Thursday, 26 April 2012

As tensions rise...

The build up to derby day is in full flow. Despite Roberto Mancini playing it down, Alex Ferguson has described it as the biggest derby of his career. Sky Sports are obviously promoting the hell out of it and to be fair this game has turned out to be potentially one of the crowning jewels of the 2011-12 Premier League season.

Right from the get go this fixture was singled out as a potential title decider, and that's how it has almost panned out. It's not an actual title decider at this point because of the two tricky games both teams have to play after it, but it is as close to one as you will ever get.

Recent derbies, despite the official police stances, have been marred somewhat by off-pitch incidents either in the stands or on the approach and around the grounds. Flairs being set off, fights outside the stadiums, graffiti referring to dead players and so on and so on.  

With the tensions rising the closer we get to Monday I'm half expecting some moron (either red or blue) to do something to fan the flames of animosity between sets of fans. As a Blue I am fully aware that there is a section of our own support that are total idiots, every club has them. Hopefully they will keep themselves in check outside of the stands and likewise with the United support.

Let us all hope that this will be the spectacle it should be, no City fans chanting Munich songs, no United fans trying to goad them into doing so or singing about the death of Marc Vivien Foe. Both clubs have enough songs about each other without having to resort to such debase chants.

Sure there will be banter, that is all part of the fun, but it should be done in the right spirit.

This is a hugely important game for both clubs, let the football be the only thing the media is talking about after the final whistle.

Monday, 23 April 2012

They thought it was all over...

Every pundit from Sky Sports to Match of the Day had United walking away with the title once City had surrendered the leaded and fallen behind them. Just to peg back a few points from the raging juggernaut that is United was a seemingly insurmountable task for City.

Fergie was once again lauded as some kind of mystical genius for his mind games and that Mancini had totally lost the plot under the weight of trickery emanating from the man with the bulbous red nose.

City were doomed, with no purpose, no direction, like a ship borne along by a stormy sea while United soared off into the sunset on tales of 'we always finish the season strong' in a cloud of Munich and #20 merchandise and ridiculous banners. "Why Always We"? Jeez...

The fat lady was up off her saggy arse with the resonance from her thundering voice already shattering the windows of the Etihad Stadium.

Rooney celebrated with gleeful abandonment at the local residential care home, Nani and Valencia moon-walked a lap of honour around Salford, Young leapt for joy getting another player, any player, sent off, and Ferguson drank himself into a stupor after cracking open yet another bottle of bourbon.

But all those pundits and so-called experts were so wrong. So, so wrong. Thanks to a pasting from Wigan and a little fighting spirit from Everton coupled with 12 goals in 3 games from City and the title race has been blown as wide open as the gap in United's defence during the 6-1 demolition.

Ferguson, despite saying the City would never challenge for the title in his lifetime, has admitted that April 30th will host the biggest Manchester derby of his career. Mancini on the other hand continues to remove all pressure from his own players whilst systematically baffling each and every journalist that comes across him.

What happened to Ferguson and his mind games destroying the morale of entire clubs, or City crumbling under the pressure and being lucky to finish 2nd? What a difference a couple of weeks can make. The rather rotund lady has had a chicken balti pie shoved down her cake-hole and told to pipe down because this aint over yet.

April 30th, bring the pride, bring the Poznan, bring the noise.

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Monday, 16 April 2012

Player of the Year 2011-12

So the voting for City's Player of the Year award is now open and we have not 5, but 6 players to choose from, such has been the level of performance this season.

Who gets your vote? I've no idea at the time of writing this who will get mine but here are the nominees in full to start with.

Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Sergio Aguero

6 players, 6 different positions, 6 different ways to measure their worth to the team. For someone who has a tendency to second-guess himself and who likes to analyse a player's individual performances you can see why this could be, and is, such a difficult thing for me to decide.

