Meet Hearts 21/22 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 5/6)

This save had a bit of a weird concept. It was another network save with my mate Tom, who I mentioned in the Blackpool and Bordeaux intros and we called it the “Head Coach Challenge”.

overview

Game: FM19

Time In Charge: 3 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 4th in SPL (19/20, 20/21)

Honours: Scottish Cup Runners-Up (19/20)

Predicted Finish: 6th

FM19 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here


This save had a bit of a weird concept. It was another network save with my mate Tom, who I mentioned in the Blackpool and Bordeaux intros and we called it the “Head Coach Challenge”. Basically, we were the head coach of our clubs and nothing more. Buying and selling, contract renewals and staff signing was all left to our directors of football, but we did allow ourselves 1 transfer per window that we could choose ourselves. Tom actually stopped playing after the 2nd season and I played on for 18 months without those restrictions, but yeah that’s how it started. He was big shot Europa League side Hibs and I was poor, penniless Hearts.

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Back Story

TLDR: We finished 6th, 4th and 4th in the league, got beaten in the Scottish Cup Final by Celtic on penalties and in the Europa League 3rd Qualifying round by Slavia Prague on away goals. This season we’re below par in the league but looking good in the Europa Group stage.

Because of our self-imposed restrictions and Hearts’ absolutely woeful financial situation, I decided early on to lean heavily into the only thing that I could control: Developing youth. Throughout the first season the vast majority of my lazy, underperforming and overpaid first team were transfer listed and sent to train with the reserves while my youth players were drafted into the first team squad. We didn’t do that badly in the first season considering this upheaval, finishing as the best of the rest but a long way behind a top 5 of Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock. The second season some of my young ‘uns found their stride and we climbed above both Killy and Aberdeen to 4th and a Europa League qualifying spot, while also narrowly missing out on Scottish Cup glory after a loss against Celtic on penalties. In our third season we progressed, still only maintaining a 4th place finish in the SPL but accruing 8 points more than the previous year. We did lose our Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round tie against Slavia Prague on away goals after a 5-5 aggregate draw though, which was gutting. In our current season we’re 6th in the league and beat PSV Eindhoven and hammered Levski Sofia to reach the group stages of the Europa though, where we’ve so far picked up 2 wins from 4 games, leaving us just 1 point below the qualification spots for the knockouts.


Starting Lineup

No 46 – Matthew Spencer – Goalkeeper

Spencer’s a new signing at Tynecastle Park, having joined on a free from Barnet in the Summer. Goalkeeper’s a position we’ve really struggled with during my tenure and at only 19 he’s a really good prospect, so I’m developing him as best I can. He’s doing well so far and has conceded 20 goals in 20 games.

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No 32 – Diego “Diegui” Johannesson Pando – Right Back

For a club that’s spent £3.72M over 3 and a half seasons, a £500k outlay for one player is big, big money. I brought Diegui (His nickname, not mine) in from Real Oviedo in 2020 as his attributes were solid across the board and as an Icelandic international he could give our young squad some experience. He’s done just that and has been a good purchase I think, averaging just over a 7 rating last season and just below so far this season.

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No 4 – Ben Sheaf – Centre Back

Ben Sheaf’s one of the most rounded defensive players I’ve ever seen and when Arsenal released him in 2020 I absolutely pounced. He can play anywhere but in net and in the final third and is a very consistent performer. He’s an incredibly useful player to have.

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No 6 – Jake Clarke-Salter – Centre Back

Like Sheaf, Clarke-Salter was also released by a big London club, namely Chelsea. Brought in this Summer, he’s so far performed incredibly well, especially in Europe, and can hopefully form a long lasting partnership in defence with Sheaf.

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No 3 – Finn Ecrepont – Left Back

Finn was one of my “One signing per window” signings back in the day – A £20k buy from Ayr in the first January window. He broke into the side 18 months later and had a terrific 20/21 season, but then heartbreakingly decided that he was going to let his contract run down, so in January I let him go to Spurs for free… But with a cheeky 50% buy-on clause. We’ve got him back on loan for this season and he’s doing alright.

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No 8 – Craig Sibbald – Deep Playmaker

Craig is one of only 2 of my director of football’s dealings that has actually stood the test of time and stayed in my first team squad. He was brought in in 2019/20 for £500k and initially I cried and cried at that much money being spunked up the wall when I could do nothing to stop it, but he’s good! Average rating hovering around 7 every season, 14 goals and 13 assists in 108 appearances and it’s handy having a good penalty taker around. Not too shabby.

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No 11 – Aaron Hickey – Box to Box Mid

Aaron Hickey (SI’s spelling mistake, not mine) epitomises my youth-first approach in this save for me. He’s got great talent and even in my first season when he was 16 years old he made 13 appearances. He was fucking awful, but luckily he’s been much, much better in the 2 and a half years since when he’s been an important part of our team. He’s prone to the odd screamer and the odd 2 footed lunge, so it’s always exciting to have him in the squad.

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No 7 – Brandon Barker – Right Wing

Brandon was another of my “one-per-window” signings when he was released by Manchester City in 2019. He’s exactly the injection of quality we needed at the time and has been really good on whichever wing I’ve played him on, scoring 30 and setting up 17 in 106 games.

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No 16 – Connor Smith – Attacking Mid

Connor’s another academy lad and like Hickey, he’s been in and around the squad since my first season. I saw him as Hearts’ answer to Steven Gerrard so as well as being a first team starter since my second season, he was made club captain in 2020. 27 goals and 13 assists in 114 games so far and he’s still got a lot of growing to do.

