A Strategy for Stirling

In my saves on previous editions of Football Manager I’ve tended to set out quite structured aims and targets at the beginning of the save. This time round with Stirling we started out in the third tier and I knew I eventually wanted to grow the club and take it to the next level but one of the main initial aims I had was survival. We were part-time and forward-planning is a bit of a dirty word at that level like I said in my initial introductory post. Fast forward to the beginning of the 2026/27 season and we’ll be starting season ten with the aim of retaining the SPL crown after the clubs first ever top tier title win last season. Who’d have thought it?

The club has obviously come a long way in that time, and the restructured Scottish football leagues seem to have enabled clubs in the country to go from strength to strength. With all of these things in mind, plus the fact that Stewart Brown, our long-standing chairman in-game, stepped aside after the title win to be replaced by Graeme Mackay, I felt it was time to get some aims written down. I’ll be looking to keep these things front of mind over the next part of the save. Here’s my Strategy for Stirling.

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Samo’s Stirling – Season Nine

If I get through my ninth season in charge of Stirling on FM18 (this post could end with a sacking for all you know…), it’ll be well on track to be my longest save on any game since CM01/02. There’s still so much more left to achieve too. Let’s get into it.

It began with a glamour friendly against Bastardo’s Estudiantes to open our new 14k capacity home, the Samo Stadium. I really would recommend you go and read that post, plus FMGrasshopper’s accompanying initial post in our mini-series. Both detail the more interlinked than you know nature of Argentinian and Scottish football, plus both include my Stirling side getting our arses handed to us by La Plata’s finest. It wasn’t the nicest way to open our new home.

The media’s predictions of how we’ll do this season have risen, they reckon we’ll finish 3rd behind Celtic and Rangers. While the board, of which there’s takeover rumours currently swirling, want us to qualify for Europe. I’d be delighted to qualify for Europe again. With more sensible decision making in the transfer market and a quality addition or two, could we go one better than our consecutive 2nd place finishes? Could we upset the Celtic/Rangers duopoly on the SPL title?

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Samo’s Stirling – Grand Opening of Samo Stadium

Having successfully established Stirling as one of the best clubs in Scotland on the pitch, it was time to do this off the pitch too. We’d quickly outgrown our 3,808 capacity Forthbank home, we were unable to play our home European matches there (because home European matches are a thing now for the club!), and halfway through my seventh season in charge the board sanctioned a request to have a new stadium built. Just in time for the beginning of my ninth season in charge of Stirling, we’ll move into our brand spanking new 14k capacity home (you noticed the background image change, didn’t you?).

Nobody wants to be playing in the Stirling Albion Stadium. It’s uninspiring and the game needs to get better on things like this. So I went out and bought the in-game editor purely to change the name of our new stadium. Pure mad mental? Aye, probably. But fuck it. Welcome to the Samo Stadium.

It’s customary to open a new stadium with fanfare, fireworks and a fancy friendly match. You’ll have read what happened when I took my Stirling side to Argentina to face Bastardo’s Estudiantes side to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our club forming. Having kept in touch in the years since, including his recommendation to Walter Samuel to join as my new assistant manager last season, I felt it was only right to invite Bastardo’s bastards to Stirling to crack open the champagne bottle on the side of the Samo Stadium. Oh, and to play some football too of course.

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Samo’s Stirling – Season Eight

Last season we finished 2nd and qualified for the Champions League for the first time. Unbelievable. Being the filling in a Celtic and Rangers sandwich has certainly come sooner than I was expecting, which seems to be the recurring theme of this save so far. My Stirling players continue to surprise me and I’m basically just happy enough joining them all on the ride.

Season eight will be a different story to the rest so far, there’s a little bit of pressure being applied. The board expect us to qualify for the Europa League, while the preseason prediction is that we’ll finish in the top six. We’ve got a responsibility to the rest of the teams in the country now too to do well in Europe and sustain our strong coefficient. We also need to have a strong season so that there’s still a wave of positivity surrounding the club when we move into the newly built Samo Stadium (not yet called this, but it bloody will be) at the beginning of season nine.

For now though, onwards with season eight!

