New Year, New ME

A lot can change in a few months in the world of football. In the world of FM, EVERYTHING can change within a few in-game months. This was certainly the case for me as there were ME updates just following my opening update of the first season with Glentoran which seemed to derail me ever so slightly.


The power of FM Slack manifested in a results page

Those first three results followed a few tweaks to the ME and it seemed my set up just wasn’t finding itself as effective anymore. The two may have been linked or perhaps my tactic had just been hitting it lucky in the opening salvo of the season. Regardless, I sought help in my FM Slack channel and in came Ondrej, Accordingtofm and FMSamo like the glorious saviours they are. We discussed my current set up, what I wanted to see from my players and they offered suggestions as to how I could get that.

The outcome was a five game winning run which yielded 16 goals in our favour. A loss on penalties in the Semi Final of the County Antrim Shield followed – a result which is best described in clichΓ©d terms as a ‘ding-doing battle’ as we came from behind three times to take the game to the lottery from 12 yards.

’tis the season to be folly

December was a bit of a disaster as we claimed a paltry 6 points from a potential 21! Much like an unsuccessful dog walker, we failed to hold onto leads in three matches in this month – taking just 2 draws from the Linfield, Ballymena and Carrick matches when we had victory in sight in all three.

Despite our Winter woes we’re still clinging on in the race for European football. Glenavon are running away with the league and, at this point, are certainly beyond our own reach. I’d be surprised if Ballymena can even catch them from here with 12 games left to play.


These Tactical Tweaks…again

It seems that in every edition of FM, I take time to talk about a tactical switch up. Though it would rarely be twice within the first six months of a save!

Pre-ME update
Post-ME update

Evolution rather than Revolution is always the best approach with mid-season tweaks and, thanks to those mentioned above, this is what we’re rolling with right now.

I’ve abandoned the higher defensive line/line of engagement as I don’t feel I have defenders capable of that style of play right now. Aged legs combined with a lower than desired level of mental attributes dictates how we should defend.

A midfield two of DLP(D) and BWM(S) allows the DLP to sit and make those defence splitting passing/switches to the wing while the BWM has more freedom to maurade across the pitch breaking up play without leaving a huge gap behind him.

My right back is the most athletic of my defenders so he’ll be encourage to stretch his legs and get forward, overlapping an Inside Forward on that side who has been switched with the Winger who moves to the left side of the pitch. An Attacking Midfielder on Support sits behind our Advanced Forward – the theory here is hardly anything innovative… the AM helps to link play and backs up the AF who should get into goalscoring positions.


Boxing Day Blues

It feels strange to play against Warrenpoint on Boxing Day. Boxing Day is sacrosanct in Irish League culture as Derby Day. Glentoran play Linfield, Crusaders play Cliftonville and Ballymena play Coleraine as IL fans and their families come out in force to nurse their Christmas Day hangovers with some good old fashioned local rivalry on the pitch.

This year, the bragging rights belonged to Glentoran in a 3-0 win over their South Belfast rivals.

Oh what fun it is to beat the Blues on Boxing Day!

Hard Work Bears Fruit

Database Decisions

As I discussed in my introductory post, there were a number of data related issues that prevented me from starting the game at the Beta stage. These have mostly been fixed upon release date but the biggest change has still not been sorted – the investment amount from Ali Pour.

SI’s Irish researcher suggested this was one to fix with the editor for now, adding in the option of a sugar daddy at the club. I am always reluctant to tinker with the editor as I fear making the challenge too easy for myself but in this instance I don’t really have any other option.

I’ve completed a few test saves using different options and decided on making the following changes, based on my knowledge of the new ownership: Sugar Daddy (background) and the bank balance to be set as Β£1.3m but no changes to the transfer or wage budget.

I have loaded up all out of the box leagues in the UK and Ireland. I had considered adding a few Eastern and Central European nations in to mirror Glentoran’s summer recruitment but decided it would be fairly pointless as I don’t anticipate being allowed to scout that far afield in the first few seasons.


Pre-Season’s Greetings

I always find that the first pre-season of a new save is an awkward time for me. Despite knowing this club well in real life, I wasn’t really 100% on what way we should play in FM as the attributes at this level aren’t always perfectly accurate. There’s also so many new players that I guess it takes time for the researchers to figure out how they rate against those already in the league.

The introductory meetings with the board, staff and players went well. The aims are ambitious but realistically ambitious. The board don’t seem to put too much value on cup competitions but an early trophy will be a settler for me so I will not be fielding weakened teams in any of the three cups the senior team competes in.

As can be seen, my manager’s contract expires at the end of season one – one of many reasons to impress early

It must have been a good week after release before I actually progressed a day in-game. Not because I was trying hard to showcase my slow playing (which seems to be a thing) but just real life getting in the way and then when I did open up the game I spent an inordinate amount of time just familiarising myself with the squad, staff and potential targets. In the end, I decided against making any new signings, as the club had already brought in a raft of new faces over the summer months anyway.

Eight friendlies were played out to a mixture of levels. I consider the wins over Stenhousemuir and Coventry to be relatively big scalps however the loss to English non-league Bamber Bridge was a reality check. Our long serving goalkeeper Elliott Morris’ testimonial ended in a less than exciting 1-1.


#TimeToClimb

By the end of September we’ve faced each of the other 11 teams in the league so it makes for a good time to stand back and assess our situation. A hectic August schedule of 8 games in 29 days ended with three consecutive games away from home. 53 miles up to the North Coast to face Coleraine on the Saturday and the same back to Belfast before a 82 mile round trip midweek to face Tobermore in the NIFL Cup.

