FM23 Journeys: Pentagon Part II: Show Me the Money!
For those who missed last time, I’ve started a Pentagon save. The aim is to start with nothing, absolutely fuck all, and go on to win all five Continental Competitions (Champions League, Copa Libertadores, you get it). My first job took me to Malaysia and Terengganu FA. The club has a huge stadium, seating 50,000 and they gave me a load of money the first season so I thought I could spend it. Let’s see how that’s working out…
Ok, so everyone is up for sale! I need to lose 4-5 first team players before the season starts or financially, I am boned. I’m predicted to be £7M in debt in three years. Hahaha, it’s going great.
I have a bunch of foreign players. I can only play four of them at any given time. I’ve transfer listed most of them and need to offload…most of them. Diakite, who I desperately want to keep, has told me he’s leaving at the end of the season. He’s the best player at the club. Shitembi is wildly unpredictable on the wing. Sherman is decent up front. Mintah is a striker who was out on loan, I have no idea if he’s good. Ott is shit. Redzovic is apparently a central defender but to call what he does defending is an insult to Paolo Maldini.
Long story short on the contractual situation is I set them as unwanted, and my director of football got rid of them.
I even had a little cash to spare to bring in a goalkeeper!
So, this is the new line up. Diakite is quitting at the end of the season. Hopefully we can have a good year and persuade him to stay on because he’s fantastic. Ahmad was a sensation in season one. Attram, who was on a free, has been scoring goals for fun in pre-season so hopefully that’s a dynamite pairing up top. I’ve had to sacrifice Shitembi, but he only scored one goal last season. I know it was from halfway. Sacrifices had to be made. I have a decent pack of players with some ok options off the bench and I’ve offloaded the big salaries. I had a peak at Johor (the champs) and they’ve got a player on £4.5k a week. How the other half live!
My new goalie is here to stop us conceding so many but in the first two rounds of the cup he ships a staggering SEVEN goals in two games against lower league opponents. We win 5-4 and 5-3. Total number of shots faced in both games? NINE. He only saved two of nine shots. This is not the start I was hoping for from Barreto. The start of the league season is a mixture of the familiar (bottling wins and ending up with draws) and the new normal, with players adjusting to the new tactical approach and Big George Attram banging in goals.
George was available on a free and banged in a bunch of goals in pre-season so I’ve started him in basically every game. The result has been LOTS of goals. 13 in 9 in all competitions from the Ghanian Powerhouse. Strength 12 in Malaysia basically makes you superhuman. He’s also good in the air and tall, which is two things no Malaysian player has. I have a Malaysian winger, called Kutty Abba, who’s six feet tall and he looks like fucking El Gigante out there.
I’m £500,000 in debt and the board decide to congratulate me on fixing the financial issues. Was the previous manager Kwasi Kwarteng or something? I don’t think I’ve done this yet lads.
Mid-May, where leagues are finishing around Europe and we’re smashing it in the Malaysian league. Even the three drawn games, we were the better team. We’re P2 behind Johor, who have won every title for years. Think of them as tropical rainforest version of Bayern Munich.
I love it when all the players get these little lines joining them together. This is a sign of good cohesion. Faiz Nasir is my surprise player of the season. I stuck him in briefly when Kugan was injured on the right wing, thinking Kutty Abba would be the left winger and Nasir has been so good Kugan remains on the bench. Nasir takes free kicks, has sneaky good goal contributions and is 5’ 1” so when he runs past a normal sized player it looks hilarious.
I took a look at the rules in Malaysia when I first went there but one that slipped through my understanding was that trialists can play in competitive games. As long you have only four foreign players in the match day squad, anything else is fine. The thing that continues to grind at me is that, due to the club’s poor financial situation, they won’t let me do any more badges. So, I’m stuck on National C.
The Malaysian FA Cup is the most prestigious honour in all of professional sports and we go as far as the semi’s before losing against Johor, the best team in the country by a mile, and we only lose on away goals after rallying from a first leg defeat. The 3-2 win in the second leg represents our first substantial victory and one of our free kicks grazed the woodwork in stoppage time. We were that close. I’ll put my hand up and say that I didn’t know about away goals and assumed we’d taken the game to extra time but hey, a win over Johor is worth celebrating.
Johor are the kind of scum team who sign foreign players and then claim they’re actually Malaysian. Like Juventus used to do with South American players. Some of their “Malaysian” players include Matthew Davies (born in Australia), Junior Eldstal (who’s blatantly Swedish), Daniel Ting (born in that “oh, that’s so Malaysian” town of Chester), Mo Sumareh (born in The Gambia) and Liridon Krasniqi (born in Kosovo, played International football for Kosovo, now “Malaysian”). I want to take this fucking team down so badly.
As you can see from the league table Johor have absolutely run away with it. 14 points clear with 7 games remaining. The title is sewn up. We’re in an intriguing position as the ‘best of the rest’ at this juncture. We just need to not fuck it up. I’m also looking ahead to next season, where it’ll be a massive rebuild as 90% of our playing staff will be out of contract including star centre back Diakite and star midfielder Haroon. My plan is to take two players on trial in the summer and keep them on trial until November when I can actually sign them*.
