Manchester City has long boasted a proud tradition of bringing through their own home-grown stars that contrasts greatly with their recent free-spending image.
The Blues’ record in the FA Youth Cup down the years is comparable to anyone and in the modern era alone the club has produced a steady conveyor belt of talent that includes Stephen Ireland – look, he was Superman for us….if other clubs don’t know how to utilise him that’s their problem – Nedum Onuoha, Micah Richards, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Sir Joseph Barton, and the treacherous Daniel Sturridge. Additionally Manchester City spent just six hundred grand on a raw rookie keeper from Shrewsbury and nurtured him into becoming England’s number one for many years to come. You’re welcome.
If the Gods of football didn’t have a cruel streak then the national side would also have been blessed with the 21st century Colin Bell roaming around World Cup pitches. Michael Johnson came through during the bleak Pearce Manchester City period and was a Rolls Royce amongst Minis until a persistent abdominal injury made him an ever-present on the treatment table. Imagine Steven Gerrard had not played for a media darling club and had his career effectively ended by the age of twenty – you have Johnson.
The takeover and new ownership has of course changed everything with the youth set-up benefiting from the wealth as much as the influx of superstars to the first team. An estimated eight million has been invested into the academy with further expenditure on some of Europe’s most promising young prospects. Already this summer City have snapped up 16-year old Denis Suarez from Celta Vigo and centre-back Karim Rekik from Feyenoord.
A further, more symbolic, change is that the reserves are now known as the Elite Development Squad (EDS) which sounds like it should be overseen by Professor Charles Xavier from X-Men.
The future is looking bright on all fronts for City. Whilst the first-team establish themselves in the top four and beyond there is an abundance of exciting young talent bubbling beneath the surface. Here are five names who should be gracing the Eastlands turf sooner rather than later.
Whatever the level he’s selected for 19-year old Harry, son of ex-Oldham poacher Frankie Bunn, just scores for fun. In fact last season he was asked to turn out for both the Under 18s and the EDS and bagged twenty apiece for each. City’s Scholar of the Year and arguably our most exciting prospect the young goal machine has been compared to both Rooney AND Shearer; the former for his squat muscular build, the latter for his direct and instinctive hunger to trouble the back of the net. Championship clubs will be chomping at the bit to secure his services on loan next term.
Wabara can play anywhere across the back and has been compared by some in the game to Rio Ferdinand.
Dad Andy is a United legend and the second highest goalscorer in the Premier League so that’s quite some boots to step into. Thankfully they probably wouldn’t fit because although sixteen-year old Devante has inherited most of his father’s traits – lightning speed, a good touch, conscientious desire to work the channels and an unerring eye for goal – Cole Jr has developed into a 6ft 4 powerhouse. He recently signed a three year scholarship contract which moves him up to the under-17 level next term despite keen interest from several rival clubs. The kid has undoubtedly got the pedigree and the raw ability; now it’s all down to him to fit the pieces together and emulate his proud pa.
An 18-year old attacking midfielder recruited from Espanyol in the summer of 2009 Juan – full name Joan Angel Roman Olle – has sublime vision with an expansive passing range to back it up. City fans have been eagerly following his progress since he signed and next term represents a critical juncture in his development as the cherub-faced Spaniard is promoted full time to the EDS. The beauty of signing flair players from overseas at such a young age is they have time to pick up traditionally English traits to accompany their creative élan before being thrown into the brusque and brutal Premier League. Juan Roman is no exception and is not afraid to get stuck in when the boots are flying. Will benefit hugely from the tutorage of his countryman David Silva in seasons to come.
Another to have recently penned a three-year deal to secure his short-term future with the club, 19-year old Wabara can play anywhere across the back and has been compared by some in the game to Rio Ferdinand. The rate of his development has astonished City’s coaching staff and is only matched by his blistering pace on the pitch. After only one year with the EDS the youngster made his first-team debut on the last game of the season and will now look to establish himself in the big squad next term. Was allegedly stabbed in the leg earlier this year whilst holidaying in Marbella with Aaron Lennon. Rumours that the Spurs winger was directly responsible due to jealousy of Reece’s superior speed however remain entirely unfounded.
Weirdly he derives from the same small Midlands town as Joleon Lescott and ex-blue Daniel Sturridge. I hope City have a resident scout in place scanning the local playing fields on a regular basis.
The young Ghanaian joined City under a cloud from Crystal Palace – a drawn-out immigration issue that wasn’t resolved until March of this year - and Neil Warnock, the Eagles gaffer at the time, has described him as the best player he’s ever seen in his age group. Since then Razak has come on leaps and bounds at Carrington and has even already broken into the first team. Mancini evidently rates him highly and it’s not just the Ghanaian connection that has prompted comparisons to Michael Essien. Razak is a combative midfielder blessed with tremendous technical ability and has the box-to-box athleticism that Bobby Manc favours.
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