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Old 01-19-2020, 05:42 PM   #1
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
Moving On: From Loughborough Uni to Bristol Rovers (FM 16)

Hello again, everyone.

In the last post of my St. Andrews FC story, I described a "problem" I encountered that made my game experience less enjoyable. I apparently had a bad balance in my game world that kept lower-level teams, like the ones in St. Andrews' league, from actively signing enough players to fill out their squads. As a result, I was playing against teams full of "grey guys."

At the same time, AI teams weren't seeming to find my players, either. Honestly, it made the game seem a bit too easy, because I could send a full squad up against teams that didn't have more than three or four full-fledged footballers.

I spent some time trying to create a more enjoyable setup, and I think I managed to come up with something.

I'll be returning to the lower leagues of England again, but this time I'll be playing Football Manager 16. There's an outstanding edited database available for that edition called England, Enhanced, Expanded. It allows me to manage a team all the way down to Step 5 of the National League System, which is the ninth level in the English football pyramid. That's where I decided I wanted to start.

I decided to try my luck with Loughborough University FC this time.

Loughborough is located in Leicestershire. The Scholars play at Holywell Park, on the university campus; the training facilities are Impressive, which was one thing that drew me to the club.

Because we're a university side, we are all amateur, and I'm limited to signing players who are age 21 or younger. I think that will provide me with a fun challenge. I don't know if I can keep them in the team once they're past their early twenties.

I still need to fill a few spots in my squad, so I'll be back after I've completed my preseason. Hopefully I'll be able to enjoy this ride for a while.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 03-21-2020 at 09:50 AM.
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Old 01-20-2020, 11:38 AM   #2
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
8 August 2015

The Scholars play in the Midland League Premier Division, and our league programme begins today. What better time to take a look at the squad?

The star ratings come from my assistant manager, former Wigan defender Kevin Sharp. He's a fairly good judge of talent.


O'Keefe is the club captain. I wish he were more determined, but otherwise he's a fine 'keeper. He's also our penalty taker, so he might get to score a few goals, too. Waldram is an outstanding second choice. He's very good with the ball at his feet.


I ask quite a bit of our fullbacks, expecting them to join in the attack when the opportunity to do so arises. Legg is a solid option at right back. There's been quite a battle for the left back spot; Brown, Davies, and Gilbey all offer different strengths. Davies outplayed the others in the preseason, so he might get the first opportunity to start.

Former Rochdale man Horan is the best of the center backs, and probably the best outfield player in the team. Hempshall is big and strong, while Koczalski is tenacious and quick. Switon can also do a job here, as can the very versatile Killner.

Central Midfielders

I'll sort these lads according to their roles.

Leonard brings a touch of class to his destroyer role. Switon can play here, too.

Two days ago, Merthyr Town swooped in and signed Max Herbert, who had been bossing the midfield for us. I can't blame Max for wanting to make some money playing football, but his departure leaves a big hole in the middle of our formation. I'm considering Switon and Poxon as his replacement, but I'm also looking for a new man here.

I saw Hamilton-Forbes at Trial Day, and offered him a contract. The former Watford youth trainee has looked good as a midfield playmaker.

The other players on this list are better suited to play other places, but you can see how they can provide cover here, too. Horan, in fact, would probably be our best DM, and a darn good CM, too.

Wide Midfielders

I like our wide men to be able to operate well in more advanced positions (to suit my 4-1-2-2-1) and slightly deeper (when we play 4-4-2).

Rodgers plays on the left, where he can cut in on his strong right foot. Johnston, our youngest player at age 16, provides lots of pace on the right.

The versatile Davies and Brown can play anywhere on the left side of our formation, so they are options on the wing when they're not at fullback. Or, I can use Berwick, who is an absolute wizard on set pieces. Most of our strikers can also play the right wing, so I have several backups--which is good, because these players run a lot and get tired.

Center Forwards

There are two obvious "big man/little man" pairings here, which will come in handy when I play 4-4-2.

Conway is our newest player; head scout/Director of Football Michael Skubala spotted the Scot, we brought him in on trial, he banged in a goal, and we signed him. He's the most natural goalscorer in the group. Otim, a Nottingham Forest trainee, is a similar player, with a bit more of an eye for a pass.

Whitehall and Tweddell are the target men, both able to hold up the ball and play in their partners or finish a move themselves. All four of the strikers are fairly quick, too.

None of these players has made the number nine shirt his own. We're basically still holding an open audition for the role of front man in our band.

General Thoughts
I'm fairly happy with the team right now. I'm looking for an all-action central midfielder, the kind of player I lost when Max Herbert left the team.

I also learned that when a player turns 22, he's ineligible to play for us any longer. That's how the game ensures the Scholars retain their status as a university side. This also means I'll lose the services of Hamilton-Forbes, Davies, Gilbey, and Brown over the course of the season. SHF appears to have only a month left in his Loughborough Uni career. Managing this turnover will add another dimension to the experience; that's for sure.

We're tipped to finish in the middle of the table, and I think that's a fair assessment of where we stand. If I can uncover a few gems to replace the lads who age out of the team, perhaps we can challenge for the championship.
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Old 01-20-2020, 11:52 AM   #3
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
8 August 2015

I'll take a moment to introduce you to my backroom staff.

You've met Kevin Sharp already. He's my Assistant Manager. He manages the team during friendly matches, and I have him set up our training routines (although I always tweak them, sometimes more than others). He played for a variety of Football League clubs, primarily Wigan, as a left back.

Michael Skubala does double duty, as our Director of Football and Chief Scout. At least, that's what he does today. I'm concerned that Michael might not be with us too much longer. Kettering Town, who play two levels above us, have offered him a job, and they can pay him.

I smiled when I saw that David Bentley was looking for a job as a coach. Bentley played for Arsenal, Blackburn, and Tottenham in the Premier League, and won seven caps for England. He hung up his boots at age 29, and here he is, volunteering to coach for us.

Chris Bruce-Smith is our Head of Youth Development. At age 46, he's the oldest member of our back room staff.

Head physio Charlotte Avent is the newest member of the team. She's good at physio things, especially for our level.
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Old 01-24-2020, 02:01 PM   #4
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
17 December 2015

2015/16 Midland Football League Premier Division: First Half Results

Two days after our first match of the season, Michael Skubala left for a paid position with Kettering Town. We were without any scouting services for three weeks or so, until we hired Frank Sharps and Martin Pike.

Despite this slight handicap, we began our season in fine form, and I earned the league's Manager of the Month award for August. We could have gone top of the league with a result at Stourport Swifts on 8 September, but we instead absorbed our first loss in league play. We haven't been so close to the lead since.

That dour performance caused me to put the 4-4-2 on the shelf. We've been using the 4-1-2-2-1 (or 4-3-3) since then, with a few tweaks designed to take advantage of the particular strengths of my team as it stands at the time.

Injuries have taken their toll on our season, as several key players have been sidelined at one time or another. Wide man Sheridan Rodgers tore a calf muscle in mid-September. Three weeks later, goalkeeper and captain Connor O'Keefe hurt his wrist in a FA Vase tie against Boleshall. Derrick Otim finished the match in goal, and O'Keefe was absent for nearly two months.

The worst blow fell on 24 October, when striker George Conway tore the cruciate ligaments in his knee. He won't be back on the pitch until next fall. By that time he will be approaching his 22nd birthday, so he might never play for us again. George had been leading the line with flair, firing in seven goals before he went down.

Not surprisingly, we struggled to find consistency and quality. A streak of five league games without a victory was finally broken with a 2-0 victory over Dunkirk. Conway's replacement, Derrick Otim, took full advantage of his chance. The Ugandan forward leads the team with 11 goals in all competitions.

