Football Manager Diaries - Embarking on Another Odyssey

If FIFA is representative of a chance to live out your childhood fantasy, Football Manager offers a release for the slightly cynical teenager and beyond. When all hopes of playing professional football have disintegrated, solace can be found in the most realistic rendition of the next available step, the next possible dream; management.

To those who play and love Football Manager, the reasoning is in the experience. Perhaps it is because your 38 year old keeper with 6 Iranian caps to his name hasn’t conceded for five games on the trot, or maybe your record breaking signing from Bolivia has scored 8 goals in 3 games at 19 years of age. The possibility of absolute bliss when playing this game is easily worth the frustration you must put up with while playing. Even when that Iranian dynamo comes to collect a corner and misjudges the flight ball or your Bolivian wonderkid ruptures his cruciate and devastatingly must sit out that summers Copa America. Football Manager gives you the footballing world and you must figure out how to survive within it.

Appropriately enough on Halloween night last week, Football Manager 2014 was released. An unusually slow start on my behalf based on some ‘real’ life issues like moving house meant that I am nowhere near as engrossed as I should be. However, some foundations have been set, I talked it over with family and friends and was proud to be taking up residence in the wonderful city of Sheffield. It will be an intriguing season as I try to lead Sheffield United from League 1 back to the Premier League.

First off the bat was the sorting out of an absolute fundamental issue; backroom staff. Now some claimed Moyes was a little hasty to remove some names from Man Utd’s back room, well I perish to think what the fans of my new United thought when I cleared out everyone bar the Chief Scout. (My reasoning for keeping the scout was one influenced by guilt. Read The Nowhere Men and you’ll understand.)

Given the reputable state of the club I was enabled to bring in some impressive names. Former Man City man Keith Curle starts off as my new right hand man. I have Ray Wilkins – was still working on the TV – Andy Cole and a host of some less stellar but equally effective fellas working hard day in day out. This is an absolutely key component of the job for me. As tedious as it can get trying to sort out your training schedules etc, it puts your mind at ease to know that you can blame someone else when results start to sway; I’m looking at you Wilkins.


When it comes to looking at the squad itself, I like to take the Wengerian approach – a nice blend of youth and experience all being paid as little as is feasibly possible. With this in mind, Daryl Westlake, Michael Doyle and Marcus Williams were out the door right away. Given the stature of the club it’s fair to say that apart from Wolves and maybe Peterborough we do probably have one of the best sides in League One. Between Harry Maguire, George Long, Florent Cuvalier and Marlon King it’s a good bunch. However, the key man so far has been Jose Baxter. I can’t say I knew too much of him before hand but if I’m following Wenger then this lad is Ozil. The improvements made in the realm of tactical instructions etc has become far more manageable also which allows you to see far clearer where exactly your Jose Baxter should be playing.

When it came to the best part of pre-season – recruiting some new players to make the squad my own – it’s fair to say I went a little crazy. With three players sold and one loan terminated I was left with just about 1.5 million to spend. August in turn was a busy, busy month. On the free transfer side of things I brought in Stephen Hunt, Fitz Hall, Papa Bouba Diop, Mikel Alonso and an absolute star in the making, Connor Hunte – an absolute must for anyone starting off a new game. He’s only 16 but going to be mega. With seven games so far played and a hell of a lot of match fitness to be found wanting in those players bar Hunte and Alonso who haven’t had the chance to play yet, it’s fair to say that its been a quiet start for the others. This does not include Papa Bouba though, sheer class in the middle of the park. All the money I had was spent on youth and convenience. Callum Woods at 250,000 can play well at right or left back – invaluable asset, or perhaps worth 250,000. Aaron Martin commanded a 90,000 fee from Southampton. Only about 19 but will be a great player for us. Ross Jenkins (19) from Watford cost 140,000 and will be our Andrea Pirlo. Then came the big move of the Sheffield summer. Coming down from Hamilton, we paid around 850,000 on an 18 year old left back, Stephen Hendrie. I’ll admit that in Football Manager 2013 I signed him while at Rangers and he went on to oust Lee Wallace from that left back position for both club and country. Arrived injured and hasn’t thus played yet but high hopes for the highlander.

I am now as far as the end of the summer transfer window and things are going ok. We have played five league games and two Carling Cup ties – got smashed 1-4 by Everton in Round 2. We sit in 4th in League One with 10 points – three wins, a draw and a humbling 0-3 loss to Bradford. All things considered with a turnaround of staff both on and off the pitch I am quite pleased with it. Big game away to Burton Albion in the JPT Round 1 next up. The suit will be on.

Arthur O'Dea
Article written by
From Sligo, In Dublin, To London. Will write for money, happily doing it for free. Masters Student of English in T.C.D. - until the summer runs out anyway. Appreciate feedback.

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