L is for Losing in Football Manager by @DanielEvensen84

Anyone can win in Football Manager.  It’s not hard.  You can get a temporary boost to your ego as needed by managing a rich side, buying all the players on the Wonderkid list, and using the most popular downloaded tactic.  Anyone can do it.

Losing is something else.  And consistent losing—the type that requires patience and forbearance as every action you take proves futile—that kind of losing is not for the faint of heart.

My first Football Manager 2023 save was with Ingolstadt 04, a lower-league German side that I’ve fallen in love with over the years.  I was particularly excited to start this save because I decided to enter the world of Football Manager content creation for the first time, both blogging about my managerial antics and sharing videos of my matches on YouTube.

I encountered a side that was challenging, to say the least.  We had 5 or 6 key players out with long term injuries at the start of the season.  Our team had absolutely no money for transfers, and there was simply no room in the wage budget for any manoeuvring.  Our top earner was an injury-prone centre-back who made ¼ of our entire wage budget and who happened to be injured for 2 or 3 months at the start of the season.

To make matters worse, Ingolstadt had been relegated to the 3. Bundesliga the season before, causing extreme morale problems.

Now, abysmal cohesion and a poor club atmosphere are problems you can overcome.  It’s difficult, though, when you create a manager profile devoid of any experience at all.  The players won’t respect you from the start and will get only more upset with you if you dare make any sort of controversial personnel change, as I quickly learned.

Our first team meeting should have given me a clue:

Nevertheless, I went happily about my business, blissfully unaware of the slaughter that would soon come my way.

In fact, we actually won our first match: a 2-0 victory over Bayreuth that had me feeling very optimistic.

But that was the only good thing that happened that season.

Loss after loss came.  And, in the spirit of supporting our losing cause, I made horrible transfer decisions.  I started to feel upset with players who were not performing to the potential shown in their star ratings.  The fines came first and were quickly followed by fire sales as I eventually embarked on a wholesale replacement of the entire squad.

Never mind the fact that we were losing 3, 4, 5, or even 6 matches in a row!  Pay no attention to the fact that the board told me in no uncertain terms that we had to win the league this year!  It was a rebuilding year, whether they liked it or not.  I was certain that we would fare better with younger, more professional players and that we could train them up to play the way I wanted to play.

And so we found ourselves slipping down the standings, from 1st to 3rd, then 5th, then eventually 10th, and soon into the relegation zone.

That’s when it all started to catch up with me.  The likes of Stefan Kutschke, a striker I binned off early due to a number of poor performances, came back to defeat us in dominating fashion.

Football Manager has subtle ways of letting you know that you’re not doing your job well.  You might see things like this, for example:

Now, it’s always possible that my job isn’t quite that insecure.  Maybe it depends on who you ask.  The board didn’t tell me directly that my job was in jeopardy, after all.

When I asked for more detail, I got responses like this:

But that’s not a huge problem, right?  I mean, I was disappointed that the team was in the relegation zone, too.  I thought it would be an opportune time for us to taper our expectations a bit—perhaps to accept the fact that we might need another year or three in the 3. Bundesliga.

Sure, we might have had 9 straight matches without a win, as the game was so kind to remind me:

But they weren’t all losses, right?  And we were scoring goals occasionally, right?

I fiddled with the tactics here and there.  I did what I could to cheer the squad up. 

Well, it all came to a head when we faced 1860 München in a local derby.  Sure, it was on the road.  I still thought that we had it in us.

Losing builds character.  And I built more character in that 7-0 defeat than I ever thought I would.

I was sacked shortly after that loss.  It was a fun ride, though.  There’s nothing quite like entering a bad situation, watching all your improvements make things even worse, and then being horribly humiliated against your biggest rivals.

You can enjoy your big wins and impressive signings all you want.  As for me, I’d rather take the losses.

Daniel Evensen blogs about his Football Manager projects daily at https://fmprojects.substack.com, and is foolish enough to upload videos of his gameplay at https://www.youtube.com/@danielevensen84.

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