A Football Manager Youth & Player Development Guide; The Influencing Factors That Influence Player Progression
Today @deRaamFM shares of his wisdom and long-term experience with youth development by providing you with his tips on why your players won’t develop
You should by now know that I’m all about player development in Football Manager if you have read my blogs. Youth development (or player development) is a part of Football Manager 2021 that we all want to have on point. It’s one of the most in-depth modules of the game, at least that’s my opinion.
Developing players into the next big thing is what keeps my saves immersive, but it is one of the most laborious things to pull off as well. It is worth the time and effort in the end, and I guess you get back what you put in. Although sometimes, you won’t get the desired results and it leaves you standing staring at all the red and orange arrows next to the player his attributes.
It is without a doubt frustrating when you put all your time and effort into player development in Football Manager and seeing your players hardly showing any progress. If you are craving to develop youngsters, you need to look at the details, all the details.
There are so many factors that influence the development of a player that it is easy to miss one which leaves you questioning what you did wrong! Even some of the more advanced Football Manager players will forget about some of these factors sometimes.
There are a lot of articles about player development in Football Manager to be found. In my opinion, most of them are rather basic and do not go as in-depth as they should. Writing about youth development will give you some easy hits on your website because a lot of people are looking for information on the subject.
I believe most of them go like this: Improve your facilities, get the best HoYD and coaches, set up a proper training schedule, give them match experience and watch them grow! In part this is true, but these things will push some of the natural development of the player which he would undergo anyway. There are so many other things to consider when you right-down want to get the most out of your player’s development.
I will not write about that now though, but I am planning on writing an extensive post or series about what I do when I want to develop a youngster into the next superstar or get the most out of a player’s potential abilities. This article is all about telling where you could look at if you feel like you’ve done everything to succeed, but hardly see any progress on your players.
Here are 11 reasons why your player is not showing any development in Football Manager 2021. Let’s start with the most obvious ones and go from there.
- Your Facilities and Coaches Lacking Quality
- Potential ability
- Hidden attributes / Personality
- The Factor of Injury Susceptibility
- Your Training Schedules are rubbish
- Your player is too old to experience development spikes
- Your player isn’t happy at all!
- The level your player is playing at is too low
- You are pushing the young ones too hard!
- He doesn’t perform during the matches
- Alter your expectations
1. Your Facilities and Coaches Lacking Quality
Reason one is somewhat self-explanatory, and you should be aware of the quality of your club’s facilities and coaching staff at all times. It is one of the first things we Football Managers look at in terms of youth development. Still, there are a lot of misconceptions about facilities and how coaches work with their players. It is not only about having good youth facilities or a coach that has all the attributes highlighted by the game. There is more to it when you want to create a quality environment for the player to get the most out of his potential, which the game does not show.
Let’s start with the facilities. A lot of Football Manager players still believe that their youth teams are training within the youth facilities. If you think that your first team is the only team that uses the training facilities as their training ground, you are wrong! All the players in the club that are visible to you are using the training facilities as their training ground. Having state of the art youth facilities will not help you to progress your players at a higher rate! Having top-notch training facilities does.
So, improving your training facilities every time you can, will help you to increase the development rate of your players. The other facilities will help you to have better youth intakes, or at least improve your chances.
Youth facilities will improve the quality of the newgens coming through your youth intake.
On to the coaches then and I’ll use two fitness coaches as examples. Most of the Football Manager players are going blind for what the game will suggest them to do in regards to hiring the right coaches. There is a necessary attribute for a coach to have, which the game does not show you! Let’s compare two fitness coaches and see which one you would prefer based on their profile. Please do not factor in their availability, age or anything else. Make a snap decision based on the attributes.
I know for a fact that most of you would have signed Roberto Sassi based on his high attributes for Fitness, Determination, Level of Discipline and Motivating, right? These are the attributes the game highlights. I would have gone with Stefano Rapetti. Why? His Working With Youngsters (WWY) attribute! The game doesn’t highlight the attribute, but it is highly important to me. This might be more important than the other attributes because Working With Youngsters tells me how well he’s able to convey his knowledge to the players.
