What is Football Manager?
Football Manager is similar to a Paradox game in many ways. Imagine Crusader Kings 2 as a sports simulation.
That's what it's like. What is it?
Football Manager by Sports Interactive is perhaps the most addictive set of spreadsheets in the history of computing. It's also referring to soccer, not American football. As much fun as forcing my players to go back into the fray with a concussion would be, that game doesn't exist yet.
Unlike most sports games, where you take control of either a complete team or an individual player and most of the action occurs in a slickly produced game engine, Football Manager leaves you standing on the sideline shouting at the PS1 quality polygons representing your players to switch tactics while they run around bulging the auld onion bag.
Your job is to run the team. That means scouting players, negotiating contracts with them, negotiating transfers for players you want if they're already under contract with another team, designing your teams tactics and setting training schedules, hiring coaching staff, trainers, and scouts, and giving press conferences where you intimate to the press that you think your upcoming opponents have a better chance of being struck by lightning than beating you.
Most importantly, you don't need to know that much about soccer to start playing, beyond a basic knowledge of how soccer positions work.
What's a Lower League Manager?
Lower League Manager is a way of playing Football Manager where you don't start off as one of the worldbeating megabastard clubs such as Barcelona or Manchester United. You don't even start off in the top division. Or the second division. Instead, you take some team languishing in the bottom rungs of professional soccer, and raise them through the ranks and to glory. In my FM 2013 game I took bottom rung strivers FC Halifax from what was then the Blue Square Bet North league all the way to Premier League glory, two FA Cups, and a Champion's League title. This game will be doing likewise for a very special club.
None of that last paragraph made sense to me except the term megabastard.
Unlike pro sports in America, membership of the top leagues in Europe change each year by a process called relegation. For example, in the English Premier League the bottom 3 of the 20 team league are kicked out of and forced to play the next season in the Championship (yeah, the English have kind of weird naming conventions for their league. League Two, for example, is actually the 4th division in English Soccer, behind the Premier League, the Championship, and League One). Meanwhile, three teams from the Championship are promoted to the Premier League and the riches it entails. We'll be starting two levels below League Two, in a regional Football Conference league currently sponsored by Skrill, an e-payment company.
On top of playing in a league, there's also Cups to fight for. The most prestigious of these is the FA Cup, where some 758+ teams from Chelsea, Arsenal, and Man U to local pub squads compete for the trophy and a spot in one of the two yearly continental competitions. The League Cup is contested by the 96 teams in the top four divisions, the Football League, and also carries qualification for Europe. We won't have to worry about the League Cup for a while.
Finally, if a team finishes well in the top national league, they play next season in either the Europa League or the Champions League. The Champion's League is the most sought after title in all of professional soccer. It's where the biggest teams and most famous players from every single country in Europe play each other for glory and enough money to satisfy Croesus. Below that is the Europa League, which is vastly less prestigious but still very much worth winning.
Our goal is to have a gigantic pile of hardware laying affront the shattered corpses of the former giants of European Football. The ideal season would be doing the triple which entails winning the English Premier League, the FA Cup, and the Champion's League all at once.
So who are we playing as?
Our squadron will be a version of the fictional Tackleford City Football Club from John Allison's excellent webcomic Bad Machinery. As anyone who has read his work before knows, Tackleford is a mid-sized city in Yorkshire with an uncommonly high number of strange occurrences, and an off kilter selection of denizens. This isn't an attempt at fan-fiction, the only characters who appears in both the comic and this tale are extremely minor and shouldn't play much of a role in the game. I expect within a few seasons the connections will be nearly entirely eroded. I chose to create Tackleford FC because, as an American I don't have a local team I could raise to European glory. In past FM titles I've invariably played Lower League Manager because I picked up the game after originally being inspired by journalist Brian Phillips' epic Pro Vercelli LP, which I cannot recommend highly enough. But as much as I enjoyed helping out Luton Town and FC Halifax, I know much less about them than I do a team and town that was created by an English webcomics author. Plus, we'll spend fewer years struggling to rise through the ranks with a billionaire Russian oligarch showering money on the team.
