Have you ever been a free agent? It’s really tough!
Those of you that read my post detailing 8 FIFA 11 Pro Club Management Duties will already know that I’ve recently had a stint at being a free agent. Although I was really sad to see my old club go I must admit that at first I was really excited at the prospect of finding a new home for FIFA 11 and perhaps beyond. In reality though I found that Free Agent world can be a pretty lonely place and full of uncertainty. It’s quite a daunting task, joining the transfer market. I’d had recruitment experience from manager’s perspective before but this was my first time searching for a new club to join so I had to take some time to think about the etiquettes of the Pro Clubs transfer market…
How do you go about finding a team?
If you’ve not got a group of friends lined up (or in a lot of cases, they’re just not up to scratch… ) you’re going to either fire a load of messages off to previous team-mates / opponents on Xbox LIVE and hope you get lucky or the best option in my opinion, post an application on either the EA forums or the FVPA Forum. If you’ve not visited the FVPA (or FIFA Virtual Pro Association) Forum yet, as the name suggests it’s a site specifically for Virtual Pros and Pro Clubs and I recommend you check it out. I can imagine from a newcomer’s point of view the forums can seem quite an intimidating place. With everyone seemingly already knowing one another and the banter flowing I’d be a bit apprehensive to throw my details up in a post to have them scrutinised and picked at by a group of cynics ready to take the mick. But actually it’s not like that at all. There’s a real sense of community amongst the forums and you’re much more likely to get messages of encouragement and advice. If you haven’t already then give it a try. Write an application and see how you get on. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
If you’re not known on the forums then you’re going to have to sell yourself to prospective managers by writing an application. Spike (BigZombieMonkey) has written a great forum post on how to apply for a club but in essence you need to let managers know what makes you different to everyone else? Please, please, please don’t just put, “Pick me because I’m really good at FIFA!” You and everyone else that’s looking for a team. Try to be detailed about exactly how teams will benefit if they give you a shot. But be honest and remember, no one likes a big head. These are the common things that managers look for in an application and why:
Name / Gamertag / PSN ID:
Obviously they need to know who you are…
A lot of teams like to know the age of players. It’s nothing to do with your abilities on the pitch. More that some teams want a mature attitude and want to know that they’re not going to be offending anyone or getting into trouble if they use offensive language whilst playing.
Have you got a MIC?
Communication’s important in some positions – not as important in others. If you’ve got a MIC but don’t feel comfortable speaking, let people know. It will be useful for players to know that you can hear them so that they can still shout for the ball.
Previous Clubs Experience:
Most clubs aren’t looking for you to have played in one of the best teams around. Everyone knows that there are some quality players out there that haven’t used the forums before or have been less mercenary. Managers are more interested on the length of time you’ve spent at each club. They won’t want to take you on only for you to leave a week later. If you’ve played for a club for a while, let them know. It will reassure them.
Position / Back up position:
This is an important one. I see plenty of applications that look like this: LW/CAM/RS/CB/CDM/RM/RAM/LB/GK. Ok, you might be able to play all of those positions equally well but a manager’s going to take one look and think this guy can’t make up his mind where he wants to play. Managers will be looking for someone to fill a specific position. They won’t want someone that they think won’t be happy sticking to that position. You’re best putting your favourite position and then maybe two more (back-up) positions that you will be happy filling in for. For example, for me it would be: CAM (CDM/ST). The manager can see straight away the position that I want to play but also see that I’m versatile enough to cover other positions when needed. Clark I HD talks about this in his second Prospective article which you can read here.
Why do you want to join this club?
If you’re filling in a specific team’s application then this is a common one. At this point you might be tempted to put, “I’m desperate, I’ve tried everyone else and you’re my last hope.” Don’t! Go and check out their forum thread, see if they’ve got a website. Learn a bit about the club you’re applying for. Let them know if you’re looking for a stable club that’s been around for a while or if you like the description of how they play football and feel that you would slot in well. Most clubs will give you brownie points for doing your research.
Tell us a bit more about yourself:
Generally this is the bit where you can differentiate yourself from all of the other free agents out there and put your Pro Clubs CV to the top of the pile. Talk about your playing style and what you can bring to the team. Don’t be afraid of putting your weaknesses down on your application. Obviously don’t put “I’m really ball greedy and never track back” or “I could hit a barn door with a banjo” but things like “As a defensive player skill moves aren’t my forte so I like to keep it simple” or “I don’t play well as a small player so don’t expect me to bomb down the wings whipping crosses in” will be welcomed by any manager. It will mean you’re not asked to do a job that you’re not comfortable with and will set levels of expectation that will benefit you if you get a trial. Also, tell them a bit about the real you (as long as you feel comfortable). Managers know that they’re bringing in real people and it will be a lot more attractive bringing in someone that they feel they can relate to. Inject a bit of humour maybe – let them know that you’re a fun guy (or gal) and will be up for some banter.
Once you’ve posted your application it’s time to sit back and see what offers you get. The chances are that you’ll get a few. Some might be offering you the position you want and some might be asking you to fill in somewhere else. You’re going to have to take a look at the clubs, their record, how long they’ve been going, do they have a high player turnover or do they have a real stable squad etc… This for me was the most difficult bit and the bit where my free agent inexperience really shone through. I wished there had been some kind of Pro Clubs Recruitment Etiquette that everyone was aware of. That would have made it a lot easier. I knew that clubs wanted to trial me but at the same time, I wanted to trial a few clubs. I’m no club hopper and I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision in joining a club so that I’d be happy playing there for the long term. The players might be a nice bunch but if they play a long ball style of football, no matter how effective it might be I can’t see me enjoying playing that way. The problem I had was how to trial a few clubs without burning any bridges, after all the club I trialed for first might end up being the one I liked the best.
Once you’ve gone through your offers and decided which teams you want to have a go with it’s time to arrange the trials. Most teams will give you a couple of nights to see if you’re any good and if you’ll fit in well with the rest of the players however you might find that some teams don’t want to take any chances and will trial you in practice games. Either way you’ve got to impress. It’s a nervy affair and you’ll find that you’re conscious that you’ve not got long to impress and this might lead you to play differently to how you’d normally play. Make sure you don’t get drawn in to show off mode. No-one’s going to like it if you hog the ball especially if you lose it doing something silly. The best thing to do is keep it simple, make sure you don’t give away possession and work hard to support your team mates. If the opportunity arises for that bit of flair or skill then take it but not at the cost of being a team player.
Again, a Pro Clubs Recruitment Etiquette would have come in handy here too. I know all teams are different but some kind of unwritten rule for trialing for different clubs and knowing when your trial period’s up and if you’ve got a firm offer on the table would have been useful. It’s all too easy to burn bridges during this period so I found it’s best to be open and honest with all involved and hopefully you’ll end up with your desired club.
Finally, Picking Your Club
After all the rigmarole that’s gone on before hopefully you’ve finally settled on a new home. You’ve found a new club that suits your style of play, your playing times and most importantly you’ve found a group of people that you get along with and that you’ll enjoy playing clubs with.
Pro Clubs Recruitment Etiquette
I think that my main point of this post is that being a free agent is hard work! If you’re a manager go easy on them. I’ve mentioned a couple of times about a Pro Clubs Recruitment Etiquette and I do think that something like this would have helped me along my way. If you manage or play for a club and have been through this process yourself I’d really welcome your thoughts. Do you think it would help to take a lot of the uncertainty out of the process and what do you think should be included?
Craig (COLE UK)