How to start as unemployed & work your way up on Football Manager 23

One of the most fun, infuriating, rewarding, soul-destroying, realistic, and unrealistic things you can do on Football Manager is start at the very bottom. That means unemployed, with the lowest divisions in your chosen country selected as playable, ‘past playing experience’ set to ‘Sunday League Footballer’, and Coaching Badges set to none. The very, very bottom. A complete nobody.

Once the domestic season is underway and jobs become available you will eventually be offered one, and from there you can slowly but surely build your way to the top of the game. It can be done. There are dozens of stories in forums of a route to the top, and this writer has managed it several times in the past.

Fanatical are offering 25% off Football Manager 2023 and you can get an extra 5% off (total discount 30%) using the discount code PLANETSPORT

The game will quickly reward success and prestige with reputation jumps and big, unlikely moves up the divisions. Here are the tips and tricks you’ll need to get to the top of the game:

Finding a Club and Making a Start

The first thing to say about this challenge is you must be completely ruthless. There is no room for sentimentality, aesthetics, or even fair play. Climb that ladder at all costs.

That means you need to change clubs whenever the opportunity to join one with greater resources, or even just notably higher up the table, arises. You should really be moving at least once a season, aiming to take your pick of the best jobs around the October/November time when heads start to roll.

Don’t be afraid to resign if you’ve gone as far as you can, and it’s always a good idea to go on holiday ‘indefinitely’ and tell your assistant to apply for jobs on your behalf, because the game will always bring you back when an interview offer comes in.

In the interview process, just say the right things. Promise the world and don’t ask for anything. If things don’t turn out, you can quickly jump ship. Once that offer comes in, make sure you negotiate the contract offer down, since there is no advantage to you personally taking money out of the club’s finances.

On arrival, the first thing you should do is hold a team meeting and get the players on side. Be a suck up: as you hop in short-term bursts you need morale to be high.

The second thing to do is make a board request to study for coaching badges, which will always be accepted and is a vital step to be taken every four months – when the previous course ends.


Once you’ve sorted out your coaching assignments (vital, no matter the challenge) it’s on to the tactics board – and the key here is simplicity. Not only do you lack time to get your ideas across due to the fact you’ll largely be joining clubs mid-season, but in the lower leagues there isn’t the quality or the training time for anything complicated.

The most effective tactical style is ‘direct counter-attack’, a tactic that instructs the players to drop back and defend with bodies behind the ball before launching direct passes forward for the breakaway. All you need is one good striker (with speed and movement more important than finishing) and you’ll find those longer passes provide one-on-ones all the time.

But there are several tweaks that should be made. Select ‘counter-press’ for ‘when possession has been lost’ and use the ‘play out of defence’ as the ‘approach play’, two instructions that may seem to contradict your main style but work well on Football Manager 2023. Your defenders will now take their time before hitting those long passes, and with counter-pressing on you’re more likely to win the second balls.

Of course, this is not an exact science and there are many different ways to play (‘fluid counter-attack’ is also good), plus you’ll want to mess around with these depending on how things pan out. But the important point is to be simple and old-fashioned. This isn’t a challenge in which to play at being the next Pep Guardiola.

READ: Six of the best clubs to manage on Football Manager 2023: Juventus, Wrexham…


Again, ruthlessness is the key here. The club’s finances are irrelevant to you, so make sure you put the vast majority of any transfer fee offered into three 12-monthly installments, which stops the amount coming out of this year’s budget. You won’t be here next season to pick up the pieces.

Not that you’ll have much of a budget to begin with, given that most clubs near the bottom – especially those without a manager – are usually in financial trouble. Make use of the loan market, try to set up an affiliation with a parent club to avoid paying wages, and see if you can sell your youth prospects (they tend to be over-valued).

Once you have money to spend it is always a good idea to listen to your scouts’ feedback, noting that the star ratings they provide tend to be a more accurate indicator of a player’s true quality than your own eye test on the numbers.

Finally, and most importantly, use your director of football. In the ‘Transfers’ tab, hover over ‘Director of Football’ and select ‘Suggest Transfer Targets’. They will invariably find hidden gems you would never come across on your own.

Put all that together and, with a bit of luck, the most difficult challenge on Football Manager is possible.

Fanatical are offering 25% off Football Manager 2023 and you can get an extra 5% off (total discount 30%) using the discount code PLANETSPORT

By Alex Keble

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