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Darren – FM 2011 Newcastle’s gripping finish 10/11

Hey guys and welcome back to my Football Manager 2011 story with Newcastle. During the last post you saw the Toon flying high and gunning for Europe. With my side performing well, we found ourselves on an FA Cup run and residing in the top six. With a tough three months to come, I needed to keep up the momentum and gain points against the best sides and on my travels. Today we will see how the season ended…Is it Newcastle’s time to shine in Europe and did we reach Wembley and a converted FA Cup final?

March and April results

The month started with an FA Cup sixth round tie against Cardiff. The Championship side always looked second best against a weak lineup, the game finished 1-0 thanks to a great goal from Lovenkrands. After reaching the FA Cup semi final, I had to turn my attentions back to the league for an easy looking home game against West Bromwich Albion. Ben Arfa kept up his great goalscoring form, but I was delighted to see Andy Carroll and Araujo back in with the goals. The 3-0 victory set me up nicely for an away day against West Ham. We grinded this match out, but deserved the 1-0 win and all three points. Next up was Blackpool at home, and I was expecting another big scoreline. My players produced the goods with a great performance and 3-0 victory. Araujo seemed to be enjoying his football now with another goal. Manchester United away was always going to be tough but I was bitterly disappointed with been embarrassed 4-0. Thankfully this terrible performance was forgotten for our semi final tie with Wolves. Andy Carroll put us ahead before Wolves equalized in the second half. Then super sub Macheda scored a fantastic goal with only seconds to go. The whole of Newcastle was celebrating a great feat as we were heading to Wembley and the FA Cup final!! :) The final game of April provided a good performance but only one point. We were robbed away from home to Blackburn as they equalized on the 95th minute (there was only three minutes of injury time signalled.) This injustice could cost us one way or the other, but we’ll soon see as there was only four games left in the season.

May results and a gripping end!!

OK, lets set the scene…Newcastle lye in fifth place, only one point off the top four, but just two points clear of sixth. We had to play Liverpool at home (they were in seventh,) Birmingham at home, Sunderland away and then our Champions League rivals Chelsea at home. My top four dream could go down to the last day…and on top of that, I had to play Chelsea in the FA Cup final as well. Newcastle v Liverpool (Premier League) After holding Liverpool to a 0-0 draw away from home earlier in the season, I decided to repeat my tactics. Using a 4-5-1 with standard strategy and Andy Carroll as the supporting target man upfront. I was desperate for the three points in order to keep the top four dream alive. Lets see the highlights and what happened. This brilliant performance really gave me hope going into our last four games. Danny Guthrie came in for the fatigued Kevin Nolan, but his contribution was huge. The midfielder is very dangerous from set pieces. Andy Carroll had his say again as well as the sensational Ben Arfa.

Newcastle 2 – 0 Birmingham (Premier League) This match was fairly boring and one I expected to win, therefore we won’t go into too much detail. An own goal gifted to us by McFadden got the game underway before Jonas rapped up the game and all three points. This result left us tied with fourth placed Arsenal and very close to third placed Chelsea. Only two games to go, but I had the toughest run in. Sunderland v Newcastle (Premier League) This game was vital for two reasons, Newcastle’s pride is on the line and a bad result would see my top four aspirations disappear. On the other hand, what better way to keep the pressure on than winning away from home in a huge derby game. The home fixture ended 2-1 to the Toon, but we were helped by an early red card. I was just hoping my form may have the final say. Wahaaay the lads!!! :) :) :) This was just jump for joy perfect! Not only had we beaten our arch rivals Sunderland 4-0, but my Champions League dream was getting closer and closer. Andy Carroll took the match ball home with ease here, his strength and strikers insticts proved the difference in a true whitewash.

OK, so we’re almost there. I have two games left to share, both against Chelsea. The first is at home in the league and the second at Wembley in the FA Cup final. Below is the league table with one game to go, for your information Arsenal are at home to struggling Birmingham on the last day. With my side just one point above Arsenal in 4th, a win was needed to guarantee the top four. Unfortunately I have to play Chelsea who are incredibly tough to break down.

