Heathens resurrected #7: an (almost) sensible second season review

A little bit good, a little bit bad

DOCTOR: So Stanley, do you want the good, the good or the bad news?
STANLEY: Two goods? Ok I’ll have one of them first.
DOCTOR: Well the first good news is that you’ve lost two stone since you come to hospital.
STANLEY: Great, I’ve always been a bit of a porky bastard … and the bad?
DOCTOR: We’ve had to amputate your leg.
STANLEY: Shit, and the other good news?
DOCTOR: Peg leg Pete in the next bed has asked if he can buy one of your slippers.

Laugh, I nearly did.

So, you get the idea, it’s been good news and bad news from here at Bank Street.

The good news is, against all expectations, we’ve only gone and won the goddamn league.  The bad news is, against all expectations, we’ve only gone and won the goddamn league.  In other words, it wasn’t part of THE plan!

That said, while I am extremely chuffed with my little pixel fellas and pleased that my OCD management style has worked above expectations for once, I just feel that we are definitely a season too early.  I’m not complaining and it won’t be a problem but it does mean some major adjustments to my plans going forward which will be revealed a little further down the page.  Meanwhile, to see where we stand with the save these were my original starting aims with those affected already in bold:

  1. Don’t get sacked! (so far so good)
  2. Begin a long standing youth development programme (hmmm .. started but they’ve not had time to develop into League One potential yet)
  3. Avoid relegation in season 1 (wahey!)
  4. Gain promotion from league 2 (wahey!) and upwards to the prem (tbc)
  5. Win (any) trophy (I meant the cups, not the league trophy, so not achieved yet)
  6. Win the Premier League
  7. Win the Champion’s league
  8. Beat Manchester City
  9. Beat Manchester City (did I say that already?)
  10. Beat … (you get the idea)
  11. Beat our record score of 10-1 against Wolves on the 15th October 1892 (a real result)
  12. Get a bigger capacity stadium than the Etihad (in my timeline it always overshadows our Bank Street stadium)

Oh, and also beat Manchester City.  Sorry, did I mention that already?

Before I get into the planning of scraping survival next year, here is the wonderful joy of our 4 nil home win against Mansfield in the final game in perhaps the worst way to view a youtube video ever devised (the real one will be uploaded to my YT channel here soon).  It was a must win as our GD was worse than our tied League Two brethren of Yoevil and Leyton Orient (look at his little round excited face, awww, bless him ..)2nd season winning league.jpgThis success came from two things, firstly my ‘Dad and Lad’ tutoring policy (more on that later down the page) from the start of the season, outlined here in my last blog and secondly from my decision in January to adjust my strategy to cope with the over-rotation that my massive squad of over 30 players was causing.   Realising that I wasn’t getting any links between players on the tactics screen (thanks SI, great feature), I decided to do these two things:

  1. Set a starting match day squad and stick to it as close as possible to develop links
  2. Make it a mix of old and young
  3. Stick to 442 with slight adjustments for home and away (thanks @FM_samo for the idea  – here is his own take on the 442, an excellent post worth reading)
  4. Try not to get swayed by player’s requests for gametime – the win comes first

All that decided, here is the schedule, with the late ramp in form from January onwards, showing it’s immediate effect:Desktop Screenshot 2018.03.31 - 08.05.14.65As you can see it was a total transformation in fortunes.  From being a fair to middling mid-table side, our Dad and Lad United became serious contenders, going into the playoffs with 5 to go, auto promotion with 3 to go and of course, winning the league by 2 points on the final day (wahey again).

What is more, when you drilldown into the analysis, I feel it is a culmination of what I have been trying to achieve, namely passes coming from all over the park leading to goals (don’t we all?), involving the old and the new guard.  Here is an example of what I mean, with three of the goals from that game:Desktop Screenshot 2018.03.31 - 07.49.04.19.pngFirst it’s a short ball from Flatt, my young keeper, to Robbie Weir, my old fullback, to Will Annan, my young loanee and onto Shayne Lavery, another young loanee, who beasted it last season for me with 27 goals in 33 games (thankfully he’s signed again this year and is still improving).

