We’re double treble winners coming into my thirteenth season at Stirling. If Celtic can call it that, then we can too. Would we end it lucky and be crowned treble treble winners? My aim for this season is to do just that.
I keep getting asked about Europe and putting more of a focus behind trying to better ourselves there. I’m just happy enough to keep winning the SPL, taking us to the group stage of the Champions League, and ideally, making it out of the group each season. From there, it’s the luck of the draw and we’ll see where it takes us. Last season it was eventual winners, Porto, that knocked us out at the quarter final stage. It was a chance, a big chance, that we might not get again any time soon. We’ll see what happens this season, but don’t expect to read about a Champions League win any time soon. I’m not.
You’ve seen me go through my transfers across season thirteen already, so let’s get down to business.
Gladbach, Chelsea and PSG is a tough group, with the Germans being one of the tougher 4th seeds in the draw. We’d shown last season that we could upset the odds and overcome the financial might of our neighbours down south, beating Arsenal at home and drawing at the Emirates last season. We’d have to do the same this season with their London rivals.
We raced out of the blocks and into a 3-goal lead at home against Gladbach, before being hit back and just sneaking that win on matchday one. When Nigerian forward, Afolabi, scored in the 90th minute at the Bridge it looked as though we’d snatched all three points, but Chelsea hit back in the 94th minute to claim a draw. A good result pre-match, but it’s always disappointing to throw a win away like that. I wasn’t expecting anything from the PSG double-header, that home point could potentially be a bonus come the end of the group stage. It was an even match, but the same can’t be said for the return game. PSG battered us. FM phenomenons, Vinicius Junior and Ousmane Dembele, are still pulling the strings in their early 30s. I was surprised we scored to be honest and surprised they only scored four from their 35 shots on goal.
A cracking Marty Griffiths treble downed Gladbach and put us right in the hunt for a place in the knockout round. I said that point at home versus PSG might be a bonus…
An incredible performance against the Blues on matchday six secures second place, as PSG crash into the Europa League having been beaten home and away by the group winners. We certainly sneaked our way through that one. That was where our luck would end in continental competition this season though.
We rarely threatened United across the two legs, as they eased past us without even shifting into second gear. We didn’t lose to the eventual champions this season though, as Miroslav Djukic’ Barcelona won the trophy for the first time since 2014/15. Pleased to progress through the group again though and I don’t think there’s much shame in being defeated by one of the best teams in the world.
The domestic cups seem like a formality for us now. We played well against Celtic in the season showpiece and cruised our way to a fourth consecutive Scottish Cup win. Well, we cruised every round bar the 3rd round. Dundee took us to extra-time at Dens Park and it looked as though our hold over the famous trophy was about to end. I threw everything at it. The 4-4-2 was a 2-4-4 going into the dying seconds when the impossible happened. The match usually just peters out when it comes to the end of extra time, but remarkably Sambu got us level while Darren McDonald sent the Stirling fans into raptures as he struck right on full time. That’s why we’re the best team in the country.
It was nice to return to Forthbank for a Stirling derby against the Uni in the next round after the Dundee dramatics. While QoS, Aberdeen and Motherwell were all demolished en route to new captain, ‘keeper Birk Kleven, lifting the trophy infront of a sold-out Samo Stadium (because I forgot to tick a box in the editor to play it at Hampden when I set up the database…).
On to league action with the treble treble firmly in sight.
If you’re expecting top notch tactical analysis on a match-by-match basis, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’ve been playing the same way for at least eight seasons now and rarely stray away from it. Sometimes it doesn’t go our way, like the Hibs game, our now customary defeat to get the pressure of another unbeaten season off our backs. Or the 2-2 Kilmarnock draw, where we needed a 92nd minute strike from Coulibaly, our left back, to snatch a point. More often than not it’s glorious to watch, like the 6-0 demolishing of Rangers, or each of the four goal shows against Hearts, Raith, Hamilton, Dundee United or Falkirk.
Related to that last gasp draw v Killie, one highlight of the season was our ability to score late on. You saw it against Dundee in the Scottish Cup, a Cho Chang double in the last five minutes downed Morton on matchday two, Chang again and Marty Griffiths made the Dundee United scoreline more convincing in the last five minutes while another 92nd minute strike, this time from Moussa Diaby, secured a 1-0 win against Celtic. This continued in the second half of the season too. Diaby hit another late winner at Tynecastle to down Hearts while Darren McDonald equalised in the 89th minute to secure a draw away against Aberdeen and keep that unbeaten record intact stretching back to that Hibs defeat.
