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  • Welcome to Load FM Writes!

    Welcome to Load FM Writes!

    Thanks for stopping by and visiting my website. After years of building video content on YouTube and Twitch, I’ve decided to have a go at a bit of writing too! We’re going to have a mix of Football Manager articles, football rambles, stadium reviews, behind the scenes thoughts and written article versions of a few YouTube videos. I hope you’re looking forward to staying up to date as I take my first venture into the written content world. My latest posts and key links can all be found on the sidebar to the left of this article. šŸ‘

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  • PREMIER LEAGUE – AGAINST ALL ODDS

    PREMIER LEAGUE – AGAINST ALL ODDS

    The story behind my best day as a football fanā€¦

    The date – Saturday 27th May 2023. The location – Wembley Stadium. The event – The EFL Championship Playoff Final. That’s right, my club was about to take part in the richest game in football. A mix of surrealism, nerves and excitement filled the air as a story for the footballing history books was one game from being complete. Luton Town had been in all of England’s top five divisions during my lifetime so farā€¦ except the top one! Was that about to change against all the odds?

    The background to this game was rather remarkable. Two sides listed in the bottom five when it came to Championship wage budgets this season, that had been promoted together from League Two just five years prior. For Luton Town, the journey started in the National League after a 30 point deduction, three successive relegations and several administrations had left the club on the brink of non-existence. As it turns out though, that was the start of a story this time, rather than the end.

    A new fan lead board, a returning legend in the dugout in the shape of Mick Harford and a glorious cup final win at Wembley weren’t enough to prevent relegation from the EFL in 2009. For the first time in a decade though, the club had the most precious, unimaginable things you could imagineā€¦ Stability and certainty.

    The National League (or Conference as it was then) was never going to be easy. With huge expectation, a complete squad rebuild and only one automatic promotion place up for grabs, it didn’t take many mistakes to miss out on a return to the Football League. Several managers and seasons came and went but despite many near misses and a few memorable days in the FA Cup, it was to remain non-league football for Luton Town.

    In late February 2013, a new manager arrived. John Still joined the club and immediately did things differently. First, he opted to concede the club’s playoff chances for the remainder of the season in a bid to improve preparations for the next. He also sought to be open with fans and make it very clear what he was attempting to do. Let’s not be fooled though, this wasn’t plain sailing. The 2013/14 season did not start as planned, defeat on the opening day was followed by just 10 points in the opening 8 matches. This left Luton in 14th place, a position that may have seen him sacked had he been managing a certain neighbouring club. What followed was magical though! A 27 game unbeaten league run stretching over half a year, aided by the arrival of talented young players such as Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu. Luton weren’t just winning games now, they were scoring 4 or more with increasingly regularity. The last of the unbeaten run saw The Hatters equalise in stoppage time at nearest title challengers Cambridge United. This preserved a seemingly unassailable 15 point lead at the top of the table. A matter of weeks later, five years in non-league football came to an end and John Still became the man remembered for starting this incredible journey.

    The next manager in this remarkable rise deserves some credit too. Nathan Jones joined the club as a rookie manager in League Two. Highly regarded as a coach at Brighton, Jones’ man-management style was unconventional. He was brash, confident and never afraid to say it. This seemed to translate to his players too though. An inherent belief took over the club, which combined with good recruitment, led to promotion in second place following a season of playoff heartbreak. League One would be tougher they said, there’s a lot of big teams stuck in that divison. It wasn’t to be as Luton romped to the title with 94 points, including a 28 game unbeaten run. Things weren’t as simple as they seemed though. Nathan Jones decided to leave Luton for Stoke City in early January, with club legend Mick Harford taking the top job on an interim basis. The transition appeared seamless though and following an emotional day at Sunderland in his opening game, Luton never looked like falling away. Harford won League One Manager of the Year, despite managing less than half of the games in the season.

