Provided by Kevin Reed

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Whilst it is true to say that I have won more games than I have lost (and I've even been fortunate enough to lead one of my two Tottenham teams to the league and cup double), I do not claim to have an instant recipe for Soccer Strategy success. This guide is intended to do two things: firstly, to offer a few tips to managers who have experienced long-term failure and would welcome some new ideas; and secondly, to provide a starting point for any new managers who might initially be a bit bewildered by the complexities of the game.


On your first turn after taking over a team there are some extra boxes om the turnsheet for free transfers. The first thing to do is look at your squad and pick out the guys who are obviously never going to get into the team. There will be some donkeys who you're never going to have a use for. Show them the door. Their squad places will be needed for the new players you want to be bringing in, and the money you're paying them at present is being wasted. So, in your first turn you can use the extra free transfer boxes to raise some money, reduce your costs, and free up some room in your squad.

Be brutal. If you change your mind you can probably sign them back again anyway. Or you'll find other managers have got better players they'd be happy to offload.


Whether you are building a squad from scratch, have inherited a squad in a standby position, or want to turn around the fortunes of a losing team by radically changing the composition of your playing staff, the principles are basically the same.

Firstly, decide which playing styles and strategies you want to adopt and then identify the areas which you need to be strong in to make these strategies successful. (Alternatively, managers with existing squads could do the opposite: identify the squad's strengths, and then use those strategies which work best based on those strengths).

The rulebook and GM messages give plenty of hints about this: for example, if you want to attack from the wide positions it's vital that you have at least two wingers with good midfield and attack ability (and preferably pace) in your squad. Playing five at the back will only work well if you have wing backs and/or a sweeper with midfield or attack skills, again pace being advantageous for wing backs.

My own preference is for my teams to dominate the midfield and allow use of the attacking midfield strategies MI, TR and SH, but this is only possible because I have three or four central midfielders (both MDD/UTL and PLM category types) with exceptional abilities in defence, midfield and attack.

The majority of games which I've lost have been due to playing these strategies against teams with even better central midfielders and failing to create enough chances as a result. Despite the warnings of the GM, some managers have tried using the MI strategy with an understrength or worse still an undermanned midfield and have generally paid the price with a heavy loss (or at the very least have failed to create many chances).

Although there is a training benefit from playing the same strategy often, obviously sticking to just one or two strategies is not good in the long term, because if you become too predictable then your opponents will find it easier to find a counter strategy. Try to predict the playing style of your opponent and then decide whether you need to change your normal strategies in response. For instance, try the front running strategy with a PLA in attack against teams that are sure to play three in central midfield (unless you are certain that your midfield is better of course), use the flanks against five-man defences, or counter attack against teams that tend to over commit themselves week in and week out.


The recent rule changes give much more flexibility when it comes to tactical substitutions. If you are losing at half time, try to anticipate the reasons behind this and change your team's formation and/or strategy. For example, if you were using the MI strategy with a five-man midfield it is highly probable that your midfield is being outplayed; a sensible change would be to use any of the strategies which bypass the midfield and to strengthen the forward line with an extra player at the same time.

Ideally you will have good backup players available for all positions in the team to combat fatigue, but this is not always possible. I tend to look ahead in the match schedule for "easier" games when it is possible to play less able players and rest the stars to regain fitness and pace. Obviously, it is important to have your best side out in a championship, promotion or relegation clash, or a vital cup tie. I've not tried playing fatigued players but I imagine that they perform far worse than fit players with less ability.


Team balance is also crucial to success and I make sure that my teams are always within two of the "normal" team balance of +1. I'd go so far as to say that teams with balances less than minus one or greater than +3 are "unbalanced " (too negative or too attack minded). You only have to remember the Spurs side under Ossie Ardiles with the "Famous Five" in attack - this invariably led to lots of goals, but the majority were scored by the opposition because the lack of midfield cover meant that the defence was always being stretched. Entertaining it may be, but fans soon get tired of seeing their team lose by the odd goal in seven, and if you are interested in winning your Soccer Strategy matches you should also try to curb such extravagant behaviour.

I've noticed managers using team balances as extreme as -3 (not surprisingly involved in lots of nil-nil draws) and even +8 (usually conceding far more goals than they score). A balance difference of two may not sound much, but it's the difference between playing a disruptive player (MDD/UTL) and a playmaker or winger in midfield: equate this with real life teams and imagine the difference in effectiveness and playing style of Manchester United with David Beckham or Ryan Giggs replacing Roy Keane, or Arsenal with Robert Pires in the side at the expense of Patrick Viera.


I have to admit that I'm one of the managers who overdid the hardness factor in my early teams (coaching hardness rather than using the team option HARD). I find that having hard men in certain positions works well by negating the opposition's flair players, but once coached there's no way of going back, and at times I've conceded penalties in games which could have proved costly (going in level at half time instead of leading).

I've learnt that the HARDNESS option should therefore be used sparingly (I'd suggest having no more than three hard players in your team at any time) - unless a new SOFTNESS option appears in the game! Try to predict where the opposition's best flair players will line up and match them up with your hard men (remember that Gazza was not playing at his best after Vinnie Jones put the squeeze on him and gave new meaning to the phrase "ball control").


Too many managers tend to ignore the financial aspect of the game but I think that this is a severe handicap to success. To compete at the top you need the best (i.e. most expensive) players, which means that any source of income is important. Experiment with the SMARK and SMERC standing orders to earn a steady amount of money without losing any supporters (I'm currently getting 40K per week and still gaining fans).

Take the trouble to calculate your expected attendance, and make games all-ticket if the number of fans is going to exceed your capacity. Locking out fans is a double penalty financially because your draw is reduced and you also receive less money that week. If all-ticket games are a regularity, then consider developing your ground because this will bring in more gate money in the long run (but develop the stands which have the longest to go before deteriorating, because otherwise you are wasting your hard-earned cash).


If your wage bill is growing out of control place any ultra-expensive but less-gifted players on the transfer list. If you find a buyer then you've probably made a decent profit, and can invest in something or someone else. If a player's value comes down low enough to justify keeping him you can then contract him at no cost and reduce your wage bill at the same time.

It is worth bidding more for free agents with high potential than you would otherwise, because the potential represents hidden value. For example, using 1 LP to coach a player without potential raises his ability by 1 and his minimum value by a small amount, whereas the same LP allocation with a player having 8 points of potential raises his ability by 5 and his minimum value by a lot more (remember that the formula for calculating value includes 4 x ability squared). Gains in fitness through potential during the close season result in smaller increases in value (2 x fitness squared in the formula) but still mean that the potential is providing you ultimately with extra finance (when you sell the player his minimum value will be greater).

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