Honestly, I didn’t quite expect this…

Table toppers just fourteen months or so after seventh placed stragglers does feel a bit off and, ultimately, for me, does feel like I’ve achieved this without truly completing my tactical journey. With Gundersen and Medjo (who is profiled below), I’ve been given the two full backs who pretty much perfectly fit in with the base style that I started with. That means I’ve been able to run the same style, pretty much regardless of opposition, throughout and, now that I’ve upgraded the quality on Parkin and Ortiz, am finding that these successes are coming more and more often. Granted, Valour ended seventh, but we absolutely tore them to shreds and that seven could have been seventeen! Despite a poor draw with Vancouver, we then did the same to Forge and Pacific, showing the gulf between Cavalry and Ottawa – last season’s top two – and ourselves as we’ve pretty seamlessly made the jump.

There is, quite clearly, a bigger picture here. Firstly, I still have to overcome two games in the playoffs as our table topping position means we are given a bye early on but, secondly, my plans here are bigger than just Halifax. I want to continue to build this fluid, chaotic and beautiful playing style without the handle on who gets recruited into it but I also want to see Canadian football push on, winning the Canadian Championships from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal then performing better in the Concacaf Champions League. With the salary restrictions, the last two will always be harder but, if the time comes that I’m no longer enjoying this league phase, I may call it quits and head back to Europe. Right now though, it’s been pretty good fun!


Takeover talks somewhat derailed any incomings over the summer transfer window and, under new chairman Charlie Bell, expectations will surely rise. However, one signing as added to the team:


Steve Medjo feels somewhat of an unrealistic signing, if I’m honest. A pre-contract agreement that Bursac signed a matter of days after joining the club stinks of an FM transfer! How would he know about this lad, who was playing domestically in the top tier but without international recognition through tournament play. That being said, Steve is a top quality player and is almost perfect for my tactical needs and wants. Able to use the ball when in transition as well as being relatively solid defensively in all areas other than maybe heading. He also provides me with a strong set piece taker and allows me to rebuild my designs for attacking corners.

However, this signing does raise some concerns for me – longer term – about the state of my squad:


With the winter change in DoF, I’ve seen a marked shift in their recruitment policy. This could put a big dent in my plans if or when I end up with more than the limit of five non-Canadians in each matchday squad or seven in the entire roster. The only noticeable differences between the two are that Bursac’s other nationalities – Serbia and Portugal – give him an advantage in knowledge of those areas, but he hasn’t recruited from either, and that his reputation is quite significantly higher than Oli’s. The only other explanation that is, honestly, viable, for the signings of Fjellheim and Gundersen is that both coaches who applied for my vacancies are Norwegian, broadening the club’s knowledge of here – although in a really gamey way! That could have also identified Adrian, who joined following a spell in Sweden.

With contract expirations likely to take out four homegrown players – with one, due to Danny Green’s performances, against my wishes, I do worry about how clever the AI are here. Will they purposely target Canadians when they know my requirements are for Canadians or will they simply go out and try and find the ‘best’ that is available? That could be the cause of some issues further down the line. Additionally, our player development – historically – has been poor and that puts even more onus on me getting it right at this moment in time. However, after just three months of game time, I think I can be happy with the preliminary analysis of my two youngsters from the previous update:


Marques has made remarkable progress with growth in Decisions (+1), Off the Ball (+1), Passing (+1), Vision (+1) and Determination (+1) as well as some further developments across the breadth of his game. In that time, he’s played 1036 minutes, creating seven goals and scoring two, ensuring that his average rating is allowing for positive progress with his attributes. Whilst there has been no movement with his personality, his determination has risen and will hopefully continue to do so. I’ve been very vocal in praise for his training – every fortnight – and have also praised every match performance above a 7.5 rating, with a specific area of his game that he has done well in – largely, in this period, his creativity. His 1810 league minutes across the season basically account for all of the target total of 2000, which is great too.

Whilst the progress line for Ondaan is flat, he’s improved in Balance (+1), Anticipation (+1) and Decisions (+1) across the 429 minutes he’s appeared in, scoring three times. Whilst the number of minutes is significantly lower than Marques, I also feel that the time spent on his player trait, which currently sits at ‘progressing very well with his work developing his new trait’ means that he’s had time away from the maint training, limiting the benefits. Going forward, identifying tutors who can pass on positive traits early on means that more time can be spent on developing attributes at this vital age.

However, overall, this little experiment seems to be working nicely and I’ll absolutely continue with these two, adding in four new youngsters from my recent youth intake:



Rhair Borba is the gem of the intake, in my eyes. He’s already really quite well rounded for the role I think he could be used in – a Libero. At sixteen, I feel that there are few really weak areas, dribbling aside and, have, as such, created a training plan that will utilise two different roles – CWB(s) and L(s) that encourage dribbling development. As time goes on, he’ll move into a mentoring slot and the generic Libero traits may come in – bringing the ball out of the defence, which, ideally, would come from mentoring with Alex OsbornI’m really excited to dig into his development! A very close second in this list is Cunhaanother Portuguese descendant who I will hopefully grow to love. He’s a pace merchant and could, just about, become a ball carrying striker who doesn’t just need to sit on the last man. With that in mind, two roles: P(a) and T(a) will be used in his training plan with the latter designed on making him a little more intelligent when he is on the ball, particularly his decision making, concentration and composure.

Gavin Hayward has a training plan build on solidifying some really strong mental attributes for a boy of his age as well as pushing some technical areas that do feel somewhat underdeveloped. I’m hopeful that he can move into a defensive full back role, which, potentially, could be used on whichever side – given his two footedness. Beni Shushan has some quite big deficiencies but his training plan is intended to round out a few areas of mental weakness as I look at the potential to make use of not too shabby marking and tackling and convert him to an aggressive wing back, giving me yet another option to build up with.

Add these four to Ondaan and Marques, already in the first team and a surprise emergence of Maciej Abramovicz – who has just been given some minutes in the run in – and I think I have some really intriguing project players. I think that this is particularly important as, based on current thoughts, a lot of the imports will not help me meet the registration rules and I both need to be clever, such as exploring the use of Adrian as a DLF(s), and forensic when developing players to come into the team. I even was able to say that in a press conference…


That being said, with just twenty-three players allowed in the roster, including these four means I have just nineteen spaces left for those truly ready for the first team. Lots to think about in this area! But, in the meantime, it’s postseason play!


  • Ben

    Ben has been a long time contributor to the FM community previously on The Dugout and the SI Forums. He is known for his great in-depth tactical analysis and an increasing level of understanding of data led recruitment. His FM saves are always in-depth and he delivers both his knowledge of the game and great storytelling including a talent for squad building, progressing youth players and finding diamonds in the rough. His saves are really popular within the blogging community. He is also the creator of the popular skin “Statman”

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