Otim's timely goal scoring form was a key factor in our October resurgence, which led to a run of nine games without a loss in all competitions. The highlight was a 2-1 victory over runaway league leader Hereford, the first loss the Bulls had suffered in league play.

Another reason for our improved play might be found in our increasing knowledge of our tactic. An amateur side like us can only train once a week, so it takes a while for the players to learn what to do. In late September, I began asking the team to play a more vibrant, forceful style of football--setting a slightly higher defensive line and closing down more when we're out of possession; seeking to control the game and playing out of the back when we have the ball. Our passing accuracy and average possession are both second in the league, and while I don't appreciate possession for possession's sake, we are playing some attractive football. Teams are starting to play deeper against us, and I'm working on ways to unlock these more closely packed teams.

Here's my managerial avatar, rocking the 'stache for Movember. It's easy to smile when your side is playing well.

So far, it's worked well. It's carried us to sixth place, which I think is a fair piece of work for a team predicted to finish in the middle of the table. We also have at least one game in hand against each of the teams ahead of us on points.

The following players have left the club since the season began:
DR Liam Darville
MC Stephan Hamilton-Forbes
MC Charlie Musselwhite
DL Theo Brown
D/ML Oliver Davies
DL Tom Gilbey

All these lads, except Musselwhite, were released because they turned 22 years old.

Darville never saw the pitch for us; he was already 24 when the season began. Hamilton-Forbes started our first five matches and played well for us in the middle of the park. Brown gave me some problems with his attitude, so I wasn't too sorry when his birthday rolled around.

Davies was a valuable asset while we had him, appearing in nine matches, four as a starter, all along the left side of our formation. Gilbey was the biggest loss. He won the left back job and became an everpresent starter. Tom played to a solid 6.91 rating and helped solidify our back line.

Most of these players have signed with other clubs, usually on a non-contract deal that pays them when they play. Brown moved up a level to sign for Winchester City. Davies did the same thing, advancing to Step 4 with Potters Bar Town. The day after I released him, Gilbey signed with Highgate United, which means we'll have to play against him.

Darville and Hamilton-Forbes are still amateurs, playing for Corinthians and Ashford(Middlesex) respectively. Musselwhite, the only lad I released for any reason other than his age, is still looking for a new club.

I brought in a number of new players, either to replace guys who aged out of our club, to cover for players who were seriously injured, or to provide depth.

MC Luke Wright
MC Ben Grant
AMR/ST Jimmy Warnett
DR/C Kellen Daly
GK Melvin Minter
MC/DM Connor Purdue
D/ML Sidney Adams
DL Dale Minor

Wright and Grant are now two-thirds of my starting midfield. Wright, a former Port Vale man, is a more attacking player, while Grant, released by Oldham Athletic, is a box-to-box runner. Purdue gives us additional depth and some old-fashioned bite in the midfield.

Warnett is a versatile forward who is also a regular starter. So is Minor, whom I brought in to replace Gilbey.

Adams took Davies' roster spot, while Daly gives us much-needed cover along the back line. I signed Minter, a clever sweeper keeper, to back up Harry Waldram when Connor O'Keefe got hurt, but Melvin ended up earning his fair share of the work between the posts in the captain's absence.

I convinced chairman John Steele to allow me to bring in another coach. I signed Ross Preston, a fitness specialist who was previously at Rochdale. I'm proud to say that we have the best coaching staff in the division.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 01-25-2020 at 07:39 PM.
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Old 01-26-2020, 08:07 PM   #5
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
6 March 2016

Loughborough University Youth Intake

I wondered how the youth intake would work at a club like Loughborough Uni. I was pleased to see how realistically the game handled it. The newcomers are all 18 years old, as first year university students would be.

Our facilities are very good for our level, so I was hoping we'd get some talented new players. How did we do?

Four players stick out from the crowd immediately.

George is ready to step right into the first eleven, an all-action midfielder who is comfortable in a variety of roles. He is creative and technically skilled, determined and defensively savvy.

Tall, strong, and powerful, Howard dazzled my staff with his potential. They rate him as a future League One center back. He is good with either foot, fairly comfortable on the ball (a skill I want my center halves to possess). His low determination is his Achilles heel.

Tom Berwick has been playing so well that Cunningham's path to the first team will be rougher than those George and Howard face...but Berwick will turn 22 early next season and, therefore, can't be part of my long-term plans. Cunningham would offer more pace, but I'm not impressed with his mental makeup.

Clarkson has promise; I can envision him as a solid backup to Dale Minor, offering more pace but less skill. His Professional personality is also a real plus.

I'm not sure what I will do with the rest. Several of the others have some potential, but they're a long way from being ready for my first team.

There are now 40 players on my squad list, and I don't have a reserve squad or a B team. How will these youngsters develop if they never play? I have more players than I know what to do with. I might have to cut nearly half of them, and quite a few of the new lads.

In a way, youth intake day almost seems like a campus tryout, when first year students who want a spot on the team turn up so we can put them through their paces. If I get four solid players out of it, I suppose it's been a success.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 01-27-2020 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 01-28-2020, 05:16 PM   #6
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
30 April 2016

2015/16 Midland League Premier Division: Second Half

The fixtures came fast and furious during the festive season, and we never seemed to find our footing. We lost badly at home to Highgate United, who were in the midst of a run of sixteen games without defeat that didn't end until mid-February.

We seemed to snap out of our funk with a dramatic victory against Stourport Swifts, grabbing all three points with a goal late in stoppage time. But a draw with bottom-of-the-table Brocton and an ugly loss away to Quorn had me scratching my head again.

My solution came to me in the form of some player recommendations from my back room staff and, their ranks fortified by some new arrivals I'll describe later, the Scholars reeled off a string of seven matches in the league without a loss. A big win at Coleshill Town on 6 February put us fourth, and a week later we moved into third when we took three points from Sporting Khalsa. Then, on the 16th, Highgate finally tasted defeat and, when we scored three late goals to send off Heanor Town, we moved back into second place. The lads' fine form earned me the league's Manager of the Month prize for February.

The biggest crowd of the season, 424 strong, came to Holywell Park to watch us face Hereford Town in a battle between the league's top two teams. The Bulls, who pay their players a total of £6300 per week, were clearly the class of the league. They earned their 2-1 victory, which put them 18 points clear with four rounds to play and clinched their Midlands Premier championship.

We held off Sporting Khalsa the rest of the way and secured our second place finish. Our 64 goals were fourth most in the league, and only one team--the champions--conceded fewer than the 36 we allowed.

DC Jack Koczalski
D/M Luke Killner
AMR Ryan Johnston

With our regular center halves proving to be both durable and resolute, Koczalski couldn't force his way onto the team sheet. He wanted to leave, so I let him. He finished the season with Welwyn Garden City, and he didn't play much there, either.

Killner can play almost anywhere, but he's not a standout anywhere, either. The arrival of better players made him expendable. Luke played in six games for us, and he's still looking for another club.

I wouldn't have minded keeping Johnston, a handy young winger, but he asked to be let go so he could play more regularly. He scored twice in 10 appearances for us, and he's now starring at St Helen's Town.

ST Will Abbotts
MC Jack Willbye
MC Amadu Waritay
DC/M(RL) Aidan Blanchard
ST Andrew Bridges

Welshman Abbotts came in on New Years' Eve, and immediately gave us another potent goal-scoring option. His arrival allowed me to shift Derrick Otim to the right wing, where he enjoyed as much success as he had leading the line.

I'm often guilty of collecting central midfielders. My back room staff told me about Willbye and Waritay, and next thing I knew, they were in Loughborough colors.