Ok, how are you conjuring a team out of thin air?
Football Manager's publishers enjoy letting their players monkey with the game, and offer a free database editor with the game. Through that you can make changes to every facet of the game. Likewise, they offer a more limited ingame editor which can be used to modify the game as you play. I'll likely be tweaking things along the way to make sure I don't give Tackleford too much of an advantage. Also, considering that that's them in the picture at the top of the post being killed by a falling satellite it's not like I have to go through the laborious process of creating a new squad from whole cloth.
I jumped ahead and you're not running Tackleford. What gives?
Well, you can get fired in this game if you don't perform up to expectations. Tackleford decided my winning promotion the first year wasn't good enough after a mediocre start the next year. We're now at Wrexham, the third oldest professional soccer team in the world, and one of the very oldest Welsh teams period. That sparked a serious rivalry going with big spending Tackleford, for obvious reasons.
Is there Goon participation?
You bet your bippy there is. Wrexham is run by a fan trust. That means I have to come to you, the readers, when I want to ask for things like upgrades to our training facilities or more staff I have to request them from the board, which votes on it, and you guys set our wage budgets. I also have to negotiate my contract with you whenever it's up. Goons are also selected to be directors and elected to become president of the club, although that's honorary rather than having any real effect on gameplay. Lastly, there's a yearly prediction contest where the winner gets to impact the game world, over the years Goons have turned Scotland into a legitimate power in world soccer.
This is great, but I could use more spreadsheets.
You're in luck! I've started keeping my club management spreadsheet in a google doc. There you'll see a whole host of data about all the players and coaches at the club.
Now onwards! To victory and vengeance!
Volume One: An American Coach in Yorkshire
July 16, 2013-May 11, 2014
Chapter the First: A day that will live in infamy.
Chapter the Second: Wherein I realize that we have to play a game far sooner than I expected.
Chapter the Third: Shut up and take my money!
Chapter the Fourth: Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.
Interlude: Meet the Lads! Your 2013-2014 Tackleford City FC Facebook!
Chapter the Fifth: Undefeated!
Chapter the Sixth: Where are the superstars you promised us?
Chapter the Seventh: Trouble in paradise.
Chapter the Eighth: Slip and slide.
Interlude: Midwinter Night's Dream.
Chapter the Ninth: All day err' day.
Chapter the Tenth: The ides of March.
Chapter the Eleventh: Bring me the diamonds in the rough.
Chapter the Twelfth: Fledglings have to fly or die.
Volume Two: The Tackleford Schism
May 12, 2014-May 31, 2015
Chapter the First: The close season.
Chapter the Second: We are the Washington Generals.
Chapter the Third: Second verse, same as the first.
Chapter the Fourth: Finding new ways to fail.
Chapter the Fifth: Unemployed in Greenland.
Interlude: Wales is OK!
Chapter the Sixth: Enter the dragon.
Chapter the Seventh: Live from the Racecourse Grounds, it's the FA Cup on ITV.
Chapter the Eighth: A rough trail roughly traveled.
Chapter the Ninth: Filling holes.
Chapter the Tenth: On the fringes of contention.
Chapter the Eleventh: The thing I love about youth intake players is that I keep getting older...
Chapter the Twelfth: The final five.
Chapter the Thirteenth: The first crucible.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2014-2015
Volume Three: Consolidation
May 31, 2015-June 9, 2016
Prologue: Team makeover party!
Chapter the First: The gang goes to summer camp.
Chapter the Second: Mammalian dive reflex.
Chapter the Third: Autumnal chills.
Minilude: The 4-5-1 Counter
Chapter the Fourth: From the bottom up.
Chapter the Fifth: Hair of the dog.
Interlude: Deadweight losses.
Chapter the Sixth: New Year's resolutions.
Chapter the Seventh: Treading water.
Chapter the Eighth: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Minilude: Depth Charts and Statistics.
Chapter the Ninth: Midtable dreams.
