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Five tips to awake a sleeping giant

The Sleeping or Fallen Giant save is the quintessential Football Manager save. Historic venues, black-and-white glory, missed opportunities, flawed heroes; it’s got it all. But no matter if you’re going for an exotic name from an unknown land or one of the traditional powers of the old continent, the question remains: how do we rise again? That the aim of these five tips to awake a sleeping giant on Football Manager

Balance the books

Now, my mythology could be a little rusty, but I’m fairly sure giants aren’t famous for being sleeping, tender creatures; something must have happened. Much in the same way small farmer-boys are the downfall of mythological giants, terrible administrations are the Achilles heel of their football equivalents. Nothing quite puts a dent into a club’s history like a period of overspending and underachieving. It’s all fine and dandy to spend every coin as it arrives when the trophies keep on showing up, but when that conveyor belt of success inevitably snaps, bad things happen.

Portsmouth’s FA Cup success of 2008 came at the fruit of reckless spending and inflated wages. You can guess what happened next…

Depending on how recent the giant’s fall has happened, you’re going to find one of two things. Either the club is over-invested in players who’re past their best and cashing in their last big pay, or the club is overcrowded with mediocre players who took the chance to play for a big name while failing to make the cut for the top. Regardless of which scenario you find, you need to clear the weeds. List the players on every squad by salary and analyze: which are worth their paycheck?

Over at the Finances information, under the Wages tab, the Summary screen displays an estimated minimum and maximum wage for any given player according to their alleged importance to the squad. While it’s by no means a perfect range, it could provide you with a solid idea of how much is too much. Anyone above that limit should have his days at the club counted.

Plant the seeds

The present is a ruin, sure. But that doesn’t mean what lays below is all useless. You’re strapped for cash, lacking options and struggling to make it all work; how about now to start paying attention to your academy? Most big, historic clubs have a tradition of growing and developing big talent within their youth ranks. It’s more than likely that, due to your historic status, you have good youth facilities, junior coaching and youth recruitment. This is young, cheap talent at your disposal and developing it can only make things better.

Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes. Good youth sides take some time to build, but they certainly pay off.

When you have put the books in order and some money is available, consider also asking the Board to spend it improving some of those once-great and now-decadent structures. Hiring a competent Head of Youth Development will also be worth it. Apart from the attributes, look for someone who favors your formation and style, and particularly, with a good personality (Professional, Ambitious, Determined and others). That way, their influence on players coming up through the ranks will become valuable to you.

Particularly, if Youth Intake Day rolls around and you only have one or two useful players among a bunch of failures, don’t despair. Truth is that great teams aren’t built overnight but as a long, thought-out process. The same goes for a fruitful youth set-up. Man United’s most famous generation of academy products may have the catchy name, but in truth, not all of the six often talked about players emerged that very same year. “The class of ‘90, ‘92 and ‘93” just didn’t have the same ring to it, but that didn’t bother their manager, did it? When that time of the year comes, just take the good and discard the bad. That way you’ll slowly grow a source of talent you can depend on.

Swing with your weight behind it

A sleeping giant might be sleeping, but they’re still a giant; you need to take advantage of that, and there are several ways. For starters, there’s that huge relic of your club’s glorious past, the stadium. You might not be packing it like in the good old days, but it still is a 30,000 plus all-seater (or close to that). And there’s another advantage, the fans; your higher reputation and illustrious past, combined with the fact that you most likely play in a big city, means you’ll be regularly attracting more fans than your rivals, putting you a leg up on them. You’re going to be routinely making more money than your closest rivals, meaning you can (albeit being careful about it)  also spend more. But how to use that advantage…?

When the stars have left, when the manager has been sacked, when the owner has sold, only the faithful few remain. Fans can be a force for good in football, wield them wisely

Reputation brings another benefit, keeping everyone in awe of you. Particularly if you’re playing way below your station (think Notts County or Bolton), you’re more than likely to have a substantial reputation benefit when compared with your rivals. You can benefit from this situation by preying on them and taking their best players. Unsettle them by declaring your interest in them, have your assistant coach (or better yet, you yourself) go watch them live, be assertive in press conferences when asked about it… Do everything you can do to get that player crazy about the possibility of joining one of the game’s biggest names. Bayern Munich is famous for this approach and considering they’ve picked up the last eight Bundesligas, I’d say it’s working. You know what they say about big fish and little fish. 

Don’t spare any punches

You know what they say about learning from the mistakes of the past. Giants fall because they become sloppy with their money and overconfident in their capabilities; part of that is not knowing when to let go. Got an absolute legend that’s no longer working as an asset to your club? Give him a statue outside the ground, a big round of clamorous applause and offer him a contract as a youth coach, cause in football there’s nothing quite as bad as reading yesterday’s news the following morning.

Having a respected, senior figure at the club can mean a world of good for the youngsters. Just make sure they’re not the ones starting week-in week-out

What does this mean in FM terms? Well, it’s easy, don’t get overly attached to your players. That striker that got you the last two promotions is struggling to find his feet in the top divisions? Perhaps it’s time to find him a new destination. Getting stuck in the old ways is what got that club where you found it, don’t repeat the mistakes.

Of course, that also means you have to know when to cash in. You’ve been building a squad slowly, making smart signings, developing your youth and then PSG strolls around, with their massive checkbook looking to take the jewel of the crown. While the immediate reaction is to refuse in disgust, pause and give it a thought. That money could go into improving youth training facilities or youth recruitment; it could go into hiring a couple of new scouts or widening your recruitment network; it could even simply go into reinforcing the squad’s weak points. You may be a sleeping giant, but the likes of PSG are, living and breathing awake giants, with a massive wallet for a weapon. Learn what battles to fight and make the best of a bad situation.

Have an end goal

This is probably the most important bit of advice in this article, but I left it for last as it’s probably the one that will get you to roll your eyes. However, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a set of objectives and rules for this kind of save. Without it, it can become just another save, which you could do with any team. But what if, instead of that, you give it a focus? How to do that depends largely on the team and its history.

Did they have a particular tactic during their glory days? Then why not try to recreate that to the best of your skills. Did they have a particular recruitment stratagem, maybe favoring players from a certain country or area? Then why not place a specific focus on scouting that area. Did they have a strong rivalry with a similar big side, famous battles fought over silverware for years? Then why not set objectives to measure yourself against the familiar foe. Regardless of what that is, it could send you down a path of learning a lot about that club; more importantly, it will keep you hooked on that save for the long run.

So there you have it. Stabilize the expenses, grow your future stars, wield your name like a sword, and don’t get nostalgic – so you achieve your final goal, putting that giant back on its feet.

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Written by Fernando

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