Past and Present

I'm delighted to announce that Dave Black's (@CM9798) FM19 series will be hosted here on Tea & Busquets. Dave does some incredible work based on Championship Manager 97/98. I'd highly recommend following him on twitter and checking out his website dedicated to CM 97/98

The time has finally come. My annual nosedive into the latest FM has followed a rockier path than usual. A new laptop wrestled with, a graphics card error seemingly overcome, at last I have taken my place in the fictional yet high-tech dugout. Now what?

If you’re new to my work, you probably live in the modern age. Most of my “best” work has been done surrounding CM9798. This hasn’t been some sort of protest against the Football Manager series. I assure you, I think the game is fantastic and no doubt the most realistic management sim we’ve ever seen. I just don’t have the time to commit to it to get the most out of it.

That is of course where the Christmas period comes in useful. A few days off to roll my sleeves up and tackle this monster head on. I watch loads of football and like to think I have a reasonable understanding of it. So why am I so bad at this series?

My FM18 experience has left scars. My tenure as Notts County manager lasted barely 7 months – game time, that is. The whole thing was over by new year. Maybe League Two wasn’t ready for me. I’ve opted for the more familiar Magpies this time. As a Newcastle season ticket holder, I should at least know the players I have at my disposal. Admittedly that is a blessing and a curse. The owner is also problematic but he’s gone against form and handed me £23m to spend. My oh my.

My first day in the job is a whirlwind of information. The gist seems to be that I have a one-year contract and the instruction to sign young players for the first team. Mikel Antia, my assistant, seems a reasonable chap but the early indications are that we are well below what is expected for a Premier League club. Mind you, we have only 8 coaches and given I need all the help I can get, that’s something I’ll look to address immediately. 8 is our current maximum but I’ve had a word with Mike and he seems open to the idea of me having more. He’s obviously heard about my past issues. He lets me have one more. How kind.

There’s also a tactical induction to attend. I have a rough idea of how I want the team to play and it basically involves defending in large numbers and counter attacking. We have lots of centre backs (Lascelles, Schar, Fernandez, Clark and the currently injured Lejeune) so I’ve set Antia away to train us in a 5-3-2 but also a 4-2-3-1 in case we’re feeling frisky and a 4-4-2 for when I inevitably have a breakdown and go back to basics.

I’d like to start spending some of this money and a quick analysis of the squad is…well. Let’s just say I have to scroll to see all the weaknesses. My earlier suggestion that we would be ok at centre back seems to have been shat all over by Mr Antia. Basically, a left back who can cross and dribble and meets the age criteria would be ideal. Let’s see if such a thing exists.

The scout says I should be for Gylfi Sigurdsson. Nice one. Discarding that info and look at left backs under the age of 25 I send off enquiries for Matt Targett and Robin Gosens whilst rather hopefully asking Fulham how much they want for Ryan Sessegnon.

I’ve also addressed the ridiculous pre-season plans. The original schedule saw us welcome Sparta Prague to St James’ on June 30th. JUNE!? That’s followed by a trip to Edinburgh to play one friendly…all sorts of rubbish so I’ve torn the whole thing up. It’s too late to get a refund on the Edinburgh trip so we’re still going but playing a couple of friendlies and it follows a small tour of Italy We then head to Belgium for a friendly before welcoming Benfica for a glamour friendly to show the expectant public how far we’ve come. I’m just glad they all accepted.

The expectations are confirmed as mid table and I rush in to tell the squad only to be met with glum faces and dissent. Fine. We can make the top half lads, honest. The room lights up. Crisis averted. It’s good to know I can lie convincingly.

There’s mixed news on the transfer front. Southampton don’t want to sell Matt Targett. Fulham want £55m for Sessegnon. That one was always unlikely. Atalanta though want £11.5m for Gosens. Let’s meet in the middle at £10m and it’s a done deal. I offer £20m for Sessegnon just to be cheeky. The best news of all though is that I’ve filled my coaching position. I needed technical and attacking skills and I’ve hired one of the best. Dennis Bergkamp, welcome aboard.

Atalanta except £10m for Gosens and with a 3.5 star rating, I’ll be delighted to have him on board. Hang on though, Fulham ACCEPTED my offer for Sessegnon. Crikey. A bit of negotiating on the deal and for some reason he has agreed to join. I’ve been here a week and the transfer record is smashed. What is this madness?

That’s the budget spent but what a way to do it. He’s here in time for the first friendly too, Campionese away. They are purposefully very weak opposition and that means we can roll out the 4-2-3-1. There are three (Schar, Ki and Muto) still on holiday after the World Cup so there’s a few bench spots for academy players. I’ve started my strongest available team and we’ll change them all at or shortly after half time.

What is quickly apparent is that this was a bad idea. They are horrific. We’re ahead after just three minutes and even after Shelvey has a penalty saved, it does nothing to deter us. The impressive Murphy won that penalty and it is he who made it 2-0, before Shelvey atones for his error to make it 3. Yedlin and Sessegnon make it 5 before half time and most of the lads on the pitch are disinterested. I sub all the goalscorers at half time (positive reinforcement – score and you can have a rest) and although it slows us down, we still rack up 8 goals. 43 shots and an exercise in fitness building. Even Joselu scores.

Tougher tests will lie ahead, mainly because it is time to tackle the training schedule. That and set pieces will be my aim next episode as we make our way through the remaining pre-season programme. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon with part 2.

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