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Devil's Advocate

Started on 25 May 2023 by mrtepig
Latest Reply on 12 August 2023 by mrtepig
  • POSTS17
  • VIEWS4074
Watching some videos the other day I started thinking about how "The Red Devils" is a pretty common nickname for football teams and I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try and manage them all in Football Manager. So, I went on Google and came to this list of possible teams:

They have been sorted by reputation according to the FM Editor, so this is sort of the path I want to be taking up the 9 levels of hell:

9. Crawley Town (England - League Two)
8. Radnicki 1923 (Serbia - SuperLeague)
7. Grazer AK (Austria - First Division)
6. Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel - Premier League)
5. Kaiserslautern (Germany - Bundesliga 2)
4. América de Cali (Colombia - First Division)
3. Independiente (Argentina - Premier Division)
2. Toluca (Mexico - Liga MX)
1. Manchester United (England - Premier League)

We could add 2 national teams with the Red Devils nickname: Congo and of course, Belgium. I'm not the biggest fan of international management in FM but we'll consider them if it's going very well.

There's also a 10th team, FC Rouen. However, they play in the French National 2 which is a non-playable league. We will only consider them if they gain promotion and we are sacked from Crawley Town as Crawley has a bigger reputation than Rouen.
Now, let's talk about who will be managing Crawley Town for the 2022/23 season.

As a Mexican, I am very familiar with a footballing legend we know as "El Diablo Mayor" or "The Greatest Devil", Paraguayan striker José Saturnino Cardozo. He earned this nickname whilst playing for Toluca (1994-2005), where he achieved 4 Liga MX and 1 CONCACAF titles. Here's a list of records he broke:
- Toluca top goalscorer (249 goals, this also makes him the 4th best in Liga MX history)
- Most playoff goals (43)
- Most goals in finals (9)
- Most goals in a single tournament (29 in Apertura 2002)
+ 4x top goalscorer, 3x best Paraguayan player, 2002 South American Player of the Year, 2002 Liga MX MVP, 2003 World's Best Top Division Goal Scorer

Quite the player to say the least. Now he is a manager, having sat on benches in Paraguay, Mexico and Guatemala. He owns a 40% winning record and has never won a title.

But of course, if he is a real manager his data will be in the game and thus we will not be able to play as him. As far as I could find, Carzodo only has 2 daughters, so we'll be playing as a fictional José Cardozo Jr.

Junior was born in Toluca in 1999, right between Cardozo Sr's first and second Liga MX titles. "El Diablito", or "Little Devil" as he was known, played in Toluca's academy before leaving when his father was sacked in 2016. He opted to focus on his studies, graduating from business management as well as getting nationally certified as a manager by FEMEXFUT. Thanks to his father paying for the best school in Toluca, Cardozo Jr. can also speak English.

We will begin with a National A License and Semi-Pro reputation, our best attributes will be in attacking and technical training. And this is how it begins, a 23-year old José Cardozo Jr. has taken the reigns of English League Two outfit Crawley Town. Will he become a successful manager, becoming the Greatest Devil in different countries, or will he be a middling manager like his father? Only time will tell.
A little bit more information on the save:
- I have loaded up Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Colombia, England, Germany, Israel, Mexico and Serbia.
- My goal is to win as much as possible with the Red Devils in order to build up a reputation and move up to the next team.
- Despite moving teams, I will try to maintain a loyalty towards staff and players where possible.
- I will try to bring in as many Paraguayan and Mexican players as possible, especially if we can have a Paraguayan striker to break goal scoring records.

Feedback, suggestions or any other comments are much appreciated!
In the next post you can expect to see a little bit of context about Crawley Town, expectations, both mine and the board's, as well as my preliminary lineup and some ideas about where to improve the team.

