Player development refers to the processes through which players improve their abilities over the course of their careers (not including fluctuating aspects of player ability such as player fitness and morale).
Successful player development can help you to secure long term success for your club both on the pitch and financially, as it can give you a continuous supply of quality players who you can then either play in your senior squad or sell on for a profit. The benefits of focusing on youth are discussed further in the Squad Building guide.
To develop players successfully it is advisable to first gain a good understanding of player ability and its dynamics, which are discussed in the Player Ability guide.
You can then consider how to recruit youth effectively and develop your players effectively using the advice given below.
Recruiting Youth Effectively
In order to continually develop quality talent it is advisable to ensure that your club’s youth intake (which can be internal, external or both) regularly brings in promising youth players, preferably with each playing position being covered.
A big club with a good youth system is likely to have at least two players in every playing position in its youth squad.
Optimising Youth Intake
Optimising youth intake refers to carrying out youth intake in the most effective way possible, so as to bring in the best possible youth players.
You can optimise your internal youth intake by:
- Signing a good head of youth development and other youth coaches. Useful qualities for them include:
- A positive personality with good ratings in the mental attribute Determination and the personality attributes Ambition and Professionalism in particular – to pass on similar personalities to newgens (such players are much more likely to achieve good progression, although players with good Ambition are more likely to want to leave lower reputation clubs if they have the chance).
- Good ratings in the staff attributes Judging Player Potential and Working With Youngers – to give newgens good potential ability.
- Improving the following club facilities to give newgens better current ability and potential ability (this may need to be a long term aim, with a greater reliance on the use of external youth intake in the short term):
- Youth facilities.
- Junior coaching.
- Youth recruitment.
You can also start scouting assignments in particular nations shortly after their annual generation of newgens. You can find information on the relevant dates for each nation by searching the web for FM newgen dates. However, you may view this as ‘cheating the system’ if you intend to play Football Manager in a more realistic manner.
Implementing an external youth intake or recruiting more established youth players enables you to personally select which players are brought into your club, while with an internal youth intake you will eventually need to select which players to offer professional contracts to.
You should try to select players with good current ability, as this essentially determines how high rated their playing attributes as a whole are before you take over their development, and good potential ability, as this essentially sets a limit on how high rated their playing attributes as a whole can become.
You may also want to consider the type of players that you target. For example, you may want to try to select players with playing attributes and traits that suit your tactics if you intend to use a particular playing style or tactical roles.
In particular though, it can be worthwhile to try to select players who have positive personalities, especially if they have good ratings in Determination, Ambition and Professionalism, due to the great beneficial impact on player progression.
However, playing attributes, traits and personalities can be changed during player development to some extent (traits can be both learned and unlearned).
Therefore, current ability and potential ability can be viewed as being the most important qualities to look for. Nonetheless, the importance of positive personalities should not be understated. The earlier a player has a positive personality the earlier his development can benefit from it, and the process of improving a personality can be prolonged and difficult for a player who does not start out with a positive personality.
Developing Players Effectively
To develop players effectively you need to both optimise player progression and mould players effectively.
Optimising player progression refers to improving (or retaining) the current ability of players as far as possible.
To enable you to fully control player development at your club ensure that you are assigned all of the responsibilities on the Staff > Responsibilities > Overall screen under Training. This allows you to manage training for your reserve and youth squads. However, if your club has a separate B squad with its own full manager then you cannot view or manage training for that squad.
Training can be set for your senior squad from the main Training screens. Training can be set for your reserve and youth squads from the Reserves/Youths > Training screens.
Optimising Player Progression
To optimise the progression of your players:
- Optimise the quality of training by improving your club’s training facilities (if possible), signing good coaches and assigning coaches appropriately.
- This is the most important thing to do to optimise progression for players aged under 18. After the age of 18 match experience is more important for progression.
- At most clubs the squads (senior, reserve and youth) train in two separate groups (e.g. senior and reserve as one group, and youth as a separate group), each with its own group of coaches as determined by their coach roles (some coach roles may work in both groups and some in one particular group). Go to your Training > Coaches and Reserves/Youths > Training > Coaches screens to see which squads are trained by which group of coaches. Make sure you assign coaches to training categories effectively in both groups.
