Time In Charge: 8 and a half years
Highest League Finish: 10th in Premier League
Honours: Vanarama National Champions (18/19), League Two Runners-Up (19/20), League One Runners-Up (21/22), Championship Champions (24/25)
Predicted Finish: 3rd
FM19 Save: Here
PES20 Team: Here
I played this save just before FM20 was released late last year and although they haven’t made the same sort of lasting impression on me that a lot of the other teams in this league have, this County side climbed through the leagues really surprisingly quickly and it was quite a successful save in that regard.
TLDR: Harnessed the power of momentum to go from the Vanarama National to the Championship in 4 years, then it took us 3 more years to get to the Premier League, where we finished 10th.
The first season was a bit of a gimme if we’re being honest and that’s why I chose County to begin with. I wanted a nice easy save and smashing our way to the top of the Vanarama National was expected. Our second season wasn’t quite so expected but we took our momentum from the previous season plus a handful of new free signings and loan players and took second place in League 2, earning me back to back promotions for the first time in probably years. We were so close to 3 promotions in a row too, but after another summer of free transfers and loan signings, we finished 3rd in League 1, way adrift of the automatic promotion spots, before losing 1-0 to Sunderland in the play off final. Our second season in League 1 was much tighter at the top and on the final day, any 2 of Luton, us and Bolton could have snagged a promotion spot. We all won so Bolton lost out, allowing us to cruise up to the Championship.
This is where our momentum finally fell away though and we stayed in the Championship for a while, though thanks to some careful buying and selling we were able to raise some money to inject a substantial amount of quality into the squad. We spent a combined £7.6M during our 3 seasons in the Championship, compared to the £830k we’d spent in the 3 seasons before, and in our 3rd season in the 2nd tier we took off, blasting through the top of the division and out into the rarefied air of the Premier League. In our only full season in the Premier League we finished in a very respectable 10th place and currently sit 9th in October of the 26/27 season.
No 1 – Gary Howard – Goalkeeper
Gary’s just signed for us on a free transfer from Manchester City, although we have had him on loan for the past 3 seasons. He’s done really well for us and had a stellar season the year we got promoted from the Championship, but he appears to have just about hit his ceiling, which is a shame. Nevertheless he’s a solid goalie.
No 29 – Kosuke Kajiyama – Right Back
Kosuke is 1 of 3 Japanese players at the club and I categorically deny the slanderous rumour that the only reason I signed them was to sell shirts with our Japanese affiliate club, Matsumoto Yamaga. I mean just look at this boy! I snapped him up for £4M from FC Hiroshima before our first Premier League season and so far he’s done perfectly well on the right hand side of our defence. He’s absolutely rapid and is equally adept going forwards and backwards. At 19 he’s still got plenty of progressing to do too.
No 21 – Raúl Santos – Centre Back
Santos is a newbie, having signed from Cruz Azul in the Summer for a princely sum of £8.25M and he’s a very exciting prospect. He’s an excellent ball winner and has put in some strong performances so far, plus like Kosuke, he’s got so much time to progress and so much potential to fulfil.
No 6 – Walter Mertens – Centre Back
Walter is another newbie and was signed from genk for £17.75M! Just in case you weren’t sure at this point whether we were dealing with Premier League money. And I mean proper Premier League money, not like the Donny save. His mental and physical attributes are extremely good and his technical attributes aren’t awful, but hopefully he’ll progress them a little bit.
No 15 – Alberto Murillo – Left Back
Yet another new lad in our defence! And I’m just now realising that this may be the most multi-cultural back line I’ve ever put together, with East Asia, North America, Central Europe and now Central America all represented. At 20, Alberto’s already won 40 caps for Costa Rica and like the others, he still has potential to fulfil.
No 4 – Han-Noah Massengo – Deep Playmaker
Massengo joined us before our first Premier League season in a £4M move from Brighton, although I believe I’d been tracking him since I came up to the Championship when he was playing for Norwich. He’s been really solid for us so far and also managed to notch 7 goals from defensive midfield last season, which is surprisingly good.
No 16 – Dawuda Bereng – Box to Box Mid
Dawuda is the latest player I’ve signed from the South African top tier, who I don’t think like me anymore because of my frequent raids during my time at Auxerre. He joined in the Summer from Sundowns for £525k and I’ve been using him as a box to box midfielder, which he isn’t all that comfortable with yet. His performances will hopefully improve though and of course he’s got potential for days.
No 7 – Jake Doyle-Hughes – Advanced Playmaker
And finally we’ve found someone who’s been here longer than 1 full season. JDH has actually been with us all the way from our first season in the Championship when we signed him on a free from Aston Villa. He’s gone from strength to strength since, even going on to make 14 appearances for Ireland. His 27 goals and 23 assists in 154 appearances, as well as his consistently good form, have made him a fan favourite. With both our Captain and Vice-Captain starting on the bench, JDH will take the armband for the first game.
No 8 – Keane Lewis-Potter – Right Wing
KLP is another fan favourite and has been with us since our last season in the Championship, when you could say he took us up single-handed. 18 goals and 16 assists in 45 appearances that season speaks for itself. He’s since added 9 goals and 10 assists in his 32 Premier League appearances too, which is promising.
No 23 – Bukayo Saka – Left Wing
Here’s the big name then. Fun fact – I’d never heard of Bukayo Saka when I signed him up on a free transfer at the start of our first Premier League campaign, as I don’t think he properly got going for Arsenal until late last year when I’d moved onto FM20. SI knew he had potential though and although his attributes here probably don’t even compare with his real life ones, he’s an excellent and versatile wing option for us.
No 11 – Dale Johnson – Striker
Dale came in at the start of the 25/26 season, same as Saka, in a £7.5M move from Spurs. He’d caught my eye in the Championship, single handedly saving Birmingham from relegation with 23 goals in 40 appearances. I hoped he’d be able to step up to Premier League football and he has done well, scoring 17 goals and setting up 6 in 48 appearances for County.
There’s some real quality on this bench. It pains me not to put Louie Barry in the starting 11 with the quality he has but he hasn’t played that much for me in FM yet so I thought it only fair. Captain Regan Booty, who’s been with me since the Vanarama National, and Vice-Captain Jason McCarthy, who joined us going into League 1, both provide good cover, while Richard Mohammed, on loan with us for the 5th consecutive season, and emerging youngster Damali Webster are both great young talents that will threaten if they get on the pitch. Actually this bench is really oozing with quality, although most of them are still developing. Look out for them all.
Yup, it’s a classic Franjo 4-3-3. It actually surprises me that only 2 of these teams are playing in this formation. I must be more versatile then I think. Pace down the wings, creativity, legs and grit in the middle. Positive football. County will do alright.