First of all I guess that I should introduce myself… I did post an introduction somewhat similar to this in early 2020 so not many people will have seen it.
My love affair with Football / Championship Manager started with Championship Manager 2. I can still remember to this day going around to my friends house for a sleepover, he’d been shopping in Stockport that day and had picked up the game from ‘Game’. He was Manchester United and for some strange reason I was Liverpool (something that would not happen today!).
Ever since then I have played every incarnation of the game, through my teens, my college years (where I didn’t play as much, thanks to the distraction of drink and girls), into my 20s and 30s where I am in a ten year plus relationship, own a home and have a near four year old Son (which has to some degree stumped my playing time!). Throughout all this time Football / Championship Manager has been a staple of my life.
In recent years I have had some thoroughly enjoyable saves, FM17 saw Hibernian become the dominant force in Scotland and on FM18 the same thing happened with Dundee United. On FM19 I took a Sandro Tonali led Brescia to Serie A before eventually winning it. With Covid / furlough happening towards the middle of the FM20 cycle I had time for two longer saves, this time bringing Motherwell to Scottish dominance before taking Crewe from League 2 to the Premier League in straight seasons, with the save ending in defeat in the Europa Conference League final. Finally, FM21 saw me manage Groningen, winning the Eredivisie for 4 consecutive seasons, with the final season being a ‘perfect’ season. I also dabbled with Cove Rangers in Scotland (for a change) and finally had a fun season in Australia with Melbourne City.
As the years have gone by my friends have seem to move on from the game which I guess what first brought me Twitter and interacting with likeminded people in the Football Manager Community.
I have briefly dabbled in blogging my saves in the past, when I was an active member of the ‘Neoseeker Forums’, before getting side-tracked with writing up my EWR / TEW games (a great game that I still wish I had the time to play properly).
I genuinely enjoy reading peoples blogs and will always try and interact with people when doing so. People like Grasshopper, DanGear, Ondrej (who took time to show me the ropes in terms of blogging), Samo, Last Throw of the Dice and adam_otbfm (someone who I talk to almost daily about FM and has encouraged me to give this one last shot, so blame him), have really made me want to give blogging one final chance (after my failed attempt with Raith Rovers on FM20).
However, there is one individual who’s save on FM21 is the inspiration for this and that is MaddFM. His homegrown save with Angers in France was absolutely fantastic, and is something I am determined to emulate in Belgium on Football Manager 22.
So, why Belgium? It’s a league I have never played in, but have a slight interest in, after a road trip throughout the country in 2016. I did initially fancy starting with KAA Gent (after visiting their stadium as part of the trip), but one look at the makeup of their squad made me realise that it would take a good number of years to get even close to fully homegrown. It was then, out of nowhere that I decided on starting with Anderlecht.
Whilst they are the most successful domestic side in the history of Belgian football with 34 titles to their name, they have not won the league since 2017 with Club Brugge winning the Jupiler Pro League in the last two seasons, and are also making waves in Europe, recently holding Paris to a draw and beating RB Leipzig.
Having always been a decent nation but not outstanding the Belgian national team came upon a Golden Generation in the mid 2010’s. With world class players such as Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku all reaching their prime at a similar time. Coupled with solid Premier League defenders such as Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen, Belgium looked to become a real force. However, despite being top of the FIFA World Rankings since September 2018 there is a feeling in some quarters that Belgium have underachieved. In the 2018 World Cup they came third, beating England in the Third Place play-off when the tournament was there for the taking. In 2016 they were disappointingly knocked out of the Quarter Finals by a resilient Welsh side and in 2020 they again knocked out in the Quarter Finals. Whilst my main focus will be Anderlecht, I will be keeping an eye on the situation at the Belgian FA where I hope to be offered the national team job, and in turn bring success to a nation which has underachieved over the last decade.
RULES AND OBJECTIVES
In a follow up post to this I will be looking at the Anderlecht Squad in detail (not something I can do until the game is released), but for now I wanted to run over the rules I have set myself for the save as well outline my aims and objectives for the same.
So, what does becoming a homegrown club mean to me? In short, all players brought into the club will have Belgian as a first or second nationality.
What are realistic timescales for this and what objectives am I setting myself for the save?
Realistically, I believe that this can be achieved by the close of the second January transfer window, which would make that the 01st February 2022. This could probably be done sooner, but I don’t want to risk alienating myself from the rest of the squad before even having the chance to settle in.
However, from day one there will be a focus on the Belgian nationals which are already in the squad, with another objective being to field a completely Belgian starting XI in the first season.
A long term objective (within three seasons) is to field a starting XI that have all come through the Anderlecht Academy.
After that there are some pretty standard objectives, including win the Jupiler League Title, win the Croky Cup (main domestic cup competition) and win a European title. In the late 70s and early 80s the club was a force in Europe, winning the UEFA Cup once, the European Cup Winners Cup on two occasions and the UEFA Super Cup also twice.
Finally, from a personal point of view I want to become the most successful manager in the history of Belgian football. Having looked at the Hall of Fame on FM21 this is should be pretty doable as the over the years the more successful managers have been recruited to the bright lights of the top European leagues.
Financially, the club has to become stable. In real life things aren’t fantastic, with debts reported to be around €100m this will be a huge focus. Naturally as we become homegrown and hopefully bring success to the club, then this will happen organically, as opposed to anything drastic needing to happen. However, I will be keeping a keen eye on the wage budget, and keeping a strict structure in place. Therefore, formally the objective will be to wipe all of the club’s debt within 4 seasons (I will provide full details of how this debt is replicated on FM22 upon release).
In terms of transfers there are a couple of players I would love to bring back to Anderlecht who have been sold for various reasons over the last few years. Firstly, Jeremy Doku, sold to Rennes around 12 months ago for a reported €26m is likely to be the most difficult to bring back, along with Alexis Saelemaekers who moved for a miserly €3.5m in January 2020. Last but not least is Romeo Lavia who moved to the Manchester City Academy July 2020, at 17 he has already made a first team appearance, starting for City against Wycombe in the Carabao Cup this year. Depending on how City recruit early on in the game he could be gettable.
I currently have some plans to dabble with the Data Editor (which you may have heard mentioned on this week’s ‘The Football Manager Show‘ podcast with Iain Macintosh. I intend to go into that deeper in my next blog which will delve (slightly) deeper into the history of Anderlecht as well as running down the squad and pulling out some youth prospects, who’s progress I intend to track through the save. As well as that I would briefly go into my approach to training as well as what tactic I will potentially be using. All that’s left is for me to say thank you for still reading (if indeed you still are at this point), I am by no means at all a graphics whiz, so please don’t expect anything like that. Instead, you will get the ramblings of a man intent to make this work and share the journey with anyone kind enough to follow.