- When signing coaches look for good ratings in the Determination, Level Of Discipline and Motivating mental attributes. For each coach also look for good ratings in the coaching attributes used for the training category you want to assign him. These can be highlighted by using the Important Attributes For drop-down under Staff Roles on the coach’s Overview > Profile screen (select the appropriate staff role first).
- When signing coaches who train your youth squad also look for good Working With Youngsters. This can also be beneficial for coaches who train your senior squad but is less important.
- Make sure players aged under 18 are trained by coaches with good Working with Youngsters and do not move them to another squad unless this remains the case. Keeping them training in the same group also enables you to easily manage their team training overall workload, as explained below under Moulding Players Effectively.
- Give them playing time at an appropriate level when they are aged 18 or over (loaning players out is advisable if they cannot play regularly in your senior squad) – this is explained in the Match Experience guide.
- This is the most important thing to do to optimise progression for players aged 18 or over. Before the age of 18 the quality of training is more important for progression.
- Improve their personalities by using player tutoring from as early an age as possible – this is explained in the Player Tutoring guide.
- You can only tutor players who you are not loaning out. Loaning out a player while he is being tutored will end the tutoring session, although the player will still develop his personality during the time he is tutored. This could be an issue for players aged 18 or older who are not good enough to get sufficient playing time in your senior squad.
- Tutoring a player in plenty of time before he is 18 means that his tutoring does not need to be interrupted by a loan spell and enables him to benefit from an improved personality for longer, potentially making it easier for him to gain good match experience.
- A player’s tutoring sessions must be initiated before he is 24 and before he becomes an established member of the senior squad (which occurs after he has played in 75 senior matches).
- Keep them fit with good fitness management.
- For younger players (below the age of 20 in particular) try to avoid very heavy individual training workloads as they can be more susceptible to jadedness and injuries, and injuries could adversely affect their training time and (over time) their Injury Proneness hidden playing attribute. You should therefore ensure you pay close attention to the number of injuries suffered by these players, as well as their general fitness, and rest them from matches occasionally.
- Fitness management is also particularly important for older players. This is discussed separately below under Developing Older Players Effectively.
Moulding Players Effectively
To mould your players effectively in team training:
- Schedule only 10% (one notch from the left) match preparation training after your team has gained full tactic familiarity in order to prioritise general training. However, good match performances and results are also important for player development (due to their direct effect on match progression and their indirect effect on both training progression and match progression via player morale). Therefore, before full tactic familiarity has been gained for your main tactic (for example, in pre-season) it is advisable to schedule more match preparation training and set the match preparation main focus to Match Tactics so that tactics are learned more quickly, then afterwards Teamwork is advisable to improve team cohesion).
- Make sure that you set the tactics to be trained during match preparation training.
- For your reserve squad and youth squad it is not necessary to schedule more than 10% (one notch from the left) match preparation training at any time as match performances and results are less important (but they are still beneficial, so again you may want to use Match Tactics until full tactic familiarity has been gained and then Teamwork).
- Aim to set a higher general training intensity level and reduce it as necessary depending on how much match preparation training you are scheduling (more match training enables you to set a higher intensity level), how many rest days you are allowing (more rest days enables you to set a higher intensity level) and how much individual training you are giving (less individual training enables you to set a higher intensity level).
- To work out how much to reduce your general training intensity level you should review the individual training workloads of your players and keep an eye on fitness and training happiness, as explained at the end of the analysis of individual training below. The general training intensity level that is appropriate may vary over time as your other training settings change and as your squad changes.
- Allowing rest days after matches only is standard practice for senior squads.
- For younger players individual training can be particularly beneficial, as discussed below, while fitness management is particularly important, as discussed above. Therefore, for your youth squad you may want to allow rest days both before and after matches and set a lower general training intensity level than you set for your senior squad, in order to give more individual training and manage fitness.
- Use a general training main focus (or rotate between more than one) that trains playing attributes that are more important for your desired playing style.
To mould your players effectively in individual training:
- Use appropriate role training and additional focuses for each player who needs to improve particular playing attributes in order to become more suitable for his tactical role (or a tactical role you intend to assign him in the future) and your playing style.
- It is advisable to focus on lower rated playing attributes as higher rated attributes are more difficult to improve and are already relatively good.
- It can be particularly beneficial to improve players’ weak points and prepare them for a tactical role before they reach the age of 18, as this can make it easier for them to gain good match experience in your senior squad or out on loan. Role training and heavier additional focuses can therefore be considered to be more important for players in your youth squad.
