#2 – Implementing Twente’s Academy Vision and Recruitment Strategy in Football Manager

Hi there, welcome back aboard the Twente train! Last time, I told you about my reasons for managing FC Twente, wrote a bit about their recent history and shared my savegame objectives. I want to talk about their academy and recruitment strategy today, and how I am going to implement this into my Football Manager save. I usually do not do this because I go with the flow most of the times. This year, I want to experience a bit more realism. I figured that holding on to their academy’s vision and doing realistic transfers, or having a recruitment strategy in place, is the way to go to get that bit of realism.

Let me first explain how their academy works, what ideas they have and what their targets are. FC Twente’s youth academy has a vision, an idea of what a player should be able to do on and off the pitch, and how they want to achieve to produce such players.


The FC Twente / Heracles Academy

FC Twente’s youth academy is a bit different than the usual set-up. I don’t think it will be the same in Football Manager, but Twente shares their youth facilities with Heracles Almelo. Heracles is active in the Eredivisie as well, and hails from the same region (Twente). Heracles originates from the city of Almelo, while FC Twente sems from the city of Enschede. Go Ahead Eagles, a club playing in the second tier was also part of this academy in the past. I believe both clubs will have their own youth academy in FM21, but I just wanted to mention it.

History

Before 2002, FC Twente had a youth academy of their own. The Dutch FA (KNVB) decided that it was better to have regional academies, which was part of a plan to double the size of the Dutch youth graduates. FC Twente and Heracles were the first clubs to merge their academies in 2002, initially as a pilot. The decision was made definitive in 2006 after the fusion proved to be successful. Other clubs followed their approach, and to this day, multiple Dutch professional football clubs share their academies with other teams.

The flagship of the academy, the U19 team, won the championship in the first year after the decision was made definitive. Go Ahead Eagles, a team from the Keuken Kampioen Divisie joined the academy in late 2008. After the 2012/13 season, the Eagles opted to drop out of the joint academy venture. FC Twente took the lead of and since then, every team played in Twente’s kit.

As of the 2020/21 season, Twente and Heracles will run the academy basd on equity. The new agreement will run for ten years, and their goal is to develop talent from the Twente region. From next season on the youth teams will play in a kit that combines the colours of the two clubs.

Vision

With a new path comes a new vision. At the start of 2020, the academy hired Dominique Scholten and Iddo Roscher as their Heads of Youth Development. Scholten and Roscher did a great job at N.E.C. Nijmegen’s academy by developing a new vision in terms of scouting and the affiliate program with local amateur clubs. Many believe that they were responsible for N.E.C. academy’s success in the last couple of years.

Scholten has set a new course with the Twente and Heracles boards which should form the academy’s DNA. They have made a plan which describes where the academy must be within five years. The clubs are willing to invest in the academy to upgrade year after year, and they already have taken the first steps.

Individuals first

Scholten and Roscher both believe in the strength of the individual. The focus of the FC Twente/Heracles academy will therefore lie on individuals in the coming years. No person is the same, and everyone needs something else to maintain their progress. The person comes first in training, where the academy contributes to the development of successful people. It happens on a sporting level, but the progress that players go through as a person are just as important.

There are only a few talents that will make it into the first team, after all. The academy wants to teach players to be independent, to take responsibility for their training, to be able to reflect, to work together, to plan and to persevere. Personal development is one of the most important pillars within the academy, not only for the players but also for the academy’s coaches.

A safe environment where is room for mistakes is needed to reach these goals. We also need to know what is going on in their home situation and at school. You can guide your players better if you immerse yourselves into the players and understand their behaviour, so that their development will be even better.

There are high demands for the intensity of training, as well as the commitment during training and matches. The prospect needs to be challenged to seek the maximum of their limits at all times. By going outside their comfort zone, they will push their boundaries and thereby grow. They are the ones in charge of fulfilling their dreams, we will teach them to take that responsibility. Dealing with setbacks and resistance is of essence here.

