The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

Back on FM13…back on the road

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I took roughly a month off Football Manager after my hissy fit. I’ve now started a new journeyman game with the intention of not cheating at all and letting the game do what it wants.

This is the first time I’ve started unemployed on FM13 – I started one on FM12 where I ended up managing 1981 Cup Winners’ Cup runners-up FC Carl Zeiss Jena, at the time in the 3. Bundesliga (but since relegated, thus becoming unplayable on FM13). Unfortunately the game fizzled out quite quickly. However, this time I am intent on sticking by it – no cheating, and staying with this game for a long time.

I decided to start with a few leagues selected from south-east Europe alongside the usual ones:

Brazil – 3 tiers
Bulgaria – 2 tiers
Croatia – 2 tiers
England – 5 tiers
France – 2 tiers
Germany – 2 tiers
Greece – 2 tiers
Italy – 3 tiers
Portugal – 3 tiers
Romania – 2 tiers
Scotland – 2 tiers
Serbia – 2 tiers
Slovenia – 2 tiers
Spain – 2 tiers
Turkey – 2 tiers

The aim is, starting with my reputation set at semi-professional player (though for the purposes of establishing a realistic and fun narrative, I’m thinking of myself as a Villas-Boas-type figure who has worked as a scout for a few years while taking my coaching badges), to learn my trade and build my reputation in south-east Europe, to the point where I can either return to England at a high level or enter one of the other top leagues. South-east Europe is that it generally has a good standard of football coupled with low wages compared to England, with a lot less work to do to reach the top of that country’s league.

In the event, I was offered 4 jobs straight away – Lincoln City in the Conference, Mirandela in the Portuguese Second Division North (despite the name, it’s the 3rd tier of Portuguese football), and RFK Novi Sad and FK Mladost Lucani in the Serbian First League (the 2nd tier of Serbian football). I quickly rejected the first two as it was the two Serbian clubs who offered me the highest salary and bigger budgets. After waiting for any further job offers (of which there were none) and a bit of research into the clubs, I chose Mladost.

FK Mladost Lucani are based in the town of Lucani in western Serbia. Unlike Novi Sad, they have played in the SuperLiga – they were regulars in the top flight through the mid-1990s, and most recently they won the First League in 2006-07, spending 2007-08 in the top flight before immediate relegation due to financial difficulties. In 2011-12 they just missed out on promotion again after finishing 3rd, finishing 8 points behind 2nd-placed Donji Srem. But this season, in reality, has been more difficult for them – they’re currently attempting to fight off relegation to the Second League. Their most famous player ever is Red Star defender and Montenegro international Milan Jovanovic (not to be confused with the former Liverpool midfielder, who is Serbian).

The First League is considered roughly between the English Leagues One and Two in standard. There are 18 teams who play each other twice, with the bottom 6 (!) relegated. The top 2 are promoted to the SuperLiga, which has long been dominated by the two giants of Belgrade, Red Star and Partizan – since the formation of an independent Serbian league in 1992, Partizan have won 14 titles (including the last 6) and Red Star have won 6, with only FK Obilic, champions in 1997-98 with backing from paramilitary leader Arkan, able to break their stranglehold, and even they have dropped way down the leagues in the years since. In fact, only one other club, Vojvodina in 2008-09, have broken into the top 2. This is Old Firm-esque dominance, and that’s before we even get to the matches between the two, known as the Eternal Derbies.

But for now, I don’t have to worry about facing either side. Getting out of the First League is the immediate aim, which seems a realistic proposition – the squad is largely made up of young Serbians with plenty of potential, and I was given a large wage budget, adding £2,000 a week on top of what the club was already spending, which, when considering the average wage at the club is roughly £150 a week, is very useful for adding depth. The only restriction is therefore the limit on 2 foreign players in the 18-man match day squad – helpfully one of those managed to obtain Serbian nationality, so I was able to add another.

In total I added 7 players on free transfers and loaned another youngster from each of the Belgrade giants. The initial focus was on signing a left-back, and this hole was filled by Uganda international Joseph Kizito, who also holds a Serbian passport from his years at Vojvodina and Partizan. At the age of 30, I was happy to pay the maximum-allowed £500 a week to bring him in. As back-up, I loaned highly-rated Partizan teenager Stefan Milosevic. I also added experienced attacking midfielder Ivan Jovanovic and a couple of other back-up players before the start of the season. My first choice formation, due to the lack of good wingers, was 4-1-2-1-2 with the option of 4-5-1

Pre-season went well, including a 2-2 draw with Sparta Prague. My first First League match was at home to pre-season title favourites Napredak Krusevac. Despite a red card for my key midfielder Marko Avramovic and the loss of my star striker Chad international Misdongarde Betolngar to injury, I held on for 1-1 draw. Betolngar was ruled out for some time, so I needed to add more quality up front – I signed Brazilian target man Washington, who made an immediate impact in my next league game against Banat Zrenjanin by scoring 2 goals. A 3-0 win against Banat was followed by a 2-0 win over Radnicki Nova Pazova, which put me 2nd in the table. I also won my first Serbian Cup match during the same period, taking me into the final qualifying round – the board’s aim was to make the first round proper.

The next home match against Kolubar Lazarevac saw the main highlight of the season so far – I fell 1-0 behind in the first half and didn’t look like scoring, but substitutions made in the second half inspired goals in the 80th and 81st minute to snatch a dramatic win, and in the process leapfrog Borac Cacak to go top for the first time. A few days later, a second Serbian Cup tie win put us into the first round, with the opportunity of being drawn against one of the big boys.

We’ve had a few injuries, and Kizito is just heading off on international duty with Uganda, but having brought in a few more fresh faces towards the end of August, including young Red Star winger Nikola Karaklajic, we have plenty of capable cover, and enough talent to rotate where necesssary. I have a good feeling about this squad.

If we do get promoted, I have my sights set on eventually challenging Partizan and Red Star for the title – even if either of those clubs make an offer for my services, I want to have at least one serious attempt at trying to break their monopoly at the top of Serbian football. With the young talent in the squad, I think I have a great platform to work from.

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Written by James Bennett

May 28, 2013 at 20:20

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