Next it’s a short passing manoeuvre, not award winning but again a nice little combination from old and new, starting with a recovered ball by Nico Kranjcar (ex. of Tottenham, Rangers and pretty much everywhere else) from a misplaced pass and finished by three more of the youth, albeit loanees whom I wasn’t able to tutor.Desktop Screenshot 2018.03.31 - 07.52.47.52.pngLikewise, in this one it’s a route one ball from 33 year old left back Vergerole straight to the kid Lavery again for his hat trick.Desktop Screenshot 2018.03.31 - 07.51.00.81.pngLooking at this, it is easy to assume that it’s Lavery that’s made the difference, but that’s not the whole story as a much more important player was the lynchpin of that second goal, the 30 year old Robbie Weir.  I watched him play the other day for Chesterfield when they beat Notts County completely against the odds 3-1 at home and he was an absolute diamond as a DM, chasing second balls and Jack Russell-ing every single one of the opposition as if they were a pack of pissed up ferrets.  Through injuries I played him in the right fullback position and it’s the best thing I did all season (funny how FM accidents can often lead to gems).  On paper he is pretty meh ..Desktop Screenshot 2018.03.31 - 09.21.05.04.pngBut for the past six games in that position he has had the most pass combinations – here’s the two pass combinations between him and Will Annan, my right winger and Luke Dreher, my right midfielder, both kids.weir to annan passes.pngweir to dreher passes.pngOf course, these didn’t all lead to goals but the pressure they put on the opposition was incredible. So that conveniently leads us onto the dad and lad review ..

The (maybe not so) magnificent Dad and Lad policy review

Firstly, a disclaimer – it is a Dad and Lad policy review but on the magnificent scale it’s probably a 6 or a 7, bearing in mind that a) it’s only one part of youth development and b) for various reasons it doesn’t always go to plan as you will see.

If you didn’t read the last blog Heathens resurrected #6: Dad and Lad United then the idea was basically to improve the team with the quality of free older players that would also be able to tutor the youth, upping their determination and personalities pre-18 year old gametime.

One of the main reasons that I wanted to do it beyond the obvious tactical requirements in that in recent years I have been completely shit at youth development and that is something I wanted to improve in this year’s FM.  I think the main reason is that for about the last 5 years I have played either journeymen saves where you fly in, improve and fuck off the minute you get a better offer (taking Everton to Champions League glory after 13 clubs in FM16 – I skipped FM17) or edited leagues that are a bit daft and not at all realistic when it comes to ‘proper’ i.e. rock hard vanilla FM play.   That said, it was a learning curve that I was happy to explore.

As usual, I got OCD about it and produced this spreadsheet for tutoring matchups – initially it had just the pairings but I have just updated it with the results:Desktop Screenshot 2018.03.31 - 10.37.10.26.pngAs you can see, apart from the red bits where the players either refused tutoring (seriously SI??), left the club or were just wankers, the results were pretty, pretty good.  Here’s a zoomed view of that green bit for the 10 players I was able to tutor:Untitled-2.jpg

Considering it was my first mass tutoring attempt I’m very happy with the results; a total of 22 determination points (the second player put 8 on!) and 5 traits is a good start to this part of my FM journey.

Here’s the best one – a before and after shot of Gavin Smart, the one whose determination went up by 8 and who has kicked on really well with some brilliant U18 and U23 performances.  He was tutored by Andrew Williams, a 32 year old striker (sorry about the attrib. colour change in the second one – I’m using a new system now):

Gavin Smart_ Overview Profile.png

Gavin Smart_ Overview Profile.png

So that’s the Dad and Lad results, but where too now? More OCD planning, more reading and learning, especially from Cleon’s excellent, well-timed Preparing for Promotion blog and onwards we go.  I plan on staying in this league for two or three seasons so it’s all about consolidation and gradual improvement, though as I have no budget due to going up early (I was going to save money next year ready for promotion) it’s made it a bit harder.

That said, I am literally at the start of all that but here is a sneaky preview as of the 1st July game time:

New aims:

  1. Survive the drop (again)
  2. Beat the predicted 14th position at 75-1 (ouch, could have done with it being lower)
  3. Don’t get sacked

How I will do it:

  1. Strengthen weak positions (have made five signings already)
  2. Keep the dad and lad policy going, but make sure older players have better personalities
  3. Keep developing youth – may need to buy in as no money to improve facilities yet
  4. Keep a consistent squad and formation without over-rotation

So that’s it for now, thanks for stopping by for my good and bad news and see you soon.

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