#FM17 : What Is A Gable Endie? The Montrose Story : Part 1

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Links Park.

 

My mission: Take over the world with Montrose, and find out whether my tweaks and tactical tinkering actually does anything…

So my name is Amanda, and this is my story…

Several years ago, in a fit of pique, I put Football Manager out of my life – oh I’d been through a lot, stretching back to Football Manager 2 on the Amstrad when you got to pick between Gary Lineker and John Chiedozie (maybe) whether you were Arsenal, Cardiff or Torquay. I went through the point and click years on the PC where a Serie A update was the height of exotica. I played as Airdrie in 1997, dominating when the board said, sure, bankrupt us, but get Peter Beardsley while you are at it. I even stuck by the game when they had that weird year where you could tightly mark the opposition goalkeeper and watch him kick it off your striker 5 times a game (2 of which would count). And I was relentlessly GOOD at these early games, winning Footballer Of The Year, dominating Football Director, and in Championship Manager dominating as St Helens, once winning 9-0 at Luton with around 60 shots at goal. While smug, I was always confused. There always seemed to be something about the game that was strange to me – did all my instructions mean anything?

But it was a particularly galling European loss as Notts County that did me in, 3-1 up in the 87th minute, for no real reason, Bayern Munich scored 3 goals in 8 minutes (including injury time) to win 4-3. There it was, in stark black and white, the European dream over. In the space of 8 minutes, my previously peerless centre back (lets say it was Craig Short for instance) had gone from an 8 to a 5. Why? What was the lesson? What was the moral? What could I have done differently? It was then I started a search for logic in my games, understanding say why I could get Goldberg to destroy Chris Jericho on the Playstation but not get Notts County to stop 3 strikers being on the 6 yard line un-marked (and of course, all apparently onside). But it’s narked and nagged me for years, DID I do anything wrong? Or was the game coded to just be a frustrating experience at times? Less a game, more a life lesson? Did anything I do anything actually matter? Was this a game or a random sequence of events? And me being me, the disc was hurled out of a window, before I took up less damaging pursuits like roller skating, London vodka dens and Hilltop Hoods concerts.

So FM17 (as the kids are calling it) is the first time in a long time I’ve played the game – my first tip into the waters was to take over Parma (or Parma Calcio 2013 I think they are now called). I was able to take Parma up to Serie A, then got bored and ruined the game with a series of edits and cheats when I found out how bad the money situation was in Italy (if you can get him legit, Moise Kean from Juventus – the future). I then took over Liverpool, played fair and square, spend all my transfer budget on Will Hughes, Carles Alena and Charlie Austin and dominated the EPL. I won a trophy as Qatar, then Holland, with the amusing sidebar than my scouts could find no details about those mystery countries France and Germany because “there was little statistical data about them”. But something through this process bothered me – deep, high line, attacking, defensive, I would concede goals the same way. Long ball over the top, everyone stands like a statue, striker runs in and scores. Even as Liverpool, 5-0 up at Anfield on, say, Luton (it feels like I’m picking on them) in the FA Cup it was the same. So I was still bothered whether I was doing anything, or just winning with better players. And thus, a very quick random team selection has lead me here, to Montrose…ultimately not just a quest to take over Montrose, but also to try and work out how to play the game. It’s either that or download a lot of Guts songs, so either or…

