Der Bär Wird Wieder Brüllen

Prolouge

From 1979 to 1988, Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga 5 times, and in the other 5 years never fell below 4th. And impressive win streak thats been superceded in recent years by an impressive run starting in 1998, when they have won the League 18 times. In 2022, they won the Bundesliga for the 10th time in a row. It was a spectacular accomplishment.

But they weren’t the first German team to do that…

In Berlin, in the borough of Lichtenburg, the quarter of Alt-Hohenschönhausen is home to Berliner FC Dynamo. Playing in the DDR-Oberliga, Berliner FC won their League 10 times in a row, with a core group of players that not only led them to local success, but European success as well. In the 1979-80 European Cup, they went all the way to the quarterfinals, becoming the first German team to beat an English team in England, when they beat Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest 1-0. With a stellar Youth system, bringing in players such as Bernd Schulz, Frank Rohde, and Christan Backs, and a solid core of verteran players, they reached the quarter finals of the European Cup again in 1982, losing to Aston Villa. In the 1983-1984 season, their loss to FC Karl MArx Stadt broke a 36 game winning streak, and again made it to the quarter finals of the European Cup before losing to Roma. A bit of trivia for those of you out there, each team Berliner lost to went on to win the Cup. In the 1984-1985 season they scored 90 goals, but some of their wins were not without controversey.

The DFV conducted a review in the 1984-1985 season and found the club was given fewer yellow cards, and other non call led to the conclusion that they had gained at least 8 points in 26 matches to to clear referee errors on the pitch. While the East German Stasi support of the club was well know, and there were flgrant instances of referee bias in favor of the club, such as the game against SCG Dynamo Dresden in the FDGB Pokal, there is no evidence that the referees were ordered (or bribed) to favor the Berlin club. In fact complaints against the bias club received led to the General Secretary of East Germany getting involved directly, and while several people were removed from their positions, they did little to assuage a lot of the publics beliefs of what was going on. Players and coaches on many teams believed that the Berlin club didn’t need any of the help they had received, because an excellent youth system, and solid player moves such as Thomas Doll from Hansa Rostock, ensured the quality of their sqaud was better than the teams they faced. The culmination of the clubs run was a last day win against FC Vorwarts Frankfurt that clinched the League on goal difference.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall meant changes for every East German club, but BFC Dynamo was among the hardest hit. The disbandment of the Stasi meant the club lost one of its main sponsors, and the East German Ministry of the Interior said it would support the club until the end of the 1989-1990 season and that was it. In an attempt to distance itself from it’s former sponsor, they rebranded as FC Berlin, but players leaving for greener pastures meant the team lacked the solid foundation and cohesiveness it had relied on during the 80’s. After finishing in 11th place and losing in the 2. Bundesliga playoff, FC Berlin was relegated to the the NOFFV-Oberliga, but despite dominating the 1991-1992 season, they again missed promotion to the 2. Bundesliga, and the last of their former players left. Depending on who you ask and what you use for sources, the entire roster of FC Berlin changed over twice in the three years since the Wall fell.

Despite making millions on playere transfer in the early 90’s, and competing in the Regionaliga Norst, the team was losing money and sponsers. Relegation to the Regonalliga was followed by insolvency proceedings, and it was found that the club was at least 7 million DM in debt. Supporters started fundrasing, former players came back to help, and a new presidum would take control of the team in 2002. After two years of close calls, with Team President Mike Peters funding the club directly, the club was promoted back to the Oberliga, and more importanlt, the insovlvency proceedings against it were settled.

The next few years were close run, as the club bounced between the Regionalliga and Oberliga while struggling to stay solvent. On more than one occassion one of the clubs main sponsers had to step into save it, and during the latter half of the 00’s the clubs financial situation improved.

The club rebranded itself as BFC Dynamo, and in 2009 adopted its new crest. In 2010 the club starting climbing back up the standings, winning promotion to the Regionalliga in 2014, and winning several Berliner Cups the following years, and despite some financial struggles put together some good sqauds, one of which missed out promotion to the 3. Liga at the end of the 2022 season on goal difference, which led to the dismissal of Coach Bennbenneck.

At the start of the 2022-2023 season, the club finds itself struggling. Its vaunted youth system is no longer in place, and while the squad has some good players on it, they are aging. The team is semi-professional, doesn’t have great finances, and promtion to the 3. Liga is tough, finish first in the Regionaliga gives that team a place in the playoffs, which you have to win in order to be prmoted. In addition, the clubs stadium is aging, and the finances are such that making the repairs required or building a new one is just not possible now.

Meanwhile, Hansa Rostock is in the 2. Bundesliga, and has a decent chance of finishing top half. SC Dynamo Dresden is in 3. Liga, having recently been relegated.

Into this situation step Nicholas Schmidt. The Berlin native and once promising Hertha Berlin youth midfielder left the game after the death of his father in 2014, and returned to the game as a junior coach with Hertha Berlin a year later, becoming a youth coach in 2018 before taking a coaching role with 1. FC Kaiserslautern II in 2020. While not the Supporters club first choice, he obviously made an impression on Club President Norbert Uhling to hire him.


