(Spoilers) – if you haven’t read the last installment of Northern Boys, do it now…IT WAS HUGE.
Welcome back….to….THE PREMIER LEAGUE. That’s right, our Northern Boys are back in the big time after the unlikeliest of promotions on the final day of last season, which means after 3 seasons of languishing in the Championship and 7 seasons overall of navigating this save series, our North-East only squad are finally back in the Top Flight and I honestly have no idea how on earth we will survive it…but more on that later.
One thing we didn’t touch on at the end of last season was a status update on our North-East development project where our goal is to reinvigorate football in the North-East region and elevate footballing production across all the surrounding clubs in the area. To date we have invested more than £72 million across the region, largely taking the funds earned from players sales of ASM, Willock, Wilson, et al and reinvesting this into our North-East counterparts via friendlies for cash, affiliate fees and over-zealous transfers where we buy low value players for exorbitant fees as a means of pumping cash in to their respective footballing coffers.
Let’s talk about South Shields again as there are truly remarkable things happening at this club. We previously spoke about how they had gained back-to-back promotions from Vanarama National North to Vanamara National, and then from Vanamara National to League 2. As you can see above we have given close to £12 million in development funding to South Shields as well as loaning them 8 players to date (they are one of our three official affiliate clubs in-game along with Hartlepool and Blyth). Not only have did they hold their own in League 2……THEY F*CKING WON IT.
Absolute scenes as these North-East minnows slowly make their way up the footballing pyramid and even more interestingly, despite the £12 million we’ve given them they themselves have only spent ~£480k over the past 3 seasons yet something is definitely brewing at this club and hopefully we can also see this filter into their North-East youth production in the coming season.
You’ll also see Hartlepool giving a stellar account of themselves finishing 9th in the league, while our other affiliate Blyth Spartans also had a great season following relegation last year – winning the Vanarama National League North to take a place in Vanarama National next season alongside Gateshead.
On a more negative note we start pre-season with some pretty grim news. Despite our best efforts and even after getting promoted to the Premier League, Lewis Gibson point blank refused to sign a new contract (been pissed ever since we rejected those bids from Roma and Napoli) and subsequently decides to sign for Trabzonspor in the Turkish League on a free transfer – very much a shame as one of our starting Centre Halves and at 27 would have been a big part of our survival bid (you better believe we will go back in for him in January). Gibson is followed out the door by Daniel Barlaser who despite starting 29 games last season also refused to renew his deal and opts to become a Free Agent rather than join us in the Premier League. Really Daniel? In a world where quality Northern Boys are a scarce commodity, this is slightly concerning when we think about trying to compete in the Premier League..
The Big Time
The Premier League is a wild old place in the year 2028. Since starting this save Liverpool have won it 4 times, Man Utd have won it twice and interestingly City winning just one title in 2025/2026. These three have made up the Top 3 every season bar two, with Arsenal finishing 3rd last year and Aston Villa randomly finishing 3rd in 2024 under one Frank Lampard.
Speaking of last year – not only did Man Utd win the league but they did so courtesy of on outstanding season from our ultimate Northern Boy Giovanni Reyna who finished the season with the highest Average Rating in the league (7.52) after bagging 13 goals and 6 assists in just 25 league games, which was also enough to nab him the Ballon D’Or ahead of Romelu Lukaku and Jude Bellingham. Suffice to say we won’t be seeing him in a black and white shirt for some time (if ever)..
Reyna isn’t the only Northern Boy to elude us permanently however 😔..
What does all this mean? Essentially it will be fairly slim pickings in the transfer market for us largely due to the fact that all of the top North-East born/raised players are already here and as you can see below, the only players that we would even have a sniff of signing would be our former Right-Back Nathan Wood, and Sunderland pair Dan Neil and the infamous chief of all chiefs John Wright who has refused to sign for us for 4 seasons straight such is his devotion to our closest rivals…
Not much we can do here except again commence the @FridayNightFM pursuit with little or no hope of any success. Let the games begin..
