I want with it, so long as it doesn’t go bust. I can even sign Adriano Rigoglioso if I want to (what an attacking pair he and Peter Thorne would make!) Now that’s all fine, so long as I’m playing the game on my own. However, a few friends that I initially tried to get to join with me at the same time but who refused, are now looking like signing up. I would much prefer to be in the same gameworld (even if not the same league) as them – but they can’t get in Platini, due to it being full and the season having started. If they wait a month, they can probably get in – or, they can all join a different one now, and I could join them either now or in a month’s time.
But I’ve written loads for these diaries, and hopefully you lot reading them are enjoying them. I’d feel like it was a complete waste of time if I jacked it all in now – not least because I can’t imagine starting an entirely new story. So I’m not sure what to do – stick it out in this league (and carry on the diaries indefinitely for those who are interested in following Dukla Patrick’s progress… if indeed anyone actually is), jump ship almost immediately (bringing the diary to an abrupt end), or play for one season and then leave (ending the diaries after a full season – which in site terms would be a nice way of doing it, but would make the season feel a bit pointless if it wasn’t building to anything). Anyway. Bleh. These are decisions for later, but comments from anyone who is a loyal reader would be greatly appreciated!
In the meantime, I decide to go and have a look at my stadium, because I haven’t done anything with it yet. I can’t really afford any renovations at the moment, but it would be nice to personalise the place – so I decide, naturally, to name my various stands after dead famous people that I liked and who I wish weren’t dead. So that’s the Douglas Adams Stand, the Elliott Smith Stand and the Humphrey Lyttleton Stand. And the east end of the ground becomes the Titan Kop (as in “Ganymede and…”, obviously). I also discover at this point that you can pay for improvements in installments – so, mindful of the knowledge that I’m projected to have earned around a million quid by the end of the season, I say sod it, and decide to stick a block of nicer-quality seats in the Humph Stand in an attempt to get a few more, higher-paying family punters in. It’s costing me just short of £170K, but I’m paying it in manageable installments and it should bring in some decent cash when it’s done. Lovely stuff.
At the now-under-development stadium, I challenge 7th placed Unusual Suspects FC, with yet another new experimental formation. It works in terms of locking down the defence and midfield, so we’re not giving them chances – but we’re struggling for possession and we can’t get the ball into decent openings. And Buchanan gets injured first half, necessitating a substitution for Araboni. At half time, my opponent Graham voices what we’re both thinking : “lol a bit of a **** match eh?!” I tell him that my team are a bit on the shite side, so it’s backs to the wall. “Oh well at 0-0 matey you never know,” he replies. But he’s right, one of us has got to do something to open this up – 0-0 against a team ranked seventh might be a good result, but I just wonder if I can do something to push for the win that’s so far eluded us and might kick-start our season. Only it turns out… I already have. By learning the “long shots” player instruction, I’ve been able to tell Luis Garcia to try them often – and on 52 minutes he does just that, belting it home from 25 yards! 1-0! “How funny is that!” is Graham’s response. He’s probably disgruntled – his side deserve more than defeat from a tight match that they’ve nevertheless had the better of. Of course I then set my instructions to defensive and my time-wasting to “often”, hoping it won’t backfire. Naturally, it can’t last, I can’t be allowed get a lucky win – so the Suspects equalise on 74 minutes. 1-1 wouldn’t be an unfair result, but part of me still wonders if I can get something from this – so I bring on Roni for Gunnarsson and switch to 4-4-2. Nothing doing, though, and it finishes in a draw.
Not bad for a team ranked ten places above us, and it nudges us up to 16th place. Of course, the league is hard to judge when people aren’t playing games at the same rate – but the top six in the table have all played at least ten games, while a few teams around me have only played one or two fewer (including the bottom club, who’ve lost 3 out of 3) and I’ve got games in hand over the likes of Aston Villa Lions and Mudhuts and Pies. 3 points from 4 isn’t an amazing record, and I still badly need more goals and that first win – but at least I’ve only lost the one game so far.
Meanwhile, having been drawn into something of a bidding war, I manage to get hold of Farrelly for £7,007. Possibly overpaying, but I’m encouraged by the fact that other people wanted him. I’ve now got a 22-man squad, which seems perhaps a little large, but there’s no-one I desperately want to get rid of, so I hold off on putting anyone on the transfer or auction list. Anyroad, I throw Farrelly into a debut at home to a club from his own country – the Irish side Rock Socks United. I put him in the middle of the park, in Luis Garcia’s old role, with the little Spaniard moving to the left wing.
Once again, I really struggle with possession – 30% in the first half. Why can’t I keep the ball? I decide to switch in the second half to a more overloaded midfield, a more standard 4-5-1. I also decide, to hell with it – I’m bringing on Peter Thorne for his debut, and I’m hitting long balls up to him. I’m such a purist. Actually, I have the better of the early exchanges, winning a couple of corners and dangerous free kicks – before brilliantly, gloriously, in the 65th minute Peter Thorne heads a Gunnarsson through ball straight at the keeper from six yards – and slams home the fumbled rebound for a debut goal. Unbelievable.
I feel like this is the first time I can really get something out of a game – United may have had more possession, but they haven’t had a shot on target, while I’ve had seven – but I can’t shake the feeling that it could still all go horribly wrong. It almost does, with a late chance on goal after a needlessly-conceded free-kick – but Valladares palms it away, and it’s the last major action of the game. Our first bloody win, and against a team six places above us, to boot. We only move up to 14th, but damn, it feels good to get that first win on the board. For the first time in days, life at Ganymede Park feels sweet.
Will this air of good feeling last? What will cause murmurings of discontent from Dukla’s star player? Will Peter Thorne continue to be a supersub? Find out next time… if you dare.