Monthly Archives: January 2015

Football Manager 15

Football-Manager-2015

I’ve been playing Football Manager on Windows for about 12 years. Not constantly, obviously. I take breaks for sleeping, eating, and maintaining a career. My obsession might go some way to explaining why I have spent the majority of those 12 years as a single man. Although I’m never really alone, because I have my team. I’m not the only one who thinks like this. Rumour has it that no other game has been named more during divorce proceedings. Every year I eagerly await the new version of the game, and it absolutely kills me that it doesn’t come out until November. It’s been OK the past few seasons because I’ve been able to get my hands on beta versions, which means I can start playing a few weeks early. Bugs and all.

Probably the most important thing you have to do in FM15 is expand your scouting network. Doing so means more players show up in your searches. Whatever club you choose, my advice is to get hold of the scouts Patrik Anderson and Ronnie Rosenthal. Both are available on low wages, will go almost anywhere, and bring a wealth of international knowledge.

When I first started this year’s version I played two games in the Championship with Cardiff City, and got sacked both times. Once during the January transfer window when I was mid-table, and again after seven games of my second season after I had failed to win promotion. Vincent Tan is one intolerant bastard. After that, I decided I needed a different challenge and started a game with Bristol Rovers of the Vanarama Conference, logic being that having just been relegated from the Football League they should have a decent enough squad for the division. Plus, I’ve always liked pirates.

It’s an entirely different game over at the Memorial Stadium. The bookies make you 1-10 outsiders to win the league, but you have a core of decent players. Neil Trotman and Tom Parkes make a good centre-back pairing, and in Jamie White and Ryan Brunt you have two solid forwards (even though Brunt hasn’t scored in real life for about two years). Left wing is also in good shape, with arguably your two best players, Angelo Balanta and Andy Monkhouse, vying for game time. Unfortunately, that’s about it.

The club are properly skint. But you do start the game with about £70,000 in the bank, which you are better off converting to wages so you can offer prospective signings better deals. Upon arrival, I cancelled the pointless loan signing in midfield and sold Mark McChrystal and young goalkeeper Kieran Preston. He’s a good prospect, but I thought I might be better off cashing in. An SPL club will pay in the region of £130,000 for him, and I inserted a substantial sell-on clause. I factored that money into my wage budget, too, and offered some existing players new contracts on reduced terms. I find giving them impossible bonus incentives is a good strategy, like telling a centre-back you will give him £12,000 for hitting 20 league goals, or a £1,000 bonus for every cap he wins for his country, knowing he is about as likely to win international honours as I am.

Then it was time to go shopping. By that, I mean, it was time to go rooting through the free transfers. A problem area is centre-midfield, which I addressed by snapping up ex-Man Utd prodigy Jack Rudge. He’s only 19, but has great potential, and is worth his place in the team just for his corners and free kicks. Other options are Damien Mozika and Tim Jakobsson. A decent right-sided midfielder is also required, Johnny Gorman can do a job out there. In defence I brought in Slovakian U21 right-back Kristian Kostrna and utility defender Daniel Boateng. Kostrna went straight into the first team, being a dramatic upgrade on Daniel Leadbitter, and though I originally got Boateng for cover because he can play in a few positions, he soon forced his way into the team. 28-year old Spaniard Manuel Ruz is a fantastic option at full-back and would easily be one of the best in the division. The thing is, he isn’t cheap. If you sign him it will fuck up your wage budget.

The U21 team also needs some love. I replaced Preston with Alex Gott, another young Scot who has even better attributes, and brought in Emmanuel Monthe (LB), Billy Simpson (CB/DM), and Heath Harrison (CM). You can pick up all four for a combined £500 a week or so. The object here is not to find players for the first team, but talented youngsters who can fill a gap in an emergency, with the ultimate aim of improving them and selling them on at a profit.

This being the lower divisions where the onus is more on kick and rush rather than technical ability. I started with an attacking 4-4-2 formation with a defensive forward playing off a more advanced attacker, two wide midfielders (one in attacking mode and the other supporting) and a ball-winning midfielder. After some experimentation, when I had the luxury of choosing from a full-fit squad, I settled on this first XI:

Steve Mildenhall (GK)
Lee Brown (LB)
Tom Parkes (CB)
Daniel Boateng (CB)
Kristian Kostrna (RB)
Andy Monkhouse (LM)
Ollie Clarke (CM)
Jack Rudge (CM)
Johnny Gorman (RM)
Jamie White (ST)
Ryan Brunt (ST)

Bench: Puddy (GK), Trotman (CB), Lockyer (CB/RB/CM), Balanta (LM), Taylor (ST)

So how did it go? Pretty fucking well, to be honest!

