Establishing a Club Football Philosophy in Football Manager
When I grew up, there were two prominent figures in the Norwegian football society. Two that would be rated as manager legends because of their achievements in the 90s in this cold, long country made up of mostly fjords, lakes, mountains, forests and an inhabitant landscape that makes winter and endurance sports most suitable. The two men who made such an influence on how football should be played in Norway were Egil ‘Drillo’ Olsen and Nils Arne Eggen. Back then, we could watch and enjoy two completely opposite football philosophies leading our national team and the club football way beyond expectations, taking Europe with storm.
Their achievements with the Norwegian national team (Egil Olsen) and Rosenborg BK (Nils Arne Eggen) brought us some of the proudest moments in the history of ‘modern’ football in Norway. Proudest of them all were perhaps beating the former World Cup champions Brazil in the final group stage match of the FIFA World Cup 1998 – a tournament where Brazil would finish as runner-ups. Secondly comes the miracle in Milano, where Rosenborg beat AC Milan 2-1.
Whereas Egil ‘Drillo’ Olsen’s ideology was founded upon a counter-attacking football philosophy based upon Charles Reep’s reports, studies and statistical approach on how to win football matches most effective, with the national team often sitting deep in a 4-5-1 formation and using long balls and direct play to turn the odds, Nils Arne Eggen believed in a football philosophy similar to the Dutch Total Football using a 4-3-3 formation 1.
Eggen’s methods were not so much about possession in a tiki taka fashion, but about orchestrated movements, positive interactions, teamwork and quickness in attacking transition phases letting his attacking attitude shine through. He’s playing philosophy can be summarized as “you becomes great when you makes your team mates good”, meaning that the collaboration of individual talents must be based upon confidence between each other and good teamwork – where the individuals plays to their strength and most importantly works on improving what their best at. Both managers were skilled at team building. Both believed that complementary skills would make the whole perform better. Their methods and visions would influence Norwegian football in years to come, both positively and negatively.
- The Definition of a Club Football Philosophy
- Key Ingredients of a Club DNA Statement
- The Benefits of Creating a Club Philosophy
- Download Club DNA Statement Template
Now, this article is not about their records and achievements, their tactics or playing styles, nor what happened after they resigned and what Norway must do to yet again achieve success in Europe. Instead I’d like to focus the attention of the success these two teams achieved by having a clear football philosophy and some clear rules on how football should be played. Here I’m talking about creating an overall club football philosophy based upon the chairmen and the manager’s vision on how to play ‘attractive’ football. The idea of playing possession based football, free-flowing attacking football or playing a defensive minded game becomes more like a side note. It’s a matter of building a club structure that creates a club identity which the fans can easily relate to, and for the manager to create a lasting legacy he himself can be proud of. It’s a question about turning the fans over to a specific ideology – a vision for the club to move forward and become successful both on the pitch and off it. Not only this season, but for the entire future – both having a strong financial position in the years to come plus expanding their reputation.
This article aims to outline a template of building a club with a clear identity where the short term plans of winning football matches becomes secondary to the long term plan of creating a club football philosophy in your own spirit. Here I’d like to walk you through the steps you need to take to establish a club football philosophy; from creating an appropriate manager profile to detail statements about how you want to run the club, and finally the missions for your managerial career. This guide to implementing a football philosophy will be split up into different parts which all looks to create a club DNA.
From now on, your Football Manager save will have a new barometer for success – that is creating an environment based upon your vision on how football shall be played. It looks to create a club DNA which runs through the club and is the focal point of all decisions you’ll do at the club. In the first chapter, we’ll look at what a club football philosophy is, what it includes and the benefits of creating such a statement. At last I’ll provide a template which you can use for your own save.
What is A Club Football Philosophy?
