Shrew’s Club and Country Guide

So most of my updates on here will centre on my games with Rapid Wien and Austria. This game follows the premise of a “Club and Country” save, a concept I first came across when Forza on The Dugout had an excellent game with Shenhua and China. Having played this sort of game for a couple of years now, I wrote this guide to give other players some tips on how to play similar games themselves. It really is a great way to play the game and introduce a new level of challenge to Football Manager if you find yourself getting bored with the same old saves.

Hopefully this guide will be of use and you can enjoy C&C games as much as I do.

For those of you who don’t know, the premise of a C&C game is simple enough. You create a new manager who is in charge of both a relatively minor nation and a club of the same nationality with the aim of developing both in parallel and eventually winning the World Cup with a country you have developed from lowly beginnings.

The first item I’ll cover in this guide is probably the most important and needs to be addressed right at the start of the game. Namely:

Choosing the right teams

This is, for obvious reasons, the single (or double seeing as there are two choices) most important factor in getting a successful and enjoyable game. The general idea is to take over a smaller nation and take them from obscurity to world domination. There’s really very little challenge in taking over Barcelona and Spain is there? There’s nothing wrong with doing this, obviously, but this type of game is about the challenge and showing progression over a number of years. The only way you can take either of those teams is down!

Equally, you have to be realistic in your expectations. Unless you are willing to spend 50+ seasons at the game, are you really going to be able to make the Solomon Islands into the world’s best team? Again, there’s nothing wrong in doing this but it could make for an horrendously long and tedious game. Will you be able to maintain interest for 50 seasons?

I would recommend picking the nation first. For me, a C&C game is more about success with the national side than with the club. Everything you do with the club should be geared into developing players for the national side. I’d try to avoid the top 10 countries at the very least, although even top 20 might prove too easy. Similarly anything outside the top 100 is going to be a really long slog. So that leaves a good 80 nations to choose from, you should be able to find something interesting in that lot. For ease, you can find the current FIFA rankings here, although they are likely to be at least slightly different in-game.

When choosing the nation you should also take into account the following: international continental competitions; club continental competitions; competitiveness of the league; club infrastructure; and existing players. What would hold your interest in the game? Would taking over a nation who only plays in the World Cup every four years (if you qualify) hold you interest? Would lack of a competitive continental competition bother you? If all the nation’s good players are 29+ then how long will it be before you can bring newgens through to improve the side?

There is no “right” or “wrong” decision but you should think about the things listed above before starting the game, rather than getting five seasons in and then find that you have lost interest.

Now, let’s assume that you have decided on the nation you are going to manage and that this nation is, for example, Lithuania. Currently ranked 47th in the world and without any real star players, they would represent a decent challenge. They could qualify for the European Championships, giving an international competition every two years; and the clubs could play in the European continental competitions, providing extra interest. Seems like a good choice.

But which club? And will playing in a small league prove boring once domination is achieved? Well, we can do something about that. Many C&C-ers will find that they quickly rise to the top of the national game and find the domestic game not only monotonous but perhaps even restrictive as you only face moderate opposition week-in, week-out. This is definitely something to consider when choosing your club and country so why not make things more interesting by making use of some of the fantastic editor files that are available across the scene, some which will activate non-playable leagues like Nigeria or Canada; and some which amalgamates existing leagues to make it more competitive. For our example of Lithuania, you might prefer to use a Former-USSR league system. This is something I did in my first Austria game by amalgamating the Austrian and German leagues, or in this year’s version where I’ve created an Alpine League and has undoubtedly extended the game’s interest for me.

Ok, so now you’ve chosen your country and the league you wish to play in. The last thing to decide is which club you are going to take over. Most C&C players will take one club from the start and stick with that club. Although there’s nothing to stop you from moving around, the whole idea is to develop youth systems and players for the national side; switching teams every few years won’t help this. So assuming you are taking a “job for life”, consider whether you want to take on one of the big clubs in your league or build up a smaller club. If you have chosen to play in a smaller, less competitive league then building up a minor club can be more fun; but you are then going to lose out on the advantages gained from good youth and training facilities from the start so it’s a trade off and judgement call you’ll have to make.

