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Thread: An American Manager in San Marino [Football Manager AAR]

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    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    An American Manager in San Marino [Football Manager AAR]


    New year, new Football Manager AAR! This will be the last of these that I do, and, fittingly, this one is going to be the hardest challenge yet. Before I get to the task in question (those of you who have played FM will probably know exactly what I'm getting into just from the title of this thread), let's get a quick definition down:

    On my homesite, outside of the mafia forum one of my favorite things were video game After Action Reports (AAR). They've gone by the wayside with the advent of Twitch and Let's Plays, but the basic gist is someone on the forum plays through a game and shares screencaps and commentary to anyone who wants to follow along.
    Much like my Cartagena and Team USA AARs, I'm going to take a piddly little team that's historically been an afterthought and get it to do the impossible. However, sequel escalation calls for me to raise the difficulty level, so this time I'll be controlling a club team and a national team simultaneously.

    The club team will be San Marino Calcio, currently slumming it in Italy's fourth division. The national team will be the San Marino national team. The goal will be to turn them both into world powers. Specifically, I will not stop playing until all of the following objectives are achieved, and this is very much non-negotiable:
    • Club team: Win at least one top Italian league (Serie A) title
    • Club team: Win the Champions League at least once
    • National team: Win at least one of the Euros or World Cup, preferably the latter


    What is Football Manager?

    Broadly, it's a soccer sports simulator somewhat in the vein of Madden. However, it places an emphasis on the off-the-field stuff, and is particularly known for its deep features in player scouting/signing/development. It's much closer to Out of the Park Baseball and even Paradox games than it is Madden.

    As a matter of fact, you don't even play the games - you're simply a spectator. While you can adjust tactics and make substitutions and do everything that a regular coach can do, at the end of the day, if the players just aren't having a good day, there's nothing you can personally do about it. It's exasperating, terrifying, and really really fun all at once.

    Game Details:
    For those who followed my previous AARs, this one will not take place in the same universe. I am starting a new save in a new version of the game (Football Manager 2021, to be specific; the other two were done in FM18). While I wanted to continue the same storyline, technical limitations prevented me from playing as San Marino in the old save due to you not being able to fiddle around with databases as much once the game is in motion. Since I resigned myself to not being able to continue the save, I figured I might as well play in a version of the game that's newer and that I like better anyway.

    First window transfer budgets will be disabled.

    I'll be playing with entirely fake, randomly-generated players. I've decided to do this for a few reasons: First of all, I want to play this straight and not exploit my knowledge of cheap wonderkids that I usually rely on. Second of all, I intend to start in the lower leagues and it will most likely take me several years to get to the top level so by that time most of the good players will have declined/retired anyway. Third of all, it's more fun to make up stories about fake people.

    In order to increase the degree of difficulty even further, I will use the In-Game Editor to give a lump sum of €2 billion to spread out among the teams in the top Italian league, with additional cash boosts to be made at my discretion. Additionally, I will increase Serie A's reputation at the start of the game, which will make the league more prestigious and allow the top Italian teams to fully compete for the best players with their international counterparts. Furthermore, I will make a reasonable reduction to the English Top 6's and PSG's bank accounts in order to prevent them from becoming financial runaways like they normally do. Finally, I will provide one-time "legacy payments" to F.C. Cartagena and the US Men's National Team (the latter will come in the form of a reputation boost), out of acknowledgement for what happened in my previous two AARs.

    I will not use the In-Game Editor for any exploits that benefit me or my team aside from re-hiring myself in the event that I get sacked.

    Game mods: I will be using the Licensing and Real Names fixes from sortitoutsi as well as several uniform and logo mods for immersion purposes. From the Steam Workshop, I will be using claassen's San Marino league and jack7789lewis's San Marino database update, which gets San Marino Calcio into the game since the real club folded in 2019.

    I will stay away from most standard FM tactics that I consider exploitative. This includes but is not limited to: Knowingly taking advantage of set piece tactics that the AI has a problem defending, ruthlessly culling everyone over 27 on my team in favor of cheap South American regens (i.e. the "Argentinian wonderkids" meme; though I reserve the right to buy an appropriate amount of them), and engaging in over-the-top $%#!y in transfer/contract negotiations. I intend to play as an unsentimental but still realistic manager.
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; January 11th, 2021 at 11:35 AM.
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    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    A primer on how soccer teams operate:

    Club teams and national teams are pretty set in different universes for our purposes, though there will be a bit more crossover than normal here just by nature of my task. I'll talk about the features and challenges of each in the spoiler below.

    Competition structure:
    Unlike in the US (where it's just the league championship or bust), soccer teams have multiple chances to win competitions every season. The important ones are as follows:

    - League play is the major one and most games played are league games. Each country has its own league system. There are no conferences or divisions or the like within the leagues: every team plays every other team twice - one home and one away - and at the end of the season the team with the most points wins the league title. If you finish in the bottom couple of positions, you get relegated to a lower league; likewise, if you finish in the top couple of positions, you get promoted to a higher league (if applicable). There's no postseason tournament at the top level, but some lower leagues do have playoffs to secure promotion spots.

    - Domestic cup. Less prestigious than league play, at least for the big boys, this is a season-long knockout tournament that runs concurrently with the league season and is open to pretty much any professional or semi-professional team in the country. You could be having a garbage season in the league and still save your job by going on a nice cup run, and a trophy is a trophy. Every country has at least one cup competition, though they vary in importance. Italy's is called the Coppa Italia and is generally not especially regarded. The lower leagues, which I'll be starting in, have their own season-long knockout tournaments.

    - The Champions League. Despite the league name, this is also a season-long tournament and is the most prestigious competition in Europe. If you finish in the top couple of spots in your country's top league, you get to play in the Champions League the next year along with the best teams from the other countries. The Champions League Final, held in late May or early June, is always the final event in every (club) season and is Europe's version of the Super Bowl.

    - The Europa League. Similar to the Champions League, for teams who finished just a bit below Champions League contention every year, or were otherwise knocked out of the Champions League at a certain point. Despite similarities to the much-derided NIT, the Europa League is generally treated with respect unless you're from England.

    - The Europa Conference League. This is a very new tournament IRL and is basically the next level down from the Europa League. It's specifically designed so clubs from the more lower-ranked nations in Europe have a shot at a prize, and as we play under the auspices of highly-ranked Italy, shouldn't affect us too much. Still, there is a chance we could deal with it at some point.

    - Several minor one-or-two-off tournaments that you're entered in if you won stuff the previous season. Not worth going into detail about here.

    Player Transactions:

    Whenever a player switches teams, it's called a transfer. Most transfers come in the form of Team A paying Team B an amount of money for the right to negotiate a new contract with the player. Player-for-player trades are comparatively rare, and losing a player to free agency (known as a free transfer) is looked at with fear, because it means you weren't able to get any money for that player.

    Player preference plays a huge part in this. If you send a player to a new team, they have to agree to contract terms with that new team before the deal can happen. In other words, you can't exile a player to Siberia F.C. because he was annoying you and you wanted to send a message.

    Soccer, in general, revolves around money, moreso than even the American sports. There is no salary cap beyond what your club can afford to spend (technically this isn't true but we won't get into that here). If you're not a top team, you're incentivized to sell your better players if they want to leave - better to get something for them before they join a better team when their contract expires and leave you with nothing. You then use that cash to buy replacements, hope you go on a good run, and the cycle renews itself.

    There is zero incentive to tank. If your team has a crappy season, the result is you being relegated to a lower league and losing out on money you get for being in a better league. You don't even get the satisfaction of getting a high pick in a player draft: all new players come up through your own youth system and are randomly generated based on a number of factors that include how much you've invested in it and how good that country generally is at soccer.


    Time with the players:

    The clubs have the players for most of the year. They are released to the national teams a few times per year during international breaks. As the European season runs from, generally, August to May, national teams get the players during the following periods (in line with the European calendar):
    - September (one week-ish, two games)
    - October (one week-ish, two games)
    - November (one week-ish, two games)
    - March (one week-ish, 1-2 games)
    - Summer (variable depending on tournaments, 1-2 games at minimum, up to a month and change)

    Player Eligibility:

    Players can be eligible for multiple national teams, depending on their birth, ancestry, residency, and other factors. They do not have to commit to one national team until their first appearance with a senior national team, also called a "cap" (for example, a player eligible for both Italy and San Marino can run through the entire Italian youth setup, the U18s, U21s, etc, but can switch to San Marino anytime before his first full cap with Italy).

    Once the player is capped at the senior level, even if it happens only once, they're locked in with that national team for the rest of their career. The one exception is that the cap has to be in an official competition; a player can still switch national teams if his only senior national team appearances have been in friendly matches.

    Taking advantage of this feature is absolutely imperative if San Marino is to have any chance of success at the international level.

    Competitions:

    The San Marino national team can potentially play in several different types of competitions over the course of a four-year cycle. They are as follows, ranked in increasing order of importance:

    - Friendly matches. These count in terms of players' official statistics for the national teams, but aside from that they're no-consequence matches that I'll generally use to get the players more familiar with each other, my tactics, or something else I want to experiment with.

