When you play long term saves in FM you find you become attached to certain players. You sign them, train them and when they reward you with great performances, that feeling is, by far, the most rewarding part of the FM experience.
Now certain teams do this more than others, my Cheltenham side from FM15 have stood out for the last 3 years after we climbed from League 2 to the Championship Play-offs. Joe Hanks, Fikayo Tomori and a few others pushed us far beyond what I expected and a 10 year save was only cut short after a case of laptop murder from an ex.
They say that only love can heal a love inflicted a wound and this season’s Cambridge side have gone a long way to heal those wounds, with a small difference.
By the time my Cheltenham side reached the Championship, I only had one original Cheltenham player in the side, Joe Hanks. I took over an ageing side that had to be replaced and upgraded and in my 3 years in League 2, I had to gut the side and make them younger and stronger.
Cambridge were already made in my image. A young, physical side who just needed someone with a plan to take over and move them forward. This means that I have a few more of the original squad left and those players should be celebrated.
This article is named the 3 Musketeers, however, the Musketeers had their d’Artagnan and I have one too.
Now Bradley Halliday has technically left Cambridge now but A) He was still a Cambridge player when I planned this piece and B) He performed well for us from League 2 all the way to 3 seasons in the Championship.
It was Bradley’s position as my 4th Musketeer that lead to his departure as when he came to me asking to leave to get more first-team football I felt I owed him that after his 5 years of service (6 if you include seasons I wasn’t a manager).
Always a reliable player at Right-Back, playing as a WB/FB-s, Bradley almost never let me down making 178 appearances and often holding down our right flank and allowing Jevani Brown to have a more free role ahead of him. One of the unsung heroes of my Cambridge side but an important one and one I always noticed.
Now on to my Athos. There’s no particular reasoning behind which player I’ve linked to each Musketeer, as such FM has given me no indication that Emmanuel Osadebe has an inclination to indulge in a bit too much wine like his Musketeer counterpart.
In fact, as another reliable rock in my side, I’d guess that the opposite is true. No messages from my Assistant Manager about Osadebe showing up to training hungover or slurred reactions to pre-match team talks.
Osadebe has always been perfectly happy doing the dirty work in my midfield, the actual engine of my Cambridge Chevy. Playing as a runner, he’ll pop up all over the park talking, laying off the ball and then racing upfield to help the guys up front. I’ve used him as both CM-a/s and BBM-s.
Having made 252 appearances and counting, while directly contributing to (scoring or assisting) 57 goals Osadebe has been one of my most reliable midfielders in this save and how he hasn’t been called up for either Ireland or Nigeria is a mystery to me.
So now I need an Aramis. When I first started this save I named 4 players I expected to be the base of my team to come. The first was Osadebe and the second this man, Uche Ikpeazu. With a strength of 18 Ikpeazu has been bullying defenders for me from day 1. I even went to see Cambridge United play when they came to Cheltenham and excitedly pointed him out to my friends.
Unfortunately, real-life Ikpeazu was a way off digital Ikpeazu’s ability that day and my non-FM playing friends struggled to understand my excitement for him. It hasn’t always been smooth between us, Ikpeazu left us for Sheffield United for £425k in the middle of our League One promotion push.
After we scraped promotion and United didn’t he was transfer listed for £275k and became our first signing while in the Championship. A steady goalscorer who’s been hampered with injuries, I can only dream about what his record could have been if he’d stayed injury free.
As it is he’s racked up 189 appearances, scoring 75 goals and 29 assists. Injuries and strong competition for the striker spot have hampered that but it’s still a good return for a player who’s been asked to step up two levels with a team desperately lacking in technical ability.
Lastly, it’s time to talk about my Porthos. As I’ve been sat here writing this, my partner has walked in and seen me writing an FM blog said: “I bet you talking about that Jamaican bloke again”.
I was actually writing about Ikpeazu at the time but now it’s time to talk about ‘That Jamaican bloke’, or Jevani Brown as I’d call him because that’s his name. I didn’t mention Brown in my pre-save squad analysis however he did warrant his own post about his key role in our side as a Trequartista.
His role has since evolved as we’ve come up against stronger opposition and to counter the fact that any game without him caused massive issues for us as no-one could do what he did on our right wing.
Brown, however, has remained amazing, while every other name I this post has started to drop to rotation options, Brown has remained the first name on the team sheet. After striking up an amazing partnership with Ikpeazu in the early years, he’s carried that on with every striker that has come through this club.
The fact that Brown has been voted the clubs player of the year in 5 of my 6 seasons at the club shows his value, a value that really can not be overstated. Making 288 appearances, scoring 79 goals and creating 101 assists he has been the single consistent driving force behind this team.
Finally making his international debut last season for Jamaica after sitting behind far less deserving players, he’s cemented a place in that team playing on the wings opposite Leon Bailey and featured in his first world cup in 2022. Now 29, I’m hoping I can make it to the Premier League sooner rather than later so he can get a taste of what the top league has to offer. He deserves it.