During out 10th Anniversary celebrations, I talked at length about my journey with the Football Manager series over the years, but at that point, I hadn’t played, let alone installed the latest release. A few weeks on, and how times have changed.
Choosing the right team to start a career with is always a big decision. In recent years, I’ve taken the easy route and plied my trade in the Welsh Premier where I would carry out some minor cheating in the Champions League qualifiers to earn some dosh, then steamroll the title for season upon season. My quest was always to try and build the Welsh Premier up towards Championship standards at least. Maybe if I had continued with those saves past my first ten seasons I would have achieved that goal, but ultimately the monotony and lack of domestic challenge would put me off.
Step one was choosing a team which I could develop, and lead through several promotions to see how far I could go. Sadly, the Football Manager series doesn’t have any leagues below the Welsh Premier setup to be playable, and I wasn’t feeling like getting stuck into the editor. So, another club was required.
Starting a new game of Football Manager towards the end of the year is always a good idea. The real-world leagues have had a chance to settle down, and that gives you an idea of which teams in the lower leagues might prove to be a decent bet for taking over. With Merthyr and Colwyn Bay being too far down the English league pyramid to be playable from the start of the game, I plumped for Wrexham. Currently doing well in the Conference (well, the Vanarama National League as it is now known), I created my manager and took charge.
The Football Manager series can be daunting to newcomers, and after skipping the 2018 edition, I was a bit all at sea at first. Luckily, the game now comes with a fully featured Manager Induction something I took great delight in exploring.
Things have changed quite substantially since my last adventure in Football Manager 2017, and being guided through the radically overhauled training module (which I still leave to my assistant), scouting system (a very efficient way of finding potential new players) and tactics setup was a requirement for me. This was especially true for the tactics screen.
As football itself evolves, the Football Manager series must keep up. It seems to do a good job, but the level of detail in the tactics engine feels tailored for real-world tactical geniuses, not more casual football fans like myself. Having the induction guide me through how to create my own formation was critical to ensuring I didn’t bounce off the game within an hour of play.
Combined with choosing the right club, and having taken the time to explore the new parts of the game with the induction, I was able to pretty quickly get to grips with things. Being able to divest different responsibilities around your backroom staff is a saving grace for me.
Some players of the game might take 20+ hours to work through one season. For me, I prefer to get through seasons a bit quicker than that, and farming out training and opposition tactical instructions to my assistant and the management of the youth squad to my Head of Youth Development and Director of Football frees me up to focus on the first team, and bring through the youngsters that my staff report positively on.
Yes, the game can be overwhelming at times, and I do fondly remember the days of Championship Manager 3 where you set up a 4-4-2 formation, bought some players and went on your way. But, having considered where I was going to ply my trade, and having taken the time to appreciate the new features, I’m well on my way to spending some considerable time with Football Manager 2019.