    - The UEFA Nations League are basically glorified friendlies. It's an attempt to get the national teams to play fewer friendlies (which aren't very financially lucrative IRL) and more matches that matter, but the problem is that the Nations League is a very new tournament and nobody really cares about it much. Puts the European national teams in a league-ish structure; right now we start in the fourth tier. Will be good to use as a progress marker, if nothing else.

    - The Olympics are technically for players 23 or under (U23s) only, though each team is allowed three exceptions. Ended up being very useful for me in my USA AAR to see which up-and-coming players I could rely on. I expect this will be less so for San Marino, mostly because the eligible player pool will be reduced, and I'll also have to qualify for the Olympics in the first place, which will be a rough go.

    - Qualifiers, while not a tournament in themselves, are our ticket to the big stage. There are separate qualifying rounds for the two major tournaments we'll be playing: the Euros, and the World Cup. Our continental confederation, UEFA, is the highest ranked in the world and thus there are a lot of slots to fill in both tournaments, but on the other hand we still suck.

    - The UEFA European Championship, AKA the Euros or "Euro [year]" is Europe's continental tournament. It runs once every four years and is second in international prestige only to the World Cup. For those who followed my USA AAR last year, this isn't like the Gold Cup that kinda-sorta mattered but was more of a progress marker than anything else. This is real $%#!.

    - The World Cup. The ultimate prize in team sports and the reason why we're here. It runs once every four years.

    The Confederations Cup, scrapped by FIFA in 2019, is not featured in this edition of Football Manager.


    Table of Contents
    Prologue
    1. Welcome to San Marino
    2. The Manager and the Mission
    3. The Crew of the Damned - note: no longer canon, had to restart the campaign due to technical issues
    3a. Reload

    Season 1: 2020-21
    4. The Longest Short Preseason
    5. Into the Wilderness
    6. Fan Day
    7. Sammarinese Club, Italian Management
    8. Before the Homestretch
    9. Moving the Goalposts
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; February 9th, 2021 at 02:31 PM.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
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    Soul Reader Justplayingitcool's Avatar
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    An American manager? Hope you're better than Ted Lasso m8!


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    GLORY GLORY MAN UNITED The Lukundo's Avatar
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    Having had our national team play San Marino before and searching them up around the game having like a $%#!ing dentist as their keeper, I smiled when reading the title. Can't wait to see you pull this off!!

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    GLORY GLORY MAN UNITED The Lukundo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Lukundo (#5)
    Having had our national team play San Marino before and searching them up around the game having like a $%#!ing dentist as their keeper, I smiled when reading the title. Can't wait to see you pull this off!!
    (Iceland's keeper was a dentist, San Marino's was an accountant)

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football...%20other%20end.
    Last edited by The Lukundo; January 11th, 2021 at 02:25 PM.

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    Soul Reader OrangeP47's Avatar
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    Oh boy. With the club that's probably doable, but with the nat team... we will be here some time...

    Great to have you back at it though

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    あんた ばか Ampharos's Avatar Administrator
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    misread the title as "San Antonio" and was like "dang we really downscaled"

    then i did some googling and discover that San Marino's population is about 33,000, whereas SA's is 1.5 million

    so yeah, we really DID downscale
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    The USMNT was hard enough, can't imagine what this will be like lol

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    Mafia Backup Amrock sheepsaysmeep's Avatar
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    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Prologue, Part I: Welcome to San Marino


    That little speck of land fully contained within the borders of Italy, helpfully designated by a bold outline in Google Maps, is San Marino, the site of our world conquest. You may not have even heard of it before this AAR. No matter. You will.



    Tucked on the northern side of the Apennine Mountains, near the Italian city of Rimini on the Adriatic coast, San Marino is the last surviving Italian microstate, and the oldest constitutional republic in the world, having been traditionally founded in 301 AD and operating with the same constitution since 1600.

    In the nearly two millennia since its founding, it has been briefly occupied on a couple of occasions, but never fully conquered. A would-be hegemon made a concerted attempt to in 1543, but he and his army got lost in the fog. This occasion has since become a seminal moment in Sammarinese culture, and it is this same spirit of absolute bull$%#! luck that I hope to invoke over the course of this campaign on the way to victory.

    It was never conquered by Napoleon, even though he certainly had the means to, because the French commander, at that time still in the thrall of the Revolution, was so inspired by its republican tradition that he let it continue unabated. It signed a military alliance with Abraham Lincoln and the United States shortly after he took office, with the American Civil War imminent. It survived Giuseppe Garibaldi's mostly-successful Italian unification, with Garbaldi honoring its request to stay out out of gratitude for it having taken him in as a refugee years earlier.

    It stayed neutral in both World Wars (though 20 people did volunteer on the side of Italy in WWI), and in WWII it provided refuge to more than 100,000 Italians and Jews facing various persecutions by the fascist regimes in Europe, Nazi and otherwise. At one point the number of refugees within its borders were more than six times its total population at the time. This is even more notable considering the fact that San Marino was ruled by its local Fascist Party at the time.

    Fascist control did not interrupt the business of the republic, and neither did postwar Communist control - San Marino was one of the first countries anywhere to have a Communist government be democratically elected, and when the Communists eventually lost power, they did so once again through democratic tradition (albeit not before a minor constitutional crisis that had more to do with procedure than the fact that Communists were in charge).

    In short, despite having a population of roughly 34,000 souls, a total area of 23.6 square miles (roughly the same size as Manhattan, New York - not the entire city, just Manhattan), and the feature of "being able to go from the two furthest points in the country in 30 minutes by car", San Marino is a worthy recipient of my talents.


    San Marino's most striking geographical feature is Monte Titano, each of its three majestic peaks bearing a fortified tower from medieval times. The mountain and the three towers are everywhere in Sammarinese iconography, including our club team's badge (see the header image in the OP) and the national team's emblem (which is mostly just the national coat of arms, see also the flag).

    I think one of those peaks would be an awesome place to plant a modern soccer stadium on, but alas, for now we have to make do with San Marino Stadium, also known as the Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle, in the Serravalle section of the country. Conveniently, it serves as the home stadium for both San Marino the club team and San Marino the national team. Its overall atmosphere, as seen here from above, is... slightly less awe-inspiring.



    Its capacity: 6,664 per Wikipedia. I believe the game itself puts it at an even 5,000. One end of the field is fenced off pretty abruptly beyond the racing track in order to separate it from a passing road. It's part of a larger San Marino athletic complex, which includes an indoor arena and a baseball diamond. They all share the same parking lot, which is roughly the same size as the parking lot would be for any local community center.

    But no matter. It's not the stadium itself that determines success, but rather, the people in it. And the first person in it every morning is our manager, who I had far too much fun creating inside the game's engine. I'll introduce you to him next time, but for now, let's just say that he prefers to lead by physical intimidation.



    NEXT: I actually start talking about soccer.
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; January 12th, 2021 at 11:23 AM.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    Soul Reader Justplayingitcool's Avatar
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    Fantastic jawline and chin

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    Soul Reader OrangeP47's Avatar
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    That face was the perfect way to end a very cultured look a history rich nation such as San Marino.

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    I'm looking forward to see how your team gets along, running an team in San Marino (and the national team) seems like a big challenge but with the skills you have in the game, I'm sure you can get them to be one of the best. I read the last AAR ready for this one, so I'm ready for whatever happens in this sim, whether it is for good or for bad.

    (this also reminds me to start getting better at FM, I have 10 at home, and I always keep resigning at the end of the first season)
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    あんた ばか Ampharos's Avatar Administrator
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    this guy got told to "chin up" once and took it literally
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    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Prologue, Part II: The Manager and the Mission


    Time to put a name to this magnificent face. After about 30 seconds of thought, once I realized that I couldn't continue with the same save from my previous two AARs, I decided to leave the General Hankerchief name behind. Let him stay in his own universe with his Segunda B trophy, two Copas del Rey, Europa League, two Club World Cups, Supercopa de España, two European Super Cups, two La Ligas, three Champions League trophies, Olympic silver medal, two Confederations Cups, two Gold Cups, one Copa América, and one World Cup. Let him retire to Cartagena or wherever he damn well pleases.

    There's a new man in charge, and I intend to roleplay him exactly as his name suggests.



    Frank Skullcrusher, whom I will be indiscriminately referring to in both the first and third person as both whimsy and necessity dictate over the course of this AAR, is a figure shrouded in mystery. Legend has it that FIFA issued him a lifetime ban from playing after his very first match, where he scored 12 goals by virtue of being able to flawlessly balance the ball on his chin and just run from one end of the field to the other before heading it in. Legend has it that he has taken a lifetime vow of celibacy after the first woman he made out with died from blood loss after sustaining a massive puncture to her neck. Legend has it that the main reason he's in San Marino in the first place is due to the country's extremely permissive (for Europe) gun laws.

    Regardless of his history, he's here, and he doesn't intend to leave until the job is done.

