Preparing For Promotion

Gaining promotion can bring about a lot of changes at a club, across all levels whether it be finances, players, staff or even scouting costs. The changes can come with a number of implications too. A quick example would be player contracts, any new faces you bring in will likely want bigger wages than you normally pay. While the existing players at the club will likely also demand a wage rise when it comes to contract negotiations.

On top of this clubs will also demand higher transfer fees which can be tricky for some clubs due to budget restraints set by the board. Especially when you need to bring in a new full team of players, compromises will have to be made somewhere along the line. So in this post, I will discuss how I deal with promotion and plan for another successful campaign.

One of the important factors for me with promotion is to plan early. So in essence, planning way ahead of time during the promotion winning season. If we take a look at my current save with Sheffield United, I achieved promotion to the Premier League in the first season. But my planning for the future started the moment I took over the club, whether I got promoted or not.

Scouting

As I stated above, the planning for the future phase started the moment I took over at the club. When I’m scouting players I’m looking for players who can do a job now, next season, the season after and so on. But first we need to know how scouting works and how to set it up. For this I’ll refer you to a post that Oliver Jensen (@fmFutbolManager ) wrote a couple of months ago. It saves me repeating something that is covered elsewhere already.

https://theresonlyoneball.com/2017/12/16/my-approach-to-scouting-in-football-manager-2018/#more-923

I’ll briefly touch upon how I breakdown scouting into a few different sections, it makes planning for the future simpler. Then I’ll go into greater depth and show examples a lot later in the article, as I want to write about stuff in order I do things. It will make it easier to follow.

I break it down to 3 simple key stages that determine which shortlist I put the player on;

Stage One

  • Is the player someone who improves the squad now.
  • Does he have much room for development growth?
  • How likely is he able to make the step up to the league above.

That’s the first part of what I need to answer when looking at players. This will help me determine if the player is a possible candidate for now, the future or someone who might be a very short-term option that allows me to reach the goals I’ve had set by the club. Once this is determined it them comes down to other factors.

Stage Two

  • If he doesn’t have room for growth, then how long will I likely have the player around the club.
  • Does his value to the team and cost fit into my budget?
  • Is there any resale value?
  • If the player has room for development growth can he still do a job now?

Then we move onto stage three which determines if a bid is made now or in the future.

Stage Three

  • How much will he cost
  • What are the wages likely to be
  • How do the wages fit with the clubs current structure
  • If I was to buy at a later date, how inflated is the price likely to become
  • Does buying now save me £££’s in the long run
  • If he was bought now, how does he fit in my plans

All of the above determines which of my shortlists the player goes on. I have around eight different shortlists running at any one time. But only three of them are focused on the above to help me split the shortlists into long-term, short-term and maybe’s.

I’ll touch upon scouting again a little later. First I want to focus on if we’d just achieved promotion.

Expectations

This is likely one of the biggest things that fucks people over due to them over estimating how good they are at the game or how good the team actually is. Either way, it’s something that causes the user issues at certain times.

Realistic expectations are what people should focus on, this means accessing/knowing your squad inside out and not focusing on overachieving. By this I mean, in the current Blades save I have on the go, I am expected to be in a relegation battle according to the match odds and the games expectations. Now I know I can possible push the top 6 fairly close but these aren’t realistic expectations are goals/pressure I’m adding to the game but focusing on overachieving.

So don’t focus on what you think you can do. Instead focus on what the game expects of you, the rest is a bonus. By being realistic it keeps you grounded. I often see people with a side who have just achieved promotion and be in second place half way through the league, then moan when the wheels slip off and they end up sixth at the end of the season. Yes you was second at one point but compared to were you was expected to finish at the start of the season, you’ve had an incredible season. Yet they focus on the five games they lost in a row and become highly critical and frustrated that the game is somehow against them, despite massively overachieving with a relatively weak squad. Don’t ever lose sight of what the game thinks you should be doing, then on reflection you can decide if what you’ve just done is actually a good season or not. The game is the reference point and not what you ‘think should happen’.In most cases a newly promoted side is likely to be involved in a relegation fight or be towards the lower ends of the table.