Once you have decided, you are good to go. Let’s hope you have chosen wisely.

Tactics

One of the reasons that I love C&C games so much is that it requires a level of tactical flexibility that isn’t required in other games. You will always be limited in the player pool available to you and making the most of your best players means that you need to be able to see their strengths and then play to them. Also, you will have to adapt over time as different newgens appear. Perhaps you will discover a world class winger when you previously never used wingers. Perhaps you won’t get any right backs coming through and you’ll have to protect a weak side or play without fullbacks. It keeps it interesting and tests your ability in different ways to other games.

Some people, myself included, will tend to play the same tactics for both the club and the national side; but this is only viable where you have largely the same personnel at both. In the early days, where the international players are likely spread across various clubs and leagues, you may have to play differently.

Even so, it is worth planning ahead tactically, so that you are in a position to change it when players retire / new players come through, rather than suffering from a transitional period. For example, let’s say that you have a 32 year old playmaker who is the centre piece of your team but there is no natural successor of the same nationality. You also have two 16 year old wingers coming through that will turn out for the national side soon. While the playmaker is still around, I would experiment with a different tactic utilising my wingers’ strengths in friendlies or late on in competitive games that I’m winning. With international games so spaced out, this will give you a better opportunity to experiment than after the playmaker has retired and you need to win qualifiers whilst testing a new tactic.

Developing youth

Obviously, this is going to be absolutely crucial when playing C&C games. You have to bring through the next generation of internationals otherwise you aren’t going to get anywhere. I guess there are three parts to this:

  • “Real” prospects

There will be a certain number of youth prospects already in the game when you start and it is well worthwhile identifying these as early as you can. Get them on your shortlist and keep an eye on them. The last thing that you want is your best talent at the start of the game being wasted in the reserves of another club.

You might also want to look at capping some of them early. This will put you in their favoured personnel list and make it more likely that they want to move to your club should you deem it necessary. It will also raise their reputation and make it more likely that they’ll get games. Lastly, if they have a second passport it means that they are now tied to your country and you won’t lose them to another team later in the game.

  • Improve your facilities

As early and as quickly as possible, get your board to improve your training facilities, youth facilities, junior coaching and youth recruitment. This will improve the standard of newgens that are created at your club and give them a better chance of reaching their potential. The money spent here should prove to be a much better investment than a short term signing.

  • Training, tutoring and game time

Thirdly, there’s no point in signing or bringing through newgens with potential and then having them rot in your reserves. I would highly recommend that you read my Player Development and Tutoring Guide from FM10 as well as Maestro Ugo’s Newgens Realizing their Potential. This will give you a general idea on how to go about the non-playing side of developing youth.

In terms of game time, my personal preference is to get them into the first team as soon as possible. If they are good enough, then they are old enough. Even if they aren’t good enough yet, I try to give the youth as much game time as possible, even to the detriment of older better players. For me, the club side comes second. I’ll quite happily forfeit a title or two with the club if it means that my newgens develop properly and I win a World Cup. For some, this may be too much but there are always cup games, league games against poor opposition, dead rubbers and substitute appearances to give them.

Alternatively, make good use of feeder teams and loans. A season or two of regular football at another club will do a player the world of good whilst not taking up a spot in your own team. It will also let you get a proper judgement on whether a player will “make it” without risking your own job!

Scouting

I’m only going to cover scouting of your own nationality here. General scouting is covered extensively elsewhere on the scene and is something that we’re all familiar with through our years dedicated to the game.

