The Cottage Life

Welcome to Craven Cottage

A warm welcome to this new FM18 series, which see’s me return to England to manage one of the oldest football clubs in London. I’ll be replacing ex Serbian international Slaviša Jokanović as manager of Fulham in the English Championship.


Stadium: Craven Cottage
Capacity: 25,700 all-seater
Year Built: 1896 (rebuilt in 2004)
Stadium Condition: Average
Features: Under soil heating
Corporate Facilities: Average
Training Facilities: Superb
Data Analysis Facilities: Poor
Youth Facilities: Good
Youth Level: 1
Junior Coaching: Good
Youth Recruitment: Established


It’s been two seasons since Fulham featured in the Premier League, back in 2013/14. A lot of interesting things have happened since then:

In July 2013 billionaire and business tycoon Shahid Khan bought the club and replaced Mohamed Al Fayed as chairman. In his first season he sacked Martin Jol and René Meulensteen before appointing Felix Magath, whose stewardship sentenced the London club to relegation. Known for his unorthodox methods, including the use of cheese to treat an injury, Felix Magath was fired after a dismal run of just one win from seven fixtures in the Championship and a considerable outlay on transfers. Kit Symons came in as caretaker manager but could only salvage a 17th place finish.

Slaviša Jokanović took over in December 2015 but struggled to make an impact in his first season and finished the 2015/16 Championship season in 20th place, just two places above the relegation zone.

Going back a little further, Fulham have had some memorable footballing moments including lifting the Championship title in 2000/01 with a points tally of 101 from a possible 138. Louis Saha was the standout player during that campaign with 27 goals. Fulham hit Europe by storm in 2010, reaching the Europa League final under ex England manager Roy Hodgson. They lost 2-1 to Atlético Madrid but it was a magical cup run that captured the imagination, and from a team that finished 12th in the Premier League that season. Fulham spent 13 years in the Premier League, mostly around mid-table, before their relegation to the Championship in 2014 under Felix Magath.

Ray Wilkins, former manager and coach of Fulham

Ray Wilkins (1956 – 2018)

Past Managers and Players

Fulham have had some memorable players in past ranks including the likes of Chris Coleman, Edwin Var der Sar, Damien Duff, Louis Saha, Danny Murphy, Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Luís Boa Morte, Scott Parker, Brede Hangeland. Even George Best if you going back further!

They’ve had some very well known managers in the past too including the late Ray Wilkins and Bobby Robson, Kevin Keegan, Chris Coleman, Roy Hodgson, Mark Hughes and Martin Jol to name a few.

Personnel Changes

Transfer budget: £5M

Our first piece of transfer business is one for the future. We’ve snapped up 18 year old Senegalese midfielder, Abdou Diakhaté, from Fiorentina for £875K. But for a work permit he’d have gone straight into the first team. So, he’s been sent to Tenerife on loan.

New captain and tenacious midfielder, Fede, joins for £1.2M.

I’ve added Manchester United starlet Scott McTominay on loan for the season. It’s a pretty big coup, though a temporary one. His strength, hard work and teamwork should be a good fit for the Championship.

Our only other signing is Borja Mayoral who joins on loan from Real Madrid. It’s in other areas that we need to strengthen but the loan deal isn’t costing us a penny, and could develop into a permanent move.

Staffing-wise I’ve brought back the legendary Ray Wilkins (rest in peace) as a defensive coach and former Italian international, Enrico Chiesa, as an attacking coach.

Inherited Squad

Ryan Sessegnon is undoubtedly the star name in the squad and someone to build the team around. At just 17 years old he’s already being scouted by the biggest clubs in England. It’s going to be difficult to keep hold of this wonderkid. I’ve managed to get him on a new 3 year contract that includes 3 optional years and an automatic 3 year extension if we get promoted. I’m happy with that but a £16M release clause for domestic clubs in a higher division means we’ll be working against the clock. I’ve set his asking price at £200M as a deterrent, but it’s unlikely to put potential suitors off for long, especially if word gets out about the release clause. He’ll be a first team regular of course as we look to aid his development and keep him happy.

