Belmondo: Prince of Spoons

This is a new story by Matt Langdon who has taken over the reigns at Sheffield United. Last year Matt’s story was one of the best around for Football Manager 17. His writing style was charming, witty and incredibly funny at times. He has three books which can be purchased from here LINK that tell his story from FM17. They are well worth checking out if you are new to Matt’s style of writing.

 
WEDNESDAY June 21st, 2017
 
I’ve just landed in London to take the reins at Sheffield United Football Club. I’ve rented a hotel here for the first month so I can get the lay of the land before finding a proper house to settle into. I’ve never rented a hotel for a month before, but they’re paying me a crazy salary for this job – way more than I got coaching at Skyline. It’s 9,500 pounds per month which is a bit over 4,000 kilograms. I haven’t worked out how to convert kilograms to dollars yet, but it’s obviously a lot.
 
Abdullah bin Musa’ed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the man behind my sudden hiring. I will obviously never be able to say his name, so he told me to call him “My Prince”. Seems reasonable as long as he’s paying me so much. He has decided to make a change at apparently an odd time. The previous manager won league titles two seasons in a row, earned 100 and 99 points, and was a long time fixture at the club from his childhood. The fans are livid. I don’t see the problem. The club leadership has recognised that there’s no way the same manager would be able to get the club performing at a high level in this more difficult league. That’s where I fit in.
 
Heading downstairs where they’re selling world famous fish and chips. I wonder how many servings of this meal I’ll have to stomach before I am eligible for a passport. Back soon, dear diary.
 
The guy at the bar downstairs just told me that Sheffield isn’t in London! It’s a separate city. I had no idea there was more than one proper city in England. Apparently they’re famous for making forks and spoons there. God help me.
 
FRIDAY June 23rd, 2017
 
I’m on a train to Sheffield. An actual train! I never dreamed I’d get on a train in my life, but here we are. My life has turned into an adventure. The countryside is so quaint. All the houses are squashed together. Cars are driving on the wrong side of the road. I will be taking cabs everywhere, obviously. And no walking across the street. Ever.
 
I’ve been reading what I can about the team. We’re newly arrived in the Championship, which is the second division of England. We’re 1000/1 to win the division, so I will obviously be putting a few “pounds” on that when I get the chance. Our finances are stable, which presumably comes from being owned by a Saudi prince. Our home stadium is called Bramall Lane, which is suitably quaint. It’s the oldest stadium in the world, so that makes sense.
 
I have also learned from numerous people now that silverware is called cutlery here and that Sheffield is the proud global centre of cutlery. In related news, the laptop they gave me autocorrects to English English instead of proper spelling. I can’t be bothered changing it, so this diary is going to be a symbol of the oppressive imperialism of this kingdom. The Diary of the Prince of Spoons.
 
SUNDAY June 25th, 2017
 
The hotel is fine. It used to be a boys school and will do while I’m looking for a house. I’m in the office now, preparing for tomorrow’s first official day of work. My poster of Pep is up on the wall alongside the U of M flag. They’re a nod to the past and to the future. My present is mostly tied up in the journey that begins tomorrow.
 
MONDAY June 26th, 2017
 
My Prince kicked off the day of meetings today with his assurance that I have the full backing of the board. That makes sense on the first day of work in a new job. They want me to focus on growing through the youth system at the club. That seems a bit slow for my liking, but at this point I’m not going to argue. I’ll buy old veterans if it means winning promotion to the Premier League.
 
Speaking of the Premier League, the club last won the top division in England more than a hundred years ago. These fans are going to love me in no time.
 
Next meeting was with the Assistant Manager and the coaching staff. It was a short meeting that started with me firing them all. They didn’t have much to say after that. I decided to have an early lunch.
 
I need to record the lunch for posterity. It was called a chip butty. Thick-cut fries (or chips as they’re called here) stuffed inside a bread roll. The grease from the chips soaked into the bread. I told the cafeteria lady that I expected better food starting tomorrow. I gave her a list of ingredients that I’d like to see. God, I hope the players aren’t eating this stuff. And people make fun of American food!
 
