THE BOYS OF EASTER ROAD


At the start of the Football Manager ’22 cycle I had huge plans to blog my Anderlecht save, which would allow me to only sign Belgian players.  That save lasted one season, and just two and a half blogs (the half is sat eternally unfinished on this laptop).

We won the league in the first season, and the club restructured the debt, therefore taking away the long term element of fixing the club finances.  After that I lost complete interest in the save.  At the time I was in a bad place with work and I just had no energy to blog, I also found it difficult to settle into a long term save, and it wasn’t until February / March of this year that I finally found ‘the one’.

CM01/02, FM15 and FM17 saw me have wonderful careers with Hibernian, my favoured Scottish club.  I also had a lot of fun with Motherwell on FM20 and Dundee United on FM18.  So, it was during a conversation with my now good friend and constant sounding board, @TheLastThrow (The Last Throw Of The Dice) that I decided to take another trip to my spiritual home, Easter Road.

The idea of this isn’t to talk through the seven seasons I spent there (winning the Scottish Premier League on six occasions), but to talk about the players who made the save so much fun, and reignited FM22 for me.  I’ve had the idea to do this for a month or so but have just never gotten around to it.  It was until the recent edition of the fantastic 5* Potential Podcast, where they talked through their favourite players of the game that gave me the impetus to finally write this.

To formalise, this is simply a look back at my ten (eleven) favourite players of the save, and why they will always have a special place in my virtual manager heart.

10.  Josh Doig.
Total Apps (including subs): 271.
Total Goals: 10.
Total Assists: 41.
Average Rating: 7.11.
Honours: 6 x Cinch Premiership, 3 x Scottish Cup, 4 x Sports Premier Cup.
Individual Awards: 3 x Cinch Premiership Team of the Season.

When I started the save Doig was one of the players I was most looking forward to managing and developing.  Highly rated in real life after winning the Scotting Young Player of the Year for 2021 (and moving to Verona in the Summer of 2022 irl), Doig was a regular starter throughout, however his progress was slightly hampered by injuries, more reoccurring then serious.  He can also consider himself unfortunate to be behind Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney in the Scotland pecking order.  What is worth noting is that when I brought in some serious competition, he appeared to up his game, with the 2026/27 being a standout with 11 league assists.  Unfortunately, his attributes never really exploded in the way I hoped they would and is one of my biggest regrets of the save.  Sadly, after I left Hibernian, the first piece of business for the new manager was to move Doig on, where he joined Crystal Palace in the Championship.

9.  Ludovic Ajorque.
Total Apps (including subs): 47.
Total Goals: 36.
Total Assists: 6.
Average Rating: 7.53.
Honours: 1 x Cinch Premiership, 1 x Premier Sports Cup Winners, 1 x Scottish Cup Winners.
Individual Awards: 1 x Cinch Premiership Team of the Season, 1 x Cinch Premiership Top Goalscorer, 1 x Hibernian Fans Player of the Season, 1 x Cinch Premiership Player of the Season, 1 x Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year, 1 x Scottish Players’ Player of the Year.

The signing of Ludovic Ajorque was quite the watershed moment and brought about Hibernian 2.0.  He was the most expensive signing in the history of the club (at that point) and was brought in to be a real statement signing, the self-imposed wage limit was also smashed in doing so.  It is rare that I sign a player in his prime on Football Manager (due to the nature of the clubs I manage), however, the unimaginably nicknamed ‘The Beast’ (due to his sheer size and strength), really helped kick us on and became a real focal point.  The opportunity to almost double our money in the space of twelve months was too much to turn down when Mainz started sniffing around.  I also had a new-gen (included in this list) that I had high hopes for, and I didn’t want to limit his game time.  However, the sight of ‘The Beast’ bullying defenders for a season was a joy and made the 2025/26 one of my favourites on the save.  It was also the first time on the save that I had the top goalscorer in the league, he won a clean sweep of individual awards and guided Hibernian to their first treble.  He came, he saw, he conquered.

8.  Allan Delferrière.
Total Apps (including subs): 80.
Total Goals: 6.
Total Assists: 2.
Average Rating: 7.33.
Honours: 1 x Cinch Premiership.
Individual Awards: 1 x Scottish Football Writers’ Young Player of the Year, 1 x Scottish Players’ Young Player of the Year.

