JOURNEY TO THE JOURNEYMAN

“This is not the intro to a Journeyman series, no.
This is just a tribute!”

2020 was weird…

Forget the pandemic, we’ve all had to endure that and if you’ve made it on here, well done, you’ve fucking smashed it.

Around March, on a complete whim, I bought Football Manager 2020. I genuinely have no idea what sparked it. One major factor is my best friend, Tom Coast (Hi Tom — he won’t read this). He works as a writer for Sport Witness and as I used to be a football writer too, he would share with me his FM saves, his journeys, and from a distance I always had a bit of jealousy and intrigue to join in.

Steam shows me that I bought FM16, but I logged 16 hours. Pretty sure Tom had come round and I bought it, started a save as Lille, was shit and gave up. According to the five achievements I managed, it went as follows.

  • Scored a goal ✅
  • Managed a clean sheet ✅
  • Won a game ✅
  • Bought a player ✅
  • Sold a player ✅

What a career. I have been telling people over the last 10 months that FM10 was the last game I ‘played’, but to be honest I have no idea if I did, can’t remember any save, any details. I’m pretty sure I never managed Eden Hazard on the game — which as a Lille fan pains me. I have vague recollection of having to sell Rio Mavuba to Fiorentina and signing Andrey Arshavin for Les Dogues from Zenit.

If we are talking the ‘save’ I remember, we have to go back to 2007, when I definitely owned a proper version of the game and there wasn’t a disc shared by our student flat in Leeds. For reasons unknown to me, I took over Partick Thistle when they were in Scottish League Division One, with nothing but two chocolate coins to rub together. The only reason I remember the year is that I signed Fabian Brandy on loan from Manchester United and then on a free, for him to go on to Maryhilll folklore.

I took that club from bankruptcy to the UEFA Cup (exactly). That shit stays with you. There was a Palermo save with Franco Brienza, we lost the Scudetto on goal difference, and I’m sure I signed Djibril Cisse for Valencia in a 4–4–2.

When listening to Tony Jameson and Matt Richards on Football Manager Threapy, I want to feel nostalgic about Mark Kerr, Kenedy, Selakovic etc, but that whole era passed me by.

I was a Pro Evo man. PES 5 and 6 I was on the evo-web forum posting stat updates for Ligue 1 players as that obsession grew. That was probably the last community I was part of involving a computer game. PLF, Red Phoenix, Del Piero, and fellow Scot Euan Marshall, who was my goto guy for FC Lorient knowledge, who now lives in Brazil and writes for The Telegraph amongst others, it’s a bloody mad wee world.

Where is this going I hear you cry, GET TO THE FM STUFF!

2020, we jump in. I don’t want to go Lille, they’ve hurt me too much in the past. Based purely on my amazing time at the Women’s European Championships in 2017, we pick FC Twente and fire into a Eredivisie save. Can we guide them to glory over the big boys, wait, they are newly promoted, balls.

A wonderful time was had by all.

With the help of Rayan Cherki, Matias Arezo and Nathaniel Chalobah, we win four consecutive titles and not only have we established dominance, but the year is 2020 and I am now obsessed with FM.

Something clicked and I was back in. I’m watching Tookajobs and RDF to learn about how tactics work in the new match engine — loved my 4–3–3 in Enschede — Matt Richards is a friend through various means, he wrote for my old website ‘French Football Weekly’ and we met again through wrestling, so obviously I’m going to listen to his podcast.

Come the last quarter of 2020 I know who Zealand is, I’m watching Foxy break down training and the deeper stuff in the game.

Why the fuck would I want to watch someone play a game I can just play myself? Oh, Mr Gibney, you know nothing…

Twente gave me a taste. Then we went in deep. Thanks to Olly Dawes, and the mention of the Pentagon Challenge. I was still a newb, I didn’t know the intricacies, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Tom jumped in too, he’d never done it. So did Mats, Tom’s Norwegian friend — who I now speak to pretty much every day because of this bloody game.

No badges, no experience etc etc. Thank you and RIP to Shanghai Shenxin, giving me that first job. Tianjin, Audax Italiano, Independiente, Mamelodi Sundows, Monterrey and Hoffenheim, you guys will always be with me.

Twente grabbed my attention, the Pentagon pulled me in and now I’m in for the long haul.

