There were a few somewhat stunned City fans around this week – myself included – when it was announced that EDS prospect George Evans was sold to Reading for an undisclosed fee; sealing a 3-½ year deal with the Royals.
So I’ve decided to do a small piece on what I think the general feeling is surrounding our Academy…
Now I am - along with those other, somewhat bemused Blues I’m sure - not naive to believe that the majority of our youth will ‘make it’ to become a regular in the first team at Manchester City – in fact, I don’t like to admit; the success rate of our youngsters doing just that is very, very low indeed…as I’m sure it is for most clubs vying for titles almost every season at the very top of their respective country’s highest league [I’m keen also to add].
But our club – hungry for instant success and to continue to ‘build the brand / project’ at a rapid rate in order to play ‘catch up’ – have also invested in some of the best, top-rated prospects form around the country and, indeed, world.
And I’m not, with that in mind, even going to get all misty-eyed; in that it would have even better, therefore, that a local lad such as George – one who has been with the club since the age of 6 – had made it onto the big stage on a regular basis in a sky blue shirt.
But George WAS one of those at the ‘top end’ of the EDS prospects being talked about by so many ‘in the know’ or, at least, who have a decent footballing knowledge and who had seen him on a fairly regularly basis. Whenever I’d seen him he looked very much a composed, unflappable, graceful midfielder for his age; one who could double as a centre half too.
I wish George all the very best of luck.
Remember Jose Angel Pozo? Remember how he was being drooled over by some as an up & coming prospect after we took him from Real Madrid? Remember, in fact, how he was even used as an emergency striker in the first team for good spells in 3 games when we had a severe shortage up front? A little lightweight, a lot of us thought, but he was only 17/18 at the time. So…he got his first team chances; certainly didn’t disgrace himself at all and, on 31.08.2015, moved to second division Spanish side UD Almeria, where’s he played just 8 games. See ya lad…
Remember Marcos “Rony” Lopes? Now here WAS a player every City fan I spoke to was confident of making it to be a first-team regular! An attacking midfielder come winger built like a bull; low centre of gravity, skilful, determined, creative and with a fair ol’ shot on him too (14 goals in 24 appearances for Portugal’s under 19s being his most productive). He was eventually loaned to Lille OSC in the summer of 2014; a move a lot of City fans applauded and hoped would be a stepping stone to our first team.
In fact, following his return, he was-indeed included in the first team squad. But then it all went ominously quiet regarding the Portuguese prospect and the first noise to come out of the deafening silence was from the player himself; expressing a wish to move back to Lille on loan or, he added, even on a permanent basis!
Worried, but with a sense of “surely not” about it; I hoped, as I think many Blues did, for a loan move to an English Championship side in order to both placate the youngster AND, more importantly, to develop him further. But it never happened…and on 28th August 2015 he was sold to Monaco where he’s played just 3 games for their first team. Bye chuck…
I could probably type for a long, long time about EDS players sold / released over the last 2 or 3 seasons who were once given the ‘very good prospect’ label by so many. But needless to say Jose & Rony were two I had my eye on as players who would one day secure their first team place at Manchester City.
So when George was sold too I was amongst many Blues who started to have a bit of a wobble about what was happening down at the City Football Academy.
And I think the local Manchester Evening News could sense this concern and soon-then published a piece to, perhaps, somehow reassure fans that there were still some excellent prospects (there’s that phrase again!) at the Academy; naming their ‘top 3’ as…
- Tosin Adarabioyo (central defender)
- Manu Garcia (central / attacking midfielder)
- Brahim Diaz (attacking midfielder / winger)
To that list I would also add Cameron Humphreys (central defender), Jose Angel Tasende (named “Angeline” and is a left-back / left wing-back) and Brandon Barker (left winger). More EDS-informed fans that myself may disagree and may well also add a name or three to that list…
Nerves eased? Well not really…because soon after that the same newspaper highlighted a piece from another, this time national newspaper; in which a certain Trevor Brooking – a Director of Football Development in our very own England - was interviewed; and where the ex-England & West Ham United midfielder expressed concerns about a certain Patrick Roberts. Patrick is was an 18-year old, right-wing signing from Fulham (for a rumoured £12M) who, I recall, we had to be quick & robust in our dealings in order to get ahead of some pretty hefty competition for the England youth-international’s signature.
Appearances since? Two subs – one in the 4-1 League Cup win at Sunderland and the second in that awful 4-1 defeat to Spurs in the league.
Having made an impressive 20 appearance for Championship side Fulham – gaining some vital, first-team experience at a level most fans seem to agree is a good ‘testing pot’ for young prospects - I have both heard and read some comments from City fans who have watched him play for the EDS that he can...‘go missing’ in games; particularly those where there’s a bit of ‘rough ‘n’ tumble’ about it. I just can’t comment on the lad to be honest…
But I do share Trevor’s concerns – this season we have seen an AWFUL run of injuries in our first team and, so, if there was to be any chance of our “better prospect” youngster making ‘the step up’ then it was, I’m a little concerned to say, this season.
To finish, I’m definitely not one of those fans or ‘people out there’ [not connected to Manchester City in any way] who is far too impatient for Academy results. In fact, I need to add, whenever I hear a “Journo” become hyper-critical in-spouting, “Where’s the youth?!” I get quite vexed! We’ve not had our new Academy set-up THAT long!
But I can’t deny that, all of the above considered, I am a little concerned as to what the chances are of our fledgling City players making it at the club; a feeling slightly cranked up when I saw a certain Patrick Viera head across the pond (no disrespect at ALL meant to Simon Davies and his staff).
And I have also be pondering in recent days what those chances might be IF a certain Pep Guardiola takes over the first team in the summer. I’ve no idea to be perfectly honest and find, in my lack of knowledge about Pep and “youth”, that I’m clinging onto the fact that he used to manage Barcelona ‘B’ before stepping up to their first team.
This afternoon, I have to note, I'm off to the Academy to watch an EDS Premier Leauge game against...Reading! I wonder if George will be playing for them...
Comments / opinions are most welcome as always…