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.
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.
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.
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’
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.