    Into the Championship and of course, a new manager was at the helm. Jones was here again but this time it was Graeme, another rookie manager. His tenure started with a difficult job, replacing two full backs sold for a combined eight figure sum. This was Luton Town and spending would have to remain modest, but would that be enough to remain in the Championship? Graeme didn’t seem to think so! An odd man-management technique of publicly exclaiming that players weren’t good enough seemed a stark contrast from his namesake’s time in charge. Despite being up against the odds before a ball was kicked, Luton seemed deflated. When a global pandemic paused the season in March 2020, Luton were six points adrift of safety with just nine games remaining. Graeme Jones was shown the exit door but who would be next? Well the board has a quite ballsy solution!

    Nathan Jones’ tenure at Stoke City hadn’t worked out and the fomer Luton manager was out of work. Despite hatred from some sections of the Luton fanbase due to his previous claim ‘he’d only leave for Barcelona’, Nathan returned to the top job at The Hatters. It was deemed a risk worth taking with the club in a perilous position and fixtures about to resume behind closed doors. It proved to be an inspired choice too! 16 points were collected from the final 9 games of the season and Luton finished in a remarkable 19th place! After a much more comfortable season played largely in empty stadiums, fans were ready to return in the summer of 2021. A memorable season lead to an FA Cup run and a top six Championship finish, with more playoff heartbreak at Huddersfield Town the only thing preventing Luton from achieving the unthinkable. This earned Nathan Jones the Championship Manager of the Season award.

    A new season came around and this time there were planned mid-season challenges. The calendar has been altered for a Winter World Cup and Luton were to be busy during that break too. Having lost star defender Kal Naismith in the summer, Luton started solidly. Just one game before the break though, Luton lost Nathan Jones for a second time. On this occasion there was far less controversy, as Jones and his staff were offered a Premier League job at Southampton. Time for the board to be ‘ballsy’ again. Their chosen replacement was a man that had started the season managing Luton’s biggest rivals. Rob Edwards had only lasted ten games at Watford, having joined on the back of a League Two title win at Forest Green. By November 2022 he was a free agent and the Luton board decided he was the man for the job. They were right again. Luton soared to a comfortable third place finish. A Championship playoff place secured for the second season in a row, in spite of a bottom five budget.

    For fans like me, the playoffs have only ever produced heartbreaking moments. Several defeats in the National League playoffs, disappointment in League Two against Blackpool and the Huddersfield semi final last season. This time though, history was rewritten. For the first time in my life following this club, there was to be no playoff heartbreak. A day in the sun at Wembley which still seemed unfathomable ended with promotion to the Premier League. Don’t be fooled though, Luton hadn’t done this the conventional way. There was no spending silly money on transfers or agent fees. There was no spending more than 100% of club turnover on wages. Luton still had Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu, signed for a nominal fee in the National League, as well as three of the side that were promoted from League Two in 2018. On a shoe-string budget and defying all expectations, a club that had been sent to it’s death bed in 2008 had reached the Premier League just 15 years later. It might not have always been an enjoyable story but you may never see a more dramatic one in English football again!

  • Safety Secured| FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 7

    Safety Secured| FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 7

    Welcome to our end of season one update from my FM23 blog story. Last time out, we had saved our job with the final kick of a match. Adam Lallana was the hero in that one! Since then, we’ve finished our season comfortably, been offered a new contract and looked towards some potential stars of the future! Before we reflect on that though, a quick thank you to HelloFresh USA, who have kindly sponsored us on all platforms this Easter. Get 65% off your first box + free shipping by using code POGHF98756 at checkout or clicking here. Let’s move onto the conclusion of our first season at Southampton. Where did we manage to finish?

    It was a very relaxing finish to the season in the end. We secured safety with games to spare which allowed young stars to make their debuts and experience the excitement of Premier League football. With the overhaul towards a fully homegrown squad ready to ramp up this summer, it was important to see who may be ready to make the big step into the first team squad next season. We’ll reflect on some of the success stories from that in a moment, but I’ve got to mention Erling Haaland. He finished with another goal spree to take his tally to 57 league goals. He also popped up with 11 in other domestic competitions, an outstanding record for his debut season! That record was perhaps easy to overlook due to Aston Villa managing to finish third. It’s also important to note that Wolves were pipped to safety by Bournemouth too, with our results playing a significant role in the survival of the Cherries.

