After a few years having themed saves, I decided to kick off FM 17 with a save without much restrictions, taking over a low league club and try to push it upwards in the Ladder. So I started investigating about clubs, and after being tempted by GF38 in France and a few in Italy, I decided to go to England, as I haven't managed long term there, like ever. Leafing through the lower leagues, I was struck by Wrexham, as it was from Wales, had a bit of history (some say that they are the world's third oldest football club) and some interesting players, incuding Baby Wazza, John Rooney.
I started the save, while the game was in Beta, and had a few issues advancing at first, as I had a few share of crashes and after that, played sporadically. Fortunately, the save stuck and I had a great first season, so without much intro (sorry for that), here's what happened in 2016-17 at Wrexham.
We had a decent squad, with a few holes, but all-round talented players. Our first problem, though, was that we had a couple of big injuries to start, with Jordan White, our top forward and Rob Evans, a probable starting CM, out for the first 3 months of the season. With that, I settled for a 4-4-2 Diamond, with a DM, 2 CM's and an AM.
At goal, Iraqi NT keeper Shwan Jalal had us covered, but at 33 will need to be replaced down the road, so getting a young GK was one of our priorities. We ended up getting American Arie Ammann and Welsh Andy Pugh, to bolster our keeper corps for the future.
On defence, we had a bit of a worry as our top CB was Martin Riley, while the second CB was a positional battle between Hamza Bencherif and Curtis Tilt, none of being a good player (even for the level) or possessing much potential. Good thing, was that we had Oliver Marx loaned at AFC Flyde, who could become an interesting player for us in the future. At the fullback position, we had Jordan Evans, not a true fullback, but one who could do the job and has a ton of upside, and Mark Carrington, a mediocre player. Nortei Nortey (what a name, it just cracks me up!) a former Chelsea player, has enough potential to be a good player for us, so I'm not too concerned for our depth at the RB position.
In midfield, we lacked a true shitkicker in the middle, so I brought in Olumide Durojaiye, then at CM, Anthony Barry, Rob Evans and Leo Smith, while I decided to bring in David Syers to bolster the numbers, specially as Evans wasn't available for the first part of the year. Both welshmen, have a lot of potential and might be key in the near future for us, alongside Durojaiye. Up ahead, in the hole, we have two good players Baby Wazza Rooney and Tyler Harvey, with the latter being a bit better in upside.
Up front, Jordan White is the true gem of the team, but will miss a lot of time injured. The other striker position was disputed between veteran Shaun Harrad and loanee Gerry McDonagh, while Kaleem Bailey-Nicholls was the fourth striker.
We will start in the Vanarama National League, the fifth tier of the English Pyramid, for those who aren't familiar with it, which grants a direct promotion to the League Two for the Champion, and then a Playoff for the 4 next placed teams, that sees the winner get promoted as well.
We'll also play in the FA Cup, and the FA Trophy, two cups, the first being for all teams in the first 10 levels of English Football, and the second being for all teams in tiers 5-8, meaning we're amongst the favourites to win it.
The Board expected a top-half finish for the League, to reach the First Round of the FA Cup (we entered it in 4th Qual. Round), and to get to the 4th Round of the FA Trophy (we entered on the 1st Round).
Vanarama National League
We kicked off, pretty good, with a couple of wins, but then we started being less regular, drawing and losing games, with a few tough patches, like in mid August, where we only managed a win in 6 games, and then between mid November and January, where we got 2 wins in 8 games.
Right amid that second run, we got on a roll, staying unbeaten for 12 games, from December to March, which pushed us towards the playoff positions, only to get 3 losses in the next 4 games, and get back to around the 8th position. But we managed to finish the season strong, with 5 wins in the last 6 games, and ended up in 2nd place, qualifying for the Playoffs, where we'd meet our rivals Chester in the semi-final. The playoff bid, was materialised via a tremendous comeback win, against Bromley. We were losing 0-2 at halftime, and with that, our chances of getting into the playoffs slim, and we turned it back around with 4 goals from Shaun Harrad, including a hattrick in 3 minutes (61', 62', 63').
