Der Bär Wird Wieder Brüllen, The Third Season, Part Two

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“We have been well and truly Rogered.”

Everyone sat up a little bit straighter when Coach said that.

“One hell of a way to start a meeting.” Andreas turned around to find the offending player, and was rewarded with a bunch of blank stares.

Coach had paused when he saw Andreas turn around, and he frowned.

“All right, no bullshitting then,” he said, running his hands thru his hair. “We are 200-1 odds to stay up. Everyone, and I mean everyone, thinks we are going back down to 3. Liga. Not that they ever expected us to get out of the RegionalLiga, or promoted like we did last year. They could be right. I however, am an optimist, and I think we can stay up, even if it means flirting with the relegation zone most of the season…” There were a few grumbles, and Coach paused until they died down, then he chewed on his bottom lip for a few seconds.

“We’re 26 million Euros in the red. The DFL is already looking at us. It’s highly possible that at some point in time they are going to come to the club, take a look at the books, and do one of two things. One is that they will tell us to shed payroll. The second is they are going to put the club into administration, shed payroll, and dock us points, and then your all down in the 3. Liga or lower next year, maybe back on part time contracts. If that sounds like something you want to be a part of, then find your way to the door. I have no use for you, this team has no use for you.”

Silence greeted him, and more than a few stares.

“I mean it, go. Take your me first attitude on out, and I’ll terminate your contract with BFC no questions asked.”

The players stared back at him.

“Then listen up. We are going to practice effectively. We are going to play as best we can. I do not care if we draw every game we play, as long as we end the season on 33 points or better, we stay up. That is the goal, 33 points. That means we fight, we scrap, we work hard, we make them earn it. We will not roll over for anyone. That means playing as a team. Because if we don’t, you all are going back down. Back to 3.Liga, or lower. You give me a hundred percent on the field, I will do my best to do right by you all.”

“Is it true?” a voice in the back asked. Coach looked up, and saw that Daryl had asked the question.

“Is what true?”

“That you turned down five job offers this offseason?”

Coach smiled. “It’s not true,” he said after a few moments. “I didn’t turn down five job offers.”

There was some rumbling from the assembly.

“I turned down eight.”

The rumbling stopped. Nikki smiled tightly.

“That’s how much I believe in this club, and what it’s trying to achieve. And despite the…self inflicted wounds….I still believe in that vision. But believe me when I say that if you don’t share that vision, you are out the door.”

Is all the hard work worth it?

There were times in the offseason when I literally had to get up and walk away from the game. It was either that, or I would break something, and I can sneak a keyboard past Household 6, and maybe one monitor, but multiple of both? No, better to walk away and read a book for a bit.

I think I must have made around 100 inquiries. You are a team with a young player on loan and you want to get him playing time? Send him to Berlin…err, Cottbus. We’re in Cottbus this year. The number of teams who wanted me to pay 50% of their salary or more was ridiculous. The number of teams that turned me down bewause they wanted the player to play with better players was also high. When the season kicked off, we had made four moves. Well, five actually.

Malick Sanogo hates Important matches. He has a bit of an injury history. He’s also pretty quick, agile, a decent passer with good ball control skills, and he’s a good finisher as well. And he’s better than any other striker we have on the squad, at least from an attributes point of view. Most importantly, we aren’t paying any of his salary. Union Berlin wants him to get playing time. He’s going to get it.

Serkan Polat has had an interesting journey. He started out in Zurich, got some playing time on the U21’s, then ended up moving to Pazarspor, a team in the Turkish 2. League. He was underwhleming in two years as a starter, in 62 matches over 2 years he allowed 84 goals, had 13 shutouts, 2 POM’s and an 9.64 average. Was he the best available Free Agent keeper out there? Hell no. He’s an avergae keep willing to be a back up on a salary friendly contract. Beggers can’t be choosers. He’s not our starter, but I think he’s a viable short term solution.

Federico Crescenti‘s problem isn’t that he passes the eye test for a capable Bundesliga 2 striker. The problem is his passing grade is a C+. At 20 year’s old, he’s 2 1/2 star current, 4 star potential, but the more I look at him, the more I believe that where he is now and what his full potential is is a very short trip. Reasonably fast and agile, he’s average everywhere else. He is capable of playing all of my top 3 attacking positions though, which makes him a valuable off the bench player and rotational starter. I’m not expecting great things from him, and I suspect we won’t be dissapointed.

Niilo Mäenpää is a Finnish international who brings stability and experience to the midfield. A better than average player, he actually took less money to come to us. I think that’s because the other teams looking at him were all second division clubs in Finland, Swede, and Poland, and maybe he thinks playing for Dynamo will get him a job at a bigger club down the road. I am OK with that. If Dynamo turns into a stepping stone club, that’s fine, I can work with that.

Last, but certainly not least, I lucked out. Karlsruher FC was so happy with the amount of playing time and the performances Max Weiß had last year, they allowed us to extend his loan for this season. I knew going into last season he was a better than 3. Liga keeper, the question is how good a keeper can he be in the Bundesliga 2. How well we do this season depends a lot on his performances, and he knows it.

The bar was quieter than usual, they themselves were more subdued as well.

“So,” Hans asked. “What are we thinking?”

