November 2023 – Takeover Report

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It worked!

As the days went on, I did become a little worried that I wasn’t going to be offered the job but I did feel that there were other options – Caykur Rizespor had also sacked their manager and, on paper, they’ve got nearly a top flight squad (with wages to match) and there was once-a-bigger-club Denzilspor, now in the third tier, who, even there, were probably stronger than Menemenspor, too. I think cutting my ties with the Izmir side was probably the right thing to do – it showed me ambition to get my name out there and move to a better club and it appears that I have done exactly that. Within a month, the contract was signed and I’m in the door of my second job. A team that is in a bit of a mess (unbeaten in three, though and note how Menemenspor have lost every game since I left) but one that is an absolute fit for how I love to play Football Manager.

Genclerbirligi are a club based in the capital city of Ankara, some 600km west of Izmir, where I managed previously. Gencler have a bit of European pedigree and, like @GIMN, I actually knew of them before taking this job. Their best run was reaching the fourth round of the Uefa Cup in 2004, beating the likes of Blackburn, Parma and Sporting before losing to Valencia. Nicknamed ‘Gencler’ which literally translates to The Youth, they are perfect for my plans of player development since they possess some wonderful youth and training facilities – for any level in world football, let alone the Turkish second tier. They got this nickname after, literally, being founded by a group of students who hadn’t been selected for their school team. They formed a new team, hired one of their parents as chairman, beat the team they’d been deemed not good enough for and, as they say, the rest his history.

A little copy and paste from their Wikipedia page on Youth Setup really breaks down what my plans here will be:

Gençlerbirliği have always been one of the teams in Turkey most notable for their talented young footballers that they procure through scouting both in Turkey and throughout Europe and Africa. For example, Geremi was scouted and raised by the club, transferred to Real Madrid and later Chelsea. Another of Gençlerbirliği’s young stars Isaac Promise received the 2005–06 Super League Individual Youth player of the Year award.

Gençlerbirliği’s state-of-the-art youth academy is located in Beştepe, Ankara with 50 acres (200,000 m2) of training facilities (Beştepe İlhan Cavcav Tesisleri).

Gençlerbirliği had been run by İlhan Cavcav from 1978 until his death in 2017. With Cavcav’s help, Gençlerbirliği have become one of the more stable clubs in Turkey. This has been achieved mainly through the departure of the most talented players every season to the other clubs in Turkey. Departing players are usually replaced with much cheaper imports from Turkey, Europe or Africa.

 

Given the position we are in – one win from twelve and rock bottom of the league – I don’t expect us to go up this year. But, if we can build on the above philosophies over the course of this year (scouting Africa may be an issue though), and look to challenge for the playoffs next year, I think I’ll have done a really good job here. Gencler are a team where I can see myself spending three or four years at, solidifying, building and, hopefully leading them to the top flight before maybe then taking the plunge at a bigger side or even moving to Italy or Greece at this point.

In terms of the squad I have inherited, I must say that I am excited. There is some huge underperformance here as, on paper, there are many player significantly better than I have managed before. It’ll be all about ensuring that we are all pulling in the right direction as well as giving chances to the large number of youngsters on our books. I must also add that – when looking through the squad (n.b. I’ve used NewGan to get their faces even though the majority of them aren’t newgens, so apologies if there is a player you may know who doesn’t have the correct face) – there is something really aesthetically pleasing about the red text on black background, which reminds me very much of AC Milan. Those times are a long way away in my managerial career though…

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Straight off the bat, Ubeyd looks a stronger and more reliable keeper than Zulfuk Ozir did at Menemenspor – with his ability to hold shots being stronger than before. He’s clearly not performing well and his passing leaves a lot to be desired but I do like the size of his frame plus his Decisions and Positioning. He’s the first of many players I will highlight in this who came through the youth academy. Atalay is a little more raw but hopefully his services will not be called upon in the near future.

