The Vitória Player Development Pathway

A few weeks back, we did an episode of the OneMoreGame podcast on how we utilised the other squads available to us at our clubs. My chat was specifically focused around the B team that Vitória has and how I use that squad in the player pathway to the first team. This post will be going through that plus obviously some mentions for a few of the young players coming through in our intakes too.

Vitória B play in LigaPro, which is the second tier of the professional Portuguese league system. At the start of the game, they’re one of four B teams in the league along with Porto, Benfica and Braga. The rules of the league for B teams state that you can only play one player over the age of 23 within the matchday squad, so it makes complete sense to me to use the B team in the pathway to the first team for youth players.

Instead of loaning out promising young players I’m able to keep them within Vitória and get them used to how we play by playing them in the same tactic. That should, in theory, help when they’re ready to step up to the first team squad. This also means that when a player hits the age of 18, I don’t need to make an immediate decision on their future. Players have until the age of 23 to show enough promise to be good enough for the Vitória first team.

Last summer in my save, around the time of us releasing the podcast, I added a manager into my save and took over control of my B team. I wanted to go a step further and have full control over the training and development of the B team players. The game had other ideas though, it kept telling me that players were ineligible, even for friendlies, meaning I couldn’t give minutes to some of the players I wanted to. Annoyingly I had to put that plan to one side.

In came former Hibs coach and Hearts player, Grant Murray, as the new B team manager. I love surrounding myself with fellow countrymen in my backroom staff. Murray joins alongside Scott Anderson managing the u19 squad, Alex MacQueen the u19 physio and Ian Cathro one of my first team coaches. Murray has a good personality, is a good coach and his motivating attribute should stand him in good stead for management too. Is it too far to say that having a manager similar to me in charge of the B team will prep players for their step up to working with me in the first team? Course not, it’s a thing.

While not being able to fully take over the B team to have control over training was a negative, I am able to select the squad ahead of every match by going into the squad view and just picking the side I want to play the next match. This means I’ve got a control over who starts, prioritising their gametime in order to aid their development and get them ready for first team football. Before I go into a few examples of some success stories in our development pathway, it’s often said at youth level that development should be prioritised above success. What about both?

One Vitória team did bring home a league title last season as Vitória B strode to the LigaPro title. A remarkable achievement for Murray’s side, however with me picking the starting 11 and subs for each match, I’m claiming this league win as my own. Congratulations to me on my first league title win with Vitória.

B team successes

I had already detailed Pedro Ferreira’s promotion to the first team in January but it came after a decent first half of the season for the B team. Playing in that DLP(D) role shielding the defence he was a solid 7/10 performer with a similar pass completion ratio to Celis in the first team, albeit with a slightly lower tackles per game total.

He joined the season prior and played his first full season at the club in the B team before the approach we took to the squad this season. He’s young, Portuguese and has a great personality. I’m planning on giving him much more gametime this season in the first team.

Correia is my shining example so far of how the B team process is going to work, albeit it’s been a bit of a bumpy road for him.

When I joined Vitória he was in the u19 squad, and with my plan to play three central defenders along with the fact that there wasn’t much money to strengthen from outwith the club, he was promoted to the first team. He only appeared a handful of times in season one, so dropped down to the B team for the second half of season two and for the entirety of season three. In that time he made 51 appearances and actually captained the side to the LigaPro title last season. This season, he’ll play a much bigger role in the first team as one of our four central defenders.

Under 19 successes

Sometimes players are good enough to make the step up to the first team straight from the under 19 squad. There’s a few examples of those so far in my time at Vitória.

I’ve already highlighted Branco in the stats post for season three after his breakout season in the first team last season. He unfortunately isn’t a homegrown Vitória youth player but if he remains at the club for long enough he’ll be deemed as one. He was spotted and signed at the start of the 2019/20 season from lower league side Real for £195k and made 49 appearances for the u19 and u23 sides that season.

His signing and then progression was enough to convince me to clear the pathway for him to make the step up to the first team squad straight from the under 19s at the beginning of last season. Like I said in the last post, he played back up to Rafa Soares but was excellent in his 23 appearances, averaging a 7.49 rating across them. He handled the step up with ease.

I’m hoping this man will be able to do similar this season. Luis Miguel is a homegrown Vitória prospect, coming through the season one youth intake, and he’s been patiently waiting to make the step up to the first team squad. He played a whopping 148 matches at youth level across his two and a half seasons at the club so far and is one of the most promising young central defenders in the country too, having made six appearances for the Portuguese under 21 side despite being just 18.

I’m putting faith in him this season to be good enough to make the jump from youth to senior football without that finishing school step of the B team. I’ve sold Frederico Venâncio, one of my best defenders so far in my time at the club, this summer to clear the pathway for both Miguel and Correia this season. Let’s hope they repay the trust.

Players currently on the pathway

The B team squad is now full of promising players who my coaching staff rate as having high potential, here’s a couple of them.

Igor Chaves came through in the same first season youth intake as Luis Miguel and is very highly rated. He made the step up to the B team last season and made 17 appearances on the way to the league title win. We’re already strong in the central midfield position so finding a way to open up that pathway might be trickier than other positions but if he continues developing on the same trajectory he’ll stand a chance at making it.

Djukic arrived last summer from Celik Zenica for a £160k fee. He played 26 times for the youth teams, scoring seven and assisting five. He makes the step up to the B team this season and I’m really keen to see how he copes and progresses whilst playing senior football in the second tier. There’s some attributes that are really standing out like his technique, vision, first touch and decisions which if others improve too he’ll develop into a very good midfielder. His personality is brilliant too so I’m hoping he’s got what it takes to make the step up after this season.

Oscar Aga won the LigaPro top goalscorer award last season with 23 goals in his 32 appearances. He’s by no means a stand out in terms of his current ability but he is currently our fourth best forward and if he has another season this season like his last, who am I to stop him getting a chance at some first team football?

Mohamed Daramy arrived at the club with such promise but after a falling out he spent last season on loan at Eibar. He’ll get the chance to work his way back into the first team by playing for the B team this season. I’ve made a few signings from the Brazilian league this summer too, young players with very good potential who’ll spend this season playing second tier football with the B team. I’m really excited to see how they develop.

Promoting from within is such an important aspect of what I want to do at Vitória. I need to show faith in our young players. It not only keeps our costs down in terms of transfer fees but, again something intangible within the game, the fans are more likely to connect with a young player that’s been nurtured by the club and has progressed to the first team. There’s also the obvious opportunity to potentially earn some money for the club by selling on these players in the future.

Having the B team playing in LigaPro is the perfect step on the pathway for players who just need that little bit more time in their development. From now on, I’m going to aim to promote at least two players from the B team to the first season every season.

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