Tag Archives: Conference North

Part I: Chorley you can’t be serious?

I am – and stop calling me Chorley.

How utterly predictable. After making great inroads to my FM16 save with Grimsby Town I gave up because of, er, things. Life got in the way.

Now, I fall into a particularly narrow bracket of the UK’s population in the sense that my wife actually buys me the latest FM games. I know, it’s crazy. Amazing! But totally crazy. And she’s fully aware that this book exists (I bought that myself and read it a couple of years ago).

So I now own FM17.

The last time I touched FM 16 was at the end of December 2015. The fact that I didn’t actually play the version of the game in the year that was emblazoned on its cover wasn’t lost on me.

The thing is, real football got really interesting – and it gave me one of the best days of my life. Plus, I decided to quit my job to become a freelance copywriter, so that took up a lot of my time and energy.

As usual, I was overwhelmed not just by the amount of information that’s crammed into this game, but which club I should choose to manage. I also toggled between the full FM version and ‘FM Touch’, which I’ve been a fan of since it made its debut in FM13.

Grimsby, Tromso, Weston-super-Mare, Leeds and Bath… whichever team I picked, I couldn’t seem to get through pre-season without getting distracted by the thought of choosing someone else to manage.

In the end I wanted the decision – or indecision – to be taken out of my hands. Finally, after a week, I think I’ve settled on a save that has the potential to last more than a few weeks…

Chorley FM(17), coming in your ears

I chose to fire up FM Touch and begin the game unemployed with a Sunday League reputation. It was November before anyone touched me, and it was Chorley of the Conference North.

They were originally in the bottom three when they sacked their manager, Matt Jansen. But they showed some improvement in the weeks when I was negotiating my contract (a magnificent £325 p/w) and I actually took over them once they had dragged themselves a couple of places (and points) clear.

I inherited a largely unhappy squad due to star striker Marcus Carver sulking because he couldn’t get a move to a bigger club. I also changed captains and vice captains, sacked my useless assistant manager and discovered I had a frankly eye-watering weekly wage budget of just £5,000.

The board hopes we can escape relegation, and after a 3-2 win at much-fancied Halifax in my first game in charge – a win that moved us up to 14th in the table – I hope so too.

Carver played – and scored – but it was midfielder Adam Blakeman who stood out. Here’s the squad I’ve inherited (click to enlarge):

Screenshot of the Chorley squadAnd these are Chorley’s results in the run-up to sacking Jansen and appointing Lord:

Screenshot of Chorley fixtures

Here’s what the league table currently looks like:

Screenshot of Chorley 14th in the Conference North

With it being FM Touch I’m hoping I can get through a nice chunk of the season in relatively quick time, so I’ll be posting an update of my progress once I have a clearer idea of how the season is panning out.

Until then, sit tight.

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Same shit, different save

On FM12 I enjoyed a successful couple of seasons as Guiseley manager, guiding them into the Conference and keeping them there. That’s about as far as I got, before FM13 came out. So a few weeks ago I decided to start up a Guiseley save on FM14 in a some kind of shallow effort to prove to myself that I won’t be buying FM15 when it comes out on Friday 7th November (but we all know I’ll be buying it, because I’m thoroughly predictable).

In short, my Guiseley campaign for 2013/14 was largely enjoyable – but it was top and tailed with some disastrous form. Four defeats from my first six league games was enough for the board to threaten me with the sack before August was out, and then, despite tremendous performances from that point on, I ended the season under the same pressure after finishing 4th and losing my play-off first leg 4-0 at home to local rivals Harrogate Town.

It’s worth pointing out that in the second leg I was 1-0 up and scored a second just before half time – but it was disallowed. We went on to lose 3-2, but had it been allowed to stand, maybe I wouldn’t have had to justify the 7-2 aggregate defeat to the board by blaming my players (and then having to grovel to keep my job, because they didn’t like that answer).

My only save of note on FM13 was with Solihull Moors, and I believe that’s well documented on this blog. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure I made the play-offs for three successive seasons and, if I’m not mistaken, I lost them all.

Conference North league table

From the very start the board and fans expected promotion. My wage budget was relatively healthy for the Conference North and I had a transfer kitty of £6k (and anything that’s more than £0k is classed as a massive bonus at that level). I used pre-season to design and perfect my 4-4-2 while making some sensible recruitments on free transfers, but our performances varied wildly – beating Hull’s under-21s 3-0 and then losing 7-1 at home to Leeds.

