Football Manager Pro Tips – Middle League Edition

(I’m disappointed I couldn’t come up with a more creative term than ‘middle’ league)

Alright, you’ve got promoted once, maybe twice, and you’re enjoying life at the club; your players are on full-time contracts, the board is letting you have more than four members of staff, and the scouting range has been expanded to the local region, not just the players within sixteen feet of your ground, but there’s a long way to go yet. These are some tips to help you progress further up the league ladder on FM 14, to the mystical lands of transfer budgets and youth teams of a decent quality.

1) Pay attention to Personalities

In the last post, I encouraged you to focus on Determination, Work Rate and Stamina as general on-field attributes to maximise your players’ abilities; now you must focus on their off-field characteristics, expressed through the Hidden Attributes, mystical figures that only your scouts and assistant manager can see, which is why a player with low Attributes may be rated as having five-star potential, because they have 20 Professionalism and 20 Ambition.

You can get an idea of these attributes through a player’s Personality: ‘determined’ means high determination, ‘sporting’ means high determination and ambition, ‘professional’ means high professionalism, ‘resolute’ is a great one, as it is high determination and professionalism. And these traits are what you’d expect them to be: Professionalism determines a player’s willingness and commitment to train, Ambitious players are likely to be encouraged, not scared, when you set the team with high expectations at the start of the season, and Determined ones react well to adversity. Often, a resolute player with low Attributes will play better over a full season than a ‘better’ player with the Personality type ‘Low Self Belief’, so I’d encourage paying as much attention to these Personalities as a player’s Attributes.

2) Tutoring is key

On that note, a player with great Attributes and a ‘Balanced’ Personality is not a lost cause; you need to bring in experienced (ideally over-30) players who play in his position, who have a higher reputation than him, and they will be able to tutor him. Tutoring can work on a Personality level, as a Fairly Determined tutor will often turn a Balanced kid into a Fairly Determined one, and you can then get your kid to be even more determined by tutoring him with a Very Determined player; this idea of scale – making someone ‘fairly’ before throwing a ‘very’ tutor at them – is critical, as trying to change a kid’s Personality by too much too soon will result in them falling out with the veteran, and often having their Hidden Attributes lowered.

But if you select the first option when asking for a tutor )the one that doesn’t include the ‘take him under your wing’ line), your kid will pick up Preferred Moves (PPMs) from the tutor. These are found on the Information screen, and are very important to consider, as a player will stick to these actions regardless of their tactical discipline, or the instructions you give them; Pirlo will always dictate the tempo of a game, regardless of the system. So if you have a kid with high Teamwork, Passing, Off The Ball, and Creativity, and want to make them into a specialised Regista, you’ll have to get in a tutor who can ‘dictate tempo’ and have them work together; the kid will also pick up Hidden Attributes from the tutor as normal.

But be careful when selecting tutors, as they can harm your players; I wanted to improve my teenage goalkeeper’s Command Of Area, so I brought in a tutor with high COA, who incidentally had low Determination; three months later, my kid’s COA had risen by one, but his determination had crashed from 15 to a measly 11, severely undermining my plan for him to become club captain in a few years. And the kid was ‘Determined’, while the tutor was ‘Balanced’, so they fell out and the tutoring was largely a failure.

3) Train even the crappy youth players

There are two reasons for training youth players: to put into your first team, or to sell for a profit (if they come in as a Youth Candidate, you basically get them for free), so even a striker with low Composure, Finishing, Pace and Off The Ball, but with a Resolute Personality, can be a great asset; he’ll be very committed in training, so his Attributes will rise a fair bit, and opposing scouts will see his awesome personality type, and will value him higher, placing you in a position of strength when it comes to negotiating a transfer fee.

Also, having generations of youth teams of Resolute, Professional and Determined players will generate a reputation for your club as desiring mentally tough players, helping you attract players of similar Personality types, and perhaps helping new signings develop their Hidden Attributes as they’re in an environment that rewards such traits; I had a regen midfielder with the ‘Low Determination’ Personality, and within a year, he’d improved to ‘Balanced’ without tutoring.

4) Don’t loan players out

Loaning out is a fool’s game (Thibault Courtois aside), as your kids will often be playing at a level too low for their Attributes to really progress. If you believe your kid can be a star of the future, you need to play them now, even if they’re sixteen and end the season with 40 games and an average of 6.31; poor performances at a higher level will help them develop more than good ones at a lower level, provided they’ve got enough Determination to put up with a few crappy months.

For players you’re training to sell, however, loaning can work in certain circumstances: you need to ensure the kid is playing in the position you want them to develop in, and withdraw them from the loan if their new manager keeps playing them as an Attacking Left Midfielder as opposed to a Left Midfielder; also, their new manager needs to have a high Working With Youngsters Attribute (over fifteen, at any level) and the club itself needs at least ‘good’ youth facilities; furthermore, if they are injured, bring them back immediately so they can recover at your superior (but still frankly average) physio team. If all these conditions are met, the kid will develop into a Jack Rodwell, a decent player who can’t cut it at your level, expect you’ll sell him once he hits 20, as opposed to having him warm your bench for four eats nom-noming on your wage budget.

5) Boost your player’s egos

This is a bit of a cheat, but after any player has a match rating of 7.5 or above, go into the Private Chat menu and compliment them on their last game, and you’re guaranteed to raise their morale by one point; this will keep your players happy, and can help in bad runs, as their morale has further to fall before becoming performance-ruiningly low (about the ‘poor’ mark), and if you have one player playing well with a higher morale than the rest of the team, he’s more likely to start winning matches himself and energise the rest of the squad.

This is also more likely to make you one of their favoured personnel – my entire starting 18 have me as their favoured person, despite the fact that two of them have played five games between them all season, and my fourth-choice midfielder has had more red cards than stars on his Potential Ability – so if you get sacked, you’ll be able to salvage some of that squad you’ve been developing for five years by attracting them to your new club.

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