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International Management (France)
Promotion to the Premier League, it’s something I didn’t predict to happen so early on in my managerial career on Football Manager 2018. Nevertheless, it’s happened, and now I’m in the same division as the team I aspire to manage. However, will I become too attached?
I know very well that even if Jose was sacked by Man Utd now that I wouldn’t be considered for the role yet. Even though I’ve proven that I can win trophies, I need to prove that I can battle with the big boys in the top division. So, when the Nottingham Forest board offered me a new contract at the start of the 2021/2022 pre-season I gladly accepted and extended my stay at the club by another two years.
I’ve spoken a lot about my approach to pre-season. This season, I decided on a different approach. Usually, I build up the friendlies in terms of opposition strength. This season, with the team being promoted to the Premiership, I wanted to show the team the aspirations that I have by putting them up against teams that have been part of the UEFA Champions League. I have aspirations to manage in the Champions League, but this season, and another reason I selected the specific opposition, my Nottingham Forest team will participate in the UEFA Europa League so the level of football this season is going to have to improve.
Knowing that the level of football would have to improve this season, I knew that I would have to bring in better players. Nottingham Forest had their promotion to the Premier League confirmed early last season so that gave me the chance to plan. I checked the transfer market early and found a former FM wonderkid available for a low transfer figure. Former Dundee starlet, Ryan Gauld who joined Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon was listed for £2.2m. To bring an FM legend to my club is an honour, I wanted to hit the ground running with transfers and this was the type of transfer that I hoped would put a mark on the Premier League. After Gauld, there was a massive rebuild and most likely I went over the top with the number of players that I brought in. However, I feel that I have built with experience and talent. Only time will tell with regards to how the team will cope with this massive rebuild.
The competitive season opener, the first competitive test, the Community Shield, This season, the Community Sheild saw Premier League winners Chelsea and FA Cup winners Nottingham Forest face off at the home of football, Wembley.
Knowing that my team would be playing a far superior team in Chelsea, tactically I set up to play defensively but on the counter. The analytical image below shows the average positions of the two teams through the game. On the left, Chelsea’s attacking approach with a 4-2-3-1. Chelsea controlled most of the ball throughout the game with 58% possession. The red sections show where most of the ball in the team’s possession of the ball. Chelsea had the ball mostly in attacking areas and my team having 42% possession, the majority in defensive areas.
After 90mins it was still 0-0 and I made no tactical changes and aimed to frustrate the Chelsea team. After extra time, the score was still 0-0 and the game went to penalties where my team won 3-1 with Freddie Woodman being the saviour following three consecutive saves. The game stats show how much frustration Chelsea endured, 33 shots compared to 6 from Nottingham Forest. Nevertheless, a boring game, but a trophy in the bag at the start of the season.
So, now to look ahead to the UEFA Europa League. Which teams will Nottingham Forest be facing? We have been drawn in Group I alongside Geek side PAOK, Danish team FC Midtjylland and Portegues giants FC Porto. At this moment in time, I am confident but apprehensive about how far Nottingham Forest can go in the UEFA Europa League. Only time will tell.
2021/2022 Mid Season
At the start of any save, I don’t ever envisage managing a large number of games. However, I’m a very dedicated person and try to manage as many games as possible on Football Manager. We’re now in 2022 and I’ve managed a total of 300+ games in management. It’s been a journey thus far which started in Coventry which an ambition to try and guide them to greatness. That ended up with me being sacked after a poor run of form and a loss of a changing room. From Coventry, I went to semi-professional side Wealdstone and guided them to numerous trophies including the Vanarama National League South, Vanarama National League and the FA Trophy in the two season that changed my career. After guiding Wealdstone to the Football League, I was approached by Nottingham Forest who had just been promoted to the Championship from League One. The chance to manage just one league below the top tier was something I could not turn down. After one season, the team are in the Premier League the Sky Bet Championship and FA Cup in the trophy cabinet under my management.
Another aspect of management on the game that I like to improve upon is my own managerial ability. Over the years in this save I have taken numerous coaching courses and now in 2022 I am now one course away from holding the Continental Pro Licence.