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Not quite the quality I’d have been hoping for here – however, every single player is better than ones who I have managed before. Let by Mert and Metehan, we have a strong centre back pairing even if they are a little weaker on the ball than I’d like. I will, probably, experiment with them as Ball Playing Defenders as their current pass completion is above 70% and they’re progressing the ball a decent number of times per game, too. We’re strong at full back with, probably Alberk Koc and Oguz Ceylan being the two first choice players but, interestingly (from my tactical style at Menemenspor), I also have two particularly attacking full backs in Yucel and Muhammet – who could fit a similar role on the right flank to what I’ve used before. Academy lad Mehmet Dereli is far too small to be a centre back but is just another one of the promising youngsters who’ll get minutes – even if I’m not quite sure how I want to mould him.

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This is where I’m most excited! In Gokhan and Serkan, we have two really strong pivots – who can play as 6’s and possibly 8’s too, should I have the ability to change the style. Belyaev looks more like a 10 and could fill a variety of attacking positions but the real interest comes from the three young lads, Cem, Dunyacan and Enescan. Cem is good enough for first team football, in my eyes: a two footed attacking mid who can make things happen. Dunyacan is my least favourite of the three but I see his roles, combined with traits, First Touch and Teamwork, leading to him possibly being utilised as some kind of False 9 or False 10. I normally hate really one footed players but Enescan has something that I just really like and I will look to utilise the one-footedness, asking him to use the outside of his right foot, given that strong Technique. I see him as a bit of a classic 10 but also someone who is good in the final third – so, to mitigate the weaknesses in terms of size, I think a player coming in off the left flank could be the place for him. I’m going to use the TRQ(a) schedule for him with a bit of focus on both his speed and agility but he’ll get plenty of minutes going forward, I feel.

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I can see Kemal leading the line here with Ilker cutting in from the left hand side, although I would prefer a more creative player out wide, hence the interest in Enescan Ozu. There is some good depth here and I will look to develop the overall physicality of Omercan Tekin and give him enough minutes in order to make him actually want to extend his deal. A two footed forward with, for his age, quite strong mental attributes, interests me somewhat – however, he’ll never be able to play in poor weather conditions as he may actually blow away!

I have three games this month: Manisa – A (6th), Eyupsor – H (7th) and Somaspor – A (4th), which is hardly ideal. However, I’ll get my teeth into the day-to-day management as the days tick by but, just by looking at the players to screenshot them and post about has given me a good idea of who I’ve got to work with and what I can hopefully get from them!

It was a really big gamble but one that I think has paid off in the end!

 

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This is a rebuild job! But that’s ok because I want to settle now and maybe not make the rapid progress that I did last time out. It certainly feels more realistic to be stuck in this league for a while than be already in the top flight of Turkey after three seasons or so, completely missing out the lower Italian and Greek element to this save.

November 2023

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The first three games culminate a nice evening of FM-playtime for me, although I do really need to switch my focus to actual things happening in my life, rather than FM! It’s been really nice to actually take the reigns at a club that has players who are worth trying to spend time on. I’ve set out individual training and written some notes as ideas for quite a few of these youngsters and I am really excited about the intake in March or April time. On the pitch, we’ve picked up four points this month, against teams in and around the playoff spots, which is great. Most of my worries, right now, are tactical, but soon I know that I’ll have to think about recruitment and, at minimum, planning further ahead than the next game.

Manisa 2-1 Genclerbirligi

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Gencler’s new era starts with a pretty vanilla formation, suited, hopefully, to their players. I’ve opted for a 4-2-3-1 that plays as a 2-4-1-3 shape in transition, with narrow forwards and the width coming from the full backs – hoping that this can ease my issues with numbers in the box. I’ve used a double pivot of two 6’s again but, with a Positive mentality, they’ll hopefully be able to join in a bit more in the counter. I see it as quite a risky shape but will hopefully build on what I’ve learnt at Menemenspor. The team largely picked itself, with those who trained well – Oguz, Cem and Yusuf, in particular along with the likes of Mert and Metehan, reunited as centre backs. The obvious issue with this shape, just two days into my reign, is the lack of team cohesion and general understanding of the tactic. I knew that we would possibly be a bit shakier than usual but we have to develop!

