Champ Man

CM01/02: Home is where the Hearts is #5 – On to the next level

By hook or by crook, our fifth place finish of last season as well as a variety of other events, meant we somehow managed to qualify for Europe, and more specifically the UEFA Cup.

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 4: On to the next level

By hook or by crook, our fifth place finish of last season as well as a variety of other events, meant we somehow managed to qualify for Europe, and more specifically the UEFA Cup.

This was a boost to morale for me, considering we had seemed to not be getting anywhere, and it also of course meant a little impact on the calibre of players we could bring in.

That said, the only three deals I did over the summer were long planned – Stithies Tavlaridis (275k) arrived from Brighton, and South Korean striker Seol joined on a Bosman. Danish midfielder Anders Hansen (100k) was added as more of a backup than anything else.

Out the exit door went Michael Brown (1.1m), a disappointing signing, while long serving Kevin Twaddle (300k) left for Boston Utd having been deemed surplus to requirements.

Andy Kirk, without a goal for two full seasons, was allowed to join Aberdeen for 1.6m, where typically he went on to score 25 goals in his first season. Academy product Darren Golden was shifted on for 500k too.

Here’s how we lined up for the first game against Dundee Utd:

It was yet another slow start to the SPL season. This time we managed three wins in the first 10, and also three draws.

But it was the UEFA Cup that grabbed all the headlines in the early part of the season.

A favourable draw saw us up against Neftchi Baku of Azerbaijan in the first round, and they were disposed of relatively comfortably 5-1 over two legs.

That landed us a plum tie against giants Benfica in round two. A gutsy 0-0 draw in the home leg gave us a glimmer of hope in the second leg, and this happened:

Through on away goals. The most glorious moment of the save so far.

That triumph then prompted back-to-back 4-0 wins in the league, and we actually went on an unprecedented six game unbeaten run in the league after that (before succumbing to 4-0 and 4-1 defeats successively!)

Sadly, the European dream came to an end in Turkey.

We failed to make the most of Genclerbirligi having their keeper sent off 21 mins in to the first leg, and won just 1-0 – and we went on to lose 3-0 in the away leg.

Back in the league, our form had us stuttering around mid table.

I then decided to splash the cash. Steven Reid joined for 5.75m, by far my most extravagant spend, as I tried to add that extra bit of quality we needed.

Fredrik Risp and Christian Wilhelmsson joined on Bosmans in November too, so the squad was improving generally.

By January, frustration was at an all time high. We chucked away a 2-0 lead at Hibs to draw 2-2 in the Scottish Cup third round, before winning the replay 3-2.

That was followed by some incredible league games, including a dramatic 5-5 against Hibs.

Quick fire cup wins over Kilmarnock (1-0) and St Johnstone (3-0) had us in the semi-finals, where we managed to avoid Rangers and landed D1 side Clyde.

The semi-final win over Clyde came amidst a run of six straight wins, which propelled us up the league table. While the top two were well clear, there was always a bunch of teams that were well within my reach, despite me spending much of the season in 6th or 7th.

And so it proved. A crucial win over Dundee Utd was followed by a tremendous victory over Celtic, and all of a sudden a save high of third looked on the cards.

A crushing 5-0 defeat to Dundee brought the six game winning run to a crashing end, but we had points on the board and a win over Aberdeen made sure of third place.

And then came the first real chance of silverware the Scottish Cup final against Rangers.

We were fortunate. Rangers had three goals disallowed!

Here was the team that managed it:

I’ve not done this on this thread yet, so here’s a bit of an overview of the team stats from this season…

So something to write home about at least.

Each season, the board’s requirements have been avoid relegation and push for success in the cups.

Well we did that to a tee this season.

We finally managed to top the “rest” too, in coming third behind Rangers and Celtic.

Maybe next season, we can make a title challenge…

This story first appeared on the forums.

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