‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’


With the season now underway, I’ve been putting my plan into action when it comes to training. FM21 was the first time I looked at doing my own training, inspired entirely by Fox in the Box FM’s incredible training playlist. However, I only really skimmed the surface, creating two schedules; one attacking and one defensive; alternating between the two. This year, it’s time to level up.

I’ve had the idea for my approach to training this year for a little while, based predominantly on a couple of quotes from Das Reboot, but having re-watched Tifo Football’s video on Tactical Periodisation and then Matty Lewis (aka Steinkelsson’s) approach to implementing it in FM, I’ll also be dropping aspects of that approach into the save too.

‘There was, however, as Schott is keen to point out, no comprehensive master plan for the education of Özil, Götze et al.’



This isn’t going to be a full deep dive into Tactical Periodisation, the videos I’ve linked above will do a far better job of that than I can. The TL;DR though, is that it’s a training methodology created by Vitor Frade and most famously used by the Special One himself, José Mourinho. It’s a concept that revolves around the core idea of tactics being at the heart of everything that happens on the pitch, and therefore needing to be at the heart of every training session. Rather than working on phyiscal, technical and tactical aspects in separate sessions, it’s all combined and applied to the four phases of a match. From there players are trained to know what to do in any given match situation.

The part that I was most intrigued by, and will try to recreate in some way, was the use of the Micro, Meso and Macro training cycles. These are essentially short, medium and long term time periods, where the shorter cycles help to work towards the longer term goal.

Micro – A week’s worth of training. The majority of our Match Days are on a Friday, so the week is setup for training intensity to follow a bell curve from Sunday-Wednesday, and then Thursday is spent preparing for Friday’s game, and Saturday is a recovery day.

Meso – I’ve designed 4 schedules to run on a monthly rotation. Each session focuses on the same group (Monday afternoons are always attacking sessions, for example), but the subject will rotate week on week. Over the course of a month we’re always focusing the same amount of attention on each group but working on a wider range of attributes by not using the same schedule week on week.

Macro – At the end of every season I’ll review the progress we’ve made and decide if training has been effective enough, or if we need to tweak for the coming season. We’ll have 9 full blocks of our monthly rotation over the course of the season, so there’s plenty of time to gain full familiarity and improve attributes across the board.


‘Some people felt that we should provide a full, binding curriculum of lessons to be taught at the academies. Others said the coaches should be given free reign to allow for individualism and prevent everyone doing exactly the same thing. Those were the two extreme positions. We met in the middle. We came up with a framework of basic objectives that should be met, without being dogmatic.’


My plan for training this year is to use Team and Individual training as the two extremes mentioned in the above quote. First up is the team training, the ‘full, binding curriculum’. I talked earlier about having created 4 schedules that will create a monthly rotation, for now we’ll be running these one after the other as they cover the majority of the sessions available in game, and just tweaking as and when matches pop up on other days, or we have two matches in a week. To ensure the workload remains balanced week on week, each time slot will always work on the same unit, eg. Monday afternoon will always be an attacking session, Tuesday afternoon will always be a defensive session.

These schedules show why my training approach isn’t a full tactical periodisation replication, as the dedicated fitness sessions wouldn’t suit that concept. They do, however, push home some of the key aspects of the DNA I’m looking to establish at Volendam. I’ve also created a couple of schedules that I’ll use to try and arrest any significant problems that pop up, one defensive and one attacking. All being well, this will be the only time we ever discuss them!


Where team training provides the curriculum, individual training allows for individualism and a bit of free reign. My approach to individual training this year is something I’ve never tried before, and I have no idea if it will be beneficial or not, especially early on when the players aren’t as talented.

I’ve always used individual training to make players as well rounded as possible; by working on the weakest attributes a player possesses, we limit the amount of mistakes they may make in the long run. This is a process I’ll still use for defensive players, with the attacking players though, I’ll be trying something different.

At the age of 19, Ibrahim El Kadiri is the brightest prospect at the club in my eyes, at least of those not in on loan. Ordinarily, to try and improve him I’d look to work him hard on his weaknesses, most notably his below average Anticipation (8), Composure (7), or Stamina (9). He plays mostly on the right as a winger in my current setup, but were I to want him cutting in off the left I’d probably train his Finishing (9). This would make him a more well rounded footballer, as I mentioned above, but it would also leave the highest of his role’s key attributes at 12 (Crossing), and 13 (Pace, Acceleration, Agility). The idea is to instead train those highest attributes, with the aim of getting them to 14’s and 15’s, maybe even pushing to some 16’s. In the short term, it gives him an X-Factor that can turn him from a good player into a real game changer; in the longer term, it could increase his transfer value, or help him to adapt to and produce in the Eredivisie when we get there.

I’ve got no idea if this is the best approach to take or not, but it can’t hurt to give it a try!


It’s been slow progress in-game, free time has been limited, but there are a few bits to update you all on.

Despite the defeats, pre-season was a resounding success. All of the sides we faced are Eredivisie outfits, and they all played relatively strong XI’s. We used all three of our shapes throughout, chopping and changing in match to suit situations, and all three looked good. Traditionally I struggle to create tactics that allow me to feel more secure defensively while also offering an attacking threat, they usually inadvertently become park the bus and prey. Since each shape uses the same instructions though, the back three shapes don’t feel like defensive tactics, and against Ajax we still managed to have the majority of possession and have 5/11 shots on target, against what was a pretty full strength side. Promising signs.

The league campaign is off to a really strong start, for 4 games I thought we were going to be invincible! De Graafschap and Roda JC brought us back down with a bump, and reminded me that too much micromanaging can do more harm than good. We’ve got back on track ever since, and were rewarded with an early boost to our overall chances this season.

Whatever happens for the rest of the season, we will have a chance at promotion. The Eerste Divisie splits into four periods, with the winner of each period guaranteed a place in the playoffs at season’s end. Having it secured so early is an amazing start, but there’s a long way to go yet. We’ve proven we’re a good side in this division, even with no additions, so now we want to go and kick on and show what we’re really capable of.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, tot ziens!


2 thoughts on “1.1 | IT STARTS ON THE TRAINING PITCH

  1. Love that quote at the top, an all time favorite of mine.

    This is the first year since FM17 that I’ve really dug into training routines. Haven’t written about it yet on the blog, but I’ve been using Rashidi’s setup (Bust the Net) which seems relatively straightforward and manageable. Really love the detail in this, and am feeling a little inspired…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s