Hello and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition. I'm several days late with this post, as things have kept me from working through my save recently. It's nearly Christmas, season of good will and all that, but that good will doesn't necessarily extend to football. Mourinho has been sacked, but more importantly, Sheffield Wednesday have finally parted company with the hapless Jos Luhukay.
It's looking very likely that Steve Bruce will be the next victim of SWFC's poisoned chalice, which is a funny bit of synchronicity seeing as Bruce has recently had a stint at Aston Ville; the team I'm managing on Football Manager.
But it seems good will is lacking in football generally, regardless of the time of year. Last week, I was half-watching the Saturday Morning Savage show on BT sport, and was surprised by the chat at the beginning of the show.
Robbie and his guests were talking about abuse from fans in football. Savage revealed he has been punched and spat at in the street, and his house windows have been put through.
The discussion had been prompted by the issue of racist abuse, though, as highlighted by Raheem Sterling. Ugo Monye, one of Savage's guests made several highly relevant points (as did John Barnes on the BBC).
Football is a sport that ignites passion. That passion will sometimes come out vocally. In any football match, you’ll hear the fans singing about how they love their team; how their team and only their team, is by far the greatest the world is ever seen.
But why is it, for some fans, that passion mutates into ugly, abusive chanting, whether is be racist, or other types of abuse?
The people who engage in abuse at football matches probably have the same behaviours out of football matches. We can be fairly confident in this because there’s nothing intrinsically part of football that transforms normally rational people into racists and abusers. So in this way, the problem goes beyond football and into the core of society. We have to look at how racist and sexist tropes are perpetuated in the media and culture, and at how our children are educated.
But the issue does also have to be addressed from within football. The antidote to all forms of bigotry, prejudice and intolerance is respect. I’m not talking about about a snappy hashtag #Respect, but genuine respect; living and breathing respect in all behaviours.
Footballers can help by not surrounding referees, and by not spitting at each other, or headbutting each other, and all that other aggressive nonsense we see on the pitch that, in the minds of some, glorifies aggressive behaviour.
Fans also need to step up and refuse to tolerate abusive shouts and chants, and report it to stewards as soon as they hear it.
Football clubs must name and shame people found to be engaging in abuse at matches, and must always initiate lifetime bans. We need a culture of zero tolerance and public shaming of unacceptable behaviours if we are ever going to move on.
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
“You have to look at the cause of racism, not the symptom.”
~John Barnes; one of the finest voices on racism. A hugely intelligent man with meaningful things to say.
And now for the update on the Football Manager Ambition save...
After finishing 4th last season, I expected big things from my team. However, by the end of September I had already lost three league matches, and it was clear it wasn't going to be a straightforward season. However, I did get silverware early doors with the Community Shield.
Heading through the autumn, then, and a further two league defeats, and difficulties in the Champions League. At this point, I was hovering mid-table, and seriously doubting any chance of a top four finish this time round.
And the inconsistency kept flowing, despite strengthening the team in January.
February and March saw me looking a little less frail defensively, with good progress made in the FA Cup, still fighting in the Champions League, and winning the League Cup!
April was crazy. A good run of wins saw me rocket up the league, hovering around 6th and 7th, but with games in hand. The team put in some great performances, and I was gutted to lose out in the Champions League to PSG on away goals.
But then, after the -0 win over Everton, my team's performances and results fell off a cliff. It was extremely disconcerting. I think that if the FA Cup final had been against anyone other than my long-time local rivals WBA, I would have lost. As it was, I was able to stoke up local rivalry, get the team fired up with the team talk, and passion won the day.
Thanks to the drop in form toward the end of the season, I failed to clinch 4th spot again, and finished 6th. But with two domestic cups in the bag, and getting to the quarters of the Champions League, it felt like Villa - MY Aston Villa - had arrived, and were ready for lift off.
As you'll shortly see, I have edged closer to achieving the stated ambition of this save. This means I am now highly unlikely to change clubs. A few blog posts ago, I said Spurs would have been the club I really wanted to go to. But now...
Confidence is good, as expected, but the real treat coming from the boardroom was, without any prompting from me, a decision to expand the stadium again. Great news for a club with ambition!
Serious business was done...
Net spend: £74 million
Two days before the FA Cup final against my local rivals, with my league form, as previously mentioned, plummeting, I wanted to hold a team meeting. But this:
And now for some other silliness...
What's he going to do, demand a transfer?
Sometimes, we're just lads.
So, how much closer have I edged to the Ambition?
The current Villa squad looks like this:
And Villa presence in the England Squad looks like this:
Now, if you're thinking that doesn't add up, it's because those squads include the signings I made after the end of season 2024/25:
I'm spent up now, and need to lose a little bit off the wage budget, which I'll achieve loaning out some youngsters. But my first team looks very good, now. My tactics always get better results than should be expected of my players, so I'm confident in a 3rd or 4th place finish in the coming season. I'll let you know. Until then, have a peaceful and happy Christmas, and may your game never crash unsaved.