Champ Man

CM 01/02: Home is where the Hearts is #7 – A juggling act

It really feels like we’ve established ourselves as a top three side in the SPL now, and only a matter of time before we can realistically compete all the way with Rangers and Celtic for the title.

Towards the end of 2015, after growing frustrated with FM16, I made the decision to get back to CM 01/02. One of my favourite ever games was when I dominated Europe with Rangers – so I thought a good way of getting back to the game was in the SPL with Hearts. Follow my story here.

Season 6: A juggling act

It really feels like we’ve established ourselves as a top three side in the SPL now, and only a matter of time before we can realistically compete all the way with Rangers and Celtic for the title.

The priority ahead of season six was to strengthen the defence, and so in came Sean Hankin (1m) from Palace to cover both left back and centre back. The two key signings came in the shape of Kolo Toure (1.7m) and Sebastian Mendez (7.5m).

The league season started with a defeat at home to Rangers – and we landed a plum Champions League qualifier tie against Feyenoord.

I knew CL was a key part of our battle to establish ourselves, so I was disappointed with the draw.

But my heroes did their bit. Jamie Victory scored a crucial away goal as we won the first leg 1-0, and then in the return, a late show from Harpal Singh and Cherno Samba saw us home.

Unfortunately, the arrival of Mendez and Toure had come after these games, which meant they were unavailable for the group stages.

Such was my focus on the CL, that I sort of lost a bit of interest in the league.

In between the two qualifiers, we lost to St Mirren and Dundee Utd, both 2-1, both 90th minute winners.

By the time the CL group stages started, we’d already lost 4 out of 5 in the league.

I was handed a supremely tough CL group, even tougher than last season – Galatasaray, Milan, Liverpool.

We kicked off with a 5-0 thumping in Turkey, before a tremendous 3-1 win over Milan – our first ever in the group stages – gave hope.

A plucky 1-0 win over Liverpool kept us in contention, despite losing the return fixture, and then a 2-1 win over Galatasaray meant we were through to the next phase.

That seemed to trigger a period of positivity. We progressed to the semi-finals of the League Cup, following a penalty shoot-out win over Rangers.

The CL group we drew was tough: PSG, Arsenal and Barcelona.

We started off with a 2-0 win over PSG, but that was to be as good as it got.

The break from CL enabled us to focus on the SPL, and 9 wins out of 10 had us back in third spot and on the cusp of challenging the top two.

There was also a superstar signing made – in the shape of Freddie Ljungberg (4.5m) from Arsenal.

We had probably given them too much of a start, but we were still in with a shout.

Just as it looked like we might be able to make an unlikely push for the title, the return of the other competitions proved too much.

We played just two league games out of 10, as CL, Scottish Cup and League Cup commitments took over. An agonising 1-0 defeat to Celtic in the League Cup semi-final ended those dreams, but we would get revenge in the Scottish Cup semis to set up an end of season date with Rangers.

We had become so distracted by our cup exploits, all of a sudden Dundee Utd had wrestled third place away from us.

The stark realisation that no third place would mean no CL hit me.

Defeat to Dundee and disappointing draws against Hibs and Falkirk had us worrying, and when Dundee Utd beat us 2-1 in the first game after the split, we were in trouble.

Six points behind with four to play, a draw with Rangers and then wins over Dundee and a 7-0 thumping of St Johnstone brought us level on points but with a superior goal difference going in to the last game.

Heartbreakingly, we could only manage a 1-1 draw against Celtic while Dundee Utd would win 3-2 at Dundee and finish third.

To add to our woe, we were thumped 4-1 in the Scottish Cup final by Rangers (who else).

A season with plenty of ups, had seen us end with nothing. And most disappointingly, with no CL for next season.

Here are the player stats for the season…

Without doubt, this save has created a new CM legend for me. Harpal Singh.

He originally came on two separate loan spells, to provide something extra at AMC. He weighed in with goals, and I took a punt on him at 1m when Leeds wanted rid.

Initially, he struggled to establish himself as a first team regular, not through his performances, but just because I hadn’t nailed him down to a starting spot as I had other players.

But in the past few seasons, he has kicked on remarkably. Playing at MC as part of a midfield three, he has scored an astonishing amount of goals, and is well a truly a JDG legend now!

And also, to give you an idea, here is how my squad looks at the end of season six…

This story first appeared on the forums.

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