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Career Storming the Football League with Salisbury FC - SEASON 5


Meow
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Heya, started unemployed in FMM22. It turned out to be a riveting tale, and a save I've grown to love.

I started unemployed on the lowest reputation, with the plan to holiday for 1 year and then see what jobs were on offer.

 

Season 1 - Sitting on my ass

I actually got some job offers without applying at all

Spoiler

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High flyers in the VNN, York.

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And 8th placed Woking in the VNL, which I'm fairly certain I could push to promotion.

As tempting as being in the Football League by Season 2, I stuck to my plan. Waited for the season to tick over...

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2 golden opportunities in the VNS! I promptly sent in my application.

It took some time till the offer. In that time, whoever had interim control on the transfers spent the entire 1.5k wage budget.

This was what I was faced with

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"Hey we've got only 5 players, I could really use some extra wag-" REJECTED!

Alright... all the transfer budget is to be moved to wages.

This is my squad I ended up with, all free transfers or loans

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£600 over the wage budget and still only 18 members in the squad. This is going to be a LOOONG season ahead.

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Season 2 - Am I even sure what I'm doing?

The plan really was to loan in very talented fullbacks from League Two teams, and exploit the rigid 442s played at this levelScreenshot_2021-12-27-21-33-07-49.thumb.png.f89fc179ec6edbed94ddf08b59e20ea5.png

Rather amusingly, I opted to base it on a tactic I have been using from ages ago.

 

It started well, very well

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but with a 18 man squad and as the fixtures piled up, so did injuries

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and much much more...

 

Cup Run - Giant Killing Spree

I actually was really motivated for the cup runs.

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This win against Leyton Orient means I could match even League Two teams.

And the board gives me money for beating teams in higher leagues. +1 squad member

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Another League Two team, another +1 squad member.

This is turning into a sad bastardised version of win one take one... except instead of taking players from the opponents I beat, I get 10-20k from the board which I convert to wages and rummage through the discard pile of unemployed players

And in the FA Cup Third Round

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Unfortunate in many ways, because I'd much rather have tried by hand against a League One team or go out beautifully getting smashed by a Premier League team

The result was heart wrenching

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Even worse they missed 3 straight, but we failed to capitalise

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However overall it was a good FA Cup run and it made me confident that I will be in the Football League extremely soon.

 

I also had a moment where it hit me (together with the fact that this cup exists):

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If I could beat league two teams, surely this trophy is a realistic target for this season?

 

Of course, I am still up against National League sides, and fortunately I only ran into them from the semi-finals onwards

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I was stunned by an unfamiliar 5221 formation

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but ultimately I succeeded in knocking them out and advancing to the finals

 

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Overall it was an uneventful finals, but Cameron Thompson scores in typical fashion with blistering speed!

 

Vanarama National South League - Much closer than the final results suggest

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Kingstonian were actually got on hot heels for the entire first half of the season, in fact we entered January level on points at about 60 points.

Eventually as the season progressed (and my squad increased from 18 to 20 with FA Cup money), it was a completely different tale for the two of us. Yet it looks it won't be the last time we see them, as newly promoted Salisbury FC and Kingstonian will both be promoted once again.

In fact, it seems like newly promoted sides did very well in the Vanarama North and South. They are 3 out of 4 of clubs that will be promoted into the Vanarama National League.

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Player of the Season - Is using him even fair?

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15 pace, 14 stamina and 16 shooting is lethal at the semi-pro level

He tore up the goalscoring charts.

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Edited by Meow
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12 hours ago, MikeF said:

Nice start. I like the idea of starting in season two with one of the newly promoted teams to the football pyramid.

Glad to hear you liked the decision, it took me a little bit of deliberating before I settled on turning down the York offer.

York actually got promoted and Woking stayed in the Vanarama National League. 2 other National League sides also offered me jobs at the start of the 3rd season, so this year I'm playing 4 sides that I've turned down offers from haha

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Posted (edited)

Season 3 - Quest For Football League Status (with lots of frees and loans)

Word seem to be going around about this new and upcoming manager, storming the Vanarama National South and later the Vanarama National League. He's even taking on some giants in the FA Cup toe to toe.

There actually was a lot of offers, so I'll leave them in a spoiler (except the last one)

Spoiler

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And the last one I actually took up, because it was too good to refuse.1121468237_Screenshot_2021-12-31-13-23-38-551.thumb.png.93711989744a606513f00462bab25327.png

I'm not even sure if this is supposed to happen, I'm only regional reputation and I don't think I've done enough to warrant close to this job offer didn't pick Ivorian nationality either. I have seen people comment say the international offers are kinda wonky, but hey I'm accepting it.

