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Managing in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Managing in the Lower Leagues

This is my lower league love story. It may be intimidating to start all the way down in the depths of Lower Leagues in Football Manager. You might be scared of how hard this could be to start winning, and how long it could take to work your way up to the top. Maybe you don’t have the patience? However, you may be able to find a diamond in the rough.

There are many nations in Football Manager that have interesting clubs that have their own unique story. Somewhere to learn about, and somewhere to begin that could inspire you and take you on a journey that is unexpected and rewarding. Who knows, maybe this could bleed over into your real life and begin a new level of fandom you’ve never experienced before?

Getting Started

There are many ways to get started in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager. You can focus on a specific nation and start a single club challenge, with the aspiration of bringing this tiny club to the promiseland of the Champions League and conquering the World. Maybe you want to experience as many clubs as possible? Starting from the lowest level, finding a job somewhere, building yourself up as a manager by working at many different clubs in different nations. This is often called a Journeyman challenge. Start with nothing and work your way to the top, however you get there is up to you.


Finances in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Obviously a big issue with working in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager is the finances. You can’t just go out and buy whoever you want and win the league. You have to look at the finances first in order to get a grasp of what you can and can’t do. Don’t go and start hiring and firing staff or signing players to new deals without checking your finances first.

If you’re starting unemployed, finances will be discussed in the interview process. Maybe you’ll get the opportunity to have somewhat of a budget to work with and not a pile of debt you have to pay back. Maybe you won’t be that lucky, so the financial balancing act will begin. 

You’ll have to assess where your expenses really are, how important those expenses are to the success of the team. Then you can start to make the necessary cuts. Another way to generate income is through scheduling friendly matches. Oftentimes you can go to arrange a friendly and see if you can make profit from playing a particular team. Sometimes there are no viable friendlies that will make a difference, other times there will be opportunities to play teams that will generate some income for the club. Do some digging and you may find some.

Staff in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Staff in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Looking at the staff in your team is important to gauge where you can hire staff, how much staff wages you can afford and where your weaknesses lie. You have to weigh up, even though you have available staff positions, should you hire them? Because if they have little impact to your squad is it worth the increased wage cost?

Often I put out adverts for each position I’m looking for, and those applicants will trickle into your inbox in the coming days. Also you may receive suggestions for people to fill the individual open positions in your backroom staff.  Look for staff that will improve the backroom staff that you currently have at the club. Slowly over time you can increase the effectiveness of training overall.

Training in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Training in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Training can be difficult to improve your players down in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager. With a lack of staff and facilities, and sometimes on a part-time schedule. You’re lucky if these guys even show up for a run mid-week! I tend to focus on a lot of match preparation sessions when I only have part-time training down in the lower divisions, but even in the upper levels this is important. 

I spread these sessions around a bi-weekly extra-curricular activity which helps strengthen the bonds in the team. Sometimes I will throw in a physical session if I feel fitness might start lacking. Occasionally I focus on something specific about the game that we need to improve on or nullify the opposition for. Pay attention to your pre-match scouting reports of your opponents!  Also be sure to check your coaching assignments to make sure you have enough coaching quality spread amongst all the categories of training.

Tactics in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Tactics in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Tactics are definitely fun to experiment with in Football Manager. My advice is to pick a relatively simple formation when you’re playing down the leagues, and stick to it to see if it starts to gel and work well. Lower level players tend to perform better with simplicity and familiarity. If you’re changing things all the time, and adding too many team instructions, it’s only going to work against you.

You want to identify the strengths of your squad and play to those strengths.  There’s not much benefit trying to play tiki-taka in level 10. KISS (Keep it simple stupid) as they say. There will be plenty of opportunities to slowly improve the quality of your squad over time and start to play a more intricate brand of football.

Man Management in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Man Management in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Man management is very important. Especially when you can’t easily replace players in your squad and you’re working with smaller numbers in general. Have a look at the dynamics and hierarchy of your squad. Figure out who are the most influential players and work towards them becoming your allies. You can always look to replace players, but it could be too expensive, or there could be no viable options to improve on those players in the transfer market. 

You might need to be a little kinder to players who ask for more playing time or improved contracts. It’s often a balancing act, a player may come to you and ask for an improved deal, but you need to quickly assess what kind of influence they have in your team. Whether that be in a playing capacity or a dressing room capacity.  Then you have to quickly assess what you can afford to pay the player, maybe you can re-work the terms in your favour so that you’re paying less in wages, but you’re balancing the difference in performance and loyalty bonuses.

Often lower league players won’t have agents, so that always makes things a little easier and cheaper in negotiations. A happy squad will perform better than an unhappy one, keeping morale up is key to having a successful season in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager.

Youth Development in Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Youth Development in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

This is the real drawback while playing in the lower leagues. Your youth facilities most likely will be abysmal, and they will most likely produce little to no viable prospects to bring into your first team. My advice would be to minimize the amount you are spending on your youth setup. Try bringing players up who have potential into your first team, minimize the staff costs and bring in young players from the transfer market.

If you’ve got too many prospects, try to find loans for some of them that will improve their development as the seasons go on. That will be better than training them in your poor youth facilities. As you rise up the leagues, try to improve your youth facilities with the money you generate and that will in turn improve your youth intake season over season. You won’t need to loan them out any more and you can start to really create some home-grown talent who will eventually turn into home-grown legends.

Transfers in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

Transfers in the Lower Leagues in Football Manager

This is most likely where you will significantly upgrade your team. You will have to do a lot of manual scouting yourself and assess players maybe based on statistics rather than attributes. How have they been performing at their current club over the past couple of seasons? Will they cost much to bring in? How much wages will they demand? Are they much better than the players that I’ve already got in those positions? Will they fit into my system? How is their general attitude and personality?

All of these things you can ascertain from their player profile screen. Be shrewd, be detailed, and be ruthless with your current playing squad when it comes to transfers. This is the quickest way to rise up the leagues.


I hope this gives you a little inspiration to try out a lower level save and create your own club story in Football Manager this year and in years beyond. These are great for a journeyman challenge, or one club lower league challenge where you try to build up a club from rags to riches. It’s all a part of building a great story for yourself, which is what this game is really all about. Best of luck to you as you rise through the leagues and try to become a man/woman, a myth, and a legend.

Also check out Craig’s article on starting a non-league save for more info!

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