Who’d ever envisage their team to be in the Sky Bet Championship one season and the next season be in the Premier League following promotion and in the UEFA Europa League after winning the FA Cup?
That’s what happened to my Nottingham Forest team this season. Midway through this season and the group stage has been completed and my team finished top with four wins, one draw and one loss equalling a total of 13 points, enough to qualify for the next round of the competition.
The team that gets promoted is usually the team that is predicted to get relegated. The magic number forty is the number that sticks in the back of every manager’s head when they get promoted to the Premier League. Generally, it is believed that forty points is enough for the team to avoid relegation.
Midway through the 2021/2022 season, the forty point mark has already been surpassed. Nottingham Forest is sitting in second place, level on points with Manchester United although, they have a game in hand. To be in and around the big boys of the Premier League is a dream, a dream which is a reality at the moment. However, the challenge of the packed winter schedule is yet to come. I should also note that I am yet to beat a team in the top four.
How far can the team go, will Nottingham Forest be playing in the UEFA Champions League next season? With plenty of fixtures to play, the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League, the EFL Cup, the FA Cup and fixtures against teams in the top four. It’s going to be a tough end to the season.
2021/2022 End of Season Review
Being in the Premier League, I wanted to get the top coaching licence under my belt as soon as possible. Towards the end of this season, I was informed that I had finished the course and would finally hold the licence that took a long time to gain.
In terms of the running of the club, I wanted to increase revenue and the clear the club debts. After winning various trophies with the club, getting them to the Premier League, the revenue has massively increased which has allowed the board to clear the debts.
So, I’ve gained my Continental Pro Licence, cleared the club debts what else could there be to announce? Oh yeah, the board now want to build a new stadium. Currently, the board are in the process of speaking to investors and looking for a land to build the ground. I can understand the decision to build a new stadium as with success comes more fans, but as the current stadium is getting filled very quickly, the need to increase stadium capacity is a must. The board have pointed out though that it could take some time for a final decision is made on the new ground.
I’ll start the actual review with the Premier League. Man Utd ran away with the title finishing top of the pile with 92 points, 12 points clear of Nottingham Forest. Ultimately the results against the big teams cost us, I am still yet to pick up a victory against Manchester United. However, let’s not come across like coming second in my first season in the Premier League is not an achievement. Finishing second has ensured that Nottingham Forest will be playing in the UEFA Champions League next season. This position also brings in more revenue to the club with prize money, sponsorship and the massive TV deals that bring in a massive amount of revenue.
The goal of the season for this season’s Premier League went to Brendan Galloway following a fantastic curling shot from 25 meters. It’s a regular occurrence that a defender gets the league’s goal of the season, but as it happened this season and it’s one of my players, I had to share that fact with you.
Manchester United ran away with the Premier League title and took over when it came to the PFA Premier League Team of the Year with a total of nine out of eleven players from the Manchester United team. There was only one player from my team who made that squad, Barrie McKay who endured a fantastic season with an average rating of 7.38 scoring six goals with seven assists and five Player of the Match performances.
So, you know what happened in term of the Premier League but what about the other competitions? In terms of the UEFA Europa League, we made it through to the Quarter Final after beating Dutch side SC Heerenveen and Italian side Fiorentina in the 1st and 2nd Knockout Round but FC Barcelona proved too much and we were knocked out in the Quarters after a 0-3 aggregate defeat.
The FA Cup you can see on the schedule, we got all the way to final against Arsenal at the home of football, Wembley.
The game turned out to be a fantastic spectacle ending 5-3 to Nottingham Forest which ensured back-to-back FA Cup trophies for Nottingham Forest.
Looking ahead to next season, the rival aim is to at least beat Manchester United in one game. Finishing second in the league this season, though most would classify that as an achievement and don’t get me wrong, it is. But, finishing second does not garner any trophies. I want a Premier League title. So, throughout the summer, I’m going to have to improve the squad ready for a strong title challenge next season.
