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Stalybridge Celtic - Up We Go!

Climbing Up the Rungs! Or Maybe Not...
Started on 5 February 2014 by serek000
Latest Reply on 9 February 2014 by serek000
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serek000's avatar Group serek000
10 yearsEdited

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to what is most likely a doomed effort. I will attempt to guide Stalybridge Celtic, the lone professional team in the Conference North, through the tiers. Will I succeed? I'm not confident. I'll admit right away - I'm not terribly patient, I make rash decisions, and I tinker to no end. Not the traits of a winning manager, right? We'll see!

I've been playing the Football Manager series since FM11, but I've only had FM14 for a few days now, although I had a bit of a practice run with Lincoln.

My rules are simple: no save scumming, no searching for players I already know are available and good additions without my scouts giving reports on them, and absolutely no editing. I'm running the basic FM14, no mods or anything of that sort. Oh, and I'll try to stay "in character" as my manager the best I can. One more thing - I'm American, so apologies if I accidentally slip up on the dates! I'll do my best to keep it Day/Month instead of Month/Day.

Welcome aboard, I hope you enjoy! Next stop, Bower Fold!

Chapter Log
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter I
In Which I Arrived in Stalybridge; Or, How My Strange Adventure Began

What a bizarre month it was been. On 1 June I got a weird letter in the mail. No return address. Odd. I fed my cat, poured a cup of coffee, and sat down to read it.

Congratulations, you've won! Your job begins on 9 July! Report to Bower Road on the aforementioned date.


Then it hit me. A year ago, maybe two, I can't remember, I entered a mail-in sweepstakes competition to manage a professional football team. I wouldn't win, of course. I didn't know anyone who had won anything like that before. But lo and behold, I did win.

I stared at my cat with a dumbstruck look on my face. I must have tried to take a sip of coffee, but I can't remember it. I was in shock. I do know, though, that at some point in those boggling minutes of wonder I spilled a bit on my white shirt. No matter. I was a manager! What a dream!

A month later I had my work visa squared away, my bags packed, and my apartment sublet out. The lease would expire at the end of August, anyways. I was hoping I could at least make it that long without being sacked.

I hopped a train to the airport. Next stop, Heathrow. I'd never been to the UK before, you know, and didn't have much of an idea of what to expect. Stalybridge is up north, very near to Manchester. What if I couldn't understand the Mancunian accent? What if my cat didn't adjust to the change in scenery? What if I kept buying shoes in the American shoe size system instead of the European one?

All of those fears ended up being silly, though. Although I'm a bit ashamed to say that it took me a while to get used to the Mancunian accent, and even longer to pick up the slang. Oh well, I guess I should be thankful it wasn't Gateshead I got the job at. I'd need a translator for that, I think!

Anyways, long story short, flight to Heathrow, spent the night outside London, train from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly, rented a car, drove to Stalybridge.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but Stalybridge wasn't it. I was afraid that it'd be a town of belching smokestacks, acrid air, and grey, cold concrete. It wasn't.

I breathed a sigh of relief, picked the cat carrier out of the boot of the car, and strolled up to my apartment. Flat. Not apartment. Flat. I'd have to get used to that.

The next week was uneventful, considering the circumstances. Setting up bank accounts, trying local restaurants (it only took me two days to find my favorite (strike that, favourite, with a 'u' - I'll have to remember that, too) steak and kidney pie), and furnishing my flat.

The next day was the day I'd been waiting for. My first day as manager of Stalybridge Celtic. I checked my email to see a message waiting. Gorski, Rob Gorski, chairman of the club. He wanted a meeting. Preliminary discussions about budgets, wages, and the like, I assumed.

Needless to say, it was a restless night. One not helped by a rumbling stomach. Some bad balti, I thought. A guy in line said it was much better in Birmingham. I'll have to remember that when we go play Solihull.

The biggest day of my life was just hours away - and I hadn't slept a wink.
Chapter II
In Which It All Kicked Off; Or, How I Realized the Team Was in Trouble

It was finally time. After way too many cups of coffee - enough to make my hands tremble - I set off for my meeting with Chairman Gorski. That actually went much more smoothly than I had expected. He was polite, calm, and supportive. Long story short, expectations were fairly low (just a top half finish), and I would have freedom in my style of play and pick of the squad. Wonderful.

