How are promotion sides built at this level?

Jockney

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With Swindon selling some of their better players immediately following a successful season (albeit for good money), it got me thinking about how successful sides at this level approach the task of building sides that can challenge, in a sustainable way or otherwise.

An exodus can provide a big windfall to clubs that can afford to reinvest the money into recruitment, but I think for most L1 clubs a very large chunk of any sort of income from transfer fees will be used to address their overheads and reimburse investors.

So how do you go about putting together a squad that can seriously challenge for promotion? Thinking back to 2001, we spent the better part of four years waiting for some of our best prospects to come of age and even then we needed to make some very shrewd signings along the way -- the sort of signings that weren't readily available but serendipitously fell into our laps at just the right time (Steve Claridge, Paul Moody, etc). But then you have examples like Swansea, Brighton, Charlton and, more recently, Bristol City, who went from midtable obscurity to runaway champions over the course of a single Summer.

Good recruitment, weak division or simply experience and development coming to fruition?
 
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Bobbin'

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In our case it was literally Chris Powell releasing the dead wood (practically the whole squad) and starting from scratch with young, hungry players. Similar to what Neil Harris seems to have in mind.

I think we signed 23 players in the summer before promotion but let a similar amount go.
 

Jockney

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In our case it was literally Chris Powell releasing the dead wood (practically the whole squad) and starting from scratch with young, hungry players. Similar to what Neil Harris seems to have in mind.

I think we signed 23 players in the summer before promotion but let a similar amount go.

Charlton are an interesting case because in hindsight the business you did that Summer doesn't look that spectacular (at least proportionate to your improvement in the ensuing season) bar Yann Kermorgant and Ben Hamer, but you brought in a lot of very effective L1 players who helped plug the gaps in your squad (the likes of Matt Taylor, Leon Cort, Michael Morrison, Paul Hayes, Danny Hollands, et al). I think you're a great counterpoint to naive lower league fans who think it has to be done the Swansea or Southampton way (i.e. a team almost readymade for successive promotions).

Talking of that Swansea side, Martinez did some remarkable business that Summer:

Ferrie Bodde
Paul Anderson
Ashley Williams
Angel Rangel
Dorus DeVries
Jason Scotland

All bought for a pittance.
 

SF_

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We did it in stages and it got a whole lot worse before it got better.

- Remove the high earners and build a core of 'leaders' who want to play for your club and will put in the graft (Welsh, Huntington, Keane, Laird). That is what Graham Westley did for us, awful manager but he built some foundations.

- Then once you've got a solid side that can defend and do the basics right that is when you add your more creative players (Gallagher, Johnson, Robinson) and you attempt to play different systems. Slowly improving the quality of the side each window and creating competition.

- At this level though, you need a focal point, preferably one that can get goals. We had Garner, Bristol City had Wilbraham, Swindon had Smith, MK Dons had Grigg....if you can find another goalscorer (Beckford) who can compliment him then even better.

Basically, you need the right balance of effort and flair and a focal point up front who can get you around 20 a season...usually. As cliched as it sounds, a good team spirit and players who actually like each other goes a long way too.
 

Bobbin'

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Agree with both points.

Although we didn't spend much on transfer fees, I believe we had the 4th biggest budget and used that to go through the other sides in the division and sign their best players thus building a very strong League One side, evidenced by how convincingly we won the title. I also believe Chris Powell himself has to take a huge amount of credit for the way he sold the club and the vision of the club to the players. We beat Championship clubs to the signing of players like Rhoys Wiggins, Danny Green etc. This is why I think Millwall be ok next season, I see a lot of similarities to our situations and managers etc.
 

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A dependable spine of the team.
Plenty of pace.
An excellent #10 type player.
A striker that can get 20+ goals.
Having a squad of around 16-18 good, dependable players, as opposed to 22-24 consisiting of "OK" players.
Lots of luck.
 

Bobbin'

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We did it in stages and it got a whole lot worse before it got better.

- Remove the high earners and build a core of 'leaders' who want to play for your club and will put in the graft (Welsh, Huntington, Keane, Laird). That is what Graham Westley did for us, awful manager but he built some foundations.

- Then once you've got a solid side that can defend and do the basics right that is when you add your more creative players (Gallagher, Johnson, Robinson) and you attempt to play different systems. Slowly improving the quality of the side each window and creating competition.

- At this level though, you need a focal point, preferably one that can get goals. We had Garner, Bristol City had Wilbraham, Swindon had Smith, MK Dons had Grigg....if you can find another goalscorer (Beckford) who can compliment him then even better.