It is in this English town of 118 thousand inhabitants where we start our adventure. The club was founded in 1896 but only became professional in 1962. The club hasn’t enjoyed much success, with their biggest trophy being their 2011 Vanarama National win to be promoted to League Two. They achieved a consecutive promotion to League One but were relegated again in 2015. Their best FA Cup runs came in 2010/11 and 2011/12 when they reached the 5th round and faced Manchester United and Stoke City respectively. They are now set to begin an 8th consecutive season in League Two.

Now let’s start by taking a look at our team. The board expects us to avoid battling for relegation, and judging by the lack of depth I’d have to agree.
Here’s what my potential starting 11 would look like:
I’d like to note I’m only going by my assistant manager’s opinion on who the best players are, as we go along I’ll make adjustments based on performance and such.

We’ll try to keep it tight at the back with the 5 defenders, and try to hit other teams on the counter. We could possibly switch to a 4-3-1-2, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 in games we should easily win or when we have any other advantage (such as playing against 10).

I’d like to highlight our three best players, at least according to our assistant. You can open the spoiler if you want to see their profiles:

Ryan Schofield
Of course, not allowing too many goals is key to staying in League Two, which is why I expect the 22-year-old on loan from Huddersfield to showcase his ability this season.

Brandon Mason
A speedy left-back who’s decent at crossing is also important for playing the way we want to play. I expect him to be an important player on both sides of the ball.

Dom Telford
You can’t win without scoring goals and that’s just what I expect Dom to do for us, just as he did 25 times for Newport County last season. I expect him to pair up well with Ashley Nadesan, who’s more physical and can provide balls for him to score.

Our preseason schedule looks like this:
@ Horsham (Isthmian Premier)
vs Brighton (Premier League)
vs Colchester (League Two)
vs Chelsea U21

You can expect a report of these games in the next update. As always, feedback and suggestions are welcome.

Preseason Report

I'd call this a somewhat successful preseason. The first two matches were very good, especially holding a Premier League to just a 1-0 loss.
After that, we lost to Colchester, who will probably finish somewhere around us in the league table. This is a disappointing loss against an opponent of similar stature, we just couldn't get any shots or passes on target.
Against Chelsea we had a similar first half, rescuing a result with goals in the 84th and 91st minutes. Overall, I know this team can step up and play well, my job is now to keep that our consistent form and secure a place in the 23/24 League Two season.

I'd like to highlight the best performer of the preseason: Deep Lying Forward Caleb Chukwuemeka.
With 2 goals and 1 assist this preseason, we're hoping the Aston Villa loanee can adapt to the role we want him to play this season and perform just as well over the next 46 games.

In the next update we'll go over the August League Two fixtures as well as our Carabao Cup 1st Round tie against Exeter City.
This is definitely an interesting idea. Will be looking forward to following along with this one! Good luck :)

August 2022 Report

It's been a long month to say the least. We've only been able to add 3 points and we find ourselves in the middle of the relegation battle the board expects us to be out of. We've been especially disappointing up top, only being able to score 3 league goals, as well as 1 goal in our penalty defeat to Exeter in the EFL Cup and 1 goal in our defeat against Ipswich in the EFL Trophy. Then, if you exclude the heavy defeat against Wimbledon where we conceded 3 goals in the last 20 minutes of the game, our defense hasn't been the worst. There's still a lot of work to do, and I've been playing around with the tactics to try and get better results.

Here's what the league table looks like so far:

We've been real bad so far, but I'm still going to showcase a player of the month. If our defense hasn't been too bad, it's because of this man:

The Arsenal loanee has been performing above average in every defensive category but Headers won. Especially noteworthy are his Blocks/90 (1.25) and Tackles Won (87.5%). I know he can be even better and if some of our other players start playing to this standard as well, we might be able to finish clear of the relegation battle.

In the next update you can expect to see the September results, including one EFL Trophy match against Forest Green Rovers.

Thanks for reading!

September 2022 Report

Who would've thought we'd follow up a winless month with another one without a loss? The team really became another following the Salford win, with the club atmosphere taking a 180 degree turn immediately. We followed up that win with another one where we were 2-1 down at the 60th minute. We even held the League Two title holders, Forest Green, to a 0-0 tie (the penalty "loss" just means we lose out on another point for the EFL Trophy table).

