Here’s what the next five years have in store for Nottinghamshire’s finest football clubs according to the world’s most detailed football simulator, Football Manager.
Erling Halaand, Kylian Mbappe and Jadon Sancho were all predicted to become superstars and take the world by storm by the ‘FM’ database long before some of the world’s best pundits and coaches.
With hundreds of researchers from all over the world, Sports Interactive want their game to as realistic as possible to give players the most immersive experience of what it’s like to be a real football manager.
But life and football are unpredictable and no matter how much research you do, you can’t predict the future and there have been many ‘wonderkids’ who have caught the eye of players but failed to live up to expectations.
There are also those teams who look great on paper and are predicted for greatness, but things just don’t work out in real life and leave pundits with egg on their face.
Regardless, let’s jump in and see what Football Manager thinks the clubs in Nottinghamshire will look like in June 2025.
The simulation started at the beginning of the 2020/21 season and Forest’s results in the first season are the biggest indicators of that.
With no disastrous start under Sabri Lamouchi, Chris Hughton had a Summer to train and teach his players how to play his way, and it seemed to do the trick.
Lewis Grabban picked up where he left off and was once again the side’s top scorer, as Ahmed Elmohamady and Jacob Murphy were brought in to bolster Hughton’s options out wide and this helped Forest climb to a third-place finish – behind Bournemouth and Watford.
But the season was ultimately a bittersweet one as they missed out on promotion to the ‘promise land’ of the Premier League by the skin of their teeth – losing 2-1 to Cardiff City in the play-off final.
The following season was expected to build on the success of the previous, but this is where a frightening trend began for Forest.
Missing out on promotion unsettled star players and Joe Lolley, Joe Worrall and Alex Mighten were all sold to Cardiff.
The club also let go of top scorer Lewis Grabban, who went across the Atlantic on loan, along with Sammy Ameobi, Yuri Ribeiro and Tyler Blackett.
The recruitment for replacements was poor as well, with Morgan Fox, Alfie Mawson and Jack Butland headlining the incomings.
The Reds were made to pay for this awful transfer window as they slumped to 17th and went through two managers this season as Chris Hughton and his replacement – Nigel Pearson – were given their marching orders.
The third season saw former Barcelona manager Quique Setién take the reigns at the City Ground as they looked to bounce back from a terrible 2021/22 season.
But bounce back they did not.
The man who led Barcelona to an 8-2 humiliation in the Champions League, led Forest to 14th place in the Championship and nothing of real note happened.
A raft of League One quality strikers – former Mansfield forward CJ Hamilton and Conor Chaplin – were signed and Morgan Fox and Samba Sow left with a wimper.
The following two seasons were equally mediocre with key defender Ken McKenna joining Crystal Palace and Harry Arter joining United Arab Emirates team Al Wasl.
It would be nice to have started with a positive outcome but, according to Football Manager, Nottingham Forest will return to mid-table mediocrity and become a feeder club for Premier League yo-yo sides.
On a brighter note, England won the Euros in the Summer of 2021, so that is something to look forward to if this digital crystal ball is correct.
If you’re a Notts County fan, you’ll be happy to hear that Football Manager predicts that the Magpies will return to the Football League and remain there for the coming future.
It would take something to happen in real life, but the game predicted a Vanarama National League title in the 2020/21 season, with the title being lifted by current Yeovil manager Darren Sarill, not Neal Ardley, who swapped Meadow Lane for Home Park as he joined Plymouth Argyle.
Notts County spent the next season making sure they kept their newly acquired League Two status, and did so successfully with a 19th place finish, with Kyle Wootton ending the season as the club’s top scorer once again.
The 2022/23 season didn’t start well, and Darren Sarill paid the price, getting the sack in December with Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler replacing him.
The next few years saw the club making small gains but only getting lower table finishes in League Two, but 2025 did see them win their first cup since 1995 as they won the Papa John’s Trophy.
Mansfield take the prize for doing the best in the experiment as Football Manager thinks that they will be a League One side in five years’ time.
The first season saw them get close to promotion as they finished fourth, missing out on an automatic promotion place on goal difference, and they lost the play-off final to Newport County on penalties.
Season Two saw Nigel Clough’s time as manager come to an end as he was sacked in November and was replaced by veteran EFL manager Simon Grayson who guided them to sixth place and promotion via the play-offs.
They would unfortunately go straight back down and end the season with current QPR manager Mark Warburton in charge as Grayson left the Stags to join Charlton Athletic mid-season.
Warburton’s stay at the One Call Stadium wouldn’t be a long one however as he was replaced by Phil Parkinson almost a year after he joined Mansfield, but they would go back up to League One at the first time of asking, finishing third in League Two.
The final season would see them keep a manager for a full season for the first time in this experiment, Phil Parkinson guided the Stags to an impressive fifth place in League One, losing to a strong Reading side in the play-off semi-final.
By Lewis Brumby