Regens, European dreams and Serie A collapse

I did sign the Alan Shearer regen at the start of this season. He has hardly set the world alight though – but then he is competing for one spot alongside ickle Michael Owen and Zizi Mattar

justin slade

He’s already worth a cool million though. Now I’m Doncaster AND England manager there’s extra motivation to bring through the best English players for the national team. Like this lad who has been on the fringes of our squad for years


Another regen. With stats like that, he should be capable of doing things like this

Anyway it’s been another decent Doncaster season so far. Here’s our line-up for the season curtain-raiser at Wembley


Not much transfer activity around Europe this year. The biggest deal was struck by United

trans The Hodg has got the sack though. hodg# letiss

And Le Tiss taking over at Southampton, gotta love it.

Over at Doncaster we picked up a couple of stars on the cheap


Landreau and Kiko are 97/98 legends. They won’t necessarily walk straight into our team, but they will give us a bit of European experience, which is what we have  been lacking

We got a 4-2 beating at Arsenal in the first game of the season but went on a great run after that


Arsenal are back in contention after finally getting rid of underachieving Arsene Wenger and replacing him with Brian Little, obviously.

Steve Coppell has turned Palace into a real force, but a bad start to the season sees him getting the sack (pretty harsh). He’s replaced by the Salernitana manager.


Royle-y was never cut out for Italian management. Lucky for him that he has landed a big job back in the UK.

In Serie A, we got off to a flyer. Mostly thanks to Anthony


We won our first three games (no surprise if you look at Soares’ stats), but we faced a real test away to Inter in game 4.


We would never have come back from 2-1 down last year. Obviously having the Italian captain sent off didn’t help Inter (or Treze-goal getting injured).

We smashed our transfer record when Inter star Freddie Kanoute became available. Inter, you will remember, signed the entire Milan attack in the summer and Freddie has been frozen out as a result


A great run of form culminated in this result against high-flying Lazio, which put us top

gen lazio a17

Just as I thought we had cracked it, things began to go wrong. 9 games later…

marchaform a26

We should be able to hang on to a top 5 slot at least. We had beaten our best ever season points total after 16 games so whatever happens it has been a year of progress…

We got to a cup semi-final too. Atalanta were too much for us though


And Anderlecht? It’s been our best year in Belgium too. At one point my teams were top in Belgium, Italy and England.

We overhauled Bruges in the winter after going to the Jan Breydel Stadion and getting the three points

Fully deserved too. Players like Jason Revelles (the new Desailly), Nevland and Marques are far too good for the Jupiler League


13 wins in a row, scored 35 conceded 4. To be fair Bruges are still in striking distance, they’ve won 10 in 12 since we beat them. The rest are a long way behind.

Aalst have established themselves as a top 5 team and they’ve been causing upsets in Europe this year.


Juve are going to hammer them surely. Joe Royle is through to a European semi in his first year in charge,

In the Champions League, Anderlecht drew Barca in the groups and gave them a beating


We should have beat them in the knock-out rounds last year, so this is a measure of revenge

Both Anderlecht and Donny Rovers had tough groups, but two wins on matchday 4 put us in strong positions


eyroea groupe

Only the group winners automatically qualify of course. This meant that Doncaster needed a win at Porto on the last matchday, while Anderlecht needed a point at Old Trafford. Both big asks


Whoop! What was our reward?


Both winnable games. Sure enough we won at home, but the away goals could come back to haunt us.

brondbyhome nanteshome

Anderlecht had bought Mbo Mpenza off Bruges last year. He was a superstar as a youngster but lost his place in the Bruges team and was available on the cheap. He never forced his way into our line-up either though, so we had sold him on to Nantes in the summer. You know what happened next


Eek! So while Anderlecht crash out, Doncaster get a 0-0 in Brondby and make it through to the semi-finals for the first time



Ronaldo & co await in a couple of weeks, no excuses though for Doncaster. Back to back English titles and we’re looking in great shape at the moment

So another English title, a first Belgian title and a top-half finish in Serie A for the first time all look possible. Is Champions League glory beyond us though? Stay tuned to find out!


