Category: Maldini

Heaven Knows I’m Middlesbrough Now

Mediocrity and Coventry City Football Club go hand-in-hand in the real world. It hurts to say it, but it’s true. Why should I be so surprised that it’s also currently the case in my gaming worlds, in Football Manager and Championship Manager, and in PES2009 at the moment?

To have won nothing by now—on the threshold of season 2016, my eighth—is unprecedented for me in any Master League campaign on any PES. Even I, an average player, am usually at least challenging for the title by this stage. I’ve got used to being a mid-table mediocrity. I have to get back into a winning frame of mind—a gamer’s frame of mind—and do it pronto.

My first order of business in this pre-season was to finally get rid of my remaining Default players. Jaric, Macco, Ruskin, and Ordaz have all been on the transfer market for a few seasons now. No one has bid for them. None of them have played, apart from Ruskin on a few occasions. It was high time for them to go. I released them all and didn’t regret it for a second.

All of the Master League Default players are rubbish. Some of them are relatively less rubbish than the others, but overall, they’re all completely rubbish. The reason why so many Master League players—myself included—have a hard time accepting this blatantly obvious truth is because of the mythology of the past. There once was a time when many of the Default players were pretty decent. Castello for one. Vorlander for another. I remember those great days with a fond nostalgia. But that was the past. Those times and players are long gone, and it’s no good holding onto Default players now for semtimental reasons, which is what I was doing.

I’ve operated a de facto Youth policy so far in my Master League. My signings of experienced players have been pretty few; I’ve mostly picked up youngsters. It’s nothing deliberate. It just happened that way in those tough early seasons when I didn’t have any money and Youths were the only players I could afford.

So I gathered up another five players:

KHUMALO – A name to conjure with for many Master Leaguers nowadays, but until PES2008 (the PSP/PS2 version) I’d never had him in my team. I wasn’t very impressed and he hardly played before I moved him on. But he was a late acquisition in that career, and he came into a squad already packed with flamboyant superstars. This is his big chance to become a great ML player for me.

COTTERILL – Er… who? I don’t know either. I found him in the Unbelonging list. He’s a forward player who can play anywhere, left, right, central. Very useful and something I’ve lacked. Decent stats. 27 years old—always nice to have a bit of age and guile in the squad.

got-maldini

MALDINI – A Prince among footballers, and his light is no less on PES for me. But what has happened to his facial model?! That’s one grim overbite he has there.

RUBIO – Every good team needs a good dependable right-back. My current player in that position, Antonini, is actually pretty poor. Rubio, although only 19, will slot straight in.

got-prieto

PRIETO – Finally, I got him. I offered his club Traore plus 1000 points, just as I did last time, and then offered the player himself a large salary, just as I did last time—but this time he accepted my offer. I was delighted. I’d finally landed my #1 transfer target over the past three or four seasons. There he is,wearing my number 6 shirt. Finally. He’s still only 20 and I’m expecting the usual great things from him. I always expect great things from my DMFs.

I played three friendlies, all chosen at random for me by the game. My first match, appropriately enough, was against Middlesbrough. I say ‘appropriately’ because they’ve always been just another Coventry in my eyes. Fittingly, the match was a 0-0 draw, with not much action worth reporting. Indeed, the game’s very actionlessness was the sole thing worth reporting. It was as if the two teams were mirror images of one another, both equivalently mediocre, cancelling the other out.

I lost my other two friendly matches. First I was trounced by Sampdoria. The game ended 5-1 to them. I was fortunate to keep them down to scoring just the 5. I thought it was a very strange match indeed. After that the World XI, who I like to play in every pre-season, beat me 2-0. I was not happy at all. If this is indicative of the season to come, it’s not going to bring me the progress I want.

My new kits. I went for a mainly white home kit with sky blue stripes, and a mainly black away kit with sky blue trimmings. Neither kit is anything special. They’ll do me. From now on I’m only going to change one kit every pre-season, so one of these kits will be around for the next two seasons. I don’t know which one yet.

And finally… Before the new season started I decided to drop in on my Track Record. This is the section of the main menu that keeps a record of all your stats. The one I was most interested in was my total playing time. I imagined it would be around the 50 hours mark. I was stunned to see the actual figure of over 95 hours.

By today that figure will be over 100 hours. That’s a long time to have spent playing a game. I was genuinely shocked.

1812-track-record

Bogey team at ten o’clock

Osasuna. They’ve only gone and done it again. I’m officially declaring them my bogey team. Forget Valencia, Barca, Real, Deportivo—when Osasuna are in town, I tremble. They’ve pulled off yet another one of their patented 1-0 victories over me. I was cursing the place down at ten o’clock in the morning. Is it ever too early to swear?

