Welcome to the opening post of Unite as One! – My Football Manager 2024 save with Japanese side Tokyo Verdy. This post will outline a few of the broader strokes before I get stuck in; my choices for setting up the save, a bit of information about the structure in Japan and then my ambitions for the save as a whole.
A big part of this save that I decided I wanted to implement early on, even before I had chosen my save (Japan hadn’t even been announced at this point in fact) was that I wanted to return to a skin with graphical attributes rather than the 1-20 attributes that are displayed by default. I did this for my sole season with SJK last year and really enjoyed the different experience it brings to the game. Thankfully, the legend that is Ben has brought his amazing skin Statman to Football Manager 2024, meaning that I can do just that. If you would also like to take the graphical route and try this amazing skin, it can be downloaded HERE.
The main reason for wanting to use graphical attributes rather than numerical is to make them a more abstract part of the selection and recruitment processes, rather than the priority as I have done in the past. To do this, I’ll be taking a data informed approach to both squad selection and recruitment (more on this in a later post) and will only pay particular attention to attributes in certain situations.
One of the biggest announcements in the lead up to Football Manager 2024 alongside the addition of the Japanese leagues, was the inclusion of two new game modes; Real World and Your World. These along with the Original mode previously in the game, give three different ways to start the save with differing players at my disposal.
Having given the new Real World mode a decent run out in two one-season Early Access saves with AS Roma and FC Bayern, this will be the game mode that I use for the save. I find that it’s not only the most realistic choice, as new signings will join on the day they did in real life, not at the start of pre-season like Original mode, but also offers a bit more of a challenge to assess the squad and get them ready for competitive action with the disruptions of players coming and going throughout pre-season. In terms of the actual creation of the save, I’ve decided to load all nine of the Asian nations available in the vanilla version of the game and have them all as playable, despite having no interest in managing in some of them (more on this later). I’ve done this mainly for realism in the Asian Champions League, in order to ensure that it’s not the sides with the highest reputations that qualify year on year.
I’ve also selected a custom setup for the player pool, with a large database and then additional players selected from each continent. Asia and Oceania have the most as they’re the most applicable, but in every continent I have loaded all players with a national reputation in the hopes of finding a few hidden gems as the save develops.
This setup gives me a player pool of 128,950, in reality far too many, but I like to be prepared! I had a similar setup to this on Football Manager 2021 and never found any issues with game speed, and with 2024 running faster than ever before, I’m sure I won’t encounter any issues. I’ve also disabled the first transfer window and kept attribute masking on for realism’s sake, although I think the Statman skin hides attributes for non-scouted players anyway!
With the Japanese leagues being new to Football Manager this year, I thought it may be a good idea to quickly take a look at the league structure and how things operate.
There are three divisions in Japanese league football; the J1, J2 (where we start this adventure) and the J3. Below this is the non-league pyramid, including some University teams. Promotion and relegation are pretty standard, although with the added caveat that it appears the number of teams per division may be changing at the end of season one; only 1 side are listed as being relegated from J1, but 3 are said to be promoted from J2. It appears that our best chance to get promoted may be early on! When we look at league rules we unfortunately run into a problem, as a squad registration rule has been incorrectly implemented into the game. The real life J League rules dictate that the squad must have 2 club trained players registered (increasing to 4 in the J1 League) but in game this rule applies to each match day squad. This will bring a new aspect to the save, as developing youth players now becomes a non-negotiable (I love youth development anyway so no complaints here), but will also bring issues as injuries to club grown players will mean we may need to leave gaps on the bench or fill it with goalkeepers. As the Under 18 sides in Japan also don’t have youth players at the start of the game due to licensing reasons, the first couple of seasons could be particularly challenging in this regard.
Moving on to cup competitions, this season we will play in the Emperor’s Cup, entering at the second round. This is the Japanese equivalent of the FA Cup, and much like the FA Cup it is a historic competition, even outdating the earliest league football in Japan. There is also the YBC Levain Cup, also known as the J League Cup. This competition features all 18 J1 sides plus the top 2 relegated J2 sides. In real life the 2024 edition of this competition will shift format and include all three J League divisions for the first time since 2001, although we will have to wait and see if this is replicated in game.
Further down the line we may also have the opportunity to participate in the Japanese Super Cup, which is the season curtain raiser and see’s the J1 League and Emperor’s Cup winners.
Roadmap has been one of the buzzwords of Football Manager 2024 so far, with Sports Interactive releasing a roadmap of their feature reveals for the very first time.
So here I am, shamelessly ripping off their term to give an outline of how I picture this save panning out. No fancy graphic from me though I’m afraid, I don’t have the facilities for that!
Stage One – Tokyo Verdy
As has already been established in my save reveal (go and check it out if you haven’t already) the first stage of the save will be with J2 League side Tokyo Verdy. This is the only stage of the save that I’m deeming mandatory; this is first and foremost a long-term Tokyo Verdy save, although if I achieve my aims then I also know which direction I’d like to take the save in afterwards, time permitting. I play quite slowly so the next stages of the save may be rolled to Football Manager 2025 or shelved entirely.
