Previous Thoughts & The New Save
As many of you will know my Sammarinese alter ego “Elias Gallo” failed the mission of improving and developing the club and country of San Marino. What was worse is that I didn’t even make it one season in charge. A disappointing Football Manager save for me personally. This left me with a space for a new blog piece. A few options cropped up, but I had to go with something that I would be passionate about. That meant there needed to be an emotional connection to the club. In the end, there was only one real option left for me to take. A rise to glory type save – everyone knows I love these saves. If you didn’t, I do! My local club, regardless of professional status. A journey like no other.
Welcome to Christchurch FC
Christchurch FC a club I used to play for in my youth. If I had to describe my young playing days it would be a journeyman. I must have played for more youth teams than Steve Claridge has played for clubs. Starting off by playing for Burton YFC then at U11 for two seasons I moved to Christchurch YFC before switching allegiances to Bransgore YFC for a season. Christchurch YFC was the destination for a further season during my U14/15 season before trialing for U16 youth clubs the next season. Eventually I found myself playing mens football for Mudeford Men Club FC at the tender age of 16.
I am very passionate about football in general, however that doesn’t even come close to how much passion I have for Christchurch FC and the local area in general. Unfortunately, I’m unable get to the games because of life. There is unfinished business with Christchurch FC as I only spent a total of three season there as a youth player. I didn’t really commit to football until I was older. I was more interested in going for a kick about up the local field than putting more effort into my own fitness and technical skills. The love of playing football was fantastic, but I just never saw a future there for me.
I have chosen this save on Football Manager 2018 for those reasons. They are a club I am passionate about and want to have some real FM success with. Football Manager 2018 has yet to treat me to a successful season, but I am confident starting at the bottom and rising up through the leagues will increase my chances of learning the game even more and success.
I will be loading up a database based on the home nations with being able to view the top European leagues as well. It would be pointless in loading up all the nations as by the time Christchurch FC get anywhere high enough Brexit will be in full swing. I didn’t want to load too many players to affect the game speed negatively. The options below are my typical preferences for when starting a new save. Fingers crossed that the home nations will aid us in newgen recruitment as well as transfers in the beginning of the save.
Christchurch FC: The Club, History and Overview
Christchurch FC were founded in 1885 and are a semi-professional club playing in the Wessex Football League Division One. They haven’t been a member of the Wessex Football League Premier Division for a few season now. The last season they had in that division was in 2014/2015 when they finished the bottom of the league with 29 points from 40 games played. This mainly was because of a few changes happening around the club. The most influential backroom staff changes. Christchurch FC have since spent the last few seasons rebuilding and challenging for a promotion place in the Wessex Football League Division One after recent league position finishes of 6th (2015/2016) and 4th (2016/2017). The club is once again ready to compete for that promotion to the Wessex Football League Premier Division.
The club are very pro-active in youth development and have seven teams playing in leagues from U8s up to U16s as well as a very successful U18s set up. Christchurch FC are now seeing the benefits of a strong youth policy with many of the previous youth players now holding regular positions within the first team.
Christchurch FC play their home games at Hurn Bridge Sports Club which holds a capacity of 2,000 (200 seated). The club also possess poor training and youth facilities as well as basic junior coaching within there limited youth recruitment network. When local professional club AFC Bournemouth purchased Harry Cornick from Christchurch FC they took a more detailed look at the club. Normally they wouldn’t think twice about establishing a partnership with a local club apart from playing friendlies with them. Christchurch FC have managed to build on this relationship to being able to loan players from AFC Bournemouth. This hasn’t happened yet for obvious reasons. Premier League youth players just aren’t that interested in playing in tier 10 of English football. Who would have thought!
