I have previously introduced why I find it useful to apply a Human Resources Management perspective while developing young players in Football Manager. This approach gives you as Manager a pre-determined framework to maximise your players’ strength and adapt him to your club needs and style. Thanks to this approach based on dividing young players in three different phases based on their age groups, and hence their development level, it is easier to always know and to assess in which moment of his development a player is. It also helps in evaluating players, because you’ll do so in phases and by comparing them with other players on a similar moment of their development.
I have already written about the first phase of this process, the internship, when you basically select the best young players that will enter your club. Now I will focus on the second phase, which I will call, the Associates Programme, for players aged between 16 and 18.
ASSOCIATES PROGRAMME (16 to 18 years old)
The Internship phase finishes during the first inter-season the player is living at the club. By now they would normally have stayed already two or three months in your youth team (U18s or U19s) and your Youth Manager and Coaches would now know the player well enough to produce trustfull reports about them, including about some hidden aspect of their personality or their injury prowness.
The ultimate objective of this phase of your youth career path is to maximise players’ strength and accelarate the pace of their adaptation to your style of football, in order to have players aged 18 that could step up into the First Team to gain some professional football time being naturals at the position and role you would likely played them and with the correct distribution of attributes. The idea is that players acquire the charaterstics and “working tools” that best suits you approach and style.
Youth Team Organization
Before actually dealing with players’ development, I suggest to organise your club’s youth setup. This will actually depends on the league you are playing, some leagues, like Italy or England, have two youth teams, while others, like the Netherlands or Spain, have a youth team and B team – there are even club with a C team, but let’s forget about them for the moment. My suggestion is, as a general rule, to concentrate resources on only one youth team, it shoud be the either the U18s, when you have two youth team; either the B team, when you have one.
Concentrating resources into one of them, will allow you to have one team with the best coaches available to you, rather than dispersing the s budget into several, but avarage, coaches. It is also important to check whether you have full control of training by setting the club’s responsabilities accordingly and to impose the First Team’s tactic to be played throught all teams in the club.
Strengths & Weaknesses Assessment
Once you have your structure sorted out, it is time to check your players’ profile in order to assess their strengths and weaknesses. This moment is important as it will allow you to give a direction to each player and at the same time give him some verifiable objectives.
I will take the example of Ronnie McArthur, a midfielder regen of my 2018 youth intake in my current Falkirk save.
McArthur presented to me two big weaknesses that needed to be addressed during his development: I don’t play with an AMC in my tactic, and, for a midfielder, his passing was awfully low, only 3. On the other hand, he had some really high mental attributes for a player aged only 15.
With this assessment, as said before, I knew into which direction leading his development and I will have some clear objectives that I could easily verify throughout his development: Has he improved in his passing? Is he natural at CM position?
Focused Training & Tutoring
Looking around at other FM bloggers, there seems to be two big school of thought regarding youngsters’ training. One that privileges training in the most complete role for each position (Sweeper-Keeper, Ball-Playing Defender, Complete Forward, etc..), the other focusing on the precise role of the player or of your tactis. I personally have my set of role training for each position aimed at developing as many attributes as possible. I will hence chose to train my midfielders into Box-to-Box or Roaming Playmaker, to include more mental and physical training; or Complete Forward for Strikers. I confess I have no base to claim that my system is the best, but I tend to think that in this phase, from 16 to 18 it is better to include as much attributes as possible – especially the mentals and physical ones – to have all rounded players coming through. You can further refine and retool training in the last phase of their development, from 19 to 21 years old.
Going back to Ronnie McArthur, taking into consideration my assessment I’ve set his training like shown in the picture below. MC position is to turn him natural in a position he’d be useful to me in the future, as I don’t play with an AMC. Roaming Playmaker, to train him in a very complete role for his position. Finally, an additional focus on passing as this was his biggest weakness.
In addition to focused training, another tool that we have as managers to accelarate a player development is to assign tutors to younger players. I have never gone to the extreme point to hire a veteran player just to be a tutor, but at the beginning of each season I go through the First Team players to identify who would make a good tutor and assign him the best young player aged 16 to 18 that we have in our club. Tutoring is a lengthy process and you should take that into consideration and select the best young players for each good tutor you have.
In selecting tutors, the most important thing is mental attributes, in particular his determination, and the player’s personality. Just to make an example, a player like Aduriz of Athletic Bilbao makes the ideal tutor, with his high determination and impressive mental attributes in general.
Progress monitoring should be done not only in general by checking a player overall improvement, but in particualr against some clear objectives you had set up during his assessment.
In the case of Ronnie McArthur, his two objectives are to improve passing and to become natural as a CM. after 12 months of training, this is his progress.
He is now accomplished in the MC position and his passing went from 3 to 6. The final judgement about his future status in the club will be done at the end of his “Associate Programme” period in about 1 year. Even if his progress in his passing will not be deemed enough by then, it doesn’t mean I have lost time, the assessment is made specifically to see whether a player would fit the system of your club. In fact, if we look at the general progress, McArthur did infact improved a lot over this period.
With the help of excel we can see that his technicals attributes went up 36%, his mentals 13% and his physicals 35%. In graphic terms, it’ll look like this.
FM17 gives you a lot of tools and cool graphic to check a player development, I sometimes use excel but this is not necessary at all.
Give Associates some playing time
The last thing to remember is to try to give some playing time in the first team to your “associates”, what I generally do is during playing a couple during domestic cups. Another thing is if a first team player got injured, I call one youngster into the first team to become the reserve. With some players in my save, like Ally McGrath, I’ve managed to give him a total of 34 appearences, though mostly as a sub, in his first two years at the club. This aspect is less important if you have a B team which plays in a professional league, like in Spain, Portugal or some teams in the Netherlands.
At the end of the Associates programme, your youngster should have already developped their main charateristic as footballers and you should have corrected their main weaknesses. They are ready to start playing regularly by integrating them into the first team or by sending them to loan. But I will deal with this final phase in the last article of the series.
Thank you all for reading!