    ---

    The job, though, might have other ideas. It's definitely going to be the hardest thing I've ever done in Football Manager. We're starting in the Italian fourth tier, also known as Serie D (the Italians, unlike the Spanish, mercifully have applied logic to the naming of their league tiers - the next three, in ascending order, are Serie C, Serie B, and Serie A). This is one level below where I started out at in Cartagena, and that one was rough enough.

    Our transfer budget is €0, and I strongly suspect it would have been €0 even if I hadn't disabled first-window transfer budgets in the game settings. Our likely #1 goalkeeper this season is 15 years old. We have the label of semi-professional squad, which means these people have other jobs and I don't have access to training them every day like I would a fully professional squad higher up the ladder.

    I'll introduce you to some of the players in the next update, but for now, the more pressing issue is the coaching staff:



    Specifically, there is no coaching staff. No scouts, no medical team, no positional coaches, and worst of all, no assistant manager. As much as I've $%#! on my assistant managers over the years (it's basically a rite of passage for any FM player to do so), they actually do a lot to improve your quality of life and cut down on the micromanagement. Right now, I can't even see a breakdown of my roster and the general strengths and weaknesses of each player, because there's literally nobody on staff available to do this for me. It's an extremely basic screen that everybody takes for granted, and I didn't have access to it at the start of the game.

    So Priority #1 was to find me an assistant, ASAP. After a day or two of frantic searching, I finally came upon Massimo Cesarini, who fit the necessary criteria of a) Sammarinese, b) didn't think the job was beneath him, and c) wasn't a drooling idiot.


    (As a reminder: All statistical categories are out of 20.)

    Let's not sugarcoat this: he's not good. He's not even mediocre. But he's a warm body and that's what I needed right now. If I get two years' service out of him before I sack him and replace him with someone better, that will be a fantastic success.

    (I could have expanded my search pool into Italian coaches, but there were literally thousands of them in the game pool that I'd have to sort through, so I limited my search to Sammarinese people in the interests of just picking somebody and getting the game moving. I could have also put an ad out, which I'll be doing for the other staff positions, but that takes a week or two before you get responses and I wanted somebody in place right away.)

    ---

    So, all in all, the ventures with the club team have not started out totally smoothly. And worse yet, that's going to be the easier of my two tasks, as several people in the commentariat have noted. I expect I'll be able to drag San Marino Calcio to glory in 10-15 years. It'll be rough, but I can do it. But San Marino, the national team, is going to be a whole different animal. It took me 15 full years to win the World Cup with Team USA, and that was with a more-established manager (that does matter) and, with, you know, a middling soccer nation as opposed to a microstate with one ten-thousandth of the population.

    But I have one great advantage this time that I didn't as the head coach of the USA: the club team. As it rises, and as I invest more in its infrastructure, it will start to generate better homegrown, Sammarinese players. I will then be able to shape these players to my exact needs and specifications, as opposed to only having access to them a few times per year.

    Any holes that are present in the roster (and there will be holes - as much as I intend to invest in facilities, recruitment, etc., there's only so much you can do with a population of 34,000) can be filled by me bringing in people who won't have a shot with their home national teams. It will require a lot of forethought and planning ahead, as the players will have to stick around for long enough to gain Sammarinese citizenship and be in the Goldilocks Zone of "good, but not good enough to get a shot with their birth nation", but I will be able to do it.

    Finally, by virtue of the club team playing under the Italian league structure as opposed to the San Marino one, the heights we can obtain will be pretty high. Once we climb up the ranks, I'll be able to hire coaches, upgrade the facilities, bring in that sweet Serie A TV money, and be able to keep the players sharp with matches against the likes of Juventus, Milan, Inter, and Roma, who are simply better competition than the likes of Pennarossa and La Florita would be if I were playing in the Sammarinese league.

    But that's all far, far down the road. Cesarini and I are plotting out a path to success, and it will most likely be the most consequential plan by somebody named Caesar since the invasion of Gaul in 58 BC, but even the best plans can only be executed one step at a time. For now, we are mired in the depths of obscurity, irrelevance, and financial ruin. It's up to us to do something about that.

    Our board, at least, is willing to let me take my time.



    NEXT: Meet the players!
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; January 13th, 2021 at 12:32 PM.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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  18. ISO #18
    You can't fool me. That's the secret identity of The Crimson Chin

    Excited to keep up with this one. You've got your work cut out for you!

  19. ISO #19
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    I'm not going to put this in an official update, but when I was giving Team USA its legacy boost as per the OP, something immediately caught my eye. Behold, the captain of the USMNT in this bizarro universe:

    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    Soul Reader OrangeP47's Avatar
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    And he plays in Toronto, how American of him.

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    An American Player In Toronto. What about that. And his name... lol.
    Quote Originally Posted by lendunistus (#4)
    2 player mafia lesgo
    Maybe one day they will be a 2P game, but for now, we can only dream.

  22. ISO #22
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Update January 19th: This entry is no longer relevant, as I've had to restart the campaign due to technical issues. The original contents may be found in the below spoiler.

    Prologue, Part III: The Crew of the Damned

    Disabling first-window transfer budgets was a mistake.

    Normally I do this in my saves because I usually play a top-division team and I grow tired of seeing my already-rich rivals buy 3 or 4 players on top of their IRL offseason spending spree (which was already accounted for in the game). In FM15, for example, Chelsea bought PSG midfielder Marco Verratti at the start of every single save unless I either bought him first myself or turned the option off entirely. That sort of thing gets old rather quickly.

    This sort of thing also has less of an impact when the players are all fake and you start in the fourth tier. The concerns of teams owned and operated by multibillionaires are somewhat eclipsed by you discovering exactly how many holes your roster has and there's nothing you can do to fix them - not even by bringing people in on loan or signing people on free transfers - until January at minimum.

    And boy, do we have holes.

    ---

    Let's start with the good, first. Probably my best player is in a position that I place high personal value on: Defensive midfielder Lorenzo Fantini. At 24, he's one of the older players on the team, and his mentals are surprisingly decent for a player you'll find in this level of competition. Fantini is very likely not going to be a player who stays with us as we climb all the way up the ladder to Serie A, but for now, he's the closest thing there is to a leader. I'm making him team captain.



    Fantini's main competition for best player I have access to right now is defender Pasquale Dell'Oro, an Italian who can play anywhere on the back line but is best in central defense. Unfortunately for all parties involved, I will mostly be playing him at left back (probably his least comfortable spot on defense), simply because while I have other passable options at center and right back, it's Dell'Oro or nobody else on the left.



    The chief hope at goalscorer for us will be striker Andrea Tini, who has a surprisingly good personality ("Perfectionist") for this level of play and will probably not collapse in a puddle of his own sweat if things don't immediately go his way. In Serie D, we call that a positive feature.



    ---

    The bad, though: Our roster is entirely too reliant on people whose voices frequently crack.

    At goalkeeper, 15 year old Matteo Mularoni has first crack at the job largely because his competition is also 15 years old and has a Composure stat of 2 (out of 20). That is... not a good recipe, and thus Mularoni has first dibs by default. For now. In italics.



    And at central midfield, our best player in that position is a) 16, and b) not a central midfielder. Meet Pier Marino Mularoni (not related to Matteo, somehow):



    You'll note that the "elder" Mularoni's listed positions are left winger and attacking midfielder, neither of which is the position I'm going to play him in. That's because we have zero natural central midfielders on the team. Fantini, the defensive midfielder, can play in central defense well enough but not further up. I have a couple of attacking mids and wingers who like to play in the final third, but essentially shrivel up and die if I ask them to play a more central role. Mularoni is pretty much the only player that has any positional familiarity at central mid whatsoever, and he's also terrible.

    Normally I'd get my coaches working on training a player or two for the position, but, well, we have no coaches (I've put ads out and expect to get applicants soon). And due to me turning off first window transfer budgets, there will be no reinforcements of any kind until the winter. This isn't because we can't afford them or anything, it's because the game will physically not let me sign any new players from any source whatsoever. It is a complete global ban on all player movement, and I am not exempt.

    ---

    This lack of options does have one positive side effect: it's made setting up a tactic rather straightforward. Behold, the plan:



    This tactic looks wacky and unbalanced, but in essence it's a classic 4-4-2. Pretty much by necessity, we're going to play an old-school English game complete with long balls and fast service to the attacking players. I wouldn't call them "speedy", exactly, but they're pacey enough to theoretically do what I need them to do. Hopefully.

    The overall goal is to bypass the midfield and render Pier Marino Mularoni, almost certainly our worst starter, as irrelevant as possible.

    I'm naming Fantini captain and Dell'Oro vice captain. Luca Ottaviani, our right winger per the above tactic, has a better Leadership stat than both of them, but his Determination and Composure stats are pitiful and I have a feeling I'm going to need steel in the leadership.

    NEXT: The preseason friendlies start with a match against Swiss club Young Boys (yes, that's their actual name). We will lose. The goal of the preseason overall is to see who I can trust and who I need to prioritize a replacement for in the winter. The national team, which will be playing six games over the course of the autumn, will be a good opportunity to see if there are any Sammarinese players who can do a job for me on the club team.

