The Park to Prem challenge made famous by YouTuber Work the Space asks you to pick a team in the lower depths of English football, and then find your way to the Premier League.
It is a more extreme version of a lower league save where instead of taking over a club in the professional leagues, you have to download a custom database that adds up to the 9th or 10th tier of the English football pyramid.
You then have to work your way up the non-professional leagues until you get to the very top of the pyramid.
This is a long-term save, and might take you more than a year to get anywhere close to the Premier League, depending on how many hours you can play in a day
How many leagues you load at the start of the save will depend on how powerful your PC is, however, you can always load the English leagues first, then add other countries’ leagues when you get close to the Championship and then drop the very low leagues you left ages ago.
Unlike the Big Brother Challenge, Park to Prem does not restrict you to managing at only one club.
You have the freedom of switching clubs as you fit, as long as you end up in the Premier League at the end of it all.
However, despite this freedom, most FM players tend to get attached to one club and might turn down offers to join other clubs.
This is all well and good until you get the sack for one reason or the other, including poor performance or the club getting a takeover, and the new owners bringing in a new manager that they trust, or has a bigger reputation than yours. It is all part of the game.
When starting the Park to Prem challenge, your manager has to be unemployed, possess no coaching badges and also have Sunday League as his past playing experience.
A combination of these three will result in you having no reputation and poor stats. Getting the first job will be a challenge.
Forget getting a job anywhere near the Vanarama National League. Instead, cast your net wider into the lower leagues of Ireland and Wales, where you might have better chances.
Once you land a job, the next step is ensuring you rise through the very lower leagues as fast as possible.
Tips for Managing in the Lower Leagues of FM
The following tips should help you stand the tribulations of managing the lower leagues in football manager;
- Pay attention to the cup competitions – Cup competitions, especially the FA Cup, have good price money and the extra money you receive from going deep into one might form the basis of signing proper players and propelling your team up a league or two.
- Arrange friendlies against higher reputation clubs – You might get mauled game after game, but the financial rewards are worth it. Before you start the new season, however, schedule two or three games against weaker opponents to raise your players’ morale
- Use simple, straightforward tactics – There is no need of having two trequartistas and an enganche in a lower league team. Keep your tactics simple, lots of crossing to a big target man or lobbed through balls to a fast poacher works like a charm.
- Do not develop youth players – That five-star potential wonderkid you have would probably be a one-star player in the championship. Only sign players at their peak that will give you immediate returns. Save the youth development and upgrading of youth facilities when you hit the championship.
- Get players on loan from clubs in the higher divisions – You will get significantly better players by loaning from clubs in the higher divisions. Getting affiliated with a bigger club is even better. It makes it easier for you to get players on loan, and you can also arrange a friendly game with them for an extra boost in revenue generated from the match day tickets.
- Use trials as a scouting mechanism – The poor scouts you have, while also being limited in number, will not cover a very large number of players in a single season. Instead of solely relying on them, continuously arrange trials and keep track of the players you might need in the future.
- Sign free agents – Instead of paying a transfer fee that can heavily dent your club’s finances, sign out-of-contract free agents that are around 29-32. They will normally accept lower wages and will probably offer you one or two good seasons before their physicality drops off a cliff.
- Switch clubs often – This largely applies to the Park to Prem challenge rather than lower league saves as a whole. At the very beginning, continuously switch clubs to those that are better placed in higher leagues. You will eventually hit a wall where your reputation is not good enough to be given bigger jobs. It is at this point that it is better to stick at one club and take it to the top.
Once you safely navigate the depths of lower league football and reach the Premier League. It is then up to you to decide when it ends.
Surviving relegation first and then slowly building towards the Premier League and Champions League titles is a fitting end for most people.
If you need more inspiration for a fun FM save, take a look at the SAF Challenge, the Journeyman Challenge or the San Marino Challenge