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No 10 – Sean Clare – Left Inside Forward

Sean was brought in just before I arrived and has really stood the test of time cutting in from the left wing. He’s often made the difference for us, scoring 29 times and assisting 27 goals in 132 games.

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No 9 – Dylan Munro – Striker

Dylan’s my absolute favourite from this side though. He emerged from the academy in my first season and went straight into the starting line up at 16, where he’s been ever since. 50 goals for Hearts and 6 for Scotland at 18 years old. He’s got a big future.

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Squad

The rest of the squad is fairly young as you can imagine, but does have a few experienced heads in it. Kelly, Godinho, Gallagher, Marshall and Kane have all been around a little bit, while the rest have a tonne of potential but aren’t quite at the level yet. The squad’s average age is a major factor in why they’re predicted 6th and I think if I’d played them for a couple more years they’d be real contenders for at least a top half finish.

squad

Tactics

As PES isn’t quite as tactically flexible as FM, Hearts will be playing quite a standard, positive system. Again, the full backs push up and again the wingers cut in as I’m not sure how to keep Barker out wide. It was a fun save and they’ll have a good go, bless em, but I don’t see good times ahead for Hearts in this league.

Meet Doncaster Rovers 29/30 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 4/6)

Even though it wasn’t by any means a successful save, this sticks in my mind as one of the most enjoyable saves I’ve ever played.

overview

Game: FM16

Time In Charge: 14 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 7th In Premier League

Honours: League 1 Runners-Up (16/17), Championship Runners-Up (18/19), Championship Champions (20/21)

Predicted Finish: 1st

FM16 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here


I was absolutely over the moon when I had the idea for this league and found a copy of my Donny save file in a 2016 email to myself, which is how I used to back up files. Even though it wasn’t by any means a successful save, this sticks in my mind as one of the most enjoyable saves I’ve ever played. I grew up not far away and at the time of playing this game I’d just moved back up North from London and was living in Doncaster. I went to the occasional match too, so even though I know all too well that Doncaster is a shit hole, I have a real soft spot for Rovers.

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Back Story

TLDR: From League 1 to the Premier League in 4 years, then relegation and a player exodus followed by a rebuild and instant promotion. 7th place finish, then mid-table mediocrity ever since.

Forgive me if I’ve forgotten absolutely all of the details because this is a 15 year save I played 4 years ago, but the first 4 years after I took over Donny in 2015/16 were fairly run of the mill for a football manager save: Midtable in League 1, 2nd in League 1, midtable in Championship, 2nd in Championship. Our 5th year was our first in the Premier League and this is where this save got going for me, because we got a.b.s.o.l.u.t.e.l.y b.a.t.t.e.r.e.d. Seriously, I think it’s the worst that any team of mine has ever done in any league. Essentially we got up to the Prem unexpectedly quickly and did not have a squad or a financial structure capable of competing. From the start of the season til January, we won 1 game, drew 5 and lost 13. In desperation I threw all of my wage bill at 6 month contracts for big name free agents Andy Carroll, Kyle Walker, Matthew Targett, Wayne Rooney and Gary Cahill, but our improvement wasn’t enough. We went down on 27 points, rock bottom of the Premier League.

Luckily I kept my job thanks to the good will I’d accrued from my recent promotions, so I survived the chop, only to have a mass player exodus on my hands. 20 players packed their bags and left us to an inevitable decline back down the league pyramid. BUT with the Premier League riches and fees from selling all of those players still dribbling into our bank account, we rebuilt. An army of new, better players were brought in, including personal favourites Angelino, who went on to be our starting left back for 9 years, Demarai Gray, who had 8 years with us, Patrick Roberts, who’s still with us 10 years later, and Diafra Sakho, whose 28 goals in 40 games the following season blasted us back to the top division.

We’ve stayed there ever since but we never did become a wealthy club or even a club capable of competing for Europe. We finished 7th in our first year back in the Premier League, but then normalised into mid-table mediocrity. With state of the art youth facilities now pumping out really good talent though, I don’t think that would have stayed the case for much longer had I kept playing. Despite their flaws, I love this group of players.


Starting Lineup

No 1 – Flemming Borup – Goalkeeper

Flemming’s not a modern sort of keeper, but as good old fashioned shot-stoppers go, he’s an exceptional talent and wouldn’t look out of place at a top club. My Doncaster team (you’ll be shocked to hear this I’m sure, after my first 3 club intros) play open, attacking football though, which doesn’t exactly help Borup’s stats. He’s conceded a whopping 173 goals in 101 appearances since his £12M move from Hoffenheim in 2027. I and my tactics will take the blame for that though, he’s a really good keeper.

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No 2 – Esteban Devos – Right Back

As I said, I’ve forgotten a lot of the details from this save, but Esteban’s got a bit of a weird history. We loaned him from Bordeaux for that season back in the Championship in 20/21 and he was fantastic, notching 12 assists and averaging over a 7.5 rating. We couldn’t bring him back immediately once we got promoted, but he stayed on my mind and I brought him in for £13M in 2022. He had 5 really good years with us, but then was snapped up by Chelsea for £1M, I assume as he was running his contract down and I was resigned to losing him. Luckily, he warmed their bench for a year and came back, tail between legs, for £1.5M in 2027. He’s a solid and experienced full back, a fan favourite and I’ve obviously forgotten any differences we might have once had.

