Welcome back to the third post in this blog series. If you missed the introduction posts you can find them here.
As described in the opening post, the aim of this save is a Youth Academy Challenge. Unfortunately, with a club at this level, there is a lack of youth and reserve players in the game, so in a desperate try to fill the waiting time for FM23 with some FM-related things to do, I decided to research the youth and reserves players on my own.
I tried contacting various people around the club to get hold of information. However, I’m still waiting for someone to answer my enquiries. However, Google and social media are reputable sources, and I found information about thirteen players I added to the club through the editor.
I don’t want it to come across as cheating, so I decided to give random potential to everyone except the four players involved with the first team in friendlies. I did some benchmarking against players of the same age and in the reserves at other teams at this level to find their “correct” potential.
The players added to the database are:
- Jude Salmon
- Spike Steggall
- Trevor Caborn
- Ben Aubrey
- Jack Bingham
- Freddy Leather
- Blake Williams
- Cade Casselman
- Bailey Farrer
- Joe Blakeman
- Jack Saunders
- Beaux Booth
- Lysander Reid
Some youth players have decent potential, at least at this level. I hope that a few of them can develop into squad players for the first team and be a part of the ambitious project I’ve started at the club.
There was also a few other changes that didn’t make the cut-off date for the database before release, so I decided to add them as well. Finally, on November 4th, Archie Proctor arrived on a permanent deal and Joe Cook on loan for the rest of the season.
On November 2nd, the club got permission to expand Meadowbank to meet the requirements from the National League. This is added to my database, so the stadium expansion is now set for completion on 31.03.2023.
I also decided to set some rules for the save:
- Two academy debutants per season
- Academy graduate(s) in every matchday squad (From season two)
- Play realistically. No use of staff search and only let staff go under normal circumstances. I also want to promote staff from within the club and give players a chance as coaches when they retire
All in all, it looks like a decent squad for a newly promoted team in this league. However, I decided to deep dive and looked at our squad compared to the league average and see if my first assumptions were correct. We have the, by far, highest average age in the league, with our 27.63 years, with the average being 25.11. However, that will probably change drastically as we move forward with the academy challenge.
As expected, this is not where we have our best players, but it’s better than I feared it might be too. We are above average in agility, throwing, command of area and reflexes. On the other hand, it’s disturbing to me that were are way below average in handling and one on ones. Dan Lincoln is the definitive first choice of the two senior goalkeepers at the start, but he has a trait that I prefer to avoid. He uses long throws to start counterattacks, and I’m okay taking those opportunities. Still, more often than not, Lincoln gives the ball away. If we want to play possession football and keep the ball, it starts with the goalkeeper.
Club icon Slav Huk is the backup and will probably have limited game time. However, if Lincoln keeps hoofing the ball away, Huk may get a chance to impress.
Ones to watch:
Josh Wilson from the U21s is closest to the first team and made his debut for the first team last season. Freddie Leather has the highest potential of the goalkeepers below the first team, and at 15, he looks like a good talent for the future.
The centre-backs are also far from the best in the division. Still, at least they are above average in three crucial attributes. Only three teams average higher in positioning, so at least I can trust my centre-backs to position themselves wisely. We have the lowest average in the league in pace and acceleration, and that’s what worries me the most. Veterans like Sami El-Abd, Jordan Cheadle and Barry Fuller are among the slowest in the team and the league, so that the number can be slightly biased. Joe Cook and Dan Quick(!) are the fastest defenders, with 11 as the highest attribute.
Cook and Quick are the two centre-backs with the highest potential, and both are on loan for this season only, so it will only be good for us if they reach that potential. Newcomer Archie Procter can develop further from the level he’s at now and become a good centre-backs at this level and possibly even higher.
The captain, Barry Fuller, is our best defender for now and turns 38 in September. So I won’t expect anything from him after the first season, and his future is probably as a coach. But, as a huge bonus, he has a professional personality which I hope to exploit by him mentoring the younger lads.