Willbye, released by Ipswich Town, is a polished, creative player who will still do his part when we don't have the ball.

Former Reading man Waritay is less polished and much quicker than Willbye, but it's his work rate and willingness to play for the badge that makes him stand out. The arrival of these players allowed me to set up my midfield in a variety of ways; they, along with Luke Wright and Ben Grant, offer a wide range of skills and tactical options.

Imagine Willbye's qualities in a footballer who can play either wing or at center back, and you've got Blanchard. Formerly with Gillingham, he saw action at five different positions after his arrival in early February.

Hartlepool United gave up on pacy hit man Bridges, but his combination of speed and a mature understanding of the game made him a very good fit for our club. The good form of Will Abbotts kept Andrew from establishing himself in the first XI, but I still think we have ourselves a player here.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 03-16-2020 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 01-28-2020, 06:29 PM   #7
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
30 April 2016

Loughborough University FC
The Cups, 2015/16

The FA Cup
Our run in the FA Cup was a very short one, as we lost to a spirited Crawley Down side in the Preliminary Round. This match fell in between two tough league fixtures, so I fielded a rotated squad and paid the price for my decision.

Preliminary Round: Crawley Down 1-0 Loughborough University

The Midland Football League Cup
Again, I chose to give some backups a chance against local rival Leicester Nirvana. We treated the crowd to a cracking match, which we lost in extra time.

Second Round: Leicester Nirvana 3-2 Loughborough University

The Leicestershire & Rutland Challenge Cup
Ironically, we drew St Andrews--the small club I was managing in my ill-fated FM 15 dynasty--in the First Round, and we dispatched them fairly easily. Next came Quorn, with whom we dueled on equal terms for 120 minutes before beating them on penalties.

That earned us a date with cup holders Barwell, who finished second in a league two levels higher than ours. They took care of us with ease, and went on to successfully defend their title.

First Round: Loughborough University 3-1 St Andrews
Second Round: Quorn 1-1 Loughborough University (Loughborough win 4-3 on penalties)
Semi Final: Barwell 3-0 Loughborough University

The FA Vase
Unlike the other cup competitions, I went all in to win the FA Vase. We entered the competition in the Second Qualifying Round and defeated Bolehall Swifts when Danny Whitehall netted in extra time. Then we saw off Long Eaton United in the First Round, and more heroics from Whitehall--this time, a penalty in extra time--enabled us to get past Winsford United.

Next was league rival Coleshill, and a goal from Jimmy Warnett put us through to the Fourth Round. Warnett struck again against Hadleigh United in our 2-0 victory.

Will Abbott's goal on the hour mark gave us a victory away to Retford United. Our next foe was Durham City. The Citizens were runaway winners of the First Division of the Northern League, finishing 18 points clear. We drew with them, 1-1, forcing a replay at Holywell Park. We fell behind in the opening minutes, only to come back with three goals and win 4-2 on aggregate.

Now came the Semi Final. We drew the worst possible matchup: the wrecking crew from FC Romania, who had scored 97 goals and conceded only 6 in league play by the time we faced them in early March.

We played them to a 1-1 draw away, and we held them for 70 minutes at Holywell Park before Elliott Legg's hearty challenge in the box gave the Wolves a penalty. They converted it, and that was that.

FC Romania went on to win the Vase, part of a magical quadruple-winning season.

Second Preliminary Round: Loughborough Uni 2-1 Bolehall Swifts
First Round: Loughborough Uni 2-0 Long Eaton Utd
Second Round: Loughborough Uni 1-0 Winsford Utd
Third Round: Coleshill 0-1 Loughborough Uni
Fourth Round: Loughborough Uni 2-0 Hadleigh Utd
Fifth Round: Retford Town 0-1 Loughborough Uni
Sixth Round: Durham City 1-1 Loughborough Uni
Sixth Round Replay: Loughborough Uni 3-1 Durham City
Semi Final, First Leg: FC Romania 1-1 Loughborough Uni
Semi Final, Second Leg: Loughborough Uni 0-1 FC Romania (FC Romania win, 2-1, in aggregate)

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 03-16-2020 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 01-29-2020, 06:58 PM   #8
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
Loughborough University FC

Season Summary, 2015/16

The Best Eleven

I don't think I used Luke Wright as a DM for more than 20 minutes all season. He's not rated to play there at all. This team does represent our eleven most important players fairly well, though.

I don't think there was a better 'keeper in the league than Connor O'Keefe. He didn't let in easy goals, and his ability to play with the ball at his feet allowed us to play the kind of football I like. Connor also converted the only penalty he took during the season. Harry Waldram and Melvin Minter took over for some cup ties, and I counted on them when O'Keefe hurt his wrist back in the fall. Minter, in particular, probably deserved more playing time, but it was hard for me to put our club's captain and leader on the bench when he was available.

There was never a dull moment with right back Elliott Legg. His ability and willingness to join the attack gave our offense extra bite, and his 12 assists testify to his effectiveness. However, at the same time, he picked up 11 yellow cards, almost twice as many as any other player in the league. Tom Gilbey and, then, Dale Minor were steady and reliable on the left flank.

Jack Horan and Kyle Hempshall formed a resolute center back pairing. Horan's composure worked well with Hempshall's power, and I never had doubts about the stability of our defense with them on duty. The situation got even better with the arrival of Alex Howard in March.

Central Midfielders
The acquisition of Luke Wright and Ben Grant, who arrived on the same late August day, was a huge key to our successful season. They brought quality and presence to our midfield, and they were the second- and third-best players in the league according to average rating. It's a credit to Jack Willbye and Amadu Waritay that we didn't miss a beat when either (or both) of them were on the pitch, and by the end of the season I was rotating four men through my CM pairing. Make that five; Wes George, another March arrival, was every bit as effective, if not even more so.

Rob Switon and Danny Leonard split time at the DM position, and both were solid. Jack Poxon didn't see much of the pitch during the second half of the season.

Wide Midfielders
At the beginning of the season, I underestimated Tom Berwick. I thought he might have value as a set piece specialist, but he proved he's a much more valuable player than that. His 11 goals and 11 assists were both second best in the team. A varied cast of characters manned the right flank, with Jimmy Warnett the best of the lot. Injuries kept Sheridan Rodgers from making a bigger impact, and attitude problems were Ryan Johnston's undoing. Danny Whitehall's ability to play on the wings offered him opportunities to earn playing time. So did his ability to work magic in stoppage time, especially in cup ties.

George Conway began the season as our front man, and he was among the league's top scorers when he wrecked his knee. That offered an opportunity for Derrick Otim, and he grabbed it with both hands. Derrick's 18 goals in all competitions led the team. Hoewever, he found himself playing on the right more often after Will Abbotts arrived in March. Will proved to be an adept scorer, basically getting a goal every other game, and Otim kept finding the net at his new position, too. If the goals Conway, Otim,and Abbotts scored while leading our line were added together and credited to one striker, they'd win the league's Golden Boot by a comfortable margin.

Supporters' Player of the Season: Luke Wright (34%); Elliott Legg (28%), Ben Grant (23%)
Goal of the Season: Jack Willbye's 22-yard laser against Durham City on 24 February
Signing of the Season: Aidan Blanchard (I'd have picked Willbye, but that's just me)
Young Player of the Season: Luke Wright (they're all young players)

Midland Football League Premier Division Pat Fellows Memorial Player of the Year: Derrick Otim
Get in, Derrick!