A football club is in reality a company with its organizational structure and unique business model. At the top of the organizational pyramid you’ll got the owners and chairmen, the directors and the manager. Beneath them you’ll have the coaching -, scouting and the medical team, with its representatives before we’ll find the players at the bottom of the pyramid. Like any company, a football club exists of multiple individuals with different backgrounds, beliefs and culture background, who shall work together to reach common goals.
A club football philosophy is often a case about setting some principles and statements which looks to create a club identity. It involves a set of values for the club and its players to be committed by and looks to create a foundation for combining the individual strengths for the benefit of a group.
Such a statement looks to create a culture for success, either it’s focused on personal development based around positive interactions, openness and humanity (similar to the methods used by Eggen at Rosenborg) or a philosophy based upon creativity and innovations.
The football philosophy of the club is the clubs’ business plan. It details the organization’s, overall vision and mission, and carves out how they believe they can achieve success and what steps they can take to reach success according to their own values.
By detailing a club football philosophy based upon some club values, you set some principles and rules about what the club looks as positive behavior and what’s required or expected of all the individuals in the club.
It establish some rules about the ambitions level that can be followed for the years to come. It sets out some objectives the club shall follow and aim for, that is not dependent on the individual players or coaches that is involved in the club momentarily.
All that matters is that it creates a foundation where individuals can come together with different strengths and comply to a set of values. It looks to provide an environment where all individuals feels worthy and are eager to get to work every day, as well as provide meaning for the locals in the nearby community, its fans and the individual club members to find an identity. It will also give the board and the decision-makers a helping hand as future goals and directives are written down and made clear.
The founding principle is to make the club identity as ‘successful’ and ‘the same’ year in and year out. It should not matter if the club is Bognor Regis FC in the English Isthmian League Premier Division or FC Barcelona. The club values are the foundation for the club. It will be something that binds the individuals together. Either it’s in the development of the club, from amateur to professional status, in the everyday struggle to get points and thrive for success or whenever or especially when it gets tough, either the club faces a dramatic period or on-pitch success is far from the truth.
It’s not only a mode of play, it’s the way we are treating players, the way we are building up training sessions, the way we have to do our rehabilitation, the process, the steps that you have to make, it’s a lot of things…
But one of the most important things is I’m seeing the players not only as football players but as human beings.
Louis van Gaal talking about the term football philosophy, Eurosport.com
The club football philosophy I hereby speaks of can be described as the clubs DNA where the structure of it creates a club which is unique and follows some specific principles. These principles doesn’t need to be rigid, but can determine certain visions and specific models where players, coaches and other backroom staff has the license to express themselves within. The football philosophy statement or club DNA becomes a foundation for creating a group mentality where all parties works together to reach a higher goal than what they would do as one.
This club DNA will become a blueprint on how the club shall be run, featuring ‘rules’ about what’s desired and goals that you’d want to achieve 1, 5 or 10 years into the future. It exists of guidelines about how the club believe they can get success for example on the pitch, how they shall act towards the media and fans or how the club shall become more attractive for sponsors and partners, or other players.
The Key Ingredients Of A Club Football Philosophy (aka Club DNA Statement)
As talked about above, the club football philosophy exists of future goals, ‘rules’ and objectives. Now you might wonder what these rules and objectives shall cover? Let’s look closer at the different ingredients within such a club DNA statement.
As you’ll notice everything in the club DNA statement and the club football philosophy are closely tied together. You can not look away from one part without it impacting another, which is exactly how it is in Football Manager too. Meaning you can’t create a tactic without thinking of the players at your disposal or the required players you need to play it, or think you’ll able to improve the players quality without addressing training, the level of coaches and put trust in the players.
A club football philosophy can be summarized of exiting of these principles or parts;
1. Club Mission
At the heart of the club football philosophy statement you will find the clubs overall mission. The clubs mission should be based on the clubs current position and its history. Here you’ll need to write a description of the club and what the club shall stand for. Once writing down the club mission you can ask yourself these questions;
- What can the club be proud of and take with them into the future?
