A Belarusian Adventure

TorpedoZhodinoLogo.pngRight, after my first post since my return to Football Manager where I kinda talked about the problems I’ve had at the beginning of my time with Torpedo Zhodino, I thought it was time to actually set out the save itself. This is very much a save in progress, unlike many of the saves in the past where I’ve had a specific approach that I wanted to follow, such as One Man’s Journey or With Club, For Country. Plain and simply – which is more than likely why I’m enjoying it – before being able to play the game, I decided on a random country that I wanted to play in for a change (Belarus Belarus flag image - country flags), and after that picked a club that I thought sounded interesting. Simples.

As you can see in this image, Zhodino – or Zhodzina – looks like a very stereotypical old Soviet town – though the cars do suggest this image may be slightly out of date. Indeed, that link and connection to the old Soviet Union world and era was part of the reason why I picked the team. Torpedo are actually called Torpedo BelAZ Zhodino because they are owned by BelAZ, the factory located in the city that employs 11,000 people, around 1/6th of the local population. CLubs being owned or affiliated with factories or government organisations was hardly unusual behind the Berlin Wall. The factory has been important throughout Soviet times, producing trucks that were used across the entiry of the Communist bloc. Torpedo themselves have a less important history, largely being a mid-table team in the Highest League (the top league in Belarus), winning the Belarusian Cup once, as well as the Belarusian Super Cup once. It hasn’t exactly been a glorious existence. Historically, that honor has gone to Dinamo Minsk in Belarus, and more recently, BATE Borisov.

When It Just Isn’t Working…

Football Manager 2020 - game artworks at Riot PixelsYes, I am back on Football Manager, finally. After my much documented (if you follow me on Twitter (@JLAspey) technical problems with my laptop I have eventually been able to afford a new laptop – thanks to all who helped me pick one – and given our current existence of lockdown and me working from home as a teacher, I’ve had plenty of time to get back into FM20. Despite that, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been easy, but more on that later. Before I continue, I do want to plug “The Italian Job”, a new Twitch series I’m doing with my good friends @watadam20 and @turntostone_ as we manage in Italy Image result for italy flag gif *insert Gazzetta theme*. I’m managing Sampdoria, and keep up with my Twitter for more info about when we’ll stream etc.

Anyway, back to my exploits since returning to FM20. My save is with Torpedo Zhodino in Belarus, a mid-table Highest League team, most noteable for being owned by BelAZ, the industrial company that employs around 1/6th of the population of Zhodino or Žodzina. Thus far, I don’t have much to report from the game itself, apart from some guidance about what to do if you find things difficult in a game.

The Road to the Show: II

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 19.36.45Ok welcome back to my new series, a Let’s Play with my Starting Pitcher on the MLB The Show series of games. In the first update, we largely covered who my character is for this series. In short, he’s an 18-year old left handed pitcher named Riley Emerson from Massachusetts who focuses on controlling the strike zone with his pitches – hitting his spots and being accurate. Riley played in the Amateur Showcase (how the game determines your drafting, although you always seem to go in the 20’s), playing two games. In the first he started shakily, giving up four runs in two innings – two being through fielding mistakes – before calming down in the third giving up no urther runs. In the second game, he was much more comfortable, pitching three scoreless innings. Riley was then drafted in the 24th round with the 8th pick by the Atlanta Braves, and has begun his career with their AA affiliate club, the Mississippi Braves. So far, Riley has pitched five starts for the Braves, so I’ve decided to do my first update.

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The Road to the Show: I

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 19.36.45So, this is going to be something a little different from me. Firstly I’m back playing MLB Road to the Show, and I’ve decided to write about it. Now I’ve done that before, with my series with my Relief Pitcher Jorge Garcia, but this time I wanted to approach writing about it in a different way. I want to write this series in a very “Let’s Play” format, where I discuss my player, how he’s playing and what’s happening in his career, whilst keeping the role play element that I have always liked about these types of game modes. It’s why I’ve grown to hate the NBA2k MyCareer series, because all the creativity has been lost. Throughout this series, we’ll analyse our player, his major decisions, how the game world impacts him, as well as looking at his stats every now and then.