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No 5 – Mourad Ben Youssef – Centre Back

Mourad’s the very definition of what FM once called a “Limited Defender”. He can tackle, mark and head the ball, position himself well and can get around the pitch thanks to his great athleticism. Nothing fancy required. I signed him from Tunisian side ES Sahel for £450k in 2024 and he’s been a staple of my back line ever since.

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No 4 – Amadou Diallo – Centre Back

Diallo’s a new signing for Donny and it goes to show what a state our finances still are that he was my “big money” signing of 2030, signed for £18M from Southampton, which seems to have financially crippled us even further. He seems worth the investment though, with solid attributes across the board and infinite potential for growth. He’s also a bit more silky on the ball than Ben Youssef, which is bound to help.

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No 3 – Santiago Salinas – Left Back

If you think Diallo’s transfer fee was impressive though, wait til you hear about Santiago’s gargantuan £24M move from Benfica in 2027. Salinas is one of the many players that really stuck with me from this save, no doubt thanks to his outstanding mental attributes. He’s a really polished all-rounder and he’s Doncaster Rovers’ captain.

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No 7 – Mitch North – Right Mid

Mitch is 1 of 2 academy graduates in our starting lineup. At 20 years old he’s already been in my first team for 3 years and is really starting to shape up as a Premier League footballer. He’s quick, full of tricks and can take a man on or swing in a cross, as evidenced by his 22 assists in 77 appearances for the club so far.

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No 8 – Pat Reid – Deep Playmaker

Maybe it’s rose-tinted glasses, but I remember Pat being genuinely one of the best 16 year olds I’ve ever seen on an FM save. To be honest though, I think I must’ve stunted his development a bit with some unhelpful loan moves. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still an excellent player and well worth the £500K I paid to prise him away from Derry City in 2021, but maybe he could’ve been better. As it stands, he’s still one of our best.

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No 12 – Rodney Kongolo – Ball Winning Mid

Rodney, a DR Congo international, is a new signing at the Keepmoat. I really liked to have an experienced defensive marshal in my midfield in this save and Daniel Amartey was released in the Summer aged 35, so in came Kongolo. He looks good so far and is putting in some great performances for us. He complements Pat well too. Together they give us a good mixture of silk and steel.

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No 17 – Patrick Roberts – Left Mid

It’s probably fair to say that at 32, Patrick’s best years are behind him, but what a servant he’s been for the club. Since signing on a free from Manchester City in 2020, he’s scored 52 goals and set up 71 more in 324 appearances. He is, as far as I’m aware, the only player in any of these 6 teams to achieve legend status at their club.

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No 9 – Roar Nyhus – Striker

After 4 years of personal experience and growth, I still don’t know how to pronounce Roar’s surname. Nigh-Us? Nigh-Oos? Nee-Oos? Who cares though to be honest, because his name is ROAR. Signed from Norwegian side Jerv for a staggering £4k in 2024, Roar’s gone on to score 47 goals in 120 appearances. He’s quick, he knows where the goal is and he’s the 2nd biggest reason I was excited to find this save again.

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No 10 – Dylan Brennan – Striker

And here’s the 1st biggest reason. I’ve been playing Football Manager/Championship Manager since I got the CM00/01 demo CD in a box of frosties and there has only been 1 player over these 20 years who’s moved me to buy a real life club shirt with their name and number on it. Here he is. Dylan came up through our academy as a young Irishman and has scored 46 goals in 126 appearances, leading to a change of heart and a first cap and goal for England a few months ago. It was against Northern Ireland though, so I’m assuming that that must have felt pretty good. He’s progressing like a monster and I’m tempted to revive this old save just to see how good I can get him to be. I’m incredibly happy that I finally get to show him off.

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Squad

I think what sets this Doncaster side out from the rest and one of the reasons they’re predicted 1st in the League is because they have quite a bit of strength in depth. A lot of the players on their bench are young academy graduates, but the likes of seasoned centre back Filippo Romagna, seasoned playmaker Mikael Mansson (A club icon who deserves a special shout out for his 10 years of excellent service: 339 appearances since an £88k move from Hammarby), exciting playmaker Borja Lizárraga and experienced striker Albian Ajeti give them some fantastic options off the bench.

squad

Tactics

Would you like to take a guess as to our tactical style? That’s right! We play open, attacking football. We do play a 4-4-2 though, which is something a bit different. It’s probably one of the main reasons I haven’t won anything in this save to be fair as looking back on it, this group of players aren’t really good enough to have a 2 man central midfield and also to leave themselves wide open by playing expansive football, especially not in the Premier League. What an idiot I was back in 2016, eh? Thank God I’m now probably maybe marginally better at this fucking game.

Meet Bordeaux 29/30 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 3/6)

This Bordeaux team is a very recent addition to the list and my desire to recreate them on PES is actually what kicked this idea off.

overview

Game: FM20

Time in charge: 3 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 1st in Ligue 1 (28/29, 29/30)

Honours: Ligue 1 Champions (28/29, 29/30), Trophée des Champions (29)

Predicted Finish: 2nd

FM20 Save: Here (This save is from February of my final season. Due to technical difficulties it’s the last save I have where I’m still at Bordeaux)

PES20 Team: Here


This Bordeaux team is a very recent addition to the list and my desire to recreate them on PES is actually what kicked this idea off. I was playing a network save with my mate Tom where we holidayed to the middle of the 26/27 season, started unemployed with decent reputation and top national qualifications, then raced to build our reputations and win the Champions League. Luckily I managed to snag the Bordeaux job, which was the first big one available.

