If you are here to read all about a North-East-only save in a world where there has been no Saudi takeovers, you’ve come to the right place. This is the third post in our Northern Boys series wherein we will spend our first 4 seasons converting Newcastle United to a North-East-only player and staff transfer policy – feel free to jump back in time to catch up on our previous two posts and learn/remind yourself about how we’ve gotten to where we are currently in FM22.
Bearing in mind we started this save with zero transfer budget, a self-enforced transfer policy wherein any U23 players signed must have been born/raised in the North-East of England and with four seasons in which to completely transition the club to a “Basque-only” operating model – if you’d have told me that within our opening 15 games we’d have beaten both Man City and Arsenal and watched Callum Wilson bag 11 league goals, I probably would have snatched your hand off while also laughing you out the door simultaneously.
This did in fact happen, the only issue being that those two wins were two of only three victories in total in the same period – so rest assured that FM22 is not taking the piss or is too easy, and things are as they probably should be given the circumstances…
Let’s rewind for a moment, as there is a hell of a lot going on in this save and only a fraction of it relates to our on-field success (or lack thereof).
Our mission is to revive football in the North-East. Naturally a big part of this is our own Youth Development and Recruitment, however the North-East is a big place and if we are to be successful then we will need to also focus on elevating the stature and production of some of the other football clubs in the area. 22 of them to be precise, all of whom we will gradually look to add as affiliates and into whom we will pump funds annually through friendly tournaments, transfer signings and player mobility between ourselves and these feeder clubs. Safe to say it took a while before we hit the Continue button..
No local unknown signings to report yet (bearing in mind we must invest a minimum of £2m per season locally in the region), and having reset the club reputation to reflect pre-Saudi Newcastle, we have limited interest from most of our top targets (namely the likes of Jordan Pickford, Adam Armstrong and Dael Fry). With no money in the bank, our first focus is to offload some players who we don’t expect to feature this season. Not too many mind; survival is still our main focus while we get this project off the ground. Having watched @FridayNightFM rake in £20m for Ryan Fraser during the FM22 Beta I was hopeful of a small windfall for the 27-year-old winger. I was wrong..
After touting his services around to no avail we finally received a £9m bid from RBL only for the board (and our new fictional chairman Joe Ordiman, saviour of the North-East) to block the bid by demanding £12m for Fraser’s signature. Absolutely no-one bites at this, and apart from the £2m sale of Emil Krafth to Aston Villa we are left somewhat wanting in the transfer market; it’s at this point that I will openly admit…we started to get a bit desperate…
Carroll arrives at the same time as another Northern Boy in the form of Bali Mumba, the ex-Sunderland right-back who featured 4 times for Norwich in their promotion winning season last year. Doubtful he will be good enough in the long-run, but as a backup option on loan with an optional 4m transfer fee, no harm taking a look 👀.
It wasn’t until it came to setting our league and cup bonus that we managed to bump up our transfer budget (£5m to be precise), and with that we decided to try one last cheeky attempt to bring in what will likely be one of the main characters of this Northern Boys save. Having refused to enter contract talks earlier, we learned (through the always useful “Ask Agent About Availability” function) that Middlesbrough-born Dael Fry was suddenly interested in a move North and even though they previously asked for close to £7m including add-ons, our proximity to the transfer window closing meant that Middlesbrough accept a £4m bid and with just hours remaining, our first main Northern Boy is on the bus 💪.
Yep, even our coaches, scouts and medical team will all need to be North-East born/raised in order to stick around here for the long haul. Fortunately for us Graeme Jones is Tyne born and bred so that’s our Assistant Manager covered, however from a coaching and scouting perspective some personnel changes are definitely required – starting with Blyth-born Tony Carss arriving in from Blackburn as Head of Youth Development, local lad Kenny Wharton returning as an U18 Coach and pick of the lot Sonny Wake (a newgen coach from Gateshead) arriving in as a first-team coach. Foundations..
That’s probably enough admin for now right? Our Northern Boys project is well underway – let’s play some football.
We are but the sum of our parts, and with our board expectations being to avoid relegation and knowing that we are at the start of a major uphill climb as we commence this project – we opt for quite a conservative counter-attacking formation with a big focus on using our Central Defenders to initiate counter attacks (enter a WCB and a Libero), passing into space via attacking wing-backs and advanced midfielders (well hello Mezzala) as well as unleashing ASM and Callum Wilson while we still have them at the club relying on their quickness and off the ball skills to get into clear goalscoring positions. That’s the theory anyway…
We spoke about FM giving and taking. After going 1-0 up away to Brentford in our league opener, we end up losing to a 97th minute Ivan Toney penalty (and no he doesn’t qualify for Northern Boys even though he’s an ex-Newcastle youth player 😔). We are then 2-0 up at home to Liverpool only to concede another penalty which sparks a 5 goal comeback for them to win 5-2 overall. What’s next? A 4-3 win over Man City of course – is this Newcastle or Harchester United? By the time we hit Christmas, we’ve beaten Arsenal (a) and Palace (h) and then drawn or lost every other game in between. Thankfully we enjoy a drop of Christmas spirit though as we manage to grind out wins over Wolves (h) and the return leg against Brentford (h) to leave us in 13th place at the turn of the year, with Callum Wilson bagging 12 goals in 19 games and some really positive signs from the likes of Dael Fry, Jamal Lewis and Joe Willock.
Overall we are starting to feel quite positive about this project with loads happening both on and off the field – we’ve heard about things going South quickly, perhaps they can go North for once?
There you have it – project Northern Boys is well underway as we make gradual progress in terms of regional development, incoming transfers, staffing and of course on-field success (although we now face the dilemma no-one ever wanted – Gayle or Carroll to replace Wilson 😄). Whether or not we can transition the club to a fully North-East only model in four seasons is anyone’s guess, but with a stubborn Irishman at the helm who has a fondness for blogging nonsense, anything is possible.
Want to get involved and/or get real-time updates or sneak previews? I’ll be posting regular updates in a brand new MaddFM Discord server as well as on FMSlack (#MaddFM) so feel free to drop by and keep an eye out. You can also catch me most Mondays on 5* Star Potential, your weekly Football Manager podcast.