Football Manager Journeys: FM22 #2 CD Mafra
Last time out I took you through my year at Stromgodset. It had been an entirely random choice and I’d enjoyed it but also it felt a bit easy. The squad was good enough to take on the league first season and we ended up winning it. The only remaining challenge in Norway would have been to hang around for another year to see if Stromgodset could compete in Europe. Due to Norway playing a summer league that would mean playing most of another domestic season before we even started into Europe. I opted to just leave.
I did the random number roulette thing again and it threw Brazil at me. I applied for the only Brazilian job and got rejected. No interview. Nothing. Random roulette again and we’re off to Portugal. I had interviews at five clubs but the first to offer me a deal was CD Mafra so we’re here! Portuguese second division. P16. Due to a switch from a summer league to a winter one, Mafra are only halfway through the first season. I have a second chance to win big in season one! And yes, I did sign for them at Christmas. Merry Christmas Mafra.
We kick things off with a 0-0 draw against bottom of the table Chaves and I’m reminded of an equally bad start at Stromgodset. The squad is threadbare and half the players want to leave. I sell the best midfielder, knowing I can replace him on the cheap, and good lord. It’s like I’ve started World War III. We got £100k for him lads. That’s too good to turn down at this level. The hilarity continues as we somehow win 7-1 in our third game. I’ve signed a new winger on loan and congratulate him on his player of the match performance (he scored two, grabbed an assist and was a menace all game). He’s mad at me!
Disappointed? What were you hoping for? WE WON 7-1. As if to prove some sort of point he gets sent off 17’ into his next game and the other winger, clearly jealous of Sinisterra getting a rest, follows him on 28’. What the fuck are you doing lads? Both wingers red carded and an hour left to go. Brilliant. We somehow win 2-1.
Flash forward six weeks and we’ve played eight games. Won six, drawn one, lost one (against Benfica’s B team). The last game was an unbelievably dramatic 6-3 win against promotion candidates Academico de Viseu, which put us five points behind them in the league. You’d think the players would have gotten over our initial teething problems.
Things continue along the same lines. The team is quite good and puts together a string of good results. I only need to strengthen in a few positions. With star midfielder Leandrinho let go in the January window I replace him with Romeu Ribeiro. Keiren Westwood, aged 37, comes in to be starting keeper until I get a better one next season. Edimar, 35, comes in to play full back. He can do the whole IWB business to perfection so that’s a huge boost. I need a better centre back pairing but that can wait until we have some actual money. By middle March we’re fourth in the league and £700,000 in the hole.
The thing with the Portuguese second tier is you’ve got B teams in there. Benfica B are top of the league, which means fourth is enough for the play off. Normally top two get promoted but seeing as Benfica cannot be promoted second and third now get automatic promotion. Fourth plays third bottom in Liga NOS for a spot in the top flight. Six games to go…
Our main problem seems to be suspensions. I don’t even have “get stuck in” turned on and we regularly get 4-5 yellows a game. We’ve had a load of red cards. I don’t know what’s wrong with the lads. They’re all properly enraged.
The league comes down to an intense run in. The best result is whopping Penafiel 4-0 with two games to go.
Benfica B will win the league but can’t get promoted. So now second and third go up automatically and fourth faces a play off. Due to our head to head record if we all finish level Penafiel, who have 4 points vs. Viseu, would come top. I’ve managed to recover our record against both teams so if we’re in a dead heat we finish above them one on one but I can’t do anything about Penafiel. But if we’re all level we’re in third anyway and go up automatically. It comes down to our final two games. Win both and we’re up! Quite the transformation over the expectations when I got here.
Our penultimate game is against strugglers Chaves, who were rock bottom when I took over Mafra and have moved up to 14th since. It’s a massacre. We’re winning 6-0 on 90’ and somehow concede two goals in stoppage time. I guess that’s the match engine punishing us for pressing all game. I made loads of subs though. Whatever SI. One game to go! It gets better for us as Academico de Viseu lose their penultimate game at home to Leixoes! Now a point will probably see us get automatic promotion.
In the end, we don’t even need to play. Penafiel have Benfica B away as their penultimate game. I go and watch from the stands and they get humped 4-0. They can’t catch us. MAFRA ARE PROMOTED! Holy shit. I thought I’d need one season to steady the ship before taking a run at promotion. Wow.
I took over on game 16.
FINALLY! You like me, you really like me! With the season over we get our season review, which is mostly the Mafra people being confused as to how all this has happened. We had an average attendance of 603 this season. 603! They won’t even let us play our home games at home in Liga NOS because the ground is too small. So we’re off to Estoril for our home games. Is that near? No.
NEXT: It’s time for a big old Liga NOS adventure. Liga NOS is a proper league and we’re going to get battered. Our pre-season expectation is to fight bravely against relegation. We’ve overachieved to get out of this division, let’s be fair, although the standard in the Portuguese second tier is basically rotten so I’m not that surprised we pulled it off. Let’s see how we do in a real league.