How do you build a team from scratch?

Dumbarton manager Jim Duffy
Dumbarton manager Jim Duffy had no players at the end of May

This time last month, Jim Duffy had no players. His Dumbarton squad from last season's Scottish League One campaign were all out of contract and Duffy chose to let some leave, while others decided to move on. "As a result we had nobody signed," he says.

It is a similar story across Scotland's lower leagues, with frazzled managers spending a frantic few weeks across May, June and July trying to cobble together a squad. And one that can get results quickly.

But how do they go about it? What do they look for? And what is the key to making it work season after season? Duffy, and Arbroath counterpart Dick Campbell - who have more than 60 years of managerial experience between them - tell BBC Scotland how they go about it...

Establish your budget

"Since the end of last season, I've made enquiries to a number of people - whether it's agents, clubs or players if I know them directly," explains Duffy. "But at that time I didn't know the budget. So I didn't know what I could offer them. So the selection process becomes very difficult."

By the time the Dumbarton manager is able to go back to those players with an offer, it might be too late.

Campbell, meanwhile, is also finding difficulties because of finances. "Last season we never used a loan player," said the manager of a side freshly promoted to the Championship. "But I'll have to use them this year because I'm really struggling to find players that are better than what I've got on the budget I have."

Identity people, not players

Arbroath eased to the League One title under Dick Campbell last term
Arbroath eased to the League One title under Dick Campbell last term

So where do these managers start when it comes to identifying players?

"The first thing that I do is recognise the good people with good manners. I've no time for players who think they're better than they are and have an opinion. I don't think it's rocket science," Campbell says.

Duffy agrees, and is adamant that getting the right characters is just as important as the right players. "Recruitment is vital but it's very difficult," he says. "I don't think people realise how difficult.

"You have to get the blend of the personalities right. That's probably as difficult as getting the football side right. If you're bringing in 16 young men who don't know each other, you need to make sure they actually get on, can work together and try and develop in a very, very short period of time."

Have principles, but be flexible

However, the two managers do diverge when it comes to nailing down criteria for different positions across the pitch in Scotland's lower leagues.

"Ideally I like to have a bit more experience at the back and pace in my full-backs," says Duffy. "I like to have a blend of experience and energy in the middle of the pitch. And then up front I think most teams prefer a bit of physicality through the middle."

Campbell, though, is far less concerned about positions and specific footballing attributes. "If they are better than what I've got I'll find a place for them," says the Arbroath manager. "All the agents know me by now and they know not come to me saying 'I've got a left-back.' They know what the criteria is. It's a manager's job to try and fit them in to his team."

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