The Northman Does Moneyball

 

Welcome to 2023 and Darlington 1883, I have been at the club since the 2016/2017 season, and the fans love me, the board think I can walk on water but I am yet to bring glory to the club. Yes, I have secured us as a National League North club, but let’s be honest, this is nothing special so why are they so happy? Maybe finances, maybe our promotion to the National League Premier in 2018/2019 via the playoffs? I doubt it because that was followed with a relegation the season after, thus me mentioning that we are a secure National League North club. I can only assume it is due to me spending most of this journey refusing to spend money, refusing to give out wages to anyone who comes through the door… Making Darlington 1883 one of few clubs actually financially safe, well, -189k at the minute but with us being able to balance the books during pre-season and cup runs each season whilst others must be struggling, surely, they are spending a lot more than me as we will see in the image below.

Darlington Salary 2023

The starting point is here. We are spending less than everyone else, but we are still losing money each month, so it is now time to dive into what we are taking from Brad Pitt’s club and what we…. Wait, I have just been informed that this is a real story and it’s not about Brad Pitt, and he is really an actor… well, it seems I must delete all the quotes I had from him then.

Romantic about Football

‘Welcome to The Northman does Moneyball’

You will see in the header for this post, the title and plan for the series or single post, I guess it depends on how hooked you all get on it. I might be back, Guido might sack me after one post but either way, my plan, my goal is to turn the form of Darlington around. Like any manager worth his salt, you need to be looking to develop, to adjust and that is now my goal. I want to look back on the previous years which can be seen below and dive into my signings and why they have let me down, maybe finding some who I believed were good but when looking through their stats, discovering they were a letdown.

Now you can see that the final position for 2022/2023 has not registered, this is because I am currently in March, we are now closing in on the end of the season, and the Moneyball plan has already started which we can discuss below.

My first 7 years

 


The three main focus points for the series.


Wages: The wages for the club are of crucial importance, never exceeding what we can afford, a £5,000 a week budget does not mean you max that budget out, careful planning on wages you offer is important as well as other aspects of contract negotiation, here is a brief explanation of how I handle contracts:

The first step for myself is to look at the contract screen of the player in question, assess what he wants me to pay him and break it down into easy-to-comprehend segments. I have used a figure of 50 games for the year. This figure will change with good or bad cup runs.

 

  1. A wage of £350 per week, totalling £18,200 in 52 weeks
  2. Appearance fee of £110, totalling £5,500 in 50 matches
  3. Goal bonus of £45, giving him ten goals for the season totalling £450
  4. Loyalty bonus, over his 3-year contract it is £275 per year
  5. Yearly wage rise of 20% just to make things complex
  6. A wage rise to £525 after playing 15 matches

Now looking at this and assuming he will be playing ALL 50 games every season which he no doubt will not but it is a guide aimed at them maxing out the possibility.

So onto the next stage of seeing how much will he cost us in season 1, 2 and 3 of his contract.

 Season 1, 

Wages: £23,625

Bonus: £6,225

Total: £29,850

Season 2,

Wages: £32,760

Bonus: £6,225

Total: £38,985

Season 3,

Wages: £39,312

Bonus: £6,225

Total: £45,537

We end up with a three-year total of £114,372.

Now I negotiate the contract

The new contract negotiation is still over a three year period which makes this easy to compare, the first thing for me to do is to remove the yearly wage rise, we could see the difference that caused above with a total of around £15,000 more after the third season.

  1. A wage of £400 per week totalling £20,800
  2. An appearance fee of £100 totalling £5,000 over 50 games
  3. A goal bonus of £50 making a total of £500 with ten goals a year
  4. Loyalty bonus, over three years it is £275 per year

Season 1,

Wages: £20,800

Bonus: £5,775

Total: £26,575

Season 2,

Wages: £20,800

Bonus: £5,775

Total: £26,575

Season 3,

Wages: £20,800

Bonus: £5,775

Total: £26,575

 

The total over the three-year contract is £79,725.

This is an excellent example of how if you take some time on your contracts screen, you can make some huge savings. We have a total of £114,372 in the first contract and a total of £79,725 in the second contract. This sum is a total saving over three years of £34,647.

Now remember that this is when dealing with players who want between £300-£600 a week if we look at x10 and x100 you get the idea of how you can save MILLIONS

x10: £346,470

x100: 3,464,700

a saving of over 1 MILLION from one player over a period of a year, if you can negotiate the contracts correctly between your whole team, you will be saving a staggering amount each year.


Stats, The heartbeat of Moneyball some may say, the detailed planning for deciding what players come and go from the club. The planning I will be going through to determine certain roles we can go through and see exactly how I will be deciding who is staying, going and coming in.

Below I will go through my team and my thoughts on what I am looking for within my squad at the minute.

Goalkeepers, the man between the sticks, the man who puts himself between the ball and the back of the net. Someone who wants the ball to hit him, a crazy person basically. Now one thing to remember is that we are looking and assessing our players first, how are they performing and are they worth holding on to.

Looking below at our current goalkeeper, you can see some quite interesting stats using this screen to determine how he has performed. A few of the key things I will be looking for going forward are:

  1. Saves tipped
  2. Saves parried
  3. Saves held
  4. Penalties saved
  5. Pass percentage
  6. Mistakes

The assessing some of the other aspects like fouls made/against. All of the above can help lead towards coming to a conclusion if the goalkeeper is performing well or if we need to be looking onto the market for a replacement.

The Goalkeeper stat check


Central Defenders, known at many clubs as the rock of the team, the man who will throw their body in the line of the ball. Here we need to find players who offer this as well as having the footballing brain needed to spot attacks before the attackers know what they are doing.

