A Lower Leagues save can be one of the most fascinating experiences to have on Football Manager; you’re pushed to limits in every aspect of the game and it’s up to you to make it good. The only way is up, but the road is hard. You’re gonna need the best players available for it, but with little to no scouting team or budget, it can seem impossible to find that save-redeeming signing that puts you on the right track. Get yourself out of this guide to trials in Football Manager.
What are trial signings?
So, what is exactly a trial? A trial is a temporary signing that allows you to take a look at a player whilst he’s on your club. As a result of him training with your squad, their attributes and other relevant information become available to you much faster than when scouting. This will allow you to learn about a player’s abilities much quicker, particularly when dealing with free agent players who you can’t send a scout to watch during the weekends.
You can have players on trial at your club for up to four weeks. However, you only need a single week to unlock all of their attributes; at that point, their scouting report will reach up to 80%. The rest of the report and most remaining information becomes available after that, so a scouting report is at 100% after a two-week stint. After the trial ends the player will leave your club with no cost to you whatsoever.
Who can have a trial at your club?
In theory, everyone, even Messi. In reality, you’re gonna be bringing in mostly free agents. They are trying to find a club after being released, so they take the chance more often. Unless uninterested, most free agents will agree to take a two-week trial with your club. Some free agents, particularly those with high(er) reputations, will refuse even if interested in joining your club, as it seems to be “below them”.
For players under contract, it can be a bit different. Since this is technically a transfer, players under contract will need approval from their clubs to join. It’s not impossible to have a club let you take one of their own under trial, but it is a lot harder. Players under no special conditions will almost never be allowed to leave for a trial; players set to be released, transfer listed or loan listed are a bit hit and miss. Even if a club approves of the trial, players under contract tend to refuse the chance more often than not. Still, it costs nothing to ask…
My approach to the trial signing system
In case you haven’t noticed, I love a good LLM save. There is something there that just appeals to the romantic in me. Perhaps it’s the ever-present hoof-ball, the crowds that fail to outnumber the teams on the field or the unavoidable matchday that gets suspended due to an inundated pitch… it just appeals to me. As so, I’ve accumulated hours managing in the lowest reaches of numerous footballing pyramids, and put together a method to make the best of what I’ve got. I call it the “Trailist Meat Mincer” and it’s not nice, but it’s effective.
It all starts with the much-maligned Player Search screen. Yes, I agree it provides a somewhat unreal advantage when looking for players. Although it only displays players above a certain reputation that are based in countries where you have Scouting Knowledge, when used in combination with a capable scouting team it can break the game a bit. However, the reality is that unlike the similarly reviled Staff Search screen, there is no alternative. There’s no “Place Advert” option to call for every willing able-bodied player to show at your doorstep, so we’ll swallow the bitter pill. Pretend you’ve opened Transfermarkt, looked for every free agent in your country and gave them a call if that helps; it’s not realistic, but at least it’s not implausible.
Once you’re staring at the multitude of players, I search for players who are currently unattached. I also recommend clicking on the cog-looking button on the right and set it to only shows players who are “Slightly Interested” or more. In my experience, players above that line will almost never refuse a trial, whilst players below it will almost always reject it. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to invite them to the party.
The board will only allow you to offer trials to 29 at a time. I’ve been able to successfully send offers to about 20 players per turn with a couple of days between groups. I’d beg anyone thinking that having so many players trialling at your club at a time is too much to take a look at pictures from when AFC Wimbledon had their initial trials.
It’s important to remember that whilst you pay these players no wages, they do take up time from your coaches. Therefore, the ideal moment for the trials to take place is before preseason, when your squad is away. Doing it midseason is playing a dangerous game. I’d also recommend doing two-week trials to get as much information as possible.
Once the players start nearing the end of their trial, it’s time to see the results. As you go through the players, shortlist the ones worth consideration and discard the rest. In truth, it will be very few players that actually make it. Depending on your budget and the type of contract you’re able to offer, you might have more or less margin to play; regardless, you’re ideally looking for starters or valuable rotation players. Youth prospects who are far from the first-team level, particularly for semi-pro sides, are most likely not worth the hassle. It’s also important to consider what your (hopefully) previous squad analysis says. If you’re on the look for left-backs, why waste your time asking your coaches to look at any other position? Focus on your priorities. You don’t get much time to get this right.
I’d also recommend using the Attribute Analysis screen to make quicker judgements on a player’s quality. You could (theoretically) miss on an useful player who’s attributes translate poorly on the polygon. However, the truth is you’re gonna be looking at dozens of players; the ability to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff will come in handy. You could also finish the trialing process and filter players down through the Scouted Players screen, but you run the risk of other clubs snapping those valuable targets.
Trials can be a valuable tool for clubs of every size. For the lower leagues sides whose best scout has a JCA of 4 and JPP of 3, they become a vital tool to sign key players with a clearer picture of what they’re getting. Hopefully, this guide to trials in Football Manager has helped so the next time you’re looking to fight for that promotion to the 6th tier of Bielorrusian football you know where to look for that key signing.