The SquadFather – A Sicilian tale – Palermo – An Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman oh and Robinho are in a Sicilian bar.

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We embarked our campaign in Serie C Girone A with jubilation. Satisfied that we had met the clubs vision to win Serie D Girone I. However, the jubilation and celebrations were cut short. With little money in the bank we were forced to let a large number of players leave after running down their contracts, also with the volume of loanees on the books (mainly key first team players) we were left with a very depleted squad.

We used every inch of available resource to scout players from Italy, Argentina (due to our affiliation with Velez) and other parts of Europe due to 1st team coach David Platt. Note due to small funds we also had to play smart with the scouting budget. We were given £45k for the year to scout talent suitable not only for the first team but to also try and bring in young players with potential for the future of the club. We switched on the scouting range to world wide for a week and in that time we also scoured the free market.

When I found a potential signing rather than spending money on a scout to tell whether a player would be good enough or not. We would invite the player on trial and see how they would fit within the club. And if deemed suitable we would then look to offer them a contract.

Using this method of face to face scouting saw players like Michelle Rocca out of contract at Sampdoria join the Rosanero, along with the likes of former Milan youth player Michael Fabbro, former Sassuolo midfielder Giovanni Sbrissa, and former Benevento midfielder Giovanni Volpicelli.

Volpicelli would emerge as one of the surprise packages of the season producing 7 goals in 27 matches along with pulling in 5 man of the match awards. Despite the grumpy demeanour, the heart and determination of the player really shone through especially during the mid season dip of form.

The Englishman.

During my summer of searching endlessly (three weeks in total) I came across recently out of contract former Manchester Reds* player Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The left back’s technical and physical ability were clear to see and I believed he could help plug a gap on the left following Crivello’s departure to Leeds Utd. However, Cameron was still living in cloud cuckoo-land thinking he could demand Manchester Reds style wages. With our fingers burnt a little we left this deal, but I did leave a note to track his movements to see if he did get signed up by anyone willing to pay £12k per week.

*I am calling Manchester United, Manchester Reds just incase they read my post, this way they should not beable to force me to pull down my posts (lol).

FM Brookyn November 2019, following all the removal of kit graphic packs of some community sites.

During the October blues aka when we suffered a blip in form one of my notable reasons for looking at Cameron Borthwick-Jackson again was due to the lack of form and consistency from Tom Furtado ( A Brazilan left back we got for free from Alverca (Portugal)). We saw that Cameron was still available and offered him a second trial. After seeing his star rating against Furtado, we plumped to offer him a contract. This time he accepted our offer of sunshine and £1.7k per week, a fair drop in what he had originally expected back in the summer but I can only assume the time away from a club helped him realise that there is more to life than a hefty cheque every month. Another notable thing was the height of Borthwick Jackson, he stands at 190cm which also meant we would have a big target to aim for with corners.

The Scotsman.

Seeing Liam Henderson in Italy is not a new thing. He joined Bari from Celtic back in 2017. And from there he then moved to Hellas Verona the following year due to Bari going through some financial problems of their own. He is still at Verona, but 2020 would see him join the Rosanero for guaranteed first team football, albeit on loan. The first few months he was none existent due to an injury he sustained after his first friendly appearance. He would be out until November, but due to making sure he could not be recalled in the deal to bring him to Palermo, we were left to nurse him better rather than send him back to his parent club. Liam would go on to have an impact in midfield forging a decent central partnership with Volpicelli. Liam played 20 matches scoring 5 goals and assisting 4 times.

The Irishman.

The January sales can be a strange yet liberating thing, especially on Football Manager. After having our scouts switched of to minimise costs until December I knew I needed to look for some better quality players for in midfield. Sbrissa and Rocca were to inconsistent and struggled to show much even as impact subs. So with the scouts fired up, I set to the task to find one or two better midfielders to take a look at along with a back up winger, a back up left back and a forward who could score.

Two midfielders came up who matched my desires to improve our quality in midfield but I never thought either would join. First was form Palermo midfielder Antonio Fiordilino. The playmaker had had a stop start season with Venezia only starting in two matches due to an injury hit season. We offered him a trial which he accepted, but when we offer to loan him Venezia were not so keen despite the player expressing a desire to come and blow the cobwebs with us. We put a second offer of loan in on deadline day for the deal to get accepted.