After I left his office I took a stroll to the locker room, where the team captain (a gentleman named Lees, a veteran right back) had assembled the team for a meeting. I had a bit of a chat with them. It was more an introduction than anything meaningful, but they took it well and it made me a bit more comfortable than I had been that morning.

Little did he know, I don't think he'll be captain much longer. I had a brief meeting with my assistant manager, who filled me in on weak spots on the team. Right back, right midfield, and goalkeeper were big problem areas, and we were seriously lacking depth in the attacking central midfield and up top. So I got together with my scouting team, who had just returned from the England Trial Day, to compile a list of free transfer targets.

It was a good mix of veteran and young talent, which was definitely something I saw value in. The team, in general, was young, with most of the first team being under 25 years old. Room for growth, I reckoned, and perhaps an opportunity to make a tidy profit off some of them in the future.

The keeper position was a real nightmare. All the keepers at the club were, well, better suited for a pub team than a team hoping for a good finish. Even at just 16 years of age, our transfer target Barton, a young Welshman, was much better than any option we had. Signing him, along with Billy Gibson, were my top priorities.

Unfortunately, money was tight. There wasn't much room in the wage budget, so there'd have to be a bit of an exodus away from Bower Fold. But that could wait a few days. The scheduled press conference - my first - could not.

I poured another cup of coffee and strode up to the podium, hoping that my nervousness wasn't too obvious.

That went better than expected. No tough questions, nothing that would get me in hot water with anyone.

I went back to my office for a few minutes, in time to fill out a quick team sheet. It didn't leave me feeling too great. There was a lot to do. A lot.

I frowned quite a lot looking at that. It had been such a great day - the start to a dream, really - except for the squad. The next week would be busy, I knew, trying to offload players and sign some new ones.
Good Luck!
2014-02-05 15:42#158839 captainbrickarms : Good Luck!

Thanks, I reckon I'll need a fair bit of it!
Good Luck
2014-02-06 13:45#159024 TylerK : Good Luck

Lees had a positive reaction and the relationship with team's captain is crucial for a head coach. Good luck!
Chapter III
In Which I Tasted Action; Or, Some Transfer Action and the First Match

As I parked my car the next week, I knew something was up. There was someone waiting by the front door. Nobody ever came to the facility for no reason - something was up. My suspicions were confirmed when I shook his hand. His name was Buckley, the father of one of my youngsters. His son wanted to go on loan.

Excellent. I made a few phone calls, had my assistant make a few faxes, and soon enough a pair of loan offers came through. I agreed to both. It was a good way to get a peripheral player some match experience and reduce our wage bill, as the loan was season long and 100% paid for by the receiving club.

200 pounds a week isn't much of a wage reduction, but it'll help with signing some new players, which we desperately need.

It was later in the day that I decided we couldn't hesitate any longer. We needed to buy, and buy soon. So we did.

I got on the phone with my top two targets - the striker Sturrock and the young keeper Barton. It didn't take much to get them aboard, and within the next few days they agreed to a contract and put their pens to the paper.

Welcome aboard lads!

I decided at that time that it was time to clean house a bit. The assistant manager had been with the club for a year prior to my arrival, but he wasn't exactly making the grade. His training regimen and interpersonal skills were, sadly, lacking. We parted ways amicably. The search for a replacement began immediately, as did the search for a goalkeeping coach to train up young Barton into what would hopefully be a serviceable keeper.

The press wanted me to have a little chat about the Barton signing. I gladly obliged, more than happy to have a reprieve from the stress of personnel management.

With that out of the way, our first friendly was upon us. A home match against Bamber Bridge. I must admit, I had never heard of them before. From Lancashire somewhere, I think. No matter - they were at Bower Fold and ready for the match.

So I put the team forward. Barton and Sturrock were both immediately included in the first team. I told the lads not to worry about what the final score might be. It was early in the preseason and fitness was my main concern. None of them were match fit, which was expected.

The match was a route. A proper slaughter. Granted, it was against poor quality opposition (with no disrespect intended). The score was well deserved, although at halftime I was sweating a bit, with only a 1-0 lead. A four goal explosion in the second half certainly fixed that.

On top of that, everyone who dressed got a chance to play, except for the back up keeper. It was important that Barton got his confidence up.

