Football Manager 2020: 15 clubs you should manage to challenge yourself

8 Sep

Football Manager 2020 is just around the corner so boot up your laptop and get ready to while away the hours trying to unearth wonderkid regens from Venezuela.

Upon release, we fully intend to spend our time tweaking tactics and instructions in hope of finding the ultimate way to beat opponents in the hyper-realistic management simulation game.

It’s no fun just being Manchester City, Barcelona, Juventus, or Bayern Munich, though. You need to really test your skills every now and again.

Barcelona superstar Antoine Griezmann, amongst many others, is a fan of the series and regularly posts images of his Arsenal save – he clearly loves a challenge too!

But who are the clubs you should be considering to manager as we await the game’s release?

Here talkSPORT.com has taken a look at 15 teams we reckon will really test your skills.

Chelsea (Premier League)

Think you can do better than Frank Lampard? Try it out for yourself.

The club legend is currently dealing with long-term injuries to three starlets, a two-window transfer ban, and the loss of Eden Hazard.

Lampard’s start to life at Stamford Bridge has been mixed but how will you do?

Will you stick with Kurt Zouma, will you pick Cesar Azpilicueta? Give it a go.

Frank Lampard has had an interesting start to life as Chelsea boss
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Athletic Bilbao (LaLiga)

It’s far too easy just being Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico in Spain. You need to make things tricky.

Why not become boss in Bilbao?

You’re going to have to be an ace at handling young stars as Athletic Club can only sign players with a Basque heritage or Spaniards no older than 16.

The talent of Inaki Williams, Iker Munian, Yeray, and Inigo Martinez will help to start out.

Aymeric Laporte and Kepa Arrizabalaga have both played for Athletic Club in recent times

FC Koln (Bundesliga)

Winners of the first ever Bundesliga title in 1963, Effzeh have only won one more since, back in 1977/78, so can you end the drought?

They were promoted back to the top flight last season, winning the second division in Germany.

The managed to retain stars like Timo Horn and Jonas Hector, amongst others, while Simon Terodde was prolific last season – can he cut it in the top flight for you after previous first division struggles?

FC Koln have a passionate fanbase
Getty - Contributor

AC Milan (Serie A)

Financial Fair Play breaches mean the Italians won’t be playing in Europe this season, despite finishing fifth last term.

There’s been another overhaul with their squad as Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leao, and Ismael Bennacer joining permanently, while Ante Rebic signs on loan with an option to buy.

Out go several former first-teamers like Riccardo Montolivio, Ignazio Abate, Cristian Zapata, as well as youngster Patrick Cutrone, along with several loanees.

Can you get them back into the Champions League where they belong?

Can you get the best out of Hakan Calhanoglu?
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Monaco (Ligue 1)

A topsy-turvy 2018/19 saw things get grim on the Cote d’Azur last season and not even Thierry Henry could help them.

It’s a squad which has a mixture of young talents and experienced professionals like Cesc Fabregas, Naldo and Kamil Glik.

The forward line is tasty with Henry Onyekuru, Wissam Ben Yedder, Islam Slimani and Jean-Kevin Augustin joining Stevan Jovetic, Gelson Martins, and Keita Balde.

But can you get them back near the top of the table competing with Paris Saint-Germain and the best in Europe?

Can Slimani be the key to glory on the south coast of France?
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Ajax (Eredivisie)

How do you cope with losing two of the world’s most exciting talents?

By managing the Dutch giants you can put yourself in Erik ten Hag’s shoes.

Will you place faith in talents like Perr Schuurs, Kik Pierie, Sergino Dest, or go with experienced stars?

Can you use the club’s new wealth to develop even more wonderkids? Or will you splash the cash on stars from around the globe? It’s a test of shrewdness and being savvy with your finances.

Can you do better than Erik ten Hag?
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Aberdeen (Scottish Premiership)

Sir Alex Ferguson was the last man to hand The Dons a league title in Scotland back in 1985.

When Rangers weren’t in the top flight recently, they couldn’t capitalise either.

But with you in charge, well, anything could happen.

Sam Cosgrove can get you goals, but can you sort out a leaky defence and put a title bid back on the cards?

Deportivo La Coruna (LaLiga 2)

For 20 years, the Spaniards were one of the top teams in the top flight but now they’re a mid-table second tier side.

Things have changed in Galicia but you can turn the clock back on Football Manager 2020.

You will need to find your own answers to Roy Makaay, Djalminha, Noureddine Naybet, Donato and Mauro Silva.

But if you can, you’ll be a fine gaffer.