The biggest advantage you have in finding players of your own nationality is that, as national boss, ALL of the players will appear on your Player Search screen and you will be able to see all of their attributes, even if you have attribute masking loaded on your game. [EDIT – no longer true, removed in FM13]

Therefore, it is well worth doing some manual scouting just after the generation date for your league. A day after that I will do three things:

1. Manually go through the newgens for the clubs with the best academies. Certain teams in each league will traditionally bring through the best players, i.e. those with the best facilities. Therefore, each year I check the intakes for Austria Wien, RB Salzburg, LASK Linz, etc. A quick manual check and then scout of any that appear tasty can reap huge benefits.

2. Do an attribute search on the Player Search screen. By setting a filter to only show players of your own nationality under the age of 18, you can then arrange these players by, for example, value, finshing, pace, positioning, marking or any attribute which takes your fancy. By using the attribute views you can get a quick, if crude, idea of a player’s worth.

3. Try to catch dual nationalities. To ensure I don’t miss out on any players with dual nationality, twice a year I will use the Player Search to show all player with my nationality. I will then use the General view and arrange by nationality. I can then see which players have arrived in, say, Brazil with an Austrian passport that I can pick up. Getting in there early can be vital and for some countries like Turkey there will be large numbers of dual nationalities.

Combined with a few good scouts doing the usual trips, I can usually catch most of the promising youngsters this way.

Know when to sell

Ok, so you have your players now and you have them all set up nicely in a lovely tactic winning games. Magic. Problem is that you are playing in the pissy Lithuanian league and your star striker doesn’t seem to be getting any better despite scoring 40 goals last season. Also, you have a 19 year old winger who could do very well but he can’t get regular games because you have a 26 year old in his position doing well. And your 28 year old centre half seems to have peaked, wants a new contract which you could afford but is a bit pricey.

Sell! Sell! Sell!

Remember, the national team is more important than your club side. Particularly early in the game, big teams will be able to develop your players better than you can. As long as you think they will play regularly somewhere then don’t be afraid to let them move on. It can only be of benefit to have your star striker playing every week for Milan or Barca.

Word of advice when selling very promising players – include a sell-on percentage in the deal. If you can sell your key striker to a team such as Porto or Fiorentina with a 30% of next transfer add-on, when they move to Barca or Inter for £30m later in the game, you are in for a mighty windfall (£9m if you can’t work it out).

Similarly, if you have a promising youngster coming through then be prepared to let the older head in his position get football somewhere else so you can give him game time.

And what about your centre half? Move him on too. If you need to stretch your budget to keep him but there is no benefit to the national side of him being at your club rather than another, then perhaps that money can be better spent somewhere else? If not, then by all means keep a hold of him. Of course, you should also remember that these players can make excellent tutors and can be worth their weight in gold. Another judgement call but hoarding players is as bad as filling your side with foreigners.

Speaking of which…

Foreigners

Ok, so it’s a club and country game so you are primarily going to be signing players of your own nationality. Or at least you should be. The absolute last thing you should be doing is buying up all the well known talent like Lukaku, Ganso, Verratti et al and thinking “that’s my team for 10 years sorted”. All you will end up with is a shoddy national team.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and place for signing foreigners in a C&C game, far from it. For me, there are certain scenarios where the odd foreigner can be absolutely vital.

  • Tutoring

Pretty obvious really but if you have a young, domestic star that you want tutored but there aren’t any options within your national pool, bringing in a foreign “model professional” or similarly useful tutor can be the difference between that player making it or not.

  • Getting you started

There’s very little point in having your club side languishing in the third tier producing rank rotten newgens every year and generally just being a waste of space. Before you have the reputation or finance to bring in domestic players of the required quality, a hand-picked foreigner or two that can give you that extra momentum to gain promotion, qualify for Europe or make the Champions League groups. Successful club sides with domestic players playing at the highest level can only benefit the national team; just don’t put out 11 Brazilians every week.

  • Cash cows

Something I do quite often is bring in a potential star for pennies with the sole aim of selling him on for millions in a couple of years. The extra finance could come in very handy for improving your facilities, signing young domestic players or even a new stadium. It can be difficult to let go of particularly talented foreigners but it has to be done and they can bring you bucketloads of cash if you spot them early enough.

