Ok, so after the cryptic sentiment of the first post, we are back to what we know best, all things FM. I say that, but to be honest it was something I needed to get out of my system, to tell you all the reason for this save and I am glad I did it. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do it now. It’s a bit off the wall and not much at all about FM but it will make sense as you read on.
So the point of all that was to show you the motivation behind this save, in other words as a tribute to the love of Manchester United and their history that I share with my old fella. One other thing I didn’t mention was that for 30 years my dad was a railwayman who worked from the exact same depot as the original Newton Heath players (they were called Newton Heath L & YR as they were formed in the railway works). In fact, the car park where he used to park was on the site of the original pitch they used in 1878, so you can see why it inspires me.
That said, my save is going to be a complete recreation of Newton Heath FC from the most pivotal point in their history, at pretty much the exact moment they became Utd in 1902. But that’s not all, as this will be a complete alternate reality save, with a new timeline, no Manchester United (don’t all cheer at once) and of course no rebel club in the form of FC United. Here’s a quick taster of the home and away kits I’ve already done to show you where I’m coming from. They’re based on the original kit from the photo below with a modern makeover.
The reason I chose this point in the club’s history is because in 1902 the real Newton Heath were in a precarious place, with rising player wages and over-extension of the ground causing them to be declared bankrupt after they were sued by their own president for owed monies. It was so bad that their captain Harry Stafford had to fund the club himself out of his own wages and try to drum up interest from local businessmen to save the club. The story goes that though a shared love of dog breeding, he met and persuaded the businessman John Henry Davies to invest £2,000 and the rest of course, is history.
In my FM18 universe it will be a very different story, with no bailout (maybe Davies preferred cats instead), but instead the club has somehow survived but only just, hanging on with their fingertips through the years like so many lower league clubs, well supported and with a proud history but struggling financially as they yo-yo’d between the lower divisions until the present day.
Now this is a tough ask – not only did I need to make the team (easy) and the kits (sort of easy) but for the narrative to feel real I also needed a full timeline that took into account not only changes in the laws of the game but external factors as well. For example, how did the club cope with the maximum ticket price imposed by the league? What happened in the war years? How did they cope being in City’s shadow? And what about Utd legends such as Best, Law and Charlton???
Here’s a sample of the timeline to give you an idea of the depth I wanted, with a completely fictional history. I did one of these for each decade.
.. and another for 1921-30, taking into account the end of women’s football after the war. Lily Cottam, of course, never existed IRL.
You might think this is extremely OCD (the wife certainly did) but for me this was the most enjoyable part, the creation of a completely different world which eventually gave me my club legends, their 2018 league place and honours record and their current financial status.
Eventually then this gave me the summary of the club’s current state as of the save start point of July 2017 as follows:
- STATUS: Professional
- NAME: Newton Heath 1878 (renamed from Newton Heath in 1978)
- LEAGUE: League two
- FINANCES: poor, solvent but in line with mid-league teams at same level
- LEGENDS: Harry Stafford, Billy Meredith, Denis Law 🙂 (well, I had to have one of them)
- STADIUM: Bank Street, Clayton. Reasonable 12,000 capacity stadium from past glories but typically 4-5k per lge.2 match
- SUPPORT: great fan base
- RIVALS: Manchester City, Liverpool, Hyde Utd
From a game point of view I figure this profile will be a good starting point for a save that gives me a chance to build a team over the course of 6-10 seasons, assuming I survive the sack that long :). That said, and again as a result of the timeline I did, here are the save aims, in order of priority, though I’ll take them any way up:
- Don’t get sacked!
- Begin a long standing youth development programme
- Avoid relegation in season 1
- Gain promotion from league 2 and upwards to the prem
- Win (any) trophy
- Win the Premier League
- Win the Champion’s league
- Beat Manchester City
- Beat Manchester City (did I say that already?)
- Beat … (you get the idea)
- Beat our record score of 10-1 against Wolves on the 15th October 1892 (a real result)
- Get a bigger capacity stadium than the Etihad (in my timeline it always overshadows our Bank Street stadium)
This is a hefty list I know and how the hell long this will take me I have no idea. Personally I reckon I’m good for staying in the job, consolidating and getting promotion within the first 3-4 seasons (remember they’re not the best club in the league by far) as well as getting a cheeky trophy or two early doors. As for City, we’ll wait and clench just like everyone else does, although a lot of people say they are weaker than IRL in this year’s game so you never know where they’ll be up to when I reach the prem.
In terms of my previous form, if you don’t know me or haven’t followed any of my Youtube saves (check them out here) the strong point of my FM skillset is determination and, I guess, tactical changes within matches to pull back a game. I’m also quite decent at training. What I am not so good at is long term youth development and what I am fucking terrible at is opposition preparation and .. ahem .. defending. A typical season with me usually includes my team getting battered in something like a 7-2 or even an 11-6 in one recent save – and I even won the league that season! So that said this should be interesting to say the least.
Something I haven’t included yet is the editing process in the pre-game editor that I used to actually create the team. For the uninitiated this can be like watching an excel crash dump on loop so I won’t harp on too much about it apart from saying that when I created the club I realised that the club profile from my own timeline pretty much matches Port Vale exactly. Here’s their league form history to show you what I mean:
This was a complete coincidence but I was happy to take it and used parts of their profile to make Newton Heath 1878. I say ‘parts’ because I didn’t want to just be Port Vale in the game, so I took things like their reputation rating (4150 for those interested) and their youth level. I then went to other clubs to see where they were at and set everything at what I consider to be a fair reflection of a mid-table League two side, so in other words I guess it’s your average League Two side with an extra splash of Port Vale.
Other editor shennanigans were me having to remove both FC United and Manchester United (Wolves fans you’ll be happy as you are now in the prem, hopefully for you a season early) which is harder than it sounds. The problem is that when Wolves moved up then someone else had to etc. all the way down to the combined counties leagues, where I gave up and just duplicated and renamed a team in the 16th tier to fill the gap. That said, if you are a fan of the ‘Farmer’s arms hangover XI’ (or whatever other name I gave you) you now exist!
The next phase is to finish the database (inserting reserve teams etc) and run sim tests of it for at least 5 years (takes about a day to do properly) to make sure everything is working ok, and also that my team perform realistically and don’t for example suddenly beat City in the FA Cup in the first season. This should be done in a few days so expect the first save updates in the near future.
So that my friends, is it for now. You know the inspiration, the concept and the editing work that has gone into it and also the aims. I hope you enjoyed reading it and let me know your thoughts about the project either here or on twitter. I’d also appreciate a share using the buttons below so that people can get on board and enjoy this journey with me.
And one final warning for those coming here for soley FM content, at some point there WILL be a blog post that will be an alternate history of the club, complete with stylised artwork. I’ll sign off with these two teaser pics to show you what I mean and hope to see you soon for the next update on The Heathens Resurrected. Bye for now.