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.