It may shock some of you to know that Christchurch FC do have some quite formidable records. Their highest league finish is a third place finish in the Wessex Football League Premier Division back in 2011/2012. In that same season they managed to set records of the most points in a league season and most wins in the league, which were 85 and 26 respectively. Stewart Kearn holds the record number of appearances for the club at 135 whilst none other than Harry Cornick holds the record number of league goals scored by one player, which stands at 13 goals. Christchurch FC haven’t won any reputable competitions but do hold honours for winning the Bournemouth Senior Cup three times, Bournemouth Pickford Cup and Hampshire Junior Cup, Hampshire Intermediate Cup, Hampshire League Division Three, Hampshire League Division Two and Wessex League Cup.
I will obviously be the manager of Christchurch FC. Looking pretty dapper in that get-up! The equivalent value of my own football qualifications and experience will be used in this Football Manager save. Currently I hold a Continental C license with the experience of a semi-professional footballer. I have worked out that my Level 2, youth modules 1-3 and sports degree qualifications equal that of Continental C license in Football Manager. The highest level I have played was in the Sussex County League Division Two for Ferring FC. This particular level is classed as semi-professional on Football Manager. These are my reasons for selecting the below for our manager. I will be putting myself into that classification of a training ground manager. At this level it is vital that the training delivered is of high quality.
First port of call as manager of Christchurch FC was to increase our reputation. this was of course only possible at this stage by getting on the Continental B license course. Mr Duffy, Christchurch FC chairman was happy to get us on the course as it would help us improve and develop as a manager.
The semi-professional status of the club puts us in a pretty mixed bag of finances. This means we do have to pay wages for staff and players alike. Whereas if we were an Amateur club there would be no expenses to wages other than bonuses on match days. We are projected to be in debt at the end of the season. This is no surprise as there is no form of TV money or extra income available at this level. Another negative is we had no sponsorship at the start of this season. But the board have signed a yearly £1,400 sponsorship deal. However, we currently have £14,370 in the balance.
The dynamics for Christchurch FC are at an ok level. This is mainly because there are no team leaders or highly influential players. There are 18 players that support me as manager, which is pleasing to see. A very different picture to what the previous San Marino blog experienced. Similar to the San Marino blog our match cohesion is at a very poor level. This is because we started the save with only a few players, so we have had to go on a signing spree. My favourite kind. J. Lovett, S. Martin and J. Cook are classed as influential players in the squad, which is the highest point of our hierarchy. Another new feature of Football Manager 2018; one which I have not given my full attention I have to admit is social groups. Our social groups are currently split with only four players being in the core group. The clubs secondary social group A has the most players in it. this group is made up of players who share similar ages and levels of professionalism.
I have ultimate control over training at all three age groups. I have left the individual training to train what ever position they are being played in. No idea how successful this is. So, this will definitely be an experiment. There have been a couple of key performing players in training already, these are T. Bayliss and T. Anderson. During preseason the lads worked on team cohesion. This was to try to improve our match cohesion ready for the first league game of the season. This hasn’t seemed to happen as we are still very poor in match cohesion. Once the league season starts I will be instructing our coaches to train the players in the category of attacking positioning. Pre match instructions are set to focus on defending and attacking set pieces to try to capitalize on those moments in-game.
A result of starting with no players or staff means I had to go out there and search for staff members. It was a tough ask as I only had a limited budget and I wanted to find quality staff members in all three categories. Firstly, I searched through a number of coaches, assistant managers, head of youth developments. I needed the right qualities to help us progress as a club. A step up. First in was M. Birch; assistant manager. Next we found a gem in C. Senior; first team coach. We then came across K. Lowton; goalkeeper coach. Last but not least our new head of youth development is K. Ransome. The coaching backroom team is as full as it can be at this level, however I’m disappointed not to bring in a fitness coach. This is something I will be looking to amend as soon as possible.
Scouting and Recruitment Team
What Christchurch FC lacked was a scouting and recruitment team of any kind. When I arrived there was nothing, nada. Understandably, scouting and recruitment is something at this level the club manager has to do themselves. I did however find C. Forrester who happened to be interested in becoming our new director of football. I made the deal and he will help us find new talent to bring in. It will however by my decision that is final.