But let's get on with the main course, my club career

 

Transfers - Still basically broke

The plan was to build on what I had last season, I think my players last year could already propel the club into league two. The issue was just that we only had 20 (14 when the 6 loan players left). I just needed more players around the quality of my current squad that can serve as rotation options.

Oh and they have to be free, cause I'm mostly broke

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The club ended up with 26 players, much healthier squad depth. I'm very satisfied with the quality of the transfers, and these are ones I am the most proud of 

Spoiler

The tall towering target man, Tom Eaves! I'm playing a 442 with a classic big man little man, so his stature certainly helps and he is complemented well by Cameron Thompson

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With the departure of Adam Wilson, a player like Llanez here makes absolute sense. He will be playing Inside Forward on the left so 15 in dribbling and shooting will be lethal at non-league level. Also he has this thing called caps, which is cool.

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Absolute tank of a defender, he's got the goods where it matters. No doubt he'll form the spine of my team even in the football league.

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Little more in the other direction, someone that hopefully grows together with the club as I am planning a rather swift ascent up the football pyramid. Costing only 4k from Boreham Wood FC, surely a steal! 

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Young exciting winger Sam Folarin also joins us, looks to me like he can do just about anything.

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I did raise about 1 million pounds from player sales, but most of it had to be spent on upgrading the training and youth facilities from "poor" to "good", which just about took away most of it.

 

Cup Run - Out for Blood

Last year I was out for blood in the FA Cup out of necessity, but I have developed quite a taste for it and I just want to go all out for the fun of it.

FA Cup

The first big test was Charlton away, a team just promoted from League One but a Championship team nonetheless.

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We were battered, but really we fought for it. And did they really get FM'd by me if I had more Clear Cut Chances?

 

The Dons didn't faze me either

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But as soon as the next draw was announced, I knew my time of playing a back 3 with a midfield square and knocking the ball long for 90 minutes was over

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Expectedly we were no match for Leicester, but they required extra time to knock us out. If only we had taken that clear cut chance (which was before extra time)…

 

FA Trophy

I was honestly expecting a routine win of this cup at this point to be honest. I had no issues even taking on League Two sides in the FA Cup. And for a while it went as planned

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But in cups, all it takes is just 1 moment and your campaign is over

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Harrogate actually went all the way in the FA Trophy, winning the whole thing. But also rather amusingly finished in the relegation zone of the Vanarama National League.

 

Vanarama National League - Onward to the Football League

We had much more of a sweep of the league this year. We pulled clear of the pack in November by smashing then 2nd placed Chesterfield 3-0, and had a quiet end of the season after being knocked out of the cups.

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We were sensational in attack, but all our strikers picked up injuries at various points of the season and so we rotated.

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Player of the Season - The Future of the Club?

So yeah, we have been promoted into the football league. These are the lads especially that we can thank for that.
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But who was THE BEST? Very tempted to go based on goals, ratings or maybe even the tricky winger that provided the bulk of the assists.

Ultimately despite being very young and not playing that many games, he scored most of his goals when it mattered. He was brought into the first team when Folarin got injured and his backups were getting tired from the fixture congestion, I just let him continue in the first team after some good performances. 

He's also got mean eyebrows and a sexy haircut

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Really delighted with his progress too

Edited by Meow
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, SlyViper said:

Wow looks like Kingstonian are following you up too!

They are! In fact after noticing it, I went to look at the 8 clubs that got promoted into both the VNN and VNS that year (5 in the south and 3 in the north). Since you've pointed it out, I'd like to give an update about those. It breathes some life into the save!

The clubs that have been recently promoted have had a lot of positive momentum. All of them have been incredibly successful, none of them have been relegated in the 2 seasons and many have gotten promoted again.

 

League Two

Spoiler

Besides us, there has actually been another club climbing together with us. Feels a bit like a sibling storming the leagues together, in fact they've been playing very well in League Two as well.

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I've actually been deliberately organising friendlies with them every pre-season. They've actually amassed quite an interesting squad.

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If you notice, I've actually sold Mini to them. He was not my signing in the first place, and when I saw them bid I instantly accepted.

Vanarama National League

Spoiler

From the South,

We actually have name familiar to us. Gosport Borough were the weakest of the bunch of 5 VNS teams, finishing in 13th. Yet here they are, clinching promotion! 

