“Nobody is exempt from the trials of life, but everyone can always find something positive in everything even in the worst of times.”Roy T. Bennett
The 2036 – 2037 season for Weymouth FC certainly did not go as expected. In fact, it went about as bad as it possibly could, which was a bit shocking if I’m being honest. If you’ve read the last blog post you already know that we had finished in the top 6, qualified for Champion’s League and strengthened the squad in preparation for the new season. So what happened?
A Horrendous Start
We were looking to have a fantastic start, given it was going to be an incredibly exciting season for our fans and players. I made the decision to keep the tactic we had been using with success the last two seasons and tried to bolster the depth where necessary, so not a lot of changes beyond some signing/transfers.
Our Champions League group wasn’t too bad either! We were placed in a group with Bayern Munich, SL Benfica, and FC Kobenhavn for the group stage, and I felt confident we could ensure 3rd position, maybe 2nd if a few bounces went our way. I was feeling confident and excited for the season to come… I can honestly say I’ve never had a worst start to a season than the one I experienced this season.
If you look below, you’ll see our first 10 games of the year – including one friendly, two champions league games and one Carabao Cup match. We lost every Premier League match in the months of August and September, however we performed decently in the Champions League and EFL Cup. To be fair, the quality of opposition wasn’t as strong, but we were happy to walk away with wins from those important matches.
It became clear there was something wrong with the squad and my approach, but I wasn’t sure what it could be. The tactic was well used and had brought success previously, why wasn’t it working now? And with all the losses the mood of the team was extremely negative! I had tried to have a couple of meetings to bring up the morale, complimenting players on their training, criticizing them when they weren’t performing, anything I could do to see a positive boost in their morale.
Whatever I was doing, it wasn’t working. By the winter transfer window we had fallen into a relegation position in the Premier League, finished 3rd in our Champions League group and been eliminated from the Carabao Cup by Newcastle. The worst form was in the Premier League, as we had shown some decent quality with a rotated squad in the Champions League drawing Bayern Munich twice during the group stage, which made trying to figure out the problem a bit more difficult.
Desperate Times; Desperate Measures
I was ready to do anything I could to try to turn this season around – this was my 19th season with Weymouth and I was starting to get a bit panicked about losing my job! After all this work to get the club from the 7th tier I would be devastated had it ended with me being sacked. I was determined to get the club out of relegation and save the season and my career!
So whats the first thing FM players typically do when things aren’t going their way? They fiddle with the tactical approach, right? I went from a 4-4-2 to something a bit more modern, adding a DM into the mix. I had previously used a DM to great success in previous years, and thought I could go back to something relatively familiar.
Needless to say, the tactics change did not help our team beyond a couple of draws – we were still losing the majority of games, and the morale was getting worse and worse. So bad in fact, the players approached me to tell me what a POOR job I was doing as Manager of the club.
I was pretty shocked – I don’t think I had ever seen this screen with so many players in agreement before. I promised them that I would make some changes to improve the room, but without winning, how could I possibly do that? I decided to make some changes to the squad in an effort to lift the room and get some life back into our squad. And maybe even win some games.
I immediately entered the market, as it was still the winter transfer window, and made some changes. First of all, new players coming into the squad:
- Denis Streichsbier – £3.3M AM(R) – Loads of potential, can come in and challenge for the starting spot.
- Ramiro Basso – £5.5M GK (Sweeper) – An absolute stud who will be our starting keeper going forward, likely for some time.
- Frank Turner – £120K GK (Sweeper) – An English lad to play backup and give the squad some flexibility in registration.
- Adam Ford – £4M DM – One of the only DM’s I was able to sign. Not fantastic, but added to the squad depth.
- Ian Harding – £18.25M FB(R) – Another FB to help bring some competition and depth to that position.
- Thomas Cornelis £10.75M – CD – A veteran player who could help solidify our backend, was happy to sign him away from Liverpool.
With so many new faces, clearly some squad members were also going to leave the squad as well. I promptly sold a few faces, including one up and coming CB. I was hoping this would result in a turnaround in the room, as well as on the field. You can see who we sold below, while loaning out a few others.
Now this is where things get a bit weird. As I had hoped, our form begins to turn around slightly. We began playing much better, and actually only lost one game in January! Considering there was ten games in that month, I was confident we could pull ourselves out of relegation if that form continued. Maybe if we had a decent youth intake we could really get over the hump! You’ll see below I was actually able to take one of the players (Marcus Coutts) and plug him into the first squad right away.
Weymouth in Europa
While we were still fighting to get out of relegation in the Premier League, we were pushing forward in the Europa League. We qualified with the 3rd place finish in the Champions League and I was excited to show the world this team was worth more than our performance domestically. We ended up doing well and beating Wolfsburg at Dean Court in the Quarter Final which was a desperately needed boost for the club and the manager. I was beaming!
We ended up losing in the Semi-Final’s against Sevilla, but we were outclassed and I knew it. The squad and I were very happy with where we had placed in this tournament, and it really felt like that would translate into successfully avoiding relegation in the Premier League. But it wasn’t to be.
Yes – it’s true, we didn’t make it. Weymouth was relegated in their fourth ever season in the Premier League, and I was heartbroken. Absolutely heartbroken. After qualifying for Champions League and finishing 4th, how could we possibly fall this quickly? And the worst part?
We had the last five games of the season to get four points to avoid being relegated. We couldn’t do it. This is the first relegation I have ever experienced in Football Manager and I was pretty upset, honestly. I was lamenting to my wife for about a week – I was so worried I was about to get sacked. Then the dream, and the save would be over.
So what went wrong?
I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I could of done differently, or what was the real cause of the teams downfall? And after looking back over the season, the player performances and whatever reports I felt were relevant – this is what I came up with:
- The squad was unhappy from preseason, and it only got worse with the slow start. The room was never positive and could never fight back in games until the squad transformation at the Winter Transfer window.
- The tactic was not well thought out – I had started changing things game to game, and I had lost track of what worked and what didn’t. I didn’t really have a clear idea of what the players should be doing and how they worked together. I needed to learn more about tactics, in general.
William Codwell Sacked?
Now back to the save! I was hesitant to hit the Continue button, I’m not going to lie. I didn’t want the save to end. But then a curious thing happened. A takeover started – and clearly stated – they would have their own choice for Manager. What?! This would be the 3rd takeover of Weymouth since I had started the save!
Now I was really upset. I couldn’t find out if I was losing my job until after the takeover was completed, and I also couldn’t really rebuild the team until it was over either. Hitting continue, again and again, waiting for the news on the takeover, and if you’ve ever played Football Manager you know these things always take too long.
This update gave me a hint of hope – there was no mention of wanting a new manager. Did that mean I was in the clear? When the takeover was complete – they told me I needed to wait for a decision. So much waiting. And worrying.
I honestly was thinking, worrying and focusing on the thought of the save ending with a sacking, and I was getting to the point of acceptance – I was even thinking of continuing William’s career somewhere else. Where would I go? Will there still be interest in my services?
I don’t know what happened – but my best guess is that my standing with the club, as well as how happy the squad was with the Europa results that the board decided to keep me around! I was elated! The save isn’t over! I can’t describe how happy I was to hear this – knowing that the road ahead would involve keeping the players I have in the squad so we could jump right back up in the Premier League.
It’s time for Weymouth to win the Championship. Again.
Thanks for reading!
As always – please leave your comments below, or message me on any platform to share your thoughts.