The four defeats in six games to start the league season was what ultimately forced me to change from my favoured 4-4-2. It appeared the players I’d inherited were more suited to a 4-2-3-1 formation, and it worked a treat. I then lost just one of my next 13 games (winning 10 of them) and progressing to the FA Trophy 2nd round.

Guiseley fixtures

There then came a wobble in December when I played Harrogate four times. First up was a 2-2 home draw in the said FA Trophy 2nd round before a 3-2 defeat after extra time in the replay. A 1-1 draw at Wetherby Road in the league was followed by a 3-1 victory in the return fixture on New Year’s Day.

And then we found some rhythm again. For the rest of the season we would win a couple, draw a couple and then lose one, and repeat. There were some big victories in there too, including a 6-1 win over Vauxhall Motors and 4-1 wins over Stockport, Telford and, um , Vauxhall again. A 2-0 win at relegated Workington on the penultimate weekend of the season secured our play-off spot (eventual champions Histon were never in sight and won the league comfortably).

Guiseley fixtures

We then lost our final match of the season 1-0 at home to Gloucester, before the nightmare of the play-offs took place. A striker by the name of Jamie Reed absolutely destroyed us at Nethermoor, scoring all four goals in Harrogate’s win. The way the game was played didn’t really justify the end result, but our defence had become more vulnerable from February onwards. Luckily our front four were exceptional and simply scored more than our defence was letting in.

Top scorer for the season was Gavin Rothery with 19 from his position either behind the striker or from the inside right. Ex-Barrow midfielder Adam Dawson was exceptional – and interchangeable with Rothery – scoring 15 and assisting 16. Loan signing Dayle Southwell from Grimsby scored 6 and assisted 5 during his 17-game stint with us from the left.

Guiseley squad statistics

As for the strikers themselves, Adam Boyes (on a season-long loan from Gateshead) scored 16, while out-and-out target man Craig Hobson got 8 from 27 starts. Oli Johnson, when he wasn’t injured, scored 4 in 15. He started the season well when all others around him were piss-poor, but his injury proneness was utterly ridiculous. He had six separate injuries before we’d even reached Christmas.

Goalkeeper Steven Drench was an ever-present between the sticks, while the back four of Danny Hall, Danny Ellis, Paul Morgan and Rhys Maynell were, in the main, decent – but they became particularly porous when they should’ve been stronger through playing together on a consistent basis. But then maybe that was due to the cavalier nature of the 4-2-3-1 and I shouldn’t be so harsh on them.

Guiseley transfers

I’m now in the process of tying the likes of Rothery and Dawson to another year’s contract while releasing the average performers (and most if not all of the youth teamers, who have got zero chance of breaking into a team pushing for promotion any time soon).

I’m not too sure of my assistant manager Stuart Gray either. He’s said some bizarre things in the media on my behalf and ruined a couple of players’ confidence ahead of big games. I’d do the interviews myself but I don’t have time for stuff like that. It takes me long enough to get through one season simply planning the tactics and managing the games without getting bogged down with inane questions over whether Andy Holdsworth has the potential to rip the opposition a new hole.

Graph showing Guiseley's league progress over the season

So that’s where I am right now. My squad is about to reduce to just a handful of players and my scout will be working overtime to help me sign players that are an improvement on what I’ve had this season. I’m not sure whether to go back to 4-4-2 and be a bit more rigid, or whether I should try a new division in a new country. I’ll see what becomes available during the summer.


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The big play-off tease continues

Eight victories, three draws and four defeats since my last update leaves us pretty much where we were the last time I wrote about my third season with Solihull Moors in the Conference North. The play-offs continue to be just out of our reach. They’re teasing me. It’s like the play-offs know that I sometimes put treats under the sofa so the cats can see them but can’t get them, and they’re teaching me a lesson.

The cats always get the treats in the end, by the way. Please take note, play-offs.

An excellent run of just one defeat in 10 brought us to within two places of the top five, but then I only went and ruddy lost at 19th placed Workington, didn’t I? I’d overcome much stiffer challenges in the weeks before, beating Nuneaton 2-1 away when they were pushing Harrogate for top spot, and then I held Harrogate to a 1-1 draw at home. I then stuffed Blyth 3-0 and suddenly we were on a roll.