Season 7 Round Up – Back to back titles

Welcome back! It’s been a while since the last update. Real life getting in the way. Thankfully I’ve managed put real life aside for a couple of hours, so let’s get to it…

How about we start in Belgium? Well Catalonia to be precise. Anderlecht, you will remember, had been handed a difficult Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona.

The first leg didn’t go too well. Barca’s Spanish international Victor scored 4..


19 shots to 15, 56% to 44%. 5-0 was more than a little harsh.

The second leg was a formality, but again we outplayed our illustrious rivals


A 6-3 defeat over two legs in a tie which we should have won comfortably

In the league, we made more of a fight of it than usual


We were just 2 points behind with 5 games left. We went on to win our last 5 games. Surely that would be enough to lift the Belgian title for the first time?


Nope, Bruges are truly unstoppable. They ground out 1-0 wins against Standard and Antwerp in their final two games.

They didn’t do badly in Europe either. A 1-1 home draw against Milan followed by this

milan ruges

Jan Pieter Martens is a goal-scoring machine.

Milan have lost twice to Anderlecht and once to Bruges in Europe this season. They’re still doing OK domestically though


3 points at home to Bologna would be enough to secure lo scudetto ahead of Inter. Sure enough

milan 34

Anelka cost Capello a lot of money, but he has a habit of coming up with the big goals

As for Genoa?


Yep we finished 6th from bottom. After two consecutive 5th from bottom finishes. Consistent improvement is what it’s all about. At this rate we’ll be challenging for the league in 2030.

We did sell a number of players during the season, so at least we’ve got money to spend


In the Premier League, Doncaster fell to their first defeat after 24 games


Again, I’m going to argue that this was an unlucky result. But over a course of the season, you’ll always get a game or two like this

It didn’t matter though. The only question was when we would win the league, not if.


Last year’s title was all but secured away to Crystal Palace. And sure enough, a win away at Palace this season would take us to 83 points and out of reach of Liverpool. Palace are always up near the top though so it couldn’t be taken for granted


Carmelo Groppi, a young attacking midfielder from Italy, grabbed the goal. It was all a bit of an anti-climax this year. A bit too easy.



After knocking us out, Barca had to contend with our fellow Belgians in the semi-finals of the Champions League


Bruges went one better than us. They only lost the first leg 4-0


Inter’s third successive final, and the second time they have faced Barca in the last 3 seasons

Make that Inter’s third successive win in a final

intercl interbarca

clwinners inter

If Ronaldo doesn’t get you, Kanoute will. Inter have got the smallest squad I can remember for any big team – maybe that’s why they can do it in the Cups but come up short over a 34 game league season.

In the Cup Winners Cup there was a story brewing

uefasemi cwcfinal

Victor Ikpeba and Jason Euell always seem to score against me, and they’ve transferred that form to Europe.

Ikpeba and co did it again in the final with a first-half blitz


A very rare win for an English club in Europe. We (Doncaster) really need to up our game in the Champions League next season

You may remember Torino won the UEFA cup last year. They’re through to the semis again. This time drawn against cross-town rivals Juventus

A massive game and it goes all the way to penalties

uefa semi2That’s some terrible penalty-taking. Not sure why Zidane didn’t get to take one. Maybe they were saving him till 5th.

A second final in a row for Toro, and it’s an all-Italian affair against Bologna. These two teams have been consistent top-6 clubs for a few years now, so it’s well deserved.

It’s a thriller at Celtic Park



Guess what – Bruges got to the final of the Belgian Cup too..but…


Standard are one of the best teams in the country, but any defeat counts as a shock for the Brugeois

United racked up another trophy


Seven seasons in, and Paul Scholes still scores goals

The FA Cup final has a familiar feel

fasemis poolunutedfa

Second place in the league and a runner-up medal in the Cup for Joe Kinnear and co.

