“A journey, I reflected, is of no merit unless it has tested you.”
― Tahir Shah, In Search of King Solomon’s Mines
“I think I will just fucking sleep for a week.”
― FMheathen, Salford
1: A (very singular) dream come true
There is a certain kind of masochism required to endure a long save in Football manager, one that has you accepting that a) yes, you could spend 522 hrs of your life playing this game but b) you might not win and c) it will probably have many more moments of extreme difficulty than moments of it being, well, easy.
That then is where I found myself entering what I had decided was, win, lose or draw, the FINAL game of this SM Caen save; a save that has taken not only dedication and time but countless hours of reasoning, tactic-tweaking and discussion with like minds; as well as an almost endless frustration with and whining about a board which constantly threatened me with the sack whilst giving me pitiful funds.
But all of that was forgotten as we found ourselves, quite incredibly, about to win the league with just a home draw required against 3rd place Lorient (I know, I was surprised as well). What was even more miraculous was that PSG were only on 78 points right behind us.
That said, it leads me to reflect that to win the league in France you need two things to happen:
- PSG have to have a crap year (they normally get between 90 and 100 pts)
- You need money to buy a very good squad as a bunch of mid table nearly men with ideas above their station just won’t cut it
With that in mind that is where we found ourselves going into the final game which after a tough draw against a marauding Lorient (seeking 3rd place Champions League instead of 4th place Europa league qualification) finally handed us the Ligue One Championship 🙂
In fact, if you fancy re-living the joy of the moment when I won the league here is the audoblog of that game:
Which was swiftly followed by this, which felt waaaayyyy too good to do given the time I’ve spent on it ..
As, dear readers, I have other plans which will be much more local to home (more about that later).
So what did it take to get to this point? Well for fear of repeating myself, I refer you to the other blogs in this series as it was really a case of putting all the tools that I had assembled together to crack on, be positive and go to try and win it!
For this read the deliberate throwing away of both cup competitions by fielding a massively rotated team (it was ALWAYS about just the league for me) ..
Strength and depth in all key positions, following the Pep model of at least two top tier players for every one ..
Financial astuteness, reversing a shocking balance that almost had me packing the save in just a couple of blogs ago in La Libération de Caen #9: Le Great Escape, mostly by harvesting and loaning out youth on fee paying loans and also some cracking frees that earned me 85 mil in one transfer window as I managed to sell on existing players in their position. For example, here are the current fees we are bringing in now, totaling 1.23 mil a month:
2: Objectives review
So all that said, how did the save achievements measure against my initial objectives? Starting in reverse order, here are the objectives taken from the first blog La Libération de Caen #1: Establishing a Beachhead, with what actually happened underneath.
- YEAR ONE:
ESSENTIAL: Survive relegation, do better than IRL team
PREFERRED: Playoff place
CUPS: Not bothered
HOW DID WE DO?: Exceeded it by getting promoted via playoffs!
- YEAR TWO:
ESSENTIAL: Playoff place
PERFECT: (If promoted previously) Ligue 1 survival
CUPS: Better than year one
HOW DID WE DO?: Mid- table of Ligue 1 in first season
- YEAR THREE (ASSUMING PROMOTION):
ESSENTIAL: Ligue 1 Survival
PERFECT: Top six (hmmmm ..)
CUPS: Not bothered, concentrate on Ligue
HOW DID WE DO?: Finished 7th
- YEAR FOUR:
ESSENTIAL: Top six
PREFERRED: Top four
PERFECT: Win the League!
HOW DID WE DO?: qualified for Champions League, didn’t win a game in a group with City, Real Madrid, and Milan 🙂
- YEAR FIVE:
ESSENTIAL: Top four
PREFERRED: Top two
PERFECT: Win the league
CUPS: Finalists or win
HOW DID WE DO?: Europa league 2nd KO round, 4th in league
- YEARS 6-10:
ESSENTIAL: Win the league if not already
PREFERRED: Doubles, trebles, anything with an ‘..les’ at the end
CUPS: Win the Champions League
HOW DID WE DO?: 4th, 5th, 4th, 6th, 1st!!! Got to a Europa semi final beating Liverpool and Chelsea on the way!
So all in all not too bad at all. Thinking back, I would have loved a trophy apart from the league but to do it without the finances behind me and with the almost constant threat of the sack from season 4 onward was pretty cool. I also managed to fill Caen with a massive stock of 5* potential youths that were bringing in 1.3 mil a month in fee-paying loans at the end! Which brings me on to the next bit, namely what happened when I left? Well, without boring you with too many facts and figures it’s probably easier if I just show you this that I tweeted at the time after running it on for 18 months:
3: Players of the save
If you’ve read the other blogs then you know I’m going to include the (35yr old) boy Neymar 🙂 who incredibly we managed to get on just 51k a week after leaving PSG on a free on a ridiculous 625k a week! After a very well planned easing into the team which took into account his age and a new deeper role as a halfway line left sided (aka late Giggs / Rooney) playmaker he absolutely excelled with 17 assists and 8 goals in his first season.
That said though I’m going to relegate him to 3rd so I can fit these two dudes above him, who for various reasons made the save a delight at times:
2nd Place: Alessandro Plizzari
Plizzari’s impact between the sticks when he became our most expensive purchase at 12 mil 5 years into the save was absolutely incredible and a player I would HIGHLY recommend. The number of times he saved both the club from losing a tight game and me personally from getting the sack with a last minute save was almost unbelievable and I was genuinely angry with his little pixelated form when he refused to re-sign going into my final year and we had to let him go to bloody Norwich! A quick browse through his time with us shows me he won the following:
- 18 team of the weeks
- shortlisted for keeper of the season 3 times (every year he was with us)
- named in best XI of the season twice
Not to mention getting a keeper’s 7.05 avg in his first year and still smashing it now he’s at Roima. What. A. Legend.
1st Place: Johann Lepenant
God, I love this lad. The only player to come right through from the real SM Caen squad currently struggling in 16th place in Ligue 2 all the way to getting that Champion’s medal on the last day of the season, where as was often the case he had a bloody worldy. Cheers Johann and I really hope you can do it in the real world too, good luck to you lad.
4: Final thoughts and where too now?
So there ya go, what a save, begun with a hint of inspiration from the D-day landings and ending with the (almost) domination of France (if you forget the Cup that is) 🙂
So what now? Well being a) very much a one-club save man and b) liking my history, here is a little teaser from an old blog of mine which shouldn’t be at all difficult to work out, a club close to my heart and my house as well given I only live two miles away ..
Until then, thanks for reading and following, it really has been a pleasure to assault the beaches of Normandy with you all.
Daz aka @fmheathen everywhere