UK Counter-Strike feels like it’s at a vital moment in its history. There are cash cups, an increasing number of competitive teams, and an expanding number of players giving incredible performances every other day. Despite all of these positives, the one weakness that always comes back is the lack of consistency the scene has, a weakness that has struck again after Temperate has announced the departure of their roster. So, we here at UKCSGO reached out to some of the best and brightest that the scene has to offer, to see what they had to say about the state of the scene and how it can improve. Due to the number of responses I got, this article will be split into two parts.
For the first part, the experts are:
Allan “Allan” Hender – Ex-Endpoint Coach and Caster
William “mezii” Merriman – Player for Fnatic
Michael “YouM3” Cassidy – CSGO commentator and analyst
Gustavo “Juve” Alexandre – Coach of ITB
Luke “EMPEROR” Ingram – Coach
Glaze – Content creator
Alastair “McNoob” Whitham – Owner of Feenix
Travis “TravCS” Landaw Mott – Caster
By the end of 2022 which UK/IE team will be the highest on the HLTV ratings?
Glaze / EMPEROR / Juve – Into The Breach
McNoob – Fambit. Into The Breach are the other obvious choice but I feel there are some divisions in the roster that are ready to implode. The obstacle holding FAMBIT back is the lack of organisation. I know first-hand that going to iseries was a stretch to resources. Endpoint do not seem overly motivated to keep that UK #1 spot but they cannot be counted out, especially with the deep investment from CeX, they have a vested interest to keep Endpoint in the UK’s eye. However, this is likely what UKIC is for, and also in future to promote CeX’s gaming rooms or whatever they are planning. These aren’t traditional CeX shops but much more gaming-focused. At the time I learned it was similar to a Belong type model, however, this can all have changed.
TravCS – I have to go for the obvious one and pick Into The Breach. It was brutal for them in their debut in the reformatted ESL Challenger League S40 – 2 BO3 losses to Entropiq and 1WIN and they were shunted into relegation where they lost in the final qualification match for ECL S41 to Sangal. Not the easiest introduction! Sure, back in Advanced now, but with Thomas AND smooya in tow I think they will bounce straight back up again and will be a totally different proposition for teams at that level. [Editor’s note: This response was given before Thomas announced his stand-in period with Into The Breach coming to an end]
Allan – Assuming they still count as British, it will be Endpoint, the only chance of a UK-based teamed surmounting Endpoint would be Fnatic making a shock move to bring in another Brit. If we are only talking UK majority lineups, I could see either Fambit (ex-Coalesce) or Into The Breach being the highest-ranked come the end of the year.
mezii – Into the Breach – I believe with their current lineup they are just a step ahead in terms of individual skill in comparison to the other UK/IE teams. Fambit have also shown some promise against some EU teams in their ESEA division / ESL Challenger league but have fallen short against Into the Breach on a few occasions. They’re definitely a team to keep an eye on as they are not far off ITB.
Youm3 – Endpoint
What will it take to see a UK player lift a Major trophy?
McNoob – A lot. The UK has major infrastructure problems that harms a lot of development at the first hurdle. Companies aren’t as willing in the UK to help sponsor in the same many as other Western European teams. Visas are a huge problem for teams that do have resources which the UKETC was supposed to resolve, but much like all British Esports related, who knows what’s happening. With some decent long-term investment that will prosper some development and more UK players will be brought into the spotlight.
TravCS – We need to see an individual stand out enough for bigger teams to sit up and take notice. One guy doing just that right now is mezii. Sure, he’s a part of one of the most well-known organisations of all time, but the Fnatic roster is in considerable turmoil and has been without a stable five for a long while now. His performances over this period have been consistently impressive against tier 2 and tier 1 opposition. It will take either Fnatic to get their act together and find a roster worthy of ALEX’s leadership and mezii’s quality, or mezii himself to take a step into an international roster (an OG or G2, for example) and take them to the next level. I believe he has the ability to do that.
Allan – By a long shot, mezii is the best player the UK has ever produced. He has the entire package of skill, communication, intuition, and intelligence, whilst being a gem to work with outside of the server. Whether he sticks with Fnatic or moves onto a new squad, I hope he holds out for the top-level offer he deserves. On the right team, mezii could win a Major tomorrow. More realistically though, give him a year in a top 10 team, competing consistently on LAN and I’m absolutely certain he’ll grow into a player with the experience and knowledge to win a Major whilst being one of the best players in the world.
Juve – As a full UK team, I don’t think that’s possible right now, but I would say there are two players that fit well on a team that could do it.
mezii – I’m not entirely sure, that’s a tough question. I’ll have to get back to you on that WHEN I qualify for one and win it ;).
Youm3 – A whole lot of prayer and time! A UK player lifting the Major trophy still feels at least 2-3 years away, there are just simply too few candidates to compete for that particular stage right now. Best-case for a UK major winner is for one of the UK’s finest to land in an international roster, but given no Major in CSGO history has ever been won by an international roster… this might be a problem.
Who is the up-and-coming talent to keep an eye out for?