Wakaso Mubarak in action for Deportivo La Coruna this season
Getty Images - Getty

Auxerre (Ligue 2)

Guy Roux became player-manager of the club back in 1961 when they were in the fourth tier.

Across 40 years he took them to the top-flight and eventually helped them win the Ligue 1 title in 1996, as well as earning them four Coup de France trophies.

Now, though, they’re back in Ligue 2 and have been for seven campaigns.

The squad needs a little bit of TLC and if you get things right you could be a club legend, just like Roux.

Guy Roux is a true football legend
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St Pauli (2. Bundesliga)

Everyone loves the left wing ideologies of the Hamburg natives but, despite their global brand, they haven’t been in the first tier since 2011.

This year they even have some Brits in their squad, as Matt Penney and James Lawrence join their ranks.

You might also remember ex-Arsenal man Ryo Miyaichi and former Manchester United academy ace Mats Moller Daehli.

Will you get them promoted ahead of cross-city rivals Hamburg in 2019/20?

St Pauli star Finn Ole Becker holds off a challenge
Getty - Contributor

Venezia (Serie B)

A bridge too far? Not for someone as skilled in Football Manager as you.

Why not head to the lagoon this year and help the Floating City into Serie A?

Venezia were handed a stunning reprieve this summer as they were set to be sinking into Serie C.

Instead, with Palermo demoted to Serie D due to funding issues, Gli Arancioneroverdi hung onto a spot in the second tier.

This one is a fun task, if you choose to accept it.

Youssef Maleh in action for Venezia
Getty Images - Getty

Bolton Wanderers (League One)

The Trotters were on the brink just days ago but their salvation now presents you with a real test of Football Manager.

Once in the UEFA Cup playing Bayern Munich, the club has fallen on hard times. Get them back there and you’ll be a local hero forever.

Football Ventures have completed their takeover of Bolton
Getty Images - Getty

Salford City (League Two)

Fancy having the Class of 92 as your bosses? Why not pitch up at Moor Lane and try to meet their expectations.

You’ll likely to have to adhere to a few philosophies but that’s never stopped you before has it?

Play attacking football, vie for promotion, and bringing through young talent are likely to be among your immediate tasks.

David Beckham and Gary Neville in the stands during the Vanarama National League Play Off Final between Salford City and AFC Fylde at Wembley
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Chorley (National League)

Promoted last season, the Magpies play at Victory Park.

And victories will be needed to keep them in the National League, let alone for a shot at the Football League.

This one is for lower league management veterans and not for the faint-hearted.

Shanghai SIPG (Chinese Super League)

Fancy having Hulk, Oscar, and Marko Arnautovic at your disposal over in the CSL?

It’s still tough to win the title with Paulinho and Anderson Talisca inspiring Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, so you need to be at the top of your game.

Goalkeeping coach Ian Walker will be there to lend you a hand.

Can you help Arnautovic win a trophy?
Getty - Contributor

‘Heartbroken’ Leyton Orient captain Jobi McAnuff pays tribute to Justin Edinburgh

9 Jun

Leyton Orient captain Jobi McAnuff has paid tribute to late manager Justin Edinburgh.

The O’s boss, 49, tragically died on Saturday, five days after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Jobi McAnuff and Justin Edinburgh helped Leyton Orient win promotion to League Two last season
Getty

The former Tottenham defender saved Orient from back-to-back relegations after being appointed in November 2017, before guiding the club to a National League title as they regained their place in the Football League last season.

McAnuff, who was a regular starter under Edinburgh, told talkSPORT 2: “We were in a bit of a bad state as a club, heading in the wrong direction and we needed that direction and Justin, from the moment he walked through the building, gave us just that.

“He had a real presence about him, a real aura, and positive energy. Every day he came to work and demanded 100 per cent from everybody and that showed on the pitch.

“That [promotion] will be something we do look back on fondly and take with us in the future.

“I’m glad that we shared those times and had those moments, they’re very, very rare. I couldn’t have asked to share them with a better bloke.”

A video has been shared on social media of Edinburgh passionately talking to his players following their National League triumph.

It showed the togetherness between himself and Orient’s stars, with McAnuff insisting it is the best dressing room he has been a part of in his 19-year career.

The 37-year-old said: “I’m glad that video was captured because I think if anything, it sums up the gaffer and our relationship.

“He had a real knack of finding the balance between the banter, but when it was time to work, he had that switch and that fearlessness. For me that’s something I’ll always take with me, the fun times we shared and the passion.

“He really brought the group together, I’ve been in football for a long time now and it’s one of the best environments I’ve been in, in terms of getting the families involved.

