In a League on His Own
The most exciting way to start a new game is, of course, to read through and contemplate the Options screen.
1997 Craig knew all the Celtic players. 2019 Craig could not name you a single player from the current team let alone any professional football player in the entire country from the past five years. In my day to day existence, football passes me by entirely. I only found out that England were in the semi-final of this year’s World Cup when they were well into overtime and the rest of the country watched with baited breath. And I only found that out because I thought the supermarket was particularly quiet for a Tuesday evening.
Now I like my life this way and I don’t want that to change. So rather than play with real players I flip the switch in the options for the game to generate me a world of Fake Players with fake names and fake statistics. Like throwing a blanket over the piano I will have to search for the right notes and I won’t be able to rely on muscle memory to or any old tactics. I’ll have to learn my team’s strengths and weaknesses and with Attribute Masking enabled I’ll need to use Scouts to glimpse the possibilities hidden in the outside world.
Next I need to pick which leagues the game will simulate. I opt for Scotland and England because I’m not buying airline flights for a full football team, oh no. Load up your phone with music, films and podcasts because it’s coach rides from here on out, lads. Sadly I later realised I forgot about Wales. My first press release as manager can be an apology to the lovely people of Wales.
As I mentioned before, I used to support Celtic so I check them out. It seems the Fake Players option does not extend to the faking the club’s infrastructure because they still have loads of money:
- Training Facilities: Excellent.
- Youth Facilities: Great
- Finances: Rich
But where’s the glory in starting at the top? Pass.
Stepping down a league I find out that Livingston FC are in the LC division. Lower Class? Little Clubs? Ladbrokes Champ…ionship? They are the middle porridge option:
- Training Facilities: Adequate.
- Youth Facilities: Average
- Finances: Okay
Decent all round. I could have settled for Livi but they aren’t my local team anymore so it’s another pass.
Here we go. I live in Edinburgh so Edinburgh City is my new local team now I know they exist. I wanted the rags to riches story and the rages are down in the Ladbrokes League 2:
- Training Facilities: Poor
- Youth Facilities: Poor
- Finances: Okay
I digitally ink on the electronic line and just like that my management career takes an unexpected turn.
Où Est Le Stade?
First day in office and my Assistant Manager Michael Hendrie welcomes me to the team with a team report that includes himself on the team. He’s double-hatted and I’m the only other permanent member of staff. I hope he doesn’t injure himself with these comprehensive reports.
I check out the Club Information and discover my stadium is Ainslie Park. I’ve lived in Edinburgh for around ten years now and I’ve never heard of it. At least it’s not the Meadows. But where is my stadium?
Oh it’s in Pilrig. I’ve definitely walked past this field before.
You know you’ve got the facilities to compete at the top level when the best Google Review you’ve got is about the function room. Maybe I can rent it out during the Fringe for extra money?
Yes! A single stand. The nostalgia comes flooding back. It seems they do good outreach work too which is just lovely.
I may not win on the pitch but I’m winning in the community. And that’s what counts. You hear that, Board?
Ah. My adoring fans. I will not disappoint you, man with beard and ponytail and ear-piercing.
I think my office is the top window on the right. I throw my coat over the back of my chair and set to hiring some staff to fill the empty chairs around me.
Tell me about a time you’ve worked with a difficult team member?
The first transfer window is due to open in a few days and I’m keen to get a dedicated Assistant Manager, a couple of roving Scouts, a team of Physios and oh no wait I’ve got no money.
£2k finance budget is not what I wanted to see. I could ask the Board for more money but the function room can only host so many birthday parties so I know what the answer is going to be. My Scout will have to deal with that and find me some cheap, heavily discounted players.
I put out an advert for a Scout and Physio. The reality of picking a small team is really hitting me hard here. I simply don’t have the facilities in place for more than three members of staff. But that’s fine. Who needs more management staff? It’s all about the stars on the pitch. I check out the Team Report:
That’s a mixed bag. My disloyal group of players have good morale. The squad makes good decisions when their workrate is up to it. We have good depth in the striker position but can’t pass the ball to them.
The board expect me to focus on improving the club’s squad. I think this report might be RAG in which case I’m at Amber in all aspects including Harmony. All I know is musical harmony so I’m sorted there.
And Now It’s Time For More Bad News
Oh no! The post-Brexit times of hardship! I’m supposed to be escaping reality not having it climb into my fantasy getaway vehicle and grab the wheel. I have a number of players from mainland Europe on my squad. I’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. Perhaps I can apply for individual state membership to the EU?
One such European player is young Bulgarian Dimitar Kavdanski who has been called up to his national team. Well done that lad. His average rating score seems nothing special but I’m still acclimatising to managing a smaller team and I don’t know what a good score should be. I’ll dive into the players later. For now I need to focus on getting the right staff in place to support me.
I’ve got CVs for my physio position in to review. It seems I have a club secretary who doesn’t count as a permanent member of staff. Can they play in goals?
Marc Quigley specialises in Rehabilitation (as opposed to Prevention) which is what I ‘d prefer in case one of my key players picks up an injury. It also means I can tell the player to go see the physio to get healed up nice and Quigley. He’s hired! My first signing. Alert the press!
What? Hang on, I don’t have the funds to have Quigley sit the physio exam (whatever that is). That means I’ve potentially got an unlicenced physio. The head bones connected to the.. to the… neck bit? What if instead of running onto the pitch with a sponge and water bottle he just runs on with a rusty scalpel? Quuuiiiiiggggleeeyyyy!
I next sign Henry Shipley as my sole Scout and welcome him aboard by sending him away across the country to spot me some talent to sign. I eagerly await his first report, henceforth known as the Shipley Report. I have very little transfer funds so I hope I told him to keep it cheap and cheerful.
While I’m sorting out the back office there’s been some international friendlies played including a 2-2 draw between Scotland and England. I check out one of Scotland’s players to see that the man of the match Dave Wallace is valued at £9,500,000 which is slightly higher than my £2,000 budget. Maybe they have a finance plan?
This is the typical player screen of their various stats. I think each category goes up to a maximum of 20. I only now realise as I am writing up this diary page that I’ve been reading this screen wrong. The bottom right isn’t saying an Average Rating of 13. It’s a Teamwork score of 13 and an Average Rating that’s not defined (hidden untill scouted I suspect). I’ve played my first three games (stay tuned to the next few pages) and I’ve only gone and based it all on the wrong statistic. This possibly explains a few things.
Get Ready for Battle!
The first Shipley Report comes back with a player I can’t afford by several hundred thousands of pounds but is accompanied with his report on my first match. The Report is not good. A roving team of Raiths are heading my way. I need to ready my troops. But that’s for the next installment of the The Football Manager DiariesTM.