2022/2023 UEFA Nations League
After the 2022 FIFA World Cup (click here to catch up), I was approached by another team that wanted a new manager. A team that got knocked out by the eventual 2022 FIFA World Cup winners, Mexico.
France, a team with some great talents that in the year of the World Cup and upcoming UEFA Nations League are in their prime. Players like Mbappe, Martial, Lemar and plenty more. I accepted a contract where I would earn £69,000 per week with the French national team and the first competition that the team would take part in under my management was the UEFA Nations League. A competition which I currently have a win percentage of 0%. Yes, if I win even one game I can improve that statistic.
The UEFA Nations League creates more meaningful and competitive matches for teams and a dedicated calendar and structure for national team football,” UEFA said, who believe the new format addresses concerns national associations raised about friendlies no longer providing adequate competition. Weaker teams will also face teams of a similar level – so there will be fewer thrashings and more meaningful games for fans.
As well as the appeal of being named National League winner after the Final Four showpiece event for top teams, weaker teams will have better opportunities to qualify for European Championships – the bottom 16 in the rankings are guaranteed one of the 24 qualifying spots.
There are 55 teams involved, split into four leagues (A, B, C and D) based on their UEFA ranking at the end of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers. Within the four leagues, teams are split again into groups, which are made up of either three or four teams.
Not only was I able to increase my UEFA Nations League win percentage, I ended the group stage with only one defeat. That defeat can in my first competitive game as France manager. After that, I adopted an approach where I wanted to look to the future. The future being the upcoming UEFA European Championship. I set myself an aim of guiding France to winning that trophy. To start that aim, I moved on quickly from the defeat to Belgium and started using the approach that I have been successful with at Nottingham Forest. Once I adopted that approach, the results changed and the team went on to win the final three group games against Switzerland and Belgium. Those results saw France finish top of the group which meant they would be through to the semi-final of the UEFA Nations League.
The success of my inaugural season in the Premier League has given me the ambition to bring even more change to Nottingham Forest. I want the best, and to get the best, the club needs more finances. Finances have been something that I have improved greatly since taking over at Nottingham Forest, by getting the club to the Premier League, winning the FA Cup and gaining European football, more finances have been pumped into the club. Having more money means I can request the board to make changes.
With the above in mind, I set about making the requests. I wanted better facilities so I made three requests. Improved Data Analysis Facilities and improve youth and club training facilities. For the team to improve, I need the data to show what the team are doing right and wrong, I need to the data of players that I’ve sent my data analysts to watch to be good enough to make a decision on whether I buy a player or not. For the current crop and future players, they need great training facilities to improve. I was very pleased when the board agreed to improve all of the facilities that I requested to improve. The overall outlay of £9,500,000 to improve the facilities will be part of a long-term plan for the club. Now, the mentioning of long-term plans shows how attached I’ve become to Nottingham Forest.
Yes, you could say that I have become attached to the project that I’ve started at Nottingham Forest. So, when the above message came into my inbox, it got me thinking how attached have I become? Arsenal is a club that in a better financial position than Nottingham Forest which is something I did not think I’d be saying. But, I look back at where I’ve come from in terms of club finances, there have been big changes throughout my career. Coventry was a financial mess, Wealdstone a semi-professional club with very little money. Now, I’m at a club spending millions on players, spending more money on improving facilities. However, in the back of my mind, there is that nagging feeling – it can all go wrong. Here I am, the leading candidate to be the manager of one of England’s top Premier League clubs, a potential safety blanket or a project that could derail my career. So, at this moment in time in undecided as to what to do. Should Arsenal approach me, do I leave or do I continue with the project that I’ve started here at Nottingham Forest?
2022/2023 Mid Season
I have never been one to go for the easy option. When I start a project, I want to try and finish it. At Nottingham Forest, I want to try and win everything. This project not only comes via myself, but from the players at the club. So building a solid social group is important. At the midpoint of the season, the core social group is made up of a few youth players and the odd player from the first team.
The secondary social groups are split into two with one made up of players who have been at the club for roughly the same amount of time and the other being the same but containing a different set of players. The ultimate aim is to have one core social group, but I think that potentially impossible as that means all players getting along.
