Man City are making English football great again rather than ruining it – Stuart Brennan


It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Manchester City will provide the bulk of the England team by the time the 2024 Euros come around.

And if their clutch of talented young home-grown stars can continue to develop at their current pace, they could be the focus of a realistic Three Lions assault on the 2026 World Cup.

Not bad for a club that is often portrayed as “ruining English football” by being better than everyone else.

City already provide close to half of the national team’s current strongest XI, with Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones all at the forefront of Gareth Southgate’s mind when it comes to picking his team, and Jack Grealish not far behind.

The last time England had a meaningful match – the World Cup qualifier against Albania in November – all five played, even though at City we find Foden, Grealish and Sterling are effectively in competition for two places.

The arrival of Cole Palmer on the scene this season, after he spectacularly forced his way into the England under-21 side with two goals in four games, served notice that at his current rate of progress he will be pushing for full England honors within a couple of years.

And with Liam Delap and James McAtee both proving they are the best in their positions at under-23 level by dominating the goals and assists tables in the Premier League 2 last year, and now impressing as fully-fledged members of Pep Guardiola’s squad, there are two more Blues stars in the reckoning.

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Sam Edozie is another who could add to that potent mix, although his chance this season has been ruined by injury.

It doesn’t stop with attacking players.

Josh Wilson-Esbrand’s new contract shows that City believe he could be a long-term solution at left-back, while England under-21 regulars Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Tommy Doyle are out enhancing their football education with tough gigs at Championship clubs.

They know that there can be no let-up in their striving for excellence, as another, even younger, center back, Callum Doyle has been excellent for Sunderland this season, while Luke Mbete is also making waves on the fringes of the City first team .

Of course, there are a thousand obstacles to be strewn between all of those players and the pinnacle of English football, but they have the best grounding a footballer could wish to get by coming through the City academy.

And as Kieran Trippier, Ben Mee and Tosin Adarabioyo have shown, moving away from the Blues is not the end, it is often just the beginning of a new chapter.

Guardiola was effusive in his praise for Manchester lad Adarabioyo, who has been a key figure in Fulham’s rise to the top of the Championship this season, and who had a fine game against City in the FA Cup tie on Saturday.

Talking about his own young stars, and the way even top youngsters can find their route to the top blocked at a club like City, he said: “The academy is working for that reason, to develop players – look for example at Tosin.

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“Tosin played an exceptional game, but why? Because he was able to play 100 games in the Championship and a few games in the Premier League and every weekend he is playing.”

City’s academy is unmatched at the moment, as borne out by the fact that they are excelling at the three purposes for which so much investment was poured into it.

Purpose number one was to provide first-team players who are not only excellent but who have the club badge engraved on their hearts. They have Foden, Palmer, McAtee, Romeo Lavia and Mbete all in the first team environment despite being top of the league.

Purpose two was to create players who might fall short of City’s exacting standards, but who can be sold for a decent sum of money, providing an income of hundreds of millions of pounds in recent seasons.

Purpose three was to give those players who do not make it at City a football and life education that will stand them in good stead, as it has Trippier and Mee, and many more.

Liam Delap reacts during Man City's FA Cup tie with Fulham
Liam Delap reacts during Man City’s FA Cup tie with Fulham

At Euro 2020, only Ajax – world-famous for their academy – had more of their home-grown products on display. They had 12, ten of them in the Netherlands squad plus Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld of Belgium.

City had ten youth products on display – as well as Foden, Trippier and Jadon Sancho of England, there was Belgium’s Dedryck Boyata, Wales trio David Brooks, Matt Smith and Wayne Hennessey, Denmark’s Kasper Schmeichel and Slovakia pair Vladimir Weiss and Robbie Mak.

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That left clubs with huge reputations in terms of youth development, like Manchester United (6), Sporting Lisbon (6) and Barcelona (5) trailing.

It just happens that the current outstanding crop of youngsters who are moving on the fringes of the first team are – with the exception of Belgian Romeo Lavia – all English.

Rather than being the ruin of English football, City could be the making of it.




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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