Football Manager – Taking The Dolly Blues up the Leagues – Season 12

I started managing Lancaster City when they first came into the Conference North and now 11 seasons later our 12th season will be in the Premiership after we gained an unlikely play-off win last year.

The team we have, on paper, is no where good enough for the Premiership but I didn’t think they were good enough for promotion last season so I could be wrong.

We’ve been given £25m to spend on players and I could raise more selling players, I almost sold my left back for £25m near the end of last season but he rejected the move so if someone offers that again I might sell him or others for the right money.

My scouts have identified lots of good players throughout Europe but they could cost too much, if I can bring some of them then that would improve the team.

Priorities for signings need to be to replace or reloan the players we had on loan last year, the keeper done well and improved a lot, the left inside forward played ok but was inconsistent yet got 8 goals and 8 assists which wasn’t too bad, the midfield playmaker got 12 assists and 5 goals which was good so all those 3 need replaced or kept on. The other loan players never played that much so I’m not too bothered about keeping them but I would need to replace them as squad players in case of injuries.

One of the problems I do have is that quite a lot of the team are young with potential so although they might not have the ability for the Premiership I don’t really want to replace them as they do have the potential, I might have to relegate them to back up players but only if I can find a really good player that does have Premiership current ability and doesn’t cost too much.

I could also stick with most of the team that got us promoted and hope they can do enough to stay up and then see which ones could do well in this league and replace the ones that don’t next summer but that would be a gamble as we don’t want to come straight back down.

A few seasons ago the board build us a new stadium named after club icon Mark Thornley despite myself being a club Legend. The stadium was finished a couple of seasons ago and it was expanded last season but I did notice that there would be a problem if we got to the Premiership as even the max expansion size was too small for the Premiership minimum so it’s no surprise that the board have announced that they are again planning to build a new stadium.

This time you’d think they might name it after their one and only club Legend but I’ve been overlooked again as they are also naming this stadium after Mark Thornley and this one will hold only 15,660 which isn’t much above the 12,500 minimum needed.

They are selling the old stadium for £975k while the new one is costing £27m of which £26m is coming from a loan that we’ll need to pay back, hopefully this one will have a better scope for expansion as I don’t want to be stuck in a small stadium for too long.

The new stadium will be ready at the end of this season so for this year we will be playing at Burnleys 22,546 capacity stadium Turf Moor.

The board have also announced they are spending £1.4m to upgrade the club’s training and youth facilities which we need as we only have basic training and below average youth facilities.

Early in the new season we broke our transfer record again by quite a bit as our previous record was £975k last season but I’ve took a gamble spending £3.6m on a 17 year old Norwegian striker who will join at the end of August when he turns 18. It’s a gamble due to his age and he’s not yet Premiership ability but his stats already have him better than my other strikers and he has Championship ability already at 17 so I think it’s worth the risk.

We then had our recruitment meeting, I’ve not bothered with it the last few years as it usually only had players I’ve already looked at but seeing as we have more money and in the best league I’ve given it another try and it’s identified right wing, central midfield and defensive midfield which I’ve also identified needs improvement.

The recruitment meeting was as usual a waste of time as it was either players already scouted or old players on free transfers, I don’t know why I expected anything more.

After agreeing to break the transfer record for the Norwegian striker we broke it again to sign a 20 year old Scottish midfield playmaker from Hearts for £4m to replace the loanee we had last year.

I’ve also reloaned the keeper I’ve had for the last 3 season’s, this will now be his 4th season with us, he may as well be a permanent player. I have been looking for a permanent keeper but so far I’ve struggled to find a good one that will talk to us.

I had also agreed to sign a Romanian central midfielder for a bargain £1.4m but as he is injured for 4 months my board have blocked it. With the quality he currently has I was happy to wait 4 months for him to be fit but my board weren’t. I’ll keep trying to sign him, the board might let him join later in the window when he has less time left on his injury.

