Santa's Worldwide Adventure (A non-EU Journeyman)


Apr 27, 2023
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After spending nearly all my Football Manager time in the EU, it's time to branch out. With an expanded database, it's time I visit the area most under-represented in the base game and go to Africa.

Naturally because it's coming up to summertime here in the UK, my manager is Santa Claus. Bringing joy and goals to all the girls and boys in his seasonal downtime. This is mainly due to a major part of this challenge will be trying to get teams into the formation my wife is always demanding I set my teams to. The 'Christmas Tree'.

Having had offers from a few second division sides in Egypt and even one from the Ghanaian top flight, Santa instead has gone to the lovely city of Kampala. I mean, who could resist managing the official team of the Ugandan Revenue Authority? Especially with them nick named 'The Taxmen'. That's right, Santa's gone corporate.

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I've also taken the training wheels off and am playing for the first time with attribute masking and no first budgets, so very much a case of leaping in at the deep end with leaden boots.

Positives on first inspection? My star player wouldn't look too out of place in League 2, and there's hardly an old man amongst my ridiculously large 30-man squad.

Negatives? Who builds a squad with 1 left back and 6 goalkeepers?! Fingers crossed that me makes it through the 30-game season as I can’t bring anyone in until at least halfway.

With a lengthy pre-season ahead, lets see if I can make something work.
Good luck.
You're definitely on the 'Nice' list.

The first rules of lower-league management are simplicity and set pieces. Having tried a couple of different tactics over pre-season I can see there’s a reason why Pep Guardiola isn’t hanging out in central Africa. Also, not a single one of my players knows how to take a corner, free kick or penalty.

With the challenge conditions in my head, I am immediately dismayed that two of my best players are wingers and the prospect of playing left wing back sends my entire squad into fits of panic. Principles my have to be shelved for now. Segundo volantes and inverted wingbacks may be all the rage, but this is a rather different game than Messi and De Bruyne inhabit. Even Boreham Wood are lightyears ahead.

A dearth of good forwards, full backs who get nosebleeds over the halfway line and most of my players attributes sitting in the single figures are somewhat limiting. Having tried my best and failed to explain parts of Inverting The Pyramid on the team bus, I fall back to a simple 4231. Making the most out of what limited resources I have is crucial, at least until I can ship off some of the deadwood knocking around and bring in some new blood. An easy set of friendlies help, but so far so good.


On that subject, my trial farm can finally open, meaning there’s almost as many bodies here as Todd Bohely’s Chelsea. The queue for the showers after training goes around the whole club house. Ugandan league rules only allow for three foreign players in a team at once, so choosing which ringers to bring in will be very important. The temptation to bring in a geriatric Asamoah Gyan must be resisted.

He would be greeted by Chelsea alum John Obi Mikel, who’s joined the coaching staff but could not be convinced to dust off his boots and play one last season. Even offered to put a deck chair in the centre circle he can fire passes from, but still no dice.

Going into the season, the board have high, but not unrealistic, ambitions. A top two place in the league is required for my services to be kept on so winning over the players quickly is a must. Scheduling in a few very easy friendlies to boost morale has really helped, but I’ll be heavily reliant on the midfield pairing of Kyeyune and Ntege to carry me along. They might not look like much, but at this level, they’re basically prime Scholes and Keane.



With a tricky start to the campaign beckoning thanks to frankly ridiculous scheduling, let’s see if this group of Tax Collectors make me look like Mourinho or Sherwood.
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Good luck with your journey!
Thanks, it's been fun so far.

I might have come to the only place in the world where people actually like Tax Collectors. With a crowd so covered in yellow shirts it would make Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s marketing team proud, the club’s made a great first impression. Especially since funding a coaching course and showing whoever signed six goalkeepers the door.

But what drunk skunk came up with this schedule? Rudolph’s usually about three eggnogs in and even he thinks that putting 9 games in the span of October is absolutely ridiculous. Especially as after that it’s only three games a month with plenty of big breaks.


While a killer on fitness, this punishing schedule has been great for results and morale. A combination of a solid, simple tactic, uniformly terrible goalkeepers and a horde of trialists wanting their jobs has made my Taxmen take the league by storm.

