At the end of April my primary Game World, one I’d been part of for a decade was fast becoming a farce, I enjoyed playing in other leagues but a new challenge was needed.
Unexpectedly a PM from a new SM friend arrived asking if I would be interested in joining the Top 100. I replied positively and waited to see where it took me. Within a couple of days I had been installed as the new West Ham manager.
There was a slight learning curve on joining, as with most established GWs it was quickly apparent from the newsfeed that cash had little to no value with most managers preferring to invest in youth to build a squad. However there was a whole host of new rules around transfer etiquette to learn. Something I’m still watching and learning about.
A review of the club I inherited showed West Ham while not the richest were worth a few quid – which as mentioned wasn’t much help, so what value did the squad hold?
The star player was rated 89 (Baumgartlinger) a German stalwart, below him the options were thin, Mata the 30+year old Spanish forward was having a great season both in real life and for the Hammers and was our clear top scorer. As an old hand in a new world it was no surprise when number of bids arrived for Mata soon after my arrival hoping to nick a deal, but cashing in on one of my best to players straight away seemed hasty. Beneath those 2 the starting 11 was made up from 85/86 raters from some clubs id never heard of, the exception being Clarke from Newcastle who despite being one of the highest rated defenders had been left to rot and was collecting concerns, presumably he and my predecessor had fallen out along the way.
The challenge ahead was clear, we had 9 games to try shift the club up the table and avoid the dreaded bottom 3.
The opener was nothing short of a disaster, naively I set the team up to attack and surprise the opposition as we were at home, however a well drilled Zagreb managed by the Godfather humbled us and the new optimism was quickly evaporated with a 1-3 loss that honestly could’ve been a lot worse. The great thing about SM is you are never long from the next game and so we travelled to Stuttgart 3 days later, a side struggling for points so sticking to my attacking principles we went for it, and were once again sent packing this time 2-1. Defeats from the opening games was already causing some murmurs of unrest on the streets. Danny Dyer was already rumoured to be starting a new firm to force me out.
That unrest appeared to spread into the newsfeed as an established manager gave myself and a fellow newcomer both barrels for being new and daring to offer any sort of banter before it was earned. It was a short sharp reminder that I was no longer amongst managers who had known me for years but part of a new community with its own Alphas looking for weakness. The best response I could offer rather than argue a pointless case was going back to the drawing board with my squad, keep my head down and figure a way of getting the squad playing to their own strengths. I seem to recall West ham having some tasty defenders over the years, Dicks/Pearce/Ferdinand… Moore, we could no longer rely on just the prowess off 36 year old Tomas Sivok to save us.
Out went our one 89 rated player in a gamble on an 87 Argentinian capped keeper(and hopefully a riser). I had decided the best way forwards was plugging up my leaky defence rather than having a holding midfielder that wasn’t dictating the possession percentages. With that came some new tactics around the old motto of “if they don’t score then you don’t get beat”. The keeper gave us a new starting block and from there on the tactics and players were put through a new training and tactics regime to work with what limited resources we had.
What followed was a remarkable turn of fortunes and a 4 game winning streak that propelled us up the league and saw an unexpected manager of the week nomination earnt.
Those 4 wins saw move from bottom 3 candidates to touching the playoff spots, Danny Dyer was now singing my praises and we were looking forwards not back. But with 2 of the final 3 games against top 8 sides it just wasn’t to be, we bowed out on 2 draws and a final day defeat. Ultimately a 9th place finish was a little disappointing after the highs of the winning streak, but in retrospect it puts us in an interesting spot for next season if we can sustain a longer run. A late night phone call from Trevor Brooking reassured me my position was safe and he had no doubt that good times were ahead – and just maybe some fans would turn up next season to watch us.
What next for us then? Well the squad is still heavy with players I inherited and needs trimming down from the current 49, of those I’ve signed just 5. All of the new signings have become first team starters and see the team line up with an improved 87 average for next season barring too many ratings drops. Hopefully some further improvements can be made beyond the first 11 that still includes some 86 rated players as a necessity and maybe then we can start to look at any sort of youth program.
Looking back over the 9 league games we achieved 4 Wins, 2 draws and 3 defeats with a 1.67 point average. If we can repeat that form in a full season for 63 points that should put us in and around the playoffs picture again and that would do very nicely. But the theory is often far simpler than the practicality and realistically keeping us away from the bottom 3 will be the main aim once again.
Cheers to all those that have made me welcome so far.
Onwards to next season.
Up the Irons.