We have another problem kind of relating to transfers in that a lot of my players are now demanding new contracts and they want big wage increases, however as I’m trying to sign new players I don’t want to give players a bigger contract if by the end of the transfer window I’ve brought in someone better, I’ll see who’s still in my squad and then I might give some an improved contract.

Despite my scouts finding lots of players most either won’t talk to me or they have went to a bigger club or they got rejected for work permits which means that when the first friendly game comes around the starting 11 is arguably weaker than last season as we have only signed the 1 midfielder while we have lost our loan players so even the whole squad is weaker.

I still have the striker joining at the end of August but before the season starts we need the left winger or inside forward at the very least bit ideally I want another 5 or 6 players to come in but it’s not looking good at the moment.

After a couple of friendly games we managed to get 2 more players, the first is a 19 year old Slovenian right winger who looks a bargain at £800k and the other is a 19 year old Serbian centre back that had been released on a free by their club.

We then got a interesting job offer, I’ve had lots of club job offers which I always turn down as I’m staying with Lancaster but this one is an international job offer to manage Switzerland after Mark Hughes resigned. I’ve had no plans to manage at international level but I usually do at some point in a save, usually with smaller nations and in all my FM years I’ve never managed Switzerland before so I’ve decided to accept their offer and manage them alongside Lancaster.

Switzerland haven’t won anything at international level so the expectations won’t be high but they were runners up in the World Cup 8 years ago in 2026 so it could be possible to win something with them if the AI has come that close. They’re currently ranked 21st in the world while the highest they have been is 3rd. I wondered if their decline is due to a lack of good newgen players coming through but then once I saw the list of hot prospects during the new manager meeting I can see they have several wonderkids which is good.

Our friendly games went ok winning 4 and losing 1 and we continued trying to get players and we continued to get frustrated as we missed out on more players. We did spend £6m on a 20 year old Irish midfielder, £155k on a 20 year old Scottish striker and picked up a 19 year South African back up keeper on a free transfer but we missed out on a lot more.

I thought I was getting a wonderkid goalkeeper for £8.5m until Burnley came in after I had agreed a contract and he went to them instead, a winger rejected us for Juventus, another keeper rejected us for Liverpool and a defender rejected us for Man City, all of whom we had agreed contracts and I was hopeful they would sign before other clubs also put bids in.

When the league games started, our first league game was at home to Sheffield United and our team has been improved from last year a little bit but we are still a couple players short. The season preview has us at 2000/1 for promotion and predicted to finish bottom which looks about right but if the Prem is as easy as other leagues have been then we could be good enough to survive this year.

Sheffield United got promoted with us last season so I was hoping that we could get off to a good start against another team that could struggle but I didn’t expect us to hammer them 4-1 to go top of the table. I know it’s only 1 game and we won’t stay anywhere near the top but it’s at least nice to be there and the performance was very good, especially by some of our new signings.

My second game in the Premiership is a milestone game for me as it will be my 600th game in management and we play Burnley away, although it’s also technically at home as we are sharing their stadium.

Burnley lost their opening game but they are predicted to finish 12th and last year finished 10th so they could be a decent team, this game might show whether we can compete with the teams that are expected to be in the bottom half.

I think my last milestone game, my 500th, was a defeat and my 600th is also a defeat. We took the lead but then my defence went AWOL and let Burnley constantly run through them, they were even kind enough to back away from the runners rather than try and tackle them and we lost 3-1, it could have been worse but my keeper got man of the match after making 10 saves.

If that last game is anything to go by we could be in for a tough season, hopefully we have more games like the first game than the second.

After that game we brought in another player on loan as we reloaned the midfield playmaker we’ve had the last 2 year’s. I tried loaning other player but none would come so as I was still allowed 1 more loan player I decided to bring him back as a squad player.

Our next game was then at home to Liverpool and after the last game I didn’t fancy our chances but we went 2-0 up in the first half. The second half they pulled one back and then we got lucky as they missed some good chances to score but we got our second win in 3 games. Unfortunately we also lost our only real left winger to injury for 3 weeks, it’s one area I’ve struggled to to sign someone in and the one we are playing while he can play there he was used last year mostly as a right inside forward.

