Go back to Football Manager 2006

Written by: Rik

Date posted: May 24, 2015

Although telling someone about the finer details of a game you’re playing isn’t generally that interesting, in the case of CM/FM I think a season diary can highlight something about the fundamental experience that a standard review can’t really get into.

(Last time, in an attempt to highlight the life-hogging nature of the series, I included some details about what I was up to in real life, including descriptions of fun-filled weekends, comprising many hours of free time and punctuated by the occasional social event. Now I’m in my mid-30s, such things are a distant memory, and even if they were actually worth relating in the first place [no – a reader], I’ll certainly spare you the details of my non-gaming life these days, such as vacuuming the house, or falling asleep on the sofa for no apparent reason.)

At least he didn't suggest he should be in the team.

At least he didn’t suggest he should be in the team.

25 July 2005

The squad seems ok to me, but there are a few selection dilemmas. I turn to my assistant, Alan Reeves, and ask him to name his preferred team. I disagree with his assessment, which I take with a pinch of salt after he names young defender Charlie Comyn-Platt as both the weakest player in the squad, and a potential star.

3 August 2005

I think about rejigging the coaching staff, but it looks a bit more complicated than in previous games, where you could just fire people and get in someone better without much effort. Besides, at the moment Alan Reeves is my only real cover in the centre of defence. With money tight, the loan market looks to be where it’s at. I bring in a centre-half called Paul McCrink, who can also play up-front – result!

6 August 2005

Our first league match, at home vs. Tranmere. The team selection is largely uncontroversial, except up front, where I opt for a combination of Lee Peacock and Jamie Cureton (leaving pacy Welshman Christian Roberts on the bench) and in central midfield, where I select young reserve Michael Pook ahead of Paul Smith, a summer signing made by the previous manager. (Smith, incidentally, is 34, which in times gone by would have made him an immediate candidate for the transfer list, but my own advancing years have made me more sympathetic to the merits of an experienced head.)

We play a direct style and a fairly bog-standard 4-4-2, and it seems to work pretty well as we win 3-0. What’s more, I bring on my new man McCrink for a run-out in the second half, and he scores shortly after coming on.

27 August 2005

I notice that experienced central midfielder Gareth Whalley looks a lot like Super-Hans from Peep Show. I decide against mentioning it, mainly because there’s no option to, but also because I’m not the kind of manager who’s desperate to be one of the lads.

Tell you what, this crack's a bit more-ish.

Tell you what, this crack’s a bit more-ish.

29 August 2005

We’ve been riding pretty high in the league but are brought down to earth with a 3-0 at thumping at Scunthorpe. That’s followed up with a 1-0 home loss to MK Dons which sees top scorer Peacock limp off injured. In fact, we’ve got a few injury problems now. Our scouts have been off to Scandinavia (a very fruitful source of good cheap players in previous versions) and found a decent midfielder called Ørjan Berg Hansen. He’s ours for only £5,000.

10 September 2005

Swindon stop the rot by grabbing a sneaky away win at Doncaster. We win 3-2, with Christian Roberts scoring the winner. Roberts looks pretty handy whenever he plays; I might give him a run in the team.

29 October 2005

It hasn’t all been plain sailing but we’re in 5th place, which is apparently higher than pundits or fans expected. One of the great things about being in charge of Swindon at this point is that former jockey and TV personality Willie Carson is the chairman, and it amuses me to think of him calling me to a meeting to give me praise.

10 December 2005

Our early season form is starting to tail off. We’re playing poorly and look short of ideas. After a fairly distressing home loss to Bournemouth I decide to take action and tinker with our playing style. We don’t seem to be keeping possession very well, and with so many decent technical players at our disposal, I wonder why we’re playing a direct style. I switch to more of a mixed/short passing game for the next match at Blackpool, which brings an instant improvement with a 2-0 win. I declare myself a tactical genius.

That’s Bristol City told. A wronged Swindon is a vengeful Swindon.