That save went to 2033 I think. I took over Hearts afterwards and built up a SPFL winning side before it wound down and I moved on to pastures new.

And here we are in FM2021, a changed man.

I am watching JDFM try to guide Margate to glory, we’re invested in Tony’s Journeyman, FM Stinger has a great channel were he provides insight alongside his Stingerman career, Zealand and Foxy are still there and we now recognise the main creators on FM Base and FM Scout.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned my own YouTube series, The Hexágono (LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE!!!!), when I decided playing the game on my own wasn’t enough. But, I’m sure if you know me and you’ve been around since the 2010 GibFootballShow blog and podcast (with my best man and criminally underrated Scott Johnston), which spawned into FFW and MOVING TO LILLE and building a freelance career, the idea of me enjoying something as a hobby and then diving in two-footed is of no surprise to anyone.

Have I mentioned I now casually watch people on Twitch. I was soooooo against it, even 12 months ago, now, when on Nights, or like now when it’s 4am and I can’t sleep, it’s quite nice to have it on in the background. I’d like to watch Doop, Sweet Left Foot and others more, but the time they stream just doesn’t work for when I’m free.

If my Macbook can handle it, I’m definitely considering doing the odd Twitch stream again too. Before I start my four shifts on Nights, there’s an evening I stay up till 4/5am to transition my body clock, so there is definitely a few hours around 11/2am where I could see what happens. YAY, something else to do…

Sorry Cat. My poor wife. Thoughts and prayers.

I opened this Word Doc with the intention of guiding you through my Journeyman save and getting you up to speed, and now we’re 1000 words in and we’ve not even gotten there.

THIS IS THE INTRO.

My first main save on FM21 was to guide FC Bastia-Borgo, who were established in 2017 after a merger, to Ligue 1 glory. In 2029 we have two titles, a Europa Conference and Europa League, plus pulled up a few trees in the Champions League. Brilliant.

I think the plan was to always do a Journeyman save, which is where we are now. In game it is 2029, which is mad that I’ve logged two 10 year saves already and we’re far from done. Last year we hadn’t even bought the damn game.

Let’s briefly get to the save and we’ll come back.

No badges, no experience, you know the drill. I waited for my new Macbook Air M1 to arrive so I could load ALL of the leagues. Every country in Europe locked in and we went job hunting.

There’s always an excitement, seeing what jobs come up. I think it helps that I’m new to all this, so there’s loads of places I’ve never been.

First up, the Icelandic club Vestri, down in the second tier. With odds of 50/1 to win the league. They’ve never been in the top flight and are basically lads picked off the fishing boats and chucked matching tops and led to pitch.

I’m not sure if it’s only me, but although this is a hyped up game on spreadsheets, but I love getting invested. I’m googling the club, seeing the history, looking at the stadium, just the little touches to bring it to life.

Look at this place.

Magical.

31st of July 2020 I take over this semi-professional club in Iceland. Amazingly, in 2020 we went unbeaten!

Ah, no, stop clapping, no sit down… we didn’t play our first game till a 4–0 win over Dalvik Reynor on the 3rd of February. Five whole months without a game.

Iceland is going to be fun.

Your season actually starts with a pre-season cup tournament/friendlies, which you play three months before the actual league campaign. There is only 22 games in the league, which only spans four months, mostly due to the players having to have other jobs and the weather.

Despite competition from Grotta, we won 20 of the 30 games we played, only lost five and scored 56 goals as we clinched the title and promotion to the top tier.

I tried to go strikerless, it kinda worked, but it was easy to tell that the level was quite low and any competent tactic would have brought some level of success.

Hannes Arneson, on loan, was our top scorer with eight and centre back Rafa Navarro finished with a 7.32 avg rating. It was the club’s highest finish, with the most points and goals in their history.

In my head, the top tier would be fairly easy too. Good tactic, some signings. Going into the new campaign, we were given a wee kick in the privates.

1000/1 to win the league, with the team who finished behind us predicted to come 11th, just ahead of us at the bottom, with fairly positive odds of 350/1. There’s a wee bit of gap there.

We could be in trouble.

Apologies for the massive intro, but this will be the home of my Journeyman. Once I catch up, giving you the highlights, I’ll go season-by-season.

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