It was all going so well at Villa Park. I’d started this year’s FM save all the way back in the beta, and was determined to see one save through to the end. Started out unemployed, two jobs came up within a week. Aston Villa, with a couple of half talented youngsters, not to mention a massive Barclays Premier League TV deal, which would satisfy my cravings for transfer budgets, or Ponte Preta in Brazil, who..erm… are one of the lesser known teams in Brazil….I think? My choice was clear.
The first season went off well enough, I managed to offload Kieran Richardson for peanuts and Bordeaux took Czech international Libor Kozak off my hands for 1.5m, while transfer listed Victor Valdes came to me on a loan deal from United in January. I mainly stuck with the same team all season, Grealish and Adama Traore caused havoc on the wings while Jordan Ayew was a revelation up front, banging in 21 league goals and averaging 7.49. My 4-3-3 was creative with Veretout providing 9 assists and 6 goals, while Westwood and Gardner did the donkey work in front of Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark. Scott Sinclair was a regular contributor as well, with 7 goals in 12 appearances.
We finished 9th, well above the relegation zone where we should have been.
Money was thrown at me in the second season in an effort to maintain our growth. Sven Bender (9m), Aleix Vidal (9.75m) and Lucas Romero (Free) arrived, along with additional goalkeeper cover in Victor Valdes (1.1m) and Mathew Ryan from Valencia who I pinched thanks to his 5m release clause. I spent the rest of my budget on youngsters from South America, which is usually my path to success. Notably, Gabriel Jesus cost me 2.8m, which I was very pleased with as he had raped me countless times last year on my Hamburg save, leading Barcelona to every Champions League since he signed.
Come January, and we were struggling. Floating between 14th and 10th, leaking goals constantly with a new 4-2-2-2 system to accommodate my new midfielders, drastic measures had to be taken. In came Real Madrid’s very own butcher, Portuguese centre back Pepe. He’d been transfer listed for 350k aged 33, and I took the jump midway through the transfer window.
The next two transfers ruined my Aston Villa career, resulted in the fans, chairman and players turning against me, and my faith in Brazilian potential lost forever.
Jordan Amavi had been attracting a bit of attention from the moneybags at Manchester City, who were still inexplicably rolling with Gael Clichy and Alex Kolarov. They bid, I rejected. Amavi moaned and whined, City bid again on Transfer Deadline Day, this time a slightly more realistic 5.5m bid plus another 4m in potential add-ons. Jordan Amavi disappeared into the sunset, not knowing that he would be condemned to City’s under 21’s after 6 months. Isn’t hindsight wonderful?
Anyway, this left me with literally hours to find a replacement, plus my sworn nemesis Aly Cissokho had been dire as backup, so I went looking for two left backs.
While trawling my huge list of Brazilian youngsters, I came across a Santos left back by the name of Zeca. 44 appearances this season at a 7.28 average, available for about 4.5m, and his stats were green across the board. My best scout identified him as a 4 star player with 4.5 potential, so I took a leap of faith. He got a work permit after an appeal, and just to be safe I overpaid massively for young Matthew Targett from Southampton, so I wouldn’t have to play Aly Cissokho EVER.
The next 4 months went by in a haze of victories. Both Zeca and Targett got injured quickly, so I was forced to use Ciaran Clark and emergency utility defender Jose Angel Crespo at left back. Rudy Gestede showed me that my backroom staff didn’t have a clue, putting his 2 star rating to shame with 14 goals in 20 games, and Scott Sinclair kept Grealish on the bench with 11 goals in 28. Ayew, who hadnt scored for about 20 matches, eventually found his shooting boots and chipped in with 8 in 32. This got us 6th place, joining Spurs in the Europa League!!!
And here’s where it all went wrong.
Having flown up the table, other clubs were starting to take notice. Sven Bender disappeared to Liverpool for 13.25m, while AC Milan begged wonderkid Lucas Romero to betray me, which of course, he did. One transfer request and a 25m bid later, and he was gone too. Still, we’d made 25m off him, and adding that to my monstrous 44m transfer kitty, I went on a huge impulse buying spree.
Moritz Leitner came in for free to replace Bender like for like, while Stefano Sturaro of Juventus was a half price transfer listing at 6.25m. Bruno Zuculini on a free from City added to my midfield, while I popped over to South America again to collect centre back Marlon from Ath.Mineiro and target man Lautaro Rinaldi from Independiente for a combined 13m.
Did I consider getting a better left back??? No. Zeca was clearly going to be a good left back, his stats were good, the scouts couldn’t praise him enough.
Fast forward to December. Only 4 league wins, Europa League group qualification near impossible, 16th in the league, and the fans laid the blame squarely at one man’s feet. With an average rating of 6.50, Zeca was the worst player on the team by far, just beating his understudy Targett to the wooden spoon. Zeca’s attributes were higher than his predecessor Amavi’s all round, aside from being slightly weaker at heading, I couldn’t understand the problem. He’d had a year to bed into the side, his in game stats weren’t noticeably poor either, why was he so awful???
After a 6.1 in the Europa League against Academica, and a pathetic 4.7 at Manchester United, I dropped him completely. Checking his stats for the United game, I saw a 60% tackle success, 7 interceptions, and 4 headers won from 6. Nothing to warrant a 4.7! By then it was too late. I instantly splashed the cash on transfer listed Layvin Kurzawa from PSG, and Marcos Rojo from United to shore up my leaky defence and stave off the boo boys, but the board had already made their mind up. An emergency meeting was held out of the blue, and I was told to f*** off, basically.
Just to make a point that I wasn’t completely awful as Villa boss, two weeks before my sacking I was offered the Holland job, without even an application or an interview. So I can’t have been too shabby, can I???
In the future, I shall be continuing my quest for a team that encourages young talent, allows me to play the football I like, and hopefully win some trophies! But for now…I’ll just take whatever comes up!