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Back Story

TLDR: I took over half way through 26/27 when the club was 14th and took them to Europe, then again the next season. We won the league in both of the following seasons and then I moved to Barcelona.

At the start of our save, November 2026, I took the reigns of a Bordeaux side desperately in need of motivation. They were 14th in Ligue 1 and morale was low, but they did have a pretty good team. I set up as I usually do (Although you wouldn’t know it from the tactics I’ve shown for Auxerre and Blackpool) in a 4-3-3, with inside forwards, marauding full backs and a midfield trio containing a sitter, an attacker and a chaser. We did well in the first 6 months, climbing up to 5th and a Europa League place, then did even better the next season and finished 4th, just 1 point off the Champions League. The two seasons that followed, we won the title, although the first season especially we accomplished this largely due to the fall of PSG and their ageing, slowing squad. The second season PSG weren’t even in the race. Marseille fought us hard until the final few games when they finally dropped off. Shortly after the season ended I joined Barcelona, where I’ve spent 3 years so far. I love this team and all of these players are instant FM classics for me.


Starting Lineup

No 1 – Sérgio Dutra – Goalkeeper

I reckon pound for pound, Dutra’s up there for my best signing of FM20. For £1.8M I snapped him up from Vitória de Guimarães in my first Summer and he was such a rock for Bordeaux. During my tenure he conceded 100 goals in 128 appearances, keeping 56 clean sheets. Also he loves a penalty save. What more could you ask for? After I practically begged him for 3 years, Portugal manager José Mourinho finally gave him his first cap in the 2030/31 season, after I’d left for Barca. He’s so far earned 5 caps and after a prolific 5 year spell with the club, he moved to Valencia in 2032 for £26M. Dutra’s my vice-captain.

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No 4 – Leon Alles – Right Back

I brought Leon to the club on deadline day of my first Summer for £1.7M and practically robbed Schalke blind. He came in to provide cover in midfield but I ended up deploying and training him so much as a right back that he made it his third natural position. His form was consistently extremely good and he was a great utility man. I would say a great lad too, but he was angling for a move throughout my final year and eventually got it just after I left, moving to Arsenal for £38.5M. Still, not a bad piece of business for Bordeaux. He’s currently at Lille after making a £48.5M return to France in 2033.

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No 19 – Romain Guillot – Centre Back

We’ve got a chequered history, Romain and I. When I first joined Bordeaux they had next to no great youth prospects, but he was the one that stood out as someone that could be a future star. My plan was to work him slowly into the team, but young and impatient as he was, he started angling for a move. This went on for 2 years of loans and arguments until he dropped his concerns and worked his way into my starting line up. He’s a man mountain and an absolute weapon from set pieces, as can be evidenced by the 9 goals he scored in my final season. In the end I really liked him, but after 2 exceptional years in my team, he moved to Newcastle for £10M right after I left, which is a real shame as I’d turned down bids of up to £30M for him previously. He’s made 33 appearances in the 3 years since.

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No 6 – Thiago – Centre Back

Another signing from that first glorious Summer, Thiago was an absolute snip at £3.5M from Porto. He’s a little short for a stormtrooper but between he and Romain, I had the perfect balance of presence and finesse, with Thiago being the more cultured of the two defenders. His form, like probably all of these players, was consistently great and I never had a complaint or a bad day’s training out of him. He too joined the exodus after I left, sadly, and signed for FC Famalicão in an £8M deal in which the negotiators were spotted in balaclavas holding big sacks with dollar signs on them. The good news is though that he kept winning and has so far lifted 3 cups and a Liga Nos title with his new side, who are now one of the main players in Portuguese football.

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No 21 – Luciano – Left Back

Luciano was one of those transfers where I had to pinch myself to make sure I hadn’t dreamt the whole thing. His contract with Flamengo ran out in the winter of my first full season and after having inherited a club with no natural left backs at all, I managed to sign a left back who was immediately the best player on my team for free. He’s an all-round top class full back and became Bordeaux’s vice-captain in 2029, then was promoted to captain in 2030. He went on to make a £61M move to Chelsea in 2031, where he’s so far won both domestic cups and a Premier League title.

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No 16 – Son Yoon Taek – Defensive Mid

Son was my favourite and those who know me and my FM preferences will immediately be able to spot why. Brave, hard working and a team player, runs all day, defends til he passes out and he also sold mountains upon mountains of replica shirts for us. I signed him for £3.5M from Ulsan Hyundai in that magical first Summer and Bordeaux got 3 and a half excellent years from him before selling him for far too little in a £13.5M deal with Fiorentina.

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No 17 – Raymond Harris – Centre Mid

Ray came up through the Chelsea ranks, made the obligatory loan move to the Eredivisie, then I snapped him up on a free. What a bargain he was. He was a starter for both of our title winning seasons, putting in good performances and scoring 13 goals in the last year. He’s since been snapped up by Tom’s Tottenham side for £38M, where he’s won the Premier League.