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 01-30-2020 at 09:41 AM.
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Old 01-30-2020, 09:44 PM   #9
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
Offseason Thoughts

I was very happy with how my first season at Loughborough University went. Expected to finish mid-table, we finished the season in second. Even more encouraging was our especially strong second half; we accumulated 43 points after the midpoint of the season, only three fewer than runaway winner Hereford United.

But as soon as the transfer window opened in early June, I discovered what will be the most frustrating thing about managing a club like the Scholars. My inbox was almost immediately filled with messages about contract offers my players were receiving from clubs that could, and would, pay them to play.

I also learned that professional and semi-pro clubs released their unwanted youth players at about the same time. I'd planned to check the list out, if only to learn about players I might want to bring in to replace the ones who would turn 22 during the upcoming season. Now, my investigation took on a new sense of urgency.

Over the next six weeks, eight Loughborough Uni players signed contracts with other clubs. I was flattered by the fact that all of them signed for teams in league football, four levels above NLS Step Five, where we'll play again in 2016/17. Still, it was infuriating to watch a large part of the core of my team leave the club.

Among them were the four best players from the group of newcomers who arrived in March. Were I managing a semiprofessional club, I'd at least be able to sell these players, and realize some profit from them. At an amateur team, they simply leave.

In mid-July, I was invited to interview for jobs at Daventry Town and Leatherhead. Both are semipro clubs who play one level higher than Loughborough, and both offered me the job.

I seriously considered taking one or the other, and if the members of my backroom staff had been willing to move with me, I might very well have bid Loughborough Uni goodbye. I like the staff I've put together, though, and I managed to bring some new players I'm excited about. So, I've decided to stick with the Scholars for at least one more year.
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Old 01-31-2020, 09:11 PM   #10
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
6 August 2016

It's time for the start of the new season, my second as manager of Loughborough University FC. The expectations are much different this time around, at least as far as the media are concerned. They've made us 1-2 favorites to win the Midland Football League Premier Division this season.

It's time to meet this year's team. My assistant manager, Kevin Sharp, once again provides the star ratings.


The losses of Connor O’Keefe and Harry Waldram, who are both now plying their trade in the National League North (North Ferriby United and Bradford Park Avenue) caused me to reconfigure my goalkeeping corps.

Marsden appears to be able to do everything O’Keefe did for us last year, except take penalties. O’Loughlin is a more traditional goalkeeper. Both were released from professional clubs this spring; Marsden from Ipswich, O’Loughlin from Everton.

Minter, who played well when I called on him last year, and promising Fellowes are also available.


Legg and Minor return to the first team at right and left back, respectively. They are both dangerous going forward and responsible in their own end. Taylor, whom Leeds deemed surplus to requirements, could be an even more dangerous attacking fullback when I’m not employing him on the right wing. Minor will turn 22 in November, but by then either Muscatt or Myers might have taken his place anyway. They arrive with impressive credentials-- Muscatt was in Tottenham’s academy, while Myers was an Everton youth player.

Neither Jack Horan nor Alex Howard returned to the club this season. Horan signed with Bath City (National League South), while Howard left for Corby Town (National League North). That leaves Hempshall and new arrival Wells as the starting center backs. Hempshall provides muscle and a surprisingly deft touch on the ball, while Wells, a Stoke trainee, offers more pace and a tireless work rate. Coyne, whom Rochdale let go, is a good alternative, and Blanchard can play here, too.

Central Midfielders

Defensive midfielders Switon and Leonard rejected numerous offers to return to Holywell Park. However, if my goal is getting my three most talented central midfielders on the pitch at the same time, Bianga, formerly of Rochdale, will feature here. Christie has developed well since his arrival last March.

Willbye, Waritay, and Wright will all see plenty of time at the other two CM positions. All three can handle the box-to-box role, and all are sufficiently creative for the conductor’s job. Blanchard and Poxon are the other options; Poxon will age out in October.

Wes George, who would certainly have been one of the starters here, joined the exodus out of the team when he signed for St Albans City (National League South).

Wide Midfielders

I will miss Berwick, who turns 22 on 1 September and will have to turn in his captain’s armband. Until then, we’ll enjoy his masterful skill over a dead ball and his penchant for scoring timely goals. Yes, that is the Harvey Barnes who is currently in the first team at Leicester City. In this world, the Foxes cut him loose and I was more than happy to discover he was willing to sign up with us.

Warnett and Otim are both too good to remain on the bench, so I plan to take advantage of both men’s versatility. Unfortunately, we lose Warnett to age in November. Then there’s Taylor, who might be our best player overall, who can play anywhere along the right side of our formation. Rodgers, a decent footballer who has terrible luck with injuries, might be the odd man out.

Center Forwards

The number nine shirt will probably go to Abbotts most of the time, based on his outstanding performance last spring. However, I’d have no problem turning it over to Otim or Bridges. Then there’s Conway, who has just returned to action following knee surgery. All four forwards found the net on a regular basis when they had the opportunity.

Whitehall and Tweddell will find it hard to get much playing time. Whitehall can also do a job on the wing, too.

The Back Room Staff
I was able to bring back every member of last year's staff, and I added a new physio: Claire Houston, who worked with Peterborough's U18 team last year.

I'm fortunate to have the best staff in the league working with me.

Final Thoughts
I was so frustrated with the loss of players like Jack Horan and Connor O'Keefe over the summer. I enjoyed managing them, and I looked forward very much to taking a shot at the league championship with them this season. Then, the departure of lads like Wes George, who barely pulled on a Loughborough kit before they were off to greener pastures, almost caused me to call it quits.

I'm glad I didn't. The challenge of reassembling a team was enjoyable, and as a real-life Leicester City supporter, signing Harvey Barnes was even more fun.

The board expect only a mid-table finish from us, but they do want me to lift the Midland Football League Cup and the Leicestershire & Rutland County Challenge Cup this year. And they want us to return to the Semi Final of the FA Vase again.

Let's see if we have what it takes, shall we?

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 03-16-2020 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 03-07-2020, 10:44 AM   #11
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
13 December 2016

2016/17 Midland Football League Premier Division: First Half Results

A club record run of 19 consecutive matches without a defeat has us within four points of the top of the table, with two games in hand to the leaders, Hinckley. They beat us, 2-0, on 11 September, and we didn’t lose another league fixture until 3 December, when we looked terrible in a loss to AFC Wulfrunians at Holywell Park. We drew even on points in early November, but Hinckley has been in even better form than we have, winning 10 of their last 12 league games.

We enjoyed some satisfying wins: 3-1 away to a very good Lye Town side, 4-2 at home to Bardon Hill. We’ve also had some ugly, grimy matches: two consecutive goalless draws in mid-October against Highgate United and Walsall Wood. Generally, we play fairly attractive football, although the increasing tendency of our opponents to sit deep makes that more difficult sometimes. I do like keeping possession; we have the ball 58 percent of the time, more than any other Midland Premier side. We also complete more of our passes (78%) than any other team. And, we’re good at getting the ball back when we lose it, winning three of every four tackles we attempt. If our opponents don’t have the ball, they can’t score against us.

We’ve managed to remain in the hunt despite having to change our lineup on an alarmingly regular basis, as players have gotten hurt, celebrated their 22nd birthdays, or both. The captain’s armband has passed from Tom Berwick to Toby Wells; Elliott Legg, Amadu Waritay, and now Aidan Blanchard have been vice captain at some point. In many cases, we’ve been able to bring in more talented players—winning will, after all, make a club more attractive—but the lads are still getting used to playing with each other and don’t understand our tactics as completely as I’d like.

The board expect us to win the league, and with Hinckley playing as well as they are right now, that will be a tough assignment to complete. In the meantime, we’re still in two minor cup competitions (both of which we’re expected to win) and the FA Vase (which I’d really like us to win).

