With Bray Wanderers coming dangerously close to not existing in recent times, we pondered how it all went tits up as the official word from the league was that nobody could have seen it coming.
After roughly 30 seconds of pondering and coming to a conclusion that they grossly over-estimated the amount of new fans that would be drawn in by better players and better results, like 90% of League of Ireland fans did on Twitter before the start of the season, we brought a hypothetical question into the mix.
What if, instead of being on the doorstep of bankruptcy, Brady Wanderers received outlandish financial backing and went about building a team that could compete in Europe?
This question is one that many a football fan has imagined for their team, apart from League of Ireland fans in all honesty, and it is one that can be somewhat satisfied by playing the scenario out on the virtual pitch, via FIFA or Football Manager. As EA Sports make it stupidly easy for your club to have funny money from day one in their game, we hopped on FIFA 17 and got to planning.
Sadly, while we love Ultimate Team and Head To Head vs friends, Career Mode is woeful in FIFA these days, and the League of Ireland is totally broken in terms of when the calendar starts and ends once you bring European football to the table, so why not try something bigger?
Bray Wanderers very nearly left the League of Ireland, so let's say they did, but in the weeks before their closure an investor who made billions by developing an app that could locate your group of friends on busy nights in Coppers swooped in and saved the club with a bold new idea;
Let's dominate English football.
FIFA does have the ability to replace teams in certain leagues, so we dropped Bray into League Two (sorry Leyton Orient, guess you'll have to travel to Longford next season) and began working our way up the EFL ladder.
-Win back-to-back-to-back promotions and secure Premier League football.
-Bring a few of the actual Bray lads along for the ride.
-Develop a world-class training facility to the envy of the football world.
-Hire Wesley Charles as manager for Disney-esque emotional story-line.
-Redevelop The Carlisle Grounds into a 22,000 capacity UEFA A Grade all seater stadium named 'The Bray Bowl'.
-Convince elite players to live in Greystones and Killiney with bags of cash.
But first, we need the money.
As we alluded to earlier, all you have to do is use virtual points you get from playing the game to unlock a financial takeover.
Season 1: League Two - The Takeover
Our new owner had delegated €30m to be spent on the squad as the current Bray players were to be gradually phased out over time, apart from Dylan Connolly, who put his move to Dundalk on hold for a shot at international football by playing in League Two, and Hugh Douglas, who was just too bloody sound to get rid of.
All agreed that a statement signing was needed, so we went about making one hell of a statement.
The Plan: Sign Kylian Mbappe
-Offer him an additional €300,000 a week as an ambassador for the 2018 Bray Air Show.
-Guarantee the return of free entry to Bacbar on Thursday nights.
-Henry & Rose battered sausage and chips on demand.
We knew Mbappé was keen. All that lip-service about Real Madrid and PSG was just that, and we enlisted the help of Damien Duff who gave us the phone number of William Gallas, who was more than happy to go to France and tell Mbappé all about a delightful little seaside town where he could make more money than he knew what to do with. The Pizza is strangely excellent, there are countless options available if you need to exchange gold for cash, and you can smash golf balls off of Bray Head in your spare time.
Needless to say we were a bit surprised to see Monaco demand less than Bournemouth paid for Nathan Aké.
The next step of the plan was to supplement the Mbappé signing with high profile loan signings, and a call to Kevin Doyle. After careful discussions with Wesley Charles, this is how our recruitment looked at the closure of our first transfer window in English football.
Extremely sound of Ajax, Everton, and Borussia Dortmund, it turns out they were so amused by our ridiculous journey that they agreed to loan us three of the most talented teenagers in world football for two seasons. Conor Masterson was signed to grow with the club and keep an Irish core.
Dylan Connolly is a legitimate beast in FIFA due to his 90+ pace, and the likes of Gary McCabe and a few others were able to keep their place in the Bray side despite the new signings.
Wesley Charles opened League Two with an aggressive 3-5-2:
And it went well. Very well.
By January, Kylian Mbappé had scored 24 league goals and was wrapped in cotton wool. This allowed Kevin Doyle to close the gap and finish with a respectable 21 league goals, with Dylan Connolly behind him on 15 (but still no Ireland call-up).
The league wrapped up in early March, and despite the current Bray team finishing out the season we still finished in first comfortably.
Season 2: League One - The Big Names
By now word has spread as to how we're shaking up the structure of English football. Joey Barton has been on TalkSport moaning that it's killing the game, which if anything has brought more people on side with our project.
Mbappé is happy, and he's been putting the word out that Bray Bowl does BYOB nights that let you play all the arcade games, and they've still got Time Crisis 2. The ambitious project and the vast amounts of cash have agents willing to play ball.
But the negative backlash has seen the FA get involved, or rather, EA. I've realised I only have enough EA coins to unlock two more financial takeovers, and because career mode is broken and the money you get for winning tournaments or don't spend magically resets every season, that means I'm going to have to use the cash injections wisely. It works perfectly as rumours about an upcoming transfer ban, so that's what we'll go with.
As a result, the board met at the Town Hall, which as we all know is a McDonalds, and decided to spend big this summer in the hopes that we can coast League One and still have enough to gain promotion next season.
Aiden McGeady was signed because he's always been outstanding on FIFA, and Ali Al Habsi purely for the craic as we needed a decent keeper for League One. We also managed to distract Celtic for long enough to sign Patrick Roberts by leaking rumours that James McClean was diving to the club's training ground to force through a move ala Peter Odemwingie. City clearly thought it was hilarious as they gave us Roberts for €5m. Sound.