Step 1 – Watch from Afar
Step 2 – Chinese Whispers
Step 3 – Chat Sh*t, Get Banged
Step 4 – Peer Pressure
Step 5 – Pray
ABSOLUTE SCENES. After 5 years of begging, stalking, praying and sheer abuse on the man’s name – John Wright who at 15 looked like one of the best young defenders we had ever seen arrives at St. James Park aged 20 to help fight our cause for Premier League survival and is still young enough to be developed further having not really improved drastically since emerging as a Newgen. John Wright – Sunderland till he dies, the Mackem Mercenary, is finally a Northern Boy.
Our spending continues as we also pick up his Sunderland team mate Dan Neil (born in Hebburn) as a rotation option, while a couple of newgens are brought in with the signings of Kevin Williams (born in Hartlepool) and Russel Foster (born in Stockton-on-Tees) from Brentford, taking our total spending to €25m in our first season back in the Premier League and our 8th at the helm of Newcastle.
In other unexpected news…..
This was quite unplanned and unexpected to say the least!! In previous saves I have always wanted to get the Ireland job, and here we are in a save with no focus on international management and we get the offer without even having to interview!! This created a bit of a predicament..accepting it would mean even slower progress on the Northern Boys front (considering how slow I play as it is), while declining it means an Irishman turning down the chance to manage his country organically in FM. Decisions!!
As difficult as it is, the save must come first so we decline the offer to focus solely on Premier League survival and seeing out what will likely be our toughest season of this Northern Boys saga if the Media Prediction is anything to go by. Here, we, go….
Defenders: Fred Briggs*, Obeng Arthur*, Dael Fry, John Wright*, Mattie Pollock, Leif Davis, Kevin Williams*
Midfielders: Sean Longstaff, Lewis Wing, Shola Shoretire, Josh Mellor*, Elliott Embleton, Dan Neil, Gabriel Odumosu*, Elliott Anderson, Russell Foster*.
Forwards: Adam Armstrong, Sam Greenwood, Joe Hugill, Luke Young*, Josh Coburn
Naturally we are given a very generous start to the season with our first three PL games scheduled against Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Somewhat surprisingly however, we come out of it with 4 points and it should have been 7 only for a late goal by one Youssef Moukoko in that second game away to Chelsea, while somehow we manage to hold off Liverpool’s advances in Anfield so that big man Dael Fry could snatch a late winner!! This encouraging start gives us a huge boost going into September as we pick up another 7 points, and by mid-October we somehow find ourselves flying high in 6th place!!
While Adam Armstrong seems to struggle to adapt to life in the Premier League, it’s the likes of Shola Shoretire (my FM22 Player of the Year) and Gabriel Odumosu who are stepping up and carrying us through some incredibly tough games and if we can continue along in this vein then our relegation fears will surely start to recede…right?
We had to say it – we then went on a 4 game losing streak, and despite picking up a good 3-2 win away to Leeds, disappointing performances against the likes of Wolves, West Ham, West Brom and Middlesbrough see us slip right back to 11th and suddenly we are sliding downhill with nothing to stop the fall…that’s always a good time to play Man Utd in Football Manager right? I mean LOOK AT THAT TEAM 🤦♂️
Ninety-something minutes later…….
Not a clue. Somehow, after weeks of poor performances and struggling in front of goal, we found ourselves 3-0 up against last year’s champions and despite conceding two goals late on in an attempt to give me heart failure, we held on for an epic 3-2 victory. The downside to this is that it seems to knock the stuffing out of us for the rest of December and Christmas (pun fully intended), and by the end of 2028 we find ourselves still in a downward spiral in 15th place in the 2028/2029 Premier League season.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Surely we can do something in the transfer market. Surely there are some Northern Boys available that are better than what we have and that can help propel us back up the league towards safety and mid-table mediocrity. The honest truth is, short of Jordan Pickford (still at Everton), Nathan Wood (left us for Leeds) and Gio Reyna (banging for Man Utd) – there really isn’t. All are uninterested and therefore the challenge to improve this squad is greater than ever – we even went back in for Lewis Gibson (Trabzonspor) and Dan Barlaser (Central Coast Mariners) and both said no, chiefs. We must make do with what we have and see if we can somehow turn our fortunes around in 2029. Guess it’s up to me and my tactical astuteness right?