This run led to Cardozo being awarded Manager of the Month accolades. You can see the news cutout below.

We've retooled our tactic to a 4-3-3. Last month I refused to play with wingers as we only had two "natural" wingers in James Tilley and Tom Fellows without any real depth at that position. Even now depth is an issue as Fellows sprained his knee and will still be out for most of October. However, it was clear the 5-3-2 wasn't working. The board also wants us to play in a more attacking fashion, so I thought, might as well go down swinging. Well, it looks like those swings have connected, now it's a matter of seeing how far I can take this run and make more adjustments on the fly. Below you can see what my usual starting 11 looks like with this formation:

Finally, I'd like to highlight our player of the month. Jamaican Corey Addai alternated with Schofield in goal during August, conceding 4 goals in 2 games. Not a good record. However, following the defeat against Ipswich, I decided to give him another run and boy, did it pay off. He started September by making 6 saves as we beat Salford. He'd go on to make another 9 saves this month, only conceding the two goals against Gillingham. Yes, the quality of shots he's faced isn't the highest, but his 84% of saves make him the 9th best goalkeeper in this category (also take into account the August games I mentioned). As long as he continues this run of form and clean sheets, Addai has a spot in my starting 11. Below you can see his profile and statistics.

As always, thanks for reading!

October 2022 Report

Our unbeaten run comes to an end after 10 games, following an away loss against a tough Colchester side. We allowed a goal in the 27th minute, before Brandon Mason was sent off due to getting 2 yellow cards. It looked like we were going to be able to salvage something from the game after Teddy Jenks equalized with a penalty, but 46th and 56th minute goals from them meant our streak was definitively over. However, we bounced back, and a win away to Bradford saw us jump into 7th place and into a playoff spot as we near the midseason point.

We were also knocked out from the EFL Trophy after hat tricks from Arsenal U21s' Reiss Nelson and George Lewis. However, we do begin our participation in the FA Cup this november as we were drawn away to VNL South outfit Dover Athletic.

Our player of the month for October is DR Kellan Gordon. His defence has been slightly above average for a wingback, which is more than good enough for us. However, Kellan excells when going forward, with his progressive passes, cross completion, dribbles, key passes and expected assists all much higher than league average for defenders. He has yet to collect an assist however, but with the way he's been playing surely he'll get one sooner rather than later.

As always, thanks for reading! In the next update we'll cover the few games we have in November, including the important FA Cup 1st round game.

November 2022 Report

Our form dipped, however the overall performance has been good enough for the board as they offered Cardozo Jr. $65k a week until 2024. I was happy with the Dover game but our FA Cup run came to an end as Burton Albion proved why they're in League One and we're in League Two. Meanwhile, we had a disappointing draw against Barrow before Walsall put us in our place. Let's hope our form can recover as we face weaker opposition once again.

Our best player this month was Tom Fellows. The winger had a great comeback from a long injury, contributing 2 assists this month. He's been outstanding on the creative front this season, as you can see by his numbers. Hopefully he can keep those sorts of performances coming next month!

As always, thanks for reading!

December 2022 Report

December was not the best month, and it showed us just how tight the pack is as we plummeted down the table. We were off to a great start with a comeback win against Swindon Town, but letting go of the win against Hartlepool set the tone for the rest of the month. 3 straight losses and just one goal scored capped it all off. Fixture congestion had some to do with it, but it also was just us playing bad football. I'll stick to the 4-3-3 for now, since we're doing very good at keeping the ball, there's just something missing when generating and finishing chances.

In other news, transfer season is upon us. I'll look to reinforce our wings as that's the only position where we lack depth. I'll also try offloading Ludwig Francillette and Aramide Oteh, they're not getting that much playing time and when they do, their performances are not the greatest. Both of their contracts end in 6 months so getting them off the books now (even if it's for free) will allow us to maybe sign a couple quality wingers.