By Christmas I was top of the table, with White banging in something like 22 goals in 25 games. Brunt also got into double figures before getting injured. Boateng, Kostrna, Rudge and Gorman all established themselves in the first team , and by that stage were worth a cool £500,000 between them.

However, my squad needed to be slimmed down a little, so in the January transfer window, out went Leadbitter, Lee Mansell and Jake Gosling, all on free transfers to get them off the wage bill. I also tried to get shot of Stuart Sinclair and Ollie Clarke, but I wanted fees for those and nobody was interested. In came forward/right-winger Alex Nicholls and defensive midfielder Gary Deegan. Both the optimum age of 27 and with experience of having played in higher divisions,

In the second half of the season I won the FA Tropy, beating Southport at Wembley, and finished second in the league behind Gateshead (who?). I had led for long stretches before falling away, but was secretly glad to qualify for the play-offs as even that exceeded all expectations. There, my team beat Woking 3-1 on aggregate in the semis, and Kidderminster 4-2 in the final. Promotion and a return to league football was the prize. At the end of the season, White was the highest scorer not just in the league but possibly in the known universe with 45 goals from 55 total games and Rudge topped the assist chart with 17. Brunt and Monkhouse also did well. All things considered, it was a successful season. Though I was a bit peeved at not winning the Manager of the Year award. What does a man have to do?

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C.M. Saunders “Out of Time” Review

The Horror Bookshelf

OutofTime

Length: 91 Pages

Publisher: DeadPixel Publications

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

C.M. Saunders latest novella tells the story of Joe Dawson, a writer who enjoys modest success from his Joshua Wyrdd series that follows a young teen who uses an ancient time travelling device to solve ancient mysteries and helping those in need. He begins to feel pressure as his ideas begin drying up and finds himself in danger of being dropped by his publisher unless his new book is a massive success, so he decides to visit Rhyl, a small beach town in north Wales. He heard his mother talk about it a lot before her death, and he figures the seaside town may just offer him the chance to shake off his writers block.

When he arrives to the town, he sees the town’s glory has long since faded and the…

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Hey, Russell Slade!

The details behind Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s departure from Cardiff City last September were never really made public. The official line was that he and owner Vincent Tan clashed over ‘a difference in philosophy,’ the philosophy being that Tan wanted to win games while Solksjaer disagreed. The fact of the matter is that the Norwegian proved himself to be so inept in virtually every area that in the end, the whole episode turned into one big farce. Countless formation, personnel, and tactical changes, combined with the usual off-field turmoil surrounding the club, all added up to just nine wins from 30 games, relegation back to the Championship, and a dismal start to the new season.

Ole, Ole, Ole. Go away, go away.

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Enter Russell Slade, world-renowned managerial mastermind behind Scarborough, Grimsby, Yeovil, Brighton and most recently, Leyton Orient. A lot of people were just as confused about the appointment of Russell Slade as they were about that of Solksjaer, but were more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he did win League One Manager of the Year twice. So the fans sat back, folded their arms, and waited to see how things would pan out. Fourteen games into his reign, it’s probably safe to say that things aren’t panning out very well. Yes, Slade has overseen seven wins, but it’s pretty obvious that under his charge the club is going backwards at a rate of knots. He got lucky a few times early on, and the team picked up a few points. But they were not playing well, and his recent record is far more indicative of the overall trend. Despite the much-touted ‘return to blue,’ City struggled to overcome Fulham in their last league game. Before that, City had lost three and drews one. That point came at Charlton, where City played against ten men most of the game and still lost out badly in the possession stakes, came hot on the heels of defeats to Brentford and Bournemouth. In those four games Cardiff managed to ship a total of shipped a total of 13 goals.

It’s just not good enough.

The club may be going through a transitional period (what, another one?) but with the players and backing Cardiff City have, they really should be storming through this division whereas on current form they face being dragged into a relegation battle. At the start of the season, the club had no fewer than thirteen full internationals on their books. That’s more than a whole team. But you would never think it to watch them play. Under Slade, the team is predictable, lacks energy and ideas, and looks devoid of confidence. The 4-4-2 formation he insists upon playing belongs in another age. There’s no point playing with two strikers if the midfield are overrun every game and can’t get the ball off the opposition. Even with two forward places up for grabs, inexplicably, the best striker at the club, Kenwyne Jones, can’t get in the starting line-up. That’s despite scoring more goals in his limited game time than Adam Le Fondre and Federico Macheda, the duo Slade insists upon playing virtually every game, combined. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lack or passion and urgency all over the pitch. One thing Cardiff supporters demand is passion. If the players don’t have it, then it’s up to the manager to inject some. That’s what he gets paid for.