    The season didn’t finish too badly at all. Two crucial 1-0 victories in late April made things comfortable. That including a win against relegated Wolves, before we were held by Bournemouth to secure them the most crucial point in their season. For us though, a huge positive for the future. Returning academy striker Michael Obafemi, who only came back from loan in January due to a lack of game time at Swansea, is starting to score goals at this level! With Che Adams among the many non-homegrown players we’ll be trying to move on in this summer transfer window, Obafemi’s youthful energy could be crucial alongside the returning Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott next season.

    Now we turn our attention to the transfer window. We’ve been given a new contract with a slight pay rise for next season. We also have a transfer budget of 50m, which gives us the opportunity to bring back some former academy stars! I’d expect a very busy summer on the South Coast, with some familiar names likely to be returning to the club. Hopefully you’ll join me on Easter Monday for a Bank Holiday transfer special update. In the meantime, check out my daily FM23 content on YouTube, with two long term stories to whet the appetite. Thanks for reading!

  • Lallana’s Lucky Last Kick?| FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 6

    Lallana’s Lucky Last Kick?| FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 6

    Welcome to potentially the most important update of this FM23 blog story. Last time out, we were set a five game target to save our job at Southampton. We had tricky games to come in that spell and things were looking ominous. We’ve played those 5 matches and in a moment I’ll reveal how we got on. Before that, a quick thank you to HelloFresh USA, who have kindly sponsored us on all platforms this month. Get 65% off your first box + free shipping by using code POGHF98756 at checkout or clicking here. I can’t put it off any longer though, let’s head over to the schedule and meet our destiny!

    Well it doesn’t get much more tense than this, does it? We picked up just one points from our first three games, before Diego Simeone’s Spurs side gave us a glimmer of hope. After an hour against Palace though, having just gone behind for the third time in the game, I was packing my bags ready to go. I needn’t have bothered though, as experienced substitute Adam Lallana bundled in an ugly 95th minute winner to save our job with quite literally the final kick of the game. Hopefully we’ll look back on this moment and laugh in years to come, but this is the all important message for us now…

    It’s official confirmation from the board, albeit the statement still contains another cheeky threat. We’ve managed to stave off massive pressure and hold to our job… just. Are we just delaying the inevitable though? It might well be seven crucial points for me and in Southampton’s relegation scrap, but if we finish off by looking at the Premier League table, you’ll see it’s very much still a battle to avoid the drop!

    As you can see, those results have still left us just three points clear of the relegation zone. Crucially, we do edge above our current Head Coach side Crystal Palace after that enormous last minute winner. Perhaps even more importantly, after Chelsea and Manchester United in our next two games, we only face one of the top seven in our final six matches. That’s in the form of surprise package Aston Villa, who are arguably the story of this first season so far. Rather disgracefully, Erling Haaland has only managed to add three goals to his tally in Manchester City’s last five league games. He moves on to 47 in 29, not too shabby at all for a first season in this league.

    We’ll be back next week to see if we can complete the job and then all attention will turn to the summer. Can we bring back any homegrown gems or will we be forced to fight with a sub-standard side again? For now the final thank you goes to Adam Lallana, but will we have enough heroes to keep us up? Join me next week to find out!

  • The 5 Game Sack Warning! | FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 5

    The 5 Game Sack Warning! | FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 5

    I’ve said it before in this Southampton season already… What a difference a week makes! That optimism, those returning stars and the positive results seem a lifetime ago. We’re now in crisis just 25 days after our last update, haven’t won a game in that time and we’ve also been given the dreaded five games warning by our board. Before we see how we stooped to this point, a quick word for HelloFresh USA, who have kindly sponsored us on all platforms this month. Get 65% off your first box + free shipping by using code POGHF98756 at checkout or clicking here. With that done, let’s head over to our schedule and review the chaos!

