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Read to win: How football books can improve your FM experience

Reading. It’s that boring thing your English teachers tried to get you into. However, I’m guessing that by now you’ve figured out, as most adults do, that it’s not reading that’s boring, it’s 19th Century novels. Any reader’s boredom often comes from the topic or style of the book or article, not the act itself. Since you’re here, I’m going to go ahead and assume football and video games are interests of yours. And since you’re reading this site you’re clearly not against the idea. So how can we mix the three, and what can we get from it? How can football books improve your FM experience?

Read to win

Football books are almost a genre in itself. Sure, other topics get their autobiographies, analysis and investigations, but the amount of coverage that football culture has gotten from literature in the last few years is surprising. We’ve got books about players, books about managers, books about clubs, leagues or even scouts.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably read a good book just for the joy of it; immersing yourself in an interesting story, biography or investigation makes you gain a new perspective, understand certain people or processes better, or even challenge what you previously believed.

See? Messi reads. Are you better than Messi?

But what if you want to take it further? They say reading makes you smarter, but can it make you better at FM? The way I see it, there are three ways in which football books can make FM better for you, and you a better FM player: Save Ideas, Tactics and Methods. Let’s take a look at each one…

Save Ideas

The ability it gives to choose and develop your own story throughout the game is a big part of what makes FM so unique. Who you are within the game of football and the way you go about your business is entirely up to you, but you always need a starting point. 

That’s where some football books can be a massive inspiration. Books covering the footballing history of so many countries and the game itself are like a treasure trove for anyone looking for a save idea. Unknown fallen giants, clubs with an interesting story or something that makes them special, or just ones that pique your interest are waiting within the pages to be found.

A few recommendations: “Calcio”, by John Foot, “Angels with Dirty Faces”, by Jonathan Wilson, and “The Ball is Round” by David Goldblatt.


Every FMers favourite word, tactics here at the heart of the game. Triumph or tragedy are born on the drawing board. So how can football books help with that? It all comes down to learning the art of problem-solving.

Jonathan Wilson’s “Inverting the Pyramid” is probably the most influential football book of all time, and there’s constant inspiration to be drawn from it

Tactics are effectively one big puzzle where the pieces are interchangeable and the picture we’re trying to put together is a winning team. No book is gonna give you the latest and hottest winning tactic; instead, you can get a deep look into how different tactics developed, the problems they were attempting to solve and how they came about the solution. Moreover, you can learn the problems those who faced it had to deal with. That can inform your tactics building and help you adapt better.

A few recommendations: “Inverting the Pyramid”, by Jonathan Wilson, “The Mixer” and “Zonal Marking” by Michael Cox

Working Methodology

It may sound confusing at first, but let me explain. What we never have to forget is that FM is a system, but one that’s attempting to replicate a very real set of situations. And it’s very good at it. In general, what works in real life will work in the game, if well adapted.

That’s why getting a chance to see how the greats of the game or particular club deals with a number of issues can give you clues to incorporate into your own game. From man-management and squad building to scouting and transfers business, there’s a lot of know-how to get from books on the world of football and its inner workings. 

A few recommendations: “The European Game”, by Dan Fieldsend, “Quiet Leadership”, by Carlo Ancelotti, and “Soccernomics”, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski.

To Conclude

As you can see, football books (and books in general) are a passion of mine. I think there are few things quite as good as turning the lights down and getting your nose in a good book. But when it comes to football books and FM, I think there are also many lessons to be learned which can help us be better at the game but enjoy it more as well. And that’s just a pure win-win.

Enjoyed this? Here are other articles for you:

FM21: How To Survive In The Top Division

Total Football Journeyman: Perfecting the Attacking Trident

School of Thought – Develop young managers on FM

Total Football Journeyman: Building Effective Partnerships in FM21

Recreating Diego Armando Maradona in FM21

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Written by Fernando


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