It is tempting to hire Sassi based on his knowledge (high attributes), but he is not exactly capable of getting the information across to youngsters. His WWY attribute is at nine, while Rapetti has eighteen for WWY. His other attributes might be a bit lower, but the gap between them is much smaller than the gap between the WWY attributes!
Working With Youngsters
Working With Youngsters determines how well a coach can convey his knowledge to young players. If you are working with a lot of youngsters in your team, then it’s preferable to have a coach with a high WWY attribute. However, Sassi would still do a great job for you!
NOTE: I’m not saying you should favour WWY over the highlighted attributes, I just wanted to mention the importance of this attribute when you have a lot of promising youngsters in your squad, and you should look further than the game tells you sometimes.
Think of it in this way. Most of us learned the alphabet as kids in school through songs and visuals. It’s easier to digest and remember songs and visuals than just the letters. Teacher one is using music and images to teach the alphabet to the kids in his class. Teacher two only writes down the alphabet on his chalkboard every day.
It would mean that teacher one has a high WWY attribute, and his class would remember the alphabet much sooner than the kids in the classroom of teacher two, who has a low WWY attribute.
2. Potential ability
Just a quicky here. If you are a vivid Football Manager player, you know everything about potential ability! Here’s a summary:
Potential Ability (PA) is an attribute for players and staff in Football Manager which determines how high their Curren Ability (CA) can arise, and therefore dictate how good they could eventually become.
We Football Managers tend to look at star ratings quite a lot! Maybe it is because they appear everywhere in the game. These stars can be pretty deceiving because they do not reflect a player’s true potential ability. Some think that a player with a five-star potential will always become world-class. The star ratings are a useful tool if you interpret them correctly. They are one person’s subjective opinion on a player.
It is not only one person’s opinion, but they are also in comparison to the player’s teammates. If you are managing FC Twente like me and have a player in your squad who has five stars of potential, then this same player could easily have only three stars of potential ability when you put him in Ajax’ first-team. The Ajax players are of a much higher calibre, and compared to their potentials, he will only be able to grow into a squad player while he could have developed into a first-team regular at FC Twente.
So keep in mind, especially at the somewhat smaller clubs, that your coaches can be wrong sometimes and you put the star ratings in perspective!
3. Hidden attributes / Personality
We are all aware of players having attributes which make up a player’s profile. The most commonly known are the technical, mental and physical ones. These are the attributes that are visible on a player’s profile screen. There are, however, attributes that we can not see in the game. We call these ‘hidden attributes‘ and they can only be revealed through scouting and requires a scout report of the player to be visible. (or the pre- and in-game editor)
Some of these hidden attributes are highly important regarding the performances of the player, while others affect how likely they will be to learn new positions or get injured. Then there is another group of attributes that will make up the personality of a player. Here’s a summary of all the hidden attributes:
- Important matches
- Injury Proneness
What this means is that a player could look very promising at first glance, but lacks some of the important hidden attributes. If your player is not developing at a good rate, you should always take a closer look at his coach report, although it’s preferable to examine a player’s scout report very well before you even sign them! If a player has a dangerously low or preferably high value for one of these attributes, they will show in the scout- and coach reports. It will look something like this:
Development wise, five of the attributes mentioned above are highly important, with two others which are visible on a player’s profile. These seven attributes will make up a player’s personality. A player having a ‘positive personality’ will improve the likeliness of progressing at a higher rate and potentially reaching his potential ability. These are the seven attributes that will make up a player’s personality:
- Determination (visible)
- Leadership (visible)
Players with bad habits tend to progress slower or not at all. It is important to keep an eye on a youngster’s personality. Make sure you will avoid these, or get them mentored as soon as possible:
- Easily discouraged
- Low determination
- Low self-belief
4. Your player is injury prone
As mentioned above, injury proneness is one of the hidden attributes. A player who is injured all the time will have troubles to progress. It is all too often that we see ‘development hampered by injury’ or ‘development set back by injury’ in training reports. An injury-prone player will most likely not reach his full potential. However, they can overcome their problems if nurtured correctly.