The inclusion of Allan Delferrière may appear a strange one, especially with the players who have missed out.  The reason for his inclusion is that he was my first real ‘find’ of the save.  When I originally started the save my intention was to play with a back three, and the previously unknown (to me) Delferrière was the best passer of the ball out of the options available.  Despite soon switching to a traditional back four, Delferrière still found himself at the heart of the defence and in the 2022/23 found was voted as the best young player in the league.  Early into the 2023/24 season Anderlecht came in with an offer of £9.5m and we couldn’t afford to turn it down at the time.  Unfortunately, he never really fulfilled his potential in Belgium, despite being a regular in his first season at Lotto Park.

7.  Keane Lewis-Potter.
Total Apps (including subs): 41.
Total Goals: 18.
Total Assists: 12.
Average Rating: 7.23.
Honours: 1 x Cinch Premiership, 1 x Premier Sports Cup.
Individual Awards: 1 x Cinch Premiership Team of the Season.

=7.  Filip Stevanović.
Total Apps (including subs): 69.
Total Goals: 23.
Total Assists: 14.
Average Rating: 7.27.
Honours: 1 x Cinch Premiership, 2 x Premier Sports Cup, 1 x Scottish Cup.
Individual Awards: N/A.

Asking me to choose between Stevanović and Lewis-Potter (KLP) is like asking someone to choose between their children.  Both made the Inside Forward – Attack role one of my favourites in this iteration of the game (when played with the right striker).  Stevanović was someone who had had my eye on since the start of the save and as soon as he entered the final year of contract with Manchester City I pounced and picked him up for a snip.  KLP was a different type of signing, we had just qualified for the Champions League, yet I was still reluctant to spend big.  Initially he was brought in to play on the left as Inverted Winger, it soon became clear that he was my best finisher and I wanted to capitalise on this.  The lure of Premier League money was too much for KLP to turn down, and when Burnley activated his release clause there was nothing we could do.  It took me 2 seasons and 3 failures in the transfer market to eventually replace KLP with Stevanović, who would also leave in similar circumstances when Dortmund activated his release clause in the January transfer window (making us a £17.5m profit in 18 months).
Potter became a regular for Burnley, who have struggled to gain promotion for the Championship once they were relegated, whereas Stevanović has become a squad player in Dortmund, and seems to have left his shooting boots in Edinburgh.

6.  Marko Ivić.
Total Apps (including subs): 74.
Total Goals: 53.
Total Assists: 7.
Average Rating: 7.32.
Honours: 2 x Cinch Premiership, 2 x Premier Sports Cup, 2 x Scottish Cup.
Individual Awards: 1 x Cinch Premiership Team of the Season, 1 x 1 x Hibernian Fans Player of the Season, 1 x Cinch Premiership Top Goalscorer, 2 x Scottish Football Writers’ Young Player of the Year, 2 x Scottish Players’ Young Player of the Year.

Marko Ivić is the only new-gen player that makes this list, and with good reason.  It’s rare, managing the teams that I do that I get to manage real wonderkids, and if I do, they soon want to move on for pastures new.  When I mentioned earlier that I was happy with Ajorque leaving after just one season, it was because of this man.  I had done a deal early for Ivić in the save but had to wait for a couple of seasons before he could join.  When he first joined it was mid-season and I thought best he get a loan move so he could some game time.  Despite scoring just once for Nottingham Forest in that spell I still had hope that he could do the business up North, and I was not disappointed.  Again, Ivić brought a different dynamic to our attack and was lethal as an Advanced Forward, scoring over a goal every game and a half, always coming up with goods when we were struggling to breakdown the low block of the opposition.  Spoilers, after I left Hibernian he was moved on to Real Madrid which just underlines his class, but I won’t forget what a goalscoring machine he was during his two seasons at Easter Road.

5.  Maro Katinić.
Total Apps (including subs): 121.
Total Goals: 27.
Total Assists: 3.
Average Rating: 7.72.
Honours: 3 x Cinch Premiership, 3 x Scottish Cup, 2 x Sports Premier Cup.
Individual Awards: 1 x Hibernian Player of the Season, 2 x Cinch Premiership Team of the Season, 2 x Scottish Football Writers’ Young Player of the Year, 1 x Scottish Players’ Young Player of the Year, 1 x Cinch Premiership Player of the Season, 1 x Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year, 1 x Scottish Players’ Player of the Year.