Only four dropped points (the annoying loss to the unfortunately named Gaddafi FC featured three disallowed goals) have given my men in yellow a mighty lead at the top of the table. That pre-season favourites KCCA & Vipers both completely dropped the ball early on massively helped or cause. It’s been over a decade since The Taxmen came up trumps in the league, but this start may have them dreaming of success. Because nothing shouts romance like a team representing a governmental financial institution.


Brief note, but two different clubs in this league feature AK-47 assault rifles on their crest and another three have points deductions for crowd trouble. Uganda might be a little…. problematic.

The star of the show has easily been Kyeyune, showing that he’s meant for a far higher level than this. I don’t think he’ll be with me for long, but I’m enjoying him while I do. Both wingers have also excelled, papering over the issues we have with inconsistent forwards. What has also become clear though is that the drop off between my starters and squad is huge. But that’s not a major concern right now.

As I only had one to start with and getting a half decent Ugandan left back is trickier than finding sasquatch, I have started to cook up something tactically that could charitably be called ‘ambitious’. Or ‘utterly devoid of thought’, but that’s just semantics at this point.

With January left open for transfers and friendlies, time to see which elves join and leave Santa’s workshop.
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There is a Ugandan proverb that rang loudly through the halls of URA over the winter break; “Familiarity is like the sea that kills the fisherman.” Sod it, let’s get tinkering.

So, disregard everything I said before about simplicity in the lower leagues. When life gives you no left backs, make a tactic that involves none. Or any full backs at all. Life’s for making stupid decisions and defending’s for nerds anyway! That it also (kind of) makes a festive shape is a very happy co-incidence.


The authorities in Kampala seem to like what they’ve seen so far though; with a new two-year deal and an expanded wage budget both being gratefully received by ol’ jolly Saint Nick. With the finances at the club questionable at best, let’s hope both parties don’t regret that.

With a bloated squad, offloading the deadweight is my priority but much harder to do than first thought, especially as they all have contracts up until the end of next year. Loans seem to be the best way to shift players off the wage bill, even if it’s only a brief respite. Fingers very much crossed that they turn into permanent deals as nine players leave throughout the month.

I may have overpaid on the wages, but grabbing the last bits of unallocated homegrown talent is crucial given the strict squad rules only allowing three foreign players to be registered. Kabugo, Mugerwa & Aheebwa arrive on frees to boost up the squad and Ngobi coming in as some high potential, very low cost backup. Aheebwa in particular should be battling for a starting spot.


With those registration rules in mind I need to plan ahead and make sure I get the very best, the crème de la crème, the future stars of tomorrow. Wait, is that the Obafemi Martins? I thought he retired! Of course you’re in! He’s joined by his compatriots Ekpe and Elisha who form the base of my new midfield.



With so much good news, it almost balances out that star man and apple of my eye Kyeyune is wanting to leave, although I have placated him for now by saying that any bids north of £100k will be accepted. If that happens, then I will be forced to dry my tears with wads of cash.


We look in very strong shape now not only for the second half of the season, as long as my adventurous idea of ‘tactics’ don’t completely down the ship.

Oh, and one little extra for UK residents, but it seems like the ex chancellor of the exchequer hasn't found success in a new field either...

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By golly, this actually worked!

It took some tinkering as the opposition kept getting chances behind our centre backs. They didn’t get many, but whatever chances they got were huge and often lead to sloppy goals. Turns out that I should be trusting the lads a little bit more.

Changing the DLP to a Half Back and making the outside two Wide Centre Backs gives immediate results. We suddenly have the back four at the start of build up that I was looking for, with the same attacking overloads and just enough defensive security to not make me loose too much hair.


Obafemi Martins has been an absolute machine since he’s arrived. Turns out you don’t really need pace when your movement and finishing is several cuts above the defenders you’re facing. He’s already hit his 15 goal bonus for the season after 10 matches. To say he's punching down is an understatement.


Our march to league winning glory and unforeseen happiness in tax HQ has been swift and dramatic, with us picking up the title with more than a half dozen matches left of the season. Little annoying that we didn’t lift the trophy in front of our own fans, but I’m just happy that I didn’t manage to mess things up completely. I’m putting the 2-0 loss to bottom of the table Blacks Power a few days later squarely on the team still being drunk.