Our back ups on the left wing are primarily left full backs that can also play on the wing so I would like at least one left winger before the transfer window shuts.

After beating Liverpool my reserves got us knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Newcastle and then our best 11 got beat away to Chelsea in the league but that was a good result as it was only 1-0 and Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe on this save.

Then we had the transfer deadline day and we ended it without getting the left winger we needed and I also wanted a better defensive midfielder which would also didn’t get. We did bring in another striker though giving us 4 good strikers, this one is a 19 year old Swedish striker that only cost £2.5m and was wanted by Juventus, Bayern and Dortmund but we managed to agree to buy him before those big clubs could put a bid in.

We have an international break now, at least for the club but not for me as I’ve got my first international management games with Switzerland and it starts against England in the European League Div. A where we are grouped with England, Romania and Sweden.

But before the games, at club level my board have announced another potential takeover not long after the last one failed. This time instead of it being a local investor we have a tug of was between two consortiums, one of which apparently wants to replace the manager even though I’m a club legend who has taken the club up through the leagues.

We had two international games and they both ended 2-1 but we only won one of them as England beat us while we beat Romania. England were much better than we are, we haven’t got a bad side but England have several elite newgens in the team now and they could easily have put 5 or 6 past us but then the opposite happened against Romania as we were much better and could have put 5 or 6 past them.

Back to domestic football and we have Arsenal next followed by Man Utd which after just playing Chelsea and Liverpool I’m now realising how difficult this league could be.

The Arsenal game went well as although they were much better and we were down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes they missed a penalty and our goal keeper got man of the match as we fluked ourselves a 2-2 draw away from home. We weren’t however as lucky at home to Man Utd as after the goalless first half a 30 year old Mason Greenwood who has been rubbish for scoring goals (6 all last season in 36 games and that was one of his better seasons), scored a second half hattrick.

After a run of big teams we had a couple of teams we might be able to do better against and we got a 2-1 win at home to WBA followed by a 0-0 draw away to Bournemouth who won the Championship last year which considering they beat us home and away last year getting a draw shows we have improved, we could have won too if we didn’t have 2 goals disallowed.

Afterwards the takeover of the club was completed after 1 of the potential consortiums pulled out it didn’t take long for it to be finalised with the other. The new owners weren’t the ones that wanted to replace the manager so I’m safe and they have pumped £7m into the club’s coffers and a new transfer budget recalculated.

When I see the transfer budget has been recalculated after more money is injected into the club I was excited to see how much more I’d have to spend, previously I had £9m left over from the summer so even a few more would be nice so I was surprised to see that my new budget is £7m! That’s right they have pumped money into the club and reduced my transfer budget.

They have also put in bids for 2 shit players, one is a 24 year old box to box midfielder that I don’t need that will cost £21.5m+ which would be £15m more than the current transfer record and the other is another midfielder, this one a 21 year old deep-laying playmaker that will cost £23m+.

That’s nearly £50m plus add-ons for two players I don’t need, don’t want and cost way more than they are worth. If they gave me that money into my transfer budget I could bring in 6 or 7 players much better and in positions that I need.

Fortunately it has let me cancel the transfers so I’m not saddled with players I don’t want.

The board do want to talk to me about the transfer budget which they want to know my opinion on whether it should be increased, considering it’s just gone down of course I want it increased and they have increased it to £22.4m which is much better, it would have been even better to get the £50m they were planning on spending on those 2 players but I’ll take £22m.

I was hoping they would change the club vision as my old board were devastated that we weren’t playing direct and disappointed we weren’t playing counter-attacking, maybe that will come later on.

I have however also convinced them to improve our youth recruitment which has gone up to Excellent which along with our exceptional academy coaching we’ll hopefully get better youth players, we just need to improve our youth facilities now as ours are only below average, they are in the process of being upgraded but they will only go to average I think and our youth level is only 4 which needs improved, I’m sure that was agreed to go to level 3 a few seasons ago so not sure why it’s not improved.

