Two games in, playing for Stoke City in the Championship, Liam Delap has experienced mixed fortunes. He was on the losing end on his debut against Sunderland, featuring for 75 minutes before being withdrawn. But he played the full match in a 1-0 win away at Blackburn on Saturday.
Although he is yet to find the back of the net, he must be happy to finally be playing regular football at a higher level. The Potters have been struggling recently with five losses in the last eight games. In need of goals, signing Delap makes sense.
If things go according to plan both parties will be the better for it. Already used to scoring loads of goals in the Premier League 2, it’s an opportunity for Delap to step up to the bigger stage. The ultimate goal should be to work his way up into Manchester City’s first team.
But how possible could this be? What does the future hold for the young striker?
The stakes are as high as ever at the Etihad Stadium. With the team now chasing the biggest trophies every season, only the best can play for Manchester City. Although the Academy was set up to bring through fresh talent to the senior team, where such players cannot compete with the quality available in the team or that can be acquired from elsewhere, it presents a big challenge.
If there’s no space in the senior team for the best that the Academy produces, then the players will need to leave in order to get regular playing time. This is necessary for further development in their careers.
And just as has been seen this season where several Academy players left the club on permanent transfers, that may be the case for the foreseeable future unless more players like Phil Foden and Cole Palmer are produced.
Liam Delap's situation is quite interesting having already demonstrated that he could be a very good striker. But with the likes of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez around, his future at the club looks uncertain.
The level of competition is so high at the Etihad Stadium that even the likes of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Alexander Zinchenko had to find new clubs in order to play. The situation is not about to change anytime soon. If anything, the arrival of Haaland and Alvarez raised the stakes even higher.
Manchester City have developed a habit of winning. To keep winning, the team needs to have the best players. And so the best of the best will continue to gravitate towards the club. Unless you can compete, you can’t get a pass just because you come from the academy.
So the challenge for Delap is to prove that he belongs at the level of the senior team. Just a one-year loan may not be enough. It may require two to three years of consistent performance while on loan to show he is ready for the step-up.
And even when that happens, he may still have to settle for a backup role to Haaland or play alongside the goal machine. It’s something that has happened before when City had all of Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez featuring in the same team.
Having Delap in the team could provide squad depth needed to also compete in the Cup competitions like the League and FA Cups. He could also provide cover when Haaland needs a rest or is injured.
So there’s room and a future for the young Englishman at City. But that will depend on his performance in the next couple of seasons.