Hi everyone, firstly I would like to say thanks to ‘Godcubed’ for the inspiration of his layout in order to complete this guide. Helped by a Villain, what is the world coming to hey?! This guide is an interpretation of how to manage as Birmingham City through the eyes of a fan and regular FM player, suggestions and recommendations are welcome.
1). Club Background Name: Birmingham City Football Club
League: Premier League
Previous Season Finish: 9th
Media Predicted Finish: 10th
Nickname: The Blues
Fierce Rivals: Aston Villa
Rivals: Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion & Stoke City.
Birmingham City, a club with little success in their history however has loyal fans that have remained this way since its existence. Once known as Small Heath Alliance, the club shares its existence with four professional clubs in the city of Birmingham, England.
In recent history the club had battled for many consecutive seasons to gain promotion to the Premier League, when in 2002, they finally achieved this status completing six seasons in the league since then, with two relegations. The club has gained a reputation for being a yoyo club, however with a secured Premier League Status last term, the club are determined to dismiss this previous reputation. With the take over of new owner Carson Yeung as part of Grand Top Holdings from China, the club is seen to have substantial finances in order to achieve these new ambitions.
Season 09/10 being the most successful finish the club has achieved in 51 years, gives the job of taking on Birmingham City in season 10/11 all the much more difficult. Previous manager Alex McLeish being seen as a club messiah with recent domestic success provides the tough challenge of overshadowing his achievements and writing yourself in second city history. However as you all know all too well the Premier League this year has been arguably its most even season to date, therefore making crucial decisions correctly could help you achieve unprecedented success.
Start of season expectations from Carson Yeung illustrate the expectation now present at Birmingham City.
As a very conservative manager I don’t tend to make over ambitious statements therefore I would recommend selecting the lowest budget presented to you of £15.5M transfer budget & £425K p/w wage budget. This I believe used in the right way can subsidise to achieving a Top Half Finish. Those of you out there that are the risk taking entrepreneurial type managers that will throw their reputation on the line to achieve potential success should take the “Continental qualification through league finish” £21M transfer budget & £475K p/w wage budget. Anything above this is a suicide mission.
3). Behind the Scenes
3a) The Boardroom Chairman: Carson Yeung
Director: Michael Wiseman, Vico Hui & Peter Pannu
Carson Yeung of course recently taking over from the David’s Gold & Sullivan, he is very generous with budgets for a club of this stature, if you believe you can have a good first half of the season, spend the majority of your transfer budget as Carson will replenish the coffers just before the January window for you to add more quality to your squad.
3b) Boardroom Requests
Youth Facilities: are at an adequate level, I suggest making a board request for this immediately as the club has never really had the capacity to churn out regular players of high quality for the future, this would be a great asset for the future success of the club.
Feeder Clubs: there are already two Feeder Clubs in place at The Blues, however PY Mingzhu are in place to send young players on loan to Blues to gain experience, however without the China league loaded this will never come into fruition, an added bonus of increased merchandise sales with this affiliation. The other Feeder Club being Worcester City, although a good club to send youngsters out on loan to, not of a sufficient standard for current Hot Prospects, therefore I suggest requesting for another.
3c) The Staff
i) Coaching Staff…
The backroom staff this year having a change around from the previous season, due to Big Roy Aitken taking the decision to join David O’Leary out in Dubai, which is a big loss to the club however the addition of much experienced Peter Grant as a 1st Team Coach provides an ample replacement. The key coaching staff of Andy Watson, Peter Grant, David Watson and Terry Westley in my opinion are of a high standard and do not need to be replaced.
The allowance of 4 extra staff to the coaching side of the backroom I believe is sufficient to create a strong unit behind the scenes without removing anyone from their position. I would recommend three of those positions designated to Coaching or 1st Team Coaching roles and 1 more Youth Coach, as this would provide a balanced setup. With the additional changes if you feel necessary to remove Richard Beale who is inadequate at this level, and room for improvement with both Fitness Coaches.
