How to keep the motivation to enjoy long term saves in Football Manager is a valid question. While most of us manage to keep focus and excitement for their FM saves for a few seasons, there are guys out there who take it to the extreme.
Meet Football Manager blogger (Steve) Lutterworth Fox, who in his latest instalment of the FM20 Achievement Hunter save has just ended the 2061-62 season at Scottish St.Mirren. That is over 40 years advanced into the game!
How does he find motivation and joy to keep playing his save?
Today, the Passion4FM team sat down with the latest partner Steve aka Lutterworth Fox to talk about how he approaches long term saves in Football Manager. Here he will share his tips on maintaining the motivation to keep going season in and season out and how he approaches journeyman saves in Football Manager.
With questions from Custard Prophet, Dodgee Gamer and Avoiding Relegation, and Mr Passion4FM himself, Lutterworth Fox was put under the spotlight with the aim to reveal his secrets on how he approaches long term saves in Football Manager.
This interview goes out to all of you who quits the save after two to five seasons and who gradually loses interest the further into the future you come.
Personally, I must admit I have been in the same situation myself and it is nothing wrong with it.
Hopefully, the tips and tricks shared by Lutterworth Fox can help you to give your current save an extra chance, or perhaps you can take the tips with you for your Football Manager 2021 journeyman save.
E: Welcome Steve! First off, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us talking about how you approach long term saves in Football Manager. Secondly, I’m very proud to welcome you as the newest Passion4FM partner and it is really magnificent you wanting to join the team!
S: Thanks for having me on and I’m glad to be part of the team.
Custard Prophet: What is the secret behind managing to keep going, 10, 15 20, 30 and 40 years into a save? Where do you find the motivation to keep going, not only one more game but one club more?!
S: The main thing for me is to have an end goal.
It could be having some set objectives, playing along with a challenge or follow a certain transfer policy.
In my FM20 save I set myself a list of goals or achievements which I wanted to complete in this save. Some of these were easy, for example, “win a cup” or “win the double” but some were a lot more long-winded, such as top the Worldwide Hall of Fame being the toughest.
Don’t get me wrong, there are always days where you sit down, after those tough last gasp defeats and wonder why you are carrying on or times where you look at your goals and think they are impossible but at that point, it’s best to take a small break, refocus and come back refreshed.
The one thing I enjoy the most is moving clubs. This isn’t for everyone, there are those who love doing a one-club save but moving clubs for me means a change in focus and a change in aims. The final thing that keeps my motivation is the interaction within the community, without those close to me pushing me and keeping my morale up, I’d never be able to get as far as I have. The comments, etc I’ve had in the whole save is the one main thing that’s kept me going.
Dodgee Gamer: What fascinates me with your FM20 Achievement Hunter series is not only how far into the future you have come, but also the many corners of the world you have been at, taking on club by club. Do you have a specific plan of clubs you want to manage before starting the save? Do you plan in advance or do you simply go with the flow?
S: I always have a plan.
I spend at least a couple of months prior to a new FM release researching. For FM20 the main aim was to complete the Pentagon Challenge, that is winning the 5 continental champions leagues. It is imperative you make sure you find clubs that you feel an affinity with. On FM20 I started with Haugesund in Norway, FM18 Sion in Switzerland, both of these fitted the bill with what I wanted;
- They weren’t as successful as they could be
- They had continental football
- The had room for improvement
This is how I want to start a save; find a club that I know I can improve and win things that the club has never won before.
When moving clubs it can be tough finding the right club, I’ve made mistakes before, I hark back to leaving Sion on FM18 and moving to Belgium and getting sacked within 6 months!
Take your time, don’t take the first offer but look around and make sure the club you pick is the best fit for your goals.
Avoiding Relegation: Regarding planning your save; how are your saves set up? What is the database size and how many leagues do you load up st the start?
S: My laptop isn’t the best, I’ve had the same one for 4 years now so I have to be careful about not over-doing the number of leagues and players at the start. I always tend to add the leagues I know I am either going to manage in or are local to the nation I’m in.
For example, when I started with Haugesund I added the Scandinavian leagues. I always use the “add/remove leagues” function so I can add the nations/leagues I am thinking of moving to.
As for database size I always use large, it means more players but I never look at adding extra nations players, just for the fact the player count would slow my save down too much.
E: Have you got any tips for those who struggle to enjoy their save and reignite their joy for their save? What do you do if you lose interest for a save?
S: I’ve seen so many people struggle this year and I won’t lie I’ve been in that situation before.
For me, if you’re not enjoying something then it’s best to not carry on. That doesn’t mean completely binning a save off but maybe taking time away to refocus and understand the reasons you’re playing the save. Sometimes starting a second save on the side just to take time away can help.
On FM19 I instantly knew I wasn’t enjoying the save I had started, this was due to a few things, the club I had selected and also the way I was producing content. At that point I decided to take a break from blogging, change clubs and do something different, I decided over the next few months to produce content differently. Twitter updates mainly, the mini-break was the best thing I did. It reinvigorated me and hopefully, that shows in my content this year.
