‘Up the Football League we go’: our Football Manager story

‘Up the Football League we go’: our Football Manager story

It’s here. No, not the bad weather – Football Manager 2023! The Beta may have dropped on 20th October, but the full game is out now. As experienced players of FM (as it’s affectionately known), we thought we’d give you a little insight into how our first save is going, along with a few of our thoughts on the latest installment in the long-running series.

First things first, let us introduce ourselves…

Name: Theo Nearpost
Age: 31
Coaching Badges: Continental A License
Past Experience: Theo was a highly-rated player; racking up 100+ EFL appearances and just shy of 50 games in the Premier League. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by injury, so his coaching journey began when he was still in his mid to late 20s.

In this save, we’re going to attempt to work our way through the EFL, starting in League Two and hopefully ending up in the Premier League. We’re going to try to make sensible, realistic decisions, so it’s unlikely that we’ll stay at one club throughout the save. Of course, we could get sacked multiple times and never make it out of League Two, but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

We wanted to start our journey at a club with a reputation for developing young players, who also appointed a new manager in the summer (after all, it would be wrong of us to waltz into Simon Weaver’s office at Harrogate or rob Dave Challinor of the chance to manage Stockport in the EFL!) As southern lads, AFC Wimbledon ticked all of the boxes. Sorry Johnnie Jackson – you interviewed well, just not quite as well as Theo Nearpost!

Here’s how we fared in our first few months in charge:

July/August

After a successful pre-season, our first competitive game in charge of AFC Wimbledon was a 4-1 win over Gillingham. The long-suffering Plough Lane faithful enjoyed their first league win since 23rd November 2021 and what a win it was. ‘Nearpost ball’ was in full swing, with our wing-backs bombing on, our two No.10’s causing havoc and our pressing forward being a right handful. Get the champagne on ice, plan the open top bus parade and start scouting players for League One because we are going up! If we thought that this win was a sign of things to come; however, then we were in a very rude awakening.

A 3-1 defeat to Hartlepool followed and we conceded twice in a draw against Doncaster and three times in a bonkers draw at home to Barrow before the month was out. Nevertheless, an impressive away win at Mansfield and Carabao Cup triumphs against Reading and Ipswich meant that it was a positive first month in charge. Regarding our first impressions of the game itself – it does feel very similar to last year’s edition; however, the match engine is certainly more chaotic and therefore, in our opinion, more realistic.

September

Having conceded 11 goals in five league games, we decided that it was time to try and sure things up a bit. We dropped our central midfielders deeper; positioning them just in front of our back three. This made us harder to break down but, all of sudden, the goals dried up. 1-0 defeats to Stockport and Leyton Orient were followed by a 0-0 draw with Northampton and a 1-1 draw with Carlisle. Heading into our game against lowly Bradford, we found ourselves 18th with questions starting to be asked. It was time to make another tweak. Our wing-backs, Jack Currie and Isaac Ogundere, were changed onto the attack duty. We beat Bradford 3-1 at Valley Parade. Mark Hughes was sacked with the Bantams in the relegation zone, but we were about to turn the proverbial corner.

October

Every now and again in Football Manager, you have a month where (almost) everything goes right. October was one of these months. The tactical tweaks of the previous month and a few more minutes for giant striker Kyle Hudlin led to a serious upturn in form. We were unbeaten throughout the month; winning four of our six league games and only conceding one goal. We also qualified for the knockout stages of the Pizza Trophy, with plenty of minutes being given to the likes of Luke Jenkins, Dylan Adjei-Hersey, Alfie Bendle and Kwaku Frimpong. When it comes to integrating young players into your squad and working out where they might fit into your team, the new squad planner feature is very useful (and it also saves a lot of paper!)

November

Was November as good as October? Of course it wasn’t – but there were still plenty of positives. We began the month by losing 3-2 to Portsmouth in the FA Cup and 1-0 to a full-strength Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup. If you dig a little bit deeper, we played our second-string against Pompey and we edged the game against Bournemouth; hitting the woodwork on a couple of occasions, so it wasn’t all bad. There was also an important away win against Tranmere and we progressed to the Third Round of the Papa John’s Trophy after beating Cambridge United on penalties.

December

December was a trying month – largely due to injuries, illness and suspensions. Ryley Towler, Paris Maghoma, Alex Woodyard, George Marsh and Courtney Senior all spent time in the treatment room, while Ethan Chislett missed a couple of weeks with the flu. Harry Pell also picked up his second red card of the season; ruling him out for four games over the busy festive period. Our run in the Pizza Cup came to an end when we lost on penalties to Chelsea’s U21s. Nevertheless, we won four of our five league games; finishing the year in 2nd position.

Part Two of ‘Up the Football League we go’ will be released next week.

(Photo Creds – Charlie David)

(Photo Creds – Sports Interactive/Football Manager 2023)