Our opener was a nicely worked move from a throw in – which is pleasing as I will always look for marginal gains from set plays. Whilst I do want to get away from a reliance, and underperformance, on headed goals from crosses, I am quite pleased with the numbers in the box and the nice movement that allowed Ilker space to win the ball and direct it goalward. I have no complaints about their equaliser – a shot with an xG of just 0.05 that goes in off the underside of the bar, beating a 6’4″ keeper who has, in my eyes, positioned himself well and done everything right. Our xG rose considerably but, with a missed penalty, we had nothing to show for it. I slowed down the pace to maintain player fitness (the screenshot of the line up was forgotten and was actually taken post-game, so notice the fitness levels) but I need to be tactically more astute as the last ten minutes were saw Manisa pose their biggest threat and, eventually, net the winner with a close-range header. As always, I’ll be trying to decide whether I feel that this is an individual error, a lack of team cohesiveness and positioning or just an unlucky break. My initial impression is that the gap between our midfield and defence was probably too big, allowing an easy, late run into the box from Adem Buyuk who netted. Even though the shot had just a 10% chance of going in, I think we probably should have done better to make it harder for him to win it.

Never the less, I go onto the next game knowing that, overall, we have played pretty well here. I think that the overall intensity, below, is probably a factor, despite actually being quite low. The two big periods of pressure for us came at the ends of each half. Combine that with a less-than-favourable half-time teamtalk, which did little to motivate them, and there is pretty much the recipe for the bad periods. I’ve taken the step to remove any knowledge (by just not using the panel at this stage) of opposition body language in-game, so that I can focus my attentions on defeating them tactically by analysing poor performance, rather than just going all-out when I see they are annoyed at their manager’s feedback. I feel that it’s both a realistic step and also a learning curve for me: I’m getting better at playing a way and exploiting a tactical opening but not so confident at beating a certain player on a team.

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Here, with us languishing at the bottom of the league seems like a perfect place to try it!

Genclerbirligi 0-0 Eyupspor

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A tale of three shapes and not a lot more!

I think that I’m just a little lost in terms of replicating the style of play that I really want. First and foremost, I want to be defensively sound – and keeping a clean sheet in this tie has achieved that. However, I often look at our build up, and, more importantly, look at how other’s perceive our build up and worry that we’re just long ball merchants. The whole concept of counter-attacking is not that and some extra reading really drilled that home. This was from one particular article:

“The idea of counter attack is to have a sudden quick attack before the opposition is even ready to defend after regaining possession. In most of the cases, teams with the tactic of counter attack doesn’t score and possess a lot, but with the toughness of defence, the team can still successfully win the game. Midfielders and defenders must keep the line straight, make gaps as narrow as possible and not allow opposition’s forwards to find any empty spaces inside the box.”

The 4-2-3-1 that I play looks to create fluidity between the offensive four and, as expected, that comes at the expense of the defensive structure and creates some huge gaps in our defensive play. It also often leaves four players up field meaning the only way for us to effectively transition is that long ball up to them. It’s little wonder that I spent hours tearing my hair out with my Menemenspor side, watching them give possession away literally every time they had the ball. So, I tried to change it. Faced with their narrow shape, I wanted to keep them pushed down the flanks and, where possible, want shapes that mean our core values (Run at Defence, Higher Tempo, Counter, Regroup, Low Block, High DL) can be maintained. We started with the 4-2-3-1 shape, as you can see on the average positions for the first half. A change up to a 4-3-3 shape, utilising more defensive full backs didn’t really do much for me either, with the most likely to do anything being a 4-4-1-1 shape I trialled at the end of the game. However, I’m a sucker for a player in the DM role as I know just how dangerous players who play in between the lines can be, so, I really want to have somewhere there going forward – plus, we’ve got a ton of them.

