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Career Sunderland Playthrough because Iain told me to


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Hello folks!

I am a fan of the "Football Manager Show" podcast hosted by Iain Macintosh. In the latest episode "25. New Season, News Pods, New You!" Iain called to listeners to join a community of FM players in starting a Sunderland save. My favourite save this year has been taking my local team Exeter City to the top of the PL (although I did cheat and used Sugar Daddy) and so I'm familiar with this journey, but wanted to do it again without Sugar Daddy. I am now ready to take a team from Sky Bet League One back to the Premiere League without the financial assistance of Daddy.

I'm currently writing this after my preseason tour of the South West, results below:

  • Torquay 2-0 W
  • Plymouth 1-1 D
  • Exeter 2-0 W :(
  • and a token trip to Salford for a 1-0 W

We have also played out first competitive game against Bradford City in the first round of the Carabao Cup winning 1-0 thanks to Jordan Willis knocking in a rebound at a corner.


Formation & Playing Style

I wanted to try something new after playing a short passing 433/4231 on Overload with Exeter City in my previous save.

I really do not get on with 3/5 at the back formations so those are off the cards. Sunderland really lack wide talent and only really have Aiden McGeady (more on him in the transfers section) and Jack Diamond who just isn't up to scratch. On the flip side whilst Power, Dobson (a player I recruited in my Exeter save), Scowen (and to a lesser extent Leadbitter) are not technically blessed they are all aggressive midfielders decent good teamwork and stamina.

I decided to go with a narrow 41212 formation with WBs. In attack this plays as a 2422 and in defence it plays like a 4132. This will obviously change and develop over time, I'm not happy with how the BBM is drawn out to the right wing in defence and the BWM stays central and doesn't shift over to cover the space in midfield so will play around with this. Any feedback greatly appreciated!





I want to keep this save at least somewhat realistic and so ignored my scouts suggestion of signing Ugarte, Strinic or Kjaer. We had a really healthy transfer budget over £5 million but needed to cut some of our wages. Realistically this squad is good enough to get promoted and I would rather keep the money to spend it in the Championship. Once you reach the Championship the pool of talent to pick signings from is much, much better. 

Transfers Out

  • Aidan McGeady: After realising I needed to cut my wage bill I ordered my team by wage and immediately stuck Aiden McGeady on the transfer list. £16k/week is just too much for a player in League One and I didn't want to try and shoe horn him as an advanced playmaker at AMC. I promptly accepted the first offer of £150k from Bristol Rovers just to get him out of the club.
  • Conor McLaughlin: No offence fella, I just really dislike having more than 2 full backs on either side and O'Nien/Sanderson (on loan mind) better suit what I'm looking for. Sold for £275k.
  • A whole bunch of youth players: I had my Anakin Skywalker moment, sorry lads enjoy your time in the Vanarama. 

Transfers In

  • Jason Taylor: I needed a CDM with better positioning and tackling than my current options. Taylor was the only player interested so we signed him for just £20k and £1.5k wages. At 33 years old he's definitely just a quick fix to see us through League One and the start of our adventure in to the Championship (hopefully!)


  • Jack Byrne: I wanted a CAM with decent aggression and teamwork to help the rest of the headless chickens press. Jack Byrne was a cheap and decent option who could probably be back up in the Championship too. We signed him for £500k and £6k wages. 


  • Fiete Arp (LOAN): Is it realistic for Sunderland to sign a Bayern Munich player on £88k/week for a loan with no contribution to wages? Not these days. But, is it realistic for an English 3rd tier team to loan in a player from a German 3rd tier team? Probably! And that's good enough for me. A clear upgrade on O'Brien and Grigg at Poacher so happy days.


The 1st Game

All set and ready to go after pre-season only to discover my 1st choice CBs Bailey Wright and Arbenit Xhemajli were both on international duty at the same time! On top of that Scowen picked up an injury which complicated set-up a little. In came goal scorer Jordan Willis and Feeney at CB. 

