Update for FM'11 A Harrowing tale from beyond the Gates of League Football
#1
12-03-2011, 11:28 PM (This post was last modified: 31-03-2011, 11:55 PM by kin_lin.)
Harrogate Town – Blue Square Bet North 2010/11

I excitedly installed FM11, load up a new game with all playable leagues in England and the leagues in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and France as viewable-only. The in-game randomizer sent me to Harrogate Town in Blue Square Bet North.

Reviewing the club information, I noted that the trophy cabinet was bare and the petty cash tin had a couple of coins rattling in it. I met with the coaching staff and the playing squad, I noted that the coaching staff could do with some reinforcements, and while the playing squad seems fairly strong, ‘experienced’ would be polite way to describe them.

The media predicted that we would finish 19th out of 22 teams. I had a chat to the Board and told them that we would try to avoid relegation. I was pleasantly surprised that the Board were willing allow me to hire some more coaches and that I would have a decent wages budget to bring in some young talent to plan for the inevitable and fast-approaching retirement of most of our first team squad.

I recruited a couple of scouts and a coach. I sent the scouts out to scour the English countryside looking for young talent. By the end of the season I had managed to sign 16 new recruit to bolster the team roster and released 7 players on free transfers (either oldies who were past their “best before date” or youngster who simply would not make the grade).

We started the season with a 6 game winning streak, we then lost two games, drew one and lost one, putting us in the top half the table. We then went on a 15 game unbeaten streak. This put us firmly in the play-off positions and well away from the relegation battle that had been forecast at the beginning of the season. From there we consistently won games, only losing a handful of games and drawing a handful of games.

Going into last game of season, we are sitting in 2nd place, 2 points behind AFC Telford. Telford had been swapping the lead with Nuneaton all season, before Nuneaton stumbled in sight of the finish line and were now sitting in 3rd, a point behind us. The last game of the regular league season was against Telford (winner takes all) but the fixture draw meant that the first leg of the play-off semi-final was scheduled to be played 3 days later. We were likely to meet either Boston Utd or Gainborough, both were tough to beat. After a bit of consideration, I decide to play it safe and selected the 2nd XI against Telford, resting my key players for the upcoming play-offs. The 2nd XI mix of back-up players and hot prospects manage to pinch an early goal on the counter-attack against Telford and then held them out for the rest of the match. So we finish the season as Blue Square Bet North Champions and gained promotion. This was a massive over-achievement for a team that was predicted to be involved in the relegation battle at the start of the season.

Harrogate Town – Blue Square Bet Premier 2011/12

After last season’s unexpected championship win and promotion, the media predicted that we would pick up the wooden spoon and drop straight back down to BSN. Looking at the playing roster I was a bit concerned, my first teamers were all a year old and closer to retirement, the youngsters that I had signed last year were developing but were still a couple of years away from really making an impact. Luckily, I still had some wages budget available to sign some more player, if only my scouts could find me the right ones . . . I sold our Irish MC/AMC to AFC Wimbledon for a tidy GBP4,500 (my first transfer income), my AssMan had a good rating for him but he just did not seem to make much impact on the field. After the transfer was announced, the fans gave it very positive feedback.

We started the new season with two losses both games lost 0-2. My target man ST from last year was too slow and not strong enough for the BSP and my first team DCs from last year were also simply too slow for the BSP. Luckily my scouts had managed to come up with some recommendations so I hit the free transfer market, signing a couple of young DCs who I threw straight into the next game line-up. We won the next game against Newport County 4-2. However, we still continued to struggle, going on a run of two losses, a draw and then another three losses (we managed to score three goals and conceded 13 goals in these six games). I chased my tail, constantly tweaking the line-up and tictacs trying to find the winning combination. We managed a 3-0 win over Darlington before then losing another three games, grabbing a draw and another three losses. This left us in the wooden spoon position, I was expecting the Board to ask for my resignation but instead they told me to show a stiff upper lip and to keep chipping away at it.

I did some reflective thinking and decided to get back to basics - trust my gut about my preferred first team and back them, focus on keeping it tight in defence and try to pick-up goals on the counter-attack. I also took the opportunity to sign four more players (two MCs, an ST and another DC) and transfer out four players that were simply not making the grade in BSP. We managed to grab three straight draws, an improvement but still frustrating when we would take the lead and then have to settle for a draw after letting the opposition score on defensive lapses or a freak goal. Slowly we turned things around, even managing a seven game unbeaten run to lift us out of relegation spots. We finished the season with a bit of a whimper losing the last two games. We had finished the season in 17th with 53 points from 15 wins, 8 draws and 23 defeats. We had managed to avoid relegation but there was still much work to do in getting this team to be more than just relegation fodder.

Harrogate Town – Blue Square Bet Premier 2012/13

I spent the holiday period working on team building by recruitment and tictacs development. I wanted to move the team away from been purely focused on being tight in defence and back towards a more balanced approach with the aim of playing possession-based, attacking football like how we had played in the first season. I realized that this would not be achieved in one off-season, if possible at all because but I will need to build the team to be strong enough to challenge the top teams in the BSP.

