We’re back for an eleventh season at the helm of Stirling on FM18. Season 2027/28, for anyone that was trying to work it out.
It’s a season that starts with us being two-time SPL winners, after our second consecutive league win last season. Not only that though, we start the season with a target on our backs as we managed to win the league undefeated last season. A quite remarkable feat, considering that Celtic and Rangers are both still strong, despite Celtic’s shocking 6th place finish last season and them missing out on European football altogether this season. Would that help them domestically? We’ll see…
As per the Strategy for Stirling, I’m looking for dominance and excellence. Alongside winning the league last season, we also brought home the Scottish Cup for a second time. I’ll be looking to do that again, plus one extra, the Scottish Supercup. It’s a trophy that has alluded me so far, so now I’m really desperate to win it and do a domestic treble. The board is expecting success again too this season. Let’s see if we can deliver on our aims and expectations.
The 2027/28 season will go down as when big clubs sat up and took notice of Stirling’s stars. A vital component of our strategy is to become a conveyor belt of talent. Giving players a chance to develop and play to then be sold on.
The first big name out the door was the Pharaoh. I knew it’d be tough keeping last season’s star man…
Especially so when a club like Real Madrid come in for him. Off he goes to sunny Spain for a new Stirling club record fee of £25m and 25% of his next sale. Not a bad deal when you consider he arrived for £300k.
Matt Jenkins had only really just arrived at the club on a free transfer in the closing months of last season, but he became our second big sale of the summer.
The Icelandic/American CB looked like he could have developed very nicely for us, but there isn’t much you can do when PSG come calling. £2.5m looks relatively cheap, but there wasn’t an immediate route to the first team for him this season. We’ll be getting 40% of any future fee, provided PSG don’t just hold on to him and run his contract down.
Alongside these two summer outgoings, a few of the original Futures left the club, including Kirkuane, Guðmundsson, Dinu and Balatsos, as was alluded to in my last post. Two Canadians I’d signed to make @ServalarianFM happy, Liam Boskovic and Tommy Roger, also left for a combined profit of just over £1m. Sorry Serveh. Similarly to last season where there was a couple of big January moves, there was another one this season too.
After scoring 13 goals in 15 matches in the first half of the season, Rado leaves for Real Madrid for a potential deal worth £27m to the club, another record breaking Stirling transfer. It’s another huge profit for us too, after he joined for just £775k. We’ll also get a whopping 50% of any fee should he be sold on. Both Rado and the Pharaoh were only with us for a combined total of 3 and a half seasons but they’ve earned the club just shy of a whopping £51m. Cheers Real.
We brought in six key signings over the summer, strengthening the side. We needed first team ready options in defence, plus a change of direction in terms of player profile for the centre of the park. But first, after a season of new Stirling record sales, there was a new Stirling record incoming transfer.
I’m so financially stringent (/stingey) that Pat Buchan arriving for £2.5m from Aberdeen becomes our highest transfer fee paid yet. He strengthens our homegrown contingent alongside being one of the best young Scottish strikers to have been produced in recent years.
After missing out on securing last season’s loanee first choice left back, Ryan Lang, on a free transfer from Liverpool, it was a key position to recruit a player in over the summer. They’re hardly a well kept secret, but Crvena Zvezda consistently produce lovely players. Rado being one of them, and Gospavic being another that we managed to bring in for £1.1m. A wonderkid for £1.1m? Not bad.
My channel on #FMSlack was very excited about Villavicencio from Sporting Cristal for £500k, with good reason to be. We’ve managed to sign two wonderkid full backs for a combined fee of £1.6m. I’ve got a feeling we’ll make that back and then some. He adds to the legacy of Peruvian right backs at the club, after Joe MacPherson’s spell at the club a few seasons back.
Dinis Pinto is number one of the 🇵🇹 three that arrived at the club in the summer, with a special shoutout to my Portuguese scout, Fernando Gomes. He goes straight in as a first choice at CB. He might be smaller than I’d like, but he more than makes up for that in his ability elsewhere.
Enca Sambu is number two of the 🇵🇹 three. I’m really excited about him, incredible finishing and the most determined player at the club. Both Pinto and Sambu arrived from Guimaraes for £425k each. Bargains.
And Joao Mendes completes the 🇵🇹 three, arriving for £425k again from CD National. I’ve got him earmarked to take over the Deep Lying Playmaker slot. My kind of tactical switch is keeping the role the same, but signing a completely different type of player to play there. Where it was once considered my Deep Lying Destroyer, Mendes will come in and add a bit more creativity alongside Horvat bombing on to support the two up top.
As the reigning Scottish champions we go straight into the Champions League group stage again this season. As if we needed more proof that we’re making progress as a club, we’ve moved up to be a 3rd seed. After unluckily finishing bottom of our group last season, I was keen to do much better this season. Cluj, Porto and Liverpool stood in our way.
We were outclassed by Liverpool in our opening match, but bounced back and then some with a demolishing of Cluj at the Samo Stadium. From then on, we went the remainder of the group unbeaten, including a brilliant home win against Liverpool to inflict their only defeat of the group stage and managing to finish above Porto despite not being able to beat them over the two matches. I’ve never seen a team do as bad as Cluj, 27 goals conceded in six matches? On we go to the Champions League knockouts for the first time!
I had no expectations to go any further once we’d been drawn against Bayern, but what followed was a ridiculous 1st knockout round tie. We were excellent at home and kept them at bay brilliantly to keep a clean sheet. After 13 minutes of the away leg at the Allianz we found ourselves 3-1 up, and seemingly home and dry. When Bayern scored to make it 4-3 on the night and 4-6 on aggregate after 66 minutes I started getting that cold “about to be FM’d here” feeling. Thankfully, it didn’t happen with Sambu securing our passage to the quarter final, completing his hattrick just before full time.