Our higlight player was Jack Powell, playing in all 5 games this month and collecting 3 assists. Check out his profile and stats below:

Anyways, thanks for reading as always!

January 2023 Report

Not our best month definitely, despite getting off to a good start in 2023. The 91st minute own goal to lose against Salford was especially disappointing. This marked the end of the road for a couple of players, but we'll cover transfers in a bit. The 3 game losing streak sees us fall all the way down to 16th, now just 13 points away from the drop as the season nears the closing stages.

This month, we highlight Arsenal loanee Mazeed Ogungbo once more. He continues to excel defensively, playing 259 minutes this month and getting a 7.2 average rating this month. You can see his stats below:

Now for the important part of any January update: the transfers. We weren't really active until deadline day, although we did try to offload some first team players:
- DC Tony Craig: The 37 year-old's contract runs until 2024, but he's clearly not good enough for the first team anymore. He holds a 6.48 average rating in 12 appearances (3 starts).
- DC Ludwig Francillette: Despite being only 23 and supposedly having more potential, he has shown no signs of progress and his performances are below average. His contract runs out in June, so the Guadeloupean will be out the door either way.
- ST Aramide Oteh: Another relatively young player with supposed potential. He has only 3 goals (1 penalty) in 14 games with a 6.42 average rating. His contract also runs out in June, so he'll bid goodbye to Crawley after one season and a half.
- ST Caleb Chukwuemeka: We've sent the young striker back to Aston Villa, his 6.6 average rating with 3 goals and no assists in 9 games left us looking for a replacement.
- MC Jack Spong: We've also sent Spong back to Brighton, although he had more minutes to try and impress than Caleb. His 6.65 average and the availability of Pierre Ekwah from Sunderland led us to taking this decision.

Now for the signings. We needed depth in the wings, especially at left wing. Since December 10th, we've only scored 4 goals, so a striker to pair with that winger would probably be a good investment. And, as I mentioned before, Ekwah came in to replace Spong as our defensive midfielder alongside Jack Henry-Francis, who's been good but his latest performances saw him being left on the bench.

- AML Beryly Lubala: The Congolese winger was signed from Championship side Blackpool for just $3k. With him being just as good technically but with better attacking and physical attributes than current starter James Tilley, I fully expect him to perform just as well if not better on the left wing. He's also able to play several other positions, mainly on the right wing and up top if needed.
- ST Jayden Reid: Somewhat of a panic buy, he comes from League One club Portsmouth for $4k. Comparable to Dom Telford and Ashley Nadesan on attributes, the 21 year-old will provide more competition up top. He'll probably transition down to AMC as we move to my preferred 4-2-3-1 next season.
- MC Pierre Ekwah: A better defender than Jack Spong, we jumped to get him on loan from Sunderland, also lowering out loanees to 6 (we can only have 5 in a squad on gameday). An excellent overall player, he'll hopefully fit in like a glove into that ball-winning midfielder position.

That's it for January, hopefully our new signings gel perfectly into the squad as our February form improves and we push for a top-half finish. Thanks for reading!

February 2023 Report

Just a bad month. Our goal issues remain, our defence and goalkeeping is average at best, we're not creating chances and not finishing the few we have. Our best defender is injured and we lost Tobi Omole for 10 months. Apparently, 3 more wins should net us enough points to stay in League Two, avoiding the relegation battle just as the board expected. That is our goal now, then we shall reinforce the team and try for a top half finish next year.

No player of the month this time, we were terrible all around. Hopefully next month we can find our level once more and keep pushing for the mid table finish.

March 2023 Report

Our early 2023 form followed into March and with the players losing faith in Cardozo Jr's ability, something had to be done. The goals were back, and that was a huge positive, but the defense was letting us down. We switched to a simple 4-4-2, keep the ball, score when possible and prevent the opponents from scoring. The trial run against Wimbledon was an epic fail, although the result was heavier than what actually happened on the field. However, we broke our 7-game losing streak at home against Rochdale, their only goal was a penalty and we came back to win it in the end.

