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Developing Players On Football Manager
Developing players on Football Manager, especially my own youth players, is what I enjoy most about the game so I’ve decided to write out the strategies I use in various parts of the game. I have wanted to do a blog about this for some time now but it’s taken a while because when I’m typing I’m not playing FM.
Evaluating the staff is always the first thing I do when taking over a new club. It’s always worthwhile as it’s an easy way to improve your club off the field. It’s especially effective for bigger teams as they have more options available to improve their staff.
The first thing I always do when I take over a club is evaluate my staff. You can
almost always find better staff to replace the ones already at the club. Especially if you are a bigger side as more people will be interested in joining your club. A couple of quick coaching examples are Roberto Moreno (Barca) and Neil Banfield (Arsenal). Both are paid very well for being average coaches and better coaches can easily be hired and even for lower wages. There are many other examples so if I have the funds I usually look into overhauling most of my staff. I always get rid of the Head of Youth Development and Director of Football too if my club has them because I want to control most things at the club and the money used to pay them can be better used elsewhere.
On day 1 as part of evaluating my staff I always look at the quality of training my coaches have to offer. Quite often all it takes is re-assigning coaching roles more efficiently to increase the star rating on each training role. It’s the number of stars on each training role I use to judge which coaching areas need improved. Ideally I’d have 2 GK Coaches, 2 Fitness Coaches, an Assistant and 2 or 3 other coaches all assigned 1 specialized training role each to keep the stars high. It’s also worth noting that when I create my own managerial profile I assign myself coaching attributes over mental stats which means I can assign myself to a training role and I’ll be a 5-star quality coach.
Another thing that determines how well players are trained is your coaches workload. This is judged by how many players are being coached on each training role and how many coaches are assigned to the role. It’s important to make sure the coaches workload says either “light” or “average” to ensure players receive adequate attention in training as well as a high level of quality. I manage this by moving players between squads whilst monitoring the coaching workload on the squads training pages. My youth players with high potential are moved into the reserves because reserve players share the first team coaches and being trained by the best coaches at the club is much more beneficial than being trained by youth coaches. Reserve players who aren’t good enough for my club are demoted to the youth side regardless of their age so the best available coaches can focus on the better players. The lesser players who make up the under 18’s squad may improve at a reduced rate compared to being trained by the better coaches, but with high training quality and a light or average coaching workload it puts your best young players in a very good position to develop quickly. Also, not coaching related but a quick tip is make to make your second string players (u21/reserves/b team) available to play for your youth side that way they can benefit from regular matches with your youth team as well as the better standard of training the reserve side receives.
Lastly in regards to individual training I always assign players extra training when I take over. Usually something that’s obviously beneficial like giving a ball-winning-midfielder extra tackling training, or to improve a strikers finishing or composure. If a player complains about the extra training I simply remove it as it’s just a test to see which players are willing to put in the extra work because if they are happy to do extra training it will increase their ability at a higher rate.
(pictured below, Spurs Training Schedule)
Youth Intake Day is the best day of the season for me but unfortunately it can be a bit of a lottery even for the best teams. One option for player recruitment is to follow your coaches recommendation which is usually to sign everyone, but personally I favour quality over quantity because realistically less than half of your youth intake even at full potential will be good enough to become first team regulars.
On Intake Day I will immediately terminate the trials of a few of the weakest players whilst also promoting a couple of the stand-out players to my reserves (for the training benefits mentioned above). The rest are kept in the youth team to be judged nearer the end of their trial. The number of signings varies because some seasons you are just luckier than others with youth intake. With a bigger team I am more likely to sign more youngsters. Not only because bigger sides may bring through better quality but also because with more resources you can sign more players knowing that even if a player doesn’t make it at your club then they could still be sold on or released and have a good career playing at a lower level.
Offering Youth Contracts
In terms of contracts offered I always sign my youth intake to a professional contract. One advantage with this is players who are on a professional contract, or youth players who have already signed a professional contract cannot be signed by another club with you only receiving compensation. This gives you more control because for another club to sign one of your youth players they will have to make an acceptable bid rather than just paying compensation, which in my opinion is never as much as I’d like to receive. If I take my time to develop a player the last thing I want is a potential rival to sign one of my brightest prospects with me unable to stop the deal.