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Samo’s Stirling – Stirling Futures

Season Seven’s post was titled “Kicking On” because I think there comes a time in every FM save when you need to do just that. Me taking my Stirling side to the next level hasn’t been deliberate and it certainly wasn’t planned to happen this early on. I really should stop coming across as moaning about it. We’ve flown under the radar since gaining promotion to the SPL, overachieving our status and reputation to qualify for Europe in three of my four seasons in the top tier of Scottish football. This culminated in a 2nd place finish last season, taking us into the Champions League qualifiers in my eighth season. Add that to making the 1st knockout round of the Europa League last season and work starting on a brand spanking new stadium for us to move into in the summer ahead of season nine, it’s safe to say we’ve certainly kicked on.

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Samo’s Stirling – Season Seven – Kicking On

We enter into my seventh season in charge of Stirling now, and our fourth season in the Scottish Premier League. Season four saw us avoid relegation, while we overachieved massively in both season five and six. Finishing 3rd and 4th saw us qualify for the Europa League. I now feel safe to say we’ve consolidated our position as an SPL side and the financial gains from domestic and continental prize and TV money across the last three seasons have helped us get the club on a sound footing. This saw us taking the first steps to improving our facilities last season. Despite the board giving me a transfer budget of £10m to splash this season, there was no way I’d be spending it. The bank balance is secure, but it’s not sustainable yet. There’s still work to do to get there, we’ve still got the lowest average attendance in the league and are limited by our current stadium of improving that.

That £10m transfer kitty was accompanied by an expectation to finish in the top half. Based on our performances over the last couple of seasons, I was confident we could achieve this and then some. We might be sitting 13th in the league salary per annum table (Celtic £41m p/a, Rangers £22m p/a, Stirling £2.7m p/a) but we’ve appeared to revel in punching above our weight so far and I can see us continuing to do so.

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FM18 Tactics: 4-4-2

I grew up watching football at a time when 4-4-2 was the standard across Scottish and English football. Beckham and Giggs on the flanks, Keane and Scholes centrally and Yorke and Cole up top are my most vivid memories of the formation. Even now, on terraces across Scottish football you’ll still hear some rage when teams aren’t playing “two up top”.

You can catch me waxing lyrical on the OneMoreGame podcast, on FMSlack or on Twitter about my 4-4-2 on FM18. I felt it was about time I got some words down in blog form too.

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Samo’s Stirling – Season Six – Domestic Consolidation

After you’ve read all about our European exploits in the first half of the season, come back here and have a read of how we got on domestically in my sixth season in charge of Stirling Albion on FM18.

In case you missed it, we overachieved above all expectations last season and finished as the best of the rest behind Rangers and Celtic. In comparison to our league rivals, we’re absolute minnows. We spend a fraction of what they do on our players wages and we’re playing in the smallest stadium in the league. Punchin’ ??

This season, the bookies expect us to finish 11th in the SPL, giving odds of 300/1 to win the league. After our heroics last season the board would be delighted with consolidating our place in the top tier and finishing mid-table. That’ll do me nicely. Let’s see what we could do with that £100k transfer budget they gifted me.

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Samo’s Stirling – Season Six – European Adventure

It’s been a couple of weeks now and I’m still in disbelief about last season. Going from battling relegation in our first season in the SPL to finishing 3rd and qualifying for Europe in our second season is ridiculous, quite frankly. We overachieved massively expectations-wise, but across the season, we actually deserved it. We played some brilliant football, with #Rog and Ryan Hardie firing on all cylinders and our young captain, Ryan Porteous, leading the backline.

So European football eh? Let’s just not embarrass ourselves, that’s the aim. Kilmarnock’s Scottish Cup win trumps our 3rd place league finish so the journey starts in the 2nd qualifying round with a trip to Sweden to face IFK Göteborg.

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Samo’s Stirling – Season Five – WTF!?

I’ve only just managed dry myself off after being so close to not being able to keep our heads above the choppy water of the SPL relegation zone in season four and we’re back again for the season five review!

The media expects us to finish 16th this season, they’re not backing us to build on last season’s survival, while my board are more than happy to just avoid relegation again. My own feeling is that we need to significantly strengthen if we want to remain in the league, never mind improve on last season’s 13th place finish.

We had some really positive results last season, and even more positive performances. A couple of quality acquisitions might just see the mistakes decrease, a few more goals scored instead of missed chances and turn the disappointing reds and yellows on the results screen into a sea of green. Keep reading to see how we get on.

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