Stafford Rangers – The rise to the top

Well I’ve decided to take up Dafuge’s challenge. Its a fairly involved challenge where you need to manage a newly promoted. You can find his challenge here. Essentially we have to take a newly promoted side from the Blue Square North or Blue Square South all the way to the top, in the least number of seasons. Its been a challenge I’ve loved cos you arent allowed to use any “cheats”.

In the blog, I plan to detail how I’ve take over at Stafford Rangers.  Despite extensive research, no one has ever been able to prove conclusively when Stafford Rangers was actually formed, as early minute books were destroyed during the First World War. Rangers’ formation year is recognised as 1876 because of articles in the local Advertiser newspaper, but an alternative theory on Rangers’ formation date, printed in the Sentinel newspaper during 1891, suggests that the club was founded by a Bible class in 1877.

The seventies were the most successful era in the club’s history. With Roy Chapman as manager, the club recorded a Northern Premier League Championship, FA Trophy and Staffordshire Senior Cup treble in season 1971–72; with Ray Williams scoring a club record of 48 goals in a single season. However, they failed to gain election to the Football League, and have never since finished high enough to enter the Football League.

Three seasons later Rangers progressed to the FA Cup Fourth Round defeating Stockport CountyHalifax Town and Rotherham United on the way to a defeat against Peterborough United in front of a crowd of 31,160 at Stoke City‘s Victoria Ground. The home Third Round tie with Rotherham attracted a record of 8,536 people to Marston Road. After Chapman had departed to manage League club Stockport County, Rangers were again at Wembley Stadium in 1975–76 for their second FA Trophy Final but they lost to Scarborough 3–2 after extra timeRoy Chapman returned as manager and success continued with a second FA Trophy Final win in 1979, this time against Kettering Town.

Well since those glorious days, Stafford Rangers have struggled, enduring a brief fight with the threat of administration. Its a perfect club for the challenge, newly promoted and almost considered a sure thing for relegation.

Rashidi takes over at Stafford Rangers


I plan to achieve consecutive promotions as much as possible and to do so I will need to paint the club in my image. With that in mind, my first steps include:

  • Firing all the staff who are less than 9 in key attributes
  • Firing any player who has less than 9 in key attributes
  • Force the team to play to my system, which i will discuss later
  • Ensure the board allocates more than one possible coach, threaten them if I have to
  • Ensure I have a scout available, so that i can scout some players and invite as many to trial as possible
  • Ensure that I have plenty of depth in the squad, and as far as possible use players who are below 22, or have played for sides in higher leagues
  • Avoid being a feeder club for a bigger side, thus making it  a much harder challenge

Now why “9”? Well its simple really. Lets assume that the minimum acceptable attribute level for a premiership side is 14, if thats the case then start knocking a point for every league as you go down the leagues. At the end of the day the numbers are all relative, we cant really get a player from the premiership to wanna come play for a sunday league football manager. The best way is to start young. Hence my focus on youth. Having a go early with the board and having them take a chance on you with more coaches is good as well, cos you will need the extra coach and physio.

While all that is being done, I take a look at the whole side at my disposal. You can easily look at the tactical screen and use the custom screen settings. So i essentially use the Ass Man reports, make a copy and start adding determination to the attributes. Any player with less than 9 is immediately put on my unwanted list of players. I then look at each position and for each one I have key attributes

Key attributes by position

  1. GK – Handling, Reflexes
  2. DC – Strength, Tackling, Marking,Determination
  3. FB – Tackling, Crossing, Marking
  4. DMC, Tackling, Marking
  5. MC Playmaker – Passing, Decisions
  6. AMC – Passing, Decisions, Flair
  7. AML/AMR Pace, Off the Ball, Acceleration, Passing
  8. STC, Finishing, Composure

This list is the very basic list of attributes that I look for.  There may be times when you need to make the odd decision, a winger may have 1 for passing, but has 12 for pace and 6 for crossing. I’d still take him. So this is where knowing your own system of play is vital

Tactical System

Its important to know what system you plan to play. People always say adapt your system to players, yeah thats fine and ideal in most cases, but to do that you actually need to master the tactical creator, furthermore I like to have one system and then I get the players to fill the role.

