First off, I should say that the headlines actually inflate the price of my trip, and don’t mention that the trip was actually two weeks long and involved seeing many other cities across England and the Netherlands. So, I promise it was a success overall!
But the fact remains: I planned an entire trip around seeing my beloved obscure FM club play in real life, and I dragged my wife along with me, only for it all to unravel because of fixture congestion and waterlogged pitches.
But how did I, an American who hadn’t heard of FM until a couple years ago, end up falling in love with this obscure non-league club in Yorkshire, and (attempt to) travel across the world to see them?
When I first heard of FM, I was immediately enamored with the potential of long term saves. After years of playing FIFA, I was tired of my career mode saves essentially going off the rails and becoming unrealistic after a mere 3 or 4 seasons.
At this point I was deadset on finding the most intense and fun long term save possible on FM. I wanted one of those rare FM saves that players of years past gravitated towards, where you could lead a team to several promotions and have it all still feel realistic.
Long Term SaveThere are usually two avenues that people seem to take when looking for a long term save idea.
One is taking a fallen giant back up to the top level again where they belong, such as Schalke or Parma, but those saves didn’t seem like they’d take long enough as glory is usually only 1 or 2 promotions away.
On the flip side, there is the popular choice of taking a small Varamara North/South club and bringing them to prominence through years of climbing the pyramid.
However, getting these minnows to the top just didn’t seem right either, given that the population in the areas of those clubs (and thus potential fanbases) tend to be dwarfed by the likes of Manchester and Birmingham, or even Bournemouth and Wolverhampton.
Unclaimed Territory with Large PopulationWherever I looked, the clubs I found in the lower leagues were either sharing a city with a bigger club or two, or in a town too small to facilitate consistent top level football.
Then it dawned on me. Perhaps the answer lay in discovering “unclaimed territory” with a large population that never had something to cheer about.
This led me to google the biggest city in the UK without a professional football club, and miles ahead of any other option was Wakefield, where a new up-and-coming semi-professional club exists all the way down in the 10th tier: Wakefield AFC.
Strictly speaking, Wakefield AFC is exactly where they ought to be, as they were only founded in 2019, and are currently at their highest ever achieved level, so they are certainly not entitled to massive glory.
Still, Wakefield has a massive population advantage over other clubs in its tier, and even a few tiers up. The city “proper” of Wakefield has a population of around 110k, while the area of Wakefield has a population of almost 350k.
Based on my research, that makes it more populous than areas such as Coventry, Wigan, Nottingham, Doncaster, Brighton and Hove, or Plymouth, to name just a few. Imagine any of those areas simply not having a professional club… it’s unthinkable to me at least.
So, for Wakefield to still not have a professional club to this day is a strange anomaly, but not one that can’t be fixed!
Wakefield AFC HistoryNow, to catch you up on the brief history of Wakefield AFC.
A group of businessmen founded the club in 2019 and quickly accumulated significant debt up until 2021, when new owners took over the club and saved it from going under. These new owners originally were looking at buying a club in the 5th or 6th tier, but eventually set their sights on Wakefield AFC due to the club’s massive growth potential.
When the new owners took over, the team was in 7th place with half a season to go, but the immediate changes they made worked, and the team went on a remarkable run of 17 unbeaten games as they stormed up the table and grabbed their first league title, as well as their all-important promotion from the 11th to the 10th tier.
Wakefield almost completed back to back promotions, but ended up losing in the play-off semi finals after their first season in the 10th tier. At the time of writing, Wakefield are in their second season in the 10th tier and are in pole position for another promotion push, as they currently sit atop the table.
And there you have it, the short history of Wakefield AFC in a nutshell.
My FM22 SaveMy mission in starting a save with them on FM22 was to get them all the way to the Premier League, but do it in a way that felt holistically realistic.
First, I hid numerical attributes using the Mustermann skin. I also took away the ability to search for staff or players, meaning I had to rely fully on posting job ads to hire staff, and on my terrible scouts to find me new players.
For added realism, I would also refuse to even try to sign players who were more than a couple hours away from Wakefield until the club got up to the 6th tier, since I really couldn’t imagine a scenario where a player from a place like London or Bournemouth would find themselves moving up to Wakefield for a part time playing gig on at most £100 a week.
To enforce this, I would only accept players who were previously at clubs that were within a couple hours of Wakefield (so if they are from Wakefield’s regional lower leagues, they are eligible).
I also enforce a rule of "no cheesing" where I couldn’t do anything that could be considered as exploiting the game such as overly aggressive “trial farming”, downloading tactics from the internet, or even signing all the available wonderkids.
By the 2052 season, I was able to get Wakefield to the EFL, and by 2063, I was able to get them to the Premier League. At the time of writing it’s the year 2080 in my save; an endeavor that took me two years in real life. While I still haven’t won the Premier League, I’ve won a handful of cup competitions and have loved every second of it.
Through doing this save, I was also closely following the real life Wakefield AFC.
After writing into the fan podcast for the club “All Wakey Aren’t We”, and telling them that they had a fan all the way in Chattanooga, Tennessee, they were more than happy to invite me onto the podcast to discuss my football manager save, my love for the club, and my hope to one day visit the city of Wakefield to see the club play in person (which as you now know, I failed spectacularly at).
I have kept close contact with the podcast hosts ever since and we now count each other as true friends.
Your ChallengeYour mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get Wakefield AFC to a level more befitting of its context, the EFL. To go one further, you can attempt to bring the Premier League title home to Wakefield, but be warned that this may take decades of in game grinding.
All the while, I fully recommend using all of the restrictions I mentioned above as a means of increasing realism and immersion. Still, you’re more than welcome to play the game however you like, even if you’re here to get 9 promotions in 9 seasons.
The save is only made possible through DanFM's lower leagues database.