Yeah, winning the league again is cool, but have you ever seen Celtic have such a poor season?! They joined us in the Champions League knockout round this season, a first for Scottish clubs during my time at Stirling, but huffed and puffed their way to 12 draws and eight league defeats. Murray Davidson was sacked before the turn of the year, while his replacement, Jay McEveley lasted less than 200 days. Colin Walker is the man trusted to lead the charge going forward. He’s had a rapid rise since beginning his managerial career at Whitehill Welfare in 2025.
Rangers weren’t actually much better across the season, but did manage to improve and drag themselves into the Europa League group stage next season. The mighty St Johnstone will join us in the Champions League, albeit facing the dreaded best placed qualifying rounds. I feel it might be a struggle for them to join us in the group stage.
What about us though? Well we scored less, conceded more and drew four more matches this season compared to last. Those last gasp points gained were deserved in most cases but we’ve been quite lucky that the rest of the league also regressed slightly along with ourselves. The gap did close, but not by much. On the whole, we relied on this man quite a bit…
You thought Cho Chang had a good season last season? He level upped this season. Firstly, he won the European Golden Boy award and we spent January fending off bids for him. I wasn’t ready to lose him halfway through the season like I have been comfortable doing with other players in the past. He carried us at times, he did that last season too, but I’m sure we felt heavier for him this season compared to last. He managed to hit the back of the net 20 times and set up 24 goals too, equaling our assist record for a season so far. He swept up in the end of season awards, taking home Football Writers’ Player and Young Player of the Year, plus the Players’ Player and Players Young Player of the Year trophies. Of course he won the Fans Player of the Year too, and smashed the previous average rating record for a season too (7.98), set by himself last season (7.90).
It wasn’t long after the season finished that his unbelievable form got him noticed again and as it goes he won’t be with us for much longer. Manchester United have activated his £32.5m release clause. It is the Circle of Transfers after all…
Like I’ve alluded to during the results summary, we were poorer overall this season and that reflected in a few of the other individual performances. Enca Sambu still managed to score his 26 goals to add to his 26 goals from last season and 26 goals from season 11, but he played much less this season as I looked to increase Marty Griffiths’ gametime even further. He managed to score 18 and set up 11. Ondrej Lukas cemented his position as our rock at the back, but I’m considering moving him into midfield next season to make way for Joe Carr and Brian Hendry, two young Scottish CBs who have big futures at the club. I’ll likely discuss this a bit further soon, but I really want to start moving back towards a more homegrown feel across the playing staff as my time at the club starts to wind down.
Our strong performances in the Champions League over the last couple of seasons sees the club move into the top 20 in the coefficient table and the top 40 most reputable clubs on the continent. Not bad considering where we started out when I joined the club.
We played the majority of our home matches at Hampden last season, so the move back to the expanded, but still smaller, Samo Stadium, has seen the average attendance drop (by 0.4%) for the first time since season three. The board have sanctioned another expansion though, which will take our capacity to 25k. That’ll see our season ticket holder numbers continue to rise after a 12% increase this season versus last. It won’t be enough to recover the 17% loss we made on gate receipts this season though, again stemming from some of those big home matches we played at the national stadium last season.
The club bank balance is sitting at just under £300m now which is testament to the transfer approach and success we’ve been having as a result of it. We made £96m from player sales this season and spent just over £4m.
Moneyball sign to sell baby! What’s left still to grow? We’ve got a training facility upgrade happening alongside the stadium expansion, and there’s still a couple of data analysis facility levels to move up too I believe. I’m still looking to add more affiliate clubs alongside our current partners Newcastle Jets, RC Lens, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Shandong and Sigma Olomouc (the latter two being new this season). That’ll help us continue to grow our reputation and commercially, a key aspect of the club strategy. Even more money in the coffers would be nice.
Thanks for reading!
I’m struggling to comprehend how I’ve got through 13 seasons so far in this save, my longest ever save on any Football Manager, with time to extend that record yet. I’ll really need to consider a site rebrand if this amount of gametime continues in future. The quest for success isn’t letting up on FM18, I still want more domestic domination and I’ve earmarked at least another two seasons of it before FM19 hits us.
Started a new save to wind down FM18? Here’s some Scottish player recommendations.
Maybe you’ve gone a big club, get Kieran Tierney snapped right up.