In any case we went on to dominate Bradford City with 62% possession, 15 shots (7 on target) against their 2 shots off target. Had Arp or Graham brought their shooting boots it could have been a blood bath. 

On we go!

Edited by StAnton14
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Great post mate and good luck.

As much as I love narrow formations, 4-1-2-1-2 is one of those that I hate the most 😂. About Arp, he’s shit irl anyway so it’s not much unrealistic to sign him. I really like him but got to accept the truth that he’s shit in real life.

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9 hours ago, Rich said:

Great post mate, good luck for the season even if it is with the enemy 😉

Thank you I appreciate your reply!

8 hours ago, broodje kip said:

Great post mate and good luck.

As much as I love narrow formations, 4-1-2-1-2 is one of those that I hate the most 😂. About Arp, he’s shit irl anyway so it’s not much unrealistic to sign him. I really like him but got to accept the truth that he’s shit in real life.

After a few changes I seem to have found a good balance of roles and instructions that is working well for this team now, I'll post an update tonight. RE: Arp, ok fair enough 😂 He's grabbed 5 goals and 3 assisted in 15 games as a sub/rotation option so I cannot complain too much.

2 hours ago, geordiekrispy said:



In all honesty, good luck. I do miss the good old days of the local derby, even if we haven't one one for a while...

Thank you!

13 minutes ago, leedsunited87 said:

Should do well in league one with the team you have, Gooch is a quality player to have around 

I won't lie I've really struggled with Gooch so far this save. I'm not a fan of players who play for their international team in lower league saves which I completely forgot about until I started this save!

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Hi all,

An update for you as we hit 14th November.

League Standing

We currently sit 3rd in Sky Bet League One with 22 points. The league is incredibly tight with Hull and Portsmouth 1st and 2nd respectively on 23 points and 7th place AFC Wimbledon just 1 point behind us. Any slip ups could really see us drop down the table and even out of the playoffs. A win against 6th placed Doncaster Rovers in 7 days time would give us a safety cushion against dropping out of play-off places.


We have the best defence in the league conceding just 6 goals in 11 games. 2nd choice GK Remi Matthews (more on why my 2nd choice GK is playing later on) has kept 7 clean sheets in that period, including clean sheets against close contenders Portsmouth, Blackpool and father in-laws beloved Charlton Athletic. 

We have the 7th best attack in the league scoring 19 goals in 11 games. Target Man Danny Graham joins Shrewbury's Jason Cummings, Hull's Hakeeb Adelakum and Lincoln's Jorge Grant on top of the league scoring chart with 7 finishes.



Formation & Playing Style

So, in hindsight acknowledging your team are not technically blessed but asking them to play a short passing game working the ball into the box was never going to work. After losing to Leeds in the Carabao Cup 2nd round we switched the DLP to CM, the passing style to direct and switched our final third play to shoot on sight and through balls. 


The plan with this team is to get 3-5 bodies in central areas around the box in attack, and then a compact 7 back in defence whilst keeping aggressive players with good teamwork in midfield to mop up when we get caught in transition. The current set up is definitely still a 2nd draft and not finished, but it is working well.

Defensive Shape



Attacking Shape



  • Lee Burge: Just 1 league game into the season and 1st choice GK Lee Burge was out for 3 months with a torn hamstring in training. To be honest, this wasn't a huge loss as there isn't much between Burge and Matthews. Matthews has gone on to be a brilliant keeper this season, perhaps a blessing in disguise for my save.

International Duty

This is frustrating. Players who have absolutely no business playing international football being called off to Kosovo, Australia and USA in the middle of a packed out fixture schedule is not helpful. I forgot how privileged Premiere League clubs are with their international breaks :(

1st choice LCB Arbenit Xhemajli (Kosovo) and 3rd choice CB Bailey Wright (Australia) are often both called to international duty at same time and so I have to rely on 4th choice CB Morgan Feeney to step in alongside Jordan Willis. Whilst Feeney has performed well during this period (7.25 avg rating over 4 games) I may as well not have a 3rd choice if he is always out at the same time as my 1st choice. 

