Have you ever wondered what it would be like to manage a football club? What about a football club that you created yourself? After discussions with my fellow Over the Turnstile writers, I have been given the opportunity to do just that, being named manager of ‘Over The Turnstile FC’……. on Football Manager 2020.

Over The Turnstile FC was created using the Football Manager 2020 Editor, replacing Valley Rangers in the Mid Ulster Intermediate League A, sorry Valley Rangers. For FM fans, I will not be using the in-game editor for anything apart from maintenance of the save file.

My first task as manager was to appoint my backroom team, and although there are some pretty decent candidates out there, I decided to go with my fellow writers as the backroom team. Cameron becomes my Assistant Manager, Rodney becomes the first-team coach, Brian becomes Goalkeeper coach and Adrian becomes Head of Youth Development. Darren and Liam become managers of the youth sides, with all the other writers being involved in either the scouting or medial roles within the club.

As this is a brand-new team, it means that we need to find players to play for OTT FC. Only one player survives from Valley Rangers, right-back Andrew McCoy. He is the only ‘real’ player in the squad at the moment. I will offer all ‘newgens’ a contract at the club before offering players from around the country trails and potential contracts, so we have a team ready to take to the field against Windmill Stars and August 3.

During pre-season, Over The Turnstile FC will play their first-ever match at the Ronnie Dog Arena against Linfield Rangers, followed by a trip to Artie Green Park to face Park View. This is followed by a home tie against Mourne Rovers, with the Writers going to The Forum to take on Antrim Rovers. The final game of pre-season will be held at home against Sion Swifts.

Going into the first game of pre-season, the squad was nowhere near complete. I only had about six players that I would call ‘first-team’ players with the rest of the squad being made up of players that I have brought in to bolster the reserves and under 18’s, especially when they cost the club nothing.

This was the first-ever line-up for Over The Turnstile FC:

Daryll Mullan put his name in the history books, scoring not only the first goal at the Ronnie Dog Arena but also for OTT FC. Kyle Woods nodded in the second of the game, with the Writers going in 2-0 up at the break. In the second half, Scott Gault gave OTT FC a 3-0 lead, with a goal that may be one of the best this season, before Connor Farrelly rounded out the goals, with the game ending 4-0 to Over The Turnstile in their first-ever match.

The rest of pre-season went as follows:

vs Park View (A) 0- 3 (Goals: Mackie 18’, Peoples 38’, Martin 39’)

vs Mourne Rovers (H) 3-0 (Goals: Mackie 59’, Brown 72’, Gault 84’)

vs Antrim Rovers (A) 0-6 (Goals: Mackie 2’, Martin 47’. McCrory 50’, 51’, 82’, Gage o.g 82’)

Pre-season was very successful, winning every match and without conceding a single goal. The opposition that the team faced was not of the standard of the league that OTT FC is entering, but still provided a good challenge for a side that had many different players put on the green shirt during pre-season.

The media had their say on how they predict the season to go, and it looks quite promising for OTT FC, with the media predicting a second-place finish. This result would be fantastic as the team has only been set up and would usually need a few seasons to establish themselves in the league. The objective that the board…. well it’s actually just Chris (Ronnie Dog Media founder) has set in-game, is to survive in the league, something that I hope we can achieve.

The media have also said what their ‘dream eleven’ would be going into the season, and two of our players make the list, right-back Richardson and striker Browne.

 

The opening game of the season was against Windmill Stars at the Ronnie Dog Arena. After much change throughout pre-season, Dale McCreery took the captain’s armband for this season, with the starting XI for the opening league encounter looked like this:

It was 0-0 at half time, with OTT FC having the slightly larger portion of possession, but the deadlock was broken in the 50th minute when midfielder Nicky Sweeney tapped in the rebound of McCrory’s shot. Timmy Browne then capitalised on a weak pass back to the keeper to make it 2-0 to the Writers. Jon Joe Maguire then put his name into the history books as being the first player to score against OTT FC, making it 2-1 in the 87th minute. There were five additional minutes, and this gave Jamie Peoples the chance to put OTT FC 3-1 ahead the 94th minute of play. That was the last action of the match, with OTT FC winning their first competitive match 3-1.

After failing to have a competitive squad using players that are out of contract, I had to turn to loan players. Institute forward Jack Bradley arrived at the Ronnie Dog Arena, along with Michael McCavitt arriving from Newry City and Ruairi Boorman joining from Coleraine.

Over The Turnstile also enter the Irish Cup in the first round, with the Writers taking a trip to Wakehurst, who play in the Ballymena Premier Division, the side will also compete in the Steel & Sons Cup hosting Amateur Premier Division side Shankill United.

The second game of the season was away to Ballymacash Rangers at The Bluebell. I made two changes to the side, Matthew Lowe coming into midfield to replace Michael Ferguson and Timmy Browne leading the line, replacing Kyle Woods. Kyle Mackie gave OTT FC the lead in the third minute with a shot from the edge of the box. Mackie scored his second of the game, placing a spot-kick in the bottom left corner in the 36th minute, with Nicky Sweeney making it three in the 39th minute. Mackie tapped in this third after getting onto the end of a Brown cross in the 43rd minute, rounding out the goals for the first half. Jamie McCabe got a goal for the opposition in the 56th minute, the only goal of the half with OTT FC running out 4-1 winners and putting the Writers to the top of the table.

The next league game was a rather uneventful 0-0 draw at home to Tandragree. With neither side being able to make the most of their chances, it was OTT FC centre-back Michael McKenna who was ‘man of the match’ in front of an attendance containing 55 home fans, with three supporters coming from Tandragee.

OTT FC’s first cup game of the season took place at home against Shankill United in the Steel & Sons Cup. The Writers were able to run out 4-0 winners with Peoples opening the scoring in the 57th minute, a brace from Smyth, scoring in the 71st and 78th of play, followed by McCrory rounding out the goals in the 85th minute.

As the Writers progressed to the fourth round of the Steel & Sons Cup, they would face either Wakehurst, who are the side that we will face in the 1st round of the Irish Cup or Larne’s reserve side, Larne Olympic. It was Wakehurst who come out on top against Larne, beating them 2-0.

The loan signings kept coming in with four midfielders arriving at the Ronnie Dog Arena, with Diarmuid Lavery arriving from Glenavon, Oisin Smyth arriving from Dungannon Swifts, Matthew Taylor arriving from Warrenpoint and Danny Louw from Ballymena. Left Winger Darragh Byrne also arrived on loan from Ballinamallard.

The final game of August took place at the Ronnie Dog Arena against Laurelvale. The Writers ran out 3-0 winners with goals from McCrory in the 24th minute, Mackie from the spot in the 65th minute, before McCrory got his second of the game in the 89th minute. This result left the Writers at the top of the table on ten points with four matches played.

This is what the full league table looks like at the end of August:

The end of August brings part one to an end, with OTT FC looking strong for the season ahead. Just before the transfer window slammed shut, I was able to bring in goalkeeper Conan Doherty from Institute on loan, but as this is an amateur league, I will be able to sign players that are not attached to any club throughout the season, but I will try and limit this and sign players during the traditional transfer windows.

In the next part, I will be playing through September, October and November with some very interesting games coming up. A double-header against Wakehurst in the Irish Cup and the Steel & Sons Cup, a huge game against league favourite Crewe United and the first round tie of the Intermediate Cup, with the draw not yet complete.