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. In this blog, I managed the next two group games for Barbados in the CONCACAF Nations League Division C Group 1 with us leading the group after the first two games.
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 series here:
After achieving two victories in my first two games as Barbados international manager (see Part 2), scoring ten goals and conceding none, it couldn’t have been any better of a start in my managerial tenure of the Bajan Tridents. Maximum points, a large goal difference and sitting on top of Group 1 of the CONCACAF Nations League Division C. However the Cuban cigars are not out yet! Next up was another two home games, which we needed to maximise if we were to strengthen our lead and position at the top of the group, especially with the final two games being tricky away ties.
Finding New Players
One thing I wanted to do in the time between the September and October international windows was to scout out any players who had Barbadian heritage, and could potentially play for the team. Having the Barbados league playable made my choice much more extensive, but it helps to have extra, especially if they play in the English leagues as the chance of finding players is greater there. Let’s be honest, I had to start to deservedly earn my weekly wage I was getting from the Barbados FA instead of just watching Bardados Premier League games every week with a cool drink in my hand.
I manually scoured the top seven tiers of English football (because the scouting tool doesn’t find everyone it seems), as well as the top tiers of the American leagues, for any potential new call-ups or at least expanding the national pool of selectable players. The task was very successful and I managed to find a few dual nationality players who wanted to join the Bajan revolution! The highest profile of these is the 22 year-old attacking right-back, Tafari Moore, who currently plays for Colchester United (but is on loan from Plymouth Argyle after coming through the Arsenal academy). With a starting Current Ability (CA) rating of 85, and plenty of years to improve, he’ll instantly slot into the team at the right-back role and be a first-teamer for years to come. Welcome aboard Tafari!!
Another player of interest who I managed to find was a centre-back playing in Norwich City’s under 18s team. London-born Jaden Warner accepted the call-up for Barbados, and the 16 year old looks a player with talent with his CA rating of 65. Perhaps not challenging the first-choice centre-back pairing currently, but certainly a handy squad player especially with his pace. In addition, he’s a welcome addition to an area where the nation seems to be lacking a little bit, in comparison with other positions on the pitch.
There were other options that I managed to find, who could qualify for Barbados, but they rejected my offers of international football for the time being. The most famous declinees was Tyrone Mings of Aston Villa, who hasn’t been capped by England on this game yet. The 19 year-old AFC Wimbledon left-back Nesta Guinness-Walker (CA of 93) was another player who rejected the proposal for the time being, but I’m confident I can get him to change his mind in the next couple of years.
Annoyingly two keepers also rejected the Barbados proposal – disappointing considering my goalkeeper situation at the moment. On loan Chelsea goalkeeper Jamal Blackman (CA of 122) naturally thinks he can still be capped by England, whilst Reading under 18s’ keeper, Coniah Boyce-Clarke (CA of 90) also turned us down. The sort-after 16 year-old has been snaffled up by England under 19s squad, meaning he’s probably a lost cause for the time being…
Nonetheless, the two youngsters that had committed their future to the Bajan Tridents were automatically called up into the Barbados team for the upcoming October Nations League home games against the Cayman Islands and Saint Martin. Their presence makes the squad much stronger on the whole I feel, and injects some pace into the defensive sector.
3rd Group Game – Cayman Islands (h) – October 2019
It would be another sell-out for the third group game against second-placed side, Cayman Islands, with 12,000 passionate and loud Barbadian fans crammed into the Waterford National Stadium. I have been super impressed with the support from the Bajans for these two sellout home games so far, who would be soaked throughout the evening game due to showers falling on the uncovered stands. However the supporters would have plenty to cheer about throughout the game against the Cayman Islands.
We would enact the ‘Bajan Blitz’ on our opponents by scoring three goals in the first quarter of an hour of the game. Hallam Hope scoring a bullet header after just two minutes, nodding in a pinpoint cross from debutante Tafari Moore (now you know why the Barbadian FA pay me the big bucks folks haha), before a goalkeeping howler from Cayman’s Ramon Sealy (who ironically was born in Barbados) gifted Kemar Headley a goal in the fourth minute. That man Nick Blackman would score another goal on the quarter of an hour mark, half-volleying in Ackeel Applewhaite cross into the box. A rather mundane goal considering his previous two bangers for Barbados ha!
