Jan 13, 2011
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So, many moons ago, I enjoyed an epic career on Football Manager 2012, arguably my most successful career on any FM game. It did have some low points, but it's probably the career I am most proud of. It begins with my beloved Liverpool...

Part One:

A while ago I attempted to write down what I consider to be my best ever career on a Football Manager sim – one that I am quite proud of actually (insofar as one is proud of what they achieve on a computer game). My first effort to jot down my career stalled due to lack of effort on my part – so here we go again!

The game I achieved this all on is the 2012 edition of Football Manager – so we’re going back a few years, and I’ll admit my memory of it all is fuzzy. I am actually still playing through the save in question – but as a different ‘character’, so to speak, having retired the manager I plan to talk about.

FM2012 starts in the summer of 2011, so the sides you take charge of are notably different to what they look like right now. Being the lunatic that I am, I chose Liverpool (naturally, since they are the team that I support) to play as.

Rewinding to 2011 means the squad is different – Steven Gerrard still had a few years left in his prime, Luis Suarez was still a Red, and the likes of Stuart Downing, Craig Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch were all still at the club. Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger were still on the scene too, a certain Raheem Sterling was an up-and-coming starlet and there was plenty of work to do if Liverpool were to be transformed from also-rans to regular title contenders.

Liverpool are handicapped to begin with by having a meagre budget in the opening season of the game, so I didn’t have much in the way of resources to improve the squad. I set about training my youth team hard – something that would serve me pretty well in the future – but to begin with, I knew I had to try and work with what I had.

This would not prove to be easy. My almost instinctive reaction to management sims is to get annoyed with them if results don’t go the way I feel they should – and by ‘annoyed’ I mean thunderous rage. Patience would be needed, and I told myself to make a conscious effort to show it. Defeats and trophyless seasons were inevitable – such is football. Could I keep my temper in check?


I am **** at devising my own tactics for these games. I’ve tried but my success record with self-made tactics is woeful. Having quickly decided against creating one myself, I turned to the Football Manager community for ideas. There were quite a few tactics that all promised good football and more importantly, good results, so I was spoiled for options, but in the end I went for a tactic by Cinema M – I would provide a link to the tactic to give them due credit, but I can’t presently locate one!

The best way to describe the formation would be as a ‘4-1-1-2-2’. A flat back four would be supported by a defensive midfielder, starting slightly to the right-hand side of the pitch, whilst a central midfielder would start higher up the pitch and to the left. Two attacking midfielders would be on either flank, with two strikers. When attacking, the wingbacks would get forward to support the wingers, whilst one of the strikers would play more as a creative forward, dropping back a little to link up with the central midfielder (who would also be pushing up a little). The defensive midfielder would be expected to move a little higher up the pitch, to collect the ball if things went awry.

Pace would be an important element to a number of positions. It goes without saying that the wingers and wingbacks needed pace for both offensive and defensive duties, whilst strikers with good positioning and acceleration were desired for the formation. The STCL (as the game styles the left-sided striker) would also need to have good heading, as one of the formation’s attributes was creating a lot of chances from corners, aimed at the STCL.

One joke my friends used to make of me when playing football games (the likes of FIFA for example) is that I followed the three Ps – Passing, Possession (which is a side effect of good passing anyway), and most importantly, Passion. You may be wondering how you can possibly instill passion into a bunch of computer-simulated players – by instilling simulated passion of course!

I tend to look for players who suit the first two Ps (which overlap anyway). To begin with, I had Gerrard (though he starts out injured), Henderson (who wasn’t quite the player he is now, but had the potential to be), Maxi Rodriguez (not actually a bad player and quite versatile), Lucas, Charlie Adam and Jonjo Shelvey, all of whom could play in the middle.


My preference was to go with Gerrard in the centre (when fit) and Hendo on the right, with Downing on the left. Certain situations, injuries and suspensions would occasionally force my hand – Rodriguez would sometimes play on the right, though I preferred to utilise him as a backup DM. Bellamy could play right or left AM – a good thing for him, since he wasn’t up to much as a goal scorer! Kuyt would switch between the right wing and a striker role, and Crouch was played a fair bit, but the painfully obvious issue for me that I remember from the 11/12 season was a lack of goals. If Suarez was out of form or absent for any reason, the goals dried up.

