I didn’t grow up with soccer. As an American I grew up watching baseball and American football and really never knew much about soccer. I never really learned much about the sport until I was up in the later years of my life. But now that I’ve learned quite a bit, I love it! I’m actually a bit sad that I can’t watch some of the lower league matches on tv!
What I can do though is play them out in a video game. When I was a kid video game soccer looked like this:
Now what can I really learn from this? Not much. But that was years ago. In the past couple of years I’ve been learning more and more about English football, transfers, player loans, and things like that. Now I’m by no means an expert, but I think I could run a team with a reasonable amount of success. I’m sure every sports fan thinks that though, don’t they? Walk into any pub in England and I’m sure you can find a group of people who will tell you exactly why their favorite team isn’t run correctly.
And so we come to the video game FIFA 15. This game gives you a chance to play with not only English football teams, but teams in leagues all over the world! But of course I wanted to try playing in the English leagues. My first choice for a team was Port Vale. They earned promotion not long ago and moved up into “League 1” from “League 2”. They have a bit of money, and it was fun trying to manage them for a few games, but I was curious about more. I tried managing teams like the Tottingham Spurs and Manchester City. Both have a lot of really good players (Both are also top teams in the Barkely’s Premiere Leage or BPL. That’s the top English football league.) and money to spend on transferring in any players you might like to add to your squad, but this seemed a bit easy.
I wondered who was the bottom of the English leagues. Who was the one team that was just struggling to survive. I went into league two and found a small team called Accrington Stanley. Feel free to click on the name and check out the real life team. I figured I can take control of them in FIFA 15 and move them right to the top of the English leagues no problem at all. I looked them up on YouTube and found a few really nice videos about them. Their motto is “The team that wouldn’t die.” I like that! And so I started my career as Accrington Stanley manager.
First off, they don’t have much money. And even if they did have a lot of money, they’re part of League 2 which means that even if I could afford to buy some big time players, they won’t want to play for a small time team like this. Ouch. So I’ll have to start out with some young players. No problem though, I figured I could find a few 17 or 18 year olds and pick them up cheaply. Then you just develop these guys and end up with a good team, right? Right…?
Again, Accrington Stanley doesn’t have much money which means I can’t afford to buy any players with tons of potential. Damn. Maybe if I transfer a few of the older Accrington players I can get more money to buy the younger players? That didn’t work out either because poor Accrington doesn’t have very many players. I need everyone I have just to keep them playing! I manage to transfer in two guys before I run short on money. They are CB Stephen Best who is 17 and LM Fionn Reilly who is 18. All these guys are real life soccer players too, which makes things interesting.
I do have a few other youngsters on the team and will have to make due. So I divided my small team into two team sheets. One with a lot of the younger players on it, and one with most of my older players. I figured I could rotate them as I played matches and keep everyone fresh and rested. Before my first “friendly” match one of my 18 year old players named Luke Greaves asks to play even though he’s not listed as a first team starter. I do have him starting on the younger team sheet, so I’ll just play that team in the friendly.
We play a small club called Latina for our friendly. Luke runs out happily onto the pitch ready for his big start! The game begins and Luke Greaves ends up with a torn hip floxor within a few minutes of play. He's now out for a few weeks. That's not good. I was a bit short handed to begin with and now I have to wait for this player to heal! This isn't a very good start.
If you’re interested, here’s a look at some real life Luke Greaves highlights!
The team must move on! And so after two more friendly matches we moved into regular league play. Now I’ll admit I’m playing this game on “Amateur” setting. So it’s not horribly hard, but it’s not the easiest thing to score either. I thought at first I would be able to just steamroll other teams with this setting and get my small team some instant success, but things didn’t work out that way exactly. I won a couple matches and then ended up with a draw with another bad team called Portsmouth. I didn’t like the look of a draw, but their goal keeper seemed like a wall! None of my shots seemed able to make it past him! We moved on to the J. Paint Trophy Cup. I figured maybe I would try something new. I had a 17 year old striker just sitting on the bench named Max Hazeldine. Why not give Max his shot and see what he could do? So I put him in for one of the J. Paint matches. He scored the one and only goal and always seemed to have the ball! I love Max now! He moved right up to starter after that performance! (I now follow the real Max Hazeldine on Twitter. I hope he has the same success in real life!) My next J. Paint Trophy Cup match will be against Port Vale. They are a league higher and I'll really have to work to score against them and move on! Now we're finding a challenge!
And so here we are. I may keep writing in my blog about what happens with this Accrington Stanley progress. I'm having a lot of fun seeing what I can do with this team. I may end up back at Tottenham or one of the other big teams eventually, but for now I like the little guys. And I may have to keep an eye on the real life Accrington Stanley team. Win or lose, they've found a new supporter!