I would also suggest taking advantage of contract extension clauses. These can be utilized well if you want to take longer to judge the players you are bringing into your youth side or if you want to bring a youth intake player into your squad simply as cover for your youth team. You can sign them to as little as a 12-month contract with a 1 or 2 year extension clause that can be activated at any time, and/or a 1 year extension after ‘x’ number of games during the final year of his contract. This way you can decide on a year-by-year basis if you want to keep them by looking at not only their development but also by comparing them with players from the next seasons youth intake and deciding if they are worth keeping. Another option is to take advantage of his extension clause and then loan him out if another team is showing interest in loaning him. That way even if you have no intention of keeping him long-term, the loan may develop into a chance to sell him or increase the players chances of being signed by another team after he is finally released by you. By giving players a couple of seasons to prove themselves it helps you produce more Home Grown players because as long as they have been developed to a decent level they have a chance of finding another club after being released, whereas if you release players at 16 they almost never get signed by an another club. If I managed a Premier League team and developed a player for a couple of seasons that became a League One quality player, but thanks to a dual nationality he ended up representing someone like Jamaica or Trinidad & Tobago because of a dual nationality, I’d still be pretty damn proud that a home grown player of mine managed to get to a World Cup.
As for identifying talent, I won’t go into detail on how to judge a players ability because FM already tells you what stats are key for each position and what role they are best suited to, but I will point out that the obvious thing to do is make good use of your scouts. Good judging ability and potential stats make scouts more effective but really any scouting report is better than nothing. The report could tell you about a players hidden attributes such as if the player may have trouble adapting in another country or if he is injury prone. A scouting report also provides the star ratings for a players ability and potential. This is a good guideline to quickly compare a player with your current squad but I wouldn’t use it as the sole way to judge a player because it is limited based on your scouts ability. You also can’t compare scouted players from different positions against each other because they are graded against different players from your club so a 4 star rated player from one position might actually be better than a 4.5 star player from a different position.
Something I always check when looking at possible signing target is a players off-field stats. A players personality can make a massive difference, not only with how quickly they improve but also how they can positively or negatively affect squad harmony. Ideally a player would have a “professional” personality. From my experience these players work hard and are always happy to do extra training if I ask. As expected “determined” and “ambitious” personalities are also good to have at the club. Training is generally good and players develop very well. I would also have no problem with signing players with “casual” or “low determination” personality. They are usually less willing to do extra training and as a result may develop slower but it certainly isn’t a reason to avoid signing a player if they look to be a talented prospect. There is always the possibility of giving the player off-the-field tutoring to try and improve his personality if you feel it’s worthwhile. The only time I would go against signing a player who looks like a talented youngster is if their personality is listed as “temperamental”. I definitely wouldn’t pay big money to bring a youth player to my club if his attitude was questionable but I would still sign them from my youth intake because they would count as a Home Grown player for my club and would pose minimal financial risk (free transfer and around £100 a week wages). These players may train reasonably well but can develop slower than the more professional players. They are also more likely to cause distractions with off-the-field issues such as being subbed or wanting to leave by complaining to teammates or the press. On occasion you may have to call a meeting with the squad to resolve an issue created by a temperamental player to stop him from negatively affecting squad morale and unless he is a world class talent it’s just not worth the hassle. I would definitely be more willing to sell the player on if I received a bid for him that way I could focus my resources on other players who may take advantage more of good coaching and facilities.
As for a players Media Handling Style, I’ve never found it to make a difference to a players ability on the field but I assume how they act towards the press may affect their reputation. Most players are shown as “media-friendly” “level-headed” or “reserved” anyway so they will just get on with any media duties they have without a fuss but occasionally you see a player who has an “evasive” or “volatile” media style. I assume if a player acts in this way towards the media it may affect how popular the player is with fans, but also I can’t imagine him winning any end of season football writer’s Player of The Year award any time soon which would boost his reputation.
(pictured below, screenshot of a personality example)
Almost every decision I make on FM has a purpose. I am always looking at how I can develop a player quicker or raise some funds that can be used to improve facilities, scouting or on more staff members to increase the standard of coaching or scouting at the club.
