Welcome back to the River Danube, where after a successful spell with Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia, Frank M. Athlete is now on the hunt for his third job as he continues his pursuit for greatness as a Football Manager.
In this episode, we’ll find out how Frank got on finding new employment, plus I’ll discuss my least favourite aspect of FM, the news and social screens, and how I’ve tried to make them more interesting to me.
This will be my last update from the Down the Danube series as I look ahead to the release of FM21 and my plans for next year. Before we go any further, I just want to say thanks for reading the blog this year and I look forward to continuing with it next year as well.
If you need a refresher on what’s happened in the save so far, you can catch up on the series here. If not, read on.
To say I’m thrilled to be here is an understatement. This is a dream come true for me, and I cannot wait to get started.An extract from Frank M. Athlete’s first press conference at the club, 7th February 2031
As we discussed in the last update, Frank has now conquered two of the nine playable countries (Moldova isn’t available in FM20) that the River Danube travels through, or borders, with spells at Farul Constanta in Romania and CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria.
In terms of his next job, Frank was looking to take a step up to a higher reputation club, however having taken CSKA Sofia and the Bulgarian first league to a much higher standard, this left much fewer options if he was going to continue progressing his career.
His other challenge was identifying a club that was a little closer to the Danube, since that is what had drawn him to this part of the world in the first place, and with Sofia being 150 km away from the river at it’s nearest point, he’d grown to miss it again.
Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia all had good options in terms of proximity to the Danube with the river weaving through Belgrade, Budapest and Bratislava, but none of the clubs operating in their top leagues had anywhere near a high enough reputation level to tempt Frank.
Ukraine had both Shatkar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev as high enough reputation clubs, but neither are near to where the Danube runs between Ukraine and Moldova, nor are they close to the Black Sea, so they were discounted as well.
This leaves the top leagues in Austria, Croatia and Germany as Frank’s most likely destination. The Austrian Bundesliga presented FK Austria Vienna and Rapid Vienna with high enough reputations and situated on the Danube, while in Croatia the only real option would be NK Osijek as they met all the criteria.
In Germany, the likes of Augsburg, Freiburg, Stuttgart and Bayern Munich are all close enough to the Danube, but Frank felt the German Bundesliga was likely to be a step too far at this stage of his career.
As the months dwindled on, Frank watched each of these clubs with interest, waiting for a position to become available that he could apply for. Other clubs based along the Danube showed some interest in him, with LASK (Austria), FCSB (Romania) and Ferencvárosi (Hungary) all offering interviews, while Dinamo and Hajduk did the same but their distance from the Danube meant Frank rejected the offers.
It took until the turn of the year before movement started to happen, with the manager at Osijek becoming Very Insecure and the role at Stuttgart becoming available too towards the end of January 2031. Frank duly applied for both, hoping for some interview practice if the Osijek role became available or Stuttgart were kind enough to oblige.
What happened next was most unexpected.
Frank really thought this would be too big a jump, but when a club of Stuttgart’s stature come knocking, it’s hard to ignore and so as of 7th February 2031, Frank M. Athlete is the manager of VfB Stuttgart.
Stuttgart lays on the banks of the Neckar valley and is around 80 km North West of the Danube at it’s nearest passing in Ulm. The city is also just 120 km North of the source of the river, and 80 km East of the River Rhine. It’s Germany’s 6th largest city and has been a major hub since the 7th Century when Roman occupation saw huge development in the region.
VfB Stuttgart was founded in 1912 after the merging of two local clubs, and they currently play their home games at the Mercedes-Benz Arena which was originally built in 1933. Stuttgart have a total of 5 Bundesliga titles to their name, the last one coming in 2007, however in recent year’s they’ve finished 2nd in 2025 and 2027 and were 3rd in the 2024 campaign. They were also last year’s runners up in the DFB-Pokal.
Frank’s arrival at he club was met with the usual amount of scepticism from the players that had followed him throughout his career. A quick look through the playing staff and it was clear the club had hit a rut. Very few young players had graduated from the academy which was ranked as Superb with Excellent Youth Recruitment. The exception here is Wonderkid Serdar Saral who is quite simply the best player Frank has had the chance to manage so far.
Most of the players that have been a regular feature of the 2030/31 season are 29 or older and should be in their prime, but too many have under-performed, leaving the club languishing in mid-table and in danger of finishing in the bottom half of the league.
Just six league wins and five draws to their name from their opening twenty fixtures, plus an early second round cup exit, meant Stuttgart’s season was going any way except to plan.
Frank’s first test would be Schalke 04 the day after he started, and so with little time to influence training, he opted for a simple 4-4-2 set up that would utilise most of our better players. They held out well but in the end, succumbed to a 1-0 defeat. The tactic looked ok, and Frank stuck with it for the next couple of games against Wolfsburg and Augsburg, securing another loss, followed by a draw respectively.
A slight tweak to the tactic saw one of our strikers drop in as an Enganche in the AMC slot, while our two wide men pushed forward into the attacking strata as well. Frank didn’t given any specific instructions for when the lads had possession, encouraging them to trust there instincts while maintaining a defensive mentality.
Frank was impressed with how quickly they grasped the new system in training and as we headed into March, we picked up a first win for Frank against bottom of the league SC Paderborn, with another five points coming from our next three games. We continued that vein of form with another win and a draw against Bayer Leverkuesen and Borussia Dortmund respectively, both clubs now shadows of their former selves of ten years prior.
