here's my work on youth development at the club
I am now in my third season at US Triestina, having secured back to back Serie C and B titles.
However, one area that I have overlooked up to this point is the youth setup. Given that the club has a relatively low stature in Italy and is not awash with money, it would make sense to put a youth structure in place to boost the first team squad and secondly, to provide an additional income stream for those not quite good enough to make the grade. In this post I will:
Look at the current youth setup in terms of facilities, coaching and recruitment
Review the coaching staff
Review the standard of U20 and U18 squads
Highlight a group of players to nurture and develop over time
Assess suitable training plans for this group of players
REVIEWING THE CURRENT STRUCTURE
Given that Trieste are a modest club in terms of size and stature, I needed to make major changes to improve the quality of our youth system. Talent graduating through from the academy has been poor, with the exception of Leonardo di Giorgio who continues to develop well, and is only 17.
He is the model youth player that I am trying to develop more of, but with below average youth facilities this would have to be addressed urgently.
Fortunately following promotion to Serie A, the Board agreed to upgrade our youth facilities as well as youth recruitment. This would obviously take several years to bear fruit, but at least the process was underway. Here is an overview of the club’s facilities:
Youth recruitment, youth facilities and good youth coaching are the cornerstones of a successful youth structure. I had secured funding for improve facilities; would be available by the winter break in December 2020. Moreover, the Board had agreed to fund a larger youth recruitment program, thereby enhancing the standard of my annual youth intake.
Before delving into the current U20 and U18 squads, I wanted to evaluate the youth coaching staff.
One of the main benefits of promotion to the top division is the increased reputation that you receive, thereby allowing recruitment of higher quality staff.
I terminated the contracts of eighteen staff members and set about hiring improved coaches, scouts and medical staff. With regards to youth coaches specifically, hiring is a simpler task than recruiting players, with the main requirements being Working With Youngsters and a specialism in either the Attack, Defence, Goalkeeping, Fitness, Tactics and Technical area.
I’ll focus on the coaches that I hired for the U20 squad. You can see that all have a minimum of 15 for Working With Youngsters, plus specialisms in different areas. It is a nice added benefit if they also have Determination and Discipline, so that these qualities are instilled into players.
I cannot stress the important enough of disposing of poor quality coaching staff who do not have the requisite skills in their specialised areas. Not all clubs will have the luxury of carrying out mutual termination of their contracts, in which case try and ensure that substandard staff are not on long-term deals.
My U18 recruits were in keeping with my principles, the most important of which was the hire of Carlos Corberan, who is the current manager of Leeds United U23s and even more importantly, a disciple of Marcelo Bielsa.
In both squads, I finally had the coaching structure in place in all areas. Now time the evaluate the quality of both squads.
REVIEWING THE U20 AND U18 SQUADS
With my focus squarely upon getting Trieste promoted as quickly as possible, my focus was elsewhere. The outcome: a very very poor set of players in my youth team.
In the Staff Responsibilities section, I had left the signing of youth players to my Head of Youth Development. To my horror, there were around 25-30 players that I immediately wanted to sell or release. There were several with 3 or 4 years left on their current contracts, which meant that the Board were unwilling to sanction contract terminations.
My intention had been to gut these squads and build them back up again with my newly-recruited- coaches and facilities. I now wanted to be responsible for ‘finalising the signings of youth players’ that my youth recruitment team had found. Alas, that strategy wouldn’t be possible until a large number of these incumbent players left the club.
Therefore, I recommend not sleepwalking into signing very poor quality youth players, and making yourself responsible for finalising youth signings!
This article from Cleon outlines how individual training focus works, different from previous versions of Football Manager.
I’ll now highlight the players that I felt were capable of remaining with the club; I had placed 25 players on the Unwanted List, leaving me with only eleven players that I wanted to remain with the club from both the U20 and U18 squads. Below I will assess them and highlight where their training focus will be for the upcoming season, using the newly defined areas as defined in the above article.
Di Giorgio has already made a few first-team appearances, and is destined for a very good career. His attacking skills are obvious, whilst he also boats an impressive work rate.
Focus: I will give Di Giorgio a diet of Attacking Movement training to improve his Off The Ball, Anticipation and Decisions. Then this will be rotated regularly with Shooting and Final Third training.
Porrini: Impressive passing ability and overall acceptable technical skills. Certainly some attributes to work with, but he definitely has lots of room for improvement.
Focus: He needs to work on his physical skills, so I’ll place him on a rotation of Strength and Endurance training, alternating with some Passing sessions.
Moreo: An advanced forward with good technical skills and pace.
Focus: He will be placed on Attacking Movement/Final Third/Shooting training along with Di Giorgio.
Callegher: A centre-back with some acceptable defensive skills.
Focus: Defensive Positioning, Strength and Endurance.
Iazzetti: A defensive midfielder with some good mental skills and acceptable tackling. Needs to develop his all-round game
Focus: Along with Callegher he will rotate between Defensive Positioning, Strength and Endurance.
Gherdina: A midfielder with some good technical skills, work rate, vision and overall fitness.
Focus: I will rotate him between Passing, Final Third and Attacking Movement training.
Vella: A forward with good pace, technique and movement.
Focus: I will rotate him between Passing, Final Third and Attacking Movement training.
Furlan: We seem to have a wide array of attackers! Furlan has good pace, first touch and mental abilities.
Focus: I will place him on Technique, Final Third and Strength training.
Quattrocchi: Another forward, it was a borderline decision to retain him. However he does have some attacking attributes, but has a long way to go.
Focus: Along with Furlan I will place him on Technique, Final Third and Strength training.
Mainardi: Some good physical skills and also possesses useful mental attributes.
Focus: Technique, Final Third and Attacking Movement training.
Pansera: He just about makes the grade due to excellent pace and acceleration but clearly needs to work on his defensive skills.
Focus: Defensive Positioning, Technique.
With the eleven players identified, I will rotate their individual training focus over the coming months. I do want to leave the U20 and U18 managers in charge of overall training, but feel that some more targeted individual focus will be beneficial for them.
This custom view will allow me to monitor their training and development. I have given each player a ‘note’ to allow me to find them at a glance. A yellow asterisk appears next to their name, meaning that I’ll ignore most players without one:
In summary, youth development does take some work and effort, but it can be very rewarding and also lucrative. For a small club like US Triestina, youth development should be a key focus. To summarise, my learnings from this exercise are:
Never allow staff to finalise youth team signings
Find the best possible coaching and scouting staff that you can afford
Identify a nucleus of talent in the squad, and add to these over time. Give them a “note” so that they can be easily identified from the deadwood.
Ensure that your best youth prospects have a good mentor.
Ensure that your best talents have training in desirable traits |(formerly PPMs).
Try to dispose of players that are not in your plans
Players can always be re-trained to play in a new position, as long as they have some good base attributes.
If possible, try and incorporate a philosophy into your contract such as “bringing youth players into the first team”. This will make negotiations for improving both the youth recruitment and training facilities much easier with the Board.