Chapter the Tenth: No rest for the wicked.
Volume Four: Raised Expectations
June 9, 2016-May 1, 2017
Prologue: Out with the old, in with the new.
Chapter the First: I know what you did last summer.
Chapter the Second: Putting the right foot forward.
Chapter the Third: One step forward, two steps back.
Chapter the Fourth: Put up or shut up.
Chapter the Fifth: On the march to Wembley.
Chapter the Sixth: We will Bury you.
Chapter the Seventh: Post-Christmas cheer.
Chapter the Eighth: The trip to the Tyne.
Chapter the Ninth: Wembley or bust.
Chapter the Tenth: Flashing the cash.
Chapter the Eleventh: Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final Live Blog!
Chapter the Twelfth: Titletown, UK
Cyfrinachol Wrecsam: Ystadegau Tîm a Rhagolygon, yn ôl-weithredol 2016-2017
Volume Five: Double or Nothing
May 1, 2017-June 9, 2018
Prologue: Before the afterglow fades.
Chapter the First: A fullback, my kingdom for a fullback.
Chapter the Second: A brief reminder that we are still minnows.
Chapter the Third: The zebra shows his stripes.
Chapter the Fourth: Form following function.
Chapter the Fifth: Wherein I get frustrated with international call-ups.
Chapter the Sixth: A very Wrexham Christmas.
Interlude: Firing on all cylinders.
Chapter the Seventh: Swooping isn't all bad.
Chapter the Eighth: The unstoppable force.
Chapter the Ninth: Daedalus is our daddy.
Chapter the Tenth: Down to the wire.
Interlude: The Dragon's Lair Podcast
Epilogue: The price of doing business.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2017-2018
Volume Six: A Meteoric Rise
June 9, 2018-June 9, 2019
Prologue: Everyone wants our players.
Chapter the First: Testing our mettle.
Chapter the Second: Stumbling out of the gate.
Chapter the Third: Wherein I have to pull us out of a tailspin.
Chapter the Fourth: Giving as good as we get.
Chapter the Fifth: The mysterious Mateo Mujkic.
Interlude: Why do they rock so hard?
Chapter the Sixth: The other shoe refuses to drop.
Chapter the Seventh: Kicking in Opportunity's door.
Chapter the Eighth: Spring Breakers, the unrated international call-up edition.
Chapter the Ninth: The Gauntlet, part 1
Chapter the Tenth: The Gauntlet, part 2
Interlude: The God-King in Wales Speaks
Epilogue: The calm before the storm.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2018-2019
Volume Seven: The Show
June 9, 2019-June 9, 2020
Prologue: Panning for gold.
Chapter the First: Old faces, new circumstances.
Chapter the Second: Welcome to the show, meat.
Chapter the Third: If we live, we live to tread on kings.
Chapter the Fourth: Draws are boring.
Interlude: The Election, 2019-2020
Chapter the Fifth: Soar you mighty Dragons.
Chapter the Sixth: Dream an impossible dream.
Chapter the Seventh: Leap year.
Chapter the Eighth: In like a lion.
Chapter the Ninth: End of the line.
Interlude: Profits and losses
Epilogue: Eripio ex Nihilo
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2019-2020
Volume Eight: Youthful Exuberance
June 9, 2020-June 30, 2021
Prologue: The gang goes to Europe.
Chapter the First: The start of something special?
Chapter the Second: Proteges and prodigies.
Chapter the Third: Dragons Down Under.
Chapter the Fourth: Goals galore.
Chapter the Fifth: Tempered and quenched.
Interlude: The Youngbloods.
Chapter the Sixth: In which I'm reminded that we're not yet considered among the elite.
Chapter the Seventh: Green eggs and West Ham.
Chapter the Eighth: There's always someone better.
Fan Trust Interlude: The Ballad of Rocky Bastable, by SnafuAl.
Chapter the Ninth: The edge of glory.
Chapter the Tenth: Grab the brass ring.
Fan Trust Interlude: Yuri Kropotkin? I heard you were dead! by Zeroisanumber.
