Many people struggle to find a game that they can really “get into”. This is rarely a problem for me. For the last few versions of the game I’ve embarked on a Club and Country marathon with Austria and SK Rapid Wien. This may seem a strange choice for a Scottish player with no known affiliation to either club or country but it’s one of those odd FM-induced love affairs that has been built up over years of having great saves.
If you aren’t sure what a Club and Country game is then you can read my guide here which should let you know what the game is about and what to expect from these game updates for the next… well however long it takes. On FM11 I started my Rapid / Austria save right after the game was released and stopped playing it on the day FM12 was released so it could really be one that just keeps going and going.
This opening post will set the scene for the save to come, giving an overview of what I’ve done with my edit and what I will be looking to achieve in the game. If that sounds interesting, then read on…
The one thing that I’ve never been able to do with Rapid is play with the default Austrian league. The tipp-3 Bundesliga is a 10 team league where each team plays the others 4 times over the course of the season. I find this incredibly dull and repetitive in-game so have previously merged the Austrian structure with Germany and then last year created an Alpine league with Swiss, German and Italian teams.
This year, however, I’ve decided to play a more realistic version but have still created an edit with the following general structure:
- the top 2 tiers have been merged into one 20-team Bundesliga
- activated the Regionalliga and Landesligen lower-tiers
- Regionalliga is split into West, Central and East leagues with 16 teams in each, the top 3 of whom will qualify for a 9 team promotion play-off league with 3 going up
- Landesligen is split into 9 regional leagues, the top team of each qualifying for a 9 team promotion play-off league with 3 going up
- As well as the Austrian FA Cup, I’ve created the Austrian Youth Cup where a maximum of 3 over-22 players (and no foreigners) are allowed
- I’ve also edited Rapid’s colours to match the custom kits I’ve created and which will be used throughout these updates
Other than that, the database is untouched and so I am hoping to introduce a level of realism which was perhaps absent in my previous successful C&C saves.
So for this game, I’ve loaded the full Austrian pyramid as well as the top tiers from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The reason for the extra leagues is two-fold – added realistic oppostion (if and) when I qualify for continental competitions and “real” games for any Austrian players to develop in the big leagues.
I’ve also loaded a large database customised to include “all Austrian players” – fairly obvious that one.
So a brief introduction to the club… Rapid are Austria’s most successful team having won 32 titles as well as the German championship during the Anschluss. Recent years have been less successful, however, and Rapid last won the title back in 2008 and just 3 times since 1988. There is some new competition in Austria with the Red Bull funded Salzburg adding to traditional rivals such as Austria Wien and Sturm Graz.
Rapid are well known for producing good youth players and bringing them through the first team which fits in well with the general ethos of the game I wish to play. There are certainly some promising youngsters at the club just now with the likes of Mohamed Ildiz, Christopher Drazan and Deni Alar providing hope for the future.
It is my intention to develop these players for international football whilst investing in the youth structure at the club and creating as many newgens as I can. With the lower reputation of the league in this year’s game, I am going to find it much harder to hang on to my young stars which is where I am confident that the additional challenge is going to come from – can I keep producing a conveyor belt of talent that will make me successful domestically and improve the national team?
With no first season transfer budget and just £1.6m in the bank then finances are clearly going to be an issue and being a selling club would be a reality even if it wasn’t part of my overall ethos. The club currently has adequate youth facilities, average junior coaching and above average youth recruitment – it will be improving these facilities that is my priority over signings.
My very first job is identifying sellable assets to give myself some wiggle room in the wage budget though. 11 first teamers and 30 players from the Amateurs (who play in the Regionalliga Ost) and youth team are coming to the end of their contracts this season but I have absolutely no scope to increase their wages to extend any deals. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is not an acceptable situation and is definitely priority #1.
I’ll cover more on the club side in an update at the end of the transfer window so let’s move on to the national side…
I’m sure nearly everyone will have read Inverting the Pyramid or will in some other way be familiar with the Wunderteam of the 1930s and Austria’s Golden Generation – spear-headed by the enigmatic Matthias Sindelar. It is for this reason that I have decided to call my manager Matthias Sindelar. Whilst this may seem odd for someone playing as Rapid, Sindelar having been a hero at our arch-rivals FAK, this is the advantage of being a “new fan” – I don’t have the same level of rivalry and Sindelar is, in all honesty, an utter legend.
Austria have fallen a long way from the heady days of the 1930s, or indeed the late 1970s or even 1954 when they finished 3rd in the World Cup. We are currently ranked 60th in the world and haven’t qualified for a major tournament since 1998 which puts us on a par with Scotland – a shameful indictment of any nation!!
With qualifying for World Cup 2014 just beginning I have a clean slate to work with, albeit in a tough group of Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Kazakhstan and the Faroes. My current aim is a 3rd place finish at the very least with a decent challenge for the 2nd spot which carries a playoff spot.
There is definitely some hope in the current crop of Austrian players with David Alaba the clear standout talent. The Bayern youngster will likely be the focal point of my team for years to come but there are other talented players out there, many playing in Germany. Martin Harnik, Christian Fuchs, Marko Arnautovic, Andreas Ivanschitz and Aleksandar Dragovic are the main players I’ll be looking to in the immediate future and I’ve got my eye on a crop of youngsters including Andi Weimann and Marcel Sabitzer.
One of the main reasons that I love C&C games is that you have to be tactically pragmatic. Your national pool is necessarily limited and you really have to play to your strengths, particularly early in the game when you may only have one or two players or real talent.
Having said that, I do have some general concepts which I would like to follow for both the club and national teams – efficiency and entertainment. Results are clearly the focus of any FMer but I like to think that this can come with some degree of entertaining, attacking football. Or rather, in the words of César Luis Menotti:
So my concern is that we coaches do not arrogate to ourselves the right to remove from the spectacle the synonym of festival…
… rather I believe that efficacy is not divorced from beauty.
César Luis Menotti
I don’t subscribe to the latest trend that you absolutely have to keep 70% possession and make 1000 passes per game but I do appreciate efficient possession football. In contrast to this, I also appreciate high-paced, high-risk football and it will be achieving a balance between these two concepts that will form the initial challenge of the game.
Certainly in the early years of the national side, I will have to be a little more realistic and play conservative football in the away games. With the pace that we have in the national team then counter attacking football would seem logical and fit in with my appreciation of high-risk offensive play. The concern here is that the Austrian defence is not exactly our strength. Another challenge to overcome.
With the club side then attacking football, at least domestically, is likely to be a lot more prevalent. There are a lot of quite poor sides in the Bundesliga now with very small sides such as Sportverein Horn now finding themselves in the big time. I hope that the teams will improve over time to increase the level of challenge but, until then, I’m likely to face at least 15 very easy games where I should dominate very comfortably.
So that really leaves me with 3 base tactics that I need to create:
- Standard balanced tactic with a possession canny base and attacking fluidity up front
- More conservative tactic based on defending deeper, restricting space in our half and hitting on the break
- an overloading tactic based on breaking down the packed defences of hyper-conservative teams
So that should be enough for now. THE game begins and it’s time to immerse myself in setting up all the small details – training, staff, scouting, contracts, friendlies – and then onto the exciting stuff – the team and tactics.
Here starts the long, long road to glory!!! (hopefully)