Can I take England to Euro 2016 glory on Football Manager 2016 without using any of the players selected in Roy Hodgson's provisional squad? I don't know about you, but sometimes I struggle to sleep at night because my mind is wrestling with some of life's great mysteries such as this one. Another mystery that I grapple with is why some people think I'm boring.
In the hugely likely event that you missed the first instalment then please direct your eyes here. It's time to dive right into the monumental occasion of the selection of my first squad. Luke Shaw has begun the season uninhibited by injury, and has an average rating in three league games of 9.07. Not too shabby. Ryan Shawcross is not so lucky on the injury front. He’ll be a huge loss for this ragtag England squad. Another absentee is Michail Antonio, because he’s called up by Jamaica before I can get in there. This can only be described as a massive oversight on my part. No worries though, because we have Nathan Redmond. Yay.
So this is my squad. Feast your eyes on this footballing smorgasbord.
|Just reading those names makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.|
The media claim that there are no real surprises in my squad selection, making this the most incompetent collection of journalists ever assembled. The majority of my squad are simply thrilled to be here, with older heads like Jagielka and Walcott less euphoric and more confused.
I announce Mark Noble as captain and nobody complains. Has everyone gone as crazy as I have? Luke Shaw can be my vice-captain in a role made obsolete by my intention for Noble to be ever-present. Micah Richards is hit by injury so I call on Calum Chambers in the Under 21 squad. When you can't pick one mediocre player never fear, for there are many more waiting to take his place.
Here are the 11 men who will be looking around the pitch at each other against Lithuania, scarcely able to believe what they are seeing.
I opt for an attacking 5-3-2 formation. Shaw is patently our best player and I want him to be involved as much as possible, hence the shift forward to wing-back. I also like the idea of Sparky Mark Albrighton whipping in crosses from the right aimed for Andy Carroll’s greasy head. Steve Cook will benefit from the wisdom of Jags and the strength of Dann alongside him, Noble will drop deep to dictate play and set up the energy of the Ox and the creativity of Ward-Prowse. Up front Carroll will look to set up Danny Ings with potent flick-ons. It all sounds so simple. We are playing Lithuania, so it really should be.
Thirteen is unlucky for some, but not for me. This is the number of minutes it takes for the Ox to seize on a cleared Albrighton cross and drill it into the area, where the big man Andy Carroll sweeps it in emphatically with his left foot. Ten minutes later and Ings, roaming on the left-flank, curls in a wicked cross to the far post for Carroll to slip one in off his ponytail. Ings hits the post with the goal at his mercy after a piercing Dann hoof, but minutes later makes amends by finding space to slot home a Noble corner.
Right now I’m starting to indulge in a bit of Alan Pardew-esque self-loving. We’re 3-0 up after half an hour in my first game and I’m getting a little bit too excited, so much so that I ask Gary Neville to take charge for a few minutes while I pop inside to change my trousers. The rest of the game passes with no incidents of note, as I instruct my team to conserve energy in the second half. Noble delivered a complete midfield performance, Ings made up for only completing six passes by nabbing a goal and an assist, and Carroll thrived on our style of play. Sure, we only had 45% possession at Wembley against Lithuania, but we won 3-0 so be quiet.
Joel Ward succumbs to an illness so I’m forced to remember the existence of Glen Johnson and draft him into the squad to face Slovenia. A lot of the squad members are immensely grateful to me for giving them their first cap. No matter how disastrously the Euros go, I’ll be etched into their favourite personnel forever. And isn’t that what the game is all about?
I decide to adopt the same formation against Slovenia. These guys will provide a sterner test, boasting talents such as Jan Oblak and Kevin Kampl. Unfortunately many of our starting line-up from the last game are cream crackered, so I’m forced into changes. Cal Chambers steps into the ball-playing centre-back role, Sam Byram makes his debut and Shelvey, Cork and Rodriguez are all called upon.
After a quiet twenty minutes, Shelvey nods down a ball on the edge of the box begging for the Ox to curl in with his left-foot. Ox duly obliged, enjoying being pushed forward into the attacking midfield role. Ings is denied by Oblak on two occasions before the Ox steals a yard on the Slovenian defence to tuck home a Shaw cross. Shawcross. Ha.
The second half sees me throw on Theo Walcott, but even that can’t stop us. Byram delivers a cracking delivery for Ings to beat a questionable Oblak in the air and snatch his second goal in only his second England game. Ings then proceeds to miss a sitter, hinting that he is not quite the international superstar we’ve been waiting for. Byram continues to threaten down the right, and another superb delivery finds the late run of Shelvey who powers home an unstoppable header. 4-0, and people are dancing in the streets. Tim Matavz manages to exploit Chambers’ ineptitude to tuck away a consolation, but so what: we’re off to France, baby!
Byram, Shelvey and the Ox all excelled against what turned out to be a thoroughly mediocre Slovenian side. This time we manage to grab 46% possession, so we’re improving in that regard. Our game isn’t about patient probing, but electric dashes forward. This pace and power has been too much for Lithuania and Slovenia to handle, but we have a superfluous qualifier against Switzerland and friendlies against France, Germany and Spain to test our credentials.
Byram and Redmond buy me cake in gratitude for granting them their debuts, and meanwhile in the Premier League this is happening for Newcastle and Sunderland:
Unfortunately Newcastle’s all-round sucking has had negative consequences for Shelvey’s club form, prompting a media campaign demanding I drop him for my next squad. But I am the boss and I am the man who has taken England up to 7th in the world ranking. I bow to nobody. Nothing can stop me.
Actually that's enough for today. Next time: we take on the might of San Marino and the minnows of Switzerland, I drool all over my good tie and something that has happened in only 17 games out of a possible 126 games happens. Ooft.