Basically, you need the right balance of effort and flair and a focal point up front who can get you around 20 a season...usually. As cliched as it sounds, a good team spirit and players who actually like each other goes a long way too.

Absolutely this.

I have never seen team spirit like I saw from the our side promoted in 2012. Go on Twitter now and there are still close relationships between current players and other members of that side that have since left. Players getting on is very important for me.
 

This Charming Mike

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Money. Sure, there are anomalies (Yeovil going up a few seasons ago) and money doesn't always guarantee success (Sheffield Utd) but generally the teams with the bigger budgets tend to be the ones in the upper echelons of the league and more often than not those achieving promotion.
 
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Big Bird

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Read into it as much as you want but the three promoted sides used the least amount of players over the duration of last season. Think a smaller squad with quality and stability is preferable to a larger squad.
 

Aaron-Bcfc

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Read into it as much as you want but the three promoted sides used the least amount of players over the duration of last season. Think a smaller squad with quality and stability is preferable to a larger squad.

I think this was probably the main thing for us. Yes we most likely had some of the highest earners in this league but it's cancelled out somewhat when you only actually have 20 players. A few times this season we didn't even fill out the bench. Team spirit and all that improves as well.
 

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Read into it as much as you want but the three promoted sides used the least amount of players over the duration of last season. Think a smaller squad with quality and stability is preferable to a larger squad.

That's a good point.

Our best spell during the season came when we had a settled back 5 of Johnstone, Clarke, Huntington, Wright and Laird with Welsh sat in front of them. Think we lost once in 22 games with that set up.
 

TheWednesday

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We built a hard working team with a good spirit and never say die attitude, that's the first fundamental in a promotion winning side at this level. Of course then you need the added quality, seasoned pros who know the league alongside talented younger players.
 

JoeJoeJoeJoe

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Read into it as much as you want but the three promoted sides used the least amount of players over the duration of last season. Think a smaller squad with quality and stability is preferable to a larger squad.
Need luck with injuries as well if you have a small squad
 

HertsWolf

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A lot of good posts in this thread.....

This is one of those questions that is best answered by "start three years ago". You need the youth set up and academy because at L1 and L2 you typically can't afford to buy (and may struggle to even attract) the brightest talent by the time they are 17, 18, 19. But if they have been playing for the club since they were 7, it's easier.
But with the young talent, you need the experienced hard men....one or two at the back, one in midfield...for when the going gets tough and head start to drop. But make sure the experienced head is passionate rather than a journeyman.
Add a good coach. I noticed in L1 that our Wolves players seemed more fit and had more stamina than most opposing players. Maybe I was biased.
And the vocal 12th man in the stands, getting behind the team. Massive advantage. Even Rotherham fans will admit that that late April 2014 game...6-4 to Wolves in front of 31,000 people was a special day. Both sets of fans made it that way.
 

RavenBish

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Read into it as much as you want but the three promoted sides used the least amount of players over the duration of last season. Think a smaller squad with quality and stability is preferable to a larger squad.

That's because when you start with a good team you won't change things though...obviously.

Like Bristol City started the season with a really strong team so they were never going to use 40 players unless there was a massive injury crisis. Where as shit teams like Notts realised half their players were crap and needed replacing in January or upgrading throughout the season or changing things in order to get wins.

Don't get me wrong, quality > quantity is important but I think people completely misread that correlation as it purely being down to a choice to have a smaller squad.
 
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PUSBCCFC

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You need to ensure your players are up for it all season. Often in this division teams go through patches of really good form where they can beat anyone, but then towards the important stage of the season they either bottle it or run out of steam.

Loan players can work in both ways. I am not a big fan of half a team of loans as it takes time to settle.

Big name players don't always prove to be good signings. Orient and Coventry both had squads full of 'names' and look where we both finished.
 

BCFC David

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Read into it as much as you want but the three promoted sides used the least amount of players over the duration of last season. Think a smaller squad with quality and stability is preferable to a larger squad.

I was going to post the exact same thing. We easily used the least amount of players. To think Notts County and Colchester used 20 more players than us is crazy. Good discipline and luck with injuries help.
 

Vale on Trent

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Money is a huge factor.... Let's be honest Preston, Bristol City and MK Dons had players the majority of the league just couldn't afford. Generally the bigger clubs and the bigger budgets will be nearer to the top. Of course there is anomalies. But I cannot see a Port Vale side challenging at the top of this division any time soon without a massive influx of money spent on it.
 

