1: A save of two halves
You know that feeling when a semi-pro save is going really well? When you know for an absolute fact that when you turn pro it will be plain sailing only to find it almost bankrupts you in the first season and you finish lower than you have in 7 years? Then to spit your dummy out and walk away only to fire her up again two weeks later and completely smash it? No? Then read on my friend for what follows is very much a save of two halves, the first one mentioned above that I VERY much hope is behind us and the new one that quite incredibly has just seen us crowned Welsh Champions, oh yeah baby 🙂
So why the confusion? How come we crashed and burned in the first season of turning pro only to slide back into The New Saints DMs with a cheeky league-trophy lifting pic seconds after the final whistle of the season? The answer is quite simply that a change, when it comes to FM is most definitely as good as a rest.
In my case this meant having all of Christmas as far away from FM as I could go, playing pretty much any game I could that didn’t involve a spreadsheet or the repeated team meeting argument (at least 5 times a season) with a bunch of spoiled NPCs about the fact that I didn’t give my 1* reserve keeper any games and how it was “affecting the atmosphere in the dressing room” ffs.
The problem that had made me walk away was an odd anomaly that I am pretty sure is much more common in FM than IRL, mostly based around the poor board AI that meant almost every single request to improve facilities was refused, even when we were semi pro and had a mill in the bank after a nice run in the Euro II qualifiers. Oddly they didn’t have the same issue with staffing so I ended up with the strange situation of us having the best staff in the entire league working out of sheds at the back of the local all weather pitch. Imagine the fun our top-tier performance analysts were having holding up their phones to get a hotspot reception for their laptop data uploads! Of course this was all completely ridiculous and more importantly in terms of FM gameplay, totally immersion-breaking.
I was also getting completely FM’d every single time I played TNS apart from the odd fluke over the years, with a bunch of pens being given when we were in a strong position, loads of late goals and key injuries in the week leading up to a game. This might sound like me whining but believe me it genuinely happened, even in our recent league-winning season when our keeper, uninjured for three years, broke his ankle in training three days before our final game, bloody ridiculous. In fact they even beat us when we were drawing 1-1 after getting two players sent off!
Now this wasn’t all just bad luck as it was definitely a case of David and Goliath, but when you take into account that we were literally winning every other game apart from against them year on year it was bloody annoying to say the least. It seems to me that at times the game will override all of your best efforts just to get the outcome that it’s code thinks is correct, bah humbug!
2: No money, who cares?
Anyhow, onwards and upwards, so how did I turn a losing (almost bankrupt) position into a winning one that saw us win the league from TNS by 2 points and qualify finally for the Champions League early stages? Simples, I decided not to worry about the money and work with what I had, treating it as any other skint LLM save and forgetting the fact that we were leaking 750k a year. In other words, if the stoopid board were happy enough to let me plod on in the job with that big cash hemorrhage while still giving me a decent wage pot, I adopted a balls-to-the-facilities-improvement attitude that saw me concentrate my attention back to where it belonged, winning the individual games.
In practice this involved me going back to basics with trying to increase the ability of every single position as much as I could with either frees or loans now that our rep had started to rise – we were even getting (albeit way too expensive) loan acceptances from the English Premier League!
By the close of the first transfer day then in Lifting Wales 2.0 this meant I lifted at least 6 positions from 2* to 3 or more and also included two beasts of strikers in the shape of the ridiculously good Brett Lee on an unbelievable free from TNS ..
.. and his almost equally good (likewise free) strike partner Russell Chapman from our other close competitor. Barry Town United ..
Zoom forward 9 months to the season end and their stats were quite staggering, with Lee on 71 goals and 19 assists and Chapman on 31 goals and 33 assists!
3: Killing TNS
That said, we did of course have the problem of coping with the dreaded TNS FM-jinx yet again, with us having to face them yet again for 4 league games over the course of the season (the league splits after 22 games). I knew with some certainty that if I finished ahead of them by even a point when the 12 possible pts were totalled it could well give me the league when coupled with us beating everybody else as I expected us too. I could possibly even suffer a draw or two with other teams as well as they had had 2 draws in each of the last 4 seasons.
What followed was me approaching every one of those games as if it was a cup final, knowing full well that the jinx could strike but trying to ride it out by being more prepared than I had ever been for every game against them. This resulted in the following, with us frustratingly taking points off them but not enough to edge ahead, ending as a draw over the 4 games but also grabbing a win when we played them 2 days after their last European game so at least we were making progress.
By the way, remember my theory about them being hard wired to better us? Sure enough, we had one of my players sent off when we were winning 2-1 and they also scored a cheesy tap in on 90 minutes when we were also winning 2-1 in the other draw. In addition, we had key injuries before both of the other games! Proving at times that FM can truly be a wanker of the first order.
Luckily however they managed a hilarious 4 draws to our 3 meaning we won it by 2 points with a 104 GD, nabbing the Champions League qualifier spot they had held for the last 10 years!
Mind you, as I mentioned before the finances weren’t too happy and we finished the season 1.53 mil in debt. Hey ho though they gave me a new contract and a reasonable wage budget again so with my new couldn’t care less attitude I thought I’m alright Jack and cracked on to the Champions League 🙂
I remember it as if was yesterday (actually half an hour ago here in the spare bedroom) when we climbed aboard our WelshAir commercial flight to exotic Latvia to play Cefn Druids first ever Champions League game against lowly Valmeria and their star striker Vladislavs Bite. Joking apart though they were no mugs and had won their league plus a couple of cups several times.
Treating it once more like the TNS games I started to prep a month before by repeating the same squad improvement, made harder as we ended up losing three key players on bosmans to the EPL and Championship. In the end though I managed to make several improved signings including a much needed keeper, Callum Adair, on loan from Birmingham, who could hopefully actually save penalties as my old wantaway GK Gethin Patel hadn’t saved one in normal time in 6 years. Fast forward back to the Valmeria game and lo and behold this beautiful occurrence happened when we were 2-1 up making me extremely chuffed with my likkle self 🙂
Taking that win back home we piled further misery upon them as we ended up worthy 6-3 aggregate winners, leaving us to face Molde in the next round and oh my word we only won that one as well!
Sadly however we weren’t able to progress any further as FC København dumped us out of the Champion League followed by AIK doing the same in the Europa playoff, which is pretty much what I expected from both ties.
That said, it did our finances one hell of a lot of good, taking us from 1.5mil down to 1.5mil up so all is good at the Rock this week!
And on that high note I shall leave it there in case I jinx the bugger again.
Thanks for reading,
Daz aka @fmheathen everywhere
STOP PRESS! No sooner did I click publish and this happened! Yes, bloody yes 🙂