The obvious weak area of The Blues backroom staff is the quality of the Physiotherapists, with the only half decent employee being George Cooper, both Peter Shaw and Dave Hunt not being at a Premier League standard. With the club only wanting two Physios at the club this provides enough reason to remove both and apply your own addition.
iii) Scouting Staff…
The lonely scout that is Paul Montgomery is of great quality however with an allowance of 9 scouts, makes sure you employ a variety of nationalities to reap full benefits of their abilities, with no restriction on where you can scout for potential signings.
iiii) Staff Recommendations…
My view on additional staff usually applies to those that are unemployed; I’m not one for paying compensation for staff therefore my recommendations are purely unattached.
Coaches: Andy Renshaw, Al Stuart, Bobby Downes, Alan Kelly, Mark Kelly and Steve McManaman. I only go for Steve McManaman because he has been around the Blues a lot recently in real life as an advisor of some sort, so I employ him as a coach just to get him in the club.
Physios: Paul Ferris & Nick Worth
Scouts: Tord Grip, Glan Letheren, Gianluca Nani, Dave Fallows, Simon Hunt, Rob Walker, Ian Bowyer & Don Mackay although for only 1 season or so as he retires.
You will have your personal preferences and favorites on additional staff, these are just suggestions that you can apply if wanted. Make further suggestions below and I may add them to the guide.
4). The Squad The general overview of the squad is that it already has sufficient depth to achieve a respectable position within the Premier League, however with sufficient funds at your disposal and an already strong base why not aim to progress. Throughout the first team there are players of significant quality, Ben Foster, Roger Johnson, Barry Ferguson and Nikola Zigic technically FM speaking. The missing pieces of the puzzle of this hardworking, determined team are a creative midfielder and a goal scorer.
- Ben Foster, a great keeper in real life, and a great keeper in FM, a very consistent goalkeeper with decent stats, will keep his spot as 1st choice in your team for 5 plus years.
- Maik Taylor, a veteran of the game and position, Maik is a great experienced head to have as your number two in your first season, giving him a new contract probably not the best idea due to age, asking him to coach may be difficult too as he has ambitions of taking up a management role.
- Colin Doyle, a very underrated goalkeeper in real life and on the game, he is a consistent keeper who commands his area well. If you don’t give him enough game time he will sulk and may wish to leave, I recommend giving him a new deal as his contract runs.
i) Full Backs
Stephen Carr, is one of the most experienced Right Back’s in the league, and being club captain I suggest you hang onto him, demote him to second choice in the second season and beyond, always keep in mind he has the personality to be a top coach for you. For a player of his age he possesses surprising pace and stamina, therefore his age doesn’t really come into account when deciding to select him.
Stuart Parnaby, a nearly man at Blues, never really forced his way past Stephen Kelly or Stephen Carr in his career, mainly due to injuries. One of his key attributes being versatility which he seems to have lost over recent years; a younger replacement would be a good idea, offload him in preseason or offer him a new deal if you’re a fan, as it expires come the end of the season.
Liam Ridgewell, renowned for mistakes, although recent years they have been few and far between, there will be interest from fellow Premier League clubs, hold onto him even if only for cover in future seasons he does a job. He has adapted to the left back very well, originally due to the form of Scott Dann and Roger Johnson, however he now revels in the position with his urge to get forward.
David Murphy, not his biggest fan in real life or the game, he always seems to make an obvious mistake, lacks intelligence and quality, however a first season backup to Ridgewell he can provide quite well. Make the decision to offload him swiftly or offer a him a new deal as his contract expires in June.
ii) Centre Backs
Roger Johnson, the ultimate in limited stopping defenders, puts his body on the line for the cause can add crucial goals at the other end, the only negative with Johnson is his lack of pace, which against the top class players of this League can prove a problem, so play him tactically to his strengths, with a slightly deeper defensive line.
Scott Dann, a slightly younger, slightly less in ability to Johnson, although still can do an exceptional job played in the right way. By the second season bigger teams will sniff around him, it is up to you personally to make the decision on his future. Again lets himself down with lack of pace, so playing to his strengths is key.
