Home Saves Hold fast, stay true: My FM21 journey...

Hold fast, stay true: My FM21 journey…

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OK, I am there – finally. I’d completely missed something when scouting about the leagues to find a club I wanted to start with when the full version drops next week. The Canadian Premier League. And, more importantly, Atletico Ottawa.

A little known fact about me – I’m probably still banned from playing football in Canada courtesy of a red card picked up in my last game out there in the summer of 1995. My disciplinary hearing was the week after I flew back to England – so my registration card (sadly long gone) will still be marked as suspended for my next match.

That summer, I am told, I was the top goalscorer in the U17 Ottawa leagues which is, frankly, more an indictment of the quality of youth football in Ottawa than it was about me being some kind of shit-hot goalscorer in my teens. But, understandably, I loved my time out here as a 16-year-old who was looked after pretty well as I was scoring plenty of goals for the team.

So, seeing Ottawa on FM21 has given me the urge to ‘go back’ – and give the CPL a go.

The club is owned in some way by Atletico Madrid – which gives it a quirk – and is based in the capital city of Canada, which means it is perfectly placed to grow to become the powerhouse of this very young league.

Obviously, I have never managed in Canada before which makes this interesting to me – so that is a big tick.

Because of the low early expectations at Atletico Ottawa, that probably gives me a free hit of a couple of seasons to get things set up the way I want them to be – so that is a big tick.

Financially, the club isn’t exactly rich so it needs to be built – that’s a big tick.

I like the kit – massive tick.

I doubt many other people will be playing in the CPL – so that’s a tick.

It has a lovely balance between being a ‘shorter league’ as at the start there are only 8 teams (not sure about any CPL expansion plans, actually – I guess Atletico are an expansion team as they weren’t there from the word go?) but not so short that it is silly – quick seasons, quick progress, hopefully.

Now, I am guessing not many people will know too much about Atletico Ottawa, so here’s some copied and pasted stuff from various websites.


Never Stop Believing – Courage and Heart – We Fight Like Brothers

Ottawa is the city that unifies our country. And now Atlético has arrived in the capital with an aim of inspiring and mobilizing the local soccer community.

As a new member of the “red and white family,” Atlético Ottawa inherits a 100 plus years club philosophy with enormous emphasis on hard-work, courage and a “never-give-up” attitude. 

The club believes that these values will be very identifiable with the hard-working people of the city.

The region has had a history of attempting to grow the game at a professional level, and Atlético wants to seize this momentum.

Ottawa Gatineau has also become one of the most exciting areas in the country for cultivating young talent; a residual benefit of immigration in conjunction with the well-established youth soccer infrastructure built on a sincere passion for the game.

There has always been love and support for soccer in the Capital.  The arrival of Atlético Ottawa signals a new era, a fresh start with immediate, built-in expertise from a club that doesn’t just hope for success, but rather, expects it.

We never stopped believing that the Canadian Premier League would come to Canada’s Capital.  Now the hard work begins.


Above is the standard corporate rubbish about what Atletico Ottawa stand for – but is it rubbish?

Ottawa is a hard-working city. The club is part of Atletico Madrid, a team the is synonymous with hard-work and discipline. It links, I tell you it links.

Immediately, this tells me that my club will have to embody hard work, grittiness, a steely determination to be the best. Basically, I’ll need to go full Simeone.


But beyond results, the Spanish giants have a “way” that has evolved over the years, combining the fluidity associated with La Liga, with a committed and fearless pragmatism that Europe’s biggest clubs have struggled to break down. 

This courageous personality is what Atlético wants supporters to experience at TD Place.

Apart from the footballing style and aesthetics, Atlético Madrid is also serious about the substance of development and recruitment.  Young players are patiently nurtured and then given opportunities, whether in Spain, or abroad.

The club also has an impressive track record of discovering and integrating world-class talent from elsewhere in Europe and overseas. 

\The ability to identify and then model an “Atleti” type player, is what supporters in Ottawa should be most excited about over the coming years. (Especially given the region’s well- documented riches of young emerging Canadian talent).

Well, I can certainly get on board with the technical philosophy of the club. For this save to be interesting to me, it is going to need a huge focus on development – the development of the club, the players, the league and even the national team longer term.

I’ll be interested to see if the allegedly-famed young emerging talent in Ottawa translates to some decent youth intakes, that’s for sure.

An interesting spin on the narrative is the Spanish link – I might add Spanish players to the database and put in some kind of ‘rule’ that I can only sign Canadian or Spanish players. The CPL allows five foreign players on the pitch at any one time (I believe there might be a Spanish player in the squad when I start and I’ll be taking over from a Spanish manager so I’d presume some of the backroom team will also be from Spain).

So there we go – I’m off to see my Canadian mom once more.

In the next post, I’ll look at Day One at the club which will (in theory) cover the following;

  • The tactical approach
    • the tactical framework we will work to based on what we’ve discovered above
    • staff (now and needed)
    • training – I’m going to actually get involved in this side of it on FM21
    • scouting
  • Looking at the league
    • I guess this will be a bit of a get-to-know the CPL, the teams, the players, the rules, the brief history etc
  • Squad assessment
    • thinking about this season and then looking ahead to next

And that will probably do…

See you soon x

Old-school FM/CM player, author of 'Johnny Cooper: Championship Manager' and someone who now very much starts a save and quits halfway through...

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