Both new signings did very well, Sturrock especially. Barton did a heck of a lot to calm my nerves about a 16 year old keeper being my starter. But it was only a friendly, and against low quality opponents.

But not everything was roses after the friendly. We suffered a huge blow out their - our left back, McWilliams, picked up a nasty injury that would keep him out for a fair bit of time. One more thing to look at in the transfer window. Maybe a loan would be in order. I almost shouted for my assistant manager to take care of that - only to remember that there was none.

It would be a busy couple weeks to come.
2014-02-06 16:13#159060 Adrian18Ro : Lees had a positive reaction and the relationship with team's captain is crucial for a head coach. Good luck!

Thanks! Aye, it's important indeed. Unfortunately, Lees is something of a weak link in the back, so he might be losing his starting spot, if I can find a replacement. I think someone else will be captain come the beginning of the season - no sense having a captain that isn't starting every (or almost every) match.
Hope that the squad changes you made to be benefic for your team. I have faith in you to bravely face the busy weeks coming. Solid display in the friendly, pal!
Great to get 24 shots in, shows your players are up for the campaign
2014-02-06 17:04#159077 Adrian18Ro : Hope that the squad changes you made to be benefic for your team. I have faith in you to bravely face the busy weeks coming. Solid display in the friendly, pal!

Thanks! I was pretty pleased.

2014-02-09 08:15#159523 Toon : Great to get 24 shots in, shows your players are up for the campaign

Yeah, that was definitely encouraging. But I don't want to read to much into it. It was against a really poor quality team, and as will be seen, there are big struggles ahead...
Wow what a game by Blair sturrock
I got to work the next day and checked my email (after one too many cups of coffee, of course). Two new messages! Perhaps transfer news? I was in for two players I thought could really give a boost, a center defender (which was not a real "must-fix" position, but it'd allow me to play one of my first team center backs as a right back, which was a need position) and a right midfielder.

It was indeed transfer news. But not what I was hoping for.

Well that certainly wouldn't do. I started working the phone lines immediately, trying to get something - anything - lined up to bring in new talent.

There was so little time, though, and next thing I knew the match against our parent club, Oldham, was upon us. The Latics would, I figured, blow us out of the water. The gulf in talent was just too far to surmount. But it was good practice for cup matches against bigger teams, so we went out to have a go at it. It ended predictably.

Hey, a three goal loss isn't that bad. I was honestly fearing a scoreline along the lines of 5-0. Getting a goal on the board is definitely a plus. Except, well, it was an own goal in stoppage time.

It wasn't long until the search for an assistant manager came to an end. He wasn't the most skilled right-hand man I could have hoped for, but he was particularly able in two areas - man management and tactical coaching. I could definitely work with that. Welcome aboard, Harry!

No sooner had he arrived, though, than another friendly was upon us. Chorley. I'd never heard of them. I checked wikipedia to learn that they're from Lancashire. Interesting - sort of. Well, no matter where they're from, we'd give them a real fight and were solid favourites. So I hoped, at least.

The result was disappointing, to say the least. They scored both goals off corners - that was something I'd have to work on in training, for sure. Set pieces had caused some problems in the Oldham match, too. Part of the problem came from lacking a big strapping lad in the back - someone to mark their most dangerous header of the ball. Ross Smith sure would have fit the bill perfectly, but we lost out on him to Bromley. So it goes.

But the score wasn't the most worrying thing about that result, not by a long shot. More injuries. Injuries to important players, at that. Platt in the match, and Barrow in training a couple days later. It had not been a good week.

Both Platt and Barrow would miss the first few matches of the season. Two more first team players down.

Bringing in new faces became priority no. 1. Luckily our partnership with Oldham finally paid off. After a few days of back-and-forth, we secured the services of a talented youngster who could play in central midfield, attacking central midfield, and up stop as a striker if need be. Finally a step in the right direction.

On top of that, I received word that Barton, the young goalkeeper we'd signed for the first team a few weeks back, got a call-up to the Wales u-19 squad, to face Andorra. That was mixed news, in that I was delighted he'd get international experience, but worried that it'd keep him out of matches here at Bower Fold.

It had not been a good week. Hopefully the start of the season would bring a change in fortune. I wasn't confident, but you never know. Football is a strange game.

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