The aims for the club are pretty traditional, as the save will be more focused around gameplay approaches that I will take with me if or when I move clubs. The immediate objective is to gain promotion and play in the J1 League for the first time since 2008. From there, it’ll be about establishing ourselves in the division and pushing on to challenge for and eventually win league titles.
This won’t be a youth development save but there will have to be a focus on bringing through talent as the league rules dictate that a certain number of club trained players must be in each match day squad – 2 in J2 League and 4 in J1 League. (I haven’t checked the J3 League, if I need to know then I’ve done something very wrong!)
I also won’t leave Verdy (by choice) until I’ve made an impression on the continent. Despite their period of dominance in domestic football in the late 80’s to early 90’s, they only converted that into one Asian Club Championship (now the Asian Champions League) win in 1987. I’d like to better this record and win two, although if I win one and it feels like the right time to move on then I may do so.
I don’t expect this to be an easy feat, there are some great sides right across the continent, and even though it isn’t a playable division in the vanilla database it’s hard to ignore the impact that Saudi Arabia’s spending power will have on the competition.
Stage One.Five – Japanese National Team
Intertwined with my spell at Tokyo Verdy, I’d like the opportunity to manage the Japanese National Team too, but only if it comes up naturally. I won’t be adding a second manager or giving myself the job just for the sake of it. Before Football Manager 2021 I had never managed a National Team other than England, but I thoroughly enjoyed my spell as Uruguay manager at the end of my Defensor Sporting save. However, this was very much a book end with very little overlap in the roles, and I’d enjoy the chance to juggle both over a period of time. I’d also be open to potentially managing the Under 21’s should the post become available, although I’d only do this early in the save, as by the time I’ve established Verdy I’d be looking for the senior post.
Stage Two – South Korea
One country I’ve always been interested in managing in, but never pulled the trigger, is South Korea. Ironically part of the reason I haven’t before is because of the exclusion of Japan and the impact that would have on managing in Asia. By the time I would be ready to leave Verdy and move on to South Korea, I’d expect to have built one of, if not the best side in Asia. The challenge of moving to a new country and defeating the side I’ve created is intriguing, especially as it’s something I’ve never done in Football Manager before.
For reasons that I can’t fully articulate, I’ve always felt an affinity for Pohang Steelers. It might be the cool badge and colour scheme, or it might be because I vaguely remember reading about a Journeyman save with an epic spell with Pohang years ago on the forums(?), but they would be my number one pick for a South Korean side to manage. However, much like the Japan job, this will be a natural process, and once I’m ready to leave Verdy it will only be through a successful application process. Who knows, by then the giants Jeonbuk may have faltered, or a K2 League side may have risen to become an interesting challenge; it will all depend on how the landscape looks at the time.
Surprise surprise, the goal here would be to win another Asian Champions League. If I could beat Verdy in the final to do it, how perfect would that be?! Domestically I would obviously like to pick up silverware too, but as I would expect this to be a shorter spell in the save with the goal of being better than Verdy on the continent, I won’t be sticking around in South Korea for the sake of winning a league title.
Stage Three – Australia
We’re now into the part of the plan that only comes into effect if I’m absolutely obsessed and flying through seasons at a rate that I usually don’t. At this point I’d argue that the save becomes somewhat of an Asian Journeyman/Glory Hunter save, but the A League is another that I’ve had ideas to manage in before without actually doing so.
Australia have only ever had two representatives in the Asian Champions League final, with Adelaide United losing in 2008 before Western Sydney Wanderers finally bringing the trophy to Oz in 2014.
Unlike South Korea and Pohang Steelers, I have no preference at all to which side I’d take the reigns of in Australia, but to be able to build a squad good enough to win the Asian Champions League and best two squads I’ve previously built would be up there with one of the best achievements I’ve had in Football Manager, especially in recent years. The aim again would be more focussed on the Asian Champions League than domestic football, but an A League trophy or two wouldn’t go amiss!
To be clear, I don’t expect to complete everything I’ve outlined here. In my last save that I played while going in depth into several areas of the game I completed 8 seasons, and I imagine I’d need at least 12 seasons to complete the full roadmap for this save. Others would definitely be able to do it quicker, but I quite like the slower burn and more realistic growth.
In terms of goals for the save that are based on game mechanics rather than the actual save, I have a few things that I’ll be looking to either continue or implement.
- Continue with my pragmatic tactical approach
- Try to implement a consistent game model with additional tactics created to adjust for certain game states
- Try to focus more on making observations in match and tweaking accordingly
- Take an interest in all set piece routines, not just attacking corners as I’ve been guilty of doing for years
- Create custom training schedules and tweak where needed
All of this, plus the biggest implementation in this save, a data led recruitment process. There will be a full blog post about my approach to this, but as I mentioned above, using the Statman skin and its graphical attributes will allow me to be more informed for both recruitment and selection decisions, using the large array of data in the game to justify my choices rather than just relying solely on the basics of a player’s attributes.
I guess the only thing left to do now is get this show on the road…