We will take a look at each of the nominees and believe me, if you haven't already cast your vote, this is as much a benefit to myself than it is to anyone in deciding who to vote for. Of course any statistical input can only be to the time of writing this. For example when I mention appearances, I'm no psychic so they are the number of appearances up to the point of publication.

Age: 24
Position: Goalkeeper
Season Apps: 46 (34 league)
Total minutes: 4230

Still a baby in goalkeeping terms and already a nailed on first choice pick for club and country, and has been for the last 2 seasons.

For the most part of this season, Joe freely admits that he hasn't had much to do. When you look at the number of saves he's had to make compared to other keepers, you'll see that he isn't anywhere near the top because City have conceded so few chances to start with. Only Arsenal have conceded fewer shots on goal.

But here's the thing, when he does have to make a save he's ready. For a player who's concentration levels were being questioned only 2 years ago, it is one of the strongest parts of his game. It's easy to concentrate when you're having shots fired at you from all angles and right in the thick of it. It's when you're only called upon a few times per match that you really have to be alert and he hasn't disappointed, pulling off world class save after world class save.

Joe has got to be the best £600k (or so) that City have ever spent, quite possibly the best bit of business full stop. Now ranked among the best in the world by pundits and even neutral fans. There are still areas of his game that need a bit of work, his distribution being the main one, but at just 24 he has a long time to learn.

Age: 23
Position: Right-back
Season Apps: 32(4) (23(4) league)
Total minutes: 2750

Micah upped his game last season which drew cries of disbelief whenever he wasn't included in the England squad. Those cries turned to deafening roars until Capello finally left the post and Stuart Pearce recalled him.

He has improved greatly since Mancini arrived and has once again become a regular feature of the first team and almost integral to the way City play. His pace and power to exploit the space out wide created by others has been a big part of his game this season.

His contribution early in the season saw him quickly rack up 5 assists, which he unfortunately hasn't added to. Even so, he still the 2nd highest number of assists for a full-back in the league, behind Ashley Cole (6). A little more composure in front of goal could have also seen him bag a couple more than his 1 goal.

Of course as a defender you would expect him to have to do at least a little defending, and he has done this superbly too. Micah's 53 tackles, 35 interceptions, 90 clearances, 12 shots blocked and 53/72 aerial duels won aren't figure to be sniffed at.

Age: 26
Position: Centre-back
Season Apps: 37 (27 league)
Total minutes: 3247

Last year saw VK walk away with the fan's and players' player of the year awards. He instantly got my vote, such was his attitude and contribution both on and off the pitch and many others quite clearly agreed with me.

He didn't get off to a flying start this season though, a hugely mistimed tackle lead to a goal in the Charity Shield and there were a number of slightly below par performances to follow. I say below par, when in reality he was still playing better than about 90% of players in the same position.

But those are the standards he sets, a model professional who isn't happy with anything but the best from himself and his teammates. That is part of what makes Vinny, well, Vinny and quite possibly the best club captain I've witnessed in my lifetime.

He worked his way back to his imperious best after the first couple of months of the season and has stayed there, proving himself to be one of the very best centre-backs, not just in the league, but the world. Not bad considering that we wont see the best of him for nearly another 4 years.

Age: 28
Position: Midfiled
Season Apps: 37 (1) (27(1) league)
Tota minutes: 3202

Although there are parts of his game that annoy me to high heaven, not least the amount of complaining he does, he is an integral part of the squad Mancini has assembled.

Playing ahead Gareth Barry or Nigel De Jong, Yaya can cause havoc in opposition defences with his strength and bursting runs. He has also become the fulcrum of the team, with the majority of the passing in midfield played to and through him.

Even after missing a month due to international duty he has still notched up the 3rd most attempted passes in the league behind Mikel Arteta and Ashley Williams, with a success rate of 90.2%. Yaya also has 7 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season. Incidentally he scored 10 and assisted 7 in all competitions last season.

