As the new Football Manager inches closer by the day, the question on everyone’s mind is “who will I play as?”. The market, ever clever, bombards us with lists and lists of recommendations. Whilst I think most (if not all) are well-meaning and intending to be helpful, many fall short for me in one way: they provide descriptions, but not reasons. Pondering about that, I decided to write about how I go about choosing a Football Manager save, and why I chose what will be my FM22 save.
Choosing a Football Manager Save
I’ll make it clear from the get-go that I think this method may as well only work for me. I don’t think it will, but with FM being such an unlimited and unrestricted world, the way each of us enjoys it and what it means to us could very well be treated as unique. I will also make it clear that I think an entertaining save could be had with about 99% of teams included in the standard database of Football Manager. Some clubs may lend themselves better to it as the features that make them unique are more easily represented in the game, but we’re not putting them into pedestals here.
That being out of the way, how do I choose a save? Followers of this blog will know (and if they don’t, I’ve said out loud several times) that I consider myself a narrative-driven player. Not necessarily “narrative” in the sense of characters and a plot, but that of a story being told. In other words, I like to play the game as if everything I do would later appear in a book about it or in a These Football Times article.
That’s why often the lists of teams don’t work for me and that’s why, whenever I write one, I try to give a different spin to them. Not that I always succeed (probably), but I don’t like seeing clubs as tools for a goal. These are somebody’s colours, so thinking of where they were before and where I’m trying to take them feels important.
Stories have a resonance to them; a way in which, under the right light, things end up aligning. Journalists (good ones) make a living out of finding those magic angles, those resonances. It is in those resonances that I most enjoy FM, almost as a tool to shape an imaginary universe and give life to those stories. Someone (I think I said this before) called Football Manager “the greatest role-playing game”, and that’s how I like to think of it. I’m inserting myself (often through an alter ego) in the world of football; what will my story be?
Much like FM Heathen pointed out in his post about his creation of the 1902 DB, “we get our FM inspiration from odd places”, and mine, a bit like his, seems to come more often than not from football history and football culture. The history of and love for the game, to me, become an unlimited source of ideas to implement and explore in Football Manager.
That is, of course, not my only source of inspiration, but as the games come and go and I become ever more experienced both as an FMer and as a blogger/content creator, I find myself returning to this topic more and more often. The easiest way to label this idea is with the trope of the fallen giant, but more often than not I’m not simply looking at what a club used to be, but rather at how they used to do it, and how it could happen again in modern times.
I find this to be a challenge not only in pure game terms (take club A, work towards winning competition B) but also in tactical, recruitment and philosophical terms. It gives you a mind-frame to build within, the outer boundaries of which should not (and depending on how you play as, cannot) be overstepped.
So, after all this gibberish, what’s my method? Well, delving into back came before us and finding something that captures my interest. It doesn’t have to be a hugely significant bit; until not that long I contemplated the possibility of managing Cowdenbeath, mimicking the Shakhtar Donetsk model to turn them into the actual Blue Brazil. However, once something captures my mind, it’s hard to let it go.
My Football Manager 2022 Save
Then, if it’s not gonna be a return to Scotland (yet), what will it be? Well, during my re-read of Inverting the Pyramid, I was especially captivated by the part about Sepp Piontek’s Denmark side. Being the first time I read the second edition, I figured they didn’t feature on the first copy of the book I bought, which is a Spanish translation done from the original. After checking now it seems they did and I simply didn’t recall it, which is hardly surprising considering how packed and pacey everything is in the latter stages of the book.
However, at that stage, it was just another idea on the back of my mind, sharing the common ground of my mind where sit lots of saves I’ll never play and a few that I may will some time. Euro 2020’s came and went, with all that it brought to the Danish National Team, and I read a brilliant article on Scouted Football on the work of the Right to Dream Academy with Nordsjaelland; even then, I was only thinking of Danish football in general, and not a particular save.
Still, my interest was piqued, so I picked up “Danish Dynamite”, by Lars Eriksen, Mike Gibbons and Rob Smyth, and began watching some of the most famous games played by Piontek’s side. About halfway through the book, I was hooked; I began setting rules I’d have to follow, time-frames and goals. And yet, I had no club to attach all those to.
My original idea to take FC Kobenhavn and turn it into some sort of main force within the national side fell flat. For one, FCK was founded in 1992, long past Piontek’s heyday. Yes, those two facts bear no real relation in truth, and yes, the clubs that merged to form FCK were amongst the oldest in Denmark, but it still annoyed me.
On the other hand, starting in a league that was already outside the top competitions in the continent and building Bayern Munich equivalent in it was going to hurt my objectives more often than not. I figured if I want to be Denmark manager eventually, I’ll do myself a favour by improving one of the weaker sides and raising the level of the league. If big sides weren’t going to cut it, and not really feeling cult favourites like FC Midtjylland or FC Nordsjælland, then who?
One of my biggest discoveries, I’m ashamed to admit, in this Danish football mind trip I’ve been on has been the figure of Preben Elkjær. Having known him by little else than by name, watching him play and learning of his personality on and off the pitch has been incredibly interesting. Like some kid forty years from now discovering Ibrahimovic and going nuts.
It was digging on his Wikipedia that he had retired on a club I had already noticed, Vejle Boldklub. So who are they? Well, they’re six times Danish champions; they are also the club that developed the only Danish Ballon d’Or winner, Allan Simonsen. And they play in a red and white Hummel kit…
With this information, I went to The Manager Mann for guidance. He, of course, had a lot more knowledge on the matter, on account of having grown up in Denmark. Despite being a bit biased against Vejle as a fan and former player of rivals Silkeborg IF, he liked the idea. His encouragement came with a little heads up, Vejle is in dire straits.
They currently sit bottom of the table at the Danish Superliga and look set to get relegated. He alerted me to their next fixture, which coincidentally was Vejle vs Silkeborg, where I could take a look at their current squad and get a grip on their rivalry. Vejle were… soundly beaten. However, in The Manager Mann’s words, I should stick with them: “You’ll have a challenge on your hands, a good stadium, a loyal fanbase and an ambitious chairman”. It seems like all the ingredients are there.
Football Manager 2022 is more than a month away from full release, but my main save is now locked in, Vejle Boldklub. I’ll be taking a relegation-threatened side and try to steer their fortunes into a path of success. From there, the goal is to focus on the development of young Danish footballers and the improvement of Danish football overall. I’ll probably fool around with another side during the Beta, but on November 9th I’m taking a trip to the Jutland Peninsula.
Until then, thanks for reading.