Accessing The Squad – Early Planning

Another important factor to consider is the squad you have. This fits in with the scouting above and we’ll now explore how I approached the promotion winning season in greater detail. Some people like to leave transfers until the very last-minute while others like to get stuff done early. Myself I take an approach somewhere in the middle as we will find out.

In the first season I brought in this player with a focus on the future with the idea they’ll either play for the club at some stage or be sold for a tidy profit.

Christian Tue

Now I’ve seen Christian Tue play a few times in real life over the past few months and he’s a really exciting player to watch. On Football Manager he is definitely one to purchase for the future if you are at Championship level. I expect he can improve a fair bit and his PPM’s are ideal for playing the central attacking midfielder role that I have set up. He will be more aggressive playing the role due to the PPM’s he possesses.

He cost me £400k at the start of the season which was more than I wanted to pay. But he has resale value and short-term, his investment was worth it. I bought him with the future in mind and not to play straight away, which he hasn’t. In fact I loaned him out to help his development as I simply could not give him the games needed. A quick look at his attributes and you can see he is in desperate need to play games to develop.

For the Future and For Now

The next lot of players were all brought into the club with the future in mind but they also strengthened the side now.

Rok Vodisek

A long-term injury to Simon Moore at the start of the game and Jamal Blackman having rubbish attributes, forced me into strengthening in this area. He looked good and was cheap, I think he can develop quite a lot in the future and has a good personality. So I spent £375k on bringing him to the club. His wages are very cheap and I believe the fee was too, especially when I can see him being first choice even after promotion.

Due to low wages, the low transfer cost and him having room for improvement makes him a really good long-term investment. I can sell him in a few seasons for twenty times the value I paid for him easily I believe. Not only that but because he is a first team starter, his attributes will rise dramatically in the next few seasons. He is definitely a player for now and with the future in mind regardless of what level I’d have been playing.

Jure Balkovec

I used to sign Jure on Football Manager 2017 too and found him to be a cheap (475k) reliable option to bring in. I already have two decent players for this position in Lafferty and Stevens but I see Jure as able to make the step up to Premiership football. Were as I think Lafferty will be weaker and not a premiership type of player. This allows me to strengthen the position for either staying in this division or promotion. So already, I’ve determined what area I lack in and can fix it cheap so I have two brilliant players now for whatever division I am in.

Like the other players mentioned so far he also has resale value should the club outgrow him.

Sandi Ogrinec

Sandi is another player I’ve used on an older version of the game but only once before. On that particular save he proved to be a good steady player and dependable. Now I have a fair few midfielders already at the club but signing him means I can play David Brooks as a striker and still have enough bodies to provide cover and rotation as the season goes on. I’m not sure if he can be a Premiership player just yet as it’s still early and he lacks a few quality attributes. But for the wages he is asking for and the price it’s worth taking a risk.

He only cost £275k so again was cheap and I see profit in him, should he not be able to make the step up. But he could really go either way in the Premiership and be decent or be piss poor.

Victor Nelsson

Due to playing three at the back I like to find someone who can be utilised in a few positions and cover at the back. It saves me having to have six centre backs who I have to rotate, I can have four or five instead and use players such as Victor to fill in when needed. I’m interested in buying him not only for the utility though, that’s just a great bonus. One of the other factors is he plays midfield and offers me a more defensive options. The others players I already have at the club are either attack minded or playmakers.

Nelson gives me a different option for the roles especially away in some of the harder games. I can see how I might use him in those games to give me a bit of bite and added defensive stability. He’s also another cheap option with resale value after only costing £575k.

As you can see I’ve very much planned for the future from the very start. And because I haven’t broken the bank in terms of the fees paid out or wages given to players means I’ve used the little money I had available, very wisely. I’ve brought in young players who improve the current squad and give me options. Moving them on to other clubs, shouldn’t be an issue in the future if that’s the direction I take.

