Football Whispers | Why I Love FM
We sat down with our friends from @FB_Whispers to talk all things FM. It didn't take long to work out that they're genuine, die-hard fans of the game with some of the nerdiest answers to date.
Adam Newson - Editor
Tom Bodell - Deputy Editor
Will Evans - Senior Writer
Sam McGuire - Writer
What do you look for when selecting a team?
Adam - I tend to look for a challenge. So a sleeping giant, a club that has fallen on hard times, or a team in the lower leagues. This year I started with Hamburg.
Tom - I very rarely start as the team I support (Watford) because failure hurts me too much. However, I regularly start with a team I have a soft spot for (Barnet) and then regret it if things don’t work out. Typically, though, I look for clubs which are going to be a challenge or have something interesting about them. So, for example, on FM19 I was keen to start with Roma as they’d signed a crop of youngsters.
Will - Generally speaking, I tend to look for a club that’s not doing so well in real life that season, usually in the English lower leagues or in Scotland. I can’t stand the thought of my in-game achievements not matching what’s actually happening at the club. Lincoln City used to be my go-to team, but I stopped managing them after the Cowley brothers started doing so well there.
Sam - Always Liverpool. The first task when I buy Football Manager is to win the title with the Reds. I make up for the lack of trophies since I was born by building a virtual dynasty.
What's the first thing you do when you start a save?
Adam - Set up a primary tactic and then spend a few hours searching the transfer market for players to make it successful. This is the moment that dreams are born…
Tom - Without fail, the first job is to assess the squad at my disposal. This means going through each player’s profile, working out who’s good, who's bad and who’s worse. Then it’s onto transfer listing, loan listing and freeing the ones I no longer want nor need.
Will - I normally have a quick browse through the squad before setting up a tactic and seeing where I need to strengthen in the transfer market. I only like to work with a 22-man squad, so pick two teams – a ‘first team’ and a ‘reserves’ that I can rotate for alternating matches during pre-season.
Sam - I always look to address tactics and training schedules at the very start. In my mind, the more familiar the players are with a tactic, the easier life is when playing it. After that I look to cash in on players I feel I can upgrade on and build from there.
How do you approach transfers?
Adam - I’m not averse to spending money if I’ve got it but will favour young players with a resale value or those I can turn into stars. No entry for players over 30.
Tom - I think anyone who says they’re not looking to splash the cash is either a liar or a masochist. Even after however many versions of the game, you still can’t beat the feeling of making a signing. It’s less about spending for me than getting my players into the club. In years gone by, I would go a bit over the top. There’d be summers where 15+ free agents turned up on July 1 which was far from ideal. Nowadays, I like to think I’ve calmed down a bit…
Will - I’m really not big on signing players, certainly not in the first season anyway. I will tend to try and plug holes in the squad with youngsters from the reserves if possible, rather than splash the cash.
Sam - I’ll address areas I deem to be weak before looking to plan for the future. I quite like stockpiling talented youngsters and loaning them out. If they develop as expected then they earn themselves a place in my squad, if not they’re sold for a profit.
Greatest managerial achievement?
Adam - University. FM08. Rushden and Diamonds. Went from the Conference to the top flight and knocked the big boys off their perches. Countless trophies over 30 years and a move to the 120,000-seater Newson Park.
Tom - I was still playing FM12 in the summer the Pozzo family took over at Watford so to get acclimated with their empire (and, ultimately, a lot of players who ended up at Vicarage Road) I took over at Udinese. I had a brilliant few years with them winning three Scudettos and reaching a European final. Lost 2-1, still agonising.
Sam - Having the ground named after you is the best, right? The Sam McGuire Stadium just can’t be topped. It was reward for winning five titles in eight seasons as well as four European titles.
Adam - There are a few to choose from but probably the FM12 network game that exists to this day with Tom. My Watford side beat his Ipswich side in the Championship play-off final in season one. I went on to win the European Cup with the Hornets, he was sacked and ended up at Scunthorpe. Levels.
Tom - It would have to be that Udinese save on FM12. After growing tired of failing to conquer Europe in Udine, I took the Juventus job and continued my dominance of Serie A. I took a parallel role with Italy – I can’t remember how I did so the answer must be not very well – before chucking both in to take over the madhouse at Inter. I cleared a load of wasters off the wage bill there and turned the ship around. But then the chance to go back to Udinese came up and the story came full circle. It wasn’t necessarily my longest career, but it was definitely one of my most memorable.
