With 60,000 people playing Football Manager 2018 already, this year’s release may be the best yet. 100,000 people have been signing into Steam to have a look at the Sports Interactive title, with some new features taking Football Manager up a notch this season.
RealSport sat down with director Miles Jacobson to get a grasp of the latest features in FM, and how real life football compares to the popular management game.
Real Sport: First off Miles, how is your FM 18 save going?
Miles Jacobson: I am current managing Watford, and I’ve just got into season three. I’ve sneaked a EURO Cup place, and then Brexit hit. I got the hardest possible version of Brexit, which means that every player needs a work permit, so my preseason has been a little bit mucked up, as players I’ve wanted to bring in won’t get work permits.
There are hundreds of thousands of different versions of Brexit, and one of the options is for European players to need work permits just as South American players do.
RS: What would you suggest for first time FM players?
MJ: If you’ve got Football Manager 2018 for PC or Mac, I would suggest downloading Football Manager Touch. It’s exactly the same as FM with some of the options turned off. If you’re new to management games, just remember that it’s a marathon not sprint. So many people get upset after losing just one match, and may even stop playing.
You also need to achieve all your targets. If you try to win everything in your first season, you will fail. Don’t expect to be winning the league with Watford in season one, just set out to do with what the board suggests.
RS: Dynamics is the main feature this year, what have you looked to achieve?
MJ: Man management is something very important in football, and it has been ignored in games before. With Dynamics we are trying to show people how the dressing room works, and we’ve had comments back from footballers saying we’ve got it spot on.
If you are in any company or in any classroom and you annoy the most important or popular person in class, it’s going to have negative repercussions on you, and it’s exactly the same in the dressing room. You’ll know which players you need to manage carefully, you’ll know about player’s personalities through the Dynamics system, and learn how to deal with the players off the pitch rather than on. It’s not just about when they lace their boots up, it’s also about how they are performing in training, how they are dealing with the media and whether they want to leave the club or not is a big part of that.
RS: With Dynamics, what should managers bear in mind when considering potential signings?
MJ: It’s different for different players. Signing players who speak the same language will help them bond easier as will signing players from the same countries. Signing players who are similar ages will help them bond easier; it’s common sense stuff. You have to mould groups that are going to get on well in your squad, but it doesn’t matter if you have one or two players who stick outside that, as long as they are performing on the pitch.
RS: The scouting system has also received an overhaul, what can you tell us about the improvements?
MJ: The previous scouting system was an accurate replication of football about a decade ago, before data really started full prevalence. If you go to a lot of lower league clubs they don’t have scouts any more, they have data analysts instead. Data analysts work from a database and they're watching clips from games and you might then go and watch the player before deciding whether to sign them.
Scouts are more important at the top level, but there are different levels of data packages. The most basic gives you very little information about a limited group of players through to the most valuable where you get all information about every player in the world, and base your decisions on that.
RS: Data analysis has transformed football over the past decade, what can you see having an impact on the sport the next 10 years that could appear on future FM titles?
MJ: VAR has got to happen at some point. Northern Ireland have effectively just been knocked out of the World Cup on a bad referee decision, so it’s essential that is resolved.
There are also some interesting coaching methodologies being discussed at the moment, especially regarding individual coaching. This doesn’t happen much in real life football, but you can already use individual coaching in FM, but I do believe we will see more of that in the near future.
What I hope that doesn’t happen, but I fear might do is the possibility of a super league. There are some people out there with a lot of money you would want to see a super league, and make it the richest competition in the world.
RS: It is well-known that FM work with professional clubs. What does this involve?
MJ: I believe we have completely unrivalled, unparalleled access to football. I can go to training at a lot of different clubs around the world by phoning up a few days before and I rarely get told no. You can learn a lot by being a lot around the training ground, you learn more there than you probably do on the bench on a matchday. Through that I’ve been able to learn about tactics meetings, which is a new feature in the game this year, dynamics, and learning more about training which will be more important in the future.
Seeing a lot of the personalities behind the scenes and what they do it’s all very important to help us make the game. We also have 1500 footballers from top class internationals through to non-league players who help us with alpha testing on the game. Who better can you get to provide feedback than those involved in the sport day-in day-out.
Professional clubs use our data, with some even using our entire database. Some club will phone us up asking for a player’s injury history before moving for a potential signing. As we’ve built up such an incredible database over the years, it gives us extra possibilities to work with people in the football industry.
I talk to Chief Executives and Chairmen about things that go on behind the scenes. As we don’t reveal specific stories, people trust us. That leads to us having more information that can lead back into the game.
RS: What do you think gamers overlook when playing Football Manager?
MJ: Huge amounts. Some are overlooking Dynamics, the Medical Centre as well. Players with injuries seem to have always been blamed on the game, whereas now we are able to tell you the likelihood of players getting injured and give red and green zones, which is something that is used in real football.
There are lots of people out there who, when playing the game, just hit the space bar and try and get through the game as quickly as possible. You need to take notice of the game around you and read all the news items, you need to concentrate during the week to make things better for your players. If you can keep them happy, you keep the supporters happy, you then keep the board happy and then you keep your job.
RS: What next for the future?
MJ: The feature set of FM 19 was drawn up about six months ago. I will spend the next couple of months fine-tuning that. I’ve already been working on next year’s game for six months already, but only a couple of the development team have worked on FM 19. There are still a few little bits and bobs we want to do with Football Manager 18; we want to make the scouting system a bit more user friendly.
Thank you to everyone for playing the game for the last 25 years, without you we wouldn’t have a game to make.
How is your FM 18 save going? Let us know in the comments below