Having played 13 seasons of Football Manager 2016, I’ve been quite impressed by most aspects of the game, such as the improved tactical interface, the user-friendliness and legibility of screens such as the home page and the staff screen, and the improvements in the in-match engine, among others. However, my attempts to create a story-line to complement my Manchester United save and make it more immersive have given me a few ideas for new and improved features that I feel would add to the realism of the game by allowing managers to exercise greater control over club matters and create legacies at their clubs. What follows is a brief discussion of some of these ideas; I’d love to know your thoughts on these proposals, in addition to any ideas of your own that you’d like to see in future versions of the game.
Now, I KNOW I’m not the only Football Manager geek who enjoys adding retired legends of the game to his staff. I’ve been doing so from my very first save in FM12, and my Manchester United side in FM16 boasts a world-class backroom staff with over 1,700 international caps between them. In addition to current staff members with playing experience, such as a Jaap Stam, Mauro Tassotti, or Marco van Basten, many world-class players enter coaching upon retirement, and there is no dearth of playing experience to tap into for a manager. Which forms the basis of this proposed feature.
Has anyone ever noticed the sentence in the message you receive when confirming the signing of a staff member with playing experience that goes something like this: “With the signing of ______, Arjyo Mitra has added invaluable playing experience to a backroom staff that already contains the likes of X, Y, and X.”? Clearly, the game is capable of detecting a tendency to bring retired players on board, which makes me believe there should be added advantages of having retired legends on board, as opposed to staff members with no playing experience, such as Jose Mourinho’s trusted advisor Rui Faria. Given young players can gain on the Mental front as a result of being mentored by senior players, I feel there would be a lot to gain by having coaches with playing experience serve as mentors for young players (and potentially even more senior members of the squad). Their experiences would be a vital resource to tap into. Of course, staff mentorship would be different from Preferred Moves training supervised by coaches, and more similar to mentorship received from senior teammates.
I’ve been thinking of some ways in which the game could introduce this feature without loopholes that would allow a manager to have every single member of staff mentoring players at the same time, since this would probably make the squad Mentally superb in a very short period of time, leading to unrealistic levels of success on the pitch.
i) Impose restrictions on staff mentorship eligibility: Given the plausible direct correlation between the staff member’s playing experience and mentorship ability, I would suggest only staff members with a certain number of international caps and/or club appearances (say, 50 caps and 400 club apps), and perhaps even a minimum age, such as 45 years, would be allowed to mentor squad members. Furthermore, since it makes sense for a coach to need to take some time to settle into a new club, I’d be on board for a feature where new coaches can only participate in General Training during their first year on a job, after which they can begin individual mentorship sessions.
ii) Impose opportunity costs on mentorship: Since young coaches fresh out of playing retirement arguably aren’t very experienced or capable (reflected by their coaching license and attributes), their contributions to General Training would presumably suffer if they were asked to mentor players (just as multitasking in Training categories affects their performance). Thus, I’d recommend a loss in training performance for coaches serving as mentors. Perhaps coaches rated at less than one star reputation would lose a star in training, those with between one and three stars reputation would lose half a star in training, and all coaches with a higher reputation would see their training performance remain intact.
iii) Impose conditions for increased returns from mentorship: Connecting a player and coach with some common history — like the coach having played at the same club, or both being from the same nationality or same personality — should logically result in improved returns from their relationship.
Inviting sacked managers to training
The game indicates that establishing positive relationships with other managers can lead to easier transfer negotiations over their players, which makes those relationships potentially crucial, especially at smaller clubs, where there isn’t always much money floating around. Therefore, establishing and maintaining these relationships should be the focus for a manager. One way to do this would be to invite sacked managers to training.
This might seem strange, but there is actually precedent for this. While at Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti invited Sir Alex Ferguson’s son, Darren, to watch the Spanish side train for a few days after he’d been sacked by Peterborough. In my save at Manchester United, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, and Marouane Fellaini have gone on to have rather average managerial careers, with Rooney struggling at Championship sides, and Fellaini having lost two jobs in three years Serie A. Even Ryan Giggs, who was replaced by Zinedine Zidane as my Assistant Manager after one season, tried his hand at management, before rejoining my staff as a Coach. I would imagine Rooney and Fellaini would have benefited if they’d been allowed to view training at my Man United side.
This idea wouldn’t really have too many implications for coaches’ attributes, but would help improve the realism of the game; after all, isn’t that exactly what the game tries to achieve?
Interacting with retired/inactive players/staff
My second suggestion regarding staff members involves those ex-players that aren’t actually in the game in any capacity. A prominent example would be David Beckham, who only crops up as a potential club owner on some saves, without actually playing an active role in the game. Other examples would be players who retire during the game, and choose not to take up coaching, thus exiting the game completely. Every save has a few fantastic players who would probably be brilliant coaches, but choose to retire. My idea is for it to be possible to interact with even the retired professionals and try and convince them to make a return to the game.
FM16 has made a few excellent strides when it comes to staff communication; I enjoy the fact that certain staff members will refuse to join your club based on club rivalries (e.g. any staff member affiliated with Liverpool usually rejects advances from Manchester United) or favoured personnel (e.g. the Brazilian left-back Sylvinho is a coach at Inter Milan in my save, and refuses to join my United staff due to his strong relationship with Marcelino, their Head Coach), and also like the fact that you can talk to your staff members who receive job offers from other clubs, asking them to stay (this usually doesn’t work, but I appreciate the attention to realism). Therefore, I’d love to be able to talk to, say, a 40-year-old retired John Terry and ask him to consider coming out of retirement to join my coaching staff.
