My Football Manager 2017 second season (2017/2018) has now finished so following on from my last update, I will give a quick write-up on how the rest of the season with my new club went, but before that there was something I forgot to write about in my midseason update with Stirling.
Have you ever heard a manager in real life explain a poor run of form on forgetting to change their tactics back? No? Neither have I but that is what happened to me on the game! I changed to a more defensive tactic for an away game in a cup competition against a top division team. Keeping my formation the same, I changed the mentality and instructions to try to contain the opposition and nick a goal on a counter attack. It didn’t work, and neither did it work in the next 3 games I lost or drew. I’d like to say its the first time I’ve done that but it’s not, it’s happened at some point on most of my saved games throughout the years as it’s an easy mistake to make.
I can just imagine the press conference….
Reporter: So, can you explain your bad run of results?
Me: Well, erm… you see I changed tactics for a one-off game and I, er… kind of forgot to change them back.
Reporter: What do you mean you forgot? Did you just not talk to your players since that game about the next few games? Did you just give them instructions for one game then sit back and watch them play that way for a month? How did you not know for 3 more games?
Me: Oops, er…, erm… well this is awkward!
After that I’d just have to try to save my dignity by doing a David Brent dance, act like it was all part of my plan and walk off.
Now to introduce you to my new club – Livingston.
Livingston when I’ve taken over as manager of them were in the Scottish Championship in 8th place coming to the end of the 2017/2018 season with 9 games left to play and out of all the cup competitions. They were 5 points off the bottom, 2 points off the relegation play-off place, 7 points away from the promotion play-offs and a massive 30 points from the top. The challenge I had was to avoid relegation though there was also a small chance of reaching the promotion play-offs, it was a long shot and I would need to concentrate on just staying up.
The club itself was only founded in 1974 so is very young in terms of football clubs, by comparison Celtic were founded in 1888 and Rangers in 1872. They are a professional club who play at The Tony Macaroni Arena (Who?), having never heard of this Tony Macaroni I done a quick google search and found that is not actually a who but a what. It is a chain of restaurants in Scotland specializing in Italian cuisine who sponsor Livingston’s shirts and stadium. The stadium is an all seater stadium which holds 8,716 people, not a lot but a good size for the size of the club.
The training facilities are adequate but the youth facilities are average and they have good junior coaching and above average youth recruitment. Its looks good for developing youth players.
The history of club shows that they have won 2 cups – the Betfred cup once in 2004 and the Scottish League Challenge Cup as recently as 2015 and they have won 6 leagues – the Scottish league 2 in 1996 and 2010, the Scottish league 1 in 1999, 2011 and last year in 2017 and the Scottish championship in 2001. Their best finish in the Premiership shows as a third place in 2002. This shows that have had some recent success in their short history and that they are new to the Championship this year following promotion which would explain their current league position.
Here are a few screen shots of the clubs details:
After taking charge of the club, the first thing I needed to do was evaluate the squad and the staff. I didn’t have the luxury of being able to sell or buy anyone as the transfer window was shut but I was hoping there may be some good players I could get on loan or free transfer if needed.
First I looked into my staff and found I only had 2 coaches, 1 of those was a fitness coach and neither were particularly good, there was no assistant manager or goalkeeping coach so I would need to look into replacing and improving my coaching staff. I had an average head of youth development, head physio and chief scout who could all also be replaced if I could find anyone better. I also had no under 20 coaches.
Checking my board screen I saw that in the staff section I was advised I could have 1 Director of Football, 1 Head of youth, 1 U20’s Manager, 1 Assistant, a U20’s Assistant, 3 coaches, 2 Physios, 3 U20 coaches and 4 Scouts so I set about looking to see who was available as I find it’s always best to have as many staff as you are allowed to improve training and scouting. I ended up finding new staff for most roles which were vacant and replaced a couple with better staff.
Next up I evaluated my squad of players to see what I had to work with and found a mix of top league 1 and good championship quality players. The squad looked like they were capable of surviving relegation, it was particularly strong in defence which is good to have when fighting for survival but I was lacking in some positions for if I wanted to use the tactics I was using with Stirling, mainly the wide players as I had no natural left or right wingers but I did have a good left-sided inside forward and a decent right attacking winger so I figured I would need to change my tactic for my new squad. I modified my old formation to push my wide players further forward and used an inside forward on the left, I kept the team instructions and the rest of the team positions the same hoping that the wide men being further forward didn’t unbalance the formation too much. After the first couple of games I reverted back to the tactic I used with Stirling as I thought it would be better overall.
I could also see that I will need to make some big improvements in the summer if I wanted to aim for promotion but I’d look into that once the season ends. The only improvements I could make straight away was by using the loan market but I could only get 1 more domestic person on loan due to a limit of 5 and the club already had 4, or sign players who were out of contract.