Taking my macced up Danish icon Claus Inge Jakobsen to Links Park, they handed me a bit of a stinker of a hand. Not much money, one coach (keep in mind that wasn’t 1 goalkeeping coach, 1 fitness coach etc, I mean 1 coach only) and within 3 days my assistant manager headed off to Ibrox for a bigger office and a shot of Mark Warburtons whistle and magic hat on his days off. The 17K compensation was nice, but immediately I had to take over the training. My pet hate is running training, because I’m personally impatient and want to get to the games. They also gave me a Betfred Cup group with Dundee United and Partick Thistle, and a board so intransigent and difficult to deal with, they wouldn’t sanction a wage of 90 pounds a week for a loan starlet (literal Scottish “Wer nae made of money” could be heard whistling through my Danish ears). Of course, my training sessions didn’t exactly go over well, and after a friendly against Raith (losing 0-2) they were already complaining I wasn’t focusing on strength training. I hadn’t even played a game and I’d stared down my board with an ultimatum of sorts, and had uppity players on my back. Luckily, I had a few tricks up my sleeve, but with a lot of 50-60% match sharp players and a home game against Dundee United in the Betfred Cup literally 2 weeks and one more friendly away, I barely had time to work out what a “Gable Endie” actually was before I was immediately up against it. No endless friendlies (or depending on your level of integrity, playing one friendly 26 times to work out your best formation). There’s also no reserve team at Montrose (refer to the previous board chat) but luckily, there was some good players. Jordan Millar in goal, the on loan Cammy Ballantyne, the on loan Scott Hynd, and a bullocking forward named Gary Fraser, a level headed “fairly professional” striker ploughing lone furrows on his own without complaint or respite. Give him bogs at Arbroath or…well bogs at Elgin, and the man will run through mud for you…

What I had learned from Parma was at least one trusty tactic (imaginatively named Parma) which relies on grunt and effort, with wing backs, everyone staying in position, and a mix of passing and shooting strategies. The biggest problem with this formation is its hard to find a Sweeper of any quality in the game who’s willing to pitch in for 50 quid a week. Thus sweepers are born not made. My usual tactic is to specifically man mark all attacking players, and kick everyone else with some hard tackling unless they are having an influence and getting a lot of the ball (which I check every 5 minutes in the stats). I also (and this ties into the mission of whether this matters) still make it a habit to press the opposition goalkeeper where possible. My wing backs are key – rather than changing positions, I change their responsibilities, making them support or attack depending on how the game is going. Too many times in Serie A they would claim “there’s no link between attack and defence!” or “there’s too big a gap between midfield and attack!” until it became as much of a club motto as “pay your bills Parma!”. I took a punt that Montrose wouldn’t thrive on too much tactical sophistication (the Tim Sherwood school of “running abaht a bit” very much in my thoughts), and that they had worked into the game the death of “the super tactic” so “Parma” was saved as my get out of jail tactic, but with no friendlies to play and several unfit and grumpy players, it was very much a step into the unknown and guesswork on these theories. More on tactics later, but there was also the small matter for a graphical glitch that meant when I played Raith Rovers, my player dribbled through their whole team and put the ball past the post. When I say “dribbled” I mean ice skated through the mud with the ball invisible. It’s never happened again, but it hinted at the chaos and madness to come before the empty cavernous stands of Links Park.

And so, Dundee United – 2 weeks in charge, no pre match press conference, grumpy unfit players, no assistant manager, and a social feed that over used the hashtag #mightymo to describe us. For an hour my unfit warriors harassed, kicked and pressed anything that moved. I told them I loved them at half time over a cup of tea (one cup between the team, we’re no made of money mind) and they were battling away. I could see for the first time I had input into the game as my players adopted a “kick them! KICK THEM!” strategy (of a sort) and it was visibly working. Unfortunately, the game had a twist in store, and Dundee United changed their formation roughly 3 times in 10-15 minutes, and right after I’d made a substitution and couldn’t change it (while waiting for the next break in play) to match them, they changed it again. Tired, confused, and out of puff, my poor players faded, and the Terrors scored twice in 10 minutes to defeat me 2-0. We cursed the name Blair Spittal, and moved onto a sympathetic social feed full of praise for our guts, except one cheeky blighter who (with the cheek of still using the #mightymo hashtag) said we should have done better. Still, there was enough to work with, defensively things were OK, we had shut them down pretty well, we had “run abaht a bit” Tim Sherwood style, but my own poor preparation in training and setting them up (plus the super quick start to competitive games) had me up against it. I scratched my Danish brain for answers, staring at my strikers 6.4 and 6.5 ratings, and began to ponder what to do next.

Already missing the glory days of Football Director and the safe dugout of Anfield, it was time to put the magic yellow mac to work…

Some random screenshots below for those of you that like that kind of thing!
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