- Are they recognized for something special or do you have a blank canvas at your disposal?
- What shall the club be famed and recognized for? What does the club represent?
- What can the club offer the players (and others in the wider community)?
The clubs overall mission should be written in a way that it sets out future goals or the future state you want the club to be in, either it’s to be best in the country to develop young players and integrate them into the first team or be famed for playing a certain way.
The overall mission reveals the clear identity of the club as it helps to define the club, both for yourself and to the media, fans and local community. Having a clear mission helps you to lay down future goals as where you’d want the club to be in 1 to 10 years.
2. Club Values
Related to the mission of the club is the club values and what’s desired of the individuals, such as how they shall treat each other or specific personality traits that’s desired. The club values may include slogans such as “Together we are stronger“3 or “We are United“, but may also include single words like fair play, respect, work ethic, pride, commitment, honesty and integrity.
The club values may say something about desirable skills, individual and collective ambitions and finally broadcast the desired group mentality and mental traits that’s preferred.
This will be like an advertisement board for future players that’s sought for, in additional to a set of principles for staff that’s related to the recruitment and development process.
3. How the club shall be run: Coaching Philosophy and Manager Profile
This might be a very vague term, but personally I feel it’s important to depict some policies about the line of decision-making. Here the staff responsibilities in Football Manager may come into help and how you’d prefer to set it up. Shall the club have a director of football who’s in charge of contracts and transfers or will you have a hands-on manager who are free to set his personal touch to the club affairs.
Herein lies the focus on the setup of the backroom staff – its coaching, scouting and recruitment team plus the focus area for the club according to its mission – player development vs youth development vs focus on a specific playing style and tactical vision. It may include a set of principles the coaches and managers of the club shall target, such as “help the players reach their fullest potential” which in terms requires a constant focus on improving the quality of the coaches and the training facilities.
Other questions that may come under this segment is the type of organizational structure (relating to the backroom staff and the chain of commands. Do you really need a director of football or will he be important for success? What type of manager is preferred and what qualities does he need to do the best job possible? For you, the question might be; how do I want to win matches and what areas of the club do I like to be involved with.
I’ll be looking at how to setup your manager profile in regard to establishing a club DNA in the next episode, by using the current Auxerre save of mine as an example.
4. The playing philosophy; How do You want the team to play?
While the playing philosophy statement could be an article on its own, I decided to make it simpler by including it within the club DNA statement. Included in such a statement you’ll find policies and game models about the principles of play that’s desired.
In reality it summaries the style of play that’s preferred and what’s required to achieve it, either you’ll take an statistical approach based on tactical analysis or personal preference to how you see football should be played.
Answers to how the club shall achieve match control and how they shall behave in possession, out of possession, in transition (defensive and attacking) and how you’d like to initiate attacks (such as playing out from the back) are the main objectives that’s needed to be written down. Herein comes the tactical style that’s preferred, the formation that shall run through the club (according to the style of play that’s preferred) and the desired match mentality.
Here it’s important to not be too rigid when setting the objectives, but ensure that there is a foundation for innovations and there are enough freedom for individual expressions.
I’ll provide an example of the principles of play and game models at AJ Auxerre together with the football philosophy template I’ve provided and made available to download below.
5. Recruitment & Scouting Models
The statements and visions on how you’d want your team to play will influence the type of players that’s preferred and desired in your current players, the current and future youngsters (that you might receive at the annual youth intake) and potential signings. Herein includes a recruitment model of new coaches and backroom staff.
Questions that could be answered are;
- What types of players, their attributes, traits and skills, are wanted?
- What is required and expected of the players in terms of the desired playing style?
- How shall the club be able to attract such players for the short term and long term?
- Where shall the players/staff come from? Within the academy, from the local area, the nation or region?
- Does the club have an reputation and the financial status to sign high profile players or are you ‘financially restricted’?
