One man and his dog or: Why I prefer lower league management

This article was written for FMMobile.net

Although the title’s been ours for a long time, today is the day (hopefully) it becomes a mathematical certainty. The final whistle blows. The title is ours! We’re champions! Players sink to the floor or embrace one another. The fans are hugging, screaming, shouting, celebrating. I stand at the edge of the area and look around, taking it all in. We’ve brushed Darlington aside and I’m delighted to have won the title in front of the New Bucks Head faithful and to have secured our promotion to the National League. It may not be the Champions League or Premier League trophy, but fans of lower league saves will understand it’s just as sweet.

Football Manager Mobile 2018 gives the chance to manage the best teams and players in the world, so why select Telford United in the National League North? Well, they’ve been my hometown team for most of my life and as a result, it’s a save I’ve wanted to do for a while. But if it hadn’t have been them, it would still have been a team outside of the Premier League or Championship.

Again though, we return to the question of why not manage some of the best teams and players that there are? A big reason is that I enjoy shaping and developing my sides. This is easier to do at lower clubs because of loans and free signings. There’s always the risk of whether a signing will come off or not. My signings for Telford certainly did, notably Owain Jones who earned himself a move to League 1 Bristol City and loan signing Tyrone Ofori who plundered 32 goals. At Chelsea (for example), there’s generally far less risk; if you’re paying £30 million for a player, he’s going to play pretty well. I feel far more pride in an unknown free signing coming off that I would if I paid millions for one of the world’s finest.

Another great thing is the impact the signings can have. They can power teams to unexpected titles or see a side plummet down the league. I’ll pick another signing I made as an example; Faustin Makela. I wanted an attacking left midfielder because I didn’t really want to play striker Matthew Barnes-Homer out on the left. Or if I was going to, I needed backup for him. Makela’s stats were okay. However, he became a vital part of the team, even if he was naturally a right winger. I was expecting him to have some good games, but not consistently be excellent and play a key part in securing a title win.

The lower leagues also bring the challenge of developing a team and rising through the leagues. If I take over at Real Madrid (for example), I can’t take them any further. If anything, I can only oversee a slide in fortunes. The opposite is true for a lower league side. I’ve already secured one promotion for Telford and only need four more before we reach the Premier League. Then the real work begins as we look to bring the Champions League trophy to Telford.

But didn’t I say I don’t enjoy managing in the big leagues? True. But only taking over sides there. My aim of managing a lower league side is to get them through the leagues and eventually competing against the best. I much prefer that to just taking over a team already in the top league.

Plenty of the great managers have learnt their trade in the lower leagues before making an impact at the top level. Guardiola and Zidane are undoubtedly good managers, but with the quality of player they have available, they’d have a hard time to struggle. I wonder how they’d do with two games in three days managing a part-time side with one central midfielder injured, one suspended and only one other player in the squad who is naturally a central midfielder.

Expectations in the lower leagues also tend to give you an opportunity to settle in to a side. If I take over from Jose Mourinho at Manchester United (for example), the expectations are going to be that I win the title. If I don’t, the chances are that I won’t get a second chance. Whilst there will always be demanding boards in the lower leagues as well, I’m less likely to pay for failing to win a title with my job because the board will also be aware that the team needs strengthening.

If you haven’t given lower league management a go, now is the time. Let me know how you get on.

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Players Football Manager has caused you to dislike

There seem to be plenty of lists of players to sign who will (almost single-handedly) lead your club to glory. It could be Michael Duff at the back, Tommy Svindal Larsen in midfield, Tonton Zola Moukoko marauding around in the Number 10 or Cherno Samba banging them in up front. Four examples of players who have become cult heroes and loved for how well they’ve done in the game. But what about the players who go the opposite way. Those who you end up loathing. Below are two examples of players the game has caused me to dislike.

Jay Roderiguez

Football Manager 2012 and I’ve got Exeter City into the Championship. Over the course of several seasons, we play Watford numerous times and we always need to score at least twice and that’s often only good enough for a point. The reason? Jay Roderiguez. Many strikers have a club they have a good record against, but Roderiguez’s record against us was bordering on silly. The tipping point was a game when we were winning 2-0 with 10 minutes to go and Roderiguez had barely seen the ball. 10 minutes later and he’s rescued a point for them. I would have loved to sign him if only to stop him playing against me.

Keylor Navas

Football Manager 2007 and I sign an unknown Costa Rican goalkeeper for League 1 Exeter City. He remains arguably the best goalkeeper I have ever signed in the game and was often the reason behind us picking up points we probably didn’t really deserve. So why does he make my list? At the end of his second season with us, he left the club on a free transfer. Irritating. For less money. Surprising. To drop down a league. Disappointing. And sign for Plymouth Argyle. Unforgivable.

Which players have you ended up disliking because of Football Manager? Leave a comment, naming the player(s) and the reason(s) why.

The Buck Stops Here! Episode 6