2017/18 Pre-season fixtures

Following our promotion to the Premier League, I arrange some high-profile friendlies against strong teams to try and prepare the team for football at the highest level. We start off by travelling to… Tiverton Town. They’re our feeder club and I traditionally start my pre-season there, giving 22 players 45 minutes of football. We win 4-0 as I move players around into less familiar positions and try out tactics, including the W-M for the last 15 minutes. It’s not a massive victory, but I’m satisfied that the players get a gentle run-out.

The difficulty increases quickly, with our next game away at Paris Saint-Germain. It’s a game that we don’t play particularly well in and lose 3-1. We don’t help our cause by scoring an own goal for their opener.

We leave France and return to England for a game against Yeovil Town. It’s a thumping 7-0 victory for us, although we run away with the game in the last 15 minutes. I bring on Federico Cenci as a left winger with 15 minutes to go and he scores an 11 minute hat-trick and claims Man of the Match with a 9.5 rating. His first touch of the game isn’t bad either.

We leave England and travel to Germany to take on Dortmund. It’s an exciting game that’s 2-2 going into stoppage time. A well-worked free kick routine gives them the lead and they hold out for a victory courtesy of a double save.

We return to England for two home friendlies. The first is against Santos and the second is against Sturm Graz. We win both games 1-0 with solid performances. Gennaro Riccardi strains his thigh in the victory over Sturm Graz and will be out for 2 weeks, making him unlikely to be in the starting line-up on the opening day.

Saturday 5th August. In real life, Exeter City begin their League 2 campaign at home to Cambridge United. In Football Manger, we travel across the channel again, this time to play at the Amsterdam ArenA. We’re taking on former European champions Ajax. A poor first half sees us 1-0 down. I fire the troops up at half time and we win 2-1 with Bradley Johnson slicing their defence open time and time again with through balls. It’s his first pre-season game after being away on international duty.

Saturday 12th August. In real life, Exeter City travel to Swindon Town for a League 2 fixture. In Football Manager, our final pre-season game sees us return to St. James Park as we host Atletico Madrid. It’s a televised friendly and we put on a performance for the cameras, coming away with a good 2-0 victory.

It’s been a good pre-season for us and I’d arranged some tough fixtures to prepare us for the step up. Although we lost a couple of games, performances were encouraging. The only exception was the PSG game, where they were much the better side. Ultimately, pre-season counts for nothing and hopefully we can carry the good performances and results across to our Premier League campaign.

Building up to the 2017/18 season

The fixtures are released and our opening game of the season is… away. We’re travelling to… Fulham. Our first home game will see us welcome… Liverpool! Manchester City are the favourites to win the title at 7/4; we’re 2,000/1 and predicted to finish 20th. There have been title winners with longer odds than 2,0000/1 though…

BBC Sport profile our team, picking out Federico Cenci and Nathan Ake as our key players for the upcoming season. If Cenci can pick up where he left off last season, I am very confident that we will be safe. Ake will be an important part of a defence that’s likely to be tested often.

We reject a number of offers for Alain Besse, who requests to be removed from the transfer list. As my intended first-choice left winger, I’m more than happy to accept his request. Adriano Gazzoli requests to terminate his contract for £350,000. I reject. He’s a good young player and I’d let him go, but only if we get a good offer for him.

Loic Fournier will miss the start of the season – he’s out for 2 months with a double hernia. He was only going to be a squad player, so it’s not a massive loss for us.

The draw for the second round of the League Cup is made and we will be travelling to Colchester United. It will be a heavily rotated team that travels for that game.

New faces

We welcome a number of new faces to the club. The majority are promising young players who I hope will end up in the first team in the years to come (or that I can sell on and make some good money):

Fabio Mora on a season-long loan from AC Milan

Mora #FM12

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He’ll be back up for Lubomir Zapotoka after the sale of Catalin Rentea.

Ondrej Nedved on a free

Nedved #FM12

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Kevin Bjerkestrand on a free

Bjerkestrand #FM12

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Simone Inserra on a free

Inserra #FM12

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Edoardo Russo on a free

Russo #FM12

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Melvin Dubois on a free

Dubois #FM12

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Marlon Allen on a free

Allen #FM12

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Zvonko Buric on a free

Buric #FM12

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Danny Betz on a free

Betz #FM12

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Fevzi Ilhan on a free

Ilhan #FM12

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Moumouni Traore on a free

Traore #FM12

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Regis Olivier on a free

Olivier #FM12

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Defensive midfield is probably my weakest position, so Olivier is likely to see some first team action over the course of the season.

