I started playing Championship Manager games around the year 1996. After spending countless hours with my brother playing Sensible World of Soccer (which was way ahead of its time as football management simulation games went back then), I discovered Championship Manager 2 at a friend’s 10th birthday party. Within hours we had swapped games (a wise decision seeing as to this day I have never returned it to him), and the rest as we know is history; 27 years later I am still playing what is now Football Manager, racking up more hours than ever before and better still (or worse depending on how you look at it), I have spent the last 5 years producing various content about the game and my own save adventures, be it blogs on my own website (MaddFM.com where we are now), random FM threads on Twitter, written pieces for 5 Star Potential, published content for Football Manager’s official Byline website, random Guinness-fuelled streams over on Twitch or weekly verbal nonsense & FM verbatim on the 5 Star Potential podcast.
All in all it’s safe to say I have plenty of experience with the game, not necessarily successful experience but hey, god loves a trier right? As we gear up for Football Manager 2024 and what we expect to be the best and most complete version in the game’s history, I naturally began internally bouncing through various save ideas and potential narratives, and as my mind drifted back to previous saves and versions of the game gone by, I found myself presented with a question for which I was rather unsure of the answer..
Tonton Zola Moukoko. Kim Kallstrom. Kennedy Bakircioglu. Stefan Selaković. Alexander Farnerud. Anders Svensson. Jonas Lundén. Labinot Harbuzi (RIP). All famed and renowned Swedish wonderkids from CM and FM days gone by, a time when Sweden had not that long before finished 3rd at World Cup 1994 and were at the forefront of producing young talent not only in our virtual footballing simulation world but also in real-life where we saw the likes of Henrik Larsson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and even Freddie Ljungberg burst onto the scene and reach the highest echelons of professional football winning countless trophies at domestic and continental level.
Swedish Wonderkids of yesteryear..
A similar predicament can be applied to Swedish club football also. No Swedish team has ever won the European Champions League/European Cup, with Malmö the only team to have ever reached a final all the way back in 1979 when they lost 1-0 to Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. Only one Swedish team have ever won the Europa League (UEFA Cup) and that was IFK Göteborg (1982 & 1987). While the 80’s and 90’s were peppered with Swedish teams competing in the Champions League and UEFA Cup Group Stages & Knockout Rounds, only 2 teams have made it to the UECL Group Stages since the year 2000 (Helsingborgs – 2000 and Malmö – 2014, 2015 & 2021), and we would need to go back to 1995 to find the last time a Swedish team actually qualified from the Champions League Group Stages (IFK Göteborg again). Overall it’s safe to say that the success of Swedish clubs has greatly declined on the European stage particularly in comparison to years gone by.
So what has happened? Of course we have seen some highly talented modern day players emerge in recent times – players such as Dejan Kulusevski, Alexander Isak, Emil Forsberg and Victor Lindelöf who have all risen to play elite level football however outside of these and if we really focus in on Football Manager, I find it hard to recall too many top tier Swedish youth players emerging in comparison to the notorious wonderkids listed earlier (exception: Roony Bardghji, but more on him later), with South America and mainland Europe largely dominating in terms of wonderkid production and newgen development.
Hopefully that all changes now. For the first time since I started making Football Manager content, I will be venturing outside of Europe’s Top 7 leagues on a brand new save adventure, with a fresh narrative and a new set of footballing objectives to achieve. The goal is simple – to elevate and return Swedish football back to elite level across four main pillars:
Save Objectives 📋
1. Wonderkid Production 🔄 – our goal will be to drive the production and development of high-potential Swedish youth players and academy graduates, fostering them domestically towards first-team football and/or big money transfer moves abroad.
2. European Club Success 🇪🇺 – our aim is to make a Swedish club successful on the biggest European stage, not just qualifying for the Europa League & Champions League, but reaching the latter stages and beyond as the likes of Malmö and IFK Göteborg did all those years ago.
3. International Pride 🇸🇪 – having only qualified for one of the last 4 World Cups and having not reached a European Championship Quarter Final since 2004, our plan is to boost Swedish International football initially through production and development of players at club level before eventually landing the Sweden National team job organically within the save, with current manager Janne Anderson still at the helm since 2016.
4.Homecoming 🏠 – just like Edwin Akufo in Ted Lasso, I dream of bringing some of Sweden’s best exported talent back home to the motherland. This may prove to be increasingly difficult but if there is time and things go well, you never know..imagine if we could lure Roony Bardghji over or eventually brink Isak home? 😍
Not strictly a homegrown save but somewhere between that and “Build a Nation” I guess..sounds easy right? All that is left to do now is tell you three important pieces of information:
(1) The Club ⚽
Our quest will take place at AIK Fotboll who play their home games at the 50,000 seater Friends Arena in Stockholm, which is also home of the Swedish National team. Founded in 1891, the club has won 12 Swedish League Championships making them the fourth most successful club in the Swedish league behind the aforementioned Malmö, IFK Göteborg and IFK Norrköping. Their last Allsvenskan title came back in 2018, prior to that they were champions in 2009 and 1998 – hopefully we can do better than average one league title every 10 years! In terms of past pupils, the club can count Alexander Isak, Robin Quaison and Johan Mjällby among their former alumni while their most recent successful export was Yasin Ayari who joined Brighton in 2023 for a fee of €4m – our hope is that we can rapidly expand on this in terms of quality and quantity of players produced & developed at the club, and later sold for high transfer fees as they move on to bigger and better things. AIK generally play in either a white or black kit which are currently made by Nike, and they recently released a 132-year special edition jersey which I am finding it very hard not to order right now. [Update: I’ve ordered one].
Why AIK specifically? While I am intrigued by their history, their kits, their ultras fan base and the fact that Alexander Isak started his career there (we all know I’m a Newcastle fan right?) – the inspiration actually came from a chance encounter while on holiday in France (the home of my better half); while drinking wine at a house full of French speakers, I discovered the only other non-French native was a Swedish guy married to the sister of a friend etc – turns out he is a massive Football Manager & AIK fan and as we spoke more about wonderkids and FM saves gone by, his stories of AIK and their history & fan base stuck with me, so here we are! If all goes well we may even fit in an ad-hoc visit to Stockholm for a game before the year is out 👀.
(2) The Manager 👔
A new game calls for new ideas, and this year we will do something a bit different to what I have done previously – an alter ego: we will bring in a new (slightly fictional) Swedish rookie manager by the name of Patrik Maddsson to lead our quest and take the reins at AIK Fotball in his native Sweden. Born in Stockholm in 1986, Maddsson was part of the first ever AIK youth team to win the Swedish U19 League in 2004 before his career sadly ended though injury. A combative, tough-tackling defensive midfielder, Maddsson returns to AIK having just completed his UEFA Continental A licence after a number of years overseas in various scouting and academy coaching roles notably in Ireland, France and New Zealand.
(3) Save Name 📣
Go hard or go home right?
Allsvenskan or Nothing: AIK Fotball – coming to a screen near you 🔜.
Thanks for reading.
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