I’ve been offered the opportunity to interview for several jobs this fall. The only one that tempted me was Bradford Park Avenue, who are battling relegation from the National League North. I ended up declining the offer. Unless my situation changes drastically, I want to see if I can win a trophy or two at Loughborough Uni. So, for now, I’m staying right where I am.

AML Tom Berwick (Walton Casuals)
DM Rob Switon (Bath)
DR Elliott Legg (Kettering Town)
DM/MC Jack Poxon (Whyteleafe)
DC Kyle Hempshall (Chesham)
DL Dale Minor (Waltham Abbey)
MC Amadu Waritay (Godalming)
MC Jack Willbye (Pontefract Colts)
ST George Conway

All nine of these players were in the first eleven at some point in their Loughborough Uni careers, and several of them were full-time starters. We knew we’d lose Berwick, Poxon, Minor, and Conway, all of whom turned 22 during the season. I made sure to find cover for them during the summer.

Switon and Legg weren't playing much anymore, as I brought in more talented players. Hempshall was another story; he might not have appeared to be a dominant player--my staff didn't like him at all--but his skill set was perfectly suited to the role I wanted him to play.

The big disappointments, however, were the losses of Waritay and Willbye. Both lads found the opportunity to earn money for playing football impossible to resist. Waritay has the chance to move up a level, too.

For all intents and purposes, we’ve also lost Jimmy Warnett. After firing seven goals in 15 games, Jimmy tore a groin muscle on 22 October. He’s turned 22 in the meantime, so once he’s healthy, I’ll be releasing him.

DR/C Josh Murray
D/M (R) James Haran
DM/MC Tom Koblenz
AMR/L Stuart Wilkin
AMR Elvis Otim
DC Adam Hunt
MC Tom Gamblen

Murray, a Manchester City trainee, is a no-nonsense defensive fullback with very good pace. He’s not as good going forward as our other choices at right back, but his ability to play center half makes him a very valuable player.

The “real” James Haran quit football to pursue a modeling career. In our world, he’s an especially handsome wide man who can play all along the right side. He’s probably better as a midfielder than a defender, because his defensive instincts aren’t as solid as our other fullbacks. Still, I've been playing him at right back, and he's been very good.

Koblenz came from Germany to Derby County, but failed to impress there. He had a trial at Kidderminster Harriers, in the National League North, and didn’t stick. I didn’t hesitate to snap him up. He’ll turn 22 in May, so he’s a one-and-done for us, but he adds a touch of class to our midfield. I use him most at DM.

Wilkin and Otim both came to us from FC Romania. You may recall them knocking us out of the FA Vase, beating us in the Semi Final. They went on to win the Vase, part of a quadruple triumph. I confess; I enjoyed poaching a couple of their players, especially since neither of them are Romanian.

Wilkin is a former Southampton man who scored six goals and assisted on five others in 14 appearances for the Romanians last year. Comfortable on either wing, the 18-year-old is technically sound and very quick.

Elvis Otim joins his older brother Derrick in Loughborough colors. He’s a bit bigger than his tiny brother, and he’s a bit faster, while Derrick sees the pitch better and is tougher mentally. Elvis scored five times in 16 appearances last season.

Milton Keynes Dons released Hunt in May, and I’m surprised he was still looking for a club last week when I signed him. Think of Kyle Hempshall, make him more comfortable on the ball and a little less dominant in the air, and you have Adam. He can also play all across the back line.

I’m delighted to add Gamblen to the roster. He’s the kind of all-action midfield boss I’ve been looking for. The former Nottingham Forest man looks like he’ll fit perfectly with Koblenz and Luke Wright in our midfield trio.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 03-16-2020 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 03-11-2020, 07:58 AM   #12
Chas in Cinti
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Cincinnati, OH
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Old 03-13-2020, 11:13 AM   #13
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Do you play all your games out and just go on vacation and sim them? I'll be honest, I'm playing FM17 because none of the newer versions work on my computer. I think it is a great version, but I go on vacation and sim all my games. I just don't have time to play them out.
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Old 03-14-2020, 03:01 PM   #14
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
Originally Posted by Chas in Cinti View Post

Thanks for following, Chas. It's good to have you along for the ride.

Originally Posted by collegesportsfanms View Post
Do you play all your games out and just go on vacation and sim them? I'll be honest, I'm playing FM17 because none of the newer versions work on my computer. I think it is a great version, but I go on vacation and sim all my games. I just don't have time to play them out.

I play my team's games, on Extended highlights. I'd never have time to play them in full, and I find Extended highlights show me enough of the action for me to make tactical adjustments as needed. Honestly, I don't think I'm a good enough tactician to benefit much from seeing more of the match than that.

I can play up to FM20 on my laptop, but I find I enjoy the older versions more. There's a lot more detail in the newer ones, but I don't think the features add too much to my enjoyment of the game.

Then, there's the issue of the hideous faces the game generates in the newer versions. I believe SI began to model them in 3D at some point in the last few years. The results were both hilarious and mortifying. These lads appeared in FM18...

The second dude from the left isn't too bad...but look at the first one, if you can bear to. Compare these to this picture of Mick Hart, a star from my FM14 career, and you'll see the difference:

And here's my manager face from FM16, complete with his Movember 'stache:

The FM14 face is actually better. I think SI have gone backwards in this respect over the past six editions. FM20 is better than the last couple years have been, but it's still not back up to the previous standard.

I often play Football Manager with "fake" players, so they have game-generated faces. And the newgen players, youth who are created as the game progresses, have these faces, too. I shudder at the thought of a football world populated by creatures like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse up there...

Thanks for following, collegesportsfanms. Hope you're enjoying, too.

Last edited by Greyfriars Bobby : 03-14-2020 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 03-19-2020, 03:32 PM   #15
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
29 April 2017

2016/17 Midland Football League Premier Division: Second Half Results

We opened the second half of the season with a big 3-1 victory away at Lye Town, powered by a brace from Derrick Otim. The Flyers turned out to be one of only three clubs who stayed within shouting distance of the top of the table all year, so the result was a significant one.

Hinckley dropped three points the same day, so we had the chance to go top with a victory at Coleshill three days later. That's what we got, as the other Otim brother—Elvis—matched his sibling’s feat with two goals of his own.

A mid-January victory over Hinckley at Holywell Park opened up a bit of breathing room, and by the end of the month, we were six points clear. A run of five wins and a draw in six games earned me the Manager of the Month award for January.

Two weeks later, we played an especially heated derby against Leicester Nirvana. The visitors were whistled for 20 fouls and were shown three red cards, and their left back, Jonathan Blood (who was briefly in Scholars colors) hacked down our Stuart Wilkin in the penalty area. Wilkin made them pay, one of three goals he netted in our 4-1 romp.

Bolstered by a group of new arrivals you'll read about soon, the Scholars continued to play well. A dour goalless draw against Walsall Wood on 4 March turned out to be only a small bump in the road, and we clinched the Premier Division championship on 17 April, when we beat Stourport Swifts, 1-0. Our final total of 97 points set a new league record, and our skein of 24 matches without defeat was a Loughborough University all-time best.


AMR/L Jimmy Warnett
DC/MC Aidan Blanchard: Totton
DR Kellen Daly: Norwich United
DM Danny Leonard: Wembley

Warnett’s season was marred by injury, and since he turned 22 during his rehabilitation, he never put on a Loughborough Uni shirt again. I’m surprised he’s still without a club.

Blanchard was a useful reserve, and he played exceptionally well for a very strong Totton side that racked up 101 points this year, only to lose the league to Salisbury FC by a single point.