“Nikki?” His father called out. The house was mostly quiet, except for the beeping of the medical devices.
“I’m here Papa,” he replied, grasping his fathers hand. Those hands had been large once, and strong, a builders hands. His father used to say how proud he was of the fact the 3rd best thing he had ever done as a builder was to help tear down the Wall in 1989.
His father coughed, and asked for water, which was provided to him via a glass his son held.
“Can I ask you a sentimental question son?”
Nicholas Schmidt blinked, hard enough he thought his father might have noticed.
“What is you’re favorite memory of us?”
“Playing football with you in the park Papa,” he replied honestly.
“Which time?”
“All of the times Papa. You would come home from work, check my homework, and we would make dinner than go to the park and kick the ball around. You showed me how the game was played, you gave me a love for the game, a passion for the game-“
“I took you away from it by getting sick.”
“No, Papa, you didn’t. I love the game, I will always love it, but I love you more.”
His father gripped his hand briefly, and the room was quiet, save for the beeps.
“I’m sorry I didn’t take you to more games,” his father said.
“You were working Papa.”
“Not always…” was the reply, and Nicholas sat up.
“In the closet, on the top shelf, behind the suitcase,” his fathers voice was quiet, but firm. Nicholas went to the closet, now empty of clothes, but found the box he was told to find.
He opened it up at his fathers direction, and saw the scrapbooks.
“The top one,” his father said, coughing again.
Nicholas opened it up, and saw two tickets, for a game between Berliner FC Dynamo and Carl Zeiss Jena, dated 1977.
“I met your mother at that game,” his father smiled. “She arrived with another young boy, but we left together.” Nicholas had fleeting memories of his mother, who had passed away when he was not yet four.
“We couldn’t afford to go to a lot of games, but we would gather with friends and listen, and other times we would be by ourselves and listen.” As his father talked he flipped thru the book, pulling out old tickets, yellowed newspaper articles, gameday pamphlets.
“She was a huge fan of the club, and I became one as well. I first kissed her at a match, when we beat Dresden. At least that was my excuse for kissing her, but in my defense, she didn’t object at the time.” He heard his dad chuckle, then cough.
“After we married, we couldn’t go to as many games as we liked, what with my travelling for work, but she would write me letters.”
Nicholas set the first book on the nightstand, and pulled out the second. Inside were more tickets and pamphlets, and letters. Neat, precise handwriting, going into great detail about the game she had watched. From the way she wrote, she either took notes as she watched the game, or wrote the letter immediately when she arrived back at their apartment.
Putting the second book down, he saw there were two more in the box.
“You never told me this before Papa,” he said softly.
“The Wall fell, things got tough. Money, work, the team fell on hard times as well, all the eastern teams did. Plus there was the clubs history, it didn’t set to well with a lot of people, but she watched loyally until we couldn’t afford to buy tickets. Then the club rebranded, all the players left…”
Nicholas listened as his father talked about the club after the Wall came down, as he read newspaper articles about their 7th consecutive league win, their 8th, their ninth. A letter from his mom, who wasn’t in the best seat in the house but saw Reich’s header go into the net for the win, and reading her description of the crowds reaction he felt as if he were there.
He opened the last book, flipping thru the pages, and stopped on the last one. It was a photo of the family. His dad with his arm around his moms shoulder, as she held a small boy who was clearly unhappy to be there.
“Nikki?” his father asked, noticing his sons silence.
“A photo Papa, all of us at a game.”
He saw his dad smile.
“That was a good day. The team didn’t win, but we had a good time.” Papa was silent for a moment. “It was the last game we went to as a family, Marie became ill a few months later.”
And eighteen months after that gone, to cancer. Nicholas flipped thru the books a few more times, then set it down and picked up one of the ones he had set down previously, and found himself reading newspaper articles from the early 80’s, when the club was winning everything.
“Nikki?”
“Yes Papa.”
“Do you love the game?”
“Yes, Papa.”
“Then I want you to stay involved with in in some way. Playing, coaching, both, it does not matter. You stay involved. It does not have to be a career, but stay involved. You love it, don’t let me be the reason you walked away from it, OK?”
Nikki smiled, and wiped a tear away from his eye.
“Can you read me a letter?” his father asked after a few moments.
“Of course Papa,” he replied, and with care, he lifted one of the letters from the book, and began to read. Tens of letters later he was reading softly, his mother was furious at the loss to FC Karl Marx Stadt, which had broken the clubs 36 league match winning streak. She wrote with emotion, her handwriting became a little sloppier usually when she was mad, and he read it as best he could. He didn’t remember his moms voice, but his dad had smiled earlier when she railed against a player from Hansa Rostock who’s two footed lunge could have hurt Backs quite seriously, and while he could not speak in her voice, her tone was unmistakable.
He looked up from reading to ask his father a question, when he realized there wasn’t any beeping from the machine anymore. Setting the letter back in between the pages, closing the book and setting it back in the box, he stood up, and with a careful hand brushed back the thinning hair from his father forehead and kissed it. Albert Schmidt had never been a demonstrative man, but Nicholas had known he was loved, and the way his mom wrote he knew his father had been loved as well. He leaned down next to his fathers ear.
“Go with God, Papa. When you see Mama, tell her I love her and miss her, and when I see you both again, I will be bearing a trophy with BFC Dynamo’s name on it. The Bear will Roar again, I promise you both. I love you. Thank You for everything.”
He kissed his fathers cheek one last time, then left the room to call the hospice nurse.