Nevertheless, in some respects the season could be regarded as a success. The likes of Skrtel, Agger and Carragher in defence (along with Enrique and Johnson) gave the team a solid foundation. Reina was a reliable ‘keeper. I won the FA Cup and guided the Reds to Champions League qualification via 2nd in the Prem – vital in terms of future finances and club prestige.

As alluded to earlier, my initial transfer budget was small. I was able to make one signing, one made with the future in mind – a young striker by the name of Harry Kane. He would pop up here and there, mostly in cup games, with a view toward getting him experience. Having achieved Champions League qualification, I would have a bigger budget going into the 12/13 season, to further bolster my squad.

Top Scorers

Suarez: Goals 67 Games 44 (yes, that is correct)

Kuyt: Goals 19 Games 43

Bellamy: Goals 12 Games 31


The quest to rebuild had begun in earnest. With a bigger budget, I went after a new, established goal scorer, and signed Giuseppe Rossi from Villarreal to partner Suarez. The two of them would score 92 goals between them, with a further 10 from Gerrard (who had missed much of the previous season through injury). Charlie Adam was a surprisingly solid performer, and Downing was in fact one of my key players. Enrique was immense in the left back role, whilst Jack Robinson came up into the first team and would make 24 appearances, with an average rating of 7.15 – not bad for a youngster! Kane scored 9 goals in 19 games, but was frozen out by Suarez and Rossi.

The opening phase of the season was incredible – my team won their first 15 games in all competitions, and won my first 12 Premier League matches – including a 4-0 away win against Arsenal and solid wins over Chelsea, Man City, Southampton, Swansea and Stoke. They say the number 13 can be unlucky – well, my 13th fixture was away – to Manchester United.

The details of the match are lost to the sands of computer code, but I was helpless as my team were crushed 5-1. Shortly thereafter, Stoke put Liverpool out of the League Cup. Was my season becoming unstuck?

It certainly wasn’t in Europe. I had topped my Champions League group, dropping just two points in the process. Crushing wins over Sunderland (6-1), Fulham (3-0), Villa (3-0), and Leicester (7-0) sandwiched a 1-0 defeat to fierce local rivals Everton – setting up what was to become a theme of away defeats to Man Utd and Everton, season in, season out.

As the season wore on I would avenge my Old Trafford thrashing by dishing out a 4-1 hammering to Utd, and whilst my memory of the details is hazy, I do remember a thrilling 3-2 away win over Sunderland – Harry Kane grabbing a very late winner as the title race heated up.

I would end up achieving something I hadn’t expected – I guided Liverpool to the league title, in only my second season in charge! This would be Liverpool’s 19th title, but this was not the final accomplishment of the season.

I mentioned earlier that I’d comfortably qualified from my Champions League group, and my form in the knockout stages was impressive. Liverpool dispatched Olympkais, FC Porto and Marseille to reach the final – held at Wembley. My opponents? Manchester City.

I won, 2-1, thanks to a last-minute-of-extra-time goal from Rossi. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased! A Premiership and Champions League double hadn’t been on the cards – I’d been hopeful of being involved at the sharp end of Both competitions, but to win both of them? I hadn’t conceived such an idea in my wildest fantasies.
Part Two:

Where did we leave this adventure last time out? Ah yes, Liverpool had just won the Premier League title and the Champions League. All was good and right with the universe, but things wouldn’t stay that way.


The irony about the 2013/14 season is that in reality, this represented a ‘nearly’ year for Liverpool. They went agonisingly close to claiming their first title since 1990 – for me, that burden no longer applied, and I went into the season as reigning champions – which created a whole new kind of expectation, the desire to win back-to-back titles.

The squad was more or less the same as before (I saw no reason to make drastic changes and unhinge my side), except I brought in Marek Hamsik from Napoli, and Rodriguez was moved on (I think). Hamsik spent much of his first season rotating with Lucas in the defensive midfielder role, though he was also capable of playing out on the left and as a more central-minded midfielder. Youngsters like Harry Kane, Jack Robinson and Martin Kelly got reasonable runs in the first team, but despite the goal-scoring feats of Luis Suarez and Giuseppe Rossi, I could not guide Liverpool to a second consecutive league title. Instead, my side would finish two points behind eventual winners Manchester City.

The Champions League brought no relief. Whilst my side qualified from the group stages, the journey to retain that particular trophy ended rather ingloriously in the first knockout round, with a tame 2-1 aggregate defeat to Shakthar.

