I've won one promotion, and am heading for a safe mid-table position, but the squad is definately not good enough for a playoff place. Seeing as I have very little funds to work with, plus my tactic of signing free agents will not work in this league as the decent players go to the other teams, I was wondering how other people leaped over this sizeable hurdle.
I generally get all of my players on free for the first couple of seasons if no longer. You can always find a reasonable improvement to your squad. Though sometimes this can be a leap of faith. I also change my tactics to match my team. ie fast players with reasonable finisihing 433 very direct counter attack
Loans are a good bet, some Premier League clubs are happy to let their youngsters go on loan without you having to pay any contribution towards their wages. Obviously it depends what league you're playing in... but if those players won't go to you there's gonna be someone available from say Championship level. So what I did was, get some players in on 3 or 6 month loans, and if they impressed just requested an extension to the end of the season which I got. That was at BSP level and I got a few Premier League youngsters on loan. Then I got lucky after promotion, the two best players I'd got on loan were transfer listed and had their asking prices slashed so managed to get them both on permanent deals - see how it goes.
I got Crewe from League Two to the Championship thanks to Arsenal, pretty much. As ancipital said, loans are a good way to bring in some class whilst taking your team up the leagues.
I won both League Two and League One consecutively and won the Paint Trophy in the second year too. Admittedly, doing anything in the Championship would've been one step too far I reckon which is why I jumped ship when Blackburn came calling with their super rich chairman! (although, Ian Holloway did a good job steering them to 15th!).
But if I had stayed, I would've found myself building a squad ready to challenge for promotion in 2-4 years.
Wishing he was at Fenway Park watching his beloved Red Sox
Re: To those who take small clubs up the leagues
Playing as Boston Utd I managed to go from the Blue Square North to the Championship without spending a lot of money on players preferring to bring in players on a free mainly. You can get some good bargains on a free if you look through the youngsters who have been released by premier league clubs at the end of the season.
# Go through the released players
# Search through the transfer listed players
# Try your luck loaning good players that can not get into first team
# Search for good players in the other leagues. There are many good players that you can attract to your club with out having to pay for large fee.
If you cannot buy players then you would have to settle for what you have regardless how rubbish that is. It is part of the challenge
Loans (get a good parent club) are a good suggestion, but my best tip after bringing a few small clubs up is to make good use of your club's resources to isolate the best transfer targets. First, get an assistant with good judging attributes. Second, maximize your club's scouting knowledge by signing scouts and other staff with knowledge of new countries/regions, even if they don't have very good judging attributes. Focus on the big countries with large numbers of players. Third, check your assistant's Team Report and he'll list up to three players who will always be good targets.
What he does is isolate the three most suitable players (judging attributes) from the pool of players the club knows about (scouting knowledge) for the currently weakest position in the squad, hence the previous steps to optimize his skill and give him plenty to choose from. "Most suitable" means he takes your current squad, transfer budget, and reputation into account to only suggest players you need, can afford, and will not turn you down. SI toned this down in one of the patches so while it's not as effective as it was in the retail version, it's still the best way to quickly find good targets when you just don't have time to let months pass waiting for your scouts to complete lengthy trips.
Do note that while this is great for finding players who can improve your team here and now, it's useless for finding future talent. You still need the scouts for that, so I typically bias a high JPA on my assistant and high JPP on my scouts.
I found loans are vital to success in the lower leagues. I got Luton from BSP to Championship in successive seasons. Look through the reserves and u18 squads of Premier and Championship teams. I got Matt James from Man Utd in my first season. The guy was a demon for me in midfield.
In the same game I took a lot of time trawling through all of the youth players being released as well as those older players who were released at the end of their contract. It is also vital to act quickly too re: the free transfer market. When I got Division 1 I bagged Rob Earnshaw and David Nugent up front both for nothing. They blitzed the division as clearly they are too good for Div 1. But it just goes to show what type of players you can bring in if you keep your eyes peeled and act fast. Don't let the game move on until you've studied all the freebies and got your offers in.
Another thing I did a lot of was getting youngsters and out of contract players in on trial. It's a quick way of being able to see all of their stats rather than waiting for your scout to see them in a game. Most tend to be rubbish but it can throw up the odd good player.