Adam hands me the pass-and-save Football Manager Touch 2017 file with the following pep talk:
“I got us to the semi-final of the FA Cup, and the draw for that is coming up shortly, and we’re through to the 2nd Knockout Leg of the European Champions League,which is a big deal. We might end up playing Barcelona or Bayern Munich in which case we’re probably doomed, but HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL. The League is dead though. Nothing good can happen there.”
Good pep talk, Adam. Top management.
Catch up on the season so far with the previous diaries:
Part one: A game of four halves (Alec)
So I guess I should start by explaining my credentials. I did actually follow football for years when I was younger. I would read Match and Shoot as a kid and I subscribed to the Manchester United monthly magazine where the crossword always had at least one clue relating to Dion Dublin. I would watch matches, match highlights, and engage in football discussions with friends at school. At some point that all fell away and so my football knowledge is now this strange island of trivia spanning the latter half of the nineties and a strangely specific chunk of Derby County’s performance in the late ‘aughts.
I’m now prone to tuning in to football broadcasts and realising that everyone I recognise is now a pundit or a manager. I turn to friends and ask where Karel Poborsky is. What happened to Ian Rush? WHY IS ALAN SHEARER WEARING A SHIRT AND TIE?
With that in mind I will be turning for advice not to Football Manager forums or the current back pages of the papers but a copy of Alex Ferguson’s diary, A Year In The Life. Oh, and I have also never played Football Manager. Ever.
It’ll be fine.
Leicester will be playing Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup semi-final. I instantly have Good Old Sussex By the Sea in my head and am accidentally rooting for the Seagulls. DAMNIT. The semi-final clashes with our league match against Southampton so that one gets rescheduled.
We do still have to deal with West Brom. Leicester are the favourites but I am told to BEWARE COMPLACENCY. A team selection screen pops up and I figure this is where I need my good friend, Alex Ferguson. He tells me “Not only is Mark [Hughes] injured but Schmeichel’s done his ankle in.” He’s talking about Peter but as it happens I’m fielding his son Kasper. Nevertheless I check his ankles. He is 97% fit.
We draw and I am furious. Partly because I couldn’t figure out how to make a substitution for ages and partly because WHAT THE HELL? It was West bloody Brom. Danny Drinkwater is also out for 4-5 months after hurting himself while jumping. For 79p of my own cash I could heal him in time for our next match via a magic sponge but I’m too angry to be throwing good money after bad. I resolve to tell them so if there’s a dressing down option.
Clicking “continue” I discover we also have a £25,000 fine after getting 6 yellow cards during the match. Apparently anger is not a solution so I shelve the dressing down and glare at the screen hoping for some good news. I consult Alex Ferguson but manage to open the book on a picture of a fan giving him a pat on the shoulder after United lose the 1995 FA Cup Final to Everton.
I decide to pick up a new midfielder to try to help plug the gap left by Drinkwater. What about Tamika Mkandawire, I ask Sir Alex. “I went to a charity snooker evening with a friend of mine,” he tells me. I am not interested in this so we try again. “Cathy is up in Glasgow at her mother’s so I went home and put the teletext on,” he says. “NOT HELPFUL,” I growl. “I bought Eric Cantona today,” he brags. I have had enough of his attitude so I make Mkandawire an offer he may or may not refuse and hit Continue.
Watford are the next team on the horizon. I take comfort from the fact that their team is slightly more injured than ours. The European Champions Cup quarter-final draw is soon and I also discover that eighteen of my squad have been picked up for international duty.
We draw Paris Saint-Germain for the Champions Cup.
We are so, so, so fucked. “Gary Neville came in this morning suffering from food poisoning,” says Sir Alex. I assume this is code for the fact we’re about to poop our way out of a major competition. My press officer helpfully forwards an article telling me that Watford are the favourites in our league matchup.
They go one-nil up in the first half. I try to make the best of a bad situation, dragging Andy King off at half time partly because of a broken nose but also because to keep him on for the full match would risk his fitness. The teammates I have left get tweaked into something approaching a formation although lacking in pretty much all of the basics around midfield and we take another loss.
The next few notifications are a bleak set. Unhappy players giving interviews about lack of first team experience. I blame that on the previous government and make a few promises I’ll never play long enough to keep. Despite the grim outlook Mkandawire signs for Leicester. I feel like texting him to ask what the hell he was thinking. Instead I accept and big the lad up a bit in a press interview.