I think it’s the third season in a row that they’ve managed to do it, and each time the game has always played out the same way. They got their early goal and somehow resisted all two million of my subsequent attempts on their goal. Their goal came from a cross that ricocheted off my defender—Maldini, one of the top defenders in the entire game, whose astronomic stats were unable to stop him becoming a statue and letting the ball simply bounce off his knees, ignoring my repeated and determined hammering of the Square button to clear it. The ricochet travelled across the six yard box direct to the feet of Osasuna’s lone striker, who strangely blasted it back across the area instead of into the net. Happily for him, though, my other top-rated centre-back, Fernandez, was keen to deflect it into my net off his knees for an amusing own-goal. So that was fine.

The rest of the game, despite me having the regulation bazillion chances, was curious. Osasuna had some good possession and created further chances of their own. They had 12 chances overall, which is about 11 more than they usually make against me. I knew the game was going to end 1-0 to them almost from the start. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps. But no, probably not.

Newly-promoted AIK gave me a tough game. Who the hell are they, anyway? I literally cannot remember ever playing them before, although I know that I must have, even if the last time was down in Division 2 all those seasons ago.

After the Osasuna farce I really wanted a win to stay in close touch with the top of the table. So I really focused hard and set out to keep another very determined CPU team at bay. If I could shut them out at the back, that’d be half the job done. It worked and I was 2-0 up heading into the last ten minutes. Then, of course, they had to get their regulation, automatic CPU goal. It had to be 2-1 for the last few minutes. There’s just no way of avoiding it sometimes. (Too many times.)

I held on for the win. Then came the season’s first league fixture against Barcelona. I hammered them 6-3. Pulverised them. Andy Cole got a hat-trick in this game. Kim Cyun Hi got two goals. I forget who got the sixth. I was 6-0 up by 65 minutes. Again, the CPU started scoring automatic goals, but not even a script could threaten to overturn this result.

At the moment, the best all-round striker currently on my books is Andy Cole. He’s neck-and-neck with Kim Cyun Hi for top scorer. In the long term I suspect Kim Cyun Hi will easily eclipse him, but for now Cole is the main man. Giggs isn’t too far behind either. In fact, come to think of it, all of my players are great. I haven’t got one turkey. Even Larsson, who I’ve had for about nine seasons now but have left underused and thus underdeveloped, has started to come through. Perhaps only Donk is a weak link, but he never lets me down on the rare occasions when he stands in for one of the other CBs.

Far out, man

The season’s biggest game was upon me. Here in 2016, it’s about time I won a Treble—League, Cup, European Cup— and put the matter to rest once and for all. It’s a few seasons overdue. I think that in previous years I’d won a Treble by about 2014 at the latest. Maybe 2015 at a pinch.

I don’t think PES2008 (the PS2/PSP version) is a particularly hard PES. In some ways it’s among the easiest. But I did spend the first three months of this PES year on the PlayStation3 version. When I jumped ship to the so-called ‘last-gen’ version it took me some time to adapt to the classic gameplay style, which I’d clean forgotten after all the weeks of arcadey dribbling and regular cricket scorelines.

I’m absolutely flying in the two Cups. In the European Cup quarter-final I disposed of AC Milan with suspicious ease. After a 0-1 win away from home against Zaragoza in the first leg of the Division 1 Cup quarter-final, I’m nicely poised to go through to semi-final, although I’ll have to be careful in the return leg. So I’m not worried about the Cups.

But I think the League might now be beyond me. Even if PES itself, with all of its wondrous macro-scripting, does me a huge favour and makes Valencia drop points for fun, it’d be hard to overcome some of the extremely determined CPU teams that I’m playing week in, week out.

For example, just prior to the Valencia game I played Almela – Almela! – and I took an early lead. I was all over them, dominating possession, launching raid after raid on their goal. Try as I might I couldn’t score again—and of course they equalised with a few minutes left. I couldn’t get a winner in the last seconds. It was an expensive draw that left me 10 points behind the leaders with just eight games left.

Next up was Valencia themselves. Now this was really do or die. Win this game, and the deficit would be reduced to 7 points.

It was a strange game. I felt cheated. Yes, that’s a familiar refrain from me on this blog, but I’ve got to report what is actually happening to me out there and what I’m actually thinking and feeling about it, day by day, otherwise there’d be no point.

I took the lead and although I wasn’t exactly comfortable, I wasn’t struggling either. As I have mentioned before, Valencia are the best CPU team in the division by some distance. Barca and Real don’t even come close. It’s just one of the quirks of this Master League setup, I suppose. In ten seasons’ time, who knows how the land will lie? Things might be different in the future, but for now Valencia are the team to beat.

I resisted the inevitable onslaught, defending superbly—if I may say so myself. I haven’t mentioned him specifically for a long, long time, but Maldini is easily the best defender I have ever played with in PES2008, and arguably in PES full stop. He’s 25 now and fully developed. He’s effortlessly commanding in the air and accomplished on the ground. The only times he lets me down are for the CPU’s automatic goal corners, when he mysteriously finds his boots glued to the turf at just the wrong moment. However, all of my defenders suffer from that mystery ailment. So I can’t hold it against Maldini.