West Ham loaned us Reece Oxford for two years because we asked nicely, and we managed to exploit FIFA's extremely dated transfer valuations to bring Leeds' wonderkid Ronaldo Vieira for next to nothing.
We also signed a Free Agent Brazilian regen by the name of Francisco Chissano Aníbal, and after bringing him in purely for his outstanding name we discovered he had elite potential was already our best defender. So things were going well.
Things were going really well.
League One was an absolute breeze and was by far the easiest of all the seasons on this adventure. Kevin Doyle registered 15 goals and 12 assists in his last season of professional football, while Kylian Mbappé scored 38 goals in all competitions. Centre back Matthijs de Ligt inexplicably scored 11 league goals, while Dortmund's Emre Mor grew to an 80 Overall before both were called back to their clubs.
Season 3: Championship - The Transfer Ban
Our worst fears confirmed.
The FA handed Bray Wanderers a transfer ban in the hopes that they could halt what was quickly making the English Football League look like a cakewalk. Bray's gluttonous winning culture was turning heads, it was already too late.
After somehow convincing Dortmund to let us have Emre Mor for another two years, they also agreed to lend us their best young striker in Aleksander Isak. Ajax also agreed to send de Ligt back over, despite him being their new highest rated player. The loan system is broken in FIFA too.
The lack of transfers thereafter saw two academy prospects get a chance. We had scouts in Dublin, Lagos, and Brussels bring the best young talent to Bray, but two stood out from all the rest.
Jason O'Neill and Luke Connolly, two future stars of Irish football.
Al Habsi stuck around, and Wesley Charles' tried and trusted 3-5-2 that saw him scoop back to back Manager of the Year awards was the formation of choice again as Tom Davies and Ronaldo Vieira came on leaps and bounds. Aiden McGeady was named captain, but Hugh Douglas was in the manager's ear every week complaining about not getting enough gametime. Dylan Connolly seemed delighted to be there.
Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappé was just taking the piss.
By Christmas he had the golden boot wrapped up with 20 goals, and had grown to 86 Overall. This was a Premier League calibre team with a world class forward playing in the second tier of English football.
We even dumped Chelsea out of the FA Cup.
Jay O'Neill with the winner, needless to say Martin O'Neill gave him the call.
Arrogance was clerly an issue in the second half of the season, as a number of the first team squad were regularly spotted outside Mizzoni's on the Main Street at 4am. Those Calzone Combos would prove costly, as Hull City very nearly ended the streak of championships.
But they didn't. An open-top parade to honour Bray's Premier League status was arranged and then subsequently scrapped due to roadworks taking up 85% of the planned route, but the locals partied long into the night and fired the same bloody fireworks that they do every single year over the beach in celebration. By all accounts, the Spanish Students that occupied 50% of the seats in Bray's 22,000 seater stadium had a fantastic time.
Season 4: Premier League - Dreamland
With the transfer ban lifted, all at Bray Wanderers knew that thanks to the development of Mbappe we were a few big signings away from not only staying in the Premier League, but giving it a damn good go too.
Unfortunately, before any moves could be made in the market, the board took the decision to sell Patrick Roberts without consulting with Wesley Charles. This is one of the many puzzling and irritating features in FIFA's dying career mode, but at least the €30m we received was to be re-invested.
Al Al Habsi was gone, so Tom Heaton was signed as our Premier League goalkeeper, Tom Rogic was brought in on a free along with Moussa Dembele for €30m making Bray the subject of intense hatred from Celtic fans. We also bagged Christian Pulisic from Dortmund after he tasted the Chipotle burger from Eddie Rockets on Bray main street.
It's clear that word has spread in European football, and Bray is now an attractive seaside town for players to come and take a run at the Premier League without actually having to live in England.
Unfortunately for the town, all of the new income generated went into yet more roadworks on the Quinnsborough road, or at least that's what we've been told.
Regardless, we assembled quite a side and Wesley Charles was quietly confident of what could be achieved.
Lead from the back by Brazilian regen Chissano Anibal, with the 3-5-2 that carried the club from League Two, Bray get off to a dream start, beating Arsenal 6-1 in the second week of the season after a typically slow start from the Gunners.
By Christmas, Bray were in the European places and only seven points off top spot, when a huge boost came through to give the whole squad a lift.
Ever since he lost his place in League One, Hugh Douglas has been a monumental pain in the arse by demanding that he wants to leave. Transfer windows opened and closed, and nobody came in for Douglas. Yet he still complained. This is of course ironic considering Hugh is one of the most committed Bray Wanderers players in real life, but hey, this isn't real.
After taking a look around and realising that he is now a Premier League player, Hugh Douglas ensured that the people of Bray could sleep easy.
This boost saw the squad go on an incredible run of consecutive wins which made Champions League football look nailed on, and Wesley Charles' men were not going to settle there.
With four games to play, Bray sat 2nd behind Arsenal by two points, with a home match against the league leaders to come. This was it. The chance to complete our journey in the shortest possible time...
Big Wes absolutely loving it.
A 1-0 win at home to Arsenal put Bray on top of the Premier League, and only a draw was needed against Hull on the final day to guarantee the title.
They said it couldn't be done, they said it was against everything that the game stood for, they said that Aiden McGeady would be the reason Bray Wanderers ruined a perfectly good route to the top of English football...
They were wrong.
Bray Wanderers, Premier League Champions. It has a nice ring to it.
The table looks even better...
The victory parade finally went ahead, but it was messy as the roadworks had still yet to be completed.
Wesley Charles announced his retirement from club football management, with many believing he was set to head back to St.Vincent & The Grenadines to take up the role of president of their FA, but he received a very tempting, and very late offer to change his mind..
To be continued?