Why I Love FM – Jan Paul Van Hecke

The 2023/24 season has been a breakthrough one for Brighton & Hove Albion defender Jan Paul van Hecke.

The impressive 23-year-old has become a regular starter for Roberto De Zerbi and his performances were recognised with a big Current Ability upgrade in the FM24 Main Data Update.

The Dutchman is also a big fan of Football Manager. We recently caught up with Jan Paul at Brighton’s training ground to discuss his love of the game, his best save, and his FM24 star signing.

Why I Love FM – Jan Paul Van Hecke

When did you first start playing FM and why?

Probably about seven years ago. I think it started because my brother already played the game and I kept looking at him play. He told me that we could also play with two teams at the same time, so we gave it a go and after that, I was completely into it.

What do you look for when selecting a team?

Opportunities. I always go for lower teams and look to take them up to the higher leagues. Take England, for example, I’ll start in Sky Bet League One, Sky Bet League Two, or even the Vanarama National League and try to take them up to the top-flight.

Whatever country I start in, my main goal is always to get to the highest league. To me, that’s the best story you can tell in FM.

So, you’ve picked your lower-division team. What’s the first thing you do when you start a save?

I love the transfer market, so I’m normally trying to look for new players! When you’re a lower division team, you don’t have any money so I tend to go to the Scouting system to see where I can find some players that I can scout for less money. Then, I look at the free agents and make a bunch of free transfers as that’s where you get your bargains.

Even later in a save, I just love scouting and signing players that I can then sell for loads of money.

When and where do you play FM? Is it something you play at home or do you try and get some game time in when you and the Brighton players are travelling to away games?

I only ever play at home. To be honest, there are always spells when I play FM. When a new version comes out, I’ll play for a few months. I then usually have a break for a bit and then I come back to it again until the next one comes out. Right now, I’m still playing FM24.

Quite a few of the staff around the club play FM, so I chat to them about it, and they play when we go on trips. For me though, it’s only something I play at home.

What’s your go-to tactic? What does van Hecke-ball look like?

Always a 4-2-3-1 where we play out from the back with short passes. Sometimes, if I have players with good Long Shots, we’ll shoot from range, but usually, I ask my team to be patient for opportunities in and around the box. We always have to use a high line as well, that’s very important.

What’s your greatest managerial achievement in FM?

A few years ago, I had a save with Bradford City. I took them up from Sky Bet League Two to the Premier Division. We finished third in the top division, which got us into Europe and then that season we won the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup. That’s probably my best-ever save.

Have you ever signed any of your Brighton & Hove Albion teammates in FM? Or did you sign any before you moved to England?

Before, I used to always sign myself! I’ve stopped doing that now though because I’m too expensive, so I either use all of my transfer budget on myself or get outbid by another top club.

In my current save, I have Brighton’s goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen on loan for me. He’s a mate of mine in real life and he’s doing well for me in the game so I’m very happy.

Who are you currently managing in FM24?

I’m managing my old team where I started my career, NAC Breda. They are currently in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie, the second division in Holland.

In real life, they’re struggling to get promoted. In FM24, I got them up and qualified for the UEFA Europa League. We lost in the quarter-finals to Tottenham Hotspur, which was tough, but I’ve just won the Dutch Cup for the second year in a row so I think I’m doing quite well!

Who is the best signing you’ve made in FM?

I’ve made a lot but at the moment I have a really good player in my save. It’s the son of Robin van Persie, Shaqueel van Persie.

I signed him for pretty cheap when he was 16 or 17. Now, four or five seasons in, he’s on fire and is scoring loads of goals for my team. He’s worth a lot of money now too so he’s definitely one of my favourites.

What has FM taught you?

I’ve seen stories before about how some FM players then became managers in real life and I can see how that happens. Personally, playing FM has taught me a lot about tactics and how you can and should set your team up.

Has your love of FM made you consider a career in management when you finish playing?

I’m a young guy, still only 23, so I’m not thinking about it a lot yet. But, I think it says a lot that I enjoy learning about that side of things and I play a game like FM where you have to manage. It’s a bit different in real life, of course, but I think I’ve got a bit of the managerial instinct in me.

Why do you love FM?

For me, it’s a way to relax. Usually, I’m sitting on the sofa and just playing while doing other things but it gets a bit more serious when I have an important game in my save.

It’s also what I said about the transfer market – I love the experience of scouting and buying players, and then selling them for a profit because you’ve trained and developed them.

It’s great too for introducing you to players that you don’t know yet. There are so many players that you end up knowing because of Football Manager. When you see them in real life, you recognise them and think ‘Oh, I know him, he’s going to be great’.

That’s why I love Football Manager.

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