It was Maldini who was rooted to the spot—nailed to the ground!—when a Valencia corner came over in the 60th minute of the game. Their striker seemed to put his head through Maldini’s chest to nod the ball into the net. Great. I love it when that happens.

There was plenty of time left for me to get the winner. Anyway, by this stage I’m so used to the CPU teams automatically getting a goal at some point that I almost don’t notice it. I’d always assumed I’d need at least two goals to win this game, and so it proved.

When my second goal came, it was accompanied by a SHOUT. From me. I was glad I was nowhere out in public when this beauty went in:

Yes, it’s a PSP replay, taken with my mobile phone—the quality is thus doubly lacking. My apologies for that, but the essence of the goal can still be made out. It’s the furthest-out I’ve ever scored from, I think, in any PES. Bursting from his own half, Bradley—who else?!—shimmies past a couple of defenders. That was so unusual for me (I usually never dribble) that I thought I’d better try to cap it with a shot, from a thousand yards out or wherever I was. Here’s another view from pitch-level:

What I love about the goal isn’t just the distance of the strike. It’s the placement. It flies right into the postage-stamp corner, and the goalkeeper goes through that whole David Seaman-style ‘hopeless flapping’ animation (sorry, Dave, if you’re reading this. Nice hair, though).

It was the 75th minute. I think I was entitled to regard that goal as the winning goal. Right? Right? No, of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.

A few minutes later, Valencia had their equaliser; a few minutes after that, they scored again, through an own-goal from me—another ricocheting monstrosity that I could do nothing to prevent. I was 2-3 down in the 90th minute when I kicked off and just ran the ball forward with Giggs…

I was angry. More than angry, I WAS FURIOUS. This isn’t a game, I was thinking. It really is just a partly-interactive script. Seabass can go and…

I floated a cross over with Giggs. Andy Cole, on as a substitute in place of the disappointing Kim Cyun Hi (who’s just not doing it for me out there on the right), nodded the ball into the net. Moments later, the final whistle blew. 3-3 was the final score.

Ridiculous, frustrating, and insulting. That was my overall feeling about the game. Yes, I’d loved the 50-yard goal from Bradley—that should really have been the winner. It’s the kind of goal I love to score in PES more than any other kind of goal, and I’ll spend the rest of the year trying to replicate or exceed it. But yet again I found myself having to save the game, switch it off, and go and lie down in a darkened room…

As of now I am officially declaring the League title race over. It’s Valencia’s crown. I’ll be focusing my efforts now on finishing second and avoiding qualification for Europe next season. Damn stupid game.

All season in one day

Here’s something I’ve never done before. I’m going to dispose of most of a season in one post. The Division 2 season on the PSP/PS2 version is so short that I played through most of the season 2010 games all in one night. It wasn’t pretty.

I’m resorting to this because the rest of season 2010 after week 4 was just like season 2009: short and brutal. I played another 10 games and won just 1 of them. I drew 3. And I lost 6. Which gave me a not-so-grand end-of-season record that looked like this:

Played: 14. Won: 2. Drew: 3. Lost:9. Goals Scored: 10. Goals Against: 27

Final Position: 8th (resoundingly bottom of the table)

My disciplinary record was pretty poor as well. A dozen or so yellows and about seven reds. I continued my tradition—that I’ve apparently brought over from next-gen PES2008—of allowing one red card in a match to lead to several more in the same match. On the PS3 version I had loads of games completely abandoned because of this bad habit. I never had one of these PSP/PS2 games abandoned, but I came close.

My most common scoreline in all of the defeats was 0-2, for some reason. This actually gives me some grounds to hope. I was conceding 3 or 4 goals per game in past seasons. Things are moving in the right direction (at a glacier-like pace, admittedly).

The Division 2 Cup might as well not have happened. I got the feeling that I was amusing the CPU team just by turning up.

I made no transfers in the mid-season negotiations—nobody in, nobody out. I spent the restof the season alternately losing, and cursing, and scoring occasional goals, and acquiring vain and utterly unrealistic hopes of ‘snatching promotion’ (as I bizarrely kept telling myself even when it was mathematically impossible).

My players frustrated me by playing well enough for me to see how good they are and how great I should be playing with them—but still badly enough to let goals in at one end and singularly fail to score them at the other. I discovered that Camacho is perhaps more effective as a DMF than as an AMF; that Komol is worthy of a permanent spot in the First XI; and Maldini is seriously taking his time to mature and stop being such a slow, clumsy prima donna. Tsk.

And this brings us bang up to date.

In week 1 of Negotations before season 2011 I have a huge problem. During season 2010 I only amassed 5000 points, and my salary bill is currently 9000 points.

Something’s got to give.

On Monday I’ll be speaking in full about this very intriguing pre-season 2011 Negotiation period. I’ll say this much now: season 2011 will be the most challenging season I have ever faced in any Master League in all my long years of playing this game.

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