“Relegation,” sigh Ulrich, who then finished his beer, then sat back looking at the empty glass.

“Relegation battle,” sighed Sasha. When word came out about the stadium expansion, and the financial risks it involved, she about lost her mind, and subjected the group to a few hours of financial management.

“I agree,” said Hans.

“Lower table, no relegation,” Tobias said. Sasha looked at him with half closed eyes.

“You,” she said, moving a stray strand of hair out of the way as she reached for her mug, “are taking this piss.”

“You think so?” Tobias asked. She nodded. In response, Tobias pulled out his wallet, took out a bill and put it on the table. The crisp 100 Euro note looked very out of place.

“That’s how serious I am about it. How serious are you all?” he asked. A few seconds later they were digging into their own wallets as well.

“Gib niemals auf, denn das ist genau der Ort und die Zeit, wo sich das Blatt wenden wird.” Harriet Beecher Stowe.

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe

Not winning sucks. Being in debt sucks. Not being able to sign the players you need to sign to help the squad out sucks.

But, at the end of the day, when all your holding is a pair of fives, you play them like you’ve drawn to the inside straight and bluff as best as you can. The goals was to be out of the relegation spots at the midpoint. Maybe by then we might be able to bring in another loanee or two to help the squad out.

This looks like a bad run of games. No wins until our fifth match of the season. September was a good month, 7 points in 4 games is a very good accomplishment, and beating Kaiserslautern and Augsburg back to back was easily the high point of the season. I was immensely proud of where we were at this point, because if you look closely, all the games we had lost by this point, were losses by 1 goal.

Sonogo scoring in the 88th minute against Nurnberg is perhaps the one game we should have lost, but the fact we weren’t getting blown out was good. We weren’t scoring a ton of goals, and to be frank we aren’t going to this season, but our defense has really stepped up.

And I didn’t do anything to the formation really. I am still playing the ‘Swiss Bolt’ 4-2-4. The only things I have done have been in game, to lower the line on occasion, mark a specific player, things like that. No wholesale changes or anything like that. I think having a squad who’s very familiar with the formation, and not asking them to do something they are not capable of (Like gegenpressing a full 90 minutes) has gone a long way to where we are right now.

Heading into December, and then the winter break, I was quite happy. We were at 20 points, which at that point in time was midtable. I was expecting a fall off after winter, and although I was doing a ton of scouting within Germany, I think my scouts walk around with a bag of Dramamine hooked up to there arm, and had some good opportunities.

Our first loss by more than 12 goal was against Bielefeld, but I don’t count it because they scored in the 94th minute to make that happen. Same thing with Paderborn, they scored in the 96th minute, but up until those two games, we were doing well. Everyone was happy with how things were going:

Then, the week of the Hansa Rostock game, the hammer fell.

We have to cut €1.1M p/a off our payroll. And if we don’t, well, the next steps aren’t pretty. So, there are some hard choices to be made…

“You wanted to see me coach?” Andreas Pollasch asked.

“Yeah, come on in, shut the door behind you.” Andreas paused for a moment, and then his facial expression went neutral, then He came in and sat down.

“I’m not going to bullshit you here Andreas. I’ve got to cut 22K per week from the payroll. And I’ve got to do it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the team too much in the short term.” Nikki was trying to be stoic as he talked, and was mostly succeeding. Mostly.

“I’ve made a couple of calls, Patrick Glöckner would love to have you on his squad.”

“So, Oberhausen again?” Andreas said quietly after a moment. “RegionalLiga…”

“I can ask around, your agent can ask around, you can ask around. We can’t mutually terminate your contract, the board can’t allow it. Something by the end of the transfer window has to be done.

Andreas gave a sort of half smile. “Your day is already full coach.”

“I’m sorry,” Nikki said, and he did look sorry.

“I know coach. I don’t envy you.”

They both stood. “I am not trying to sound trite here, so believe me when I say that if you need anything in the future, let me know, I’ll do what I can,” Nikki said, holding his hand out. Andreas shook it once, nodded, then turned around and left, shutting the door behind him.

“Way to go Nikki,” he said, talking to himself. “You just told your Team Captain you’re selling him off back to a team in the RegionalLiga 2 weeks before Christmas….”

Der Bär Wird Wieder Brüllen, The First Season Review

Wie weit können uns zwei 34-jährige Beine bringen?

I don’t know what it is with the saves I’ve picked this season. They have all been interesting teams, they have all been fun to play, but they all have one thing in common: The finances are…suboptimal. I knew this when I was looking at BFC Dynamo and it’s background, but stil:

If those are OK finances, then I’ll take it, because I’d hate to see the alternative.


This is something I think a lot of managers will overlook when they get to a club. They’ll look at the roster, look at the transfer budget, look at the coaching, and the “Mutually Terminate” the contract of every coach/scout/Manager/Director that doesn’t meet their standards.

Then, 1 of 3 things will happen when you go to hire new staff. The new staff members who are better than your old staff members aren’t going to sign with you because:

  • Your Club Reputation isn’t good enough, or
  • If you club reputation is good enough you can’t afford their salary
  • Which result in you spending 10 minutes terminating the contracts of everyone, then spending eight hours finding replacements who are no better than the ones you fired, and in some cases more expensive salary wise.