The squad hierarchy shows you also where players from specific social groups rank in the pyramid. Having a solid social group within the team is a start to building a squad, but the squad hierarchy is, in my opinion, more important. A squad has to have leaders and influential players and players who will go up through the hierarchy as they age and spend longer at the club. At this stage, the club currently has three team leaders and eight highly influential players. It should be noted that I’ve been at the club for a few seasons, so I had the chance to let my philosophy set in.
So, now, let’s talk about the club’s first season back in the UEFA Champions League. The team were drawn in a group with Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray and Feyenoord. At the end of the group stage, Nottingham Forest finished second with three wins, one draw and two losses. The loses coming to Atletico Madrid who topped the group. Now, it’s a matter of waiting for who my team will get in the next round.
As for the Premier League, the plan for success in all competitions. By February 2023, Nottingham Forest sits atop of the Premier League. For even more success, the team are undefeated after the 26 games that have been played with twenty wins and six draws over the course of the season thus far. My rivals Manchester United are not that far behind with two games in hand which could bring them within two points of the top spot. The rest of the season is going to be interfering with a potentially close race for the Premier League title.
2022/2023 End of Season Review
When I started this career, I had no idea how long it would last. Does anyone who enters into the world of management in football have any idea how many games they could potentially manage?
Landmarks are hit and his season I joined the 400 club, which compared to some managers may not seem like a lot. But, from where my managerial career has come from and where it is now, that is some achievement.
In the course of that 400 games, I have finally completed the coaching course that all managers want to hold at some point in their career. After many seasons, I have finally completed the Continental Pro Licence which allows me to manage in the top divisions around the world.
It was not that a long ago that I was announcing that the Nottingham Forest board has decided to commence plans to build a new stadium. Since then, the board have been working hard to find land to build the stadium. Just before the end of this season, the board inboxed me with the final plans for the new stadium.
The Clough Arena, named after club icon Brian Clough will be built by the 2025 season. The overall cost of the stadium is largely offset by external funding, sponsorship and the sale of the City Ground. An increased capacity from just under 30,500 to just over 41,000 will see more fans able to see this new Nottingham Forest that I have built over the course of numerous season. The stadium will have its own roof and undersoil heating, putting it up there with the top stadiums in the UK.
As for the building of Nottingham Forest as a club, I had an interesting press conference this season who brought up the infamous saying “you can’t win anything with kids”. Ricky McLean, from When Saturday Comes noted that the average age of my squad to be only a mere 23. I believe in my approach and know that these youngsters can go far in their careers.
There is a reason for my approach, I want Nottingham Forest to become a firm and solid Premier League team without having to needlessly spend. Granted, the off experienced player help to build the youngsters, but these youngsters have talent which has been demonstrated by both the U23s and the U18s this season who both won their respective leagues.
Stand out performers – Barry Cook who scored 25 goals and assisted 11 with an average rating of 7.76 shone in the U23s league, Andrew O’Sullivan chipped in with 17 goals, 11 assists and an average rating of 7.60 will fit in nicely with the first team next season and Niall Heath a working midfielder stood out with an average rating of 7.80. All three players will be given chances during the pre-season in preparation for their roles in the first team next season.
The FA Cup is a trophy that has been an everpresent in the Nottingham Forest trophy cabinet. Before this season, I have guided the club to two successive FA Cup victories. So, this season, I aimed for three back-to-back FA Cup trophies.