Newcastle v Chelsea (Premier League) I opted for my 4-4-2 formation here, using a standard strategy seemed sensible with all three points needed. Unfortunately we got caught out within the first 5 minutes, Danny Simpson’s unnecessary and rash challenge cost us a penalty which was converted by Lampard. The first half was very much end to end and quite exciting, but my strikers seemed to be running scared and couldn’t finish. The half-time approaching I checked the Arsenal score, 2-0 to the Gunners. Now I had to get all three points. The second half kicked of with one or two scares from Chelsea, but then it was all Newcastle. My midfielders and attackers kept flooding forward, but chance after chance went a begging. Before I knew it the final whistle went and I just felt so deflated.

My players inability to score had cost us yet again as Arsenal beat Birmingham 3-0. Before we see the league table I want to show you the round up of May. We beat Liverpool, Birmingham and Sunderland…but just fell short at the last hurdle. This was a truly amazing effort by my side, but I can’t help but wonder what if?

As you can see below, I could almost touch the top four, such a horrible way to miss out. However, what an amazing season we have had. To come this close to the top four really is incredible and just to emphasize that, look who finished below us. Manchester City, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Everton and most importantly SUNDERLAND. I am very proud of my lads, but we still have work to do, so onto Wembley and the FA Cup final :)

FA Cup final – Chelsea v Newcastle Well the stage is set and I have organised my 4-4-2 to play exactly the same as in the league game. Hopefully the finishing won’t be as pitiful here. Below is the match highlights so hold onto your hats!! Sorry for the cliffhanger there, as you could see we threw away our two goal lead in the second half. After some heavy pressure from Chelsea, the final whistle went and we were all left to prepare for penalties. Unfortunately my lads crumbled by the fourth spot kick and lost the shoot out. It was a great effort, but just couldn’t handle Chelsea’s super subs Obasi and Anelka.

Time for reflection and celebration

One gripe I have always had with Football Manager is who gets awarded the manager of the year award. If a side over achieve like myself this season and Fulham in real life last season, their manager should come in the top three for manager of the year. However, on FM this never happens, it doesn’t matter how much I over achieve and who with, I’d have to finish in the top two at least to gain some recognition. This year though is different, it seems like FM evaluates managers based on their achievements with the club rather than league standings alone. I think you know where this is going…I won manager of the year, yey! :)

Now lets see how the squad performed. Unfortunately, Ben Arfa left the club as his loan deal ran out straight after the FA Cup final. That is why he isn’t in the squad stats. If he were, he’d be top with 11 goals and 6 assists. The French winger was instrumental to my success this year. Unfortunately I have doubts as to whether I will sign him next season. My board are been incredibly inflexible and do not agree with my financial opinions. I have a bad feeling their lack of ambition could drive me crazy but it is still early days. Anyway, below is my squads stats for the season.

Below are my top performers in order of value this season. Again, Ben Arfa has returned to Marseille and therefore is not listed, however he would have been number one. Joey Barton

Joey’s assists played a huge role in my success this season. In fact he was joint second in the Premiership assists chart.

Steven Taylor Born and bread magpie, Taylor has been a real rock in defence this season and I have failed to see more than one bad performance. I had some major problems in getting Steven to sign a new contract, due to the board restricted my wages to a maximum of £35K. However come the end of the season, I managed to offer him the hefty £64K required to complete the deal.

Jonas The Argentines dribbling has been key to my tactics this season, and he also shown some great crosses as well. 7 goals and 6 assists is very good for a winger considering Ben Arfa seemed to be the centre of attention.

Vincent Enyeama My bargain buy proved to be a fantastic piece of business. Some of my victories against the bigger sides were thanks to the Nigerian’s shot stopping heroics. Not bad for £250K.

Well that is the end of my first season with Newcastle. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as myself. Next season will be focussed on improving the squad and getting close to that top four finish. Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments as always.

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Mike505
Mike505
10 years ago

congratulations. a good finish in the league and unlucky in the fa cup final. at least u got them into europe. newcastles board a very reluctant but we will see what they offer u in your next post a good cup run and good finish should see you with some money to spend. any idea what positions you will be strengthin in the summer?

