For those of you that have followed my FM saves for the last few years you’ll know that, contrary to DGear’s belief, I tend not to manage teams like Newcastle. Instead I look further afield to try and finding something different that’ll capture my attention. From Panathinaikos in Greece to Deportivo Cali in Colombia, Caracas in Venezuela to the mighty Al Wahda in the UAE and mostly recently, in FM18, a fantastic save in Libya that saw Al Ahli lift the Club World Cup in spectacular circumstances.
Now there is also a common theme with all of these saves, I not only manage a club but I also manage the country as well. I’ve maybe not quite had the same success with the national sides as I have with the club sides, my only success being a 2018 World Cup win with Greece back on FM14. Granted it’s probably easier to win a World Cup with Greece than it is with Venezuela, UAE or Libya.
Still in the last 2 versions of FM I was controversially sacked by the UAE and didn’t really make many inroads with Libya, a solitary appearance at the AFCON being my only real achievement in 6 years. As a result, I thought I’d go back to the start to see if FM19 I could achieve more with the national team than in previous versions. Where better to start than a post written by the Godfather of Club & Country saves, Shrewnaldo:
My approach to C&C has always differed to Shrew’s as the club has often come first with me looking to build the backbone of the national side at the club I’m managing. This has led me to hold on to talented youngsters and lock them in the basement rather than let them move on to the bigger leagues around the world. The rational has always been that a team is stronger than an individual and that a team of less capable players that have spent their entire careers playing together, is stronger as a unit than 11 individuals playing with different players and styles for their clubs. Whilst this probably worked for Venezuela and the UAE, it did not for Libya in a continent full of internationals playing outside of their home nation. This makes me think that my Country of choice for FM19 will have to have a bit more of a blend between the Mendoza ‘Keep them at all costs’ method and the Shrewnaldo ‘Sell Sell Sell’ method.
Another area of my C&C approach that I will continue to do is to blend domestic players with South American talent both young and old. With Diego Mendoza being South American it seems only right that he should surround himself with South American players and coaches and this is something I will not change as I feel it has served me well in previous jobs.
This is where I get excited about one of FM19’s new features, the new training module. It should make things very interesting and I’m hoping that I can use some of the veteran South Americans that I’m so fond of, to have more of an influence in the style of national player coming through using the mentoring group system.
So with all this talk about how the save is going to go we should probably get to the most important question, where am I going?
Kazakhstan and FC Tobol
As most of you know I’m not one for the conventional places to manage and I rarely play in an ‘Out of the Box League’ these days. So after much deliberation I’ve settled on coming back to Europe…but only just. Kazakhstan borders China and geographically is situated in Central Asia, however they joined UEFA back in 2002 and as such it will give me a chance to compete in European competitions for the first time since FM15.
I think one of the reasons I quite fancied a return to European football was the start of the new UEFA Nations League and how that could be quite interesting to compete in.
So, what do you need to know about Kazakhstani football? Well after the break up of the Soviet Union it formed its own league in 1992 and the National side joined the AFC however after failing to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World Cup they made the decision to join UEFA. The National team currently sits 118th in the World, 19 places below my previous employers Libya. I’m hoping though that with the new Nations League to compete in and myself at the helm that I can quickly rise up the rankings.
What gives me faith is the steps the domestic league has been making in recent years. The rise in Kazakhstani football has been driven primarily by state funded Astana who made the group stages of the Champions League in 2015 and then managed to finish 2nd in their Europa League group last year before going out to Sporting Lisbon in the last 32. Unfortunately, the other big sides in the league have been unable to repeat the same feat as of yet but that’s hopefully where Diego Mendoza’s arrival will start to change things.
When I was looking at clubs to manage I thought about going with one of the big ones like Kairat or Aktobe, the main rivals to Astana. However, the more research I did I eventually settled on a club from Kostanay in the North of Kazakhstan, FC Tobol.
FC Tobol Kostanay
Why FC Tobol I hear you ask? A club located 3,339.9 miles away from my sofa and probably one that not many people will have ever heard of. Well for starters they have the only Argentine playing in Kazakhstan, Juan Lescano formerly of Liverpool, who is on loan from Anzhi. They also have a kit that I really like which as some of you may know by now I do base a lot of my club choices on the kit they wear. There is however a lot more to FC Tobol which I hope is going to make this save as enjoyable as previous years.
Founded in 1967 as Avtomobilist they’ve changed their name several times over the years and despite joining the newly formed Kazakhstan Premier League in 1992 as Khimik, they settled on their current name, FC Tobol in 1995. The name Tobol comes from the river that runs through Kostanay if any of you are interested. 😊 Sadly, it’s hard to find any other interesting facts given that my Kazakh and Russian isn’t the greatest.
They play their home matches at the Central Stadium in Kostanay with it holding a maximum capacity of 10,000 fans. Now this is quite a contrast to the 80,000 I could host when managing Al Ahli (LBY) and I’m sure this is going to have an impact on the revenue I receive from home matches.
