Our Football Manager 2014 review will be with you in a few days, but here's a little 11th hour piece looking at the absurd level of depth in this year's title.
Ah Yeovil Town. There you are, ahead of my 2013-14 season, sitting at the bottom of the table in the Sky Bet Championship, languishing in the red haze of the relegation zone -- the poor, unfortunate body underneath the twenty-three team pile-up above. Is this a sign of things to come when the final whistle blows at the end of a long season? Will the glorious Glovers come undone having reached too far and been found wanting? Will their maverick manager -- a fuzzy-headed, splendidly-bearded proponent of attractive, attacking football -- face the firing squad once all is said and done?
I've been playing Football Manager 2014 for five hours and I haven't played a single competitive match. It just so happens that teams are listed alphabetically from top to bottom. It's the misfortune of a moniker, not a sign of things to come. Hopefully.
It's always been the way with Football Manager, especially in recent years when the simulation aspects of the game have plunged deeper and deeper. There are so many pies in which to stuff your fingers in this latest game that it's all too easy to get lost in endless spreadsheets of statistical data and sorting out your scouting network and arranging bespoke training schedules.
I am asked what philosophies I want to bring to the club during my tenure and, given that it's predicted we'll end up right at the bottom of the table, I opt for the totally sensible option of playing attractive, attacking football and ignoring the defensive side of things. I knock up three formations to focus our efforts upon going forwards into the pre-season: a fluid, Barca-esque 4-3-3 that takes advantage of the new "False 9" role available for forwards, aimed at bringing tiki-taka football to South Somerset; an attacking 4-4-2 to leverage the potential afforded to us by our abundance of wingers and strikers; and an inventive 4-1-2-2-1 that might require pinching one or two defensively minded central midfielders from somewhere. Jamie McAllister -- my club captain and starting left back -- is in his mid-thirties and injured: we're going to need some cover.
To the transfer market!
The board informs me that we have no money for a transfer budget, although there's about twenty grand in terms of wage bill leeway. A few choices pickings in free agent waters, and some nifty loan signings, and I just might be able to strengthen my squad. Of course, I only have one scout, he's pretty rubbish, and his area of knowledge appears to indicate that his idea of a glamorous break would be a day out at Wookey Hole.
My requests are met with swift rebuttals, and a rather impetuous leak to the press of the board's unwillingness to invest in expansion now we find ourselves in the Championship results in an almost immediate summons. I am chastised rather thoroughly, and asked to present one good reason why the board shouldn't fire me on the spot. I attempt an assertive tone of voice and explain that more upheaval would just screw everything up and ruin what little squad morale there is.
I get to keep my job. For now. And not without cheekily suggesting that we need better training and youth facilities. Score!
I bring in Papa Bouba Diop to plug the DM gap in my midfield, and also because I like saying his name, and also invest lightly in a couple of well-scouted hot prospects, having hired a couple of nationally-recognised helpers to expand my network. A little cover for McAllister and Davis, his understudy, one of two other additions here and there including former Italian star Vincenzo Iaquinta, and we're all set for the pre-season. I've let Terry Skiverton, my assistant manager handle all of the friendly arrangements, preferring to focus myself on preparing the team for a tough league challenge. My backroom staff helpfully supply me with all manner of reports, although I'm on my own for certain things because no one else has a clue about tactics, apparently, and therefore can't advise me on things like opposition instructions. I'm also astounded by the addition of indeterminate staff roles. I've asked this question before as a casual observer and fan, but what the hell does a director of football actually do?
Fortunately, we don't have the money to hire one, so I needn't worry about that.
I'm pleased to discover that my team talks have a much greater effect on individual morale than they did in previous games, or at least they seem to -- it's a little too early to make a comprehensive statement. Sadly, though, in fiddling about with tactics at half time, I forget to actually give a team talk at the break on one occasion, and our performance drops significantly. Unfortunately, virtual Terry's idea of a competitive pre-season appears to feature us playing all of the non-league teams in the area. I can't help but feel that this might lull us into a false sense of security. Sure enough, we bang in sixteen goals in the pre-season and only concede two. Hopes are high. We actually manage to win our first league game 1-0 away from home.
But then Burnley serve up a rather large reality check with a crushing 6-1 defeat. It's going to be a long season.