The Far East Express – Season 11 Review – League Splits Are a Farce!

FM22 may be around the corner but the show still goes on as The Far East Express reaches the heights of K League 1 in Cha Bum-Kun’s native South Korea. I take over from SadPanda333 who done some crazy work as Gangwon FC got promoted back to the big time after winning the K League 2 play offs, which is massive at this stage of the save – check out the play off winning episode right here.

As a team of creators who have taken part in the save, it has been decided that we must now push for the goal of winning the AFC Champions League but time is precious to us all right now so it’s a question of, will we see it through?


Just as a reminder of our 3 rules or to anyone who is new to The Far East Express, we run it this way to keep the exciting and flowing season to season for each player.

A trophy must be won at the current club before moving on to a new club or league.

To keep the next player guessing, no direct updates regarding results or moves can be given outside of each players chosen way of broadcast.

When you take over on your turn, you can do whatever you want with the squad. Buy/sell who you want, change the tactics, the staff…treat it like your personal save!

Transfers, Squad & Tactics

Now, I’m going to start this off differently than usual by showing our signings in the first window before moving on to our squad for the season and of course the chosen tactics. Let’s start with the transfer incomings!

A good few players coming as the squad needed upgrading to be able to compete with the K League 1. Min In-Seob, Noh Dong-Won & Kim Young-Jong all came in to boost the defence, Lee Jong-Wook & Woo Sung-Ju improve the middle of the park and there was two new wingers in Park Sun-Woo & Jung Wan-Soo.

In terms of outs it was quite tame, it was either Reserves or players who I didn’t deem good enough. Kim Moon-Ki is a good prospect but a falling out with Cha Bum-Kun ended in a loan move K League 2.

With the business for this window done, the squad was built!

The squad is still quite large at this point but coming back into the save I needed more time to judge a few players. There is quite a few who have good positional versatility as well which I’m always a fan of but I think we’ll see some more players leave in the second transfer window half-way through the season.

One unfortunate thing about managing in South Korea is the mandatory military service and when your players get chosen for it, you have no choice in the matter. This meant that two of the better players within the squad (Cho Sang-Hoon & Kim Hyun-Woo) will not be present for 22 months, instead they move on loan to fellow K League 1 side Sangju for the duration of their service.

Time for my chosen tactic which is a 4-2-3-1 counter, this is based off of RDF Tactics‘ 4-4-1-1 counter tactic that he done for FM Scout on YouTube which you can check out here. I have adapted this for team in terms of instructions and roles etc but remember, if you use some of the content of the great tacticians in the Football Manager community, make sure you credit them!

This is not the go to starting XI by the way!

Pre-Season Results

Pre-season was a very mixed bag. There was some promising results for the side but losing to Seoul E-Land & Anyang who are a division below, was a cause for concern. The squad was still being worked on at this time however, so there was some adapting to be had by the players as they needed to gel with the new faces.

The media aren’t giving us a hope in hell this season but much like most of Cha Bum-Kun’s journey, being the underdog is something that you get used to.

There are some great clubs within this division especially looking at the predicted top 5 and this includes two of Cha Bum-Kun’s former sides that he manages in his first managerial stint (1991-2010) in Ulsan Hyundai & Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

The original aim will be to stay up at first but really we’ll look to push the team on as much as possible because the progress needs to be sped up as Cha Boom dreams of the AFC Champions League!

All that is left to do is to get stuck in to the competitive season.

K League 1: March – June 2031

The opening few months of the league season are very busy before the games calm down a bit in June. It’s very quick and frantic with the fixtures to say the least!

The first four games Cha-Boom learnt some things about the team. Very much so that the side could attack but my lord they could not defend. Adjusting to the tactic was taking longer than expected but despite countless draws during this four month period, the potential began to shin through during the month of May.

The issues with the draws was it was either saving a point instead of a loss or crumbling when it mattered most. More draws than wins could make the season uncomfortable from this point forward.

A very good example of the pros and cons of the team was the 5-4 win against Jeonbuk Hyundai. The opponents were second when this match was played, with Cha Bum-Kun’s men 5-1 up at half time before an uneasy second which saw Jeonbuk pull 3 goals back. The team are lethal when on form but the defensive frailties were ever present.

Still, only four losses at this stage for a team that the media wrote off at the start of the season but what did the league table provide?

Mid-table in seventh with the goals for and against showing both sides of the stories but at least gangwon don’t concede like Busan have?! One club were seemingly impressed and it was one of Cha-Boom’s old clubs that he managed from 1991-1994 in Ulsan Hyundai but no trophies with Gangwon meant he was staying put.

