FM14: The Road to Wembley

Yesterday (two days ago, as it is past midnight now as I write this, I guess) Oxford United lost 0-1 to Millwall at the Kassam Stadium, but on a 2-1 aggregate are through to the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. The final will take place on April 4th, and this will be the first time in exactly thirty years since we’ve been to Wembley, with the last trip to the national ground being in 1986, where they won the League Cup.

It’s quite an exciting period. After the decline to Conference football and midtable anonymity for the last many seasons since the return to the Football League, Michael Appleton is doing great things. I almost feel bad about wanting the guy sacked last season. Here we are, as I write this, sitting in third place in League 2, after holding competitive places in the season thus far, and we are on the cusp of the first major cup trophy in three decades.

I have particular interest in our JPT exploits, as the JPT with Oxford happens to be my first trophy in Football Manager. I don’t know how I did it. It was arguably more luck than skill, but sometimes all it takes is luck. On Football Manager 2014, I was doing my Oxford United save, as I do with all versions of Football Manager. This save, somehow, was a good luck save. I am a mediocre player, as I always say, but everything just worked right for several good seasons with Oxford United.

I inherited a strong squad in FM14. Not a great or spectacular squad, but with the right training and tactic, and with one or two signings, I had a powerhouse, as far as League 2 teams go, with the likes of defender Jake Wright, midfielders Nicky Wroe, Ryan Williams, Sean Rigg, and striker James Constable.

It was far beyond my expectations, and I was never dreaming of making it as far into the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the League as I did, especially since I turned off funds for the first transfer window, meaning I had Oxford’s small wage budget and had to rely on loans and cheap frees to strengthen my squad.

Williams, Rigg, and Constable were amazing for me. Wroe was worth honourable mention on my attacking front and was good enough for me to go through with transferring him to my team full time when he said he saw no future with Preston and wanted to join me in League 1.

My defence had consistently let me down, though I found a few quality defenders over the year and during the preseason to hire (had a tactic that compensated for the lack of defence by banging out goals from Williams, Kitson, Sean Rigg, and Constable).

Anyway, in a dramatic fashion, we went into extra time in the final for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy draw with Walsall, and after a nearly deadlocked and nervy extra time, James Constable got in a couple lucky strikes at 107 and 120+1. Absolutely and without a doubt a lucky fluke of a goal both times, but who am I to turn down my first piece of silverware in a Football Manager save? I happily took it, and it was so satisfying to have it on my managerial resume. I just wish the board were a little more enthused about it. They were naturally very pleased that I won, but didn’t view the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy as an important cup to participate in.

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Ignore the clipping. The skin was being tried out for the first match, and it wasn’t a good resolution for the monitor

Then, I somehow clinched the double and took the League 2 trophy later that season! I won’t get into the details on the League too much, as frankly, I can’t remember all of the details, and I’m aided in my recollection of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final by a screenshot of the match I had on one of my social networking profiles as I celebrated my victory.So, this post wasn’t anything in particular. Just a reminiscing thing about a memorable five-year Oxford United tenure that I had (usually I find a way to get sacked by the third season, due to my mediocrity at FM) that was brought about by our current real-life success, because I haven’t written a blog post in a while and haven’t been able to get some good Football Manager time in because of real life… And still won’t, as I’ll be on the road in 5 hours and really should be asleep right now.

And no, as an afterthought, I didn’t wear a suit to the final. I don’t own a suit, and I wasn’t that far into the addiction, though I have a training sweatshirt and a home jersey that I wear when I play!

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