My first season on Football Manager 2017 has ended so I can now write-up my end of season update. You can see my previous updates linked below:
At the end of my previous update, the January transfer window had just closed and I was sitting in 7th position in the league out 10, I had been conceding too many goals and struggling to score but I had created a new tactic which had started working for me. The league was tight so I had it all to play for and was aiming to get into the play-offs. I had already been knocked out of all the cup competitions so all I had left was league games to play.
February started off badly and I lost my first game 1-0 at home, it was disappointing as I had been doing ok but the worst thing about it was my team didn’t even manage a shot on target and the overall performance was poor. I started doubting my tactics again but decided to give my team the benefit of doubt as it was against the team who were currently top of the league, I kind of expected the defeat but I expected a much better performance.
Sticking with my tactics I won my next 2 games, 1 away and 1 at home but they were followed by 2 defeats sandwiching a draw. The team was playing well in those games so I had no complaints and I was starting to creep up the league table getting closer to the play-off places.
Early March saw me getting my first batch of 16 youth candidates joining the club on trial, 4 of these looked promising when looking at the star rating which ranks them against other players at the club so I offered those contracts, the rest of them I released as they were no better than what I had and they didn’t have the potential to get much better. You can see the youth intake and the players I signed below.
During the second half of March and throughout April I had my best run of the season winning 5 out of 6 games which also included beating some of the teams competing for the play-offs. At this point I had 2 games to play and was on the verge of the play-offs, I was in the 4th play-off spot but could no longer win the league, 2 wins would guarantee the play-offs but any slip up could see me miss out as the teams in 2nd to 4th were only separated by goal difference, mine being the worst and the team in 5th weren’t far behind. I had also been given a new contract with the club and ended the month winning my first manager of the month award for April, things were definitely going well for me.
Going into the penultimate game I was away to the bottom club fancying my chances of winning. The game started off ok but I was struggling to create any chances, thankfully neither was the opposition and they were just shooting from range. Half time and the game was 0-0, it wasn’t the best half but I needed to get the win in the second half. Throughout the second half I was dominating the game but I couldn’t find the goal I needed, looking for a goal I substituted my striker and brought on my back up to get fresh legs onto the pitch but going into the last 5 minutes it hadn’t made a difference, the league table showed me now in 5th due to other scores so I decided to throw on a second striker, set my tactics to overload and pump the ball into the box. The only other striker I had on my bench was a 16 year old which I signed from my youth candidates but I had nothing to lose so I took off a midfielder and put him up top alongside my previous sub.
Going into injury time I was resigned to the 0-0 but then in the 92nd minute, my winger played the ball up to my first substitute striker who in turn passed it to my 16 year old who only went and volleyed in the winner! He’d only been on the pitch for 5 minutes on his debut. That win kept me in 4th place with 1 game remaining.
The last game was a home game, knowing a win would secure 4th I was confident I would get it as I was up against the 8th team in the league who hadn’t won for 3 games. The game didn’t exactly go to plan, my team wasted too many chances and went 1-0 down inside 20 minutes, after that the opposition defended well and despite going more and more attacking throughout the match I couldn’t get the goal I needed and lost 1-0.
Luckily I was not the only team challenging for the play-off who lost, the team in second place lost 3-1 at home to the bottom club, a result I didn’t see coming. The teams in 3rd and 5th won. This ended the league with only 1 point separating 2nd and 5th, whats more remarkable is the team that was 2nd ended up 5th and I ended up 4th, we both had the same points, the same goal difference but I was ahead of them as I had scored 1 more goal than them! You can see the final league table below.
The league position changes for the top 5 is quite interesting too. As you can see below, the team finishing 5th were top for a long time during the season never being below 4th until the last game. 4th was the highest I reached and the team finishing 2nd went from 5th to 2nd on the last game, that’s how close it was.
Now that I was in the play-offs I was happy to have met the boards expectations so the pressure was off, winning the play-offs would be a bonus.