In terms of historical success, it took until 2002 for FC Tobol to establish themselves as a challenger in the league, with them finishing no lower than fourth between 2002 and 2010. A cup win in 2007 was their first silverware before eventually winning the league in 2010. Unfortunately for the team since then things haven’t quite gone to plan as the club has slid back to mid-table mediocrity, finishing outside the top 4 ever since.
It would appear I’m tasked with bringing a former title challenger back into the limelight once more. Just the way I like it.
Of that title winning side from 2010 only 2 players remain at the club, winger Azat Nurgaliyev and veteran striker Nurbol Zhumaskaliyev. Now 32 and 37 respectively these two would normally be at the end of their careers but as many of you know I love a veteran and as such both will be part of my football revolution in Northern Kazakhstan. The current squad also contains several Kazakhstani internationals; goalkeeper Nepohodov, defenders Miroschnichenko and Dmitrenko, young and exciting attacking midfielder Maxim Fedin and striker Bauryzhan Turysbek. It also contains Georgian international midfielders Kankava and Kvekveskiri, Lithuanian Destroyer Zulpa and Central African defender Kassai. It would be fair to say I’ll be inheriting a half decent squad that contains plenty of experience which will be key to developing the next generation of players to take Kazakhstan to the next level.
The South American Connection
Now as many of you know by now, I love South American players and in all my saves whereever I might be managing I always try and bring the flair, passion and entertainment synonymous with South American football and footballers. How I have managed that in the past is through blending a mixture of Youth and Veterans from the continent into my Youth teams with the hope that over the long term the style will rub off on the local lads. In the past this has always been a theoretical approach with the only real way to try and implement this being by either tutoring or in more recent times squad dynamics. I’d always shove a couple of veterans into the reserve squad with the idea being that if I was playing on a pitch week in, week out with a seasoned pro I’d learn a lot more than I would just playing with a bunch of kids. Whether this made any difference in previous FMs is dubious.
With FM19 this is hopefully going to change, and the new training and mentoring module will give me the opportunity to apply a bit more of my theory. I hope that a combination of by grouping players with the right sort of mentors in the youth teams, specific training sessions focused on South American-esque skills and blending mentally strong players alongside weaker local players will all lead to the ultimate goal, development of Kazakhstani football.
It’s always good to have a plan that isn’t just win everything as let’s be honest with the speed I play at Kazakhstan aren’t going to be winning the World Cup on FM19 and Tobol won’t be winning the Champions League. That doesn’t mean however there isn’t a lot that I can’t achieve and to be honest I’m quite excited about the prospect of a save where the plan isn’t to conquer the world as I did with Al Ahli (LBY). I’ve split my plan between Kazakhstan and FC Tobol and I think it’ll be interesting to revisit these at the end of FM19 to see how I got on.
- Break into FIFA Top 100
- Top Nations League Group
- Qualify for the Euros
- Have an international player playing in one of the Top 5 leagues in Europe (England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy)
- Play attractive and exciting football
- Qualify for Europe
- Develop Youth and Training Facilities
- Win the Domestic Cup
- Implement a South American influence to the team
- Become the dominant team in Kazakhstan
- Produce an international standard player from our Academy
- Qualify for the Champions League Group Stages
- Sell a player to a Top 5 League Club (England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy
- Complete more than 6 season before FM20
- Don’t break my sofa
- Stay married
- Love every minute of hopefully another roller coaster of a year.
Another part of my saves that I’ve loved over the last few years is following the team and country I’ve managed in real life and this year is no different. On initial research it was a difficult league to track down however I was not to be deterred and eventually with the help of google translate and some creative googling I’ve come across two useful little resources for Kazakhstani football.
An English language blog covering the Kazakhstan Premier League providing short and sweet analysis of each of the matches taking place on a weekly basis.
The Kazakhstan Football youtube channel where you can live stream and watch back full Kazakhstan Premier League matches. I cannot wait for the next Mummy Squad wine night when I can be sat in bed playing FM and watch Tobol play in real life.
If you are interested in potentially spending your next holiday in Kostanay, as Myself, Mrs and Baby Mendoza will be next year, then you can check out this short promotional video:
With ‘onwards’ being my 1999th word, I thought it only right that I push this blog post over the 2000 word mark and deliver on my promise to deliver my blog post for 2018. 😊 I will continue to keep everyone updated on my save primarily via Twitter, live tweeting when alone or just the odd summary tweet when Mrs M is marshaling the FM playing arena. I’m going to try and get back to being a bit more active on my Slack channel again (Find me at #diegomendozatv), primarily in the hope that @FMPressure will come back. I think sadly there is more chance of me winning the Champions League with FC Tobol than that happening. I will however try and share more matches, screenshots etc. on there until Sheriff Samo rocks up to delete everything.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my blog post and that you’ll enjoy following the ups and mostly downs of managing in Kazakhstan. What have I let myself in for.