For previous A-Z entries, please visit: The A-Z of Football Manager.
Today’s guest author is @Rumple43!
Brighouse Town. Bromsgrove Sporting. Barton Rovers. Basingstoke Town. Whilst they might seem like an odd collection of sides, they do all have one thing in common.
They all reside a long way down the footballing pyramid. Lurking in the depths of “lower league management”. But I’m here to tell you that those murky depths contain a lovable charm that you should explore if you’re looking for something new from Football Manager.
And no, we’re not talking League Two here, or even the National League. Keep going, down a few more tiers after that. Thanks to the incredible work of the FM community, you can download and use databases that run all the way to Tier 10 of the English footballing pyramid and beyond.
But why would you want to try and run a team who’s monthly income pales in comparison to the weekly earnings of a top Premier League star?
For the love of it, of course.
Lower League management is FM without the bells and whistles. Most set ups that far down the ladder can’t afford performance analysts, loan managers, technical directors, sports scientists and the rest. The stats of the staff you can appoint are poor, at best. In short, if you want something doing, do it yourself.
I am five seasons into my own current lower league save, and I’m yet to pay out (or receive) a transfer fee for anyone. The game works on 12-month contracts, and with scouting being limited at best, taking players in on trial to look at them is the way to go.
You’re working with part-time players, who you train for four sessions a week. That’s a completely different to the 21 training slots you get with a professional player. And don’t expect a rousing welcome from the home support, either. If you can pull 200 fans through the gates for a home game, that is good going!
Then there’s the glory of the Cup.
Any Cup, to be precise. The FA Cup is the big one, of course, but there are others and the prize money on offer from any kind of run in a competition can be massive. As in, run your club for a year off the proceeds, massive. You don’t get big games like that once you’re into the upper reaches of the pyramid.
Then there’s my favourite aspect of all, the players. As Alan Hansen famously said, “You can’t win anything with kids.” Well, the lower league are made up of young players looking for a big break.
Most have been chewed up and spat out by the big guns, Premier League academy systems, Championship youth teams. They didn’t make the grade before being cast off into the footballing wilderness. That’s where you come in.
These young players still have potential in abundance at your level, and sifting through the waves of players released each season, finding the gems from the duds, and then getting them to agree terms as a tiny outfit with meagre resources, is a thrill of its own.
At my current save, I’ve got players from Aston Villa, a few from Spurs, a centre back from Middlesborough, a winger from Liverpool, and my star striker started life at Newcastle. All were cut loose, and I was happy to hoover them up, growing an attachment to them as the club that gave them a second chance to grow once again.
But, you can’t get attached.
You’re a stepping stone, and being so far down the ladder, there are many, many bigger fish out there. Clubs could, and will, come knocking on your door. You’re a braver manager than me if you reject the offers, as standing in the way of a player’s progress can be a hazardous option to dressing room morale.
Instead, take the hit, add a hefty sell on percentage clause in to boot and watch the player head for pastures new. I personally like to “follow” these players over the coming seasons to see where they get to on their journey, and take a little pride in how I played a part in it.
So why not give lower league management a go? It’s not quite jumpers for goal posts, but you might see a side to FM that you haven’t come across before.