Since Football Manager first hit the shelves, throughout every edition I have attempted to take small obscure nations to World Cup glory. I have only managed to get to the World Cup once, taking the Solomon Islands to the Group Stages of the 2034 World Cup and 29th in the FIFA World Rankings.
However, the challenge involved was very hard, mainly due to the fact that youth prospects were few and far between and the lack of a playable league not bringing or developing much talent.
This has led me to conceive an AI experiment to determine how much a playable league impacts on a national team. I would like to determine whether the fact that the league is simply playable develops future stars for the nation (which is definitely the case), but also the standard of players based on the reputation of the league and the success of the national side. Will the success of the national side have a great impact on youth development, or will the success of the team lead to the future success of the national squad?
From the conception of this idea however, I have also many questions I would like to ask from this experiment, which I have stated below, and share the results of this with you all here.
The Test Nation
I have decided to use the Solomon Islands as my nation for this experiment. They are a national side I have always used in my international saves throughout my FM playing years, and I have grown rather fond of the nation! Also, their international players have only cut it in their national league, as well as the Papua New Guinean Premier league, the NZ premiership and now Australiaís A-League (Benjamin Totori signed for Wellington Phoenix recently). This means most of the players will develop nationally instead of internationally.
The Solomon Islands is a nation of a small archipelago in the Oceanic continent. It is a third world country, however the national football team has had some success in Oceanic tournaments. The most notable of these was in 2004, when the team held Australia in the final stages of World Cup Qualification in the first leg, only to go on to lose the second leg.
They are currently 183rd in the world rankings.
The Pacific nations have always been shadowed by New Zealand and Australia, the latter having moved to the Asian confederation .
The national league is the recently formed Telekom S-League, in which all the clubs are amateur and play at the Lawson Tama stadium, which is also the national stadium.
I believe this nation will really stretch this experiment, as the league is very underdeveloped and a drastic increase in the dynamic league reputation may have an impact on the national squad, through youth development and an increased reputation of the Solomon Islands within the footballing world.
What I have changed
-I have made the Telekom S-League playable so that I can track the league and the successful teams within the continental competitions, and changed the reputation to 35, which is still very low for a league reputation. There is also prize money of a maximum of £100000, with a championship playoff with another £100000 up for grabs.
- I have also created an FA Cup to increase the amount of games each teams play.
- I have made the teams in the league professional, because I feel if it remains an amateur league it would take an age to develop, and with the inability to change the leagues professional status, it will benefit the experiment greatly.
-I have created two teams, as well as the original 8 teams in the S-League.
-Menapi United (named after Commins Menapi, a Solomon Islands striker) has a training level of 15 (to attract players and attempt to entice the other clubs to improve their facilities) and a youth level of 1. They also have a budget of £20m and a 20000 seater stadium.
-Totori Athletic (named after Benjamin Totori, the most high profile SI striker) has a training level of 1, and a youth level of 15 (to see if youth facilities have a massive impact of national youth development). They have the same budget as Menapi Utd and 20000 seater stadium.
Both teams have 3x the reputation of the highest reputation team currently in the Solomon Islands, which is Kossa FC with a reputation of 900.
-I have created a youth league so that the younger players are playing regularly.
-The main question is How much will the league impact the national team?
However, I would also like to determine;
- Whether the two bigger teams will either separate themselves from the rest of the teams in the division? (An example of the Scottish Premier League until recently)
- Will the other sides in the division benefit massively from possible successes of these teams?
- Will the higher training and youth stats from each side create a need for the other teams to match them?
- How long will it take for the two bigger teams to bring the league to a higher reputation and compete to be one of the best leagues in the world?
- Will the standard of youth coming through the league teams be competitive on the world stage?
- Will the Solomon Islands rise through the rankings and become a quality side based on talent coming through the league?
- If the league improves with help from the two rich clubs, how long will it take the Solomon Islands to qualify for the World Cup.
My Personal Opinion
I think that the two richer clubs will bring the league up to one of the best in the Oceanic region. Menapi Utd and Totori Ath will rival each other for the title each year, with the other clubs suffering.
However, their success in the Oceania Champions League will hopefully increase the league reputation, which might improve the other clubs slowly.
They will use their money to improve their facilities so they become competitive against each other. If this is the case, more quality youth players will develop and will in turn improve the national team in the long run. Either that, or they will lose all their money through tax.
I think it will take the national team at least 10 years to start to compete against New Zealand in the Oceanic Nations Cup and potentially the World Cup, but it will take them longer to try and compete in the World Cup playoff to qualify for the World Cup.
I am going to load a database with all international players and with the S-League as playable. I will also put the top leagues of England, Germany, Italy and Spain on view only and post seasonal league updates, just for funsies! I will post the S-League seasonal updates, and any big spending transfers, as well as the world rankings for the Solomon Islands and the top bunch.
I hope you all enjoy reading this, I hope you all provide your own opinions on this and find it interesting! Thankyou for your time!