Den Haag – A new beginning

ado1As alluded to in the final Feralpi Salò update, my new FM career takes me to The Netherlands and a club by the name of ADO Den Haag.

You can read all about the history of the club at their Wiki page but here are the basic highlights:

  • founded in 1905
  • based in, surprisingly, The Hague in The Netherlands
  • play in the 15000 capacity Kyocera Stadion
  • won the title twice in the 1940s
  • won the cup twice, most recently in 1975

We / they are pretty much a mid-table Dutch side who don’t have much in the way of success in their history.

This, then, will be a brief introduction to the club, why I chose them, what I hope to achieve and, most importantly, some interesting restrictions which I’ll be putting on the save to provide some additional challenge and make it a little different from my time in Italy.

So why Den Haag? Partly it is because I work in the area a lot and know a fair few Den Haag supporters from my time in Holland.

Partly it is because they were Ernst Happel’s first management position. The legendary Austrian played over 200 times for Rapid Wien before going into management. He is one of only four managers to have won domestic league championships in four countries along with José Mourinho, Giovanni Trapattoni and Tomislav Ivić; and won the European Cup with two different clubs – Feyenoord and Hamburg. A man worth following.

ado2However, the biggest catalyst for choosing Den Haag was the inspiration I received from reading a save game story at The Dugout. Ben’s Vitória Setubal career is a fantastic read and I would highly recommend that you take the time to check it out.

The youth development, the focus on squad management, taking on some domestic giants that have dominated the league, a second rate league… the ingredients are all very similar to what I hope will be a similarly successful story at Den Haag.

Inspired by the domestic youth focus that Ben started with and some other aspects of his game, I’ve started a new save with a database that includes the leagues from former Dutch colonies Curacao, Surinam, Tobago and Aruba; as well as South Africa and Belgium with their obvious Dutch influences.

The general idea is that I’m going to try and play a fairly realistic game so will look to bring in players from common Dutch markets – those countries listed above and comparatively minor South American leagues such as Uruguay.

In a similar vein, I’ve imposed the following restrictions on myself (all stolen from elsewhere, I haven’t invented anything new):

  • I cannot use the ‘Player Search’ screen to find players
  • I can only sign players that I find via realistic means, such as:
  • teams we play against
  • scouting
  • agent touting
  • player recommendations
  • coach recommendations
  • media reports
  • stats tables for competitions (I figure most coaches will have access to these through ProZone etc these days)

This also applies to staff positions. I can only source staff by using the job centre or bringing in retiring players from my team or shortlist.

Not content with that, I’m also applying what is for me an unprecedented tactical approach.

Usually, I take what I would class to be the ‘proper’ approach to tactics – moulding a tactic to suit my team and developing it over time as we get better and can afford better players. However, I already had something different in mind but when my board demanded this of me, my mind was made up:

Board promisesI intended to try and implement the best traditions of Dutch football anyway so I wasn’t too displeased with either of the board promises.

Instead of trying to implement a historically accurate version of Totalvoetball, I decided to try and implement the concepts of it whilst including some tactical tweaks that I have a personal preference for including a nod at Matthias Sindelar and the Danubian Whirl.

Den Haag WhirlSo basically I’m looking at an adventurous, fluid tactic that uses attack as the best form of defence, prioritises possession in dangerous areas, using high pressing and a high defensive line; and, in homage to Sindelar, uses a ‘false 9’ type player as the fulcrum of the attack.

It’s something which I’d already considered during my last season with Feralpi and so the 3-4-1-2 I developed there was my starting point.

From there I’ve made a few tweaks to suit my final intended target, such as giving the AMC absolute creative license to do whatever the hell he wants.

And this is where I differ from my usual game. Because this system doesn’t really suit the players currently at my disposal. Usually, this would be the idea I have in my head and that which I want to mould the squad into in a few years. Not this time. I’m going to force my team into playing this system even to the detriment of early performances.


Partly for the challenge. I wanted to see how difficult it would be. I’ve made one concession to logic by using a flat back 3 rather than the libero that I eventually want to use simply because there isn’t a single sweeper in our squad so that would be suicide.

The board have demanded attacking football and this should satisfy that at least. Finally, it’s a system that I really enjoyed playing at Feralpi and, if nothing else, this should be fun 😀

To go with the footballing philosophy, I already have a ‘dossier’ of requirements that I see as vital to ensuring that the above works in the long term – attributes that will be required of future signings, PPM’s and tweaks against alternative opposition formations. See?


That’s some of my scribbling which eventually turned into this tactic and this save.

