Given you’re currently not allowed to go anywhere and must stay home whenever possible, some time on Football Manager 2020 can’t hurt.
You could trudge through those Dickens books collecting rust at the top of that bookshelf you had no idea was still in your house, but starting a new career on FM just sounds that wee bit juicier.
Aston Villa are one of the most historic football clubs to ever grace the planet, enjoying terrific highs and traumatic lows. So, instead of starting with a team that has everything in place, why not mix it up and go with the boys from the Midlands.
Here are some challenges to set you up for the next three weeks – or however long we’re all in self-isolation…
This one is pretty straightforward – stay up. It’s fair to say that Villa haven’t had the greatest of Premier League seasons, currently sitting 19th as things stand.
Reaching the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City can be deemed a success despite losing 2-1 on the day, but relegation is a big no-no for the Villans. It’s all about the Premier League, where Villa should rightly be each and every season.
There are 38 games to play. Prioritise them with the current squad, bring in a couple of players during the transfer windows and stay clear of the drop.
Turning things on their head, how about qualifying for a European spot? Go big or go home – which to be fair, you have to do at this stage.
Qualifying for Europe is always considered the next step for teams middling between the top seven and the relegation zone. This includes Villa – sure, they won the playoff final in the 2018/19 season to get promoted, but that didn’t earn them any away days in Europe.
This may take a few seasons, but by bringing in the right players over time and keeping hold of the likes of Jack Grealish, you have a good shot of crackin’ that top six. Maybe.
?This one will bring back the memories. What a team Aston Villa had back in the day: James Milner, Ashley Young, Fabian Delph, John Carew, Gareth Barry, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Olof Mellberg and Stiliyan Petrov just to name a few.
They were frightening at times with the pace and width their wide players gave them, with Brad Friedel between the sticks at the other end of the pitch blocking anything that came his way.
Bring back the old boys. Gareth Barry should be no problem and Ashley Young coming back from Inter would be a doddle. Add Fabian Delph, James Milner, Marc Albrighton and the now retired John Carew into the mix and you’ve got yourself a retro Aston Villa team!
Grealish has come on in leaps and bounds this season. He’s Villa’s talisman and building the team around him is the way to go.
Keeping him at the club in real life is going to be a tough task for Villa come the summer but on Football Manager you should be able to stick to your guns and keep him around.
Depending on how you do, you should come into some funds within a few seasons – add quality to the squad and keep Grealish. Go for everything. Whatever contract he demands, give it to him. Let him retire at his boyhood club with honours from all competitions. Including the Ballon d’Or. Never say never.
?This may give you something to aim for – buy English players and make an England squad at Villa Park.
However, you’re going to need plenty of cash to do this and a complete overhaul of Villa’s squad may be required.
Mason Mount from Chelsea could be a good shout, and perhaps Tottenham would be happy to sell the likes of Harry Winks and Eric Dier. Build from there and maybe – just maybe – you’ll see Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Dele Alli wearing that claret and blue shirt.
?Quite a tough one.
Villa and Birmingham aren’t exactly on chummy terms, so building a Villa squad made up of only Birmingham players might be a tough sell to the board.
But just imagine the scene – Grealish, Villa’s poster boy and England’s next big thing, leaves for City in a straight swap for Ivan Sunjic.
Sorry, Villa fans.
?John Terry? Sack him.
It’s time for Martin O’Neill to head back to Villa Park and help you out. He’s exactly the sort of assistant manager you want to have around, having managed Villa between 2006 and 2010, managing sixth place finishes three times on the bounce.
Something for the fans, something for the club. Just agree with any advice he gives you. You don’t want to upset ol’ Martin.