- Pride & Industry: Introduction Blog: HERE
As you might have read in the introduction to the blog series (link above), I have decided to create a challenge on Football Manager 2020 by taking charge of Barbados and trying to enhance their reputation in the world of football. The aim of the series is to try and develop football on the Caribbean island, and hopefully get the team qualified for some major tournaments and improve their FIFA world ranking.
NOTE: I would highly recommend you look at FMOverload‘s excellent Coaching Cuba series, as it was the inspiration for my series. Please check out the second part of the series here:
The contract to become Barbados’ new coach certainly looks appealing already! I have been offered £3.7k PER WEEK by the Barbadian FA to become their new international manager? All that money per week to sit around on golden beaches drinking the local beers and cocktails in the sunshiiiiiine…errrrr…I mean thoroughly find and scout players for the national team, win important games, and work tirelessly to improve their world standing considerably!! Hmm, let me just think about this offer whilst I look at the rain thumping against my window in the 14 degrees ‘summer’ warmth……YES PLEASE!!
“WHOA-OH! I’m going to Bar-ba-dos!! WHOA-OH! To coach their national team…”
Landing down in the sunny capital of Bridgetown in a scorching 28 degrees temperature, I started the job at the start of September 2019. Alas my late appointment meant that I only had a few days to get to know the squad before the first competitive game was upon me. As such, the 23 man team was pre-chosen for me by the previous manager, the former Hibernian, Falkirk and Trinidad & Tobago legend, Russell Latapy, before he was shown the door and replaced by yours truly (I bet he was annoyed with that decision ha). The squad being picked for my first game of international management, a home match against the US Virgin Islands at the Waterford National Stadium on the following Friday.
We have been drawn in a CONCACAF Nations League Division C (the lowest level of the competition) group with the Cayman Islands, the French dependency of Saint Martin and the US Virgin Islands. Considering Barbados are the highest ranked team in the group (Caymans are 200th, US Virgin Islands are 197th, whilst Saint Martin don’t even have a FIFA ranking as they’re only members of CONCACAF and not FIFA yet), the FA are naturally expecting us to qualify out of the group. Therefore my first task is to get promotion to Division B of the CONCACAF Nations League, although I am not taking anything for granted at this opening stage!
The immediate thing that needed my attention was the number of staff of the national team, as personnel were looking very slim on the ground for a national team. So my very first task as manager was to quickly remedy that lack of bodies by appointing more Barbadian coaches and medical staff, as well as scouts to help keep tabs on the players noted in the national pool. I have chosen an all-Barbadian coaching staff as they’re more likely to accept the job in our current position. I’ll keep hold of my assistant, Randolph Cox, though as he has decent stats and has great knowledge of the squad seeing as he’s been an assistant manager since 2011. I’ll be needing his help for sure!
[NOTE: I subsequently found out that “Coach Cox” had sadly passed away in 2016 – RIP Randolph Cox]
The initial view of the playing squad did not look the best, but what could you expect with a team that is situated 160th in the FIFA World Rankings? Only two players in the 23 man squad are rated over 100 in the Current Ability (CA) ratings (out of a maximum of 200), with a third (25 year-old forward Hallam Hope of Swindon Town, who looks an interesting player) near to that level with a 97 CA rating. However the squad is still young, with a majority of them under 25, and there is large scope for potential improvement and development from a number of players in the squad! Plus it should be quite strong for this level of the Nations League.
I’m a little concerned that our number 1 keeper is without a club currently though…
Star Player: Nick Blackman
The 29 year-old inverted right-winger / inside forward is the best player in the Barbadian squad but is currently uncapped for the Bajan Tridents. Having started his career at Macclesfield, he has played for such traditional English clubs as Blackburn Rovers, Reading and Derby County. However he is currently applying his trade at Israeli powerhouses, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, after getting a free transfer from the Rams. I fully expect him to be one of the main outlets of my attacking threat with his CA rating of 110, and should be the ‘headliner’ of this team even though he’s getting near to 30 years-old.
Key Player: Krystian Pearce
Another 29 year-old, the Mansfield Town stalwart centre-back is the other player currently over the 100 CA limit (with a 108 CA rating). Unlike Blackman, the Birmingham-born defender has earned a couple of caps for the country already having made his debut against Guyana in 2018. Pearce looks really solid at this level with excellent physical attributes, decent mental attributes and great heading, marking and tackling. This guy is going to be the keystone of my defense for sure! I think he could hold back a hurricane if he tried…
Youth Prospect: Ackeel Applewhaite
The 20 year-old left full-back looks one of the more exciting young players in the squad, currently with a CA rating of 75, he could improve considerably. The Paradise FC player is incredibly versatile down the left flank and has a large amount of caps for someone of his age, which is certainly beneficial. He has pace to burn, and isn’t too bad crossing and passing, meaning he would be ideal for my tactic of having the full-backs overlap and whipping in crosses.
Having a quick search of other potential call-ups for the future, the Reading left-back or centre-back, Tyler Blackett, could potentially be a top player for Barbados (a CA rating of 113) as he qualifies for the country, as well as Jamaica and England (for the latter he has an under-21 cap whilst he played for Manchester United). Unfortunately he doesn’t wish to speak with us currently and still thinks he can play for England…hmmm…I admire his optimism. Nonetheless I will keep tabs on him and potentially he could change his mind and declare for Barbados as the country’s reputation improves. I’m confident I can convince him that the Caribbean football life is best, providing the Jamaicans don’t manage to convince him first!
Once I get past these first couple of Nations League games however, I will have a good search in the English leagues and the MLS for any players with Barbadian heritage that could qualify to play for the Bajan Tridents. There surely has to be a few players in the English and American leagues considering the large Barbadian diaspora in the UK and USA. It is always worth expanding the scouting range to increase the national pool of players available. For such a small island with a small pool of players, showing interest early with players, could be beneficial in the long term for the standard of the team!
So there’s an introduction to the Barbados squad and the team I shall be managing in my opening games at Barbadian international manager. In my next blog, I shall see how I get on in my debut match against the US Virgin Islands at home, before a potentially difficult away trip to Saint Martin. Hopefully the Tridents can start the campaign with a couple of wins, and start my management tenure in the perfect manner!
Please follow my friend FMOverload on Twitter @FMOverload_, and check out their blog at https://fmoverload.home.blog/. It is an absolutely brilliant FM blog and I would highly recommend you check it out! The Coaching Cuba series looks fantastic and I am keen to see it develop!!!!