At least the 13/14 season wasn’t a completely barren one. A 3-0 win over Colo Colo brought the Reds World Club Championship success, a 3-2 win over Aston Villa brought me the League Cup, and I collected my second FA Cup with a comfortable 3-0 routing of Sunderland.


There’s a reason the title of this chapter is called ‘Inconsistency’. Having failed to win the title the previous season, things would flip around completely in 2014/15, with my team winning the Premier League at a relative canter, nine points clear of Man City and with a goal difference of +83.

The backbone of this success was a miserly defence that conceded only 25 goals all season, and of course, the exploits up front of Suarez and Rossi, who between them scored 86 goals. I gave a first team debut to youth team players Gavin Pringle and John Allsop, and also set about putting Danny Wilson into the first team on a regular basis. Jordan Henderson continued his upward progress as a footballer, and I also achieved what I regard as one of the bargains of the century – I signed Jack Wilshere from Arsenal for £20 million. He put in a good shift (as did pretty much everyone), but the league was the only prize to be won.

My Champions League adventure ended at the quarter-final stage. I’d thumped Paris St Germain 5-2 in the first leg at Anfield, and was thus quietly confident of reaching the next round – oh how wrong I would be! A 4-0 thrashing was meted out to me in Paris – putting my European adventure to an end for another season. Disappointing FA Cup and League Cup runs also took place. Still, a second league title in four seasons as manager wasn’t too bad.


The following season I would not only fail to defend the league title, but Liverpool would slip to third in the standings by season’s end, only one point behind second-placed Manchester United – but six points behind Premier League winners Tottenham (Leicester, in case you’re wondering, weren’t even in the top flight on the game at this stage). The season starting brightly enough – my first results were – 7-0, 8-0, 4-1, 4-1, 3-1 (Champions League), 3-1, 4-3 (an extra-time League Cup win over Man City), but a shock 3-1 defeat to West Brom followed, and this was immediately followed by a 3-1 defeat against Barcelona in the Champions League. I would go on to lose to Barcelona again in the home group stage game, but would follow them into the knockout stages.

League form included a defeat away to Chelsea, but after that the ship steadied. Eight consecutive wins followed, and the team went unbeaten for 14 matches before becoming a cropper at Stoke. In the middle of all this the team reached the League Cup Final (but would be defeated on penalties against Spurs), and I would guide Liverpool to the Champions League Final (knocking out Marseilles, Fiorentina and Paris St Germain along the way).

As the season neared its conclusion, league form began to dip. Defeats way to Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United came just when I needed the team to keep pushing and keep winning, though I would knock Man Utd out of the FA Cup at the Semi-Final stage and go on to beat Spurs in the Final, avenging my League Cup defeat, and also ensuring that my record of winning at least one trophy every season had been maintained.

For the Champions League Final, I was up against the mighty Barcelona – and whilst my memories of this occasion are fuzzy, I do remember that losing on penalties after a 2-2 draw felt like an injustice – something makes me think that the result was somewhat harsh on my side, who I felt deserved more for their efforts. Having reached three cup finals and only winning one was also a bit… disappointing, shall we say?


I remember this campaign for two reasons. Firstly, the nail-biting end to the Premier League title race, and secondly, the Champions League Final.

The squad was more or less unchanged from the previous two seasons, except I signed Turkish attacking Midfielder Gökhan Töre from German side HSV. Jack Wilshere would miss pretty much the entire season through injury (art imitating life there), but Gökhan Töre Would provide skilled cover. Over the course of the fight to win the league, the team was slow and steady to begin with (not as free-scoring as in previous seasons), but in the Champions League, the group was pretty straightforward, with 5 wins out of 6.

In the first knockout stage, Liverpool would thump Leverkusen 4-0 away from home and go on to win 3-2 at Anfield, setting up a mouthwatering Quarter-Final against Man Utd. Having recently beaten them 3-0 in the Premiership at Anfield, that result was almost repeated in the first leg – I ran out 3-1 winners. In the second leg I held Utd to a 1-1 draw and booked a Semi-Final against Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Whilst this was going on the title race was drawing closer to a conclusion – and going into the final round of the season, with a few stuttering performances costing me, Liverpool would be away against one of the contenders, Chelsea.

What I needed was a win. There were no two ways about it – a win and the title (thanks to Man Utd drawing away with Norwich) would be mine. Matches away to Chelsea were never ones I had found to be easy, but as the game ticked by, with the score at 2-2, one more goal and my Liverpool side would be champions on the basis of far superior goal difference. Unfortunately, despite pressing, that goal just would not come, and Chelsea were champions.

