Football Manager 2024 is here, in Early Access mode at least for those who have pre-ordered the game, meaning we’ve got ourselves two weeks to dig into the intricacies of what’s being dubbed the last of the current generation of Football Manager games.
See also: Big plans for Football Manager 2025 from Sports Interactive
As tipped on Twitter, I’ve decided to concentrate on two clubs (unless I’m forced otherwise) for Football Manager 2024.
With Early Access open as of 19 October, I’m underway with Rochdale, going through the motions with a very ‘home nations’ style database setup – taking all clubs from the National League upwards, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland (championship and above), giving me a database of just over 70,000 players.
The Game Mode, a new option for FM24 is ‘Your World’, meaning that club squads and budgets will be accurate as of the start of the 2023-24 season, with no real-life transfers reflected after that date. The start of the season
As it happens, I’m in the middle of a fortnight away from work and have a bank holiday weekend coming up meaning next week (from 23 October onwards) I’ll be able to sink a good few hours into the game with the hope of getting through a full season in the National League at the very least. Actually, if that’s all that happens, I’ll have done quite well before packing my bags on 6 November to begin life in the MLS with New England Revolution.
A press full of nothing
Hopes and dreams can only get you so far. They’re not the only one in the world of football, but Rochdale are a club without any kind of a trophy victory in the history of the club. On three separate occasions, the club finished third in League Two – 1969, 2010 and ten seasons ago in 2014. Go back to the old days of the Football League Third Division North and they enjoyed a runner-up spot in the 1920s – 1924 and 1927 to be precise – while finishing third in 1926 and 1950.
That’s a long time ago.
Perhaps their best-ever cup run came way back in 1962 when they made it to the final of the League Cup (now the Carabao Cup). In a game played on a Tuesday night in May of that year, then fourth-division Rochdale were beaten over two legs with Norwich taking their first-ever League Cup in a 4-0 aggregate win.
Having a press full of nothing means there’s plenty of room to start adding some trophies in there. National League title, anyone?
A team of…
… well, that’s to be decided. As it stands, there are 17 registered first-team players, with one of those – Cody Johnson – on loan from Stockport but set to return before the start of the National League season.
Rochdale’s U21s are quite young, 15-17, with nobody in the U18 squad. Considering the finances available (detailed below), I’d be hoping for a few loan signings to bolster the squad and get those numbers up before injury ravages the squad. That includes a sub-goalkeeper based on some of the Tweets that have been circulating in the past 24 hours about potential injuries.
This is the ‘your world’ version of the Rochdale side as well, so keep in mind that the summer transfer window hasn’t actually happened. Some of the solutions I’m lookining for (including goalkeeping options) have been solved in real life already.
Objectives for Rochdale
So if the media are predicting a fourth-place finish, that at least gets us into the Vanarama National playoffs. Considering the club have never won a trophy, and are freshly relegated from the Football League, I did think there would be a bit more desire on the club or drive to seal promotion in one season. Instead, getting to the playoffs is the big goal for this year. We’ve got to reach the FA Cup proper and ideally hit the latter stages of the FA trophy though the latter isn’t a requirement.
In fact, promotion to League Two doesn’t become a requirement until the end of the 2025/26 season so there are three full seasons to work towards that goal. While three seasons in two weeks might be a bit of a stretch for me, if results are reasonable it might provide some kind of job security. Unless things really take off, I still see this as being one-and-done by the time Monday 6 November rolls around, but we’ll see what happens.
As for the fans, so long as we don’t make a balls of things against either Oldham, Stockport or Accrington, we’re laughing.
Scouting for talent
A quick look around the staff room at Rochdale shows that we’re well-stocked in both the medical department and the coaching department if well-stocked for means we’ve got ourselves one general coach alongside my assistant manager. At least on the medical front we; ‘re looking a bit better with a full complement of a head physical, chief doctor, head of sports science, physio and a doctor.
What Rochdale don’t have is anyone at all on the recruitment team – no Director of Football, a technical director is not allowed, neither is a recruitment analyst or a loan manager. To be fair, why would you need them in the National League? I do like to work with a DoF in-game so he’ll go on the list and sure we might bring a cheap scout or two in. There is €40k in the scouting budget so if it’s not going anywhere, we’ll absorb it back into the running of the club.
Scouts aren’t just for Christmas though – think about your next opposition, competitions and the rest. If you can afford it, fill the spots.
In the pot
Finance-wise, things aren’t too bad at Rochdale. The club is currently spending €25,300 p/w on wages, with breathing room of about €1,300 a week, which should allow me to lure in one or two signings to bolster the attack. Aiding that, there’s just shy of €50k in the transfer budget with 100% of revenue made available for any departures.
Ideally, I’m able to shop cleverly to get to the start of the league, chasing domestic loans for players with high ability when it comes to non-league football.
In the bank we’ve got ourselves a few quid under the €3.5m mark with the club projected to turn over €2.17m to €2.34m a year through 2025/26. That sounds reasonable but it comes with a project net loss of roughly a half million quid annually.
I’d have to go back to FM17 since I last attempted a non-league save, then with Tranmere. Given the amount of competition for the few promotion possibilities available, getting the right squad while balancing the books is paramount. There’s definitely a lack of depth at goalkeeper, left-back and midfield and a massive disparity in experience levels and while there’s no apparent pressure at the club for immediate success or an immediate bounceback, when you’re only giving yourself two weeks to affect change, you may as well hit the ground running.
As it happens, Rochdale fancy themselves with a 4-3-3 playing the DM, something I made solid use out of in FM23 before switching to a 4-4-2 with 2 DMs and 2 wingers as things picked up with both Benfica and Liverpool. I’ll train both tactics, but for the purpose of Early Access, I’ll use the 4-3-3 DM as a chance to experiment with the new IFB roles (only available on defend) and see if we can get any joy out of a libero who might like to join the DM to shore up the midfield if only to see what all the fuss is about.
So what’s next?
Next up, it’s pre-season with my usual routine: assess the squad, hit the transfer market, see what we’ve actually got in terms of financial sway, review the fixtures list (46 games in the league plus cup football is a fair chunk on a budget) and plough on from there.
You can get updates on X (the artist formerly known as Twitter) if you’re following @tacticalmanager.
A single season in the space of two weeks? I *should* be able to manage it but considering it usually takes me 2-3 months to get through a season, that in itself is going to be a challenge. Onward!