“He was a big believer in how big a part the families play. He made a real big point of making sure the wives and children were part of the club and it really helped strengthen the bond we all shared.

“As you can see in that video, it’s all real. I have a deep affection for Justin and all the family. The players are just heartbroken for all of them at this terrible time.”

League Two: Yeovil drop out of the Football League after collapse at Northampton

27 Apr

Yeovil were relegated to the National League after throwing away a two-goal lead at Northampton on a dramatic day at the foot of League Two.

The Glovers looked on course to boost their survival bid after goals from Tristan Abrahams and Jake Gray in the opening 24 minutes put them in control.

Tristan Abrahams despairs after the game

However, Omar Sowunmi headed into his own net four minutes after half-time and Daniel Powell pulled the Cobblers level six minutes later.

Notts County started the day behind Yeovil but gave themselves a huge lifeline with a 2-1 win at home to Grimsby – a Craig Mackail-Smith effort and a Harry Clifton own goal earning them the three points.

However, the Magpies remain two points adrift of 22nd-placed Macclesfield, who moved a step closer to preserving their English Football League status thanks to a 66th-minute David Fitzpatrick goal in a 1-0 win at Port Vale that relegated the Glovers, who are now helplessly four points from safety with a single fixture left to play.

Forest Green were on their way to gaining ground in the race for automatic promotion until a late collapse in their match at Crewe.

Rovers led 3-2 with three minutes remaining but conceded twice before the final whistle to lose 4-3, meaning they will now likely have to settle for a play-off berth.

The result was a let-off for Mansfield and MK Dons, who both suffered defeats – the Dons losing 2-0 at Colchester and the Stags beaten 2-1 at home by Stevenage.

Tranmere’s home clash with Bury was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch and will now be played on Tuesday. A win for the Shakers will secure their promotion to League One.

Colchester’s victory keeps the Essex side in the chase for a play-off berth currently occupied by seventh-placed Exeter, who still hold a two-point advantage over the chasing pack thanks to a 1-0 win against Oldham.

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Carlisle, Stevenage and Newport are all level on points with the U’s in a congested race for the end-of-season knockout.

The Cumbrians were 4-2 winners against Crawley, while Newport beat champions Lincoln 1-0 and have a game in hand over the four teams above them.

Elsewhere, Morecambe were 2-1 winners at Cambridge and Cheltenham beat Swindon 3-2.

Leyton Orient promoted to the Football League to end two-year exile

27 Apr

Leyton Orient sealed the National League title after a tense goalless draw at home to Braintree.

The O’s suffered a dramatic fall from grace and tumbled out of League Two in 2017 – but they will return to the Football League following their two-year exile.

Justin Edinburgh has guided Leyton Orient back to the Football League

The home side enjoyed much of the first-half possession but struggled to fashion opportunities on goal.

Jobi McAnuff came close for the O’s after 37 minutes, but his curling shot was blocked by Kodi Lyons-Foster.

Macauley Bonne’s strike was flagged for offside after 60 minutes, before Iron’s defender Andrew Eleftheriou tested Dean Brill at the other end.

Orient’s Josh Koroma had an effort blocked on the line after 73 minutes as the game finished goalless, which was enough for the O’s.

 

Manchester United legend Gary Neville insists Class of 92’s ownership of Salford City FC ‘is not a PR exercise’

24 Jan

Manchester United legend Gary Neville has insisted the Class of 92’s ownership of non-league club Salford City FC is NOT just a PR stunt.

Neville spoke to talkSPORT on Wednesday after confirming David Beckham had joined his former team-mates in acquiring a 10 per cent stake in the side.

Beckham, Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Schoes and Nicky Butt now hold a combined 60 per cent share in Salford, who have enjoyed three promotions in five years since their takeover and are currently battling for promotion to League Two.

Manchester United’s famous ‘Class of 92’ stars

Getting Beckham on board is a huge fillip for the National League side, whose profile is almost certainly going to soar with the iconic former England captain now involved.

But Neville has passionately responded to claims the Manchester United greats’ involvement of the club is only for the publicity – insisting they are all dedicated to their local club’s growth.

“People always have an opinion, but being a ten per cent shareholder in a business is not PR,” he told talkSPORT’s Manchester correspondent Dom McGuinness.

“There are obligations as a director and you carry the pain of what happens in the football club.

Poll: Salford City or Sal-bored City?
Gary Neville is heavily involved behind the scenes at Salford City

“The idea that you can be criticised for investing in a football club… five years ago we could have decided to leave football, to not put any money into football, not put any money into academies, stadiums, women’s teams.