10 “Smaller” Clubs for Youth Oriented Saves

Youth Oriented Saves and Youth Only saves are quite popular in Football Manager, and as with all Football Manager saves depending on the team you choose, your Youth save is going to be Easy (Chelsea, Barcelona, Sporting, Ajax) or Hard.

Several things affect a clubs Youth Intake:

  • The Club’s Youth Recruitment, which is how far away from the club a player could be pulled in from.
  • The Club’s Youth Facilities, which are separate training facilities for the Youth Team
  • The Club’s Academy Coaching, who are coaches you can’t hire.
  • The Club’s Country’s Youth Rating, the higher the more likely it is to generate good youth players
  • Your Head of Youth Development. There’s a bit to unpack with this. A HOYD with a high Scouting PA will better identify players with potential. The formation he favors will affect what positions he tries to recruit for, and last but not least, his personality will affect the youngsters brought in. The more “positive” a HOYD directors personality (Professional, Determined, Driven, Fairly Determined, etc) the more likely the youth players he brings in will also have a positive personality.

Some club’s have Youth Development Philosophy, that is they try and recruit the best young players they can to their Youth Academies, develop them so they are ready to make appearances for the Senior Squad before they are 21, and are then moved onto “Bigger Clubs” for profit. Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia, Altinordu in Turkey, and PSV are good examples of this. Other Clubs choose to develop within, and keep the players they develop. The best example of this is Barcelona and their La Masia Academy.

Following are ten clubs (and a bonus club) that in my opinion are good challenges for a Youth Oriented Save. They aren’t from the biggest Leagues, and they may not be the “Best” teams in the league they play in, but they are all capable of winning them. Eventually. While they do not possess the best in every Youth related category, they have the capability to produce some very good youth players, making a youth save with these clubs a challenge, but not an impossible one, and there are a variety of stories to build around each one as well.


1. Lech Poznan (Polish Ekstraklasa)

Lech Poznan had had somewhat of a renaissance starting in the 2010’s, winning the League in 2010, 2015, and in 2022. They were knocked out of the Champions League this year in the First Qualifying Round by Qarabag, and look to compete for a European spot again this year. Youth wise, they possess the following in terms of Facilities and Recruitment:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Great
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

In addition, the club is financially secure, has a philosophy of wanting to sign U23 players, and is in my opinion actually helped by the Ekstraklasa League which stipulate that U22 domestic players must play 3000 minutes of match play or the club will be fines 317K Euro’s, which when you consider that winning 1st place nets you only 1.44M Euro’s can be quite the penalty. However, this is offset by a League rule that will award the top 5 clubs 127K-634K Euro’s based on U21 minutes played, and by International appearances any player on the squad makes. Can you fill all 41,620 seats in Lech’s stadium, and lead the best Youth Prospects in Poland to an Ekstraklasa Victory, and beyond?


2. Hibernian (Scottish Premiership)

Hibernian haven’t won the League since 1952, but they did win the Scottish Cup as recently as 2015. The clubs current philosophy is geared towards a Youth Oriented save, they want to sign players under the age of 21 to develop, they want to develop players within their system, and they want to maintain the quality of youth system they have, and it is a very good system. Facilities and Recruitment wise, Hibernian has:

  • Training Facilities: Excellent
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Excellent

Hibernian has three things going against it: Celtic, Rangers, and League Work Permit rules that make it very hard to sign talented foreign youth players to sign for the club. While the Leagues payout is not big, 1.19M to 3.56M Euro’s, the club’s finances are in Okay condition, and qualifying for any European competition is additional prize money for the coffers, which currently means finishing 5th or higher when the season ends. Can a Scottish Youth Movement beat the Old Firm? Play Hibernian and find out.


3. Basel (Swiss Super League)

In my opinion Basel is one of the more interesting “Bigger” clubs to try and do a Youth Oriented Save with. From a historical point of view, Basel has won the League 20 times, the last in 2017, and has finished 2nd four times in the last five years. The League itself is a top 20 League, with clubs like Grasshopper, Zurich, and St. Gallen all being very competitive. Under the hood though, things get a little bit…strange.

If you win the Swiss Super League you receive 3.69M Euro’s in prize money, which covers slightly more than half of the 6M Euro annual rent Basel is paying the city for using St. Jakob Park. I am almost positive that fee is not a typo. Despite that discrepancy, the clubs finances are in good shape, and Facilities and Recruitment wise they possess:

  • Training Facilities: Excellent
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

Staying in the black financially means not only winning, but winning in European competitions as well. The question is can you do that with a team of Youth Players and fending off the likes of Zurich, Grasshoppers and others for those European places?