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In the North,

We also have a familiar name, Buxton who achieved promotion via playoffs from the VNN to play together with us in the VNL. They finished 9th and just 3 points off the playoff spots, so hopefully we see them again.

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I don't think FC United of Manchester needs much introduction to the people who play Football Manager

They just got promoted from the VNN via the playoffs in the season just past, and will be competing in the VNL this season

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Vanarama North/South

Spoiler

Establishing themselves rather comfortably in the Vanarama North and South, we also have 3 more teams

Hendon, who was the other club that needed a manager at the start of this save. They finished 8th both times in the VNS, missing out on the playoffs by just 1 spot. Maybe they could build a solid foundation to slowly ascend the english football pyramid 

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Carshalton Athletic actually gave us a good run for our money in the first season, finishing runners-up. They actually finished in the play-offs in 5th, but still haven't achieved promotion.

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Tamworth is an unfamiliar name to us in the story so far, but they have actually been doing very well. They have performed well just like Carshalton and also finished in 3rd in both seasons. However just like Carshalton, they have not have much luck in the playoffs.

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This was actually quite fun.! I've also kept a shortlist of ex-Salisbury players, so maybe we can have a little catchup with some of them in the future :)

Edited by Meow
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Season 4 - The Hawks are Swirling

Bigger teams are definitely taking a notice of us and our squad. While I'm certain the manager is safe from temptation (because it's me lol), I can't say the same about the players.

Nonetheless I have received some offers

Spoiler

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It baffles me that they think I'll accept jobs for financially mismanaged clubs just 1 league up.

 

Transfers

IN

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Out

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Detailed thoughts on the transfers

Spoiler

I knew my squad was quality and frankly still too good for League Two, but I also know what it lacks. Leadership and a proper set-piece taker.

With a proper core of players brought in when we were in the National League, we really just needed a little refreshing of the squad. Along with all of last year's academy players, out went 4 players. Only Wegkamp was hard to part with, but really we were moving on from the big man little man 442.

In their place I brought in someone who could lead the troops, though the squad probably has 3 centre backs that are better than him1232026485_Screenshot_2022-01-04-19-03-26-581.thumb.png.a08e55d0485651ec5071cc5d25ca153e.png

He almost wasn't given a work permit, but it went through on appeal and our team had a new captain. I could hear the sigh of relief from Idris Hicks and Chris Stokes in particular, who were the captains for Season 2 and Season 3 respectively.

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Not sure how much I'd usually recommend bringing in a luxury players who only serves as a mentor at this level, but for £500 it's hard to say it was a bad move

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Finally... would it be incredibly irresponsible of me to chuck a fresh academy graduate onto the field for his expertise in dead ball situations?

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Tactical Changes - 4231 or a 433? Yes

Big decision to shift from the asymmetric 442 to the... well I call it an asymmetric 4231.

Oh Anderson is supposed to be a BWM in this case, probably took a wrong screenshot. The DM is only DLP if Thorn plays there with Clarke as a B2B in the MC position.  

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Cup Runs

Probably the limpest exits so far of any season, after so many heroic wins against League One sides. Nope this year I just get knocked out by all competitions by January

Spoiler

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We also got knocked out by Norwich in the FA Cup on the 4th of January, but the history from the fixture list broke and I can't screenshot it.

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January Transfer Window - A Small Fish in A Big Ocean

I have never covered the winter windows in this career so far, but only because they've been thoroughly uneventful. We had predominantly been signing out of contract players and have only sold 1 player midseason so far, but really all the action has been in the summer window.

This season was different. We've felt all powerful being the big fish in a small pond for a long time and even occasional triumphs in the cup against much lower sides has not really stirred the pot much. Perhaps the mere 1-0 defeat against Leicester last season as a non-league side has gotten a few scouts on us, because for once it felt like I did not have control and I just couldn't wait for the window to end.

January Transfer Window in Detail

Spoiler

Rumours starting circulating right before the window opened about some of our players wanting to move to a club with better facilities to fulfill their potential. It was partially true, we had players who wanted to move to fulfill their potential but it had nothing to do with our facilities which were in good shape. 

Yet the first bids that came it were for players who weren't even involve in the rumours, 3 separate bids for the former Liverpool academy player Dannie Anderson and a substantial bid for last season's star man Connor Barnsley. We swiftly rejected the bids, which caused much uproar in the dressing room. It didn't help that our form was shaky in December, which just got worse in January.

