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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38 Comments on "Football Manager Lower League Management Guide"

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@Johnny, sorry mate, my comment has nothing to do with this fantastic post, but I’ll get back to that later. I just wanted to get your advice on a slight problem I’m having in my Ledds game. I’m a few years ahead of my blog but today I was playing it for a while and I was about to play one more game until an error came up resulting in my game to shut down. and because my last save was a few weeks back in the game I had to start again on the new season and I lost a game I had previously won and I was losing another one I had already won and I just couldn’t believe it. I was gobsmacked. So in a fit of rage I turned off my computer and now I feel if I play on my Ledds game I think I’m a cheater and if I think that I just cannot play on anymore. I just wanted to know what would you do if you were in my position? Continue or start all over again?

Darren Smith

Hi Johnny

fantastic post there. Sometimes you need to hear things step by step to create order from chaos. (Thats how I see lower league management, rewarding but chaos when you start.) Anyway thanks for your time and effort. It’s a great post and should help a lot of peps.

@Sears, if I were you I’d probably just go back and play the games again. In my opinion its not cheating if you have been cheated out of a result that was in the bag. Had a similar problem myself, but no dilema because I lost my whole game…7 seasons with Newcastle! I’m usually laid back but that wound me up big time. Hope you resolve your problem.


Great post…I’m sure it’ll be handy for me…I prefer giving my players team talks and I found a wonderful set of team talks at …its really good and works since I started using it…


Hi Johnny, brilliant post mate, I think that’ll help everyone, no matter what team or at what level their managing at. As Darren said it orders the chaos, making everything seem much simpler. I sometimes take press conferences, mainly because I sent the assistant once and he said all the wrong things, and that had a massive impact on the game, the players didn’t look motivated at all, so I’d say press conferences can be important. Anyway great post, well done!


@Johnny and Darren, thanks guys for your support, I continued my save because I have put a lot of work, time and effort into so I don’t see why I should give up.

About the post Johnny, it’s fantastic. I will surly take your advice and use on the new football manager when it comes out if I choose to be a lower league team. I will also use it in my Ledds game. You put a lot of effort and time into the post and I want to thank you. As usual you give us the reader the very best of advice and thats why your blog is so popular amongst us gamers.


Hello Johnny
Well you’ve realy out done yourself this time and have produced a first rate guide that will no doubt help us all. I particularly liked the piece about selecting coaches i.e. motivation, determination and will surely employ those and other stategies you have gracefully shared with us followers. Thank you for putting in all this time and effort to make our FM experience a more pleasureable one. It almost makes me want to start a new game and try all your tips from the beginning. Excellent stuff !!!


Hello Johnny,

Thanks so much for this brillant and helpful post.

Some feedback:

I would appreciate if you can put the filters to scout players that you use for download.
Could you go more in detail how you use your tactic considering the level of your opponent specially when you have to play those cup games against higher league teams.
I´ve been using it in several games in different leagues WITH FANTASTIC RESULTS and i highly recommend it.

Thanks again and congratulations!


I would like to share some tips i always use:

.When i offer players for free i put a 50% clause for a future transfer

.Specially during the pre season i set a note that reminds me everyday to visit the staff room.

.I made a habit of saving my game before and after every game.

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



great post, fantastic! Thank you for sharing.

@Sears: i agree with Darren Smith, you were cheated, it’s not the other way around. You deserved those wins, they are yours to take back.

Johnny Karp

Thanks a lot for your feedback and kind words folks, I’m happy that you find the post helpful.
You are one of those who pushed me to write this post so I have to thank you for that. I am also grateful for your tips, I think I will add them into the post if that’s OK with you.


I’m glad to see that we go about things in a similar fashion. Our match day experiences is something that differs as i usually only have the match stats box open at all times to see how my team is going about their overall business. But the opposing formation is a good tip.

Other than that we use the same things to find players and staff and look for the same attributes. So there’s really not much to be added to this great post.


That picture was extremely accurate on the last page, I always get frustrated when I concede to a weaker team. I conceded to Yeovil (League 1) and I went total berserk because I think the goal was extremely avoidable, fortunately the score was only 1-1 and the score finished 8-1 to me thankfully.


Nice post, Jonny. At the moment the most relevant point to me was ‘Don’t give up’! I’ve had three back-to-back promotions form Bl Sq South with Eastleigh but I’m really struggling in League One. The class of opponents is far better.

I’ve had to start using the Analysis after games to see where I’ve been going wrong and found my full backs were giving the ball away far too much, so you offer sound advice there.

