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FM16 Challenge - Turning Swansea Welsh
I always like adding my own rules to saves on Football Manager and this time I have chosen to manage Swansea City and the goal is to build a team using only Welsh teams. I like the idea of having a squad of players all from the same nation, usually the same nation the club is from. I think a Welsh squad in the English Premier League will be interesting because the likes of Bale and Ramsey wouldn’t join Swansea so to I’ll have to focus on a long-term strategy. I have set myself a 3-4 year plan to sign and develop enough young Welsh players to have a Premier League all-Welsh team.
Getting Started (Jul-Aug)
My first actions after taking over were to improve my coaching staff. Alan Irvine was hired as my Assistant, David Coles and Jim Stewart as goalkeeping coaches and Antonio Pintus as a Fitness Coach. I took charge of my own under 21 and under 18 sides for pre-season and by using my squads together I arranged friendlies as my first team every few days to maximize earnings. I played the likes of Milan, Bayern, Atletico Madrid and PSG while using a mixed squad so results were poor but at the same time benefited financially and the frequent matches helped my players get match fit quickly.
I didn’t think it would be possible to sign an entire Welsh team in 1 transfer window and be competitive in the Premier League so I’m using the first season to reduce the size and age of my squad while getting rid of a lot of the foreign (non Welsh) players but signing others with good re-sale values.
Welsh players were difficult to sign as most were well overpriced by their clubs, West Brom wanted 12 million for James Chester, George Williams would’ve cost me 15 million from Fulham and Crystal Palace asked for 12 million to sign Jonny Williams. I only signed 7 players but I think I got very good value for money. Larsen was probably an unnecessary signing and Ilori is a solid signing but will only ever be a stopgap. Badu and Gutierrez both look like promising players and Andrija Zivkovic was a bargain and will go on to much better things than Swansea. After weighing up their age and ability I think I got Ben Davies and Karl Darlow for reasonable prices as I hope they will be Swansea and Wales regulars for years to come. Not shown on the screenshot is that I also signed Timo Horn from Koln for 6.5 million but that deal will be completed at the end of the season.
As you can see I let a lot of players go. It will only ever happen to this extent in the first season because this is when I evaluate the squad and reduce the numbers so I can focus on developing the youth players who show promise rather than diluting my youth teams with players who won’t make it. It does look more extreme because around 30 players have been loaned out to get first team football and will return. Vickers, Quigley, Evans, Watts, Demetriou, Jones and McBurnie were all loaned out to Newport and Port Talbot to try and help out my affiliate teams. Copp, Jones, Fallon, Lucas, Davies, Jefferies, Samuel and Griffiths were loaned out because they don’t have the potential to reach my first team. Barrow, Gorre, Fulton, Bartley, Gomis and Grimes were all loaned out because I received good loan fees for them, plus because they aren’t Welsh. I originally planned on playing Gomis but Paloschi started the season on fire. Sheehan and Kingsley were loaned out with the intention of recalling them in January, although I mistakenly left out the recall option on Kingsley. On the selling front, Gogic, Evans, Jones, Maric, Holland, Zabret and Hanley were all let go for free because I didn’t see a future for them at the club. Rangel, Routledge and Britton were all sold because of their age, while Dyer, Cork and Emnes were sold because I think I got a very good fee for them, while Ki Sung-Yeung was sold because he was asking to leave after PSG became interested in him. I am however amazed at how much PSG were willing to pay for him. Sigurdsson’s head was also turned when Bayern became interested so I thought it’d be better just to let him go rather than have an unhappy player. His transfer fee is listed as 11.25m but that doesn’t take into account 6m+ of which will be paid after appearances and future transfer fees. Despite being Welsh I also let Ashley Williams go because of his age but I felt Monaco offering 6.25m was a decent offer, but in hindsight after seeing James Chester’s asking price of 12m I should’ve probably kept him. I also let Neil Taylor go because I felt in the medium/long-term that Ben Davies would be the much better option for club and country. Lastly on deadline day I sold Lucasz Fabianski and loaned out Nordfeldt. I allowed this because I was able to sign Karl Darlow. Fabianski was the better keeper but Darlow was in the Wales squad and I wanted to sign him before he became an international them his transfer fee and wage demands would’ve increased.
September - The Starting Squad
I went into the first half of the season with only around 20 players but although it lacked depth I was planning on using a regular starting 11 while only rotating players occasionally.
My main 11 was Darlow, Davies, Ilori, Fernandez, Naughton, Badu, Gutierrez, Montero, Ayew, Zivkovic, Paloschi.
The backup players were Jordi Amat, Joe Rodon, Liam Shephard, Leroy Fer, Emil Larsen, Adam King, Alex Bray, Daniel James, Botti Biabi and Eder.