  • Nationalisation

Each country has a set amount of time that, if a player stays in the country for that duration, they will be able to assume citizenship of that country and thereby be able to turn out for the national team. This can be hugely useful where your own youth systems have failed to develop a goalkeeper for example. If you spot these problem areas early enough, then you can attempt to nationalise a foreign alternative.

There are risks here. You could spend 4 years hoarding a player with the aim of nationalising him, only for his parent country to swoop in at the last minute and cap him; thereby making him ineligible for you even if he does take second nationality. Also, some players may refuse to take the second passport as they simply don’t want to play for you; a particular risk for low reputation nations.

Other than that, signing foreigners is just taking up space that could be used by, albeit inferior, domestic talent. I’ll say it again but the club side always comes second to the national team.

Make use of the national pool

Very handy tool and saves you running a bunch of shortlists. The first thing I do with a new game is clear out all the dross from the national pool and get it down to the players I will currently use or those that are worth keeping an eye on.

If you can keep it organised then it can also be a good tool for spotting deficiencies in the talent you have as early as possible. It will enable you to see, a few years in advance, that you are going to be short of a left-back once the current guy retires and you really need to do something about that. Much better than suddenly realising it when he actually quits.

Make use of friendlies

In “normal” games, I get a bit bored of friendlies and just let my assistant take over. In C&C games, however, they can be incredibly useful for trying out new formations and fringe players – particularly for the national side.

Not only that but you can cap promising youngsters early to make you their favoured personnel or ensure that dual nationality youngsters don’t get stolen by another country.

Spot problem areas early

The biggest problem you are likely to have is that you are at the mercy of the newgen system. Let’s pretend that you are in charge of Switzerland 10 years in. For years you’ve had the ever-reliable Diego Benaglio in goal for both club and country; and everything has been just peachy. But Benaglio has just announced his retirement and you suddenly realise that you have no back-up ‘keeper worth mentioning, you start leaking goals all over the place and lose your job.

If you’d spotted this 5 years ago, you could have done something about it: perhaps sold Benaglio for your club and tried to blood some youth ‘keepers and aid their development. Perhaps tried to nationalise a couple of Brazilian ‘keepers (although I think Switzerland’s nationalisation period is ridiculously long). For other positions, you can retrain someone with suitable attributes into that position, i.e. a central midfielder has become my starting left-back for Austria.

Either way, a quick assessment of the squad and developing players a couple of times a year is a must. The national pool and a perusal of your U-21 and U-19 squads will help you do this. Some players might even choose to control the U-21 side along with the national team. Not something I do but I can see the benefits.
And that, I think, is that. Using the methods above, you should be able to avoid the more common mistakes made by C&Cers. Of course, you’re going to need some luck, particularly with newgen creation. But then it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy and it wouldn’t be so enjoyable when you actually get towards the top of the game would it?

For me, there’s nothing more satisfying in this game than taking a small unfashionable club or national side and making them the best in the world. This method of playing adds an additional level of challenge, both on and off the pitch. It can take a fair few seasons until you finally get moving in the right direction but it’s incredibly satisfying when it happens and, for me, is much more enjoyable than just taking over a big club and buying in ready-made stars from all over the world.

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9 thoughts on “Shrew’s Club and Country Guide”

  1. Perhaps a stupid question, but how do you add yourself as manager of both club AND country at the start of the game?? I am still playing on FM10 if that makes a difference.
    Secondly, what reputation level do you use?
    Thanks in advance

    1. It’s a bit different these days as there’s a new option to add your manager as in charge of both club and country right from the start.

      Back in the day, we used to set our manager’s reputation to “international footballer” and put him in charge of either the club or the country. We’d then add a second dummy manager to whichever we hadn’t set him in charge at – so if your “real” manager was in charge of the country, the dummy one would be in charge of the club.

      We’d then retire the dummy manager and apply for the job with the real manager. This would usually work although sometimes it could take a few tries. Hope that helps.

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