I had a bit of wiggle room. As a Semi-Pro team, I didn’t need a huge scouting budget, in fact, I took it to the league only level. My Chief Scout is going to look at the next opponent, and I’ll hire another scout to look at those player who crop up in the market.

We are also up against it with the team payroll, and with no transfer budget, the only way we are lowering that is selling players, and unfortunately the Regionalliga is not exactly a “Seller’s Market.”

Ein fliegender Start

“They can’t keep this up,” Tobias said around a mouthful of food.

“Why are you such a pessimist?” Sasha asked, glaring at him. The bar was quieter now that most of the rowdier folks had left. They had claimed their table in the back, and were going over the details of the game against Erfurt.

“It’s not pessimism, it’s realism. Beck had 23 goals for us last season. He’s got 12 in 9 already. He can’t keep that up.”

“Suljić can pick up the slack,” Hans said.

Tobias sighed and sat back, finishing the bite of food he had taken before he started speaking. “He’s had 15 goals in 3 seasons at Schweinfurt . There’s a reason they let him go.”

“He’s got 11 now,” Sasha said. “He’s beaten Chemnitz, they made Cottbus earn that victory. These guys are playing harder than I have seen them play the past few seasons. They keep winning the way they are, I don’t care who’s scoring.”

“How far you think they’ll go in the Landspokal?” Klaus asked.

“Not that far,” sighed Tobias. Hans grabbed Sasha around the waist as she leaned over the table to smack him. Tobias didn’t move, he was used to such outbursts by now.

The only loss was to a very good Cottbus team. Chemnitz, Lokomotiva Leipzig, Carl Zeiss Jena and Cottbus are all former Oberliga teams, so there’s history there. And as a club we want to make history by getting promoted to the Bundesliga before they do.

I really wish I could take all the credit for the wins, but I would be lying. I literally set the team for the game, hit start, make a tweak every once and awhile, make substitutions when required, and let the game run it’s course. I am not of a meddler tactically, being in the school of “If it’s working well Tinkering is only going to make it worse”, and it’s a lesson I have learned well. But to say I was surprised at the teams performance would be an understatement, it wasn’t that we were winning games, it’s that we were doing so by large margins for the most part. The game against Erfurt though, that hurt:

I wasn’t too upset about Beck missing the penalty kick, the keeper made a very nice save. The two extra time goals though, the last of which came on a stupid penalty…Reher somehow jumping up in the scrum during a corner kick and getting a hand on the ball for the penalty.

Lass die guten Zeiten ruhen

“I swear by all that is holy Tobias, you even try to pour water on my mood I am going to kick your teeth in!” Sasha barely came up to his chest, but the finger she wagged in front of his face had a pretty wicked looking nail on it, and he had the good sense to be quiet.

“You said they couldn’t keep it up after Babelsburg, then it was doom and gloom after Hertha II, then when we lost to the idiots from Leipzig I couldn’t tell if you were more upset we lost, or happy we finally did. What gives?”

“You mean other than spending the night in lockup because you started a fight with the Leipzig Ultras.” He sighed as he took his seat, and motioned to the barmaid, who nodded and smiled at him.

“Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa,” Hans said, putting his own beer down hard enough to make it spill some. “She did not not start anything with those Ultras. She congratulated them for a good win and a well played game.”

“And what did I get for being nice? Insults. Verdammte sächsische Idioten. Thanks Elise,” Sascha smiled at the barmaid, who brought a whole tray of drinks out.

“Well, to be fair, you did say you hoped they liked third place,” Hans said.

“To be fair they said I’d come in fourth place in a three lady beauty contest,” Sascha replied.

“You called him a Hasslehoff wannabe.”

“He called me a whore!”

“You said his mom counted with her hoof!”

“Can you prove she doesn’t? Besides, I reimbursed you for the fines.”

“You should have been there with us.”

“Look, I have always maintained that if there is trouble, I don’t have too run fast to get out of it, I just have to run faster than you…”

For a job well done, so far, we were rewarded:

It’s not a bad deal really, but even I am starting to channel my “Inner Tobias” and am wondering when the wheels may fall off, or slow down. For the moment, it’s a three team race to the top, and we have our work cut out for us.

The one blemish in a remarkable run of games was the Leipzig game. 3/4’s of the team decided that this game would be the one they wanted to take of, and Beck’s legs can only take the team so far, it’s up to the other players to help as well, and this game, they didn’t. It was the first time I yelled at the all season. They responded quite well.

Our Youth Intake preview was quite promising as well. Yes you have to take this with a huge gran of salt considering where we our, our facilities, and the level of competition, but this is not a bad preview:

Neues Jahr, gleiche Ergebnisse

Cottbus is the one team we cannot shake. And the one team we cannot beat apparently. Also teams from Leipzig have been giving us trouble as well, but for the most part the teams has been performing very well. I don’t want to say we are on cruise control, one slip up and we find ourselves behind Cottbus looking for a playoff spot, but I remain confident in the guys. They’ve taken us this far.

The Youth Intake

The preview was actually not too far of the mark, we have a decent youth intake, ands a couple of them have some potential as well.