We had another international break and at Switzerland we had another 2 games in the European League where we beat Sweden 3-0 but then our defense was awful against Romania and we got a 3-3 draw but their goals were schoolboy defending.

Then back to the league and it’s started to look like how I thought it might go as we had a poor 2-0 loss at home to Leeds where we didn’t even look competitive and then after that we had bottom club Brighton away who haven’t won a game in the 9 they’ve played and as this is FM and as has happened numerous times to probably every person who plays the game, and not for the first time against me on this save, the bottom club got their first win of the season against us.

It wasn’t that they won that bothered me, it was that they weren’t even that good. They scored early on from a hoof by their defender, it looked ok as my fullback was in front of their player and in control but then he stopped and their player ran through on goal and scored. It might just be a visual bug but it had me checking their stats to see who was faster or if my player was outmuscled but their player was a slow 33 year old with 5 strength against my pacy and strong young full back so I’ve no idea why it showed my defender just stopping.

Then they defended the game and we couldn’t create anything before my midfielder got a straight red card for what looked a perfect tackle, again it could be a visual bug and just looked a good tackle but after that it was game over as I couldn’t break them down with 11 men and they eventually scored in stoppage time after we had a throw in near their area and my player threw it to their player who hoofed it to their unmarked striker through on goal.

Oftentimes it’s not the defeat that annoys me as I’ve lost plenty of games but it’s how it happens and like in this game the goals seem to come from either match engine bugs or visual bugs make it appear like it’s a ME bug.

Anyhow back to the games and we have Watford at home, they are 1 place above us in the league on the same points so our 1-0 win was a good win to get over them. I thought we scored another goal late on but it was ruled out by VAR.

I’d like to just have another mini rant here too about how VAR is used in the Premiership in this game, I don’t mind the goals disallowed for offside but climbing up the leagues without VAR I knew straight away it was disallowed as it showed it on the commentary but in the Premiership it doesn’t, it looks like a perfect goal and no clear mentioned of it being disallowed and then it goes to VAR which always confirms the goal is disallowed. All that takes up unessecary time and the delay between the goal and VAR always makes me think it’s a good goal as I don’t get the instant disallowed text and it’s starting to piss me off a bit as it happens in what seems like every other game we play. I’ll just have to get used to it.

We should then have had back to back wins for the first time this season as in the next game we went 2 up at home to Norwich who never looked like scoring before they pulled one back in the 83rd minute and then equalised in the 95th minute.

That game was the first game in November and we have now played 12 games so are more or less a third of the way through the season and we’re not doing too bad as we’ve won 4, drew 3 and lost 5 putting us in 12th place. We are only 5 ahead of the bottom 3 and 6 ahead of bottom and 6 behind 6th so it’s very tight at the moment.

Our problems so far are a lack of goals as we’ve only got 14 while defensively we haven’t been awful conceding 18.

We now go into yet another international break, I didn’t realise there was so many of them and we have 2 more games with Switzerland playing England and Sweden.

Our game against England was a humiliating defeat as they stuffed us 6-1. I think all their goal highlights started with our keeper who kicked it long (tactic has distribute to defenders), they they headed it to a team mate who hoofed it to their striker who would just run through my defense and score. Their striker is a newgen beast playing for PSG and has 41 goals in 44 games for England and just got 5 of their 6 against us.

We bounced back from that defeat by beating Sweden 2-1 and finished the group in second. The group doesn’t really matter as the league is just glorified friendlies as it not qualifying for a cup so isn’t that important but overall, other than England being miles better than us the rest of the performances were good so I’m confident that when cup qualifying games come around we have a team good enough to qualify for the big tournaments.

We’ve got no international games now until next year and the world cup qualifying is in December so I’ve now got a period of time with just league games.

I was hoping our form might improve after the international break but it didn’t as we ended November with a 3-0 away loss to Everton and a 1-0 home loss to 18th Fulham which took them a point behind us.

