Class of ’34: How I will train my AS Roma wonderkids in to Serie A heroes

roma badge By @FMScrapbook aka James Briscoe

Good morning, afternoon, evening, night wherever you are in the world. Today I would like to show you around my Roma Under 19s squad as I increase my efforts in ensuring my youngsters, who I rarely interact with, reach their full potential and vie for a place in the prestigious Giallorossi first team. Make no mistake, this is not an expert’s guide, I am still learning and this will be the first time I have devoted significant time to this aspect of football management but I will tell you what I have already learned and how I hope to achieve further and sustained success in this department.

Official guide to coach reports Before I get in to the swing of things I would like to share this official explanation of ‘coach reports’ from the Football Manager online guide:

“Players are evaluated in a number of areas – their ability, strengths and weaknesses – and will receive a star rating from the coach submitting the report for Recommendation, Current and Potential Abilities. A player can receive up to five stars depending on the standard expected of their team and how good they are by comparison. A player who meets the basic average standard will receive three to three and a half stars; from there it can increase to five or fall as far as one if the player exceeds standards or fails to meet them.
Some younger players may receive a silver star rating on the same scale. This will be the case where the player is not deemed comparable to more senior players and instead more fairly compares them to similarly aged players amongst a youth standard.”
I thought it was interesting to read the specifics on how young players are judged and it has persuaded me to be more patient with them and even give a chance to prospects who are not initially highly rated by my coaches.
Paolo PiniFranzoiErasmo CostaEdmondoCardellaAlessandriFavasuli
Above you can see a group of Roma ‘wonderkids’ who I have picked out as the most promising we currently have on our books.

Roma’s youth recruitment

It is exciting to see the vast potential in these lads and it really is a pleasure to manage Roma as no matter where they are in the league they always seem to produce brilliant young players who graduate their youth academy. Clearly youth development is taken very seriously and is a source of pride at Roma. The club even have talent spotting programmes as far away as North America like their partnership with GPS Vermont.  Find out more here.

My development plans

Of all the wonderkids I picked out to show you centre/ defensive midfielder Alessio Manzoti is enjoying the most frightening early emergence. His ability at such a young age, 17, is akin to Wayne Rooney’s and Jack Wilshere’s. Manzoti was born in Morlupo, a commune in the Province of Rome in the Italian region Latium, located about 30 km north of Rome. The fact we can draw such talent from our region is a welcome advantage, our main rival for local talent is Lazio but we have a much better reputation (ours is continental theirs only national).Morlupo_Paese_Aprile_20070176

Morlupo, Province of Rome: not a bad place to grow up.

Loan them out

If I cannot give my youngsters playing time in the first team I try to loan them to a decent club where they can play senior football and prepare themselves for life in Serie A. Playing in an under 19s league will keep them ticking over but if they are to really develop it is best they spend time with more experienced players and I currently do not trust them to play in our first team nor could I give them the required game time if I did.

While they are on loan, although I might not expect young players to perform at their best, I have an opportunity to judge how they do when playing senior football in a competitive league. As the competition they will be playing in will usually be weaker than Serie A I generally expect a good level of performance and regularly check on their recent match ratings. Manzoti has been playing for Young Boys in Switzerland’s Super League and from 10 starts has an average rating of 6.77. Not great but at 17 it is most important to be getting games, his performances will surely improve as he develops. Moreover, he is naturally a defensive midfielder and he is being played in centre midfield in a 4-4-2 formation so this could be affecting him.

Get great coaches

I admit to using my youth squads as mere talent farms in the past. I had an under 19s manager, sure, and whoever else was already helping out but I would only take a look to see if anyone was good enough for the first team and other than that I left the players’ development to the coaches and fate. When I joined, though, I made sure I signed as many good coaches for my under 19s squad as possible.

Individual training schedule and tutoring

I am making a concerted effort to give my youth players a training focus and a first team tutor wherever possible. Generally I will give players extra training in the individual role I think they are best suited to. For instance, Manzoti will (when he returns from loan) be trained as a central midfielder because although he likes to play deep he is shorter than I would like my defensive midfielder to be and he strikes me as a combative, multi-faceted midfielder rather than a playmaker. Moreover, the central midfielder individual role focus will fill out stats generally important for his position while he is very young. To be honest we have been missing an aggressive central midfield presence and he could provide the missing ingredient to propel us to domestic and European success. A future Azzurri captain maybe.

Finding a suitable tutor for a player can sometimes be a pain but it can produce spectacular results. I have a talented 20-year-old striker, Luciano Izaguirre, who I asked a senior striker to tutor, and he improved so much from the experience he became almost as good as the older striker by the end of it. His attributes took an exceptional boost mainly because of the time he spent learning from a more experienced player.

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