Muhammed Kurak Kuyumcu on a free

Kuyumcu #FM12

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Jorg Ullrich on a free

Ullrich #FM12

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Thodoros Stefanidis on a free

Stefanidis #FM12

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Mahmut Catalcam on a free

Catalcam #FM12

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Uwe Leitl on a free

Leitl #FM12

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Marcel Hrubesch on a free

Hrubesch #FM12

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A player who is young and will hopefully develop. I’ll be looking to blood him into the team over the season.

Bartosz Pietrowski on a free

Pietrowski #FM12

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Robin Theissen on a free

Theissen #FM12

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Roman Kern on a free

Kern #FM12

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Francis Byrne on a free

Byrne #FM12

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Xavier Jalliti on a free

Jalliti #FM12

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Carmine Mello on a free

Mello #FM12

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A challenger for first team football. He’s likely to start on the bench and will hopefully go on to become my starting keeper in future seasons.

Ceri Cornell on a free

Cornell #FM12

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Niels Bundgaard on a free

Bundgaard #FM12

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Cephas Gombami on a free

Gombami #FM12

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Giorgos Michailidis on a free

Michailidis #FM12

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Lee Atkinson on a free

Atkinson #FM12

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Antonis Vitzekas on a free

Vitzekas #FM12

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Flavio Perrotti on a free

Perrotti #FM12

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David Bentley on a free

Bentley #FM12

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Much older than my normal signings, but an upgrade on Jonny Hayes and I hope to be able to get two good seasons out of him.

Christian Bala on a free

Bala #FM12

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Eddie Hawes on a free

Hawes #FM12

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Ilica Perak on a free

Perak #FM12

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Defensive midfield is probably our weakest area. Or it was until I signed Perak. He looks as though he’s going to be able to perform the role very well and offer protection to our back four.

Torben Ostergaard on a free

Ostergaard #FM12

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Renzo Francioni from Inter Milan for £120,000

Francioni #FM12

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Inter didn’t want him and I wasn’t going to pass on the chance to sign a player who could become a key player in midfield in a few years for such a small fee.

Harry Maguire from Derby County for £190,000

Maguire #FM12

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Centre back and defensive midfield cover. He’s probably more likely to play as a defensive midfielder and another player who I hope can develop into an important first team regular.

Matthew Jenkins from Peterborough United for £300,000

Jenkins #FM12

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A defensive reinforcement. He won’t be starting regularly (unless we run into some injury and suspension trouble), but there’s likely to be chances for him in the Cup competitions and hopefully I can blood him in gently.

Mick Byrne from Blackburn Rovers for £700,000

Byrne #FM12

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Blackburn beat me to signing him in January, but the boost to my transfer kitty means that I end up getting my man a few months later and Blackburn make a tidy profit on a very good young defender.

Ben Amos from Tottenham Hotspur (£1,000,000)

Amos #FM12

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Amos is a player I’ve been tracking for a long time, but have never been able to afford. It was between signing him or Bond a couple of seasons ago, with Bond (excellent keeper though he is) being the choice due to being affordable. I’m pleased to be able to finally welcome him to the club.

Nathan Ake from Chelsea (£2,000,000)

Ake #FM12

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I plan on Ake lining up with Vukovic at the heart of our defence. His pace could be an asset and help cover the older Vukovic.

Rainer Breu from 1860 Munich for £3,200,000

Breu #FM12

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I smash our transfer record to bring Breu to the club. He had a great season in Germany and is an outstanding young player. I have my concerns that the board will step in and accept a good offer for Cenci, so am looking to have his replacement in place before they do. Although he’s my record signing, Cenci will be ahead of him in the pecking order. At least to begin with.

Players leaving in the summer of 2017

We say goodbye to a number of players. For some, it’s a final goodbye; for others, it’s temporary.

Luca D’Avanzo (loan spell ends and returns to Manchester United)

Jay Spearing (contract ends)

Johan Hammar to Ascoli (Free transfer)

Scott Malone to Bristol City (Free transfer)

Patrick Olsen to Maritimo (Free transfer)

Mikkel Valentin to Maritimo (Free transfer)

Dale Collings to Bristol Rovers (Five month loan)

Josef Neckar to Reading (Five month loan)

John Motturi to Stockport County (Five month loan)

Raif Boric to Wycombe Wanderers (Six month loan)

Radek Koblizek to Brentford (Six month loan)

Valentin Mitov to Brentford (Six month loan)

Spas Donchev to Reading (Six month loan)

Gareth Shaw to Torquay United (Six month loan)

Tony Wilkinson to Tiverton Town (Season-long loan)