We’re doing a lot better than I had expected as we continue to keep pace with the league leaders. The loss to Big Two opponents Linfield was painful but wins over Cliftonville and Crusaders helped to soften the blow somewhat. As a positive we remain in contention for the two cup competitions we’ve played so far despite our struggles against Tobermore who ply their trade two leagues below us.


Tactical Tweaks

By my own admission, I continue to have a lot to learn tactically on FM. I finally settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation. The aim being to get the most out of Elvio van Overbeek on the right wing who has pace to burn in relative terms for this league.

I started with the below tactical set up but initially having ‘Pass into Space’ selected as a TI, following the loss to Coleraine I was unhappy with the way this had us playing so removed that particular instruction. In its place I decided to change things up and implement the ‘Shorter Passing’ TI which lead to a much more attractive style of play when watching the ME.

Something to consider: we should be doing a lot better defensively having only had a clean sheet in 38% of our games. I’d like to see this increase to at least 50% over the course of the next few months.


Peaches from Plum

Hrvoje Plum has quickly launched himself into the hearts of Glentoran fans in real life this season with his expertise from dead ball situations. I haven’t quite been able to match that in FM so far but I do have one highlight reel freekick from Plum to show alongside some of his real goals. Enjoy!

There’s A Green Sward Called The Oval

FM20 has been a long time coming around, for me anyway. My FM20 save has been decided since around May time and it was an easy choice.

My local club, Glentoran, has been through the ringer in the past decade and a half. Well documented financial issues were compounded by a serious of questionable managerial appointments. At one point a creditor even locked the gates of our famous East Belfast ground over an unpaid debt.

Investment Bringing New Beginnings

At the turn of 2019 it became apparent that a wealthy overseas backer was interested in investing in the club. Glentoran has a rich cultural history to go along with a finely packed trophy cabinet, a delectable combination that made it an attractive choice for a benevolent financier. And so, in May the takeover was given the go ahead by a majority shareholder vote – Welsh-Iranian Ali Pour, along with accomplished Belfast coach Mick McDermott and former Glentoran player and manager Paul Millar installed a new board of directors.

It’s been a fast paced transition as outstanding debts were settled and Pour sank considerable sums into developing the facilities at the club. McDermott was installed as Head Coach (alongside his Directorial role) just prior to the takeover and as the new season began, set about making use of his extensive contacts in World football to bring exciting new talents in front of the faithful fan base.

Croats Marijan Antolovic, Hrvoje Plum and Antonio Djuric agreed terms along with Dutch winger Elvio van Overbeek. Defender Paddy McClean (brother of Irish international James) followed before the signing of Navid Nasseri – McDermott making use of his connections from his time served with the Iranian National Team where he was part of Carlos Queiroz’s coaching staff. The foreign contingent were joined by a few local players to provide real strength in depth.

McDermott, the voice of the new ownership, made clear that Glentoran were in a rebuilding period to bring the club back to the heady heights it once resided at. A move toward full time football is part of the plans as the Glens go in search of the golden goose’s egg that is European prize money. The benefit of which cannot be understated when we look toward the advances made by the likes of Linfield and Crusaders along with our southern friends in the League of Ireland.

Footballing Infrastructure

I recently discussed the structure of Northern Irish football in a cameo appearance on the One More Game podcast. Glentoran will compete in the NIFL Premiership alongside the Irish Cup, NI Football League Cup, and County Antrim Shield. Subject to league performance there is also the chance to play in the Scottish Challenge Cup and the newly created All Ireland Champions Cup which pits the winners of the NIFL Premiership against the League of Ireland Premier Division champions in a two-legged final. The reserves will compete in the NI Intermediate Cup and Steel & Sons Cup with a U20 side in the NIFL Premiership Development League.

Glentoran last tasted trophy success in the 2015 Irish Cup Final

Blueprints For Success

The aim for recruitment will be to continue to look toward signing talented players from across Europe’s lower leagues, I envisage this will mean short development period before hopefully allowing them to move on to bigger clubs for profit. Alongside this, I want to build a successful pathway from academy to first team to develop a semblance of self sufficiency at the club.

Tactically, I want to make use of talented wide players which will mean a leaning toward either a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 although I haven’t set anything in concrete on that front just yet. Defensively, we must be solid as in the early building years we will be scrapping for progress along with a number of other exciting clubs – one of which being Larne who have recently undergone serious financial investment at their own end, I see them as a yardstick for our own accomplishments in the short term.

FM20 Planning and Issues

I’m excited at some of the new features to come in FM20. Being able to set out a vision for the club for the seasons ahead is something most FMers do in their own time, now being able to do this in-game with the board overseeing it is a great addition.

The Development Centre is another element I am very much looking forward to! Alongside this, there is the option to give certain assurances to players as part of pre-contract negotiations, mapping out their progress from new entrant to key first teamer for the first few seasons after signing.

All of this excitement doesn’t come without drawbacks. Unfortunately, the data and research side of things in Northern Ireland seems to have been given half effort in what we have received at Beta stage. There appears to be little to no representation of Glentoran’s big takeover in the database with the omission of the new owner on the board and the even more glaring omission of the funds he injected. It is also not reflected that the club are offering full time contracts to players in their aspiration to become a full time professional club. Finally, a few basic errors in the squad lists around the league just add to the disappointment.

I’m hopeful of these obvious issues being fixed in time for the full release of the game on 19th November. If not, then I’ll take to the editor myself to correctly reflect the real life scenarios.