We move into the top five with Maro Katinić.  Katinić was signed with the money from the Allan Delferrière sale.  I originally signed Marco Kana from Anderlecht, but he suffered an injury in a youth international tournament, so I moved quickly to secure the services of Katinić.  It was an inspired piece of business, and he would become the proverbial ‘first name on the team sheet’ for years to come, forming a longstanding partnership with Ryan Porteous.  He also chipped in with his fair share of goals.  Despite a pretty high ceiling, attribute wise he never really developed as much as I would have hoped but this had no detrimental effect on his performances on the pitch.  In his last season he took a clean sweep of all the individual awards available to him, and when Bayern Munich unexpectedly activated his release clause on transfer deadline day there were no hard feelings.  A tremendous servant who would go onto become a regular at the heart of the Munich defence.

4.  Issa Kabore.
Total Apps (including subs): 179.
Total Goals: 1.
Total Assists: 36.
Average Rating: 7.25.
Honours: 4 x Cinch Premiership, 3 x Scottish Cup, 2 x Sports Premier Cup.
Individual Awards: 2 x Hibernian Supporters’ Player of the Year, 2 x Scottish Football Writers’ Young Player of the Year, 1 x Scottish Players’ Young Player of the Year, 1 x Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year, 1 x Scottish Players’ Player of the Year, 1 x Cinch Premiership Player of the Season, 2 x Cinch Premiership Team of the Season.

I started the save around the time of the African Cup of Nations, where Kabore had hugely impressed for Burkino Faso.  He was added to my shortlist from day one, with the hope being that he would get fed up with a lack of opportunities and would rot in the Manchester City Under 23s.  Despite being uninterested for a couple of seasons, we eventually signed him for a bargain as he moved into the final year of his contract. Again, I would not be disappointed.  Despite not being technically amazing, Kabore is an absolute physical specimen, fantastic mentally and ridiculously consistent.  The fact, that even as a full back he would be voted as the supporters’ best player on two occasions really confirms this.  Not only this but he was fantastically loyal, on two occasions his £18m release clause was met by English Premier League Clubs, on both occasions he would turn them down.  The only disappointment is that he would be prone to bouts of complaining when I’d rest him ahead of Champions League and Old Firm games.

3.  Kyle Magennis.
Total Apps (including subs): 168.
Total Goals: 49.
Total Assists: 44.
Average Rating: 7.33.
Honours: 3 x Cinch Premiership, 1 x Scottish Cup, 2 x Sports Premier Cup.
Individual Awards: 2 x Hibernian Supporters’ Player of the Year.

If I’d have written this after three and a half seasons Kyle ‘Magic Man’ Magennis would have been nailed on my favourite player of the save.  You only have to look back at the text messages I exchanged about him which verge on erotic content.  He was one of the players I was most excited to use when I first decided on the save, after the success ‘Last Throw’ had with him at St. Mirren on FM20.  He was incredible in the Central Midfield – Attack role, especially when ‘partnered’ with a Deep-Lying Forward.  The man constantly came up with big goals, scoring the winner at the Nou Camp as well as an equaliser at Easter Road against Barcelona, both in the same month.  He also constantly came up with the goods in Old Firm games as well as bagging winners in Edinburgh Derbies, the epitome of a big game player.  He tore his hamstring in the run in to the 2024/25 season and was never the same player.  He was sold in the January transfer window a season later to Krasnodar.  Unfortunately, he would suffer a damaged cruciate ligament a year later and has struggled to make his mark on the Russian league.  Despite being only third in this list, it is without a doubt that Magic Man gave me some of the absolute best moments of the save.

2.  Calvin Ramsay.
Total Apps (including subs): 104.
Total Goals: 3.
Total Assists: 47.
Average Rating:7.43.
Honours: 3 x Cinch Premiership, 3 x Scottish Cup, 3 x Sports Premier Cup.
Individual Awards: 1 x Cinch Premiership Team of the Season.

