By no means am I a Football Manger Expert, yet every year when the game comes out, the undeniable draw to buy it and have another go, proves too strong to resist. For this year’s edition, Let’s look at why starting a new game is the hook, that can lead to addiction. This is no beginner’s guide.
The first temptation of FM2016, is to take your favourite club and try to improve their fortunes. For me this is Aston Villa. Unfortunately , this is also where the game can die an early death. By taking on the massive challenge of a premier league club, you can quickly find yourself out of your depth and sacked. Think Tim Sherwood.
The way it normally goes is like this. You identify real life problems with your team, and FM being the hyper-realistic simulation that it is, try to correct them in game. As a fan however, the only corrections you can see are in player personnel. Problems at football clubs run much, much deeper. You need to appease the board, get the required results, improve the youth facilities, balance the books, find a formation that works and most importantly find backup plans when they fail. So many of my early FM experiences fizzled out as I wondered why my teams failed. This isn’t FIFA or PES, signing better players isn’t enough. Signing them in the first place is hard, then they have to fit in with your plans. It isn’t as simple as taking over Chelsea and signing a few strikers, with all your cash. The same problems that exist in reality exist here. Freak results, defensive errors and players inexplicably out of form. This game is a marathon designed for building legacies, not a quick blast here and there.
Because of this you have to play the game as the title suggests. Football manager. By this I mean, play as the manager not the club. To help the best way to start a game is unemployed. It may take a few months to get a job but when you do, you are lower down the footballing league, the pressure is not as severe and you won’t have the money to buy players. You will learn how to get the best from what you have and build your reputation as a manager. If you can make it work at a smaller club, then when you eventually get to the big time, you will have the skills to succeed. Sounds like real life doesn’t it?
This approach isn’t without it’s own set of problems either. Mostly these revolve around player acquisition. The dream of the game is to take your chosen club and sign Messi, Ronaldo or your other favourite player. The truth is unless you look out the 2005 edition and try to get them as youngsters, this isn’t going to happen. What you have to do is find FM 2016 Wonderkids. For instance AC Milan Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sebastián Ignacio Martínez Muñoz of Chile, and whoever else your scouts can find. You see scouting is essential, either using the AI scouts in the game or the best tool, your own eyes.
You see playing Football Manager isn’t a game, for many it is a lifestyle choice. You will find them scouring the obscure European leagues with more professionalism than a real scout, just to find a left back. This game is totally useless if you don’t have a deep love for football. A passing interest isn’t enough. My wife who at the time was a HR manager, was fascinated by the hiring and firing process and recruitment of backroom staff in the game. Coincidentally these were the elements I disliked. I let her mess about with the structure and analytical side of the staff, leaving me to concentrate on transfers and tactics. I had my very own Director of Football! Luckily the game now automates a lot of these processes. You can still control the whole game to the nth degree for the total experience. I prefer to let the people employed already by the clubs do their jobs.
When you actually get to your first match the excitement in genuinely high. Usually you win, then lulled in by a false sense of security, you pick the same team and the same formation for a run of games. You may even take a liking to a player you promoted from the reserves, who played a blinder. Like real life other teams learn to adapt to your tactics, that one player may just have had a good game and has no consistency or worst of all the other team had a bad game. A 9 game winless streak with the same tactics is enough to destroy anyone’s confidence. Management isn’t easy, despite doing everything right it may not work. Therein lies the appeal of the game. The reward for all this heartache is immense. Imagine you take a small team up a few leagues, with canny loan signings and sensible tactics. A bigger club job comes up, do you leave the team you have built from the beginning? Or do you show the lower club the loyalty they likely wouldn’t have shown you had results been different? No matter your choice there will always be second thoughts. The fact that you get that choice means you are being successful at the game.
Thankfully FM 2016 remains a game. This means you can have multiple saves and take multiple teams to glory or failure. The real life pressures can be experienced in small doses. However don’t fall into the trap of restarting games until you get the desired result. You are only cheating yourself out of the experience that the game tries to provide. It ma seem cruel and unfair at times, but think to your own football supporting experiences. None of the failed managers at your clubs meant to fail. They all put the effort in and made the difficult choices. Unlike you they couldn’t start a new game.