The 3rd round of the FA Cup saw Forest take on Crystal Palace in what ended in a six-goal thrill ride in favour of Forest whereby the game ended 4-2 to Forest seeing them through to the next round against Birmingham in which Forest kept a clean sheet in a 3-0 victory to keep the dream of a third back-to-back FA Cup alive. The 5th round draw saw Nottingham steam role, Rotherham in an impressive 5-1 victory securing passage into the 6th round against Premier League rivals, Liverpool. By this stage of the competition, the teams are tough, but the team has been through this before. Nevertheless, Liverpool collapsed to a 3-1 defeat with Forest gaining access to the FA Cup Semi-Final. The Semi-Final saw another steamrolling of Southampton in an eight-goal thriller with seven goals being scored by Forest. The other Semi-Final saw Chelsea edge past West Ham after extra time. The FA Cup Final, Nottingham Forest vs Chelsea – two rival Premier League teams. The game was back and forth but it came to light when Svendsen scored the opening goal with an accurate finish. Not long after, wingback Targett made it 2-0 to Forest which left Chelsea with a task for the rest of the game. Chelsea scored a consolation goal but in the end, Nottingham Forest ended the game with a 2-1 victory and secured a third back-to-back FA Cup trophy.
UEFA Champions League
After getting through the group stages by finishing second behind Atletico Madrid. By finishing second in the group, the 1st Knockout Round saw my team face a team who finished top of their group. RB Leipzig was the team drawn in this round. In the first leg, the tie was near enough sealed with a 4-0 victory at home, stopping RB Leipzig from scoring any away goals. In the second leg, RB Leipzig came out of the blocks with early goals but my team were able to fight back ending the game 2-2 and an overall 6-2 aggregate victory to secure passage through to the quarter-final. The draw for the next round saw a group battle as Group F teams Atletico Madrid faced Forest in the Quarter Final. This was another draw that was near enough settled in the first leg as Nottingham Forest came away 5-0 winners and waltzed into Madrid to pick up a 2-0 victory thus creating a 7-0 aggregate win for Forest opening the gates for a Semi-Final tie against Manchester United. United, the team I support, the team I endeavour to manage in the future. But, this was not the time for sentimental reflection. It was time to prepare for what would be a very close encounter across two legs. In first leg away at Old Trafford, I tried to shut out the attack of Man Utd and play on the counter. That plan proved difficult as Man Utd had a strong defence as well as attack. So, the first leg ended in a drab 0-0 draw. However, the second leg at home turned out very different with five goals in total scored. Three by Forest and two by Man Utd, a scoreline good enough to send Nottingham Forest through to the UEFA Champions League final. A final against Premier League rival, Manchester City. By knocking out Man Utd in the semi-final, I prevented a Manchester derby in the Final. Take place at the Allianz Arena, the final was a spectacle of the highest standards. A low scoring game, but a back-and-forth game. Ze Gomez opened the scoring in the 26th minute for Forest. The game got interesting when Man City left-back Lucas Digne got sent off which left Man City vulnerable at the back. Being vulnerable played into my hands and into the feet of top performer this season, Guedes who finished from close range making it 2-0 to Forest. Man City forward, Gabriel Jesus scored a consolation goal in the 87th minute but, that was the game and the victory for Nottingham Forest which seals my first UEFA Champions League trophy as a manager.
Last season, Man Utd ran away with the Premier League. This season, I wanted to prove a point by knocking Man Utd off their perch. Deciding the league went down to the wire with the title being won by a single point. Goal difference would not have been enough to win the league as Man Utd at a +10 better goal difference. But, a greater point was enough to win the league and knock Man Utd off their perch. Youngster, Tobias Svendsen had an incredible season chipping in with 12 goals and 16 assists in 29 games with an average match rating of 7.55. Stats good enough to see Svendsen win not on the PFA Young Player of the Year but the PFA Player of the Year. I picked up Premier League Manager of the Year which I think I deserved with the team that I have built over the course of a few seasons with Nottingham Forest.
After the collection of trophies this season and over the course of other seasons with Nottingham Forst and trophies with other teams, I have now claimed my placed amongst one the top English managers.
Going forward, I’ve already secured a signing in preparation for next season. In my teams, to have players that offer experience. The player that I have signed, for a free, offers that experience.
Gareth Bale will join Nottingham Forest for next season on a one-year deal. The 33-year-old experienced winger comes in to offer support for the attacking areas of the pitch. He comes with a history of injuries, but I want him to be an experienced head in the dressing room.
Another change to the club going into next season will see Nottingham Forest link up with Swedish giants Malmo FF. I’m very happy with this link and hope it will help with the development of youth players