Mirza Hamzic

Our best prospect, an already “Above Average” player in many areas: Pace, Fitness, Technique, Flair, Finishing. Sure, he has some holes in his game, but there is plenty of time to improve them, and his Resolute personality and 16 Determination will go a long way in getting those lower numbers up. The game says he’s a winger, I am going to retrain him as a Striker.

Sabri Özen

He’s got potential. The question is how am I going to get him the playing time to improve, and if I do get him the playing time, how much is his unambitious personality going to affect those improvements. As much as there are some things to like, the Reflexes, Decision making, Handling, Agility and Fitness, everything else is way too low, and most likely won’t improve without some luck. Which is about par for the course for a lot of newgens at this level.

Shawn Ott

I think Ott could be better than advertised. His aggression worries me, as does his strength, but with those Fitness, Determination, Dribbling, Technique, Passing, Flair and Finishing attributes (which if they don’t go up are still very good for this level of football), he will be a very solid player in the years to come, and if the opportunities work out for him, he could be better in the long run than Hamzic.

Eine Trophäe in der ersten Saison heben

The Berliner Landespokal is a regional competition, in this case the region being the city of Berlin, with the Berlin Football Association running it. There’s no money for winning it, instead you get a spot in the following years DFB-Pokal. While it’s possible, likely really, you are going to be a minnow in the first round, the appearance money is 183K, which is not an insignificant sum for a team that wins. And if you do make it to the Second Round, the money there is another 366K.

The good news is, we kept up our winning ways, and made it to the Landespokal final.

VSG Altglienicke on paper was not a team as strong as we were, but they caught us at the right time, tired, coming of some niggling injuries, and they had lost in the finals the two previous years, and we definitely putting their best feet forward. We however, played out game, and despite Pollasch going down with an injury in the 43rd minute, a Suljić goal in the 33rd minute, and a great keep away defense ensured we won, and put a new trophy in the display case.

Quietschende Pennerzeit

The last two games of the season were key. Cottbus was well within reach off us, Lok Leipzig had fallen behind Four points was what we needed to ensure a first place finish in the League, and we got it, by beating the aforementioned Saxons 4-0 in the final game of the season. It was off to the playoffs.

The bar was crowded, to the point Hans was questioning whether or not the fire marshal stop by and force a few people out. It was loud, it was raucous, songs were sung, beers were spilled, everyone was having a good time.

Hans saw Tobias force his way thru the crowd, work had kept him late and he couldn’t make the game, but as he sat down between Hans and Ulrich, the look on his face didn’t change. He was dejected.

“Someone kick your dog, Tobias?” Ulrich asked, passing him a beer. Tobias looked at it briefly, then drank it all in one chug, wiping his mouth.

“Last of the Regionalliga games was played today.”

“We know,” said Sasha, her words a bit slurred.

“We’re playing Bayern II in the final.” Tobias said, sitting back and slouching.

“Bayern II?” Sasha all but shouted. Tobias nodded.

“Wanner, Ranos, Demirican, Pavlovic, Buchmann, Schenk,” Tobias replied. “That Bayern II Squad.”

“Well, Scheisse,” Ulrich said to noone in particular.

“Yeah,” Tobias said.

Coming up in a couple of days, the result of the Promotion Playoff, a look back at the season and some of the players who made it possible, awards, statistics, and plans for the offseason. If you don’t see it in a couple of days, feel free to remind me about it on twitter.

Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, Part 5

The First of Many Steps

Last season we finished solidly midtable, which was to be expected. Also expected, unfortunately, was the fact that my board is as parsimonious as ever and refuses to allow me to have more than 10% of the transfer budget, which means for the time being we are looking for players who can contribute while not costing us to much. We also needed to strengthen our youth squad and get some depth, even if that depth wasn’t necessarily “Deep”. Our goal this season was two fold

  • Finish in the Upper Half of the table
  • Try and sign players who could help us achieve that while providing us the bedrock to build our future successes on.

I think we did that, but holy frick was the offseason long. But I think it was worth it. In total we brought in 22 players this year, 21 of them in the summer transfer window alone. Conversely, 13 player went out in the summer, and 7 in the January transfer window. Granted, some of the outs were on loan, but many were players who while good enough to keep us midtable, weren’t good enough to bring us forward, and so out they went. And, in somewhat of a surprise, we actually banked a €2M profit.

I am not going to show all the players we brought in, frankly more than a few were just bodies for the U19’s and 23’s to practice against, but I will show you the ones who contributed, and because these are end of seasons screenshots, you can see how well they did.

How much of this is moving people just to move them?

Şirahman Kudaş and Kılıç Arslan Kuruçelik my scouts found in Turkey last season. Both are capped at the U21 level, and both played for Trabzonspor, who inexplicably let both of them go on frees. I signed them at the end of last season, but they could not play until this season. Both have potential, but as you can see, Kudas stepped in and had a fine season at Center Mid.

Magnus Bech Riisnæs is a center mid from Vålerenga, a squad with enough quality and depth they let him test the market. At 800K he was the right price, and he also had a fine season.

Miguel Terceros came in to player winger, and he had a great season, easily one of the best pickups we had.

Gerrit van den Berk was primarily a bench player, but I think he has a good future in front of him, and will contricute nicely of the defensive back line next season

Rafa Marín was on loan from Real Madrid, and was a solid presence at the back.