- In what way shall backroom staff be recruited? Do you favor former players as part of the academy and in position that deals with sporting matters, or will the club benefit from an international setup where demographics doesn’t matter. The level of professionalism versus the quality of the backroom staff can be a valid dilemma that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
In this section, it would be preferable to write down first a scouting policy, then a recruitment policy. Here the board expectations and club philosophies that you are either bound by or free to discuss at the start of a new managerial career or at the end of the season might answer a few of these questions. Apart from that, I believe it’s important to have a clear objective of how you want to approach scouting and recruitment – as everything is done according to a plan – not willy-nilly.
When it comes to question two above, the general (long term) scouting focus (that’s only available in Football Manager, if you let your Director of Football or the chief scout be responsible for setting up scouting assignments), can be of help as you’ll be able to let your scouts locate players after specific attributes relating to different player styles (for example technical -, tactical intelligent -, creative players or players with leader capabilities.
Question 3 also relates to the general scouting focus, but takes into account how you prefer to setup your scouting assignments and if you prefer to use the loan market to improve your squad depth or make throughout analysis of potential signings and think long term.
Question 4 relates to the setup of scouting assignments and how you prefer to manage your scouting budget according to the different scouting packages and size of database.
Within the recruitment model it’s important to sketch down a transfer policy, that’s based on the economical power and the player status’ most preferable for the club. Here the players age, language and demographics, partly position and personalities might come to light.
6. Youth Development Models & Policies Regarding the Youth Academy
It’s not only a football philosophy statement for the first team that’s required. Your youth team and your approach to youth development also needs to be identified and made clear. Matters like how you will interact with the youth team and reserves in terms of training and the strategical planning to improve your players should be in focus here.
The clubs financial status should be foundation for the objectives and goals you set out in this section. Ethical dilemmas towards the local community and future growth of the club should be considered.
- How is the history of developing and introducing players into the first team?
- What kind of playing style are favored in the youth departments?
- How likely is there that youngsters got a chance to play in the first team in the future? What’s the clubs policy regarding promoting youth players into the first team?
- How will you approach the individual player in terms of his development? What can you offer the players of personal and collective development? Will you look to improve the players on a personal level (such as their characteristics and personalities), or think of them as merely a piece of a football team?
- How shall You, or the backroom staff with its coaches follow up on the individual players progress?
- What type of training shall be focused on, and what shall the players learn according to their age-group? How will players be addressed in terms of skills and abilities according to their age. What opportunities are there if they progress quickly?
Included in this section comes also vision and goals for the youth academy and specific statements about the clubs policy regarding youth development.
7. What shall the club aim for? Future goals and achievements
Finally, it’s important to visualize where you want the club to be in 5 or 10 years into the future.
Perhaps a goal might be to reach promotion to a higher league within the next 2-3 seasons and be able to play at an international level within 5 to 10 years. Perhaps the mission might be to professionalize the club by improving the level of coaches and backroom staff, improve the training facilities and develop more players with higher standards within a couple of seasons.
Or another achievement might be to sell X amount of players that you’ve developed at a minimum price of say €30million euro.
The amount of achievements and goals you set out to complete can be many. Since every club is different, with it’s unique history and economical power, there are no valid answer to what these goals or objectives can be.
What I want, is that every future goals should be written down, as you’d want something to aim for. These goals will be your barometer for your success, as they are your long term challenges besides climbing the league table or win matches.
The Benefits of Creating a Club Philosophy
For any football club it exists a responsibility to outline a club philosophy, which I believe will also benefit the club in the long run. By making the club’s football philosophy public available and reveal their values and visions to the local community it gives them a chance to understand what the club sets out to do. Normally any club is very attached and dependent on the local community, either through goodwill or support from local investors. A mission could be to help kids in a certain difficult situation in their life – giving kids who may end up doing drugs or other narcotics, who have been abused or got other problems, an arena to reach their fullest potential – or at least providing them with a chance to get confident and feel happiness. On the other hand, the club may also be in a position to provide a foundation for individuals with higher ambitions to take the next step in their football career.
