F is for Football Manager Future Planning by @darrellewriting

I’m no stranger to the sports sim world, having played various amounts of PC and console sims in all the major American sports (ice hockey, baseball, our version of football, and basketball), but when it comes to the lovely game of football, I have less than half a decade of playing games in the Football Manager series, but my first foray was for the mobile version with Tamworth way down in the National League.

Once the world changed in 2020, it became my go-to sim. The depth of roster management and strategy always appealed to me, and not knowing much about the sport, I started out as one of those plug-and-play tactics FMers (to be fair, I couldn’t tell you what the difference was between a corner and a free kick when I started).

However, even without my knowledge of watching the sport regularly, I knew there was something I could bring to this guide that is a key focal point of all sports sims: building a championship contender. What does it take to build a roster to contend not only for promotion to a higher division but for top-tier football?

Here are my key points about turning your squad into the premier club you expect it to be.

Have a plan, and know that the plan will have obstacles along the way

It’s extremely important to know what type of team you want to build when starting out with a club. You may have a specific formation or style you play that is your bread and butter (I always go with a 4-2-4 or 4-3-3).

Look at the squad and determine what you want the key strength of your roster to be in 3 years. Will you focus on having quality fullbacks, a strong midfield, or trying to outscore your opponents with excellent strikers?

After you determine what the priority will be to improve, do the same for the second area. This will be the start of your blueprint for success.

The ABC of future roster management

There’s a term used stateside that involves high school and college athletics that makes so much sense in the world of FM: ABC, otherwise known as Always Be Cruitin’ (Recruiting). You should never be satisfied with your entire roster. There should always be some aspect of it that you want to improve.

Is this some sort of mad scientist approach? Possibly, but if you always look to improve your youth teams, when the inevitable injuries happen, you won’t be as panicked to pluck someone up for a handful of games.

In my current Director of Football style save with Mansfield, I have 6 starters injured for 2 weeks or more, an absolute nightmare, but since I am only in Year 2, there hasn’t been much built in as far as improving the depth. Lack of money is an issue too.

What does ABC look like for your squad?

It means checking as many leagues as you have loaded for obscure young players. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the ones I use the most are through the Screen Flow option in preferences and by painstakingly scouring all the international youth teams quarterly.

I know some FMers just go through and look at specific youth intakes each year for unsigned wonderkids to snag before their parent club can sign them, and either way is totally fine. It just depends on how much time you have to invest in it.

This isn’t an exact science, but if you sign ten 17- to 19-year-olds in a transfer window and two of them become starters or are worth $10 million or more, then it was worth it.

Even if you don’t want to go through either of those options, do not let the computer scout for you. Set up your recruitment focus and see which players and personalities will fit well in your squad. There’s bound to be at least 2 or 3 players a year that you can find to either help your team via long-term growth or by simply selling them for profit down the line.

I had an FM21 save where I sold roughly 20 players in one transfer window, 2.5 star potential and lower, simply because I knew I would make a profit on them. Always keep an eye out on which positions can be improved and use the new squad planner to your advantage.

Personalities Matter

This section won’t be as extensive, but as you are signing new players to the team, look for personalities that you know are going to be a focal point in the player’s development. If I see someone who has great attributes but an unambitious personality, I will definitely scratch them off the list.

Can that be improved with mentoring? Possibly, but I would rather not deal with the lack of development. A lack of development means a lack of growth, which means a lack of growth in player value.

Driven, Professional, Model Citizen, and Resolute are some of the best personalities when looking for young players.


This is one of the ways FM differs from traditional American sports sims. There’s no specific offseason, as you can essentially make offers for players at any time during the game. When offering contracts to players, I use the American system of annual contracts, but I do use a few tricks to try and get the best bang for my buck when sending a contract to a player.

If you can avoid it, take out any minimum fee release clause. With proper training and development, said player will end up going way over that value, which means you will have to restructure his contract and pay him more. Who wants to do that if they don’t have to?!

Short on upfront wages? Offer a $0 relegation release clause; it will help you go a few ticks lower on the wage offer (just make sure you stay up!).

For younger players, include an optional contract extension every chance you get (the more years, the better!).

These methods aren’t foolproof, as nothing is in the gaming world, but if you follow these basic steps, hopefully you won’t be on the receiving end of a 5-goal onslaught by Robert Lewandowski like I was in the 2027 Champions League Semi-Final with Everton and will actually end up lifting the trophy.

For previous A-Z entries, please visit: The A-Z of Football Manager.