Manchester United are ridiculous on my save. Jose is still in charge and he’s now led them to six consecutive Champions League wins, after they defeated us in the quarters. No shame in losing to the eventual winners of the competition. They’ve also won the last four Premier League’s too. Just mad, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an AI club be so dominant.
We finally get that Scottish Supercup win I’ve been after for the last couple of seasons, getting the better of Rangers after extra time. One trophy down.
We scored so many goals against Kinnoull in the 2nd round of the Scottish Cup that I couldn’t fit them on the screenshot. The real tests this season would come in the 5th, 6th and quarter final rounds as we’d face Hibs, Aberdeen and Rangers, respectively. Coming through those three rounds without conceding, I had a feeling we might be in with a shout at retaining the grand old trophy for the first time. We eased through the semi final and comfortably brought the trophy back to Stirling, beating St Johnstone 3-1 in the final. Two trophies down, domestic double secured, we’re surely bringing home that treble, aren’t we?
It wasn’t as simple as last season, but we’ve done it. Domestic treble winners! 🏆🏆🏆
In the end it was our knack of winning matches rather than drawing them that won us the league. The resurgent Bhoys actually lost one less match than us, but those six draws cost them in the end. The lack of European football would certainly have made a difference but they still did well to compete with us, especially after losing manager, Jon Daly, to Watford mid-season. Ex-St Johnstone player, Murray Davidson, was assistant manager, then caretaker, then appointed interim manager until the end of the season and has now been appointed on a permanent basis.
In a strange way, I was quite happy that the unbeaten run came to an end early on in the season. It was an abject performance against Hearts at Tynecastle, but it got that monkey off our back, especially when you see the following four matches comfortably won 3-0. Those back to back defeats at the end of the first half of the season and start of the second half of the season saw us lose top spot to Celtic. Between matchday 18 and 27, we’d regularly swap 1st place, each matching or bettering the others result. Rangers and Aberdeen ending up helping us out by drawing with Davidson’s Celtic in the closing weeks of the season, while we steamrollered all before us after dropping points away at St Mirren.
We’ve improved defensively, conceding one goal fewer this season compared to last. We weren’t quite able to repeat our goalscoring feats though, scoring eleven less goals this season. Could we do it all again next season for a fourth consecutive league win?
One of the shining lights of my Futures approach, Slobo is now the most valuable player at the club. What a season he had on the right hand side of midfield. Jordi Mboula was one of the standout players last season, and for the last couple of seasons I’ve been rotating them, but I’m now asking myself what could’ve been if I’d stuck with Slobo? Mboula was actually our highest assister this season with 16, while Slobo laid on 12 goals for his teammates. His explosiveness makes him so dangerous on that right hand side as a winger on attack though. Constantly looking to beat his man, drive down the line and get crosses into the box. He hit 16 goals this season too, making him an unpredictable danger that our opponents can’t seem to contain. Hopefully I’m able to keep him over the summer, but I doubt it.
When you consider that Sambu only really became a first team regular when Radovanovic left for Real Madrid, he had quite the season! Even more strangely, he actually won the 2027 European Golden Boy award, the first ever Stirling player to do that, despite barely making a mark in the first half of the season. He ended the season having scored a goal every 94 minutes, hitting 26 from 28(6) appearances in total. I’d love to see him improve his composure and pace, and then he’d be up there challenging for one of my favourite players of the save so far. Those finishing and off the ball attributes though, ooft. He’s a constant danger in the box. I picked Sambu, but it could’ve easily been Keaton Lockett or Pat Buchan as part of a striker top three. Lockett fired in 18 goals and consistently performs above his attribute level. Buchan had a great first season in a Stirling shirt, ending as our top scorer with 28 goals in 25(13) appearances, although that total was slightly inflated by the five he scored v Kinnoull in that Scottish Cup 2nd round demolition.
A regular on this section of my posts, Horvat arguably had his best season yet from that attacking centre midfield slot. He still keeps us ticking as a team and actually ended this season with 14 goals and eight assists, one of his best seasons yet in terms of output. He finds himself on the end of so many chances on the edge, or just inside, of the box and he should score more than he does. The challenge when I eventually have to replace Horvat will be to find a player that is similar but with better finishing and long shot attributes.
With the average attendance very strong for a second consecutive season (only up 4% season-on-season, but almost maxed out), I asked the board whether they’d consider expanding the Samo Stadium beyond it’s current capacity. They agreed! The work will be completed in April 2029 and will see us playing in a 21,000 seater stadium. In the meantime, we’ll be playing our home matches at the home of Scottish football, Hampden. That’s one of the aims from the Strategy for Stirling ticked off.
Our couple of extra home Champions League matches in the knockout stages helped gate receipts grow by 17% compared to last season, while the run to the knockouts also added a few extra million onto the prize money we received this season. The bank balance was hugely helped by those two record transfer fees we received and at the close of play this season it sits at £90m. So close to that initial aim of £100m. I’m still working to improve our facilities to ensure they are best in class, with the data analysis facilities being the focus this season. The board don’t seem to be allowing us to improve our training facilities, which annoyingly are still classed as average. One to keep an eye on.
The first team achieved domestic domination, and progressed further than ever before in the Champions League. Two huge plus points on the strategy. The Futures couldn’t do another domestic double, losing out in the cup, but they did manage to retain the UEFA Youth League trophy alongside winning the league title again. Scott Robertson is working wonders with Stirling’s young stars.
The record transfer fees we’ve brought in this season only further fuels me to keep going in this save. Finding and developing promising players, giving them gametime and then making a big profit on them is probably my favourite thing to do on FM. Thanks for following along with the save so far. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please consider giving it a share on the socials.