The problem has been that every other bugger – from Southport in 4th to Gainsborough in 11th – has been getting similar results. There are eight teams pushing for two play-off spots, realistically speaking, and while I still might only be 10th in the league it’s getting tight in the balls department.

League table showing Solihull in 10th place

I lost my FA Trophy second round match 2-1 at Conference side Hereford, although we played well and probably deserved a draw. I thought it was destined to end level since every other cup game I play seems to end in a draw and an energy-sapping replay, but this one screwed me over. The reaction in the league was good, with a 1-0 win at Histon, but then I lost 1-0 at home to Altrincham and then 2-0 away to Tamworth.

That’s when the sequence of one defeat in 10 began. I put my rubbish home form to one side to beat bottom side Redditch 4-0, and a few weeks later I had extended my excellent away record with wins at Stafford and Bedford (also in the lower reaches of the division).

The defeat came at home (surprise, surprise) to Halifax, who turned us over 2-0. But a 4-2 win at home to mid-table Worcester was followed by that great win at Nuneaton and home draw to Harrogate.

My last game of this recent spell, which leaves us in mid-March and with just seven games left to play was a 3-0 home win over local rivals Hinckley. It saw a return to form of striker Stephen Reynolds, who hadn’t really been out of form for long if I’m honest. He scored his 20th and 21st goals in all competitions in a game that we dominated from start to finish.

The central midfield area still gives me cause for concern, as does the right wing, but in recent times I’m beginning to rely on Will Roberts and not-so Junior English. Jay Denny has done ok on the wing, even though he prefers a more central role. Alex Price has been shocking in the last five games, while I’m pleased to say that Ricky Fletcher has returned to form in central defence alongside Roberts-Nurse. Stuart Pierpoint had done well in his absence, but he had two crap games and deserved dropping.

Ben Montgomery – a fairly talented right back who I signed from Hinckley at the end of the first season – has also come back into the side after a couple of months on the treatment table. His replacement in that time, youth player Maxwell Ibrahim, did very well and played above expectations. So much so, in fact, that he somehow managed to secure himself a move to Kilmarnock in the summer.

Ibrahim was probably my one and only youth team player worth anything to the side (either this season or next) so I’m sorry he’s going in this fashion. I would’ve done more to keep him at the club but from the moment I clicked ‘continue game’ to the next moment it let me re-enter the managerial world, the approach had occurred and the contract agreed and finalised. I thought the game would stop to let me know this was happening, but it didn’t. In truth I don’t think I could’ve stopped it.

As he’s only 19- years old I’m expecting some kind of compensation. He’s out of contract in the summer and I can’t offer him a new deal since he’s already got his next one lined up. I’m still trying to work out why Kilmarnock were allowed to offer him a deal when he was under contract with us. I’ve tried poaching someone else’s 19-year old right back when they enter the last six months of their contract and for some reason I’m asked to offer a transfer fee first. It’s a bit odd.

But I refuse to make out the game is against me. Ibrahim’s talent was obvious – not just from the four-star report from my first team coach, but also by the way he’s been representing the Nigerian under-20s recently. He’s not been playing well, but at least I can say I’ve got an international player on my books.

When Tyler Collishaw got injured and my regular left winger Tommy Taylor played poorly I decided to bolster that side of the team with the signing of ex-Bristol City winger Lewis Hall. I brought him on with less than 10 minutes to go in the 0-0 draw at home to Boston and he managed to get injured immediately for three months. Thankfully Collishaw recovered quite quickly (although he’s got no match fitness and has had to play a few reserve games.

So then, seven games remain. I’ll probably write my next update once they’ve been played. Wish me luck – I’m going in dry…

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Loitering, inconsistency and play-off teasing

The Solihell frustration continues.

After a 7th placed finish in my first season (2012/13) and a 4th placed finish in my second season (2013/14), I had ambitions of achieving something similar in my third season. With a slightly reduced budget and the departure of one or two key players, perhaps I was being overly ambitious to believe we could, you know, finish top or something. But play-offs would be good.

