We are the ‘Ton: The 2020 Vision

Before we get into this post, I just wanted to say thanks for reading the previous post on my ‘Ton tactic. You broke Occasional FM records (not hard!), and still are!

Ever since winning the Scottish Premiership, I’ve strayed away from doing the straight save updates on each season. Unless there’s a real hook, something unique about your save, or you’re a brilliant writer, I find they can get a bit tedious! There hasn’t really been anything to properly draw you in as readers to the ‘Ton save as yet. Until now hopefully!

If you’re a regular to Occasional FM, you might remember my A Home, Abroad series where I set out to only bring in players to Tenerife that had been released by clubs in the UK. In that save, I had a set of strict rules to adhere to. I’m a really big fan of bringing weirdly made-up, pretend aspects into the game. So with that in mind, let me introduce you to my new guiding ‘aims and philosophies’, The 2020 Vision for Greenock Morton.

The 2020 Vision

Since taking over at Morton at the beginning of the game we’ve had a meteoric rise in our standing in Scottish football. I’ve now reached the year 2020 in-game, and the club now sits alongside Celtic and Rangers as the top clubs in Scotland. Pretty remarkable really. After securing the Premiership title on our return to the top flight in 2017/18, we’ve secured back-to-back 2nd place finishes in 2018/19 and 2019/20. These achievements, alongside a Champions League group stage run in the 2018/19 season, and a run to the Europa League 2nd knockout round during 2019/20, have taken the club to the next level from a financial stand point too. At the end of Season 1, we broke even, relying on our previous underwriter chairman to keep the lights on. The windfall of money we received at the end of season 4 from the Champions League secured the club financially going forward, and enabled us to strengthen the squad in ways we could have only dreamed of previously.

After that summary, here’s the first aim we’ll be working towards as part of The 2020 Vision.

Finish, at least, in the top 3 of the Scottish Premiership each season.

Now, you’d maybe argue that I’m being unambitious here, but I want to keep things realistic and in perspective. Since gaining promotion to the Premiership, there hasn’t really been a whole lot of difference between Celtic, Rangers and ourselves, as you can see in the beautiful table below. In each season after our title win, we’ve bettered our points total from the season before, but it’s not been enough to win the league, as Rangers and then Celtic in the season just past have seriously upped their game.

Prem Points Comparison

Yes, over the three seasons we stand top in the total and average points totals. But taking everything into account between us and our Glasgow rivals, the playing field isn’t level at all. Which leads us on to aim number two.

Grow the Greenock Morton fan base.

The reason I’m being realistic and a bit unambitious with the first aim, is that I don’t actually believe that, when you compare the three clubs, we’re on the same level at all. I’m sure you’ll agree too when you have a look at another beautiful table below.

Prem Att Comparison

I know I’m completely ignoring all the past and historical factors that have gone into this, but I feel that this table really underlines how ridiculous it is that we, firstly, managed to win the Premiership at the first time of asking, and secondly, while we haven’t managed to retain it yet, we have been able to continue to compete against our Glasgow neighbours and rivals.

Our figures in the table are all the more impressive when it’s factored in that a good chunk of our fans are still having to stand at matches. Of our 11,589 capacity, we’ve only got 5,741 seats. While standing on the terraces is something that’s considered almost romantic amongst Scottish fans these days, and of course it’s widely accepted across Germany, it’s something that irks me. It infuriates me even more because it doesn’t meet the minimum requirements to play home European group stage matches at Cappielow. We have to play at St Mirren Park, who, if you’ll remember, are our fiercest rivals.

Looking at the sizes of Celtic Park and Ibrox, and considering the number of season ticket holders they have plus the number of fans they get paying on top of that each week means the sums they’re bringing into the club on gate receipts, matchday income and most probably, corporate facilities as well, is more than likely enough to dwarf our entire current overall balance.

I unfortunately don’t have the average attendance or season ticket figures for each of the past three seasons, so the figures in the table above are from the season just past, 2019/20, and they’ll be used as the benchmark to work against. However, I can look back at some fixtures from the past two seasons to do a comparison on attendances. Because our average attendance figures are slightly skewed because of our home games against Celtic and Rangers, when attendances break the 9,000 mark, I decided to just take a look at home games against Aberdeen, Hearts and Dundee United and compare the 2017/18 season against the season just past. The average rise in attendance against these clubs in as comparative fixtures as I could get is 2,668.