Essentially, as I’m looking to implement a high-intensity, high-pressing game with a quick tempo I’ll be looking for players with high attributes in stamina, work rate, teamwork, decisions, technique and first touch. There will be specific requirements for specific roles, such as pace for the advanced forward, but those are common squad-wide attributes that I’d like to see.

The starting squad at Den Haag doesn’t really satisfy these requirements, with a lot of low teens apparent in these areas.

AttributesSo when it comes to new signings, and particularly the young signings I look to develop, it’ll be these 7 attributes that you should see being repeated over and over.

One player with decent attributes in these areas, and not coincidentally our most important player, is Danny Holla:

HollaDanny is easily our best player and it’ll be a priority to keep him at the club for the foreseeable future. I had considered turning him into a libero but would prefer someone with better defensive, and particularly aerial, ability if I was being picky… which I am.

The board gave me a little under £300k in transfer funds and a little over £4k wiggle room with the wage budget. To go with that, I’ve sold Charlton Vicento (winger) and Gábor Horváth (centre back) for £1.4m combined. Not only did these players clearly not fit into the new approach at Den Haag, they were also in the last year of their contracts so I decided to cash in.

Incomings have been limited to two loan moves for two reasons – firstly I want to give players an opportunity before I punt them and secondly my scouting system isn’t up to scratch yet – given the restrictions I’ve assigned in the game, this means my options are VERY limited.


One area that the team were very limited in was the targetman role that I wish to use up top. Asking my assistant to provide loan recommendations, he came up with a beauty in the shape of Sven Schipplock. He’ll cost me around £180k over the season in loan contributions and wages but when he scored 4 in 4 during the friendlies then twice in his competitive debut I thought I was on to a winner. FM had other ideas and put him out injured for 2 months 😦

At least the assistant recommendation system worked… speaking of staff, the set-up when I joined was a joke. 19 youth coaches and not one with a coaching attribute in double figures.  Mutual terminations all round, with a new Director of Football and Assistant Manager to boot.

The board have limited me to just 4 coaches but were less stingy when I asked for a new feeder club (Boavista) and to improve the junior coaching (now good).

So that’s the new club, really. The media expect us to finish 12th and the board have asked for a mid-table finish (18 teams). Personally, I anticipate a difficult first season. Having assessed the squad, played the friendlies and then a few competitive games I really think that, had I not imposed the squad restrictions, I would have made some serious transfer moves to strengthen the team.

As it is, I think the squad is weak in certain key areas, lacks depth and doesn’t particularly suit my overall philosophy. But meh, I’ve made my bed so I’m going to lie in it – even it that means getting sacked.

If I can survive for at least the first season then I foresee next summer being the key moment in terms of transfers. I have asked the board for additional scouts (now 7) and will be making full use of that. First priority is to scout Holland and the former colonies before moving on to some Europe wide scouting.

Given the financial constraints, my transfer policy is going to revolve around finding young players to develop and keeping an eye out for the odd 29+ bargain. The attributes I listed above will be prioritised and I’ll be trying to maintain a strong domestic bias. Hence my second loan signing:


I like the look of Bos. A first season newgen at Groningen, he’s got strong attributes in many of the “common” areas that I identified – technique, first touch, anticipation, work rate. He may be lacking in stamina, teamwork and more-so decisions but that should come with time. I’ve brought him in on loan to take a look at him. His contract expires next summer so I’m hoping to be able to snap up a real bargain.

I have him in mind for the advanced forward role. Although I’d prefer someone who is two-footed, his finishing, off the ball and pace and bang on the money. To me, he represents what I’m looking for – someone who has potential, who I can develop and then sell on for a profit.


These are the early fixtures including the friendlies which were a lot more difficult than they really needed to be. The 4-1 loss to non-league Belgian side Heist was particularly worrying. Indeed, I’ve had two main problems since taking over:

AZ stats1. The defence

As you can see, we’ve kept one clean sheet – a fantastic one against a strong AZ Alkmaar side and the stats show that it was no fluke. We shut them out, created plenty of chances and secured a solid 2-0 victory against a side with an outside chance of a title challenge. Great.

AZ, though, play a narrow 4-3-1-2 and we’ve stuggled against any side that plays with width.

2. Teamtalks

I’ve never been particularly good with teamtalks but I had it sorted at Feralpi, nearly always getting the best out of my players. Now though, I’ve created my new manager with the “automatic” reputation to make the game as realistic as possible.

My players, though, don’t really respect me and I’m getting the “struggles to motivate himself to play for you” message nearly every game. The players tend to “switch off” during teamtalks and it’s really proving to be a difficult learning curve for me as I have to re-assess my approach to motivation.

But both of those things just add to the challenge and that’s what I was after.

