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Playing FM (Football Manager), I often get drawn into a smaller club, a build a nation idea of playing and often spend upwards of 25 to 30 seasons with one club building them up from within, facilities, finances and the club as a whole and taking them on a journey but what if we looked at changing that, a new start, a new adventure.

I have always been fascinated by the likes of Acidphire on twitter (Now X, no one calls it X) and how he glides around the world winning trophies and becoming a living great within the virtual world he creates. I want that, I want to look back on my manager timeline, my manager history and see the journey, not through the leagues with the smaller club I have taken to Champions League glory like we did on FM23 in the Faroe Islands on my youtube channel but with many clubs and with the aim to be the greatest I can be, but how, what journey would make me look back on FM24 with pride, with elation?

Starting a journeyman save can always be a tough moment, where do you start, what do you want to achieve? For me, I had a plan, I think, I hope I do anyway, I want to be the best I can be but with a goal at the end of this journeyman, to win all of the Champions League titles in world football! Realism I know, has Pep ever gone to North America and won the CONCACAF Champions League. Nope. Did Sir Alex Ferguson ever win the Orange CAF Champions League in Africa, Nope… well, I plan to do it all!

It sounds easy, right, take charge of a few clubs, win some games, sign some players and walk away with my head held high claiming to be the worlds greatest FM player. What could go wrong!

In this journey, we will find out!

The first few seasons are always a feeler when trying a new style of save, will you settle, will this save be one for you to continue, well due to these reasons and me not wanting to mess you around, you join me today as we recap the first few years of the journey of Bram Ellison, our manager for this adventure.

Welcome to New Zealand (NZ), it was a fairly simple decision if I am being honest, I had a plan, a journey mapped out in my head and starting in New Zealand gives the ability to look to secure my first and the easiest Champions League of them all, the Oceania Champions League (OFCCL). Now, maybe some would say it shows a lack of respect to claim that any Champions League in the world is easy but New Zealand offers a fantastic chance to call it just that, being by far the biggest nation competing in the competition, you will face off against many amateur teams and whilst some in NZ are of the same stature, many are also Semi-Professional with one side, Auckland City holding Professional status.

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During my time in New Zealand, I took charge of two sides, one being an amateur side called Central United and a semi-professional side known as FC Twenty 11, which, just to shock you, they were formed in 2011.

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With both clubs based in big cities, it was always going to be a great catchment area for management and I landed on my feet, coming into the journey as a new manager, Central United playing in the third tier of the New Zealand football pyramid turned out to me a side project of NZ giant Auckland City. Sharing the same board and facilities give us a fantastic base to begin our managerial journey.

We were in a great position being in Auckland and sharing many things with Auckland City saw us have some very good talent within the club, some players who Auckland City released at a young age come into the Central United academy and thus giving us a squad very capable for our first season in management.

Below you will see three players who were key to the season with Central United;

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The season with Central United was fantastic, the first season of a journeyman, the first season in a new league and we were deep down in the third tier. The season only consisted of 16 games in the league so we had many gaps between games but I could use that to keep my players fit, giving time for players to recover from knocks between games as well was a huge deal for us and it worked out well with my first season in management resulting in a title, us taking Central United up to the second tier of NZ football, sadly for us, this was the furthest they could go, sharing the same board as Auckland City means they can not win promotion to the top division.

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This issue of promotion would result in us looking to move, and this is where FC Twenty 11 come in, a club who was relegated from the top flight with 0 wins and only 5 points, we would find them in the regional second tier along with Central United but with a dream of bouncing back. They only wanted mid table in the second tier and with over £150k in the bank due to sponsorship and a professional status of Semi Professional, I saw an opportunity to move and progress my career.

SEASON TWO

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Our first season at FC Twenty 11 was fantastic, we had a successful time as we looked to develop not only a team for this season ahead but one for the future. With 3 players from the UK coming over as well as a few from Asia, we progressed and took FC Twenty 11 straight back up to top flight of NZ football. I felt like we had created a solid team, one which could get results when needed, scoring 31 goals in 14 league games, yes, only 14 games in the second tier provided another season of long gaps but we kept our focus through the season only conceding 15 in the 14 games which is over 1 a game but at this level, it was solid, especially compared to many other sides.

Finance wise we were going back into the top division in a solid position, with just under £100k in the bank, we knew sponsorship money was renewing soon and we could really invest going into the summer.

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SEASON THREE

So our second season begins at FC Twenty 11, our third season as a manager and now we are in the top flight of NZ football, I was excited, a chance to see how good the other teams are, can we push for continental qualification in our first season, top two getting into the OFC Champions League.

Sadly our first season in the top flight did not go off with a bang like I would hope. The NZ top flight is regional for the first 18 games, after this the top 3 from each go into a playoff to see who will qualify for the OFC Champions League and sadly we were not good enough to make it into this. I do think we were making progress, signing more young talent to add to the players we already had, we really did look like a exciting team. We dominated games, with the most possession within our division as well as the best defensive record, I knew we were on the right track.

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SEASON FOUR

Our third season with FC Twenty 11, our fourth season in total as a manger in this journey and I went into it feeling strong, feeling excited and feeling like we could make a statement this season and that was exactly what we did. From day one we looked like a really good football team, the longer you are with a club, the better you can build a squad and we had certainly done that. We won our first title in the top flight this season in the regional division, qualifying us for the playoffs, sadly it was not our season in the playoffs and some poor performances cost us but in general, I went into the end of season break very positive. We added some very good players this season and at that point you start to believe, a couple of additions and this team could win the playoffs. Financially we were still solid, in the black and sponsorship money would keep us going for another season!