    Well it’s not been a good run has it? We failed to beat either of the bottom two, which has proven to be incredibly costly. I’m not quite sure how Nottingham Forest got something from their game against us, a Jesse Lingard rocket was a rare foray into our half of the pitch by the league’s basement side. A lack of clinical edge and goal scoring striker has been a huge issue and on the rare occasion we did manage to score two, our luck was summed up by a deflected 94th minute equaliser for Spurs in the FA Cup. These results aren’t great at all but there’s a far bigger reason for the sudden panic in the boardroom…

    We’ve now fallen into the Premier League relegation zone for the first time. Our goal difference is competitive due to a decent defensive record but we have so little to our armoury going forward. What I’d give to have a striker like Erling Haaland in my side at the moment. With his 44 league goals and counting, we might have even been title contenders! That’s all irrelevant at the moment though because of this…

    We’ve now been approached by the board regarding our perilous position at the club. My managerial performance has dropped to E and despite my reminders to the chairman about injuries and it being my first job, we’ve been set a daunting points target. We’re required to pick up at least 7 points from our next 5 matches to save our job. It doesn’t sound a massive number but remind yourselves of those upcoming fixtures above. To start with, we’re going to have to get a result against one of Liverpool, Arsenal or Spurs to remain employed. The other two games aren’t easy by any means either, with one of them coming away from home too.

    Of course, we’ll be back next week to see the outcome of those five fixtures and find out whether we’re still employed by Southampton. I hope you’ll come and join me to see if I’ve been put out of my misery. In the meantime, you can see my two long term video stories by subscribing to my YouTube channel here. See you next week for the big reveal!

  • Having a Bale of a Time! | FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 4

    Having a Bale of a Time! | FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 4

    The January transfer window has been and passed at Southampton and we’ve managed to bring two former home-grown players back to the club. We’ve also kept ourselves just above the dreaded relegation line and gone on a little cup run as well. Before we see our new star arrival though, a quick word for HelloFresh USA, who have kindly sponsored me on all platforms this month. Get 65% off your first box + free shipping by using code POGHF93633 at checkout or clicking here. With that done, let’s head over to our transfer history and re-introduce a very big name to Southampton FC!

    Can I draw your attention to the bottom left of the screen please? Gareth Bale makes his long awaited return to Southampton having thankfully not retired in this universe. We also bring in left back Joel Bagan, who will return after completing the season with Cardiff City. Michael Obafemi returns from his loan spell early and Toni Livramento also returns from long-term injury, which will feel like a classic clichĆ© new signing too! Let’s focus on Bale though…

    He’s certainly lost some of that physical edge that once made him virtually unplayable. Having said that, he’s still brilliant technically, incredibly versatile and offers us a crucial bit of experience and quality in the final third of the pitch. You can see that he has already managed to contribute two assists in four appearances and while his current loan expires at the start of the MLS season in March, we have agreed a deal for him to return in the summer for another year. Let’s see what those assists have done for our form since the World Cup.

    I’d argue that this is pretty much as expected. We’ve won comfortably at home against two Championship sides in the FA Cup, picked up two crucial home league wins and picked up another point against a good Brentford side. Interestingly, we face the two bottom sides that have been cut adrift next, before heading into a horrific run of fixtures on paper. The one solace? Look at those last six games! Aston Villa and Leicester City are currently flying but the other four matches give us a real opportunity to wrap up survival in this tricky first season. Let’s have a look at the current table to finish off.

    Yes, Erling Haaland is already on 35 Premier League goals for Manchester City. In our world at the other end of the table though, things aren’t looking too bad. You can see Leeds United and Nottingham Forest are some way off the pace, so there’s only really one relegation spot left to fall into. If we can win our next two games against those sides, I hope we’ll be on course for a fairly comfortable finish. We’re going to need to find a few more goals to ensure that, as James Ward-Prowse is our current top scorer with just four league goals. I’m confident survival will be secured when we return next week. I hope you’ll join me to see if I’m right and to meet our first youth academy intake of this save!

  • Here Comes Trouble – FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 3

    Here Comes Trouble – FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 3

    What a difference a week makes! Last time we were here together, we were reflecting on a positive start to our Southampton career. We knew the upcoming run of fixtures were tough but we were still optimistic. Well, not anymore!! Today we’ll reflect on a huge dip in form, which caused both a dressing room revolt and threw us into a relegation battle. Before that though, a quick word for HelloFresh USA, who have kindly sponsored me on all platforms this month. Get 65% off your first box + free shipping by using code POGHF93633 at checkout or clicking here.

    Let’s head back to Southampton though and reflect on a difficult run of games that have thrown us into a whole world of trouble.