Right now I’m into December and we’re 10th. We’ve spent the whole season lurking around the play-offs like an awkward nerd around a girl at a school disco. I may have used that analogy before – my apologies if so). However, the fact – and the cliche – still stands: the only thing that’s consistent about us this season is our inconsistency.

A 1-1 draw at Guiseley, on the face of it at least, was a point gained, but it was yet another draw – my fifth on the trot and sixth in seven matches. The play-offs began to get away from us. Then we drew our next match 0-0 at Oxford City in the FA Trophy third qualifying round, which meant yet another cup replay. Just about all my cup games have required replays, which only succeeds in knackering the condition of my fragile part-timers so they can’t perform effectively twice a week. Hence the inconsistency.

I lost my right winger Tyler Collishaw to a long-term injury, so I drafted in ex-Gloucester winger Matt Freeman. Decent stats and on non-contract terms, he appeared to be a good signing. He’s been rubbish. Well, perhaps I’m exaggerating – but all he’s done since joining is stick a great big orange square with the letters ‘Rst’ in it, to the left of his name on the team sheet. I’d ask him to remember why we pay him his wages, but then I remember we don’t pay him anything.

We won our replay against Oxford City 1-0, before losing our next league game at home to mid-table Gainsborough. Feeling peeved, I decided to go all-out attack in our next game, which was the FA Trophy first round match at Hednesford (who are in the Conference North on my game). A shitty draw, I’m sure you’ll agree.

We won the match 6-3. It was still 4-4-2, and it was still largely the same group of players that had been dicking about against mediocre teams in previous games. It was a big thumbs up for the policy that Kevin Keegan and Newcastle applied in the 1990s.

I was a bit more conservative in my approach for the away game at Stalybridge, which we won 2-1. We then followed that up with an excellent 3-1 win at Hednesford. Feeling confident ahead of our home match against 3rd place Chester, I played the bold, attacking tactics that got us half a dozen goals just three games earlier. The gamble didn’t pay off. Although we managed to scrape a 2-2 draw, Chester had 12+ shots and probably deserved to win.

Not-so Junior English came off the bench to score a late equaliser in that game, so I threw him into the starting line-up for our next match at home to Southport. He got sent off within 20 minutes for two yellow cards. We lost the game 1-0.

It was a game in which I decided to give my 17-year old youth product Maxwell Ibrahim his debut at right-back. Despite the difficult circumstances he put in a solid enough performance and got 7.10 for his troubles.

Now I’ve suddenly realised we have a pretty bad home record. Three wins, three draws and four defeats isn’t good. Our away record is very decent, with five wins, four draws and just the one defeat.

I’ve been running my two strikers – Stephen Reynolds (16 goals) and Ross Wilson (eight) – into the ground. Jamar Dobson does a good job as sub (five goals) but we needed an extra option in there. Enter Scott Spencer – on loan from Conference side Hyde until the end of the season. He looks a good addition – and one I was keen to make after I noticed his tally of 31 goals in 33 games at this level for Hyde a couple of seasons ago. Sadly he followed that up with a season in which he scored precisely no goals in over 30 starts, and has got one in 16 this season, which was probably a factor in why they decided to list him for loan.

The amazing Connor Roberts-Nurse continues to amaze at the back, racking up six man of the match awards and a 7.42 average rating. His central defensive parter Ricky Fletcher has just been injured for a month, so now I’ll have to see whether Dominic Langdon is up to the job. The other option, Stuart Pierpoint, has actually got an average rating higher than Roberts-Nurse with 7.56, but that’s from just four games. Still very decent, though.

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A take-over and a cup run by early October

We’re on the brink of making the FA Cup first round “proper”, for the first time under my leadership at least, after winning our second and third qualifying round games against Chester and Shepshed Dynamo. But my squad is knackered because we needed replays and extra time in each of those games to make it this far. I’ve already had three league games rearranged for later dates as a result of this cup run, so it’s two games a week for the foreseeable future.

And with a squad as thin and part-time as mine, that’s going to be a major obstacle in our quest to at least make the play-offs this season.

I feel I should say at this point that we have been taken over by a consortium that have effectively wiped out our £250,000 debt. The takeover was rumoured in the press, the chairman said he’d be willing to listen to offers and the club was placed under a transfer embargo. I was just about to swear, but the takeover happened within two days. That’s about as swift as consortium takeovers come.