McNoob – Cypher (ITB) – A young talent still that can be overshadowed by the personalities on his team, however, he remains very consistent, and keeps his cool at LAN which is a skill that cannot be taught. JamieG (EKO) – I used to have him under the Feenix org so take this with some bias, an absolutely insane AWPing talent, with some development and a team that matches his star player potential to work around him, the end result could be quite spectacular. AZUWU (rT? I can’t remember off the top of my head) – A young player at 18, a name I hadn’t seen or heard much from, and suddenly burst onto everyone’s radar at i68 playing incredibly well at a LAN. Also backed that up at the Beyond Invitational, if that trajectory keeps going, we are going to see a new star name in a year or two.
Glaze – If we are talking UK CS, I would say Tadpole but internationally I would say biguzera
TravCS – The ex Coalesce boys – FAMBIT. These guys play very solid CS and deserve an organisation to back them to continue their improvement. In Advanced playoffs last season they won a BO3 against forZe, beating a roster helmed by Jerry is no mean feat! They were also, like ITB, only 1 BO3 away from qualifying for ECL, but fell to SINNERS. Give the boys some backing!
EMPEROR – JamieG or Gizmy
Allan – Cypher is a great player to watch out for, the few times we as Endpoint have played Into The Breach I’ve always felt he plays solid and smart CS, which is not always the case in our local scene. I hope for his sake a good international team thinks about him as a player, I do not see him having the opportunity to grow much more on his current squad of ITB.
Juve – I do think when he ends college and focus 100% on CS only he will become one of the greatest players in the UK scene, his rating on HLTV means nothing at all. (Dobbo). Out of the scene, there’s a guy that is putting up good numbers and even though he plays mostly in the American scene, he has done well also against some good ranked teams. (dgt from 9z )
mezii – I would say the up-and-coming talent to keep an eye out for would be CYPHER from Into the Breach. I think he has shown some exceptional performances in that team against some solid EU opposition also. He has the individual skill and the right attitude to go far, he isn’t afraid to ask questions and is always looking to improve so he is for sure someone to look out for.
Youm3 – JamieG – Not sure he still qualifies as ‘up-and-coming’ but I’ve loved watching him come up with this EKO squad. Really solid AWPer and capable of taking over a game. If we’re going greener, I’ve more recently been keeping my eye on AZUWU – after a great showing at i68. Guy’s got snappy aim and seems to read rounds well, but I want a deeper sample size of high-stakes games with a team he’s familiar with. Whether it’s the ESL Premiership or for 1-slot qualifying positions from the region, pressure games are where I’m keen to see development. As far as I can tell he has just over a year of league experience, so there’s certainly room and time to grow.
What’s the next thing you want to see developed in the UK scene?
McNoob – More leagues and LAN events (that aren’t org owned), the eyes we can attract, especially in-person events, more sponsors will be attracted and more investment should follow.
Glaze – I want there to be a more developed and set in stone system that players can work through within the UK in order to because a PRO Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player. This could be through communities or even more frequent LAN events.
TravCS – In the way FACEIT have hired smart CS minds to be their FPL “player mentor” for specific regions, I’d love to see one of these for the UK scene. A name like MiGHTYMAX or Allan Hender from Endpoint’s ranks comes to mind. This could be a great opportunity for the younger UK players looking to make an impact to learn and perhaps one day reach their dreams of playing in front of big crowds like smooya and ALEX have.
EMPEROR – An influx of organisations prepared to invest and enable players to chase the dream, not complain about lack of return within months or chasing a quick cheque.
Allan – Everything outside of just playing. Coaching, structured practice, organisational support, sports psychology, etc. In regular sports, the UK has some of, if not the best support and systems around professional players to help them improve, all the way from the young ones in the academy squads right up to the elite level athletes. By its nature, esports does not tend to produce well-rounded players outside of the server and it seems a waste for the UK to have all this expertise in traditional sports and not be able to translate much of it over to our digital world.
Juve – I’m a new guy on the scene so I can’t tell much, but from the experience so far I would say that tournaments could be way more organized (communication between teams and admins, ways to rule a tournament, can’t keep changing to help some only, try to get the most possible events on HLTV so UK teams could get few points more ).
mezii – I feel it would be great to have more of these domestic cups such as the recent Beyond Invitational run by the UK hub, I think. Having tournaments like this available for all the competitive teams within the scene and also on HLTV is perfect for everyone in the UK to really show what they can do and give that extra motivation to the players/teams to play for something consistently throughout the year as this can give at least a foundation and reason for these teams to stick together and make it further in these competitions to see where it takes them.
Youm3 – I’d love to see more TOs reach out with qualifying positions into their respective circuits for UK teams.
What’s the biggest thing holding the scene back?
McNoob – Infrastructure and lack of Investment. The vast majority of players and organisations just can’t afford to play close to full-time, which is required nowadays in such a competitive environment. Iseries is a good example of why events are so expensive — five players need to buy tickets, travel, accommodation, food, etc. Even if the oranisation took 100% of the prize money (which is ridiculous) the organisation would still make a massive loss. Sponsors do need to step up but they won’t get much in terms of return on investment, so it isn’t that simple.