The results weren't good enough and we're still in a similar position in the table. The 7 games to be played next month will define our future.

Our highlight player was none else than Ashley Nadesan, the striker has fit in well into all the systems we've used this season, contributing 11 goals and 3 assists. He had 4 goals and 1 assist this month, his best this season. Hopefully he'll continue this form in April as we continue to avoid the relegation battle.

April(+8 days) 2023 Report

We finish the season on a high as we found our form. The early season and midseason slumps mean we end only 4 wins out of a playoff spot. However, there's no time for "what if" as we must build towards getting promoted to League One in the near future. I have been looking at who leaves and who comes in as we build a top half team.

Our good performances were recognized as Cardozo won the Manager of the Month award for April.

In the end, we managed to avoid the relegation battle, just as the board expected us to do. We were pretty close to being exactly mid table, but we hope to leapfrog these expectations next season.

Our best player in this last stretch was winger Tom Fellows. He only contributed 1 assist, but had 12 key passes in these last 8 games. He was pretty good all season, creating chances despite his total assist number being pretty low. Sadly, he's on loan from West Brom and they're reluctant to extend his loan so it looks like we'll have to replace him.

In the next update, we'll begin to look at some signings and at how the squad will look next season. Thanks for reading!

2023/24 Squad Report

July 3rd marks the beginning of preseason, with all players back and transfers done, let's take a look at our squad for the next season:

Firstly, Jack Schofield, Teddy Jenks, Jack Henry-Francis, Pierre Ekwah and Tom Fellows have returned to their clubs after their loans. We have also gotten rid of U21 players, Ben Wells, Roshan Greensall, Jayden Davis as well as Jake Hessenthaler, a 29 year old midfielder who was on loan at Woking last season.

Ludwig Francillette and Aramide Oteh have left on a free as mentioned before. Tony Craig and Joel Lynch have retired and are now staffed in our U21s, who will participate in Division 3. Now let's break down our squad by position.

Corey Addai - The 25 year-old had a great season for us, conceding 23 goals in 24 games with 11 clean sheets, earning himself a new contract. We'll keep him as our starter for now, but his performances will dictate if it stays that way.

Connal Trueman - Signed on a free from Millwall, he has more experience than Addai and will provide internal competition for the starting spot.

Matthew Hall - Another free signing, this time from Southampton, Hall has excellent potential at this level. His technical ratings are not the best, but we'll work with him and hopefully renew his contract for 2024 and beyond.

Kellan Gordon - Another returning player who earned a new contract, Gordon played in 33 games last season, collecting 2 assists and a 6.72 rating. He'll be our starting right-back for now.

Dion Conroy - Conroy has also signed a new contract, including an $850k minimum release clause as he has drawn interest from teams in higher levels. He played in 32 games last season, earning a 6.80 rating. He'll continue filling the central defender spot on the right side.

Cian Harries - Signed on a free from Swindon Town, where he participated in 20 games, achieving a 6.72 rating. A great overall player, he'll compete with Tobi Omole for the starting spot as a left-footed central defender.

Brandon Mason - Mason had 5 assists and a 6.80 rating after 37 games last year, earning him the starting spot for this season ahead of Nick Tsaroulla.

Travis Johnson - The young right-back signed a contract until the 26/27 season, but he'll play second fiddle for now. He had 1 goal and a 6.75 rating in 32 games last season.

Harry Ransom - The 23 year-old did a good job for Dag & Red in the National League last year, so we'll keep him as backup this season.

Marcel Oakley - A youngster signed from Birmingham, Oakley will be a good depth option as he's a natural at center and right.

Nick Tsaroulla - Nick didn't have the greatest of seasons last year: 6.65 average rating in 32 games. He's good enough to be a starter according to our coaches, though, so he'll be a bench player to start this year.

