Thinking of starting a career in the lower echelon's of football? This quick, easy guide has 5 great starting points that will get you well on the way with a fantastic start to life nurturing the next Jamie Vardy and completing the next Peterborough United story!
Your first step, at any level of the football pyramid but most importantly at the lower levels where resources are scarce, should be to hire a talented scouting team. Whilst we all know how important it is to find a scouting team with a high rating in judging player ability and potential, it's also really key to find someone who suits your system; it's no good spending your limited staff wages on a scout who can judge a player superbly, but has a preferred formation and playing style which are completely different to what your club needs. Similarly, don't hire a highly rated, Italian scout with expectations of finding bargains abroad if your club won't finance scouting trips abroad.
|Jamie Cureton is a scout who fits my playing style and has good knowledge of England, as well as good key attributes|
2. Utilise the non-contract system
Lower league sides play considerably more games on poor playing surfaces, without the high levels of training to get them into the best condition, and as such, player fatigue and injury plays a huge part. I learnt first hand the frustration of splashing out wages on 2 or 3 big signings, only to find them ruled out for months due to injury, a luxury a side with minimal finances cannot afford. This is where the non-league side can take advantage of the non-contract, where by sides can pay a player per appearance, with no weekly wage. Whilst this does leave the club open to losing the player free of charge, it is a really handy way of accumulating back up players, ready to step in at a moment's notice when your star striker picks up a 4 week injury. Additionally, whilst in theory players can leave for free to other clubs, I have only ever lost one player, and that was because I wasn't too fussed about keeping him - usually when a player is offered a contract elsewhere they will happily stay put when offered a new non-contract worth a few pounds more per appearance.
3. Find a parent club
Loan signings are a key in securing success at the lower league (read more about my top 10 non-league loan signings here) but it can be difficult to afford the 20% of wages required by the parent club, or to persuade a premier league youngster that a season in Morecambe is really what he wants. These problems can all be alleviated by finding a higher league parent club, who will send you players they want to obtain loan experience without the expenses of their wages. It can also generate extra revenue, via mandatory pre-season friendlies and annual payments.
4. Splash the cash on defence!
As I have mentioned previously, funds are limited the lower down the pyramid you go. Typically, defenders at this level of football manager are prone to ridiculous errors, which border on the ludicrous, and in my experience goals are not hard to come by, even for the less talented of strikers. As a result, whilst top strikers will still shine above the rest, the shrewdest way to work the transfer market in my experience is to spend wisely on assembling a solid back 4. In my experience, an experienced centre back alongside a younger, pacey centre back (possibly a loanee) alongside two defensively minded, narrow full backs and a fast sweeper keeper will ensure clean sheets, and allow the rest of your team to capitalise on the frequent errors by defenders at the other end of the pitch.
5. Spend time on your set pieces
This one applies at all levels of the game, but is of particular importance at the lower levels of the game, when delivery is often of a poorer quality if you just leave the players to it on the automated set up. Spend the time to ensure that when defending set pieces you have your fastest players waiting to counter attack, and create a number of routines for each side of the pitch for corners; I have found success through crowding everyone into the box with my highest rated long shooter on the edge of the box. Time spent on set pieces is time well spent, it's the gift that keeps giving all season long, as teams don't have the time to prepare for your set pieces, particularly at the semi-pro level.
|Being the league's joint top scorer on corner's so far this reason has helped elevate me to third, with games in hand|