I hope I’ve not made it too difficult for myself. I don’t remember ever being sacked in Championship / Football Manager and I’d hate for it to happen now when I couldn’t just keep it a secret and avoid the shame!

And that, ladies and gents, is ADO Den Haag and my slightly strange plans for my new save.

I hope that this story proves to be as popular as the Feralpi Salò one. If you have any questions about any aspect of the game – the youth development, why those attributes, the stupid tactic, why am I being a bit AVB at Chelsea about it all…., anything – then please feel free to contact me on Twitter or leave a comment below.

As always, thanks for reading. (I realise that I write a lot longer articles than most people so I appreciate the patience).

Forza Fe… oops… erm, I don’t know the Dutch version of that!

17 thoughts on “Den Haag – A new beginning”

  1. A brilliant opening. I love how you included your plan on the note paper you’ve been working with haha.

    I’ll be following this closely as I like the idea (and have used myself before) of buying/scouting realistic markets based on the league you play. Trying to play realistic is some of the most fun I’ve ever had on FM.

    Good luck 🙂

  2. Out of curiosity: Would you consider manually scouting players that you already know a realistic method? How about manually scouting teams with a high reputation youth system and/or national teams (especially u-19 and u-21)? I’ve been looking for a more challenging save as I just finished winning my 3rd straight ucl with Sevilla and I’ve been meaning to do something like this. However, I have mixed feelings as it seems somewhat against the spirit of “realistic scouting” (it’s not difficult to identify studs if you manually scout youth national teams), but you have to imagine that any real manager would be knowledgeable of these players/teams and would instruct his scouts to scout them if he has the resources. Anyway, good luck…I’ve been wanting to do a save in the Netherlands for a while, but I always fear that after a few seasons, I would start to dominate the domestic league and thus prefer to play in Spain as I know Madrid and Barca will always be world class (and the 3 non-EU roster rule makes it a little more challenging).

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jacob.

      I guess it depends on your own point of view. Personally, I don’t think it is unrealistic to scout U-19 or U-21 teams. However, I think I’m more likely to ask a scout for a team report or scout an U-19 competition rather than trawling through a list of players and asking for specific player reports on the highest valued ones.

      As an example, I’ve got a scout watcing the European U-19 Championship qualifiers and regularly check the Dutch U-19 side. In fact, I’ve just asked for a scout report on one player because he’s scored 4 goals in 2 games. I don’t think that’s unrealistic – any manager would know about player’s doing that well in their national set up.

      In terms of players you know from your own football knowledge… I’m not so sure. How did you hear about the player? Was it through someone telling you he was good on FM? It’s totally up to you, of course, it’s your game. It’s easy for me to avoid it because I shy away from signing players I know – I just prefer the separation of game and real life.

      Either way and whatever you decide, it’s fun just to have a few added challenges. Once you get this far into the game then it can be a little dull playing the same save over and over again!

      1. Thanks for the suggestion. I know that it’s my save and everything, but I would really like to make it as challenging and realistic as possible (i.e., I can’t turn Sevilla into the best team in the world in 5 seasons), but I like possession football and I don’t want to force myself to find some obscure 3rd division side and spend 3-5 seasons watching my team sit deep and boot it up the pitch in order to manufacture a challenge. Anyway, I just started a new save with Sociedad (not sure if you watch much Spanish football, but they the really are a great team to watch) and I haven’t quite decided on the ground rules. I think I’m going to use your suggestions regarding players I’ve never seem play, but feel free to manually scout players that I have seen. That sounds pretty realistic and will save me loads of time as I will avoid manually scouting random youth teams/leagues.

        I do, however, have a question on scouting. I have yet to figure out how to get the best out of my scouts in 13: How do you set up your network? I’ve tried using the default settings and leaving it to my chief scout, but even when I have elite chief scouts (whatever that means…I basically assume a super scout who is excellent in all mental attributes minus physio), they just send my scouts to random countries that they are unfamiliar with while sending scouts with a lot of knowledge of those countries to countries which they have none (and then spend 1 year scouting Kazakhstan). Then, when I manually set up my network, truly excellent scouts tell me that they can’t recommend any players, yet I am able to manually find players that meet my criteria within minutes. Anyway, I’ve found that manually scouting various competitions to be the best method, but I was wondering if you have any other secrets. Thanks again for the idea.

    2. Well this is my guide to scouting and that’s how I tend to set it up.

      However, on this save I’m having to be a lot more careful and specific so rather than leaving it to my chief scout and, like you say, run the risk of him sending scouts off to random, useless countries; I’m doing it myself and hand-picking countries I feel would be usual transfer targets for Holland – Denmark, Iceland, Uruguay, etc.