    Just one win in our last eight Premier League games leading up to the World Cup break. The positives… we’ve played four of the big six and after Liverpool on Boxing Day, we’ve got a much friendlier run of fixtures on paper. Our only win came against Leeds at home, probably one of those few games we’d expect to take points. An excellent draw against Manchester United is highlighted, with young Romeo Lavia again on the score sheet. Don’t forget, he’s only 18 and will become homegrown at Southampton. Unfortunately that great result was immediately ruined by a 1-0 defeat at Wolves. It was a game we absolutely dominated but the same old issue crept up again… We can’t score goals!! Both recognised strikers are now in the middle of a significant goal drought and James Ward-Prowse isn’t hitting the target with free kicks. Those results and the lack of goals have caused another problem too, which is evident by viewing the Premier League table…

    We have now crept down to 15th place in the table as we pause for 6 weeks of international action. Bournemouth also picked up a big win in their final game to close a comfortable game to the relegation zone to just 3 points! We have to hope that we can rediscover our confidence and some goal scoring form in the next run of matches. We face three of the bottom five in our next six games and after Liverpool, don’t face any of the top eight. If we don’t get a couple of wins in those fixtures, I’ll really begin to doubt our survival chances. Oh and a quick Erling Haaland update, it’s now 30 goals in 15 Premier League outings for him!

    Of course, we’ll be back next week to report on that run of games, as well as the start of our FA Cup adventure and the January transfer window. Calum Chambers is unhappy at Aston Villa, so I’m wondering if we’ll be able to tempt back one of our former home grown academy stars to the club. Before we return for all of that, I’ve got to give you a quick summary of the World Cup final. It looked like an exciting first ten minutes in Qatar.

    See you next week!

  • A Positive Start – FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 2

    A Positive Start – FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 2

    It’s time to get into the exciting stuff in this save. The introductions are out of the way, part 1 is here if you missed it. Welcome along to part 2 of my FM23 Youth Academy Challenge with Southampton. It seems we’ve got plenty to talk about too. We’ve chosen our tactic, played up to the first international break and even made some signings! Before that though, a quick word for our sponsor, HelloFresh US. If you live in the USA, click here for 65% off + free shipping on your first box! With that done though, let’s start by talking about transfer news…

    The big news here is obviously that we’ve managed to bring back Adam Lallana. A product of the Southampton academy, Lallana has had a glittering Premier League career. He might be well into his 30’s now but he is, without doubt, capable of walking straight into our midfield alongside star man James Ward-Prowse. We’ve also arranged a deal to re-sign Michael Obafemi too. However, he’s gone back to Swansea for the rest of this season.

    To offset the wages of Lallana, I’ve made the difficult decision to send our second highest earner, Theo Walcott, out on loan. We’ve also managed to sell one of the experienced backup Goalkeepers, as Alex McCarthy heads out of the club. With the transfers sorted, let’s move on to our current tactic…

    There’s nothing fancy going on here, is there? As we mentioned in Part 1, we’ve got a young side that is pretty limited technically. To combat that, we’ve set up a simple and fairly cautious 4-3-3 with the aim of counter attacking at speed!

    As you can see, our holding midfielder is very defensive minded and will almost create a back three when we’re on the attack. This will allow our two full backs to fly forward and support our wingers, striker and box-to-box midfielder. We’re going to be very reliant of physicality as we just don’t have the mentality or technical ability to shine at Premier League level yet. Let’s see how we’ve got on in this system…

    I’d argue that we’ve done fairly well so far. As we hoped, we’ve managed to keep the goals out with our fairly defensive set up. There’s plenty of low scoring games but that’s our best chance at this present time. Our best performance was arguably on the opening day too! We kept Spurs at bay successfully, before young sub Lavia scored a ridiculously cheeky lob to steal the three points.

    My main worry now is the run of games before the Winter World Cup. We face four of the traditional big six in those eight matches and I get the feeling we’ll have a bit more of an indication of our likely finishing position after that run. For now though, let’s have a look at where we are in the table…

    Can we finish the season now? I’ve got a feeling we won’t be anywhere near the top half after the next run of fixtures, so we’ll enjoy this while it lasts. We’re looking great in 10th place, but we’re still only five points clear of that dreaded drop zone. Given that we don’t have the quality to win any game comfortably, we’ll be hoping we can avoid a disappointing run and the relegation battle that will likely follow it. I don’t fancy our chances against most of the big boys though!