I now found my hopes of maintaining my trophy-streak resting on one match – the Champions League Final, and my opponents? Once again, Barcelona.

This is where one of the most remarkable sequences of events conspired to help me out, and I don’t mind admitting that I ‘played the game’ to ensure my team had the best possible chance. Pep Guardiola had left Barcelona at the end of the previous season, and in his stead had come Rafa Benitez. Somehow, Benitez had taken Guardiola’s team of incredible talents and ushered them down La Liga to fifth, and therefore without Champions League football if they failed to win in the Final. With the La Liga season concluded, Barcelona took the decision to sack Benitez with less than a couple of weeks to go before the Final – and they approached me to replace him.

I told Barca I’d consider it, though in reality I had no intention of quitting Liverpool at that stage. Barca agreed, meaning they’d go into the Champions League Final with a caretaker manager, and I knew this would give me an edge. I was proven right, as Liverpool won 3-1, avenging last season’s cruel penalty loss and claiming European Cup no. 7.

So, see what I mean about inconsistency? Winning consecutive titles had proven elusive, but with Big Ears returning to Anfield, was this to be the catalyst for sustained success? We’ll have to wait for the next chapter in this little story…
Part Three:

Moving into the 2017/18 season, I wanted to try and build upon the foundations I had laid.


Once again Luis Suarez and Giuseppe Rossi were leading my attack, and the squad was largely unchanged from the previous season, but Eric Dier was starting to become more involved in the first team (and with good reason – his performances were pretty good in the centre of my defence), and I signed a Brazilian right-back by the name of Fágner, who did pretty well too. There was however, one player who would start to make waves that I had signed the previous year. A youngster by the name of Patrick McKay had joined me from Man City, and he would make 39 appearances in all over the course of the season, scoring 24 goals. Remember his name, for it will be significant later.

I wanted the Premier League title. It had been within Liverpool’s grasp yet it was narrowly denied by the margin of one goal, that my team just couldn’t find. I was therefore determined to make that right. My first two games went according to plan – a 4-0 win over West Ham and a 5-0 win over Fulham was the beginning I had wanted, but following this up with a 3-1 defeat against Man City and a 1-0 defeat to Celtic in the Champions League arrested that early momentum. My side were knocked out of the League Cup with a 3-2 home defeat to local rivals Everton – hardly ideal!

Following from that ropy start was a sequence of 13 consecutive victories in the league, and I would also win my remaining five Champions League fixtures to top the group. As the season progressed, my team was in mean form, racking up some big wins, including a 5-1 away win against Norwich, a 5-0 home win over Everton, a 5-0 win over Man City (whom I would also beat 7-1 in the FA Cup) and a 6-0 win over Burnley. A rather satisfying 5-0 win over Man Utd meant I’d quite comfortably crushed the Manchester sides at Anfield.

Thrilling draws away to Arsenal (3-3) and Chelsea (4-4), a home defeat to Newcastle and a defeat away to Sunderland did stall things a little, but more annoying was that the Sunderland defeat came at the end of a brief but miserable sequence that saw Liverpool exit the FA Cup after losing 4-3 at home to Chelsea and saw my Champions League progress placed in jeopardy with a 3-1 loss away to Spanish side Málaga. Four straight league wins followed, as did a 4-0 home win to overturn that deficit against Málaga, but the curse of my away form against Man Utd and Everton would see me lose at both sides to keep the title race interesting.

Celtic were easily dispatched in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and in the semi-final I would face PSG, who had ended my first defence of my European title in 2014. I would lose in Paris but win easily at Anfield, moving into my third straight Champions League final. Beating Spurs 6-3 at Anfield (my chief title rivals) and winning my final three games meant I had won the Premier League for the first time since 2015 – my final game of the season would be against Chelsea in the Champions League final.

I won’t sugarcoat it. I won 2-0 and had therefore defended my place as European champions (WOO!).

It was here that my Liverpool journey would end.

At this stage, I had nothing left to (metaphorically) prove. I had taken Liverpool from being on the edge of contending for majors honours to actually winning major honours, and doing so repeatedly. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased! The team had progressed nicely and had become a serious force in both the Premier League and in Europe. I felt that I couldn’t take them any further, so it was time to go.