Graph that shows the progress of Solihull Moors' finances over the last two years

Nothing has changed, in reality. I still have the same shit wage budget of £2,600 p/w and no transfer kitty. No players had to be sold, and none have been bought (unless you include the loan signing of a very decent looking left back by the name of Euan Murray, from Lincoln – I didn’t need him, really, but Gainsborough were in for him and so I thought I’d throw my weight around. I didn’t actually expect him to choose me over them, though).

So then, this cup run. We laboured to a 1-1 draw at home to Chester after conceding early. Although we equalised almost straight away, it was, well, a shit match. I didn’t really fancy our chances in the replay, but Dominic Langdon (filling in for Ricky Fletcher at centre back, who was being rested) gave us the lead on 65 minutes. Chester equalised six minutes later and the game went to extra time and penalties, which we won 6-5. Langdon missed a penalty but still got man of the match.

So with my entire squad’s condition unable to recover from somewhere between 80% and 90% over the next couple of weeks, we went into the away game at Shepshed feeling a little bit leggy. Still, we were the better side and deservedly took the lead six minutes from time, but the sneeky Shepshed buggers equalised in injury time to force another replay. We should have absolutely battered them at home but could only manage 1-1 after 90 minutes, and so we went into extra time with players having to play on close to 50% condition. It didn’t seem to matter though, as we scored twice to win 3-1 and at least avoid the potential embarrassment of losing on penalties to a side that sounds like they play their game at a recreation park on a social housing estate (while Solihull Moors doesn’t conjure up that imagery in any way, shape or form).

We’re 10 games into the league season and we’re presently occupying sixth spot, just one point out of the play-offs. My two central defenders have been outstanding this season. Connor Roberts-Nurse has an average rating of 7.45 after 13 games, while his parter Ricky Fletcher has 7.20 from 11.

Up front Stephen Reynolds has nine goals from 12 starts and one sub appearance, while Ross Wilson – back on loan for the season from Hereford – has five from eight starts and six sub appeatances. It’s in these areas that we’ve impressed most this season, but we’ve missed the creativity of Will Roberts in central midfield, who’s only just come back from injury. Ben Montgomery continues to be consistent at right back but the usually dependable Tommy Taylor on the left wing has been a bit wobbly.

One positive to come from the youth team is left winger Aidan Sargeant. Anyone who has ever played lower league management (LLM) will know that youth teams at this level very rarely produce any players with even a smidgen of talent. I’ve always liked the idea of developing at least one player to come through the ranks, and while this 17-year old doesn’t appear to have any great attributes, he’s done well when I’ve used him. I’ve also got someone by the name of Maxwell Ibrahim as an up-and-coming right back, but apart from that it’s all a bit rubbish in the reserves.

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Sticking with Solihull as third season begins

Well, I did say that I’d take time to decide whether to spit my dummy out.

After a two-month hiatus from the highly infectious world of FM13 I’ve returned to find that I’m still stuck in the Conference North with Solihull Moors. I say ‘still’, like I’m such an expert of FM games that I normally get promoted at the end of every season I play. The truth is – as I have admitted a few times on this blog already – that I’m a distinctly average player of FM games. I’m no great tactician and I’m no strategist. I’m also no cheat, which means I don’t dip into the game’s editor function to make all my shite players amazing.

No – I’m average and I’m proud of it. Well, as proud as you can be about stuff like this.

So then, let’s recap: I’m Solihull Moors manager. I have played two seasons, finishing 7th then 4th. I just lost in the play-off final to Bradford PA and was feeling quite sore about it. My wage budget is awful and my squad is limited.

But just as I was preparing my CV for the Boston job in the Conference North (same shit, different colours) I took one more look at my squad, saw the likes of Connor Roberts-Nurse, Tommy Taylor and Ross Wilson (who I managed to get back on loan from Hereford for the entire 2014/15 season after scoring 20 goals last season) and I couldn’t turn my back on them.

So I started pre-season and was encouraged by our performance against Blackpool. We may have lost 1-0 but we more than matched the Championship side in terms of possession and shots on goal. We followed that up with a very solid 2-1 home win over Conference side Mansfield, and then won 5-0 at Gloucester. Draws at Nantwich (0-0) and home to League 1 Crawley (1-1) completed pre-season.

