The article is divided by league's; Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two, Vanarama National League - all five are playable in FM21.
Let's start off with the Premier League where Liverpool won their first league title in 30 years,
Arsenal (Last Season: 8th)The gunners have been woeful both on and off the pitch. It is true that Arteta has a massive job on his hands but will be given time and is not responsible for the upper management’s distasteful actions – but Arsenal are in need of a thorough cleansing. They were so fortunate to get European football thanks to a F.A. Cup win but they still don’t look set to win the Europa League next season. While their FA Cup record is impressive, it doesn’t shadow what is a bad run from Arsenal; no league title since 2003/2004 (that’s over 16 years ago), no Champions League football since the 2016/2017 season and don’t look like competing at the top of the Premier League anytime soon.
Aston Villa (Last Season: 17th)“Sleeping Giant” is the usual label slapped on Villa – especially thanks to their one Champions League win in 1981/1982. However, Villa really haven’t been a main threat since the mid 1990’s, despite some nice finishes in the league at the turn of the century. Their last trophy was the League Cup in 1995/1996. Taking them from barely surviving in the Premier League to breaking the ‘traditional’ mold is a real-life ambition for the club, and could be reality under your care.
Everton (Last Season: 12th)Having a manager like Carlo Ancelotti come in did raise some eyebrows, everything at Everton however has stalled, though some recent signings may change that notion. Despite massive investment and the promises of a new stadium plus Champions League football – Everton have constantly taken one step forward and one step back. What makes it worse is that there have been no trophies in the meantime since their FA Charity Shield in 1995 after winning the FA Cup in 1994/1995 – unlike local rivals Liverpool who have filled their cabinet in the span of their 30 year wait for a league title. Everton’s European campaigns when achieved have been nothing to shout about either. With other clubs strengthening such as Wolves and Leicester – Everton are no longer considered of being ‘the best of the rest’ nor anywhere close to breaking the traditional powerhouses.
Leeds United (Last Season: 1st – Promotion from Championship)20 years ago, if you said Leeds would be in the second tier you would have been kicked out of Elland Road. However terrible mismanagement threw the Champions League semi-finalists into a financial crisis and plummeted in League One after relegations. Now their back in the big time and they look to be staying for a long time with ambitions to be back where they were before everything fell apart. However, that is a lot easier said than done.
Leicester City (Last Season: 5th)Leicester have had a brilliant season, though they did end it in disappointment as on the final day they lost what looked like a cemented top 4 finish. While terrible seasons from both Arsenal, Tottenham and arguably Chelsea and Manchester United have helped the foxes to sneak in, they cannot help but feel as they missed out on a golden opportunity. European football is good for the club but maintaining a top six finish will be even more difficult as the traditional big clubs look to strengthen and other clubs look to take Leicester’s spot, in particular Wolves. Their smart business strategy and scouting has had the admiration of many, but is it sustainable at the top?
Newcastle United (Last Season: 13th)It’s actually really sad to see the state of Newcastle – albeit it’s not the worst thing to happen to a club nor is it the worst state of a football club to be in – there was so much promise. There is still hope with rumors circulating of another potential takeover of the club, but new owners don’t bring instant success – it even took Manchester City a few seasons to start winning trophies. Things looked good under Sir Bobby Robson but things have been downhill ever since. Their last major trophy was their FA Cup win back in 1955 – surprising for a “massive” club which is so well supported.
Tottenham Hotspur (Last Season: 6th)Brilliant players who still have yet to have a trophy. It’s the typical narrative now that all Spurs fans are sick of hearing, but it is a concern. Tottenham are looking far behind their rivals and their troubles were heavily masked by the run to the Champions League final where they lost to Liverpool. Also, despite them being better than Arsenal in recent league seasons, Arsenal have had FA Cup wins and Europa League final to display – while Spurs trophy cabinet is still barren. Things look positive under Mourinho but Spurs don’t look like competing for a league title for at least another season or two.
Southampton (Last Season: 11th)Hasenhuttl has really got the Saints kicking again and they look like potentially building to break into the top seven or eight within a few seasons. Throughout their history Southampton only have one major trophy – a solitary FA Cup win in 1976 and could expand upon that as they look to be a permanent fixture in the Premier League. Pursuits in both the League Cup and FA Cup could be a back-door entry into Europe for Southampton.
Rotherham United F.C. (Last Season: 2nd – Promotion from League One)Rotherham are the exact definition of a yo-yo club. For the past four seasons they have hopped between the Championship and League One, now back in the Championship getting promoted from the division below. Is it possible to finally break the duck and become a solid championship side and possibly shoot for the Premier League – which they’ve never been to before in all their existence? Well that is all up to you as the manager.
Brentford F.C. (Last Season: 3rd – Lost promotion playoffs)What a story it would have been if Brentford were promoted to the Premier League, their final season at Griffin Park which they used since 1904 and they’ve never been in the top flight after World War 2. Despite that Brentford have been run very well and in recent years are regular contenders for the promotion places in the Championship – however it has never come true, even losing out on the automatic spot on the last day of the season last year. Quite a few players will be picked apart following their impressive campaign and will make it difficult to try again for promotion the following season.
