Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, you would have known that Dream Team has been sponsoring the mighty Leyton Orient.
As a Spurs fan, there’s always been a connection between the O’s and my beloved Lilywhites with the likes of Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Andros Townsend all spending some of their early careers learning the craft in E10.
As a result, they’ve fast become my second team – a nice escape from the stresses of Spurs this season.
Now, I’m not usually one for career mode on FIFA, but, with all of this new spare time on my hands, I thought why not dip back into the murky world of augmented managerial life, only this time I wouldn’t be giving myself the usual easy ride.
Long gone are my days of taking a top six Premier League side, signing Lionel Messi in my second season and winning the lot, all whilst sinking back Lucozade Sport as if it was water.
It was time for a real challenge, that meant League Two football, a measly budget of £2million and the hardest part of all – legendary difficulty.
WHEELING AND DEALING
First things first, it was time to evaluate my squad.
Although I’ve quickly fallen in love with most members of Orient’s team, EA haven’t been too generous with their ratings which meant we needed to some reinforcements.
First things first, I needed a striker.
With Macauley Bonne having just joined Championship side Charlton, we needed goals and lots of them, but they weren’t easy to come by on our tight budget.
With an eye towards youth, we managed to secure the services of, at the time, 19-year-old Stoke striker Tyrese Campbell on a permanent contract. I was delighted, the fans were delighted and most importantly, we had a focal point in the side.
Next up, it was time to build a spine and this is where my negotiation skills were really put to the test.
With Spurs loanees George Marsh and Kazaiah Sterling already in the ranks, I thought why not test that relationship a little further and see if Jose Mourinho would be willing to send me some more reinforcements.
Fortunately enough for me, this special relationship proved stronger than ever as we managed to sign youngsters Oliver Skipp and Japhet Tanganga on loan for the season, providing some much needed youth to my defence and midfield.
As you can imagine, bringing in two Premier League players absolutely decimated my wage allowance for the season.
Happy (enough) with my transfer dealings and the squad as a whole, it was time to crack on.
THE SEASON BEGINS
Finally back in the football league, our first game saw Cheltenham Town visit Brisbane Road – a tricky test for any newly promoted side.
The game finished 1-1, a result I was happy with in my first game in charge and also a stark reminder of not only the difficulty of League Two, but of just how testing FIFA’s legendary mode is.
Little did I know that draws would soon become a permanent part of our early season form, with nine (yes nine), consecutive draws seeing us into the end of September.
My overall managerial rating dipped from 71 to 65, with pressure already mounting on my shoulders.
However, this was where my luck would start to change.
A trip to local rivals Colchester was on the cards, a game that a few of us at Dream Team had visited in the flesh this very season.
As the opposition were flying in league, we’d not won a game all season and my dinner was in the oven, I decided it was best to park the bus.
By half-time I was hanging on for dear life. Legendary mode was throwing absolutely everything it had at me.
But, after an inspired half-time team talk in my front room, the second half would prove to be the performance of a lifetime from myself and young Sterling.
The Spurs man scored a hat-trick in 25 minutes to secure a crucial 3-0 win for the O’s on the road. I couldn’t believe it, Colchester couldn’t believe it, and FIFA’s legendary mode certainly couldn’t believe it.
The marquee victory did however come at a significant cost.
Summer signing Tyrese Campbell suffered an ankle injury with half an hour remaining – an injury that would cost the striker three months of the season and deal me a devastating blow.
We were marooned in mid-table for most of the winter months, with draws once again the order of the day, followed by heavy defeats to Port Vale and Plymouth Argyle that prompted the board to email me a reminder of their targets. *Gulp*.
The January window was a quiet one for Orient with the departure of Lee Angol the only one of note.
With Conor Wilkinson filling the Campbell-sized hole in my attack, I couldn’t promise Angol the game time he needed, something Portsmouth were able to fulfil much to my disappointment.
The following months however, everything started to go rather wrong.
THE PUSH FOR PROMOTION
We lost a ludicrous eight games on the bounce, plummeting us down to 15th in the table and with the board hovering ominously over the ‘sack’ button, it was time to re-evaluate my approach.
The clear and obvious way to combat legendary mode was to go full Mourinho and park the bus like I’d never parked the bus before. So, that’s exactly what I did.
The plan was to set up as ultra-defensive and ride the wave for as long as possible, then spring to all out attack towards the end of games and hope we’d steal some points along the way. And it actually worked!
Across the next ten games I managed scabby 1-0 wins against Grimsby, Walsall, Newport and Carlisle – helping me into the top half of the table for the first time all season.
We headed into the final few games of the season sitting eight in the table, with huge clashes against Salford, Swindon and Exeter all on the horizon.
I knew that if we could scrape together three points from these three games, the chances of the play-offs were strong, something that looked like a distant dream way back in February.
A 3-0 home defeat to Salford was perhaps to be expected, given that’s what happened in real life at Brisbane Road in the National League last season. With Northampton three points clear of Orient in eighth, the dream was somehow still alive.
Going full-Jose, I managed to get a 1-1 draw away at Swindon with Northampton also collecting a point at Morecambe – the gap was still three points.
I simply had to beat Exeter if there was any chance of clinching one of those precious play-off places.
Following a miraculous 2-1 win against the Grecians, I endured a panicky smashing of the ‘X’ button to find out how Northampton had fared.
They won. The dream was over.
So, we failed. It wasn’t possible to get Leyton Orient promoted in one season on FIFA 20 on legendary mode.
I came away pretty satisfied with an eighth-place finish on a mode far above my usual skillset, the board disagreed however… but let’s not talk about that.
Up the O’s.