No Substitute for Gametime
A major reason I think I have success developing youth players is that I usually manage my own youth team as well as the first team. The quickest way to improve a player is to put them on the pitch as much as possible. I do this with small first team squad of young players and if anyone isn’t getting on the pitch for the first team, then that week they play for the youth team that weekend instead. By managing both sides I can guarantee that the players I feel have the highest potential get to play regularly which means an outfielder in my squad can reach over 50 games per season if competitive games, friendlies and internationals are all counted. Goalkeepers can play even more matches as they need less recovery time and sometimes my first team goalkeeper even plays for the reserves and/or youth sides if matches are scheduled on different days so a goalkeeper can even reach as many as 80+ games in 1 season. I do manage players’ condition carefully so fatigue very rarely becomes an issue and because players get to play so much, especially at a young age, the young players appear to improve at an accelerated rate. Players getting to play so often is helped because in pre-season I manage all my sides and play them all together which means I can arrange friendlies every 2 days for the entire pre-season schedule (approximately 6-7 weeks). All friendlies are arranged through my first team which does help financially, but it also looks a little more meaningful for a player to play a first team friendly instead of under 18’s or 21’s. Also with the massive volume of friendlies scheduled it means players have probably all played at least 10 friendlies before the season starts so everyone is match fit and ready to go in time for the season opener while other teams are still catching up. One example where I believe giving a player game time massively helped a players improvement is from one of my most successful saves on FM17 where I managed Stirling Albion. I like this example because it shows that even as a small, part-time club with average facilities it’s still possible to train good players because I managed to develop a squad of players who went on to play in the English Premier League or for top European sides, and I believe I managed to do this by focusing on giving my youth players every opportunity possible to improve.
One of the players I liked most from that save was a goalkeeper named Craig Quinn, from my first seasons youth intake. He played virtually every match for my first team and under 20’s from the day he entered the game and by the time he was 19 he had already earned his first Scotland cap and in the following transfer window I reluctantly sold him to Chelsea, all while he was still a part-time player in the Scottish Championship. My youngsters were often sold to big sides after only 6-18 months because exposure to the first team at a young age quickly increased their ability and reputation, and as a result attracted interest from top sides. Unfortunately this sometimes unsettles players and they want to join a bigger club, but also if top sides want to sign your young players they can often be sold for inflated prices. I had to sell a few players to bigger teams every season which got my team rich but it also allowed me to reinvest into facilities and coaches so my players improved even quicker. Quinn was a bit different though because he improved quickly but his reputation took longer to rise because he was playing in the lower leagues. He went under the radar of bigger sides and I was able to keep him for another season after I thought he had outgrown the club. He was the first good young player to move on so I was pleased to see he was a regular international player despite being the Chelsea backup goalkeeper for years and hardly playing at club level.
Another way that helps to develop players is getting your board to agree to the philosophy of developing and promoting youth players. Boards never agree to changes straight away but when you negotiate your first contract extension you will be able to start making demands. Ask for the new philosophy as a term in your new contract, or set up a meeting separately. Once this is agreed the board will be more willing to agree to your requests to upgrade youth and training facilities, increase the junior coaching budget and increase your youth recruitment level. Your board may also be more willing to let you have an affiliate club where you can either have the first option to sign a player from another team, or an affiliation with a team who have an established youth system and you may benefit from having a player of theirs be promoted and join your club as part of your youth intake team.
Lastly I will comment on loans because I know it’s a popular way to develop players. I will say that loaning players out can be a successful method because players getting first team games can be more beneficial than youth games as long as standard isn’t too big of a step down. I personally avoid loaning out my best young prospects as I believe they improve quicker at the club, but I usually do send out quite a few fringe players if I don’t think they will be good enough to break into my first team. This way for a season they can improve while playing elsewhere and I hopefully bring in some money from loan fees. Sometimes players development can be disappointing whilst out on loan but the best way to avoid this by always checking the loaning clubs training facilities and make sure the player will be an important player for his loan club that way he will definitely play and not spend his time on the bench.
Most of the FM saves I try have some kind of rule to it such as only signing players from one country, only signing free transfers or building and developing an entire team from my youth intakes so finding and developing players is the biggest part of Football Manager for me. I like to go smaller teams and get the best out of what I have rather than spending big in transfer windows so the ideas might be a bit over the top, but if anyone reads this and takes any ideas from it then good luck to you on whatever save you try.