28 December 2005

Thus far I’ve largely stayed out of the ‘manager mind games’ side of things, although I have considered it at various points. While hesitating over whether to make a comment, I noted that under ‘Relationship with You’, a couple of opposition managers have had the status, ‘Has a fairly poor opinion of you’. What did I ever do to them?

I’m not sure whether to take umbrage and confirm their lowly opinion of me, or try and curry favour by sucking up to them. After a 1-1 draw with Bristol City, I tell their manager Gary Johnson that they won’t be so lucky next time, which is apparently a positive comment. I don’t think it made any difference.

12 January 2006

It turns out I am not a tactical genius. After the December win against Blackpool, we go on a run of 5 games without a win, including the aforementioned draw with Bristol City, a game in which I was forced to field Jack Smith, a right-sided defender, in midfield.

We have some interest in Andrew Nicholas, our left-back. I dip my toe into the media water again to praise his recent performances.

21 January 2006

Despite the lack of transfer funds, we really need a right-sided midfielder, and so I put in a bid for Kristoffer Silberg, another useful find from the Scandinavian scouting mission. It’s a speculative bid of 10k, which is basically our remaining transfer budget for the season, but still below what his club are likely to want for him.

There follows some convoluted negotiation, with his Norwegian club seeming open to the transfer but haggling over the price. At various stages, they demand a portion of any future transfer fees, include a clause that guarantees them a mid-season friendly match with us, and suggest instalment plans for a portion of the fee.

Silberg forever, Shakes never.

Silberg forever, Shakes never.

As we go back and forth, a couple of unsolicited bids come in for some youth players that I don’t think are going to amount to much, and accepting them gives us the cash we need to up the bid a little.

Just as it’s about to go through, I hesitate a little, having not really expected to get anywhere much with the initial bid. Is Silberg the type of player we need? He’s pretty good technically, but he doesn’t have much pace. I imagine angry fans calling into the local football phone-ins demanding to know why I’d favour him ahead of Ricky ‘the Hippy-Hippy’ Shakes, who is quick and direct – and also out of contract at the end of the season.

I’ll have to decide about that later. But for the time being, we’ve got Trevor Benjamin on loan, who’s probably a better bet than either of them.

28 January 2006

OMG! Bristol City manager Gary Johnson feels that the two of us could become friends!

29 January 2006

With the transfer window closing, I wonder if there are any more moves I should be making, particularly with next season in mind. We’re not likely to have any money to spend, so I need to look at players whose contracts are expiring.

There’s a balance to be struck between not being short of players next year and signing people who aren’t going to improve your squad just because they’re available.

Young defender/striker McCrink has done ok on loan, though, and he’s going to be available next year, so I offer him a permanent contract.

1 February 2006

We’re in second! Come on the Robins!

14 February 2006

Shit! We’re in tenth! How did this happen? (Answer: four straight defeats.)

Do you see what you get, Swansea? DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU GET?

Do you see what you get, Swansea? DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU GET?

4 March 2006

At times like this, when you’re on a run of defeats, it can be tempting to just plough on mindlessly, convinced that your luck will change eventually.

Obviously there are limits to what you can do, and this isn’t necessarily the time for wacky formations or making wholesale changes, but it might be time to check a blind spot or two. In my case, on-loan wideman Trevor Benjamin and club captain Stefani ‘I would walk 500’ Miglioranzi, who have both been consistent performers so far, have both been underperforming for a while now. I decide to give them both a rest – even though there’s nothing wrong with their physical condition – and it seems to pay dividends.

We end our barren run with a win at Barnsley, before securing another victory over promotion rivals Swansea, a frankly heart-stopping end-to-end encounter which ends 4-3 in our favour. I imagine puffing out my cheeks in the post-match interview and declaring that games like this are ‘great for the fans, but not for the managers’ (cliché points +1). I only imagine this, mind: there’s not quite that level of media interaction in this version of FM.