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No 8 – Kanta Iwata – Deep Playmaker

Kanta’s one of my favourites and he’s also a favourite of the Bordeaux fans, with whom he’s achieved Icon status. I signed him for £4.3M in the Summer of 2028 and in our 2 seasons together he put in some mind-blowing displays, averaging a rating of close to 7.5 both years, scoring 14 goals and setting up 18 more. He’s Japanese-born but has chosen to represent Germany, which so far seems a poor choice as at time of writing he’s made just 3 appearances for the national team. After 4 years of great service, he moved to PSG for £45.5M in 2032, where he remains to this day.

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No 20 – Konstantin “Brazgarian” Gerchev – Right Inside Forward

Brazgarian is a Bulgarian international with a Brazilian passport, in case you were wondering where that fantastically creative name came from. Signed from Cruzeiro in January 2028 for a measly £2.2M, he was a bit-part player for most of his time at Bordeaux. After I sold the player who was keeping him out of the team however, he came into his own and put in some really fantastic performances for us. Our final season together was a particular highlight, in which he was my first choice and repaid my faith by scoring 10 and assisting 14 goals. He’s since moved to Al-Hilal for a disappointing £8.75M and then to Fulham for the same fee, where he’s doing alright.

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No 14 – Khalil Makhlouf – Left Inside Forward

You may have noticed by now that my focus during my time at Bordeaux was on signing young, cheap players who could be sold for various amounts of profit. I brought Makhlouf in at the start of the 28/29 season for £11.5M, at the time a bum-tightening amount of money. He wasn’t a star of the team but he did well over our 2 years, averaging ratings around 7. He joined in with exodus after I left, joining title rivals Marseille for £14.75M, before moving to Juventus for £29M 3 years later.

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No 9 – Ben Lyndon – Striker

While we’re talking about big money signings, Ben Lyndon is a player that I brought in on loan from Man City to be my 3rd choice striker for my first full season. 26 games and 20 goals later, it was clear that I needed him back. While my stomach churned and my senses screamed, I shelled out £30M to bring him in permanently for the 28/29 season. He scored 65 goals in 104 appearances for me and 99 goals in 216 appearances during his entire 6 year stint at the club. He then moved to Liverpool for £41.5M in 2033 after falling out of favour, but he remains a Bordeaux icon and a hero to me, so much so that I named my Animal Crossing island Lyndonland.

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Squad

As for the rest of the squad, we’re mainly filled out by youth players so Bordeaux don’t have the best quality depth in the World. Look out for 36 year old Harry Kane, who despite being slower than a dying turtle on his way to his inlaws’ still has the best quality you’ll find in the final third. Mert Cetin and Jesús Macías are quality players in their prime and are excellent options for defence and midfield, while home grown strikers Nathan Isimat-Mirin and Matheo Bouyer are full of pace. Special mention to both Josef Novak and NIM actually, as they were both such talented young players that I brought them with me to Barca. Novak’s not really made the cut but NIM’s won 3 Champions Leagues, 3 La Liga titles and a hat full of domestic cups with me and is now on loan at Southampton getting more regular game time.

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Tactics

Tactically, as I said way earlier in this post, we’re using an incredibly typical Franjo style: Inside forwards supplying a big striker, a midfield 3 with a good mixture of creativity, attacking impetus, legs and bite and marauding full backs ready to overlap down the wings. Bordeaux, like every other bloody team in this league, will be attacking but will be rightfully confident in outscoring most, if not all of them.

Meet Blackpool 21/22 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 2/6)

I wanted to take them all the way back up by playing the swashbuckling attacking football that had inspired me.

overview

Game: FM17

Time In Charge: 5 and a half years

Highest League Finish: 15th In Championship (19/20)

Honours: League 1 Champions (18/19)

Predicted finish: 5th

FM17 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here


I dare say that likely noone who reads this story will remember the time that I dabbled in making Football Manager Youtube videos. They weren’t great. As I feel like I’ve said a lot recently, I’m more a writer than a talker, but I had a lot of fun making them. The channel that me and my mate Tom created videos on was called Wasted Talent and we named ourselves after wonderkids who’d never cut the mustard in real life. He was Freddy Adu and as a long, long, long suffering Everton fan, I was Franny Jeffers.

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Back Story

TLDR: We went from League 2 to the Championship in 3 seasons, got stuck for 2 seasons due largely to financial limitations, then looked set to challenge for promotion.

My first youtube save followed 2 seasons in charge of Sheffield FC on a custom database, but that went tits up when the game glitched out and wouldn’t start Season 3. So I started anew and took over a Blackpool team languishing in League 2. I had fond memories of them getting into the Premier League with what felt to me like a team of unknowns. Nevertheless, they attacked these massive, massive teams, like a cornered mouse would attack a cat, before having to famously go home and wash their own kits. It took guts and courage and a swashbuckling spirit. Things that they now seemed to sadly lack. I wanted to bring those qualities back. I wanted to take them all the way back up by playing the swashbuckling attacking football that had inspired me.

It started out decently. We edged past Colchester in extra time to win the League 2 play off final and then reached the League 1 play off Semis the next season, only to be dumped out by Peterborough. The third season was where we really hit our stride, calmly sweeping League 1 aside and running out Champions, but that’s when we hit the wall. Run by the infamous Oyston family, the club was haemorrhaging cash and just could not compete financially with a league full of Premier League parachute payments. 2 seasons of Championship mid table mediocrity followed, before we finally were in a position to challenge for promotion to the Premier League, sitting in 2nd place in December, just 1 point behind Leeds. And then… Erm… I discovered writing and started a journeyman save instead. Oh well. No regrets.