The board expects mid-table respectability and the media predicts a 9th placed finish. This is the squad I’ve built for my third season in charge:

Solihull Moors squad on FM13
And so, after all that pre-season encouragement I was destined to lose my first two matches of the season – away at Altrincham (0-1) and home to Tamworth (1-2). Incidentally, we managed 21 shots at goal against Altrincham, and another 17 against Tamworth, so grabbing just one goal out of all those chances led to my bizarre village cricket coaster (which features a picture of a ram, dressed in his cricket whites, playing a big shot) being thrown across the room.

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Big scores but play-off heartbreak for sullen Solihull

The play-offs – a great way to get promoted; a terrible way to end the season if Bradford Park Avenue do you over in extra time. As I just found out.

It’s like I’ve just been served a cold cup of sick in one of those really cheap and horrible cafés outside train stations that have those electric blue lights behind a grill to kill flies. After winning one of the most bizarre but euphoric play-off semi-finals against a Histon side that finished above me by just two goals, I was made to play the final at Bradford PA’s Horsfall Stadium, which seems a bit of a cheek given that any other league above the Conference North plays its play-off finals at neutral venues.

After falling behind on 13 minutes, Ross Wilson equalised with his 18th league goal of the season on 27 minutes. It was deserved. Bradford PA turned the screw after the break but it remained 1-1 at full time. We went behind just four minutes into extra time, and then gave away a penalty on 107 minutes, which PA scored. I made my final substitution. Jamar Dobson made it 3-2 with eight minutes left, but then my centre back Dominic Langdon got injured and had to be brought off. PA inevitably scored through the striker Langdon was supposed to have been marking and secured a 4-2 win, leaving us to face a third season in the Conference North.

However, simply making the final looked unlikely after losing the semi-final first leg 1-0 at home to Histon. It was a smash and grab performance – we dominated and wasted chances; they scored with three minutes to go with their only shot on target. I wasn’t happy. I may have sworn and put my ‘page up’ key out of action for a while. It should really get fixed but I don’t use that key so much.

I needn’t have worried. Because this happened:

Screenshot of a 6-2 win for Solihull Moors at Histon.

That’s right. Langdon got us level on aggregate justsix minutes into the tie and not-so-Junior English put us ahead later in the half. Langdon made it 3-0 on the night on the stroke of half time, and then goals from English and Tommy Taylor made it 5-0 with 26 minutes still to play. Although Histon pulled a goal back almost immediately, English completed his hat-trick just a couple of minutes later to make it 6-1. Histon grabbed a consolation near the end but it finished 6-2 to Solihull and 6-3 on aggregate.

It was, without doubt, the most remarkable play-off game I had ever been involved in on any version of Football or Championship Manager. It got me thinking back to times when I may have scored six goals as the away side, and I don’t even think that’s ever happened to me before.

It wasn’t the only big score of the night – check out the other semi-final:

Screenshot showing Bradford PA's 7-1 win over Gainsborough Trinity.

You can see why I didn’t fancy playing Bradford PA in the final after they came back from a 2-0 deficit to trounce Gainsborough Trinity 7-1 in their second leg. Ultimately I have very few complaints with how the final went, but it’s still a kick in the teeth not to get promoted after a pretty solid season:

Chart showing Solihull Moor's2013-14 league progress.

When I last blogged there were still six league games to go. I got a great 1-0 win at Guiseley, who were above me and in the play-offs at the time, and I followed that up with a good 2-0 home win over mid-table Tamworth. A 2-0 defeat at Harrogate didn’t go down well after I’d had more than 20 shots on goal, but we grabbed a decent 2-1 win at Stalybridge to keep us in the play-offs by a couple of points going into the final two games of the season.

What made the 6-2 win at Histon so remarkable was that it followed an incredible 6-1 win over Gainsborough just a few weeks earlier. Gainsborough were just below me and a win for them would have seen me drop out of the play-offs with one game left. Tyler Collishaw – a fringe player for the entire season and an average rating of around 6.55 (with no goals or assists from roughly 10 starts and 10 sub appearances) turned in a man of the match performance, scoring two and setting up another in a completely unprecedented rout. It was a game in which everything hit the back of the net.

