Toulouse or not Toulouse, that is the question

In what’s possibly the last roll of the dice for The Football Manager Football Show ahead of the release of FM23, we’ve opted to divide and conquer with Shane heading to South Africa to join the Orlando Pirates while I’ve accepted the job at Toulouse.

Promoted back to Ligue 1 just last season in-game (2022/23), Toulouse survived the 2023/24 season by the skin of their teeth, essentially avoiding relegation back to Ligue 2 by a single goal.

Domestic cup competitions didn’t work out and across 34 league games, they managed a whopping six win from the start to the end of the season. They did manage what (on paper at least) reads like a 3-3 belter against eternal champions PSG but for the most-part, that’s about as good as it would get.

When Saturday Comes: Toulouse FC hire McGuire

Having brought some financial stability to Hibernian last year, including a decent run in the Europa Conference League, this season is adding a bit more of a challenge in going up against some of Europe’s and France’s best players and sides week-in-week-out, and needing to stave off relegation to keep Toulouse afloat.

I had been looking for a relegation-type challenge after Spain, enjoying some domestic success with Fenerbache and Inter in the intervening years, before a trophy-less finish to proceedings with Hibs in the Scottish Premiership.

Winning the league in Scotland was always going to be a difficult task but we did manage to hold on to top spot or a few weeks on two separate occasions. Now, it’s about scrapping our way to safety, while knowing you’re going to have to face PSG, Monaco, Lyon, Marseille, Lille and more – all with an abundance of talent and deep pockets to match.

Those pockets don’t seem to exist at Toulouse, with a modest €11m in the bank and no European football on the horizon.

At least they think I’m a catch coup.

So what’s the story with Toulouse

Formed all the way back in 1937, the club recorded their highest every league finish in the 1986/87 season by finishing third in Ligue 1. Contrast that with a fourth-placed finish in the the Championnat National (read: division 3) in 2001/02 and you can see there’s been a bit of yo-yoing.

Toulouse won the Coupe de France back in 1957, winning Ligue 2 in 1982, 2003 and most recently in-game for the 2022/2023 season.

[LEAGUE TABLE 2023/2024]

The 2019/20 season fell victim to the Covid-19 pandemic with the season brought to a halt early on 30 April, ultimately relegating the club back to Ligue 2, remaining there for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Everything would change in 2022 however, Toulouse finishing top of Ligue 2 to earn a return to the top flight.

Six wins is all the club could produce in their first year back in Ligue 1, holding onto the league status by virtue of a single goal and avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth. Philippe Montanier took over as manager in June 2021, guided them back to Ligue 1 but having finished 16th in the league, took the opportunity to head to Brest. Toulouse would win their Ligue 1/Ligue 2 playoff against Nimes before Montanier split, leaving me to step in and pick up the pieces.

Funny story but given the nature of the podcast and how we hop from club-to-club for narrative, breaking the mould for season eight meant having to walk away from Hibs and go job hunting, with actual job interviews. Having been offered the conversation at Toulouse, the whole process was pretty seamless.

Yes, they didn’t like that fact that I tend to spend just a year at a club before moving on (thanks you Fenerbache, Inter and Hibernian), but they did like my vision for the future. With a potential €12m transfer budget and a €450k wage allowance, there’s surely enough in there to warrant staying in Ligue 1. They offer, I delay. They offer again, I delay again. By the third time around, with Shane already heading for Orlando Pirates and a new life in South Africa, I’m all in on Toulouse.

A look at the squad

With Toulouse, I’ve got to hit the ground running as by the time the job offer is accepted, the majority of the pre-sesason has played out with one or two “legacy” transfers already in the bag for new arrivals while more have departed the club.

There’s a new first-choice goalkeeper in ex-Watford stopper Thomas Kaminski. Mehdi Chahiri has joined as a left winger/forward from now-relegated Strasbourg. There’s a former MK Dons product, Rhys Healey up top

Money in the bank

[FINANCES]

Team dynamics

Planning for the season ahead

Looking at the fixtures…

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