4. MŠK Žilina (Slovak Super Liga)

Žilina have won the Super Liga 7 times since 2000, and while the league itself may not be the biggest, the region is well known for turning out quality players. Like most leagues in a country the size of Slovakia, winning does not pay out bigly, only 115K Euro’s. That said the League itself is strong enough that finishing 3rd or higher guarantees European Football, and 4th thru 7th place participate in a round robin format in which the winner also qualifies for European Football, and while the club is OK financially speaking, any success in European competitions would be helpful. Facilities and Recruitment wise, MŠK Žilina has:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Great
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Excellent

While that setup alone is good enough to guarantee Žilina will see some quality potential comes thru its doors, the one advantage the team has over its local rivals is its direct affiliation with MŠK Žilina Africa Football Club. The Ghanaian club is a direct affiliate, giving the Slovakian club an additional leg up when it comes to recruiting talent. Benson Anang is the best example of this, the Ghanaian International started for the club in Accra, then moved to Žilina in 2018 and has been a solid defender for the team since. With those facilities, the countries love of Football (over 400K players registered) and a pipeline to some potentially great Africa Talent, can you take a Youth Oriented team to the top?


5. NK Lokomotiva Zagreb

For the longest time after World War Two Lokomotiva bounced around Croatia’s lower leagues. Then in 2007, they had back to back to back promotions to the top flight of Croatian Football, the First Football League. After finishing in 2nd place in the 2012-2013 season, they have finished between 4th and 6th place in each the following seasons. Teams like Dinamo, Hadjuk Split and Osijeck have long dominated the region, even when playing as part of the Yugoslav First League, and for Lokomotiva to now be competing with them year in and out is quite the accomplishment. Additionally, Croatia’s standing in world football is such that the top 4 teams in the 10 team League qualify for European Football, so the opportunity for extra income is certainly there. The club has a policy of signing U23 players, and the League itself does not have any onerous work permit rules, other than a 6 non EU player limit, and the matchday squad having at least 6 players trained by a Croatian club. Facilities and Recruitment wise, NK Lokomotiva has:

  • Training Facilities: Good
  • Youth Facilities: Good
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Good

At first glance those may not look great, but when you consider that the club is financially stable, and good Youth Recruitment covers Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Italy, the quality of Youth players they are going to bring in is very high. With a good HOYD, and judicious investment, good recruits at Lokomotiva can become great young players at Lokomotiva, and you can use them to dethrone Dinamo and Hadjuk before selling them off to bigger clubs and reinvesting that money again.


6. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Israeli Premier League)

Be’er Sheva returned to the top of the Israeli Premier League in 2015, winning back back to back titles, and also became a constant presence in European competitions as well, with their 2016-17 campaign being a highlight. After beat Sheriff Tiraspol and Olympiacos, they lost to Celtic and fell to the Europa League. In the Group stage they beat Inter twice, drew with Southampton twice, and lost to Sparta Prague twice, eventually losing to Beşiktaş. All that European football comes in handy, because the payout for winning the Israeli Prem doesn’t cover the 325K a year Be’er Sheva is paying in stadium rent. What they have done with a lot of those winnings is reinvest it into the club, which has:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Excellent

The club has Okay finances, and the League rules are interesting in that in order to foster playing local players, squads that register 5 or fewer players receive a payout at the end of the season. U19 players are also automatically eligible for play in all matches, which works very well with a club that wants to sign/develop young players and then sell them for a profit.


7. FCV Farul Constanţa (Romanian First League)

Romanian Football legend Gheorge Hagi founded FC Viitorul Constanța in 2009, and after spending the next three seasons in the lower leagues of Romanian Football, were promoted to the top flight. They finished 5th in 2016, qualifying for European football, and won Liga I in 2017. Hagi had set up an excellent Academy after founding the club, and many players who won the League in 2017 were graduates, in fact the teams average age of 22.2 years were the youngest champions in Europe that year. However, in 2021 Hagi and Ciprian Marica, the owner of Farul Constanța, announced that they were merging. Viittorul disappeared in the process, Faul took their spot in Liga I, the team was rebranded as FCV Farul Constanţa, and the only things left of Hagi’s original club were the grounds the team played on, and the academy and youth system, and what a system it is:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

The team is financially secure, which bodes well for them because Liga I does not pay out a lot of money, only 138K for winning the league. Additionally, Romania’s stature in the game has fallen to where the league only gets 3 European positions, so developing and selling players for profit is one way FCV Farul can stay solvent. But what if you didn’t sell them internationally, but to other clubs in Romania? Could you build the nation, and the club, and achieve Europeans success again?

8. Danubio Fútbol Club (Uruguayan Primera Division Group A)

Founded by Bulgarian brothers and named after the second longest river in Europe, Danubio has had some success in Uruguay, winning the league 4 times, but what they are known for is developing talent. In a League that also has the likes of Peñarol and Nacional in it, Danubio has developed no less than 16 players who have made at least 50 appearances with the club and/or 30 with the National team. In a 16 team division, finishing 8th or above will get you Continental Football, and while the various Copa’s may not pay as much as their European ‘Cousins’ do, and with a league rule that sets a 3 foreign player limit in the playing eleven, developing and keeping quality youth players will go a long way to the club’s financial stability. Danubio would be a great club to build a story around because not only do they have fierce rivalries with Nacional and Peñarol, and that the Clasico de los Chicos Derby with Defensor Sporting is very competitive, but the clubs priority is to sign Youth players, and to develop and maintain the best Youth System in all of Uruguay. To help them do that they have:

  • Training Facilities: Adequate
  • Youth Facilities: Average
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

Much like Lokomotiva above, while Adequate and Average are not the best, investment in those areas will have immediate payoffs as Uruguay has one of the highest Reputations in the game, as well as a very good Youth rating. Can you find the talent, develop it, and dethrone Peñarol and Nacional?

