A Season with Merthyr Tydfil (part two)

8 Oct

Even with later generation of  management sims  there are still limitations to what you can do; I cannot take an axe to my predecessor’s desk, or tell my assembled squad to throw all their medals in the bin – though among the assembled Merthyr Tydfil squad these may be somewhat thin on the ground. I can however, sit down with a beer as I set about assessing my squad and with a little bit of imagination and the lights dimmed my sofa can be transformed into a dingy boot-room deep in the bowels of Penydarren Park.

As with any newly appointed manager my very first appointment is to meet my squad – and to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Within PM3 the player’s ratings are, at least by today’s standards, relatively, even refreshingly, simple; handling, passing, shooting, heading, control and fitness all on a scale from 1, the worst, to 99, the best. Ratings are also given for morale and form as well as each players preferred foot (right, left, or both). A cursory glance at my player’s ratings – in many cases closer to 1 than 99 – suggests I will need some to do some strengthening if Merthyr to achieve the tall order of promotion at a time when only the champions were promoted – and even then for three seasons between 1993 and 1996 nobody went up due to failure to meet ground-grading requirements.

Throw your medals in the bin: Meeting the Merthyr Tydfil Squad

In Barney Ronays book The Manager: the Absurd Ascent of the Most Important Man in Football he presents a fascinating account of how the figure of the manager was transformed over time from a rather peripheral figure to a god-like being at the very heart of the club. The manager sim can be seen as a reflection, or maybe even a cause of this. In Premier Manager 3, the manager is responsible for every aspect of the club; Along with full responsibility for first-team matters my job description includes dealing with all player contracts, managing the club finances, player insurance, hiring and firing back-room staff, setting ticket prices and building new stand and if this seems a lot then in some management sim’s the manager was even responsible for the pricing of match-day hot-dogs – No task too small for the omnipresent managerial deity.

So many things to do; The in-game menu.

This gives me a rather lengthy to do list; First I check-in at the bank. I have a balance of £163 160 and an overdraft facility of £250 000 which seems a decent enough war-chest by 1994 standards. I then scrub-up and put on my best suit ready to meet with potential sponsors, but It seems that only Amiga magazines, chiefly Amiga Action and Amiga Format, have any interest in hoardings; These days no doubt I’d be selling ground naming rights to a major global brand, or doing hoarding deals with blue-chip giants like Nestle, Sony, or Nokia but in 1994 most advertisers had yet to grasp the potential of computer games as a platform meaning gaming was something of an unspoilt wilderness.

Amiga Action; In game product placement in a more innocent age.

Even though I have the power to begin turning my ground into a modern 35 000 all seater, UEFA A-graded stadium if I so wish I’ve decided in advance that I won’t be spending a penny on Penydarren. A 10 000 capacity is, I feel, adequate for Conference football and as I’m only planning on serving one season I want to use all funds available for strengthening my first-team squad. As, according to Matt Le Tissier’s autobiography, Ted Bates, the long-serving post-war manager of Southampton FC, once observed ‘You win nothing with bricks and mortar’

Penydarren Park: “You win nothing with bricks and Mortar”

Next on my list is tactics. Premier Manager 3’s tactical interface is, even by later standards, relatively sophisticated ; I can tweak players positioning on the pitch, alter the height, length and direction of passes. I can also set each player to either zonal, or man marking, and toggle tackling strength. In fact it’s almost too much – despite my successes I’ve never been much of a master tactician, relying instead on building a talented squad through wheeling-and-dealing in the transfer market. This in mind I play it safe and switch the default 4-3-3 to a bog-standard 4-4-2 picking what, based on their ratings, looks like my best team – though with only 18 players available there aren’t too many choices in each area. I order Benbow, a midfielder with a relatively high tackling rating to play in the position just in front of the back four. I stick to zonal marking and choose, rather uninterestingly to play medium passes at medium height.

All that remains is to put this to the test in pre-season friendlies against Northampton Town, Bath City, Partizan Tirana and Spora Luxembourg.

Bring on the Cobblers.

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