Tobi Omole - Tobi also had a pretty mediocre season: 6.66 average in 23 games las time out. He'll be out 2-4 months more with his cruciate ligament injury, so he'll have to work hard if he wants to be starting games.

John O'Sullivan - Signed for $100k from Bohemian FC, John has the quality to fill the hole left by fellow Irishman Jack Henry-Francis.

Jack Powell - Powell participated in 24 games last year, getting 4 assists and a 6.83 rating. He'll be our starting playmaker for the 23/24 season.

Ed Francis - Signed for a compensation fee of $66k from Notts County, he's a good second option to O'Sullivan as well as having potential to replace him as both grow older.

Jack Roles - Roles will have to prove himself to earn a new contract, his 6.68 rating in 45 games last year, getting only 1 goal and 1 assist leaves a lot to wish for this season. He'll be the backup to Powell to begin this year.

Attacking Midfielders
Tom Fellows - Fellows returns on loan from West Brom, looking to build on a great 22/23 season where he got 1 goal and 5 assists in 29 games, earning a 6.96 average rating. He'll be our starting right winger once again.

Ben Gladwin - We tried to sell the 31 year-old, he had 1 goal and 3 assists in 27 games last year (6.75 avg rating), but he was angered by this and we promised not to sell him. He'll fit into the attacking midfielder center spot, hopefully playing just as good or better than last year.

James Tilley - Having triggered his option for the 24/25 season, Tilley is set to be our starting left winger this year. He had a 6.77 rating last year, with 1 goal and 3 assists in 35 games.

Beryly Lubala - Signed from Blackpool last January, he had a poor half season, earning a 6.54 rating in 11 games with no goal contributions. Hopefully he's learned more about how we play and having the preseason as well will help him find better form.

Jayden Reid - Another January signing, Reid had a 6.50 rating in 11 games. We used him mainly as a striker and a right winger last time, but he'll compete for the attacking midfielder central role with Gladwin. Hopefully he's better suited to this role and can also find better form.

Elian Quesada-Thorn - Our first Latin American signing is a Costa Rican winger, signed on a free from Arsenal. At 18, he's already good enough to start and has potential to become even better. He'll compete with Tilley and Lubala for the left wing spot.

Ashley Nadesan - Our top scorer last year, Nadesan had 19 total goal contributions in 36 games last year, earning a 6.97 rating. He'll continue to be our starting striker as he plays his 5th season for us.

Dom Telford - Telford had a bad season last time out, with 8 goals in 32 matches and a 6.64 rating. He'll serve as backup for Nadesan but hopefully he can score more times than last year.

Kwesi Appiah - Appiah returns from a loan at Colchester, where he scored 4 goals and had 2 assists in 35 games (6.75 rating). He'll be backup as he can play in pretty much all attacking positions.

Alex Baker - Another prospect, Baker signed on a free from Blackburn Rovers. He can also play on either wing, but will primarily feature for the U21 side.

That's it for our squad this year, here's how we'll be lining up as we head into preseason:

Next time, we'll go over our preseason games. As always, thanks for reading!

July 2023 Report

Not the best preseason results-wise, although we did face better opposition in all 4 games. Overall, I like how we played in the 4-2-3-1 and hopefully we can get better results as we face League Two clubs. Casualties of the preseason were Kwesi Appiah (6-8 weeks) and Ashley Nadesan (2-3 weeks), both with fractured ribs.

Our first game will be against Northampton at home. The algorithm still doesn't like us and is predicting a 21st place finish for us. However, I feel the squad is good enough to do better than last season. We have also been drawn against Exeter City in the 1st round of the Carabao Cup and against Norwich U21, Peterborough and Wycombe in the Papa John's Trophy. The board barely expects anything from us in cup competitions so I will mainly focus on the league, but a good FA Cup run will be a good plus if it can happen.

Next update we'll go over our August fixtures.

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