Ah, Football Manager. The best sporting game ever made, at least in my humble opinion.
As infuriating as it can be at times, Football Manager is a soccer fan essential that provides hours of entertainment as you try to take Walsall FC to the Champions League final.
If you’re new to the world of FM, I’m here to help. I’ve been playing Championship Manager and Football Manager for longer than I care to admit, and I want to help you ease your way into the game.
So, without further ado, here are ten Football Manager tips for beginners that will help you get started.
Tip 1: Keep things simple
One of the beautiful things about Football Manager is that you can create systems, formations, and tactics that you think your team should be playing in real life.
Sick and tired of Everton’s real-life inability to score goals via their 4-4-1-1 formation? In FM, you can have them playing an ultra-attacking 3-3-4 formation with flying wingers and pacey advanced forwards.
As great as this sounds, such exciting transformations are seldom successful, even in the wonderful world of FM.
Therefore, when you’re just starting out, keep things simple. Ironically, you can take a leaf out of Sean Dyche’s book (the current Everton manager). A solid 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 formation typically does pretty well in FM and is a good way to set up while you’re getting used to the intricacies of the game.
Tip 2: Delegate tasks to your assistant manager
One of my absolute favourite things about the newest FM games is the ability to delegate responsibilities to your assistant manager.
When I first started playing FM when it was Championship Manager (I’m showing my age, here!), it was a case of signing some players (Freddy Adu, anyone?), picking a formation, and scoring as many goals as possible.
Today, FM managers have to deal with everything from press conferences to youth staff contract renewals. While some players like the level of detail, I think it gets in the way of what’s important.
That’s why I delegate lots of responsibilities to my coaching team. For instance, you will never see me at friendly matches, and I don’t have anything to do with youth staff contract renewals.
I pretty much focus on signing players, training them to be better, and picking them to play in matches. I also like getting fired into rival managers in press conferences, but you can skip them, too, if you wish!
Tip 3: Use FM forums to help you
One of my most valuable Football Manager tips for beginners is to recommend some brilliant FM forums that do a lot of the hard work for you.
Tip 4: Start with a big team
As a Glasgow Rangers fan, I started my career as the Rangers manager. Here is how I have setup for my first two seasons (winning the SPL both years). The Mezzala is key to my 4-3-3 system.
One of the biggest conundrums facing any new FM player is what team to start with. While there’s something romantic about taking a fallen giant back to the big time (Kaiserslautern, Sheffield Wednesday, Malaga, etc.), such a career is not for the inexperienced.
My advice for FM beginners is simple – start your first game by managing a big team in a league that isn’t overly competitive. This gives you the best opportunity to learn how the game works without getting demoralised by savage weekly defeats.
Some of my recommendations for getting started include:
- Glasgow Rangers (Scotland)
- Benfica or Porto (Portugal)
- Ajax (Netherlands)
- PSG (France)
- Olympiakos (Greece)
I’m not saying that you have to play with these teams forever, but I am suggesting that you kickstart your career with one of these teams so that you don’t want to throw your computer out the window as you’re learning the ropes!
Tip 5: Use the in-game tutorials
When you’re getting started in FM, it’s tempting to want to get straight into the action. However, when you set up a game for the first time, you are offered tutorials on everything from tactics to training.
My advice is simple. Spend the time going through the tutorials so you know what to expect. It only takes a few minutes, but it can make a huge difference to your understanding of the game.
Tip 6: Understand some of the tactical roles
I don’t want to get too intricate in this article, but it does help if you familiarise yourself with some basic tactical roles. On the tactics screen, you will see that you can use one of FM’s pre-set systems or create one of your own.
Within each system, you will find a host of weird and wonderful tactical roles that probably make no sense at all to you right now. Helpfully, we’ve spent a fair amount of time explaining many of these roles at SKH, and you can check out our guides to the following to help you:
- False Nine
- Half Back
- Advanced Forward
- Deep Lying Forward
- Target Man
- Inverted Winger
- Sweeper Keeper
- Ball Playing Defender
- Full Back
- Box to Box Midfielder
Tip 7: Look for wonderkids
Signing wonderkids is one of my favourite things about playing Football Manager. It doesn’t always work it, but it’s such a great feeling when it pays off (quite literally, in many cases!).
To the uninitiated, a wonderkid is a player that is expected to go onto great things in the game. I’ve already mentioned Freddy Adu in this article, who, in my opinion, was the original FM wonderkid who never quite made it.
But sometimes, FM gets it right. Players of the original FM games will know all about Vincent Kompany’s promise, long-before he became Manchester City’s title-winning captain.
Anyway, you can check out wonderkid lists published by FM Scout and Sort it out SI (introduced above), or you can use your scouts to find wonderkids yourself, as I explain below.
Tip 8: Use your scouts properly
I have set my scouts up to find the best players in Scotland that I can poach from my rivals. Duk (playing for Aberdeen) always seems to score against me, so I might just sign him this summer!
Signing players to suit your system is a hallmark of any experienced FM player, and the best way to do this is to setup a good scouting network.
Countries like Brazil and the Netherlands are wonderkid hotbeds, but you need to be mindful of Work Permit issues, which are often the scourge of FM players worldwide!
Think about the type of players you would like to sign for your team and instruct your scouts to go and find them. You can then use the transfer windows to bring the right players into your squad.
Tip 9: Don’t change your setup every week
When things aren’t working as you had hoped, it can be tempting to switch things up on a tactical front. However, unless your players have adaptability in abundance, they won’t respond well to constant changes to their shape.
Instead, you can increase the intensity of your team’s tactical training, which is a great way to get your players more familiar with your setup. In other words, they will be much more likely to play well within the system that you opt for.
Tip 10: The save button. To use or not to use?
Now, my list of Football Manager tips for beginners wouldn’t be complete without the controversial mention of the save button.
Some players, though they will never admit it publicly, hit the save button before big games (or every game, in some instances), and if the outcome isn’t what they expect, they simply exit the game and reload it to play the game again.
FM purists will be apoplectic with rage at the mere mention of the save button, but it’s something that many players utilise.
I’m going to sit on the fence – be aware of this little FM hack and use it if you wish. I’m not going to judge you, but others certainly will.
Conclusion: Football Manager tips for beginners
Thanks for reading through my top ten Football Manager tips for beginners! I hope you enjoy the game as much as I do.
If you’re keen to download FM23, you can order it online from Steam.