9. Suwon Samsung Bluewings (Hana 1Q K League)

Baseball used to be the most popular sport in South Korea, until the 2002 World Cup, when as a Co-Host Country South Korea made it all the way to the Semi Finals before losing to Germany. Prior to that electrifying run, players such as Cha Bum-Kun had represented their country very well in Europeans competitions, but after 2002 players such as Park Ji-Sung, Ahn Jung-Hwan, Lee Young-Pyo started playing with top European teams, and today players such as Hwang Hee-Chan and Son Heung-min lead a new wave of talented South Korean players in top flight Leagues. More than a few of them started their careers at Suwon Samsung Bluewings. A Club that has had some past success, winning the domestic League 4 times, the Korean FA Cup 4 times, and the Asian Club Championship twice, Suwon has fallen off a bit since clubs like FC Seoul and Jeonbuk Hyunadai have started winning on a regular basis. That said, Suwon still has some very good facilities and coaching:

  • Training Facilities: Good
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Good
  • Youth Recruitment: Good

Financially secure, and with South Korea having one of the higher youth rating in the game, Suwon Samsung Bluewings has a great opportunity to find and develop the next generation of great South Korean footballers. The question is, can it hold onto them to achieve domestic and Asian success, or will they leave for bigger clubs in foreign leagues?


10. Stabæk (Norwegian First Division)

Of all the clubs in this list, Stabæk has some of the best youth facilities and coaching, Norway has one of the better reputations in the game, and their Youth Rating is very good as well, having produced several world class players over the years. Despite that, due to financial difficulties in the 2010’s, the club has bounced back and forth between the top two divisions, and in 2023 they were promoted out of the 2nd tier and back into the Eliteserien, the top Tier of Norwegian Football. For the moment they are financially OK, but they do have some issues, such as their stadium not being in the best shape. Facilities and coaching wise Stabæk has:

  • Training Facilities: Great
  • Youth Facilities: Excellent
  • Junior Coaching: Excellent
  • Youth Recruitment: Exceptional

Another issue facing them is that the Eliteserien has some very good teams in it, Italian Giant slayers Bodø/Glimt, Rosenborg, Viking, Molde, and Vålerenga are all quit capable of winning the League, and more often than not all five teams are competing for one of the top four spots that guarantees European football. Playing Stabæk and getting them to the top of the Norwegian League, and potentially to the top of Europe with primarily homegrown talent is going to be a long save, but success will be worth it in my opinion.


The Bonus Challenge/Club: Retrô Futebol Clube Brasil

Founded in 2016 by a businessman in Pernambuco, Brazil, Retrô FC’s mission is to remove children and adolescents from vulnerability, giving them a place to learn, develop, and grow through organized football. In less than six years they’ve achieved promotion and in 2022 (well, December of 2021) they start in Group C of the Brazilian Fourth Division. You’ll have to download a database to play them, I suggest Riddler’s Brazilian League download from Steam. Playing in the 46,154 seat Arena de Perambuco stadium, Retrô FC has the following facilities:

  • Training Facilities: Good
  • Youth Facilities: Great
  • Junior Coaching: Adequate
  • Youth Recruitment: Above Average

Nicknamed Fênix, Retrô FC is looking to sign players under the age of 23, grow the clubs reputation, and maintain a top 2 finish in the Division. Promotion out of the Division is difficult, and could take some time. But consider the challenge: You are coaching a club who’s main goal is to find and develop Brazilian youth players, some of the best players in the world. Can you find them, develop them, and more importantly keep them long enough to climb your way up the ladder, into the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A? Can you beat the likes of Palmerias, Santos, Corinthians and Flamengo, and win the Copa Libertadores as well?

Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, The End :-(

Unfortunately, due to an electrics issues on my end, the Santa Clara save has come to an end.

Over the New Years holiday, I spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning up my computer and my external hard drives, trying to get all the files for all the games and programs I have into some semblance of order. Now I have one dedicated to games other than FM, one dedicated to other programs, and I have one dedicated to everything FM, and about a week ago, it died. No idea why, it’s less than a year old, it just stopped working. Took it to my local shop, they said “It’s dead Jim,” but he thought he could recover the data.

The somewhat good news is that he could recover most of the data, the bad news is none of the files he recovered will open for me. The save file I have for the game loads half way and crashes to desktop. All the notes I had typed up for each season that I use to help compile the recap as well as the screenshots I took are gone as well.

And its frustrating, because although I just finished up Season 5 in Santa Clara, I had just finished playing thru season 10, and as a result of the hard drive crashing, I’ve lost 5 seasons worth of saves, notes and screenshots. The one save file I do have left is from the beginning of season 9, so what I thought I would do is just take screenshots of the seasons, the transfers, the schedules, maybe look at where some players ended up and to see how close we came to toppling the Big 3 of Portuguese Football.

The 2027/2028 Season

Firstly, GIMN has released the dark version of his Musterman Skin, and I love and will be using it from this point forward, and the screenshots are from that. You can fins it on the SI Skinning forum or any of the FM fan sites.

