This save adventure takes place in a world where there have been no Saudi takeovers and Newcastle are on a 5 year quest to become the first ever British club to implement a “Basque-only” squad & transfer policy. Click here to be part of this story from the very beginning.
Welcome back! If you are here it means you are keen to learn about how things are going on our journey to convert Newcastle United to a North-East only football club in 4 seasons, wherein our mission is to build a squad and backroom staff of North-East born/raised personnel as well as to elevate football production in the North-East through investment in football across the entire North-East region, in particular through a network of 22 football clubs which were pre-identified in Part I. A big and time consuming ask, yes – but time is on our side – this save has the potential to last for the entirety of FM22, assuming one doesn’t lose one’s job in the process..
When we last left off we were 13th in the league by January of our first season and were just dealt the harshest of blows with the news that Top Scorer Callum Wilson (12 league goals) had broken his leg on New Years Day and would be out for the rest of the season. You can imagine my reaction..
Certainly not part of the plan especially considering we have little or no money in the bank to spend, with the likes of Joelinton, Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll (yes we signed him) our best backup options at present. Considering these three have amounted just 2 goals between them up to this point, we found ourselves in a perilous situation much earlier than planned (I say planned as eventually we need to sell Wilson and any other non North-East born players at some point). Having opened 2022 with a 5-0 defeat away to Liverpool in the game that saw Wilson break his leg (let’s not even mention that it was North-East lad Jordan Henderson who made the offending tackle), we proceeded to pick up just one point for the whole of January in a 1-1 draw away to Tottenham, and it’s at this point it becomes clear we may need to act fast with deadline day just around the corner.
Having failed repeatedly to raise funds by offering out the likes of Ryan Fraser, Joelinton, Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark and Dwight Gayle (all to no avail), we are left with no option. You may remember from my introductory post that our new fictional chairman Joe Ordiman had most kindly agreed that the club can sign up to 2 non-North Eastern loan players each year for the first four seasons, so our hand is forced as we make our first signing from outside of the North-East in this save with 25-year-old Paraguay international Antonio Sanabria arriving on loan until the end of the season from Torino having had spells at Barcelona, Roma and Real Betis previously.
Can this guy fill the void left by the injured Wilson and bag the goals needed to ensure a solid finish in our first season at the helm?
Granted it was in an FA Cup 4th round tie against League 2 Walsall but we’ll take it, with fans dubbing Sanabria as our light and saviour as we enter the business end of the season. It wouldn’t be like Newcastle fans to get carrier away surely…(bearing in mind I am one 🤦♂️)
Not really the impact we hoped for as the defeats keep on coming and with just shy of 30 games played we remain in 17th place – that victory over Watford proving to be a six-pointer to give us a small bit of breathing space with the Hornets lying in 18th. Nothing works – Sanabria has shown signs of quality but is clearly taking his time settling in; the likes of Gayle and Joelinton simply cannot be relied on and most disappointingly Allan Saint-Maximin decides to go on the most barren of goal-scoring runs, clearly no-one willing to step up and drag us through what is now clearly a relegation battle.
I know what you’re thinking…any chance of some good news Madd?
We discussed recently on Episode 223 of 5 Star Potential how a big part of this save is our off-field activities, namely reinvigorating football in the North-East through investment in football across the region in the hope that we can raise the level and quality of player production not only at St. James Park but at the other North East football clubs surrounding us. We’ve committed to investing a minimum of £2 million per annum in other clubs to help them develop on this journey alongside us, and after already spending close to £200k in pre-season through friendlies with some of our neighbours, our first ever Youth Intake in this save gave us a good solid platform from which the Northern Boys narrative will hopefully kickstart. Having convinced the board to invest in our own Youth Facilities and Recruitment we saw a decent influx of youth candidates enter the fore in March, most notably the likes of Josh Mellor (elite!), Mpho Kameya and the brilliantly named Taylor Taylor who all look like they could feature highly as this save progresses. Mellor immediately attracts interest from the likes of Arsenal, Leicester, West Ham, Leeds and Aston Villa (they can all do one) and although both Kameya and Taylor are technically Welsh, we will allow them to be eligible having come straight from our own academy (but any other youth signings must be from the North East).
Youth Intake is a magical time of year, and also gave us the perfect opportunity to hand some cash over to our “affiliate” clubs in whose development we have a vested interest during this journey. The concept is simple – we slightly overspend on some of their better prospects, and in turn they get an influx of cash which will hopefully help propel them within their individual leagues and develop their own facilities, youth level, reputation etc – that’s the idea anyway, and the likes of Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Darlington, Gateshead, Spennymoor, Whitley Bay and Newcastle Blue Star are all benefactors of our North-East investment plan.
This brings our total local investment to £6.7 million between friendlies and player acquisitions – I’m like a modern day Mother Theresa at this stage 😌.
Local Investment (to Date)
Newcastle Blue Star
Season 1 Conclusion
Meanwhile back on-field, things are going…well, see for yourself:
With 5 games to go things were getting desperate – so much so that following our defeats against Arsenal and Man Utd the board’s patience began to wear thin and summoned us for our first ever showdown talks (and not the good kind). Might this be the first time that an FM enthusiast has installed a fictional Chairman only to be sacked by him within the first season??
Luckily Joe Ordiman is a reasonable man who likes a bit of sweet talking, and we convince him to trust the process even though our job status remains insecure and on the ropes as we make the journey South towards Burnley. Defeat here could put us in dangerous territory, however thankfully we pull together one of our best performances of the season as we pick up an excellent 4-2 win – Ryan Fraser scoring his (probable) last goal for the club before he leaves for Getafe at the end of the season, not to mention Allan Saint-Maximin finally breaking his duck and scoring in back-to-back games to leave us in 16th place by the end of April.
With 3 games to go our Premier League status is all but secured – we host Leicester knowing that a win will guarantee safety, while Crystal Palace travel to Burnley knowing only a win will keep their survival hopes alive. An unexpectedly crucial moment early in our Northern Boys saga…
In a game which epitomised our season, we held a strong Thiago Almada-inspired Leicester side for 82 mins before Wilfried Ndidi consigned us to defeat at St. James Park, however down in Burnley Chris Wood’s 62 minute header was enough to seal Crystal palace’s fate. I never thought I would actually have to write this but, WE ARE STAYING UP!!
That defeat dropped us back to 17th and after losing to Wolves in our next game we looked set to stay there as we entered the last day of the season, however our victory over Norwich combined with Southampton’s surprise defeat to Watford meant that we end up taking 16th place and in the end finishing comfortably outside the relegation zone. Liverpool walk away as league champions while it’s another disappointing season for both Tottenham and Arsenal who incidentally both sacked their managers during our opening season (Conte taking the Arsenal job and Bielsa moving to Tottenham).
All in all – a really tough start to our Northern Boys adventure. We knew it would be difficult especially early on with limited interest from the top end of our eligible player pool. The likes of Giovanni Reyna, Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford are all still out of reach however the £12 million received from Getafe for Ryan Fraser has clearly put our board in good form as they announce our budgets for next season:
What does one do with £35 million in a save universe where one can only sign players that were born/raised in the North-East of England and whom are interested in joining the 16th best club in the league?
We have a LOT to look forward to next season, our work has only just begun.
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.