Starting Lineup

No 1 – John Ruddy – Goalkeeper

Ruddy’s a fairly new signing in my Blackpool side, having joined at the end of his contract with Norwich to replace my retiring (And considerably weaker) goalkeeper Lee Camp. Up until I stopped playing this save though, Ruddy was a real breath of fresh air. He’d conceded less than a goal per game and was no doubt one of the reasons that we were looking towards the Premier League rather than the Championship. At 35 he’s obviously getting on, but he’s still a really solid shot stopper.

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No 22 – Kieron Freeman – Right Back

I don’t want this to come across too negatively but Freeman was extremely average during my 2 and a half years with him. An average rating hovering around 6.8 every season is fine and nothing to be sniffed at, plus he had the added bonus of being equally proficient on the left and right of defence. Solid enough player. I’m just now realising that I’m going to be writing the words “Solid” and “Fine” quite a lot today.

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No 6 – Danny Wilson – Centre Back

Danny Wilson’s a real FM stalwart for me, as I’m sure he is for a lot of you that have been playing the series since the early 2010’s or before. For a certain level of club in recent editions though, he can be a very easily attainable star player and that’s a really valuable trait. I signed him on a free from Rangers before we absolutely trounced League 1 and I’m sure he and his consistently good form are one of the main factors for our progress since. I also signed him for GKS Katowice in Franjo: A Journeyman Story during a season that shook me to my very core and I never want to speak of again. Wilson’s ever-dependable and… Erm… Solid. In the absence of my captain, Tom Aldred, who I just couldn’t find a place for in my squad weirdly enough, vice-captain Wilson is Blackpool’s skipper.

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No 4 – Ash Kigbu – Centre Back

Another free signing. As I mentioned before, Blackpool’s finances are absolute arse on a stick, so this is going to be a theme. Kigbu was a great capture though and has been at the club since the Summer of 2017. A Manchester City academy graduate, he’s been at the heart of my defence for 4 seasons now and has recently switched his allegiance to Nigeria and made his deserved international debut.

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No 3 – James Husband – Left Back

I signed Husband in the Summer of 2019, before our first season back in the Championship. He’s been a good if slightly underwhelming signing. Brought in from Burnley for a relatively massive £105k fee, his attributes suggested that he’d be one of our star players for years to come, but he’s not hit those heights. He is having a good season though with an average rating of 7.11.

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No 10 – Michael Cain – Box to Box Mid

Cain might be the most consistent player we have. He was on loan at Blackpool before I joined and I made sure to sign him when his Leicester contract expired at the end of the first season on account of his good form, which has continued ever since. He’s a decent goalscorer too, notching 28 goals in 6 seasons as we’ve climbed through the pyramid.

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No 16 – Jay Fulton – Sitting Mid

Fulton’s another new signing. He let his Rotherham contract run down in the Summer as he fancied getting out of League 1 and so far he’s been a fine player for us. He’s a defensively sound midfielder who’s happy to sit and allow our other more adventurous midfielders to roam forwards.

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No 8 – Brad Potts – Ball Winning Mid

Potts and Cain have been running my midfield from day 1. They’re both quite similar players who like to get up and down the pitch, pressing relentlessly and adding some bite into the middle of the park. Like Cain, Potts has been very consistent, with an average rating just above or below 7 every single season. Also like Cain, Potts was here before I was and also like Cain, he’s chipped in with his fair share of goals, scoring 24 in 6 seasons.

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No 17 – Kieran Dowell – Attacking Mid

Dowell has been a real difference maker so far in his Blackpool career. I signed him in Summer 2020 after he ran his contract down at Everton, as even once the Toffees dropped into the Championship he still only managed 3 appearances in 2 years. For us though he’s been stellar, setting up 12 goals and scoring twice in his debut season and getting involved in 9 more goals so far this campaign. He really added some creativity and culture to midfield that we’d needed for a good number of years.

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No 18 – Danny Philliskirk – Supporting Striker

Philliskirk is another that predates me at Bloomfield Road and has been a regular in my starting lineup for all 6 years, scoring 61 goals and setting up 38 more in 226 appearances. It’s not an outstanding goals per game record, but he’s always been more of a workhorse than an out and out goalscorer. His form has always been consistently fine and he’s adapted to each of the leagues we’ve played in. I like Danny, he’s a good egg.

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No 9 – Aiden O’Brien – Striker

Aiden joined in a gargantuan £400k deal in the Summer of 2019. I was taking a bit of a punt as I’d released the ageing and ineffective duo of Joe Garner and Adam Le Fondre on frees and options were thin off the ground. Aiden had just smashed in 12 goals in 20 League 2 games and I hoped he’d be able to manage the step up. The result? He’s been alright. 19 goals in 60 games. Sometimes he steps up and grabs an important goal, sometimes he makes me tear my hair out for weeks on end.

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Squad

We’ve got a good mix of youth and experience throughout the rest of the squad. You’ve got the likes of Hodson, Higham, Owain “The Impact” Jones and Kyle Dempsey who’ve all been with us for a while and are dependable… Ish… Then you’ve got Charlie “Chadam” Adam and Younes Belhanda, who are the seasoned veterans with questionable physical attributes but unquestionable ability, but then you’ve also got the likes of Dylan Flynn, George Hirst and Stuart Wardle: The young lads with potential. My ones to look out for would be Chadam, Belhanda, Hirst and Wardle. Jones is an impact sub too, so might do well off the bench.

