A Tale of Loss, Love, Redemption & Glory (long)
It all started on a dull, grey evening, I hear the familiar beep of my PS4 as I turn it on to play a few games of FIFA, even though I had remained stagnant for months, I still had a faint hope.
However a message greeted me that I had not seen before…
Your EA account has been banned for breaching terms of service
Despite doing nothing wrong I took this as a sign, I left my 3,000,000 coin account with countless untradeables to the dogs and didn't look back…
(For about a month)
In an attempt to restart my love for the game I opened a fresh account, got myself 30k from a generous benefactor from the far east and started contemplating what team to build. Now, I have bounced between divisions 2-4 all year, playing I think 3 weekend leagues the whole year, none to completion, so although I'm probably above the average player, I'm definitely below the mean on this sub, having never even gotten myself to division 1 before. So, I thought, let's build a nice bronze team and just see how far it can take me… with of the course the man, the myth, the legend, Jack Butland holding down the goal with a wry grin, all the while knowing no fear.
This is where the magic began… making the transition from players that can do anything you want them to do at a moment’s notice to trying thread through balls with the mighty Marcus 'trickster' Edwards is not an easy one. Divisions 10 through 7 fell with a relative ease, lesser opponents lay strewn at the wayside having quit in frustration as Dominic Calvert-Lewin bags his third hat-trick in as many games. Those four seasons with just me and my bronze soldiers were eye-opening, I was enjoying the game that had brought me such sorrow in the past, enjoying building up plays and learning how to counteract each one of their limitations, guiding them to perform well and above their payroll, to pound on through the divisions.
As I entered division 6, I had a talk with my boys and they agreed, it was time for some reinforcements, but they would hang around for a while to show them the ropes and help them settle in at the club. In through the doors came the silver championship side; Yedlin, Richards, Mancienne, Odoi, Anita, Johnson, Kayal, Piazon, Gayle and the hero amongst them all: Britt Assombalonga. The squads started rotating so the new boys could get an idea of how we did things here, and we marched on, winning title after title…
6… 5… 4… 3…
After taking down division 3 with a combination of both the bronze and silver teams, feeling the rage through the screen from my opponents as countless TOTS cards were left defeated and forlorn by Tom Davies’ youthful bravado, an entire room being dedicated to consoling all the Heung Min Sons that were affected, it was finally time. My old nemesis, division 2. The campaign started as all the last had, waves of optimism and hope emanating from Butland as he made save after seemingly impossible save, with the defence doing all they could, all the while Britt ‘the animal’ Assombalonga lifts the whole team on his back and carries them toward promotion scoring low driven after low driven like the keepers aren’t even there. TOTS De Gea? Low driven. TOTY Neuer? Low driven. BUTLAND? Low. Driven.
Net after net bulges as he tries to push the team forward, but for all his and Dwight’s efforts it is not enough. The division comes down to the final game, all three points are needed to get to the promise land. The team appears… a sea of blue and through the crowd all we can see is Cristiano and Lionel, united together against us. Jack’s grin is replaced with a steely grimace, “so this is what fear feels like” he says, not even an attribute card would have been able to save this.
It was a bloodbath.
Rocket after rocket was blasted into our goal, dab after godforsaken dab was celebrated, and as the fifth goal flew in, the smallest Argentinian of them all threw down the big man dance. I walked into the changing rooms to find Micah rocking back and forward muttering something about witchcraft dribbling and Vernon ‘the silver Kante’ Anita on the phone to his mother trying to console him. I walked into my office, head in hands, ‘is this all it was meant to be?' I said to myself, 'maybe this really is where I belong’. Until I saw a note on my desk, it simply read:
“Always in your heart, now forever on your bench” – Captain Jack
I suddenly knew what I had to do, I attacked the transfer market with heartless aggression, seeming to not care who was getting benched. Two by two the new boys came, glowing from head to toe in various shades of blue and black. Tommy Smith and Aaron Mooy shared a bright blue Uber down from Huddersfield, Lewis Dunk and Anthony Knockaert arrived in a blue and purple train from Brighton & Ross McCormack and Henri Lansbury made the trip from Nottingham. All the while Dwight Gayle reached his not-quite-final form in his 81 due to financial limitations. The team was ready.
Or so I thought…
The night before the new season was to start it came to me in a nightmare, through a hellish pink mist I could just about make out the name:
I squinted as I tried to get closer and then I heard it: “SMALLING” screamed Martin Tyler as he attacks another header but still makes it back in time to defend the counter attack with ease, I had heard rumours of this being before. He was the only man alive who possessed the strength to lift Thor's hammer, combined with psychic influence to avoid bookings making him invincible on the pitch. Waking up in a cold sweat, I knew what had to be done. The pink prince of Manchester was in place and finally, the boys were ready.
It was like poetry, the season began like a breeze, free flowing play and goals galore from clinical finishers up front helped by a few screamers from down under to push the team on toward the promise land once more. This was the fateful run, 6 wins and draw in the opening 7 games left promotion guaranteed and 3 games to close down those elusive final two points. Jack’s wry grin returned as his confidence (read: magical abilities) was restored. This one was for glory. The team was revealed and fate again played a hand, for who was to be stood facing us today, a vision in striking orange, the man from Portugal was back again, this time partnered with the young French forward. Jack’s grip tightened in his gloves, he’d been here since day one, this was more than just a game to him, he would not be made a fool of twice. The game ran on through the first hour without incident, much like an all too quick lover, keeping their sheets far too clean. An over-the-top through ball to McCormack left him still with it all to do, he shrugs off Bailly all too easily and fires a thunderbolt into the top corner, 1-0. Shortly after Cristiano weaves his way through half the team with some LTRT and tucks away an equaliser. Jack pounded his fist into the ground in frustration at his defence. The game pressed on as Aaron let rip another missile from down under that came crashing back off the crossbar. The 70th minute came around and it was time for the subs to come on, Assombalonga & Mike Jensen joined the fray. Time was running out, the clock struck 90. There was time for one last attack, a long through ball caught onto by the animal himself, Assombalonga sends Winston Reid back to NZ for a hotdog as he sells him with a stepover, it’s now or never, one on one.
Waves of nostalgia crashed through Britt’s mind as he remembers the good old days when he would score these game in, game out, why should today be any different? It wasn’t. He stared down Hugo as he charged the goal and slots it past him.
The crowd erupts as the referee blows his final whistle, the trophy is lifted, the promise land is here.
The list of heroes is endless but here is the overview of my run: Final record: 52-10-7
Goalscorers… Calvert-Lewin(63); 17 games, 20 goals 6 assists Asoro(63); 26 games, 15 goals 9 assists Edwards(58); 25 games 7 goals 12 assists Piazon(74); 29 games, 12 goals 22 assists Assombalonga(74); 45 games, 36 goals 10 assists Gayle(73/81); 50 games, 32 goals 24 assists McCormack(84); 8 games, 12 goals 3 assists
Honourable mentions… Butland; for obvious reasons Choudhury; amazing for a bronze CDM, tireless workhouse Anita; amazing CDM, like Kante on drugs, no lie Richards; for holding down the fort at the back against countless teams covered in swathes of blue and gold, not even scared. Jensen: the silver super sub of dreams
But seriously, learning to play with bronzes and silvers up to a high level, learning to dribble properly and use body feints and not rely on the things gold players can just do, such as long shots and 4* skill moves made me an infinitely better player and I can now make my peace with the game and draw a line after this emotional run. Hope you enjoyed if you stuck around til the end!
TL:DR – account banned, bought some bronzes, ‘got gud’, got emotional, made it to Div1 for the first time