What is the hardest team to manage in FM22? The 23-car pile-up that is Derby County? How about Taffs Well in the second tier of the Welsh League, who have a playing budget smaller than my 12-year-old’s pocket money?
No, the hardest teams to manage in FM22 are those who recently had an R to the left of their name in the league table.
Relegated clubs are a sewage tank in the middle of heatwave. The best players will already have their transfer requests in, and those that do want to stay will be overpaid underachievers that are harder to shift than beetroot stains. The wage budget will be stretched harder than Piers Morgan’s credibility and the board will be demanding an instant promotion, most likely as champions. You’ll be under pressure before the first shanked pass of pre-season.
I’ve taken on relegated clubs twice in FM22. The first time I screwed it up so badly, I was updating my LinkedIn profile by the end of October. The second time I won the league by 15 points. Learn from my mistakes here.
Want more Football Manager tips?
Sign up for my FREE Football Manager newsletter, Friday FM
Get rid of the wantaways
The biggest mistake I made in my first, disastrous dalliance with a relegated club was to not get rid of the wantaway players. Six of the best first teamers declared they wanted out following the club’s relegation, but I convinced myself that winning the first few games of the season would swing them out of a strop. Big mistake.
Although we started the season quite brightly, the players didn’t change their minds and got more upset when I waved away offers for them as the transfer window closed. A couple started missing training, other players came out in sympathy with them, and the Dynamics screen soon resembled one of the more gory episodes of Game of Thrones.
As I later found out with AFC Wimbledon, you can get away with keeping one or two malcontents. But clear out the majority of the wantaways, not only to improve the mood of the place but to give you breathing room in the wage/transfer budget to re-shape the squad.
Sort out the finances quickly
Relegated clubs are likely to be maxing out the wage budget when you take over, because they’re still carrying players from the league above. As mentioned above, the wantaways are the players you should look to move on first, but the high earners should be next to get the arm round the shoulder.
Use the drop down menu to change the Squad view to Contract, and then sort by wage. Immediately offer out the three highest earners to see what you might fetch for them, unless they have huge potential.
Also look for players whose contract has already expired. They are the easiest to move on to create some much needed breathing space in the wage budget. If you’re maxing out the wages, the board will inevitably cut the amount you retain from transfers, making it even harder to raise money.
Recruit proven winners
The first season with a newly relegated club isn’t the time to start blooding players from the youth team. Unless you’ve got a cast-iron wonderkid lurking in The Stiffs (or the Development Squad as they insist on calling it these days), get busy in the transfer market.
You want players that have proven pedigree in that league. The previous season they have must have averaged over 7 in the division you’re currently playing in or above. If you’re fishing in the next league down, make sure they averaged 7.3 or higher. Don’t rely on attributes alone.
Build strength in depth
Having shifted out the transfer requesters and the Big Money Charlies, you’ll likely be left with a thin squad. That noise you can hear is an alarm bell.
Two good options in every position is a must for a successful side, particularly if you’re playing in England, where any relegated club is staring down the barrel of 46 league games, the FA Cup, and various other tinpot trophies.
Hammer the loan market, again looking for players who were loaned out at your level the previous season and didn’t wet the bed. Get your Director of Football to recommend free transfers. See if there are any gems who want to leave a club relegated from your division the season previous, who you might get a cut-price deal on. Do not let the transfer window shut before you’ve got at least 22 players and a couple of kids to fill gaps on the bench.