Ones to watch:
Cameron Black is an academy graduate who did great at Leatherhead and is on loan with Hampton & Richmond in the National League South for the first half of the season to build more experience. He’s dominant in the air, and that is his biggest strength as a player.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a comparison for wingbacks, so I assume we have good coverage in those roles. Bobby-Joe Taylor is the definitive first choice on the left and will contribute highly up and down the left. He’s also a set-piece specialist. On the right, we find the best player in the squad. He, unfortunately, is injured until December. Matt Briggs is a club icon who has been at the club since the 2015/16 seasons and has played a vital part in three promotions. Hopefully, I can keep them here for many years, and he will be critical for us to reach the EFL. Until Briggs is back in action, Niall McManus will play at the right, with Nicky Wheeler as backup on both sides. I also decided to retrain Adam Mekki as a wingback to have another attacking option on that side.
Ones to watch:
Trevor Caborn is the only one worth mentioning. Initially a winger, he can become a good wingback if he can transition into a new role and position with the U21s.
The average numbers here are also somewhat impacted by the wingers and wingbacks. However, I’m glad we are ranked second in the league in teamwork and close to average in passing and technique. Passing is significantly lower than the starters have, so there’s no doubt that the backups and fringe players are dragging this number down. The three best players are Josh Taylor, Jack Jebb and Alfie Egan. And their attributes in passing are 13,13, and 12. Between the three of them, they average the highest in the league. Dan Gallagher will also play a part here as a ball-winning midfielder, as he’s a hard-working but technically limited player.
James McShane will play a key role for us as an attacking midfielder, both creating and scoring goals. He comes from the back of a great season in the National League South, scoring 13 goals in 26 games. He will be the first on the team sheet if he can contribute with numbers like that again.
Ones to watch:
Jude Salmon and Beaux Booth are the ones worth mentioning. Salmon has been involved with the first team in real life and could become a squad player in the future. Booth looks like his future lies in a more advanced midfield role.
In the attacking midfielder role, we have James Dickson with the U21s and Olly Allen out on loan. Allen looks like he has the highest potential of the two and could develop into a decent backup for McShane. I believe these players will only be critical members of the first team, but it’s a start.
This is the part of the squad where we have the most quality. Alfie Rutherford and Ryan Seager are star players at this level, and I need to keep them at the club at almost any cost. The backups, Harry Ottaway and Jimmy Muitt, aren’t even close to the quality the deadly duo possesses. Without them, the numbers would look very different. However, every squad needs depth and alternatives, and this club is no exception. Alfie Rutherford is the key to our success going forward, and when I formerly claimed that Briggs was the best player in the squad, I may have got that one wrong. Rutherford is all you want from an advanced forward at this level!
Seager can also drop down and play as an attacking midfielder if necessary. That could be an option as the season progresses.
Seb Bowerman is a newcomer this season and originally a winger. I will retrain him to play as a striker, in the same mould as Muitt, with both of them being fast, technical players.
Ones to watch: None
I want to keep the identity the club has built over time and play possession football combined with attacking and entertaining football. That’s part of the club’s DNA, and there is no need to change that. I would rather see my team outscore the opposition than park the bus to secure a 1-0 win.
The base for the tactic is the three at the back, and it’s a no-brainer to fit Rutherford and Seager in the starting lineup. However, suppose that means a duo up front or Seager as an attacking midfielder can vary. In that case, the formation will, without a doubt, be a work in progress.
I will also adjust the roles as we progress, and pre-season will be the key to testing and finding out what’s the best fit for everyone.
We may have games where we need to push one centre defender up as a defensive midfielder, and we may have games where a completely different formation is required. I plan to have a go-to formation, a more attacking one and a balanced one we can switch to when the going gets tough, and we need to balance out a game.
The instructions you see below are possibly too complicated in possession. Still, I will test it like this and make minor adjustments until we find the sweet spot.
Without going into too much detail about tactics, this is what I have planned so far.
Thank you for reading.
/ FM Veteran