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Mike505

Hey Mike505, I guess my budget will decide how many positions to strengthen in. However, with Ben Arfa gone I need a strong left winger, also want to bring in a young right winger and offload Routledge. Another striker will be required and a good central playmaker. I think I’ll have to use my research and imagination to come up with the goods. :)

Arjuna
Arjuna
10 years ago

Congratulations Darren, an absolutely fantastic season. For a club with virtually no transfer budget you have done amazing to get into Europe. You also did well to get to the FA Cup final, but unfortunately, you lost out there.
Just one question, are you planning on signing Ben Arfa permanently. In my West Brom story, I was offered him for only 2 million pounds?
Arjuna
managerstoriesfootball.blogspot.com

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Arjuna

Thanks Arjuna, it was a bitter sweat end but I am delighted with the season overall. Unfortionately I did not get as lucky on my game with Ben Arfa. I had an offer accepted but Ben Arfa didn’t even want to sit down and talk. Thats loyalty for you.

junior
junior
10 years ago

great season there..nice job!!ur board must be very proud aswell..
what is ur aim for nxt season??
congrats..and keep posting the inspiring stories!!
jr

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  junior

Thanks Jnr, my target next season is comprised of a dream and a realistic one. I would love to gain the top four, but will settle for a repeat fifth position. There is so much competition for the fourth place in Spurs, Man City, Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa. My success will also depend on them.

warren
10 years ago

Hi Darren

What a fantastic season you have had and its just a shame that you couldn’t have the icing on the cake with an FA Cup win but as a Newcastle fan I guess that your used to it by now. Looking forward to next season

Good luck

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  warren

Hey Warren, I couldn’t agree more! After seeing us lose twice in the FA Cup final under Gullit I had major deja vu…except at least my side made a game of it.

Laxeyman
Laxeyman
10 years ago

Hi Darren, unfortunate to miss out on the Champions League, but maybe that would have been a season to early anyway. You’ve had a great campaign and thoroughly deserve your manager of the year award. I reckon next season will see you reach the Champions League, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do in pre season.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Laxeyman

Hey Laxeyman, I see it from your point now, Champions League would have been far too early. However, at the time I was gutted, and to lose the FA Cup so close to the end as well was bad. A few touches of magic in the market will be needed to gain that fourth spot, but we’ll see what happens.

Ana Garcia
Ana Garcia
10 years ago

I see you have the same luck as me in penalties!!

Real shame, but as least you ended in the top 6 and won manager of the year!

Good luck for next season, with the right signings you could be pushing for the top 4.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Ana Garcia

LOL Ana!!! I remember your story well from FM10…you really did hate penalties ;) Sorry to bring back bad memories :)

It was a shame to miss out on top four but like I’ve said, maybe it was too early anyway.

Sears
10 years ago

Well done Darren, that was a good season. Shame you missed out on a Champions League position, and it’s hard to take when you lose a Cup final too. I’m sure you can achieve the same success next season with some new players.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sears

Thanks Sears, it was a bitter blow but I’m happy with our achievements. Would love to go one better next season but Im not getting ahead of myself.

Birdy
Birdy
10 years ago

Great season but that would really suck missing out on
one spot all because of a 1-0 lose, unlucky!

I would have to agree with laxeyman though I do not think you would be ready for
the Champions league this year considering you would not have a key player in
Ben Arfa. Though what a season it was

Birdy

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Birdy

Thanks Birdy, it was tough to take at first but your both right…Champions League football would be wasted on us. Ben Arfa may be leaving but I think I have found an adequate replacement at a bargain price. I’ll leave you all in suspence till Thursday :) :)

Jamal
Jamal
10 years ago

Im looking foward to your next post. ur posts remind of the t.v series lost lol just want to hear the next one. if its any consulation after the first season i signed ben arfa and he didnt preform playing him on the left as an inside foward.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Jamal

Hi Jamal, that is a real compliment as I also became a Lost addict. Hopefully I will provide a better (or at least conclusive) ending. I am hoping to get over Ben Arfas rejection soon with my new signing. Thanks for the comment buddy!

Johnny Karp
10 years ago

You did an excellent job Darren and I think you are better off in the Europa League, you could even win the trophy and then move up to the Champions League. Too bad about the cup final, that was a heartbreak… I have a feeling that you’ll nail a memorable season next term, good luck!