His contribution in defence is questioned and the number of needless goals City were conceding earlier in the season were partly down to a lack of defensive cover compared to last season when both Barry and De Jong played in the centre. But that's the price you pay if you want a more attacking side.

Age: 26
Position: Attacking-midfield
Season Apps: 40 (3) (29 (3) league)
Total minutes: 3542

There's not much that I could say that hasn't already been said about David Silva. It's unfortunate it took an actual injury for him to be given the rest he needed to gather himself and rest his ankle.

Even with a large dip in form in the last 2-3 months he was hardly useless, and created almost as many chances as he was when he was playing at his best.

Silva has had more game time than any other City outfield player and that was beginning to take its toll on the diminutive Spaniard and the ankle that needs constant attention. But having had a week off, he has come back reinvigorated and looks to be back to the form he showed before January, scoring 1 assisting 1 and instrumental in several of the 10 goals in the last 2 games.

He has created 90 scoring chances for teammates, 2nd only to Juan Mata, and considering such a dip in form you begin to see just how good he was when on song. He has 13 assists in the league and 4 in other competitions and 8 goals in total. Despite a difficult few months, Silva has been simply outstanding.

Age: 23
Position: Centre-forward/Attacking-midfield
Season Apps: 36 (9) (27 (3) league)
Total minutes: 3099

I think it's fair to say that Aguero has proved any doubters to be talking out of their backsides. Some areas of the media questioned whether Aguero was going to be worth the £35m City shelled out on him but 28 goals in all competitions with 4 games left to play suggests he was.

For his first season with the club and a brand new league, he didn't take long to settle in. In fact it took a few minutes after he walked onto the pitch against Swansea, and he hasn't looked back.
Consider that Tevez at his peak has averaged a goal every 132 minutes after having 3 seasons in England prior to coming to City. Aguero, at 5 years Carlos' junior, is currently scoring a goal every 110 minutes. That is quite simply staggering.

As well as the goals, he is also providing for others, having 11 assists so far and has created 50 chances in the league alone. This all adds up to one hell of a player having one hell of a debut season.

You know what? I'm not much closer to deciding. Who gets your vote?

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Friday, 13 April 2012

The future is bright, the future is blue.

As anyone who has followed this blog may know, I'm a big advocate of the work done in City's academy and the youngsters we have in the ranks at the moment are more promising than at any other time in it's 14 year history.

Today saw a City U17s side crowned champions of the Al Ain International Football Juniors Championship in Abu Dhabi. They also won all of their 4 games against the UAE, Al Ain U17, Valencia as well as NextGen champions, Inter Milan, scoring 10 and conceding just 4 in the competition.

What is particularly satisfying is after what may be considered a very poor NextGen series where City lost all of their games, they beat 2 of the top youth teams in Europe in this tournament.

In the NextGen series, City fielded a much younger side than most others having a lot of their U19s out on loan, meaning it was largely an U17 team playing 2 age levels above them. When the tables were evened up, City came out on top.

You might be thinking "yeah well it's just a poxy trophy no one cares about." Well try telling that to the lads that were out there. To these young lads, they have beat some of the best teams of their age group, and won a trophy. It breeds a winning mentality and that can not be valued enough.

City's U18s are also top of their respective Premier Academy League by 5 points, a league that also contains Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United academies. City's U18s have the best defensive and 2nd best scoring record in their group.

What is even more promising about the U18s performances is that they have a sprinkling of U16 players who play for them. Ashley Smith-Brown one of the first among them. A 16 year old defender who can play across the back and has several international appearances at youth level. There have been rumours that Barcelona are looking at signing him in the summer after impressing their scouts in the NextGen series.

Several of the players have been tipped for big futures in the game. Albert Rusnak, Devante Cole, Jordi Hiwula, Alex Henshall, this season's recruits Denis Suarez,and  Karim Rekik, and latest additions Marco Lopes and Jose Pozo.