Every signing I made wasn’t with the focus of playing at a higher level. I also brought in a couple of players just to add a little bit of depth to the squad should promotion not happen. These players would never be regulars but for the fees paid (mainly free transfers) that didn’t matter much.

All three players are fairly average and nothing stands out about them. They’re more suited to League One than the Championship but for free transfers and the cheap wages it won’t cost much to release them. But I have to plan for all different types of scenarios while being on a budget. That’s why I brought them in even though they’re not that good.

That was my planning and thinking throughout the season. Once we had won promotion though it validated most of the transfers I did and set me with a decent base to start with. My issue now was I only had £33 million to assemble a Premiership team. £33 million might sound a lot but it’s not really when an average player will cost around a third of the budget. But with shrewd management can you make the money stretch? The answer is yes. But we need to look at the squad I had at the end of the season now and see where it needs improving the most.

End Of Season Assessment

Looking at the squad the key areas needing the most love are;

  • Central defenders
  • Right wingback
  • Strikers

Apart from Jack O’Connell the other centrebacks are poor. I play a three at the back system, so I need to bring in two minimum, four ideally. This is a tall ask when I need to strengthen other areas too. Which is why I have to prioritise certain areas and make do elsewhere for this season.

The right wingbacks are George Baldock who can possibly do a job for this season but is weak. And the other is Keiron Freeman, who just can’t make the cut. Ideally I need to bring two in but due to budget restraints it might be one only and possibly someone else who can play right back and central defence. That would free some of the budget up.

During the second season, this was the time I played David Brooks as a striker which I wrote about earlier in the series. This means I need to bring in one really good striker so I can move Ched and Billy on. As both of those players aren’t going to be options very long at this level due to their average ability at this level.

Those are the immediate positions I need to fill which I class as being the critical areas. Due to me using a 3-5-2 formation then my wingbacks need to be above average because 90% of the play will come via them. Plus it’s no good them creating chances and crossing if my strikers aren’t able to finish off those chances, hence why strikers are a must too.

Ideally I’d like to bring in about ten new first team players. But you can only live within your means. Which means sacrifices have to be made. Now I’ve identified the critical areas though it’s time to bring the players in.

Planning for Life In The Premier League

The first thing I did was revert back to the scouting lists I’d created over the season and looked at people’s contracts that were ending for possible signings and those on the transfer list.

Jan Bednarek

As a newly promoted team, I expect to be under heavy defensive play at times so it’s important I have someone physically strong who can challenge for those aerial balls. His heading isn’t ideal but for £1.1 million off the transfer list, I couldn’t pass up on this deal. He is a massive improvement over what I currently have at the club and the price also makes him an even more attractive proposition.

Isaac Hayden

Isaac was another player from the transfer list that I signed, although a bit more expensive than I’d have ideally wanted to pay. He was still quite cheap at £3.3 million though. It was more that I saw it as expensive as I only see him at this club for 18 months maximum. He’s very much a player to fill a gap. The main reason for signing him though was he can play as a defender or midfielder and I like a bit of versatility.

Florinel Coman

I’d been tracking Coman since the first season but there was no way of affording him. As soon as I could at the end of the season though, I snapped him up for a really cheap sum of £3.3 million. I saw him as the ideal player to fill in for David Brooks when he was injured and also be able to hold down the other striker position if I wasn’t able to bring someone else in.

Vladimir Screciu

This was another player I’d been tracking throughout the first season and decided to sign. He cost £2 million which was a bargain I thought. Not only did he fit the positions I was trying to fill but I see him as a good upgrade on the current players. Him and Jan along with Jack would form a solid back three.

David Carmona

My scouts told me about David and suggested I could sign him for around £2 million. He isn’t the greatest player but he is young and has much better attributes than Keiron Freeman who was the second choice wingback. He ended up costing me £2.5 million to sign but I can’t grumble for that kind of money. Whether he develops or not, as a stop-gap he is a good signing.