Martin Jiranek, for the majority of English football fans an unknown quality, however not an unknown name. A similar ilk to the likes of Johnson and Dann, and provides a great backup for both players with a wealth of experience. The added advantage of Jiranek is that although he is at a significant age his stats don’t seem to depreciate quickly, which means he can be a long stay in your second string.
i) Wide Midfielders/ Wingers
Sebastian Larsson, a fantastic servant for the team and deserves his contract extension from the start of the season. When you start the game his stats look surprisingly poor in relation to real life, however with regular game time they improve significantly. His above average dead ball ability can be a crucial game decider.
James O’Shea, has great potential although is yet to show it, is an ample back up to Larsson, although to keep him happy and to improve on the squad I suggest loaning him out for at least 6 months and signing creative quality for the right flank.
James McFadden, another committed player to the club, deserves a new deal with it expiring in June. He is a player of consistent quality on the game, played in an attacking wide midfield role, will always pop up with important goals, and isn’t afraid to put his foot in.
Jean Beausejour, the Chilean winger a new signing at the club due to his impressive performances in the World Cup, has significant pace and uses it effectively with consistent cross success, given game time could compliment Zigic.
ii) Central Midfielders
Barry Ferguson, the player that will hold the side together for you with extreme ease. A fully deserving vice captain, however some of you may feel he deserves the full captains armband. Plays well as a deep lying playmaker due to his great passing ability although lacks the creativity to really put through defence splitting passes. My favoured role for him is Ball Winning midfielder as he does well to sit in midfield break up play and keep the team ticking over, a Key Player to success from the current squad.
Lee Bowyer, has had his critics and many haters over the years, seems to have re-birthed himself at Blues providing vital goals and intense energy levels providing the exact compliment to Ferguson, however age is against him, you may want to rotate him with others to keep him fresh. Technically a very good player, given an advanced position will score goals.
Craig Gardner, a fans favourite at the club since arriving in January, plays the box to box midfielder role exceptionally well as he enjoys a battle in midfield as well as getting involved with the goals in the final third. He stats scream average, but they do improve if played regularly, has always been consistent in my team. Be sure to start Craig in games against Aston Villa, this stirs up some media attention and brings out the best in the player.
Michel, very much screaming for a chance to play without being given a chance, a player of decent ability, although should be used very much as a back up to Barry Ferguson. You can give him a chance and try him out or let him go to generate more funds, depends on your personal opinion. I tend to let him go to sign a younger player of similar ilk, as Michel wont improve all that much.
Keith Fahey, known affectionately as Keith “what’s a tackle” Fahey, he is an exceptional squad player with supreme midfield versatility, an ideal player to have on the bench to freshen things up by resting key midfield players. Although for me doesn’t have that significant quality in a specific area to allow him a first team regular role. A possible option to sell to generate funds however lack of interest in pre season except loan deals.
Aliaksandr Hleb, the on loan attacking midfielder is very versatile according to the positions he can play however from my experience doesn’t really ever fulfill his rating in any of them. He has undoubtedly quality ability for attacking other teams although lacks the guts and determination to fit into the existing squad. Due to a lack of stamina or natural fitness it is rare you can allow him to complete 90 minutes, and unless you set up your team to fit around him I doubt he will ever really set the world on fire. With this all in mind it is hard to justify paying him £57k p/w for the remainder of his loan spell from Barcelona.
Cameron Jerome, a striker who does well as a target man running onto the ball, or as an advanced forward due to his blistering pace and acceleration. Cameron can get you 15 goals a season if he plays well, but unfortunately his lack of composure and intelligence prevent him from being a 20 goal a season player. He has room to progress; his stats do improve with only just one season.
Nikola Zigic, known for his game presence, not surprising with the lad being the tallest player in the league. However, do not be deceived to making your tactics Stoke like to accommodate what the game rates your best starting striker. This team can pass, and they will, they can also cross from wide with quality, this ball is what Zigic will feed on and convert regularly, whether it is driven or floated he will dominate the majority of centre backs if you can give him the service in this way.