Transfer wise, this was the first season when I knew my scouting had paid off:

Barcelona came after Şirahman Kudaş and had no problems paying his release fee. Eintracht Frankfurt making a move for Terceros was unexpected, but we got very good money for him. The bad news was we were still getting just 10% of the transfer revenue, and the pot was never that deep to begin with.

Seasonwise, we did very well:

Our European group was very tough, but beating AEK, Rosenborg, and CSKA Sofia while drawing with Nantes and FC Rapid saw us go thru to the latter stages. Domestically we were beating the teams we were supposed to be beating for the most part, but losses the Belenenses and Casa Pia were bothersome.

In the Spring, beating Brugge and Roma was very nice, but Fulham thrashed us in the round of 16. We made it to the Cup final, where we were thrashed by Benfica, but we ended the season in 5th place again.

Player wise Ibrahim Machorro, my young Mexican International I wanted to be a back up, he started most of the games for us and did very well. But consecutive top 6 finishes in the Premier League and a deep run in European football did two things for us: Put us on the Map, and put us on the Map.

The 2028/2029 Season

The Summer transfer window was quiet. The January transfer window we made a bit of a splash when Paulo Bernardo went to Milan for 18.25M. for someone we picked up on a free thats good business:

Schedule wise, we got off to a very good start. The highlight of the season wasn’t just doing well in the League phase, it was drawing with Benfica right before Christmas.

One of the things I aim for over the course of a season is that I do not want to rely on one or two players for all off our offensive output, and as you can see in the screenshot below, we did a very good job of spreading the wealth around:

I didn’t take St. Pat’s seriously, and it almost cost us, but from Mid September on we hit our stride, not losing any games across all the competitions. Now, maybe out Conference League group wasn’t the strongest, and yeah it took a 95th minute goal to beat Genk, but we beat them, and went into January with high expectations.

Seven games in February, one game every four days, saw us stumble into March. Lyon is definately a better team than we are, and it showed in our Round of 16 matches against them. Coming back to beat Vizela in the Cup was an accomplishment, but we still got drilled by Porto in the final. Against the Big 3 this season, across all competitions we went 0-2 and 5…however going undefeated in April and May in League play meant when Sporting stumbled at the end of the season:

We eked out a 3rd Place Finish, and Champions League football.

The 2029/2030 Season

Our transfer and payroll budgets were growing, but not by much, and we were still only getting 10% of the outgoing revenue. Even before the season ended we had some big teams coming after our standout players, and I triied as best I could to prepare for that in the Summer window. I was partially successful.

I was prepared to lose Gaspar, his performances over the last two seasons had been stellar, he made a name for himself as one of the best young DM’s in the game, and last season across all competitions he 40 appearances, 5 goals, 4 assists, 5POM’s and a 7.57 rating. Teams starting making offers for him before the season ended, but noone met his release clause until Arsenal did. I was also prepared to lose Machorro, last season across all competitions he allowed 52 in 50 games, had 21 shutouts, 2 POM’s and a 7.14 rating. Magnus Jorgenson was a young keeper with very good attributes who wanted out of Silkeborg, and getting him for 9.75M was a good deal. However, none of the teams after Machorro came anywhere close to his release fee, until the January transfer window when West Ham made a huge offer for him, and of to Blighty he went. In his defense though West Ham has become a Top 7 team though…

The season was a mixed bag, and while we played some teams well, we lost to others I don’t think we should have lost too:

Our European Group was tough, Juve, Tottenham, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Hoffenheim, Marseilles, Rennes, Ludogorets…we beat Ludogorets and Rennes, drew with Hoffenheim, and lost to the others. I could take some small comfort in that of the losses, we really only got blown out by Madrid, but we were bottom (or near bottom of the group) and didn’t qualify for the next round.

The New Year started off well, but the wheels fell off in February and March. We made it to the Cup Final again, but again were thrashed by Benfica. This year though, we had some success against the Big 3, going 2-1-5, beating Sporting and Porto in League play.

Somehow, and I am not sure how exactly, we did enough to finish in 3rd Place again:

I did play thru the 2030/2031 season, but do not have a save for it, the last good save I have is the 29/30 season, and I played up to the 32/33 season before screwing myself over when reorganizing things.

On the whole though, this was a very fun save. 29/30 was a tipping point year for us, as I recall we started beating the big 3 more often, but the highest we were finishing was 3rd. Some of the youngsters I brought in panned out really well, others didn’t, but we were making progress and I was quite happy with it, in another 3-4 years time I feel comfortable saying we would have been challenging for the League.

The other takeaway from this save is that I had fun doing it, and I think doing a blog save while I am also doing a Youtube save has been quite the experience, so in another week or so I will be starting up another save here on the blog. The problem is I have so many ideas for teams, I don’t know which one to do, I’ll probably just put them in a hat and let my better half decide.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you all come back for the next story here on my blog!

FM Jellico

Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, Part 6

Our 5th Season at Santa Clara is proving to be what I think is the first big step we needed to take in order to stay at the top of the Portuguese Premier League. Qualifying for European football last season was part of that first step, this seasons transfer window was the other, in my opinion anyways.

