With FM15 very much in injury time at the end of the game, my thoughts have flicked into reflective mode. FM15 has been the first Football Manager I have been able to play since the game moved from the Championship Manager name. By play, I mean really play. None of that play it for a month then life gets in the way gubbins. I’ve been able to average at least 3 hours a day since it’s release. Probably not Champions League winning numbers, but a solid start for a former veteran.
FM15 has been good to me. I mean, really good to me. Since it’s release I have seen my two books, “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” (still available on Amazon) continue to sell daily. I’ve been lucky enough to use my FM story to get a seat on the board at a professional football club in Spain, Club Deportivo Torrevieja. This fact led to me being asked to do a “We are the Managers” video alongside people like Spencer FC (already a good friend from our shared love of Real Oviedo), Steven Finn (England cricketer), Carlo Cudicini (one of the coolest men on the planet) and Mark Chapman (who I have followed since he was on the Sara Cox radio show on Radio One!) Through in an interview on TalkSport in a couple of weeks time and yeah, FM15 has served me well.
Save wise, well I can remember them all for different reasons. I dipped my toe back in gently, trying to get used to the new edition, with a quick save in Turkey with Altay. I recall a promotion in three seasons, or something. Then shit got real. CD Torrevieja. This is where FM15 and Strikerless got in my blood. Using Guido Merry’s concoction I took the Spanish club from Tercera to La Liga in five or six seasons. Having then moved here, it felt weird playing as them, so I left the save on a high. Next up was Clapton FC. I managed successive promotions to the Conference, but the fact I had turned off player attribute masking started to annoy me, so I left the save there as it wasn’t feeling real. I restarted, at Carl Zeiss Jena. My good friend Paul Wandless, owner of www.footballmanagercentral.com had just started a save with Magdeburg in the 4th tier of German and I wanted to race him to the Bundesliga. I won, promoted in successive seasons once again. We got relegated in our first season though, my first relegation. Off to Holland, reforming the defunct club of Haarlem in the lowest Dutch level of amateur football. This went well for a few seasons, but a corrupt database killed it for me, I was genuinely distraught. I returned home to my home town of Guildford, once again in Step 9 of English football and started moving up the ladder again, reaching the Ryman Premier without breaking a sweat. However, with the imminent launch of www.thehighertempopress.com I felt I needed a save I could write about that people would connect with, a bigger club and a well thought out challenge. Hence “Beating Brian,” my attempt at emulating Brian Clough by taking a regional side in the second tier and beating what he achieved in a decade with Derby and Forest. Read how I did here, as eventually I moved from Wolves, to Internacional, to Boca and then to Lazio where I reside today, waiting for that BETA code to be sent.
Why am I telling you this? Because I am thinking what my greatest FM15 side would be from the players I have managed. Regardless of the level I have been managing at, I have unearthed some personal legends. So this is my side, playing in my favourite tactic of FM15, my Argentine Strikerless.
- Tino Berbig (Carl Zeiss Jena, goalkeeper) Tino was with me throughout my Jena Journey. He played in my first game in charge in the 4th tier, and was still my number one when we made our Bundesliga debut. He was brilliant throughout.
- Willam Essomboa (Wolves, right wing back) Essomboa was a regen in my Wolves save. I picked him up from PSG for £750k and then sold him on to Man City for about £20m, if I recall. He must have averaged well over 7.75 in his two seasons, but he was one in a long line of brilliant full backs I bought cheap and sold for a lot.
- Tommy Rowe (Wolves, left wing back, captain) Tommy was an absolute shoe-in for this position. He was with me at Wolves throughout, playing in our first ever match as a central midfielder. He eventually retrained to be a very attacking left back and over his time in the Premier League average 8.03 winning 3 PL titles, 2 Champions Leagues, 1 Europa League, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup and 1 World Club title. He never played for England though, one of the greatest injustices in the modern game.
- Basil Camara (CZJ, centre back) Another Carl Zeiss Jena stalwart, signed on a free transfer – mind you, everyone before Wolves was signed on a free transfer. He joined in the second season, but was still playing for me in the Bundesliga.
- Sergio Yela (Boca, centre back) Yela makes the side for a couple of reasons – firstly, he was an absolute bargain. He joined Boca for £6k. Secondly, he was the perfect example of my “Searching the Stats ©” methodology. He was performing well for his side in Colombia and hitting all the KPI’s I looked for. All the scouts and my assistant manager believed he had 5 star potential. So we moved for him, he joined and was part of the Invincibles Part Deux side that only conceded 5 goals in 29 league games.
- Erik Andersson (Wolves, DM, Regista) Granted, Erik never played in this position for me but he would have been superb. I signed him for £2.5m from PSG and flogged him years later to Man City for over £50m. Again, he fit the StS method perfectly, and amazing profit was made.
- Tom Geizler (Carl Zeiss Jena, DM, anchor man) He was an original player for me in the 4th tier and played the DM role in a 4-3-3 brilliantly. Consistent, great at set-pieces and never asked for too much money. The perfect player in that respect!
- Agustin Battipiedi (Clapton FC, DM, RPM and apologies for the spelling) I’ve been unable to find the right spelling for Batts anywhere, but he played at Step 9 all the way through to the Conference as the defensive minded midfield in the Strikerless set-up. He was on £500 a week in the Essex Senior, so he needed to be good and was!
- Ross Gilfedder (Clapton FC, shadow striker) Gilfy, what a man. What a player. He signed for Clapton in the Essex Senior and scored 20 goals + each season all the way up to Conference level. How he is not doing something similar in real life I do not know.
- Rafa Gomez (CD Torrevieja, Enganche) GOLLLLLLLL Rafa Gomez! Yes, he is the man. Play off final, minutes left on the clock, losing on away goals. Free kick, up steps Rafa. Top corner. Played for me at Torrevieja from Tercera through to La Liga, top scorer each season. Also a thoroughly nice guy.
- Mauro Gonzalez (Boca, CM/A) Surprisingly the only member of the “triangulo magico” to make the starting line-up, Vadala and Manfru not quite getting there. I love Gonzalez. He was a winger when I turned up at Boca and by the time I left he was a central midfielder that scored 30+ goals in each of the three seasons I was there. A great example of retraining to be world class.
Those that didn’t quite make it, well there are a few. Carl Ikeme was superb for us in goal at Wolves. Vadala and Manfru have already been mentioned, but Carrasco and Ossie were goal machines for me at Torrevieja and Guildford City. Blakey was a key midfielder at City also, and will be as disappointed as Ongenda for not making the final cut. Probably the hardest for me to leave out though was Tino Schmidt. He was another original at Carl Zeiss Jena playing in the central winger role, and I loved him like a son.
Feel free to share your best XI’s of FM15 with me!