Coventry City F.C. (Last Season: 1st – Promotion from League One)Coventry for just over 30 years were a main-stay in the top tier in England before their relegation during the 2000/2001 season. Since then the club has gone through some terrible times and even to this day are still without a stadium to call home. Despite these issues they are back in the Championship after spending the past few years in the third and fourth tier. Bringing stability to the club and possibly staying in the Championship is a task not to take lightly.
Luton Town F.C. (Last Season: 19th)Understanding Luton’s rise through England’s pyramids is not something to take lightly. They were in the National League (5th tier) as early as the 2013/2014 season and are now in the Championship (2nd tier). Last season they barely escaped relegation and with the chaos of the Championship, who knows if they will last next season – especially the gulf in funds between League One and the Championship.
Preston North End F.C. (Last Season: 9th)Preston are steeped in English footballing history and are one of the most important sides within England. Recently they were talked about as Liverpool were starting to look like having an “invincible” season in the Premier League – a feat which Preston North End completed all the way back in the inaugural Football League season in 1888/1889 and of course Arsenal did in the 2003/2004 season. They were also the first club to do the “double” winning both the FA Cup and the League in the same season. Their stadium; Deepdale is recognized as the oldest ‘continuously used’ football stadium in the world. Despite this Preston have not been in the top flight since 1961 nor have won a major trophy since their FA Cup win in 1937/1938 season.
Nottingham Forest (Last Season: 7th)Forest’s rise and power, knocking off Liverpool during their hay-day by winning the League and two Champions League trophies back-to-back is nothing short of a footballing miracle. However, that success was never truly capitalized on nor sustained consistently. They’ve been in the Championship since the 2008/2009 season after being promoted from League 1 and the last time in the topflight was the 1998/1999 season where they finished rock bottom. The past few seasons have indicated a bit of a rise but have yet to get into the promotion places at the end of the season.
Sheffield Wednesday (Last Season: 16th)It must be painful to watch city rivals Sheffield United enjoying the Premier League and at one point were not too far away with gaining European football. What makes it worse is that for the start of next season they are slapped with a -12 point deduction, making an already difficult campaign even worse as they look set to be relegated to League One.
Oxford United (Last Season: 4th – Lost promotion playoffs)After they were relegated to the Vanarama National League in 2006 – Oxford United became the first winners of a major trophy to be relegated from the Football League. Besides that they seemed to have been on the rise and pushing to be back in the Championship for the first time since the mid-90’s until COVID stopped the potential for it to occur.
Portsmouth (Last Season: 5th – Lost promotion playoffs)Portsmouth are FA Cup winners as recently as 2008 and played in the Europa League the following season – the first time to play European football in their history. Things looked on the up but financial problems made the club suffer and they had to sell their big earners and were relegated in the 2009/2010 season. Despite that another FA Cup final appearance occurred that season where they lost to Chelsea. Since then Portsmouth were on a rapid decline and at one point were relegated to League Two but have rebounded and seem to be stable. Now the issue is to get back to the top.
Sunderland (Last Season: 8th)Another one of England’s biggest clubs, the recently have found themselves in the spot light with back-to-back relegations from the Premier League being well documented by the Netflix Documentary “Sunderland Til I Die”. It’s a sad state to see a big club like them fall this far – however the last few seasons in the Premier League did see some big warning signs. COVID and still trying to manage the finances in extremely limited circumstances means that Sunderland’s fight to get back to the Premier League is an extremely difficult one.
Lincoln City (Last Season: 16th)In recent years, Lincoln find themselves in League One consistently for an extended period of time, a sustainable period not seen since the 1980’s. Their rise recently has been impressive – 2016/2017 saw them in the fifth tier and their domestic cup exploits have been even better. 2016/2017 FA Cup saw them reach the fifth round for the first time since the end of the Victorian era – on top of that they reached the last eight – the first time a non-league club (where they were at the time) had reached since 1914.
AFC Wimbledon (Last Season: 20th)Wimbledon FC’s recent history is a bit complex and difficult to talk about for fans of the club as the FA allowed them to relocate to Milton Keyens – 97km north of Wimbledon. After the relocation and branching of MK Dons – Wimbledon found themselves in the Ninth Tier in 2003 – their rise has been outstanding and currently for the past few seasons reside in League One. Seen as the spiritual heir to Wimbledon F.C. (despite what MK Dons fans argue) Wimbledon are a proud and notorious club in English football who could use some real loving and care.
Charlton Athletic (Last Season: 22nd – Relegation from Championship)Charlton are in a mess at board level. Between legal disputes and nobody quite sure over who the proper owners are for the club, Charlton on top of that were relegated back down to League One. Frustration all around and finances tightened even further thanks to the COVID pandemic – things don’t look all to well for The Addicks. Bringing the fans back on side and balancing the complicated board situation is no easy measure for any manager.
