Everton FM

He lasted 14 Premier League games (I think, maybe 13); the statistics say that 61% of teams are within two places of where they will finish at Christmas and for Iain Macintosh’s Everton, things looked as bleak a Skegness seafront in mid-November. What went wrong for the Football Manager’s Football Manager? His formation seemed sensible; his players should have been technically and tactically sound. Could the blame really be laid squarely at Iain’s door? I decided to give the mighty Everton a whirl myself. Maybe results went unfairly against him, or Bill Kenwright’s legendary patience had dribbled down to nothing after the eras of Moyes and Martinez had sucked it all from him. Who knew? I had to find out just how tough an assignment it was to guide the Toffees past that fateful day, December 3rd 2016, the day the curtain fell on Macintosh’s reign of something or other.

As with Iain’s game, I started with the first transfer window disabled (I loaded Holland, France, Sweden, Belgium, and England as playable leagues, more by force of habit than anything else).

First things first: the backroom staff must be sorted out. To be fair to Everton, they have all five coach slots filled but Erwin Koeman must go, for the reasons Iain laid out in his save. I bring in Mick Halsall from Notts County, who is a good coach with excellent player judgement; he costs £40k as a settlement and £1.8k per week. I also ask Joy Royle to leave his post as Head of Youth Development because as the old FM adage goes (at least where I’m concerned – can I make up adages?), if Phil Cannon is free, Phil Cannon must be signed. I admit, it’s not catchy. The payoffs to Koeman and Royle set me back £2.3m. Cannon costs £2.6k per week and I might not even be around to bask in his reflected glory once the regens start popping up, but there’s nothing like an eye to the future to keep Big Bill happy. For that reason, I also sign Derek Langley for £1.2k per week; he’s the best scout available on a free and we have space for quite a few.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-15-49-43I throw a bumper, £100k per week contract at Lukaku. Manchester City are sniffing around him, though God knows why given their aversion to anything like a traditional number 9 of the square-shouldered, wants it more variety; still, with Everton unable to buy anyone until January it seems foolish to part with anything resembling a first team player so early, and I have £110k per week spare in the wage budget. I am told that Tyrone Duffus’ contract is set to expire. I cannot have a man named Tyrone Duffus in my squad. I offer him a contract anyway, because he might be reasonable, but promise myself never to put his name on the team sheet. Seamus Coleman wants Lukaku to stay and decides to express this desire publically, or at least as publically as The Guardian’s website. Duffus’ training report comes in and he needs work on his First Touch. I make sure he gets it; I’m going to make Duffus a star (yes, my attitude has changed quickly – don’t judge me). I also lump £62k per week at Barkley to fend off interest from suitors as yet undeclared and this delights the fan-base and shores up my squad a little further.

I set up my tactics and spend a while sorting out my corner routines too, something I learned from Iain during a fraught, passionate evening at the Sports Interactive HQ near Old Street. I decide to play a possession-based style, with overlapping full-backs and inside forwards, privileging midfield solidity by deploying Gueye and Barry together with Barkley in an advanced, creative fulcrum-type role. Steve Walsh, my Director of Football, perhaps noticing Gareth Barry (and the injured Besic and McCarthy, suggest some midfield players to scout, including, remarkably, Leon Osman, ex of this parish. Why not? It isn’t like I can buy anyone yet anyway.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-15-55-26I beat Hangzhou 3-1 in my first pre-season, and then draw 0-0 with Jiangsu before beating Shanggang 4-1. While on tour in China, shocking news reaches me that Duffus has sustained an injury following an accidental coming together during training and will be out for 5-8 days. Steve Walsh is back from his air-conditioned room, clutching in his ice-cold hand another list of possible signings. One is called Everton. I begin to think he’s having me on. To compound my irritation, we eke out a tedious 1-1 draw with Huaxia Xingfu, managing only six shots and 40% possession. Perhaps Iain was right; perhaps Everton are just rubbish. Everton, the other one, turns out to be a nifty left-winger from Brazil who has no intention of joining his namesake permanently, but I shortlist him anyway because it’s likely to be academic, in the final analysis. I also want to see The Guardian rumour that Everton has been linked with Everton, because I’m puerile like that. Jefferson Lerma, though, is a different story; he’s at Levante and I like him a lot so, come January, if I’m still here…

I try to persuade clubs to take Arouna Kone off my hands and 69% of PEC Zwolle fans think the team should sign him: nice.

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-16-04-57We do the Rooney testimonial thing and draw 1-1 in a flurry of action: they have 21 shots to our 18, and Deulofeu scores to cancel out Zlatan’s opening. It’s a good sign of our development, and I am now looking forward with a little more zest to the season opener away at Leicester. Kone heads to Karabukspor instead, vowing to show the world and me how good he is. To be fair, I hope he does; he seems like a nice man. Our final friendly sees a 2-0 win at Shenua with goals from Lukaku and Barkley and a man of the match performance from Deulofeu; this is the trio who will determine my success or otherwise in the league, quite clearly.

We are ready, or as ready as we will ever be. I’ve tied up my best players with long-term contracts, found a system that worked, in pre-season at least, and none of my key players are injured. Our first three games, though, are Leicester away, Manchester City at home, and Chelsea at home. Now, like Macintosh, I know what it looks like to stare into the abyss, and see the abyss staring back at you.

One comment

  1. […] This is Part 2 (as you might have guessed from the title) – for Part 1, click here. […]

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