There's no 'I' in team
There's nothing easy about choosing which team you'll steer to glory in career mode when starting up FIFA 14, yet most of us will go through the same cycle as we do every year. Look at every team, every league, every chance of plucking some unknown Polish team and thrusting them to the heights of European glory... and think: 'Sod it'. We all know that well choose our club, play half a season and then just stick with the online modes.
But lets make this year different. For those of you who have waited patiently for the next generation of EA's staggeringly addictive time sink, the moment has come for a monumental upheaval in your career mode habits. I'm going to help you cast off the shackles of fandom and throw you various ideas for what teams to pick out in the new, ultra-shiny career mode.
Do you favour a slow rise to the top?
Unless you count yourself amongst the fan base of Morecombe FC, Dagenham & Redbridge or Southend United, then chances are you've never braved the challenges of the lower league in FIFA. You haven't had to suffer through the perils of the free transfer market, endure first touches heavier than an elephant and the sort of shots that are still rising as youre reading this. Fluid and attractive football it usually is not.
But for the patient amongst you, this is by far the most rewarding way of playing career mode. Sure, the first few seasons will be full of grinding out results, but every step up towards the bright lights and swan dives of the Premier League you take feels that much sweeter. Before you know it, you'll have made Morecombe so successful, that nearly every other team in the game will hate you as much as everyone hates Manchester United in real life. Probably.
Are you a big spender?
On the flip side of that, why build a team the old fashioned way when you can do it the er new fashioned way? Teams like Manchester City, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germaine have spent bajillions (undoubtedly the correct term) over the past few seasons when they quite like the way somebody kicks a ball. The football purists may turn their noses up at it, but if you want to be rolling in the silverware, then youre going to have to splash silly money at some point.
So why not make 'some point' the very first point? While taking control of the uber-spenders really should feel like cheating--because youre buying all the best players and then rubbing it in everyones faces--who cares when your team is the sort of juggernaut goal machine that makes PSG look like Accrington Stanley? FIFA 14 may make you scout instead of search for players, but you tell me Ronaldo wont pop up when scour for someone who is stupidly fast and has a shot that could knock down buildings.
Are you a fair-weather fan?
Ah, the good old fair-weather fan. These people dont support their team, they only care about their club when they win. Theyre conveniently a Chelsea fan when theyre top of the league and making excuses for why theyve stopped following football the second theyre not. Honestly, its easier keeping up with who is winning the console war than fair weather football fans.
Picking your team using this method is so simple, even FIFA ref extraordinaire Chris Mumple could understand it. Who either a) won the league last year or b) has the money to win it this year? For simplicitys sake, lets say you choose money spewing and player harvesting Real Madrid. As soon as youre not top of La Liga, declare the game to be idiotic and pointless (maybe chuck in a few comments about the players being overpaid for good measure), quit out and choose a different game instead. Thats realism you cant code.
Want to go from relegation zeroes to trophy-hogging heroes?
Football is a cruel mistress, and one misstep will usually be severely punished. And by severely punished, I mean going down a league where there are different clubs and less money. When teams tumble down a league, they want to be catapulted back up and sharpish. In real life, thats not always possible, but in FIFA you can live the relegation comeback dream.
I'm talking about restoring the wounded pride of any team who got relegated last year--one you may have a soft-spot for. Got a deep respect for Wigan? Time to help them clamber back up into the Premiership again. How about a soft spot for AS Nancy? Lets give them the shortest of spells in Ligue 2. Of course, there might be little to hold your interest once youve got your chosen beneficiaries back where they belong, but every season will see a new team cast asunder and youll have the chance to send them straight back up.
Want a total unknown with a twist?
When it comes to picking a side, usually you sit down, look through reams of pages, deciding how close to the top you want to be when you start, getting a feel for what side suits your style of play best. Yet sometimes, you have to forgo things like reason, logic or meaning and just listen to your immature side giggling at some of the more extravagant names.
So by that completely flawless logic you next FIFA 14 team should obviously be Go Ahead Eagles! Nope, thats not a poorly phrased chant for Crystal Palace, thats a team in the Dutch Eredivisie. Not doing it for you? Okay, maybe this is more an indictment of our mental age, but sometimes football teams have funny names. So if you cant see why saying youre the manager of Young Boys isnt worthy of a good chuckle, then maybe youre taking FIFA just a little too seriously.