Vale on Trent

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I was going to post the exact same thing. We easily used the least amount of players. To think Notts County and Colchester used 20 more players than us is crazy. Good discipline and luck with injuries help.
Of course the top teams are going to use less players than the teams struggling. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
 

Ciderhead

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In our case, it was important having quality throughout the team rather than being reliant on one star man. We sold 25 goal striker Sam Baldock for £2m in the summer and used that money to raid League 1 for 5/6 top players in different positions.

For that we got the foundations of our team: Mark Little (RB), Luke Ayling (CB), Korey Smith (CDM), Luke Freeman (CAM) and Kieran Agard (ST). Obviously, we were fortunate in that we were able to reinvest all transfer incomings back into the playing squad - a luxury many lower league clubs cannot afford - but crucially we used it to build a team rather than splashing out on a big name.

Also, we mainly targeted younger players with the potential to improve, supplemented with a couple of experienced heads.

Then, as mentioned above, a tight-knit squad and strong team spirit is vital. We had a pre-season tour in Botswana where much emphasis was placed on team bonding, and the togetherness and camaraderie formed on that trip was constantly referenced to by players and staff as a key reason for our success.
 

DippyDon

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We did it with the rotation policy up top, but with a stable back 7, the period where we didn't do very well we had one or more of Martin, MacFadzean and Lewington out, and that was easy to spot

Up top we just had 2 different strikers that know where the net is until Afobe left, then Grigg got some games and didn't look back, and we also had a quality attacking midfield (C.Baker, Reeves, Carruthers, Powell, a revitalised Bowditch, L.Baker, Hall) who could all do well for any team in this league. A

My advice to your managers are to be stable at the back, but don't burn out the creative positions up top.

Interesting fact, the start of the season when we had all those massive wins, the only one that Grigg didn't start was Colchester at home, Afobe was on the bench for the rest of them (Man Utd, Crewe, Oldham etc) yet Afobe was the talked about man
 

JoeJoeJoeJoe

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You need to ensure your players are up for it all season. Often in this division teams go through patches of really good form where they can beat anyone, but then towards the important stage of the season they either bottle it or run out of steam.

Loan players can work in both ways. I am not a big fan of half a team of loans as it takes time to settle.

Big name players don't always prove to be good signings. Orient and Coventry both had squads full of 'names' and look where we both finished.
What 'names' did we have?
 

PUSBCCFC

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What 'names' did we have?

Simeon Jackson, Reda Johnson, Marcus Tudgay, Danny Pugh, Jim O'Brien, Frank Nouble... players who have played higher than league one for a lot of their careers.

We have a lot of players who have had a decent career before coming to us.
 

Heisenberg20

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By winning ugly. Many times this season we won games we shouldnt have and if we didnt win them games we wouldnt have gone up.
Having goalscorers all over the pitch and a team that will put in 100% every week.
 

JoeJoeJoeJoe

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Simeon Jackson, Reda Johnson, Marcus Tudgay, Danny Pugh, Jim O'Brien, Frank Nouble... players who have played higher than league one for a lot of their careers.

We have a lot of players who have had a decent career before coming to us.

Players that have been released by lower end championship sides are not 'names'. Also, Tudgay, Johnson and O'Brien have all been good, I'm not seeing your point here.
 

PUSBCCFC

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Players that have been released by lower end championship sides are not 'names'. Also, Tudgay, Johnson and O'Brien have all been good, I'm not seeing your point here.

Why can't you? I said players who are well known names down here don't always do well. Over the three seasons down here in league one we have continually had players who have had decent careers before coming to us and then have failed (Pressley's fault, I know).

The names I mentioned haven't been as good as I expected them to be.
 

JoeJoeJoeJoe

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Why can't you? I said players who are well known names down here don't always do well. Over the three seasons down here in league one we have continually had players who have had decent careers before coming to us and then have failed (Pressley's fault, I know).

The names I mentioned haven't been as good as I expected them to be.
I'm saying that I don't think we've had any 'name' players. I'd say we have different definitions of a 'name' player
 

PUSBCCFC

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I'm saying that I don't think we've had any 'name' players. I'd say we have different definitions of a 'name' player

I think we do. For me a big name player would be anyone who has done really well previously in a higher division and would be expected to do well in this league OR anyone who has been proven in this league.

Simeon Jackson would be the main example, I thought he would do very well in this league considering his previous.
 

JoeJoeJoeJoe

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I think we do. For me a big name player would be anyone who has done really well previously in a higher division and would be expected to do well in this league OR anyone who has been proven in this league.

Simeon Jackson would be the main example, I thought he would do very well in this league considering his previous.
I'd say Jackson is the only example from us. Maybe Johnson at a push.
 

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