Hello again and welcome back to my FM20 blog series, Down the Danube. This post is coming to you much later than I initially anticipated, but real life got in the way of getting this released sooner. In case you missed the introductory blog post, you can catch up on that here.
Otherwise, here’s a quick recap for anyonee who may have forgotten the intent of this save. Down the Danube will document the life and career of Frank M. Athlete, a journeyman manager who will be working within the nine countries that the River Danube flows through (or alongside) and that are in the game. These are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine with Moldova being left out due to them not being playable in FM20. I’ve not got any specific rules about the clubs I’ll be managing and their proximity to the Danube, but ideally I’d like to try and stay within 50 km of the river if I can.
In this series I’d like to bring some more structure to my posts and so will attempt to include the following regular features each time:
- Save Update – an update on how the save is progressing
- Feature Focus – a spotlight on one particular aspect or feature of FM that’s been having an impact on my save
- Content Corner – a quick glance at some of the other content I’ve been enjoying recently
Anyway, enough chit chat. Let’s get to it shall we?
Before I dive into how the save has panned out, I just want to give a quick overview of the set-up. Below you’ll see the nations and leagues that I’ve loaded – sadly Moldova aren’t a playable nation in the game so I’ve had to leave them out. You’ll also notice that I’ve made some adjustments to the advanced settings as well to help raise the number of players in the database to just shy of 100,000.
I also opted to disable attribute masking, something I’ve not done in many years but, i think will help me make the most of this save, especially as I expect I won’t have as much time to play this time around.
As for Frank, his set-up is below. My first goal of this save will be to see him through his badges and to get some of his attributes enhanced.
There’s a lot of work to be done, but I get the feeling that this could be the start of something really special. They’ve such a long history, but with little to shout about. I’m looking forward to attempting to remedy that!An extract from the diary of Frank M. Athlete, 1st January 2020
Finding a job was quite a challenge this time around. Frank’s attributes are almost non-existent and so it was only the lower division sides in Hungary and Romania that showed any interest, and even their inquiries were hard to come by. Out of those interested enough to offer me a job interview, not one of them were among the clubs I previewed in my last blog post. Typical.
I was really keen for Frank to find a club that had a bit of a story to them and in my mind that meant they needed some historical significance. As such, what few offers we received, we promptly rejected any from newly created clubs.
As Autumn set in and eventually gave way to Winter, the dawning of the new decade threatened to make a mockery of my job search throughout 2019. Just as I began to doubt whether Frank could cut it in this bleak landscape that was the deep ravines of Eastern European football, an interview offer came in from Farul Constanta, a 99 year old club operating in Romania’s second division and at risk of being relegated if their current form went unchecked.
Frank attended the interview which seemed to go very well, albeit quite short (he was in and out in less than 6 minutes), and then we waited for what felt like the longest seven days in history to learn of our fate.
On 1st January 2020 it was confirmed that Frank Athlete had been appointed the new manager of Farul Constanta. Party poppers were fired and a bottle of local supermarket branded Prosecco was opened in a very sensible fashion that ensured minimal waste of the dry, pale toxin.
Farul Constanta are known locally as the Recchini (the Sharks) and play their home games in their 15,000 seater stadium, Stadionul Farul, in the city of Constanta, on the shores of the Black Sea. The city is around 50km East of the River Danube where it heads North via the city of Cernavodă.
They were founded back in 1920 under the name of SPM Constanta and have undergone a series of rebirths over the years, leading to their latest name and badge being adopted as recently as August 2016. Their local rivals, FC Vittorul, play in the division above and are currently our Senior Affiliate, a relationship we’ll need to exploit in these formative years of Frank’s tenure.
In terms of success on the field, Farul were promoted form the third division in 2018, but prior to that they spent a long time in the top division, evening managing a runners up medal in the Cupa Romaniei in 2005, and then the European Intertoto Cup in 2006.
Although this is a journeyman save, I’m inspired to try and surpass their previous achievements and establish them as a stable top division team that competes for silverware, be that a cup win or qualification to European competitions. With that in mind, I went about my usual routine of assessing the current state of affairs. Before undertaking an in-depth analysis of the playing staff, I took a look at the club’s financial health along with who my reliable cohorts would be in this epic drama that was about to unfold.
The clubs demise to the lower divisions was a result of bankruptcy in 2016 and so back-to-back promotions have seen them emerge in the second division for the first time since the 2015/16 season. Although on a slightly surer financial footing, the clubs resources are still nothing to shout about at this stage and will be part of Frank’s ongoing challenge to drag the club up through to rankings.
In terms of staff, a lot of Frank’s responsibilities were delegated to the team already in place, however with no Assistant Manager employed, this became the primary focus in the short-term. Crucially, January signalled the start of the Winter break in Romania so at least we had plenty of time to get everyone in place, assess the situation and get training implemented before we returned to the league fixtures.
To illustrate the club’s poor financial position, we had 6 loan players in the squad which was made up of just 18 boys. The club had been expected to finish in 8th but currently found themselves languishing in 16th, hence the need to draft in a seasoned professional who could rally the troops.
Clearly there weren’t any available, hence Frank’s appointment, and the players quickly made it known that they weren’t best impressed with the uninspired choice of hiring an unknown Sunday league footballer from the UK.
We set about analysing the players attributes and utilising their recent performance data to try and work out how best to play. Eventually we settled on the tactic below with the idea being we were likely to be on the back foot a lot of the time, but we could score goals if we hit them on the break.
A good plan in theory, but not terribly effective. Injuries played their part but by and large, we just don’t have the technical players we need to quickly transition the ball up the pitch. You’ll note from the results below, even the wins were not particularly emphatic, and our leaky defence went on holiday towards the end of April as we attempted our best impression of a club desperate to play third division football.