Creating the player of the future

Football will always run like a thread through their training. The academy wants to produce and train the player of the future. They have to have a strong personality, must be able to play in the Dutch Eredivisie and be able to play different styles and tactical systems. The academy wants to develop hard-working players with the training method envisaged by the academy: Players who do not invest in luxury but their development.

The players must see the prospect of breaking into the first team of either FC Twente or Heracles Almelo.

The ultimate goal

The ultimate goal for the academy is (within five years):

  • Both FC Twente’s and Heracles Almelo’s first teams need to contain 20% of academy graduates, based on total squad size
  • Have five academy graduates to be regular First XI players, split over both teams

How to Translate Vision to Football Manager

Doing the same thing in Football Manager 2021 will be difficult, as both teams will have an academy of their own in the game. But, I could take their real-life vision as an example, and will try to come as close as possible! I will also try to mix their real-life vision up with some of my own ideas! Let’s have a look at their most important real-life pillars first (It’s a summary from the text above):

  • Invest in the academy yearly
  • Focus on the individual
  • High-intensity training
  • Players need to show their commitment
  • Strong personalities
  • Able to play in different styles and systems
  • Develop hard-working players able to play at the Dutch Eredivisie level

But, how do we do this in FM21? It’s not that hard…

I will spam the board multiple times a year to upgrade the facilities. It should be fairly doable to upgrade one of the facilities once a year. In my experience, you can do two upgrades to the facilities a year, if you have enough money in the bank. This part of their vision should be easily replicated into the game.

FC Twente’s facilities in FM21

Focussing on the individual could be interpreted in a lot of ways. To me, it means that every player has their individual needs in terms of training, match experience and motivation. I know not every player will make it into the first team, but I won’t drop them immediately! Every player will get my attention and a fair chance to develop into the best player they could be. Some will progress rapidly at the age of eighteen, while others will show their biggest spikes in their early twenties.

I’ll watch the players’ reactions to their training schedules closely and chop and change accordingly. Same goes with match experience. If a player needs more playing time to progress, I won’t hesitate to give them these opportunities or sent them out on loan.

Another aspect of focussing on the individual is getting to know them well. To do this, I need to talk to my players and motivate them in the right way. Some players demand a careful approach, while others might need aggressive pushing. I’ll be using the new interactions system in the game extensively to try and get the best out of every player!

Young players need high-intensity training to develop at the highest possible rate. I believe this is true in both real-life and in-game. I will create my own training schedules in the game. You can go into different directions with training; it can complement your tactics, prepare your team for upcoming matches or try to improve attributes. I’m someone who goes for the latter. I will try to improve attributes as much as I can while focussing on the club’s DNA.

The youth teams will have heavier(high-intensity) schedules in comparison to the first team. The first team will train at a high intensity when they can, but we need to keep an eye on fixture congestion and fatigue as well. Players in the youth teams tend to have a lower match load, so you can train them harder compared to your first team.

Young players need to be committed to training and perform in matches. I’ll keep a close eye to their training ratings and average match ratings. At the end of every season, I will evaluate their commitment. If a player hasn’t shown enough of it, they can leave. Hence the phrase “They are the ones in charge of fulfilling their dreams, we will teach them to take that responsibility.” If they’re not willing to fulfil their dreams, then we can’t help to reach them, despite having high potential. 

We all know that personalities are an influential aspect in Football Manager, especially to player development. We want strong characters in our team. I will, therefore, try to produce players with positive personalities and mentor them if needed. They don’t have to be all model professionals, but unambitious players or players with low self-esteem are not accepted in our first team!

Following Twente’s real-life vision, we want to develop players into versatile footballers. They need to be able to play in different styles and systems. This way, we can sell them effortlessly if they have no future at the club or we can use them at full extend. Players need to be able to play in multiple positions or to execute multiple roles within said positions.

