I’ve been plucked out of a self-enforced retirement. When a club that has a huge history and pedigree (including a top division win back in the 1940’s), has gone bust and reforms as an amateur club in their 125th anniversary year, signs up to the lowest tier imaginable, in a country I have never managed in before, stipulating that they only want me to sign Dutch players under the age of 23 and tell me they want to bring the glory years I am going to find it very, very hard to turn them down. So when I got the made-up call in my head from HFC Haarlem of Holland I could not turn them down.
These guys tick all the boxes for me when I think about embarking on a new save. Firstly, I need to be up-front. They went bust in 2010 and I have unticked “extinct” on the editor and placed the club in Hoofdklasse C, the 4th tier of Dutch football – and updated some of the club history, rivals and favoured personnel. Nothing else has been enhanced.
Back to the box ticking – huge history, tick. Formed in 1889, one of the oldest clubs in Holland, won the top division in 1946 and the cup a few times. Never a big club, but one that certainly used to hold it’s own. One of my all-time favourite players, Ruud Gullit, got his big break at the club when it was managed by Welshman Barry Hughes. I love trying to revive an old club as my previous enjoyable saves at Clapton, Carl Zeiss Jena and Padova testify. Padova was supposed to be my last effort for FM15 but I feel I stepped away from it too early, and I am now back fully refreshed. Blank canvas, tick. As the club has reformed, it doesn’t have any players so I can go on a signing spree – albeit all on amateur contracts. All my signings will be Dutch, free and under 23. There is a story here and I cannot wait to put it all into place.
I will be bringing back my “Jena Press” tactic that took me from the 4th tier of German football to the Bundesliga in successive promotions. More recently I have been using my CM93/94 tactic of 3-3-1-3 which has been great fun but, realistically, I would not play that way in real life so will park it for now. I was tempted to use my tweaked Strikerless tactic from the Clapton save, but I want to approach this project using the formation I would coach if I was out on the training field myself.
As ever, my first job was to assess the backroom team. I had a mass clear-out, the assistant manager, head physio and chief scout all left and I brought in the ex-Leeds coach Bobby Davidson as my assistant manager and Peter den Otter as the coach. Both are very experienced and provide a broad mix across the skill sets. Impressively, I managed to get a physio with a rating of 18 and also 20 for fitness – ok, he cannot fitness coach but a physio with that rating has to be a bonus. Ad Brouwers came in as Chief Scout and I was able to persuade Johnny Rep to return to the club as head of youth development. Ex-Reading striker Jason Roberts will manage the reserves and another Englishman, Mark Starmer, will look after the incoming youth prospects once the intake day comes around next year.
That’s enough of the boring stuff – I now need to go and sign a squad! The process is simple – draw up a list of unattached players aged 23 and under, see if any stats immediately stand out and if they do, have the scout scout them and see what they think. I don’t care much for their current ability, but I will only bring in players that have 4* potential and above.
The first week or so at the club were busy, but I have managed to put together a squad of 19 players that are about to embark on three pre-season friendlies. Have a look at them below, and see what the coaches think of them so far, though these thoughts will change as pre-season continues no doubt. I am personally very excited by the entire squad as they are so young, and having watched “United” last night – a BBC dramatization of the Busby Babes and the Munich air crash I am very much in a mood to put together a young side that will eventually dominate Europe. Sure, this squad won’t be the squad that eventually plays in the Champions League, but I believe fully they will get us promoted!
I finally have a bit of a FM15 mojo back again, so I am looking forward to this. Having thought about it overnight I will mix up the writing styles a little – it will be a mix of “journalist articles” similar to what I did in Crimea and Padova, and then some traditional save updates too. I would replicate “The Jena Journey” and give a blow by blow, match by match account of the season (and I may still do once I get into the higher levels) but to begin with I want to get some traction in the save.
Hope you enjoy it!
Oh, and if you genuinely like all this why not check out my “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” books that I wrote last year: https://comeontheoviedo.wordpress.com/johnny-cooper/buy-the-books/
So, here is to #HaarlemGlobetrotting
If you want to download the database and the kits I’ve made you can find them here!