Football Manager Journeys #7: Tony Jameson Challenge April 2021 (Wycombe Wanderers)
WELCOME TO ADAMS PARK
This is the second Tony Jameson Challenge series. I came second in the Leeds challenge, which I would have won hands down if it wasn’t for Tony getting Manager of the Season. He won it by a point. Clearly this is a robbery of some kind. So we move on. Tony has simmed up to Christmas in the Championship and whoever was bottom was the challenge team. Whoever finishes highest in the league wins the challenge. Pretty straightforward really. Wycombe are really bad. They’ve gone down in every season I’ve played in various different saves.
First things first; the coaching is bad. I’ve put an offer in for Charlie Oatway, who’s a decent assistant manager and would handily improve everything across the board in coaching. Speaking of improvements…we need something in terms of morale. Even my opening team meeting might help this. It’s poor.
Let’s see how the form is…
Oh dear god. Wycombe are five points from safety. There’s no money. The squad is seriously lacking in attacking options.
In goal we have Ryan Allsop, who’s worth nothing and is on the transfer list. Right back is Jack Grimmer, the former Coventry full back. He did the business for me in the Coventry save a few years ago. Joe Jacobson is at left back. He’s 34 but has incredible technical ability. 19 corners, 16 crossing, 17 for free kicks, 18 for pens. A dead ball specialist. He is slow but apart from that I’m happy with him. The two centre backs are Anthony Stewart and Josh Knight. Stewart is valuable so I might have to sell him. He’s very ok. Knight is fine but better off as a defensive midfielder. I would sell him but he’s here on loan from Leicester.
In midfield we’ve got Nnamdi (double N?) Ofoborh. That sounds like a made up name. He’s Nigerian. He’s a natural box to boxer, which might help a bit but honestly he’s not the finished article and physical attributes aside I wouldn’t sign him. We’ve also got Alex Pattison, who’s a tiny shit midfielder. He’s slow and his technicals are bad. He’s worth nothing or I’d sell him. David Wheeler is one of the actual good players. I’m pretty sure I had him on my Coventry save too. He’s not quick, for a winger, but he’s got good mentals and he’s solid all round. On the other side is Daryl Horgan, who is quick and can dribble. That’s about it.
Up top it’s a mess. Uche Ikpeazu (how do you say that?) is the best forward. He’s strong and works hard. Finishing 13 is far from ideal and his mentals are inconsistent. He is 6’ 3” though. I’m aiming to pair him with Malachi Linton, a 20 year old I pulled out of the reserves, who has pace 18. I need a quick player to get ahead of Horgan and hopefully team up. On the downside he’s very raw and has stuff like decisions 9.
This is my solution. At least to start with. We need to stop teams scoring. A fluid counter-attacking approach seems the best way forward. We don’t have the players for it, bar Linton who is really quick, but we don’t have the players for any formation so fuck it.
We kick things off with a 1-0 loss to Bristol City that was so mad about because we contained them and controlled the game and then conceded in the last minute. Second game is a complete mess too. We go ahead early through Horgan but the referee has been bribed with fat Welsh cash and awards Cardiff two penalties. The second of which is a clean tackle and not in any way, shape or form a pen. Ever. Luckily we battle back Ikpeazu cements his centre forward position by scoring a winner at 88’.
From there we edge past Middlesbrough with a late penalty from Kashket. I reward him for his nerves in front of goal by immediately selling him. We then get ruined by Brentford in the cup. Two late goals flatter them and 4-1 isn’t a fair reflection of the contest but yeah, we are fucked. Ok, time for a dramatic re-thinking of the formation.
The lads try to kick on at QPR. We kick things off by giving the ball away on the edge of their box and getting done three on two on the break with a Charlie Austin shot going straight through my keeper. Then we pass it to Ilias Chair inside the penalty area for 2-0. Fucking great work lads. Another defensive failure sees Josh Knight head it straight to Chair and he makes it 3-0. We’ve had double the shots of QPR btw. They’ve had 3 shots on target. I’m not even exaggerating.
Obviously they had three more shots after 3-0. But look, we had more chances, more clear cuts, more xG, more corners, better pass completion and way more possession. I know none of those stats really matter but we were all over these bastards. Stupid defensive errors and GAH. Yelling!
Next game I decide to take more chances and get forward more. We somehow create far less chances and lose 1-0 to Sheff Weds. I’m already flummoxed by this team. It’s like they don’t want to be here. Next up is Blues and we go in at HT at 1-1. They’ve had one shot. One. In the entire half. We eventually see them off thanks to a second half brace from Alex Samuel but this should have been dead and buried after half an hour. You can see why Wycombe were so far up shit creek at the start of the save.