    Oh and just the quick mention for Erling Haaland too. I mentioned in my video and stream saves that he didn’t score a ridiculous number of goals this year… I take that back. He’s got 21 goals in the first 8 games here including a 5 goal haul and two other hat-tricks already. I can’t wait to play them in our next match.

    We’ll be back after the Winter World Cup to review our progress and prepare for the January transfer window. I hope you’re looking forward to that one, with updates to come every Monday on this blog. In the meantime, why not try my two long term FM23 stories on YouTube or follow me on Twitch for regular live streams. Have a good week and I’ll see you back here at the same time next week!

  • The Introduction – FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 1

    The Introduction – FM23 Youth Academy Challenge | All Saints – Part 1

    Time to rekindle the love that started my Football Manager content making bug, blog posts. In this FM23 story, I’ll be taking the top job at Southampton. The aim is to create a side fully home grown at the club, with the only signings allowed being those that have left after being developed previously by the Southampton academy. With the club expected to be in a relegation battle and currently sitting bottom of the Premier League in real life, I can’t imagine the early years of this one are going to be particularly easy!

    I’ll be sharing my updates with you every Monday (where possible), with the intention of continuing this save long term. The ultimate goal if this save is successful, is to attempt a Youth Academy challenge in our main Twitch save for FM24. Let’s get back to Southampton for now though and see what we’ve got to work with!

    What a lovely 3.5* reputation club we’ve got here. The media just about expect us to avoid relegation with their 17th place prediction too. Crucially, the facilities and youth recruitment are still excellent. That’s going to be a huge factor in making this save a success!

    I didn’t want to make this save easy, either. So in stark contrast to the very competitive club reputation, I’ve come into this club as a Sunday League Footballer with no coaching badges… Ever the man for a challenge!

    Onto the most important bit. This is the squad we’ll be working with at the start of the save. There’s not many stand out players in this team, that’s for sure. The average age of the squad is very low, with a lot of players offering no Premier League experience. At least we’re starting as we mean to go on!

    Although he’s one of the most successful products of the Southampton academy, I do worry about Theo Walcott too. He’s past his prime here, rated pretty poorly, yet still commanding our second biggest salary. Maybe I can bring Gareth Bale back to add to that wage bill alongside him?

    Finally, the area I’ll be spending a lot of pre-season. These are just some of the players that qualify as home grown at Southampton. Unfortunately, they are the only ones that are potentially interested in a transfer at present. I don’t think we’ll be seeing the likes of Luke Shaw, Gareth Bale, Calum Chambers or Matt Targett any time soon. However, there’s no doubt that players such as Adam Lallana could prove pivotal in the very short term if we can tempt them back to St Mary’s.

    As you can probably imagine, I haven’t got much player support. My non-existent reputation is largely to thank for that. However, we do have a very young, physical team, which I intend to use to my advantage. In the next update, I’ll show you my chosen tactic, any transfer work we complete and our opening games of the season. I hope to see you next Monday for that but in the meantime, don’t forget you can watch daily FM23 content from two long term stories on my YouTube channel.

    See you next week!

  • Top 3 Best Changes in Football Manager 2023

    Top 3 Best Changes in Football Manager 2023

    It’s been almost 2 months since the release of the Football Manager 2023 Beta and many of us have now racked up tens, or perhaps even hundreds of hours, playing the new game. The big question is this though. What have been the best changes in FM23? We all like to focus on the little things or annoying glitches we don’t like in a game, however, the fact is that many of us get incredible value for money playing Football Manager every year. With that in mind, today I’m going to give you my top 3 favourite changes, upgrades or new features from FM23, having played the game for a large number of hours now.

    Before we head into our top 3, a quick thank you to current channel sponsor Hello Fresh. You can get 50% off your first box and 35% off your next 3 by clicking here or using code POGHELLOUK5379 at checkout by 31st January. With that done though, let’s head straight into my number 3 favourite area in FM23.