December then started with a 1-0 defeat away to Man City which wasn’t bad as it was an even game where they scored late but we did then get a point away to 19th Wolves followed by another marginal defeat losing 1-0 at home to Tottenham. We’ve also now fallen into the relegation places for the first time this season but only by a point for now so we need to turn our form around.

We then got the early assessment of the youth intake and it says we have an excellent group of players which includes a healthy number of full backs, that we won’t be short of potential centre backs, at least one of our keepers looks a good prospect and one of our right wingers looks a handy prospect. I’ll be happy with a promising keeper, centre back and winger if it’s accurate.

The World Cup qualifying tables were then drawn and we’ve not got a bad group as the hardest team we have is Portugal but the rest are Armenia, Belarus and Greece which we should be able to beat.

We now go into the Xmas period where we have a must not lose game at home to West Ham who are just above us and an away game to top 4 Leicester.

We haven’t been playing that bad but we can’t get the results our performances warrant and we keep conceding the same types of goals where we give the ball away and then a long ball over the top puts them through on goal.

I’m thinking I may need to try tweaking my tactics a bit so I’ve tried dropping the defensive line to lower and removed use offside trap to hopefully stop too many goals conceded from long balls. Also as I’ve dropped the defensive line I’ve also dropped the line of engagement to standard so that the team isn’t too stretched. I’ve also removed instructions to distribute to defenders as they have often given the ball away so I’ve instructed to distribute to the flanks.

Hopefully those changes will cut out some of the types of goals we have been conceding.

The 2 games over Xmas after the tactical tweaks went well as we first beat West Ham 2-1 and their goal was a well worked goal passing through our team rather than from a long ball which was good while our second game was a good 0-0 draw against Leicester where we limited most of their shots to long range which was good.

Those results mean we end the calendar year outside the relegation places by 2 points putting us in 16th. It’s going to be tight after the New Year too so I’m hoping to improve the squad with the £25m we have and I might also try and sell some players that aren’t making the team or not performing.

I’ve already agreed to sign the 18 year old Romanian midfielder that we couldn’t get in the summer due to injury, he was wanted by Leeds and Juventus but neither put a bid in so we are getting him for cheap at £1.3m and we’ve got a 18 year Brazilian defensive midfielder coming when his contract ends, albeit he is far from ready for the first team but has potential.

I would also like a right back as ours aren’t playing well, a defensive midfielder, also despite buying 2 strikers in the summer, neither have been playing well, we are still lacking a left winger and I would like a better centre back too.

Not long after the transfer window opened I added a 18 year old Brazilian defender to the team after he was released by their club at the end of December, my scouts have been able to scout all over the world now so we have been scouting in South America and he was one that’s been getting scouted for a while.

And then we also brought in a 18 year old Argentinan midfielder for £3.1m thats better than our other midfielders, it means I can now try to sell a couple of back up midfielders that were also backs ups last year so are no longer needed.

I’ve also noticed that the Romanian midfielder we’ve just got is also better as a defensive midfielder than anyone else we have and has very good stats for that position so it could be that if I train him there he could be the answer to the lack of defensive midfield quality.

Looking on my scouted players list at who might have been released at the end if December I found the perfect player to solve my left wing problem as a 20 year old inside forward I’ve been scouting since last season has been released. I agreed a contract more than double any other player has and offered him loads of bonuses and add-ons, basically what ever he wanted as his stats are amazing.

Everyday after I just hoped he would sign and no one else would offer him a contract but then Brighton offered a contract which I might be able to compete with but a few days later Arsenal, Spurs and Celtic all offered contracts too and there’s no way I can compete with those clubs and he ended up going to Spurs on a contract worse that we offered him.

Our first game of the New Year was away to Portsmouth in the FA Cup and 3 of our new players started with our Romanian midfielder scoring twice as we won 2-1. Our first league game was then away to Sheffield United who after going down to 10 men in the 24th minute just defended and we eventually broke them down in the 89th minute but after they had done nothing all game, their keeper kicked it over everyone straight to their unmarked striker who equalised in the 92nd minute and it ended 1-1.