Once again the media predicted that we would be involved in the relegation battle. I was more confident this year, the majority of the players that I had brought in last year were developing nicely, I would be keeping pretty much the same first XI line up with a couple of tweaks. There were one or two duds or promising youngsters who had been hit by serious injury or just simply not developed the way that my scout and coaching staff thought they would. By the start of the regular league season I had released 18 players on free transfers (most were kids who had come through my youth set-up but were not good enough for the reserves). My Target Man ST who had led my attack in season one was allowed to free transfer to Salisbury City as he had not made the step up to BSP. I managed to find a replacement in the form of a journeyman Irish ST.

We started the league season slowly, with a 0-0 draw against Kettering and then a 0-6 thrashing by our nemesis team AFC Telford. We then went on an unbeaten run of five draws and three wins to move us towards mid-table safety. The rest of the season was a mix of wins, draws and losses, the standard season of a mid-table team I guess. In the FA Cup we managed to beat Bradford PA and Fleetwood to set up a 2nd Round game against League 1 team Walsall who we managed to defeat 2-1 at home. This set up a home clash against Championship side Blackpool in the FA Cup 3rd Round. Blackpool used the game as a training warm-up session, easily dispatched us 1-5. I was happy that we managed to score one goal and kept their goals to single figures. In the FA Trophy, we thrashed minnows Ossett Town 7-0 in the 1st Round before succumbing to Macclesfield 0-2 in the 2nd Round.
By the end of the season I felt comfortable that the team that I had assembled was gelling nicely, the tictacs and formation we had were working well and we were playing good football. We would not always win but we were capable of defeating good teams and fighting for draws when required. We finished the season in 15th with 58 points from 14 wins, 15 draws and 17 losses.

Our beloved Chairman decided to step-down in December 2012. He and the board had invested approximately GBP300k to help the team compete in BSP but we were not quite at break-even. The new Chairman refinanced the debt with a GBP250k bank loan, which we will now pay-off over the next 30 years, and then informed me that there would be no more investment in the club. Luckily, the cup runs had also helped the finances and we finished the season with a tidy profit (but only because of the bank loan money). I was happy that financially we looked much more secure, I was being disciplined and keeping wages under control, and if we could continue to improve our performances on the pitch should be able to break-even or turn a small profit next season.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since Football Manager on Commodore 64!

GNU Terry Pratchett
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#2
13-03-2011, 12:22 AM
A promising start. Can't believe that you would play the 2nd XI in the 'winner takes all' final game, but hey, it worked out!

Good luck taking the next step.
100 years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like; but the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.
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#3
13-03-2011, 01:07 AM
I love that kind of insanity. Nice work winning the promotion on the gamble. Looking forward to the next installment.
Trying to figure out what the hell a West Midlands is.
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#4
13-03-2011, 12:14 PM
Excellent read Kin, some real good progress Thup

kutgw

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#5
13-03-2011, 10:30 PM
Thanks gents for the encouragement and support.

It really did not seem such a crazy idea at the time to play the 2nd XI as I felt we did not really have much of a chance of winning that last game and the title. In my mind I thought that if I played my 1st XI, then we would have probably fought to a draw then been smashed in the play-offs thus missing out on the chance at promotion. Therefore I was doing what I considered the safe option of resting the 1st XI to give us the best chance at a successful play-off campaign but the surprise victory and championship negated all my planning Shrug
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since Football Manager on Commodore 64!

GNU Terry Pratchett
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#6
14-03-2011, 02:37 AM
I actually hate when you pick a back up team and they perform better then the regular bunch. Its too much of a headache working out who to pick next lol You don't want to demoralize the players who won yet you know they arent as good as the other players. Anyway, great work and progress so far. The blue square is a lot tougher then people make it out to be.
"Being a manager is easy...all you have to do is win every game"


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#7
14-03-2011, 07:08 AM
I just never seem to win promotion playoff games. I can win a title outright but I'm screwed if I have to go into a playoff for promotion. That may color my view of the risk you were taking. Tongue
Trying to figure out what the hell a West Midlands is.
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#8
14-03-2011, 07:23 AM (This post was last modified: 14-03-2011, 07:24 AM by kin_lin.)
I have never won promotion through the playoffs but that is because I have never made the playoffs - I have either won the championship or missed out on the playoffs. I am looking forward to my first ever playoff campaign.

To be honest, looking at the playing roster I had at the time, I thought we would be a mid-table team and with some serious recruitment could vie for the playoffs in a few seasons. To make the playoff spots was an overachievement so I really did not think I had any chance of winning the BSN Championship in the first season. I guess season 2 showed just how much we had overachieved in season 1, Telford comfortably finished mid-table in BSP in season 2 (2011/12) whereas we only just managed to drag ourselves out of the relegation battle in the last two months of the BSP league season.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since Football Manager on Commodore 64!

GNU Terry Pratchett
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#9
14-03-2011, 10:41 AM
Good start there Kin. From my time of BSP in FM10 I found it a very tricky division to progress from. Nice promotion in first season and, as others have commented, a ballsy decision to 'rest' the first team in a promotion decider.

KUTGW
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