While our play on the pitch left a lot to be desired, the team cohesion in the dressing room teetered on the edge of the abyss as Frank scrambled to prove his worth and keep the team motivated. Word crept out to the Board and to the media that he’d not made the best of impressions, and the pressure on his job mounted. Rather him than me.
We weathered the storm and we clung on though, securing our place in Liga II for another season and with one game to spare. Clearly the fabled “new manager bounce” proved elusive in this scenario but hopefully we’re through the worst of the negativity and we can build on it moving forwards.
It’s evident that a lot needs to be done to improve both our on-field performances and the atmosphere off it, but I trust Frank to get it done, after all he’s got a ‘4’ for his Determination attribute. Over the Summer we’ll look to bring in some fresh faces, with youth being a core focus given Romania’s league rule that two U19 players must be on the pitch at all times. We also need more depth to help us through any injury crises so expect lot’s of free transfers and loans!
I’ll report on our progress next time so check back soon for another save update.
Feature Focus – Starting as Unemployed
With this being the first proper post of the series, I couldn’t very well do a feature focus without looking at the unemployed experience in FM20, something that kept Frank out of football management for 6 months! It occurs to me that many managers may not have played FM as unemployed, but for me I’ve spent plenty of time staring into the darkness over the years.
I enjoy starting the game unemployed, it gives you an element of suspense in that you don’t know which team the game is going to deal to you. There are also certain advantages to starting mid-way through the season, but I’ll come back to those a bit later.
In terms of the overall experience, I feel like it’s been somewhat enhanced for FM20, compared to previous versions of the game. You feel closer to the job search and job stability pages of the staff section, as well as feeling more immersed through the press queries, the news and the social elements too. It’s all neatly buttoned up with the temporary home page that gives an overview of the current state of affairs as well, and in addition to all that, the improvements to the job interview process and the Boardroom experience really make this whole aspect of the game quite enjoyable. More variety with the interview questions plus improvements to how your style and career goals might affect their decision, really made the whole thing feel that much more realistic.
The only downside for me was that after going through 5 or 10 interviews with Frank, before Farul Constanta gave him the nod, there was almost no feedback as to why you’ve been unsuccessful. The message will include something along the lines of “going in another direction” or “going for more experience”, all of which is fine but doesn’t really help you improve. I’d love to see more detail here. Something like “they really liked your approach towards youth development, but your request for more wage budget showed a lack of appreciation for their financial situation” would actually give you a chance to review the way you might approach the next interview. This isn’t a moan of course, but is something I’ll add in as a feature request for FM21.
Back to the game and, as I mentioned, there are some advantages to starting off unemployed. Firstly, you’re usually taking over a club where things have been going really badly and so generally speaking, that means you’re unlikely to do any worse than your predecessor. That means you have an instant opportunity to make a positive impact, without changing anything! You’ll often also find that some of the staff have decided to leave as well, freeing up cash on the wage bill and giving you a chance to hire for some positions without needing to pay any compensation out.
There’s no transfer window to contend with, which admittedly some might feel is a disadvantage, but for me it means I’m not worried about losing players, and I’ve got plenty of time to assess what we need, who needs to go and who should come in. There’s nothing worse than assessing the team in July and deciding you have too many right backs, only to find that two of them just signed a contract 8 days ago and aren’t going to leave!
Perhaps most crucially though, you’ve already got player data to look at. Since it’s most likely that you’re taking over your new club part way into the season, you can already see how the players have been performing in games and in training, how many goals and assists do they have and who’s been working the hardest on the pitch. I find this data invaluable in assessing where the strengths and weaknesses are in the team, which in turn gives you the chance to work out what’s working and what’s not. Does your striker need more crosses coming in from the wing? Is the goalkeeper giving away too much possession by pumping it long all the time? Is our left backs poor form down to a lack of technical ability, or does he need an arm round his shoulder to gee him up a bit?
I hope you’ve enjoyed my assessment of the unemployed experience in FM20. If you’ve not already tried it, why not quit your current position and have a go at playing unemployed for a bit? You won’t regret it (probably).
The upside to not blogging as often as you planned is you get more time to consume everyone else’s content. There’s some great stuff out there at the moment, it would seem more than ever, and I’ve highlighted a few below, but I’m afraid there’s too much to give everyone a mention, but the vast majority are all on Slack so I strongly advise you to join that community and check them out here.
I thought I’d attempt to limit my picks to specific categories that I can repeat next time, so here are my favorites from the last few weeks:
- Best Save Update Blog: FM Eadster’s save for this year has a brilliant historical backstory to it which really draws you in to the save. His series entitled the RE-builders of Pripyat sees him resurrect a club that’s been dormant since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
- Best Advice Blog/Article: As is typical of a new FM release, there’s been some great content created in they way of playing guides and advice. One I found particularly useful was FM Pressure’s piece on staff recruitment and responsibilities that he released back in November. There’s some real insight here into what attributes and characteristics make up a successful backroom team, beyond the obvious and suggested ones given to you by the game.
- Best Audio/Video: Chris Johnson started his Black Crow series back in November and it doesn’t disappoint. The story is told through a series of audio blogs, supplemented by some written content too. If you’ve not check it out yet, make sure you start now, it’s like nothing else out there!
And that’s it from me. Thanks so much for reading down this far, I hope you enjoyed it. As always your feedback is always welcome either here, on Twitter or on my Slack channel. If you’re not already on Slack then you’re missing out. It’s free to join, there’s no pressure to post anything, and you’ll find there are some excellent people who you can chat to if you want.
I’ll be back soon with another update from Frank and his Romanian adventure as we continue Down the Danube next time.