8 Players to the Lower Leagues, an Experiment

Experiments are quite popular in FM, but in my opinion, to many of them are the same. What if we gave a Lower League Club a Billions Pounds, what if we put the worlds best youth player in the 8th Division of the English Football League, that sort of thing. I’ve even done a couple of those, but one of the thing’s I am interested in doing are Experiments with a little more behind them.

This experiment was directly influenced by a video Dr.Benjy did, in which he moved Erling Haaland to Bath and locked him into a 15 Year contract there. You can find the first video in that series here:

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

I wanted to go a step further though, and make this a multiplayer experiment.

I put 8 younger players, who at one point in time were (or in the case of the youngest are) considered wonderkids, and moved them to teams in the Vanarama North and South. The goal was to see if any player could help get their squad to the Premier League before they retired or their contract ran out (more on that here in a few). It took some trial and error to get the experiment up and running, but eventually I had success in running the edited database.

Was the Experiment a success?

Yes. And No.

The Experiment ran a total of four videos, what follows is a breakdown of some of the issues I discussed in the video, and some of the issues I encountered as well. You can find the video series here:

First, the players and Teams I moved them too:

  • Kylian Mbappe, to Blyth Spartans in the Vanarama North
  • Erling Haaland, to Hemel Hempstead Town in the Vanarama South
  • Ansu Fati, to Dulwich Hamlet in the Vanarama South
  • Sebstiano Esposito, to Ebbsfleet United in the Vanarama South
  • João Félix, to Eastbourne Borough in the Vanarama South
  • Yusuf Demir, to Fylde in the Vanarama North
  • Rayan Cherki, to Chorley in the Vanarama North
  • Jadon Sancho, to Curzon Ashton in the Vanarama North

In the editor, I made sure none of the player CA/PA was on the low side, but I also made sure they weren’t maxed out either. I locked them into 18 year contracts, with future transfers to the MLS (where all older European players got to dominate). I loaded just the English Leagues this time around, with about a 28K size player database.

My logic in putting those players on those teams was simple: The better players I put on teams picked by the pundits to finish in the bottom half of their respective table. Both Blyth and Hemel Hempstead were relegation candidates. The younger players I put on teams that had recently been relegated, or had missed out on promotion the previous year. My train of thought was a player like Ansu Fati would not have to share the load right away, while Mbappe could (and would) put the team on his shoulders and carry them as far as he could.

I found the Experiment interesting for a variety of reasons. First, if you did not get promoted quickly, there was a possibility you could get stuck in a League for quite a while. Secondly, if the team did get promoted, would the AI be able to surround the Youngster with players able to help them stay up and get promoted. Thirdly, at some point in time the Youngster would start to decline, was the team he was on set up to avoid relegation?

My goal was to see if one or more players could get their team to the Premier League. I didn’t expect any of them too, honestly I don’t believe the AI is good enough to get as team promoted in 6 divisions in 18 year on a consistent basis, heck even us human players are hard pressed to do that sometimes.

My expectations were met. None of the teams managed to get to the Premier League, but a couple of them came close.

Click to embiggen

As one would expect, Kylian Mbappe had the best progression out of all the plyers, in fact I would consider his and Blyth’s movement up the Pyramid to be be the template going forward: Immediate promotion in the first year, 3 promotions in 9 years, and then when the player is at or just beyond their peak, competing in the Championship for a shot at the Premier League. Blyth’s best finish was 13th, but digging deeper I realized that was almost pure luck.

There were more than a few reason’s player’s like Cherki, Felix and Sancho never got out of non-league, and most of those were my fault. First, I did not check the teams professional status before assigning the players to them, and as a result, Cherki, Felix, Sancho, Mbappe and Haaland ended up on Semi-Professional squads. Compounding this issue were the player salaries, they were all locked into €1000 p/w contracts, with a yearly 5 or 10% raise. If this experiment had consisted of just one player, that would not be as big an issue, but with eight, you ran into a situation where a semi professional teram had to get promoted, and quickly, in order to get Professional status. This would let their payroll expand, and they would have the opportunity to sign better players, but I suspect (because I can’t prove it) that by the time some of the players, Felix Sancho and Cherki, were making more money than anyone else on the squad still, and as a result their teams did not have the wage bill to bring in players to help them. The best example of this is Jadon Sancho, in the last year of the save Curzon Ashton was relegated to the EvoStik, and he was making €4700 p/w…

Mbappe and Haaland are both good enough that they were able to get promoted, and quickly, but then that’s where the other behind the scenes issue arose, and that’s the AI’s inability to work a good transfer market and improve the squad. The best example of this is Mbappe of course. From 2029 to 2035 Blyth were in the Championship. This is their Transfer Spending in that timeframe:

2029/30€1M (and 3 players on loan at €315K)€46K
Blyth Transfer Spending while in the EFL Championship

By Comparison, Reading was also in the Championship at the same time, and both teams finished within shouting distance of each other more often than not, and their Transfer spends were 18.75M/28M, 7.25M/26M, 20.5M/33M, 15M/5.5M, 14.5M/35M in the same time frame.

The clubs that did get promoted did improve their facilities, as an example Blyth ended up with Great Yout and Training facilities, but I also wonder if the quality of coaching, especially for those players who did not get promoted right away, also played a factor in their development.

This is Rayan Cherki’s Progression thru the midpoint of the save:

Rayan Cherki 2020
Rayan Chekri 2023
Rayan Cherki 2029

He did pick up some more traits, and became comfortable at a few more positions, and in fact actually came down a point in a couple of attributes. A lack of full time training perhaps?

That said, even if their attributes didn’t improve, they were more than good enough to be their clubs primary scoring threat for much of the save. What follows are a few tables to illustrate that:

Players Goals by Year and Division
Players Assists by Year and Division
Another View of Player Goals and League

There’s still a lot more to do in terms of player charting and the like, but for the moment, here are my takeaways from this experiment:

It was pretty fun to run. The data from this comes from my third attempt at running it, the first was marred by a series of PBKAC errors on my end, the second by some behind the scenes stuff I didn’t realize could happen, IE Hard Brexit, and as a result Esposito and Cherki didn’t qualify for a work permit due to lack of International Experience, and spent the last twelve years locked into a team they could not play for nor get released from. Mbappe getting a team close I sort of expected, but I was also hoping a younger player like Esposito would do well in that regard. And I learned a lot from it, especially what to do if I want to run this experiment again later, which I might. If I do, I probably won’t have Mbappe or Holland on it, but younger players like Boadu, Zirkzee and others. I would start them at a lower salary, and if I could, ensure they all start on Professional squads.

If you’ve made it this far, Thanks! Any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will answer them as best I can. If you have an idea for an experiment, let me know as well, am always interested in seeing what other creators come up with that’s different than the usual out there.