There is no direct way to reduce injury proneness. You can reduce the likelihood of recurring injuries by seeing a specialist when injured. You can reduce other variables (such as training load) as well, which all add up to the likelihood of injury. Injury proneness is just one factor in how likely a player is to get injured. With the right care, an injury-prone player can overcome this, unless that player is Arjen Robben.
Also worth noting that there are different levels of injury proneness, which will be described differently in-game. It is the same with all the other attributes they have a scale of one to twenty. A player closer to twenty is much more of a problem than a player closer to ten.
5. Your training schedules are rubbish
Another factor which could hamper development is training. There is almost no right or wrong in the current training module, but if you screw it big-time, it will stop your players from progressing. If you find team training daunting and don’t want to spend your time figuring it all out, you will have different options. However, if you take control of it yourself and take the time to think about it logically (there isn’t much more to it), you can get an extra 20% out of it!
- Leave team training to your assistant manager and take control of individual training (bad choice but you’ll be OK)
- Watch @Foxinthebox’s excellent video’s on training here (You’ll learn to create your own schedules)
- Download @Passion4FM’s training schedules megapack here (Plug&Play)
- Read my blog and see what I do in training here (this is your best option obviously)
Quick Training Tips
I am not going to leave too much info here as I am planning to do an extensive ‘guide’ on training shortly. Here are a few quick tips though:
- Keep an eye on the intensity to avoid injuries and fatigue.
- Read the damn training cards (it says what the session will do).
- Train on things that will compliment your tactics or attributes you are looking to increase throughout the squad (don’t train ‘Play out from the back’ if you don’t need it).
- Start with general training if you find it daunting but want to take control.
- Use training sessions that say ‘Attributes: Individual Roles’ if you want to feature in Individual training (players only do their role training set in individual training if you use these sessions, additional focus is extra-curricular).
6. Your player is too old to experience development spikes
Age is a factor in player development as well, and we all know that! I think it’s widely known that older players will progress at a slower rate than your promising youngsters. While players aged sixteen to 22 years old can have huge development spikes, the elder players tend to develop more gradually if they keep progressing at all. From the age of 23 and beyond, it will be a lot harder to improve your players’ attributes. At that stage, you want to maintain their skills instead of making them better.
I am not saying that players older than 23 can not become better players! But, to do that, they need a positive mindset, play regularly at the level they need, perform well, have high morale and correct training regimes. A player needs both training and match experience. Before the age of eighteen, training is the most predominant factor (so make sure you don’t overplay them). When turning eighteen, match experience at an appropriate level becomes much more important.
7. Your player isn’t happy at all!
If you want players to perform, it is essential to keep them happy! Some people like to call the game Morale Manager, that is not for nothing. Morale can have an enormous impact on your player’s performances. Happy players tend to perform closer to their maximum abilities in both matches and training. If a player is not developing well, one thing to look at is their morale!
Is he happy with his handed game time? Is he happy with his training regimen? Does the club overall perform as expected? Etc. Make sure to keep your players at high morale, and you will be surprised with what it can do for you!
8. The level your player is playing at is too low
In importance, this one will be next to coaches/facilities and hidden attributes. The training module is moderately foolproof. You can not go wrong there unless you fuck it up big-time. Are your coaches good enough to improve players and your facilities are up to date? Has your player a preferable character? Then game time is the first thing you will have to look after!
Gaining match experience at an appropriate level is highly beneficial for a player’s development, especially over the age of eighteen. I have had players in the past who would not improve whatever I did, to finally see they were already at Ligue 1 level while I kept loaning them out to Ligue 2 clubs. Check their coach reports where it says ‘plays at … level’ and make sure they will gain match experience at that level. It does not mean that they should play for your first-team. Sometimes it is enough to promote a player from the U19’s to your B-team or to loan them out to a club one tier beneath where your first-team is playing at. Monitory this closely, it will make a huge difference!