11 March 2006

In my early-season assessment, I’d imagined Christian Roberts as a super-sub type, the sort to come on when we were behind to cause problems with his dangerous pace. ‘Dangerous pace’ is a phrase that was often used to describe Darren Huckerby when he was at Leeds: during his disappointing and goal-shy spell with the club, he was frequently relegated to the substitutes’ bench, and footage of him warming up during a televised game would be accompanied by the commentator saying something along the lines of, “Leeds might look to bring on Huckerby, who could cause problems with his dangerous pace”. But he never did, really.

As mentioned earlier, I decided to give Roberts a run in the team. He always looks dangerous, and does indeed cause problems with his pace, when a ball is played over the top or into the channel, but his finishing isn’t the best. At least once a game I shout “COME ON, CHRISTIAN ROBERTS!” before he fluffs another chance.

Diary110306

Dangerous pace: yes; reliable source of goals: no.

Our problem is that we don’t have a reliable source of goals. Two 0-0 draws are followed by a vital win over play-off contenders Hartlepool, made easier by the fact they had a man sent off in the first half. A few of our victories have been achieved this way – we also seem to have had a lot of penalties. (Our penalty-taker, incidentally, is our centre-half, which sort of tells you all you need to know about our strikers.)

8 April 2006

A few contracts are due to expire. Despite not being sure about Ricky Shakes I offer him a new deal. Star defender Sean O’Hanlon is asking for silly money, though. He wants twice what the next highest earner is getting. He’s good, but I’m not sure he’s that good.

(My own contract came up for review, and the buggers tried to negotiate a pay cut! After all I’ve done for this club. To be honest, though, it’s not actual money, and I don’t want to have to start again somewhere else, so I don’t play hardball – I just ask for the same terms to be maintained, and the board eventually agrees.)

23 April 2006

I praise Sean O’Hanlon in the media in a desperate attempt to get him to sign a new contract. Unexpectedly, it works. But, equally unexpectedly, the fans lash out at me and my ‘under-performing players’. To be fair, we have dropped out of the play-off zone after a couple of bad results.

10 May 2006

We’ve bloody missed out on promotion, and the play-offs. I can’t really complain: we haven’t been good enough. Not enough good performances, and not enough goals.

Fans are the lifeblood of any football club, but that doesn't mean they know what they're talking about.

Fans are the lifeblood of any football club, but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.

27 May 2006

Still, it’s time to start planning for next season, and due to our precarious financial position, we need to look at who might be available on a free transfer. There’s a handy young midfielder – Ingi Højsted, the best player in all of the Faroe Islands – available on a free from Birmingham. Sign him up!

2 July 2006

Good news: Ingi agrees terms. Bad news: he immediately makes an arrogant public pronouncement about me building the team around him. The fans are worried; and so am I.

Epilogue

Ingi Højsted was no trouble, even though I didn’t build the team around him. He contributed well for a couple of seasons before being moved on.

Sean O’Hanlon backed down from his ridiculous wage demands, signed a new contract, and was still captaining the team in my final season.

Swindon were promoted from League One to the Championship via the play-offs in 2006-7. Championship status was maintained for the following three seasons – not, it has to be said, without some difficulty.

A couple of cameos aside, Ricky Shakes failed to make much impact the following season, and was ultimately transferred. Meanwhile, Kristoffer Silberg’s stats improved massively, although his performances over the years were frustratingly inconsistent – occasional brilliance mixed with periods of anonymity.

Both he and my first signing, Ørjan Berg Hansen, remained important first team players throughout the rest of my game, and, as in my previous incarnation as Swindon manager, a number of other decent players from the Scandinavian and Nordic region were also recruited.

The careers of all the players I sold took somewhat of a nosedive after leaving Swindon, proving that I was right to get rid of them. Either that, or playing under me somehow destroyed their confidence beyond repair. I prefer to think it was the former.