Epilogue: Make it rain.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2020-2021
Volume Nine: Continental Drift
July 1, 2021-June 9, 2022
Prologue: You're dead to me, Sunil Gulati.
Chapter the First: Fixture congestion.
Chapter the Second: Late escapes and near misses.
Chapter the Third: Power outage.
Chapter the Fourth: Game in hand.
Chapter the Fifth: Wherein I fervently pray for our ultras to glass multiple referees.
Chapter the Sixth: I'll be home for Christmas.
Chapter the Seventh: In the fifth minute of three minutes of stoppage time.
Chapter the Eighth: Discipline and punish.
Chapter the Ninth: ♪How much is that kid in the window?♫
Chapter the Tenth: Lament for a lost season.
Chapter the Eleventh: Progress marches on.
Epilogue: Home grown youth at rock bottom prices.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2021-2022
Volume Ten: Two Hats
June 9, 2022-June 9, 2023
Prologue: Depth charged.
Chapter the First: Who needs free time anyways?
Chapter the Second: "Has The God-King Bitten Off More Than He Can Chew?"
Chapter the Third: Reversion to the mean.
Chapter the Fourth: Oh-fer-two.
Chapter the Fifth: A rookie mistake.
Chapter the Sixth: Getting our second wind.
Interlude: GQ: The New Face of Football.
Chapter the Seventh: Wheeling and dealing.
Chapter the Eighth: Chasing what can't be caught.
Chapter the Ninth: I can see the finish line.
Chapter the Tenth: April Fools.
Chapter the Eleventh: Butterflies of the stomach.
Chapter the Twelfth: The Champions League final.
Epilogue: I'm like a bulldozer, with a wrecking ball attached.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2022-2023
Volume Eleven: We're the Champs.
June 9, 2023-June 8, 2024
Prologue: Dos a Cero.
Chapter the First: Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Rocky Bastable.
Chapter the Second: Don't make a deal just to make a deal.
Chapter the Third: The Welsh steamroller.
Chapter the Fourth: Put an asterisk on the whole shebang.
Chapter the Fifth: The Disgrace of Kazan.
Interlude: The Election, Round One
Chapter the Sixth: World Champions, sort of.
Interlude: The Election, Round Two
Chapter the Seventh: The megabastard cometh.
Chapter the Eighth: A game in hand is not worth two in the bush.
Chapter the Ninth: Fire and brimstone.
Chapter the Tenth: Player three has entered the game.
Chapter the Eleventh: The immolation of Stoke.
Epilogue: The rain in Spain falls mainly on Chicago.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2023-2024
Volume Twelve: Running with the Devils
June 8, 2024-June 14, 2025
Prologue: A quiet window.
Chapter the First: Citius. Altius. Fortius.
Chapter the Second: The no f$ing way game.
Chapter the Third: The irrepressible Thiago.
Chapter the Fourth: Wherein Basel looks our gift horse in the mouth.
Interlude: Our constellation of stars.
Chapter the Fifth: Return of The Special One.
Chapter the Sixth: Bombardment.
Interlude: Unparking the bus.
Chapter the Seventh: Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
Chapter the Eighth: Wild oats.
Chapter the Ninth: Neck and neck.
Chapter the Tenth: Counterrevolution.
Epilogue: Empty honors.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2024-2025
Volume Thirteen: Treblemakers
June 14, 2025-June 10, 2026
Prologue: Dry run.
Chapter the First: Bringing our B game.
Interlude: The Red Dragon's Interdimensional Preseason Tour!
Chapter the Second: I need a vacation from my summer vacation.
Chapter the Third: The consequences of sloth.
Chapter the Fourth: Howard Webb must die.
Chapter the Fifth: The Group of
Chapter the Sixth: Presenting Vivace, a fragrance by Thiago.
Interlude: Deadspin.com Presents: What you need to know about the World Cup
Chapter the Seventh: New year, old faces.
Chapter the Eighth: Burn them all.
