Here's some refreshing news from Manchester's Blues: they are taking care of business at home, too. Beyond the pay cheques and the ambition of the first team, City are creating a future of their own. Sheik Mansour's united nations of talent is not the only story emerging from the new regime here.
Drilling it in: City's academy studentsare instilled with football skills and ateam ethos
Since taking over in 2008, Mansour has equipped City with an academy that is, in the words of its head of education and coaching, Peter Lowe, 'second to none'. In the ultra-competitive world of junior football, a £10million investment at the club's Platt Lane site in Fallowfield and careful recruitment of specialised coaching staff have created a world- class environment to develop young footballers aged from nine to 19.
'Pride, passion, professionalism and perseverance', said to be Mansour's four core values, are etched on the wall in the foyer, and the wall of Lowe's office shows a map pinpointing the players' homes. Some of the foreign imports are living with 'City-orientated families' in digs. Others travel from Leeds or Wallasey on the Wirral. All are made welcome.
There is not a snood or a pair of gloves to be seen, despite the cold. 'Only perfect practice makes perfect performance' reads a message on the wall. It is an impressive place in which to grow talent. Lowe, a coach with 10 years' experience and a UEFA 'A' licence, speaks with considerable passion.
'The greater percentage of our boys have received professional contracts and have therefore gone on to have an opportunity to say to the first-team manager, "Have a look at me. Am I good enough?"
'Then, my work is done. Our job is to get them through to Carrington, to give them an opportunity to try to be a professional footballer in this business.'
Watchful eye: head of conditioning Al Stewart (left) and the players relax in the canteen (right)
The club has also set up the 'Cityecademy', which delivers coaching advice online or via an iPhone application. They have already had hits from the USA and Peru. They are taking off.
Lowe said: 'This football business is changing. The Cityecademy is a great example of how it's changing. People all over the world have an opportunity to look at this football club and how we work with those young players. It's something we're very proud of.'
That pride is etched all over Platt Lane. It is there in the way Rod Owen, the kit man, carefully places some of the 250 kits on the wooden shelves. Or how Al Stewart, head of conditioning, explains how the academy's biomechanics experts use slow-motion cameras to analyse a player's 20-metre sprint.
'The age of the street footballer has gone,' Lowe continues. 'Kids don't play out any more. The Manchester clubs have a responsibility to provide facilities and opportunities for these boys.'
As we speak, head coach Scott Sellars is working on passing and then skills coach Kristian Wilson takes over. He incorporates elements of dance into his drills.
Down time: young players find time for pool and PlayStation between sessions
'The two most played sports in Brazil are a martial art called capoeira, which is acrobatic dance, and football, so a blend of the two is a good mix,' he said. 'The English can be robotic and it's all about being big and strong, but we look at the movement aspects.
'Manchester City is the place to be at the moment - like Chelsea was five years ago. We're trying to set something in stone.'
Three of the boys training - Kieran Kennedy, Paul Clowes and Luke Coulson - are on City's 'back fill scheme'. This enables 15-yearolds to take two days off school a week, with City paying for tuition to help them catch up.
Lowe believes an educated player will be a better player. They do not have to be educated in a formal sense, although he says last year's GCSE results were 'outstanding', but he wants 'players who can take on, rationalise and facilitate information and use it under pressure'.
Pass masters: head coach Scott Sellars praises the players after another successful session
The boys can take advantage of the extensive range of performance analysis tools, and learn to look after their bodies with the help of the three full-time physios. Lowe said: 'The players must be intrinsically motivated.
They must learn about success and failure themselves. It's about asking questions and getting answers. We want "response -able" players, players who can make their own decisions.'
It's Wednesday in the academy canteen, which means a roast dinner. Today it's beef with potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and gravy or steamed cod in tomato sauce with salad, cheerfully served up by Cath. There is leek and potato soup, bread, yoghurts and fresh fruit on offer.
It's not all hard work. After eating, some of the lads play pool or PlayStation. Others watch TV. Striker Harry Bunn, 18 today, gets a cake and a rendition of Happy Birthday.
The mood is noticeably relaxed and banter is rife. But there are yet more messages on the walls. 'Fulfilling potential. Achieving greatness.'
Behind the serving counter are two blue boards. 'Academy Graduates' shows the 34 players, including Shaun Wright- Phillips and Micah Richards, who have progressed to City's f i r s t team s ince 1998.
'Academy Internationals' has 10 names, such as Fulham's Dickson Etuhu.
There is a whole crop of players hoping to join those lists.
For more information about Cityecademy, go to: www.cityecademy.com
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Source: Daily Mail
Source: Daily Mail