- Aim to set a heavier individual training intensity for a player and reduce it as necessary to manage his individual training workload, as explained below.
- Check them for unsuitable traits and give them appropriate trait training to unlearn them. You may also want to use trait training and tutoring to enable players to learn potentially beneficial traits.
- You should be careful players do not learn traits that are not suitable for your tactics or that make them less tactically flexible. The learning of unwanted traits can be avoided during player tutoring by choosing the tutoring option that allows personality changes only.
- Trait training adds a large amount to a player’s individual training workload and so you may want to avoid using it for younger players (below the age of 20 in particular) and players undertaking other individual training that you consider more important. This does not apply to traits learned through tutoring.
- You cannot give trait training to players who are involved in a tutoring session, while loaning out a player would interrupt his trait training. Loaning out a player who is being tutored would also prevent him learning any more traits from his tutor. Therefore, you may want to delay a player’s trait training until you have finished tutoring him and giving him match experience on loan. You should also not loan a player while he is being tutored if you want him to learn a trait from his tutor.
- Look out for players who you think would be useful to you in a playing position they do not already have natural or accomplished positional ability in and give them appropriate position training until they become at least accomplished.
- You should also give a player who is training a new playing position consistent playing time in the new position to help him to gain positional ability.
- Your coaches may advise you a player could successfully be re-trained in a particular playing position under Progress Report on the player’s training report.
- Younger players gain positional ability more quickly and the more playing positions a player can play in, the more likely he is to gain good match experience over the course of his career. Therefore, position training is best given at an early age and before a player goes out on loan. As such, you may want to focus on giving position training to players in your youth squad in particular.
- Position training can also be particularly useful for older players, as discussed below under Re-Training Playing Positions.
- Manage individual training workloads so as to limit fitness issues and poor training happiness.
- If a particular player is unhappy with his individual training workload but his fitness is ok then he may have a low Professionalism personality attribute. If you know he has good Professionalism then his unhappiness may be justified and it is advisable to decrease his individual training workload. If you believe his unhappiness is unjustified then you may want to simply criticise his training level on his Interaction > Warn Player > Criticise Training Level screen. You can also do the same for those players whose training performance is criticised by your coaches; for example, on the players’ training reports or in your assistant manager’s monthly overall training report.
- If individual training workloads are too heavy for your players in general then you can reduce the general training intensity level to lower them.
- If individual training workloads are too heavy for just a few particular players then you can reduce the amount or intensity level of individual training for those players (or criticise them if you believe their unhappiness is unjustified).
Developing Older Players Effectively
You can continue to approach the development of your older players – those players who have reached their natural peak and beyond – in the same way as detailed above.
However, as players experience natural decline and physical deterioration, particular care should be taken regarding their fitness management, as well as the playing positions and roles that they are used in.
Careful fitness management of your older players can help to reduce the impact of natural decline and physical deterioration, and therefore extend their playing careers. This typically starts to apply to players in their late twenties or early thirties.
In particular, this can be achieved by carefully managing the playing time of your older players. They should not be used too frequently as they may be more susceptible to jadedness and injuries but should still be given enough playing time to keep them match fit and help them to retain current ability. They should also be allowed to fully recover from injuries before being used in matches.
In addition, extra training on physical attributes using appropriate additional focuses can slow down the effects of physical deterioration. However, playing time is the most important contributor to their progression and so heavy individual training workloads should generally be avoided as this may adversely impact their fitness and, therefore, their playing time.
Playing Positions & Roles
It can often be beneficial to use an older player in a playing position and tactical role that is less physically intensive, giving him appropriate position and role training if he does not already have natural or accomplished positional ability for the position or if important attributes for the role need improving.
Your coaches may advise you on such position re-training if they think it could be suitable for one of your older players.
Usually, this involves a player moving into a deeper playing position or from a wide playing position to a central playing position. For example a wing midfielder, wing forward or central attacker may become a central midfielder, or a central midfielder may become a centre back.
Being given a less physically intensive playing position and tactical role can enable an older player to gain more playing time and give better match performances than he otherwise would, helping him to retain current ability and make a better contribution to the team, while it also provides an additional way to manage his fitness.
The player should already have suitable playing attributes for a new tactical role for him to be a success in it, although to some extent his current ability can be redistributed between attributes as appropriate during role training.