The long wait is finally over. Football Manager 2023, the latest iteration of Sports Interactive's iconic simulation game, is now available on general sale, returning for another year of joys, frustrations and celebrations for budding tactical masterminds.
One of the game's great virtues is the sheer range of options available when starting a career. Want to take over a European powerhouse and gun for 10 consecutive Champions League titles with your expensively assembled Galacticos? That's great. Prefer to toil in the lower leagues or in a footballing backwater with zero budget and a team of part-timers? Go for it!
With countless teams to choose from, though, that all-important decision over where to start your first save can be a daunting one. Here at GOAL, we have decided to lend a helping hand with a few suggestions. The clubs below do not exactly rank among the world's footballing elite but each presents a unique challenge and promises a very interesting playthrough indeed.
WrexhamWrexham AFC / Ryan Reynolds
Wrexham have not had a huge amount to shout about for much of their 158-year history. Wales' oldest club have spent the vast majority of their existence bouncing between the two lowest levels of the professional English league system, Leagues One and Two, before going down to the fifth-tier National League in 2008. There they have remained for the last 14 years, but there is new optimism around the Racecourse Ground thanks to their new owners.
They are not nicknamed Hollywood FC for nothing, after all. In February 2021 acting duo Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought out the team from the Wrexham Supporters' Trust, immediately sending their profile soaring.
The pair have proved hands-on administrators, making regular trips to north Wales to see their team in action and giving them ample publicity via social media. In their first full season in charge, Wrexham finished second in the National League before missing out on promotion in a thrilling 5-4 play-off defeat; if you think you can handle the Hollywood glamour and huge expectations, with an ample budget at their disposal they are prime candidates to start climbing the ladder again in 2022-23.
Rakow Czestochowa are a club on the rise. Having spent most of their 101-year existence treading water in the Polish lower leagues, the side have broken out as one of the revelations of European football and are dreaming of a historic first title.
Having won promotion back to the top flight for the 2019-20 season, the club gained a respectable 10th-placed finish in that Covid-interrupted campaign and were even better the following year, grabbing second behind champions Lech Poznan. Now, in 2022-23, they are enjoying a dream season, leading the Ekstraklasa at the halfway point no fewer than nine points clear from giants Legia Warsaw.
Could you replicate the achievements of coach Marek Papszun, who has taken Rakow from the third division to the top-flight summit in his six years in charge? Take the reins and find out for yourself!
As Manchester United have found out to their cost these past nine years, it is not easy to replace a legendary manager, and it is a lesson that the Aberdeen faithful have been struggling with for almost four decades.
Under their legendary boss, Aberdeen threatened to consistently challenge Old Firm duo Celtic and Rangers for supremacy in Scotland, winning three league titles, four Scottish Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup in the space of seven years. But the glory dried up for the Dons when he left for United in 1986, and since then neither they nor any other Scottish club have managed to wrest the title from the Glasgow giants even once. Maybe you are the one who can finally turn around their fading fortunes...
Danish Superliga side FC Nordsjaelland's backstory is rather unique. In December 2015 the club were bought by the Right to Dream Academy, a football school based in Ghana which hones top talent across the country.
FCN stand out for boasting the youngest documented top-flight team in world football, fielding at one point this season 17 under-21 players among the 22 used in total in the Superliga – and including several Right to Dream graduates. It does not seem to be holding them back on the field, either, as at the winter break Nordsjaelland led the Danish by three points over nearest rivals Viborg. This is your chance to hone Scandinavia's answer to La Masia, and if youth development is your favourite FM pastime this may be the club for you.
Create your Club
Still can't decide who to go for? Then why not go and form your own team! There is an in-game create a club mode in Football Manager 2023 which will take you step by step through the process of bringing it to life. Starting from scratch certainly promises to be a big challenge for even the most experienced managers, but just think how rewarding it would be to topple the Premier League's giants with a creation of your very own.
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