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!

I’m looking forward to the next Dorchester installment.


Thanks for the advice mate, even though i have been manage Thurrock but i still learn new things from the post. Think i need to expand my scout network so that i will get access to more players. Not only we do not give up, managing lower league teams is like a marathon, we need to be patient and persistent too.

Handy Fernandy

nice info mate,,

Chris @ Chester

Really helpful johnny, I’ll use it in my brand new crewe game as I lost my job at Chester :-( I will say that I don’t usually do the set peice tactics but I did notice you scored quite a few throughout your notts county game. I may look into that. I also do every press conference after my assistant told the press we need heavy strengthening just before the community shield which demoralised everyone


Hi, Johnny… I’m a FM player from Indonesia.
Sorry if my english is not good.
I’ve been following your football manager story for almost a year, since i had Football Manager 2010 on my notebook.

I’ve tried rising a club from lower division too, now my bradford stands on third place of Premier League after my 5th season. :D
It’s all because your tips sir. Thanks…
Now i’m a FM addict.



Very nice the updated guide,!

I just finished playing my first season managing Crewe Alexandra, i used the tactic offered in this guide and we won the league 2 with 116 points and lost the final of the Johnstone Trophy.

So i can say it´s a great tactic!

I also used Tug´s trainig schedule with great results too.

So thanks again for such good work!


Good post! I must say that I do regret leaving Wycombe after taking them to the premiership from League two but I was headhunted by Chelsea who offered a £95 million transfer budget, it was hard to refuse and winning trophies is fun but I don’t feel I am doing anything spectacular which is why I am wondering whether to start again and just stick to a lower league team or just carry on with this game. Anyway, great post!

Shane Heffernan

can anyone post screen shots of the training schedules. I have MAC so i cant down load them. Cheers

Johnny Karp

I thought the schedules could be imported on a Mac too. Anyway, I will make the screen shots right now and post them here in a few minutes.


If you can afford to spend £40-60K on one player, Motherwell striker John Sutton is rated as a good Coca Cola Championship player at the start of the 09/10 season, and only demands around £1K/per week in wages, which is very good going. He scored nearly 30 goals for my Notts Co. team despite injury and I sold him for just over £1.5m. I think people might want to consider buying him perhaps?
Very good guide here, thanks.

Johnny Karp

Thanks for the suggestion Michael! I can’t afford 40-60K at the moment but I will take a look and maybe add him to my shortlist.


Thanks for this post Johnny. This helped me stick with FC Zurich who are predicted to come 1st but low finances and poor consistency Resulted in us being 6th out of 12.

Hi Johnny, I would like to share how i raise founds. To set an example, right now i´m starting to manage Djurgarden a Swedish team which has 675k of balance. I arranged friendlies almost every day playing away(to don´t destroy my pitch). To play away against Gremio(Brazil) i will receive 250k, 33% of my total balance. So if i play 20 friendlies i will raise 5 million dollars. Of course you need time to do this. I save my time by getting like 20 useless players on trial i put them all in the reserve team and i use the for the friendlies so i don´t care about their morale getting low or they getting injured. I also used a super defensive tactic and watch the game in “only commentary ” mode. Too make it quicker basically every time i have a game, when i have to choose the first eleven i set the reserve team filter and i tell the AM to choose whos´going to play. And you can do this as many times as you want, even in the middle of the season from when you are playing on weekends. And if you add this to buy your… Read more »
Harry England
Be careful about the advice to spread costs of players over monthly installments.. The total sum comes out of your budget for that season (so you can’t buy over your budget, don’t know where that’s come from), and can lose you money in the long run. If you have strong finances in the plus numbers, you will be gaining interest on the money you have, so spreading finances will save you maybe a few hundred thousand over two years if you’re lucky. If you have negative numbers, you’ll be losing money every month which can make it harder to get your club financially stable and also gaining more interest on loan repayments, so in the long run the transfer is more damaging. Not sure if anyone else cares about club finances, but for me, part of the game is running a successful, well-run club from non-league, and it’s rewarding when you have the funds to expand stadiums or upgrade youth facilities. Also to the person above, that’s technically exploiting an error within the game, the £250k fee for playing away in Brazil is actually to cover costs of travel, but I don’t believe the game is programmed to deduct this… Read more »

[…] Football Manager Lower League Management Guide • … – Hi Johnny . fantastic post there. Sometimes you need to hear things step by step to create order from chaos. (Thats how I see lower league management, rewarding but … […]