JANUARY TRANSFERS AKA WHY DIDN’T I JUST DO A GODDAMN FIRESALE
Having the window drop immediately is hard. You don’t have time to assess what you’ve got and where you most need players. I filled the one position I thought we most desperately needed someone by bringing in Man City’s Jimmy McAtee on loan. The lack of AMC at Wycombe is painful. You need one if you’re going to try and attack and change games. My only other recruit is 6’ 3” central midfielder Teddy Jenks who scares me, frankly. He’s 18 and should provide some depth in midfield. I wanted a striker too so in comes Norwich forward Sebastian Soto. He’s a nicely rounded attacker. Good at everything, no obvious flaws. Finally I picked up Alfie Doughty, who can play on either wing. I was lacking depth.
You’ll notice I did most of my business on deadline day itself. I think I felt I could get away with not bringing anyone in and our form during January convinced me otherwise. I also signed Kaylen Hinds as a AMC/Striker but the deal went through after the deadline so I clicked yes and discovered registration couldn’t be done so I’ve signed a guy on £2k a week who can’t play. On top of that I now have eight players in on loan. Only five can play at any one time. That includes the bench so Dennis Adrenaline (not real name) who’s on loan from Everton can only get in if I leave someone like Jenks out.
Next game after deadline day is against Forest and I have three debuts to hand out. We end up getting played off the park for large spells of the game. We win 2-1. Forest score an own goal and we get lucky with a marginal offside that would have made it 2-2. The good news is Jimmy McAtee is an absolute boss. We shithouse our way past Huddersfield next game. They peg us back twice, the second time right after a magic strike from Teddy Jenks. Malachi Linton pops up with a sensational late winner. The assist from McAtee involves a nutmeg. It’s a bit cheeky. Derby at home is, IRL, not the hardest of games but in FM21 world Rooney has taken Derby to second. We completely boss them. It’s a great performance. 19-7 on shots. 9-3 on target. We play excellent football and should have it done by HT. When 90’ rolls around we’re at 1-1 because of course we are. Luckily I hooked Josh Knight for costing us the goal and his replacement Tafazolli rises LIKE A SALMON to head us a winner from a corner at 90’+3. Yes mate!
We’re no strangers to late drama but blowing a comfortable 2-0 lead at Millwall is the first massive bottle job of the season. I can only assume they were scared the Millwall fans would burn the team bus down or something. Conceding twice in injury time wasn’t much fun. Next up is Reading and that’s a similar tale of misery. We go 1-0 up and then concede a daft goal from a corner. All over Reading for the rest of the game. Should have won comfortably. Throwing points away is kind of our ‘thing’. It’s how we roll.
I feel like it’s going to happen again against Norwich. We coast to 2-0 with two Stewart headers from corners. We’re fine until 80’ and concede from a corner. We also should have been 3-0 up, again from a corner. Corners! My manager’s favourite snack is fruit corners. Get your corner bets on gang. This time we don’t bottle it and hold out for 2-1, which is pretty fucking great against a team in the top three.
Watford away is not a game I expect anything from. Here we charge into a 0-2 deficit. Both headers from corners. I sort out our corner defending but it’s a bit late. Then Ikpeazu gives us a lifetime only for Tafazolli to get sent off. We’re down to ten. My tactic changes to the most defensive I can find. Essentially 4-4-1. Ikpeazu up top on his own. We go cautious, not defensive, though. Keep them playing. Wheeler gets upended in the box on 88’ and we snatch a dramatic equaliser from the spot courtesy of Jacobson. I’m out here celebrating a draw like a maniac. We need more than luck here though. We need magic.
“Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a football club. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal, Wycombe Wanderers. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige” and that’s not only saving Wycombe from relegation, it’s pushing them up to comfortable mid-table.”
Wycombe Wanderers. Highest possible league finish. That’s the Pledge. 12 games left in the league. Next four: Stoke, Preston, Barnsley and relegation threatened Coventry. I’m a bit put out by John Obi Mikkel blasting in a penalty 15’ into the first game. Alex Samuel immediately levels the scores. I don’t rate him but all my other forwards are injured. In fact due to fixture congestion I’m only fielding three outfield first choices at Stoke. Fantastically bizarre aside here. I have two players off the pitch right before a corner because they were marking players who got subbed. Thanks! Another corner sees more fantastic ineptitude as we let the ball bounce. As the game proceeds our lack of squad depth is painfully apparent. We lose 4-1 and pretty much deserve the hiding.
It’s at this point I decide to move Jimmy McAtee up front and make use of his general awesomeness further forwards. He gets an assist on Dennis Adrenaline’s opener against Preston and I feel like a footballing genius. Dennis, who’s taken on the AMC role, promptly scores again. We even produce a cheeky ‘one off the training ground’ free kick goal where Jacobson rolls it to an unmarked Stewart who blasts home from the edge of the box. McAtee gets his goal early in the second half firing home from a Samuel cut back. 4-0. Suck on that Preston! They’re actually in the play off spots so that comes as somewhat of a surprise.
For Barnsley Sebastian Soto is fit again and my lord he just misses so many chances doesn’t he? We should win comfortably so naturally we lose thanks to a free kick from Mowatt. After the Preston game this is a crushing result.