    As I'll actually be significantly advancing time and playing matches, the pace of updates will (generally) no longer be one per day.
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; January 19th, 2021 at 10:27 AM.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    Soul Reader OrangeP47's Avatar
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    That tactic looks like a Napoleonic War Formation more than something suited for a soccer pitch.

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    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Quick update: I loaded too many leagues into the game (I'm something like 10 tiers deep in Italy in an attempt to account for San Marino's various B and youth teams) and as a result there are just so many players/teams/variables to account for that the game's processing speed is unacceptably low.

    I'm going to see if I can't mitigate this in the immediate term, but right now it's taking me well over an hour to advance through a week of gametime, and that's just not tenable. What I'm probably going to have to do is just restart the entire game with fewer leagues loaded. This will generate a different set of players.

    Will probably decide on a course of action (or the game will decide for me) in the next day or two. I apologize for the inconvenience, and at least this issue is popping up now as opposed to a lot further in.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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  25. ISO #25
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    I looked into the issue further and I can make the game more in-line with my computer's processing power, but not until a full in-game season passes. As I'm not especially interested on spending an IRL month with agonizingly slow processing speeds, I'm going to restart with fewer leagues loaded. This will result in a completely fresh set of players, unfortunately. I'm also going to take this opportunity to turn on first window transfer budgets.

    I do apologize for the false start and hopefully we'll be back to regular updates (including a new who's who of notable San Marino players) soon enough.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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  26. ISO #26
    Better to happen now than a month into the season! I just hope the chin is able to return

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    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunbae (#26)
    Better to happen now than a month into the season! I just hope the chin is able to return
    The chin is undisturbed in its prominence and glory, never fear. As a matter of fact, I believe it's the only constant between the two universes.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Prologue, Part IIIa: Reload

    It turned out that there was more that was wrong with the previous campaign than me simply loading too many leagues and slowing the game down to a crawl, or having first-window transfer budgets disabled. I tweaked another setting or two before starting fresh on the reload and was greeted with a very pleasant surprise: There was an actual coaching staff waiting for me at San Marino v2! An assistant manager, a scout or two, even a physio. Truly the apex of excess luxury. They're all terrible and I hope to have them all sacked sooner rather than later, but it's still something!

    I'll not go too into details of what exactly the new situation is out of a desire to not overwhelm people with data, but here are the highlights of the new save I'm running with.

    ---

    Second-in-command:

    The game supplied me an assistant manager by the name of Antonio Rossi, a native Italian who is actually surprisingly not terrible for this level of competition:



    At Serie D, you're basically cosmically barred from finding any true gems, but Rossi is actually fine. He might be lacking in skills such as "intelligence" and "knowledge of soccer", but he can keep the players young and old in line and can pretty much roll with any wacky situation that the universe throws at him. I don't pay my AssMans to think, I pay them to do grunt work, and he'll be fine with that.

    Rossi's shocking level of competence for this level aside, he has better hair than me. This means my sacking of him sooner rather than later is still all but assured.

    ---

    Divergences between universes:

    When you do a full cosmic reset of the in-game universe, obviously there are going to be some lasting after-effects. For starters, our team's strengths are now uniformly on the wings of the field as opposed to the center. I'd be fine with this save for the one small fact that I absolutely care more about locking down the center than the wings. Ah well. Let's start with Exhibit A of the center probably not being able to hold.

    This is San Marino's top striker, Gabriele Mina:



    His stats that matter are decent, for the most part. Finishing, a not-abominable first touch, decent mentals, somewhat speedy. The problem is the devastating Strength/Stamina combination he's rocking: a grand total of 5 attributes between them. I'd fill in a little bit of backstory and say that Mina was probably bullied as a child, but it's more likely that his bullies simply got bored of him after witnessing the total lack of physical resistance he was able to offer.

    If Mina gets the ball in space, he can probably run around and do things, but even that will be felled by him only being able to do this a limited amount of times before he starts to tire. If he doesn't get the ball in space, then his 2 strength (out of 20), pedestrian jumping reach, and unimpressive physical frame do not instill me with confidence that he will be able to beat his defenders.

    This is a bit of a problem, because our wingers are probably two of the three best players on the team and I imagine they can definitely provide service to the right striker.

    On the right, meet Nicolò Gasperoni:



    Look at that technical ability! Look at that leadership! At 25, Gasperoni is probably our best player and best hope at not completely crumbling in this maiden season. If his personality was something a little better than "Fickle", I'd be over the moon. We'll see how many perfect crosses he sends to Mina that the striker bungles before Gasperoni completely loses his composure and starts throwing things.

    Gasperoni is mirrored on the left by the somewhat-less-capable-but-still-solid Nicolò Mularoni:



    Yes, another Mularoni is on San Marino after the team in its initial iteration had three. More on that later.

    Further back on the flanks, right back is currently manned by a converted central defender. We actually have a somewhat promising 16-year-old who will probably see time at the position this season, but he's not ready to start yet - and when I say somebody isn't ready to start on a team that plays in Serie Goddamned D, you know they have work to do.

    On the left, we have the final contender for best player on the team, who has inspirationally managed to overcome the disability of "having the sides of his head come into contact with a hydraulic press". Behold, left back Alessandro Toccaceli:



    Father, who is Mike Glennon and why is he inviting me to his private Facebook group?


    These three are our best hope of not falling into the infinite abyss. If only literally any of them played more centrally.

    ---

    The similarities between universes:

    Most of these are for the worse, unfortunately. We still have no natural central midfielders at all (and this time, we don't have a natural defensive midfielder to help cover the gap). What we do have is a couple of natural attacking midfielders (a position I typically regard as a luxury) that I'm going to shuffle further back, and one guy who just isn't especially good anywhere.

    They both happen to be named Mularoni. Just like our left winger. Just like three of our players were in the other universe.





    Note their ages. This issue is compounded by the fact that our top goalkeeper, Achille Tamagnini is once again 15, and you understand a bit more why I'm angsting so much over the fact that none of our best players have any influence over the center:



    ---

    The bottom line:

    We have a flawed roster, and while every Serie D roster is flawed to some extent, ours is flawed in the places that I do not want it to be flawed. I'll see how the preseason plays out, but I'm also going to be on the lookout for ways in which I can at very least shore up striker or central midfield.

    We're heading into the season playing a 4-2-3-1, pretty much out of necessity (asterisks determine players I'd ideally like to improve on):



    Am I excited about this formation? Not especially. But we have the game allowing us to bring in reinforcements this time, and I'm actually in possession of a transfer budget that can help facilitate this:



    Now, if I were just controlling the San Marino club team, this would be easy: I'd pick out some players, make a judgement as to who the best would be, and try to sign them. That's what happened in Cartagena, when we got Jesús Gutiérrez in the first window and he stayed with us for the duration of the entire AAR.

    Here, though, I'm controlling the national team too, and the national team will always have the more difficult ultimate goal. I want to make sure anybody who I bring in is either Sammarinese or has a chance of acquiring Sammarinese citizenship down the line and thus being eligible for our national team. This is going to require more careful thought. If I can't find anyone that I think will meet these qualifications, then we'll roll with what we have.

    NEXT: The preseason, for real this time. I'll report on anyone new we bring in, if applicable.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    On the left, we have the final contender for best player on the team, who has inspirationally managed to overcome the disability of "having the sides of his head come into contact with a hydraulic press".


    Me: can it be that bad
    Me: kills over in laughter in his office
    Quote Originally Posted by Ampharos (#233)
    So here's the deal, Champ.

    1. Phighter's $%#!ing with you.


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    I make poor decisions when drunk Viggorous's Avatar
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    Great thread
    Quote Originally Posted by DoubtingThomas (#1916)
    u are the imbecile for wanting to lynch me after that d1

    just please never call yourself
    VIGGOAT or whatever that $%#! you say

    cuz it's really not true not at all after your recent performances and you must feel it

    or are you just spite killing me like you did RC?

  31. ISO #31
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Season 1, Part I: The Longest Short Preseason


    A lot of video games operate on what's called a favorable difficulty curve. They gradually guide you through the early parts, allowing yourself to become familiar with the game mechanics and strategies in a lower-pressure environment. In Pokemon, for example, you're given your starter and set out in the world to beat up on whatever trash mons and terrible trainers in the immediate vicinity of your home while you work to catch more and get stronger. In most Bioware RPGs, the first third or so of the game is spent immersing yourself in the game's environment and acquiring your squadmates before it cranks up the difficulty. That sort of thing. The games allow you to dip your toes in the water, in other words.

    Football Manager is not like that. There isn't really a favorable difficulty curve, mechanics-wise. At the start of the game, you're given your roster, your budget, and told to go figure it out. The only real "easy mode" is if you play as an absolute local powerhouse like Liverpool or PSG, but even then you're basically thrown into the deep end without warning. And if you're an idiot like me, who is playing as Serie D team San Marino, and the ranked-210th-in-the-world San Marino national team, with fake players, and a curtailed preseason window because this year's edition of FM21 made calendar adjustments in line with the real-life Covid-19 schedule disruption, then you're essentially shoved off a boat into the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean. In February. At night. While tied to a block of cement.