The game itself was dour. We got the clean sheet we needed but didn’t really create a lot, probably because I spent the majority of the time looking at our positional play and making tweaks to it, further decreasing the tactical familiarity that I pointed out above. It’s the first point of my tenure and, despite us playing in a stadium far greater than our means (just 2,077 fans attended the 22,000 seater stadium coloured in the blue and yellow of our city rivals, and ground owners, Ankaragucu), I’ve got my first points in the capital city.

Genclerbirligi 2-0 Somaspor

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Another game, another shape discussion in my head.

This time, I started with a 4-1-4-1, both because we were away from home at high flying (but promoted last year like Menemenspor) Somaspor and also due to the good form of their two midfield players – Cuma and Mucahit, with four G/A this season each. In build up, it gives us a nice 2-3-4-1 shape but also seems to make us a bit more ‘counter-attack proof’ as we regroup quickly. The obvious disadvantage of this shape is how lonely the striker appears to be but I will work on ways to get him involved, after recording just twenty-three touches, one being in the penalty area.

We took the lead thanks to Metehan Mert, who scored from a powerful header. I was immediately having a deja-vu moment as Somaspor scored, directly from kick off, however it was – correctly – adjudged offside. The game was nervy but we had a little more of the ball and controlled the game a lot better than we have done before. The heat map suggests, rightly, that most of our play was in the central areas, not being able to really penetrate their defence, which is something I know that this shape does maybe lack. It was, however, a testament to the offensive nature of the central players when Serkan’s strike sealed the win as he broke through the middle.

Three points and a good performance is a really good way to end the month. I know we’ll face tough tests and I predict that it’ll take us longer to find our groove that it did for me last time out – but that is part of the fun here. The table, below, doesn’t make for good reading but we are off the bottom and have only lost once in the last five league games, meaning we’re in better form than Giresunspor and Menemenspor, above us, although they have games in hand.

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The long floated ball has been the bane of my life in this edition! I want us to play quickly, and directly, through the lines rather than a long hoof to a small forward, who, in my case, isn’t even a target forward! I completely agree with your analysis of the 4-2-3-1 but I’m not sure I’m settled on the 4-1-4-1, either! We have three young AMCs at the club and that shape really doesn’t make it easy, unless I convert them elsewhere and early indications is that the forward is just going to get lost – given the level of footballing ability we have.

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That being said, I don’t like the 4-4-1-1 either as it leaves me vulnerable in front of the defence as I like to use my full backs to start transitions, usually from inverted positions.

I think my biggest challenge here will be finding a setup that I like and one that works for who I have at the club.

December 2023

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It’s been a hell of a week and I’ve finally been brought back down to earth after so much beta playtime. However, December is now done and my skin is nearing completion so I’ll be fully focused on playing the game rather than tearing it apart and rebuilding it. It’s been a tough December and my job is actually a little under threat but we face Tuzlaspor (19th), Giresunspor (16th) and Menemenspor (15th) in January in literally a month that will make or break my job!

Genclerbirligi 1-1 Adanaspor

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We conceded pretty early on as we allowed them to create pocket of space and finish well but, in a positive manner, we responded well and hit them several times on the counter attack, scoring from one. The best thing, for me, about the goal is that a little bit of ingenuity (whether intended or not or even just a graphical thing) was the goal kick. The keeper is set up to go to the right and so is their defence, but his ball out wide left, into space, allows us to progress quickly, get the ball into the box and score. I can’t complain against a strong team and one point is more than none!

Caykur Rizespor 1-1 Genclerbirligi

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really tough one to take as they score with literally the last kick.

I’m growing to like our compact defensive shape but it was a lovely Mez(a) – W(s) overload that allowed us to get in and Kemal finished nicely. In the dying seconds, we were countered and Caykur rescued a point in a game that we were more than good enough to win. However, I like that I can point out where I’ve fallen short and act upon it – which, to me, feels like a win in terms of my understanding of the match engine. At the turnover in possession, the IWB(s) are playing too high and too narrow for this time in the game with this situation. I’d forgotten to ask them to play as more traditional, defensive, full backs for the last five. Hopefully, a mistake we never repeat!

