- PART 7 OF THE PLAYER GUIDE SERIES -
Now comes the final step in getting the best out of your players - maintaining a good morale and building relationships with your players.
How well your team performs in matches; as a whole all the way down to the individual performances can be greatly influenced by the morale of individuals and the squad. The higher the morale, the greater a player is likely to play - with the outcome being that maintaining good performances keeps morale high and/or improves one’s morale.
Therefore the equation cycle is simple:
High Morale + Positive Relationships = Improvement in Performance and
Good Performances = Improved/Maintain Morale + Build/Maintain Relationships
So as can be seen, it is extremely important to try and build player relationships within your squad and improve team cohesion as they will perform better on the pitch and therefore increase morale accordingly.
Editing Morale and RelationshipsBefore we begin it is important to note that here on FMScout we have powerful tools which not just highlight player’s morale and relationships - but even manipulate them. Tools such as FMSE allow you to change the morale of whole squads, not just individual players - both maximizing them or destroying them. Sports Interactive also provides their own “In-Game Editor” which allows you to do the same thing.
Now let’s continue with the article:
What Exactly is Morale and How Do You Manage It?
Fortunately it is not complicated; Morale represents the current mood of a player. This ranges from the worst “Abysmal” to the best “Superb”. What’s not so straightforward is what affects a player’s morale.
Just as in real life, our moods fluctuate throughout the day let alone over several days. In Football Manager it is not as frequent, but a player’s morale can fluctuate quite often - even during a match. In truth there are just way too many components which can influence a player’s morale but let’s try to highlight the obvious which can then shine light on other lesser known areas which also have an influence.
Think of the PlayerAre they playing matches? Seems quite obvious, but the truth is that it's a massive factor on their morale - relative to their squad status. But it goes further than just match time. How are they performing in training and what is their happiness with the training? Their own form in matches can influence their morale - being either frustrated and become demoralised after a run of bad matches or be overjoyed with fine form. Put yourselves in the shoes of your players - would you be happy with your own performances or how often you have been playing?
Their Interaction with YouNow forget the player for a moment, what about yourself? Your interactions with the player can influence their morale. How do you talk and converse in private conversations? Interacting with your squad in team meetings, in team talks, what other things you or your coaches say in the media - not just directly with one individual - but how you treat other player’s in your squad affects morale. After all, do you want to play for someone who belittles your friends constantly and puts the blame on them?
Think About RelationshipsThe point given above leads to another, the interactive relationships both in and out of the squad. What is this player’s relationships with other players within the squad, are they integrated or isolated? How about a mutual relationship between yourself and the individual player - do they respect you and feel that you are a good manager as well as a good human being? It’s easy to shove people away but once the foundations and grounds are destroyed, it’s extremely difficult to rebuild anything. Have you broken up morale and relationships with other player’s which someone in your squad happens to be friends with? Remember that people talk - so as in real life, if you misbehave too much you can gain a bad reputation with players.
You and the ClubSome things may seem like they simply won’t have an impact - but the truth can sting, if not surprise you if you are not careful. The first sub-point is quite obvious; their contract. Is the player happy or not with their wage, or more curiously, are they unhappy that one of their teammates has a higher or lower wage than them? Be cautious with contracts as they can destabilize a healthy dressing room. The squad win bonuses that we set before each season - are they good enough to motivate your players to achieve something?
But away from contracts, let’s go back to the player. How settled are they? Do they want to stick around, do they like living and being at this club, is their hidden attribute Adaptability at a point where they may become demoralized for being too far away form their own home-country or where they played previously? Do you or the club match their ambitions, if they don't, why would a player be happy when you aren’t achieving what they are comfortable with?
Transfer ActivityI guarantee that this has happened to all of us where our transfer activity is scrutinized by a player. Whether it’s a lack of movement in the market, not signing high profile players relative to the club and league you are in or signing competition in a position with a player - at some point this will affect not just an individual player but a whole squad. So signing and selling players (or doing a lack of either) can have a great effect on the morale of a player and the squad as a whole.
In truth we could talk so much more about morale. We didn’t even mention injuries, performances and selection at international level, how other managers and players talk about a specific player or a club overall. The list is honestly near endless because every player is unique and will respond to all these different situations in their own way. The point remains - you need to maintain this morale. But first, how do we improve it?
Improving MoraleIn truth, there is no sure-fire recipe or checklist that we could come up with which will guarantee improving or maintaining morale. Think of your life personally, some people we just don’t get along with and that’s fine - in FM we can’t please everyone continuously and situations will always arise where someone will be demoralized and agitated. So let's take a look at some basic principles which can help with keeping morale high and improving those who are low in spirit.
Envision Yourself as the PlayerSome morale issues are easy to highlight and therefore maintain. Quite often a player is low on morale because of a specific issue. We mentioned plenty above, it could be down to contract issues, because you said something which they disagree with, you sold a player or lack of match time. These all have one thing in common - the player will come to you when they are unhappy and you now have the opportunity to talk about the problem and resolve it with a number of solutions.
A strong fist is sometimes needed or some players just can’t be handled. But almost all the time, the best solution to maintain morale throughout the whole squad and with other players is to have some pity for the player. Understand where they are coming from. If they’ve been performing really well for the past two years, then of course they may want a new contract and a pay rise. Learn to be a mediator with yourself - find a common ground and build upon it and find a solution. The solution may not always be a win-win, but it can go a lot smoother if you take the appropriate approach.
