O is for Football Manager Off Season by @Too_Jazzee

Ah, the off season. A time many look forward to as much as the first kick of the season. A time for which preparation is required several months before the end of the season and a crucial period for the majority of teams, especially those in lower divisions.

Personally, the thrill of finding that wonderkid or pinching a player who you know will vastly improve your squad on an end-of-contract agreement will lead to a number of whoops and/or mini-fist bumps. It might also lead to rolled eyes and a long-suffering sigh from my wife, something I’m sure most FM players can relate to when I explain in depth regarding my new shortlist of youth intakes from around the globe, but she knew what she signed up for… Hell, I’ll even rejoice in finding a cracking new coach to train the lads!

However, it’s not all fun and games with new signings. No, sir! You must be frugal with your finances at most clubs not funded by nations or oil, ensuring you are not spending beyond your means and adopting an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to wage rises and contract clauses. Crippling your finances by getting promoted with a team full of players on 40% Promotion Wage Rises is a sure-fire way to be involved in a sad time, especially with lower league teams close to the proverbial bread line.

Working in the offseason demands restraint and knowing when to say no. Whether that be to a player wanting a new contract that doesn’t match his ability or to a potential new signing, that could be the final piece of the puzzle, but whose wage will take up 20% of the club’s budget.

But let’s assume that you do have some free wage budget to splurge, maybe even a nice transfer kitty relative to your team’s position in the football pyramid. Surely spending a bit of cash on a signing from a rival is your first port of call, right? Well, no, probably not—unless it’s an absolute robbery of a deal. The sheer number of quality players that will not be signed to new contracts and are open for negotiation should allow you to build almost an entirely new team to compete for the title without spending a penny on transfer fees. In fact, using the transfer budget to spend a little more on signing fees to reduce wages is a much smarter play and might land you a coup of a signing!

Scouting players who are in their last year of their contract for the whole of the season will give you some really good data when it comes to June and the wheat is cut from the chaff. This will give you a head start on contract negotiations with players as soon as they are set for release. You might also have been a snide so-and-so and tried to unsettle the player or persuade them to join you previously.

Essentially, regardless of the level you are playing at, there is excitement to be found at the time of the year when nothing is happening on the pitch! Just remember to sign free or loan where you can, spend only what you can afford to maintain on wages and always try to bully tiny clubs into selling you their best youth prospect for about £8.50 and a Twix.

Hopefully, if you give these points a go, it will lead to some budget-friendly success—and a bit of fun too.

For previous A-Z entries, please visit: The A-Z of Football Manager.