    At number 3, it’s scouting. This is an area that’s going to link to number 1 a bit later in the article as well. There’s been a lot of complaints about scouting in this year’s game, particularly due to the overhaul of the recruitment focus reporting and the way scouted players are shown. For me though, this is something that looks far more akin to the realistic footballing world in FM23. For example, not every player a scout starts to watch will lead to a report and a recommendation to sign. The addition of the ‘in progress’ and ‘near matches’ tabs for each ongoing recruitment focus allow you to see the work being done by your scouts from start to finish. It also answers a number of questions that were left unresolved in previous years, such as why a report is taking so long. Your scouts and recruitment team doing their own filtering of reports has also meant there’s a lot less inbox messages, unsuitable reports and time wasted for you as a manager when recruiting players in FM23. Overall, I’d argue this is one of my favourite upgrades or overhauls to an area in Football Manager for many years. In a way, it’s nice not to get 30 unrealistically brilliant reports every time you ask your scouts to look for a player! I know this has been a contentious debate in FM23, so let’s move on to an area that always leads to a heated argument.

    Number 2 is a controversial one… It’s the match engine. Firstly, I know the animations in the match engine will always gets criticism in Football Manager. In some cases, you could strongly argue that’s justified. So before we move on here, let’s clear something up very quickly. I know that a number of people with access to high end computing would love to see a massively upgraded match animation engine. However, this would likely reduce the possible Football Manager customer base by at least 50%. Let’s be honest here, most of us play the game on standard PC desktops or laptops and aren’t looking for a FIFA style animation engine. The reason I’ve included it in this top 3 is not because it’s a sublime Ultra HD match engine. Instead, we’ve seen massive upgrades and improvements to types of animations and patterns of play that have been a frustration for several years to regular players. How many times did we used to lament players for shooting from impossible angles by the byline, largely because they were incapable of cutting it back or crossing from acute angles? Now we see all three at appropriate times, with players attributes and match situations more accurately reflecting how often players take on different options. There’s also far better goalkeeping animations, particularly saves with their feet or the smothering of through balls. Add to that the improved defending by back 3 defences since the last update and you have to say that so many of the things the community have been crying out for have drastically improved in FM23. I’m not saying there isn’t still more to be done, but it’s a huge upgrade and makes matches more fluent and enjoyable to watch now. Despite that, it’s still not enough to take top spot for me, so let’s see what I’ve given the gold medal to.

    In top spot, it’s recruitment. I love the fact it is as well, because from both the headline and other features announced before FM23 was released, I thought this area was going to be the most improved. From my point of view, I certainly don’t feel let down. The recruitment process seems so much more complete and realistic this year, which has lead to more enjoyment for the human manager and often far better decisions from the AI too. As we’ve seen in my main YouTube save, The Head Coach, a Director of Football with decent skills and attributes is now actually capable of building a fairly strong and balanced squad. This was one of my biggest complaints last year, but the changes have been almost revolutionary. Of course it starts with the scouting features and more in-depth look at how players have been found and filtered, as we discussed in number 3. Crucially though, the work hasn’t stopped there. At the lower levels of the game, you get detailed infromation and recommendations about current trialists, making that aspect of management more realstic and user friendly. At higher levels, there’s better use of sell-on and other future clauses, as well as more realistic loan offers by the AI manager. This means the transfer window works far more fluently across the footballing world and prevents everyone having an ancient squad after 10 years, as they did in last year’s game. It also means you can negotiate properly, have to think before giving long term contracts to average players and can utilise the loan market more for young players. Even that is improved too, as loan stars are improving more significantly with regular football. The integration with the new squad planner and supporter expectations is helpful for some and will no doubt become more influential in the new few editions of the game. Overall though, whilst not perfect, it is a massive upgrade in an area that I felt let a lot of the game down in FM22. For that reason alone, it comes in at number 1 for me!

    So those any my top 3 favourite areas of FM23 but we all enjoy different parts of Football Manager more, so let me know your favourite changes in this year’s game too. If you did enjoy this article please do check out the rest of the site and why not subscribe to my YouTube channel for daily content. This will likely be the last article here before the festive period so Merry Christmas and don’t forget to start that health kick with my Hello Fresh link before the 29th December.