      I really like the idea of scouting only players you’ve seen play, that makes a hell of a lot of sense. I made have to consider that…

      Sociedad should be a great challenge. Do you post about your game anywhere?

      1. Unfortunately, I don’t post my games. I have thought about doing so, but it takes me way too long as is and I can’t imagine that there would be any sustained interest as a result. I might consider doing so on one of the forums because now that the season is winding down, I won’t have have multiple games to watch every night.

        I remember reading your post a while back and thinking that even though my network was set up in a similar way, my scouts still struggled to identify elite prospects and that most of my “discoveries” came through manual scouting. However, now that I think about it, I also tended to find elite prospects much earlier than the rest of the world and thus had little competition in securing their transfer at well below market value. Having said that, I think it makes sense to manually scout players who you already know as it seems bizarre to pretend you don’t know about them. Either way, I think I’m going to handle the scouting this time and focus on scouting competitions/leagues as opposed to nations.

        I’m actually worried that Sociedad won’t be all that difficult. Their finances are good by Spanish standards, they have very good facilities with a young/talented squad (they’re on pace to qualify for the ucl in real life) and all of their key players are under contract for the next few years. The most difficult part will likely be that their key players have so-so personalities (squad personality is loyal) and without searching for veteran tutors, it might take a few years to develop a strong youth system.

  3. Although I have already wished you good luck on twitter, I feel I should do that again, after seeing your “auto-limitations” on your game. I have been trying to implement some of them myself in my recent saves, especially the one with the player search limitations. It’s actually fun to do that and you really feel closer to that young player you have digged out of nowhere from some small town in Eastern Europe.

    I did not try the staff limitations though, since it is already hard enough to find decent guys for your backroom if you are a rather small side.

    Two more interesting similarities in our games, which I am really really happy to notice are:

    1. The 3-4-1-2 formation you are trying to implement. I am trying the same formation in my new Grasshoppers save but I haven’t perfected it yet, I just use it as a 3rd formation within the game, when I need to push forward.

    2. The actual notebook and the notes you are taking 🙂 I must have spent so many small notebooks during all these years of playing FM. It helps you keep track of what you were doing and what you were thinking right before you decided to go to sleep a couple of nights ago, when you get back into the game 🙂

    Anyway, it’s a great read again, as it always has been. I have also started to take notes here and try to write my own dwellings in FM world for the first time in the last 20 years I have been playing this game.

    Although it’s not fully ready yet, I would appreciate your ideas and comments whenever you have the time 🙂

    1. Cheers Eddie, I’ll keep an eye on it but let me know when there’s some content posted.

      I thought people might find the notebook a little nerdy! It’s just for doodling in really but, like you say, I had post-it notes and bits of scrap paper that I’d drawn all over, particularly when I was watching a real game, so it just made sense to start putting them in one place. I reckon my work colleagues just think they’re notes from meetings!

      The 3-4-1-2 is fun so far, as I thought it would be, and is getting me a lot of goals but the defence is a major problem and I think that will form a large part of my summer moves and therefore the next update… watch this space.

      1. Just posted my first post there… 🙂

        I still find some books containing transfer targets and formation tests from my decade old saves. Somehow, notebooks with FM content in them never get lost 🙂

  4. Awesome Shrew, will be following this closely 🙂 I particularly enjoyed your player searching policy, I like to do this myself and I have found out that screenflow – players stats is a very useful tool to check out best players around in term of stats.

    Wish you the best in holland

    1. Cheers Naks – sorry just seen your comment.

      Screenflow is a very handy tool, I agree. I find it particularly useful for tournaments that I may otherwise forget about like the Toulon. Setting it to pop up every week when the competition is being played ensures I don’t miss out. A combination of screenflow and using the notes means I shouldn’t miss anything… shouldn’t!!

  5. I’m really looking forward to this as I have spent a lot of time in the Dutch leagues and always have lots of fun.

    I mainly manage MVV who you’ll be facing in the Juliper League. They have some good youngsters who you can develop into solid Eredivisie players who you should definitely check out: Kuipers, Smeets, Borgers and Voorjans being the main ones.

    1. Thanks Brad.

      Funnily enough I just played MVV in a friendly although I haven’t had to play them in the league as we started in the Eredivisie and I don’t plan on going down! Kuipers did catch my eye and I believe my scouts liked him too.

  6. Did you create the curacao – surinam database yourself? I can’t find one online and I’d love to play with more dutch talent available.

    1. Apologies, Itay, I only just saw this comment.

      No, I didn’t create them myself. I downloaded them from websites on the FM ‘scene’. I really should have given them some credit for those but I now can’t remember where I got them.

      There were a couple of megapacks I used – probably from Sortitoutsi and FM Base. If I remember, I’ll give you a shout.

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