Wheelin’ and dealin’: my FM15 recruitment strategy with York City and Wrexham

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Some of you might think your recruitment policy is extremely basic; you think you just sign players because they’re better than what you have or you spot someone who could be a star at your club.

Maybe someone’s caught your eye after a Golden Boot-winning season so chasing his signature seems the simplest decision.

I thought my signings were based on those things too. Since I started putting more thought in to the long-term impact of new players on the first team squad I realised there were other patterns in my recruitment methods that led to my team/s developing a certain way.

Moreover, with my Wrexham career especially, I began to consciously introduce recruitment methods that would shape the future style of football we played, which made success in the game even more satisfying. And when I say success; that means whatever you want it to. Only you decide what your goals are.

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With Wrexham, I played the first season with a self-imposed transfer embargo, so recruitment was limited to promoting youth players and the odd free signing. With a lack of funds meaning poor training facilities, there was a dearth of talent in the Wrexham youth ranks.

Another part of my philosophy, though, was to sign Welsh players and these can usually be found cheaply.

Furthermore, with Wrexham’s financial constraints, I could only scout in the UK and Ireland. That wasn’t the end of the world though because I was snapping up some of the best young Irish and Northern Irish players in existence – before bigger clubs, who’d be too busy watching Europe’s and South America’s top leagues to do the same – which makes a change from my usual foreign player bias.

It was exciting to see the quality players in countries you might not expect. The fact these players are generally much cheaper than ‘wonderkids’ from more a la mode countries is a big bonus.

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Conor O’Carroll is a great example of the class you can find in the Republic of Ireland.

He arrived on a free at the end of his contract at Cork City and has some great attributes.

I feel signing players more or less from the same few countries gives a bit of character to your team too. I don’t know if players get along better on and off the pitch if they speak the same language. I’m not sure the game’s quite so sophisticated yet.

Reputational restrictions

With each club there are different ways to approach new signings. When I joined York City after being sacked by Wrexham (despite getting The Dragons to the Championship from the Conference Premier – yes I do go on about that) my approach changed slightly although I retained most of my Wrexham philosophies.

With York I wanted to continue my good habit of signing underpriced, hidden ‘gems’. It’s possible to achieve anything in Football Manager without ever ‘breaking the bank’ and I think ‘doing a Wenger’, or being tight, provides me with as much fun and satisfaction as anything.

Moreover, York are more established in the upper echelons of English football than Wrexham, so although they both have only a two-and-a-half star reputation in the present day (September 2021), I feel I have a bit more leeway when chasing players.

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Two seasons after I joined York, we’re fifth in the Championship (up from League 1 as champions) and Wrexham are in the relegation zone of League 1. I’m not bitter. I’m not bitter. I’m not bitter…

I continue dabbling in Northern Ireland and, especially, the Republic of Ireland, signing such players as Keith Grant, Josh Mitchell, Conor Ryan (ROI), Paddy McNair and Tommy Todd (NI). We have another Irish left midfielder joining us in the 2022 January transfer window on a free transfer again. They cost me £18,750 in total. In comparison, the fancily-named Spaniard, Juan Carlos Martinez, was much costlier at £160,000; York’s biggest ever transfer fee (on FM15 anyway).

Despite crossing the Wales/England border, I’ve not forgot where I started. I still plan to be Wales manager and you can see my penchant for Welsh talent.

Like many of you have likely done, I went back to my old club to poach one of my favourite players. I picked up Mitchell Prichard, a 19-year-old attacking midfielder, born in Wrexham. I bet their fans hated me for that.

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We have five Welsh players but I hope to add to that. We have 12 English players and three Scottish players in the first team squad too. Only six aren’t Europeans (including Yannick Bolasie who’s played in England for years and has French and English as ‘other nationalities’) and there’s one Frenchman and the aforementioned Spaniard.

With the team performing so well on the pitch, on a high after a glorious promotion, I see little reason to change my transfer methods and will continue to search the British Isles for bargains who won’t pose any work permit problems and will hopefully help the home nations in international tournaments.

A lot of the inspiration for the way I play FM came from the Moneyball blogs of @AFHStewart. You should totally check out his latest articles on @thesetpieces using Moneyball techniques with Bristol Rovers.

I feel there is still lots more to go through on this subject which I find fascinating so I’ll endeavour to write a follow-up post soon.

To make your careers more interesting, try including a recruitment strategy to follow, and I promise you’ll love it.

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