Roman Chaloupka to Sheffield Wednesday (Season-long loan)

Torben Christiansen to Ipswich Town (Season-long loan)

Manu Leino to Rotherham United (Season-long loan)

Jan Pavlov to Rotherham United (Season-long loan)

Callum Marsden to Dundee (Season-long loan)

Omer Ozturk to Portsmouth (Season-long loan)

Pavel Cizek to Huddersfield Town (Season-long loan)

Emmanuel Dufour to Novara (Season-long loan)

Jens Flickart to Dusseldorf (Season-long loan)

Florian Koch to Bochum (Season-long loan)

Ivan Byram to Tiverton Town (Season-long loan)

Fritz Schweinsteiger to Braunschweig (Season-long loan, can be bought at any point for £60,000)

Frankie Timmins to Scunthorpe United (£35,000 for season-long loan)

Richard Ibrahim to Silkeborg (£50,000 for season-long loan)

Konstantin Manov to Modena (£75,000 for season-long loan)

Paupol Mayila to Swindon Town (£95,000 for season-long loan)

Lasse Karlsen to Blackburn Rovers (£600,000 for season-long loan and can be bought at any point for £2,000,000)

Martin Koci to Banik Ostravia (£5,000 and £16,000 over 24 months and 10% of the profit of the next sale)

Muamer Tankovic to Swindon Town (£180,000 and 40% of the profit of the next sale)

Mirco Franchini to Taranto (£200,000 and 10% of the profit of the next sale)

Allen Ababio to FC Midtjylland (£350,000)

Per Fischer to Rotherham United (£80,000 and £275,000 over 24th months and 30% of the profit of the next sale)

Bartosz Lukasik to Maritimo (£475,000)

Clement Baud to Maritimo (£500,000)

Dennis Schmid to Maritimo (£625,000)

Ryan Mason to Derby County (£650,000 over 48 months and 10% of the profit of the next sale)

Rob McNally to Nottingham Forest (£650,000 and 20% of the profit of the next sale)

John-Joe O’Toole to Southampton (£950,000)

Catalin Rentea to Blackpool (£2,000,000 and £500,000 after 20 games)

2016/17 season review

WE ARE GOING UP, SAY WE ARE GOING UP!

After being in the play-offs last season (narrowly losing to Newcastle United over 2 legs) and being predicted to finish 7th, promotion wasn’t necessarily the biggest surprise in the world (our promotion from League One to the Championship was far more unlikely), but it’s great to achieve it. Our form in the first half of the season (we went unbeaten in 19 games) was the key to promotion; when we struggled to score in December and January, we were able to stay in the mix and finally achieved promotion with a game to spare. It was a little disappointing to not win the title after such a strong start, but promotion was the main aim; the title would have been a bonus.

It’s always difficult to pick key games, but I think that there were a couple of important victories through the season. The first was away at Birmingham in November when we won 2-1. That win extended our lead to 8 points and was probably the first point that I genuinely thought promotion was achievable. The second was the 6-1 away win at Derby in April. We went into the game having been outplayed by Birmingham at home in the previous match and a 6 point lead over Blackburn in third with 5 games to go; the result and performance showed that we were able to move on from that and I felt confident that we would get the job done in the final games.

In the wider world, the play-off final saw Leeds United take on West Ham United. Joining ourselves and Birmingham in the Premier League is… Leeds United. Although the better side throughout, they required extra time to beat West Ham 3-1. The F.A. Cup saw Tottenham Hotspur take on Chelsea in the final, with Spurs lifting the trophy after a 3-1 win.

Inevitably, some managers lost their jobs at the end of the season. Barnsley sack Keith Hill (they appoint Steve Eyre), Crystal Palace sack Nigel Clough (they appoint Andy Thorn), Middlesbrough sack Dean Smith (they appoint Paul Jewell) and Peterborough United sack Ian Craney (they appoint David Moyes). In Germany, Mainz sack Michael Frontzeck and the media make me favourite for the job, but I tell them I have no interest. Southampton sack Peter Grant following their relegation from the Premier League and I’m made favourite to replace him. I tell the media I have no interest in the job, but it doesn’t deter Southampton and they offer me the job. I reject the offer.

The end of season awards are made:

Championship Player of the Season: Ignacio Scocco (Blackburn Rovers)
Championship Young Player of the Season: Kenny Mulready (Bristol City, on loan from Manchester United)
Championship Goal of the Season: Pablo Berrera (West Ham United). Oliver Norwood’s strike against Norwich City comes second.
Championship Leading Goalscorer: Federico Cenci – 31 goals.
Championship Manager of the Season: Me

Jagos Vukovic, Jonny Hayes and Federico Cenci are named in the Championship Team of the Season.