Things we’d like to see!

FC Twente prefers hard-working players, and therefore, I will look to develop a specific set of attributes. These attributes will form our core DNA: 

  • Concentration
  • Determination
  • Stamina
  • Work Rate

Off course there are other important attributes for different types of players, but these will be quite self-explanatory. The attributes mentioned above are the four pillars, in combination with their personality, for a hard-working player!

In terms of the ultimate goal, I’ll look to achieve the following within ten years:

  • FC Twente’s first team need to contain 30% of academy graduates, based on total squad size
  • Have five academy graduates as regular First XI players

Style of Play

You should by now know that I’m all about player development in Football Manager. It’s what keeps me invested in my saves. My focus will lie on this part of the game, and most of my posts will feature something about player development. But in contrast to last year, I will offer more variety in my content! I will also play the game at a slower pace to enjoy the details a bit more. It will enable me to be more in-depth when creating my content too.

I always approach Football Manager as it is, a game, but would like a bit more realism this year. I went youth-only in FM20, which isn’t realistic. There isn’t a club in the world that solely relies on their academy in terms of recruitment. So, I’ll be signing players in FM21, but will try to do it realistically.

Youth First

To keep that youth development focus, one of the most important rules is ‘Youth First’! This means that if we need a new player in our first team, I will first look at the youth and reserve squads to see if I can promote a player to the first team. We’ll only sign a player if we can’t fill the vacancy with one of our own. Simple and clear!

Realistic Recruitment

If we need to recruit from outside the club, I want to do it realistically. I won’t go chasing wonderkids for the sake of signing wonderkids if that makes sense.

Their current DoF has a domestic bias, and so will I. I want the squad to consist mainly out of Dutch players eventually. I have no set numbers/targets for this, but I will resist the temptation of only signing South-American wonderkids. We will sign some foreigners at some point, because FC Twente has a history of having players from certain regions in their team. I’ll be looking to bring in players from those regions along the way. Here’s an overview of notable foreign players who did play for Twente, and have a minimum of 50 apps for the club:

PlayerNationalitySeasons
Blaise NkufoSwiss2003-2010
Roberto RosalesVenezuelan2010-2014
Nikolay MihaylovBulgarian2007-2013
Rasmus BengtssonSwedish2010-2015
Felipe GutiérrezChilean2012-2016
Bryan RuízCosta Rican2009-2011
Dušan TadićSerbian2012-2014
Hakim ZiyechMorrocan2014-2016
Kennedy BakirciogluSwedish2005-2007
Marko ArnautovicAustrian/Serbian2007-2010
Jesús CoronaMexican2013-2015

So, if we go out to recruit foreign players, we’ll be looking at the following regions:

  • Switzerland / Austria
  • Venezuela / Chile / Costa Rica / Colombia / Mexico
  • Morroco
  • Serbia / Bulgaria
  • Sweden / Norway

I will set up our scouting team in a way that we will cover these areas. But, as mentioned before, our focal point will be Holland. Especially the Keuken Kampioen Divisie, which is Holland’s second tier. I’d love to bring in a few players from the second tier and develop them into Eredivisie worthy players. 

Here’s our scouting focus:

Homemade Tactics

Another aspect that adds realism to the game is creating your own tactics. I’ve stopped downloading tactics since FM15 but wanted to mention this because I want to write about them a bit more. I want to write some posts about how I create my tactics, why I chose certain instructions over others and even do some analyses maybe! Tinkering and tweaking are what managers do, it’s realistic, and that’s why I want to add it to my content.


Hats off to you if you made it this far! But yeah, these are my ideas about how the academy should work and from where we’ll recruit players. I’ll go more in-depth on different parts at a later date. I’ll write more about training, scouting, tactics and development in future posts! I hope this post gives some insight into what I’m planning to do. As always, I want to thank you for reading!

I’d love to know what you think of my content, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter!

See you next time!

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