Another youngster to keep an eye on is Matt O’Riley. The 16-year-old midfielder has featured for Fulham in the Carabao Cup in real life this season and has potential. He’ll be training with the first team so I can keep an eye on him.

Tom Cairney is probably the most creative player in the squad with good ratings for passing, dribbling and long shots. The Scotsman scored 12 goals for Fulham last season and should be a key player again this year.

We have quite a few players on loan so the squad is likely to change a fair bit over the next couple of seasons as I look to bring in young talent for the first team. It’s a decent squad overall but the balance isn’t quite right – we’re a bit light in numbers in defense and midfield.

Expectations and Aspirations

The media are predicting a mid table finish for us and the chairman has similar ideas. I’m hoping to do a little better than that and reach the playoffs at the first time of asking, the players are on board with that too. I’ll be aiming for promotion back to the Premier League within 3 seasons, if we don’t we’ll risk losing some of our prized assets, which would set us back a step or two.

I’ll be continuing the clubs existing philosophies of developing players through the club’s youth system and signing young players for the first team. I’ve added one more philosophy to that list: play attacking football. Our primary goal is to gain promotion at the earliest opportunity and we won’t be holding back. I’ll be encouraging the lads to play an attacking style of football during the majority of our league games to try and win as many games as possible. I doubt we’ll get anywhere near the 101 points accumulated by the last Fulham side to gain promotion from the Championship, but let’s aim high and see where it takes us.


Preparation is everything. I always get three tactics setup before I click continue to maximise the player’s familiarity during pre season. That way, when we reach the opening fixture, the players are conditioned to our tactics and instructions. I like to cast a wide net by covering all styles of play that I’d like to utilise throughout the season. Depending on the opposition, whether we’re home or away, or to give us that plan B when things aren’t going according to plan, it’s always good to have some options.

In keeping with the current style and philosophies at Fulham we’ll be using my 4-2-3-1 counter pressing tactic . It’s a great tactic to used at home and in fixtures where you’re the favorite. It’s very attack minded and requires high intensity, so it has to be used sensibly. My fallback for tough away games is a Leicester City inspired 4-5-1 counter attacking tactic. With extra bodies in midfield we can sit back, reserve our energy, then hit opponents on the counter attack. The 4-1-4-1 defensive tactic is my go to option to see games out when we’re hanging on to a slender lead. With high familiarity these tactics can be used interchangeably to manage games.

4-2-3-1 Counter Pressing formation

4-2-3-1 Counter Pressing

4-5-1 Counter Attacking formation

4-5-1 Counter Attacking

4-1-4-1 Defensive


Series: The Cottage Life

I think it's important to set out some targets for any new save on Football Manager, to give you something to aim for and give the series a purpose. I find it more enjoyable that way! These targets will be visible on all posts within the series and will be updated as we go along. The aim of course is to tick off as many of these as possible.


Short Term:

  • Win a game in the Championship
  • Develop Matt O’Riley through first team football (i.e. 10 starts during season 1)
  • Win 5 or more Manager of the Month Awards during season 1 (I managed 3: Jan, Mar, Apr)
  • Adopt an attacking style of play and use it regularly during season 1
  • Embarrass a rival! Beat a local rival (QPR, Chelsea, or Brentford) by 3 goals or more in a competitive match
  • Keep hold of Ryan Sessegnon until promoted to the Premier League (at least!)
  • Gain promotion to the Premier League within 3 seasons
  • Win the English Championship
  • Avoid the drop! Once promoted to the Premier League, avoid relegation in the first season

Long Term:

  • Win the FA Cup
  • Qualify for a European competition
  • Kings of the Capital! Finish above all other London based clubs
  • Develop state of the art training facilities
  • Develop top youth facilities
  • Have exceptional junior coaching
  • Have extensive youth recruitment
  • Develop a player from the academy for the English national side
  • Have 3 or more players in the English national side
  • Manage the England national side
  • Build a new stadium


Comments (2)

  • The long term goal “Manage the England national side” will be the hardest 😉 Fulham has great potential and I wish you luck.

    Comment by Alen (24/04/2018)
  • Thanks! Yeah that one is definitely a toughie. Good to have some challenging ones in there for motivation.

    Comment by Manager Diary (24/04/2018)