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Football Manager 2023. Open.
Here we go again.
It doesn’t matter how many times I think “well, that’s me and FM done” I find myself here one more time.
Years ago, it used to be ‘just one more game’. Now, in my 40s, it’s more a case of ‘just one more edition’.
I came back to Football Manager back in FM14 (I think) following the moderate success of “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” and a need to flog as many books as possible to what I thought might be a target audience.
The risk was, of course, firing up the old addiction – and I managed to offset that for at least five years by filing anything FM under “work” as I managed to convince myself I was getting paid to play it. Which I kinda was, and I kinda still am I guess.
Championship Manager writing led to FM writing led to ‘real’ football writing led to a media company led to a football scouting and analysis consultancy and a decent life – I have a lot to be grateful for with this game, so a bit like the old boss who you’ve moved on from but always grab a coffee with when they are in town when a new one comes out I have to see what the latest is.
Recent years have seen me lose interest a lot faster than ever before – not so much due to the game but a lack of creative ideas from me, less time to play and less time to write about it. And, if I am not writing about FM then I am very much back into the addictive game-playing days and I’d rather not be him again.
So my deal with the FM devil is that if it is sucking me back in for however long, I have to write about it – and fortunately, the recent partnership with Fanatical has oiled the wheels for that to happen even if the rest of the writers have taken the load so far.
So what is this post actually about? I am not too sure – it was more of a case of starting to write and seeing where it might take me.
So far on FM23, I’ve managed to do a couple of seasons before I got hit by a BETA bug.
I headed off to China as I’ve never really done too much there before – I took over at Zibu in the second tier, a club that I came to realise were in administration and under a transfer ban. Nice and challenging then.
I used FM Kit Creator to design a new kit for them, a cracking tool which I recommend to everyone.
Needing tactical inspiration, I hit some of the forums to see if I could find a bit of a base to start from and stumbled across this excellent thread.
I opted for a bit of Pulisball – and the tactic reminded me a lot of Wimbledon and Watford in the 80s, John Beck’s Cambridge in the late 80s/early 90s all the way through to Simeone and Dyche in the more modern game.
Predicted to finish 17th out of 18, we battered our way up to 4th and missed out on promotion by three points – a decent first effort.
Shenzen of the CSL came knocking and with a hell of a lot of frustration at the new board not letting me do anything, I took the leap to the top flight – and regretted it within five games. A higher division did not give me a better board and I wasn’t getting a good feeling from them or the players, so I quit – and waited to see what I might get offered with that big black mark on my CV.
Sichuan offered me a chance of redemption – in the bottom three when I dropped back into the second tier, we finished 8th and had a very strong finish to this season. A good transfer window and I was looking forward to a promotion push.
And then the bug hit – having cleared all the player squad numbers as I wanted to reallocate when all the transfers were complete I learned that I could not reassign numbers to shirts previously taken by players still in the squad. Come the first league game of the season, 17 players in the squad couldn’t take a number so it was not possible to progress the game further.
So, what next?
My thoughts for the “main save” for FM23 had been around an African journeyman save – though my love of Japan and FM means that I might well start there before heading to Africa with the aim of winning some titles in various countries before taking over one or more nations and having various cracks at international glory.
But I cannot do that until (a) the full game is released and (b) some excellent people release the databases for those regions (looking at you XYZ).
In the meantime, I need something to occupy myself and give me time to get my head around the new scouting set-up, how I can do training better and dabble with a few other tactical approaches other than just smashing the ball forward and hoping for the best.
So without wishing to turn this into another “best BETA saves for FM23” as that’s been covered here far better than I will do, here are some of the options I have scribbled down.
Go back to China and do it again
I mean, I did really enjoy it so I could just go back unemployed and holiday for ages and pick up a gig or start again with Zibo and see what happens this time.
Hit up the fallen giants
There are so many clubs in out-of-the-box FM leagues that I could try and rebuild quickly – and by fallen giant, I mean clubs that won titles/cups in years gone by but haven’t done so in recent memory. The further back the better, really.
Here’s some options…
Belgium: FRC Liege
Denmark: Boldklubben Frem
Czech Republic: Dukla Prague
Northern Ireland: Ards
Uruguay: Central Espanol, Rampla Juniors
Oh my, Liege hitting me straight where I like to be hit – titles aplenty, but nothing regular since the 50s (before that the 1890s, *swoon*) before a mini-revival leading to the Cup in 1990. Amazeballs.