Looking forward, it’s becoming clear that defence, and most specifically, a goalkeeper should be my number one priority this summer. My faith in the youngster Ssenyondwa isn’t paying off, as on multiple occasions he’s come down with a severe case of ‘celery arms’. However, I may have hindered myself with another poorly judged and nostalgia fuelled piece of recruitment.


Yes, I already have all three foreign spots filled up. No, I don’t really need a playmaker. And yes, the average age of my squad is already rivalling the local old folks home. But when Puskás award nominee Siphiwe Tshabalala’s name comes into your inbox, you’ve got to act. He’ll be able to play in the upcoming cup matches and for only £70 a week the only problem is how do I stop myself from shouting “GOAL BAFANA BAFANA!” like Peter Drury whenever he does absolutely anything?

I’m really looking forward to testing this team in the CAF Champions League next year and seeing what the best of the continent has in store for us. I’m sure we’ll get smashed by the North African sides, but it’ll be fun.


At least domestically, the only thing that might stop us is the financial black hole at the centre of the accounts. For a club dedicated to financial admin, they really are bad at maths. I mean, they expanded my wage budget once again after the league win, so this mess isn’t completely my doing. Right?
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For someone who should be very pleased with how the season has finished, I'm really not.

The problem can’t be the system, surely. Surely my opponents haven’t already figured that no full backs or wing backs leaves the flanks a bit vulnerable. Surely a squad reliant on players last good a decade ago can’t be an issue already? I mean it worked with a retro Parma side on the Mad Scientist database, so it must be good right?

Perhaps it’s that all of my centre backs are glacially slow, can’t concentrate for more than two seconds or can’t tackle. For some it’s a magical combination of all three. Or maybe it’s a problem a little further back?

Yep, it’s the goalkeeper.

An upgrade is very much required for next year. It doesn’t matter how many goals the team can score if young Denis is going to let in every shot he faces and drop every high ball he goes for. And this is against the fellow teams in Uganda. It’s going to be a bloodbath if we face the North African sides in the Champions League. They’re actually, y’know, good.

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It almost put us out of the cup come the semi-final against Vipers, but our gerontological pairing just about get us though to the final. The match itself though was ridiculous. It must have been fun for the neutral but our young man between the sticks forgetting how hands work took years off my life.

I’ll admit that their first goal was a worldy, but their last is on a blooper reel. I mean honestly, look at the state of this! Down a man after attempted murder, the Vipers keeper punts it down field, one bounce takes out all three defenders and then this happens to make the last few minutes horribly tense.


It proved to be the final straw when it came to Ssenyondwa, with official first choice Nafan Alionzi taking his place in net. That we're playing Vipers right away again makes it a great litmus test. So did it make any difference? Heck no, they’re both absolute bobbins as we concede another 4 in an epic draw, letting a two goal lead slip in extra time. Great. Maybe I was too harsh on you Denis, back in you go.

Despite their best efforts, we complete the domestic double, Aheebwa and Martins doing enough to beat freshly relegated Blacks Power and bring another pay-day for makers of yellow and blue confetti. It's a niche industry, so best we keep it alive somehow.


Obafemi Martins has continued his quest to inhabit the nightmares of every Ugandan defender. He might have the odd grey hair and not be able to do his signature flips any more, but since arriving he has looked incredible. Nobody stands a chance when the Legend of Lagos is on the prowl. I just hope his physicals can hold up for one more season so we can give him the best finale we can in the Champions League.


His fellow pensioner Tshabalala has taken to the team like a duck to water. Or an elf to wrapping paper, whatever metaphor floats your boat. Putting him in a central role has saved what little he still has in his legs for the important stuff. Basically, he’s here for set pieces. Finally, oh thank Rudolph finally, I have someone who can actually hit a dead ball. I mean, how hard can a penalty be? And yet we’ve spent months with my best taker being a centre back with a rating in single figures.

The trouble with these two being so good though is that I am cursing the three foreign player rule once more. I mean, we’re already falling foul of it and good Ugandan goalkeepers are unicorns. Sacrifices might have to be made, which is only made a more jagged pill to swallow with how well things are going in the attacking end of the field.


