Football, despite it immense worldwide popularity, is still very much a regional sport in terms of fan support, often times in some neighborhoods as to which side of the street you live on. A club can be many things to many people, but no matter what size it is, at it’s heart it is something that will pull a community, be it big or small, to it. But as with all things sports, while you have your big teams, with an international presence and top league success, you also have your smaller teams that have their core supporters, and whether or not these teams have tens of fans or thousands of fans, they are not as well known as their neighbors. Maybe in the past they have had success, maybe they are a new team reborn from the ashes of an older team, but for the better part of their history, they have been playing in the shadow of their bigger and maybe more successful neighbors. In this post, were going to look at a few teams in the base database you can play right now without any additional league downloads. The question is, can you take them up the pyramid, and dethrone those teams. Can you get them out of the Shadows of the Giants, and lead them to Glory?
Rangers and Celtic have long dominated football in Glasgow and Scotland, but Queen’s Park has a history as long and rich as their neighbors. A Founding Member of the Scottish Football Association in 1873, they became known for their proclivity to “pass” the ball from one player to the other instead of dribbling like like all their contemporaries. A 5-0 victory over Wanderers in 1875 made headlines throughout England, and soon more teams were passing the ball.
Their best years were between the First and Second World Wars, they spent time in the top flight in the early 50’s and were relegated after only two years, which started a long slow decline. A brief respite in the 80’s saw them climb back to League Two, until falling back to the Third Tier, and into Amateur status.
The club has a fine reputation for developing youth players, and it was the loss of many of these players without compensation that prompted the club to turn professional in 2019. Success followed this move, and promotions from League Two to League One culminating in a return to the Championship in 2023 have set Queen’s Park up nicely.
At the start of the 2022/23 season, the Spiders find themselves in good shape, with solid Finances, Good Youth Facilities, Great Training Facilities, and Average Youth Recruitment and adequate Academy coaching. The only issue they have is a ground to play on, I believe currently they are groundsharing with Ochilview in the real world, FM has them playing at Lesser Hampden, which is their training round. In previous years they have also ground shared at Falkirk and Firhill.
But the Table is set, can you take control of Queen’s Park, and knock Rangers and Celtic down a peg or three?
Before the rise of Juventus in the 30’s, Torino in the 50’s, and Juventus again, Pro Vercelli was the reigning team in the region, winning seven titles between 1908 and 1922. Since their last title though, they have see Juventus and Torino win a combined 36 League titles, 14 Coppa Italia’s, and 9 Supercoppa’s. After being relegated from Serie A in 1935 and Serie B in 1948, they bounced back and forth between Serie C and Serie D. In the early 2000’s they slowly climbed their way back up the Italian pyramid, culminating in a promotion to Serie B in 2012, 64 years after their last appearance there.
Their stay did not last long though, as they were relegated back down to Serie C the next season.
I think Le Bianche Casacche are well positioned to make a comeback. While the 5500 seat Silvio Piola stadium is old, the club had Good Youth Facilities, Good Training Facilities, and Average youth Recruitment and Academy coaching. They are financially solid, and with some judicious signing and youth development, could be back in Serie A within a few years. The question then, is how long will it take to dethrone Juventus and Torino, to become the Prince of Piedmont, and ultimately the Kings of Italy?
Calcio Lecco 1912
If a team from Piedmont isn’t winning the Serie A Title, chances are high a team from Lombardy is. Home to AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Atalanta, Lombardy is well represented in the top flight of Italian football. However, 31 miles north of Milan, Calcio Lecco 1912 have been toiling in lower table mediocrity for decades. They had a brief period of success post World War Two, reaching Serie A for a brief stay, then falling back to Serie B for a few years, then spending most of the latter half of the 20th Century bouncing between Serie C and D.
This lack of success has meant the club has not been able to invest in itself over the decades, and a result has Basic Youth Facilities, Below Average Training Facilities, Fairly Basic Youth Recruiting and Average Academy coaching. While financially solid, their bank balances certainly aren’t as high as Vercelli’s, and the shadows cast by the other teams in Lombardy may be bigger, but will just make beating them with I Blucelesti sweeter.
FC Ingolstadt 04
Bavaria has dominated German football. FC Bayern has won 30 Bundesliga titles, Nurnberg has won 9, SpVgg Greuther Furth has won 3, even TSV 1860 Munich has won a title. In the shadows of these clubs, ESV Ingolstadt and MTV Ingolstadt played mostly in the RegionalLiga, with brief periods of success followed by a rapid fall. Both MTV and ESV achieved promotion to the 2 Bundesliga in the late 70’s, and both were relegated the next season. As the years continued both teams struggled, and in 2004 ESV was facing insolvency. To avoid having to shut the team down, the two teams merged in 2004, and became FC Ingolstadt 04.
After the merger, things began to improve for the club. Promotion out of the RegionalLiga came quickly, and they reached 2.Bundesliga, but after falling back to 3.Liga in 2013, they returned to the 2.Bundesliga, and clinched the tile and promotion to the Bundesliga in 2015. A surprising 11th place midtable finish in the 2015/16 season gave fans hope, but the next season they were relegated back down to the 2.Bundesliga, and then relegated again down to 3.Liga in 2018. Since then they have bounced back and forth the lower leagues, and start 2023 in 3.Liga.
However, they have had a taste of success, and while toppling the Kings of Bavaria (and Germany) isn’t going to be an easy task, Ingolstadt have a solid foundation to build on. Audi Sportpark is a modern 15000 seat stadium, and the team has Good training facilities as well. Average Youth facilities and Average academy coaching are not bad, but having Fairly Basic Youth Recruiting means building from within may be a harder task. Financially they are in good shape, and while they don’t start the season with a transfer budget, they also do not have any debt, and are among the favorites to be promoted. Getting Die Schanzer back to the Bundesliga and respectability might not take a long time, but beating the likes of Bayern and Nurnberg consistently will..
Denmark maybe one of the smaller countries in Europe population wise, but the quality of players and clubs within its borders cannot be denied. While FC Kobenhavn have won quite a few of the 3Superliga trophies the past years, other team like Brondby, Mitjyelland, Aab and Nordsjaelland have also won titles. With that in mind, of the clubs you can play right away on this list in Football Manager 23 FC Roskilde might just have the hardest task at coming out of the shadows, because not only are there quite a few being cast, but Roskilde is a club fighting for its own reputation.
The club was formed in 2004 by a merger of three local squads, Roskilde Boldklub 1906, Svorerslev Boldklun and Himmelev-Veddelev Boldklubbe, and has played in the lower leagues of the Dutch Pyramid since. They set a Danish record for consecutive win, in 2014 with 20, and looked to be making positive steps forward when the teams head coach accused his players of match fixing in 2019. After an investigation was inconclusive, he departed the club, but the effects of the accusation have remained.
FC Roskilde has a lot to overcome if it wants knock the rest of the Superliga down. Below Average Training Facilities, Basic Youth Facilities, Average Academy coaching and Failry Basic Youth Recruiting means the club will have to do a lot Facility wise, and as a Semi-Professional club starting out, while not in debt their finances are not in the best shape either. It may be awhile before the Eagles can fly high enough to topple the Lions, the Ulvene, the Tigrene and the Drengene fra Vestegnen.
There are a great many football clubs out there with great stories already written, and great many more with stories waiting to be told. In the next chapter of this series, we will take a look at five more clubs, mostly from “Smaller” leagues, that you take over and try to lead the to glory while knocking off their bigger rivals along the way.
Thanks for Reading!