Kevin Phillips is injured for 3 months and won’t really be missed. Although his stats highlight what should be a clinical striker, if given the chance does not prove his stats justice in my opinion. A good cup player for the season, and in FM terms maybe time to hang up his boots, especially at this level, let his contract run out in June, unless you want to keep him as a player coach.
Garry O’Connor, always gives effort, cant give much more, he isn’t a Premier League player and never will be. In real life signing a contact with Barnsley was a good move for him. Mimic a similar move for him as its beneficial for both parties, do this immediately as his contract runs out in December. He does draw up attention from fellow Premier League teams if offered to other clubs, this can be dangerous when he faces you again.
Matt Derbyshire, a fantastic super sub for your side, will bag goals when given the chance, has decent pace to threat defenders. Wait until the loan ends at the end of the season if you want to buy him permanently as the minimum fee release of £6.5M is a bit of an insult in terms of value for money. Not given much chance so far at St Andrews to show his true ability however believing in his talent will be rewarded as he can end up with a goal ratio above one goal every two games.
4e) Youth Prospects
Jack Butland, a keeper with fantastic potential, an ideal replacement for Ben Foster in the future, and even has the potential to gain caps for England, currently an Under 19 International. Loan him in the first season to a team that will give him games if possible. Then by the second season take the decision to either promote him to be your third choice and develop him yourself or loan him out once again to give him further first team experience.
Brice Ntambwe, a Belgian Defensive Midfielder with star ability if developed correctly, although a very touchy player if not given the chance to impress in the first team by the second season, so I would recommend a loan deal or making room for him in cup games to keep him happy as his potential is massive.
Nathan Redmond, a tricky winger with pace, who before the 11.2 patch had an original Potential Ability of 4 stars, now has 3 stars. One of very few Birmingham City youth players to gain an appearance in real life and didn’t look out of place when doing so, if it is a toss up between holding on to James O’Shea and developing Nathan Redmond, I would develop Nathan.
Omar Bogle, stats wise doesn’t look all that much however has 3 star potential therefore it is up to you whether you develop him or sell him on for someone else.
Alpaslan Ozturk, a new addition to the Blues youth team, the Turkish Attacking Midfielder also has 3 star potential, him and Brice Ntambwe should compliment each other well in a future line up, should you wish to do so.
5). Squad Additions
As you may have realized already, I’m not one for telling you how to play this game, which is what makes this game great, being able to implement your own style on a team is the art of management. Therefore I will make suggestions on how to make a balanced first team in relation to the current squad.
- With the current number of players the clear imbalance is in the centre of defence, a new face will be needed to either provide cover or break into the first team. This I believe can be done in two ways, any type of centre back just to fill the gap, preferably younger, or a centre back with significant ball playing ability to compliment the above average stoppers already at the club. (E.g. Cedric Mongongu)
- The second addition that I believe is needed to the squad is an influential right midfielder, someone with flair and goal scoring abilities. To match up to the high quality of James McFadden on the other flank, a high rating of pace and acceleration would also be a key area to address as the team as a whole lacks it. Introducing a player with pace in this area could be the key to a successful season. (E.g. Landon Donovan) - The third and most important addition to the squad is a quality goal-scoring striker. Having players already at the squad with pace and height, as long as the striker has significant finishing ability you can pair them with Zigic or Jerome in whatever style you prefer, little and large, quick striker and poacher, all depending on your preference and managerial style. (E.g. Christian Benitez) Other Areas you may want to improve are, 2nd Choice GK, Cover at RB, Young cover at CB, 1st Choice Centre Attacking Midfielder, Young ST poacher to develop.
This Blues side suits the typical English formations of 4-4-2 and 4-5-1, as the side is very well balanced in all areas. The strongest attribute of the side is its determined nature throughout the team, willing to fight and battle for the shirt, the fans respond to this mentality and thrive on it in the stands. The negative side of this is that the players lack flair in front of goal, which is a key area to address in the transfer market.
