Prologue Part 1:

“Football Italia” was a television show dedicated to Italian football, primarily Serie A, which aired in the United Kingdom on Channel 4 from 1992 to 2002. The show became a cultural phenomenon, bringing Italian football into British homes and greatly influencing the perception of Serie A in the UK.

In the early 1990s, Italian football was regarded as the pinnacle of the sport in Europe. Serie A boasted some of the world’s best players, including the likes of Roberto Baggio, Marco van Basten, and Diego Maradona. Despite this, there was limited coverage of foreign leagues on British television. Channel 4 saw an opportunity to fill this gap.

“Football Italia” was launched on September 6, 1992, capitalizing on Paul Gascoigne’s high-profile transfer to Lazio from Tottenham Hotspur. The show’s format included live coverage of Serie A matches, a highlights show, and various feature segments. It was initially hosted by James Richardson, who became iconic for his witty presentation style and deep knowledge of Italian football. The live matches were broadcast on Sunday afternoons, a slot that became synonymous with Italian football for many British fans. The highlights show, “Gazzetta Football Italia,” aired on Saturday mornings, featuring the previous week’s action, interviews, and previews of upcoming matches.

James Richardson’s charm, fluent Italian, and insightful analysis endeared him to viewers. The sight of Richardson with a cappuccino and a copy of “La Gazzetta dello Sport” in front of a picturesque Italian café became a signature image. The program showcased Serie A’s biggest stars and games, bringing the likes of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Del Piero, and Gabriel Batistuta into the living rooms of British fans. Beyond football, the show offered glimpses into Italian culture, cuisine, and lifestyle, further enhancing its appeal.

“Football Italia” had a significant impact on British football fans. The show played a crucial role in making Serie A one of the most followed leagues in the UK. It contributed to a broader understanding and appreciation of European football among British viewers. The success of “Football Italia” demonstrated the potential for international league coverage, paving the way for the extensive broadcasting of foreign football leagues in the UK.

The show’s popularity began to wane in the late 1990s, partly due to the increasing dominance of the Premier League and the emergence of other European leagues. Channel 4 decided to end the show after the 2001-2002 season. The final live match broadcast was the Rome derby between Lazio and Roma on May 5, 2002. After Channel 4, the rights to Serie A in the UK were picked up by other broadcasters such as British Eurosport, Bravo, and Setanta Sports, though none achieved the same cultural impact as “Football Italia.”

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I am home.

I have played Football Manager since before Football Manager, which is over twenty years now. In that time, I’ve been obsessed with Italian teams: Venezia, Como, Pescara, Pistoiese, Castel di Sangro, Messina, Citta di Messina, Treviso, Gallipoli, Catania, Atletico Catania Palermo and Bellaria are all saves I can remember. Some have stuck. Some have not. Some were played with minimal details, simming through seasons, editing my then-teenage desires to achieve everything, including copious editor usage. I haven’t properly returned in detail.

A short-ish spell at Atalanta in FM23 soothed last year’s desire but, given the completion of some goals set in my previous save – The Norseman – I now find myself unable to quell my desires any longer


N.B. I always write my posts in first person, as under the moniker of the character I’m using as my manager. However, I do enjoy creating a backstory, rather than a whole monologue that progresses through the save. This is the story of Francesco D’Anzo. A name that, if you’ve followed my FM24 escapades so far, you may remember.

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Francesco D’Anzi stood at the edge of the field in Stadio Teofilo Patini, the very place where his love for football had taken root. The crisp air of Castel di Sangro was filled with the echoes of his childhood, a time when the impossible had become reality. He was just eight years old when the local club, Castel di Sangro Calcio, had made their miraculous ascent to Serie B in 1996. With a population of just over 5,000, Castel di Sangro’s rise to the second tier of Italian football was nothing short of a fairy tale. The whole town was electrified by football fever, and for eight-year-old Francesco, it was the spark that ignited a lifelong passion.

Born into a modest family, Francesco grew up with his parents and two younger sisters in a small house near the mountains. His father, a factory worker, and his mother, a schoolteacher, instilled in him the values of hard work and perseverance. Every weekend, his father would take him to Stadio Teofilo Patini to watch Castel di Sangro play, fostering Francesco’s deep connection to the game. As a child, Francesco spent countless hours kicking a ball around the dusty streets and grassy fields of his hometown. His talent was evident even then; he had an innate understanding of the game, a sharp tactical mind, and a natural grace with the ball at his feet. By the time he was a teenager, local scouts had taken notice, and his dream of playing professional football began to take shape.

At 16, Francesco’s life took a dramatic turn when he was scouted by Bayer Leverkusen. The German club saw immense potential in the young Italian and offered him a place in their prestigious youth academy. Leaving his family and the familiar surroundings of Castel di Sangro was a daunting prospect, but Francesco was determined to seize the opportunity. In Germany, Francesco thrived. The rigorous training and high level of competition pushed him to new heights. He quickly rose through the ranks, and it seemed only a matter of time before he would break into the first team. His technical skills, combined with his tactical intelligence, made him a standout player in the academy.