My system is based on something I call Tikancccio. Anyone whos known me for any length of time knows that my primary interest lies in making quick short passing tactics which also have the ability of launching quick counters when needed. I want my team where possible to play possession based football. Now that wont be always possible considering how sad a side we are. Given time the team will become such a side as you slowly get to know your players and the training kicks in.

My system of play needs to be built on solid passing triangles where there should be more than 5 passing outlets at any one time.  There is no use having a passing tactic if you limit your sides passing options, look at my post in the forum about playing styles where discuss why Southampton will struggle. Any successful system requires pivots. Now a pivot is simply A person or thing on which something depends or turns; the central or crucial factor.  Now in football, when I talk about pivots I refer to a  position taken by a player usually facing away from the opposition to relay passes, attempt a shot, or set screens. Pivots are used in basketball  and American Football as well. Essentially pivots allow a team to also swap the focus of a passing triangle. Pivots are usually anchor players like defensive midfielders or advanced playmakers. I plan to use a system with 3 pivots.

Having 3 pivots will allow me to develop passing triangles on either flank, and also drive through the middle. This will also allow me to create set pieces for defending corners that will allow me to launch quick counters. So ideally I want to have a 3 man midfield with 2 MCs and 1 AMC. So i could go with a variety of formations. I’ve elected to use excuse some of the images they belong to my liverpool test as well.

This formation is fairly basic and essentially all my formations will build on this system. Essentially the 3 midfielders in the DMC,MC slots will be the pivots around which the whole team plays. Now from this base I plan to have a 4231 with the 2 DMs moving into an MC slot and the the MC moving up to the AMC slot pushing the AMC into the striker slot.

Finally when I want to play a defensive formation I plan to drop the three midfielder into a straightline with the centrally placed one being the ball winning midfielder the one on the right as the advanced playmaker and the one on the left will the box2box player.

This will allow to do several things. I plan to start as a 451 essentially and as time goes on and I am comfortable with my 2 MCs i will go to a 4231.

The mentality system I plan to use is a controlled one with fluid settings. This will mean I have 2 distinct groups of players. I like keeping things simple, the only one I will adjust is the BWM cos i want his mentality to be a lot lower. My passing system is also uniquely my own, this team may be a really poor team, but i rather not depend on decisions for passing. Yeah that happens when you set them to passing mixed. And they definitely aren’t lil Xabis so direct passing is definitely a fail. So I need to go with 1 for passing which = one touch passing.

So I go to make all these adjustments in the tactical creator cos i know that beast like the back of my hand. By making these adjustments I know which shouts get nullified, if you dont know what these are go check my blog on shouts, I’ve laid it all out. So I now have 3 shouts which I plan to use. Play out of defense, Work Ball into Box and Look for Overlaps. Since i want to be able to adjust Dline easily I dont manually set it up, trusting instead to use the shouts. That means I now can only use 4 shouts, which i am comfortable with, anything else that needs to be done can be done via Opposition Instructions.

My passing setup will be simple, I want the style of football to stay the same and i want my midfielders to form a partnership. So I will set the defensive minded MC to 1 along with the fullbacks and DCs. The rest of the team will be set to first notch of direct. I choose direct cos remember what i said earlier about 9, they all should have 9 at least. that means they are above average in the league they are playing in. If the come up against Manchester Utd, their 9 is gonna be toast.

Passing is setup, now its time to look at roles.

Roles are important if you dont have a clear head on what role your player is meant to do then you will struggle. The first thing I do is decide who will defend, support and attack. My defensive MC is on defend only, B2B is on support and the APM is on attack. The inside forwards will be attack and my fullbacks will be support. Now that thats set up I need to work on players creating space. To do this I look at creative freedom, once again using 9 as a barometer I see that ok i shall set my Inside forwards and my STC who has to be a deep lying forward to roam from position. This will allow us to “work ball into boxes”

Now that the roles are setup and I know how my players are to play its time to RECRUIT.


Yeah I just stand outside the club offices and holler at anyone brave enough to trial. I typically go through 100 trialists and make a decision based on that. And since these are part-timers who can have pay as you play contracts they can also leave at any time. So its good to have a really deep squad. Some are on part time contracts the others will be on pay as you play.

I typically grab young players and set my filters accordingly, by now i should have my coach, physio and i can start evaluating players. I keep the promising ones, almost double up for every position, and also make sure my pivots are as solid as i can get.

Once all thats done its time to play and thats for another day..and another blog.

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