January Update (including new transfers)
The season has gone very well so far, largely thanks to Paloschi who has been on fire in front of goal. 20 games into the season and he has scored 17 goals in 16 league appearances. Andrija Zivkovic has been a stand-out player and won the European Golden Boy 2016 and already has the likes of Real Madrid interested in signing him. Felipe Gutierrez as expected has also been a very good signing by consistently putting in very good performances. I have been lucky with injuries and the only real concern is Eder who has picked up a couple of minor injuries. Not related to the first team but under 21 striker Liam Cullen has done well for Wales u21’s by scoring 5 goals in 6 games so far despite only being 16. In January I decided to take charge of the under 21’s too so I recalled Quigley and Sheehan from their loans to play for my u21’s. I started playing Darlow for my under 21’s too so I sent Lewis Thomas out to Crawley. Newport weren’t playing Vickers so I recalled him then sent him back out to Bolton. Tabanou’s loan at St Etienne was cancelled and I sent him out to Crystal Palace to receive a loan fee. Ben Morgan was sent from my under 19’s to Port Talbot as a replacement because I had recalled Quigley from them. Because I had recalled Sheehan I decided to send Adam King out on loan to Sheffield United. In terms of transfers I had agreed a deal in December to sell Kristoffer Nordfeldt to Benfica for 4.8m so he left on January 1st. I also sold Kyle Naughton to Atletico Madrid because they had offered me 6.25m. At the same time I bought Chris Gunter for only 925k from Reading as a replacement. I also agreed a deal to sign Jordan Williams from Liverpool for 550k. I also signed Emyr Huws from Wigan for 4.2m. Huws and Williams however will both join Swansea for the start of next season when their current loan deals have concluded.
A separate mention involving the Wales national teams. During the last international call-ups Swansea had 2 1st team with the national team, 9 at under 21 level and 5 more with the under 19's. Daniel James had been with Wales u21 but has just been called up for England under 19s. It was a friendly so I was able to withdraw him from the squad in the hope he rejoins the Welsh under 21 squad in the future because he could be a good player for Wales if he becomes a full international for them.
March - Progress Report
With 10 games remaining Swansea are sitting in 10th place with a 6 point gap over Newcastle and Leicester below. The table is more compact above with 5th place Chelsea only 6 points ahead. Paloschi is still banging in the goals with 23 Premier League goals this season (22 apps) and on a couple of occasions I’ve played weakened sides against some of the lower teams in the league and the young players have done well.
Youth Intake In March
Four youth prospects were signed to youth contracts, 2 of whom I think will be good enough to become Premier League players. An attacking right back with good physical stats and determination, and a tall striker who is strong, composed and a capable finisher so could potentially be a good target man or poacher. The 2 others may become Welsh youth internationals but could end up at my Welsh affiliate club (Port Talbot) as they don’t have the potential to become first team players. I also signed a couple of youth players from other teams. A Welsh midfielder from Airbus and a Scottish striker from Queen’s Park. Both I got on a 4 week trial to play in my under 21’s then agreed to sign on free transfers so they will join at the start of next season.
End of Season Results
I ended the season in a very respectable 8th place. I feel like I cost myself a few points towards the end though as I was trying to give youth players a chance in what was a remarkable season. Not shown on the screenshot is that Paloschi was awarded top goal scorer. Tied with Harry Kane, but due to playing less minutes he won the award, and was also named in the PL XI of the Year.
Club And Country Stats
I had a set team for big games but for cup matches and ‘lesser’ league matches I tried to give fringe players a try so no one player really made a large number of appearances. Zivkovic excelled for club and nation, Paloschi hasn’t quite got his Italian call-up just yet and Darlow made his Wales debut. Eder surprising played for Portugul despite being a benchwarmer. Also, Gunter and Sheehan’s stats from January onwards.
Player Stats (Loaned Out)
Gomis had a very good season as expected. Was only loaned out cause Paloschi was on fire. Grimes and Fulton progressed very well at Brighton and Bristol respectively, and Kingsley was wasted at MK Dons and won’t be loaned out again. McBurnie and Demetriou close to the playoffs which is much better than their expectations. Barrow made an amazing 32 sub appearances for Hull but only 1 start. Samuel did well at Pompey and received a Wales ‘A’ call-up but didn’t play.
I hope to have more Welsh players featured next season. Deals for Emyr Huws and Jordan Williams have already been agreed. A number of foreign players will likely leave as Fernandez has already asked to be allowed to join Man City and players haven’t even gone for the Summer break yet. Bigger teams are sniffing around Gutierrez, Amat, Badu and Montero so there could be a number of transfers before pre-season starts.
Off the field, I have bought the stadium and the capacity is being increased. The board have also agreed to upgrade training facilities but unfortunately refused to upgrade the youth facilities. On the Wales front I still have around 20 players being called up for Welsh youth teams, and 3 players have been named in the Wales squad for the World Cup in the Summer.