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The club started the season with a wealth of options in every area. Some had to go. But a few of the players Slade has let go for next to nothing (or literaly nothing) were far too good for that kind of treatment. Magnus Wolf Eikrem, Juan Cala and Matts Moller Daehli spring to mind. That trio would walk into most Championship sides, and even a few Premier League squads. Most recently, according to reports Javi Guerra is heading back to Spain to sign with Malaga, a team challenging for a place in Europe next season. And he’s not deemed good enough for a mid-table Championship side struggling for goals?

Then there are seasoned pros like Nicky Maynard, Kim Bo-Kyung, Etien Velikonja, and Guido Burgstaller, who are stuck in a weird kind of limbo, picking up fat pay packets every week but not being given the chance to justify it. It’s not sustainable. Or even sensible. Fair enough, Slade came in and quickly decided on what he thought of as his best First XI, thus providing the stability Solksjaer never did. But what happens when that First XI don’t perform? Especially when they begin to get jaded after a long run of games. You have to be willing to roll with the punches and change things up when necessary. Evidently, Slade doesn’t want to do that. He may be used to working with smaller squads, but come on, Russ. It’s almost as if he’s walking around with blinkers on.

Since the transfer window opened, Slade has brought in what the vast majority of supporters see as mediocre signings. Scott Malone, a £100,000 buy from Millwall, is widely-touted as a replacement for Fabio, who Slade sees as a weak link in the defensive line. Yes, Slade is benching a Brazilian international in favour of a player labeled ‘average’ by his own supporters and has never played above Championship level. The fact that he (reportedly) has the same agent as Slade has absolutely nothing to do with it. The other signing was Alex Revell, a 31-year old striker who, in four years at Rotherham, managed just 28 goals in 150 games. This move could well spell the end for Kenwyne Jones.

The two signings could be part of a cost-cutting exercise. Understandably so, considering the wages some of the Cardiff players (notably Fabio and Jones) are on. But if that’s the case, you could argue why the club needed to make these signings in the first place. Declan John is a more than capable left-back, and Matt Connolly an able deputy. As for striking options, I count nine. As Steve Tucker recently remarked, “There are enough of them to have their own Christmas party.”

The original version of this article appeared on the Huff Post UK.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/chris-saunders/

From the Ashes – The REAL Story of Cardiff City FC is available now.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/From-Ashes-Story-Cardiff-Football/dp/1845242130


The Bookshelf 2014

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This is a list of all the books I read, from cover to cover, in 2014. Sometimes it takes me a long time to read a book, other times it takes just a couple of days. It depends on the book.

I’ve only included the ones I actually finished. There are several dozen stuck at various percentages on my Kindle, which I may or may not get around to finishing at some point, and my TBR list grows every day. There are so many books in the world, but so little time.

Anyway, I’ve made a start.

Dead Man’s Land by Robert Ryan (2012)
Let’s Drink to the Dead by Simon Bestwick (2012)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
Synchronicity – One Man’s Journey by Aaron Garrison (2013)
Wolverton Station by Joe Hill (2013)
Crooked House by Joe McKinney (2013)
In the Bones by Renee Miller (2013)
Banshee’s Cry by Mark Parker (2014)
Deranged: The Shocking True Story of America’s Most Fiendish Killer by Harold Schechter (1998)
The Doll by JC Martin (2011)
Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan by Chun Yu Wang (2011)
People Person by Trent Zelazny (2013)
Urban Krav Maga Personal Safety Guide by Stewart McGill (2012)
Chicago History – The Stranger Side by Raymond Johnson (2014)
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (2005)
Just Beyond the Desert: Three Short Stories From the Edge by Spencer Loeb (2014)
Wilderness by Dean Koontz (2013)
Barbed Wire Kisses – The Jesus and Mary Chain Story by Zoe Howe (2014)
Found Money by Trent Zelazny (2005)
Running With the Firm – My Double Life as an Undercover Hooligan by James Bannon (2013)
Red Menace by Jenny Ashford (2014)
The Incredible Adventures of the Unstoppable Keeper by Lutz Pfannenstiel (2014)


2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,100 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


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