This year has been excellent for Santa, with shiny of presents for the good girls and boys at the Ugandan Revenue Authority. Apart from the goalkeepers, they get nothing. The first domestic double in their (admittedly very short) history has both the URA board and fans beaming with joy. My only gripe is that I’ve not been able to get another coaching course out of the board because of the absolutely horrific finances here. Remember to pay your taxes good people of Kampala, jolly old St Nick wants a new badge.
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Just a brief one saying that the save is still going, just a whole load of life getting in the way of important Ugandan business. Shall hopefully be doing another instalment soon.
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It's really hard to please everyone all the time. The fans and board want progress on and off the pitch. I can't sign any foreign players, I actually have to get one of them off my books. And yet with a budget of precisely nothing, I need to get the squad in shape for the Champions League and a title defence. And somehow to a big hole of debt.

It all starts rather smashingly when Vipers come along with a £9k bid for my fifth-choice centre back Nyakoojo. An actual transfer fee seems bonkers here, so out of the stable he goes. When Maniema Union from DR Congo come in to take my Nigerian midfielder Elisha off my hands for £60k, I don't even let him pack his bags before I send him to the airport. I drag Kabon Living into the car too and add him into a bundle deal for them. Getting Dada, Ssebwalunyo, Okiringi, Alitho, Mutyaba and Matovu out of the door too helps balance the books enough that the club actually let me take a coaching course. Huzzah!

Being in some form of profit has massively gone to their heads, as they announce plans for a new stadium so we can stop stealing the university's one. How big a ground? No idea. When? Who knows. How much will it cost? We'll figure that out later. Great, love to see a nice, logical plan.


How to repay their faith? Naturally to spend all that new found wages. Two big improvements come in the shape of proper internationals Nico Wadada and Ismail Watenga, who bring some much-needed ability in defence and in goal. Najib Yiga also comes in with some great potential and Dan Sserunkuma, Livingstone Mulondo and Robert Kakeeto come in to massively boost up our rotation options.

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The only trouble is that the board are a little upset about the age profile of those being brought in. They now have a club culture of wanting first teamers under 23, but have they seen the pickings? Anyone half decent and young has already been whisked off the Europe. And they can actually pay people this weird thing called a living wage. Crazy. All I have to offer is priority getting their tax forms filed. It's not even as if any of them are over 30! Just rude.

Getting back to competitive action earlier than normal sees us try to qualify for the Champion's League proper. That seems us drawn against the champions of Burindi, Le Messager Ngozi. Surprisingly, they are still a semi-pro side, which can only bring confidence. However, despite us winning, the first leg proves closer than I would like. Hopefully that was just a little bit of rustiness they've not yet shaken off yet.

Steven Dese Mukwala comes in on deadline day to give us even more competition up top and Wasswa is in on loan just in case I go back to a back 4. I can't play them in the second leg against Le Messager Ngozi, but make lovely additions for the league. It doesn't prove a problem for the lads though as we ease through the second leg to get into the tournament proper with a 3-0 win. I actually fancy a good cup run, as long as we avoid the big dogs early on.


Oh for **** sake.
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The Champions League dream has died before it ever really began.

The first leg was a humbling experience. We may have only conceded from a penalty and a ridiculously good free kick, but the scoreline should have been much, much uglier. My only hope is that our home advantage powers us through to some miraculous turn around.

Nope, no turn around here. Reality bites hard as we crash as we crash out against the Egyptian giants. We may have recused a late draw at home, but it was another match that showed the gulf in class between the two of us. Even the stats tell lies, loads of our XG, shots and two goals came after AL-Ahly had taken their foot off the gas. My Taxmen may have become a domestic force, but there is a long, long way until we can challenge for Africa's biggest prizes.

After getting my **** handed to me by Al-Ahly, it was nice to find out that our continental journey wasn't level yet.

So we launch into the second tier of competition with the African Confederation Cup, reaching the group stage after a tight contest with Senegal's Teungueth in another qualifying round. The score looks far more comfortable than the matches ever seemed. A lot of 'squeaky *** time'.

