Well, you can’t really blame Chris Hughton from walking away can you? In that real world thing that some of you readers will dabble in from time to time, Brighton are yet to score a Premier League goal, meaning they share a dubious honour with Harry Kane in the fact they have not netted in the Premier League during the month of August (yet). Staying in the top flight having taken so long to actually get there looks already like a step too far, and I would imagine their gambling genius owner Tony Bloom would be reluctant to invest too much on the market, even with the odds of survival promising a very nice return indeed.
So in this first “Test Tempo”, where us lot at Tempo Towers get set some impossibly difficult challenges, we’ve been told to keep Brighton up. Sounds simple, eh? Each “test” we are going to be set will be a one-season thing, mainly because we are that time of year where most people are reluctant to start a new save as FM18 will be with us before we know it (and probably before Brighton have won a Premier League match).
The concept is that each “test” takes a week to do, and at the end you get a chance to vote on the next one we do. Sounds fun, hey?
So, let’s head down to Hove and find out what we need to do to not get the club relegated.
As I rock up at the American Express Stadium, I wonder what the hell I am doing taking this challenge on. I need to find three teams worse than Brighton to achieve the aim of staying up and, realistically, in the world of FM it is unlikely that Crystal Palace and West Ham will be as crap as they have been so far. I’m also alerted to the fact there is a glaring database error already, which is going to kill my OCD tendancies. I’m using the FMinside August update so that the Brighton squad is as accurate as possible and it’s come up as the Barclays Premier League, which probably needs some kind of file edit.You see, I can’t live with that. It’s the Premier League. This is exactly why I spend my life in the lower levels of FM. You have no expectation of things being right when you are down in the depths of the Northern Counties East, or in the MTN Elite II in Cameroon, you are just grateful to be there. But if you are managing in the “greatest show on earth” the least you expect is for the name to be right. Anyway, we’ll probably only be here a year so what does it matter? (It matters a lot). Anyway, it’s not FM Inside’s fault at all, it is the name fix file over-riding everything.
Without even looking at the squad I felt a pull towards seeing how much money I have been left to spend on new players. £1.7m. Christ alive, Neymar earns that for taking a fucking corner. So, to be clear, I am expected to stay in the Premier League when my main striker is Glenn Murray? A quick flick through the squad alerts me to the fact that Shane Duffy is there as well, a player I was pointing and laughing at last season as he managed to score something like four own goals in three games for Blackburn, a Blackburn side that got relegated from the Championship. We’ve signed him why, exactly? Steve Sidwell is here too, at the age of 33. Considering he sat on the bench for four years or something at Chelsea, I suspect there is a bit left in his legs. Seriously though, Chris Hughton worked miracles to get this lot up in the first place.
Are there any plus points? The goalkeeper Matthew Ryan is quite highly rated, if you ignore his real life performances. Lewis Dunk is a player who many top clubs have had a look at, and decided against so there must be something there. Izzy Brown is a talent, but is he a talent suitable to a relegation battle? Solly March has a future, and that future needs to start now. Finally, Davie Propper is the club record signing from PSV and he looks pretty good to be fair to him.
OK, we have five players that I half rate. That’ll be enough.
My backroom team is led by Paul Trollope, fresh from being fired for Neil Warnock at Cardiff. Hopefully he is a better assistant than manager then. We also have Ben Roberts as our keeper coach. Ben Roberts had a very average playing career himself, so my players will have to look pretty hard to find anyone at this club with an actual Premier League pedigree.
I did actually take a proper look at the squad, mainly because I don’t want to fail at this challenge. My initial plan was to roll out my 4141 that has done so well in Cameroon, mainly because it is defensively stable and quick on the break. We appear to have the players that can fit into the system automatically, meaning that if I can find a couple of gold dust players out there for next to nothing I’d give us a fighting chance of finishing higher than Huddersfield, Burnley and one other that is bound to get dragged into all this.
If I get to field a team like Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner; Kayal; Knockeart, Propper, Gross, March; Murray each week then I think we can give the lower end sides a game. As Paul Merson worked out the other day, three wins from the first three games and you are a quarter of the way there before September.
We start at home to West Ham United, which really should be three points unless the FM version of West Ham is actually half decent. We then travel to Manchester United where we will probably lose 4-0, before playing Bournemouth. Am I being too ambitious to hope for at least four points from the first three games? Two away games against Burnley then Swansea are already must wins before we’ve even started training, we can write off a home game against City before hopefully getting something out of Huddersfield at the AMEX. Hell, I am starting to feel like a Premier League manager. I can see ten points from the first six games, sorted.
Out of curiosity, I started scrolling through the list of free agents.
Raul Meireles caught my eye, as he can play DM. Plus he just looks like a street fighter, and I’d rather have him than Steve Sidwell staring at the opposition. Could Alexandr Hleb do a job for us for a year? Don’t forget, I am only thinking short term here. I don’t care about the future, we just need to stay up. Jose Enrique, the former Liverpool left back is worth a scout report for sure. Antonio Cassano? Now that would be a story! Joe Ledley? Christ, this is fun. I haven’t scrolled free agents in a top flight since Championship Manager. Joleon Lescott might have got his last two clubs relegated, but third time lucky? Joey Barton? No, he is banned for being a bad boy. What if I kept Abou Diaby fit for a year? Matthieu Flamini could do a job, right? Youssouf Mulumbu, he knows about this level of football. Libor Kozac can’t be as bad as he was at Aston Villa. Silvio is ex-Atletico Madrid and Benfica. Finally, Philipp Wolscheid can’t be that bad either, considering he has two Germany caps.
Simple. I’ll sign that lot and we will be fine.
Moving forwards I can’t tell you how many updates there will be per “test” but I hope this sets the scene for this first one.
If I’m going down, I’m taking Joleon Lescott with me.