Poor Daly found himself behind at least two other right backs, and didn’t get onto the pitch for us at all. He celebrated his 22nd, signed with a new club, and is playing football again. I wish him the best of luck.

Reliable Leonard never complained when he, too, found playing time hard to come by. He kept his head down, worked hard, and earned a spot with Wembley.

MC Brandon Wilson
MC James Horsfield
ST Johan ter Horst
MC Alex O’Hanlon

A series of injuries, including one that ended Tom Gamblen’s season, struck my central midfielders. On top of those, the defection of Blanchard—only weeks after we bid goodbye to Amadu Waritay and Jack Willbye—left my central midfield a bit bare. I, therefore, got to shop for new ones, and I hit the trifecta.

Wilson, cast away by Burnley, is eligible to play for Botswana. He’s a well-rounded midfield player who can fill several roles, and is therefore perfectly suited to come off the bench and make things happen.

Horsfield is a tough, active player who plays with a touch of attitude. A Manchester City youth player, he immediately took hold of a spot in the first eleven. He also took penalties for us.

Irishman O’Hanlon, the third of the new middlemen, is probably the best of the lot. The former Liverpool scholar didn’t put up impressive statistics, but the touch of class he added to our side was clearly evident every time he stepped on the pitch.

For much of the year, I rotated through a group of strikers. Derrick Otim played there the most, but he was also employed on the wing. None of the other front men seemed ready to make the number nine shirt his own. Then came ter Horst, who became the Jamie Vardy of the Midland Premier. Look how similarly their “attribute polygons” are shaped! Vardy is a lot better, of course, but ter Horst is cut from the same mold.

Ter Horst was the piece that made my side complete. His ability to carve up opposing defenses with his pace and finish with precision and ruthlessness made him the league’s most dangerous hit man once he arrived from Durham City in late February, where he'd netted nine times in 14 appearances.
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Old 03-19-2020, 06:36 PM   #16
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
23 May 2017

Loughborough University FC
The Cups, 2016/17

The FA Cup
We were sent away to Guilford City in the Extra Preliminary Round, and drew 0-0. The replay, at our grounds, was even at 2-2 after extra time, and we lost in penalties. The board was very disappointed with this early exit.

Extra Preliminary Round: Guilford City 0-0 Loughborough Uni
Extra Preliminary Round Replay: Loughborough Uni 2-2 Guilford City (Guilford win 4-3 on penalties)

The Leicestershire & Rutland Challenge Cup
An extra time strike from Andrew Bridges gave us a victory over local rival Leicester Nirvana, and sent us on to the Quarter Final.

There, we were unlucky to draw Barwell, who eliminated us from this tournament last year. They did the same thing this season, too.

First Round: Leicester Nirvana 2-3 Loughborough Uni
Quarter Final: Barwell 2-0 Loughborough Uni

The Midland Football League Cup
The board expected us to win this one, so I made it more of a priority than I did last year. Entering in the Second Round, we dispatched Southam United and Leicester Road with relative ease. That set up a Quarter Final match with Hinckley on 21 February.

We entered the tie with a string of 12 games without a loss, a string that began when we saw off Hinckley, 2-1, at Holywell Park. This time, we were meeting them on their own grounds.

Hinckley’s outstanding number 10, Jamie Hinchcliffe, scored at the hour mark. We drew level through James Haran 20 minutes later. Extra time wasn’t sufficient to settle matters, so on to penalties we went.

Captain Andrew Wright went first for Hinckley, but Jacob Marsden pushed it away with a strong right hand. After James Horsfield scored, James Ferry hit the post, which meant Haran had the chance to seal the deal. He made no mistake, and the Scholars kept their dream alive.

The Semi Final, played over two legs, saw us take on Kirby Muxloe, and we brushed them aside with relative ease. That put us into the Final, where we faced a solid Sporting Khalsa side at the Bescot Stadium in Walsall.

The biggest crowd we’ve played before—1300 strong—came out to watch Elvis Otim and Andreas Bianga find the net in our 2-0 victory. The goal was Andreas’ first as a Scholar. Then, even more fans turned up for the second leg. Before the game was eight minutes old, Alex O’Hanlon and Johan ter Horst had scored, and we saw the game out from there.

Second Round: Southam 0-1 Loughborough Uni
Third Round: Loughborough Uni 2-0 Leicester Road
Quarter Final: Hinckley 1-1 Loughborough Uni (Loughborough win 4-2 on penalties.)
Semi Final, Leg 1: Kirby Muxloe 0-3 Loughborough Uni
Semi Final, Leg 2: Loughborough Uni 3-1 Kirby Muxloe (Loughborough win 6-1 on aggregate)
Final, Leg 1: Loughborough Uni 2-0 Sporting Khalsa
Final, Leg 2: Loughborough Uni 2-0 Sporting Khalsa (Loughborough win 4-0 on aggregate)

The FA Vase
The board weren’t the only people who wanted this one to end up on our trophy shelf. After making it as far as the Semi Final last year, I was determined to finish the job this time around.

We had little trouble in the Second Qualifying Round, but in both the First and Second Rounds proper, it took replays to get past surprisingly tenacious teams from Bardon Hill and S&L Corby. Highgate, a side who have given us trouble in the past, went down to a Derrick Otim brace.

The Otim brothers proved themselves to be cup warriors of the highest level. Derrick netted again in our victory over Dunston UTS. Elvis scored twice as we saw off Quorn. And Derrick fired a hat trick as we knocked off Kidlington to return to the Semi Final.

Our opponents were Stourport Swifts, and the first leg was played at Walshes Meadow. We returned home with a 3-1 victory…and three precious away goals. The second leg, therefore, wasn’t very stressful, and we took care of business with a 2-1 result before a big crowd of 533 at Holywell Park.

We were on our way to Wembley!

I wasn’t surprised to see we’d be facing South Shields. The game promoted them from the depths of the unplayable leagues this season, and they arrived on the scene as a colossus. The Mariners were undefeated in the Northern League’s First Division, with a scant two draws spoiling their perfect record. They scored 105 goals and conceded 11, and they finished 44 points ahead of their nearest rival. However, they’d been knocked out of the FA Cup by a Heather St. Johns team that we’d handled easily, so I hung on to some faint hopes for an upset.

Two goals in rapid succession, right after the half hour mark, dashed those hopes. We did manage to claw one back in the game’s dying moments. The scorer was, rather appropriately, Derrick Otim.

Second Qualifying Round: Ellistown & Ibstock 2-4 Loughborough Uni
First Round: Bardon Hill 1-1 Loughborough Uni
First Round Replay: Loughborough Uni 2-0 Bardon Hill
Second Round: Loughborough Uni 1-1 Stewarts & Lloyds Corby
Second Round Replay: Stewarts & Lloyds Corby 1-2 Loughborough Uni
Third Round: Loughborough Uni 2-0 Highgate United
Fourth Round: Loughborough Uni 2-0 Dunston UTS
Fifth Round: Loughborough Uni 4-0 Quorn
Sixth Round: Kidlington 0-3 Loughborough Uni
Semi Final Leg 1: Stourport Swifts 1-3 Loughborough Uni
Semi Final Leg 2: Loughborough Uni 2-1 Stourport Swifts
Final: South Shields 3-1 Loughborough Uni

We played a total of 23 matches in knockout competitions, giving us a grand total of 65 competitive matches over the course of the season.
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Old 03-19-2020, 07:41 PM   #17
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
Loughborough University FC

Season Summary 2016/17

The Best Eleven

I wouldn't hesitate to send this team for a match that had to be won. By the end of the season. Late-season additions such as Alex O'Hanlon, James Horsfield didn't play enough to earn a spot here, and Johan ter Horst won a spot on the reserves' bench.