    ---

    Let's take a step back. In a normal, non-pandemic year, when starting a save in Europe, you start in June or July. The early part of the summer break, in other words, with the season picking back up around mid-to-late August or so, and with the transfer window remaining open until September 2nd. Enough time, in other words, to identify areas of weakness, bolster them, and make adjustments based off developments as needed.

    Here, the game started in mid-August, with the season kicking off a month later. In that time, I needed to:
    • Get a handle on all of my players, their positions, their strengths, and their weaknesses
    • Identify our team's areas of need
    • Start scouting out-of-contract and loan-listed players to shore up said areas of need
    • Start looking for scouts and other members of the coaching staff that would allow us to do this
    • Handle contract negotiations with a bunch of your players because roughly half of them are out of contract or are playing on month-to-month deals, leaving them vulnerable to be taken from you
    • Identify potential replacements for any players who do end up being taken from you per the immediate above, and sign them as needed
    • Implement a tactical system or two that you think will give you a fighting chance of winning matches this season
    • Actually play through the scheduled preseason friendlies
    • In the middle of this, take a two-week break in order to essentially repeat 2/3 of the above with the national team


    I knew I would be facing all of this, inherently. I've done it before, at varying levels of play. But the double duty, combined with the relative lack of skill and infrastructure that was in place, combined with the condensed preseason schedule, caused me to freeze up a little bit. There was so much to accomplish, and since I was running two teams that were interconnected, I had to go about improving the club team in the right way.

    It was a lot. It was a bit overwhelming, even for me. I did a lot of staring at the screen figuring out how on earth I would devise the best route forward, but at a certain point I realized that I could do all of the planning in the world and still probably not be satisfied. So I made the executive decision: We won't be thinking long-term, at least not this season. This season, we'll just be trying to stay afloat with the club team while I get a better handle on things.

    After coming to that decision, the burden on my shoulders lifted ever so slightly. There was a plan in place, and even if that plan was literally "just start doing things", it was still a plan.

    So I started doing things.

    ---

    In my last update, I identified what were probably the club team's three best players: Right winger Nicolò Gasperoni, left winger Nicolò Mularoni, and left back Alessandro Toccaceli. The latter two are now gone. They were both out of contract and snapped up by Serie C teams with an eye for talent. I tried to keep them, but with Mularoni and Toccaceli being offered salaries 2-3 times higher than what I was able to guarantee, there was never really a chance.

    So say goodbye to Hydraulic Head, at least for now, but not farewell. They're both Sammarinese and good enough to play for the national team. Maybe if I'm able to make the jump to Serie C in the first season or two, I'll be able to lure them back.





    Mularoni, the left winger, could probably get by without a replacement. We had strength on the wings, in attack, and I could adjust. Toccaceli was a different story. I made a loan offer for a decent-looking left back currently plying his trade at a Serie B youth team, and his parent club accepted the unbeatable offer of €0, but the player himself rejected the move right before the transfer deadline and I didn't have enough time to find another option before the window closed. So we're playing at least the first half of the season with a converted central defender starting at left back. Pray to whichever higher being you prefer that he stays healthy, because we have literally no backup for him.

    ---

    I did do some strengthening, generally in the center of the field as per my preferences. We now have a goalkeeper who isn't in danger of becoming prey to COPPA suspicion should he ever register for an online account, for example. Meet Niccolò Fenucci (signed on a free):



    He's joined by new midfielders Luciano Perrini (signed on a free), a spark plug with more heart and guts than sense, and Argentine-Italian dual national Octavio Acuña (loaned from Pescara), who can ideally provide some creativity and attacking flair.





    None of them are Sammarinese, but I made the decision to not worry about that at the moment. If it can be believed, our club team is actually worse off than the national team, and the best native Sammarinese players are either out of our price range or otherwise unavailable to us. Step 1 is getting the club team to the point where I can start to unify the players, and these three acquisitions will hopefully get us to that point.

    Because, uh, we needed them. This was the result of our first preseason game:



    The only excuse is that our opponents, Jahn Regensburg, play two divisions above us in the German second tier. There were no positives.

    As the roster continued to churn and I started getting a bit of a handle on things, our preseason results veered wildly between success and failure. After the initial drubbing, we responded a 4-0 victory against Jesina, a team one tier below us in Italy. This quality imbalance made it difficult for me to figure out exactly how good our team was, and we continued seesawing based on our opposition. Finally, at the very end of the preseason, we were able to test our mettle against two other teams in Serie D. The results were a 1-1 draw against Sasso Marconi, and a 1-0 victory over Forlì. So we're at the very least competitive. I'll take competitive.

    ---

    So with the season about to start, after all of the setbacks and with the enormity of the task ahead of me starting to sink in, I feel ok. "Good" is much too far, but "ok" works. The crushing apprehension is very much there, but I've managed to shove it into the background, at least for the moment. The players are feeling good, and our preseason additions have provided a needed spine to our operations. They're ready to go.

    And there is one thing that's giving me a boost, courtesy of the national team's first two games against noted soccer luminaries Liechtenstein and Gibraltar (both victories):



    From such humble beginnings are all great destinies forged.
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; January 22nd, 2021 at 01:25 PM.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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  33. ISO #33
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Season 1, Part II: Into the Wilderness

    Serie D is not for the faint of heart. The players, semi-professionals with day jobs, get paid very little to kick a ball around crumbling stadiums in front of crowds of a couple hundred. They are not scouted by bigger clubs, looking for the next Italian (or Sammarinese) Jamie Vardy. We won't talk about the condition of the training facilities. We especially won't talk about the condition of the transportation.

    And yet, there is romance to be found in the league. There are 166 total teams in the Italian fourth tier, and they are grouped together (in nine separate leagues) by geographic region. Every game here is a rivalry, a desperate battle for local supremacy that is somehow made more meaningful by the lack of money, or facilities, or fans involved. These games may not make any ripples in the larger soccer universe, but to the fans that do show up, and on some other, unexplored level of conscious reality, they are life-or-death struggles.

    Such is the ecosystem in which we take our first steps to world domination.

    ---

    The club team's opening match, a 1-1 away draw against Real Giulianova, has ended up being a good exemplar of what we've experienced this year so far. There were questionable, long-range passes that ended up sailing beyond everybody and causing a scramble to chase down the ball. There was the occasional moment of glory, where our left winger Roberto Rastelli found striker Gabriele Mina on a glorious long cross into the box that the striker deposited into the net for our first official goal. There was the hand-wringing moment where captain and right winger Nicolò Gasperoni had a chance to double our lead with a penalty but hit it right at the opposing goalkeeper.

    There was the facepalm moment where, shortly into the second half, we found ourselves with a man down because Rastelli, unable to realize there were options on defense besides "foul him", got sent off with a second yellow card. There was agony when Real Giulianova equalized by successfully converting their own penalty. And then there was the endless clench, with the score tied and a man down, that they wouldn't pick up a second, followed by a hollow sort of relief when the whistle finally blew and they didn't.



    Such was life, both then and so far through.

    ---

    Contrary to expectations, striker Mina has been the unquestioned man so far. I was thoroughly unimpressed by his attribute sheet and was a little peeved that I was unable to secure a replacement striker in the initial window, but he's surprised me.



    Mina is the opposite of a physical dominator, but he's speedy enough for this level, times his runs well, and has a true striker's nose for goal. He's scored from crosses, he's scored from breakaways, and he's scored a penalty, and considering those are the three most common types of goals you score at this level of play, he's done very well for us.

    He's currently leading our subdivision of Serie D (Group F, to be specific) with 10 goals in 12 games, which is tied for the overall Serie D lead as well. This one, a "couldn't do that if you tried" effort, was his best of the lot:



    He latched onto a long ball fairly quickly with a good first touch, was able to put it on net accurately enough for a defender to decide it was worth blocking, and then caught the blocked rebound on the volley and blasted his second effort on net and past the goalkeeper from 25 yards out. That would have been highlight reel stuff at any level.

    I don't think Mina is going to be this AAR's Jesús Gutiérrez and climb up the league ladder with us - he's simply not physical enough for that - but for now, he's doing very well. Considering what we're up against, that's enough. The fans love him, too:



    At this level, any sort of engagement on social media is a good thing.

    ---

    Right now, we're in 5th place. I wasn't sure how good the team was compared to the other teams in Serie D/F, so I accepted the board's expectation of "finish in the top half" without further investigation. We'll probably meet that expectation.

    There are some spots I want to shore up. We're scoring the bulk of our goals from setpieces: free kicks, corners, throw-ins, and the like, which I'm certainly not complaining about, but ideally I'd like things to be set up so our team can be a threat to change the game in open play at any time. Do that, and we challenge for the league as opposed to challenging for a promotion playoff spot (1st place gets you automatic promotion to Serie C, finishing 2-5 puts you in a postseason tournament with other Serie D teams, the exact nature of which I haven't looked into yet).