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Tactics

Our tactic in a word is “Bodies”. In defence, our back 4 is joined by our central midfield trio, while the strikers press the opposition defence. In attack, our front 3 is joined by the 2 wing backs and our 2 outer central midfielders, with Dowell the playmaker helping to tie it all together. And we go on the front foot playing swashbuckling football, because of course.

Meet Auxerre 23/24 (Franjo: Slumberland – Intro 1/6)

Beautiful bastards one and all, they are one of my favourite teams of all time.

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Game: FM17

Time In Charge: Just Over 3 Years

Highest League Finish: 6th in Ligue 1 (23/24)

Honours: Ligue 2 Champions (21/22)

Predicted Finish: 4th

FM17 Save: Here

PES20 Team: Here


Of course, long time readers will need no introduction to my Auxerre boys, because they’re the team I chose to recreate from my Franjo: A Journeyman Story save! Beautiful bastards one and all, they are one of my favourite teams of all time. We will be following Auxerre’s progress.

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Back Story

TLDR: We went from relegation threatened in Ligue 2 to a Europa League finish in Ligue 1 in 3 years.

I joined Auxerre near the end of the 20/21 season after a successful-ish stint in South Africa managing Santos. It was a big step up for me to go from South Africa to France, albeit the second tier, but we were immediately threatened with relegation from Ligue 2. We swerved that bullet in my first 3 games and actually ended up 8 points clear of the drop, so the danger wasn’t as imminent as it had first appeared. After a Summer in which 27 players left the club permanently and 7 joined, including a trusted quartet brought in from Santos, we followed that minor achievement up by topping the bloody league, managing precisely twice the wins and half the defeats as the previous season.

We made things difficult for ourselves in my first Ligue 1 season, losing 7 times and drawing twice in a winless streak that lasted from February to April and sent us spiralling back towards Ligue 2. Luckily we recorded 3 wins in our final 6 games, the last of which included a memorable late goal from my record £500k signing Phil Foden that sealed our safety. I’ve recreated the team from my third and final year in Auxerre, when after a long season of ups and downs we finished 6th in Ligue 1, landing a Europa League qualifying spot. I got pinched by PSG before the second leg so I never got to get us into the group stages, but still. What a 3 years.


Starting Lineup

No 1 – Xavier Lenogue – Goalkeeper

Lovingly dubbed LeGod because of his knack of heroically saving penalties, the Martinique international was quickly promoted from understudy upon my arrival and stayed my number 1 for all 3 seasons.

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No 22 – Celsiney – Right Back

An absolutely rapid academy graduate from Brazil, who later chose to represent France. He replaced previous first choice Issa Samba at 16 due to Samba’s lack of form and really never gave the position back. I turned down big money bids from Spurs and Liverpool and he… Eventually went to Toulouse in Ligue 2 after I left.

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No 12 – Isaac Sohna – Centre Back

One of the Santos Four and one of only two of them make our starting eleven for the first match. Signed on a free for Santos from his boyhood club in the Cameroonian lower leagues, then signed again when I joined Auxerre, this time for £375k. After initially having to be sent out on loan in Ligue 2, he’s now a Cameroon international and a definite Auxerre starter.

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No 5 – Mamadou Doucouré – Centre Back

Brought in 3 times in 3 years, twice on loan and once permanently from Mönchengladbach. All superb signings. Solid defender across the board and in the absence of Auxerre captain Baptiste Aloé from my starting lineup (And because I forgot Hicham Aidir was my vice captain until way too deep into this league), he’ll lead L’AJA out.

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No 23 – Bilal “Billy” Souabni – Left Back

Understudy for most of my Auxerre tenure to Faouzi Hikem, who joined Bayern in January 2024, but for a player brought in for absolute pennies, Billy always offered a solid left back option.

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No 6 – Lamine Fomba – Box to Box Mid

Not going to lie, Fomba annoyed me when I first joined Auxerre. We were mere points out of the relegation spots in Ligue 2 and for a player who should’ve been the best in the League, he’d had a woeful campaign. I decided to renew his contract beyond the Summer against my better judgement and it paid off in spades. He turned his form around so drastically that he went on to play for my France team and even scored off the bench in our 7-2 demolition of Ukraine in the Euro 24 Quarter Finals. Nailed on Auxerre starter every time.

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No 16 – Abdoulaye Sissako – Ball Winning Mid

Abdoulaye’s the kind of player I’ve always loved. Never causes any bother, never complains, rarely has a bad day in training. He ran his heart out, chased til he was sick and he’s another who I very rarely left out. Coincidentally he also went on to score off the bench in that win over Ukraine. Well, coincidence… Nepitism… What’s the difference?

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No 8 – Phil Foden – Right Inside Forward

As I mentioned before, Phil was my record signing when we snagged him for £500k. We saved him really as he’d spent the formative part of his career rotting in Man City’s reserves. His attributes may not even remotely compare to how good he’s already become in the real world, but 28 league goals and 24 league assists in 3 years from the right wing speaks for itself. He was a remarkable signing and is one of few players in the Slumberland First Division to have a really detailed face, so you know… That’s nice.

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No 10 – Fabian McCarthy – Attacking Mid

The Summer after I signed Phil, I broke my transfer record again to sign Fabian McCarthy, another lad from South Africa who had been playing at one of Santos’ league rivals Ajax Cape Town. £675k was a lot of money for us, even now that we’d reached Ligue 1 and then results were… Mixed. He progressed slowly during our 2 years together and certainly wasn’t awful, but he never took off in the way that I’d hoped. Hopefully he can reach the heights in PES that he couldn’t in FM.