Rafael Camacho I brought in to be a jack of all trades at the attacking midfielders positions, and his versatility as a super sub caught they eye of a few teams, including Vålerenga, who is is moving to.

Blas Armoa is a Paraguyan International, who had lost his spot at Sportivo Luqueño, and came to us with the promise of First Team playing time, and as you can see, he did a finer job for us.

Ollie Smith wants to be a winger, but I made the loan player from Man City our striker, and he responded with a 7.21 rating and 23 goals. As much as I would like to keep him though, we just can’t afford him, a line which I fear has becomes this saves motif…

Dylan Lennon did a capable job as a spot starter, but I think we may have better options now…

Lasse Madsen played when Ollie Smith couldn’t, and although his form looks nice, you can definately t4ell during the games when Ollie Smith is on the field, and when Lasse Madsen is.

Joaquín Jara did a fine job for us at the DM position, but his form really fell off near the end of the season.

André Álvarez Pérez had a fine season as part of the Defensive Center back rotation.

Angel Bazán was out lone January transfer window pickup, a Peruvian international who didn’t get a lot of games, but with Smith going back to City next season, and Lasse not being any better (on paper anyways), the opportunity is there for Angel to grab the position and make it his own.

The Season

Our primary goal this season was to try and avoid injuries, to do well in the Cup, and to win the games we were supposed to win, win most of the game were were supposed to draw, and lose close. For the most part, we suceeded.

Not the best start to the season…

This season, Benfica, brought in €151M in players, Verratti for €18.25M, Davinson Sanchez foe €21.5M, Jonathon David for €48.5M, and Manor Solomon for €50M. And to facilitate that they sold €247M of players. Meanwhile my budget was at about 6M, so yeah…it could be a problem. And it was, as Benfica thrashed us 7-2. The rest of the beginning of the season went as expected, although Sporting needed and 86th minute goal to win, only losing by 1 to them is an accomplishment, if only a small one.

Small Steps

Beating Boavista was nice, but drawing with Porto was a bit frustrating as they were a man down the last 30 minutes of the game and we couldn’t capitalize. Draws against Vitoria and Braga were OK, as long as we aren’t losing points it’s all good, but Porto showed their quality when they beat us 4-2 in the Cup Group.

Into the New Year on some good news

I don’t know that losing to Porto threw some sort of switch to get the team to buckle down and come together as a squad, but not losing ion the next 8 games was quite the accomplishment. Yes, it took extras time to beat Varzim in the Cup, but we came back to draw against Famalicão and Casa Pia. The year also ended on a high note for me, as I was voted coach of the year, and I turned down interviews from Lyon and Sassuolo.

A Great Start to the New Year

Sixteen games between losses is quite the achievement no matter what level of football you are at, and we were tied with Benfica until the 73rd minute, when the broke ahead and scored 2 more. But I think they days of us rolling over and giving up are soon to be behind us. Am I upset that some of these draws weren’t wins? Sure, who wouldn’t be? But I am very happy they were not losses.

Ending on a High Note

The fact our only two losses at the end of the season were to Porto and Sporting Speak volumes as to how far we have come in a short amount of time. The number of draws however tell me we still have quite the distance to go, but as a result of our late season push and not losing the last of our 4 games:

Top 5!

We qualified for the European Conference League. Sure, we might crash out early, but still, it European Football.

A Solid Foundation

Gabriel Batista was stellar between the sticks for us. He’s not getting younger, and I doubt he will improve much, but a lot of the draws we had were due to him.

Rafa Marin and Ollie Smith did exactly what I expected them to do when I brought them in on loan, but it was Terceros who had the surprising season, with 12 assists. Rakip had a solid season as well, but I have younger players with higher potential waiting in the wings, so he will be moving on. Dimitrovic had a good seasons as AM(L), but he is starting to attract a lot of attention, and I am not sure how long he will be in Santa Clara Red. And as you can see, we have a lot of young potential on the squad, the question is can we not only develop it, but keep it for any amount of time to improve the club? That remains to be seen, but I know the job is going to be a lot harder because not only is the board still saddling us with just 10% of the transfer revenue, our budget for next season is just 4.02M, and our payroll isn’t much higher. It will be quite some time before were moving and selling players like Benfica and Sporting…

Financially speaking, were are on solid ground. However, we lost a ton of TV revenue money this season, and I am hoping a decent performance in the European games can make up for that next season. I was able to improve the facilities, but in July we got a welcome piece of news:

Every Little Bit Helps…

So, the season had come to a close, I was scouting my tail of in preparation for the next season, when this piece of news came across my desk:

If this screws up my transfer window in any way…

Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, Part 4

Our form is…Confusing at times.

I think it is safe to say we over performed last season. A 5th Place finish was well above expectations, but part of me is left wondering what sort of form we are going to fall back to this year: Scrappy fighters clawing draws from teams we should be losing too and wins from teams we should be drawing to? Is the European Stage going to be too bright for the squad, sending us back to the beach for an early vacation? It doesn’t help that our finances are…well, odd. I still only get 10% of any transfers, and despite the fact we are in a good place financially, the board seems reticent to actually spend any of it right away. Part of that I can under stand, and while I am reasonably sure I wouldn’t put the club into penury, at the same time it’s a little more than galling to see the balance we have and the boards lack of desire in putting some of it to good use.

