The Soccer Manager 2016 Challenge: October

Posted on 02nd 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 September’s diary, click here.

I’ve always said I’m more of a training ground manager.

You can keep your wheeler dealers – oi, who’s sniggering at the back? – I’m all about developing my squad, taking them on a journey, you know?

This is evidenced by news from my coaching staff that new signing Wayne Routledge has improved to an 88 rating, despite being 30 years of age.

Proof you can teach an old dog new tricks.

It’s appropriately timed, as former team Swansea are in town for our next fixture.

After back-to-back defeats, we could do with him demonstrating his improvement.

We come out playing like Arsenal; dominating possession, carving the opposition defence like a succulently cooked chicken…and spurning chances.

The first half ends goal-less, but we’ve looked good.

Within 15 minutes of the restart, and our domination is rewarded, Scott Sinclair stroking home two penalties after fouls on Shane Long.

With the bigger picture in mind, I promptly rest my stars – Sinclair, Routledge and Phil Jagielka – and hope to see out the final third of the game without incident.

Yeah, right.

Suddenly, Swansea remember how to attack, and pepper our goal from all angles – Robinson less ‘Paul’ and more ‘Crusoe’ as he somehow survives the avalanche.

Annoyingly, his goal is breached in injury time when Jefferson Montero heads home from a corner – yes, another aerial goal conceded – but three points are most welcome.


The fans are singing my name as they leave the stadium, although it’s not clear what tune they’ve chosen – my monosyllabic moniker doesn’t lend itself to many catchy chants.

There’s more news from the training ground, but this time that Uruguayan defender Miguel Britos has dropped a rating point. Little surprise given he’s rotting in the reserves playing with a tennis ball.

But I haven’t got time to feel sympathy for my outcasts, we’ve got a trip to Stoke to look forward to – and this definitely falls into the category of ‘winnable’ games.

We boss the opening exchanges – at one point the possession bar is entirely yellow – and Joe Allen is winning back the ball regularly.

At half time, it’s goalless, but we’ve had a dizzying 63% of the ball. If you squint your eyes, it’s like watching Brazil – if only because of the kits.

Stoke, inevitably, are better in the second half, and take the lead when Xherdan Shaqiri rolls home a penalty following Davis’s foul.

Curiously profligate from distance, despite his name, Long is the king of penalty area poaching, and is on hand again to tap home a late equaliser after good work from Sinclair.


After the game, I’m told that Long and Steven Davis have improved in training – yay! – but reserves Lloyd Dyer (now 82) and Rene Gilmartin (76) have gone backwards.

I don’t intend either to get any nearer to the pitch than the substitutes’ bench, anyway.

West Brom arrive at the Vic fielding a surprisingly attacking line up.

We take full advantage, with Sinclair getting to the byline, and finding the towering figure of, erm, Allen to open the scoring.

Stephane Sessegnon levels two minutes into the second half, before Jonny Evans bundles home from another poxy corner on the brink of the full time whistle.

We’re beat. Again, it’s a game of two halves.


Our first half display, again, is promising as we rock up to Southampton – taking a 2-0 lead into the changing rooms at the break, Long and Routledge on the score sheet.

At half time, I plead with the boys not to let the intensity drop, to get a third goal that’ll finish them off.

Instead, the Saints go marching in.

Gaston Ramirez rolls past Robinson on the hour mark, and Sadio Mane levels twenty minutes later.

Dusan Tadic completes the reversal with an 87th minute penalty.

And I propel my laptop onto the floor.

That makes it three defeats out of five, and two in a row.


The final fixture of the month, against Bournemouth, at home, at least offers an opportunity to end October on a high.

They’ve lost four out of five, but do sit tenth in the table, three places above us.

Victory for the mighty Hornets would see us leapfrog them – helped in no small part to their horrendous goal difference of minus 14.

Perhaps sensing this – no doubt from my extensive pre-match briefing – Davis launches something speculative from the flank, and Artur Boruc ends up flapping it into his own net.

Twenty minutes later, and Bournemouth are Pole axed as Boruc is beaten by an Allen header – his second in a row. Bizarre.

And the Cherries are picked off at ease. If anything, we should be smacking four or five past them, but Long’s off-target, and Deeney comes on to do a stunning impression.

So we finish the month in the top half of the table, with 15 points from 13 games, and a goal difference of zero.

We’ve outscored Tottenham and conceded fewer than Southampton or Palace.

Most importantly, we’re five points off the relegation zone.

But, with a busy November to come, beginning with a match away to table topping Manchester City, there’s no time to celebrate.


About the author – Lee Price

Lee Price is a journalist and author with a passion for football, and crucially, virtual football management.

twitter: @Lee_Price



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