The strike combination of Devante Cole and Jordi Hiwula (both England youth internationals) have been lethal this season, scoring 24 goals in a combined 33 appearances with Hiwula bagging 15 of them.

Alex Henshall, as I have mentioned before, has been shortlisted for Team GB's Olympic football squad which is headed by Stuart Pearce and is another England youth international.

In fact all of the above-mentioned players feature in their respective age groups at international level. But perhaps the most promising player coming through the ranks, recently sent on loan and regularly featuring for Portsmouth, is Karim Rekik who arrived at City this season aged 16. He has already featured for City's first team during the 2-0 win against Birmingham in the Carling Cup and featured regularly in the EDS which is essentially 2 age groups above his current level.

The EDS, who weren't registered for the Premier Reserve League this season aren't exactly devoid of talent. Playing in the Manchester Senior Cup, Central League Cup and a host of friendlies have seen several of the young players emerge as potential first teamers in the coming seasons.

Joan Roman is, at the moment, really pushing for a first team place. He was recently named on the bench for the first team and in his last outing for the EDS he scored 4 and assisted 2 of City's 8 goals against Stockport County reserves.

Roman isn't exactly a lone talent in the squad either. Courtney Meppen-Walter, Luke Coulson, Reece Wabara, Gai Assulin, and Jeremy Helan are all capped at youth international level.

Then we have Abdul Razak who has featured several times for City this season as well as having a loan spells at Portsmouth and now Brighton where he received MotM award in his first appearance. Dubbed the 'next Yaya Toure' by some prior to his arrival at City he has a lot to live up to, but clearly has the potential.  

One player who seems to have been overlooked constantly at international level is Harry Bunn. The striker who has just turned 19 was scoring in the EDS and making a name for himself last season and earlier on this season. He is now out on loan at Oldham Athletic after a couple of loan spells that didn't exactly work out the way the club had hoped initially.

And while we're talking about players out on loan, how could we forget John Guidetti? The young man has had a blinder at Feyenoord and the fans are petitioning the club to keep him on for another season. He has averaged a goal every 91 minutes, notching up 19 in 22 appearances as well as creating 8 goals for his teammates.

I know exactly what some are going to say when they read this, especially fans of a team down the road.

"Well you've bought half of those players too."

That is true, a number of them have been taken from academies of other teams, but they will all  or have all been a part of the academy system at City, therefore can still be classed as academy graduates when they feature for the first team.

Certain fans might also want to look closer to home when mud slinging about how many players aren't 'true' academy products as there are several playing for their first team this season who were poached from other academies or similar before their 18th birthday.  

Ryan Giggs (Manchester City)
Tom Cleverly (Bradford City)
Paul Pogba (Le Harve)

Wojciech Szczesny (Legia Warsaw)
Theo Walcott (Southampton)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton)

And the list goes on. There are others from both those teams but you get the idea and you wont hear anyone complaining about how any of them aren't 'true' academy graduates. The same rule has to apply to City. Just thought I'd get that one in beforehand.

I'm not saying that every single one of them is going to break into City's first team and become a regular, but with the talent and scouting network at City's disposal you would be hard pushed to say that none of them will make it when several of them are already knocking on the door at or before they even turn 20.

Who would you like to see getting some game time in the first team next season?

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Friday, 6 April 2012

To B or not to B, that is the question

There has been much debate for some time now regarding the development of young talent in England, or the lack of it. At the latest Soccerex convention, Gerard Houllier and Patrick Vieira were two people who highlighted this problem within the English and Italian games. The issue was specifically with the lack of real 1st team chances for many young players between the ages of 18-20.

For years we've heard commentators mention the superior technical ability of certain 'lesser' footballing nations and using that as some sort of excuse as to why England have struggled. Lets get this straight, it's England's fault for not producing technically sound players in the first place.

