When FM Meets Real Life – Peter Prickett

With Football Manager 18 not that far away, I thought it was time I started to increase the activity on the blog with new content (which they’ll be plenty of in the coming weeks/months) and one of the ways of doing this is to revive one of the popular series that I’ve done for the past few years. The ‘When FM Meets Real Life.........’ series has seen me interview chairmen, scouts, assistant managers, principal advisors, coaches and even club owners.

Today's interview is done with Peter Prickett who is a coach, writer and podcaster amongst other things. Peter is very active on social media and is very approachable. He can often be found on Twitter sharing his knowledge and getting involved in discussions. You can check him out on Twitter via this link https://twitter.com/PeterPrickett

Hi Peter, could you please tell us a bit about yourself, for those who may not be familiar with who you are and what you do. If I’m not mistaken you had an education in Art and Design, so what made you decide to go the coaching route long-term?

You are mistaken. Sort of. My education was long and confusing. At university I studied journalism, but within that there was a module on screen writing which I fell in love with. When I finished university my grandmother died. She left me her house. Which I sold and became involved in property development. While working on that I studied screenwriting at New York Film Academy (for a while they ran a course in London). In 2008 the recession hit and put a stop to my property development. I needed some income. There are jobs in computing they said. I organised an interview. They told me it would take 3 years and £5k to get a job. I told them I didn’t like computers that much. The next day I watched Soccer AM. Max Rushden was doing FA Level 1 as part of a feature. I asked myself “if someone said it would take 3 years and £5k to get your football qualifications would you do it?”. The answer was 100% yes.

How did you become involved with the Rachel Yankey Football Programme?

When I decided to do my Level 1 I spoke to a friend who was a PE teacher. He had met Rachel a few times and knew she ran a local team on Saturday mornings. He also said that she needed volunteers. He gave me her number and I called. So while I was finishing my Level 1 I took a team there. As soon as I finished Level 1 I was on Level 2. Rachel asked me if I wanted to do a session in a school. I said no, I didn’t want to do schools, I wanted to coach football. She offered me a mid week football session, which I said yes to. From there it just grew and grew and grew.

You’re also a big futsal advocate too, how does this work in terms of developing players and is there any differences to the way you approach coaching for this compared to day to day coaching of an eleven a side team?

The speed of futsal is brilliant for transitions, counter attacks and recovery runs. Small sided games increase the number of touches each player gets (not necessarily only futsal) plus the weight of the ball increase the opportunities to actually play. That is how I got involved in the first place. Doing an after school football session in a school hall with the ball bouncing a mile high. It frustrated me. So I bought a futsal.

As for different prep, because I coach so many ages, playing different formats, it is all the same but different. In all forms I prioritise dribbling skills and creativity. The differences are less about 7v7, 11v11 or futsal, more about the age and ability of the players.

I know we shouldn’t believe everything we see on social media sites but lots of coaches can often be seen on social media being vocal about futsal and how it can aid players. Some even go as far as claiming to know which top players have been influenced by it at times. So my question is, to the trained eye is there any accuracy in these coaches claiming such things and if so, what is it about the player that makes it obvious?

The core skills of futsal fit with the England DNA, especially at the foundation phase. So it can aid players, but so can 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 etc. What futsal has going for it is that a lot of these beneficial aspects are automatic and don’t have to fight against an established culture.

There are certain players who display obvious futsal traits. The way Coutinho takes the ball with his sole screams futsal (the videos of him playing as a kid are a big clue too). When I first saw Ben Woodburn I thought to myself “he has played futsal”. There was a pass he played which in futsal we call a parallel pass, which is essentially a short to medium lift with the outside of the foot. Woodburn did this during the Tranmere friendly last year. He also uses the sole to control the ball. Then there are the players who use the toes to finish. Romario. Ronaldinho. A technique encouraged in futsal but pushed away in football.

At Old Actonians Youth FC where you are Head Coach, I think I read they have 16 teams in total. Do you work closely with all these sides? How do you prepare for coaching on a much wider scale?

I became head coach last season (16/17). For most of that my concern was having enough coaches. This meant that although my team were the U16s I did a lot of coaching with the U8s & U10s. This season (17/18) my work will more be with the coaches than the players. We have a club philosophy and a way of working towards that philosophy. So while I will not be directly working with the age groups I will be ensuring we are all working towards the same goal, individual player development.

We’ve spoke quite a bit on Twitter (and not just football related stuff) but I still did a little bit of research about you and came across something that I found interesting. It probably isn’t interesting but something you said stuck out for me, it was this;

Coaching is my life. Some say passion. Some say hobby. Some say love. For me, it is my life. For better or worse.It took me a while to work that out, but now I have my desire is simply to be the best coach I can be and help to get young players to be the best they can be.

The reason I found it interesting is it seems to suggest some kind of struggle at some stage with was it a hobby, job or something else. Would you be able to expand on what it was and why it took a while to work out?

I alluded to this earlier with my path into coaching. I decided to be sensible and semi academic when I went to university. I could have gone into coaching then, but decided not to. Even now people question whether coaching is the best use of my abilities. I sometimes wonder whether I am a writer pretending to be a coach or a coach pretending to be a writer. Whatever the answer, I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing or commit myself to.

It’s pretty clear from your social media that you are one of the coaches who really loves his job and strive to help players. So my question is, how do you help players on an individual level with deciding what is the best method for them going forward.

Generally the answer is observation and questioning. I will form my opinion of what they need to look at but they often have a good idea themselves. I have transmitted that information in various ways, using postcard sized notes or writing them a letter. I try to give them things they can work on alone and things we can think about as individual challenges in training.