Over in Italy, it was all about Ronaldo, Kanoute, Carlsen and co in the Coppa Italia final


Two trophies for Inter, two runners-up medals for Bologna


Another OK season at Anderlecht. We did well in our first Champions League run-out, but Bruges beat us to the title and knocked us out of the Bekker van Belgie


sala deconde

A big season for Dmitri de Conde. He was given the captaincy at the start of the season and led from the front. Angelo Sala looks like he has got a bright future with us too.

Doncaster cruised to the title. We need to go a step further in Europe next year, now we have asserted our dominance in the league

doncavr doncgoals doncvaule

Over in Genova, we got rid of some of the dead wood from the squad and hopefully we can use the money to buy some big name players in the summer

genoaavr eberl

It’d also be nice if our best player is someone other than our goalkeeper next year. Maybe Cristof Eberl


I got my first taste of a local derby as England manager


The fans will have enjoyed that one. With no 2004 Euros to look forward to, and the 2006 World Cup being played in England, we’re not going to have any competitive matches for a while

The Euro 2004 groups didn’t throw up any surprises. Eight strong teams contested the quarter-finals. With Anelka & co sending the Dutch crashing out..


belita gerden swespa

Italy (still managed by Sir Alex) are playing the tournament on their home turf and beat a strong Belgian team. Two Scandanavian teams through to the quarter-finals. Denmark in particular shouldn’t come as a surprise. They’ve got two-time World Player of the Year Morten Carlsen, and a number of other top-level players

The Italian peninsula came to a stand-still on June 26th as the home nation took on neighbours France in Milan.


Quarter-final man of the match Martin Djetou got a red card in the first half but the French held on- mostly thanks to some heroics from Christophe Revault.

So the home nation are out, and Alex Ferguson must surely be fearing for his job now. The other semi-final ended like this


Jesper Gronkjaer scored one minute after coming off the bench and made himself a national hero in the process. Could Denmark be set for their second European trophy in 12 years?


The answer was most definitely no. Nicolas Anelka cementing his reputation as the best striker on the continent with another goal. France win their first trophy for 20 years and join Spain and Germany as the only countries to have won the Euros more than once


awards awaedsita

Yep, that man Morten Carlsen again, the 5-0 defeat against France didn’t deter the voters. John Toshack and Luigi Simoni are rated as the best two managers. Both won two cup tournaments but came up short in the league.

Stuart Pearce making a name for himself in the Championship with Notts Forest.

In the meantime, there are some crazy post-Euros transfer shenanigans in Milan

delpiero vieri

And a couple of big name managers scrabbling around for jobs

gelnda evans

And I’ll leave you with the passing of an England great


I’ll make sure I sign his regen next season…See you next time!

Season 7 so far

So it’s been a while since the last update. The last time we spoke, Doncaster and Anderlecht were celebrating historic trophies, while Genoa were delighted to be in Serie A for another season.

No international tournament this summer, so everyone will be getting a good rest. In the meantime, I’m pleased with this


A couple of years ago we would have stood no chance of signing a 21-yr old German international. The power of ‘Reputation’ at work

Anderlecht have got a decent reputation, but no money to spend on transfers or wages. So here’s our summer transfer activity


Not bad for a combined total of zero. Conca is the regen of Roberto Baggio so I’m expecting big things from him. Like becoming a buddhist hunter

Anyway, unusual religious interpretations aside, it has been a quiet transfer window.

As the start of the season draws near, I actually manage to beat Bruges for once, in the Belgian SuperCup.


Hopefully that’s a sign of what’s to come

We’ve got both Doncaster and Anderlecht in the Champions League this season. Doncaster are seeded, but Anderlecht finished second in Belgium so have to go through the qualifiers.


Vienna are demolished. Recoba scored 6 of them.

We get two tricky groups pulled out of the glass bowl at UEFA HQ.


It’s only the winners who are guaranteed to go through to the quarter-finals remember.