Glaze – Well, from my experience within the UKCS scene, egos are the biggest issue when it comes to building teams and also progressing through improving together and sticking with it. A majority of UKCS players aren’t good at taking criticism and learning from their mistakes. Within a team environment where you need every member to be working together, this creates friction that results in slow progression or none at all. We have the players to get to the top; it’s just putting those pieces together in order to achieve it.
TravCS – Lack of opportunity. The only chances teams like ITB and FAMBIT have to play officials against opposition that would help them improve is an occasional BO1 in ESEA Advanced or Pinnacle Cup invites. Swiss stage chances in those events are all fine and dandy, but they can’t just be now and again – it has to be consistent.
EMPEROR – Lack of infrastructure from top to bottom, from government support & financial incentive to the cultural taboo that gaming still holds.
Allan – Lack of leadership on and off the server. Simple as that. Outside of Endpoint, I don’t see many strong leadership figures and the progression of countless players have and will suffer as a result. Counter-Strike hinges immensely on teamplay and structure, individual skill alone will not get any team very far. Without a healthy team environment to enable the difficult conversations and allow individuals to criticise each other’s play in the correct manner, improving becomes impossible, frustrations build up and teams ultimately fall apart. Leaders are the people which set up these systems and you have to screw it up plenty of times to find a formula that works. In a good way, we need more leaders who have been through the ringer and learnt from their mistakes.
mezii – I would say there are a couple of reasons as to why the UK scene isn’t competitive in the overall CS scene. I think not having a great foundation of domestic, well-run tournaments consistently that are on HLTV is not great as it may impact the motivation or drive for some of the lower teams in the scene who cannot get into all the EU HLTV cups. However, I think the biggest thing that is holding the scene back which can be related to my point above is the determination and drive of players within the scene. We would all want a thriving scene of these tournaments and well-run LAN events and this would help the motivation issue of players, however, this has always been a problem and it comes down to the players themselves to really know if they want to take the next step or not. There are always rough times for players and dips in motivation but its important for all these players to know if they work hard enough, in the right areas, and really put the time in even when its not going well, they can go far. This is something I personally feel a lot of UK players lack as they maybe just want to play for fun or they have to work so they don’t have the time but if you are a player who is focusing solely on CS then do it properly and really focus on the details and don’t slow down.
Youm3 – Leaders. The UK has always had players that have the mechanical ability but we have very few that have the respect and experience necessary to push their rosters forward. I think we’ve seen with our current pairing of MiGHTYMAX and Adam9130, that those with a history of calling as well as a deep résumé have the ability to not only create well-rounded rosters but also facilitate the growth of prospective talents. Now, this might just be my backward way of fixing the issue of player mentality… However, I believe that given the right leadership and guidance most talent can find its way into the right mindset.
When will we see Endpoint unseated as the ESL Premiership champions? Who will take the throne?
McNoob – With owning the UKIC, and the CeX investment, Endpoint have such a large advantage over the competition it would take a raw talent who cannot be bought, plus some unfortunate circumstances from Endpoint to be unseated. ITB defeated Endpoint in the FantasyExpo EU Quals, it is because they used Shalffey as a stand-in (a tier 1 caliber player who can 1v5 some tier 2 teams) and Endpoint used an academy player as a stand-in. The other aspect is that ESL have been bending rules slightly more and more, maybe Endpoint just decide not to compete anymore, or sit out a year. 10 champs sounds nice but it is also better for the org to say “we will sit out and let someone else win” rather than have a fluke and lose. The last time Endpoint lost was when they had CeX and Vexxed all running organisations and teams with a similar caliber of players with similar investments, if not more. After some time, the scales have tipped out of everyone else’s favour. And it is simply a fact that not many other organisations are able to buy the same level of players, have a dedicated facility to train those players, and create an ecosystem in the same way as Endpoint currently can.
Glaze – ITB
TravCS – When Fnatic picks up a third UK player solely to win Premiership! In all seriousness, of the teams currently in the league, it has to be ITB – if they are allowed to play with Thomas and not have Endpoint rip him away from them! 🙂 [Editor’s note: This response was given before Thomas announced his stand-in period with Into The Breach coming to an end]
EMPEROR – Teams aren’t as far behind as some think but right now no one, just not consistent enough to put up a threat across a whole season maybe the occasional BO1 but that’s it right now.
Allan – Never.
Juve – I would say the only team that could manage to do that is us ( ITB ), probably in the next one or in 2 EPS, if we do improve how we want and how we see ourselves in a few months I would say we will be able to do it.
mezii – It seems to be getting closer each time. With Into the Breach bringing in Smooya and Thomas and Endpoint usually having a stand-in for ESL Premiership, I think ITB have a really good chance to take the throne in the next season but the ESL Prem legend MightyMax will not go down easily!
Youm3 – I think next season IntoTheBreach take the title. Not only because that squad has made recent roster moves, but I think Endpoint’s substitution-heavy submissions to the ESL Premiership is unsustainable against teams that are challenging for the top spot in the UK.
With that our first round of experts have given their opinion but it’s not over! We have the next group all ready and the article will be out very shortly!
Header photo credit
Editors note: All questions were answered in early may.