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SEASON 5

Taking the final step, adding the final players to complete a team, adjusting the tactic from day one till now, all parts of a football journey and in this season I decided / hoped now was the season to not only push the club closer to the OFCCL qualification spots but to walk into it with complete control. This season I adjusted my tactic, more of which can be seen below with a tactical look back at my time in NZ but not only did we adjust the tactic, we fully took advantage of our position in the top flight and the lack of rules for foreign players and we raided South America.

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OFC Champions League

Season 5 success means we enter 2028 with qualification for the OFC Champions League, this takes place before and at the start of season 6 but we will focus on the OFC Champions League here.

Firstly lets look at the group stage of the competition which saw us play Hienghene Sport from New Caledonia, Henderson Eels from Solomon Islands and Lupe o le Soaga from Somoa, a group I felt we should be winning and we did it with ease.

3 victories, 4-1 v Lupe o le Soaga before two 5-0 wins back to back v Hienghene Sport and Henderson Eels saw us top the group.

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The Knockout Rounds

The Quarter finals saw us come up against Association Sportive Venus from Tahiti, this was their third season in a row they have made it to the quarter finals but this would also be the third season in a row they went home at this stage.

With striker Diabagate scoring 6 goals in the two legs firing us into the semi finals in our first season playing in the competiton, was the dream alive?

We should mention and give credit to the away leg, AS Venus were the better side and on another day, we could have lost that second leg, the 6-0 home game put us in a strong spot but losing one of the legs would have been tough to take.

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The semi final, one round from our first ever final, I was already delighted with us reaching the semi finals and the draw against Semi Pro side Tafea FC from Vanuatu would give us a tough test but I went into it believing we were the better side and this belief was proven to be good as we dominated both legs and made easy work of this side and qualified for the final of the OFC Champions League.

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Season one in the OFC Champions League and now we would be moving into the final, our squad was looking strong, 3 goals again in the two legs from striker Diabagate as well as Argentine Barrionuevo looking in fantastic form, I was believing we could do well, we would face NZ Northern Permier League side Waiheke United AFC.

The OFC Champions League FINAL

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Well… what a day, the dream of winning Champions Leagues all over the world is coming true with number 1 in the bag, it was a tough tough game but as you can see from all the information, it was a game where our team as an 11 come together, our striker and attacking midfielders did not dominate as they had in previous rounds but our two holding midfielders worked solid, our defence was fantastic and as a whole, we were very very pleasing on the eye with good possession, good pass completion and efforts on goal.

TACTICS IN NEW ZEALAND

Let’s have a look at the tactics I have pieced together during my time here in New Zealand. I have made sure not to be stuck in one spot, not to be relying on one tactic every season and with every club, well, I say every club, we only had 2 but still.

 

Central United, a club playing in the third tier in New Zealand, I went in with an idea of keeping things simple. I found very quickly that the club has some good solid strikers, and only a few central midfielders, this pushed me towards a simple 4-4-2, we had a big man up top so floated crosses at him and looked to play a game which everyone would understand and no one could fail at.

Playing slightly more direct with the idea of not getting caught on the ball defensively worked really well, with fairly wide width I wanted to make sure my wingers were wide ready to put crosses in for the striker.

When we lost the ball, we got back into shape quickly, getting men behind the ball and making sure we were hard to beat.

Out of possession was simple, drop a bit lower as pace is key at this level and a quick striker would take us apart but offensively we had a mid block so we did leave a bit of distance between the lines but I felt we covered it well, once they crossed the line, we pressed more often once they passed the pressing line and I made sure we got stuck in to stop or prevent the players ball watching.

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FC Twenty 11s first tactic was a simple 4-5-1, much was based around the same thinking with the 4-4-2 but adding the extra man in the middle, this would offer support when coming up against sides who are of a better quality than me which would happen time to time. Having the BWM in the middle means you have a player chasing to win the ball back in front of the defensive line and I find it can intercept possession often and can be very useful when the opposition is trying to penetrate your team.

I kept most instruction the same as with a 4-4-2 except in transition, in these situations, only having the one striker means I like to counter, this gets more players forward to support the striker. Using a counter press also means if I do counter and lose the ball, we don’t just run away, we press to get it back.

My only concern was using a poacher with no one behind, was the gaps to big to midfield but using a CM(A) really supported well and the IF(A) often formed a second striker allowing the FB to get forward and be clear to cross with the opposition FB following the IF.

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The final tactic, this was when we started to control games, my players were better, the team was stronger and we could really push forward and control the game.

we moved mentality to positive, a setting only used when you know you are the better side, we played shorting passing whilst looking to work the ball into the box and get the wing backs forward, I do find having overlap on can slow the game down as your team is waiting for them to get forward sometimes and use them but all in all I found it worth it. We also went to low crosses as all of my offensive players were lacking height so the lower crosses suited them better.

We continued to counter press and counter the same as the 4-5-1 but we also now held a higher line out of possession as we had the speed to cover.

I used Gower as a Segundo Volante as he had that ability in this division to get up and down and coming from deep, he was difficult to mark and often would arrive unmarked in and around the box.

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THE MANAGER

Here we look at me, my growth from arriving in New Zealand with nothing to leaving with a Continental C License, fantastic support from the clubs helped me bag coaching badges, develop all of my attributes and see a growth to be proud of.

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GOODBYE NEW ZEALAND

The first part of my journeyman is done and we have finished our time in New Zealand and what a journey it was, winning 3 league titles, one domestic cup and the OFC Champions League. It was a fantastic journey and one I will remember for a long long time, we had a fantastic record in New Zealand and we certainly built our reputation and developed our tactical knowledge. I was so proud of the fact we won the OFC Champions League and you ask yourself, where is next as we continue the journeyman adventure.

 

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