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

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