Welcome back to this FM Experiment taking us back to the 1998/99 season courtesy of The Mad Scientist’s retro database. In Part 1, we met the West Ham squad and their new 6ft 8in Zambian/Brazilian manager Trebor Mahtal and now, in Part 2, we’ll push ahead through the first 2 seasons. And I have to say, this database really is a delight!
The start of 1999 saw an exciting new name join West Ham United, as Mahtal beat the likes of Milan and Juventus to the signature of Ronaldinho for £2.3m from Gremio. Yep… Ronaldinho combining with Julian Dicks down the left flank at West Ham! The Brazilian was joined by Czech defender Zdenek Grygera, who signed for £55k from Drnovice, and Rafael Márquez, who Mahtal planned on using as a holding midfielder, for £1.1m from Atlas. He also loaned Barcelona’s Carles Puyol with the option to sign him for £165k before snapping up “showy forward” Peter Løvenkrands for £600k.
How High Can Hammers Finish In 1999?
Mahtal resumed the 1998/99 campaign with a big London derby. And they won 3-1 against Joe Kinnear’s Wimbledon FC with goals by new striker Peter Prosper and late goals by Paul Kitson and Trevor Sinclair. But they got hammered 4-1 at a string Leeds, who have the likes of Bowyer, Hasselbaink, Kewell, Woodgate, Alan Smith, Radebe and, of course, Haaland Sr.
But that sparked a strong run of form, including a Peter Prosper hat-trick at Southampton and the midfield duo of Joe Cole and Frank Lampard downing Everton 2-0 away. West Ham went into the winter World Cup in 5th, 5 points behind leaders Man UFC.
Ronaldinho’s eagerly anticipated debut came at home to Leicester, but he was largely anonymous and was outshone by an English wonderkid as Lampard scored twice in a 3-1 win. But the Brazilian got his first goal in a huge 2-1 win at Spurs, in which Lampard scored again.
Ronaldinho’s arrival definitely sparked an uptick in form as West Ham lost just one league game between the start of January and mid-April, at Newcastle. A second defeat came at a Michael Owen-inspired Liverpool before Ronaldinho nicked a point at home to leaders Man UFC.
They were now right in the mix for European places, which was strengthened by a 4-1 win at Wimbledon, Prosper’s goal defeating Leeds 1-0 then a Lampard brace leading a 3-1 home win over new leaders Arsenal. And a late Lampard equaliser at home to Chelsea, which felt a little ironic, wrapped up Champions League qualification. They went on to equal West Ham’s highest-ever league position of 3rd, set back in 1985/86, with a 5-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday on the final day. Elsewhere, Arsenal won the title by battering Charlton 10-0 on the final day!
Ronaldinho was the second-best player in the Premier League and won Players’ Young Player of the Year. In 18 games, his 7.71 average rating was only bettered by Middlesbrough’s Archil Arvaladze (7.72) and 8 player of the match awards only bettered by Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink (9).
Prosper was West Ham’s top scorer with 21 in 43 followed by Lampard with 18 and 7 assists in 41. But the real star was Ronaldinho with 8 goals, 10 assists and a 7.58 average rating in 24 games.
Rebuilding West Ham For Season 2
A fairly sizeable rebuild was needed to compete in the Champions League and maintain last season’s league form. That wasn’t helped by Lampard and Rio Ferdinand both deciding they wanted out with their contracts expiring in 2024. So Mahtal was forced to sell Lampard to Real Madrid for a new club record £20.5m, which was nearly trebled as Ferdinand went to Inter for £60m.
Mahtal twice broke West Ham’s transfer record to replace Lampard with Hidetoshi Nakata for £9.5m from Perugia and German midfielder Sebastian Deisler, who can also play on the right, for £9m from Gladbach. A few days later, they were joined by 18-year-old Andrés D’Alessandro for £850k from River and Stiliyan Petrov for £650k from CSKA-Sofia.
Elsewhere, the defence needed plenty of work, which began with Mahtal making the Puyol deal permanent. He was also in massive need of a goalkeeper that wasn’t foreign, so turned to Shay Given for £6m from Newcastle. Mahtal sold both left-backs Julian Dicks and Scott Minto and replaced them with Gustavo Nery and Kléber for £3.8m combined. He replaced Ferdinand with PSV’s Theo Lucius for £3m and a fellow English wonderkid in Jonathan Woodgate for £15m. But those weren’t the only additions, as Mahtal added Ronaldinho’s former teammate Jaunildo (who I couldn’t find any information about in real life) for £2.5m then another English squad member in left-back Ashley Cole, who signed for £5m rising to £9m from Arsenal.
Elsewhere, Man UFC went berserk and signed Francesco Totti for £109m. Other big transfers saw Zé Roberto join Roma from Leverkusen for £33.5m, Clarence Seedorf join Juventus for £32m from Madrid and Chelsea sign Joseba Etxeberria for £30m from Bilbao and 21-year-old Jamie Carragher for £15.25m from Liverpool.