Jacob Marsden was an ideal sweeper keeper, making smart decisions with the ball and not giving up possession cheaply. At the same time, he met all the basic requirements for a 'keeper, maintaining a clean sheet in over half his appearances. His success kept another good gloveman, Ciaran O'Loughlin, on the bench, except for some cup ties.

Captain Toby Wells was everpresent at center back. He wasn't flashy, but his reliability and sense of calm was crucial to our outstanding defensive performance this season. When Kyle Hempshall left the club, Adam Hunt stepped in and made our back line even better. Hunt's ability to play the ball from the back was a plus.

Spencer Myers and Joe Muscatt gave us two very good options at left back, and James Haran was magnificent on the other flank. His 14 assists were second on the team--evidence of his ability to join the attack--and he pitched in three goals while serving as a makeshift striker.

I'd have liked to find more playing time for Josh Murray, but his defensive teammates never seemed to miss a step.

Central Midfielders
I opened the season with Amadu Waritay, Jack Willbye, and Luke Wright in our midfield trio. By the end of the campaign, for one reason or another, none of them were regularly starting.

Tom Koblenz made the DM position his own, dropping back to assist our back line and calmly recycling possession with simple, smart passes. The arrival of James Horsfield and Alex O'Hanlon gave me three cultured, all-round midfielders who could move between the three midfield spots with ease. Botswana international Brandon Wilson made a big impression whenever he entered the game.

Then there was Andreas Bianga, who handled the role of utility midfielder with professionalism and class. Wright, too, accepted his more limited role without pouting.

Wide Midfielders
By winter, I was in the enviable position of having two dynamic wingers on each side, which made it easy for me to handle fatigue and injury over the course of a long season.

Left wingers Harvey Barnes and Stuart Wilkin combined for 16 goals and 15 assists. On the right, Elvis Otim and Michael Taylor totaled 15 goals and 27 (!) assists. Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves, don't they?

And, don't forget Jimmy Warnett, who struck seven goals in 12 appearances before he got hurt and, then, aged out of the team.

For the second straight season, the role of front man was played by a fairly large cast of characters. Derrick Otim took the lead more often than anyone else, and hit 17 goals in all competitions. Derrick was particularly deadly in the FA Vase, scoring eight goals in seven appearances.

Then Johan ter Horst pulled on a Loughborough kit and gave us a goal-a-game striker for the rest of the season. Lye's Theo Stair won the Golden Boot with 26 goals, but JTH would have given him a run for his money if he'd been in the league all season long.

Andrew Bridges was productive when we gave him a chance. So was George Conway, before he turned 22 and left the club. There simply wasn't enough time for Danny Whitehall and Harrison Tweddell to prove themselves, but both lads turned down numerous opportunities to leave the club over the course of the season.

Supporters' Player of the Season: James Haran (53%), Elvis Otim (25%), Luke Wright (14%)
Goal of the Season: James Haran, for a powerful strike from outside the area on 17 April.
Signing of the Season: Alex O'Hanlon. Elvis Otim would have been a good shout, too.
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Old 03-19-2020, 10:16 PM   #18
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
Offseason Thoughts

Last season could not have gone much better for me and the club. Sure, I'd prefer us to have won a triple rather than a double, but lifting the Midland League Cup and winning the league felt very satisfying.

I also really like the team I assembled. That's both a good and a bad thing, because I learned last year that as soon as the season ends, clubs that can offer my players money will do so, and some of those players will, understandably, take it. The day the season ended, 11 Loughborough players were already being courted by other teams, and a day later, four of them received contract offers.

You might notice I didn't mention our youth intake at all. That's because none of them were good enough to play for us right now. Many of them seem to have the potential to be that good, but another of the things I learned last year was that the most promising players from our youth class will be lured away by bigger clubs. That, honestly, takes a lot of the fun out of Youth Intake Day, which I usually consider one of the best days of the football year.

By December or so, I'd pretty much made up my mind that if we won the league, I'd resign and look for a job with a club that might give me the chance to hold on to our promising players. Winning the double made me feel like the time was even better to say "so long" to Loughborough Uni.

So, on 24 May, I resigned.

A week later, I was contacted by the chairman of Bristol Rovers.

In 2015/16, Rovers were relegated from League Two, dropping down to the National League. They finished a strong third last season, but failed to advance from the Semi Final of the Promotion Playoff, losing the two-legged playoff to Gateshead on penalties. That cost manager Chris Moyses his job. Now, director Robert Gemmell wanted to talk to me about the job.

The interview went well. I wanted to bring some of my staff with me, so I insisted the club agree to that condition. They were happy to do so, and set aside almost £40,000 that could be used to compensate staff members whose contracts were terminated.

On 7 July, I received a job offer. I'm now the manager of Bristol Rovers FC.

I was able to bring coaches David Bentley and Ross Preston, head physio Claire Houston, and physio Charlotte Avent with me.

Oh, and there also happen to be a few Loughborough Uni players who might be able to develop into National League footballers, given the right opportunities...

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Old 03-20-2020, 08:49 AM   #19
Chas in Cinti
High School Varsity
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Yes! Rovers! Excited to see you succeed with the handcuffs off in league football...
Email: [email protected]
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Old 03-21-2020, 09:56 AM   #20
Greyfriars Bobby
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Join Date: Sep 2013
Originally Posted by Chas in Cinti View Post
Yes! Rovers! Excited to see you succeed with the handcuffs off in league football...

Thanks, Chas. I enjoyed my time at Loughborough University, but your figure of speech is a good one: there are some real limitations in place when you manage any amateur side, and even more when it's a university side. For a year or two, the challenges were fun to face, but they also limited my enjoyment of some of my favorite things about Football Manager. I enjoy the process of building a team, deciding which players will form its core, supplementing them with new signings. I also really enjoy developing young players, either to bring them into that core or to sell them for a profit. Then I can follow their careers, watching them develop into stars or bounce around the leagues trying to fulfill their potential.

Winning the double seemed to be the right way to say "so long," and that's why I decided to resign.

Thanks for following!
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Old 03-21-2020, 10:57 AM   #21
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013

As you can see from their badge, Bristol Rovers were founded in 1883. They were first known as Black Arabs FC (!), and a year later changed their name to Eastville Rovers. They acquired their current name in 1899.

Rovers became part of the Football League in 1920 (the top four levels of English football) and have almost always remained there. In 2013/14, Rovers finished 23rd in League Two and were relegated to the National League. They came back up immediately, but another 23rd place finish in 15/16 sent them back down again. Last season, they placed third, lost in the Promotion Playoff, and will spend 2017/18 back in the National League. That might be what cost manager Chris Moyses his job.

Rovers play at Memorial Stadium, which was built in 1921 to honor those who gave their lives in the Great War. It was first called The Memorial Ground (I like that name), and the land on which it was built was known as Buffalo Bill's Field after the cowboy entertainer staged his Wild West Show there in 1891. It holds nearly 12,000 spectators, with seating for 2,700.

Rovers have a fierce local rivalry with Bristol City, who are currently in the Championship. Their other rivals, Swindon Town and Cardiff City, are also in higher leagues. These differences keep us from playing meaningful derbies for now. Perhaps that will change, if I can get Rovers back up into the Football League.
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Old 03-21-2020, 02:47 PM   #22
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
5 August 2017

It's time for the National League season to begin!

I mentioned I was able to bring some of my favorite staff with me from Loughborough Uni. I kept the Head of Youth Development, Tom Curtis. He's good at his job, but when I learned Curtis had both attended and coached Loughborough University, that bit of karma sealed the deal! In between, he was a midfielder for several clubs, most notably Chesterfield.