E: Have you got certain guidelines you follow for each save you load year by year?
S: I always make sure I have an end goal like I spoke about earlier. This year (and FM19) it was setting a list of achievements. On FM18 it was attempting to top as many Hall of Fames as possible. I just cannot play a save without having something I am aiming at.
E: You have managed clubs both in Mexico, Norway, Scotland, Germany, China, and Brazil. Some shirt stints, some lasting over 10 seasons. But what do you do to easily get to know your squad?
S: For long term times at clubs I spend time looking at the players, who the key men are, etc. I have myself a spreadsheet that I put all my first team players into, split it out into positions and squad role to see where the gaps are and where I have too many players. When I know I am going to be at the club for a longer period of time it’s more of a slow process, look at the youth, give the first-teamers a chance at proving their worth, if they don’t perform then I look at transfers.
What I particularly do is that I assess my squad and its playing pathway and load them up in my Squad Builder Spreadsheet, which you can learn more about here. Here I rate my players and distinguish the key players from the dead wood. This includes making sure my squad is balanced with regard to the playing time pathway and spotting gaps in the playing squad.
With regard to short term saves, if you know it’s a job where you will only be there for a couple of seasons you don’t need to get to know all the boys well. Especially at the likes of Jiangsu in China and Paranense in Brazil, I knew it would take a maximum of 2-3 seasons to get what I needed before moving on. In that situation, I kept hold of my key men and looked at overhauling the squad as quickly as possible.
Dodgee Gamer: What are the pros and cons, from your perspective of doing journeyman saves contra running one club saves?
S: I have always been a journeyman kind of guy. My time at Newcastle (14 seasons) was the longest I’ve spent at a club in any FM.
The main pro of a journeyman save is the variety, you see obscure nations, different styles of play, different league setups. I love it, moving from continent to continent, proving you can be the best in any place is amazing.
The big con of a journeyman is you never get settled. Just when you start getting to know the players you move on and start all over again, that can become frustrating for certain kinds of players.
With regard to a one-club save the one big pro is you get an affinity with a club, my love for the likes of Sion, Haugesund, and Newcastle is so much greater now than before I managed there. It gives you a sense of satisfaction toppling the big boys, slowly progressing a club and making them the best.
The con for me is staying in one place for a long period of time can become monotonous and boring. Once you start winning things on FM you continue to win. My time at Newcastle was amazing but winning 11 straight Premier League titles and numerous Champions Leagues trophies do become boring. That’s where the aims and objectives come in to keep that motivation and focus.
E: What is the most difficult part of entering a new club in a new nation? Got any tips on how you try to learn your new country and its league format? Do you simply use Football Manager, or do you read about it at external resources too?
S: I always tend to use FM as my main source, the game has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years with regard to information. It is easy to check out the rules of a league, where you have to end to gain a continental qualification, etc.
I do tend to spend quite a bit of time, even prior to taking the job, checking out the league, the rules, who the big teams are and also where the club is that you are thinking of taking over.
The most difficult part is definitely understanding the rules of a league. There are leagues that have splits, some leagues that have opening and closing stages. Things can be confusing, that’s why it key to making sure you look into as much as you can before clicking the accept button.
E: What are the deciding factors for you to decide when the time is right to leave a club?
S: It’s all about feeling for me. There are so many factors that can sway things. Have you achieved everything you wanted? Have you hit a brick wall and feel now is the time for a clean break? Is it time to jump before being pushed?
There isn’t one key answer to this, unfortunately.
E: Do you manage to keep tabs of your youth intake players and how their career proceeds?
S: This is something I’ve looked at more in the past couple of years, mainly because a couple of my achievements to gain where I want my intake players to get 300 appearances, 100 goals for a club and also 100 international caps.
Moving clubs makes this difficult so I make sure I always nickname my key intake players, I usually add an (I) to the start of each players name making it easy to search for them and see how they are getting on.
E: You have seen players come and go throughout your current FM career. Managing in the year 2062, you must have seen two generations of players come through and retired. Are there any particular players you have become emotional about seeing retired? And secondly, do you get attached to players and staff?
S: I only tend to get attached to players where I have been at a club for a long period of time. Unfortunately, if a player retires and doesn’t take a staff job they tend to disappear off the game.
I wrote a piece for WeStreamFM lately about my favourite player on FM20, a youth intake player called Oleg Wagner, he came through at Magdeburg and I took him with me when I went to Newcastle. He left me 2 years before retiring and it was heart-wrenching seeing him go.
I absolutely love bringing intake players through and following their careers, especially when it is at a club I have managed.
The best one was on FM18. A striker called Patrick Hodler came through my first youth intake at FC Sion. He went on to become the greatest player Sion ever had, scoring over 200 goals in his career. A player I still speak about to people today!
For me, this is one of the biggest draws of playing FM. Seeing Newgens coming through, moulding them and seeing how their career progresses.