Pendikspor 1-3 Genclerbirligi

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I kind of feel like this has been coming! Bottom of the league, away at the second placed team but a big win.

We took the lead from a nice switch of play, aided by an overload, that was fed into the box and finished by Kemal, who has struck some form. We were then pegged back by my old favourite, the third man run, in a lovely move. It’s something I made a lot of at Groningen last year but also knew that, with two attacking centre mids, it was something that would happen to us occasionally to. It’s risk and reward and Pendikspor did it really well this time. They didn’t do quite so well though soon after as they gifted us a third before a lovely low cross was turned into the net.

Still not quite where I want to be in most phases but it’s coming!

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As I said – January will make or break my tenure. A couple of wins and we’ll be mid table and able to build on for the future. I am pretty shocked to see Elhadj Bah, the man I brought to Menenemspor, leading the scoring charts this season in a struggling side.

January 2024

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I’ve been holding off committing to player January, given it’s importance, simply due to my insistence on constantly trying to improve my skin. However, I really feel like it’s taken over my FM time and will need to step back from it to further enjoy the kind of month I’ve just had here. We’ve taken seven points in three enormously important league fixtures as I look to maintain my job security and move the club further towards safety.

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I’ve been a little stumped with recruitment. I think a lot of that comes down to the slight unrealism that is my manager nationality. I was completely unaware that second tier teams couldn’t actually appoint foreign staff – hence why my two Argentine coaches didn’t make the move from Menemenspor, where, clearly, teams can sign anyone. Therefore, my recruitment box has been littered with players that are there simply due to my own knowledge. Personally, I don’t think that this is a realistic approach as, after all, I’m the Head Coach not a Scout and real life managers wouldn’t come with extensive, statistical knowledge of a second tier league half the world away. I’m also still adjusting to the FM23 stats, trying to ascertain what good levels are for this level in football, too. This has meant that I’m a little bit behind but I am working hard to prepare for the summer window – however, our current bank balance of over €400k in the red is a worry for this. I was, however, able to bring in loanee Diren Dagdeverin, from Hoffenheim, after my recruitment team identified him as a good, young backup.

Importantly, joining the team is Scout, Ozkan Dogan. He’s far too good for a club of this level but replied to my advert and I was able to snap him up. Hopefully, he’ll be able to uncover a few gems to compliment the youth development that I am able to do at the moment.

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Getting the mid-season break, for me, is really important as I haven’t had a pre-season with the club to fully engrain the tactical familiarity. I wanted to get the players fit but also play a few games and, after I’d taken this, added a further friendly to the second week. The friendlies, themselves, ran relatively smoothly and I am also able to see the progress of the squad: TekinCem Biglin and Dunyacan, in particular, are all showing really good progress. For a club of this size but with such high quality youth and training facilities, this gives me the opportunity to mesh together young player training and young player match performances. You can see how that has been followed through into the fixtures below:

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The mid-season is also super important tactically as I finally try and decide what I want to do and how I want to work it to get the best from this squad whilst maintaining the core principles that are key to my tactical philosophy of face paced, vertical football whilst being hard to break down. A little bit of tinkering has led to this:

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The backline remains relatively unchanged but I want to give my defenders the freedom to progress the ball – specifically because, by having two attacking midfielders centrally, there are often quite large pockets of space that they can move into – even more so if I can teach them to bring the ball out of defence. I still want to employ two inverted wing backs because I simply love how they operate in transition, adding to numbers to create that 2-3-5/2-3-4-1 shape going forward and, now I’ve added Regroup, I love how quickly they can get back, too.