Mid-Season Transfer Window

Cha-Boom wanted to be smart here but had faith in his defence to improve so the quality of the front line was focused on and an unplanned move for new number 1 goalkeeper…

A goalkeeper came in the form of Song Kyun-Won which will be justified in the outgoings but a cheap price for a good goalkeeper was positive. Two new strikers came in the door with young Jeon Min-Woo joining on loan and a new man to lead the line in Cho Tae-Hee – not the quickest striker but had an old school look to him attribute wise. Think strikers of the 90s/early 2000s.

The outgoings were quieter than expected but it was two first teamers who left for pastures new.

Four star goalkeeper Son Ho-Jun immediately had his head turned by clubs in the U.A.E and demanded a move away so Cha-Boom made sure he got his money’s worth with a sale price of £300k (potential to rise to £350k). Striker Ahn Min-Ho was very vocal about his game time but just didn’t produce enough on the pitch so he was sent packing to China on the cheap.

K League 1 – July – October 2031

It was more or less a race for the league split. It’s the same concept as the Scottish Premiership, after 33 games the league splits into two with a Championship group for the top six and a relegation group for the bottom six. When the league splits you cannot finish higher than the group you’re in league wise.

Well the team cut out the draws at least and got some more wins on the board which was pleasing. Some great wins in here against Ulsan & Suwon, two clubs that mean a lot to Cha Bum-Kun but losing to teams like Incheon does not help Gangwon’s cause in looking for a top six finish before the split.

Although the task of achieving such a feat was made a lot harder after losing two games in September against Pohang & Jeju which meant it all came down to what was the big win versus Suwon. With this though, results had to go in Cha-Boom’s favour or it will be a meaningless season ender with the bottom half teams but what was the club’s fate…

Frustration really sets in when Cha Bum-Kun’s men miss out by a point. Losing to the teams in fifth and sixth really proved costly as when you look at the continental qualification places, third wasn’t that far away. Safe from relegation too, it was just pride to play for at this point.

The ironic thing was that just before the Suwon match, Pohang came knocking for Cha Boom’s services who had to gracefully decline another big job in K League 1.

The last thing to come in before the split fixtures was the youth intake, which wasn’t too bad but at the same time there is plenty of work to do for some of these new prospects.

K League 1 – The Relegation Group 2031

It’s called the relegation group but Gangwon secured their K League 1 status for another season back in September so Cha Bum-Kun took the mindset of finishing the season as strongly as possible.

Incheon must have learnt how to counter the tactic in the second half of the season scoring another victory against Gangwon but the team played relatively well considering there was nothing to play for, the Busan match was absolutely insane to watch with emotions everywhere after two late goals sealed a 4-3 victory.

With the league all said and done, where did that leave Gangwon on their return to the South Korean top flight?

Imagine having enough points to finish fourth but because of the rules finishing seventh…unbelievable! Lucky it wasn’t good enough for third or I’d be ranting like anything on here. However, when you reflect you’d take a midtable finish after promotion and the press rating you at 1000/1. Plenty to build on for sure.

South Korean FA Cup

The run in the cup didn’t last too long unfortunately with wins against two lower division sides in Suwon FC & Seongnam but when it came to facing Seoul FC, a flat performance let the team down. Later on research, I saw that winning this cup takes you straight to the AFC Champions League group stage so what an opportunity that could be next season!

End Of Season Review 2031

There was some crazy results and great action within game but I’d rate as a very good return to the top flight. The new signings really turned up and even some of the squad in deputising positions stepped up when they were called upon. It’s clear with the two jobs offers across the season shows that Cha Bum-Kun was working some magic!

A big thing in football is, how are the finances looking…

There is money in the bank but it’s being lost at a rapid rate. At the start of the season, there was around £10 million in there but running costs are clearly too high with the balance now sitting on £2.9 million.

The transfer and wage budget is very good but the issue is, the top end players were not willing to join the Gangwon project but I’m sure that will change going into next season.

There was one bit of bad news, mid-season signing Cho Tae-Hee has been called for military service which is a massive loss after 5 goals, 4 assists in 12 starts. On personal level, I thought he was class with his old school style of play!

What’s Next?

It’s looking like that’s my final stint on this save done for FM21 and its been so enjoyable to play, for anyone out there looking for an FM22 save I would recommend an Asian football journeyman save any day of the week, it’s a different animal. Following this, I am not done with FM21 – one more season of ‘The Tangerine Dream’ will be played and released as I’ll be putting it all on the line for one last season before FM22!

Like I’ve said, it’s been a pleasure taking part in this network save but keep your eyes peeled as DP-FM will be hosting another joint save for FM22 with the reveal coming out soon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, take care and I’ll be back soon.

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