The Loan Market is still broken (This was pre patch, it’s less broken now), and while we had some money to spend, we either couldn’t afford the salaries of the players willing to transfer in, or we couldn’t afford their transfer fee’s. And we lost out on more than one player because our club rep isn’t good enough to beat out similar clubs in different leagues.

That meant we spent an inordinate amount of time scouting free agents, and holding out until deadline day to get a deal or three.

I, like a numpty, was so involved with the save I forgot to take screenshots as I signed them, so the screenshots here are from later in the season, and you can see how good they were/weren’t.

You spend a lot of time looking for ways to not spend a lot of money in some saves…

Raul Asencio is a versatile attacking player, capable of both wings and the striker position. The worst thing I can say about him is that he’s not a defender, but considering what and where he plays, that’s not a problem.

Andre Castro I brought in a defensive depth. Sure at 36 he’s old, but per club rules he only signed a 12 month contract. Sure, he’s not as physically gifted as he used to be, but his technical’s are good enough to make up for any shortcomings he might have, and as you can see, he did a good job for us this season before retiring.

Libasse Ngom I brought on as depth at striker. The scouts say he’s a good Premier player, and I think he can do a job off the bench for us. That said, while there isn’t anything outstandingly bad about him, part of me can’t help think that he’s one of those “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” sort of players. He had a great career in Senegal, 39 goals in 68 games, but Portugal is a step up.

Eddie Roper comes from the Portland Timbers Academy. There are some things to like, his teamwork, his positioning, the fact he stays back at all times, but he does have holes in his game: vision, off the ball, and apparently an injury worry as well. But he’s young enough that I think with some playing time and training, he can be a solid contributor.

Lala I brought in because he can play the backline and he has potential, but he could also be lost in the shuffle.

Justin DeGrange is one of those intriguing youth players who comes across as one of two things:

  • A youth player who with training, game time and coaching will develop into a very good player
  • A player who is already at or close to his potential.

Hope for A, prepare for B.

Joseph Kwabena I think could be a very good player in the future. I brought him on as wingback depth, but can also see him getting time up top as an attacking mid. His passing skills and quickness are already above average, and I think he could be a player who tops out in the 140 Ability range.

Mateus Ludke comes in as our new WB( R). I am hoping he can be part of a rotation, he’s the primary option this year, and while we aren’t going to be able to exercise the optional contract clause for him,

Victor Boniface comes to us on loan from Union SG. He’s an intriguing player, but I think the injury woes are new to him this year. Not sure I am a fan of the “attempt’s overhead kicks” playing style, but I believe he is good enough to stand in the box and occupy a couple of defenders. Part of me would like to purchase him, but Union is asking for close to 10M for him, and I don’t see the board giving us that sort of money anytime soon.

Lino Sousa I brought in to play WB(L). He is one of those “Solid but Unspectacular players that every teams has and needs, and as long as he does a credible job for us this season without making too many mistakes, I’ll be happy.

I needed a backup keeper, Diego Marino was willing to come in and be a backup. At the ends of the day, just another guy, but I am curious about a keeper who “Dwells On the Ball”…how exactly does that happen?

Papa Cheik Diop, the Senegalese International, had left Lyon for Aris in the Greek Superleague, but was not getting any playing time. Aris released him after two seasons, and I think he was happy to come to Santa Clara and be a full time starter. He’s another solid player, one I expect who’s may contributions on the filed will go unnoticed.

On the out’s, I think the only player of consequence was Roberto Valente. He had a good first season with us (32 Apps, 10 goals, 4 assists and a 7.11 rating, but fell off in the second season (18 Apps, 2 goals, 3 Assists and a 6.91 rating). When I went to sign him to a new contract, he wanted star player money, and a highest match clause.

No. No. Hell to the No. I listed him, and Slavia Prague snapped him up for 2.2 Million. For a guy we brought in on a free, I am OK with that.

A Very Good Start

We got the season off on the right foot. A decent preseason, followed by wins against Derry City and Zilinia was very nice. I really thought Real Hispalis had our number, but a good first game at home gave us the 2 goal buffer we needed to see things thru. In fact, our only stumble was against Leiria in the League Cup game, as we had to go to penalties to beat them.

Back to Earth

September reminded me we were still a team with faults. Nacional is not the strongest squad, but they handled us quite easily. Portimonense has a very strong squad, and Porto is of course Porto. In the Europa Conference though I was happy to beat a solid St. Gallen squad, and holding Pogon to a draw was also a good result. Our defense was stout in that match, as Pogon had 22 shots but only 3 on target.