The final game of the season – after we had secured a play-off spot – was a 0-0 bore draw at home to Vauxhall Motors. It was a result that actually relegated the side from Ellsmere Port. Had they won, they’d have survived. Meanwhile, Hednesford scored in the 91st and 93rd minute at Colwyn Bay to turn a 2-1 defeat into a 3-2 victory to stay up at the Welsh team’s expense.

Ultimately, the board seem happy with what we’ve achieved this season:

A summary showing largely positive progress bars.

You’d think the board would offer me another year on my contract to say thanks, wouldn’t you? Well, that they did… but £50 less than what I was earning. That’s right – they considered my current deal of £400 p/w and chose to reduce it to £350 p/w, to reward me for such a thrilling campaign.

In all honesty I’m not sure I’ll be staying at Solihull Moors next season. It’s not just down to petulance over £50 that doesn’t exist or even have any bearing on the game whatsoever; it’s just that there are top players like Connor Roberts-Nurse and Ross Wilson who I know I won’t be able to keep for next season.

And with the club more than £250,000 in debt because of its pathetic weekly attendances of 350, I’m anticipating a further reduction in my already meagre weekly wage budget – making a repeat of this season’s feats highly improbable.

I’ll take time to decide whether I will spit my dummy out.

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Mid-season update on the mighty Moors

Hello! I am Solihull Moors manager. I have taken it upon myself to do something about the fact that absolutely nobody has heard of Solihull Moors by making them win games (albeit on a football management simulation game and not real life). I made them win a fair few games in my first season in charge and finished 7th in the Conference North.

Ok, so we’re 24 league games into the 2013/14 season – my second season in charge. I’m ecstatic to report that we’re not actually occupying 7th spot any more. No – we are 6th, with 40 points. We’re just one point outside the play-offs, and I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

I’m particularly happy with a striker called Ross Wilson at the minute. I found him hiding in Hereford’s reserves and managed to bring him to Solihull on a three month loan. He scored eight goals in 12 starts and so I renewed his loan deal until the end of the season and he now has 11 goals in 14 starts. He’s going some way to replace the goals that I lost in Omar Bogle when he decided to chase big money at Brackley. Even though we’re six months on from that incident, the board is still moaning about it on a monthly basis:

Your decision to let Omar Bogle leave the club is regarded by the fans to be a poor piece of business.

Yeah, whatever. We’ve got Ross Wilson now, so shut your faces.

This is a screenshot of my squad, showing their statistics for the season on 1 January 2014:

Solihull squad statistics page as of 1 January 2014

There are a couple of things worth highlighting from this. Firstly, my outstanding young centre back Connor Roberts-Nurse. Despite being only 19, he’s by far and away the most talented player in my squad. My assistant manager Mick Carlton can’t stop praising him in the monthly training update he gives me. I think Carlton might have a thing for him.

Yes, that’s Stern John – the same Stern John that played in the Premier League for Birmingham and (briefly) Sunderland. He’s got great attributes for this level of football but he seems intent on playing like a granny. He scored some great goals in pre-season and then suddenly went goal shy when the season got underway. He infuriates me, but the coaches and fans seem to think he’s very special, despite the poor goals-to-game ratio and average rating. I’ve concluded that I must be smarter than all of my coaches, board members and the entire population of Solihull put together because I’ve worked him out. He’s largely useless. I hope he retires in the summer so I don’t have to release him, because if I do I’ll have the board whinging at every monthly update.

You’ll also notice that I have a player by the name of Tyler Collishaw. “Oooh, he’s got great potential,” said my scout. He promised. I brought him in on this basis. He’s been an utter clown in every game I’ve played him. Sadly, this has amounted to six starts and six substitute appearances because my squad doesn’t cope well when one of two players get injured.

Some of my best players this season have been right back Ben Montgomery, my centre back pairing of Roberts-Nurse and Stuart Pierpoint, not-so Junior English as the midfield destroyer, left winger Tommy Taylor and Hereford’s striker Ross Wilson.

Another point worth mentioning is that I actually won a cup match for the first time with Solihull. Last season was a complete disaster as I lost in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup and the third qualifying round of the FA Trophy to teams I had never heard of. This season I managed to draw 0-0 at home to Nuneaton in the FA Cup second qualifying round before losing the replay 2-1, and then contrived to draw 2-2 against a team calling itself St Neots in the FA Trophy despite having 25 attempts on goal. Thankfully justice prevailed and I won the replay 3-0, only to then lost 2-0 at home in the next round to Newport County.