I got a news article saying I would be playing Brechin, when I checked on previous results against them I found that I hadn’t played them before which seemed strange. Looking at their team I noticed that they were in the league above me and they had finished second bottom. Being used to playing in the English leagues I had assumed the play-offs were just the teams in the same league but it appears that the play-offs in Scotland also include a team from the league above. I wasn’t sure if playing the team from the league above would be easier or harder, on paper they should have a better team, however their form and morale would be low as they were struggling whereas my form was good.
The first play-off games were over 2 legs, the first one I was at home. Hoping for a win to take into the away leg, my team went 2-0 down within 31 minutes and at half time I hadn’t even had a shot! My half time team talk consisted me of aggressively questioning the teams pride.
The second half went better, my team started getting some shots and I scored 2 goals in quick succession in the 72nd and 77th minutes and the game ended 2-2. It wasn’t the win I was hoping for but it was a good result seeing as I was 2-0 down and looking dead and buried at half time.
In the second leg away I got off to a good start and scored on 12 minutes, after that my team got battered but defensively they stayed strong. As the game went on, I went more and more defensive and late in the game I just had everyone defending and took off my attacking players and parked the bus. The game ended 1-0 and I was through to the play-off final. It wasnt until I saw the fixtures that I realised the final was also over 2 legs, I thought play-off finals would be a 1 off game.
I was at home again for the first leg, the team I was playing finished 3rd in the league and they had won their first play-off games 5-0 on aggregate so I was expecting a hard game.
I got off to a flyer in the first leg scoring on 11 minutes with my first shot on target, this turned out to be my only shot on target and after conceding an equalizer on 26 minutes I spent the rest of the game defending and I was lucky for it to finish 1-1, I could easily have been hammered and would have had no complaints.
So 1 game remained and it was all to play for, a draw would take it to penalties and either team would get promoted with a win. I started the game well and was surprised to be 2-0 up after only 39 minutes which stayed that way until half time.
Straight after kick off in the second half, I conceded and then at 2-1 my players started struggling and my team was hanging on until they conceded again on 74 minutes to make it 2-2. At this point the opposition were on top of the game and I thought it only a matter of time before they scored again. Somehow I made it to extra time with the game remaining 2-2. During extra time I made 3 substitutions to get some fresh legs onto the pitch and my team started playing better. On 116 minutes my winger got his second goal of the game, at which point I went ultra defensive as much as I could and saw the game out to finish 3-2, winning 4-3 on aggregate I had just won promotion to league 1!
Obviously my fans and my board are pleased with promotion but not as pleased as I am, I didn’t think I would even get into the play-offs, especially as I went 13 games without a win at the start of the season and wasn’t sure if I would still be in charge of Stirling Albion much longer. Looking back on the games I had a lot of lucky results, especially the last day of the season with the 2nd placed team getting beat at home to the bottom club and only making the play-offs having scored 1 more goal than them.
Now all the games are finished, I’ve had a look through my squad and given contract extensions to my best players, I’ve even managed to get most of them to take a pay cut! A few players wouldn’t let me offer them a contract as they don’t think the club matches their ambitions but I’ve got the important players signed up which is all that matters.
Next I need to start looking at improving the squad, I’ve got my eye on a few players but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford them or if they are willing to come to the club.
Overall I’m happy with how the season went, a better start would have been good but the strong finish was all that mattered. I put it down to tactics and my naivety, I think that because of success on previous Football Manager games I thought I could just adapt tactics used in them but I’ve not played a full season at this level of football before and it took a while for me to realise that I needed to create a tactic which suited my players and the league I was in rather than trying to fit my players into tactics more suited to better teams. It’s surprising that even after over 20 years playing these games I’m still learning and adapting to the game, its one of the things I love about the game, no 2 clubs can be managed the same and there’s always things to learn and improve upon.
I’ll leave you with some screen shots below of various end of season stats which may be of some interest, and I’ll give my next update at the start of next season.
– Sparko Marco