I'm a first time player of FM, and I'm having some trouble getting my head around the game. The best thread I've been able to find on the forums is this one, but all the links in it seem to be dead. I'm in much the same situation as him, but my knowledge of the football is pretty extensive already, so I've got that taken care of. Anyone care to help?
Actually, before you read any of those, there's a more basic set of information you need to know:
A. Player "trades" are very rare. Instead, you will see "Transfers", where Club A pays Club B a cash "transfer fee" for Player X. Unlike, say, MLB, where Player X's contract with Club B can be traded, Player X's contract is exclusive to Club B. Therefore, Club A needs to arrange a new contract with the player. The transfer is only completed if Club B agrees to the fee AND Player X agrees to the new contract.
B. Transfer windows. In most leagues, you can only perform transfers at certain times. For example, English Premier League teams can only bring players into the squad from July 1st to August 31st, and from January 1st to January 31st. If a deal were finalized on, say, November 20th, it would be set to complete at a future date - either January 1st or July 1st of the next season.
C. No playoffs. In most leagues, the Champion is determined not by a playoff system, but by the club with the best regular season record. (Determined by "Points" - usually 3 for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a defeat.) Draws are quite common; there is no "overtime" for league matches.
D. Cups. The elimination-system you're used to in an American playoff format is commonly used in Cups, such as the F.A. Cup, the League Cup, or the Lamar Hunt Open Cup. The rules will differ from competition to competition, but may include Overtime or even go to a Penalty Shootout. These are usually distinct and different from the league placing; each has its own trophy. A team would be said to have "Done the Double" if they managed to win both the F.A. Cup and the English Premier League in the same season.
Cup matches tend to run in parallel with the league season, so you might opt to rest your key players during a Cup match due to a crucial league match coming .. or vice versa.
E. Promotion/Relegation. Unlike baseball, where the teams at MLB, AAA, AA, and A are constant from year to year, in most of the football world, teams can rise or fall. If baseball were football ;), at the end of the season, the top three teams from AAA would be promoted to MLB, and the bottom three teams from MLB would be relegated to AAA. Similarly, the bottom three teams from AAA would be relegated to AA, to be replaced by the best AA teams.
(Often, the promotion/relegation battle includes a playoff at the very end. For example, the teams getting promoted from English League One are the champion, the second place team, and the winner of a playoff between the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th placed teams. Some playoffs also include giving a team one last chance to avoid relegation.)
F. European Qualification. The pinnacle of club football is the European Champions League, a Cup competition featuring clubs from many different nations. Currently, in England, the top four finishers in the English Premier League qualify for the next season's Champions League. (The number of places a league gets varies depending on how well clubs from that league do over a five-year period.)
Beneath the C.L. is the UEFA Cup. For England, the 5th-place EPL team qualifies for the UEFA Cup, as do the winners of the F.A. Cup and the League Cup. (If, as is often the case, a top-five team wins the Cup, the UEFA Cup berth may be awarded to the runner-up or to the next-best team in the league.)
Revenues for European qualification are usually very high, creating a Yankees-style "the rich get richer" structure ... but if a team takes on too much debt, anticipating permanent European revenue, and then fails to qualify ... well, ask fans of Leeds United what happens then. ;)
. . .
When you put that all together, part of the joy of FM is taking over a mediocre club from some forgotten league ... earning promotion several times over a number of seasons until you reach the "top flight" of that nation's league pyramid ... and then your work isn't done, because the next season is often a tough fight against relegation .. and it will take several more seasons to start challenging for a UEFA Cup berth .. but if you can finally win the League and the Champions League from those humble origins, you can really be proud of your managerial career!
I think it explains quite alot and should give you a helping hand on understanding how to play FM .
I hope this helps you mate .
Can I just add that the quote is not mine and I take no credit for it.
I guess the first thing I'm having trouble with is comparing players to one another. There's a plethora of stats to choose from, but how do you pick the important ones? In other, less extensive games theres a quick overall rating to tell players apart, but here there isn't anything like that (unless I'm blind and there actually is). Second is tactics and training methods, but theres a whole forum on that I can use to get acquainted.
The best advice I can give is use the forum, it's the best resource bar none for the game. They showed incredible patience with my total newbie questions and taught me more than I thought possible about the sport and the game.