No talent? Of course not. But you'd think so in FM. As someone who prefers to play in the lower leagues, I just find it a really depressingly dull experience in FM at the moment. It bears so little resemblance to reality, the game serves it so poorly, that it makes for an unrewarding play.
There are a few things that bother me, so I'm going to work through them (sorry, this'll be an essay!).
The first is, bigger clubs in FM don't scout down the leagues. You can use the editor to create a 21 year-old with 100CA and 150PA, and he'll just sit at his non-league club and go nowhere. There's plenty of talent down there in FM, but the game doesn't scout that way, so they never move. Contrast that to reality and players like Stockdale, Kightly, Smalling, Beckford, McLean, Mackail-Smith, Campbell, Ricketts, Taylor, Pilkington, Foster, Holt, Morison, Varney, and many more, who have moved up from non-league to play top-flight football.
There have been 7 or 8 transfers from non-league to the FL and Premiership this January, and there's players like Appiah, Obeng, Vardy, Blair, Walker, McLaughlin, Matt, Cieslewickz, Berry, Parkinson, Brizell, Beautyman, Newson, Prior, Watkins, West, Reeves, Byerley, Creighton, and many more who are being scouted, bidded for, offered trials etc. Non of this happens in FM. You'd never see a player like Jason Prior of Bognor getting a trial at Newcastle in FM. You'd never see Dan Burn moving from Darlington to Fulham for £350k. You'd never see teams like Blackpool, West Ham, Rangers, chasing Jamie Vardy of Fleetwood and having bids of £750k+ turned down!
So, I think it's clear FM has to look at this.
The next obvious flaw is the lack of money in transfers in FM at lower leagues. Again just in January, I can see at least 20 transfers involving smaller clubs (L1 and below) that involved fees. Mainly four- and five-figure fees. Now, have a look at the world transfers on your game of FM. Pick a month, and see how many transfers in England involved smaller clubs, and smaller fees. You'll be lucky if it hits double figures in any given transfer window (and I can't recall seeing a four or three figure fee!). The financial modelling in FM just doesn't reflect reality. A few years back, I remember complaing that FM didn't reflect reality in that it lacked free transfers at lower levels, that post-Bosman freebies just weren't happening. Now it's gone toof ar the other way.
Look at non-league (now and recently) clubs like Crawley, Fleetwood, York, Luton, Wrexham, Burton etc. All made several cash signings every season. The notion that cash transfers in non-league and lower-league should be non-existent is utterly false. So it's another thing that needs fixing.
It seems to me that the transfer market in FM at lower levels is driven by a process that can be summarised as:
1. Clubs give their better players 3 year deal. These players rarely show ambition and turn this down.
2. The wages of these deals go up and up, until the club can no longer afford to renew.
3. At this point the player is released, and finally will be signed by another club (often the higher clubs that should have been scouting and bidding before).
At each of these stages we can see critical errors.
1. Players who have ability and potential should be turning down longer deals, and only opting for 1 year deals as they wait to see if their club gets promoted (York's left-back Jason Meredith is an example of this).
2. This, I'm quite sure, is why so many clubs in FM have inadequate squads. They end up being driven into a situation where two-thirds of their wage budget rests on half-a-dozen players, meaning they can barely afford to sign 16 players, meaning they have to fill the squad with loanees and YTs. The clubs need to manage their finances better, and players wages at this level need to grow with less speed. As soon as a human takes over such a club, they can enforce good practice and easily build the strongest squad in the league. If you know what you are doing, you can take a club from the BSBP to the Championship in consecutive seasons on FM. The AI must improve to make it competitive.
3. Good players shouldn't have to wait for this moment. Teams from leagues above should be actively scouting for potential, and for performance. They should be bidding for these players.
Again, we see several obvious points for improvement.
Talent in lower-leagues
So how does this talent in real-life end up in the lower leagues?
I'd say we can identify two types.
The first is the late bloomer, someone whose ability is not identified as a teenager (or, they were at a pro club till 13/14, then didn't get any further deal), and therefore they develop through non-league sides. I listed quite a few of these players earlier. We don't get enough of this in FM because too few decent players come through lower-league setups, and because FM takes the frankly insulting view that players at such clubs basically don't progress, have no hope of ever moving beyond a basic CA.
The second is where a player comes through the academy of a big club, but when released they opt for first-team football at a lower level, even part-time football, as they feel this is their best option. Again, we don't see this in FM for a couple of reasons.
The first is, players in FM seem to level out to their PA. So if they have a Championship PA, they'll go and sit in the stiffs at a Championship club as opposed to taking the lower-league and first-team action option. So we need to see a bit more variation here, driven by player character.
The second is, players in FM seem too aware of their CA/PA and therefore demand unrealistic wages. In real-life, the type of players I'm talking about take wages of £40k pa and less. Some may only get expenses at a part-time club. But they want to make their name on the pitch, so take that route. In FM, any player released by a PL club wants wages of £50k, £100k, £150k pa. It's just not realistic. These are young lads with no first team action under the belts, yet they want wages that the established senior pros don't even get. FM needs to build experience and age into the way wage demands are calculated.
Hopefully, I've made a pretty strong case for reform here. I rarely post any more, so when I do it's because something has really made my gaming intolerable. It'd be great to get a response from SI, and I'll try reply to people who post. It'd be good even to get a few people agreeing, just to show there's a case. I'd also welcome further examples and ideas of flaws in this area. I did consider going into the lack of goals at lower levels here, but I'll save that for another post (but seriously, compare an average season of BSBP in FM to reality, have a look at individual striker tallies too, FM isn't working right here).