Earning promotion in your football manager save always brings numerous challenges, especially if the league you are being promoted to is significantly stronger, with clubs having more than thrice your transfer budget and much bigger reputations to convince transfer targets to choose them over your newly promoted side.
You will also have to deal with new player registration rules such as the maximum number of loan players you can have, while affiliate partnerships will be terminated once you are in the same league as your parent club.
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom as with some clever planning, you can safely battle relegation for a few seasons as you stabilize your club as a mid-table side with potential to kick on and win some serious trophies.
How To Survive the Relegation Battle
Only Sign Players at their Peak
As a newly promoted side, your finances will be severely lacking compared to the opposition. Therefore, this is not the time to invest in wonder kids who will potentially come good in five years time.
Signing young players at this time will deplete your finances without improving your squad. Unless the young player you are eyeing will immediately go straight into the starting eleven, leave him alone.
Only sign players who will improve your squad immediately. Aim for players at their peak, 25-32 years is a good age group. Although, be careful when signing 30+ year olds, as their physical attributes can drop significantly when they suffer an injury. However, their good mental attributes will prove invaluable when you are on a bad run and the squad’s morale is low.
Show No Loyalty
Do not get too attached to the current players you have. A step-up in difficulty in the new league will render most players who were key in your promotion run near useless.
Signing better players to replace the ones you have will be difficult if you are too sentimental towards them.
However, do not make wholesale changes as the squad’s morale will drop with no one knowing whether they are next in line to be shipped off.
In the same vein, do not sell Team Leaders or Highly Influential players if you do not want a dressing room revolt.
Instead, lower their squad status from key player to first team or rotational, and then their influence will slowly drop as the better players you bring in start commanding respect.
Take advantage of Relegated Sides
Once the FM save ticks over to the new season, normally on 1st July, the effects of promotion and relegation will start being felt.
Key players with high ambition in relegated sides will demand to be put on the transfer list. Once on the transfer list, you can lowball the clubs with low offers, as they will be desperate to sell and also get rid of their huge wages. You can sign good players for way below their market value using this method.
Others will also have relegation release clauses, which you can take advantage of to improve your side. However, be careful triggering release clauses as they are paid in full upfront with no monthly instalments.
Only resort to triggering them if the club will not entertain a more conventional transfer fee structured with instalments to be paid over several years.
Scout the Released players
On the 1st of July, when contracts expire, visit the scouting centre and set a filter for players with no clubs. Sort them in descending order according to their age and restrict them to below 33 or 34 years.
Depending on the number of leagues you loaded, you will have a considerable number. Select all of them and have your scouts to send you a report. You will easily get at least 8-15 players who can improve your side significantly.
However, note that not all the released players will be interested in speaking to your club immediately. Just be patient, as their demands will drop as the transfer season progresses and no high reputation clubs come after them.
Improve the Number and Quality of Staff
With the bump in reputation and finances that come with being promoted, take advantage of it and sign better staff that were previously unavailable to you.
Talk to the board and ask for increased number of coaches, physiotherapists and scouts for both your senior squad and the youth teams.
The staff determine what kind of reports you get on players, how they develop and how they recover between matches and from injuries. Having good quality staff is the first step in surviving the tribulations of a demanding season.
When signing scouts, ensure they come from different regions of the world, as they will immediately improve your club’s knowledge of those areas and as a result reveal more players.
Create a Simple Defensive Tactic
We all have different ideals for playing football in a manner that is pleasing to our eyes. However, as a newly promoted side, it will be ill-advised jumping in the deep end using fancy roles like the trequartista and libero, who will most of the time leave your defence exposed.
Instead, keep your tactics simple, defending deep and hitting teams on the counter. A good defensive midfielder who will sit in front of the defence and thwart attacks together with fast wingers or strikers will be crucial in making this work successfully.
Be careful however in being too defensive to an extent that you can not get out of your half once you win possession back. Use the pre-season to test what works best with your squad.
I personally do not go lower than counter attacking on the mentality, unless when facing the very best sides, where the defensive mentality is basically a must to avoid a thrashing.
Arrange Friendlies Against Weak Opposition
Now you might find this gamey, but arranging friendlies in the middle of the season against weak opposition is a good way to boost the morale of your squad, especially in the middle of a bad run and the squad’s morale is on the floor.
Poor morale and losses are connected and once you are in it is a vicious cycle that is very difficult to come out of. Your players running riot against a poor team can give them a boost in morale, which can be all they need to end a losing streak at a crucial point in the season.
However, if you think this will ruin your experience playing football manager, please do not use it.
Carefully Consider your Team Talks
As already mentioned, managing morale is crucial when trying to avoid relegation. Team talks can be effectively used to maintain the morale as high as possible throughout the season.
When facing superior opposition, especially away from the home stadium, do not demand for a win regardless of whether you are on a good run or not. Managing the team’s expectation will prevent them getting disappointed when things do not go their way.
In addition, when trailing by a single goal, encourage the team rather than using the hair dryer treatment as you would on a dominant team. That might be the difference between nicking an equalizer or conceding a few more goals to compound your disappointment.
Also, periodically schedule team meetings where you will give encouragement depending on the team’s form and encourage them to kick on.
Keep in mind though that too many team meetings will make the squad unhappy with you, further bringing the morale down. It’s all about hitting the right balance.
Put what I have laid out in your underdog team, and you will stand a greater chance of avoiding relegation. However, sometimes your team just over performs and wins promotion too early before you have a squad that can successfully fight relegation.
If the board’s expectation is “fight bravely against relegation”, they do not expect you to stay up and being relegated will not lead you to getting fired.