The first leg, was played in Chester, right across the border (Chester and Wrexham are just 12 miles apart, and Chester's stadium is actually on Welsh territory), and we played well, getting them on their back foot and attacking, but in the end, lost the game 1-2. The return leg, was played at our own Racecourse Stadium, and we outplayed them again, getting the easy 3-1 win, and qualifying for the Final in Wembley.
The Final is played as a single game, at Wembley, against 4th placed Lincoln. We played well again, and despite having Jalal as our best player, won 3-1 to get us promoted to the League Two!
First all, the FA Cup. We got in the last qualifying round, and had to face Solihull Motors, a team from our same division, but one of the worst of the league (ended up dead last) and we beat them 2-0.
Then in the first round we faced Bristol Rovers, from League One, two steps above us. We had a good game, and were up 1-0 for a few minutes, but in the end, we conceded a goal 5 minutes from the end, and ended up bravely losing.
Then, in the FA Trophy, we started off against Soham, a team from the Isthmian League Divsion One (8th tier), and comfortably beat them 2-0. We then faced Margate, from the National League Division One (6th tier), and struggled a ton, with the game ending up 1-1, and the replay also ending up 1-1. We barely got through on penalties.
In the third round, Torquay awaited us, a team from our division, and we destroyed them 6-1 on a beautiful game. We then faced Bishop's Stortford on the Fourth Round, and beat them 1-0, despite us being the heavy favourites and a step above them on the pyramid.
This put us into the Semi-Finals of the FA Trophy and we faced Eastleigh, a team in our own division and one that also was a rival for the playoff race. In the first leg, played away, we won 5-4, but ended the game on a down stride, as we wasted a 4-1 and 5-2 lead. Back home, we managed to get the 2-1 win and get into the Final.
Of course, in this fairytale of a season, the Final was to be played against our cross-border rivals, Chester, only this time, it'd be played at Wembley. It was a tight game, typical derby, with us being the slight better side. Chester defended and made their keeper the best player on the pitch, until at '80, a great long shot from David Syers, gave us the FA Trophy, and our first title of the save.
3.- Jordan White: The forward missed the first 3 months of the season, with an injury, but when he came back, he was brilliant for us. He's a typical british target man, with incredible size and strength, but also a knack for finding the opponent's net. We secured his contract until 2019 and he should be useful at least a couple of tiers above this one. He played in 49 games (48 starts), scoring 26 goals and had 12 assists, with a 7.20 rating.
2.- Shaun Harrad: The veteran striker started the season as a expendable player, and he turned my opinion around, scoring himself into the first 11. He had games where he was unplayable and struck terror in opponent's defences. We decided not to renew his contract, in spite of his brilliant performance, as he's 32, and we got several interesting young players up front. He played 54 games (49 starts), scoring 35 goals and had 10 assists, with a 7.23 rating.
1.- Martin Riley: Ever present, Riley played an average of 89.65 minutes in all 59 games of the season, leading our defence with experience and ability. A classic towering centre back, Riley still has a few good seasons in him, and is renewed for next season, where he'll lead the defence once again. He played 59 games, scoring 2 goals and had 3 assists, with a 7.32 rating,
- The Board was very happy with the work I did, so they extended my contract until 2019.
- We currently have around €400k in the bank, after some improvements the Board made at the end of the season.
- The Board will buy the Stadium (ready by July 2018), and improve the Youth Facilities (ready by November 2017). Both additions will be great for us, as we'll generate more revenue without having to pay rent, and will develop our youth better with better facilities.
- Nothing interesting came from the intake, I'm on a mission to snap interesting youngsters from other teams, but with limited funds.
Sorry for the looooong post, but I only decided the save would stick after the last part of the season. I'll try to make shorter posts from now on. So lads, one step ahead, hope to see Wrexham in the Premier League soon!