Our reward sees us face another Egyptian side in Al-Masry, Gaborone United of Botswana and AFAD Djekanou of the Ivory Coast. Not an easy draw, but could have been worse. Not sure how, but we deal with the card we're dealt.

On a domestic front, everything is coming up Millhouse. Honestly, the league has been a bit of a cake walk.
The league has actually expanded to 16 teams this year but that has simply meant another hapless group for the Taxmen to audit with little to no mercy. Not a single point has been dropped so far this year, which has me tickled a rather lovely shade of pink.

As much as I love their spirit, my two well travelled veterans might have started a very rapid decline though. As in completely vertical. While Tshabalala can coast along on a deck chair taking freekicks and pot shots, Martins has found it rougher. Much rougher. To the point where Aheebwa has completely stolen his starting spot and refuses to give it back. At least Tshabalala set a new record for the league during his stay.

With league rules limiting me in January, they both leave the tax offices for one last time. Definitley with a bit of stolen stationary, the scamps. Martins goes to Bayelsa United for free, but amazingly, we actually get a real money offer for Tshabalala. I don't know why but Magdelenia Union seems to have taken us on as a charity case. I am more than happy about this arrangement and an extra £2000.



To fill the now vacant foreign quota we move quickly to bring in two very talented youngsters. Elvis Abangu's arrival has been on the cards for a few weeks, but Diop is a deadline day loan signing that may have been a bit of a panic. Edward Kizza also comes in to replace the departing Martins and gives us real options upfront. With some pre-contracts also agreed, further recruitment should be minimal this summer. Which gives me time to get name badges made up for the annual new starters mixer.

After a nice break while the Cup of Nations took place and a couple of confidence boosting friendlies, I'm hopeful my little elves can deliver another batch of silverware to the cupboard.
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Yes, I already have all three foreign spots filled up. No, I don’t really need a playmaker. And yes, the average age of my squad is already rivalling the local old folks home. But when Puskás award nominee Siphiwe Tshabalala’s name comes into your inbox, you’ve got to act. He’ll be able to play in the upcoming cup matches and for only £70 a week the only problem is how do I stop myself from shouting “GOAL BAFANA BAFANA!” like Peter Drury whenever he does absolutely anything?

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After a perfect first half of the season, it seems that success at home is more of an inevitability than a contest. So with that in mind, the league now becomes a buffer between Cup contests.


While my suspicion that our African Confederation Cup group might be tough one may not correct on paper, the matches told a different story. Al-Masry absolutely had our number over two matches and while Gaborone United are put to the sword, both matches against AFAD Djekanou are both absolute barn burners. Two matches with a combined 13 goals must have been a good watch.


That is helped by me somehow making the tactic even stupider. What's better than scoring and conceding lots of goals? Scoring even more and completely losing any concern for how many you concede. There are still no full backs, but now there are even less midfielders and an extra striker just for kicks. Ladies and gentlemen, I have basically created basketball.


The knockout rounds also prove to be fun for the neutrals. Cape Town City are absolutely smashed at home before a draw in the away leg and an inspired performance by our goalkeeper sends us through to an unlikely semi final against Tunisian heavyweights ES Sehal.


We grind our way through the first leg with a score draw before a last-minute winner by Mukwala wins the tie 3-2 and sends us just one step from eternal glory.

Uganda has never had a club win a trophy on the continental stage and this final against Young Africans is the perfect opportunity to end that pain.


The pain continues as it's a bridge too far for us I'm afraid. The Tanzanian champions take us apart in the first leg. It's even worse as they were reduced to 10 men with over half an hour to go. While the second leg of the final is a more even dose of chaos (the xg is skewed by a missed penalty) with the normal URA dose of goals, Young Africans romp to glory leaving us the beaten finalists. Ugandan club football still doesn't have a continental win to its name.

The second half of the league season doesn't go as perfectly as the first, but that would be rather difficult. Despite a few slip ups, a points and wins record is still achieved on route to a second consecutive league title.


Player wise, the stand out performers are my new front two. Kizza and Mukwala are a revelation together, tearing defences apart almost just by themselves. I've heard they also have lunch together every day too. Abanga has settled in nicely and Kyeyune signed off his time with the URA masterfully with a brace in the Ugandan Cup final to win us the domestic double.