The semi-pro status isn’t great for me though, as I want to experiment a bit with training – but I like the media prediction of 4th.
We move into cup winners with history when we look at Sedan in France – twice in five years back in the mid-50s and early 60s. Nothing since, other than a 3rd place finish in Ligue 1 in 1970, closing that cycle that started nicely with the 1955 promotion. Fully pro, expected to finish 14th.
Ferro won the title a couple of times in the 80s, and I have to say this doesn’t get the juices flowing as much as others so far.
Well, Dukla history is massively incorrect here – they were a big club who disbanded and then got back together again. I won’t bore you with the history. But the fact we cannot see their history almost rules them out instantly.
OK, not entirely sure how Padova got on the list – too big for Serie C though, and did Del Piero start there, maybe?
This could be interesting – won it once in the 50s, won the Cup a few times – I’ve never tried Northern Ireland, semi-pro and expected to finish 5th. The drawback is that even in the top division, not everyone is pro – so what is the actual ceiling? And does that even matter if this is only for a few weeks?
I thought Moss had done more than that – now in the Norwegian third flight, not massively exciting it has to be said.
These guys could interest me, but Portugal strikes me as a place where loads of USA investor types would be sniffing to buy a club like this. Not for me, thank you.
Central Espanol are predicted 1st place, so that makes me less keen – but Rampla Juniors would certainly make my shortlist.
Speaking of which, I need to decide between;
- RFC Liege
- BK Frem
- Rampla Juniors
Looking at the narratives – Liege. So much history. The 4th club in Belgium to be formed, the first-ever champions. The club philosophy is around local young players (probably why they are where they are!) and are also known for being the club Bosman was trying to get away from in a moment that changed the face of football forever.
Frem went bust in 1993, apparently – and before then had played all but six of their 100 years or so in the top flight. They’ve not been back there since – that could work in my head, but is it better than Liege?
Ards are calling me and I don’t even really know why – maybe it is because they did actually play in the old European Cup and I don’t think either of the other two did because it didn’t exist in their prime. Plus, George Best and all that. Not that he played for them, just the Northern Ireland link. A surprising lack of well-known NI internationals have played for the club.
And finally, Rampla – known as the Flintstones because locals helped build their stadium and it looks like a quarry. You might raise an eyebrow, but it’s things like that (and the Bosman thing) that get me engaged in a club. I also love the fact that on Wikipedia, they still list the 1927 title-winning line-up. That’s true history.
It’s down to the final three – Rampla, Ards and Liege. Ards have a late push as they have a brilliant history page on their site and I learned that George Eastham is massively linked to the club and I don’t know why, but that struck a cord with me.
It really is a difficult choice, so I need to go away and mull it over – but it will be one of these three clubs as opposed to a return to China at this stage.
In the meantime, I’ve scribbled down some other ideas – that could be BETA or could be full saves for people.
Other FM23 saves
Smallest club in a league
Not many really jump out to me in this domain, but Wellington Phoenix has an interesting narrative being the only New Zealand side in the Australian A-League and having never won it.
You know the thing – winning matters less than creating some amazing youth talent that go on and do better things, before the club becomes big enough to keep them and win stuff themselves. Here, I’m looking at Rudes in Croatia and Altinordu in Turkey. Both have that reputation of being that kind of club.
The B team boys
With the likes of Pep, Zidane, loads in Germany and then more recently Xabi Alonso (though he had to go to Germany to get the next step) being manager of the B team then getting the first team gig, it would be fun to try and do that. I tried it before years ago and didn’t achieve it – Bilbao was the club of choice. I’d need to research what B teams can be managed out of the box, but I think Dortmund, Porto, Sporting and there must be several in Spain that it is possible with. It would mean it is possible to focus on training and tactics, not needing to worry about transfers and stuff.
What about replicating Graham Potter’s career? I could start in the 4th division of Sweden – some like Sandvikens for example (they’ve even won the top flight before, why didn’t I put them on the fallen giant list?!) and get them into the Europa League faster than Potter did before moving to England in the Championship and getting a move to the Premier League. From there, can I get an elite job faster than him? Similar to my Beating Brian save of FM15 (I think) – was that really seven years ago?!
Anyway, just some ideas and some ramblings. I’m off to choose my destination – Northern Ireland, Uruguay or Belgium for the next few weeks…?