Welcome back to my trip down memory lane on Football Manager 2014! We have less than half of a year to cover with Leicester City and we will be in 2021 and finally follow along with the series as it happens! In this update, we’re going to cover the first half of our 2020-21 Championship season as we push on to finding our Premier League glory!
If you are new to the series, click here to go back to the first part and our 2013-14 season with Oxford United. If you need to brush up on what’s happened so far, you can click here to check out the result of my first half-season with Leicester at the start of 2020.
Our season is so far going according to plan. As I mentioned in the previous update, my 4-2-3-1 tactic that worked so well with Oxford and Charlton back in the day was working wonders for Leicester as well, leading to our going from being near the relegation line to finding the form needed for a top 10 finish. Obviously, if we have something that works, we have no need to change the actual formation and tactical approach, just make some signings to strengthen the weakest links so we could push for a playoff position!
So far, it’s fair to say we’ve had our share of successes. During the first three months of the campaign, we’ve had only 3 losses and 2 draws in the league. At this time in the season, we were sitting in second and neck and neck with league leaders Crystal Palace.
That’s not to say things were all rosy the entire time, though! For the entirety of the season, I’ve been having regular problems with numerous players in the squad who were unhappy for one reason or another, which is why we’re cutting straight into transfer business!
I’m in February and approaching March as I write this, and catch recap screenshots, so we’re seeing my transfer business through the January window. I mentioned squad issues, and two of my biggest problems were Jeffrey Schlupp and Jorge Mediavilla, which lead to two surprising transfers.
Problems aside, we had some good business in the transfer window. We spent only £4.77m and we ultimately made back £8.07m for a nice little profit in the transfer window. Some of our notable signings include MC/AMC Shaun McKenzie, DC James Muirhead, and striker Curtis Rimmington, who I will touch on later on in the article!
As for Schlupp, he decided early after the last season on that he was too ambitious to be stuck in the Championship with a team that was predicted to be in the lower end of mid-table, so he was becoming a problem almost right out of the gate. I wanted to keep him on board, because Schlupp was a Premier League quality fullback, winger, and forward, and I wanted to have a strong, versatile option for several roles. I refused his request to go because he was too useful to me, but he split my dressing room right down the middle. In the interest of keeping my squad happy after failing to turn their minds around, I offered him for a loan as a temporary fix. Premier League team Huddersfield expressed interest, but I wasn’t giving away that quality for free, and he ended up leaving for £37.5k per week, in addition to the loaning team picking up his wage demands for the season. In a sense, things worked out well for me, because I was able to pay him to be gone, which enabled me to test out a new striker I was able to get in a month later who became my top choice for the role!
Jorge Mediavilla was our other problem signing. I brought him in from St. Mirren for £300k as a Premier League quality goalkeeper, and I brought in Matt Jones to be his backup. Unfortunately for Mediavilla, Jones ended up consistently performing better than him and took his starting spot. Mediavilla wasn’t signed to be playing second fiddle, so naturally, he was a little peeved and ended up complaining for much of the first half of the season about his play time. I ended up selling him just months later to Manchester United for £500k. He’s still a reserve and sitting on the bench in favor of an older David De Gea, but he’s making more money to do it, and I guess it looks better on his resume to sit for United instead of sitting for Leicester. The point is he’s out of my hair and the “Mediavilla Problem” has been dealt with! In hindsight, I just wish the me from a year ago charge more than I did to send him away, but I remember being desperate to have him gone.
Moving on to signings that didn’t suck, I brought in James Muirhead to be a rotation defender, and he ultimately stepped up and earned a starting position for almost every game since his signing.
Muirhead’s career started in the 2013-14 season with the Scottish Championship team Hamilton, and he was moved on a year later to Fulham for £99k. Between 2014 and 2020 he would appear 23 times for Fulham over the years as a backup option, but most of his time was spent out on loan with the likes of Motherwell, Swindon, Chesterfield, and Stevenage.
After his 2019-2020 season with League 2 Stevenage, he joined us on a free transfer from Fulham (who had their first Championship season in years last year) with the experience and skill needed to be a regular starter for our Championship team. It was a bad move for Fulham to allow this transfer to happen, but it was good for us, as he enjoyed the best season of his career so far with us and even earned the Man of the Match award for a result against his former club!
Welshman Curtis Rimmington was another signing I made who would prove to be key to our successes across the season.
Rimmington started his career with Manchester United in the 2013-14 youth intake, and after four years of training with their facilities, he found his professional start as a footballer in the 2017-18 season with Stevenage where he would appear 28 times and score 10 goals. After his League One season, he moved on to Celtic and then to Wigan in the Championship on two more full season loan deals.
Despite having three successful years as a footballer on loan, the potentially Premier League quality striker was released on a free transfer by his parent club. Needless to say, I snapped him up! He’s had a good career for us, as of February 2021. He’s appeared 18 times for the club, initially as a rotational option before becoming a starter, and he scored 15 goals for the team. Now rated by my team as a possibly decent Premier League player with a little room left to grow, it’s possible that he could be with the team for another couple of years as we push into the Premier League and prepare ourselves to rise up the ranks.
This last player I’m going to share isn’t a transfer, but he’s getting an honorable mention. Iain Felgate is a product of Leicester’s academy, and now he’s a regular member of the senior team, in line with the board’s request that I develop younger players for the first team.
He joined the team during their first youth intake and made his professional debut as a substitute for the club that same year. After a couple of years training and developing his skills, he went on loan to Hibernian for the last half of the 2016-17 season, but would only appear twice. The very next season he spent the entire year on loan with Leyton Orient, and appeared in most of their matches, though he would only score 6 goals and get 3 assists in 42 appearances. He spent the entirety of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons on loan at Northampton in league two.
At the start of the season, as I was evaluating my youth candidates, I saw him rated as a player capable of being a decent Championship player. His series of loan spells was ended under my management, and he hasn’t disappointed as a regular senior player. In 21 appearances as an attacking midfielder, he’s scored 9 goals, assisted 3, and was awarded 3 PoM awards. Rated as a possible Premier League quality player as we near the end of the season, he’s making rumblings that we’re too small of a team for him. I’m hoping a good league campaign will see us promoted and he’ll be happy to stay around with us in the future because I’m very reluctant to let go of a player who made it to the first team from our own academy.
This is a look at our 4-2-3-1 formation with the players I deem to be the best suited for each position. Some of these players are objectively not the best players, but this formation is set up to emphasize them performing as a unit and not as individuals, as the team as a whole has proven strong, hence our entering the January transfer window in second place.
So far, my first full season with Leicester is going well enough, and in the next update, we’re going to wrap up the season and hopefully, at this rate, I’ll be saying that we’re in the Premier League, which will be Leicester’s first since the game was started!