Will - I’m not sure why it sticks in my mind as one of my favourites, but I had a Stoke City save that lasted around a decade during the Tony Pulis era. I managed to build a horribly physical and functional team that counter-attacked their way to European dominance.
Sam - I have fond memories with Gerrard as my assistant manager and Gigi Buffon as the goalkeeping coach with a few other football legends as part of the coaching set-up. It was an all-star cast made up of players I grew up watching.
Adam - Ludovic Baal. On FM12 I took charge of West Brom having earned my stripes at Independiente in Argentina, as you do. A top-half finish was expected but we won the title thanks to Daniel Sturridge’s goals. Yet Baal was my guy. Signed as a back-up left-back, he ended up playing as a left winger in my 4-3-3 and was an assist machine. Get to the byline, low cross, Sturridge goal. It was simply glorious.
Tom - On FM10 I took over a Palace side languishing in League 1, short on funds and in serious debt. It was a fire sale and everybody had to go in order to get the wage bill down. In the space of a summer I had to rebuild an entire squad, starting with the goalkeeper. Nottingham Forest youngster Karl Darlow was about the only passable, available stopper so I parted with my entire £12k transfer budget to bring him in. He shone as we won the title and headed back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
Will - I signed defensive midfielder Greg Tansey for Aberdeen (from Inverness Caledonian Thistle) a couple of versions ago and he was exceptional for me after laying out a few hundred thousand pounds. He ended up at Pittodrie in real life a year or two later, but wasn’t quite as good.
Sam - Timo Werner. It must’ve been in Football Manager 2016 now. I signed him as a left-winger but eventually ended up using him as a centre-forward. He didn’t have exceptional attributes but he always seemed to score goals.
Best player you've managed?
Adam - Carlos Fierro. What a star. Signed for that Watford team on FM12, he was the player who made us so successful. A bad season was one in which he only scored 30 goals. I loved him like a son.
Tom - I don’t tend to manage enormous clubs so this might seem like an unambitious answer but Antonio Di Natale was typically superb for my (almost) all-conquering Udinese side for about three years. Playing centrally in a front three he was unplayable for a while on FM12.
Will - I once had a centre-back for Lincoln City called Danny Hone – he was at the club at the beginning of the game and got the most incredible ratings for me. He always reached double figures for goals too.
Sam - Trent Alexander-Arnold. Developed him from an academy player to a world-class centre-midfielder who captained the side to two European Cup final victories. At one point he was valued as the most expensive player in the world.
Adam - The so-called (by me) Danish Messi, Jess Knudsen. He was key to my Rushden success. Signed as a 17-year-old, he blossomed into the league’s most prolific goalscorer. Ended up with more than 500 goals for the club and a statue was erected in his honour.
Tom - My Football Whispers colleague and friend Adam Newson and I had a long-running FM12 network game. Adam discovered a German-born striker called Daniel Asare in Ghana but he wasn’t quite ready for his Watford side at that point.
Instead, we struck a gentleman’s agreement where I would take him to League Two Scunthorpe United, nurture him and then ‘sell’ him to Adam for the cost of his loyalty bonus, whatever that may be. He finished the season with 40+ goals, captaining Germany at that summer’s World Cup. Oh, and Scunthorpe got promoted. However, under Adam he never quite lived up to the potential he showed at Glanford Park.
Sam - He went by the name Mascio. Football Manager 2009. He was easily the best midfielder ever to appear in any of my saves. He could do everything.
Why I Love FM?
Adam - For me it’s a great escape, now more than ever. I’m a new(ish) father and anyone who has a baby will tell you it’s pretty all-consuming. But the moment I start playing FM I’m no longer Daddy, I am Adam Newson, Hamburg manager and saviour. There’s also the validation it gives you when things go well, those fleeting moments that you feel like you could actually be a football coach, the game’s latest genius.
Tom - It’s the misguided belief that next time will be different, this time I’ll become the world’s best. Each year I return like a moth to the flame, adamant I can sustain more than fleeting success.
Will - I think the depth and accuracy of FM is what keeps me coming back – it feels so realistic that it allows you to drift off into a fantasy world where you really do feel like a football manager in your head for a few hours. It’s perfect escapism in that sense. I also think that being able to build a team based on the philosophies you would like to see enacted at the club you support is so appealing. Whether it’s creating a team of hot prospects or picking out bargains from across the globe, that control over the whole ethos of a club is endlessly appealing.
Sam - It gives you the opportunity to create your own legend with the club you grew up supporting. What’s not to love about that?
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