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Meet Riley Emerson, our character for this series. Riley is an 18-year old left handed pitcher from Boston, Massachusetts. Riley stands at 6’1″ and weighs 175lbs and is nominally a Starting Pitcher – ie a pitcher who starts the first inning of ball games and goes usually between 5-8 innings unless things are going either really well or really badly. Riley currently throws 3 main pitches, a 2-seam fastball, a circle changeup and a slider. As time goes on, we’ll add more, but for unknown reasons, you’re forced to only start with three, even though most SP’s have more – even if they’re not very good – by age 18.

Pleasing the Juventini

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Right, we’ve reached the midway point of the first season of this save, so it’s time to update on how we’re getting on so far with Juventus. In case you missed the first update of this save, here is a link to it. The basic premise of the save is that I’m playing as a modern ‘Manager’, effectively a Head Coach. I don’t have control over the transfers aspect of the club, but I do control the first team squad, training and tactics. Usually I’d start off with a lower club, but I reasoned that playing the game realistically after years of success on FM, it made sense to start with a top club. It’s fantastic to finally be back writing about Football Manager, and again before you begin reading, click here. Keep it on repeat as you read through. Image result for italy flag gif

Adapting the Bianconeri

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Finally, it’s here. After much faffing about and inability to actually play Football Manager, I’m finally back writing and able to begin my series on FM20. Man, this feels good just writing. Before I get into my save concept for this year and what I’ll be doing, I first need to apologise for the lack of content for FM19. This was not by design, but due to technical issues – that are still unfortunately ongoing – I have really been unable to play the game much. However at the moment these issues appear to have subsided somewhat – so it’s time to begin. Before you do, click here. Keep it on repeat as you read through. Image result for italy flag gif

So, as the astute amongst you will have realised, I’m going to Italy, and I’m going to be playing as Juventus – thanks to the name fix that allows me to actually play as Juve, and not Zebre, or whatever. This is a little bit of a departure from the usual idea of Football Manager, starting with what is already the top club in Italy – and has been for pretty much the whole decade – but there’s a reason to what I’m doing. First of all, one of the reasons I’ve picked Juve is that despite now being a Torino fan, as a kid Juve were always the team – along with Inter because of Ronaldo – that I looked forward to watching on Gazzetta, and I’ve always had an emotional attachment to them. Furthermore, they also appointed a new manager this summer in Maurizio Sarri, and I wanted to play as a team that had a vacancy this summer, as if me in game – with a consistent history of success – was looking for a new team. Therefore, in my mind a top club such as Juve made sense.

MyCoach: I

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Ok, let’s try this again shall we? After the unfortunate, irritating and untimely death of the Knicks save, I’ve decided it’s time to start again, sort of. I’ll still be following the same format as last time, focusing on keeping updates brief, and explaining my reasoning behind my decisions, but this time the starting point will be a little different. After making my way through Season One with the Knicks, and really building the team into the unit I wanted for Season Two, I must be honest I have little desire to begin from scratch, so I’m going to do something a little different using NBA 2K19, and I’m calling it My Coach. I’m going to be playing My League much like last time, but I’m applying conditions and settings to it so that I’m playing solely as a coach.

I’ll be able to control some aspects, particularly players’ minutes and how the team plays on the court (particularly which playbook we’ll be using). I’ll also be able to set target players for the team, which I’m rationalising as effectively me as coach saying which players I’d like the team to take a look at. However, I’ll have absolutely no control over trades, scouting and the NBA Draft, meaning that I’ll basically have to work with what I have, and work with those pieces to build the best possible team, and hopefully win a championship down the line. As you can tell from the above, I’m going to be playing as the Head Coach of the Atlanta Hawks. I decided this because the Hawks were one of the teams that hired a Head Coach in the 2018 offseason (along with the Bucks, Knicks, Magic, Hornets, Pistons and Raptors). Plus, I wanted to coach Trae Young.

The GM Diaries: VII

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Well, it’s the end of the first season of this series, so it’s time to look at how we ended the season, and outline our plans for next season. In the last update (Update 6) we had started a downward slide to a record of 17-36, but I wasn’t actually too bothered about that, because it meant we at least stood a chance at the Number 1 pick, and Zion Williamson, the most hyped rookie since LeBron James. I’d also been fairly aggressive at the trade deadline – very Billy Beane – and traded away Tim Hardaway Jr., Mario Hezonja, and Enes Kanter, gaining Jusuf Nurkic, Jordan Clarkson, Evan Turner and another player whose name I forget because he went to the G League almost immediately . By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, as you can see stats and particularly advanced analytics coming into this save more and more, I’m really looking at starting a Moneyball type save once I’ve rebuilt the Knicks back to former glory. Anyway, enough about that now. Let’s get on with the update. Here is a link to the series so far if you need to catch up with my Knicks.