    League table as of December 1:



    Current national team ranking: 198
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    Soul Reader OrangeP47's Avatar
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    I guess the emotion I'll go with is "pleasantly surprised" even though you could layer a few flavors here and there if you wanted to be complicated and describe how I truly feel. Point being, you're not a total disaster, yay!

  35. ISO #35
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Season 1, Part III: Fan Day

    Despite the mostly good news that this season has brought us, there was one rather unwieldy elephant in the room. It came in the form of our monthly financial report. These were the figures as of December 1st:



    We're in the black, for now, but the monthly net loss figures were rather alarming. If current trends held, we'd be in the negatives by the time February rolled around. Being in the red is... not a good thing.

    How did it get to be like this in the first place? I've done my best to keep player wages down. Everyone's on a part time contract (if not month-to-month) and only making a couple thousand Euros per year. Staff wages are our biggest expense, and I probably could have hired a coach or two less than I did, but a) that's an investment for long-term success in this specific AAR which I'm loathe to put off, and b) it still wouldn't fix the problem. Basically, we just weren't taking in enough money.

    It's a consequence of being in the wilderness. No matter how much local and national pride (in San Marino, they're one in the same anyway) the people might have, no matter how exciting and dangerous our brand of soccer is, no matter how many goals Gabriele Mina is banging in for us, the bottom line is enough people simply don't care.

    So our board, seeing the same figures I was and (presumably) coming to the same conclusions, decided to do something about that.



    Fan Day! Look at that unbelievable deal in place! Who can resist, right? You typically don't see these sorts of promotions at a higher level - we didn't get one in my entire time at Cartagena - but, well, the financial figures are what they are.

    Our selected opponent for this venture, and thus our newly-minted arch rivals, is Porto Sant'Elpidio, a club so obscure that they don't have a Wikipedia article in English or Italian. They play in one region in Italy over from where San Marino is nestled in. That region is called Marche, derived not from any sort of marshy, wet terrain, but the medieval concept of a march, a borderland between heartland territory that was usually a military stronghold. Doubling down on this, the inner province of said region that Porto Sant'Elpidio specifically plays in is "Fermo", which literally translates to "Stop".

    Regardless of the team's locale's etymology, we intended to pierce their defenses and continue our juggernaut run through Serie D, Group F. Hundreds of Sammarinese cried out for blood, willing us on to avenge some unspecified injustice that probably happened at some point in the past, and my team was determined to make it so.

    Are you convinced of this game's stupendous importance yet? Would that get you to buy a ticket, were you conveniently located? Good, because I'm hoping that was the case for the people of San Marino.

    ---

    I told the team to play a more open game than I typically do, allowing them to take more risks in acknowledgement of wanting to please those who showed up for Fan Day. This seemed to work (surely helped by the fact that Porto Sant'Elpidio were 13th in the table at the time), and there were a couple of good chances on both sides to start the game off. The kids in the crowd seemed into it, at least.

    And then, in the 12th minute, our spark plug of a midfielder, Luciano Perrini, taking in a cross-field pass and in oceans of space, unleashed a howitzer.



    Perrini was the midfielder I signed at the start of the season who I had high hopes for. He's been fine so far, more notable for his stamina and the fact that he's played every single minute for us in a position where we really needed some stability moreso than for his performance. I had no idea that he had this little tool in his arsenal. Sure, it didn't hurt that there wasn't anybody within 20 yards of him when he received the ball, but that shot was from damn near 30 yards out! The fans loved it too, and that was more important.

    Right winger/captain Gasperoni doubled our lead midway in the second half, and though Porto Sant'Elpidio were able to get a consolation goal late in stoppage team to deny us a clean sheet, that was the extent of their damage. They retreated back behind their walls in the province of Stop, region of March, with nothing to show for their efforts. San Marino's honor had been upheld.



    More importantly, we kept our spot in the league table (we had lost in the match prior to this). Perhaps even more importantly, Fan Day was a success.



    Laugh all you want at the fact that 355 attendees is considered a bumper crowd, but we've been averaging 250-300 fans all season, and every purchase matters. We played a fun, entertaining match, came away with a victory, and those impressions mean something when it comes to cultivating younger fans. This is going to be a generational project, and some of those kids who were in the stands for that game are going to be season ticket holders down the line. In a still pool, ripples can travel far.

    ---

    December was good for us. We won two, lost one, and drew one. The draw came against the league leaders, undefeated Pineto, in a wild match where we took 2-0 and 3-2 leads but weren't able to seal the deal. That draw probably means we won't mount a second-half charge to finish top, but it still maintains our status as a playoff contender.

    Mina went on a tear, notching a hat trick for us in one of the wins and increasing his season's tally to 16 goals, good for the outright lead in all of Serie D. Loanee attacking midfielder Octavio Acuña, who didn't have the best start for us, is settling in and finally starting to display his quality. Perrini has continued to be ever-present in midfield. I'm finally starting to figure out a trustworthy back four.

    Normally, I'd play through more than a month between updates at this part of the season, but with the winter transfer window about to open, this seemed like a good place to breathe and take stock. I plan to be active during it, to see if we can't cash in a player sale or two while still maintaining team cohesion.

    League table as of January 1st:



    National team ranking: 196
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; January 28th, 2021 at 11:01 AM.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    Soul Reader OrangeP47's Avatar
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    You know, playing at such a low level sounds almost... cozy... reminds me of really the only soccer I have/had access to living where I do, when I was at university, watching that team play. You could just wander in and watch if you wanted to and there was probably like maybe 10 "fans" if that and I'm pretty sure they never won a game because my university didn't care about sports aside from the year we were big cause we had Jimmy Garoppolo.

  37. ISO #37
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Season 1, Part IV: Sammarinese Club, Italian Management

    San Marino, as befitting of a European microstate, is a picture of financial stability, even despite transitioning away from the typical microstate model of being a tax haven in the past decade. They have very little unemployment (at least pre-pandemic). They have no national debt, and run an annual budget surplus, the overflows of which I'd imagine they spend on new office chairs or something (more likely, they're actually fiscally responsible and stash it away for a rainy day). They have the 13th highest GDP per capita in the world as per the IMF's calculations in 2020, a ranking higher than Iceland, Germany, and Taiwan.

    Italy's economy, of late, does not have quite the same level of stability.


    Obviously Italy overall is a financial powerhouse, but it still punches below its weight class and has severe structural problems. It was particularly hit hard by the late 2000s recession, and with low growth rates and high amounts of debt, has been sluggish in reacting to trends. This has caused... issues, and is a large part of why they haven't had quite as much governmental stability in the past decade or so.

    ---

    We, as a club named San Marino, based in San Marino, playing in the San Marino national stadium, with several players splitting time between us and the San Marino national team, should ideally inherit our mother country's financial stability. It is something I normally pride myself on in Football Manager saves, getting the club healthy enough to essentially operate on a self-sustaining model. There's a lot of pressure, both internal (personal pride reasons) and external (don't want to go broke) that I want to emulate the San Marino financial model.

    But we're not there yet. We're a Serie D team that nobody cares about, and we're facing a bit of a financial shortfall. The winter transfer window was opening, and I was determined to correct this, or at the very least mitigate it somewhat. It wasn't a question of cutting costs; our expenses were already pretty low and I didn't want to jeopardize the team's long-term prospects for this measure. Instead, I was mostly concerned with bringing in revenue.

    My first thought was scheduling a friendly match with one of the traditional Italian powers during the short winter break. We couldn't lure them to San Marino, their appearance fees would be too high, but I figured we could show up at their (large) stadiums, get beaten up to provide the home fans with some Christmas cheer, and collect cash for our efforts. So I put our names out there to the great old teams of Italy: Juventus, Milan, and Inter, the traditional Big Three.

    No dice: apparently the 216-mile distance from San Marino to Milan was outside the scope of our travel budget, and the board would not sanction the friendly. So I started looking elsewhere. Roma was a similar distance away and would similarly not be sanctioned. Udinese wasn't sexy enough, Parma's schedule was too filled. But what about Tuscany? They were closer, and Fiorentina's schedule was open enough to be able to fit a friendly in. I opened up a line and tried to get something scheduled with the Viola.



    So the first plan was out.

    ---

    The second plan was to sell off our players. This was a bit problematic, because most of our players either a) had no value, b) weren't on long-term contracts meaning they could leave on a free anytime another club wanted, or c) were simply too important for me to jettison. There wasn't really much to choose from in terms of what I could sell off.

    The most likely candidate was our captain himself, right winger Nicolò Gasperoni, the only one of the three people I identified at the start of the season who ended up staying with us through the summer. Gasperoni had since signed a long-term contract with us, but I deemed him as "not untouchable" because his backup, Filippo Aluigi, was also a strong player and it wouldn't be too much of a step down going from Gasperoni to Aluigi (Aluigi himself was on a month to month deal, so no selling him for money).