England players leave the pitch after a 0-0 draw with Algeria
It's only now that the FA and Football League are starting to actually consider opting for a different model. Looking at and changing the way children are being coached from early ages to improve the general standard being brought through football academies across the country. This is a positive step in the right direction but not the whole answer to the problem.

City have already implemented significant changes that are a prelude to a similar system that will be put in place once the training complex on the Etihad Campus is built. An overhaul of how the academy is coached has already been done on several levels, including the partnership with St Bede's college allowing the 14-16s a better combined academic and football education.

Of course City already have a couple of very good young English players in Joe Hart, Micah Richards and to a lesser extent (age-wise) James Milner. But James never came through City's academy, and Joe and Micah are now over the age bracket that we're looking at.

Hiwula celebrates with Meppen-Walter (
I can't speak for every club, but City undoubtedly has talented young English players on their books. Players such as Wabara, Meppen-Walter, Benali, Henshall, Hiwula, Cole, Bunn and several others. Some of these are already between 18-20, others rapidly approaching and none currently getting regular, competitive game time.

When you look throughout the Premier League, there are very few English players between the ages of 18-20 who are playing week in week out, but as with City there are undoubtedly plenty of them on the books. Some have more than others but across the 20 teams in the top English league, there aren't that many. This is the same with young foreign talent too in reality but as we're looking at the potential to improve English players we'll keep to them.

And what happens when a player reaches this age where they need that competitive edge to progress further as a player? They're loaned out to a different club, with different coaches, with different teaching and training methods, with different and often inferior facilities, with a different style of football.

Of course the loan system helps to some degree, but it is in no way what's best for the player, the parent club, and in turn the national squad. What is the answer though?

In my view, implementing a similar structure to what you may find in Spain where they make use of B-Teams. This isn't a 'lets jump on the Spain do it the right way bandwagon', this is an idea that has been floating around with many for quite some time.


If this was ever even considered by the FA and the Football League, I can guarantee there would be a substantial amount of uproar from an even more substantial number of clubs in various leagues within the football pyramid.

For every B-Team in the football league, for argument sake lets say they're in one of the top 7 leagues (from Premier League to Conference North/South), one other team will be relegated out of it.

Clubs within the same leagues as them may also object to losing yet more ground on Premier League teams as their B-Team takes a cut of any TV revenue due to clubs in those leagues.

Then you have the problem of choosing who is actually eligible to create a B-Team and what kind of infrastructure was needed at a minimum to be able to register one.

Yet another consideration is where they would have to start in the rather ridiculously large pyramid of English football leagues. If they were just installed into one of the top 7 leagues there would undoubtedly be outrage as several clubs would have to be instantly relegated. It would cause them to lose out on vital income that could lead to complications of even keeping the club afloat.

If the B-Team had to be registered in one of the local leagues first, would it even be worth the club having the team in the first place due to such a large difference in standard of opposition? Surely it would take several years for it to then be even worth it?

For instance, if City or United had to be registered at local level first, it may have to start in the Bridgewater Office Supplies Manchester League: Division 4. It would take 10 years of year on year promotion for it to reach the Blue Square Bet Conference North Division, and 12 years of year on year promotion in total to reach the bottom of the Football League.


Where does the B-Team start?

To put it simply, wherever it has to. In reality, it couldn't just be installed into any of the top 5 domestic leagues due to the complications and opposition it would receive. If the team starts in a local league then there surely can be no complaints if/when it gets promoted to the football league by merit alone. By these same standards, any B-Team would have to adhere to the same rules and regulations that all other clubs do. Which leads me onto the next area.

Of course as it has already been mentioned, this would mean the B-Team would be facing opponents of significantly inferior ability for some time. But for long term benefits, it is sometimes necessary to endure short term negatives.

Requirements of the B-Team.

As mentioned, they would have to adhere to the same minimum standards of every team in the football pyramid, which change somewhat the further up you climb, found here.