I might have messed up a little bit in terms of my squad. Or more specifically, the foreign player rule that haunts my every step. Blinded by interest from Guingamp and Nancy, I offered Diop a contract and made his loan permanent. Which puts me at four non-Ugandans I now have to fit into three chairs. I'll figure something out, but curse my lack of planning. Again!


I have also solved the biggest issue facing the Ugandan Revenue Authority FC, a severe lack of revenue. Our continental success delivered a small fortune to the clubs coffers and single handedly puts the club into the black. Do they reward me by expanding youth recruitment or giving me more wages for staff? Nope, a chunk of it immediately goes on the new stadium. But hey, at least they paid for the rest with other pennies, so, great planning guys? It better be named after me.

Whatever happens next, I won't be around to see it. This shall be my third and final season at the URA. Having spent millennia at the other, more seasonal, job, Santa wants a new challenge I don't think can be found in Uganda.
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Before I do a proper update on the season so far, bigger news first on the save.

Whilst the plan had been to finish the season and then to casually walk away. However, the world had different plans. Over the winter break, I receive interview offers from five sides all over the continent.

Whilst FAR Rabat go a different direction, I receive offers from Powers Dynamo of Zambia, Difaâ Hassani El Jadidi of Morocco, Asante Kotoko of Ghana and Rivers United of Nigeria. Its the latter two that really have my interest though.

Both have the most important things when it comes to choosing a new club. A great kit, fun badge and a good nickname. Apart from that, there are some big differences.


Rivers are both a bigger team and in a bigger league reputation wise. But as you can see, Asante Kotoko are both ambitious and flush with cash. The choice is a difficult one.

And that's where you all come in forumites. Should I go to Rivers, where there's more reputation and less restrictions? Or do I go to Asante and their much deeper pockets? Have your say below as I'd love to see where your think is best for Jolly Ol' Saint Nick.
Just caught up with this, entertaining read! On the job front, I'd probably chase the money in Ghana but I have no idea about African football so not sure what the kinda step up you're looking at to achieve the league win that the board want after a couple of seasons
Just caught up with this, entertaining read! On the job front, I'd probably chase the money in Ghana but I have no idea about African football so not sure what the kinda step up you're looking at to achieve the league win that the board want after a couple of seasons

Both Asante Katoko and Rivers United are big sides from their different nations. They're both having rubbish years but getting them back to winning ways wouldn't take too much.
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It was meant to be an easy summer. A heap of pre contracts had already been agreed to replace the deadwood leaving and we've only just rediscovered the sweet, sweet feeling of financial security. I'm sure you can all see where this is going. I went very, very silly.

Having convinced the board to drop their club culture of signing younger players, I set about Project Mourinho. Allan Kyambadde, Taddeo Lwanga and Deus Bukenya all come in to greatly strengthen the spine of the side, despite all being the wrong side of 28. It's not all old men though, as massively promising youngster Christian Mulindwa also joins on a 6 month loan. For absolutely nothing. Which looks even better business after you see what's next.



Obsession makes you do stupid things. Really stupid things. It all started after a look through the national team to see if any contracts had come to an end. There I saw him, Bobosi Byaruhanga. Only 22 at the time but with nearly 30 caps to his name and officially out of contract in the Czech second division? I had to have him.


He might have been out of contract but because of his age, there would be compensation involved, a hefty £50k. At this level, that's silly money. He also wanted a king's ransom in wages. After rounds of negotiations I can only convince him to take twice the wage of my next highest earner. It would be an absolutely stupid move to spend this much on a player for a club you're planning on leaving at the end of the season. Utterly dumb, terrible idea, oh no I've already clicked accept on the deal. I love him already.

Somehow I convince the board to negotiate the loan of his team mate Musa Ramathan too and I finally cut myself off from the market for my own good.

In qualifying for the Champions League, we get very, very lucky. Our matches against Futuro Kings were pretty much non events and Bumamuru Standard are dealt with fairly easily. All this means for the first time, the Taxmen are headed to the Champions League group stage!




