"If you have 65 per cent knowledge of a player, you'll be shown their stats as a spread. The more knowledge you have on a player, the shorter the stat spread will become. You cannot judge things like leadership and concentration by scouting a player once, but if you have a scouting network you'll gain more knowledge on each player and more accurate stats. If you have 65 per cent knowledge of a player, you may find that their shooting stat is somewhere between 85 and 100. So if you're working on a restricted scouting budget, you may have to gamble on players and hope their stats are closer to the higher estimate."
The revamped scouting network could also help complement Championship Manager 2009's new real-time training options, which allow you to invite trialists to your club and set up any number of practice matches to determine their suitability to your team and their best position. You'll even be able to train players to learn the necessary skills to adeptly play in new positions and drill your squad in custom-made set pieces.
"You can set up a free-kick in five phases, with each phase ending when the ball has been played once," Meredith reveals. "You can set up as much as you like during each phase, such as having all your outfield players making a run. There are also a number of readymade free-kicks you can use. The more you practice set plays the better your attack will be at executing them, but your defence will also learn how to defend against them." But your squad members won't be the only ones able to learn how to defend against certain set pieces, as Meredith promises that rival teams will begin learning how to counter set plays if you overuse them.
Another new reveal is CM09's new match-day experience. While stadiums will feature static crowds, attendance levels will vary vastly, as will the amount and type of noise generated by the baying (or prawn-sandwich munching) crowd. "Crowd noise is based on attendance, opposition strength and the amount of home and away fans at the game," explains Meredith. "We're planning to give out chant packs for specific clubs that people will be able to download after release. You'll also be able to link in your MP3 player so that teams can run out to the music track of your choice. We want each match to be an event within itself, so a mid-season match between two mid-table teams will feel and sound very different to a key Champions League game."
Pitches and stadium shadows are also set to vary greatly, with lower league sides' grounds formed of a few meagre PE benches, while international arenas will cast an ominous oval shadow across the pitch. Varied weather effects are also debuting with ball movement slowed and bounces dulled by torrential downpours, while the opposite will be true during heat waves. And with pitches degenerating throughout the course of the season, it's clear that this is one part of the game that the developer has been lavishing with attention.
With so many innovations and new features, Championship Manager 2009 is beginning to look like a completely different prospect to its hit-and-miss predecessor. The ideas and determination to take the series to the next level are clearly evident, and if Beautiful Game Studios can deliver on the game's ample promise then perhaps Football Manager will finally have a major rival for its football management crown.
Championship Manager 2009 is due out for PC on 24th April.