First though, I had to fend off the other suitors. Taking a financially struggling down on it’s luck club back to the top flight and into European football in four seasons will undoubtedly raise a lot of eyebrows, and clubs have started enquiring about my services. The offer from Borussia M’gladbach I rejected rights away, as I have no desire to jump from one league where I am fighting the giants to another. A week later Atheletic Bilbao came calling, and although they have the financial support and ability to compete, fighting Barca and Real for the top spots isn’t any easier than where am I at now, especially when you are limited to signing only Basque players, so I turned down both offers and got back to scouting.

The Transfer Window

This window went like most of my transfers window do: According to plan, until the bottom drops out and you are scrambling. The first unexpected out was Joaquin Jara. The M(C)/DM had a solid season with us last year, but Eupen cam calling and he really wanted to leave, so I let him leave. Kılıç Arslan Kuruçelik leaving was unexpected to say the least. One of the two Turkish youngsters I picked up on a free after Trabzonspor let both go, I was expecting him to get a lot of first team playing time. With us, and not AS Roma. But the Serie A Italian club came calling, and out the door he went, because I didn’t have a minimum release fee on him.

What I was not expecting was Gabriel Batista leaving for Brentford with about three hours left in the transfer window. I am not sure why he was so eager to leave, he was a solid player for us, a team leader, but I suppose when a team that has trhe potential to finish in the top 5 of the ECL comes calling, you leave…to be honest it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either, but it just meant I had to play someone a bit earlier than I wanted to.

The January transfer windows went as expected, Augsburg had wanted Dmitirovic in the fall, but could not meet his minimum release clause, and to his credit, Bojan was OK when I said “This is what you agreed to, I am not letting you go for a Euro less.” And so when Augsburg came calling again in January, I had no issues letting him leave. Cymbron was a young striker who didn’t have Premier League potential, and Malmo was willing to pay more for him than anyone else.

I did a ton of offseason scouting, and it paid off in numerous ways. I signed 10 players, spent 10.75M total, and got at least two very good/great superstars out of my efforts:

I realize scouting doesn’t appeal to as lot of players out there, and that’s fine, there are saves where I don’t invest as much into it as I am doing with this save, but when it pays off, it really pays off.

Manu Bueno could never break into the Sevilla B team. He had several very good seasons on their C and B squads, but did not resign with the club, leaving on a free. The former Spanish Youth International had a few offers, but he chose to come here.

I had a plan for Ibrahim Machorro. I saw his name pop up on a Screenflow result. A 19 year old keeper starting for his countries senior squad can mean different things depending on the country. If he was from a smaller nation, you might took a glance and thats it. But when that nation is Mexico, currently ranked 13th in the world, and he’s keeping a healthy Raul Gudinio and Carlos Acevedo on the bench? That warrants a closer look, and when the midtable team he is on isn’t asking for a Kings Ransom in transfer fees, if you have it you pay it. And I did, setting a record for fee’s paid. He’s maybe at best a year or two away from being better than Batista, so I was going to play him in the cup games and maybe a few spot starts. Instead he became the teams first team keeper four weeks into the season. How did he do? Read on to find out. 🙂

Kaine Kessler Hayden is a former Aston Villa youth player who has bounced around League One and the Championship. Is he first team all the time playing ability? No. Is he a solid player of the bench and occasional spot starter? Yes, and his position versatility makes him even better value in my book.

Alessandro Fontarossa comes to us from Fiorentina on loan, a very dependable D(C) that I am looking to get a lot of playing time out of.

Former Vfl Wolfsburg left back Kevin Paredes signed on a free. The American International isn’t the tallest or heaviest, and he’s not a fan of big games, but for the formation we play in, his skillset and Playing Style really suit us. I doubt he will get a lot of goals, but I can see double digit assists in his future.

Stefano Della Riva comes to us from Verona on loan. A very solid M(C)/DM midfielder whose skillset fits our team very well, I would love to pick up his option, but I doubt I will see that sort of money (20.5 Million) anytime soon.

Žiga Laci is a depth purpose signing more than anything else. AEK wanted very little for him in terms of salary and playing time, he agreed to be a fringe player, and I plan on using him as a substitute more often than not, but we be comfortable if he were to start more than a few games at D(C).

I could talk about Gašper Lukač for ages. How I just happened to glance up at a screenflow result from an U19 international comp and saw his pass % completion was head and shoulders above everyone else, how my first look at him showed me a 19 year old player whose minimum number in six attribute categories was 13, how when I fully scouted him I about fell out of my chair, and how when Gorica said they only wanted 1M for him I did fall out of my chair, and kept saving the game every five minutes until he was actually here. I don’t know how long I can keep him, but while he’s here I am expecting great things from the kid. And those of you who have read https://fmjellico.com/2022/12/06/verjemi-mi-brat-to-imam/ will know those expectations have been met.

Nelson Delossa comes to us on loan from Borussia Mönchengladbach, with injuries and scheduling issues, my midfield was getting a bit, and needed some help. Delossa was a very solid pickup, doing as well as I expected him too.

The same issues I was having in my midfield also happened at the AM position, and Đorđe Petrović came in on loan to help provide some cover. A very good youth player, the Serbian had several flashes of potential, but his clause was too much for us to pick him up at the end of the season. He strikes me as one of those players who is going to have a very long and respectful career.

