The Soccer Manager 2016 Challenge: December
Posted on 16th November 2015
The term ‘World XI’ and Watford FC might appear to be as dubious a partnership as Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier, but the newly promoted Premier League outfit are notorious for their global range of players.
Loading up their squad list at the start of Soccer Manager 16 reveals an astonishing TWENTY THREE different nationalities.
There are more tongues going on than a youth disco.
Which prompts the obvious challenge – give the Watford squad a homegrown overhaul, while avoiding relegation.
Without wanting to sound like a questionable UKIP campaign, my mission is to transform the Hornets’ line-up to contain players solely from English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh or Northern Irish backgrounds.
It’s something approaching mission impossible – I’m no Tom Cruise, but I am similarly diminutive, which should qualify me for a starring role.
To read November’s diary, click here.
The challenge has got off to a flying start, with Watford occupying a midtable position, and bobbing along quite nicely.
But December could put the brakes on our runaway success story, with Everton, Tottenham (twice), Chelsea and Manchester United our five opponents.
On the first day of our Christmas schedule, we venture to Goodison Park, with the returning Shane Long notching two first half goals to inject some festivity into proceedings.
Everton, clearly stung by the mighty Hornets, have no riposte, and we’re up to 21 points – more than half-way to the standard safety mark of 40.
Something of a pantomime plays out at White Hart Lane, though; with our rampant hosts 2-0 up at half time, and unlucky not to have double figures on the scoreboard.
Given our nickname, shouldn’t it be my team that’s swarming all over opponents?
In any case, we’re comprehensively beaten, with Ryan Mason (87) and Son Heung-Min (90) unplayable.
We offload a trio of foreigners – Etienne Capoue, Miguel Britos and Almen Abdi – for a combined £8million to South American sides.
That leaves me with an entirely homegrown squad to pick from for the visit of Chelsea.
To be honest, I could let my pet dog run across my keyboard and the team they’d pick would do just as well as my selection.
We are trashed, even kid striker Bertrand Traore (85) scores against us, and the game looks over at 2-0 with five minutes to go.
But Scott Sinclair wins and puts away a penalty to give us a consolation, before Wayne Routledge heads in an injury time equaliser that is harsher than Jose Mourinho’s full-time assessment of his medical staff’s performance.
Incredibly, the game sees more than 50 shots at goal.
We meet Tottenham for the second time in the space of a week, this time in the cup.
Accepting our fate, I rest anyone who has less than 100% fitness, giving various reserve team players an outing.
Spurs take pity and dish out the same scoreline as our last meeting, 2-0. With £10million in the bank, squad depth will surely be on the agenda when the transfer window reopens.
Identifying centre midfield and centre back as problem positions, I table offers for Scott Dann (87) and Craig Gardner (87) as budget-friendly options who would also offer versatility.
I agree to sign the pair for a combined £5.8million, which should leave me a similar amount to seek a first-choice keeper, or a back-up winger during January.
In the meantime, there’s a Boxing Day visit to dread. Not the in-laws, but Manchester United.
I’m clearly focussed more on selection boxes than team selection, as I forget to change my line up from the cup clash, and Louis ‘four centre mids’ Van Gaal reaps the benefits, seeing his side take a 2-0 half time lead.
Routledge unexpectedly puts us back in it, with thoughts of the Chelsea comeback being repeated, but United make it 3-1 shortly after.
And that’s that. At least until Deeney puts us within touching distance with a smart finish.
Seconds later, he finds space from a corner and we appear set to record a second flukey comeback in a row – but his effort is wayward.
In their next attack, United score a fourth, and can safely bag the points in their stocking.
We finish the calendar year in 11th, seven points off the drop zone, with a respectable goal difference of -5.
Not bad going for a team without a goalkeeper. Now, for my New Year’s resolution, I vow to avoid bad habits such as relegation…
About the author – Lee Price
Lee Price is a journalist and author with a passion for football, and crucially, virtual football management.