4-4-2 Home: This suits the team at home, because it is balanced so can cope with a range of teams, although allowing you as the home team to take the initiative to teams regardless of their stature. Against lesser opportunity I would recommend giving Carr and Ridgewell license to get forward more often to allow more supply to the forwards. I would also change Zigic from Support to Attack.
4-5-1 Away: This formation as you all know is very easily adaptable to suit the opposition you are against. When playing lesser teams you have the option to either move Lee Bowyer forward or replace him with Aliaksandr Hleb, Or to move the Wide Midfielders into Winger Positions to support the striker. This formation very much suits Defensive or Counter Attacking mentalities and with Cameron Jerome possessing great pace it can prove to be extremely effective.
7). Tactics I am far from a tactical genius, ‘if it ent broke, don’t fix it’ sums up my approach to the tactics of the game. If it can be done in a simple way, then why make it complicated! Knowing many FM players I know many of you live and breath for tactical breakthroughs, this is simply a basic suggestion, which would marry up well with the current squad, the game is for playing… not for copying ;) 4-4-2 Home: with home games assumingly your main source of points for the season, your team needs to be prepared to go forward, therefore with a fluid direct philosophy your team will commit to attacks. The tackling of the team is set to more aggressive, as the majorities of players within the team tackle to a high level and are the type of players to thrive under an aggressive approach. Nikola Zigic being made target man, as he can hold up the ball exceptionally with great strength and heading abilities.
4-5-1 Away: This tactic is affective away from home due to the team being set up to be hard to break down. Utilising the pace of Cameron Jerome, as an out ball will be key to reducing the amount of pressure the opposition can put on you. I mentioned previously about Hleb or Bowyer playing in the additional midfield role, Hleb use as a playmaker will be much more useful than Bowyer. This formation can also be useful against teams with bigger reputations, as it will work well to stop them playing fluidly.
I have never been a master at the training side of FM; I have made my own training schedules over past FM’s however over recent years I acknowledged other peoples created schedules which seemed very similar to my own, therefore saved myself the time and used other peoples. Very much sticking to the ideal of specific position training players to get the most out of their ability and improvement.
A general overview for training this current Birmingham City squad is quite simple. The main weakness of the team is its lack of pace, especially in defensive positions. Which in the uncompromising fast paced Premier League is an issue that must be addressed. Be sure to set Liam Ridgewell, Roger Johnson & Scott Dann an individual training focus of Pace.
An obvious weak point of all fast strikers currently at the club is their mental attributes of Concentration, and Decisions. Matt Derbyshire and Cameron Jerome need some work on these areas to improve their goals to games conversion rates and overall effectiveness during the game.
With Barry Ferguson and MartinJiranek both possessing 15 stats for Long Throws you may want to encourage this stat improving with the huge presence that is Nikola Zigic being available in the box. However this will be again down to your style of play and philosophy as a manager.
9). Writers Dialogue You have come to the end of what I would sum up as the basic set up guide for managing Birmingham City FC in your first season on Football Manager 2011. I realise there are areas that I have not included into the guide, and there are also areas that I have included that I have not displayed in full detail. This mainly being because I believe this game is about putting your own stamp on it, it isn’t about completing it in the same way as everyone else.
Some of you will read this out of pure curiosity of what my opinion of the Blues team needs this year, some of you will read this in an attempt to start up a Blues of your own and hopefully taking a few hints and tips with you on the way, and some of you will read this randomly and maybe gain inspiration to start a Blues of your own, or create a guide like this for your team. If you are the last option I urge you to, I have enjoyed completing this guide immensely. And I suspect I will add to it in the future.
This is a first draft of the guide and I will take any constructive criticism seriously, and any snide comments with a pinch of salt.
I hope you enjoyed reading my interpretation of what it takes to manage Birmingham City.
Keep Right On!