But just as his star was rising, fate dealt him a cruel blow. During a training session, Francesco suffered a severe knee injury that would ultimately end his playing career at just 23 years old. The diagnosis was devastating. For a time, he struggled to come to terms with the end of his dreams of playing professionally.

Despite the setback, Francesco’s love for the game never waned. Determined to stay connected to football, he turned his focus to coaching. He returned to Italy and enrolled in the prestigious Coverciano, the Italian football coaching institute. There, he immersed himself in the study of modern football tactics, drawing inspiration from the new wave of managers who emphasized high pressing and fluid movements.  He learned from some of the best minds in football and developed his own coaching philosophy. He believed in a dynamic style of play that relied on teamwork, intelligence, and relentless energy. His approach was a blend of Italian tactical discipline and the attacking flair he had admired during his time in Germany. He delved deep into the intricacies of tactical analysis, sports psychology, and team management. His instructors were seasoned professionals, including former Serie A managers and national team coaches, who provided invaluable insights and mentorship.



The date is 26th October 2024.

Man City won the Premier League from Liverpool and Arsenal chasing, with Crystal Palace, Luton and Sheffield United going down, Barca retained their La Liga title as did Napoli in Italy, Paris Saint-Germain in France and Bayern in Germany with Real making it two Champions League titles in three years, beating PSG in the final. Football, finally, came home as Rashford and Bellingham saw off Italy in the final as Gareth kept his job.

But this isn’t about that. My passion with all things Italy actually stems from a love of all things southern Italian. I don’t really know where it came from but I’ve thoroughly explored the footballing landscape of Sicily with the knowledge that there is a huge financial and success divide between the north and south of the country. My first, and, potentially, only foray into this country has landed right here. Giacomo Modica was relieved of his duties as Messina manager and this has presented me with my chance.


A club, struggling at the bottom of the third tier, but with huge potential and a really interesting history.

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A.C.R. Messina, officially known as Associazioni Calcio Riunite Messina, is a historic football club based in Messina, Sicily. The club was founded in 1900, making it one of the oldest football institutions in Italy. Messina’s early years were marked by local competitions and regional leagues, reflecting the nascent state of Italian football at the time. The club underwent several transformations and name changes before adopting the A.C.R. Messina moniker, which it retains to this day.

The 1930s and 1940s were a period of gradual growth for Messina. During this era, the club participated in Serie C, the third tier of Italian football, with varying degrees of success. The post-World War II period saw Messina striving for stability and progress, leading to their first notable achievement: promotion to Serie B in 1949. This promotion marked the beginning of a more competitive phase for the club, as they established themselves as a formidable side in the second tier of Italian football.

The 1960s heralded a golden era for A.C.R. Messina. The club achieved promotion to Serie A for the first time in its history in the 1962-63 season. This milestone was a significant achievement for the club and its supporters, as they had the opportunity to compete against Italy’s top teams. Although their stay in Serie A was brief, the experience laid the foundation for future aspirations. The club spent the remainder of the 1960s oscillating between Serie A and Serie B, demonstrating their resilience and capability to compete at high levels.

However, the following decades were challenging for Messina. The club faced financial difficulties, management issues, and inconsistent performances, which led to their relegation to the lower divisions. The 1980s and 1990s were particularly tough, with the club spending significant time in Serie C and even Serie D, the fourth tier of Italian football. Despite these challenges, the club’s passionate fan base and the city’s support kept the spirit of Messina alive.

A resurgence occurred in the early 2000s. Under the guidance of new management and with a reinvigorated squad, Messina achieved back-to-back promotions, culminating in their return to Serie A in the 2004-05 season. This period was marked by memorable matches and impressive performances, including a notable victory against the illustrious A.C. Milan. The 2004-05 season ended with Messina finishing in a respectable seventh place, their highest-ever finish in Serie A.

Nevertheless, financial instability once again plagued the club, leading to their relegation and eventual exclusion from professional leagues due to bankruptcy in 2008. A.C.R. Messina was refounded and had to start anew from Serie D. The journey back was arduous, but the club demonstrated resilience, gradually climbing back up the Italian football hierarchy.

In recent years, Messina has oscillated between Serie C and Serie D, striving to regain its former glory. The club’s history is a testament to its resilience, embodying the struggles and triumphs of a small yet passionate football community. A.C.R. Messina continues to aspire to return to the upper echelons of Italian football, driven by a loyal fan base and a rich history that spans over a century.

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I’m going for a full send here. I have spent time creating kits, with the home kit’s homage to the Sicily, where they are based and made by legendary Italian manufacturers Kappa. My choice is to use a slightly older club logo as I prefer it but my job, a I continue posting about Messina, is to build a club identity in terms of these graphics, changing kits and corporate things where necessary.


  • 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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