Inside the planned 7k capacity stadium (
With the possible complications through ground sharing and the regulations that have to be taken into consideration regarding them, it would be advisable for the B-Team to have their own stadium once they reached Conference level within the pyramid. Something along the lines of the 10k capacity ground that City will be building adjacent to the Etihad Stadium.

Of course this would mean each club who implemented a B-Team structure would have to get rid of their reserves, withdrawing them from the Premier Reserve League that is the current competition they play in (except Spurs and City who have already withdrawn).

What about the staff?

The B-Team would still be affiliated with its parent club so as far as coaching staff are concerned, they would be the same as they are now. In City's case, it would continue to be Andy Welsh, if he was still managing the EDS by the time any of this was ever put into motion.

There's certainly no need to install new management and coaching staff as they would all be under the umbrella of the parent club.

Also, as with the Spanish model, the B-Team would not be able to compete in the same league or competitions as the parent club. So a B-Team would be ineligible for the FA Cup and League Cup. If City were ever to implement it, there would be nothing stopping them competing in the Central League and Manchester Senior Cup like the EDS do now.

The companies that run catering and stewarding would also get extra business due to the Club having more fixtures to fill.

Of course Policing would be an issue and the parent Club would no doubt have to subsidise or fork out the full expenses of extra policing of each event as they do now.

What about opposition to the idea?

I suppose that depends on what the reason for the opposition is. In today's climate and due to the influx of money throughout the game, the main opposition would be fears over either loss of revenue or the B-Teams basically filling the coffers of the already mega-rich Premier League clubs.

Even other Premier League clubs would likely object on those grounds as the financial gap between the now 'top 6' would widen ever more with the income from the B-Team revenue.

After talking about this point to several people, one person suggested that the B-Team forgoes the TV rights for whatever league they're in. This would actually increase the revenue of every other Club for every B-Team there was in the same league as them as the total sum could be shared around between a smaller number of clubs.

That would hinder any potential revenue gained for the parent club, thus keeping the financial distance between clubs as 'natural' as they were before, as well as helping every other team in the same league.

Who would be eligible for a B-Team?

At a minimum requirement it would have to be clubs that have been in the Premiership of x number of years without the fear of relegation to avoid any unnecessary messing about with the leagues should a B-Team reach the Championship.

I know in the previous section I mentioned the 'top 6' and that might sound a little elitist, but with UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations coming into effect, in a few years time it may only be the teams in the top 6, or even regular top 4 who are able to afford such a luxury.

This would be even more likely should the suggestion of foregoing revenue from TV rights was implemented.

Would Premier League teams try and use the B-Team system to get around the 25-man squad rule?

It is a question that I have been asked personally. In Spain, players can be moved between the A and B squads throughout the season just like they would if it was the reserves or academy teams.

My answer to the question though is that it would be near damn impossible as even though players may move between the A and B squads. There is still a maximum of 25 players who can be registered to play for the parent club in the Premier League.

There would be additional benefits to the parent club in view of the 25 man squad rule, but I'll cover them a little later.  


Consistency and Continuity

They say consistency and continuity are the keys for many things in football and the B-Team structure would provide just that.

The current loan system just isn't adequate enough at all. Although it does provide young players a platform to showcase their talents in a truly competitive environment there is no consistency in their football education.

Harry Bunn on loan at Preston (Lancashire Evening Post)
Each player loaned out then learns under a new set of coaches and manager with different standards of football, with more than likely inferior training facilities. As with Harry Bunn's loan at Preston, there was even a change of manager who completely changed the way the team played.
All of this would instantly be negated with a B-Team as they would continue to work to the same standards expected of the 1st team.

The ability to monitor their progress throughout the season would be greatly increased and wouldn't require specific coaches or scouts to keep tabs on them. All the information would be first hand through the club, enabling said scouts, coaches or other employee to focus on their actual role without distraction.

The loan system wouldn't have to be totally scrapped and a lot of clubs rely heavily on Premier League clubs loaning out their younger players. 


