Thank you to all of those who voted in the last post about whether or not I should continue with the Rapid and Austria club and country save. I agree with the vast majority – the mistake I made with the edit renders the save more or less unplayable and so I have canned it for now and gone looking for a new challenge.
This post will look at how I’ve arrived at my decision, lay out my overall ‘vision’ for the save including some different ground rules than usual and consider the early days of setting the club up for a medium term save.
So I needed a new save and, with the Sunday League reputation bug precluding a potentially interesting journeyman save, I needed a new club which I feel can give me a decent 5-8 season ‘career’.
To decide on the club, I tried to consider what sort of saves I tend to enjoy and came up with a little shortlist:
- not a top-tier club
- a club with little history of success
- youth development
- a significant challenge from other domestic teams
- somewhere I haven’t play before / for a while
With that in mind, I considered that I had covered Italy (Feralpi Salò), Holland (ADO Den Haag), Germany (FSV Frankfurt and Rapid Wien [merged league]) and France (Toulouse and now US Dunkerque). It’s been a while since I’ve played in England but it was Spain which appealed most. I can’t remember having had a long term save on the Iberian peninsula with only journeyman seasons at Numancia and Sporting Club de Portugal worth mentioning.
Spain would certainly give me the significant domestic challenge that I like – it may be frustrating that clubs such as Ajax, Juventus, Bayern et al dominate the league for the first 4 or 5 seasons but it makes the eventual toppling all the sweeter. Barcelona and Real Madrid will provide an even greater challenge given the ever-widening gap between Spain’s top two and the rest of the league.
I wasn’t keen on taking over a top-tier side and I was after a challenge in the second tier at least so decided to take a look at the teams who were promoted from the Segunda B last season. Tenerife were a possibility but one club stood out from the rest.
Some of you may remember the 2001 UEFA Cup Final, probably as one of the best finals you’ve ever seen and for a superb performance from Liverpool and Scotland’s Gary Mac. What you may not realise is that Liverpool’s opponent in Dortmund was a relatively small club from Spain’s Basque region. After a brief ‘golden period’ at the turn of the century, Deportivo Alavés have been in a financially crippled decline – finally halted by last season’s promotion and return to Liga Adelante.
Alavés reached that UEFA Cup final in their maiden, and only, season in European competition and have never won a trophy of any note – with 3 Adelante titles (29/30, 53/54, 97/98) the height of their success. This is perfect for me as I like to build up small teams. Nothing against those who play with bigger sides, it’s just the way I like to play the game.
One other thing attracted me to Alavés – their Basque origins and the possibility of a Cantera-esque approach. Athletic Bilbao, and to a lesser extend Real Sociedad, are famous for restricting themselves to using players of Basque origin – making their youth academies vital and placing all the onus on developing players into the first team. This type of game is something which appeals to me and although Alavés don’t have a formal Basque-only policy in place I have decided to implement a version of my own.
For those of you who don’t know, a Cantera is not where Luke and Ben / Obi-Wan hired Han Solo (although I wish it was). It is a Spanish term, literally translating as ‘quarry’, which is used to refer to clubs that employ a local bias in their youth recruitment. The most famous example being Athletic Bilbao’s strict adherence to Basque-only players.
Alavés do not currently employ such a policy, meaning that the senior squad currently has only eight players of Basque origin. My plan is that, over the course of the coming 3 seasons and from thenceforth, the squad will become primarily Basque with an allowance of 3 non-Spanish foreigners.
Such a policy should bring with it added challenges:
- Alavés’ facilities are quite poor at the moment, although I’ve managed to get the board to increase the spending on ‘Junior Coaching’. Improving the facilities to develop my own youth will be paramount
- In addition to the footballing mammoths of Barca and Real, I also face the not-insignificant challenge of Athletic Bilbao – a club whose own Cantera policy will be in direct competition with mine for the very same Basque players.
So plenty of challenges which is fantastic. Predicted to finish 16th (of 22) in our first season, it shouldn’t be simple on the pitch either and I will need to implement my 3-year Cantera plan whilst maintaining some semblance of success on the pitch. The current plan is something like:
- 2013 / 14 – consolidation in Liga Adelante whilst making enough cash to improve the facilities slightly. 12 non-Basque players are out of contract at the end of the season so it’ll be Bosman hunting time looking at young Basque players
- 2014 / 15 – top-half finish in Liga Adelante with those young Basque players and loans to fill the gaps. Focus on trying to get board to improve the ‘youth recruitment network’.
- 2015 / 16 – promotion from Liga Adelante, focus on getting board to improve training and youth facilities.
So this save should be less about tactical development and experimentation; instead there will be more emphasis on player development, tutoring and training. Much of what I discuss will probably already be covered by Cleon in his excellent thread “The Santos Project – Tactical and Player Development“; but hopefully I can provide an alternative perspective on a similar trend. Or maybe you can just read Cleon’s thread and never have to bother with my ramblings ever again…
To provide a frame of reference into which my players should be developed, I have decided that my Alavés side should play quick, attacking, fluid football… which is incredibly predictable so my apologies. Regular readers will know that my favourite shapes in Football Manager are 4-1-2-3-0 and 3-x-4-x-1/2. Having done strikerless to death, it is to the latter that I now turn and I’ll be working towards the shapes in the slideshow below:
Having a projected tactical ideal to which the players should aspire will allow me to quickly assign a player his future role, thereby allowing me to tailor his development right from the start. So long as I don’t get bored and experiment again!
So that’s a brief introduction to my new save, to the new club and the new ‘vision’ for the save. Hopefully that all sounds like it will make for an interesting read. In future updates, I’ll try to be brief on the actual on-the-field stuff and focus on player development whilst giving some background information on what each of the facility types do, what tutoring does and how I try to work the training module to my best advantage.
One final item of note – Alavés were once managed by the legendary Ferenc Puskás! Lovely stuff.