Reverting Back to the Mean

Losing to Benfica, even 5-0, is expected these days. This season they sold 129M in players (Gouveia, Aursnes, Silva, and Enzo Fernandez), but then turned around and spent 101M on Jonathan Burkhardt, Nketiah, Maitland-Niles, Esteve and Lyanco. Holding the to 5 is probably a good job really. Losing to Rio Ave though, in extra time no less, was a gut punch. In European football, wins against Mura and St. Mirren were nice, but Bodo/Glimt (The 6-0 slayers of AS Roma in the real world) absolutely bossed us. That score could have been a lot worse. Beating Radnicki was very nice, and I was looking at going into January on a high note, losing to Porto turned that into maybe a B-Flat…

Mostly Expected Results

For the most part, we were beating the teams we were supposed to be beating, but drawing to relegation bound Ferreira and losing to relegation bound Estoril in back to back games was frustrating. Making it to the Knockout Rounds of the Conference LEague was nice, and we did what we needed to do against St. Gallen, again, but 7 games in 29 days was really starting to take it’s toll on the squad. Niggling injuries kept cropping up, keeping players from performing at their best, and it was only a matter of time before we ran out of steam.

The Seasons Injuries, at least the Major ones…
Times Up…

March and April are months I would like to forget. Making the round of 16 was great, and the money was nice too, but AA Gent showed us how far a gap there is between us and the bigger squads. The second game they played a pretty rotated side, and still had twice as many shots ands shots on target as we did. Sure it took two late goals for them to win, but more important was the fact we couldn’t stop them from scoring two late goals. Benfica crushed us 7-2, and while beating Sporting was a highlight, they played a lot of their 2nd stringers. Three losses took us out of European contention, and although we finished the season strong, and where we were supposed to finish, I will admit to being disappointed.

Mid Table woes…

Our Youth Intake, in GIF Format:

Yes, it was that bad. We didn’t sign any of them. In fact, my two best youth prospects this year were ones I found scouting…

The Good News: A Team of Solid Players. The Bad News: A Team of Solid Players

Raul Ascenio led us with 12 goals, Paulo Henrique had 9 assists. Boniface was underwhelming at best in my opinion, and the one player I had a lot of hope for, Bojan Dmitovic, spent most of the season nursing various injuries (see above). The other issue is that two of our better contributors, Luan and Oscar Barreto, are getting older, and were noticeably different players at the end of the season, while Castro announced his retirement. Oddly enough, I think he had the most well rounded season out of everyone, and when you consider Diop is the only player who had a rating above 7.0, the fact we did as well as we did speaks volumes.

The club still has issues though. FOr the moment, my share of transfers is capped at 10%. They don;t want to spend any money on an affiliate, finaces are tight enough I refused creating a B Squad, and our budget next year is not great:

Believe me, we looked in ALL the couches

The good news is we do have some up and coming youngsters, the club did improve the training and youth facilities, and the money from our European adventures has the club comfortably out of the fear of debt and into a decent semblance of financial security. Why they won’t give me more to spend, I am not sure, but until we are able to start spending money, toppling Os Três Grandes is going to be a bit harder. And I am OK with that. Next season, the aim is European Football again, and I think we have a good chance of getting there.


Part One

Football, despite it immense worldwide popularity, is still very much a regional sport in terms of fan support, often times in some neighborhoods as to which side of the street you live on. A club can be many things to many people, but no matter what size it is, at it’s heart it is something that will pull a community, be it big or small, to it. But as with all things sports, while you have your big teams, with an international presence and top league success, you also have your smaller teams that have their core supporters, and whether or not these teams have tens of fans or thousands of fans, they are not as well known as their neighbors. Maybe in the past they have had success, maybe they are a new team reborn from the ashes of an older team, but for the better part of their history, they have been playing in the shadow of their bigger and maybe more successful neighbors. In this post, were going to look at a few teams in the base database you can play right now without any additional league downloads. The question is, can you take them up the pyramid, and dethrone those teams. Can you get them out of the Shadows of the Giants, and lead them to Glory?

Queen’s Park

Rangers and Celtic have long dominated football in Glasgow and Scotland, but Queen’s Park has a history as long and rich as their neighbors. A Founding Member of the Scottish Football Association in 1873, they became known for their proclivity to “pass” the ball from one player to the other instead of dribbling like like all their contemporaries. A 5-0 victory over Wanderers in 1875 made headlines throughout England, and soon more teams were passing the ball.

Their best years were between the First and Second World Wars, they spent time in the top flight in the early 50’s and were relegated after only two years, which started a long slow decline. A brief respite in the 80’s saw them climb back to League Two, until falling back to the Third Tier, and into Amateur status.

The club has a fine reputation for developing youth players, and it was the loss of many of these players without compensation that prompted the club to turn professional in 2019. Success followed this move, and promotions from League Two to League One culminating in a return to the Championship in 2023 have set Queen’s Park up nicely.

At the start of the 2022/23 season, the Spiders find themselves in good shape, with solid Finances, Good Youth Facilities, Great Training Facilities, and Average Youth Recruitment and adequate Academy coaching. The only issue they have is a ground to play on, I believe currently they are groundsharing with Ochilview in the real world, FM has them playing at Lesser Hampden, which is their training round. In previous years they have also ground shared at Falkirk and Firhill.

But the Table is set, can you take control of Queen’s Park, and knock Rangers and Celtic down a peg or three?

