As with many things in life, I am late to the table with this whole Football Manager blogging thing. Sure, I used Championship Manager to write a book or two earlier this year, but that was easy – just writing down the internal monolgue that I have had going on playing the game since the very first version was launched back in 1992. But this is different, this is an entirely new challenge. Nobody else had written the book I wrote, but there are so many high quality FM bloggers out there that I am really going up against some fantastic competition. When I look at the likes of @guidomerry, @shrewnaldo, and @cleon to name just a few, I marvel at their writing skills, their understanding of the intraquecies of this magnificent game and their tactical genuis. I only hope that I can convey my message in my own way.
This is not going to be written through the eyes of any fictional manager, this is going to be me trying to put together the career of my life playing a game that has evolved without me over the last decade.
I probably last played Football Manager addictively when it was Championship Manager. I have owned a couple of versions since then, but was not really in a position to give that side of my addiction problems the time it deserved, I was too busy drinking and womanising. I picked up FM14 about two months ago and dabbled with Hansa Rostock to try and get some of the old juices flowing. My word, it was different. (I did ok, I got them into the Bundasliga eventually but then FM15 came out).
I had heard that quite soon an English lower league database update would happen, so I was keenly waiting for that as I had decided that my challenge was to be to start my career as low as possible and see where it went. The big decision to I needed make, one that I am not alone (I am sure) in agonising over is whom to manage. I wanted a club right at the bottom of the pyramid, so county level ideally. The club needed to have a history or a story that made them worth managing. The following clubs made it on to the shortlist.
Garforth Town – Garforth were all over the media in the mid 2000’s as self-proclaimed saviour of English football coaching, Simon Clifford, owned, managed and promoted them through his international network of Brazilian Soccer Schools. Socrates came out of retirement and played a game for them. Lee Sharpe turned out from time to time. Careca played in a pre-season friendly and there was talk of Romario, Cafu and Juninho possibly coming to town. Clifford boldly predicted that he could take Garforth to the Premier League in 20 seasons, eventually using only graduates from his soccer school network. Have you heard of Garforth? Probably not, and Clifford’s dream did not happen. He sold the club and left quietly a couple of years ago. But for a moment, it was a great story.
Guildford City FC – A side local to me when I was living in the UK. In fact, I was very nearly appointed manager a long time ago – fortunately they made the right choice and appointed someone else who won them the league that season. Guildford are a club with a real history. Back in the 50’s and 60’s they were kings of the amateur game. Before automatic promotions into the league from non-league clubs had to be voted in. Guildford City won the equivalent of the Conference enough times to have been a Football League club but were never voted in. They used to have crowds of 8,000 turn up at Josephs Road but the council decided to sell the ground from under them and the club folded in the 70’s. They made a comeback to senior football in the mid-2000’s but have never really threatened to get back to the upper reaches of non-league or get crowds like they used to.
Clapton FC – Clapton made it on to the shortlist for a few reasons. Firstly, they have won the FA Amatuer Cup on five ocassions pre-1925. They also hold the record for the longest stint in the Isthiman League, but fell out of that in the last decade. Having been to see them play this season, I can tell you that they have the best set of non-league fans in London, the Scaffold Brigadia, a self-styled set of Ultras based on the ultra groups we often see on the continent. There is something about the club that is quite alluring.
AFC Rushden – a club that has to start again. When Football Manager was Championship Manager, the era in which I write my books, Max Grigg (founder of Dr Marten) owned Rushden &Diamonds and paid for them to get their way into the Football League, one of the first real new breed of lower level club with good financial backing. When he stopped putting money in the club fell into all kinds of financial difficulty and was eventually wound up and has had to start again, owned by fans, at the bottom.
It was a tough choice, each of those clubs have good reasons for me to start my career at them. After much deliberation I chose Clapton FC, purely due to the fans that I met when I went to watch them. Any county league side that sets off flares during ninety minutes of turgid football is good enough for me!
So, with no further waffle, I introduce to you Clapton Corner, my blog on taking Clapton (hopefully) into the Football League for the first time in their history…
Author of the “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” series