So, I finally caved in and went for the most obvious challenge in this year’s FM. After listening to the episode about Iain Macintosh’s community challenge, I was hooked, and it was settled.
I’m also a massive fan of MaddFM’s Northern Boys, and I played with the idea of doing a similar challenge. Why not merge it with the Derby Challenge? Derby is a massive challenge on its own. Still, if I can make it through the first season, I think it’s a very exciting challenge to merge the Community Challenge with The Regionnaire challenge,e and I can also have an academy focus there. It’s like a Kinder Surprise!
When setting the save up, I decided to use the pre-game editor to change the players that left in the winter to future transfers and remove the injuries that were picked up in the winter. That’s the best way to start with the same squad as Wayne Rooney and hopefully achieve a tad better than he managed. I also decided to make the Reginnaire challenge limited to 35km around Pride Park and include Leicester and Chesterfield, just outside the marked radius. Chesterfield is also an affiliate club, so hopefully, we can help them grow together with Burton and Mansfield. I will make exceptions to this rule if academy graduates are born outside this radius.
Considering the situation at the club, the squad is decent enough, although we don’t have any real quality upfront.
The main man looks to be Tom Lawrence for goals and creativity, while Jason Knight, Louie Sibley and the wildcard Ravel Morrison hopefully can provide goals from the midfield. With Colin Kazim-Richards starting the season with an injury and Sam Baldock leaving the club in January, both Luke Plange and Jack Stretton will be handed a lot of trusts this season. Both of them are from the academy and look like real talents.
In defence, the fullbacks are decent, and Lee Buchanan is an incredible talent to have on the left-back. However, the central defenders are 39,36, and 33 at the start of the season and are probably at the end of their career at this level. Phil Jagielka is leaving in January, so I will look to ease Eiran Cashin and Harrison Solomon from the U23s into the first team as the season progresses.
I may have too much faith in the squad’s ability with the tactic I’ve set up, but I would instead go for it than defend our way to relegation. We need seven wins before we have 0 points. We can’t afford to park the bus if we don’t have to.
The one thing I’m most worried about is an injury crisis occurring, as the depth in the squad is abysmal. We have nine players from the academy in the first team when the season starts, and it sure will be several more as soon as injuries and suspensions begin to pile up.
The season started fantastically with Tom Lawrence flying out of the blocks with five goals in the first two league games. Ten goals combined in the first two games overshadowed our defensive challenges, and it sure was a far better start than anyone at the club could hope for. We did get knocked out of the EFL Cup on penalties, but with six academy players involved in the game – what could you expect?
Our defensive problems continued against Hull and Middlesbrough. Somehow we managed to get away with a point in both games after trailing. In three minutes, Curtis Davies showed just how big a treat he is on set pieces with two goals from corners to equalise Hull’s two-goal lead.
Against Middlesbrough, we also trailed before we turned it around. We were actually close to getting away with all three points before conceding a penalty six minutes into overtime. I won’t let that overshadow the fantastic mentality it takes to turn the game around and that all three goalscorers are a product of the academy! 17-year old Malcolm Ebiowei came from the bench to score in his debut; hopefully, we got a real prospect on our hands.
In August, the last game was the most important one for us, with the East Midlands Derby against Nottingham Forest at home. Four yellow cards in the first half prove it was a tough game. A typical game where the first goal wins the game – unfortunately, Nottingham Forest got that first goal and killed the game off in the second half. All we got after that was another yellow card and injuries to Tom Lawrence (2-4 weeks) and Kamil Jozwiak (2-3 months). A big blow for us with the only other wingers we got are youth players and the ever inconsistent Ravel Morrison.
All in all, it’s a wonderful start to the season for us, and we have reduced to -13 after the first month of the season. Of course, it will still be tough to go on from here. But, at least we have managed to give ourselves an excellent platform to build on.
Thanks for reading this blog, and I hope you like the new series!
/ FM Veteran