Pro Vercelli

Before the rise of Juventus in the 30’s, Torino in the 50’s, and Juventus again, Pro Vercelli was the reigning team in the region, winning seven titles between 1908 and 1922. Since their last title though, they have see Juventus and Torino win a combined 36 League titles, 14 Coppa Italia’s, and 9 Supercoppa’s. After being relegated from Serie A in 1935 and Serie B in 1948, they bounced back and forth between Serie C and Serie D. In the early 2000’s they slowly climbed their way back up the Italian pyramid, culminating in a promotion to Serie B in 2012, 64 years after their last appearance there.

Their stay did not last long though, as they were relegated back down to Serie C the next season.

I think Le Bianche Casacche are well positioned to make a comeback. While the 5500 seat Silvio Piola stadium is old, the club had Good Youth Facilities, Good Training Facilities, and Average youth Recruitment and Academy coaching. They are financially solid, and with some judicious signing and youth development, could be back in Serie A within a few years. The question then, is how long will it take to dethrone Juventus and Torino, to become the Prince of Piedmont, and ultimately the Kings of Italy?

Calcio Lecco 1912

If a team from Piedmont isn’t winning the Serie A Title, chances are high a team from Lombardy is. Home to AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Atalanta, Lombardy is well represented in the top flight of Italian football. However, 31 miles north of Milan, Calcio Lecco 1912 have been toiling in lower table mediocrity for decades. They had a brief period of success post World War Two, reaching Serie A for a brief stay, then falling back to Serie B for a few years, then spending most of the latter half of the 20th Century bouncing between Serie C and D.

This lack of success has meant the club has not been able to invest in itself over the decades, and a result has Basic Youth Facilities, Below Average Training Facilities, Fairly Basic Youth Recruiting and Average Academy coaching. While financially solid, their bank balances certainly aren’t as high as Vercelli’s, and the shadows cast by the other teams in Lombardy may be bigger, but will just make beating them with I Blucelesti sweeter.

FC Ingolstadt 04

Bavaria has dominated German football. FC Bayern has won 30 Bundesliga titles, Nurnberg has won 9, SpVgg Greuther Furth has won 3, even TSV 1860 Munich has won a title. In the shadows of these clubs, ESV Ingolstadt and MTV Ingolstadt played mostly in the RegionalLiga, with brief periods of success followed by a rapid fall. Both MTV and ESV achieved promotion to the 2 Bundesliga in the late 70’s, and both were relegated the next season. As the years continued both teams struggled, and in 2004 ESV was facing insolvency. To avoid having to shut the team down, the two teams merged in 2004, and became FC Ingolstadt 04.

After the merger, things began to improve for the club. Promotion out of the RegionalLiga came quickly, and they reached 2.Bundesliga, but after falling back to 3.Liga in 2013, they returned to the 2.Bundesliga, and clinched the tile and promotion to the Bundesliga in 2015. A surprising 11th place midtable finish in the 2015/16 season gave fans hope, but the next season they were relegated back down to the 2.Bundesliga, and then relegated again down to 3.Liga in 2018. Since then they have bounced back and forth the lower leagues, and start 2023 in 3.Liga.

However, they have had a taste of success, and while toppling the Kings of Bavaria (and Germany) isn’t going to be an easy task, Ingolstadt have a solid foundation to build on. Audi Sportpark is a modern 15000 seat stadium, and the team has Good training facilities as well. Average Youth facilities and Average academy coaching are not bad, but having Fairly Basic Youth Recruiting means building from within may be a harder task. Financially they are in good shape, and while they don’t start the season with a transfer budget, they also do not have any debt, and are among the favorites to be promoted. Getting Die Schanzer back to the Bundesliga and respectability might not take a long time, but beating the likes of Bayern and Nurnberg consistently will..

FC Roskilde

Denmark maybe one of the smaller countries in Europe population wise, but the quality of players and clubs within its borders cannot be denied. While FC Kobenhavn have won quite a few of the 3Superliga trophies the past years, other team like Brondby, Mitjyelland, Aab and Nordsjaelland have also won titles. With that in mind, of the clubs you can play right away on this list in Football Manager 23 FC Roskilde might just have the hardest task at coming out of the shadows, because not only are there quite a few being cast, but Roskilde is a club fighting for its own reputation.

The club was formed in 2004 by a merger of three local squads, Roskilde Boldklub 1906, Svorerslev Boldklun and Himmelev-Veddelev Boldklubbe, and has played in the lower leagues of the Dutch Pyramid since. They set a Danish record for consecutive win, in 2014 with 20, and looked to be making positive steps forward when the teams head coach accused his players of match fixing in 2019. After an investigation was inconclusive, he departed the club, but the effects of the accusation have remained.

FC Roskilde has a lot to overcome if it wants knock the rest of the Superliga down. Below Average Training Facilities, Basic Youth Facilities, Average Academy coaching and Failry Basic Youth Recruiting means the club will have to do a lot Facility wise, and as a Semi-Professional club starting out, while not in debt their finances are not in the best shape either. It may be awhile before the Eagles can fly high enough to topple the Lions, the Ulvene, the Tigrene and the Drengene fra Vestegnen.

There are a great many football clubs out there with great stories already written, and great many more with stories waiting to be told. In the next chapter of this series, we will take a look at five more clubs, mostly from “Smaller” leagues, that you take over and try to lead the to glory while knocking off their bigger rivals along the way.

Thanks for Reading!

FM Jellico