FM15 Legends Interview: The one and only @shrewnaldo

I first “met” Shewnaldo on Twitter when I suggested he checked out my book, “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager: The Story of Mansfield Town FC 99/00 (according to Championship Manager)”  I learned quickly that he wasn’t a fan of Twitter marketing, but his response did lead me to his blog, which I read and instantly connected with.  Since then I have read each post he has written, and the quality of his writing quite frankly makes me jealous.  I was a little nervous about approaching him to do this interview, fingers burned once and all that, so I was delighted when he said yes – and I hope you all enjoy learning more about the guy who writes one of the most viewed blogs in FM history.

Hey Shrew, thanks for giving up some time to speak to me today.  Straight up mate, tell my followers who you are….
Hi Chris and thanks for asking me to do this interview. So I write under the pseudonym of Shrewnaldo and have done since my days of posting on The Dugout. I’m getting on a bit now (33) and split my time between work, my family (2 kids) and a host of computer games that I’m far too old to take seriously.

With your blog being one of the most read out there you vert much qualify as an FM Legend, but tell us when you started playing the game?

Well I don’t know about “legend” but thanks very much! I’ve played the various versions of Championship and Football Manager since about 1993 and I’ve always loved football management games, even as far back as Gary Lineker’s Superstar Soccer on the Spectrum ZX. I have a vague recollection of playing CM93 at a friend’s house then getting a copy of the floppy disc (just one!) to take home. I never occurred to me that this might be video-game piracy but I’ve bought every version since so I reckon Eidos / SI will let me away with it.
What made you want to start writing about it?
Until 2009, I’d only browsed FM sites to get tactics and players, the same as most people I reckon. But I broke my arm late that year and was off work for a couple of weeks incredibly bored so signed up to The Dugout to post about a save with my hometown club – Aberdeen. There were some great guys posting on the site then, including Lee Scott from FM Analysis and Nick Davies from FM Now – and I really enjoyed the sense of community that was fostered. Although all of my mates were into football, none of them were into FM as much as I was and so I’d never talked to people about the game to that extent previously. It was great to just chat about things that came to my mind without getting the “it’s only a sodding game” look. 
I slowly got right into the forum scene and it really re-ignited my interest in FM – showing a different side of the game that I hadn’t appreciated before. Up until that point, I would play my usual saves in Scotland, England and occasionally Italy when I was feeling adventurous but reading about other people playing in smaller, obscure leagues and in different game “styles” really widened my horizons. I don’t think I’ve had a serious game in the UK since.
I eventually moderated TD but by then my first child had come along and my spare time was becoming ever more precious. I simply wasn’t enjoying modding TD any more and felt like I would rather have spent my time actually playing the game. I felt like I couldn’t do this as mods have a responsibility to dedicate significant time to the site and so I quit as a mod to do my own thing. The blog let’s me continue writing about FM but it doesn’t matter if I don’t post anything for weeks on end as there’s no-one relying on me.
I love writing about FM. I know a lot of people will think that it’s nerdy in the extreme but, aside from the fact that I don’t care what they think, I find it incredibly cathartic and hugely enjoyable. I think a lot of people, like me, have very little creative influence in their real lives these days and I think posting on TD and then writing my blog has given me a creative outlet that I didn’t have before. I tend to post long articles (much like this answer!) and most of the time I’m just downloading my thought process onto the screen.
When it comes to FM ideas, this can be really helpful as I know that if I can’t explain it properly on screen then it’s nonsense; and if I can’t support my argument with evidence from the game, then I’m wrong. This happens a lot!
So, long story short, I like to write and it also helps me work out half-baked ideas that would otherwise go nowhere.
Where did you develop all your knowledge?
Well that’s assuming I have knowledge! I could just be making it up, you know!
I used to watch a lot more football than I do now and so I’d take stuff from that but, contrary to many others, I don’t actually equate real life scenarios to FM very much. I’ve been very critical of the game’s evolution, particularly the tactics UI, and I think it’s far too simplistic to represent real football. I’m not much one for modern jargon and 20/20 hindsight analysis but there are basic concepts of football that simply aren’t possible to influence in FM.