Ipswich Town (Last Season: 11th)Here’s a cool fact – Ipswich Town have competed in all three major European club competitions (Champions League, Europa League and Cup Winners Cup) and have never lost at home in European competition. Ipswich were a strong club not to be messed with from the early 1960’s till the mid 1980’s within which were strong showings in Europe – with a much forgotten Europa League win coming in 1980/1981 which came under Sir Bobby Robson. Recently fortunes have been poor for Ipswich who now find themselves in League One despite seeming to be just a few seasons ago a potential outside for being promoted back to the Premier League.
Harrogate Town A.F.C. (Last Season: 2nd – Won promotion playoffs)Harrogate Town for this upcoming season will play in the English Football League for the first time in their history having been promoted from the fifth tier last season. The past few seasons have seen a jump from the 6th tier to now the 4th tier – the small club look to have their work cut out for them but best of luck to them. Who knows the heights they could reach under your management.
Bolton Wanderers (Last Season: 23rd – Relegation from League One)The shambolic condition Bolton finds themselves in is quite sad to see and for only the second time in their history do they find themselves in the 4th tier of English football which came in the 1988/1989 season. Fortunately no points deduction this year was given to the club and a change of staff and players have the club hoping that they can rebound quickly back to League One and potentially within a few short seasons be reach for the Championship. Under this new ownership which is still a tad chaotic – hopefully things are on the up for Bolton.
Stevenage (Last Season: 23rd)The past few seasons have seen Stevenage stall in League Two and were extremely fortunate to survive as Macclesfield Town were deducted points AND Bury were expelled from the Football League – meaning that despite finishing 23rd – Stevenage survived. Their performances were beyond poor last year before COVID ended and things look like they will be back in the 5th tier very soon unless a change of fortunes on and off the pitch are met by you.
Exeter City F.C. (Last Season: 5th – Lost promotion playoffs)Exeter were so nearly back in the Third Tier which is the highest division they’ve ever been in within their existence. Unfortunately a staggering 4-0 loss to Northampton Town in the play-off final saw them stay in League Two and again will be an outside favorite again for promotion. For the small club, there have been no major trophies to boast about either – they only have reached the FA Cup Quarter Finals on two occasions and that is it. Hopefully a new manager can bring success and new excitement to this old club languishing in the lower tiers.
Forest Green Rovers (Last Season: 10th)Well documented now but in 2015 Forest Green became the world’s first vegan football club and have numerous eco-friendly innovations installed throughout the infrastructure of the club and it’s facilities. Three seasons in League Two is a success for the club as they enter their fourth season as they run an excellent club financially who are leading in Green Economics. A near miss two seasons ago as they lost the play-off semi-final in the 2018/2019 season – who knows the fortunes of this club as time continues forward.
VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE
King’s Lynn Town (Last Season: 1st – Promotion from National League North)King’s Lynn Town were founded in 2010 after King’s Lynn F.C. were wound up in 2009 and this upcoming season sees them promoted to the 5th tier for the first time in their history. Whether King’s Lynn deserved their promotion is one thing as they got promoted via PPG average rather than points since COVID shut down the season. Time under your management will tell if King’s Lynn are worthy of their promotion and survive in England’s fifth tier.
Notts County F.C. (Last Season: 3rd – Lost promotion playoffs)Notts were relegated from the Football League for the first time at the end of the 2018/2019 season – a club that has been in existence since 1862 making them the oldest professional association football club in the world. In fact Notts are so old the outdate the Football Association itself. Notts County are also historically a very influential club in and out of England – Juventus derive their famous black-and-white striped kits from Notts County as the club supplied them shirts through a supporter. They were in the Premier League during it’s inauguration but things look worse for the club as they stay in the 5th tier another season despite things looking up at the turn of the decade.
Altrincham F.C. (Last Season: 5th – Won promotion playoffs)Altrincham have spent their whole lives outside of the Football League. Despite that, Altrincham hold the record for knocking out more Football League sides than any other club that has spent its entire history playing in non-League football. Back-to-back promotions have found them in the 5th tier for this upcoming season and even though they have a lot against them, maybe a first ever visit to the Football League is on the cards for a football club who have been in existence since 1891.
Wealdstone F.C. (Last Season: 1st – Promotion from National League South)The first team to win the non-leageu double by winning both the FA Trophy and National League in the same season. They also were the first team to appear in a televised football match in the UK when the BBC showed their league match against Barnet in October 1946. For now they spend their days still in the lower tiers of English Football – back now in the 5th tier after winning Promotion from the 6th tier National League South.
Wrexham A.F.C. (Last Season: 19th)The oldest club in Wales and listed as the third oldest professional football team in the world – Wrexham have a decorated and impressive history in both English and Scottish Football. Within the English system they have never been higher then the 2nd tier and spent majority of their life in the 3rd tier – recently they find themselves since 2008/2009 in the Vanarama National League and nearly being relegated further at the end of last season. Historically – thanks to participation in the Welsh Cup they participated in Europe despite being in the lower tiers and even got to the Quarter Finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup back in 1975/1976. Definitely a minnow however compared to fellow Welsh sides’ Cardiff and Swansea whom also play in the English League System.
Best of luck in your FM21 saves. Stay safe and stay healthy.