Unfortunately we conceded our first goal of the tournament in the 37th minute when Cayman’s ‘superman’ Christopher Reeves flew above everyone to nod in a free-kick. Questions must be asked of Keasel Broome’s decision making though, as he came speeding out from his line like a speeding bullet only to find himself helpless flapping at the ball as it looped over him. Hmmm. Anyway that would be the final action of the half as we went into half-time with a 3-1 lead.
One change enacted at half time with Krystian Pearce having picked up a slight knock meaning young Jaden Warner would be making his debut for the Barbados team. A proud moment for the young lad and his family, with Warner breaking the record of being the youngest Barbadian to appear for the national team at 16 years and 348 days! One for the future there!
We regained our three goal advantage after an hour’s play when midfielder Shaquille Boyce drove a low shot from outside of the box, which was beyond the reach of Sealy in goal. Moore with yet another assist – that’s two on his debut! See, it pays to do the scouting! Nine minutes later and the Caymans would reduce their arrears once again with Jorronie McLean pinging in a long range effort after a disappointing defensive error from Mario Williams. However the lads got their fifth and final goal of the game in the fourth minute of injury time when substitute Shaquille Stewart calmly slotted away a Headley through ball to end the game with a 5-2 victory.
We had maintained our perfect record in the group, and had attacked well throughout the game although I was a little bit concerned with the way the goals were conceded. The focus of my worries is now being highlighted on Broome in goal. It would seem his lack of game-time is starting to have a detrimental effect on his performances for us. Hopefully he’ll find a club soon to get back into match fitness and sharpness. Nonetheless, a win is a win, and the goal of gaining promotion to Division B of the Nations League is still within our grasp, much to the delight of our rather waterlogged-looking supporters in the stands.
4th Group Game – Saint Martin (h) – October 2019
For the second home game against Saint Martin, a few days later, the team was largely rotated due to a large number of players being fatigued after the Caymans game. Plus I wanted to give a number of the squad players a chance to shine against a team we were expected to win, and also to potentially stake a claim for the first-team. Applewhaite and Bailey were replaced by Teriq Highland and Shane Codrington in defence, whilst Haden Holligan and Renaldo Marquez took the places of Boyce and Harris in midfield. Finally Mario Harte replaced the hard-working Headley, and I altered his role to a pressing forward upfront.
Once again the local support were superb as always with the ‘Golden Wall’ decking out the sold-out five stands in yellow shirts and a parade of Barbadian flags. The national anthem being loudly sung by the 12000 attendance giving me goosebumps and encouragement for our fourth game of the group. However those supporters who had arrived just after kick-off or were a little late to their seats sadly missed the opener of the game. After just 18 seconds, Mario Harte scored an absolute thunderbastard that could have sunk an island if it had landed, as he hammered his effort straight into the back of the Saint Martin net. WHAT A START!!!
However, despite peppering the Saint Swallows’ goal throughout the first half, it just remained 1-0 at half time. Just when I was thinking that this could be ‘one of those games’ where they’ll nick one against the run of play and warned my team of complacency, we scored quickly after the restart. If you were late for the kick-offs, you had already missed two goals in this game!! This time after a rather tardy 48 seconds after the restart, Hallam Hope achieved yet another goal – his seventh in six appearances. A long cross from Tafari Moore from the right wing easily found the onrushing Hope in the box, who skillfully diverted his effort past the helpless Hinton in the St. Martin goal. That Bajan Blitz in full effect once again!
My nerves and worries of any potential St Martin comeback were eliminated a quarter of an hour later when we scored our third goal of the game to settle the tie. Renaldo Marquez scored his first international goal after slotting home a long range finish in the bottom corner after some slick passing from the lads around the edge of the penalty area. With a secure 3-0 advantage, substitutions were made, and the passing tempo turned right down to maintain match condition and avoid any unnecessary injuries or knocks to players. We had a few chances throughout the final third of the game but nothing that ended up changing the scoreline, ensuring we came away from the game with a comfortable 3-0 win to maintain my perfect start as Barbados manager.
So after my first four games as Barbados manager, we have scored a very impressive eighteen goals, and just conceded two goals. With the US Virgin Islands now occupying second in the group, if we beat them at their stadium in the next Nations League game, we should confirm our group win and promotion to Division B with a game remaining. Although I am determined to finish this group with a 100% record as every victory boosts our FIFA ranking. Therefore in the next blog, the focus will be on the final two Nations League games where we are playing away to the Dashing Eagles and the Cayman Islands.
Hopefully we can win the group and gain promotion to Division B, and then the drinks can start flowing again!
“Randolph, get that piña colada order in for the staff, matey! I’m payin’!!”
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!!!!