Another department that I have invested in is the medical team at the club. There was very little here when I arrived. The best equipment was a puny little first aid box. I looked at the chairman and just shook my head in disgust. The key to success at this level and any level really is to keep your players fit and healthy. Once the club gets to the level where sports scientists can be hired, I shall do that. They are an integral part of making this medical team successful at their jobs. I did manage to sign a head physio; L. Levett. Also H. Atkins to support in the role of physio.
As I’ve most likely stated already in this piece, when arriving at Christchurch FC there were only a handful of players at the first training session. C. Warren, W. Robinson, J. Satterley, J. Blake, J. Rowe and M. Frampton. The rest of the squad you see below I bought in mostly on free transfers or on loan. I am pretty happy with the current crop of players at Christchurch FC. A lot of them put 110% in training, which is all I ever ask of them. Those on part-time contracts will be due to expire at the end of the season, so depending how they do will depend on whether they get renewed or not. The players I am most excited about are right back J. Lovett, right wide midfielder J. Young and deep-lying forward G. McGee. The average age of the squad is a mixed bag, which is what I like the most. There are some young players with good potential as well as some old experienced heads. I believe this is key to form any successful squad capable of winning trophies.
Tactics is a funny old game, no? I had considered myself to be quite the tactician taking experience from my real-life football management in the various youth teams I’ve managed. However, this Football Manager edition is by far the biggest test yet of my tactical prowess. I have yet to come up with a definitive tactic that works for the philosophy I’m playing too!
Now, obviously it goes without saying that the lower you are in the football pyramid, the simpler the tactic must be. This is because players at these types of level just don’t have the decision-making skills or intelligence to follow instructions to the letter. I don’t yet have a philosophy with Christchurch FC. I think whilst we are at these low levels of football intelligence, the team should stick to keeping the ball and sticking to their positions. I’ll always follow an attacking mentality as I would rather lose 4-3 in an attacking game rather than get beat 1-0 whilst defending. I am not the type of manager to hold out for a draw, it’ll be double or nothing with me. Below is an example of how I might setup for preseason. This is definitely going to change as preseason progresses.
A 4-4-2 is pretty generic down at this level.It should to be the go-too formation. Now, it is seemed as old-school or outdated. Some say it has its limits and restrictions, but I feel it is a good traditional typically English formation. Our other formations likely to appear throughout the save are a 4-1-2-3 and a 4-1-4-1/4-4-1-1. These are generally my back up formations.
I will be looking for the goalkeeper to take long kicks as I don’t want to risk losing the ball close to our own goal. I’ll also be looking for the full backs to sit deep level with the central defenders without venturing too far from that position. Our central defenders will do their job and just get rid of the ball, by keeping it as far away from the goal as possible. In midfield, I’ll be looking for the wide players to create space up the pitch and drive into the oppositions half. I won’t be looking for them to cross the ball as much due to low ability levels on that. Centrally, the play-maker will help the wide players in the attack with late runs and creative play whilst our ball winning player will sit deep and clear up any loose balls. Out two upfront will work in tandem, one will hold the ball up enough to gain support in the attacks whilst the other will lead the first line of attack and press the oppositions central defenders.
What I’ve described is my ideal tactic and the screenshot below will not help us do that. There are too many contradictions i.e. fluidity and sticking to positions. But, I will constantly tweak and change instructions to get that philosophy of playing.
Preseason in my opinion is used for one thing at this level – Financial gain. If I was managing at a higher level i.e. the football league then I would utilise preseason for team cohesion, tactic familiarity, fitness and financial gain. In the preseason month I managing to gain an estimated £3,000 through playing the right kind of friendlies. As Christchurch FC I organised a number of tough friendlies as well as a couple of same tier friendlies. I used these matches as opportunities for my players to impress me into the starting lineup. Did this happen as I planned? Like heck it did! Results wise against the better opposition weren’t that bad considering, but the team struggled against the similar level teams. This was a worrying thought as the league quickly approaches.
