This week for Switch the Pitch, I chatted with Indy Eleven supporter Brian Cook about what’s been going on in Indy since the two sides last faced each other and his role in the Football Manager community. Brian’s recovering from some recent surgery, so I’m really grateful he took the time to do this – give him a follow on Twitter!

Q: Tampa Bay & Indy are a couple of clubs that go back to the NASL days but haven’t played each other since 2019 – what’s been going on with Indy the last few years?

A: Growing pains – to put it simply. Many saw the move to USL, Lucas Oil Stadium, and bringing in a coach like Martin Rennie as positive steps. Future building steps. Which realistically isn’t something you see from lower division teams. The first season was very – new. Obviously the move to Lucas Oil stadium was left with a lot of question marks. The will they won’t they in regards to the infamous football lines became the twitter banter for many. 

For me what I’ve seen over the last few years since the NASL days has been a team fighting to prove themselves and find the style of play that brought them success in 2016. That season, which gets references but some fans could do without hearing it brought up, was the highest point the team has had in its existence. On and off the field, I think Indiana’s team is trying to recapture that magic and I feel like Mark Lowry is the guy to do it.

Truly though, I know the intentions of the club are good. They have put incredibly important and vital individuals into good rules. From the gameday experience to someone like Greg Stremlaw, who has shown his wits with moves he’s been making… 2022 is hopefully the step towards Indy Eleven to a consistent thorn in the Eastern Conference’s side.

Q: Eleven have a new head coach in Mark Lowry that is also a familiar name from ye olde NASL but who are some of the players who have come in and what notable players are holdovers from previous seasons?

A: Mark is a culture guy. I think we found that Rennie was that kind of coach as well but was one sided with his skill set (roster building) and lacked the tactical knowledge. Lowry feels like a full package and has a lot of people excited despite the early season hiccup in week one against Loudoun. 

Even if  some of these returning players being on second year contracts or having their option exercised, someone like Karl Ouimette was crucial to returning to the team. 

Another player that falls on that list is Ayoze, who seems like he might follow the path of Tom Brady and never retire. These guys breathe the culture of the team and the pride the Brickyard Battalion has. They are vital to not only the on the field action but off the field when you consider Indy Eleven is surrounded by Colts, Indianapolis Indians, Pacers, and other big teams for the market. 

And obviously Neveal Hackshaw was nice. I really hope he never leaves. 

New players that I’m excited about are guys like, despite his red card, Alexander McQueen (who at 6’2 is one a few new signings that are tall and can be used for set pieces) 

2018 was a fascinating year because we witnessed almost a brand new team. The roster was heavily stripped, losing a lot of the key pieces from the NASL, and we got to see a team try to build around set pieces which wasn’t really something I felt we saw a lot in lower division soccer. 

I could honest go one with the list of new and returning players for a while but most if not all signings have some level intrigue of how they will be used this season

Q: Indy has bounced around the last few years from the Mike to Lucas Oil Stadium and now back to the Mike, what’s the latest on their plans to build a stadium of their own?

A: Truly, your guess is as good as mine. The latest I can gather is that a company recently built a “Top Golf” like structure near the White River, which may or may not have been on a list of possible sites.. Which the list itself also may or may not exist. 

The location is being dubbed by the local media as “Indy’s fourth stadium” and unless they rip up the fareways for a pitch, unfortunately the vision of where Eleven Park will end up has gotten less and less clear.

Q:. Lastly, I reached out to you for this after seeing you tweet about Indy’s prospects this season as well as your Football Manager tweets. What’s your background with that game, how involved are you with that community, and do you have any advice for people trying it for the first time? I try to get into it every year but always end up feeling overwhelmed and deciding to come back to it later.

A: My oldest brother is to blame for my addiction. He had come home for a holiday in 2012 or 2011 and I was glued. I wasn’t truly into soccer at that point, but being the youngest of my family many people will understand wanting to mimic anything your older siblings do… that’s legal of course.

He brought his laptop on a car trip to my Grandpa’s house or another family member’s house and we spent the entire trip cheering on the little dots as they scored. It was… amazing. It’s weird that a game like that can capture your brain but after that standpoint I was hooked. 

I would say I got involved in the community once I found a few Youtubers making videos. It was one of those “Well I don’t want to play but I can enjoy watching someone play.” Eventually I found a guy named Doctor Benjy, who had just launched his new series on Youtube with Salford who had just been bought, in real life, but the “Class of 92” from Manchester United. 

From there I found Ben on Twitch, I connected with him, he connected me with fellow Americans and Canadians and I was firmly planted into the community. 

Over the past few years I’ve made incredible connections within the company that makes the game, Sports Interactive. Both the staff with Indy Eleven and Sports Interactive have been superbly kind to me welcoming this guy that tweets a lot of screenshots or silly videos from my car. Hearing from someone like Communication staff  people with Indy in an email or getting a reply from the head of SI’s studio… it’s just something that makes me smile each time and I’m thankful to feel like I’ve earned people’s respect.

If I had to give someone new to the game advice, here it is.

  1. Start your first save with a “big” team or your favorite team. Pick a team you have knowledge of or in case of a big team, once that it’s truly hard to screw up.
  2. Don’t be afraid to research aspect of the game. YouTube and Twitch are massive resources and just watching someone else find success can teach you how to find success in your own game.
  3. GET INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY – Twitter can be a cesspool at times but many creators will do threads from time to time sharing their saves and you can find great tips.
  4. Finally, if you start playing, and don’t enjoy it, don’t force yourself to play it. Football Manager is a casual game you can play watching TV, but when things go wrong you can lose your energy for the game and rage quit it. If you find yourself getting frustrated enough you don’t want to research things – step away, take a break, and when you are ready the game will be there.

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