Calvin Ramsay was another player I added to the shortlist on the first day of the save.  As time progressed, we got better and Aberdeen stagnated, I thought the opportunity had passed us by, especially after we signed Kabore to lock down the Right Back spot for years to come.  It wasn’t until I was looking for someone to come in and challenge Doig at Left Back did I realise that Ramsay was both footed.  We picked him up for an absolute steal at just £1.4m and he immediately improved us, eventually proving an assist almost every other game.  Being both footed he could cut inside or go on the outside which gave us an advantage in breaking down the ever-increasing low blocks we were starting to face domestically.  Not only that, but he massively helped increased our goal output from set-pieces, particularly corners.  Ramsay is probably a strange choice for the number two spot in this list, especially as he wasn’t playing in his natural position, but that just made me appreciate him even more.  I feel that he was a catalyst in us becoming truly dominant domestically, winning every trophy available in Scotland during his time with us.  He is not only one of the most consistent players I’ve managed on FM22, but quite possibly any iteration of the game.

1.  Murray Johnson.
Total Apps (including subs): 207.
Total Conceded: 143.
Total Clean Sheets: 98.
Average Rating: 7.04.
Honours: 6 x Cinch Premiership, 3 x Scottish Cup, 4 x Sports Premier Cup.
Individual Awards: 3 x Cinch Premiership Team of the Season.

When I first turned up at Hibernian there were three goalkeepers in the first team squad, none of which were any good.  Looking through my Under 18s I see a 16 year old Murray Johnson with five star potential… We were struggling to keep clean sheets so I decide to throw him in, the following are extracts from a WhatsApp conversation with my FM sounding board, Last Throw…
Phil: My first three keepers aren’t great.  Two are leaving in Jan, and this guy is 5* potential but surely at 16 he’s too young?!
LT: He looks cracking, give him ago I say, he’s one you need to develop right. Needs some game time at some point, future international I’m predicting.
Phil: Yeah, so I’m going to run with him until Jan, he just played against Livingstone and got a clean sheet. He’s the best young keeper in Scotland by some way and not much worse then the more experienced ones, if at all.
LT: Good idea mate, hope it works.  He will go far under your tuition.
Phil: Thanks! Got high hopes for the Edinburgh Donnarumma ;).

Little did we know that during that conversation towards end of March how accurate this would prove to be.  Fast-forward six months, seven in-game seasons and Johnson has firmly established himself as the best keeper in the country with 41 caps to his name. Across all competitions he has almost a clean sheet in every other game he plays.  Initially I protected Johnson by playing a more experienced goalkeeper in the Champions League and bigger domestic games (Luke Southwood was a tremendous bargain I picked up for £250k in the first January transfer window, never complained about game time and moved to Manchester City for £10m at the end of the sixth season, anyway, I digress…) … the reason being that I wanted to manage Johnson’s confidence, I didn’t want him on the end of a potential mauling.  He would go on to become a club legend, making big saves in important games, and never once having his head turned by the attention that came from down South.  Whilst a goalkeeper is not the most glamorous favourite player of a save, to me, Johnson epitomised everything I wanted to achieve and everything I enjoyed about my time at Hibernian.

I’d also like to make a few honourable mentions of people who just missed out.  Ryan Porteous was unfortunate to not make the list, having been my captain since the second season and starting central defender my full tenure at the club.  He also became a mainstay at the heart of the Scotland defence.  However, too many red cards and penalties conceded at crucial moments see him just miss out.  Allan Campbell was my big money signing from Luton Town at the start of 2022/23.  We needed an aggressive ball-winner who was also good on the ball, he was a key component for a lot of my time at Easter Road.  Sadly, he never really improved but was always Mr Reliable.  I signed Lewis Fiorini from the Manchester City Under 23s (a common theme throughout the save).  Whilst he was a solid all-round midfielder, as we got technically better, he fell out of favour.  Another great servant who was unlucky not to get a Scotland cap.  Finally, Ethan Laidlaw was a raw 16 year old striker in my Under 18s when I started.  For two seasons he got the nod as the central striker after Kevin Nisbett was moved on, he never really got the goals I hoped for but did become a Scotland regular.

So there we have it.  This is something I toyed with the idea of doing at the end of my Crewe Alexandra save from F20 but never got around to it… It’s been fun to write but I worry it comes across as self-indulgent and potentially dull to the reader with no context of the save, I guess I just wanted to do something a little different to document what was my favourite save since that Crewe one!

As always, I’m happy to discuss any other details about the save if anyone is interested and thank you for taking the time to read this, if you still are!

Roll on FM23…

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