The West Brom Nationalist Challenge

23 01 2007

Fans of the popular article based sites Footygamer and First Eleven will be well aware of Mike’s Chelsea Nationalist Challenge. The basic premise is simple: succeed with players born in your clubs country. With Mike kicking off a brand new campaign with non-league Leigh RMI, BlogFM is pushing further up the leagues to the Championship giants, West Bromwich Albion.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with the challenge should be directed firstly to this excellent introduction/explanation on Footygamer. For those of you too lazy or in need of some reminder, I have listed the two main rules by which the game will be played out with the Baggies.

1. From Day One, every player you sign must share his nationality with the country in which you’re managing

This means that I can sign only English born players – and those whose loyalty lies with the flag of St. George. No players born in England yet playing for another international side (such as, as is often common, Ireland et al) can be signed either.

2. With each season, you must aim towards nationalising your team a little bit further until the squad is entirely ‘cleansed’.

What you must do in successive years:

  • Season One– no restriction on the number of foreigners you can use, though you may of course only sign players from the homeland.
  • Season Two – only five players on the pitch in any match can be ‘overseas’; the rest must be from your home country. What this means is that you can have up to five foreign players in your starting eleven, and as many as you like on the bench, but when it comes to making substitutions you are not allowed to use more than five who are actually playing. NB You can have more than five overseas players in the overall squad, though how delighted they’ll be to enjoy restricted playing time is a matter for you and them to resolve.
  • Season Three – as above, but the number has been reduced to three.
  • Season Four – by now, you should have a squad that is made up entirely of homeland players. Any foreign boys who are still knocking around must be transfer listed and left to rot in the reserves until someone takes pity and snaps them up. From this point onwards, your first team has to consist of homegrown professionals. (Footygamer)

So the challenge is set. West Bromwich Albion are a decent team, as any player who has attempted to take them back in the Premiership will know. However, while the team has some cracking players in their, a number of the big names – Zoltan Gera, Jason Koumas, Pascal Zuberbuhler and Diomansy Kamara to name but four – will not be able to play in the team for much longer.

The English Players

The English talent is looking tasty upon arrival. The biggest name, undoubtedly, is that of Curtis Davies, the much coveted defender who, at the age of 21, is sure to form the rock of the team in years to come – so long as he can be tempted to stay at The Hawthorns. Attacking midfielder Jonathan Greening is a great player to have in the team, and the young Richard Chaplow is a star of the future in the centre of midfield. Paul Robinson at left back is also a well equipped player, as to is Neil Clement.

One area in which we will certainly need to invest in is attack. Nathan Ellington is our first choice English striker, but with only one other English forward in the shape of Kevin Phillips, we will be in search of some young and talented strikers from the off.

It will be a big shame to lose the foreign stars of the team, but hopefully they can help us to push into the Premiership this season and then, with some more money in the bank, replacements can be found. With £3,000,000 to spend (and using the 7.01 database) I have quite a bit of cash available to me. Immediate signings will include two or three defenders (Steve Watson and Chris Perry, 32 and 33 respectively, are just too old for the squad now in my opinion, although they will no doubt have some part to play this season) and two youngish strikers who will be able to step up to the first team when called upon this season.

Week One: 2nd July – 9th July

Looking at the squad brought up two main areas where reinforcements would be required: defence and attack. I made moves to sign Billy Jones and Greg Halford, two defenders who always serve me well with low end Premiership teams and upper end Championship squads. Upfront an offer was placed for Swansea’s Andy Robinson, a player who can also play across midfield and will provide us with some useful flexibility should we clinch his signature. After receiving news that former Manchester United youngster Luke Steele would be out of action for two months, I made a quick decision to move for young Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant. With offers in place to strengthen the team, things were starting to look rosy until those annoying fleas Chelsea came in with an offer for our star member – nope, not Davies but Richard Hawkins, the fitness coach. Hawkins liked the smell of Russian money, and left us in search of a new man to lead the fitness regime.

Robinson signed in for £500,000 but we were soon priced out of a move for Jones when Reading stepped in with an offer we were not prepared to match. One target acquired, but another going elsewhere. The next day saw the arrival of Halford, with the 21 year old moving for £800,000. I was still hopeful of bringing in a few more players, with a couple of possible loanee’s singled out. But for now we’re in pre-season action, with a host of games up ahead to test the squad out.

The first friendly, a sticky visit to Millwall, gave me a chance to look at the English pedigree running through the squad. With a first eleven made up of home talent, I was hoping to see some positive signs. With this being our first game I didn’t expect a performance akin to one that Brazil may show when playing Western Somao, but a win was expected. Thankfully, the players showed no difficulty in putting together an exciting first half display, although they did leave things rather late. After numerous wasted chances, John Hartson scored a five minute hat-trick in the late stages of the half – and it was at this point that I realised Hartson had been selected by accident instead of Phillips. Well, it was late and I was tired – what more can I say? So the English team may have been three up after 45 minutes, but all of our goals came from a Welshman. Hmm.

The second half saw a whole new squad of 11 emerge, albeit slightly younger in some departments (18 year old Luke Daniels in goals) but more talented in others (Gera on the right wing). Phillips laughed off the selection mistake by bagging a goal to make it four, before Millwall hit back with an effort of their own. The result – a 4-1 win – was pleasing enough, especially as the team was made up of 10 English players in the first half. The actual team that will play in the Championship will be allowed to consist of a few foreigners, but of course the idea is to limit these intrusions to the basic few. From what I have already seen of the team in training and in action, the Premiership is an achievable aim, even with English-only reinforcements.

But can we bring in any more players before the start of the season? Part two of the challenge – covering the rest of pre-season and the start of the campaign – will be with you shortly.

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23 01 2007
The Football Manager Community » FM Community Digest 23/01/2007

[…] The West Brom Nationalist Challenge […]

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