The domestic league has actually been a little closer than I'd like it to be. We might be leading, but Vipers have really brought the fight despite losing their talismanic forward Sentamu. This climaxed in a frankly ridiculous match against us when I thought we'd equalised with the last kick of the game, only for Vipers to run up the other end and finish us off. What a ride this whole football thing is.

Kizza and Mukwele are a devastating partnership, Diop has upped his game and Abanga has become an assist machine. We've not have many bad performers at all really, despite our defensive record being a little suspect. It could be the small fact of playing a formation with no wide defenders and basically 4 attackers? Possibly, but having only had 7 clean sheets in 21 games is made a lot better by scoring 70 goals.

And so Santa has his last URA Office Christmas Party and plans where he might be parking his sleigh next year. I also plot who I might steal from this crop of great Ugandans. And maybe Wendy from HR, she makes a great eggnog latte.


The plan had been to wait until the end of the season, but as discussed above, the move will be much sooner than that. The offers have poured in during the winter break and they're too good to let lie.

Where will it be though? I think I've made my choice, but that's for next time.

It was a close call but having left a club with very little history, I felt like going to a much grander place. Somewhere with its name written into the history of African football. Somewhere that proudly represents it’s people and it’s land. I am the new manager of Ghanian giants Asante Kotoko.

This is a club that proudly flaunts its title of being the IFFHS African Club of the 20th​ century, but hasn’t quite kept up with it’s continental rivals in the 21st​. While domestic success has been continually ample over the years, they’ve often come short in continental competitions. Time to change that and bring some big silverware back to the good folks of Kumasi.


That The Porcupine Warriors are loaded is a lovely situation. Having dealt with a lot of debt in the financial ledger over the last two years, the only red knocking around being the player’s shirts is a delight. I am, however, very disappointed that there are precisely zero of our quill-filled little mascots knocking around the office.

If I’m looking for some spikey customers though, I don’t have to go too far. Whilst I’m coming into a good dressing room atmosphere, that is probably down to a unifying factor. Their hatred of me. Not a single player seems impressed that Santa Claus has come to town. I suppose that probably wasn’t helped by me immediately trying to re-train two of my best players.


Having now got the quality in wingback (a word that seemingly causes scenes of panic in Ugandan players) to execute the Christmas tree formation that my little festive heart desires. Trouble is, it’s a formation that doesn’t really need wingers. Which would be fine if some of my best players weren’t wingers. Which they are.



Whilst the tactics screen would make it seem they’re likely to keel over, my star wide men have actually adapted very well to life in the middle of the park. At least in the few friendlies we’ve played. A lot of AMCs at this level either don’t have the technique or the speed of wingers, so bringing them inside should hopefully give us that advantage.


With most of the squad is out of contract in the summer and the board seemingly writing off this campaign already, this should be a nice little period of experimentation to see who stays, who goes, and who needs to come in.
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Something wild and unexpected has happened. Far, far earlier than expected, but I have encountered this weird thing called ‘transfer fees’. We’re in the Twilight Zone here people, everyone check your pockets for Kristen Stewart.


Throughout the entire window, we are harangued by clubs in Sweden and Egypt for our star defender Ayimbala. I have zero intention of letting him go as he’ll be crucial for this team under my watch. Thankfully, I’ll able to ward them away with a big price tag big enough to worry them but not too big he gets upset. A new contract for him is priority number one.


As he’s my only good CB and I intend to play three of them, time to dip into the market. In come Tetteh on a free and Jacob Mensah from Accra Lions after activating his lovely £14k release clause. These are heady heights here people with money changing hands.

Despite having little intention of playing wingers, young Senegalese wideman Djiby Ba comes in and fills one of our precious foreign player slots on a pre-contract for next season. However, a nice little £9k brings that deal forward to now, just so he can start learning his new central role.

My final two signings are also two very lovely free pick ups. Emmanuel Danso comes in and adds both quality and depth to our midfield and Isaac Annan and gives us our starting left wingback for the foreseeable future.