I’m looking to change the dynamic of my midfield and create overloads (and, because of this, will have a tactic that mirrors it, too) – in order to create space for a creative 10 – in this case, Enescan Ozu: adding some simple instructions to try and get the best from him . To do that, I want to overload numerically by focusing play down the left and underlapping. This increases the mentality of the right back as well as  impacting individual mentality for my wingers, bringing the right hand side a little less offensive. This has created some nice passing triangles. But what I hope it will also do in the long run, for players like  Cem Biglin, is to allow the freedom for the 10 in zone 14, with the Mez occupying the half space and a forward playing on the left shoulder. If I can get the right winger into play as well, any longer crosses might also allow the left sided player to sneak in at the back post. My only thoughts are between using an AP(a) or a CM(a) as I feel that the latter will reduce the ball magnet effect and also be stronger progressing the ball.

Again, it’s a shape that will take some trialling and improving but – given that my manager was an Argentinian dual 8/10 in my last save for Krasnodar – it feels fitting (although I am far from a storyteller) to have him try to focus on that. Who knows, maybe I’ll bring in a South American Riquelme and let him lose in front of the defence.

Genclerbirligi 3-0 Tuzlaspor

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As first games back go, this one wasn’t bad! Yes, Tuzlaspor are the bottom side but we’ve blown them away with the new role pairing in midfield – the CM(a) and Mez(a) – causing all sorts of issues!

I have decided to stop creating a GIF for every goal but our first came from some lovely movement with the tactical change having an immediate impact – so I couldn’t ignore it! I love the way that our transition starts, with the CM deeper than the Mez but driving forward. This lovely move should have ended in a goal but our play was scintillating. We restricted the away side to very little and came out with an emphatic victory.

Giresunspor 0-0 Genclerbirligi

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Not a victory but an important point on the road and a game that we can take lots from – arguably being the better side for long periods of time. I like how our pass map looks but, obviously, we need to get the left winger a little more involved as, despite the strong build up on the right, we were unable to lay anything on to Yildrim, out wide on the left. Really, there was little of note in the game but it’s another point close to where we want to be.

Genclebirligi 4-0 Menenemspor

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In the build up, the media tried to get me to bite about a return against my old club as well as the goalscoring prowess of Bah, the league’s top scorer, but it was my forward Kemal Ruzgar who caused all the problems, netting a hattrick. His first goal and his second were remarkably similar and a great show of how I want my full backs to involve themselves in our transition, sliding balls through rather than playing long, high balls over the top.

It was a game where I wanted to sit back and watch the fruits of our labours as opposed to highlight and analyse every decision, which will have to happen. However, it’s another emphatic victory and we end the month in style – moving ourselves out of the drop zone since game week two.

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I can’t say that the wonderful run, that sees us just one of three teams without a defeat in the last five, is all down to the tactical change. I’ve worked really hard on the training pitch to ensure that they are doing the right stuff and have been full of praise for those that are. I also used the friendlies really well to get some good levels of match fitness and tactical familiarity and have built relationships with a number of first team players, which has included seeing them sign new deals. I say this because we are – very clearly – riding the crest of a wave and there will tough times and defeats to come. I’d highlighted this month as key to beat the teams around us and we have done that – so now need to set our targets to those teams between 14th and 10th: the midtable. Anything more than that, with fifteen games left, is likely to be over ambitious but I think we can finish strong and somewhere around the middle of the pile. Get things right over the summer and add a few more promising youngsters from my 5-star (taken with a pinch of salt) intake preview, and we’ll be in a really good position.

Author

  • Daniel Gear

    Dan Gear is a vibrant member of the Football Manager (FM) community, renowned for his engaging content and insightful tutorials. He illuminates complex FM concepts on "View From The Touchline" and shares engaging narratives through his unique European Journeyman save reveals. Dan's collaborative spirit shines in partnerships with fellow creators like FM Stag, unraveling new FM features. He's a co-host of the engaging "Grass N Gear" podcast, making the FM experience more enjoyable for many. With a blend of humor, expertise, and a knack for community engagement, Dan Gear's contributions significantly enrich the Football Manager community, making him a cherished figure among enthusiasts.

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