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Michael Cox | Why I Love FM

Our next instalment of Why I Love FM saw us sit down with author, journalist and all-round football expert Michael Cox. Michael's obsession with tactics is something very much shared in our office and we're already getting stuck into his latest book, Zonal Marking - The Making of Modern European Football. You can pick it up now, here

Michael Cox | Why I Love FM

What do you look for when selecting a team?

I always go for a side in Europe, but not the elite. A side in one of Europe’s major(ish) leagues. Fiorentina are particular favourites. A nice kit always helps, too, as you end up looking at the colours quite a lot… I must admit I find managing lower league sides less fun unless there’s a big budget to get stuck into (for example, Rushden and Diamonds back in the day).

What’s the first thing you do when you start a save?

It’s essential to make a starting XI and work out where the weaknesses are. Then dive into the transfer market.

How do you approach transfers? 

I can’t resist selling players. Anything that frees up some budget for me to reinvest is immediately exciting. Even if they’re great players themselves, which is madness really, but I can probably get five promising youngsters from one sale. ‘You’ll win everything with kids’, as Alan Hansen did not say.

What do you look for in players? 

I look at two or three key attributes. Some players’ attributes screens can look patchy, but if they’re good at the right two or three things, you’re sorted. Frank Lampard’s strength was that he excelled in a few, key areas. His game was largely based around stamina, finishing/long shots and arriving at the right time on the edge of the box. He was a good passer, tackler and had leadership skills, but being good at three things made him into a top player. Efficient.

Favourite type of player?

Versatile defenders are always much appreciated. It’s not a position where you want to rotate a lot, so you don’t want a complete back-up back four. Left-footed centre-backs can always do a job at left-back, which is handy. This was particularly useful back in the day, when you were only allowed five on the bench.

Greatest managerial achievement?

I took Fiorentina up from Serie C2 – the old fourth division – to win European glory with a strike pairing of Isah Eliakwu providing the speed in behind and Adrian Ricchiuti offering creativity. Ricchiuti being with me all the way, from the fourth tier to my captain, was a particular highlight.

Most disappointing signing?

Many moons ago, I signed three elite Italian attackers after selling my star for about £75m. None of them settled at all, and I can’t recall who I actually dared to play in defensive midfield…

Why do you love FM?

I love that it’s helped me learn more about real football. Back when I first started playing the game, there wasn’t so much information about European football around, and you really found out so much about European competitions by playing it - even just little things like the Italian Cup final being two legs, the Spanish transfer window being mid-December to mid-January, the German season starting with a cup competition… it might have been me, on my computer in London, but it made me feel like I knew more about the footballing world.