E: Entering a new nation means you are literally starting on scratch with the knowledge of suitable transfer targets. Can you update us about some of the tasks you do when entering a new club in terms of identifying players for your new squad?
S: I mentioned earlier I have a squad builder spreadsheet, the first thing I do is put all the players into that with their position and their playing time pathway, this gives me an idea of where the gaps are and where we have too many players. I do also tend to go on the Ability and Potential that my assistant manager gives to decide if a player is good enough.
From the spreadsheet I then look at the average attributes for positions on the league I’m managing in, I then create filters to search by for the tactic I’m using to look for players who can improve the squad.
It’s long-winded but it always seems to give me results.
E: With such a long FM experience, what interests you the most in Football Manager?
S: This is a weird one, I love FM, it’s a massive part of my life but I know for a fact I could not play the game without having the platform to tell people about how my save is going. Blogging is a major part of my FM experience, interacting with people who love following my save and discussing the ins and outs of how it’s going. It’s one of the main reasons I play the game. I’ve tried numerous times lately to play a save to myself but it doesn’t feel the same!
Other than that the one big love of the game I have is setting myself a goal at the start of a save and actually doing what I set out, the sense of satisfaction at the end is unbelievable, the joy of seeing that last-minute winner hit the back of the net or gaining that first league title is a joy to behold and it’s even better knowing I have people actually reading it!
E: I assume throughout such a long FM career there have been ups and downs, regrets as well as delights. Quickly walk us through your proudest achievements and what you would have done differently looking back at it today?
S: As much as I have done so many good things on FM20, I have to look to FM18 for my proudest achievement. I started with FC Sion in Switzerland and found it really tough at the start. 3 seasons in and we were nowhere near Basel at the top. I spent nearly half a day scouring the save, looking at where Basel was better than us, looking at my squad and seeing where I could make those tiny improvements to get one over Basel.
Two seasons later and we had done it, we had won the League and with that gained qualification for the Champions League. Nothing feels better than toppling a league where only one team wins it every year!
Looking back at what I could’ve done differently I think I could maybe have done this research a little bit earlier, instead of spending 3 seasons banging my head against a brick wall!
E: Have you ever managed to see one of your youth intake players been voted as a future Ballon D’or winner or became top scorer in the World Cup or any other major international tournament within your save?
S: Unfortunately no. Oleg Wagner was probably the best intake player I’ve produced but he never got to those heights, in fact, he never even got a call up to the German National team!
I did, however, sign a player for Newcastle who turned into one of the best. Jack Fitzgerald was a £70m signing from Southampton and in the 9 years I had him at Newcastle he won the Ballon D’Or 6 times. He also became Newcastle all-time record goalscorer, at this time (2062) he has 310 league goals!
E: What is in your opinion the biggest mistake people tend to do when starting a new save that might ensure more enjoyment and better motivation in the long term?
S: I think the biggest one is rushing into things. A lot of people just start a save and hope they “get into it” whilst playing. My personal belief is that you need to spend time prior to starting the save to make sure you have everything right. Research is key for me, look into everything, the leagues, the clubs, your club, everything.
E: You are one of few, at least to my knowledge, who have manually played so far into the future. Since you sit there with the magic eight ball, can you update us on how the footballing world looks like 40 years into the future? Who are the biggest clubs?
S: It’s a strange one, in England nothing much has changed, the big teams are still near the top and there are very few teams who have penetrated the top league. The only one is Newcastle and that was all down to me. They are now the number one club in Europe. Even after I left they are still winning trophies.
It’s the one thing I’ve noticed on FM in the past couple of years is not many changes. You never see the likes of Arsenal or Liverpool getting relegated nor do you see Crawley Town getting to the Champions League!
I don’t have many leagues and nations loaded due to how poor my laptop so I can’t go into the in’s and out’s of the obscure nations. When I look at the Champions league so real obscure teams have won it (bar Newcastle).
The one thing I do like looking out for are clubs that have had tycoon takeovers, in this save, the big one is Derby County. They had a takeover over 20 years ago and are consistently getting continental football but haven’t actually won anything yet!
Below is the best player in the game currently. Central Midfielder Shopov, currently at Spurs and worth £99m!
The final thing to show is the leading transfers, some big deals but nothing eclipses the deal for Mbappe!!
E: Finally, do you got any last-minute tips that you would like to share to encourage those reading this to keep the motivation to continue their saves 10 seasons on, or more?
S: Never be afraid to take a step back and reassess what you’re doing.
Don’t just play for the sake of it, enjoy it and if you don’t then look at the reasons why it may not be working.
Another big one for me is to find a group of people who enjoy your content, people you can speak to not only when things are going well but also when the going gets tough, you need that backing to pick you up when things aren’t going well.
E: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, Steve! It’s been my pleasure having you on and I hope your many great tips will serve you all greatly!
Follow the Passion4FM team on Twitter for more Football Manager 2021 related content coming very soon!
Until next time, thanks for reading!