By the way, how come it was snowing in May during the Sunderland game? Was it played in Siberia? :)

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Johnny Karp

Thanks Johnny, you always offer a good pep talk. Hopefully you will be proven right and Ill enjoy a great season.

I didn’t even realise the snow till you mentioned it! Don’t you just love game glitches lol :)

Lye Kuek Hin
10 years ago

Hi Darren,

That’s a great finish, securing Champions League football on your first season. Congratulations on being the manager of the year. I think it’s more realistic this way. Hopefully with the lure of Europe, your board will give you a large transfer funds to buy new players next season, Great job Darren.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Lye Kuek Hin

Hey Lye, I think the two tables have confused you. The first league table where Im 4th is from before the last game. Then the second where Im fifth is the end of season table. Unfortionately we didnt quite cut it. Hopefully Ill still get a decent budget though

Calin
10 years ago

Congrats, Darren, it was a really nice season and you have indeed overachieved – too bad you didn’t manage to stay at number 4, but at least you’re in Europe and finishing 5th in the League is a huge achievement. And the Cup final… welll… it just wasn’t meant to be :)

Your season kind of reminds me of my first season with Craiova where the last few games took me down from a title challenger and cu winner to much less. But that’s life and football and we can only try to tweak tactics, get better players and do our best for the future :)

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Calin

Hey Calin, I am proud of the lads but it was a nearly season. Lets hope we’ll go all the way in 11/12. Hopefully we’ll both enjoy better luck :)

GS Fan
GS Fan
10 years ago

Wow Darren!

That is quite an accomplishment taking a newly promoted Newcastle United to a European spot in the EPL!! It’s no small achievement.

I hope your transfer and wage budget improves for next season, seeing as how you will be competing in Europe.

Do you have any plans to bring up some of your youngsters into the fold for next season?

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  GS Fan

Thanks GS Fan, during pre-season I was expecting a top half finish at best but to gain 5th would have been out of the question. Hopefully the budget will be a lot bigger and that will help me bring in some real quality.

I am hoping to offer Vuckic and Donaldson more game time as well as using in Araujo as my main striker for europe. Hopefully this will help them develop.

Sayam Khan
Sayam Khan
10 years ago

Hey Darren,

I bet it feels like you missed out instead of achieving a european place? It’s better to think of it the other way round. Good luck next season and I have no doubts you will get that top 4 place or even win the league! :-)

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sayam Khan

Hey Sayam, it did feel like a downer when we missed out on fourth and the FA Cup so late on. Though on reflection it was an amazing season. I love your optimism but winning the league will be a little way away yet I think. Thanks mate. :)

kevin
kevin
10 years ago

Hello Darren
It seems I’m a day behind everyone else due to my work commitments (can’t even play FM right now) but want to pass on my congratualtions in leading The Toon to a European spot. Newcastle is a team that should win a Premier League title and I think your the man to do it…maybe next season. Well done mate!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  kevin

Hi Kevin, I know what you mean about work commitments as Im starting to fall behind my usual pace as well. I agree with you completely, Newcastle should definitely be winning more trophies and I would love to be the one to change the tide so to speak. Next season will be too soon, however Im hoping within 1-3 years we’ll have some silverware.

Herman
Herman
10 years ago

Fantastic Season! I would be so proud of myself if i could lead a newly promoted team to Europe!

I’m currently in my 1st ever season in my 1st ever FM game with RM. Just beat Barca 1-2 at the Nou Camp and i already feel i’m king of the world. Lol!!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Herman

Thanks Herman, I was very proud indeed and hoping for another good season in 11/12. Sounds like your enjoying the game mate and that makes me happy. Always nice to see a new comer getting into it. Keep it up and let me know how you do.

jordan
jordan
9 years ago

I finished champions in 1st season with sunedrland :LL

Rohan
Rohan
8 years ago

A Fantastic Season Darren, and really unlucky to finish just outside the Champs League Spot………………….but Great Achievemnt nevertheless……!!!
When in the Second Half Against Chelsea when you needed Goals you probs could have gone to the Attacking or Overload Strategy…….
The Post is Late about 2 Years :)

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