So, we ended the season at 24-58, a pretty standard losing tanking season if I’m honest. Most teams that are looking to not be good end up around this area, although we weren’t bad enough, with the Hawks beating us by 3 games, ending 21-61. If only I’d traded Porzingis earlier I guess. Again, I must stress that American sports are different. Yes we’ve been bad, but from early on, it was pretty much by design, and I’ve carefully built the pieces whilst still remaining bad. If you look at our team, we have a good core of Gilgeous-Alexander, Nurkic, Gallinari and Clarkson, with some other young pieces we can use moving forward. All in all, I’m very happy with how this season has gone. Most importantly for the Knicks, we had a plan, and it’s gone that way. Also, before we get to the recap, the NBA finals were the real life finals, the Warriors against the Raptors, with the Warriors winning with 3 games to 1. Dynasty. Confirmed.

The GM Diaries: VI

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Right, I’m one day before the trade deadline of Season One of this series with the New York Knicks, so it’s time to update once again on how we’re getting on. The last time I spoke to you all (update 5), we were sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference at 14-23 having made a sharp decline in form following our good start at 5-4. Because American sports work very differently to European sports, and being bad – deliberately – can sometimes be very helpful, this actually is no concern to me, but it did leave me to make some important decisions. If you’re joining the series now, here are updates one, two, three and four. The major decision I made last update is that I made the decision to trade franchise player Kristaps Porzingis. I said at the beginning of this series that I wouldn’t trade Porzingis, but whilst his performances were good, I didn’t feel they quite warranted a max contract – which I would have had to give him at the end of the season – so decided to trade him whilst I could – along with Courtney Lee – picking up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA), Danilo Gallinari and a 2022 1st Round Pick.

Since then, our play has fallen off a cliff – for various reasons I’ll discuss soon – and we’ve fallen to 17-36, still good/bad enough for 11th in the East, and ridiculously only 6 wins off the 8th seed in the playoffs. The East is the land where mediocrity is rewarded. We’ve lost our last 4 games, and as you can see, from the last update we’ve only won 3 more games whilst losing 13. Logically then, I’ve made bad moves that actually have made our team worse? Well, not really. Whilst we may have been much worse since trading Porzingis, I believe we have a much better roster (especially with further moves I’ll discuss later), and when injuries to Gallinari and Knox (starting SF and PF) are taken into account, that explains why all of a sudden we’ve found wins slightly hard to come by. This has had the added benefit that we’ve joined what I like to call:

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The GM Diaries: IV

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Right, welcome to our first full recap update of my new series ‘The GM Diaries’ with the New York Knicks. It is currently the end of November, ahead of a December 1st game against the Milwaukee Bucks, so I’ve ‘played’ a month and a bit so far. One thing I think I should have likely mentioned in the first, second or third updates is that I’m not actually playing these games. I’m simming every game, taking player skill out of it, and much like Football Manager, I find most of the enjoyment out of squad building and team development anyway. The team has played 25 games, so we’re about a third of the way through the season, so this seems like a perfect time to look at how things are going so far. If you’re just joining the series now, the first three updates covered my plans for the team moving forward, and my analysis of the players.

Firstly, we currently stand at 9-14, ‘good‘ enough for 10th in the Eastern Conference. This is actually a little better than I expected to be honest, but considering we started off at 5-4, it’s clear we’ve started to tail off as the season has progressed. The key now however is to discuss how we’re playing, and where any potential issues may be. I said that I would be tracking my players as well, and you’ll get a glimpse of that here as well. One thing to mention is that currently we’re the 18th best team in the league on points allowed, and 25th best on points scored, so whilst we may be average on defence (and would improve with better players), we’re poor on offense and that’s something I need to look at moving forward. Purely on team FG% (field goal percentage), we’re pretty much middle of the pack at 18th. I do however, have a much better idea of things moving forward, and I possibly may end up altering my approach, in particular doing something I said I wouldn’t do, but that’s for another time. Now, it’s time to track my players.

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