Football club's preparation for promotion
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and captain Billy Sharp with the League One trophy and other players during the promotion celebrations in Sheffield. (Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images)

A football club’s preparation for promotion to the Promised Land of the top flight league of several top football countries isn’t simple. Many clubs fail to prepare and then stumble back down to the league they came from.

The Club’s Big Promotion: Getting it Right

The Tactical Prep

Promotion is not an easy process to go through. Whilst it’s a positive for the club to be taking back, plus reaching new heights, new aspirations and new challenges, it also presents new problems to be dealt with.

Preparation, in general, is one of the most crucial things a club’s staff, hierarchy and players have to go through in order for a successful season in the newly reached level of football.

New leagues present new teams, new teams present new tactics, new tactics give your squad new problems to be dealt with. Starting off with the tactical and in-match point of view of newly-promoted problems. Managers and players alike are used to playing against the familiar teams of the league they’re in, meaning they’re more easily predictable and easier to deal with.

The newly reached top flight will throw unknown tactics, players with different (probably better) abilities than the ones in the new club’s squad. This could be dealt with by extensive research on the big teams done by the manager, better training and preseason prep done by the club’s players and coaches.

Managers implement heavy changes to their current philosophy in order to match the style of the league and prevent being sacked so that the club find it much easier to survive in the hard nature of the summit leagues. A football club’s preparation for promotion is massively impacted by this.

If a manager is sacked, the club takes a gamble as the club’s management and staff may go into uncertainty if the club goes through more than one manager in a period, confusing the players with unfamiliar tactics and having to change style more than once.

Players and Transfers

The new type of football may prove a challenge for some players to adapt. Transfers, loans and ultimately contract terminations are almost certain to happen whenever a club makes the extensive jump.

Better players from other leagues or players from bigger teams could be brought in with the revenue generated from the promotion; the challenge in this is the negotiation, making your club an attraction for the better big-name players in order to strengthen your squad for the big boys.

Becoming familiar and comfortable with the team is a big factor for a player to succeed there. The faster the players make it to the club, the better as they’ll have more time to settle in over the summer.

Fulham signed hardworking midfield powerhouse Jean-Michael Seri from OGC Nice in a bid to prepare. Ultimately, this did not work out and resulted in relegation. Some transfers may not work out as planned for clubs.

Financial Stability

Financial stability is a crucial aspect. More money is required to be poured into the club to be able to cope with the massive costs of everything at once. Some teams may go in financially, tactically and generally unprepared and be unable to deal with the harsh truth of the top leagues and eventually go down with horrid results.

Here’s how some of this season’s newly promoted clubs have dealt with promotion and its problems.

Top Flight Survivalists

Football Club’s Promotion Analysis: Sheffield United

Presenting current Premier League high flyers from South Yorkshire, Sheffield United. Currently sitting sixth in the table, the Blades are looking to build on this and stay up in the top flight (or more!).

Transfers; Sheffield United recruited some higher profile players and some from the lower leagues they thought would be able to cope with the Premier League’s physicality after earning promotion. Sheffield also signed Dean Henderson, Manchester United‘s young goalkeeper alongside Everton duo Phil Jagielka and Muhamed Besic.

The Blades are exclusively making use of the 3-5-2 formation, having the likes of Phil Jagielka at the back. Having only switched formation once against Watford to a 5-3-2, when they drew 0-0.

So far, Sheffield United have done themselves proud. Impressive results coming from their players’ means the club’s future looks bright as of now. They opened their Premier League account in August by drawing 1-1 with Bournemouth.

Having then lost to Leicester City, the club were looking to bounce back at Chelsea, going on to draw 2-2 with the bigger London outfit. Up to date, Sheffield have only lost three PL games through early November, and not by conceding lots of goals, all by only one goal.

Sheffield United’s profile

Football Club’s Promotion Analysis: Union Berlin

Currently, 14th in the German Bundesliga table, lie Union Berlin. Incredibly, this is their first-ever season at the very top of the German football pyramid and they’ve got a lot to prove to their fans.

Berlin has brought in some players such as Neven Subotic from Saint Etienne on a free. Neven is also formerly of Borussia Dortmund, which means he’s got the valuable top-flight experience.

Berlin gave some of their older players who achieved the promotion themselves the opportunity to impress. The transfer window oversaw them spend a £6.66 million on reinforcements for their squad.

Berlin has usually stuck to a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 this season, seeing these are the most simple and robust formations it was smart to have done so. Occasionally using a 3-4-3 to enforce more control in the midfield and provide more mobility upfront.

The Bundesliga minnows have had mixed results in the league, seeing they’ve won three games and lost six. Berlin received a welcome to the Bundesliga by RB Leipzig, who went on to thrash them 4-0. They eked a draw against Augsburg afterwards and then impressing in a 3-1 win vs. Borussia Dortmund.

Union Berlin’s profile

Football Club’s Promotion Analysis: US Lecce

Lecce of the Italian top-flight Serie A lie 16th, just a few points from relegation, symbolising their struggles. Their heroics in Serie B meant they earned promotion. This football club’s preparation to promotion is explained here.

The Italian outfit took extensive transfer action in a bid to prepare for the new life. They brought in several players. A total of £7.11 million would be spent for new players last summer in an attempt to get the squad ready.

Lecce have adapted switching formation between 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3. The 4-3-1-2 would make use of the advanced playmaker and contain a midfield destroyer in order to get more goals by supplying Lecce’s two strikers via counters. However, this hasn’t fully worked and the manager needs to rework their tactics.

As they lie 16th, it tells its own story. The Serie A underdogs have only won two of their last seven games. However, they have done well to hold off some top-flight squads.


The process of promotion may seem like a simple one- but really isn’t what it seems.

  • Money
  • Transfers
  • Club reputation
  • Better facilities
  • New signings
  • Tactics
  • Adapting to the style of the newly reached league

All of the problems and examples above are the differing realities a football club’s preparation for promotion. Either at the start or during the season is when they may run into any of those problems.

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