One of the hardest things in Football Manager – after not putting your fist through the screen when you concede a 95th minute equaliser against Luton – is learning how to develop youth players in FM22.
It takes time, it takes patience and it needs a dollop of luck. Get it right, however, and you’ll not only have that warm glow of parental satisfaction of bringing the sprogs through, but a very decent boost to your transfer kitty: either from the money you don’t need to spend on new players or from selling the kids you don’t need (this all went a bit Prince Andrew, didn’t it?).
Get the facilities right
To get a steady supply of decent kids coming through your youth system, you need to have the right bits in place. You might fluke out and get a batch of wonderkids in your youth intake even if your under-18s train on the local park, but your chances of developing them into Grealish The Wonderhorse are much slimmer without the right infrastructure.
The key things you need for a strong youth system are:
- Exceptional youth recruitment
- Exceptional academy coaching
- State-of-the-art youth facilities
- Top-notch training facilities, with coaches that are good with ‘working with youngsters’
I’m not going to go into what you need to tick all those boxes here, but there are few overnight fixes. If any of the above are not up to scratch, you need to start begging the board to make the relevant improvements, even if it comes at the expense of short-term transfer spendies. Trust me, it will pay off in the long run. (If you don’t get the P45 before the kids get their health spa, that is.)
If you need more money to improve your facilities, read our tips on making money in FM23.
Identify the best youth players
Once you’ve got the youth system cranking, you need to focus on the real starlets – the ones with first-team potential. At the start of every season I go into the Dev Centre and literally write down the names of the three most promising youth players and focus my efforts on them.
Look for players with high potential ability (shown above), especially if that’s married with high Determination and good player traits. The Dev Centre does a pretty decent job of identifying those for you, but have a good look through the squads for yourself. Crucially, make sure those players are nailed down on contracts. Don’t leave the contract negotiations for these elite kids to your staff, as they often do stupid things like insert release clauses that let them leave for £50 and a family-sized pack of Wotsits.
If you don’t have any wonderkids-in-waiting, you can always poach a few…
Promote the stars quickly
Do not leave promising kids languishing in the under-18s for long. Your staff will often give you a nudge if there’s a promising player that should be promoted to the under-23s or even the first team, so don’t leave them playing beneath their level.
A good way to test a kid’s mettle is to include him in the first-team squad for pre-season friendlies or even cup games against lower-league opposition. It helps you judge whether they’re ready for the first team or need a bit more experience first. Talking of which…
Loan out youth players
If you’ve got kids that are knocking on the first-team dressing room door but aren’t quite good enough to trust for any longer than 10 minutes against Bradford, loan them out. Regular first-team action is the quickest way to boost a player’s attributes, but it has to be at the right club.
You want the loanee to be playing regularly at the highest level possible. When you offer them out for loan, stipulate that they must be a ‘regular starter’ in the ‘agreed playing time’ drop-down. If a Premier League club offers to make the loanee a squad player and a Championship side offers him a regular starter spot, take the Championship side. Minutes are everything to a young player.
Keep a close eye on their progress while they’re on loan. Make sure you have the right to recall a player, in case the parent club doesn’t honour the agreed playing time or his progress stalls. The key screen to look at here is Development > Progress in the player’s profile page. Ignore the up/down arrows on the player’s attributes page – they are very short-term and can be deceiving. What you’re looking for is players who show long-term upward trends on that Progress page.
Clear spots in the first team
So, your wonderkid has knocked it out of the park during a season-long loan in the division below, but he’s still not quite as good as the grown adult in the first team? What to do?
Don’t hold the kid back. Gently ease him into the first team over the course of the coming season. Bring him off the bench to start with and then gradually build up the number of starts. At some point, you just have to trust the kid, even if he’s a bit worse than the regular starter, or else he’ll never fully develop.
Only do this with one or two players a season so that your first team isn’t swamped with inexperienced twots, no matter how good they are.
Sell off the kids that don’t make the first team and make sure you insert clauses for a high percentage of next sale/profit from next sale, so that those kids keep paying you back for years. You can normally sell those clauses for millions in later years.