Another player then joined us and you can tell my scouts are now scouting worldwide as we brought in another young Brazilian, this one a 18 year old that cost £800k rising to £1.3m.

The rest of January would now consist of games against some the best teams in the league and it started with a 1-0 loss away to Liverpool in which we were doing well until our winger got a straight red then 5 minutes later they got and scored a penalty. We followed that up with a decent 0-0 at home to Chelsea before another 1-0 loss at home to Arsenal where it took another penalty for a big team to beat us.

We did get another win this month beating Preston at home in the FA Cup fourth round and then ended the month with a defeat away to Man Utd where they didn’t need help from the ref as they stuffed us 4-1.

We’ve ended January without a league win all month only picking up 2 points but for now we are still outside the relegation places as after 24 games we have won 5, drew 7 and lost 12 putting us in 17th 2 points above 18th and 19th while bottom are 9 points behind us. The team in 19th do have a game in hand over us so if they win that we would fall into the bottom 3.

The end of the transfer window ended a busy month for ins and outs as we brought in 3 more players, 2 came in on loan, a central defender from Bayern Munich and a right back from Juventus while we also signed a 19 year old Peruvian goal keeper for £400k who will be back up for now but has the potential to be first choice next season.

Those last few signings brought our total players coming in this month to 8 spending £5.6m and a season total of 18 players costing £22.5m.

Due to the number of foreign players we’ve got, I decided to sell some no longer needed foreigners as well as some fringe players and in total for the month I’ve sold 7 players and loaned out 4 bringing in £24m and a season total of £26.5m so we’ve actually gained money.

Some of the players sold included the Serbian centre back we got for free in the summer, he wasn’t happy as he wasn’t playing so I sold him for £8.5m. I sold an Argentinian centre back we got last season for free for £7.5m as he was no longer first choice and I sold last year’s right winger that cost us £975k for £5m as he was now back up but also hasn’t performed well and was injured a lot. We then sold other fringe no longer good enough players for fees between £100k and £1.8m.

The team is now stronger and we’ve still got a decent transfer fund left for the summer although our team cohesion is now down to average which might take a while to get back up.

Our first game in February started the month off well as we beat Burnley 2-1 with a 94th minute winner which has put us 5 points clear of relegation but that’s where the good games ended as we then lost 6-3 away to West Brom as my keeper conceded 5 in 5 shots and an xG of 1.13, I actually took him off, the first time I’ve ever took a keeper off for playing poorly.

We then got a lucky 1-1 home draw against the bottom club before a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Leeds to end a poor month and continue our rubbish form. With 10 games to play we are 2 points outside relegation and very much looking like we could go down if we don’t start winning more games.

Several games ago I tweaked my tactic to have a deeper defensive line and line of engagement as we were conceding too many goals from long passes but while we have stopped conceding those types of goals as much, they do still happen even with our defense being deep players seem to run through from hoofs over the top. The biggest problem we have since the change is that we don’t seem to be creating as much as we were so I’ve changed back to how we were playing early in the season when we were getting some better results.

The first game after the change my reserve players beat Championship side Birmingham in the FA Cup fourth round on pens after a 0-0 draw but we then lost 2-0 at home in the league to mid table Brighton.

The defeat wasn’t a bad defeat as the game was fairly even but defensively they just walked through our defense like they weren’t there. Our defenders just don’t tackle anymore and when they did we had a man sent off for a 2 footed tackle.

We were then on the end of another hammering as Watford beat us 5-1 but somehow we are still outside relegation on goal difference now.

I think this is my worst ever season in a football manager save as I can’t remember managing a team that can’t defend and can’t score but that’s what’s happening at the moment as we are shite at both ends of the pitch.

In 30 games we have scored 27 goals with is pathetic while we’ve conceded 53 which isn’t the worst in the league but most of those have come since the new year which could mean I’ve made too many changes to the squad even if I have brought in better players.

