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Part I: You must be Kidding me!

Well hello there ladies and gentlemen, it’s time once again to dive balls deep into another Football Manager adventure that’s bound to end in misery, or at Queen’s Park.

Last time out I survived just 16 games in charge of Chorley and then got Queen’s Park relegated to the bottom tier of Scottish football while averaging less than a goal a game across both tenures.

Let’s just say I didn’t sparkle at FM17.

Well, FM18 is here. I’ve got a new laptop, there’s nothing interesting on TV, it’s late on Saturday night, I’ve just downed a can of Relentless – let’s go!

Starting unemployed failed spectacularly last time, so obviously I’ve decided to start out unemployed again. Who knew that not managing a football club for a few months could be such an interesting part of a football management game?

It’s the not knowing that hooks me in. Why manage Man City when you can take charge of Chorley? Oh no, not them again I hear you cry. Well, no. Don’t panic. But I’m in the same division again, though.

Rich, meet Kidderminster Harriers. Kidderminster Harriers, meet Rich.

They were expected to make the National League North play-offs but instead, after 13 games, they found themselves second bottom. They could’ve almost been managed by me from my FM17 days. Anyway, they sacked the doofus in charge and decided to give me a go (once their caretaker manager had won one and lost one to lift them above the relegation zone).

So, with 14 points from 15 games and hovering dangerously in 18th place, I studied my squad, gave them all a good talking to and told them 12th place was within our reach. Don’t tell me I can’t deliver inspiring team talks.

I’d been bold because I hadn’t even looked at my first fixture in charge (Stockport, top of the league, away) or even noticed that I didn’t have an assistant manager stood next to me.

I rectified that by bringing in someone called Kyle Duff, who appears to have never worked in football before. No career history, no coaching history, nothing. But he has a two-and-a-half star rating for the assistant manager role, and that’s probably the best I can hope for.

My highest paid player is Joseph N’Guessan, who’s on £875 a week. Everyone else is broadly between £300 and £800, so my weekly wage budget of just over £10,000 must be one of the best at this level. Those are National League wages, really.

But there was no time for any pleasantries – we had to head straight up to Stockport and take on a team that had only lost once all season. Don’t ask me how – because I really don’t know – but we won 2-0. Both goals were scored by centre back Tyrone Williams. I won’t pretend we played well, though. County had more of the chances and dominated possession, even though we played a structured 4-1-4-1 formation.

We were a little more convincing in our next game, away at Harrogate – even though we fell behind early. A tactical tweak here and there seemed to do the trick, and as the game wore on it only looked a matter of time before we got a deserved equaliser (through substitute Devante Rodney, on loan from Hartlepool). That goal felt very satisfying.

We were certainly the better team at home against Darlington and deserved the three points but, my god, it was a boring game. It seemed fitting that the winning goal from striker Joe Ironside – who seems a bit of a whinger already – was a scrappy, deflected rebound from a keeper mistake.

Three games, two wins, one draw and a couple of clean sheets thrown in there to boot! Not bad. But then it all came apart at mid-table York.

We endured a horrible end to the first half, conceding two quick goals that killed the match. We got worse in the second half, conceding two more before the hour mark, although one of them was so far offside it almost occurred off my computer screen.

Suddenly I saw how hopeless we could be in defence. A fifth got me pretty angry, before we went up the other end and scored two consolation goals.

There’s definitely something to work with here at Kidderminster because, despite that 5-2 defeat, we edged possession and created more chances than York. If we keep doing that, we’ll certainly be good for that 12th place finish.

 

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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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