Stuttgart would go on to secure just one more win against Freiburg from our remaining five games, with four losses to Frankfurt, RB Leipzig, FC Bayern and St. Pauli to add to our tally. Frank’s first 14 league games saw him record 4 wins, 4 draws and 6 losses. It was evident that we couldn’t close out the wins against teams around us, and we were currently no match for any of the league’s big hitters.
Despite a disappointing league season, we still scraped into the top half of the table and so we at least met the Board’s minimum requirements. Additionally, Stuttgart’s placement in the Europa Conference League meant there was still a chance of some silverware too.
Having qualified as Group H winners, they entered the Second Knockout Stage where a tie against Turkish side Besiktas awaited them and we comfortably beat them with a 4-0 aggregate win to set up a Quarter Final tie against Sion. Another clean sheet here over both games, winning 5-0 across both legs.
Hungary’s Ferencvaros awaited us in the Semi Final with another comfortable performance in both games, winning 3-0 at home and then 1-0 away to set up a Final against Basel.
Confidence was high and the lads duly delivered, running out 3-0 winners and claiming Frank’s first trophy from Europe in the process. The Board were delighted and it set the tone for what will hopefully be a successful spell with the club going forward.
Perhaps most pleasing about the campaign though was the fact we didn’t concede a single goal over all seven games.
In all the excitement of winning the trophy, it had even escaped Frank that this would mean qualification for Europe next year as well. We’ll be entering the Europa League at the group stages next term and can hopefully do just as well as we test ourselves against better opposition.
As you’ll see from the final league table, the gulf between 7th and 8th equates to a massive 16 points and so we’ll have our work cut out to drastically improve next year.
Now that Frank had had a chance to review the squad in more detail, he would be using his time over the Summer to move on a number of expensive under-performing players, with the hope of bringing in hungrier talent that can take the club to new heights.
News & Social
This has arguably become one of the least useful features for me over the years. It’s one of the first screens I disable from my flow and i’ll only jump into it when I want to see something specific.
However, in FM20 I’ve found myself trying to get more from this part of the game and have invested some time into changing my settings. I think I have it working the way I want it to now and have shared my ideas below:
1. Ignore the Advice
Part of the problem for me is there’s so much news that’s not relevant, so the first thing I did was ignored all the advice from my Personal Assistant, and unsubscribed from the various leagues and cups that he’d suggested i follow.
2. Be selective
With a blank slate, I set about building in the topics that would be interesting to me, and this differs depending on where I am in the game. For example, during spells of unemployment, I’ll follow clubs that I’d like to manage or leagues that I’d like to manage in, where as when at a job i’ll follow the competitions we’re in, along with players i want to track.
3. Add in the detail
With every item I subscribe to, I’ll be sure to go in to the settings and change both the content level and the individual line items. From here you can decide which items you’re interested in, and how you’d like to receive them.
4. Make the most of the split between News and Social
If it’s vital I read it, I make sure it’s on the social feed and if it’s just a “nice to know” then it goes into News. This turns my social page into essential info only so I’m very selective about what appears here.
5. Keep on top of it
Sounds obvious, but it’s easy for this to become outdated so I’ve tried to be as diligent about this as I would be about player contracts or scouting assignments. So far, it’s paying off as well, with less clutter and what feels like more relevant information appearing for me.
Usually in this section I’d be highlighting some of the content I’ve been consuming of late, however since this is the last in the series, I thought I’d talk more about my own experience of content creation this year and my plans for FM21. Before that though, let me first point out that there are some excellent content creators out there, some old and some new, and the vast majority of which are all on Slack so I strongly advise you join that community and check them out here.
So, it’s fair to say that my Down the Danube series didn’t quite go the way I thought it would. By that, I mean that I didn’t get anywhere near as much game time as I expected, and as such I was someway off ending the series at a high profile club and a Champions league title or two. I still had a great time discovering new leagues, nations and clubs and I feel like the concept of managing clubs along the Danube is something I may revisit in the future.
A change in real life job for 2020 also meant that as the year’s drawn on, I’ve had less time to write updates for the blog, hence why its been three months since the last one got posted! This has definitely got me thinking about FM21, and while it’s true that I really only write this blog for myself, I’ve been conscious of wanting to keep it semi-regular too. Next year I’ll most likely be posting updates as and when i feel like it, rather than at the end of each in-game season and I’m hoping that this approach will strike the right balance for me.
In terms of where I’ll be managing, I’m going to save that reveal for the next blog post. However, I will reveal that for the first time since 2007, I will not be doing a journeyman save this year (insert audible gasp here). As I’ve documented many times, I absolutely love journeyman saves, but I feel like I need a change for this year and I’m very excited about the project I’ll be working on in FM21.
I’ve also reverted back to placing FM on my Christmas list, rather than being a grown up about it and just buying it when it drops. I’m sure many of you will think I’m mad for this, but it’s been a tradition that goes back over 20 years where come Christmas Night/Boxing Day, after months of suspense, I finally get to start playing. I missed that last year, plus in addition, there were a few potential teething problems at the start of FM20 that may or may not have impacted my save and led me to hold off starting it until well into December anyway, so what’s another few weeks wait?
In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy your beta saves, and I shall be eagerly reading as many blog posts as I can find as more and more of you start revealing what you’ll be up to in FM21.
And that’s it for another update from me. Thanks so much for reading down this far, I hope you enjoyed it. As ever your feedback is always welcome either here in the comments, 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 my save reveal for FM21!