It’s bad. Oh so very bad. We try to mix things up, flicking between 4-1-2-3 and 4-4-2 but nothing seems to be clicking. After defying odds at the start of the season, the game is healing itself and suddenly we find ourselves all the way down in 17th place just a couple of points clear of relegation and in real trouble with Brighton, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest all looking up at us with glee as we spiral out of control..the only positive note is that our job remains stable, bearing in mind our original media prediction was 19th and club vision was to battle for survival…
Surely it can’t end like this. Not after all we have been through. Is our final legacy at this club to bring them our second relegation in 5 seasons and (with the close proximity we now have to FM23) leave them there to rot eternally? Even our Youth Intake was so poor it’s not even worth talking about…WE NEED A MIRACLE PEOPLE.
It’s not over until it’s over. While Man Utd gain their revenge as expected, we pick up crucial back to back wins over two of our relegation rivals, and draws either side of that loss to Arsenal mean we pick up 8 points from 15 before defeat against Leicester opens it up once more with Brighton and Norwich both picking up points around us and Middlesbrough storming out of the relegation zone after winning 3 on the bounce and going unbeaten in 5. With just 3 games to go and two of them against two of our closest relegation rivals Brighton (a) and Norwich (h), it’s all to play for as we look to survive our first season back in the Premier League..only Liverpool to beat next..
It all comes down to this and by god it’s a bloodbath down here. Four teams on 32 points – the only thing we know for sure is that we need a better result than both Brighton and Bournemouth, both in terms of points and goals. One game to decide our fate and determine how this save will live on in memory. Win and we walk out with our heads held high knowing we gave the Northern Boys conquest our all and silenced many haters along the way. Lose and it’s another relegation, more mass exodus and quite likely we will finally be sacked after pushing the board to the limit throughout this save. After everything we have achieved and all the blood, sweat, tears, hours and anguish we have put into this save – it all boils down to the next 90 minutes..
THE FINAL ACT
Newcastle United vs Norwich City
Sunday 13th May 2029
0′ – Newcastle kick us off here at St. James Park in a must win game for the hosts today.
4′ – GOAL FOR NEWCASTLE!! Odumosu jumps on the through ball from Dan Neil and he calmly finishes…but wait, is he offside? VAR are taking a look….
4′ – THE GOAL STANDS!! Newcastle 1-0 Norwich (Odumosu 4′)
7′ – GOAL FOR NEWCASTLE AND IT’S ODUMOSU AGAIN!! This time Armstrong is the creator and Odumosu breaks the offside trap and this time there is no need for VAR intervention. Newcastle 2-0 Norwich (Odumosu 7′)
8′ – CLOSE! El Hadj goes through on goal for Norwich but Woodman is equal to it and saves.
20′ – SAVE!! What a stop by Woodman who denies El-Hadj from scoring a screamer in the top corner,that looked set for the postage stamp.
38′ – GOAL FOR NORWICH!! A free kick close to the byline is swung into the back post and Reynolds rises above Shoretire to head into an empty goal, poor defending really. Newcastle 2-1 Norwich (Reynolds 38′)
47′ – Half Time. Newcastle 2-1 Norwich. Not much between these two sides but Newcastle have taken their chances, meanwhile Forest currently lead at Bournemouth and Brighton are scoreless away to Tottenham. As it stands, Newcastle are staying up but there’s still a long way to go…
45′ – Second half kicks off.
55′ – OFF THE POST! Another Norwich free-kick is headed by Reynolds but this time he hits the upright, Newcastle need to get a grip of their set-piece defending and quickly – Ivan Toney is warming up for Norwich..
67′ – MISS! Shoretire with the chance to make it 3 for Newcastle, he goes 1v1 with the keeper after a lovely pass from Longstaff but Grbic makes himself big and makes the save. Corner to Newcastle but it’s easily dealt with by the Norwich defence.
68′ – Double substitution for Newcastle as Wing and Greenwood replace Mellor and the injured Odumosu, he’s been Newcastle’s best player today.
74′ – ALMOST AN OWN GOAL! Norwich get lucky as Cobbaut’s poor pass hits the Norwich post!