    Thanks for reading!

  • Top 3 EFL Challenges for FM23

    Top 3 EFL Challenges for FM23

    We all love a lower league challenge in Football Manager but finding the right club can be difficult. Well today I’m going to try and help again by giving you my top 3 EFL jobs to take on in FM23. They all present a different type of challenge so if you’re looking forward to playing the new game then you can pre-order it now by clicking here. There’s also a whole playlist of FM23 save idea videos which you can find on my YouTube channel. For now though, it’s time to reveal which team comes in at number 3 in my top EFL challenges!

    At number 3, we’ll start with the potential sleeping giant from League Two. Any guesses? Drumroll pleaseā€¦ Of course, it’s Bradford City. A former Premier League team with a large stadium and big reputation, there’s so many positives to managing this football club. On paper, they’re hue by fourth tier standards and Valley Parade will be able to compete right up to the top of English football with it’s 25,000+ capacity. They’ve also gone for an FM style managerial appointment most recently, with Mark Hughes dropping to League Two to take the helm at the Bantams. The club may have famously reached the League Cup final in 2013, the same year they gained promotion from this division via the playoffs. However, they returned in 2019 and this is now their fourth successive season at this level. They have started promisingly this season though and are armed with returning Luton loanee Dion Pereira on the wing. The goal scoring threat is provided by experienced target man Andy Cook and overall Bradford should have a fairly balanced side in game. Your challenge is simple though! Mark Hughes came in with a big reputation to try and take Bradford City back towards former glories, but can you do it with no reputation?

    At number 2, we head up to the Championship and to a club that were in the playoffs last year. Have I brought out the bias as a Luton Town fan though? Let’s find out, drumroll pleaseā€¦ No it’s not the biased fan choice, I’ve gone for Huddersfield Town. This might seem a slightly odd pick, but let me talk you through my reasoning. It was all going so well for Huddersfield as recently as May. They beat my team, Luton Town, in the Championship playoff semi final, having finished 3rd in the league under Carlos Corberan. However, since a narrow defeat to Nottingham Forest in the Wembley final, it’s all gone a bit wrong. Head Coach Corberan walked mid way through pre-season, citing a lack of backing after the club lost 6 of the 11 players that started the playoff final. After promoting from within, the depleted squad has struggled to get going this season. They sit in the Championship relegation zone at the time of writing having replaced another Head Coach already since the season started. The parachute payments from the club’s time in the Premier League also came to an end this summer and although that means a smaller budget and less squad depth, there’s still some quality to work with. Sorba Thomas provides creativity and brilliant set pieces, with a proven goalscorer at this level in Jordan Rhodes upfront. This is almost a bit of a mini rebuilding job in itself, but it’ll be your job to try and take Huddersfield Town back to the Premier League and then keep them there too!

    At number 1, we drop a division for another side that lost their manager after a good season. Drumroll pleaseā€¦ It’s Forest Green Rovers. After winning the League Two title under Rob Edwards last season, all of the excitement should have been geared towards a first ever season in League One. However, just days after that title success for the UK’s greenest football club, Watford swooped for manager Edwards in acrimonious circumstances. We all know what’s happened to him since too! In came highly rated Ian Burchnall and some additions to the playing squad, but despite this Forest Green have struggled to adapt to their new highest ever level. They currently sit in the League One relegation zone averaging less than a point per game at the time of writing, with the most goals conceded in the division too. That helps you if you take this challenge on though, as you know exactly where you’ll need to prioritise improving. Despite part ownership from Hector Bellerin, Forest Green arguably have the smallest fanbase, budget and infrastructure in League One. It’ll be a big job to try and keep them up first time around and an even bigger one to take them to the top of English football. Sounds like the perfect challenge for Football Manager, doesn’t it?

    So those are my top 3 EFL challenges for FM23 but do any of them sound tempting to you? Let me who you’re planning to manage if you’ve already decided on your team for the new game. There’s also more of these FM23 save idea articles on this site and you can even watch the video version of this article by clicking here! Thanks for reading