“We could have departed and said, ‘lets just sit on the television and take money for the next 20 years’.

“The reality of it is, this is real. I see the cash flows and the Excel spread sheets of the club week-in week-out. That’s not PR, it’s real money.

“Outside of all the noise we’ve heard in the last few years, ultimately its just noise and what we’re doing on the ground speaks louder.”


MORE: ‘We always wanted him on board’ – Ryan Giggs delighted Beckham has bought stake in Salford


The Sky Sports pundit is clearly passionate about the club, but admitted he sometimes needs to be ‘settled down’ by his former team-mates.

Neville admitted he ‘panicked’ after Salford’s form dipped earlier this season, but fortunately Scholes was on hand to have a word…

Gary Neville revealed his former team-mates often calm him down

“We all bring something different, our personalities and characters are all different,” he added.

“We lost four games a few weeks ago and it was Paul who settled me down from panicking. At times I’m quite intense, but Paul settles me down, Ryan settles me down.

“Nicky provides a completely different opinion, particularly around the academy and youth side, and David brings something different as well with his international experience and different approach to the game.

“Phil loves coaching, Ryan loves coaching, Nicky loves being an academy director and Paul wants to get back on the training pitch, but I don’t. I want to pursue different areas, so I do act on the operations side on behalf of them.

“They don’t work with the Excel spread sheets, I deal with that because I like it, it’s where I want to be.”

Listen back to Gary Neville’s interview with talkSPORT IN FULL above!

Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs delighted David Beckham has bought stake in Salford City – ‘We always wanted him on board’

23 Jan

Ryan Giggs has shared his delight that fellow Manchester United legend David Beckham has become a part-owner Salford City FC, telling talkSPORT: “It’s great we’re all together now.”

Six of the club’s ‘Class of 92’ heroes now own shares in the National League side, with Beckham joining Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt.

Together they own a 60 per cent stake of Salford City, with Singaporean businessman Peter Lim owning the other 40.

Manchester United’s famous ‘Class of 92’ stars

Beckham’s involvement comes five years after the other five Old Trafford legends took ownership at Moor Lane.

And Giggs is over the moon his old friend is now on board too.

Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT host Jim White, the Wales manager said: “When we first got involved we wanted David to get involved from the start, but because of his commitments with [new MLS club Miami] the timing wasn’t great.

“But now that’s all sorted, he’s agreed to come on board.

Giggsy gets a soaking as Salford celebrate their title win last season

“It’s great news for us that we’re all together now. Salford has been a massive part of our lives, and I’m looking forward to finishing the season strong and hopefully getting another promotion.

“When we first started talking about this we wanted to be involved in something together for the long run – for 25 or 30 years.

“The best way to do that was to own a football club where we can make the decisions!

“Obviously as a coach, you never know how long you’re going to last, so we wanted something where we’d all be involved, have a bit of a laugh, and it’s something close to our hearts because it’s the area where we spent so much time growing up.”

Listen back to the full interview with Ryan Giggs on talkSPORT above!

EXCLUSIVE: Ebbsfleet United goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore tells Jim White how abuse ‘broke him’ and made him want to walk off the pitch

10 Jan

Nathan Ashmore has revealed how the abuse he suffered from the terraces ‘broke him’ during a game and he wanted to walk off the pitch.

The Ebbsfleet United goalkeeper said he is subjected to abuse week in week out and he joined Jim White on talkSPORT to raise awareness about the issue.

Nathan Ashmore speaking on talkSPORT

“There was only one time when I thought ‘I’m coming off this pitch’ and that was the FA Cup game,” Ashmore said. “It did break me that game.”

“It was not racist abuse but other abuse, which is just as bad. It was horrible.

“I had a tear to my eye while I was playing. I remember looking at the steward and he just looked at me like ‘I’m not doing anything’.

“I just didn’t want to play. I wanted to get off the pitch.

“Because of a new manager coming in I didn’t want to walk off the pitch unless 100 per cent necessary. I want to play but at that time it was tough.”

Ashmore hit the headlines this season when he jumped over the advertising boards in Ebbsfleet’s match at Boreham Wood in the National League to confront fans who had been abusing him during the game.

Boreham Wood issued a statement following the incident apologising to Ashmore after supporters allegedly called him a ‘nonce’.

The 28-year-old suffered further alleged abuse on Saturday during Ebbsfleet’s 3-3 draw with Chesterfield and an investigation was launched after a supporter allegedly kicked the goalkeeper.

Chesterfield came back from 3-0 down to score a stoppage time equaliser, which saw several home fans invade the pitch.

