This is the story of one man’s valiant efforts to take the fledgling English side from the East part of Brighton, Whitehawk FC, up the English footballing pyramid in Football Manager 2017. This will not be pretty, but I will unflinchingly and bravely take the post and vow never to conveniently turn off my computer in the midst of a particularly dire performance. (Note: I’ll do my best to also explain some aspects of FM17 to those who don’t know the game, but if there are questions, throw them in the comments).
In Episode One, we met Doug, Whitehawk, and the plucky band of cast-offs he was assembling for the 2016-17 season.
In Episode Two, Doug lurches between extreme confidence and abject failure. Whitehawk begins its FA Cup run beating Chester and earning a date with Wrexham.
Wrexham away came sooner than I was ready for. Being Welsh, I assumed they were nicknamed the Cuddly Bears, but they were sitting in 10th in the league above us, so I was ready to contend with their talent and over-exuberance with the letter “Y.”
Our 5-3-2 did a good job of stymying the Wrexham attack for most of the first half, but it was a far-post header on a corner that broke the deadlock. The Cuddly Bastards were up 1-0. By the 65th minute, I knew our approach wasn’t working. I threw on my two wingers and switched to the 4-2-3-1. Within four minutes I had my payday as — guess who? — Mills-y finished a cross after a quick counterattack. Twenty minutes left and all even at one. In the 78th minute, however, Wrexham finished a close range cross and put the game away 2-1.
I couldn’t fault the boys, they’d played their hardest and I’d failed them by trying to go Conte again. Thankfully, we’d gotten far enough to get a little bit of gate money, because I was slowly bleeding the team dry.
With the the FA Cup behind us, there was just the league to worry about. Halfway through the season, we were sitting in third place, eight points from the only automatic promotion spot held by the spectacularly metal-nomenclatured Maidenhead.
I’d begun to think of myself as a striker’s manager, “The Goalmouth Whisperer.”
As January had come around, I was starting to turn my eyes toward our bloated wage budget and the need to shift around some players. Paul Reid was the first man gone. A veteran center back, I had simply found cheaper, younger players to play his spot and so he moved on a free to Chester. There were a few others like 38-year-old Kevin Lisbie who I tried to move on, but proved difficult to offload.
I brought in a free loanee from Millwall, a striker named Jamie Philpot, who scored a brace on his debut against Chelmsford. That’s the second time a debutant striker scored a brace for me this season. I’d begun to think of myself as a striker’s manager, “The Goalmouth Whisperer.” No one else had yet picked up on this nickname despite me muttering it quite loudly on multiple occasions near that one journalist. What was his name again?
Our limited moves meant we were driving closer to a financial crisis. In February, the board stepped in and filled a $160k funding gap.
By February, Whitehawk had moved into third place, just five points off Maidenhead. The big matchup with the Iron Maidens was set for the end of the month.
The first half couldn’t have gone better. Two set pieces came to goals for the Hawks. The first was our boy Christian Scales have the ball fall to his feet at the edge of the wall. The second was a simple tap-in at the far post for Frankie Teardrop on a corner. The Maidens pulled one back just on the half, though, and that was a worry.
But the worries were unfounded. Michael West finished a throughball to put us up 3-1 before two of the Maidens’ midfielders were sent off. We secured the three points, but remained five points adrift from new league leaders, Concord.
With six matches left in the season and a race for the automatic spot down to one point (Maidenhead leading both Concord and Whitehawk by one point), the team offered me a new contract. I was glad to take it, since it brought with it a raise. I’d be making $55,000 next year, but it was for one year only.
After I accepted the deal that bugger from the Non-League newspaper called me up to get a comment. I swear the guy looks like a truck hit him on the walk to his first day of journalism school. He writes like it too. “Am I happy? Of course I’m fucking happy, ya bastard, I have a job next year, you useless toad.” I sure as hell hope Lacey doesn’t read this, but I doubt his skills go as far as “googling one’s own name.”
The biggest matchup remaining was the fourth to last match of the season, when we would face Concord at home.
But I must have conjured some demon in my mockery of Lacey because the paperweight came to training mid-week to ask me a load of inane questions. “It’s been noted that you’ve signed a number of young players…” For chrissakes, man, did you just get around to reading the lineups in March? How I didn’t storm out of this interview is beyond me. I should get a raise. Our next match was against East Thurrock and it was delayed by a waterlogged pitch, so who shows up at training again? The troll!
By the time we play on Tuesday, I’m fully prepared for the ink-stained turd nugget to blitz me as I’m walking down the tunnel. He’s got some genius pre-match questions to put to me. We drew that match 1-1 and I wasn’t even mad, because Lacey didn’t interview me afterward. I was free.
By the time the Concord match rolls around, we’re three points back with a game in hand. A win would put us joint atop the table. Christ, I threw up in the locker room again. I’m also tempted to pull out my best Conte after we successfully used it to beat 4th place Hungerford 5-0 last week. But everytime I think I’m a genius with it, we get honked, so I’m back to the 4-2-3-1.
Three minutes in and Westy puts in a hard cross from the right that Philpot heads in. Holy shit, we’re up! Holy shit, we need to stay up! And I spend the next twenty minutes breathing heavily into a bag. Of course, the referee awards an absolute bollocks penalty to Concord and they dispatch it, drawing us even. At least I can put this bag down. The match ends 1-1, despite us outshooting them 24-10.
Tune in next week for the shocking conclusion of Doug Rugley’s first season in charge of Whitehawk FC!
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