9. You are pushing the young ones too hard!
The other side of match-experience is equally as paramount, and I can’t stress this enough! Players under the age of 23 don’t have to play every match to keep growing. Playing your young players too much will have an adverse effect. I made this mistake in some of my saves myself. During the beta, I managed Ajax, and we all know how talented their players are. For some reason, I couldn’t get some of them to progress. So, I sat back and decided to take a look at what could be wrong.
Gravenberch, for example, was not showing any progression. I knew he would have a high potential ability. My coaches and facilities were quality. I knew Gravenberch was getting game time because I played him in almost every match, both in the Eredivisie and Europe, and he had excellent match ratings. He had no severe injuries. He had no negative personality. I knew I got as much out of training as I could because others were developing rapidly. But somehow, he was not showing any development. I got frustrated and decided to leave him out of the starting XI for a couple of weeks. Why would I play him if there are similar options in the team who are showing progression?
So, from December and onwards, he played half of the matches he was playing initially and his development skyrocketed! Then it got to me: I was overplaying him and therefore he had not enough energy to train at the appropriate level to improve his attributes.
10. He doesn’t perform during the matches
Match- and training performances are interlinked. They will influence each other somehow. If your player is playing badly for your team or is not ready to play at that level yet, it will hamper his development and vice versa. His training performances will get a knock when his form drops, and therefore, his progress will stagnate. If his training performances are low, he will have a hard time to play well during the matches. When this happens, you will have a vicious circle to break.
It is not that hard to do, but you have to keep an eye on it. If a player’s form drops, you need to take him out of the team and put him on the bench. Make sure his morale stays up by talking to him, praising his training, etc. (I am sure you know a few tricks) Because he is now on the bench, you can choose when to bring him on. If you are a smart manager, you will sub him on during matches when you are up by two or three goals. It is easier for a player to go with the flow if the whole team is performing at their best and receive a higher rating. Once he picks up his form, you can start to play him from the start again (if he can handle the level).
A lot of people find it hard to spot a drop in form at an early stage. One easy trick to do this is by comparing the average rating of a player to his last five matches. If his five last games have lower ratings compared to his average rating, this means his form is dropping. By comparing these two numbers, you’ll spot a change in his form as early as possible.
11. Alter Your Expectations
Last but not least is your expectations as a manager. Lately, I get a lot of questions about training through DM’s on Twitter. Don’t get me wrong I love talking to all of you and my DM’s are open for a reason, so slide in there if you need anything from me! But, I get to see a lot of questions like ‘Hey DeRaam, why do you think this player is not progressing as I expected him to?‘ while the player they are talking about shows an average progression span.
I then have to ask them what is wrong with it, like the player is progressing, right? What did you expect? Most of them answer that they want to see the player improve different attributes with full points within a few months! That is not going to happen. There are a few exceptions here and there, but you can not expect a player to grow different attributes in a small amount of time. Be realistic that’s all I ask! Here are some of the best developments I have seen in my own saves so far (and these are all over periods of 1 or 2 years):
There you have it: 11 things to look at when your player is not developing as expected! I hope this will help you to turn disappointing results around. Here’s a small summary of what I wrote above for the people who don’t want to read the whole article:
- Upgrade your training facilities as the players at your club will use this for their training. Youth facilities are used by players who have yet to come through your youth intakes.
- Make sure your coaches are of a high enough quality to improve your players.
- Make sure your player hasn’t reached his full potential yet. Keep in mind that your coaches can be wrong sometimes and that the stars are in comparison to the player’s teammates.
- Make sure your player has not a negative personality. If so, make sure to mentor him immediately!
- Be careful with injury-prone players. Lower their training load and send them to a specialist when injured.
- Try to take control of training – it’s almost entirely foolproof. Read section 5 for some quick tips.
- Players older than 23 will progress at a slower rate.
- Keep morale at a high level!
- Provide the players with match experience at an appropriate level.
- Don’t overplay your young players it will hamper their development.
- Training and match performances are interlinked. Make sure your player performs at all times and spot form drops as soon as possible. Read section 10 for a tip on spotting these form-drops.
- Don’t expect your player to improve different attributes with full points in a few months! Be realistic.