You’re also not shy about using videos to help individuals/groups as well, whether it be as a demonstration or as an analytic tool. Just how helpful can it be for any young or even older player reading this, to watch videos of themselves performing moves or to analyse their technique etc?

Well videos of players can be very difficult in this era. When working one to one with a player I had permission from the parent to film the child. We were working on shot power. By slowing the film right down we could see how his body over rotated and all the power went into a spinning follow through rather than than following straight through the ball. It really helped to correct that technique.

Generally I use videos to engage them. Basically kids love tech. The videos are a great way to hold their attention and demonstrate things that I will admit that I can’t actually do!

Do you use anything like the Coerver coaching methods with the younger players?

I always use ball mastery and 1v1/2v2 in my sessions. So there is a huge nod to Coerver. Over the years I have developed my own ways to work on these things, but Coerver was a huge influence early on and still has it’s mark on what I do.

Now for the FM stuff, how long have you been playing the series?

Since Championship Manager….

Do you have a favourite version at all?

Not really. I do remember one that had van Nistelrooy as an attacking midfielder. He was at PSV, so easy to sign. I recall that no matter what I did I couldn’t beat Bayer Leverkusen. So I had to design a system just to beat them. I think I came up with some sort of Christmas tree with Ruud as an attacking midfielder. Goals were not a problem. Nor were Leverkusen.

You’re still not playing FM17 yet are you, or did you make the switch recently? If not, will you be making the switch to FM18?

I purchased FM17 and played for a couple of hours. I went back to FM16. I just felt there were no significant changes and it didn’t run as smoothly. Just a data update and the updates were pretty minimal.

We all have things we dislike about the game. For me it's the player interactions, I despise them because we have so little influence in our responses it's very limiting, so I can’t give the player a proper answer to whatever his issue might be for most parts. Which parts of the games aren’t you fond of?

This may not be a surprise but it is the coaching! There have been versions in the past where you could really influence how your players developed but I feel that has fallen away and become very basic. This makes it feel that player development is down to luck. If you happen to get the particular save where player X is destined to be a mega star rather than having real influence on it. The only thing that really seems to develop the young players is giving them 40 games a season.

An old gripe of mine was that at times the game was more about beating the match engine or finding the corner exploit than what you actually know about football. I think that has changed in the last few years but more could still be done.

And what’s the best part of the game for you?

I enjoy building a dynasty. Creating history at clubs. When a player becomes the top scorer or record appearance maker. However, I also like being a well travelled manager, spending 3 to 5 seasons at clubs in different countries before settling somewhere.

Over the years FM has become a bit more mainstream now in the sense that TV channels use it for transfer deadline to show players attributes and some clubs even use the database for scouting purposes. Is it something you’d ever consider using if you felt it could offer something beneficial?

The scouting database is something that really worked. I think FM got there before a lot of pros. Now we have things like Wyscout so I think anyone at the top level who says they use it for scouting is now just looking for excuses to play the game!

For a few years now, people have claimed that the tutoring system on FM doesn’t really work like that in reality and I agree for most parts. If you was responsible for this feature, how would you redesign it to make it more realistic?

The only thing I have noticed the tutoring do is pass on some preferred moves. It doesn’t seem to improve the attributes of the players (but this is an overall issue, what actually improves the attributes?). I feel that if a young player is tutored by someone with strong attributes that relate to the two players (tutor and tutee) positions then those attributes should increase.

Linked to that, sometimes the players that are suggested to tutor your player are bizarre. Why can’t you just suggest any player? Also, why can a player only tutor one at a time? The Class of ‘92 talk about Cantona spending time with them, did he say sorry, for the next 3 months, just Scholes?

What’s been the best moment ever in your FM career so far?

That is tricky. On one of the games in the last 5 years it was built in that Liverpool eventually build a new stadium. I had a travelling career. I was about 10 years in when I joined Liverpool. I spent 12 years at Liverpool. When they built the new stadium it was named after me. Only time it ever happened to me.

Worst/funniest moment was managing Roma. I had won successive league titles and Champions Leagues. I signed Veron from Lazio. The fans weren’t happy. The board weren’t happy. I drew three games in a row. They sacked me! Only time in the game I have been sacked.

Does your manager on the game differ much from the real life Peter, in terms of how you set up your team and develop players?

FM has actually changed me over the years. In my teens and early twenties I was obsessed with defending. I can’t remember exactly which game it was but I was managing the Valencia team of Aimar and co. Trying to keep it solid. It wasn’t working. I just said “the hell with it” and racked everything up to be as attacking as possible. If I was going to be losing I might as well lose scoring goals. We didn’t lose, we won. Everything.

In terms of team set up, in the real world my preference is to play a back 3 and be very fluid. This doesn’t normally work for me on FM. Back four and limited fluidity, just because it seems to work. I find that too much fluidity on FM gives you teams who play nicely, create chances but miss bundles. The rigid teams on FM are just as capable of scoring and creating.

If you could add one new feature that currently isn’t in the game or could completely redesign a current feature, what would it be any why?

I genuinely believe that the system for developing young players is too erratic. Though it could just be that I am playing the game wrong!

I’d like to thank Peter for taking the time to answering the questions and wish him and his teams all the best for the season. If you enjoyed the interview be sure to check out the links below.

As well as Twitter, you can can often find him on the V2 podcasts, you can check out the last one he did here;  http://www.pger.net/football/2017/09/06/interview-with-laurie-mcginley-2/

On top of this he also has his own sites he runs. You can find many training sessions, articles and links to other episodes of the podcast he’s been on via this link; http://www.pger.net/football/

And if you’re interested in being coached by the man himself then check out his other site; http://www.ppfc.net/

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