In the matches themselves we seems to have been developing an odd pattern. We're rubbish in the first half, just bumbling along presenting as much threat as a wet lettuce. Then I give them a big shouting at and they seem happy that I have high expectations of them while sipping their Lucozade. We wander out for the second half and open the scoring within the next 10 minutes and go on to romp to a comfortable victory. Or, in the odd case, we just continue to be pants and sleepwalk to a draw. The match against Accra Lions was particularly terrible.


We're yet to taste defeat though in Ghana, which is a record that I want to keep for as long as I can. Can we still rescue a season that the board had written off? Most definitely! We're now second in the table with 6 matches to go and have a match coming up in the cup against high playing Dreams FC, so it's not a guarantee we end the season with silverware but I'll always take a chance.

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Santa Squad Asante.jpg

Whenever I come to the last home game of a season, I always like to play as many players as I can coming to the end of their deals who I don’t intend keeping on. One last hurrah, one last time for the players and the fans to thank each other for their service. That’s usually a couple of players in the squad but with Assante Kotoko, it’s an entire XI that are set for the chop.

Now in most of the seasons I’ve played on FM, big things have never come down to the last game of the season. I’ve either already claimed the title or am too far adrift for the final match to really matter. This season, it all came down to the last 90 minutes.

Now this may have been where sentimentality has gotten the better of me, but I need to set the scene.

Dreams FC have held the top spot in the league for a lot of the season. This is heady heights indeed for the little club from Dawu, as they have never won a major trophy in their history. Admittedly, having only been set up in 2009, that’s not a particularly long history, but the point still stands. They’re not a big team, don’t have a great squad but are having the season of their lives and just keep slogging their way to victory. They are very much embodying their motto of “Still Believe”.

Both ourselves and Accra Lions though have been chasing them down, both of us in fantastic form and coming into the final weekend with just the three points between the three of us. I don’t think the Ghanaian schedule makers thought it would come down to this either, with Dreams playing a day before both us and the defending champs.

Their match couldn’t have been more dramatic, with Dreams securing a 3-2 victory in the 93rd minute away to Bechem United. That victory left Accra Lions out of the running as they were relying on a slip up to take the crown and made it a two way shootout. All we had to do was win against mid-table Samartex and we would be champions.


For forty-five minutes, we came out limp as lettuce. I thought the team talk had geed them up, but neither that or the occasion did nothing. The shouts from the touchline did nothing. Even the usual half time bollocking did nothing. And then, after Samartex had started to threaten and had a few good shots, a wave of calm hit me. This just wasn’t meant to be. Dreams FC had destiny on their side and Santa couldn’t quite bring himself to throw the kitchen sink at the game and deny them a win that would be spoken about for years.

Call it a very, very early Christmas present if you’d like, but this time, the little guy can win.


I wasn’t feeling quite as charitable in the cup though. Our run to the final wasn’t the easiest, with us being taken all the way to spot kicks by Dreams FC. A then potentially tricky match against Great Olympics turns into a cakewalk as does the semi-final against Medeama. With a full week of rest thanks to a silly schedule that gave us our last 4 matches over two months, the lads put the disappointment of losing out on the league behind them and ground out a win that looks far closer on paper than it was on the pitch. Come the final whistle, we lift our first piece of silverware in Ghana, hopefully the first of many.


With that victory, I think it’s fair to say that this has been a pretty successful first half-season with Asante Kotoko. The players have really gelled with the tactic and retraining my wingers has been a real success. When they’ve all been fit, Oppong, Amoako and Shalibu have been a lethal combination.

The transfers also seem to have been a great success, Annan providing huge quality on the left flank and although Ba’s finishing has been very frustrating (he’***** the woodwork so often I genuinely think he’s just trying an extended ‘crossbar challenge’), he’s also shown great potential.

When it comes to awards time, Amoako cleans up, and with good reason. He’s been a constant threat when on the pitch, be that as the striker during Shalifu’s injury or tucked in behind. I really want to build the team around this attacking trident but with him already considering his options when I arrived, this is probably the summer to cash in.

This summer is going to be one of rebuilding the squad with a good dozen faces leaving the Baba Yara Stadium for the final time. Several of our first team members are also attracting interest so fingers crossed I’m able to build a good side for next season either by keeping them or making some good money from their departures. Either way, next year, I want more than just the single trophy for the Porcupine Warriors.