#FM15: To The Top! 4.3 – The Saints

It’s time for a new blog post to provide an update on the status of my AFC Bolnore save. And, here’s the big news: I’ve made up my mind to depart from AFC Bolnore and advance my career forward without them.

As I said in the last update, I was feeling a burnout with AFC Bolnore, because I didn’t have any short-term challenges to work towards in the decade I’ll have to spend in amateur leagues, and floated the concept of leaving the club and changing the format of this save from taking AFC Bolnore to the top to just advancing my personal career towards the top from the local reputation I had at the start.

As I said in the last update, I was contemplating the idea of moving to St. Ives Town FC in the Regional First Division above the Counties League. It’s a team that’s been sitting just above the relegation line for years and is actually predicted to drop this season, and for good reason. Upon looking at their team, I realised that the senior, U23, and U18 team have 26 very average players between them, and it’s a wonder the Saints are even in the division they’re in. But, we’ll take a look at things sequentially, starting with my interview with the club.

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I interviewed with the team on 29 October the day after another decent result with AFC Bolnore that I ultimately decided against sharing here, as it was no longer relevant to the series, and the team approached me shortly thereafter to hire me on.

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It’s not a lot of money to be making, but after three years and a bit managing AFC Bolnore on an amateur month-to-month contract, I’m finally making some money as a manager and I now have a contract and a wage budget to work with.

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I’m officially confirmed as the manager of the team on the last day of October, and it’s straight to work. I have to get stuck into meeting with the chairman, meeting with my Head of Youth Development about the state of the team since I’m without an assistant, and I need to throw in a random tactic hours before kick-off and tell a team that they are under new management before squeezing in a cup of Tetley.

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The match in question was against Romulus, who were sitting in second at the time of the match, and we ended up losing it 1-2 away from home. I’m not going to complain or hold it against them. They had mere hours of notice that things were changing, and they have to start getting used to a new manager’s style.

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I made a few moves to poach some of the good amateur coaches from my former AFC Bolnore backroom. Amazingly, my former assistant Jon Holloway, who was so highly rated that I’d not scoff at him for a low-end National League team, decided to stay on his amateur contract and refused to come over to St. Ives. To be fair, it’s over two hours of a drive to get from Haywards Heath to St. Ives in Cambridgeshire and he’d be making less than 100 quid to work for the team. It takes a special kind of mad ambition to relocate for a part-time, low-paying job like this.

None of the players I had were rated more than potentially decent at the Counties Leagues at best, so I don’t plan to scout any of them because they’d only be backups for me.

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I noticed after I was hired that we are in a bit of debt, we have an outstanding loan, and while this isn’t shared in an image, we’re blown past our wage budget. Things are going to be a bit rough for us here.

I’m reminded of a post by Chris Darwen at The Higher Tempo Press that was dedicated to his methods of balancing the books and getting his clubs turning profit. This club is over the wage budget, leaking money water in a sieve,  and it wouldn’t shock me to see this poorly performing, understaffed, over-budget club battling relegation soon. The future projections don’t look to good.

As something I’ve never done before, I’m going to be giving Darwen’s methods of balancing the books a shot in my time at St. Ives. The primary method he employs to turn a profit is to ensure that his annual player wages will always be covered by gate receipts from each guaranteed match of the season.

I won’t get into too much detail about that in this post, you can read his words for yourself, and I’ve still got more to cover outside of finances. I’ll share in the near future what my wage budget goal is and my plan of action for the club.

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Rambling aside, the next match was a 1-1 draw against Didcot away from home in a match that had very few attempts at goal. We’re sitting 16th in the league and I’m still determining what will work for the team. Nothing is looking particularly promising at the moment, because as I’ll demonstrate soon, the club needs a rebuild to be up to snuff for the league we’re in, so I’m alternating between a 4-2-3-1 and the 3-4-3 that has worked so well in the past. I’ve also considered building a team around either Darwen’s Argentine Strikerless tactic or one of Guido Merry’s strikerless tactics, since I’ve always been interested in experiencing and analyzing on my own how such tactics work in-game, but such an awkward and non-standard tactic will have to be a longer-term goal to work towards, since I’m facing a tight relegation battle and I don’t want to rock the boat more than I have to until summer when I can plan properly for a full season in charge.

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With so few games in the Mid-Sussex Football League divisions, I’m finally hitting the milestone of 100 games in management in 2017.

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We celebrated my 100th game with a 0-3 loss. We had more shots and more possession, but couldn’t actually convert successfully, unlike Bedworth, who move up to first place in the league.

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The next match was a 1-1 home draw against Wingate & Finchley who are sitting in thirteenth. We’re now running at 8 or 9 games without a win and sitting just above the relegation line right now.

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The last match to cover this update was our first win in charge of St. Ives. It was a 1-3 away win in which we looked like we were actually a team. After having time to rest the thin squad, we were able to field a mostly good side, and we got the job done and came away with three points to return to our place in 16th.

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This is our schedule since the start of the season and the league standings. I’m not mentioning the cups as we were eliminated from all of them long before my arrival. It’s close at the bottom and anything could happen with a mere 4 points between us and last place.

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This is the squad I mentioned earlier. We have 26 players between the senior team and both youths teams, and while we have defensive depth, we only have one goalkeeper, and a midfield and attacking front that needs a lot of work, with none of these players being particularly good for the league.

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Defender John Paul Duncliffe here is one of the top rated players at the club, and he’s indicative of what “good” is relative to the rest of the players here.

That’s it for this longer-than-usual update. I’ll be back soon to provide an update on my goals for the club, my plans for attempting to balance the books, and I’ll go into a bit more detail on situation with the players at the club and my goals for January when we get to looking for some ways to move on players and sign some better deals to hold us up in the league and lay the groundwork for the McKnight years at St. Ives.

As usual, you can follow me on Twitter @EricSnowmane or follow the blog for updates on my progress with the save. If you want to review any posts from the previous seasons, check out the season-by-seasons page on the AFC Bolnore drop-menu.

I know it’s getting a bit spammy at this point, but if you use Reddit and want to see more Football Manager blogs or YouTube series, check out /r/TheManagersCorner, a new spin-off subreddit from the main /r/footballmanagergames that’s dedicated to sharing with others your blogs, video series, or other creative writing related to the Football Manager series. Why not give it a look?

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