As a result of this I have begun scouting out CBs in a similar mould to Wright but are in no danger of playing for their national team any time soon (mostly English CBs on the fringe of Championship teams).


Playing for the rest of the evening, another update coming tonight!

Edited by StAnton14
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Hello folks,

Another update for you. We have cheated slightly (sorry Iain) and gone ahead to 2nd January so we could bring in not 1, not 2 but 6 new players. More on these guys later.

League Standing

We have unfortunately dropped right down to 5th in the table with 37 points. The league is still ridiculously tight, with just 4 points separating 2nd place Doncaster Rovers and 10th placed Bristol Rovers. The lads will be disappointed to have picked up a couple of losses against teams in and around us including 1-0 losses to Hull and Doncaster and a 2-1 loss to Fleetwood. 



On the plus side, we maintain the best defence in the league conceding just 15 goals in 21 games. Xhemajli and Willis are proving to be a brilliant CB pairing at this level whilst Luke O'Nien has nailed down that RWB spot.


On the flipside, 5 teams have bettered our goal scoring form so far. Graham and Arp have both chipped in with 11 league goals now, just 3 behind Portsmouth's Ronan Curtis on 14. The issue has been a real lack of quality options at striker to rotate the pair. 5 of Aiden O'Briens 7 goals have come in the Papa John's Trophy, Charlie Wyke is yet to score and Will Grigg is definitely not on fire 🧯 More on how I opted to solve this below! 


Transfers out


  • Tom Flanagan (£550k): Flanagan may feel he probably should have been given a chance this season but I just didn't fancy him. When Blackburn Rovers came in with a bid of £550k I had to take the offer. After all, that's pretty much 2 * Sam Stubbs!

Transfers in

  • Stipe Perica (£1.2m): The big Croatian comes in to usurp 35 year old Graham as 1st choice in the TM role. Whilst Graham has been decent this season I just cannot see us renewing his contract come July and need to start planning for the future. If my past Watford save is anything to go by, Perica is the future. In a previous Watford saved he scored 31 and assisted 7 in 43 in 2024/25 and made the global team of the year. If all goes well Perica should prove to be a steal at this price offering a genuine aerial threat at this level combined with decent shooting and strength.


  • Chris Martin (£350k): Danny Graham isn't the only TM I am looking to move on this year, Charlie Wyke has been terrible for me in this save. Failing to hit the back of the net in 9 appearances. Coming in to replace him is the Scottish battering ram with plenty of Championship experience. At 32 years old he doesn't offer us a long term solution to this role but will hopefully see us through the next 18 months. 


  • Josh Windass (£850k): Whilst Windass lacks the aggression and teamwork I have spoken so much about so far (8 & 9 respectively compared to Byrne's 13 & 11) he is a very well rounded AP (12s & 13s in everything from crossing, dribbling, passing, shooting, technique) and offers decent movement and pace which our attack lacks. The trait "plays no through balls" is an obvious concern to keep an eye on. 


  • Charlie Goode (£850k): Goode comes in as the CB reinforcement I mentioned in my last update. He offers a great aerial threat and decent positioning and strength. A decent 3rd choice CB who likely won't be getting the call from Southgate any time soon. 


  • Sam Stubbs (£275k): I love Sam Stubbs. The longest serving player in my Exeter save who survived the journey all the way from League 2 to Premier League champions. At just 22 years-old he has loads of potential too grow into a genuine 1st team contender. There was no way I wasn't going to sign Stubbs at this price. 


  • Mark Gillespie (£800k): A controversial signing from Newcastle to spice things up for Rich. Gillespie has come in to offer proper competition to Matthews and will likely replace him next season or if Matthews form takes a dip. Probably good enough to be back up GK in the Premiere League too.


We now have no transfer money and are £12k over our wage budget so that'll be it for now. At the end of the season we will say goodbye to Grant Leadbitter and Danny Graham to shave £18k a week off of our wage bill.

In to the second half we go lads!













Edited by StAnton14
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