A self-isolation Football Manager odyssey

Episode 2: Alan Hutton, Assist King

Catch up on Episode 1 here.

Tim Tactics, all 6 foot 11 of him, is looming outside PSG's state of the art Camp des Loges training complex. He can't open the door because he has in his hands: one flat white, precisely three quarters of a baguette (he ate a quarter on the way over), a laundry bag containing five of his most precious gilets (all navy) and a mid-priced bottle of chianti. Instead, intuitively, he boots the disabled access button with a studs-down-the-achilles motion Roy Keane would be proud of. He's in. Time for the real work to start.

Better check his emails first, though. Just in case. Might be something important in there.

The flat white, 'Tactics' sprawled on the side of the cup, is soon all over the walls of his office. He reads it again very slowly, making sure he understands every word.

Alan Hutton, currently sat on his arse somewhere in the Birmingham region, doing nothing other than polishing his own head and ringing Steve Bruce every hour on the hour to ask him if he needs a former Scottish international full-back to provide competition for Paul Dummett, has demanded better terms from PSG. PSG! Via his agent, who is just him in a fake moustache. The fucking audacity of it.

Even worse, both Allan Saint-Maximin and Adama Traore decline to enter contract negotiations after their £40m bids are accepted, apparently uneager to swap the famed kebab shops of Newcastle and Wolverhampton for the sophisticated cafe culture of suburban Paris.

Adding insult to injury are the similarly abrupt rejections from gangly tormentors Thomas Müller and Josip Iličić. The idea was for the duo to complement the aggressive, robust play of Saint-Maximin and Traore by slowly jogging around behind them, flailing their limbs like demented octopuses to call for a pass they simply aren't receiving. Tim is nothing if not an aesthete and it would have been a highly amusing contrast, more a performance art piece than an actual, effective footballing strategy. But still. Müller would have toe-poked in the odd goal and the 2020 Ballon d'Or winner Iličić would have done that thing he does where, despite running like he has no skeleton and looking like a subpar IT consultant, he momentarily turns into the Slovenian lovechild of Johan Cruyff and Zinedine Zidane.

A new set of targets will need to be drawn up. We can't just have this Scrooge McDuck transfer kitty lying around and not use it, especially with departing squad filler in the form Thilo Kehrer, Layvin Kurzawa and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

In the meantime, and inspired by his own grand entrance, Tim sets about securing Roy Keane as his in-game assistant manager on the basis that Keane's incessant and ferocious glowering will bring the best out of his some of his more, how shall we say, Neymar-ish players.

Out on the pitches, the two soon get to work implementing the 'Pretentious Nonsense' tactic narrowly voted for by the FootballJOE Twitter audience. Which, if it were a person, would be that specific kind of sword-wielding, "M'lady" saying, fedora-tipping, feet pics-requesting, awful Reddit incel dude. I think that's the best way to summarise it, yeah.

Regardless, they don't do a bad job of it, with Mbappe scoring a belter only one minute into the very first friendly of the season. Maybe this is, completely by accident, the best formation in the world?

Promising signs, even if I would struggle to deem a 3-1 victory over AA Gent in a friendly a "hammering", as the local press so kindly put it. Someone put up the Football Cliches bat signal.

The next friendly, against Ricky Van Wolfswinkel's Basel, belongs entirely to the new signing Hutton, whose demands are eventually met after Roy Keane rubber stamps the contract due to the former Scottish international's undying tendency to put opposition wingers through the advertising hoardings.

The game itself is a dull affair up until the hour mark, with a goal apiece for either side and a single booking for - who else - the Penilee Gianluca Zambrotta. Clearly feeling himself in his new Air Jordan-adorned surroundings, Hutton steps out from the back (he's literally meant to be playing at centre-half but, of course, isn't), puts his big, bald head down and drives forward until he reaches the Basel penalty area. Then and only then does he get his dribble-laden chin up, picking out the woefully static Mauro Icardi with a little dink into the six yard box that Juan Roman Riquelme would be proud of. The Argentine goal-nabber does the rest.

Is PSG Alan Hutton a different beast altogether? Roy Keane certainly thinks so and Tim Tactics, having carefully studied Keane's facial expression for clues as to what his assistant is thinking, suddenly does too.

PSG concede in the 93rd minute due to Yaya Toure, playing at sweeper, not physically being able to break into anything beyond a light jog and draw the game.

Thankfully Morten Gamst Pedersen, yet another new addition, is there to pick up the pieces. Brought in because he is somehow still on the game at the grand old age of 38, hopefully with those Busted frosted tips, and because his left foot is so wand-like you could pick one up from Ollivanders and defeat Voldemort with it, he pulls the proverbial strings in the next two friendlies to see Les Parisiens overcome stern opposition in the form of, er, US Orleans and AJ Auxerre. You know. From the division that is literally sponsored by Domino's pizza. Yeah. Anyway, Ander Herrera gets a straight red in one game and Keylor Navas concedes a free-kick hit very slowly and almost directly at him in the other. Good to see the virtual PSG are just like the real thing.

Quickly realising that his squad needs depth in just about every position bar tap-in converting forward, Tactics gets to work drawing up a shortlist of players he is fairly confident will not laugh in his face once he rings them up. Amongst them: Paulo Dybala, Jack Grealish, Joshua Kimmich, Nicolas Otamendi, Ben Mee, Jan Oblak, Ashley Barnes, Thomas Partey, Jamie Vardy, Sergio Busquets and Jonjo Shelvey.

There are a lot of holes to fill and who he/I/we sign will, once again, be decided via Twitter poll. Keep an eye on @FootballJOE and please do vote responsibly. I.e. not for Nico Otamendi. Thank you.

To be continued...

@kylepicknell