I make a few contract offers to players whose contracts are expiring and a report from the chairman of the board tells me that people are generally satisfied with my managerial performance. They’re still pissed about the departure of Wes Morgan (as are the fans) and ignore my protestations that I don’t even know who that is.
Bournemouth are favoured to win against us as we threaten to continue our run of games without a win. The total is currently eleven so it would be a pleasant surprise if we didn’t tip it into a full dozen. Fernando has just come back to fitness so I decide to give him the first half to get his eye in. We’re 1-0 down when I drag Fernando off. I figure I’ll try to make sure that everyone is at least playing to their strengths so I rejig a couple of the other player focuses.
Alex Ferguson tells me to play Roy Keane at right back to get the best out of him when we face Galatasaray in December 1994.
We lose the Bournemouth match 3-0.
It is at this point that I find out I am one match away from triggering a clause in Daniel Amartey’s contract which will see me on the hook for £250,000 to FC København.
We are also up against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
I open the book. “I’m quitting, I’m going to be a tailor,” is the wisdom on the page as Sir Alex documents a chat with a promising young player called Sam Munroe. I consider retiring but I fear that would not be in the spirit of this whole clusterpickle. I no longer read any of the updates about the league, nor do I have any interest in players whining that they’re going to get passed over for international appearances.
Leicester midfielder Dylan Watts is benched after getting a concussion during a training session because of course he is.
There is a brief ray of light as the mysterious Wes Morgan tells the Mail Online that fans should rally round me.
He is wrong and we end the match with zero goals to PSG’s 5. At our home stadium. “You’re having a bit of a hard time” says Sir Alex. My press officer forwards me an article titled “Humiliation for Leicester” and my striker, Jamie Vardy, has bruised his leg and is thus injured.
My next notification informs me that England boss Gareth Southgate had been watching the match to check out said striker for his international potential. He was also interested in the player I benched at half-time for underperforming. Oh, and the fans have taken against Mkandawire.
I tell the Gareth Southgate notification that the last I remember of his career he was literally dining out on his failed penalties for England via a Pizza Hut commercial where he wore a paper bag on his head.
Everything else is more concerning. “A nightmare” is Sir Alex’s response. “Not so much because we lost, but because Cantona was sent off,” he clarifies.
Time for Sunderland, I guess.
We won! WE ONLY BLOOMING WON!
I made some tactical choices about our playstyle and a substitution which really paid off! The haters can suck it! Islam Slimani, I could kiss you!
“Leicester defeat ten-man Sunderland” is the headline. I don’t care. A win is a win. We’ve broken that duck and its quacking can cease for a bit. I also went for lunch after the PSG game and had forgotten about the financial cost of keeping Amartey in for another league game. Bye bye quarter-of-a-million pounds.
Oh well. At least we aren’t relegated which is what has happened to Middlesbrough. I take comfort from Boro’s failure and click Continue, immediately running into the second leg of the PSG misery-thon.
We need at least six goals to win this. Sir Alex seems down too. “I got a cup of tea and went to bed.” Admittedly he was speaking to me from the day the FA extended Eric Cantona’s suspension from the game after assaulting a supporter.
I figure our best chance for dealing with PSG is to do whatever it was we did against Sunderland so I swap Fuchs for Chilwell given the former’s tendency to underperform and cross my fingers.
We make it to half time only conceding two goals. That’s better than the previous game so I wonder if we can count that as a win when it comes to the board of directors assessing this season’s performance. I make a couple of substitutions purely based on the physical condition of some of the players. Team morale is somewhere around basement level aside from Schmeichel and Amartey who are weirdly chipper.
The second half is where we will turn things around.
Five minutes in Cavani scores from the penalty spot taking PSG to 3-0. BUT! Slimani equalises with a beautiful shot on target. And by equalises I mean we are technically one goal to their eight. A free kick from Ben Arfa undoes all of our progress and I slump. The whistle blows to mark the death of our European Champions Cup dreams. We walk away with £5.59m for getting as far as we did and I wonder, a touch bitterly, which player’s contract demands will eat that sum up unexpectedly.
No time for moping though as we’re taking on The Seagulls in the FA Cup semi-final which I had forgotten about. Que sera, seraaaaaaaaaaaaaaa whatever will be, will beeeeeeeeeeeee we’re going to Wemberleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey, que sera, sera!