During the mix of this I also noticed that Aston Villa’s Conor Hourihane was available on transfer and or loan. I had also noticed that he had only played five matches in the last season and a half, with little time on the injury table. Clearly Conor had fallen down the pecking order at Villa. I offered him a trial and Villa and the player accepted. Conor obviously looked a million time better than anyone else in the side, but I knew that I could not offer much in terms of wages as the fella was on over £30k a week. I cheekily offer noting but for a straight loan of the player, and strangely they accepted. Conor went on to get a tan and in that time play in 13 matches, score 7, assist 4 and get a recall to the Irish national side.

A Brazilian called Robinho.

I forgot to get a picture of him before he hung his boots to show off this attributes (Bugger!)

Robinho joined the Rosanero in January 2021 and would see life in Sicily before hanging up his boots for the last time. His technical and mentals were out of this world compared to the bulk of the squad, yet he had seriously lost all physicals. He would only play five times and score once, a last minute penalty against Lecco on his debut. His time was mainly spent teaching our next big thing a few tricks, Cesc Franco certainly enjoyed his time around Robinho, fingers crossed he uses his new knowledge in conjunction with his development.

So after a backward way in telling you how things went during 2020/21 we only went and surpassed expectation, and won the league!

We were tipped by the bookies to come second and the board were expecting a top five finish, but I had noted that only the top team progresses upwardly out of the league. And boy did we have a challenge. I totally disregarded the Coppa di Italia Serie C, by fielding the youngsters and subs who didn’t feature much in the league. We lost 2-1 to a gutsy Carrarese who ended up 14th in our league.

Pro Vercelli, Novara, Benevento and Salernitana all provided stiff competition during the season, Only Benevento would beat us out of the big four gunning for the for the title during the campaign. They beat us 3-0 away early in February.

The disappointment of the season was the big wobble during October and November which came after the cup defeat. Looking back I can only assume the change of personnel for that match and assertive feedback after the match upset the dressing a little. And after tweaking here and there with the tactic, I ended up stripping things out to readdress some imbalances I had caused with tweaking.

So last season we went with the below WM tactic. And we pretty much continued with the same until the away match in Como in December.

During the wobble I stripped a few layers off, after adding things in and found the solution to be the below. It is fundamentally the same but with less team instructions, which leaves the players with a little more room for personal adaptation during the match. Another major thing we now do is look to regroup rather than counter press. @merryguido wrote a piece about how regrouping helps to counter the issue of the AI using long through balls. And with this tactic relying on just the one centre back, we need to give this position as much armour as possible. We still aim on being narrow and press high to recover the ball as early as possible, as the out of possession instructions have not altered. Positionally there have been no changes but the roles have been altered. The wingers have gone and we now ask the wide men to come inside as either an inverted winger or inside forward. This is to provide more options inside the box with the focus of the team working the ball into the box to engineer a chance at goal. The two central midfielders (for now) are Mezzala’s one on attack to join the forwards in the box and the second to provide a dynamic playmaking role. The central defender is now a ball playing defender in a hope that when the two defensive players are occupied with an opponent and not free to receive the ball he will look to seek the free midfielder himself rather than putting the team in unnecessary danger.

There have been interesting moments of play…Below the team hound Como into a mistake where Bonazzoli (our CFa) steal a loose pass between two Como players he then counters forward into Como’s half…..

Bonazzoli’s driving run takes him into the box, with a Como defender running toe to toe in a bid to prevent a shot. Bonazzoli stops and passes back to Lucera who squares a pass to D’Amico who slots home a cool shot.

It is moments like these why I have really started to enjoy this save.

Next season will see us compete in Serie B, I’ll update our progress through Twitter and post on here next when I have something more interesting to witter on about.

If you wish to try this tactic I have made it available in the Steam workshop and if the link is working see below.

Ciao for now.

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Coffee drinker, mug hoarder, Italian Football lover, Football shirt collector.

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