*This actually worked in the form of Ilya Kirsch, young Russian central defender, who spent four months on trial with us before signing a contract in November.
Finances are still bad, so I cut 11 players in the July window. There are only 9 players who have contracts past this season. Including first teamers Ahmad, Attram, Bakar, Barreto, Murad and Hasni. Youngsters Wan and Abdul Halim are under contract too, as is Muhd Abdullah, who is dreadful. So, in the summer* I need to recruit an entirely new midfield and half the defence.
*I’ve put “summer” here but it’s actually winter. I also keep referring to Continental competition as “Europe”.
One of the funniest things about playing in Malaysia is the sheer number of players whose name is “Mohd”. In a game against Kedah, the visitors field a team with no less than EIGHT players named Mohd in the starting line-up plus another EIGHT on the bench.
As the league season winds up it’s clear we won’t catch Johor, but we solidify our second place and head into the AFC Champions League next season for our first continental challenge. We do so with a greatly reduced wage bill. The insane overspending of the previous regime is finally under control but we’re massively in debt because of it. There is a little wiggle room for new contracts and hopefully we can field a competitive team.
My long-term aim at this club is to try and best Johor. The last team to win the title that wasn’t Johor doesn’t even exist anymore. Obviously, my main aim in the save is to win the Pentagon so maybe I’ll never finish above Johor, but it would be nice. At the end of August 2023, I finally win a manager of the month award. The first award of my career in FM23. I’m still stuck on a National C badge, thanks to the staggering ineptitude of the finance department.
The league season ending sees a barrage of achievements pop up. The rarest is this one; “Superb Strike” for winning goal of the season.
It’s from my centre back who’s never scored. He scored from here with a curling effort into top bins. It was so good, I jumped out of my chair. George Attram bags the Golden Boot with 21 in the league. Ahmad is second with 18 goals. There’s a bunch of players in team of the season; Diakite, Azih, Nasir, Ahmad and Attram.
As we head into the season ending Piala Malaysia (like a League Cup but with little group stages first), I’m suddenly aware that my contract is going to expire in about eight weeks. Uh….can I have a new contract? I’m scared to ask because I’ve been knocked back on the requests for a training course for a year. We get into the final four weeks of my deal and FINALLY a new contract is incoming. It’s for one year. Although, in the club’s defence, nobody has a contract beyond a year at the moment because we’re broke.
The post season cup competition goes fine until the final group game, which clashes with an international break. I ask for a postponement because 13 of my players are unavailable, including eight of my first team. They agree and it’s postponed by ONE DAY when all 13 players are still on international duty. What?
Perhaps the maddest thing about Malaysia is the season finishes after the transfer window, for the close season, opens and people’s contracts expire. So, we win 1-0 away at Johor in the semis of the cup and then all my out of contract players leave, including Diakite, our best player. Luckily most of them don’t want to quit and hang around without a contract for the second leg. Diakite is fucking gone. He scored 15 goals this season from centre back and was a menace at corners. He’s replaced by Russian Ilja Kirsch. Anyway, we play and beat Johor over two legs in the semi and have a legitimate chance of silverware. Kirsch scored a free kick on his debut. He’s got free kicks 7, which makes him one the better set piece guys in Malaysia.
The end of season player cull has done this to our wages. This was sat on 38k last season. Of the players I wasn’t sure about re-signing for next season, every single one of them took a meaty pay cut. We’re still in debt but we’re not haemorrhaging money. The B team, which won the second tier title, has been destroyed. I’ve given the entire side a free transfer. Some of them were on £375 a week.
And what a lovely way to finish season 2. A battling 5-2 AET win over Melaka in the Piala Malaysia. We had 31 shots and still needed a late equaliser to force extra time. A very, very Terengganu performance.
This is how we finish the season. Second in the league, behind the team with a massive funding advantage. Knocked out of the FA Piala Malaysia by Johor as well but a two-legged revenge win over them saw us take the Piala Malaysia. First trophy! George Attram finishes the season with 46 goals in all competitions. Muhd Syafiq Ahmad chips in with 27 of his own. Diakite scored 15 goals before leaving the team before the end of the season. Leading assists man is Abdul Azih with 15. He also scored a screamer in the cup final, after looking ‘anxious’ pre-match. Kutty Abba has 13 assists, which is second best. Attram’s AVR is 8.20. EIGHT POINT TWO ZERO! Peak Lionel Messi wasn’t on that.
Looking at the club vision screen, we’ve passed everything the board wanted. Finished top 3 and competed in the cups. Passed, passed, passed. The supporters wanted us to finish above Kelantan. We did. We also destroyed them three times this season. We scored seven in the one game.
All in all, it’s been a fantastic second season in Malaysia. We’re about to compete in Continental competition for the first time, entering the Asian Champion’s League next season. I’m under no illusion that we’re likely to win the competition from such a small footballing nation but it’s nice to be competing after two seasons.
NEXT: Can Terangganu capture the Asian Champion’s League at the first time of asking and tick off one fifth of the Pentagon challenge? Can I get my coaching badges? Please? Can George Attram score 50 goals in a season? All will be revealed in FM23 Pentagon Part III.