Jay Spearing and Federico Cenci are inducted into the Exeter City Overall Best XI, although only on the bench. I would suspect that as long as Cenci stays and his form continues, he will be named in the Overall Best starting XI at the end of next season. Unsurprisingly, Cenci is named Fans Player of the Year. His average rating of 7.49 from 44 games sets a new Exeter City record, beating the previous record of 7.44 from 37 games by Michel in the 2015/16 season. What will next season bring?

Press conference following Exeter City’s promotion to the Premier League

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here this evening after having guided the club I support to the Premier League and look forward to answering your questions.

I’ll start with a question from Fuddled Fox.

@FuddledFox: Do you plan to spend big money on new players or will you stick by the squad who took you up?

I am happy with our squad and they have performed magnificently this season. I see it as being evolution rather than revolution that is required. There are a couple of names I have in mind for where and how we can strengthen, so you can expect to see some activity in the transfer market.

The board have made funds available. Compared to how we have spent in the past, we will be spending big money. I think you can expect to see our record transfer fee broken, possibly a couple of times. However, in the context of the Premier League, we will not be classed as big spenders

It looks like we have a follow on question from Tom.

@TomFM_YT: Do you think the club has a good enough reputation to bring in the players you need to keep the club from being relegated next season?

Thanks Tom. As always, I will be looking to bring in a couple of new faces, but it will be evolution rather than revolution as I stated earlier. We have a good bunch of players who have done an excellent job in getting us promotion. But with regards to our reputation, then yes I believe we can bring in the players we want. This is our second promotion in six seasons and we’re a club that’s moving forwards. I would imagine that lots of players would be interested in joining a club that’s going forwards. Where I believe our reputation will help us is young players looking to make the breakthrough. I’ve shown that I’m prepared to give youth a chance and that will continue.

I’ll take a question now from JNO from FPL Today.

@JNOUnited: I’d love to know if you think any of your players will make an impact of the Fantasy Premier League Players Season? Can any of your players take their assists and goals from the Championship and bring them to the Premier League?

Casual fans won’t include many of our players in their side, but proper fans will recognise that we have some very good players here who, I believe, can make an impact at a higher level. Federico (Cenci) is obviously the standout player with his 31 goals this season and you all know that half of Serie A is after him, but he’s received plenty of assists from Alain (Besse) and Jonny (Hayes) in the wide areas as well as Bertin (Matip) and Oliver (Norwood) from set pieces. Defensively, we only conceded 46 goals, so we’re capable of keeping things tight. We’re going to be the smallest club in the league, so there will be bargains out there that I’m sure some people will take advantage of.

I see you have a question Gee.

@GeeW_FM: Realistically what are you hoping to achieve this season?

The title! Realistically, it’s going to be tough for us. We’re going to be the smallest club by quite a distance and we’re up against some of the best clubs in Europe and the best players in the world. I would expect us to be made favourites for relegation and if you offered me 17th next season right now, I’d take it as a platform to build on. However, I think we’re good enough to be aiming to finish somewhere in the region of tenth to fourteenth.

I’ll take another question from Fuddled Fox.

@FuddledFox: Do you believe the club’s facilities are up to premier league standard?

We’re going to have the smallest ground in the league. Even after the 4,000 extra seats have been installed, the capacity is only going to be around 12,000. Compare that with grounds like Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium and there’s a big difference.

The smaller capacity also means that we have a much smaller stream of income than other clubs, which will have an impact on how quickly we can develop areas such as our training facilities. I would love for our facilities to be bigger and better, but I know this will take time and money and staying in the Premier League is going to be the best way of allowing us to develop out facilities.

Thank you for the questions. If you have any further questions, please ask them by leaving a comment.

Inverting the pyramid: the history of football tactics

The evolution of football formations and tactics is examined in Inverting the pyramid. The book starts with the first formation of 2-3-5 and how this has progressed over the years to new formations. For much of history, most teams have played the same formation or a variation of the formation. As well as formations, tactics are also looked at as managers have looked to get the best out of the players they have at their disposal. In most cases, the initial success of a new formation and tactic has brought some early success before other teams have copied it.

Wilson argues that new tactics and formations brought success as others were not aware of them. With the amount of football available to watch and all the video analysis that there is, it becomes more difficult for revolutionary new tactics to be introduced and certainly not as a surprise to opponents. How will the game develop further? That is the unknown question.

Rating (out of 5): *****