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Preston North End

Regaining a Championship position!
Started on 20 January 2012 by mdharling
Latest Reply on 21 January 2012 by _Man_u_barmy_army_
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**Please post any comments below, especially if you would like me to post on the different approach that I am currently taking on in my first season in the Championship**

So you're a fan of Preston North End. Or, you wanted a financial challenge and found this to be a club with potential to overcome it after a number of seasons. Well, after my first season at the helm (this is my first attempt at playing FM as well), I managed to scrape out a second-place finish in the nPower League 1. Here's my advice to you if you are looking to take on the challenge that resides at Deepdale.

Start of the season:

First off, I went into the season with a strong idea that I would use a 4-1-2-1-2 (Diamond) Formation. Preston's original squad plays to these strengths quite nicely. I also used a 4-5-1 (Defensive mode) and a 5-1-4 (Attacking mode) throughout the season. I'll touch on those later.

Preston is a club in a pretty dire financial position. You will find that 0% of transfer revenue is made available to you, and a very limited amount of wage/funds are available to build a solid squad (You will have to decide for yourself if you want to player the more-wage or -transfer fund game, I took the wage approach, keeping a buffer of ~6500p/w being available throughout the season)

There are a few players whose contracts you will want to take note of. The ones who I instantly decided had to go were Mellor and Coutts (Managed to get the bidding up to almost double his value, albeit with half the payment being paid out over the next year). This freed up a considerable amount of wage space. I also cut Arestidou out of the picture. At some point before Craig Morgan makes 20 (maybe 25, can't recall exact number) appearances, you will want to send him packing. The reason for this is the 100k fee which comes due to Portsmouth upon reaching this number; needless to say, not the best situation for a club already struggling for money. I ended up low-balling his cost simply to get rid of him during January as I knew it would hurt the club otherwise. Also, due to his high wage and how limited a factor he will be (was injured in my season until just before Christmas) with developing players, Ian Ashbee was shown the door in January.

During the preseason I managed to find a few diamonds in the rough and put pen to ink:
    - Jamil Adam (Put in quite the performance over the year. I signed him to a lower initial fee with a considerable raise after 25 appearances. Needless to say, I was not too eager with six matches left in the season to have that clause kick in, so he sat the last few matches, which resulted in a few draws)
    - Conor Devlin (Get him in the reserve squad playing as much as possible right away. He played a few league games when Turner got injured, put in some great performances)
    - Bailey Wright (An Australian U-21 Central Defender. Put in some great performances and had a good amount of growth during the season)
    - Josh Wright (A Central Defensive Midfielder, another solid signing)

Upon scouring the market for affordable players who I could capture on loan to fill out my squad, I found three Beauties:
    - Thomas Carroll (Left Attacking Midfield, fit well into both the 4-1-2-1-2 and 5-1-4, ended up signing him on a free after Tottenham let him go at the end of the season)
    - Andrea Orlandi (An absolute MUST signing. Played as my attacking midfielder and bossed the midfield more often than not --- I would work on his stamina right away though)
    -Luke Hubbins (A useful stop-gap for when Nicholson was tired on the Right Midfield)

What now? Well, to further trim the budget, I slashed a few staff members. Two Youth Coaches went right away (you start with four, absolutely unneeded at this point). I believe I also dumped a physio and a couple scouts who had lower ratings. I then went and bumped my scouting staff up to four (looking more long-term development at this point). I also replaced a couple other staff members who were a little low on the stats side as I found that I could get better value with a similar amount of salary.

FINALLY! We can start the season!

During the season:

Most games, I let Brian Horton pick the squad. I always started games in the 4-1-2-1-2 formation and then nit-picked who I wanted in my starting eleven from there. The sideline instruction "Hassle Opponents" was almost always set to on from the starting pep talk. After about 10-15 minutes of gametime, if the opposition was playing narrow or wide, I would make the adjustment from the sideline instructions, but that comes down to personal preference.

Up Front:
Hume, Proctor, Adam, Tsoumou were the typical starters. Occasionally Daley would fill in due to injury.

Midfield
Left: Smith/Parry/Carroll (in order of preference)
Right: Nicholson/Hubbins/Parry
Attacking: Orlandi/Daley
Defensive: Russell/J.Wright

When I switched to the 5-1-4 (a game where I knew I had a good chance of majority possession) I would have Barton on the bench and bring him in upon the formation change.

Defence:
Left: Jordan/Smith (Full-Backs set to automatic)
Right: Gray/McLaughlin (Alternated starter almost every match --- again, FB set to Auto)
Centre: Carlisle/Morgan/McLean/Devlin/B.Wright (Morgan will be gone after a while, hopefully Devlin and Wright will have had enough games on the Reserve Squad to show improvement)

When I switched to the 5-1-4, I found that Gray was best served on the right with Jordan/Smith on the left as attacking wingbacks. Then sub either your attacking or defensive midfielder for an extra centreback.

Through the season and to the end:

Being new to FM, I had a couple rough spots, such as during November when I was as low as 14th with some pretty low morale. We had a fortunate string of fixtures which allowed the confidence to get back up, allowing me to capture two "Manager of the Month" awards in three months (and ultimately third overall at season's end). Patience and observation skills will allow you to persist if in the same position (ie. Hume and Proctor prefer being criticised assertively, where-as Turner and Adam prefer Passionate reinforcement)

Individual Awards:
At season's end, my team had captured the following awards:
    - nPower League 1 Player of the Year (Keammar Daley -- amazingly enough, was injured for the final ~2 months of the season!)
    - nPower League 1 Team of the Year (Daley, Clarke Carlisle, and Andrea Orlandi)
    - nPower League 1 Second runner-Up Manager of the Year (Myself!)
    - Promotion to nPower Championship (Second Place finish)

All-in-all, not a bad first attempt in my mind. I've discovered (and learnt) a lot along the way and am approaching my Championship season quite a bit differently. I've revamped almost my entire coaching staff (minus those few hires that I took on through my first season) and dumped a few more high-wage earning players who were not up to par for the Championship. There was also a rather long day (spent ~4 hours) of scouting in-between seasons trying to sign as many younger players to youth contracts or low-paying professional contracts in the interest of long-term transfer income.

Anyways, that was my rookie season with Preston North End. If there are any questions (or constructive criticism!), feel free to comment below!
A good overview of Preston and a guide of what to expect, well done, hope your future seasons go well :)

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