    My decision was perhaps made easier when Viterbese, a Serie C club, came in with a bid for him that wasn't jump-started by anything on my end.



    The bid was low, a mere €8,500 - not enough to cover our financial woes - but it was a start, and since I wasn't publicly desperate to sell the player, I figured I could negotiate in a favorable position.

    But just as talks were about to begin, Gasperoni blew a hole in that plan by announcing he was not leaving San Marino under any circumstances and would not agree to terms with Viterbese, even though they would (almost certainly) offer him more money.

    Well then. Of all the times to have a star player that desperately did not want to leave. I'm not going to turn aside one of the rare displays of loyalty in this game. I declined the bid for him.

    ---

    All the while, I was looking for ways to improve the team. Our original starting left winger got poached in the preseason, and neither of his two replacements, Rastelli and Francioni, were particularly impressive. To make matters worse, they were both injury-prone, leading to a terrible month-long stretch in November where I had to cover the position with my backup striker, who was bad enough at striker, let alone left wing.

    I tried to get one on loan this January, but teams loaning out players in the winter window offer less favorable terms than they would in the summer. Buyers are more desperate and all. The problem with all of the loan-listed players is that they either cost money (unacceptable), weren't good (unacceptable), or didn't want to come (unacceptable, on their ends). But January dragged on, the winter window was closing, my other plans to make money were falling through, and I was growing restless.

    And I made a move that, perhaps, was very Italian moreso than Sammarinese. I bought.

    This is Giuseppe Rispoli, an immediate improvement at left wing over our current pair of Oofus and Doofus, and costing us €4.4k per year.



    I slotted Rossi into the team immediately, and he put up a strong debut, recording an assist to Mina before I took him off. He was already providing more danger on that wing than we had had all season, and I know Mina was certainly pleased to see some attention get taken off him.

    ---

    So the decision was made: we would try to make up for our financial shortfall by going for it. It was the promotional playoffs or bust for us. Luckily, we were on course to at least make it there.

    The problem, though, got made very acute with the February 1st financial report. A little debt never blew up in anyone's face... right?



    League table as of February 1st:



    National team ranking: 196
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; February 1st, 2021 at 04:31 PM.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  39. ISO #39
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Season 1, Part V: Before the Homestretch

    There's a decent bit of ground to cover in this update, including me talking about the national team for the first time since I started this playthrough, so in order to not get completely overwhelmed by what's happened, I'm going to divide it into sections.

    1. Into the Spring

    After the winter transfer window closed at the start of February, I allowed myself to breathe for the first time in a while. Ever since I had first started the season, the players of San Marino Calcio had been subjected to a neverending churn - would the best among them, with or without a contract, be poached by other clubs? Would their playtime remain constant or would Skullcrusher try a different name at their position? Would the manager bring in a new name and wreck the equilibrium for everybody?

    But once February rolled around, that all stopped. For better or worse, we now had our team - and our starters - locked in for the remainder of the season. Financial issues were put to the side, or at least out of mind for a while. There would be no new additions or subtractions. This was the core of the squad that would either challenge for - and perhaps receive? - promotion to Serie C, or fall a bit short. But we were locked in.

    The problem was that we started to stumble in the standings.

    It didn't seem bad at first. We picked up our first loss in a while, which wasn't especially big of a deal since it was bound to happen. But then it kept continuing. Wins became draws. We either blew leads or had to bust our asses to scrape a point. There were more outright losses. Mina stopped scoring. And we started to slip from our once-comfortable 4th in the table.

    The one bit of unambiguous good news is that we penetrated the province of Stop in the region of March and secured a season sweep over our newly-minted arch rivals Porto Sant'Elpido:



    That said, the good feelings quickly dissipated as the board announced another Fan Day to commemorate the occasion, and we ended up blowing a lead and losing 2-1 in front of a season-high crowd of 455.

    ---

    As February bled into March, I was eagerly awaiting one of my favorite moments in the Football Manager calendar: the annual reveal of your youth intake. This is the time when you see just what your youth system has managed to produce for your club, where you get to potentially fall in love with future stars for the first time.

    I've had very good luck with my first sets of kids across multiple saves. In my first ever campaign, the maiden youth intake produced a central defender that starred for club and country, captaining the team for over a decade and actually winning a Ballon d'Or as a defender, which is basically unheard of. In my Cartagena save, the first set of kids included Carlos Castaño, who while not a world beater, ended up being far better than our system had any right to produce at the time. He was an offense-minded midfielder who managed to keep pace as the players around him got better and better, to the point where he eventually started a Champions League final for us against archrivals Real Madrid. I was hoping for my luck to hold here, especially since it's going to be our club's youth system that dictates the success of the San Marino national team.

    FM21 is the first version of the game I've played that gives you a preview of what the batch of kids is going to look like a few months before they fully materialize, and all signs in the autumn pointed to a solid crop:



    I stared at the phrase "golden generation", eyes shining with anticipation, occasionally stopping to remember not to drool. A golden generation of kids is something that every FM player dreams of getting, a rare moonshot of a situation that has launched some of the greatest IRL dynasties in soccer history.

    I tried to temper my expectations. A golden generation means less when you're San Marino, with crappy facilities, playing in the Italian 4th tier, than it does if you're Manchester United. Just by the law of averages, it's extremely unlikely that any of the players would be able to make it to Serie A, let alone start in a Champions League final, but that's still a long way down the road. We have to get there first, and this upcoming group of kids would hopefully help us get there.

    When the group finally got revealed in late March, far and away the best name out there was left back Michele Bollini, who could probably start for us right now were it not for the fact that I had already invested in a decent-looking Italian option there back in the autumn. Bollini, at 15, is fast, a hard worker, and has good mentals for his age. If I can get our coaches to boost his technical skills, he could easily see us through Serie D, C, and if we're very lucky, Serie B.



    As he is also Sammarinese, I expect to fast-track him on national team duty. Speaking of which:


    2. The National Team

    Let's talk about the IRL San Marino national team for a second. Their Wikipedia article is an absolute gold mine of
    put downs delivered in the driest and most clinical manner possible, the sort of unintentional-yet-entirely-factual insult you can only get from a Wikipedia article. Some excerpts are as follows:
    • They were tied for last with Bhutan (208th)
    • The national side scored their first away goal in fourteen years
    • They have only ever won one game
    • the first time they had gone unbeaten in two consecutive competitive games
    • In 2001, Latvia manager Gary Johnson resigned after failing to beat San Marino in a World Cup qualifier.


    And then, there's one of my favorite Wiki headings of all time:



    There are seven total entries.

    ---

    Now, this is going to change. With the imposition of the new UEFA Nations League competition, the idea is to get European national teams to play more games (that "count") against teams similar to their skill level. Two of San Marino's seven all time non-losses have come in the past year, with draws against Gibraltar and Liechtenstein.

    In our universe, we played the same two teams in our Nations League group. Because Frank Skullcrusher is the manager in this universe as opposed to Franco Varrella, we actually beat both Gibraltar and Liechtenstein. Home and away. We quadrupled our overall win total in less than three months and won our Nations League group, which means we're going to get promoted to Group C and play moderately more difficult European teams this time around. We will very likely get bounced right back down to Group D. But still, for the first time in its history, the national team had something to be proud of!

    And then news of our World Cup qualifying group came down and that good feeling instantly vanished.



    I'm not sure of the exact qualifying structure for the World Cup in this version of FM, particularly because the game programmed in the tournament's IRL expansion to 48 teams starting in the 2026 World Cup, but let's make it simple here: we are not going to qualify. If we're lucky, we'll get a draw or two out of the ten total games in this cycle. If we're very, very, lottery-winningly lucky, we won't finish last in our group.

    There is actually an opportunity to not totally embarrass ourselves here. England are obviously world class, and Poland will be similarly untouchable, but we could catch Slovakia on a bad day, Finland don't scare me, and Kosovo are plain bad. I'm not saying we can take down all three, but we had a chance of drawing even with one of the three. Maybe.

    The March international break was a rare instance in which our national team played three games (normally you were limited to 1-2 in the non-summer breaks), and as luck would have it they were all against the three weaker teams in the group: away against Slovakia, away against Kosovo, and then home against Finland. Hoping to steal a point, I sent out our best lineup against Slovakia and hoped for magic.

    Instead, we got a red card.



    Sure, no big deal - obviously the loss hurt, but we weren't expecting to do anything this cycle anyway and Slovakia was always going to be the toughest of the Slovakia/Kosovo/Finland grouping on the schedule. Kosovo were next, and they were undisputedly the second weakest team in the group beyond us. I made a few changes to the lineup based on player skill and fatigue, and hoped that we'd do a little better this time around.

    Two of our players ended up getting red carded.

    They were both double yellows as opposed to the straight red that Aluigi got for us against Slovakia, but this still stung and we ceded any chance of remaining competitive as we meekly bowed 2-0 to the opposition again. With a match against Finland looming and two of our players being suspended for it, I'm not exactly optimistic (I haven't played the match quite yet, as it was getting late last night when I played through this section of the game).