I understand that programming this future in-game activation would add a significant operational burden for the game, and therefore thought of a couple of restrictions that the game could impose to make this feasible:
i) In any given season, a manager can only have conversations with a limited number of retired pros (say, between 2 and 5), with no guarantee that the relevant staff member will actually come out of retirement. For example, I could ask Frank Lampard to come out of retirement and work for my Man United side, but his Chelsea and Manchester City affiliations could lead to him disagreeing. This would still count as one professional activated. Of course, if he’s activated, he could choose to go back into retirement, or take up a job elsewhere, in which case he’d be a full-fledged member of the game.
ii) Given the increasing status of the game in real life, and the work Sports Interactive does with several elite clubs, perhaps the makers of the game could actually talk to real life players and ascertain their willingness to go into coaching once they retire. For example, if Beckham was still playing, he would most likely have zero willingness to become a coach, whereas Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard would almost definitely enter coaching. Thus, the game would never allow either of the two central midfielders to retire (as professionals) in-game. This would make the game slightly more realistic.
Changes to player history screen
This is one I feel slightly strongly about. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that the player history screen only has stats for the league, with those for all competitions in the season-by-season stats section at the bottom of the page. I would imagine it is quite manageable to have stats for all competitions on that screen, so that one can view the player’s overall career performance easily, instead of having to manually add up the numbers from each season to find out how he’s done in all competitions.
Notice the ‘Stats’ drop-down menu. Click on it, and you’ll see an option for a graphical representation of a player’s performances. I personally think that view is a very clunky and uninformative page, and the game could do worse than dispense with it. Instead, I’d love a drop down menu with the following options — “League”, “Continental”, “Cup”, “International” — of which multiple can be simultaneously selected. Assuming I select all four options, the Career History page would then tally up the numbers for all competitions in each season, and then show me aggregate season-by-season figures. The “Division” column would be replace by “Competitions”, and would show exactly which items I’ve selected from the drop-down menu.
I don’t have any knowledge of how difficult the programming of these screens is, but I would imagine this isn’t the most complicated or data-heavy feature, and would absolutely love to see aggregate data in the history page.
Changes to Best XI screen
I enjoy the fact that you can keep track of the best players to have played for the club, but would love to see the list expanded to include a few reserve players as well. In my opinion, even if you spend five years at a club, there are probably more than 18 players who’ve been excellent for you. I would love it if the game could somehow keep track of the average number of players you’ve used each season (in fact, it does so in the “Team Reports” –>”Facts” page, where you see the number of players selected in the League by a team), and make a “Best squad” based on that figure.
For example, if I use an average of 22 players per season — a Starting XI, seven substitutes, and four reserve players — my “Best squad” page would expand the Best XI feature to show me the 22 best players to have played for my team. Whittling down many seasons of achievement to just 18 players seems a tad unfair, even though I get that the purpose of the feature is precisely that, highlighting the best of the best. My qualm is that the current ‘Best XI’ feature isn’t very accurate at doing so, since it ignores a number of excellent performers in favour of picking one player per position on the bench. For example, my Best XI bench consists of two full-backs, one central defender, one goalkeeper, and only three attacking players, even though I’ve produced a multitude of incredible attacking players. Believe it or not, one player who has won four World Player of the Year awards in 5 years while at my United side doesn’t even make it to the bench in my ‘Best XI’!
Tracking all players to have played for your club
The final recommendation I’m making in this article is a bit far-fetched, and possibly the most unrealistic yet for data handling reasons. This is a bit of a pipe-dream, and I totally understand why the game will not be able to do this.
Essentially, my idea is this: since I enjoy doing long-term saves, often lasting more than 10 years, reminiscing about the history of my side and the players to have played for me gives me great pleasure. Therefore, I’d love a feature in the Club History section that would allow me to keep track of everyone to have ever played for the club, be it a Key Player with over 500 appearances or a Reserve Player who played for 15 minutes as a substitute, and was then released.
Sounds hopelessly absurd already, doesn’t it?
But I would go about it by categorizing players by position, and providing all major statistics, such as appearances, goals scored, assists, yellow and red cards, and Player of the Match awards (again, for all competitions, like in the Career History feature discussed above). Detailed match stats such as Pass Completion or Shots on target would be unnecessary, since I don’t really care how accurate my now-retired striker from 10 years ago was. However, I would put in the data for “Minutes Played”, which is of interest because it adds more detail to the “Appearances” information; exactly how much time did my players spend on the pitch for me?
Going into even more detail, I’d love to be able to see exactly how much time my players played in EACH POSITION. For example, if I played Memphis Depay as a LW on a few occasions, and as a ST on others, I’d love to see exactly where he ranks in each position, based on all the stats mentioned above. The screen for this feature could look something like this:
So, instead of showing me Positional ability, the screen would show me all the players who’ve ever played as striker for me, including, for instance, a right-back who I played there for 2 minutes in a game. Of course, I’d exercise my discretion to ignore this stat and focus on the actual strikers.
I can understand why this is totally unrealistic, but feel it could be a useful feature for long-term saves. Perhaps if one could ‘unlock’ this feature after completing a certain number of years in a save, say 10 or 15, the data burden would be delayed, if not reduced or eliminated?
These are the ideas I’ve been mulling over for the last couple of days; I’d love to know what you think about them and the feasibility of including them in future versions of the game. Are these features something you’d like to see?