The Season

Preseason started the 1st of July. European Qualification started the 23rd of July, when the squad was still in flux, I was making moves while trying to prepare the squad for the possibility of playing a lot of games at the beginning of the season. My fears were realized when we played 11 (!) games from the 23rd of July to the 30th of August across all competitions. My expectations were exceeded when we won 10 of those games:

Stjarnan, or Ungmennafélagið Stjarnan as it is known in Iceland, was a squad I did not want to take lightly, hell none of the squads we faced in the Qualifying Rounds were teams I wanted to take lightly. FC Twente beat a very good AZ and SC Cambur teams to take a Qualifying Spot, and Vojvodina is one of the better squads in Serbia not named Red Star, and none of those teams should or could be taken lightly. I found a squad balance early, I have more than enough depth at lot of positions that the drop off between starter and substitute was not the great (which can be a bad thing in some cases), and it allowed me to set up a rotation that was pretty effective. Sure, some players had off games, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that after we lost our first game of the season away at Braga, we had a 14 day vacation due to international games, and when we picked up our seasons again, we went on one heck of a winning streak.

My main goal in the League phase was to not lose a game. Draws were nice, wins were preferable, but losing…we were going to do our best to avoid it. And we did a very good job. The change from last season to this season was one of familiarity I think. Players familiarity with each other, with the tactic, with their role within the tactic, and the fact that despite the outs we had, there were still a lot of starters left meant we had a solid foundation in place, it was building something on top of that foundation that was going to be the challenge. The previous season, by the end of December, in just League and Cup games we had drawn 7 games and lost 3. This season those numbers were 3 draws and 3 losses, and only one of the losses was a blowout. And to be honest, the loss against Sporting could have been a draw, because they were a man down for 60 minutes of the game, we just could not capitalize.

We went into the New Year on a high note, in 3rd place, with only Benfica and Porto ahead of us. And we kept the momentum going, beating Leiria to go into the Cup Semi Final, and a sneakily good Hapopl Be-er Sheva team in the League First Knock Out Round.

March was when it started to fall apart. A 3-0 loss to Sporting was no unexpected, and while our 1st Leg victory against Club Brugge in the Round of 16 was nice, Brugge had an off game, 10 of their starters were rated 6.6 or less. We had a chance in the second leg, being a goal down until the 61st minute, when Magnus Bech Riisnæs went off with a second Yellow. Brugge scored in the 71st minute, knocking us out.

By all accounts, it was a great run in the Conference League. It enhanced our reputation quite a bit, enhanced my reputation quite a bit, and showed the footballing world that Santa Clara had some very good players playing in the Azores.

Then the wheels fell off.

We stopped scoring. We stopped defending. We went from 3rd place to 6th place, and it looked like we were going to miss out on European Football again, when we pulled out a 4-2 victory against Maritomo and ended the season in 3rd place.

3rd Place is Europa League Football, and given that Benfica ran away with the league in an “Invincible” season, and Braga was 10 point’s behind them, that it took a last day victory for us to even finish 3rd is galling. Not that we ever had a shot at second place, but still, had we lost, yes we would have been in 6th place and been in the Conference because Benfica won the Cup, but it still feels like we threw something away.

Financially we were doing a lot better. Our competition Prize money was way up due to ue European Run, but for some reason our broadcast revenue was down?

And to give you an idea of what we are facing when it comes to beating Benfica:

So yeah, it could be awhile…

Budget wise, despite our decent season the numbers are still pretty low: 12.12 p/a in salary, and 7.24M in transfer budget. Annoyingly, I still only get 10% of the transfer revenue…I’ve asked to have it increased and have been rebuffed each time.

There’s talks of a takeover, which the current chairman keeps trashing, and while the offseason news seems to be swinging back and forth between ok and bleh, there was this:

Trabzonspor has to be kicking themselves right about now…

There was also these instances of good news:

And while I can’t prove our run to the Round of 16 was responsible for all the points gained, I know we played a role in this:

Squad wise, I am quite happy with most everyone. I mean honestly, if you aren’t mad at at least one player, you aren’t doing your job right in my opinion.

For a young keeper who was supposed to get just some spot starts, Machorro had a very good season. Angel Bazan did what was expected, and I was pleasantly surprised by both Alessandro Fontanarosa and Stefano Dalla Riva, who had very good stints for us. Miguel Terceros was the best all around player, his 16 goals and 10 assists put him on everybody’s radar it seems. The tactic I play requires a very good DM, and Şirahman Kudaş was perfect for it. At the end of the season he was really starting to get noticed, so I was able to resign him to a new contract that had a 20.5M release clause. I wanted to go higher but his agent said no. Blas Armoa also had a very good season, and as you can see from the number of games players had off the bench, I did a decent job of rotating everyone in and out for the most part.

Against the Big Three this season, were we horrible. 0-4 against Benfica, with a – 8 goal differential.; against Sporting we went 1-2, beating them in the League Cup Group Stage once; and against Porto we went 0-2 with a -5 goal difference.

You will notice I didn’t mention the Youth Intake. It was nothing special, although during the year we did convince the board to improve the training and Youth Facilities.

All in all, a very good season, European Football awaits us again, but I fear this offseason is going to be a lot busier than I want it to be, and because of the financial restrictions we have, I am not sure we are going to come out even, let alone ahead of where we are now.

But that’ s a worry for tomorrow, today it’s the beach:

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.

IN THE SHADOW OF GIANTS

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