Seeing as it’s the international break I thought it’d be appropriate to have my first stab on FM15 at managing a nation.
I’ve had lots of fun on previous games, managing the likes of Uruguay and Spain – I even got to the World Cup Final at the first time of asking with the Uruguayans on FM13 – though the brilliant Luis Suarez made my job relatively easy. We lost 5-4 in extra time against Italy if I remember rightly.
This time around, in 2014, I embark on an adventure with none other than the Three Lions: England.
To choose my home country I did a simple ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ and my mind was made up.
I feel pretty comfortable with the challenge as England actually have some very good players who I can fit in to my preferred style of play and formation.
I’m going to attempt to post a daily diary of how we’re getting along and guide you through friendly results, injuries, impressive individual performances, tactical tweaks, who’s making a case to be called up, and competitive games, before we hopefully reach the European Championships proper.
A modern and widely-used 4-2-3-1 (two CMs, two wingers and an AM) is the shape I’ve gone for as it plays in to the hands of stars, such as Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and – I think – Wayne Rooney.
I can also use a conservative central midfield player and a deep-lying or roaming playmaker. I have decent options for these positions, including Michael Carrick with Jack Wilshere and Jack Colback (yes, really) and Jordan Henderson. Gareth Barry and James Milner are always there for back-up. Adam Lallana can play in central midfield as well as an advanced role.
Ashley Young and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will get plenty of game time. I’m a big fan of the versatile, yet fragile, ‘Ox’.
I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on talents Jordan Ibe, James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond and Lewis Baker, although the country’s teeming with all sorts of bright young things.
I think the future is bright for England (on FM and in reality) and a second World Cup WILL be ours in the not-too-distant future.
The first player I called up to the national team was, you guessed it (maybe not?), Kieran Trippier. I think he’s class and he’s having an impressive season for Burnley in the Premier League. On FM15 he has very solid attributes.
Sam Byram from Leeds is another talented English right back who I’ll look to introduce in a year or two if he’s needed.
My first game in the spotlight is a friendly at Wembley against Argentina – throw me in at the deep end, thanks. I think it will be an even game despite their superior attack. Their defence is arguably more fragile than ours.
Let’s see how we get on…
Sceptical members of the press highlighted to me I’d swung for a squad with an average age of ‘just’ 24. If I could answer fully to those criticisms, I’d say there’s no time like the present to get the country’s best talent in the senior squad, giving them experience at the highest level so they can become a valuable part of our future successes. We need our youngsters to be cunning when we reach the sharp end of tournaments and ‘throwing them in’ at a young age will give them this.
In-game, I responded with: “I don’t look at age, I look at ability. And these lads have it all.”
Talking of age, I made a last-gasp attempt to persuade Frank Lampard to reconsider his retirement from international football. The media gave me the idea. He rejected my overtures.
Before the clash with our old rivals, I was coy in the pre-match press conference. I refused to overstate the importance of the game – to me it’s just a chance to see who fits my system and who’s psychologically ‘up for it’. I wouldn’t give them any exclusives on my intended tactics for the game either.
When it came to picking my first starting line-up, I was disheartened that Rooney, Ward-Prowse and Ibe were lacking fitness. I had to pick a compromised side of: Ben Foster, Kieran Trippier, Phil Jagielka (c), Phil Jones, Leighton Baines (potm), Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge.
We were 1-0 down at half time and no-one was playing well. Erik Lamela scored a stunning goal with a dribble and long shot on 12 minutes.
I told the lads in no uncertain terms that they had to improve and they did.
Although Argentina never made up look an inferior side we needed to finish off the chances we were creating.
Baines popped up with a trademark freekick goal on 58 minutes to send the Wembley crowd in to raptures. What. A. Strike.
The goal seemed to boost the mood of the team, as well as the tempo.
And it wasn’t long until we took the lead.
“Colback takes the corner. He swings it in to the near post where Gary Cahill meets it with a fine volley to give the Three Lions the lead they deserve. Cahill looks delighted with that one!”
So, although it was ‘only a friendly’, to ‘teach Argentina a lesson’ gives the lads and I a fair bit of confidence to take away before our Euro Qualifiers Group E game against Switzerland. I will be taking that game much more seriously and going all out for a win (but don’t tell the press that).
I’ll be back with an update tomorrow. Until then, keeps Jules Rimet gleaming…