Want to mould your team's tactics?
Are you the sort of football obsessive who purrs regularly about the beauty of tiki-taka, or have you graduated from the route one school of thought? Every football fan thinks there is a better way of playing the game and I dont know enough about it to say whose right. But the genius of FIFA career mode is that your way is probably the right way. Unless youre not very good at virtual football. If thats the case then this is what the lower difficulty modes are for.
For this method of choosing a team to really work you need to take a club and give them the exact opposite footballing philosophy. Take Stoke, a team renowned for their long balls and direct way of hammering a team with them. Then, like a footballing Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, tear through the old style and turn them into a group of short-pass merchants. Unlike doing this in real life, there will be almost no vitriol from the fans and you can take pleasure in the instant gratification of your Stoke-alona creation.
Want to be a journeyman?
Some are born for greatness, to serve one club and forsake all others. They will live, breathe and possibly alienate a few close family members with their sole love for their football team. These people are few and far between, but I love their loyalty. However, these people have no place in this career play-through. This is the time where you step into the well-worn shoes of the journeyman.
Starting out at a low and humble club--maybe look at Spains Segunda A or Italys Serie B for your first club--the journeyman is a manager who has barely unpacked his bags before hes off again. He doesnt so much have a dream club, but a list of leagues it might be alright to try out. Youll never stay at a club too long and never get too attached to your team, because when that final game of the season is played, youll be too busy eyeing up which country youll be bringing your tactical nous/lack of stability to next.
Prefer experience over youth?
We all had our idols growing up, but times unrelenting momentum means--at some stage--your once glorious stars slowly fade into obscurity. Fortunately, with the advancements of sports science and the amount of money you can earn, chances are theyve just drifted to a different country. Finally, the reunion is back on, as you take charge and give your former hero the career twilight he always deserved.
While you shouldnt expect these veterans to be around for too long in your career, there should be enough time for you and them to plunder a few trophies in their new homes. The New York Red Bulls has plenty to offer for fans of old Premier League talent (and energy drink branding), while the A-League has also been harvesting mature talent. And for fans of Emilie Heskey--we know youre still out there, sir--the Newcastle Jets is now your team for career mode.
Want to restore old glory?
No empire really stands the test of time. Just look at Rome or Walter White & Cos blue super-meth business. Same goes for football clubs, as some will slowly pave their way to glory before being ripped back down to earth. Its never pretty and the lower leagues of football are scattered with exhausted former champions. While theres nothing you can do for them in the real world, you can probably guess where this one is going for FIFA career mode.
Depending on just how much legwork you want to put in, theres plenty of choice from the Championship to League Two. Coventry City, for example, who are currently scraping down in League One, could use your guiding presence (plus, you wouldnt actually have to visit Coventry). If you really fancy a challenge, Portsmouth still somehow exist in League Two. Just dont expect any revolution to happen overnight and dont spend too much/any money.
But what's the best team in FIFA 14?
Unbeknownst to even the most hardcore of FIFA fans, one team in the game is so powerful and satisfying to play with that not embarking on a career mode with them almost seems like sacrilege. Naturally, Im talking about The Peoples Club, Everton F.C. Dont believe me? The evidence is in the game. Why else do you think EA has finally put Goodison Park in the game this year, as well as including the official likeness of the team? You cant argue with stone cold facts like that.
A career with the glorious sideburns of Leighton Baines and the formidable beard of Tim Howard is obviously well-worth having. On top of that, you can save a fortune in the transfer market, because you naturally cant improve on perfection. Well, you might want to buy a striker and some cover for Distin, maybe look at another central midfielder as Gibbo can be a bit injury prone What? Dont be ridiculous, of course this wasnt written by an Everton fan! Cough.
Pick me, pick me!
Now that weve solved that dilemma of which side to pick, you can go ahead and finally choose the club youll be spending months with this year. But will you take my advice or will just stick to what you know and plump for your boring old team again? Let us known in the comments.