Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

ACA A DEMY IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS ; City's Youngsters Are Already Coming into Their Own - and Graduating Intothe First Team Squad but Coach Mark Allen Believes There's Still Years to Go

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

ACA A DEMY IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS ; City's Youngsters Are Already Coming into Their Own - and Graduating Intothe First Team Squad but Coach Mark Allen Believes There's Still Years to Go

Article excerpt

CITY will not reap the full benefit of their Academy revolution Academy revolution until the next decade. As the Blues gear up for the move into their stunning new Etihad Campus facility, which begins next week, their future comes into even sharper focus.

And with their under-21 side top of the national league and the under-18s sitting stop the North Group of their league - despite being essentially an under-17 team - it may be seen that the fruits are already ripening nicely.

There is no doubt that the age groups immediately underneath the first team do contain real prospects, with Jason Denayer, Karim Rekik, Devante Cole, Jordy Hiwula, Greg Leigh all out on loan for the next phase of their development.

But Academy head Mark Allen has said all along that the revamped structure would take "nine or ten years" to take full effect.

That is not to denigrate the sterling work done by previous incumbent Jim Cassell and former director Dennis Tueart, who did the spadework for the academy and set many of the principles now being heavily funded and fine-tuned by the new regime.

The club has brought in some of the best young players in Europe, and tried to pick and cultivate the cream of the English crop, focussing as much as possible on the Manchester area.

There are whispers at the club of an 11-year-old who has been compared to Lionel Messi at the same age, although no-one is willing to confirm it - such a billing is not only unfair, it could turn out to be hugely inaccurate.

And it might be tempting, for impatient City fans, to see the achievements of the junior teams, to think that Sheikh Mansour's investment in the academy is already bringing a harvest of excellent players.

Last season's under-21s came agonisingly close in four competitions - they were knocked out in the league title play-offs by Chelsea on penalties, denied a place in the last four of the under-19 Uefa Youth League by an unbelievable performance by Benfica's goalkeeper, and lost in the League Cup and Manchester Senior Cup finals. …

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