Tobias Svendsen

When I saw this tricky playmaking winger I planned on using him as a striker. Then it dawned on me, that while the tactic I use needs a creative central midfielder I didn’t actually possess one. John Fleck had done the role fantastically during the fist season but Sven would be a big upgrade. Especially in the way he uses the ball, he is naturally a lot more creative. So I decided to retrain him as a central midfielder and move him infield to be the creative driving force in the side. An absolute bargain for £1.5 million.

Alexander Isak

As I was scrolling through the transfer list I saw Isak listed at £6 million. Even though I saw him listed, I honestly didn’t expect him to agree terms but somehow he did. In fact, as I bid for him I was expecting the usual plethora of clubs to also bid for him but they never did. I just couldn’t believe my luck that no-one bid for him and that he actually agreed terms! Definitely the bargain of the save so far.

As you can see I’ve bought smart and had a bit of luck with Isak. But even without him, I’d still improved the squad and what I had available before the window. I was confident I’d stay up and avoid what the board was expecting. It wasn’t only these players though that had now made us a decent side, it was the planning during the first season. The players I had brought in could play at this level and were developing nicely.

I did bring other players in too that I haven’t mentioned but none of them were worth discussing. I’ve tried to keep it to the players I’d be using heavily throughout the season. But for those interested, these were my dealings;

I spent a fair bit of money but I didn’t spend all the £33 million I had available and I also recouped £4.4 million. I spent the rest of the cash I had available on a new scouting package as I begin planning for season three and beyond. I’m going to talk about my actual scouting set up, shortlists and what not in a separate post as it’s quite complicated how I do things.

Tactic Changes

One of the things I see talked about a lot when someone achieves promotion is, how they’ll play the following season. They start talking about changing from what got them promoted in the first place and going in a different direction, normally something more defensive. I don’t play this way though and I stick to the philosophy that has served me so well in the first place.

I’m a believer in creating a style and making the opposition adapt to you, rather than you adapting to them. If you upgrade the players you had and focus on your weak/vital areas the most like I’ve highlighted above then you should always be fine.

Better players in a system you’ve created to play a specific way just enhance and reinforce what you’re creating, that’s why I don’t change. I don’t add PI’s, TI’s and I don’t change mentality just because I’ve got promoted. I still play the same way as before and base any changes on what is happening during a game. I’ve wrote about this a lot this year so I won’t go back over old ground and repeat that stuff, as you can already find the posts in this series.

Have faith in what you create. It’s why I always tell people to have an idea of the way you want to play. That way you always have something to aim for and improve upon. A lot of people I see posting, think that a philosophy is something you start out with which it isn’t unless your lucky with the squad you inherited at the start.  But for most that should be the end goal and what you aim for long-term. Short-term is all about refining the players and how they play the roles and duties you use. At least for me it is………..

10 thoughts on “Preparing For Promotion”

  1. It reminds me my thinking during the FM17 save with Reading. Especially when as I remember how I thought about promotion, squad selection etc. during first years of that save.

    I’m sure this could help to many people.

    1. Indeed. In the next article it will focus on shot quality, conversion rate and limiting long shots. This will kind of follow on from this article strangely as it’ll be the sixth article in the current series and be linked to player recruitment in a roundabout way 🙂

  2. Excellent piece again, I remember winning promotion with Fulham and not signing or selling anyone. I was gone by end of October. One question I do have though is how do you actually find these players because for me my scouts are bringing me back players that are only good championship players and I am reluctant to sign them because of this despite them having bright potential when I have been promoted.

    1. I’ll be doing another post explaining at some point. However, the actual scouting is nothing complicated, just send them to nations you have loaded to scout those leagues. Scout national teams and the u21’s, scout youth tournaments etc.

  3. Long time no see mate! Happy you’re back writing! Hope everything is good with your health now! I think I have posted that before: You make everything sound so simple! I do not understand football the way you do so my main problem is the simplest one: how do I imagine my team to play!

    I’m looking forward to the next installment of this! Thanks for the insight!

    Cheers,
    Vangelis

  4. Very helpful – I’m about to go up with a squad of old bastards I got in for tutoring givers me a dilemma as they’re still on task so don’t want to dump them

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