We’ve now got our youth players through and I was expecting someone good this year based on the initial assessment and that we’ve had youth facilities, recruitment and coaching all improved this year and I wasn’t disappointed.

The initial assessment made me think we could get a good keeper, right winger or centre back along with having a good group of players and what we got were a 5 star potential left back, a 5 star potential right winger, a 4 star potential goal keeper and several 3 star potential players.

It’s definitely the best group of players I’ve had on FM21 and possibly the first time I’ve had two 5 star potential players in one intake on any version of FM.

We have 1 game left to play in March and it’s the FA Cup quarter final where we have another Championship club as we play Derby at home. We’ve done well in the FA Cup getting this far but we’ve been luck to only have teams in lower leagues than us.

The quarter final went well as I played my best 11 due to having an international break so I didn’t need to rest then for the league and we went and won easily 3-0 to take us into the semi finals.

We had an international break again and with Switzerland we kicked off our World Cup qualifying campaign with Portugal where after having a man sent off in the 30th minute we went on to lose 1-0. We did have a better second game though as we kept 11 men on the field and beat Belarus 3-1.

Back to the league and the international break done nothing to help our team and our poor form continued as we lost 3-0 away to Everton. It was 0-0 at half time and an even game but they got an early second half penalty and after that our defence gave up and let them score 2 more.

The next game was another poor game but we were better defensively only losing 1-0 to Norwich.

Trying to turn the form around I had a play with my tactics to see if I could do anything to make us play better. I changed my left winger to another striker and then pushed my defensive midfielder up into a midfield 3 then balanced out the roles to have an attacking wing back on the left where there’s no winger, the left of the 3 midfielders is on a defend duty to help cover the wing back and the left striker is a deep-laying forward to drop into the space on that side.

I’ve done those changes as we lack quality on the left wing and defensive midfield so was hoping having players in their better positions might help them play better.

I then changed individual tactics to take fewer risks and short passing hoping to pass around teams more with the idea of if we have the ball, they can’t score.

The tactic is an asymmetric look with 4 at the back, 3 central midfielders, an attacking right winger and the 2 up front with 1 central and 1 to the left of it.

It looked like it was working in the next game as we went 2-0 up away to Fulham with our only 2 shots of the game but we were giving them too many chances and they got 2 late goals and we drew 2-2, it wasn’t a bad result and was our first point following 5 losses.

Sticking with the tactic for the next game at home to Man City we again didn’t do too bad as after they scored an early goal we equalised in the second half but as seems to happen against the big teams this year they got a late penalty to win the game.

We’ve now conceded 11 pens this season in 34 games, more or less 1 every 3 games which is the worst in the league. I don’t even have hard tackling on as I tell them to stay on their feet but every tackle in the box seems to result in a free kick and the commentary saying it’s harsh or didn’t look like a foul while the 3D pitch shows the defender winning the ball.

While we haven’t done too badly in the last 2 games using the new tactic we have given up too many shots while not creating much so for the next game which is the FA Cup semi final I’ve gone back to the old possession tactic that we have been using but changing the positions, roles and duties to match what we used in the last 2 games.

We’ve got drawn against another lower league team as we play Championship side Blackburn, we’ve definitely had an easy run so far.

The game went ok and we got a good 1-0 win to take us into the final where we’ll play our first big team as Tottenham beat Man City in the other semi final. Despite the win it wasn’t a great performance as we didn’t have a shot until the last half hour but I’m hoping that’s due to them defending rather than us being poor in attack.

We’ve now got 4 League games to play and recent results have put us back into the relegation places but only on goal difference. The bottom team are Bournemouth who are almost relegated, it’s then West Ham on 25 points, us on 27 points, Wolves on 27 points then Fulham have 33 so it’s looking like 2 out of us, Wolves and West Ham and we have to play Wolves at home and West Ham away so it could come down to those games to decide if we stay up or not.

Our next game was Tottenham away and we went into a 2-0 lead in the first half as we were much the better team. They pulled one back in the 71st minute but we scored again 2 minutes later but as this is FM and nothing is going our way my defender scored a stupid own goal and one of my midfielders got a straight red and then they equalised in stoppage time.