In November I was offered the manager’s job at Eastleigh in the Conference South. They were 15th in the league but had a budget four times larger than mine at Solihull. I was tempted, but I turned it down. I’m loyal to my Moor.

And that brings you up to date – apart from the laughable contract discussions I had with Manny Panther. The Scottish central midfielder, who’s currently without a club, spat his dummy out and said he got tired of these “protracted negotiations” after I made him my very first contract offer of £125 p/w when he was looking for £150. I’ve left it a few weeks and since gone back to see if he continues to have an attitude. He’s now willing to take £70 p/w. Talk about changing your tune. He soon realised who was right.

The media predicts I’ll finish 13th. I’m fairly sure that my standard 4-4-2 with Ross Wilson up front will surpass that.

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New beginnings: Football Manager 2013

Guiseley and FM12 are but a distant memory. Since November I’ve been playing (and swearing at) FM13, which was a surprise present from the girlfriend… who has since become the fiancée. But not because of the FM13 purchase, you understand.

I got quite excited about FM13 since I liked the idea behind the classic mode. I probably wasn’t quite as excited as the time my good friend Stuart got so excited about Christmas 1991 that while dancing around the living room in merriment of the decorations going up he didn’t realise one of his socks had come loose off his foot. He trod on said sock and propelled himself in a forward and southerly direction until his mouth caught the edge of the fireplace. He lost a few teeth in that incident.

Going back to FM13, I was intrigued to see how this ‘classic mode’ would play out. I missed the days of being able to power through seasons in just a couple of weeks. Back in the glory days of CM2 I’d get through a season in a weekend. And I’m a pretty slow player – as has been proved by owning FM12 for a whole year in real time and only getting one and a half seasons into my Guiseley campaign until FM13 was released.

Anyway, the good news for all you fans that wanted to whizz through seasons is that it’s entirely possible on the classic mode of FM13. My first save was with my home town club Grimsby in the Conference, and I completed the season within a fortnight (finished 9th). Mind you, I was playing on it more than usual since that’s what you do when you’re trying out the new version.

I’ve since played out a full season with my current save, as Solihull Moors boss in the Conference North, and that took me three weeks. It’s very easy to get through a couple of months in one sitting (usually after Match of the Day and before my Saturday night bedtime of 2am).

For the record, I did try the full version of FM13, which gave the perception that you could power through the days and weeks at a similar rate, but I became bogged down with the tiny little things that I tend to obsess about. It was after I saw this series of FM13 videos on YouTube that I decided to start over again on the classic mode as a pretty terrible non league team.

In short, my first season as Solihull Moors manager was relatively successful. I finished 7th with 68 points – three points short of the playoffs – having won 19, drawn 12, lost 11, scored 57 and conceded 37.

Conference North league table final standings 2012/13 - Solihull Moors 7th

Conference North end-of-season table 2012/13.

I could go into a lot more detail but for a side that was tipped to finish in 20th place and with a weekly wage budget of just £2,900 it wasn’t a half bad achievement. For one very brief moment in January we were in the playoffs but inevitably fell away as the players failed to cope with two games a week.

I signed a one-year extention to my managerial contract (mega bucks at £400 per week!) only to be rewarded with a bloody reduction in the weekly wage budget. For season 2013/14 it’s just £2,600 and I lost my two best players – Omar Bogle and Darryl Knights.

That’s right – I had a player called Omar Bogle. Sounds kind of made up, but his history tells me he spent time at Celtic and Birmingham City. He was my strong and pacy striker who scored 16 goals in 32 appearances. Knights, a fast winger who could also play up front, got six goals and 12 assists in 40 starts. The pair were the only players to finish the season with average ratings over 7.00.

I had a nightmare summer but I’ve brought in a raft of distrinctly average players to replace slightly better than distinctly average players. The board expects me to stay clear of relegation given last season’s success, but the fact that I couldn’t organise one half decent friendly against a big name and I’ve failed to win a single cup match so far, the club is over £120,000 in debt. But my position appears to be secure given that we’re 7th after 15 league games this season.

We just love 7th!

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