Since the takeover in 2008, Manchester City fans have consistently heard the same jokes involving being an ‘oil club’ and that they can only win because of the money. Meanwhile, hearing the narrative that despite spending over a billion pounds since Sir Alex Ferguson left, clubs like United are all about organic growth and home grown players. Whilst most City fans are smart enough to ignore this, the events of the last couple of weeks could see this jibe put to bed for good.
Last week Joao Cancelo signed a contract extension until 2027 but there were significant extensions involving academy prospects. The highly touted midfielder James McAtee signed an extension as did Joshua Wilson-Esbrand and Oscar Bobb. These extensions highlight an increased desire to tie down future prospects to long term deals, in a hope of replicating the path to the first team taken by Phil Foden.
After Foden, Cole Palmer has been the next significant academy prospect to find his feet in the star studded City side. His impressive performance against Swindon in the FA Cup signalled he is ready for an increase in minutes. He has even been trusted to fill the vacant striker role this season in the Premier League. McAtee’s impressive cameo against Fulham at the weekend further showed City fans that the youth setup is capable of producing first team talents.
Key to their development has been the impressive performances in PL2. City currently lie top of the PL2 table with some impressive individual performances contributing to the fantastic league position. McAtee leads the league in scoring with 16 goals, with Bobb contributing 6 and a league leading 9 assists.
By impressing at the level below first team, the players can have the confidence to perform at the top level. Perhaps the most important factor though is the opportunity to train with the best players. Midfielders like McAtee can learn from likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, with players like Oscar Bobb learning from wide men like Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling. The awareness of the management team to keep the younger players around the first team squad, rather than instantly send them on loan, has paid off before with Foden and can certainly be repeated in the future.
What also helps is the fact that the players can trust in the patience of Pep Guardiola. Despite only making 1 league appearance this season, Guardiola was very keen to praise McAtee after the weekend when he said ‘‘he played exceptionally, he was moving in the right spots and every touch he made the action was better.’’ Pep has also been very complimentary to Palmer after his performances this season. The fact the academy players can trust in the manager to notice their development and bring them on as players means there is far less pressure on the academy players, leaving them to focus on continuing to develop rather than their future at the club.
Hopefully in the coming years we can see more and more academy prospects winning trophies for Manchester City.