Winning promotion with your side is generally a momentous occasion in one’s managerial career. Whether you’ve been building towards this promotion for months, meticulously analysing your opponents, ingeniously thwarting their tactical setups and carefully guarding the morale of your squad, or maybe it came as a surprise as you stumbled through the playoffs – either way, winning a promotion represents a milestone that is worthy of celebration.
When you have won that precious promotion, you’re probably feeling a range of emotions all at once; surprised, excited, nervous. It is now time to capitalise on all that energy you feel so you can respond appropriately!
Before you decide to stay, make sure this promotion is something you really want. We can get so wrapped up in the idea of advancement that we forget what happens after we have won a promotion: more work, rebuilding and preparing the squad for the coming challenge of a season on a much higher level, and possibly a change in your career trajectory. Consider these things before you accept your promotion:
- What do you anticipate will be the challenges and expectations of your club’s new and elevated stature? Are you ready to put in the work required to meet them?
- Is this promotion a good fit for you? Does it align with your skill set and interests?
- How will this promotion affect your goals? Your career trajectory?
All of these questions will have important implications for your life, so it’s important to consider them now before accepting the position thoughtfully.
If the club anticipates you to avoid relegation but refuses to grant you an ample war chest to strengthen the squad, for example, you have to ask yourself if this is the kind of challenge you have the skill set for. Look at the circumstances and determine if you have what it takes to come out on top. Sometimes, it’s better to part ways before you go down with the ship the next season. Promotions look great on your resumé, but a relegation (or even sacking!) looks dreadful.
Don’t burn the bridges you have built
After the initial rush of winning promotion dies down, you need to prepare for the new season. That means assessing the squad you’ve worked with for the past season. You need to look at whose contracts are ending and decide who you can afford to keep. It might be worth letting a star player go if his wage demands would take up most of your remaining budget, for instance.
It also means assessing if the players are good enough to keep the team afloat in a higher division. Since the team managed to pull off promotion, we presume at least a fair number of the players will have a particular skill-set that will serve them well on a higher level, but we can also assume that there will be players in your squad who cannot make that step. These players take up space on the roster, and they earn a paycheque that could be spent on more valuable assets, in which case it might be better to purge the squad.
However, we highly recommend you do not burn the bridges you have built.
When you are assessing the quality of your squad, please keep in mind that the objective of the board is usually just to survive the next season. Nobody is expecting a title challenge or mid table finish, and you should assess the qualities and potential of the current crop of players accordingly. Don’t deem the majority of the squad surplus to requirements because replacing them will not only cost a fair bit of money; your tactical familiarity will suffer as a result.
When you go a division up, you want to make a proper start to the season, which means high tactical familiarity is of the utmost importance. By selling a large portion of the squad that won you this precious promotion and subsequently replacing them with new players, your tactical familiarity will drop as a result. Such a drop will not always end disastrous, but it does mean you start the season at a disadvantage.
Surgical signings trump hoarding anyone you can sign
Once you’ve gotten rid of the deadwood, it is time look at your remaining team. The objective is to identify where your squad needs improving. The star ratings can be helpful here, but please remember they are relative to your overall team, so a 5-star player is fantastic compared to YOUR squad, not necessarily an amazing player overall. Similarly, that 2.5-star veteran might be perfectly useful if your overall squad is good. If you have any positions that significantly lag compared to the others in their respective star ratings, that is usually a sound indication that this particular line needs reinforcing.
You should get players in where necessary, but only where necessary. A cohesive unit that’s been together for a while is going to be much more effective than 11 individually great players who’ve never met each other before. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting your wage budget on that 5-star potential ‘megastar’ who plays in the same position as your existing star player, or just a position where you don’t need to strengthen. The usual trap in these scenarios is signing a player who is objectively fantastic but plays in a position or role you don’t even use. Unless your owner is a sugar daddy your wage budget is probably the biggest constraint on squad building, so use it wisely. For more information about these surgical signings, we’d like to refer you to this article.
Make use of the bargain-bin of the transfer market
Especially when managing smaller squads, see what you can scavenge off the transfer lists and B-squads. There are often players in there who are deemed surplus to requirements by their respective clubs, but who are instant impact reinforcements for your squad. Often, clubs are willing to part ways with these players for a sum considerably less than their market value, so you could make a nice profit with such deals.
Loaned players are a different story altogether. I have noticed that whilst players continue to progress while on loan to a different club, their values tend to drop or remain stagnant. That means that at the end of their loan deals, such players are severely undervalued. A bargain deal can be struck quickly, if you know where and when to pounce. Ideally, you want to pounce on such prey a week or two before their loan deal expires.