But with his team pretty heavily rebuilt, here’s how Mahtal is looking to lineup for Season 2 of this FM Retro experiment:
How Will New-Look West Ham Fare In Season 2?
The bookies have West Ham down to finish 9th, which is a slight improvement on last season’s prediction. But Man UFC are massive 4/7 favourites having added Totti to their already ridiculous squad.
And wouldn’t you know it, West Ham began at home to Man UFC! But that proved to be a good thing as they caught UFC cold with Deisler creating the only goal for Nakata on their debuts. The first away day took them to Middlesbrough and they ran riot 4-0 led by Ronaldinho, Jaunildo’s first two goals and Deisler’s first goal, before Nakata nicked a 1-0 win at rivals Spurs to go top of the Premier League. So were West Ham suddenly title contenders?!
Well, they beat Newcastle 2-1 then a Jaunildo hat-trick inspired a 3-1 win at Leeds so yes, they very much were. In fact, they won their first eight games before a 0-0 draw with Villa and a 1-0 loss at Liverpool. Their credentials were tested by two big London derbies either side of Christmas, delivering in the first by thrashing Chelsea 4-0 away with a Jaunildo hat-trick but losing 2-1 at home to Arsenal on Boxing Day. 2023 finished with wild wins over the bottom two, 7-0 at Bradford then 6-4 at Coventry with Jaunildo scoring seven in those two games! And that took West Ham to the halfway mark with a 9-point lead over Liverpool.
First Taste Of Champions League
This season also saw West Ham get their first taste of the Champions League, and they got what felt like an OK draw from Pot 4.
And it looked more than OK as Jaunildo scored the only goal in their opener at home to Bayern. They won easily in Partizan then lost 1-0 at Porto and drew with them 1-1 at home. Michael Carrick scored his first senior goal in a 3-0 win at home to Partizan that booked their place in the knockouts. They took on Milan in the quarter-finals and won a wild home leg 5-4 but Oliver Bierhoff scored 4 in a 5-1 thumping at San Siro.
A Genuine Title Challenge?
Mahtal wasn’t active in January 2024, but did loan in Leeds’ Alan Smith as attacking cover. However, there were some wild transfers elsewhere. Liverpool spent £41m on Frank de Boer and Luis Enrique, Spurs signed Milan Baros and sold Sol Campbell to Barcelona, Chelsea signed Youri Djorkaeff for £2.6m and Sergey Semak for £1.5m, Ray Parlour moved from Arsenal to Monaco, Man UFC continued their ridiculous spending on Cesar Sampaio, Gabriel Milito and Tommy Smith and Daniel Amokachi joined PSG for £8m.
The Hammers began the year with a six-game unbeaten run as Smith scored three in three then scored again in a 2-1 loss at Man UFC. They also lost 2-0 at Arsenal but held a 9-point lead going into the final 10 games. A 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool enabled Arsenal to close the gap to 7 but West Ham kicked on, including a 7-0 hammering of Sheff Wed led by a Jaunildo hat-trick and Ronaldinho brace and a 4-0 thumping of Blackburn thanks to a Jaunildo double.
Arsenal and Liverpool dropped points then Løvenkrands injury-time winner at Derby moved West Ham 12 points clear with 4 games to go. And they wrapped up the title in style as they battered Leeds and won 5-1 led by a Prosper hat-trick.
West Ham United were Champions of England for the first time!
They went on to set new team records for most wins and points and a new record Premier League points tally, winning their last nine games to finish on 96 points and a huge 15 clear of Arsenal. Jaunildo was second top scorer with 32 in 29, only behind Owen’s 36 in 38 (plus 19 assists!). But Ronaldinho claimed the top assists award with 19 plus 11 goals in 34. And Given smashed the clean sheets record with an incredible 26, only conceding 19 goals.
West Ham’s sudden rise to greatness saw the unthinkable happen as Sir Alex Ferguson was given the elbow after blowing £220m only to win two FA Cups. See ya Fergie.
Ronaldinho and Jaunildo have been a revelation at West Ham. Ronaldinho got 23 assists and 12 goals with a 7.59 average rating but was just edged by Jaunildo’s 37 goals, 5 assists and 7.60 average rating. Nakata was equally good with 19 goals and 11 assists, while Smith scored 10 in 15, Cole got 12 assists and Løvenkrands got 11 assists.
Join us next Wednesday as we look to defend West Ham’s maiden Premier League title. And trust me, there are some big names coming to Upton Park in 2024!
Thanks for reading this FM 23 Experiment using The Mad Scientist’s 1998/99 database. To use the database yourself, either:
- Subscribe to the database on Steam
- Download the Save Game File into your ‘FM23 Games’ folder (this is what I did)
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