Back to the office, I found an email from the board letting me know that they expect me to make sure the club stays out of a relegation battle. Little to do they know that I’m planning to be promoted this season. The email also stated that I have £3.2 million to spend on transfers and £221,000 per week on salaries, which is about £40,000 above what we’re currently spending. I wonder if that includes mine.
 
I did a quick scan of suggested staff from the board and sent out some contract offers. I expect I’ll do everything anyway, so the quality is not a huge concern. They’ll just do what I tell them to do and the club will quickly rise through the ranks.
 
The day ended with a one-on-one meeting with the current captain, Billy Sharp. He’s a nice guy and was born in the city. That’s enough for me to allow him to continue in the captain’s role.
 
Tomorrow, I’ll go over the squad through some videos, reports, and meetings. Here’s hoping they’re ready for the coming conquest.
 
TUESDAY June 27th, 2017
 
Thankfully I’m an early riser. I got a text this morning reminding me (reminding???) of a press conference at 9 am. One plucky journalist said I struck him as a cerebral manager rather than an adult who wears a tracksuit on a regular basis. He’s obviously perceptive. I told him, and the gathered crowd, that I believed dressing professionally was part of being paid to do a job, no matter the job. They all looked at my green pants and stayed silent.
 
Met with the squad after that and they were thrilled that I was pushing to stay way out of the relegation conversation. Not one of them felt nervous about that, so we’ve got a good start. I’m pretty sure a couple of them will need to move on to greener pastures, but we’ll give them a day or two to feel happy.
 
My new Assistant Manager arrived today. Derek Fazackerley. He’s been in backrooms for thirty years, so he’ll be helpful in my quest to figure out how to do this professional managing thing. Not that high school coaching in America isn’t professional (I got paid), there are just different things to take in. Like Sports Scientists and Data Analysts. I have to hire them without knowing what they actually do. Maybe I shouldn’t have fired the entire staff on the first day.
 
THURSDAY June 29th, 2017
 
In line with the board’s desire to focus on youth, I’ve brought in Alessandro Diamanti and Mathieu Flamini for trials. Their average age is 33.5, but they both play central midfield impressively. And I’ve always said if you win the middle, you win the whole.
 
FRIDAY June 30th, 2017
 
The 2022 World Cup has been moved from Qatar to Australia. I guess FIFA is pretty keen to have the first desert World Cup. I think it’s probably a good goal for my career to manage a team at that tournament. If the unthinkable happens and the U.S. misses out on next year, I could take the reins.
 
Tomorrow is when I’m allowed to start signing new players. And sell anyone who’s useless. We’ve actually got an evenly strong squad. Every position is strongly represented. Now, whether that strength is strong for this division is another question. I have very little to go on. I mean, they’re certainly better than my high school varsity team from last season.
 
We have two goalkeepers. One is on loan and one is injured, so I’m pretty confident I know who’ll be starting there.
 
In central defence we have two very good players. Richard Stearman and Jack O’Connell are pretty close in talent, but the edge goes to Stearman for a starting spot because he’s already told me he’s a fan of mine. The other starting slot will go the only American on the team, Cameron Carter-Vickers. He’s also talented, which means I won’t be accused of playing favourites just because of his nationality.
 
Our fullbacks are equally good. George Baldock on the right and Danny Lafferty on the left make for a solid defence all round. I’m told that fullbacks often contribute to the attacking half of the game too, so maybe we’ll be helped there. I need to do some reading, talking, and thinking before deciding on a tactical approach. I don’t think my 4-1-5 will work in a professional league.
 
In the middle of the park, we have John Fleck as the leading light. He’s ably assisted by Chris Basham and John Lundstram. Then we have David Brooks who prefers to sit a bit higher up the pitch. He likes to dictate play and he’s only a few years older than the kids I used to coach. He might be my main guy. Or I might sell him because he’s really valuable.
 
Then we have six strikers. None of them are amazing, but they’re all solid. Ched Evans is probably the best at the moment and my captain is obviously in contention for playing time. I need to sell the rest. Probably.
 
Wow, too many decisions here. I have to get through some practice games to test things out.

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