If people want to obtain a “knowledge” of FM, then my advice isn’t to read in-depth real-life tactics books as they won’t help. Assuming you have a passing knowledge of football, the best thing to do is to read what people have written about FM. Visit the forums (SI, TD, FM Now, sortitoutsi, FM Scout, etc etc) and read the better blogs. Actual implementable advice on the game itself will be far more valuable when playing FM than learning about Béla Guttmann’s 4-2-4 or an inverted-false-half-outside-interiores. (and yes, I’m a cynic)
What has your greatest save been to date?
I think that would have to be my Club and Country save from FM11. Since a brief spell at Rapid Wien in FM09 during a journeyman save, I’d developed a strange fascination with the Viennese club and Austrian football. So “borrowing” the concept of a club and country game from the aforementioned Lee Scott, I took over both the Austrian national side and Rapid Wien, the idea being that I would use Rapid to develop players for the national team and eventually win the World Cup.
I edited that database to merge the German and Austrian leagues with Rapid started in the 2.Bundesliga. I started playing that save 3 days after FM11 came out, once I’d sorted the edit, and stopped playing it the day FM12 came out. In between times, I won 12 Bundesligas, two Champions Leagues, three European Championships and a World Cup. It’s crazy how “into” a save you can get, I still love some of those newgens!
A couple of other saves would run it close – the Feralpi Salò save I posted on the blog for FM13 was great. Taking such a small club from Serie C to Champions League, evenutally, was a fun game.
What has been your biggest FM failure so far?
It’d probably have to be last year when I got relegated for the first time ever. I was playing a network save with an old schoolfriend of mine and had taken US Dunkerque to Ligue 1 in back-to-back promotions. We were then relegated by a single point which was gutting.
Who are you managing in FM15, and why?
I’m back to a club and country save, again with Rapid Wien and Austria. I’ve been trying to recreate the magic of FM11 ever since but this year is the first time I’ve got “into it” again. I’ve stuck with an edited Austrian only system this time to make it really hard to develop players and the challenge is proving fun whilst Red Bull Salzburg keep it competitive domestically.
For you, what has been the best addition to FM15 and why?
Has there been any additions this year? I’m being serious. SI make a song and dance about the “1000 new features” for each version but when a change from “ungentlemanly conduct” to “unsporting behaviour” as the reason for a booking is a “new feature” then my scepticism goes through the roof and the game is essentially the same as it has been for years.
I like the default skin this year, which is a nice change. I like the “new” sidebar but then I liked it when it was new on FM11 too. 
For me the game only ever comes down to how good the match engine is. Not the graphics engine, the actual match engine which controls the players actions and movements. FM14 was the worst that I can remember and FM15 is a huge improvement on that so I guess that’s my best “new addition”.
EDIT – I remembered one! The new scouting system. That’s actually quite different this year. It’s ok, I guess. It does make it more difficult for the human player to hoover up all the talent early on which is good but other than that it’s much of a muchness for me. I find it annoying that after 6 patches they still haven’t fixed the bug that I pointed out during beta whereby you can’t ask your scouts to narrow their search to just EU nationals. 
Equally, what has been the worst?
The expanded player interaction engine is terrible. I’ve seen a lot of people on twitter and forums complaining about being sacked in-game because the entire squad has got the hump over a reserve player being sold. I had two first teamers coming to me and asking me how I planned to replace the third choice youth team goalkeeper!!
Most of the time these sorts of things are just minor inconveniences and you can laugh it off as a stupid bug but when it causes you to get sacked and your game is effectively ruined then it’s a problem.

If you were in charge of SI for a day, what would you change and why?
I think, for legal reasons, it’s best that I don’t answer this question 😀
Shrew, again, thanks for your time today.  As I said at the start, I think is one of the must reads out there and I would urge anyone that isn’t already reading it to start now!
Thanks very much for asking me to do it, I’m always flattered when people take an interest in my blog or my views on FM. I hope people enjoy the interview!
Don’t forget to follow Shrewnaldo on Twitter @shrewnaldo

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