Part 2 - A Focus on Youth and Income.
I am playing Football Manager 2018 as Finnish team Turun Palloseura (TPS) and have a few specific aims for this story:
- To develop Finland to be a European powerhouse.
- To bring through youth players to help the league and national team.
- To see TPS reach a Champions League Final.
- To see Finland get to a World Cup final.
After Season 1:
I made a conscious effort to look for the best young players that are under 21 years old. It’s important to know that you have to at least 9 Finnish players in your match day squad and at least 4 Homegrown players in your first 11. I was not aware of this till my first league of the season. So, the best young Finnish players are a priority.
Throughout the season I was looking for a senior affiliate to help with my finances. Due to my poor financial management and huge wage bill I was £200,000 in debt as a club. I eventually managed to become an affiliate with Palermo where they would pay us £46,000 a year and we could loan their players for free although they have a first option to buy our young players if they want to.
Another thing to note in looking back on my first season was that for some reason I didn’t actually play my games at my home stadium so my average attendance was about 750 people. This season I would be playing at Kupittaan jalkapallostadion with a capacity of 9,372.
In preparations for Champions League qualifying i decided to loan 4 players from Palermo: two attackers: Mattia Retucci & Daniel Birligea, a left wing back: Antonio Gallo and a centre back: Andrea Punzi. All players who went straight into my starting 11. I also signed a centre back Cheikh Comara from Ekenas IF for free. I loaned a central midfielder/right wing back from Manchester United called Ethan Hamilton and a superstar central midfielder/attacking midfielder named George McEachran from Chelsea. My final notable signings were a pair of twin brothers who were 18 when they signed but 19 when the league started - Akseli and Tuomas Ollila - a striker and a left back respectively.
The Finnish Cup
The Finnish Cup starts off as groups - the winners and runners-up progress into a knockout-style tournament. I was drawn in a group with our biggest rivals FC Inter - another Turku football team who we share our stadium with. I smashed the Finnish Cup by winning all 5 group games and making it all the way to the final. Turns out the Final takes place 5 and a half months after the Semi-final. A bit weird. I won 2-0 against IFK Mariehamn. First Cup win.
I took my winning streak in the cup straight into my league season by winning my first 6 games and going on a 13 game undefeated streak. My first loss came to local rivals FC Inter in a massively disappointing 1-0. As the season went on I only lost 3 other games - SJK, JJK and another match against FC Inter. Probably best to note that the season is 33 games long in which you play each team 3 times. Final game of the season I was 1 point behind HJK and was hoping that they would lose to Honka and that I could beat JJK. I won, they won, pretty underwhelming. I finished second but I still take it as an improvement. I finished with 8 more points than I did last season, lost 2 less games, conceded 5 less goals and scored 11 more goals. Small improvements but HJK were much better this year and I struggled to maintain wins over my Champions League Qualifying campaign which I think cost me the league.
Champions League Qualifying
In order to make it into club football’s most prestigious tournament I would have to go through 3 qualifying rounds. My board wanted me to reach the second round and I wasn’t too confident. I was up against AS Omonoia Nicosia - a Cyprian team - in Qualifying 1. at home i won 2-1 and away 1-1. Scraped through with goals from McEachran and Retucci.
Qualifying 2 was against Croatian league champions Rijeka. They looked strong and got a 1-1 draw at my Home - their crucial Away goal haunting me. At their stadium however I managed to win a super tense game 1-0.
I was through to the final Qualifying game. My opponents would be Swedish champions Malmo FF - a proper team. 10 of their players were valued at over a million pounds; my highest valued player was about 300 thousand. Malmo turned out to be pushovers as I won 2-0 in Sweden and 3-0 at home. I was buzzing.
I’m into the group stages…actually, there is a Qualifying Playoff after the 3 rounds of qualifying. I didn’t know this information. Gosh darn. My opponents would be Grasshoppers - the Swiss champions. Huge match. I thought this would be the end of my fairytale journey. The first game was Away and it was 1-1 at half time. Away goal in the bag - I was happy. Then on the 62nd minute they scored. Dammit. On the 74th minute my loanee Gallo scored from a tight angle. 2-2. 81st minute Retucci goals down in the box and gets a penalty and…scores it! 3-2 to TPS. Straight from kick-off we win back possession and charge into their box and lose it. They boot the ball up the pitch and Comara misses the header. Their winger Dennis Hess pokes it past our keeper Mujunen. 3-3. Devastation. I take off Birligea who’s having a poor game and bring on Akseli Ollila. On the 94th minute Akseli gets on the end of an Onni Valakari though-ball and slots home the winner. 4-3. This was only the first leg. The second leg was much less interesting. An easy 4-1 win at home. I thought these teams were meant to be difficult. I was actually now into the group stages!
I kept praying for an easy group. Give me a group I can pick up a few wins and get through by the skin of my teeth. The top seeded pick for my eventual group was English Premier League champions Manchester United who have Griezmann now. Next up was Italy’s Juventus and finally it was Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen to fill out the group. No Shaktars or Celtics or Olimpiakos; just actual, top tier teams. I also had a bit of a blow going into the group stages as my star midfielder Onni Valakari had his head turned by Udinese. I wanted to keep him but he wanted to go and after they put a million pound bid in I had to accept. I needed the money. Bye bye Onni. You will be back one day hopefully.
I lost my first Group game to Man U 1-0 which isn’t too bad, we had chances and kept them to a set-piece goal. Next was Juventus who we actually scored past before it ended 2-1. Not too bad again.
Leverkusen were the 3rd seed and the team I needed to be picking up wins against if I stood a chance. However they thrashed me 6-2 at their ground and then 4-2 at mine. This killed our chances of getting through the Group stages. Long sigh.
At Old Trafford we lost 4-0 in a really poor game and then our final group game was against Juventus at Home. I really wanted to win this one but we were down 1-0 at half-time. This was our last game of the season and I gave them the team talk of their lives. We came out and Daniel Birligea smashed in two goals very quickly and we managed to hang on. We won our first ever Champions League Group game match and it was against Juventus. The absolute scenes.
- 1st in the league
- Quarter Finals of the Finnish Cup
- Top Goalscorer: Kaine Sheppard - 18
- End of season finances: -£200,00
- Number of players in the Finland national team: 0
- 2nd in the league
- Won the Finnish Cup
- Champions League Group Stages
- Top Goalscorer: Mattia Retucci - 29
- End of Season finances: £15,500,000
- Number of players in the Finland National Team: 0
We got 15 million pounds and the club is now financially secure. In order to maintain this though I need to keep getting into the group stages of the European tournaments and keep improving every year. They have given me 6 million to spend and doubled my wage budget. Big summer and a big second season ahead. My goals are to win the league, win the Finnish Cup and get to the Europa League Group stages.
Season 3 will return.