Doncaster have got off to a flying start to their title defence

poll away

Sirakov is a Bulgarian forward, plucked from the Belgian league in the close season. He’s tearing up the Premier League. Here are his stats halfway through the season


Look at our early form

donnysatatr prem 6

United are lurking in third though. Ferige or no Fergie, they’ll still be our closest challengers

We travelled to Old Trafford in the league a couple of weeks later. 2-0 down at half-time, and it was looking bleak. But…


Karl Watkin, our young Welsh forward, pulled it back. With a little help from ickle Michael of course.

Our seemingly unbeatable form was noticed by Marcello Lippi


That’s half a team. You may as well get me to manage England. Especially when this happens


Sure enough


And yep, they turn to the only viable option. How can I turn down the chance to manage my country. The FA are happy for me to stay on at Doncaster too.

Here’s my first England team


It’s basically the Man Utd back 5 and midfield 2, with the addition of Liverpool captain Rio Ferdinand. The three attacking midfielders are from Doncaster (Notman), United and Liverpool, along with Anfield talisman Robbie Fowler up front.

So 7 United players, 3 Liverpool and one Doncaster (the one Doncaster started his career at United too!). It doesn’t say much for the strength in depth of British football.

With no Euro 2004 to look forward to, the England job can go on the back-burner for the next 6 months

A few managerial changes to tell you about

arsearselittlecitehkingkev royeanca

King Kev comes back home, well to Wales anyway. Roy Evans was sacked from Manchester City and ends up in Sardinia taking over from Keegan, who in turn is taking over from Evans’ replacement at City. Confused? Me too

There were a few big money transfers during the season


As if United don’t have enough strikers.

Their rivals Liverpool lose one of their stars. Milan have got the most expensive strike-force in the world. Ballotta and Anelka at a combined £27,000,000


Toro spent £10,000,000 on one January afternoon

parise toro2

As well as £6 million plus from the Parise transfer, I banked another five million from Zaragozadobrevosky

So, unrest at the Marassi stadium as we sell our two big-name players. But I don’t think we’ll miss them too much. We’ve got a young Italian centre-back who has stepped in to Dobrevsky’s shoes


Despite his massive transfer tag, I don’t think we’ll miss Parise much. In 3 seasons he never got a man-of-the-match award.

We’ve also got a few young players who have settled in well this year

legrot eberl

The plan is to finish mid-table this season and splash the cash in the summer.

Having said that, 21 games in we’re still near the bottom. But one or two wins catapult us up the league


Over in the Champions League, we picked up a famous victory.


And did it again in Milan


That man Alvaro Recoba again (he used to play for Inter too)

We ended up sailing through the group stage


Doncaster were having more difficulties


A shock defeat at home to Rosenborg meant that we needed to win our final game and hope Porto could beat United. Our final game was against the Norwegians again


In normal circumstances, a 2-2 draw would be a good result when you are 1-0 down and one player short after 9 minutes. But it means we were out of Europe

Over in Brussels we waited for the Quarter-Final draw with baited breath

barca clwfs#

Gulp. To be fair, there were no easy games. 2 Italian giants, 2 Spanish giants, Man Utd, PSG and the two Belgian teams. Each of the games could go either way, but Barca have to start as favourites.

Anderlecht also had time to fit in a European Super Cup against Inter

supercup semi

We got Ronaldo-d

Despite being knocked out in Europe, Doncaster were flying in the league


Unbeaten 23 games in and well set for a second successive league title. As well as Liverpool and United, Steve Coppell’s Crystal Palace are near the top again. They have finished 8th and 4th in the last two seasons

A lot of their success is down to this lad


Him and Bakayoko are a frightening prospect as an Ivory Coast strike force. It’s fair to say he hasn’t really got going at international level yet though

Before I leave you, here’s a quick look at the top of the table situations in Italy and Belgium

It’s a two-horse race in the Jupiler League (as usual) and a one-horse race in Italy

jupe top


And Anderlecht did the double over Milan in Europe! Nightmare for Fabio Capello



CM 97/98 – Player Recruitment

Don’t worry, I haven’t been researching analytics websites and coming up with formulas of ‘expected goals per 90 minutes’. This game was made in 1997 anyway, so the stats that you’ve got to work with are basic compared to the latest Football Manager and/or OPTA readouts. Part of what makes this game so great is that it has the perfect balance between complexity and speed. Modern management games are practically a full time job if you want to set your team up properly and buy the right players. Anyway…


I know I’m not revealing any secrets when I say that, on CM9798, new young players are not randomly generated. When a player retires, he is regenerated in the next season. His name, and some of his stats, will be different, but his ability remains the same.

