It's that time of year again, and Football Manager 2017 has finally been released to us. Well, the beta anyway, so if you can get past the bugs, it's definitely worth checking out. At last, we can go Rangers again without any boring slogs ahead of us through the tedium of the lower leagues! We can sign players who have played professional football before!
Here at GTBFO we've been pretty critical of the development of the series and felt that it's suffered from the lack of a realistic competitor. Seeing the list of new features didn't exactly inspire either. A social feed! More contract details! More Danish surnames! Aye, magic, but is every goal still from a cross?
However, our first impressions are... it's pretty good, actually. It looks like being one of the best iterations in a while, save for the inevitable patch where they completely ruin the match engine and render the game unplayable that usually happens around December.
Oh, and we do have another problem. The Scotland researcher. The league is always terribly scouted, particularly thanks to the guy being surely the most myopic Dundee United fan in the world, who every year rates all of their youngsters as world-class wonderkids in the making. So, let's see how he's gotten on with assessing our squad...
James Tavernier seems to be no better than last year, still awful at defending and with a meagre 13 for crossing, with a year left to improve, which is a disappointment. Barrie McKay has been upgraded yet again, making him a better finisher, especially from distance, although his IRL strength of passing and vision are still neglected and his determination is random, often ending up at 3 or even 1. Michael O'Halloran was a star last year but has had a wee clip of his wings, probably deserved.
And here it starts to go a bit pear-shaped. Andy Halliday is, simply, awful. Good at nothing, and not even really top flight standard. It was the same last season but it's pretty unforgivable at this stage. Danny Wilson and Rob Kiernan's are perhaps fair, but Lee Wallace keeps his daft stats (13 for stamina, 10 for teamwork, really?)
There aren't too many more terrible picks in terms of overall ability, just some deeply odd individual stats. Harry Forrester, for instance, has a workrate of 7. Jason Holt has 11 for workrate and 9 for stamina. Just weird, with the SPFL seeming to be badly scouted as usual.
The new boys
Some bad news here too. Josh Windass and Matt Crooks are both absolutely terrible and neither have much prospect of improving at all. Joey Barton is decent, but should real-world events plant the desire, you can usually find a buyer if you have a few leagues loaded and attempt to sell him on your first day. Ditto Senderos, should you feel the need, who is on a surely-unrealistic 16k a week (though to be fair, Barton's 12k is probably lower than it really is.)
Niko Kranjcar is decent, although not exactly a god technically, while Lee Hodson and Joe Dodoo are solid enough. Joe Garner is a bit mediocre, but you'll be pleased to hear that Jordan Rossiter is an absolute force of nature who looks like he has the potential to be a genuine star, so there's something.
Ryan Hardie has been given a bump downwards, as you might expect from his ludicrous prowess in FM16, although Zak Rudden has deservedly had his potential greatly raised. Liam Burt, too, has the potential to be a real star, while some of the younger Rangers who weren't in last years' game have very good potential too. Jordan Thompson also looks decent, while Liam Kelly has been given a boost, although Robby McCrorie remains the best bet long-term in goal. His brother Ross, however, seems to have been downgraded.
So, aye. It could be worse, but jesus, there's some bad stuff in there. Josh Windass being hopeless is probably the most infuriating, but if we're lucky we might get a wee update to it for the January patch. We'll see. Not that it matters, obviously, because you're clearly going to replace your entire squad in the first season and buy a load of random Danish and Bosnian wonderkids you found on a blog telling you the best deals, because that's how you play the game, and all your pals hate you.
Stay tuned for more - we'll have a guide to some decent signings and other stuff you can do later in the week.