I up the intensity of our training. Because nothing improves morale like exhaustion.
Match day bring with it the following article from the press officer:
“Leicester City’s players are to personally refund supporters who bought tickets from the club for the 4-1 hammering at Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.”
My press officer is not good at knowing what I might want to read on match day. I decide to save the game at this point in case I need to do a bit of ego-salving save scumming in the near future. The head physio chips in at this point to remind me that Dylan Watts is still concussed. Sure. Why not.
Brighton’s Jamie Murphy scores off a rebound 11 minutes in and I consider picking up the Sainsbury’s magazine crossword. Two minutes later Glenn Murray scores Brighton’s second and I pick up my pen. We give away a free kick and in the resultant kerfuffle Schmeichel manages an own goal. A 5-letter word for a soup serving utensil is a LADLE.
I remove Cahill and Beck because they’re playing so poorly and send Hernandez and Simpson on instead. I’m no longer watching as we go 4-0 down; a scoreline we keep until the end of the match. It’s a thorough trouncing.
“I’ll always remember watching at Wimbledon when I first came down, the day my mother died, and we lost 1-0,” says Sir Alex.
There are five more league games to go and I’m tempted to just autoresolve them. We’re going to finish a few places up from the relegation zone. Whatever we’re covered in it’s not glory.
I decide to give the hands-on match treatment one more go as we take on the Saints. I’ll take the resultant 0-0 draw. I think the highest we can finish is about 11th and the lowest is 17th. We’re safe from relegation, it’s just a matter of how far down the table we fancy exploring without tottering into the first division. That means I need to pay out the not-being-relegated bonuses.
Dylan Watts is still concussed. He was supposed to be out injured for 5 days and it has now been 18. I think Dylan Watts might secretly be Rip Van Winkle. That or we should have sent him to hospital.
By the time the whistle blows on a 2-1 victory for nearly-bottom-of-the-league Swansea I think I might hate my team. I also check the NHS website regarding Dylan Watts and his concussion. Given the longevity of his recovery period I suspect he might have some kind of incredibly serious injury and I start to fret about what happens if a player dies while I’m manager. I’m guessing the board look at that sort of thing unfavourably.
It turns out the board feel I could be performing slightly better in my role so it sounds like they haven’t found out about how Watts might be dead. I hope that it stays that way.
The next match on the schedule is against Manchester City. I feel sick. My press officer dutifully forwards me an article declaring our victory to be “impossible”. It seems that I cannot fire my press officer although I try really hard to find the option. Eventually I click Continue and the next event is the press officer forwarding me an article stating Arsenal have won the Premier League. The article cites their 4-0 victory over Leicester as a particularly noteworthy event.
I hate my press officer so much.
I don’t bother to make any team changes. I just hit “Play” and decide to let the catastrophe unfold. The first goal comes at 22 seconds in. We spend the rest of the match defending and all I can say is that it could have ended even worse than 3-0.
The chairman of Leicester City then takes the opportunity to offer me a contract extension of one year. I take it because I’m not going to get employed elsewhere, am I? Not if the Dylan Watts business comes to light.
Actually, speaking of Dylan Watts I notice that he is actually okay to play now so I put him on the subs bench for the moment. I then autoresolve the game against Crystal Palace because I cannot face another defeat. We lose 0-1 against a side that ends up with only ten men.
There’s only Middlesbrough left. They’re at the very bottom of the league but I’m confident we can still lose this game horribly.
Dylan Watts is injured. He has strained his wrist in a training session because of course he has. I decide he can play through the injury or die trying.
My press officer sends me an article explaining that either Middlesbrough’s manager or me are likely to be sacked for losing this, the final game of the season. I hope I remembered to put something in my contract to protect me against that. That or I maybe I could phone Middlesbrough’s gaffer and we fix this for a draw and both stay employed.
We lose 3-1 to the worst team in the league. Our final placing is 15th. A litany of misery and injury marked my time as a quarter of the management force of the Foxes.
“I was only there for half an hour because I’d friends down staying the weekend and had to go and meet them,” said Sir Alex, absolving himself of all responsibility.
I opened the book at another page hoping that I’d find something where he was a bit more supportive.
“I had a friend down from Aberdeen. He made a bookcase for me on Sunday and last night I went home, made dinner and we spent the evening filling the case with books. I was so depressed because we’d only drawn that I had one glass of wine too many.”
TO THE WINEBOOKSHELF.