Chief scout Bernard Concannon and scout Michael Tonge also remain with the first team staff.

While I was figuring out which staff members to replace with my Loughborough staff, I somehow terminated my assistant manager. Somewhat redfaced, I offered the job to veteran Scottish coach Andy Watson, and to my delight, he accepted. Andy is extremely good at what he does, especially for a National League club. His eye for talent is exceptional.

Andy provides the star ratings you'll see in this introduction to the 2017/18 Bristol Rovers squad.


Last year's first team goalkeeper, Ben Wilson, was in on loan from Cardiff City, so one of the first items on my "to-do" list was finding a new man. I want to play the same kind of football in Bristol that I did with the Scholars, which means I need a sweeper keeper.

I found one in McLoughlin, who has bounced around Leagues One and Two without ever finding a home. Perhaps the Ireland youth international will found one at The Memorial Ground.

Youngster Preston will be his backup.

Full Backs

There are a number of versatile players in the team, which is a good thing. I'll be highlighting them with the position group in which I think they'll feature most prominently.

I have two options at left back, veteran Griffiths and young Nditi. Griffiths is a better defender, while Nditi's pace makes him especially dangerous going forward.

Chelsea loaned us Adrian Smith, who immediately moves into the first eleven at right back. He has everything he needs to excel at this level and, with any luck, he'll play for England one day. You'll recognize Haran, who played so well for my Loughborough side and ought to be a solid backup here--with the potential to become even better.

The other players shown here are probably more valuable at other positions, but can fill in here when needed.

Central Defenders

It wasn't easy to persuade Lockyer to stay around; he was frustrated at Rovers' inability to make it back to League football, and wanted to leave. I managed to talk him into staying another year, and I'm glad I did. Tom was last year's Supporters' Player of the Year. Small for a center back, he's very athletic and composed with the ball at his feet.

He will pair with Parkes, the club captain, who is tall and powerful. In reserve, I have Frempah and Kilgour, young prospects with good attitudes and professional approaches to the game. Kilgour is just as comfortable playing right back.

I'm also in negotiations with Scholars center back Adam Hunt, hoping to bring him to Bristol.

Central Midfielders

Rovers played 4-4-2 almost exclusively last year, so they didn't have a defensive midfielder in their team. I signed Chris Smith on a free. The former Ipswich man has the cool head of a veteran at age 19. He can also play farther up the pitch, or at center back.

He will compete for playing time with Rehman, whom we're loaning in from Wolves. Like Chris, Akeal is versatile and tough. They'll both see lots of action.

I have several options for the other two midfield spots, too. Lines, who has been with the club since 2002, will probably start most of the time. He's a good fit for the playmaker role, with good vision and technical skill. Tenacious Sinclair is a tireless ball-winner, perhaps not as smooth as the other contenders here. Clarke, another long-serving player, is the same type of tough-tackling midfield destroyer. Then there's O'Hanlon, who demonstrated an eye for a pass at Loughborough and could develop into just as effective a creator here.

Wide Midfielders

Lots of names here. I'll highlight the ones who are most likely to do most of their work on the flanks.

My predecessor signed Daniel last year, and he was a sensation at left wing. He has all the attributes of a traditional English winger--pace, crafty dribbling, and the ability to cross the ball. He made the National League Team of the Year last season. Gosling can also feature here. He's won 24 caps for Gibraltar, which adds immensely to his coolness factor. I coaxed Barnes away from Loughborough, and he'll hopefully develop his promising potential with us.

Another veteran, Whelpdale, will have first dibs on the right side. He is an especially well-rounded footballer who does most things fairly well. Coulson will be unavailable for at least four months while his damaged knee heals. And, yes, that's the same Michael Taylor you got to know last year at Loughborough.

I tried to get Elvis Otim to sign for us, but his salary demands were too excessive.

Center Forwards
In the days before I took the Bristol Rovers job, one of our strikers refused to sign a new contract and left the club, and another departed when his loan ended. Left with one true forward in the team, I had to go shopping...and I had no transfer budget with which to shop.

Fortunately, the one I had was a good one. Matty Taylor won the Golden Boot last year, firing in 22 goals, and he joined Daniel in the Team of the Year.

I brought in Turner on a year-long loan from Oldham. He is very quick and has a nose for goal.

And, since he's now turned 22 and is going to have to leave Loughborough Uni anyway, why not see what ter Horst can do at this level?

Final Thoughts
We are the pundits' pick for National League champion this year, with 5:1 odds to lift the trophy. My board expect the same thing. Those expectations are nothing new; I faced the same situation last year with Loughborough Uni. I inherited a solid team, and if they get the knack of my 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation, we ought to be very competitive. I added a few players, such as McLoughlin, the Smiths, and Rehman, who should make the tactic work better here.

The former Loughborough Uni players will be fun to have around. None of them are good enough right now to be regular starters at this level (O'Hanlon is the closest) but my staff and I think the ones I signed have the potential to help us one day. They'll all play for the Under 21s, too, in order to get the playing time they need to develop.
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Old 03-28-2020, 05:01 PM   #23
Greyfriars Bobby
College Prospect
Join Date: Sep 2013
To pass the time--and to keep the thread alive while I'm playing through the first half of Bristol Rovers' season--I've decided to take the time to write a few posts about the team and its players.

I don't consider myself an expert tactician when it comes to Football Manager by any means. I used to be terrible tactically, and I've gotten much better over time, but I'm not nearly as imaginative or as flexible as I'd like.

Anyway, here's a look at the tactic I've been using, first at Loughborough and now at Bristol Rovers. I'm going for a balanced tactic that isn't too complicated, so when things go wrong, I don't have a million things to have to try to fix.

I like my teams to play out of defense, rather than hammering the ball up the pitch and having to fight for the second ball. We play a slightly higher defensive line, so I have the goalkeeper coming out to sweep up balls behind the defense. The 'keeper is the only player with personal instructions; I have him making shorter passes and distributing to the center backs.

One of the center backs is a Ball Playing Defender, charged with making somewhat riskier passes. The other is a standard Central Defender. I have a Full Back on Attack duty on the left, and one on Support duty on the right.

My midfield trio consists of a Half Back, who drops between the center backs when we don't have the ball. With my full backs pushing forward, I like having a holding player covering my back four, but I also want him to be a decent passer who can recycle possession.

When I play with three central midfielders, I like to have one Defend, one Support, and one Attack duty. The Half Back is automatically on Defend. One of the central midfielders is an Advanced Playmaker on Attack duty; I want him to be the primary creative force in the team. The third CM is a "standard" Central Midfielder on Support duty. I need a well-rounded player here, one with a nearly symmetrical "attribute polygon."

On the left side, the one with the more attack-minded full back, I use a Winger with a Support duty. The attacking full back on his side overlaps with him, staying wide and delivering crosses into the box. On the other side, I've used a variety of roles. I have a player who is ideally suited for the Inside Forward role at Bristol Rovers: Ryan Gosling. He's left-footed, which is a plus when he lines up on the right wing.

I've also tinkered with the striker's role. Right now I'm using a Deep Lying Forward on Attack duty. Sometimes I switch him to Support and give the Inside Forward more attacking responsibility, so I need a center forward who can play in a teammate as well as finishing himself.

I'm sometimes tempted to use one of the more specialized, "exotic" roles, like an Enganche, a Regista, or a Trequartista. I'm also fascinated by the Raumdeuter. For now, though, I'm keeping things a bit simpler, and so far they're working out fairly well.
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