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No 7 – Amine Reynier – Left Inside Forward

You may have already guessed that the season after I signed McCarthy… Yup. £3M for Amine Reynier from Lens in Ligue 2. A whopping amount of cash for us to outlay on a player. Again, he didn’t take off for me but we were only together for 6 months and he’s still young. His quality is obvious, so hopefully he can find form too.

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No 9 – Hicham Aidir – Striker

All hail Hicham. I don’t really need to say more, but I will. Another player signed when I was in Santos from his local Moroccan team for £40k, Hicham fired in 23 goals in 29 games during his only season in South Africa. He then rejoined me immediately after my arrival in France for £450k. Aside from an extremely unfortunate 22/23 season in which he didn’t score for 5 months, then scored once, then broke his leg and missed the rest of the season, he’s been a phenomenon! If you discount that horrible season, which I do, he’s scored 47 goals in 75 games for Auxerre and 70 goals in 104 games for me overall. Hero.

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Squad

I think we’re pretty well stocked in terms of depth. Our defence and midfield are all seasoned by a few years of experience, while our attackers are all young and hungry to prove themselves. Absolutely look out for Nathan Andre and Islam Ferhat, both of whom are unlucky to miss out on starting berths.

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Tactics

We will of course play an approximation of Project: Meatloaf, my simple but effective attacking 4-2-3-1 system that’s carried Franjo through most of his career. The plan is this: Win the ball with our battling midfield duo, overlap down the wings, feed Hicham, win.

Something A Little Different (Franjo: Slumberland)

I’ve lovingly but painstakingly recreated 6 teams of mine from 6 different FM saves in PES and I’m going to hold a little league between them.

Afternoon all!

So to get me into writing again so that I’m ready for the return of Franjo: A Journeyman Story, I thought I’d try something a little different. Because I’m aggressively nostalgic for a lot of my FM teams and also because I’ve recently been getting back into Pro Evolution Soccer 20, I’m going to experiment with a bit of a mash up between the 2. I’ve lovingly but painstakingly recreated 6 teams of mine from 6 different FM saves in PES and I’m going to hold a little league between them. Because they’re all essentially from different realities but I still wanted to keep it in-universe for F:AJS, it’s going to be taking place in Franjo’s fevered dreams following the Roma defeat, hence the mini-series’ name Franjo: Slumberland. Here’s more detail:

Slumberland First Division Rules:

  • I will be playing in coach mode, which means that I won’t be doing a sodding thing. The AI will be controlling all of the teams, playing all of the football, making all of the substitutes etc.
  • Matches are half an hour long.
  • Grass length is normal.
  • Weather is random.
  • 6 teams, home and away round robin. 10 matches each, or 30 in total. 1 episode of the story will cover all 3 matches of a game round simultaneously in a live text commentary format, so there’ll be 10 match episodes all in all (Unless a tie breaker is needed).
  • Fixtures have been randomly drawn by a site I found on the internet.
  • 3 points per win, 1 point per draw, 0 points per loss. You know how it goes. Team with highest points at the end wins. If points can’t separate the teams, goal difference will. If goal difference can’t separate them, a tie breaker match will. Why use all this goals scored malarky when we can just have more football?
  • I’ll be releasing introductory episodes for each team over the next 2 weeks, then Match episodes will be coming out every Saturday and Wednesday.
  • Each team contains 23 players, chosen by their ability and/or importance to the team in FM. 12 subs are named for each match but only 3 can be used.
  • Tactics for each team will be as close to their FM tactics as I can make them. The AI will not be allowed to change my tactics or formation, the only thing they’ll control is how attacking/defensive the team is and substitutes.
  • Initial lineups will be my preferred lineups while playing the FM save. If a starting outfield player gets below a 6.0 rating though they’ll be dropped for at least the next match, depending on how well their replacement does. I’ve put this rule in place so that we can change the lineups a bit, introduce more players and add some variety. After some test matches, it seems goalkeepers tend to get rated very poorly for doing very little wrong, so they’ll be exempt from this rule and will only be rotated if I deem it necessary, like if they concede a hat full of goals.
  • Player form will be random every game, hopefully to ensure some unexpected twists and turns.
  • 2 bookings accrued = 1 match suspension. 1 red card (2 yellows) = 2 match suspension. 1 red card (Straight red) = 3 match suspension. If we encounter any injuries I’ll use a random number generator to determine how many games that player will miss.
  • VERY IMPORTANTLY: Because I only have 1 working controller, PES won’t let me host a league in which I’m “in control” of all of the teams, even in coach mode. Therefore, I’m playing friendly matches while maintaining an absolute monster of a spreadsheet to keep track of results, points, goal difference, stats etc. If I say something that you can see doesn’t stack up, I would really appreciate it if you let me know in the comments here or at franjofm23@gmail.com

By the way, I can’t control just 1 of the teams in a tournament on coach mode because I want to be able to make hopefully nice looking highlights packages from all the matches! Now that we’re in a detailed 3D world, it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it, so I need them to actually play out on screen so that I can record them. I’ll be making the latest FM save game I have and the exported teams, kits, logos on PES20 available for each team too, so you can load them up and have a look/have a go with them on either game if you like.

I’ll be introducing you to the teams as we get closer to kick off. It’s starting soon. Should be fun!

Cheers,

Franjo