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[Suggestion] Player Development plans


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For some reason, FM22 has really got me thinking about longer term player development. It's something that I've sort of dabbled with in the past, but for the last few editions I've taken a rather loosey goosey approach to it due to my penchant for moving around and not staying at a club long enough to really take an active interest in full on youth development. However, having got a season into my Arsenal save, I've been trying to think more deeply about how I go about developing my young starlets, particularly as I have a couple of youngsters already, and my first youth intake was a relative treasure trove of potential wonderkids who, as part of "the process" I'd like to see move through the ranks to join the other Hale End graduates (Saka, Smith Rowe, Maitland-Niles, Nketiah) already in and around the first team.

My suggestion therefore is "Development plans".

These plans will lean on a few mechanics already in game, but will help to plan, as well as adapt, the players pathway from Youth Candidate to, hopefully the first team squad. Theoretically, a lot of what this will entail is already possible, but relies heavily on managers keeping track themselves, and for someone like me, who normally takes a few weeks to get through a season, it's not that hard to forget what your plan was for a particular player.

In my mind, these plans would sit as part of the Development Centre, but also interplay with the player pathways that now exist as part of contract negotiations.

What does it look like?

Much like the player pathways and the clubs 5 year plan these would be broken down into years/seasons. Each year would then have a planned "Development option" which would give the manager a variety of choices. For example, players under the age of 18 (at least this is what I'm lead to believe) primarily through training, so for players at top clubs who tend to have the best facilities and coaching, they're development would generally be best served by remaining at the club, so for a 16 year old, I would have his first 2 seasons at the club, either both in the U18s, or one year in U18s and one in U23s, or possibly even a hybrid of both age groups. After the age of 18, playing time starts to have more of an impact, so loaning out to another club would be more beneficial. So for a fictional 4 star PA newgen from the first years intake in FM22 could look like this:

2022/3 - Under 18s

2023/4 - Under 23s & Available for U18s

2024/5 - Loan (Domestic - lower level)

2025/6 - Loan (Domestic - similar level)

2026/7 - First team (Squad Player)

Plans would not have to necessarily 5 years, they may not even be need to be a set length at all. Perhaps you have a newgen come through that is exceptional and you want to fast track to the first team. His plan could be 2 years. Conversely you could have a player that is developing slower than expected, or has his progress hampered by an injury, or by a loan club that refuses to play him (even though they promised they would), these players could end up on 6 or 7 year plans.

This is not an exhaustive list of options either. Off the top of my head, I would propose: Under 23s, Loan (Overseas), Loan (Overseas - continental competition), Loan (Feeder Club) - here you could even specify the feeder club you wish the player to move to, presuming of course you have a feeder club with the loan players option, Loan (Any country - specific playing time eg Regular Starter), Loan (Domestic - specific playing time eg Regular Starter), First team (& Available for U23s), First team (Impact Sub). There's obviously going to be more, but you get the idea.

What happens once the plan is in place?

Once you have a plan (or plans) in place, the back room staff would then start to help with the management of these players. So, things like moving between squad would be done automatically by your Head of youth development, loans that are not to designated to feeder clubs would be arranged by, ideally, the Loan Manager (if you don't have one the Director of Football, Technical Director or Assistant could step in - or, even the manager if you're that way inclined).

By default, the plans would be reviewed at the end of each season, either in a news item, as part of a staff meeting, or as an entirely separate meeting (I'm aware meetings aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I like them, they keep me organised). In these meetings you would see a summary of the players development over the past 12 months (similar to what you can see currently in the Development centre) and a suggestion from your HoYD as to whether the development plan needs amending or should stay as planned. This could be because the player has developed quicker than expected, slower than expected, or perhaps there may be a gap in the first team squad that the player could fill for any of the reasons that appear in your transfer meetings for example. Of course, you'd have the option to accept the advice, or disregard it and either carry on with the plan or choose to change it to something else of your own choice.

In certain circumstances, you may also get ad hoc development advice as part of a backroom staff meeting. Perhaps a loan isn't working out and a player should be recalled, perhaps the loan is at too low a level, perhaps he's developed as much as he can in the youth squad and needs to go on loan. Again, as with all advice , you could choose to take or leave it.

This all sounds like a lot of work for me as a manager

That's a good point, and I'm glad you've brought it up.

To counter this there are 3 points:

Firstly, I would suggest that there could be an option for a default plan. Here you choose a length of plan, and the steps the players take on this plan. This would then be applied to all players that are signed from Youth Candidates, with the option to make amendments on an individual basis. 

Secondly, it could be handled entirely by your Head of youth development, with again the option to take over individual players plans.

Thirdly, not use them at all. However, in my mind, I would expect certain clubs to make them part of the clubs vision, and even for certain individuals to request a development plan when signing a contract (this could replace or run alongside the promise of finding a loan move).

Anything else?

The only other thing I haven't really decided on is to what level a player can impact their plan. Should they be able to say I want a loan this year? Maybe, but only with the option in the conversation that you can say "We're following a plan, and a loan this year isn't part of it" or similar. I don't really know yet, it's just something I've thought of and I've spent a long time writing this so, I'll let that marinate.

The end

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramble. Feel free to let me know any thoughts.

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