They seem anxious to make amends against Coventry and score in the opening minute through Samuel. We then double the lead with a Joe Jacobson penner. A Dennis Adrenaline goes in to make it 3-0, going down as an own goal thanks to a double deflection. Coventry, terrified they’re about to get wrecked, go to five at the back. Samuel misses two sitters and it’s not even half time! Josh Knight once again infuriates me though by passing the ball to their striker in the box. Is he blind? Sheaf scores a 30 yarder and suddenly it’s 3-2 in a game we’ve 100% dominated. This is what happens when you have Josh Knight, the worst player in Football Manager history*. I end up subbing him off at half time and then playing ultra defensive to make sure we see it out for the three. Should I just send Knight back to whatever club we’ve got him on loan from?
*He ended up with the highest AVR at the end of the season.
8 games left. Next four: Blackburn, Rotherham, Luton and Swansea.
I immediately regret my magic reference as we go behind after five minutes against Blackburn. Stewart heads in yet another from a corner (that’s SIX now) to level it up but we’re soon behind again. Magic sucks. Wait, what if the Turn is the other way? Are we going down? Second half Ikpeazu misses an open goal. Goal at his mercy and he hits the post. It looked easier to score. Soto then hits the post when clean through on goal. Haha, funny guys. Very funny. Blackburn then score again on the counter. This miserable fucking game man. I hook Soto, getting increasingly annoyed with him, and Samuel is on. He’s through on goal. One on one. He blazes wide. We lose 3-1. We’ve turned the wrong way. I’M TRYING TO DO A FUCKING MAGIC TRICK HERE, YOU ARSEHOLES.
Against Rotherham we improve. Wheeler has a field day against crap defenders and Doughty finally scores a goal. Even Soto scores with his one-on-one. We don’t even play that well but we’re finally taking chances. Two shots, two goals. But hey, when you’re bottom of the league, like Rotherham are, you get FM’d a lot. It’s nature.
Luton Town at home is what you’d call a “winnable” game. Instead Malachi Linton is the latest in a string of forwards to opt to miss the target when one-on-one. After 15 minutes we’re 1-0 down and I can’t help but feel this team would have gone down easily if I wasn’t here. We’re barely above water with me here. It’s miserable. Alfie Doughty scores an absolute screamer to level things up. Smashing it in from outside the box on the left. Linton then makes amends for his big miss by dinking one over the keeper for 2-1. McAtee makes it 3-1. THE TURN IS ON! My whole “don’t get complacent” team talk results in Doughty getting himself sent off 48 seconds into the second half. I employ two lines of four and just hope for the best. We concede once but just about hold out. 3-2.
The win takes us to 48 points. Statistically 47 points is usually safe. In order to celebrate I sell Ikpeazu to San Jose. I no longer need to keep praying he’ll get better. 5 goals in 31 games is absolute shite mate. Get in the bin.
At Swansea, I feel like the Turn is actually on. We hit them on the counter and Linton’s pace gets him in for 1-0. Only Swansea score a minute later and ruin my mood. Wheeler gives away possession stupidly for another and before I know it we’re losing 3-1. The Turn isn’t happening. I’ve dropped my cards all over the floor. The rabbit has escaped. There’s nothing in the hat. This finishes 5-2 with at least Soto chipping in with a late consolation. Is he getting better?
4 games left: Bristol City (remember them?), Cardiff, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough.
The only way we pull off The Prestige is if all the other magicians get sick and the audience blinks repeatedly until I find the rabbit and pick up all my aces. 8 minutes into the Bristol City game we’re 2-0 down. How? What is wrong with these clowns? 20’ and we get one back thanks to Soto. Come on lads. PRESTIGE! That dickhead Josh Knight even scores. That’s the real Prestige. Round of applause please. SOTO! 35’ played and we’ve completely turned it around. Linton, 4-2. Linton, 5-2. Have I unlocked the Linton? Things turn a bit and it ends up 5-4. PRESTIGE!
Vs Cardiff. 1-0. Doughty. Magic goal. THE PRESTIGE! Josh Knight, again, THE PRESTIGE! We win again! Up to 17th in the league now. 54 points.
Vs Bournemouth. 1-0 Doughty! How has he become good? Allsop has a bit of a moment to let Bournemouth back into it, trying to get to the ball before Solanke. Seb Soto! He’s firing now. 2-1 Wycombe. The ball literally hits him in the back of the leg and goes in. We beat Bournemouth! THE PRESTIGE!
Vs Middlesbrough, final day. We can finish as high as 13, as low as 17. We even have Kaylen Hinds in the squad! I signed him in January, the game wouldn’t let me register him and he got injured. He might finally make his debut. We go behind but Soto, who is now Actually Good, gets us level. He should put us ahead but get it ruled out for a marginal offside. Anthony Stewart gets sent off but we don’t care. We don’t give a shit. Pile forwards. SOTOOOO! We win, again. FOUR IN A ROW. THE PRESTIGE. THE PRESTIGE. THE FUCKING PRESTIGE!
We were 20th going into the final four games, half of which looked impossible to get results in. We won all four and finished 13th in the league. How did I do this? A magician never reveals his secrets.