All things being considered here, it’s also not bad at all when you look at the attendance of my first home league match at the club in the 2015/16 season, 2,196.

So with all that being said, they’ll be three parts to this aim, and they are:

  1. Increase average attendances
  2. Increase the number of season ticket holders
  3. Increase the capacity of Cappielow

This aim is a tricky one, as I can almost control certain parts of it, like performances on the pitch, the purchasing of ‘big name’ players, whether our reputation as a club is increasing, etc. But there’s parts of it I can’t control, such as how big a town Greenock is, it’s attraction compared to other towns and cities in the country (in real life, it’s proximity to Glasgow and going through something all Scottish clubs have to go through, competing for fans with Rangers and Celtic), and the affluence of our fans.

This leads us onto aim number three, and something I’ve got a little bit more control over.

Establish a Scottish core.

I’ll be looking to, either by bringing through youth through our own system, or by purchasing young players from other clubs, establish a Scottish core to my first XI. What I mean by that is I’m aiming to have a Scottish goalkeeper, one Scottish centre back, one Scottish central midfielder and one Scottish striker.

This aim can be split into two parts; facilities and scouting.

As I mentioned before, our league success coupled with the Champions League group stage appearance all but secured our financial future for a couple of years, at least. It’s also enabled us to take that all important next step in an FM save, enhancing the facilities. I managed to successfully persuade the board to upgrade our youth facilities in the summer of 2019, meaning they’re now deemed ‘good’. Once I knew that a spot in Europe was secured for the upcoming 2020/21 season, I again asked the board to upgrade our youth facilities and again, the request was accepted. That upgrade is due to be completed in October 2020. We also have ‘good’ training facilities at the club, but right now, I’m choosing to prioritise our youth facilities.

Coupled with upgrading our facilities, I want to create an environment where it’s not just the players that are flourishing and progressing, but our coaches are too. Attracting and developing the best possible coaches to the club, will give our players the best possible opportunity to reach their potential. This all starts with the youth coaches, and I’ve been able to attract the popular choice for Head of Youth Development, Phil Cannon, to the club. I’ll be looking to send any coaches not up to a Continental A or Pro licence standard on coaching courses at the earliest opportunity.

In line with the aim of establishing a Scottish core to the team, scouting will shift from finding cheap targets abroad, to identifying the best home grown talent there is. To do this, I’ll be putting together a Scottish scouting network.

To begin with, I’ll have one scout assigned to the entire nation from the summer until the end of the year. This is to pick up on any talent I may not be completely familiar with, or that plays in the lower leagues. Another scout will be assigned to keep an eye on any young talents plying their trade regularly in the Under 20 league. One final scout out on a regular assignment will be tasked with looking at specific teams. The first batch of teams I’ve called out will be Hibs, Hamilton, Hearts (who all have great youth facilities at their clubs) and Livingston. All four of these clubs are fairly well renowned for producing prospects. Scott Brown, James McArthur and McCarthy, Craig Gordon and Robert Snodgrass are just a selection of talents to come from these clubs. Once a prospect has been flagged, our chief scout, ex-Morton player, Joe McLaughlin, will be sent to do a final assessment, with the final signing decision coming down to me.

The fourth and final aim is hugely intertwined with our scouting.

Answer the question, ‘What does a Morton player look like?’

This is a bit of an anti-climax, because I can’t answer this question yet. I’ll be digging in and coming up with a list of attributes I feel are required for Greenock Morton players. I’ll go through this in a separate blog post.

So to summarise all of that, here’s the 2020 Vision again.

  1. Finish, at least, in the top 3 of the Scottish Premiership each season.
  2. Grow the Greenock Morton fan base.
    1. Increase average attendances
    2. Increase season ticket holders
    3. Increase the capacity of Cappielow
  3. Establish a Scottish core.
    1. Youth facilities investment
    2. Youth coaching development
    3. The Scottish scouting network
  4. Answer the question, ‘What does a Morton player look like?’

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and get your input on the final aim. What attributes do you usually specifically look for in players you bring in to your clubs?

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