Ashmore said: “I lost the love of the game, I really did, and it really did hurt. I suffered quite badly at home. I didn’t sleep.

“I was getting messages. Even from the stuff that was happening at the weekend. I went on my phone and I got the message “you nonce”.

“Everything is personal on my Twitter account and Instagram. But even if they can still send you messages you have to accept it. Even if you want to delete it you still see the message before you delete it.

“For a neutral it was a great game. I was subjected to loads of abuse through the second half. We were 3-0 up and Chesterfield were chasing the game.

“We conceded one goal early in the second half and the crowd get into it.

“I think at 3-1 I will time waste. As you do as a keeper. It is called game management. Every keeper does it and every club in the world does it.

“It’s what you have to do to break the game down. It’s not cheating.

“The crowd don’t like this and I get fouled and I get subjected to more abuse.

“When they scored to make it 3-3 all carnage broke loose.”

Chesterfield issued a statement following the match saying they will be fully co-operating with a Derbyshire Police and FA investigation.

The statement said: “Incidents which occurred towards the end of today’s game against Ebbsfleet United are not acceptable to Chesterfield Football Club and the club condemns the conduct of a minority of supporters.

“The club will fully co-operate with Derbyshire Police and the FA investigation which is now underway. The implications for the club are very serious and an appeal is made to supporters to not engage in matters of pitch encroachment at any time. There have also been a number of serious allegations relating to racial abuse and physical contact involving opposition players.

“The club intends to deal with these matters strongly and as and when individuals are identified, banning orders will be issued. We would urge anyone with information about the incidents to contact the club. All communication will be dealt with on a confidential basis.”

Former Manchester United and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard part of Dagenham & Redbridge takeover

14 Sep

National League strugglers Dagenham & Redbridge have been taken over by an American consortium including former Manchester United and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard.

The club announced in a statement on Friday that Victoria Road LLC, a group also jointly led by businessmen Peter B Freund and Craig Unger, have purchased a majority of shares in the club.

Howard is part of the consortium which has taken over at Dagenham & Redbridge

Freund is the principal owner of Trinity Sports Holdings, which holds interests in Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the recently formed Memphis 901 football club.

The Daggers currently sit fourth from bottom of the National League with two wins from their 10 games so far this season. Their first game under new ownership is at home to Chesterfield on Saturday.

Jon Parkin reveals hilarious story about swapping shirts with Italy and Real Madrid legend Fabio Cannavaro while playing for Stoke City

13 Sep

Jon Parkin is renowned as one of the most colourful and entertaining lower-league footballers of his generation.

The 6″4 tall, 17 stone striker played for Preston North End, Hull City, York City and Cardiff City to name just a few from a career spanning two decades.

Parkin in action for Stoke City

Now at National League North side York City, ‘The Beast’ is releasing an autobiography on September 13th to give fans a glimpse into the supposedly glamorous lifestyle of footballers.

In a snippet released to the Daily Mirror, Parkin recalls the time he played against Real Madrid in a pre-season friendly for Stoke City.

Pitted against arguably the greatest defender of all time Fabio Cannavaro, the 36-year-old reveals he wasn’t exactly in the best shape after writing off a golf buggy on holiday previously.

Cannavaro won the World Cup as captain of Italy in 2006, the same year he won the Balon d’Or

He said: “I was bandaged up (after injuries sustained writing off a golf buggy during a pre-season incident) and I had my shin pads over that and my sock and though it was painful, I was okay for the bench.

“They had Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Raul playing and when I came on for the second half, I was being marked by Fabio Cannavaro, capped 136 times by Italy.

Sure they’ve won the Champions League, but have you ever marked a 17 stone striker from Barnsley?
Cannavaro tackles Zinedine Zidane during the World Cup Final of 2006

“I tried a 40-yard chip that skimmed the bar. It would have been nice if it had gone in, but they knocked it around in their sleep and won 2-0. It had been a piece of p*** for them.

“I asked Cannavaro after the game if I could have his shirt and he nodded, took it off and handed it to me. As I walked away I felt a tap on my shoulder and he pointed at my shirt. I said: “You want this?”

“He just nodded and I was thinking, ‘What the f*** for? To wipe your dog down after a walk?’

“I handed it over, we shook hands and that was it. I still have his shirt, framed in my house. I bet my quadruple XL Stoke shirt with ‘Parkin’ on has got pride of place in his house, too.”

Parkin came on the Hawksbee and Jacobs Show on Tuesday to discuss the incident, check out the hilarious footage below!

Parkin’s book, Feed The Beast, is out on September 13 and charts his career and antics both on and off the pitch