A draw would have been ok as they were 5th so I expected a loss but Wolves won their game so went 2 points ahead of us, thankfully West Ham also drew so stay behind us.

Our next game is the big one against Wolves, we’re the home team and anything less than a win won’t be enough as a win would take us above them and puts survival back into our own hands.

It seems our players waited for a must win game to turn up as we destroyed Wolves 4-1, not only was it the first time we’ve scored 4 goals and more than 2 since the opening game of the season but we also had the most shots (25) we’ve had in any game this year.

West Ham also lost their game so it’s put us 1 ahead of Wolves and 5 ahead of West Ham with 2 games to play.

Our next game is however at home to 9th placed Leicester which is going to be a tough game, if we play like we did at home to Wolves we could win but I just need to match the result of Wolves in the next 2 games and we might be safe.

Wolves played their game a day before we played ours and were away to Fulham which they lost so it eases the pressure on us but it also means a win would secure survival.

I played the same starting 11 as I did against Wolves as I didn’t want to change anything after the excellent performance and we had another good performance but not the result we wanted as we could only draw 1-1. We should have won as first VAR disallowed us a goal and then it overruled the ref to disallow a penalty before we finally took the lead, however they scored just before half time with their only chance of the half. We then battered them in the second half but could get another goal.

The draw did confirm West Ham have been relegated so it’s down to us or Wolves. We are away to West Ham who now have nothing to play for while Wolves are at home to 10th placed Everton who also have nothing to play for. A draw might be good enough for us unless Wolves win by 3 as we are 2 points ahead and have a +2 better goal difference, if they win by 2 and we draw they would go ahead on goals scored as they currently have 1 less.

We just need to win to make sure of staying up but a loss or draw depends on their result.

In the days leading up to the West Ham game it feels like FM is wanting me to lose as we lost our best striker to injury for 3 months so he also misses the cup final and then lost a defender to injury too, though I can replace him but the striker will be a big miss as he has scored in our last 3 games.

We played well again against West Ham and although they took the lead we equalised almost straight away, they then had a man sent off and we scored again but they then equalised. At 2-2, Wolves were 1-1 but they took a 93rd minute lead which was ok but then West Ham scored which would have put Wolves ahead of us but luckily it was offside and then Everton equalised in their 94th minute so both games ended 2-2 and we survived, just.

Overall we done all we could and just managed to survive as after 38 games we won 7, drew 12 and lost 19. Our biggest problem was scoring goals as we only got 40 which was the 3rd worst while we conceded 68 which was the 7th worst.

We did do better late on when I changed the formation to what looks unbalanced, to me it looks wrong as I like symmetrical looking tactics but it worked as we only lost 1 of the 7 games we used it though we did draw 4 of them but we ended the season with our best form all year.

7 wins is a new club low as is the 40 goals scored and the number of points total although we’ve also played the least amount of games in any season. We also got a message saying our 33 points is a new record low for a club avoiding relegation but that must be bugged as clubs in previous seasons have survived with 32 including last season.

We now have the FA Cup final to play and I don’t think we will be good enough to beat Tottenham but if we do it’ll be the club’s first FA Cup, if not we’ve had a good run to get there.

The final was a fairly even game, at least for the most part as we were the better team in the first half but they scored from a midfielder who hadn’t scored all season getting his first from about 25 yards out and the game stayed quite even with us looking better up until my captain got himself sent off after 67 minutes and then we couldn’t compete with a man less and they scored again late on as we pushed for a goal and we lost 2-0.

I’m still happy with how we played until we went down to 10, if we kept 11 on the field I think we would have got back into it.

That ends a good season that could have been better, we only just survived relegation and lost in a cup final but both of those were over achievements so I can’t complain.

Next year I’ll be wanting more.

Away from domestic football we had back to back World Cup qualifying games against Armemia and won them both, 3-1 away then 3-0 at home.

I’ll be back with an update after next season.

– Sparko Marco

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