Chapter the Ninth: A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Chapter the Tenth: Triple threat.
Chapter the Eleventh: Restoration.
Chapter the Twelfth: All about that trebel.
Epilogue: Taken 4, Taken Again.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2025-2026
Volume Fourteen: Wire to Wire
June 11, 2026-May 29, 2027
Prologue: The rocket's red glare.
Minilude:Copa Mundial/Weltmeisterschaft finalist spotlight.
Chapter the First: Downshifting.
Chapter the Second: "And they're off!"
Chapter the Third: Fresh meat.
Chapter the Fourth: I hate Extra Time.
Chapter the Fifth: Ten year reunion.
Chapter the Sixth: Quick hits.
Chapter the Seventh: We need a bigger trophy cabinet.
Interlude: The Dragonz Lair Radio Hour on BBC Radio Wales.
Chapter the Eighth: Golden Ball.
Chapter the Ninth: It comes down to who wants it more.
Chapter the Tenth: A bad draw, a bad day.
Chapter the Eleventh: Dr. Meteor and Mr. Mujkic
Chapter the Twelfth: Stumbling across the finish line.
Chapter the Thirteenth: Bon voyage, Bruno Santos.
Epilogue: Live from the San Siro in Milan, it's the Champions League Final MBM by the Guardian.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2026-2027
Volume Fifteen: Re-inverting the Pyramid
May 29, 2027-June 8, 2028
Prologue: Always Be Transfering.
Chapter the First: What is old shall be made new.
Chapter the Second: That damned glass mansion again.
Chapter the Third: Red SwinglineTM stapler.
Chapter the Fourth: Spreadsheet Manager Gaiden.
Chapter the Fifth: Of Mice and Men and Zombies.
Chapter the Sixth: An expensive victory.
Chapter the Seventh: Buy something, will ya?
Chapter the Eighth: Bombs away!
Chapter the Ninth: The trainer's bench is overcrowded.
Chapter the Tenth: At the doorstep of immortality.
Chapter the Eleventh: A press conference with the greatest coach in the world.
Chapter the Twelfth: You can never go home again.
Chapter the Thirteenth: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.
Epilogue: He wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.
Appendix: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2027-2028
The Wrexham Almanac
Volume Sixteen: Time Flies When You're Having Fun
May 29, 2028-August 15, 2030
Chapter the First: Golden goal.
Chapter the Second: Big fish in a little pond.
Chapter the Third: The Hex, Part 1.
Interlude: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2028-2029.
Chapter the Fourth: More Jekyll than Hyde.
Chapter the Fifth: The B Team.
Chapter the Sixth: The Hex, Part 2.
Chapter the Seventh: All the ducks in a row.
Interlude Part 1: The Year in Football/Futbol/Fußball/Calcio/Soccer, 2029-2030.
Interlude Part 2: Meet Your US Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Chapter the Eighth: Born on the Fourth of July.
Epilogue the Last: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
The Trophy Case
2013-2014 Skrill North Champions
2014-2015 Skrill Premier Promotion Playoff Winners
2016-2017 League Two Champions
2017-2018 League One Champions
2018-2019 Championship Runners Up
2021 FA Cup
2022-2023 Premier League Champions
2022-2023 Champions League Champions
2023 Community Shield
2023 UEFA Super Cup
2023 Club World Cup
2024 League Cup
2023-2024 Premier League Champions
2024 Community Shield
2025-2026 Premier League Champions
2026 FA Cup
2025-2026 Champions League Champions
2026 UEFA Super Cup
2026 Club World Cup
2027 League Cup
2026-2027 Premier League Champions
2026-2027 Champions League Champions
2027 Community Shield
2027 Super Cup
2027 Club World Cup
2028 League Cup
2027-2028 Premier League Champions
2028 FA Cup
2027-2028 Champions League Champions
2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup
2024 Summer Olympics Silver Medalists
2025 CONCACAF Gold Cup
2027 CONCACAF Gold Cup
2028 Summer Olympics Silver Medalists
2029 Confederations Cup Champions