Here we go again, it’s FM21 experiment time. Prepare yourself for part three of my four part series, “From Kingston to Kirkcudbright”, which sees me make it into the New Year. For anyone who’s forgotten, I am trying to answer the question of “are football players from the UK overhyped?”
If you haven’t tuned in to part one or two, get yourself caught up. In summary; I have used ‘Create A Club’ mode on FM to make a new team. I have filled that team with players from the Caribbean. The point of this was to replace a team of UK lads with foreign players of the same value. In order to answer my question, I will be seeing how much better a team of Caribbean players can do than the players they are replacing. To make it interesting, I picked a team expected to finish bottom of their league. With that, it was Brechin out, Caribbean Juniors in and ready to rock Scottish League Two. If you want the full recap, check out Part One and Part Two.
All caught up? Great- on to episode three.
The League Campaign Begins
Following tough Cup openers against Scottish Championship sides, it was time to get the SL2 season underway. First up we would welcome Edinburgh City. Predicted to finish in the top four, this would be a good opening test.
Having stumbled poorly through pre-season, the only real positive so far had been that my side seemed very comfy in possession. Apart from that though, my attacking formidability had been questionable at best. So I suppose it stands to reason that my first game would end with a goalless disappointment. The stats suggested I should have done better.
In terms of shots, passing and possession it all reads really well. The optimist in me thinks that there are encouraging signs if we can start scoring. The pessimist in me sits there wondering if Caribbean Juniors are destined to flop. Taking a more detailed look into the team performance, goalkeeper Damion Hyatt and his back four were fab. The RCM and RAM Jamaican duo played well too, as did Javeim Blanchette in the central attacking midfield role. Left midfielder Erick Ozuna, an experienced international attacker, was the biggest letdown and I quickly realised that giving Marc Beldor the nod as my starting striker was a poor decision. The 22-year old Haitian has 13 Finishing, First Touch and Composure stats, but he certainly didn’t play like it. Lesson learnt, time to try and get Dino Williams involved.
My next two matches were away days to Elgin City and Albion Rovers. Thankfully Williams was able to grab a late winner in the first of these games. A 2-0 win followed in the latter. From one Albion to another, Stirling visited me next as I won 3-0. This meant that from four games I had won three and not yet conceded in the league. Off the field I was spending time on attacking focus and it was good to see it doing the trick. It wasn’t all plain sailing though and in the Betfred Cup we were knocked out in the group stages. Despite beating Brora Rangers, we then lost 0-1 to the SPL’s Dundee United meaning that particular dream was over.
Looking at the results in the league, we were increasing our goal count by one per game whilst maintaining clean sheets at the other end. Considering the Scottish-led Brechin were expected to finish bottom, I’d say so far the evidence is compelling. Everyone knows that four games doth not make success though and next up we would face title favourites Queen’s Park.
This game was an absolute cracker, but sadly it was QP leading at the break. Their 1-0 advantage was held until the 70th minute when Dino Williams equalised through a penalty. Ten minutes later, we took a late lead through Ethan Tromp of Aruba, but moments later it was 2-2. In the 88th minute the 213 away fans of Caribbean Juniors were in pandemonium as we scored the final goal of a 3-2 win. Williams had a rocky pre-season, but proved to me why he needs to be my leading striker.
The Crimbo Run In
So far we’d only been averaging three league games a month, meaning that I didn’t need to worry too much about squad rotation for fitness purposes. However, I still needed to nail down a few positions in the starting XI so I opted to become a tinkerer. With a squad of 27 players to keep happy, I was struggling to give everyone game time and sadly I lost a player in the early stages. It was Grenadian centre-back Alec Jones who left the club, moving to Hurricanes FC back in his hometown. Ironically, the lad had joined me from Paradise FC and he clearly missed the Caribbean paradise of Grenada. After only making five substitute appearances, who was I to stand in his way?
I also had three other players asking to go on the transfer list too, making me question the longevity of this project. In an ideal world, I was hoping to improve this team season-by-season to try and get as high as possible.
In order to test the waters in terms of future signings, I offered trials to dozens of current international players of Caribbean nations and surprisingly quite a few of them took me up on my offer- including St Kitts & Nevis midfielder Gerard Williams who has played his real-life career in Trinidad & Tobago and India. Even if it isn’t possible to take this team up the leagues, I would be curious to know how a Caribbean all-star team did in the SPL. Leon Bailey, Mahlon Romeo, Nahki Wells and Onel Hernández could surely all get into a Celtic or Rangers team, right?
Before I could dream of winning the Champions League with my Caribbean stallions, I had to get out of League Two. December started off with dropped points against Stenhousemuir, but still unbeaten in the league I recorded back-to-back 2-0 wins to stay top at Xmas. My last game of 2020 was a Boxing Day cup game against Wick Academy. I chucked the fringe players out and they almost let me down, with the game going into Extra Time against the non-league club. Ozuna continued to fall down the pecking order by being sent off too. Thankfully though we laboured to a shootout victory and made it into the hat for the Second Round.
New Year, New Ambitions
We aren’t quite halfway through the season yet but it is clear at this stage that my team are superior to what Brechin’s could have been. Their players’ combined value outweighs mine, yet my team is unbeaten after the opening ten games. I don’t think we need to run a parallel experiment to see how they’d have done, but considering most of the old Brechin players went to lower league clubs I’d suggest they were poor at best. Yet my boys are flying in the league and nothing can stop them. Not even the snow!
My ambition of course is to carry on the season unbeaten and see if I can do what even the 2012-2013 Rangers FC team couldn’t. Yep, I’ve set the current SPL Champions as my marker and I will hopefully eclipse their record in this division. So far with eight wins and two draws it seems possible, but with Stenhousemuir only three points behind it isn’t game over yet. In the final episode of this experimental series, I’ll be bringing you the ups (and possibly downs) of the second half of the campaign. Can I win the league? I hope so! Can I win the cup? Probably not. Can I tempt my Caribbean superstars to stay for the League One battle in 2021/22? You’ll have to tune in next time to find out.
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