83′ – GOAL FOR NORWICH!! Wouldn’t you know it, it’s former Newcastle Striker Ivan Toney who heads in a cross and it’s again poor defending by Newcastle who now drop back into the relegation zone as it stands with Forest still leading at Bournemouth, they need something big to happen. Newcastle 2-2 Norwich.
88′ – GOAL FOR NEWCASTLE!! And it has happened!! A fantastic ball over the top finds Armstrong in an onside position and he calmly finishes to make it 3-2!! Unbelievable scenes here…
90′ – GOAL FOR NEWCASTLE!! I CAN’T KEEP UP!! ST. JAMES PARK IS IN RUPTURES AS DAEL FRY HEADS HOME LEWIS WING’S FREE KICK TO MAKE IT 4-2!! THIS SURELY SEALS IT FOR NEWCASTLE!!
94′ – THE FINAL WHISTLE GOES!! Newcastle have done it, securing Premier League status for another season at least and defying what many considered to be all odds to avoid relegation. It certainly hasn’t been easy for the Magpies this year after that horrendous run from December through to February, but that will all be in the past now as this Northern side celebrate survival on the final day, heartbreak for Nottingham Forest whose victory away to Bournemouth wasn’t enough and saw both teams relegated along with Brighton whose draw with Tottenham also wasn’t enough.
A note from the Author….✍️
Incredible. Another season that went down to the wire, and another final day of drama and madness which pretty much has been the theme of this save throughout whether it be here on the blog or when we were live on Twitch where the sh*t literally hit the fan on so many occasions. Incredibly – our buddies at South Shields finished 8th in League 1 and will be joined by our other affiliates Hartleppol next season, while Blyth gave a good account of themselves to finish 8th in the Vanarama National. At least we can say we made a positive mark on those clubs right? 😄
When we started our Northern Boys adventure way back in November 2021, I never dreamed it would (a) take this long, (b) be so hard, (c) become its own FM Save Challenge which we dubbed the Regionnaire and had many community members attempt elsewhere, or (d) create so much in terms of entertainment and engagement with every one of you that have been a part of this story so far. Search Filters, Spreadsheet Nerds, Guinness, Affiliations, Joe Ordiman, Paddlin, Covid, Newgens, Regionnaire, Kits, Relegation, Fred Briggs, Boyle, Willie Power, Goalkeeping Howlers, VAR, Injuries, Chiefs, Focus, Promotion – it’s safe to say we’ve had it all in this series which has most definitely been my favourite ever save in Football Manager (despite how long it took to come to an end!). Overall it has been the most difficult challenge I’ve faced in FM – the lack of quality players available and interested throughout continuously held us back, however the realism and persistent difficulty of the save made for even more interesting gameplay and narrative, and I can only thank each and every one of you that have tagged along and been part of this adventure. Particular shout-outs to those who helped keep the Covid streams going on Twitch (Razz, Shrewnaldo, KC, David, Jase, the Matts, Brian, Jack, Chris, Jamie, James, Mvd, Niall, Pinky, Eoghan, Aaron, José, Slemp, Adam, Cal, Phil and all of you whom I forgot to mention as it was a long time ago!), not to mention those in Discord/Slack, the @5StarPod lads for listening to my traumatic updates and of course everyone who has read, followed, liked, commented or retweeted at any point throughout this save.
To look at it in numbers – 16 days and 11 hours of gameplay; 2869 days at the helm of Newcastle, 83 players bought (£251m), 36 players sold (£163m), £72m spent on North-East development, 341 games played, 38% win percentage, 519 goals scored, 540 goals conceded (sums it up really), 1 relegation, 1 promotion, 1 epic journey completed. Unfortunately our time with FM22 is rapidly coming to a close with the release of FM23 just a few weeks out, so it’s time to put this save to bed and move on to pastures new. The good news (or bad news) is that I have already settled on a brand new club and a brand new save narrative for FM23 which will be disclosed very shortly – be sure to follow me on Twitter as well as hit the Follow button below so you can be aware immediately once we have lift-off, and of course listen to 5 Star Potential each Monday for updates and great FM23 content. We go again – thanks once more, enjoy the memories and see you soon for more FM-ensued madness.