    3. The Convergence

    I called up six of my club players to the national team. Why does this matter? Well, in higher leagues, they observe the international breaks by not scheduling any matches during those times. You won't see Real Madrid playing during the week in October when Spain's set for two games, for example.

    That's at the top of the ladder. Down in Serie D, there are no such concerns that the semi-professional players toiling away will even get a sniff with their national teams (otherwise, why would they be playing in Serie D?), so the schedule continues unabated. And for 99% of the teams in that level of the Italian pyramid, this isn't an issue.

    For us, though, a club based out of San Marino, with predominantly Sammarinese players, who are all eligible for the San Marino national team and whose services I generally make use of with said team, this is very much an issue. It means we're deprived of a number of our best players with little room for recourse.

    I managed to deal with this same issue in the autumn (including in one match where I ended up with a bench of zero total players), but that was months ago when the season was still young. Now, it was crunch time. We were slipping in the table and there weren't that many games left. Our opponent was Vastese, a team that was rocketing up the table and hadn't lost in over a month. If they beat us, they would knock us down into 6th, out of the playoff picture. It was imperative that we stemmed the bleeding, but with so many of our better players away on national team duty, I wasn't sure how.

    I'm not exactly proud of the steps I took here. I like to win, yes, but this is also a video game and I like my team doing cool things. I like offense. I like creativity. But, well, we had to not lose here.

    I'll let the game recap tell the story, but let's just say mission accomplished.



    We managed to hold Vastese off, and that's the last game the club team will be playing that conflicts with the national team. The latter squad has one more match left, against Finland, but we'll get all of our guys back in time for the next club game.

    We're in 5th place in the table by a hair. We have five matches left, each of which gets progressively harder. We need to keep pace against Aprilia Racing (currently 16th), Montegiorgio (11th), and Agnonese (7th). This is because our final two matches are against Vastogirardi (4th), and finally Pineto (1st, and haven't lost a game all season). If we hold serve, there's a chance we climb to Serie C. If not, then Serie D - and all of the financial uncertainties that come with - is our home for at least one more season.

    League table as of April 1st:



    National team ranking: 196 (hasn't updated yet, I expect it will in one or two more clicks)
    Last edited by GeneralHankerchief; February 5th, 2021 at 04:09 PM.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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  40. ISO #40
    Soul Reader OrangeP47's Avatar
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    That wikipedia article is glorious and brutal. Also, I'm impressed by how decent your intake's mental/physical stats are while lacking technical at the same time, but I guess that's the point.

    Quite a good update.

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    Thread Analyst Dohmer's Avatar
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    A good youth intake here, and I really like the look of Michele Bollini..

    Holding on to the Playoff position might be a hard job, but it is the best way to end this season.
    Quote Originally Posted by lendunistus (#4)
    2 player mafia lesgo
    Maybe one day they will be a 2P game, but for now, we can only dream.

  42. ISO #42
    Season 5 Champion GeneralHankerchief's Avatar
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    Season 1, Part VI: Moving the Goalposts


    Five games left, with fifth place to hold onto. The order of matches we still had to play was in perfectly increasing difficulty, starting with a theoretically easy battle against relegation candidates Aprilia Racing, and closing with an away showdown against undefeated Pineto. Our immediate competition for 5th place and thus a crucial playoff spot, Vastese, was on a hot streak, but we stopped them cold in a rough 0-0 draw when we were significantly undermanned.

    Now, we had everybody back. Deciding not to mess with chance, I sent out our strongest possible lineup against the weak opposition. We needed to secure an outright win here and turn on the afterburners. With some of the players smarting from their return from national team duty (we lost 2-0 to Finland, our third 2-0 defeat of the break, but at least this time there were no red cards), they came out angry. The result was one of our best performances of the season.



    The next two matches similarly turned out well, a disappointing draw against Montegiorgio and then a big win against 7th place Agnonese to formally knock them out of playoff contention. Better still, Vastese *and* 4th place Vastogirardi continued to slip, meaning that with two games to go (albeit difficult games) we were in a very comfortable position indeed:



    An away date against Vastogirardi loomed. If we won, we would seal up 4th place and a playoff spot. If we drew, we would hold steady and potentially still clinch, depending on what Vastese managed in their match. If we lost, then we would in all likelihood need a result in our final match - the toughest match of the year, away vs. undefeated Pineto. I really did not want it to come down to that.

    The team was healthy and well-rested, with no injuries or other complications to speak of. I once again set out our best lineup of Fenucci ; Selva - Rastelli - Rosti - Belviso ; A. Mularoni - Perrini ; Gasperoni - Acuña - Rispoli ; Mina, and hoped for the best.

    There's no real way to mince words here: We choked.



    With our loss, Vastogirardi came within a single point of reclaiming fourth place, and Vastese - having won their penultimate match - were in 6th, a mere two points behind us. If we lost to Pineto - again, the undefeated league leaders who had already clinched the Serie D/F title - and the other two clubs took care of business, we were out of it. It would all come down to nothing.



    The thing about Pineto is that they refused to give up. Their overall team skills were definitely more akin to something in Serie C, and their promotion + Invincibles-esque season was fully deserved, but their mentality was that of a Serie A winner. I witnessed this firsthand in our first match against them this year.

    In a battle at home, with us on a solid run of form and with high confidence, we silenced our doubters and raced out to a 2-0 lead as Pineto looked to suffer their first loss of the season. But in the second half, they just kept on coming and first halved the deficit, then equalized, and there was still time to spare for them to take the lead. Instead, we struck back, regaining control 3-2, but in the dying minutes they equalized one last time and the result ended up being a very well-earned 3-3 draw on their parts. It was this sort of attitude that spurred them onto an undefeated season, and now we had to, in all likelihood, actually seal the deal against them this time. Except we were away, and not in quite as good a vein of form. I was not optimistic.

    Mina took the lead for us, netting his 22nd goal of the campaign, which was enough to set the high mark for Serie D/F tallies that year. But once again, Pineto channeled their inner Terminator and acted like the deficit wasn't particularly a big deal - and, well, to them, it wasn't. This time they didn't even wait until the second half to equalize.

    The second half gradually morphed into a battle of attrition, and while I desperately wanted a winner to stop Pineto from completing their undefeated season, I had to bow to reality - they were simply better and more dominant than us, and we had a playoff position to secure. Inconspicuously checking my phone to see the scores of the other Serie D/F matches going on, I motioned to the team to tighten up and see the game out rather than go for the win.

    We, at least, were able to do that.



    The final results came in: As expected, Vastogirardi overtook us for fourth, but Vastese lost their final match, meaning we finished in a playoff-eligible 5th place.



    Or so I thought.

    As I continued clicking through the game, to the formal end of season notifications and beyond, I received no such notification of a promotion playoff starting. I checked the league tables - it indicated Pineto being promoted to Serie C, and the bottom four teams being relegated, but nothing in between. Was I misled? Were we doomed to toil in Serie D for another year without any opportunity to battle for promotion?

    Here's what happened: I relied on the Serie D wiki article for rules about promotional playoffs. For the 2019-20 season IRL, there was no playoff because the season was suspended and later cancelled outright due to the pandemic happening. For the previous season, as best I could tell, there was a playoff. I assumed that the situation would revert back to normal with the resumption of normal play, but this was apparently not the case. Only the top team in each league would gain promotion. Everybody else had to stick around - unless you finished low enough to get relegated.

    I played ahead a bit, and the rules stay the same for next season as well. We're going full Ricky Bobby Rules here in Serie D: If you ain't first, you're last.

    Finishing first was never in the cards for us this season, not with me not really having a handle on my players to start, and not with Pineto outpacing everybody on the way to reproducing 2003-04 Arsenal's feat. But now, we have to do it, and we are, to put it in scientific terms, deep financial $%#! between the win-now moves I made over the course of the season plus signing our latest youth intake to contracts.

    This is going to be a very interesting (in italics) summer.
    Lenny - Today at 10:08 AM
    Atpg sometimes the paragraphs you write are pretty good


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    Soul Reader OrangeP47's Avatar
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    Gah, that's a kick in the head, but at least that was a dramatic rollercoaster ride.

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    Cuddles Wolves Mill Crab's Avatar
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    Ooooof, that's a rough blow with no promotional tourney. Best of luck with the summer and year 2 (sounds like you'll need it)
    Quote Originally Posted by Cron (#16505)
    another is mash

    Another powerful game of the city of crappy

  45. ISO #45

  46. ISO #46
    At the time it was the fastest goal ever scored in international football.

    Spirit of '93.


  47. ISO #47
    Also mad respect for the Jimmy Hill tribute.

    Chin for the win.

  48. ISO #48
    anyone watched ted lasso btw? it's a show about an american college football coach who becomes the manager of a premier league team

    great great show

  49. ISO #49
    Is this done or are you just taking a break? I just started reading these recently (Loved the first two AARs) so I'm not very up to date with anything that is going on.

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