Trowbridge 1 – 1 Christchurch FC
First we played Trowbridge away from home. Christchurch FC managed to scrape a 1-1 draw. It was a very poor game by anyones standards. They definitely deserved to come out with a win, so I feel very lucky with getting the draw. Advanced Forward S. Martin scored to level the scores just before half time.
Swindon Town 5 – 1 Christchurch FC
A friendly Christchurch FC were never expected to win. A 5-1 loss in the end. I am shocked that the lads even scored if I’m honest. Our goal was a very lucky one as T. Carpene was fouled in the box and then he was awarded a penalty in the 90th minute. L. Kanjor took the penalty and slotted it away very nicely. Swindon were in complete control during the duration of the match. Our defence took some battering, but still managed to keep it below double digits.
Malmesbury 3 – 2 Christchurch FC
A friendly against Western League Division One opponents Malmesbury turned into disappointing defeat for us. The away side went 2-0 down within 20 minutes before they woke up. H. Walker and J. Satterley equaled the score-line for the Church. Only to concede a 91st minute goal. On the whole, it was a pretty even game and either team could have won. It was unfortunate it was the opposition.
Christchurch FC 0 – 2 AFC Bournemouth U23s
A friendly match against AFC Bournemouth as part of the affiliate partnership the two clubs had in place. The cherries came out on top with a 2-0 win. It was never in doubt during the match. AFC Bournemouth had the majority of possession as expected as well as the majority of the chances. However, the home side did put up a fight having kept a clean sheet for 77 minutes of the match before the 12 minute collapse. I was very impressed with our defensive display in this game.
Shepton Mallet 2 – 1 Christchurch FC
Our second to last friendly was against Toolstation League opposition, which is one tier above our league. I count us unlucky not to get something from this game. P. Anaele scored from a perfectly crafted set piece with a great header. Two early first half goals from Shepton Mallet greatly damaged the lads confidence. The passionate half time team talk was unable to shift this state of anxiety.
Gillingham Town 0 – 1 Christchurch FC
The final game of preseason approached and it was against local North Dorset side Gillingham Town. A 1-0 victory for the lads was the outcome. A good win nonetheless, but the lads could have performed better in my opinion. The motto of the game was “Take your chances”. Something that didn’t happen in this game until L. Kanjor hit a stunning volley from outside of the box to give us the win.
After a meeting with the chairman, it was clear what competitions the team would be participating in and what there expectations were. Christchurch FC were to compete in the Wessex Football League Division One for the third consecutive season, the FA Cup and the FA Vase.
After two seasons of finishing 6th and 4th place respectively. I will be looking to propel Christchurch FC back into the Wessex Football League Premier Division once again. There are some tough teams in this division such as Tadley Calleva and Romsey Town. The club are expected to finish top of the league, backed by the bookies with evens odds. The board is asking to avoid finishing bottom of the league. Safety and survival clearly on the mind of M. Duffy the chairman.
The FA Cup
The illustrious FA Cup has always been a competition for the underdog and I intend to make good on that theory. Christchurch FC have never made it past the second qualifying round of the FA Cup, which is four matches into the competition. The board expect us to get through to the second preliminary round. The question is are Christchurch good enough?
The FA Vase
A competition that used to have a higher reputation than it does now. Teams competing for this trophy now are usually playing within the County Leagues or lower tiers. Christchurch made it to the fifth round of this competition back in 2008/2009. I will be looking to break that record and once again surpass the boards expectation of reaching the first round.
In part #2 I am going to be taking you through the first half of the league as well as our domestic cup form.
I’m going to be releasing an update for this save once or twice per week. The updates will be 6 months apart in-game at the moment. I will be selecting six games from the six months to report on.
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