In the chaos, I had a moment of calm

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Hold up Ross Marshall, you barely survived being moved on last summer. Getting a little too big for your station, are we?

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I even opted for asymmetric and for Anderson to play BWM at DM so you stayed. Out with you!

I almost almost made it out of the transfer window without a departure I wasn't comfortable with, but it wasn't to be

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Idris Hicks, I thought you were good enough to take all the way to the Championship as first choice. I thought you would be the one, but you left me when I was finally planning to transition from you being the understudy of Jake Eastwood to taking over. I stuck with you and your 2 reflexes and even quadrupled it in the time we've had together.

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Good thing we secretly cloned him before he went :) But seriously I don't think Hatfield has got as much potential (despite what the coaches think), and even if he does he isn't ready to quite take over Jake Eastwood yet. He'll be backup for now and looks like we have to get Eastwood again or look for a new keeper next season

 

Contract Disputes

Spoiler

Good lad with high professionalism and work rate, but mate you aren't the player you once were. He refuses to accept 1k and backup status, and his contract runs out in June

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I did bring in a replacement early, he was out of contract in North America so he arrives January. I really do want Eaves to stay on as a mentor, but we'll see how it goes.

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International Management - Still Baffles I Am Here

Spoiler

Surprised it was pretty easy, at the very least it was harder than winning with Morocco in FMM20

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League Two - Thank God the January Transfer Window Ended

We were genuinely at risk of having to endure the drama of the playoffs during January. The chaos saw us got kicked out of both the FA Cup and JPT, but it got really easy 2nd half of the season with only the league to focus on and the players stopped being angry. It looks like we cruised it, but we didn't really.

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Unfortunately @SlyViper, despite a flying start Kingstonian just couldn't do it at this level.

Injuries did Fenwick in early in the season, so really with the rotation there wasn't much chance our players were going to top the goalscorer chart.

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Player of the Season - One of Our Own!

My favourite part of every year is looking at every player and see how much they've improved or if someone has pushed into the first team. Connor Barnsley again an influential player, it's also nice to see Thompson, Fenwick and Llanez maintaining their performances in the Football League

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I also noticed Thorn and Raikhy over the season being reliable in midfield, with Thorn providing assists from deeper free kicks and having quite a decent long shot. The ratings are very bad at reflecting that however.

 

The player of the season has to be Farrington, a lot of pressure to be thrown into the first team of a newly promoted club. He really made the difference too 

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I think his attributes looks promising too, he'd be class with just a couple points here and there 756226192_Screenshot_2022-01-08-21-46-08-111.thumb.png.df3d289a17c4bd121ecb704085831a72.png

Edited by Meow
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Season 5 - Squeaky Bum Time in the League

Although we face yet another step up again, I'm fairly confident in the squad's ability to perform. Looking back it really was Season 3 in the Vanarama National League that we brought in a huge amount of talent, most of them for free.

I actually didn't really had to do much looking around myself, really left it to Jake Cole to just scout for players with expiring contracts. Speaking of the scouting team though, we actually have major news

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That's right our very beloved Chris Stokes has joined the scouting team and will be retiring from football. I'll cover him more in the transfer segment.

 

Transfers

IN

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OUT

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Not pictured above are actually 2 more departures. Our versatile winger Sam Folarin left in May to a non-league club and the departure didn't carry over, and as mentioned before veteran left-footed centreback Chris Stokes became a scout.

A crucial area that was covered was goalkeeper, where Jack Butland is very capable at this level.

 

Detailed thoughts on the transfers

Spoiler

Letting go one of my better deals 2 years ago. He was promising and I thought I could squeeze out maybe 2-3 points across the board, maybe bring him into the Premier League. Not only has he not stepped up a level, he actually has seen 0 growth across all the attributes.

I was probably going to move him on anyway, if not this year probably the next. So when Bromley came in with 160k, I let him go.  

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And with his departure, the one likely to fill his role is a loanee from Reading. Very proud of this signing, completely free with 0 wage contribution and can play both wings.

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I also thought that our youth intake was pretty good this time around

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Meanwhile 3 of my players in particular are drawing top flight attention. Although they wanted the opportunity to talk to those clubs, they didn't really kick up much of a fuss when I rejected all the bids.

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And yet again, another window passes with my squad intact. Relegation release clauses only apply to the league they are signed in, right? RIGHT?