I first looked on the scouting screen at known players listed for loan who were realistic transfers and started scouting any at the bigger clubs, I then looked at anyone unattached and offered a few trials to players who looked like they might be good. I also found that the club was able to scout across Europe which will make it easier to find new players in the summer.
I also went back to the Stirling squad to scout some of my old players to see if my scouts recommended any, one thing I noticed straight away was that they had released the left winger the same day I left. What made it stranger was that before I applied for my new job I had given him a new contract as he was one of the best players and was also listed as a favoured personnel at the club, the only new player to be added to the list in my time at the club. I offered him a trial at Livingston but when he joined up my coaches reports weren’t very good so although he was good for my Stirling team I didn’t think he could improve my team so decided against signing him.
My first game came away to the 3rd placed team so it was a hard start, I would take a draw as it would be nice not to lose my first game in charge. The team I picked was the players which had been playing most of the season already, I didn’t want to make any drastic changes but I did give a first start to 1 player and 2 others had only started 5 games between them, those were mainly due to other players injuries and suspensions though which meant I had no other options available.
My first game ended in a 0-0 draw which I was pleased with as I was a bit lucky not to get beat. I was outclassed most of the game but I did have more possession and limited most of their shots to long-range, I almost nicked a goal late on too when my substitute striker missed a clear-cut chance but it wasn’t to be. A draw is a good start and I could see my team defended well which was promising. It also came at a price as my only good goalkeeper got injured for 2 weeks which considering my next 2 games were at home to the league leaders and home to the second placed team, both of those teams were 15+ points clear from 3rd place so it makes hard games even harder.
As expected I didn’t get much out of those games, the first was a 1-1 draw which was a decent result and the other I lost 2-1 to a late goal, the result was worse than the performance, the team just couldn’t hold on at the end. Looking at the rest of the fixtures, 4 out of the 6 are teams around me in the league some good results are needed in those if I’m to survive relegation.
Shortly after those games game saw me receiving a new batch of youth candidates joining the club and I had 3 players which looked promising so signed them up and released the rest. Some screen shots of my youth candidates and those I signed are below:
After signing on the 3 youth players I also made my first signing for Livingston and it wasn’t the type of signing I usually make. I usually go for younger players that can improve the team long-term but my scouts found a 34-year-old German who was out of contract, he is a target man who fits into my tactics and they told me his current ability was a leading Championship player. I offered him a trial so that I could find out his full stats and abilities. What I saw looked good, his stats were good for this level, he was professional with good bravery and workrate, just what was needed to help fight for survival. He would also make a good tutor for a young striker so set him up tutoring the young striker which I had just signed up from being a youth candidate.
My new signing got straight down to work scoring the only goal of the game and getting man of the match in a 6 pointer relegation game against the team below me at the bottom of the league, scoring in the 93rd minute. Before the game only 3 points separated us with my team having a worse goal difference so it was a massive win, it was also my first win as Livingston manager and it was a good game to get it in.
The last 5 games were a mix of 2 teams in the play-off places and 3 teams just above me and in reach of overtaking should results go my way. I managed to sign one more player for those games, a 21-year-old Canadian attacking midfielder who Man Utd had released in the summer, I got him on trial first and liked the look of him so signed him on a free transfer and he fitted straight into my team.
Those 6 games went by quickly, the first 3 of them were all draws which I was happy with, the first at home against Kilmarnock whose job I applied for and I scored a late equalizer and the other 2 were away to the teams just above me meaning they didn’t extend their lead over me.
My penultimate game then confirmed my survival with possibly my best result at Livingston due to it also being my worst performance. I was at home against the team in 3rd place and they battered me from start to finish, I didn’t even have a shot of any kind until the last 5 minutes and that was a long-range effort off target. Somehow the game finished with me winning 1-0 thanks to a 39th minute own goal and them missing their chances of which they had 19 of them!
My last game also ended in a win 1-0 away to a mid table team following a much improved performance.
Those results means I ended the season with Livingston with a record of played 9, won 3, drew 5 and only losing once with the club finishing a respectable 7th place. My 2 new signings helped as my striker scored 3 in 6 including 2 winning goals and my midfielder got 2 assists in 5 games.
I also decided to have a look at how Stirling done after I left them. They were doing good while I was in charge and were in 4th place, a lot better than expected with 9 games left to go. Out of those 9 games they only won once, losing 5 and drawing 3 so they didn’t do great but I had managed to put some distance between the relegation places before I left so they were not in danger of going back down and they finished 7th so I don’t feel too bad for leaving them.
Now that the season is over, my next task is to get to work improving my team so that I can push towards the play-offs next season. I’ve had my scouts looking around Europe and have probably at least 100 players currently being scouted so hopefully I will find some good players on the cheap as I currently don’t have much money to spend and don’t expect to get much more. A few good regens would be nice to find.
I’ll try to be back with my next update when I reach the midway point of the next season or the end of the season if not much happens to write about. I’ll leave you with the season review screen shot, which includes my last game as the match of the season which is good.