Last month I was delighted to debut my article series with “Dictate the Game”. A reminder to everyone that my FM21 experiment is set up to answer one question once and for all. That question is “are football players from the UK overhyped?”. Here we go again with “From Kingston to Kirkcudbright”.
There are many ways that we could delve into this question, but for those who read part one you’ll know all about my method. Yes, using FM’s ‘Create A Club’ mode I have replaced Scotland’s lowest ranked professional team with a bunch of lads from the Caribbean. The point of this experiment is to see how much better my Caribbean Juniors are than Brechin would have been with the same budgets. In the first episode, we saw that the early signs suggested the side was- on paper- much stronger. But even Football Manager isn’t played on paper, so the next step will be get through pre-season and see what the squad can do.
The first 51 days of my career was spent waiting for the Summer to pass us by. Kirkcudbright is lovely in the Summer, but it’s not quite Jamaica!
I lined-up a fairly strong pre-season for myself with nine friendlies booked in to raise fitness and explore who’s who and what’s what. General tip from me for FM players- play as many preseason games as possible. For one, it’s a great cash builder if you are playing at home. For two, it’s so easy to have a slow league start due to lack of match sharpness. You don’t want that! And for three, you can mess about with formations, techniques, etc. without having to worry about results. Get those 3-1-3-2-1 and 5-2-3 ideas out of your heads, folks. For me, it was a slightly obnoxious 4-2-4 in my first friendly.
Despite being overwhelming favourites for the game, I drew 1-1 against amateur side Camelon Juniors F.C. to remind me that this was not going to be a straightforward season. In fact, through the whole of September I would only see my team win once, scoring just four goals in six games. The season’s opener against Raith Rovers was getting closer. We rounded off pre-season with a defeat against Forfar, before two much needed wins that would boost confidence in time for the start of the Betfred Cup. The question still remained about whether my lads could cope with the move from Kingston to Kirkcudbright.
Obviously it was good to get the fitness levels up, but at this stage I’d say that I wasn’t exactly feeling for an away day against a team two divisions higher than myself. The key stats for me from an attacking point of view were: 1) We averaged only 11 shots per game and only 4 on target. 2) Our conversion rate was only 11%. 3) Possession and passing completion was reassuring, with 59.1% possession and over 80% pass completion. Defensively, I wasn’t worrying too much as Ajeanie Talbott is an outstanding player. My main problem was that I only knew six of my best eleven by the time I jumped on the coach to Raith.
Betfred Opener (vs Raith)
My cup run would be a tough one. After the tough start at Stark’s Park, I would then battle against another Scottish Champion side. On the one hand, it’s nice to open the Levi Roots Arena by welcoming Hearts, but on the other- it’ll be a very tough foe to play against. The first game got off to a fairly rotten start. I was 0-1 down inside the opening ten minutes, despite playing a seemingly solid 4-2-3-1 formation.
By half-time, we were on top in terms of possession but still struggling to get shots away. I’d put my faith in Haitian striker Marc Beldor to lead the line and in the 71st minute he rewarded the 199 travelling Juniors fans by slotting home an equaliser to take the game to penalties. We scored four out of four, whilst the hosts missed two of theirs to give me the win. Ooooosh, off to a winning start in the Betfred Cup.
First Defeat (vs Hearts)
A few days later I played Hearts and was brought back down to reality with a 0-3 defeat. My Cayman Islands and Jamaican international centre-backs just couldn’t handle Northern Ireland’s Liam Boyce. The game went true to form, but again I would hold on to the fact that we looked good on the ball and actually edged possession. A mixed bag of a campaign so far, so who knows how the League Two season will go?
With Edinburgh City next up in just a few days time, I had a tough first game. The Citizens were predicted to finish third and my lads second. Would Malique Roberts, Ronaldo Joseph and co. triumph? Or would Craig Thompson, Blair Henderson and the gang spoil the party? Edinburgh’s side only had one non-UK player and that was Italian forward Raffaele De Vita.
You’ll have to wait until part three of the series to know how I got on. In the meantime, I’ll give a prediction as to who I think will be my key players. The heart of my team lies within the four strong Jamaican players I possess.
In goal, an oldie but a goodie in the form of Arnett Gardens legend Damion Hyatt. The two time international keeper will undoubtedly be my number one, especially when you see his attributes (below). More than half of his GK, Mental and Physical attributes are double figures- and in particular his Goalkeeping numbers are sublime for this level. He may not offer eccentricity, but his aerial ability, command of the box and his confidence when one on one should make the six foot two lad very hard to beat.
In defence, I am privileged to have one of the best young centre backs in the Caribbean as Ajeanie Talbott comes in as one of the first names on the teamsheet. He’s not the most technical of defenders, but he’s in double-figures for the big three. Heading, marking and tackling. His most impressive area is undoubtedly his physical condition. “Jeanie” has a natural fitness rating of 16 and pace and acceleration of 14. None of his physical attributes are below 11. Thankfully he also has good positioning, work rate and determination abilities too. With Damion in goal and Ajeanie at CB, I’ll be expecting many clean sheets. Hopefully he can be Ajeanie in a bottle for me!
Into the midfield now and although many teams in the modern game boast about their wing-wizards, I’m keeping it simple. My star midfielder is solid and I reckon he’ll fit right in with the gritty Scottish opposition. John Luca Levee, who is part Jamaican, part English and part American, will be rock in the middle of the pitch.
His passing stats should allow him to ping the ball about with ease and he’s also a proper team player. I don’t expect he’ll score many, but will be involved in getting the ball flowing. I’m actually not sure which role to assign him yet. I might plant him in as a Box-to-Box CM, or maybe even as a Deep Lying Playmaker. He’s quite versatile to be honest, so I might just change him depending on who his central midfield partner is. I really don’t like playing two players in the same role in the same team.
Finally to the attacking ranks and I am picking out a player who strangely isn’t going to feature in my first game. Dino Williams, a 30-year old Pressing Forward, is a player I selected for the team purely based on having had him in teams I’ve managed before. He is that frustrating striker who either makes all the difference, or doesn’t get a kick. In pre-season he was poor, scoring 0 goals from his involvement in 9 matches, which is why Marc Beldor got the nod. Rightly so, considering he scored my first competitive goal. However, what Dino offers is physical power and a good finish.
His determination, flair and work rate make him a perfect pressing forward for my team and I fancy him to get plenty of goals. Marc Beldor is an out-and-out Poacher and will of course play his part, but as I don’t create loads of chances I’d rather favour a hard-working physical force. I’ll be taking my time introducing big Dino into the starting XI, but I reckon he’ll be making an impact before long. If not, I’ve always got a 36-year old Target Man waiting in the wings too!
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