 

And just like my players, I was also very much disciplined and faithful of the current project at Salisbury

Spoiler

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Tactical Changes - Just a normal sane 4231

No major changes really, a shift in position but the basic shape and remains the same. In fact, I'd argue this isn't even that far different from the 442 I played previously.

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Cup Runs - Finally!

League Cup

Actually had a very historical moment for the club, we beat a Premier League team. Well a relegation threatened side who only got promoted from the Championship via playoffs, but a Prem team nonetheless

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We were however expectedly knocked out by an established midtable Premier League side

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FA Cup

We also made it quite far in the FA Cup, but I'm less worried that we lost and more worried of the scale of the loss against a midtable championship side.

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PJT

It had been sometime since we've won anything but the league, so I did try hard to win the PJT.

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And it was ultimately worth it, as we got our hands on another silverware in front of a giant crowd in Wembley

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January Transfer Window - Oh god who did he lose this time?
No one actually. I was busy looking at foreign players who could possibly get a work permit. 

Spoiler

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It's hard to find players that are both good enough and willing to join, especially since the clubs reputation is now trailing it's actual standing in the league. There's a reason we've been Jordan Addo-Antoine from Reading for the 3rd season in a row, fullbacks have been a particularly a problem position. Maybe an expansion of our search range could help.

Doesn't help that I'm a stingy bastard either

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Turns out the work permit office were particularly ruthless today, all the Comoran, Gabonese and Burkinabe players were savagely rejected. 2 got their work permits though

Sanchez, just hoping for some actual people that can play leftback.

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Cavada, totally scouted him for his 20 leadership. No caps oddly, but I guess he played enough games in the Italian Serie C?

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League One- On Edge the Entire Season

Even though it was one of our more consistent seasons in the league, this was the closest title race out of all the seasons so far.

We even had to play Derby on the final game week, which makes having 1-3 points difference between us for almost the entirety of the season really nerve wrecking. 

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We did clinch it in the end, but mad respect to Derby for keeping pace with me the entire season.

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It has also been ages since one of our players won the golden boot, and by a ridiculous margin as well.  

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All of that of course was helped by incredible service by the rest of the squad, especially our wingers and our freekick taker Thorn.

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Player of the Season - His Name is So Cool Too

I wish the game tracked goals per minute. Gabriel von der Reith's goal return looks crazy, but it's actually even more insane because I took him off regularly after 25-45 minutes to keep him fresh for the next game. The dilemma is real, but I have on occasion took the left IF off (usually Llanez or Atta) played him as a wide Target Forward with Eric Farrington down the middle.

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Zion Atta also had an amazing season, though it seems West Ham is sniffing around and he has declared he wants to go.

 

In any case, he looks absolutely amazing. Him, Barnsley and Farrington will be crucial players and also garnering attention from top flight clubs.

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Just as a more meta gaming side, I actually think he has got really good PA. He's this good and still improving. Barnsley meanwhile I think will be good but not quite elite. Still unsure about Farrington, cause he's a little younger

I'm planning to retrain him as a AML in the advanced playmaker role, to focus his training on his weakest attributes and give him familiarity in the position. 

 

Next update, I'll update you about the 2026 World Cup as the Ivory Coast manager. Along with that, I'll talk about how some of the past Salisbury players have done since moving on from the club.

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32 minutes ago, Rich said:

What an excellent season again mate, great league campaign and great cup runs! Great write up as well 👏🏻

I like crafting little narratives around players. I'd write all day about where many of the well-known players go in the save if I could, but I'll stick just with the occasional update about some players. Mostly past Salisbury players. I do share more in chats like Discord and Telegram, but I summarise quite a lot for the Vibe post.

Here's just a sliver of it: Basically I noticed Riyad Mahrez was playing for Ipswich in League One, so I looked around some of my fierce competition for League One promotion spots. Apparently I was up against some pretty stacked teams for this level.

Spoiler

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Edited by Meow
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4 hours ago, StuartM said:

Going very nicely mate, well done!

Thanks mate! Based on matchups in the cups, I was very worried for quite a few seasons about the step up into the Championship. Now the season before, I'm beating Championship teams in the cups and I'm quietly confident about next season.

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1 hour ago, Rich said:

You need to be involved more with the community, a compliment, you speak a lot sense and things I would say 👏🏻

Oh you flatter me. I would say though I've met 3 other friends in real life who played FMM as well, it is fascinating seeing playstyles and tactics that evolve independently from Vibe. I'm guessing that's also partly the fascination here haha

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