The long term benefit may be that local teenagers and children in the region wants to be part of the club. If the culture breeds satisfied and motivated coaches and players, it may result in more youngsters and staff wanting to join the club – either they are from the local region or from abroad. A well run club founded upon great values and where individual development and chance to express themselves will quickly hit the rumor mill. Of course, so goes the same for a badly run club. Without naming names, it may be Chairmen who are inconsistent, who hires and fires managers and staff without a clear reason, who acts like an autocrat despite his knowledge of how to run a football club is mediocre. It may also be a board who are unwilling to take necessary decisions for the benefit of the future of the club, where there exists something like a leadership where they looks to care of themselves and their friends on top.
For a chairmen or a board, the statements outlined in the club football philosophy will provide a guidance in all processes about running the club. From recruiting new coaches and staff, to educate them, to help the backroom staff understand what they shall focus on in everyday training and all matters focused around player development. The benefit would be that it creates a template where it is stated what the club wants and how they can achieve it. The only matter that is left to the individuals are to use their knowledge and experience for the good of the whole.
Another benefit is that the outlined philosophies, statements and targets will serve as a guidance for the coaches and leaders, by letting them be able to strategical plan to reach its goals. For a club with lots of departments (age groups and academies) it creates a common target that all parties will work for. The job of the coaches and each individual players training progress and intensity will suddenly feel meaningful – since everything they do and every effort they put into their job will help the club – either to expand, increase reputation or play better on the pitch.
As you will see there are many benefits of establishing a club football philosophy and find an identity for the club in the future. Personally I believe the purposes of identifying a club DNA will be extremely important in a world of football where players are treated as modern slaves, managers are simply judged upon their records of points, and are treated in similar fashion (by being sacked as soon as you don’t get a point in a month time), without taking into account the players current level of expertise or how the first team compares in quality to the others of its division. Often it’s too much expectations from the fans and the media and the targets and statements expressed within the club can act as a buffer and a reality check.
By broadcasting a set of principles about the overall mission for the club it gives an higher meaning being involved with the club. Here the club football philosophy aims to create a positive environment where all parties (players, coaches, backroom staff, fans, sponsorship partners, the chairmen and the board) can pull together in the same direction.
For you, it creates some boundaries when playing Football Manager. Above all, it creates both new challenges within your Football Manager save and a higher meaning as you need to think of the club as a whole in all processes, either it’s signing players or staff, creating and implementing your tactical vision and how you want the team to play, or how you approach setting up training sessions and managing the squad in all affairs.
By establishing an overall football philosophy at the club you look to set to leave a lasting legacy that you can be proud of.
Download The Club DNA Template Created by Passion4FM
In order to help you to create a club football philosophy in Football Manager for your next save I’ve created a template which you can download or print out. I hope you’ll be creating such a club DNA statement prior to any save you’ll be doing.
It helps to visualize future goals and objectives within your save and easily broadcast it to your Twitch or Youtube followers, if you are a Football Manager content creator. Writing a Club DNA statement helps to create an introduction to your new Football Manager save and shows that there is a clear plan for your save in additional to visualize some of the challenges you might face within the save.
Template for a Club DNA Statement:
An Example of A Club DNA Statement – Auxerre:
1. The Secret Behind Rosenborg’s success. When Nils Arne Eggen met Rinus Michels, (in Norwegian) by Erik Eikebrokk, Nettavisen Sport. Written 05.06.2016. Last accessed 05.12.2016.
2. Arsene Wenger, L’Humaniste, (in French) by Erik Bielderman, L’Equipe Sports & Style. Written 07. November 2015. Last accessed 05.12.2016
3. Quote by Wolverhampton Wanderers Manager Nuno Espírito Santo. Last accessed 14.01.2019.