Football Manager Lower League Management Guide

FM Guides

written by Johnny Karp

Hello dear friends, I have a special post for you today, a rather long one too! Since I started the blog I managed Chester City and the Blyth Spartans in FM 2009, then Notts County and now Dorchester Town in FM 2010. It appears that I succeeded in driving those clubs from the lower divisions to the top of European football and that’s probably why many of you constantly ask me for advice. Some of you suggested that I should put together my experiences in lower league management and compile some sort of a guide for further reference and use. Well, that’s what I’m trying now! I wouldn’t call it a guide though, I’m just going to share my approach to particular aspects of the game hoping that my experiences will help you. I have put together some of the most important aspects that you should consider when managing a team in Football Manager 2010 and most of the tips surely apply not only to lower league clubs. Let’s see…

1. Read the manual!

I have noticed that many people forget about this very important step. Let me put it like this: if you buy a new microwave oven and you don’t read the manual you might not cause an explosion but your meals most probably might not be cooked correctly. It’s the same thing with Football Manager, not reading the manual won’t destroy your computer but you might miss very important knowledge that could help you succeed in the game. The online manual is available here in many languages, my advice is to read it!

If my plea is not convincing enough I will give you just a small excerpt from the manual, I’m sure you will find it useful:

The ratings for reflexes, handling, communication, jumping and positioning are generally a good indicator for how good a goalkeeper is.

If you’re looking for a good wing-back pay special attention to an individual’s positioning, tackling, stamina, pace and acceleration.

Positioning, tackling, pace and anticipation are just some of the important characteristics that make for a good full-back.

A good centre-back will usually have high ratings for tackling, jumping, positioning, heading, strength, marking, bravery and team work.

Pace, dribbling, passing, off the ball, creativity, stamina and crossing are just some of the important characteristics that make for a good winger.

Passing, off the ball, creativity, technique, dribbling and stamina are just some of the important characteristics that make for a good attacking midfielder.

A good defensive midfielder will most likely have high ratings for tackling, work rate, stamina and positioning.

Pace, acceleration, dribbling, technique, finishing and off the ball are just some of the important characteristics that make for a good pacey striker.

Jumping, heading, strength and off the ball are just some of the important characteristics that make for a good target man.

2. Finances

Lower league clubs don’t have a lot of money, that’s a fact that all of you are aware about. And that’s the most tricky part of the challenge because building a serious club surely requires money. The first thing that I do when I take charge of a small club is releasing useless players. I don’t release them on free transfers right away, the first thing to do is trying to offer them to clubs for a hefty fee of zero pounds and zero pennies. If no clubs are interested then you can proceed and release those players on free transfers to free some of your wage budget. You will have to pay compensation but I feel that it’s a good move to make on the long run.

Of course you should always check the finances screen now and then and see what’s happening with the club’s money. However, any club’s biggest expenditure is with wages so that’s what you should focus on. Another important move that I make after taking charge of a semi-professional club is moving every player and staff from part-time contracts to full time contracts. I can tell you from my experience that it won’t affect your wage budget too much but the benefits could be quite rewarding on the long run. Basically I offer full time contracts to everybody at the club, a professional club can not be built with part-timers! A player with a full time contract will spend more time in training and that can only improve his as a footballer, that’s the bottom line.

Last but not least you should ask your board to find a parent club. The benefits are quite important as you will have the chance to bring in good players on loan from the parent club, they will be more inclined to accept loan offers that way. You will also have the chance to play pre-season friendly games with that club and if it’s a big one you could be quite satisfied with the gate receipts.

And a few tips from our friend Mariano:

– When I offer players for free I put a 50% clause for a future transfer

– When buying players I always offer to pay the fee in 48 months, this way i can buy way beyond my budget.

And another interesting tip from our friend Jolicobbler:

One thing I like to do as a LLM is offer trials to foreign players who have hidden stats and also those that are transfer listed. Most clubs are happy to see the back of their no-hopers even if it is for a week. And you get to run the rule over them. I sometimes have about ten players on trial in pre-season and the odd few during the season too. I like to think it keeps my own players on their toes!

3. Scouting and Transfers

After releasing a whole bunch of useless players you will need to bring in better ones. That’s a pretty difficult task, here’s how I do it. First of all, you will need scouts. My advice is to hire as many as you can but not anybody. The scouts should have high attributes for judging player ability and judging player potential, those two factors are essential. As a bonus you could try to look for scouts with good knowledge of nations and territories outside the area your club is located in. That will expand the club’s knowledge and you will get to see more players in your searches.

After hiring the scouts you have to give them assignments. A poor club will not allow you to send scouts all over the world, you will probably have the possibility to send them withing the home nation and maybe the neighboring countries. The thing that I always do when managing a lower league club in England is assigning scouts to the English Under 18s and English Reserves competitions, that’s where I get most of my players from.


Then the scouts will hopefully come back with reports about several players. The obvious place to look is at the current ability and potential ability but I always try to check also the personality box along with strengths and weaknesses.

The tricky part comes when you find a player outside your scouting area, you won’t get any reports on him. You have two options in that case: either evaluate the player yourself and decide if he’s good enough or, if he is available for free, you can use “the assistant manager trick”. It’s pretty simple, offer that player a contract and you will see that in the contract offer screen your assistant will give you his opinion about that particular player. This approach is pretty good but your assistant should have decent attributes for judging player ability and judging player potential.


The next thing you can do is search for the players yourself. The best way to do that is by using filters, otherwise it could take you weeks to find the right players. There are a few essential attributes for each player role and those can be found in the manual. If you haven’t read the manual by now, return to step 1! :) Obviously you won’t find world class players willing to come to League Two, so you should also tick the “Ask assistant to filter out unrealistic targets” box. The screen shot below is just an example of a filter that I used when searching for a goalkeeper. Handling and reflexes are key attributes for a good goalkeeper but I also need a goalie that can act as a sweeper keeper because of my high up the pitch defensive line, so rushing out is another attribute that I had to consider.

There’s another small trick that you can do if your transfer budget is close to zero. There are several players that have a transfer value of zero or around that figure (up to 5,000 pounds) and you can try to get them for no money at all. First try to make a transfer offer with a zero fee and if that doesn’t work and you really want the player try adding an additional 50% of the next transfer. That worked for me on a few occasions, about one out of 20 offers.

Another place where you can dig for talented players is the Under 21 and Under 19 national teams. It’s a pretty long and tedious process but the reward might be very good, you could find some real gems for virtually no money at all. That works pretty well if you’re at least in League Two and the places to look are the good footballing nations in Europe like Holland or the Eastern European countries and also South America.

Remember, the players that you bring in should be capable of doing well in your tactical system. So don’t look only at the stars in the scout report! For instance I never sign a defender with less than 10 pace even if my scout gives him 5 stars, he might be useless to me since I use a high defensive line that plays the offside trap. You should also consider the mental attributes, determination is very important but I also want players with high work rate and team work attributes. Go to the next page to read the rest of the story.

Go to the next page to read the rest of the story.

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