For example, going back to our first ‘Star of CM9798


‘Regens’ are usually much cheaper (and obviously younger), then the original player would have been at his peak, so it’s a cost-effective way of buying guaranteed quality

The best way I’ve found to keep track of which good players might retire, is to search by ‘Based Anywhere’ – ‘Age 30+’ – ‘Sort by Caps’


You can then make a list of players you might be interested in, and search for them once the end-of-season updates have run. If they no longer exist then you can search for their replacement by nationality, position and attributes


For me, the jury is still out on how much attributes matter. One thing for sure is that the attribute scores are relative, not absolute. So for example, the player with the worst average rating in English football this season is…


A ‘Heading’ rating of 17 and a ‘Tacking’ score of 18 obviously doesn’t mean that he is in the top 10-15% in the world for these skills. It simply means that his tackling ability is 6 times better than his dribbling (in other words if the ball is within a yard of his feet, he falls over). All of these scores are relative to his overall ‘Ability’ (a hidden attribute, out of 200)

That being said, I like all my players to have good Determination, and I don’t like scores of 1 or 2 for attributes like Pace, Stamina, Strength, Tackling etc.

From my experience (and this is based purely on observation, not research), important attributes include

Stamina – how quickly a player gets tired during a match

Determination – how a player reacts to being behind in a game

Shooting – Finishing ability

Set Pieces – How good the player is at corners (in combination with passing), and free-kicks (combined with shooting and flair)

Flair – how likely the player is to create a chance out of nothing, or score a spectacular goal

Expiring Contracts

For some reason, the AI managers in this game are supremely relaxed about losing their best players for nothing. In general, they will let every player’s contract expire before they offer a new one. Players’ prices begin to drop in the last year of their contract, so it’s well worth your time keeping an eye on who is coming to the end of their current deal.

Sometimes, the player might not even be one that you need. You can sign them at minimal cost near the end of the season, secure them on a long contract, then put them straight up for sale. Be careful though, if you pick the wrong player, you could end up paying a massive wage over many years for someone who nobody else wants. Exhibit A


Big Club Release Clauses

These can work for, or against you. When you’re managing a Premier League club, you can basically take your pick of lower-league players. If you’re in Division 3 however, you’re permanently at risk of losing your best players.

The one exploit I’ve found to get round this is as follows. When you sign a player with a big-club release clause, make him available for loan straight away. Big clubs will still be interested in him, but will only approach you with a view to a loan, which you can reject.

Make sure you make them available quickly though. Once a player’s value starts to rise, your board won’t allow you to put them on the loan list, and this can happen


The one that got away (and at a £700,000 loss in three months!)

Searching for players

So although I take attributes into account when looking for the right player, it’s not the most important thing.

First up, I look at average ratings, these are the best indicator as to how good a player is. Again, they are adjusted for the league, so someone averaging above 7 in Serie A is performing at a much higher level then someone averaging 7 in, say, Denmark

If a player is highly recommended by a scout, that is usually a sign that his potential ability is very high.

Making a Decision

Your final decision should be based on weighing up if they are a regen, their current performance (average rating), the opinion of your scouts, player attributes and of course price. Price includes wages. As I’m finding to my cost at Anderlecht, paying a number of players £20,000+ a week just isn’t sustainable in some leagues.


Give me a team of Dewaele’s any day..

So………That’s a quick overview of how I go about the process of scouting and signing. If anyone has got any other ideas or tips, or if you think I’m talking b****ks (very possible), then start the conversation BTL..

Happy hunting