In today's football climate, tickets prices are ever increasing and a number of fans have already been priced out of ever going to matches. I have spoke to a good few who would at least consider following a B-Team and I'm sure there are fans of other top clubs who would do the same if they had the opportunity.

The respective clubs would get revenue from the extra ticket, merchandise and confectionery sales from both sets of fans visiting the ground.

The revenue from these would be fairly limited should the parent club keep the ticket prices down, and with the suggestion of not receiving TV rights it is incentive for lower league clubs to approve the idea.

It would also help a number of businesses located nearer the ground. Pubs, takeaways, taxi services and other public transport would benefit from the influx of people into the area, helping the local economy.

Player Recovery and Match Fitness

The next two tie in with the question about the maximum squad rule and I will use City as an example.

Lets say you have a player who has recovered from long term injury but you don't want to rush them back to the first team. At the moment you can play them in the reserves or not at all. Although it will help aerobically, this doesn't provide the player with sufficient competitive game time to fully adjust back into the first team.

Once again it is the structure and opportunity of a B-Team structure that would speed up this process as they player would get the match fitness with a real competitive edge, speeding up his thinking time and reactions that will have dulled with a long lay off.

Late Bloomers

This section and the next one are closely linked together, although there are significant differences as to why they are separate. This one focuses on players who don't break through to the first team at all.

They say if you're good enough you're old enough, and if you have the talent you will make it. But for every player that breaks through at a 17-20 there are many another that need those extra couple of years before they see any potential really blossom.

What about those players who do need that little extra time? At the moment they're likely to be used in the loan system to teams that will help them get experience but not help develop technically at the same rate as they would with better coaches and facilities.

Then they're likely to be sold on to a lower league club where they will find it almost impossible to reach the levels they may have been able to had they been given that couple more years with top coaches. That extra couple of years they would receive in a B-Team.

What about players who aren't first team regulars?

City have not filled their maximum allocation of 25 players (neither have a number of other clubs) and have been caught short due to injuries, especially in defence. There were an awful lot of fans who questioned the sale of Nedum Onuoha, and even more when the injuries and suspensions and international duty took their toll on the squad.

If City had a B-Team it is likely that Onuoha would have been in it for the last couple of seasons. Not seen as a player who was in the manager's long term plans, but was wasted sat around in the stands and if he had to be called upon he wouldn't have been match fit. You see where the B-Team could have been beneficial to both Club and player in this situation.

In fact Onuoha is a prime example of England's failures in their structure. Instead of not being played, Onuoha could have been playing week-in-week-out with the B-Team in one of the football league divisions, staying match fit, improving as a player through competitive experience instead of playing either in the reserve league or not at all.

Now 25, he has missed out on a good deal of development over the last few years because he never had regular first team football until he was loaned out to Sunderland last season.

He made his debut at 17 during the 04-05 season and featured a number of times over the next few seasons and was a regular in England's U21 side, but never nailed down a place at City.

I'm not saying he would be a world class player, but I'm pretty sure that had he had the benefit of a B-Team type set up, he would be much better than he is now and would potentially be ahead of a number of current England defenders.

There is still time for him to revive his domestic and international career with QPR, but it didn't have to be this way. And how many other players have fallen to the same fate over the years I wonder? And how many others will continue to lose out until a change is made?

City currently have Halsall, Meppen-Walter, Wabara, Coulson, and Henshall who are 18-20 and are current England internationals at their respective age levels. Several other City players who are 16-17 and are also England youth internationals like Cole, Hiwula, and Smith-Brown to name just 3 of them.

Obviously City aren't the only club with young internationals, and if I'm totally honest, I'd like to see the B-Team system in place to help all of City's talneted young players, of which there are many right now that will not benefit from such a system. But the whole point of this still stands. The changes to the coaching system are only a step in the right direction but more needs to be done, much more.

Come on FA, pull your finger out.

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
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