I stumbled across an article by the respected James Ducker recently, entitled ‘Manchester City’s global scouting mission pays off with ‘mind-blowing’ talent’.
The article describes a 13 year old kid, James McAtee, who City signed from United who they claim to be ‘one of Europe’s most talked about young talents and a shining light at City’s burgeoning academy’.
The article also touches on the usual rhetoric’s associated with City’s youth academy such as describing big under 14 victories etc. The article was incidentally published just one day after United had claimed their 3rd Under 21’s Premier League title in 4 years and against a backdrop of academy products flourishing in United’s first team.
What actually represents a successful academy?
All of the points mentioned in Ducker’s article, and many other articles City have fed about their academy over the past year or so such as their richly talented youngsters, their massive underage victories, their state of the art facilities….. Do any of these things actually represent a successful academy? Simply put they don’t.
What represents a successful academy is actually producing and promoting players to the first team. All of the above points certainly help in achieving that but until City start bringing these players through then I’m sorry but they have nothing to shout about.
The article itself is pretty desperate stuff and for City to create unnecessary hype over one of their 13 year old kids in order to use him to get one over United, is plain wrong.
It screams of small man syndrome.
But of course we’ve been here before with City. When I read this article, the ’Welcome To Manchester’ sign featuring Carlos Tevez in City Blue sprang to mind. The image was created at a time when City hadn’t anything to shout about on the pitch in terms of results so decided to scream about signings instead. Ultimately signings such as Tevez, Aguero, Toure and others have led to success on the pitch and trophies, worth shouting about.
However whether City’s infrastructures and underage talents will lead to City promoting them into the first team remains to be seen.
Do results matter underage?
The assumption that City’s academy is flourishing is usually linked to their underage results. Just to put into context underage results, before we all have to read through another 14 articles about how City’s under 7’s team won 8-0 due to future stars x, y and z, United were defeated 5-1 in the FA Youth Cup by Chelsea in January.
Two players who featured for United in that 5-1 defeat were Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who both started in the FA Cup Semi Final victory over Everton. Also present in that United side were Callum Gribbin and RoShaun Williams, two players who United fans will become a lot more familiar with over the next few seasons with big futures ahead of both. A late substitute in the game for United was Angel Gomes, who could well go on to be the best player United will have produced in many a year. Will this result have an impact on any of these players careers? No.
Another pointer is the United youth cup side of yesteryear featuring Guiseppe Rossi, Gerard Pique, Johnny Evans, Ryan Shawcross, Darron Gibson and Fraizer Campbell (6 internationals) who lost in the FA Youth Cup third round to Stoke. The result didn’t exactly have a bearing on their careers.
Development is the name of the game underage, not results.
Producing first team players is the bottom line
I watched that Chelsea side, who crushed United 5-1 in the Youth Cup in January, draw with City in the first leg of the Youth Cup Final on Friday. There were some great prospects on show for both sides, but the player who stood out was City’s 16 year old midfielder, Brahim Diaz. Diaz, as mentioned in Ducker’s article, looks to have everything required to make it to the top.
Diaz, however, reminded me of another youngster who belied his years that City had in their academy system of late – Marcos ‘Rony’ Lopes. Lopes became City’s youngest ever scorer at 17 years and 9 days when he scored against Watford in 2013. Lopes, like Diaz, looked to have all the tools required to not just make it at City, but to star.
Where is Lopes now? He was last summer sold to Monaco for £9million. After three underwhelming appearances, he is now on loan at Lille.
The point is there is no use shouting about young players and 9-0 under 14 victories unless these talents are nurtured and three or four of that under 14 team come through at City. Up to now City haven’t developed any young players into the first team – Kelechi Iheanacho signed at 18 can hardly be described as a product.
United, with three youth products starting against Everton in the FA Cup Semi Final, have now stretched the record to 3,798 consecutive first team games in which an academy product has featured in the match day squad. The record that has stood since October 1937.
I know that City are at the early stages of their academy overhaul and the real results can only be judged in 5-10 years, however a piece of advice would be to only shout about things worth shouting about. Should the likes of Diaz and 13 year old McAtee go on to have careers at City then shout away. Until then I am going to enjoy watching Rashford and Fosu-Mensah continue their flourishing first team careers at United and look forward to Williams, Gribbin, Gomes and others getting their opportunities to also shine.