As a new writer for “Dictate the Game”, I am delighted to start my first article. Entitled, ‘From Kingston to Kirkcudbright‘, this debut piece is going to take readers on a journey that comes in the form of an FM21 experiment. The article will be looking to answer a question we possibly think we already know the answer to… “Are football players from the UK overhyped?”
And whilst plenty of research into this topic has been done in real-life (see above!), the way in which I shall attempt to answer this question is by taking a bunch of players from an underappreciated area of the world and forming a team to take on one of the United Kingdom’s leagues. To make things interesting, I will use FM’s ‘Create A Club’ mode and start as the team predicted to finish bottom of the bottom league. By doing this, I’m making the challenge tougher as I will have the smallest of budgets to build my squad.
As I have played a lot of FM in the lower reaches of England, Ireland, NI and Wales over the years, I will be abolishing Brechin City from Scotland League Two and replacing them with a brand new club made up of lads who ply their trade in one of the least nourished regions of the footballing world- the Caribbean!
For those of you who haven’t tried the ‘Create A Club’ mode before, it’s very similar to the full game. However, instead of selecting a team at the start of the game, you select a team to replace and then you assume their “Squad Budget Value” as your own. You then use this to be able to select a team of your own. There are also a few other cool customisations you can make. These include selecting which town/city you want to be based in, the name of your ground and making your own kits. You can even import a club logo if you want. I designed and created my own because I’m a huge nerd. As mentioned before, my starting budget was small due to taking over Brechin. I had a grand total of £211k at my disposal.
“Good evening ladies, gentlemen and Caribbean football stars, we are now approaching touchdown in Manchester. It may be the height of summer, alas here in the north of Great Britain it’s chucking it down. Good luck to everyone who has made this flight over from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Oh, and if you think it’s cold here, just you wait til you get up to Scotland!”
Yes, that’s what I imagine the reality sinking in would be for the 27 footballers of the Caribbean who for some insane reason agreed to up sticks and move from the Cayman Isles to Castle Douglas, from Dominica to Dumfries or from Kingston to Kirkcudbright in search of a new life at Scottish League Two’s newest club, Caribbean Juniors.
In real life of course only a few have made this dream a reality. The most recent I know of being Nicholas Hamilton, who has ended up with a complex COVID-19 based situation which saw him being loaned to Dundee because he couldn’t enter Canada to play for York United. On a more intentional note, possibly the most well-known move from the Caribbean to Scotland would have been Jason Scotland. The clue is in the name! The Trinidad man departed Defence Force for Dundee United in 2003.
So now I go back to the initial question about UK players being overrated. I suppose the first indicator came in the early stages of the game. Most of the players that I was signing were five star ability and assuming that these star ratings would be made by the same people from the old Brechin I have to think that the lads I’ve brought in are superior to what they already had. A good early sign for the experiment, but of course there’s still a long way to go yet. We haven’t even kicked a football, so I can’t exactly state this is going to be a foregone conclusion.
Another key indicator that I checked up on to see how my squad looks against the old club was the “Season Preview” page. For anyone who’s unsure, this is on the league tab. Knowing that my predecessors were down to finish 10th, I was pleasantly surprised to see the revised odds at 5-4 with the bookies. This made me 2nd favourites to win the Scottish fourth tier. Queen’s Park are the astonishing 1-91 odds on expected champions. It will be a virtually impossible foe to outdo if those odds are anything to go by, but I suppose that’s all part of the question I’m asking. Are Queen’s Park really likely to be better than a bunch of international footballers with over 100 caps between them?
One of the best things about this challenge is that from the get-go I have opportunities to test my pedigree. I enter The Betfred Cup early into the season and will take on two teams from the Scottish Championship and also SPL club Dundee United. In pre-season, I’ve also tried to face some interesting foes. I have set up friendlies against Scottish League One club Forfar Athletic, Derry City of the Irish Premier League and even Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s Wrexham to try and gauge just how far this team could go.
Challenges to Overcome
The positives are there for all to see and I am confident that my team of Caribbean unknowns will be better than their established Scottish League equivalents. Having said that, there are still going to be challenges to overcome. Some of these are FM specific issues and there are others which would be problematic in real-life as well. The first, which came about when selecting a team of players based in the Caribbean, is that players from certain countries could not be added to the team due to Work Permit issues.
Thankfully my knowledge of Caribbean based players is decent. As a result, I was able to still get a team together, but missing out on lads from key nations such as Trinidad & Tobago did make things a bit more difficult. Another obvious problem with the group of players I’ve picked is that around half of them are current international players. Without sounding too rude about Scotland’s fourth tier, I don’t think they account for this in their fixture lists. I imagine that I’m either going to end up with a few games in hand throughout the year, or I’ll be forced to struggle on with the few lads who don’t fly home for CONCACAF Nations League games.
Next up, I’ll talk about longevity of the project. I will need to work out if there is a way to get my scouts looking at Caribbean players so that I can expand my team or replace players who leave or retire. And in terms of in-game issues, financial stability is the biggest thing I need to try and combat. My team was “bought” for only £152k, which is £59k less than Brechin’s was valued at. Despite this, it does appear as though the wages I’m paying my team are higher. This appears to be having a detrimental effect even from the early days of the game.
Meet the Team
So with the foundations in place, the scene is set. The summer months in Kirkcudbright are upon us and I am going to end this first article by proudly introducing you to the Caribbean Juniors squad. I’m pleased to note that it features players from no fewer than nine nationalities. Naturally, Jamaica is one of the more heavily represented countries. This is due to the quality available in that nation.
However, I have searched far and wide for the best talent. As a result I feature a few players from St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada and Aruba. The horizons also broaden to include a lad from Bermuda and even the Cayman Islands! Look out for my next article in a few weeks time as I’ll be reviewing my pre-season findings. I’ll also be letting readers know whether the Caribbean superstars can turn heads in Scotland. In time, maybe Europe as well.
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