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Any tips for playing non-league?


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Playing as Blyth Spartans. Got promoted to conference north first season, then finished 3rd and 4th in my next two seasons, with bad mid-season form costing me the title both times. Everything's a lot worse this season, though - I'm 23 games in and I've already lost as many as I did in the whole of last season (10) and can't seem to put a consistent run of form together, at this rate I won't even make the playoffs.

Pretty new to FM, so just looking for any advice on playing non-league and getting promoted (nothing specific to my team, just thought I'd give a little background).

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A couple of points spring to mind that crop up regularly:

A) Weather in mid season gets worse - Cold, wet, icy, snow etc. Pitches get worse and they may not suit the style of play you use.

B) Reputation - You've finished close to the top for the previous couple of seasons, teams recognise you as a threat and take you more seriously. This means they play more defensively against you leaving less space at the back, closing you down quicker and then looking to hit you on the break. This might mean you have to change your style of play to adapt to your change in circumstance.

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Cheers for the reply. In terms of the pitch, I'd noticed it does tend to become dreadful in winter. I've tried going for a more direct style of play but haven't really got the strikers suited to it so I could probably do with getting a target man-type forward.

Hadn't really thought about reputation so that's probably a factor, and I've noticed I've been a lot worse defensively this season which could be a result of struggling to break teams down, pushing too far forwards and leaving myself open to the counter.

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To me the biggest challenge in the English lower leagues seems to be fixture congestion. 42 or 46 games - plus FA Cup and FA Trophy if you manage some good runs there. And you can't afford the kind of depth in the squad that will allow you to rotate too much. What I usually do is

1) Focus on fitness training to make sure the players are able to recover as quickly as possible.

2) Give any tired players at least one day of rest right after a game. If at any point in the season I have more than a week between two games, I will send any player who needs it on holiday.

3) Deliberately try to get eliminated from the cups as soon as I have met board expectations.

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Dont trust scout reports......... Staff are rubbish at this level which should not be so. I think this needs addressing in future versions.

I constantly sign players who have been scouted to the max, only to see there star ratings disappear as they sign.

I tend to give LOTS of trials to free agents for a min of 4 weeks and arrange lots of U21 friendlies so they get games.

Try not to sign players who are reportedly injury prone or inconsistent performers.

Check out as many released youngsters from clubs in all divisions at the start of each season, offer them trials. Ive unearthed a few gems this way and a few of them sign cheaply on hot prospect contracts cos of their age. (Go to the club, go to transfers and go to released youth)

Morale...... Its very important.

Check the board every month to see who the fans say are in good/bad form and praise/warn the players accordingly.

Praise players who are given MotM awards each game.

Hold team meetings when in bad form but not too often because players can get bored or annoyed with them... monthly is enough.

Get assmans overall training reports each month and warn/praise players according

Team talks.... I tend to follow the assmans pre match and half time advice on what to say. It usually does more good than harm. But dont be afraid to agressively condemn the players at the end of a bad loss, they can get fired up.

Fitness is a major issue at lower lvls because they dont train full time and injuries are very common.... Dont be afraid to give lads 45 mins in the stiffs to get their match fitness up, even if it means they miss a first team game or two. My worst injury cases seem to come to players who are not match fit but that could just be bad luck.

If you have your assman set match prep training, players are auto rested after games, this is a good idea. I only take care of general and individual training.

my curent save is as Chelmsford boss in Con South and after 3 long seasons Ive finished 3rd, 2nd and 3rd again, only to loose in the play off semi's every time .... Its very frustrating -)

If I think of anything else, I'll post it later,,, GL mate and enjoy... Lower league saves are always the best because they feel so more realistic.

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Tactics/formations ... They all work eventually so long as you have the players to play the roles and they are good players.

Im currently using 442 with a direct tactic. My wide players are MR and ML not AMR or AML.... This is the area im really struggling to attract/find good players but Im determined to stick with 442 in this save.

Pick your formation and find the best players you can, tweak the roles/tactcis to suit the players.

In the long run, the team with the best players will win but there will be blips along the way.

I saw a comment further up the topic which says get youself out of the cups once expectations are met. I disagree whole heartedly with that.

The FA cup is THE most important comp to ANY small non league club .... And thats coming from a guy who has coached, assisted and managed at non league lvls.

I wont mention names but i was involved with a county level club who had a great FA cup run and eventually went out with a 1-0 away loss just after the prelim rounds to a conference side.

The money raised from gate reciepts and prize money paid the wage bill of that small county side for a year. And they didnt even reach the first round proper.

If you have a good FA cup or trophy run, the clubs funds can have a massive boost. This will in turn relate to how much transfer/wage cash you will be allocated each season.

It you want to keep your game as realistic as poss..... Throw everything you have including the kitchen sink at the FA cup..... They all do it.

The draw is very important, with luck you'll get home games V lower league teams and have a good run. In one of my older saves, I once made the 3rd round and recieved 130k gate reciepts from an away tie at championship Wolves (We lost 7-0). My end of season profits were something like 150k and I seem to remember getting a 40k transfer fund which I pumped into wages.

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I saw a comment further up the topic which says get youself out of the cups once expectations are met. I disagree whole heartedly with that.

Fair enough.

I have never seen any significant financial gains from the FA Cup as a non-league team, not even when drawing Championship or L1 sides. And the money you do get isn't worth much anyway, because at that level you won't be able to attract any players worth anything much.

On the other hand, a good cup run always seems to result in a slump in the league. So I will maintain that in the long run it is best to focus 100% on the league and try to get promoted as quickly as possible.

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Fair enough.

I have never seen any significant financial gains from the FA Cup as a non-league team, not even when drawing Championship or L1 sides. And the money you do get isn't worth much anyway, because at that level you won't be able to attract any players worth anything much.

On the other hand, a good cup run always seems to result in a slump in the league. So I will maintain that in the long run it is best to focus 100% on the league and try to get promoted as quickly as possible.

I get your point but the money is huge to a small club and has a direct affect on wage allowance,,,,, In turn this allows you to bring in a bigger squad, not necessarily a better one.

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Make your tactics adapt to your players, not the the way round.

Keep a really tight rein on the finances - things can spiral out of control before you realise. This segues into

Don't make impulse or panic buys. Identify YOURSELF the players what will fit into your tactic the best. As stated above - staff at this level leave a lot to be desired.

Get as good a physio as you can - as you have already identified, the pitches deteriorate in the winter which in turn leads to a greater chance of injury. A good physio will get the players back to training faster than a poor one.

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