No One Player is the SameSome players can deal with the criticism of a manager, you can take them out of the squad for a few matches and once you bring them back in - they’ve learned their lesson and they are off to the races once more. Others need a different approach. Some player’s need to have that extra hug, that constant open communication and have that extra game or two despite them not being in good form to keep confidence levels up and keep their trust in you.
The lesson is to learn the personalities of your players and not have a blanket-coat approach to dealing with morale issues on an individual basis. You need to learn that your players differ - one could be low on morale because of a lack of game time and come to you to complain. Being blunt and honest, saying that their training isn’t good enough or that the other player has been performing better than them could be the right solution. With other players, sometimes you need to ask for patience, say that for them it’s time to move on, or try and sugar coat things in a different manner - maybe even promise game time. It all varies and in truth, the solution lies in the attitudes of the player you are interacting with, the relationships they have with the squad and that squad’s attitude overall.
Be Practical, Proactive & PatientSometimes a player needs time to settle, therefore judging a player too quickly can keep morale tanked - be more patient as they try and adapt to your tactics, new teammates, a new club, new league, a new country or continent even. If game time is an issue, maybe adding them in the match day squad, sub on a few times or even sending player’s out on loan can help. Patience is needed on your part at times.
If a player is upset with what’s being said in the media, initiate the conversation - talk to the player individually or take over team talks for a while. Be proactive and take team meetings throughout points of the seasons when they seem best fit, communicate on a more regular basis and stamp out bad behavior in training for example.
Put your theories into practice - be practical. Want to win a specific competition, increase the bonus if that’s possible. If form has dropped and therefore morale; criticize, communicate and try to work with the player rather than just dumping them out of the team. Being fair will weed out the immature players and offering that practicality can be the best solution.
The above examples are cases where at times you need to hold yourself back or take the initiative. Take control of things to the best of your ability and continuously pursue solutions to morale issues that come up.
Reflect On Yourself as a ManagerThis is probably the hardest to do because as humans, we don’t like to be at fault and we want to avoid conflict … (most of the time anyways). Sometimes the issue lies with you. Perhaps you should take a look at your tactics and try to improve them and start being more competitive in matches. Maybe change the role a player plays in, making slight tactical tweaks rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Other times maybe you need to take over training to ease player’s complaints or let other coaches take over as you are too demanding or just keep messing up which makes the players upset. Maybe too many players are complaining about their wages, rather than it being a reflection on the squad attitude - maybe it’s because you are simply in too much of a restrictive mindset and are holding them back when things are financially feasible.
Sometimes the fault lies with you, and that is okay. We are human and make mistakes, but the important thing to learn as you manage your club in FM is that you need to learn from your mistakes. If save after save, year after year there is an underlying issue where your player’s morale plummets or complains more on a specific issue - that’s not the fault of Sports Interactive, it’s you. It is a bitter pill to swallow but learn to make some slight adjustments, and better yourself as a manager to overcome these issues.
Just remember though, there will always be morale issues in life. Now that one portion of the equation is down, let us focus on the other - Relationships.
What Are Relationships?
Relationships in simpler terms equate to friendships. Some might think that having best friends play together means that they will constantly be in sync and perform well on the pitch together. That is true to a minor extent but in reality that lies within Team Cohesion, Tactical Familiarity and to a minor extent, Squad Harmony.
In reality relationships are essentially how well a player gets on with another - just as *gasp* in real life when you communicate and meet with people over time. Relationships in FM are built between everyone; players, coaching staff, board members, you, agents, other managers, media, etc… But the underlying principle remains - the better a player’s relationship the better they will react to decisions, communication and management.
Developing & Maintaining Relationships
Relationships do not occur overnight. They develop overtime, and as per usual of human nature - relationships develop quicker with those who are similar in nature (personalities). Those with different personalities may still develop relationships, but they may take longer than usual.
Not all relationships are positive. Those with conflicting personalities can develop negative personalities. Other situations such as competition, communication, negotiation, transfers, team selection and other things can lead to either positive or negative relationships. For example; simply playing against a manager whose job is in trouble and they get sacked after your match can lead to them having a poor opinion of you and therefore lead to a poor relationship. Another example is that you could have a bad relationship with an agent because you failed to negotiate contracts with several of his players before without even knowing he was the agent. Such are the ways of life.
In general, how do we develop relationships? This mostly comes from tutoring and training. Young players can develop relationships with staff and players as they work closely with them with specific person-to-person coaching and tutoring. Players in general within a squad can glue together overtime or become despondent based on training, performances on the pitch and their personalities.
Most importantly, how do you as the manager maintain and develop positive relationships with your players? Be a good manager. Achieving success (success relative to the club and player ambitions) with good man management will improve your relationship with your players. Much of what was mentioned in the Morale Section will also build or deter relationships. So as a manager, focus on your communication with your players - after all communication is how you build relationships. Be sure to be balanced with praise and criticisms, learn to be effective with team talks and have influential team meetings.
You will not please everyone, such is the reality of things. But hopefully this Morale & Relationships Guide can help you in getting the best out of your players and squad.