Here we have Terry Davis, a youth product who has become a first team player. With all defenders, we have specific stats we will be checking;

  1. Tackles won Ratio
  2. Headers won Ratio
  3. Interceptions
  4. Mistakes

These four are important, but you should still always check others as well. Passing for example as you move up the leagues and you want your defenders to play from the back. Fouls made, and fouls against are important as well, do you have a player who can see a tackle but is late and gives many fouls away?

Defender stats check 2023


Full Backs, a role that in my opinion is imperative for me going forward, I like to have solid full backs but also ones who can create when needed going forward.

Here we have my young right back. At the age of 20 this young defender is now approaching the age where judgement can be stern, and as I write this, I am deciding he will be a possibility to be released in the summer, his stats record is poor but remember: Never replace anyone until you have a replacement signed.

The stats for a full back that I would class as important are;

  1. Passing
  2. Tackling
  3. Fouls against
  4. interceptions

Passing for a fullback is important, often your central defenders will go sideways to release before you try to attack, this means you need a full back who can pass a ball and is comfortable on the ball. Opposition as on most teams love to attack down the flanks, so tackling is critical, you need a player you can trust to win the ball. Fouls against can often show how good he is at tackling, does he cost us, is he giving free kicks away in positions where goals can come from them?

Interceptions, is he reading the balls across for the winger to get in behind, if he is, he can be a life saver for your club.

Full back stats 2023


Central Midfielders, the heart of a team, the key is in the title, Central MIDfield. When it comes to my squad, I need a midfielder who can pass, shoot, tackle and in general, work hard.

  1. Passing
  2. Tacking
  3. Shots on target
  4. Distance covered

The four key things I look for in my team, midfielders who can pass the ball well, win the ball back when we lose it, get shots on target when we are attacking and work hard for the team, covering as much distance as the wide men if possible.

Central midfielder stat check


Wingers, the men who work hard and get assists? Or is that maybe more of a dream that we have for our wingers.

  1. Passing
  2. Dribbles made
  3. Crosses completed
  4. Tackling

I am wanting my wingers to have a high pass completion and tackle completion ratio as well as showing that dribbles are getting made, running with the ball and causing a threat is a essential vital task for your wide men.

Wingers stat check 2023


Strikers, the people known for putting the ball in the back of the net and I have a legend at the club for this. Dan Maguire is the clubs all time top goal scorer. After being out injured this year, he has come back and is still scoring, the key stats I will be looking at to see if his goals are worth his time on the pitch;

  1. Shots on Target
  2. Passing
  3. Mistakes
  4. Minutes per goal.

I want a striker who is shooting when he can hit the target and when he can not achieve this, he can link play up nicely with passing, these are important stats for me. These are players I will be checking in great detail as we look to improve the squad depth.

Striking legend 2023


The stats check for players extends to the search outside of the club, there are ways to find players using the Moneyball methods of not over spending;

  1. Transfer listed
  2. Loan Listed
  3. Contract Expired
  4. Contract Expiring

Transfer listed players, you can find some great deals, clubs maybe have a few players in that position, maybe they don’t see something we do, releasing a player because he is not scoring high average ratings but when we look deeper his interceptions, passing or scoring ratios are fantastic.

The previous about clubs missing statistics can apply to all of the four above and it is something I must look into carefully as the season comes to an end. We are now in the final six months of many players contacts, mine and others are clubs, so I now need to see if organisations are releasing anyone who is surpassing my own players in aspects of the game.


Value, this is not the transfer value, the valuation of a player. Value refers to his worth to you, is he a key player, could he be a key player, is his wage more than you feel he is worth to the club?

Below I am comparing defenders, who earn their wage, be it weekly or appearance. Is there someone earning less but playing better, can I sign someone who is getting released by a club who is performing better? These are all questions to be asked when it comes to if a player is valuable to you or not.

Can you sign a player for 400k who stat wise is matching or doing better than a player you have with a value of 1m? If so, this would provide an excellent example of a player providing good value to you if you can sign him as well as the player you are selling becoming valuable to the club regarding helping you balance the books.

Comparing defenders 2023


These are all things I must ask myself. These are things I must make notes of as I go forward with Darlington 1883 and progress into the 2023/2024 season and make them a success using ‘The Northman’s Moneyball’ plan.

3 thoughts on “The Northman Does Moneyball

  • The financial aspect of FM is probably the most interesting to me. I’ve been prone to creating a challenge for myself since my first ever version (FM13 I believe) to only sign free transfers while investing heavily in a youth setup that eventually allows a steady stream of usable to star level homegrown players. Because I usually find and sign supremely undervalued vets (I sometimes play them out of position) I can add more depth to the team to hedge against fatigue and injuries will still maintaining the lowest wage bill in the league by far. I have a nearly impenetrable contain tactic that I either start with against elite teams or switch to after going up a goal… or if the match doesn’t start the way I’d like. The lowest I’ve ever finished is 5th.

    But I say all of this to say that one tip that I would give is to refuse to even include clauses. I tend to find that a set weekly wage is less expensive overall. Of course, you have to be willing to move on to your next target if the one doesn’t feel comfortable with it. The only time that I include a clause is for a youth prospect that I’ve transferred for and that’s only if it may increase his wage for peanuts ($150-$50 at smaller clubs, $1000 down at big clubs) per year over the course of his contract.

  • The problem with FM and Moneyball is that we have access to actual player stats, so performance stats are hardly even considered if you know finishing and composure is a better measure of someones ability than their finishing accuracy.

    I would love FM to do away with visible stats in favour of something else.

    Also progressive improvement of potential ability based on that seasons performance with age and quality of opposition factors in determine how much of a rise they get. (I already implement something like this in my saves with the ingame editor)

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