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Standing Free – Aberdeen – 1.0

Scotland used to be on the European football map. Not anymore.

Aberdeen used to be a force to be reckoned with, not just at home, but abroad too. Not anymore.

It’s time to bring those times back again. The Scottish Professional Football League has just been restructured, and it’s time to restore the glory days back to the Granite City, and back to Scottish football.

If you know your history

The first thing I’m sure many of you non-Scottish readers will think of when they hear Aberdeen being mentioned is, of course, Alex Ferguson. Scottish readers, they’ll be no mentions of the ‘S’ word in these updates! Sir Alex was in charge between 1978 and 1986, overseeing the club’s greatest period of success. He not only brought domestic success to the club, winning the top tier of Scottish football in 79/80, 83/84 and 84/85, alongside four Scottish Cup’s, but he also brought European success to the club, as they defeated Bayern Munich and Real Madrid on their way to becoming European Cup Winners’ Cup winners in 1983. The club also beat Hamburg to win the European Super Cup in the 83/84 season.

Fergie left in November 1986, the rest in history in his case, but for Aberdeen, it’s fair to say things haven’t been the same. A couple more cup wins in the 90s, with their last major honour coming in 2014, the League Cup, around 19 years after the last cup win. That’s too long to wait for a trophy for a club of Aberdeen’s stature and history.

Club profile

One of the first things I like to do when I join a new club is check out the facilities that are on offer. The stadium, training and youth facilities, plus the level of junior coaching and youth recruitment.

AFC Facilities

Not too bad a start at all. As I’ll mention later, youth and development will be high on the agenda for this save, as I’m sure it is with most of your saves too. With that in mind, I’ll be looking to improve both the training and youth facilities at the earliest opportunity. This will hopefully give us a good start when it comes to developing not just our own players, but attracting new players to the club, and improving them too.

The initial transfer budget was paltry to say the least. £171k. That certainly won’t stretch very far as a starting point, which may limit our potential to be active in the initial transfer window. I did dip my toe into the market though, as I’ll outline later on.

The way we’ll play

AFC XI

Here’s my ideal starting XI, all being well. The wing wizardry that goes on with this tactic is just perfectly suited to Logan and Shinnie at right and left back, plus Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes were born to be my inside forwards. Thanks to the FM Whizzkids update, Joe Lewis is in goals, while captain, Ryan Jack, will protect the back line. Kenny McLean and Peter Pawlett carry the danger from central midfield, while I’m expecting Adam Rooney to at least hit 20 goals this season up front. If you want to read about this tactic, and download it if that’s your thing, you can do so here.

Initial transfer dealings

Upon joining a new club, I don’t like to make too many changes at all to the playing staff. The first season is usually spent evaluating who’s up to scratch. However, I felt the squad were a little light in certain areas, so I made a few moves, despite the transfer budget not being to my desire.

Lewis Milne fits the buying Scottish bill. He’s someone I know I can rely on after managing him at Morton too. He’s got a great personality and can fit easily into both central midfield roles in the tactical setup. My coaches don’t rate him at all, but I gladly parted with £30k to bring him to Pittodrie. Jose Baxter is a name I’m sure a few of you will be familiar with. He’s a bit of a wildcard signing, which I felt I needed, on a free transfer nonetheless so nothing to lose at all. He’s someone that may not be completely consistent, but is capable of a bit of magic every now and again. I haven’t quite decided on where he’ll be lining up on the pitch, but I see him slotting in anywhere across the midfield.

Sukurov was a slight panic purchase, albeit on a free, but we definitely needed cover at right back for Shay Logan, and he’ll do a job for a season, at least. Bal was offered to me by his agent, and I thought I’d take a free risk on an 18 year old winger. He’s got great determination, and I’m hoping he can improve with a bit of focused training and some minutes on the pitch.

Backroom staff

Before we look to improve the facilities at the club, my backroom staff needed some attention. The club only had an assistant and a goalkeeping coach so I set about bolstering my team.

AFC Coaches 1

As I said, Docherty was already at the club. My preference for my assistant is to help me out with tactical advice, mostly on our opposition so I’ll be looking to replace him when possible.

French and Albiston have ideal personalities for a coach, they’ll be overseeing the attacking and defensive coaching, respectively. Lumsden, probably best known for that ill-fated spell as one of Moyes’ coaches at Man United, comes in to coach our shooting.

AFC Coaches 5

Dave Kevan joins the club as our new head of youth development, with his professional personality that’ll hopefully rub off on our intakes.

I’ve kept the scouting team small initially, as I’m not looking to cast the net far and wide. Dickson and Rooney are new arrivals, and join our head scout, Richardson, who was already at the club. We have one other scout too, but he doesn’t have my required attributes so will be leaving alongside my assistant manager at the earliest opportunity. At the moment, I’ve got the scouts scouring Scotland, England and Scandinavia for talent, as I have a few rough guiding principles that’ll I’ll be following throughout the save.

Rough principles

I’ve got a few principles that I want to guide me through this save. I’ll go through my initial aims for the season, and for the long term, in a second, but for now those principles are:

Prioritise Scottish signings

We need at minimum 8 players trained in Scotland in our match day squad. This aim might be quite tricky as the seasons go by as what I’ve seen is that, similar to what’s happening in the EPL, a Scottish premium starts to appear. In fact, it’s a wider issue that FM should address, AI clubs want unrealistic amounts for their players, and expect you to part with your players for pennies in comparison.

Don’t be afraid to promote youth

In the past, I’ve not been as good as I should have been at having confidence in my youth players to step up and break into my first team squad. However, they’ll have to be especially good prospects, as youth players unfortunately have to be picked and count towards the 25 man squad. 3 of the matchday squad must have been trained at the club however, so having a conveyor belt of talent ready to step into the 25 man squad is vital.

Seek profit

Who doesn’t run their club on Football Manager like a business? I need to maximise the amount of money I bring into the club, and the easiest way to do that on FM? Buy cheap, sell big. This is especially prevalent in the Scottish league system, where the initial lack of funds and difficulty in qualifying for the group stages of European competition make it difficult to compete with the elite.

Aims for the season

Qualify for Europe

The immediate aim for the 2015/16 season is to qualify for European competition via our league position or by winning the Scottish Cup. Only the league winner gets into the Champions League, I don’t believe we’re quite ready for the Champions League yet, so I’ll more than settle for Europa League qualification.

Challenge for the title

As you saw with my Morton save, because of the way the AI horrifically manages their clubs, Celtic and Rangers by no means dominate the league as much as they should. I’ll be looking to push them all the way this season, and at least, put up a good challenge for the title. If I win it, what a bonus it’ll be.

Long term aims

Win the Premiership

This might happen this season, it might not, but of course, the ultimate aim has to be to win the Premiership title.

Consistently win the Premiership

After that first title win is out of the way, I’ll be looking for us to continually win the league, and create a new era of domination.

Compete in Europe

Scotland lie in 23rd place in the European coefficient rankings table, with 17.900 points. The short term aim is to improve that points total and climb the table. This means Scottish wins and draws in Europe. It requires effort from all the clubs, which does mean it’s somewhat out of our control. Scottish clubs have been particularly shocking in Europe over the last couple of years. It’s time we competed again. 15th position or above means two clubs enter the Champions League, and means an extra club enters the latter stages of Europa League qualifying, so that’s the initial aim.

Challenge in Europe

This really is a long term aim. Unsettle Europe’s elite, qualify for the group stages, qualify from those groups, and challenge in the knockout rounds. Can Aberdeen become champions in Europe again?

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