The Young Lions: Player Development


The whole point of this series is to develop players, and youth development is a controversial topic in the Football Manager community. I always aim to educate people, and this blog is here to show you how I train and develop younger players. If I can convince you into my methods, then fantastic.

Why Develop Youth?

Most FM saves are about getting to the top. Being the best is fun, but I usually aim for something different. In this save I want to make English players the best in the world. In a future save I want to make money by buying and selling. Sometimes the point of a save is to assemble your own Galacticos, and sometimes it is to develop youth players.

Developing youth can be time expensive. I am a busy guy though, I work full time and I write blog posts. With that in mind, I haven’t spent hundreds of hours perfecting the training regime of my players. I don’t think you can min-max youth development. The arguments in the community of whether determination affects development prove this. We do not know enough about the algorithm for anyone to be an “expert”.

Ineffective Training

An interesting case here as Adam Armstrong has been brilliant for us. 91 goals and 29 assists in 160 games is fantastic, yet he has not developed in three years. Despite being the first name on the team sheet most weeks he has disappointed me regarding his development. I have tried training his heading, passing and jumping reach but none have developed. His only weaknesses are his aerial abilities, yet he hasn’t developed them in the slightest.

Part of our success has been the team working together. Can you guess which training regime we’ve used then? Yes, Team Cohesion. Perhaps it was a bad idea? It has been. For the future, I’ll switch back to regular regimes such as balanced.

I hoped team cohesion would ensure the tactics worked as smoothly as possible, and it did help. However, I did not expect it to have such a big impact on the development of players. I’m saddened by this as I have completely messed up the development of the current crop of players we have.

A player like Ojo hasn’t developed right either. This further proves my point that our training has been ineffective. I should have spotted this earlier than the end of season 3, but I didn’t and now I must rectify it.

Effective Training

So I need to make my training more effective. That much is known. I’m going to use a new system, and see how it works.

Physical attributes, I think, grow quicker up to the age of 21. I have always trained to accommodate this, and unless proved otherwise I will continue with this in mind.

So I like to individually train youngsters physical stats. This means I recognise a players weakness, such as poor stamina or low strength and can then target it during training.

As a player gets older and has less need for targeted physical attribute training we will begin to be more general with our training. Individuals will have weak technical and mental attributes targeted, in hopes to build a well-rounded player.

We will start by training attributes relevant to the role they’re playing, and in the unlikely event I become happy with them, I’ll train a general role.

Team training for players in the U18 will have a focus on a mix of attacking and ball control. This focusses on attacking and midfield players, but this to me makes sense as the key attributes for defenders are few and many for attackers in my system.

This hopefully will provide targeted training for all youth players.

Our first team and U23s will train on balanced and tactical. As players get older they will be expected to be wiser, and as such tactical training makes the most sense. Balanced is my counter to all of this targeting. A nice, generalised half of the season should help to improve the team as a whole.

Preseason as usual, for no reason other than aesthetics, is allocated to fitness. From the week leading up to the first game until January first will be balanced and January until the end of the season will be tactical training.

Hopefully, this highly customisable and targeted regime will prove worthwhile. We will see in the future when more players come through the academy.