Sunday, 25 October 2015

Middlesbrough 1-6 City u18s / u16s 4-2

This was fun. For all the money poured into the CFA, the vast array of extensively scouted talent and all the limitless technological innovations, it's days like these over at Middlesbrough's simple, but welcoming Rockliffe Hall training ground that serve best to define the wonderful work that's happening over in East Manchester. Two of City's very brightest academy teams, the u16s and u18s, put in two performances soaked in character, resilience and no little skill. And all this miles away from the comforts of their new multi-million pound home. It was wonderful to watch - the desire and commitment of both age groups to their footballing principles and education was relentless, unwavering in its belief and execution. Both went behind early on against the run of play, yet both produced stylish, emphatic second halves of football that Middlesbroughs teams simply couldn't handle to clinch comprehensive victories.

It was even more notable too given the ages of the players on display. The u18s named a young team - usual centre-halves Humphreys, Adarabioyo and Kigbu were all not involved, handing 16 year old first year scholar Joe Coveney the chance to make his first start of the season, with the u16s centre-back Joel Latibeaudiere making up the numbers on the bench. They were short elsewhere too, with Patching, Nmecha, Wood, Kongolo and Grimshaw all away on international duty, or seemingly with the EDS for Monday night's trip to Chelsea. It was still an impressive lineup despite the absentees, highlighting the frightening strength in depth City have at this level. Haug started between the sticks and Bullock, Coveney, Oliver and Duhaney made up the back four. In midfield, Jacob Davenport sat while Sadou Diallo and the u16 Tom Dele-Bashiru pushed forward. Isaac Buckley started as the lone striker and Javairo Dilrosun and Paolo Fernandes lined up either side of him. 

10. Tom Dele-Bashiru

After the initial shock, a slip by Coveney gifted their forward a chance that he finished with aplomb, City took control. We were in front at half-time, Paolo Fernandes grabbing a deserved brace for a first half display blessed with magic. His first was sublime, pirouetting away from his marker before promptly walloping home into the roof of the net from just inside the area. The second a little more fortuitous, firing in the rebound from his own saved penalty penalty that Duhaney had brilliantly won, slaloming into the opposition box before being brought down. The second half was totally one-sided. Dilrosun grabbed the third, latching onto a long ball before slotting past the keeper and the fourth followed not long after. Jacob Davenport, far from the biggest player on the pitch, rose highest to head home a Callum Bullock corner, before Bullock picked up another assist, this time for Buckley who nipped in at the front post to divert another corner into the net for the fifth. The sixth and final goal came after brilliant work between Diallo and the late substitute, the 15 year old talent Jadon Sancho. Sancho twice turned his man inside out before laying off Diallo who fired across goal to tee up Faour with a tap in.

It was mightily impressive, and though they all excelled, this was undeniably a defiant and cohesive team effort. Bullock was strong at both left and right back, picking up two assist after switching sides with the increasingly assured Duhaney. Charlie Oliver, the most experienced of the back four , marshalled the defence well. Coveney, his initial slip aside, was a calm presence before he was replaced by the fifteen year old, Joel Latibeaudiere - another from the u16s who will seemingly have no problem stepping up at this level. A tall, elegant player with a clear intelligence and understanding of the game, it was a confident cameo. Defensively, Davenport was superb in midfield, frequently breaking up play and his goal was just rewards for a fine runout. Diallo and Dele-Bashiru dictated proceedings with their usual strength and technical ability, the latter seemingly already a natural at this level despite his tender years. Fernandes was delightful, a real gem. He repeatedly tore their left-back to pieces, scoring two before he was replaced by the equally mercurial Sancho. Dilrosun was an effective outlet on the left and Buckley scored, as he always seems to, as he ran himself into the ground. He's more effective out wide, i'd argue, but he was still involved repeatedly here.

Middlesbrough's Rockliffe Hall Training Ground

The u16s, not to be outdone, matched the u18s, grabbing four second half goals of their own to win 4-2. It didn't all go their way - they headed in 2-0 down at half time against a strong, efficient Middlesbrough outfit. Their heads could have dropped at any point, and it'd have been understandable too given the youth of their team, but a sensational display of attacking football in the second saw them complete a remarkable turnaround to claim the victory. All this despite missing several u16 regulars of their own. Hilton, Dele-Bashiru, Sancho, Foden, Latibeaudiere all weren't involved. Five u15s were - Bobby Duncan, Ellis Sims, Henri Ogunby, Nathaniel Ogbeta and Curtis Anderson. It's testament to their ability that they seamlessly stepped up at this level. They're building character within the walls of the CFA. Not just talented players and potential stars - there's personality too. These are polite, courteous and hard-working young men, coached and brought up the right way.  Credit must go to their coaches, Gareth Taylor with the u16s and Jason Wilcox with the u18s. Both clearly excellent at what they do, they're instilling a belief and intelligence into these players that is rarely seen at this level. Big things beckon, and rightly so. This was a wonderful weekend for the CFA, one that epitomised all the good that is happening behind the scenes at the club. Next up, the EDS face Chelsea live on Sky Sports on Monday night at 5.15. Expect a few u18s regulars to be involved.

U18s Lineup v Middlesbrough 

Friday, 23 October 2015

George Evans - Profile and his loan to Walsall

It's only a month loan deal, admittedly, but given his involvement in and around the first team this year it felt worthy of a follow up. It's been a good few weeks for the youngster. The Mancunian, and devout City fan, broke all kinds of records last month as he finally completed his way along the long and rarely trodden path from the u8s to the first team. He made his debut in the Carling Cup, coming on to replace Yaya Toure as the clock counted down through its final moments. A small teaser, yes, but a nice moment nonetheless. It was deserved too, with his brief forays in the first team friendlies highlighting his naturally elegant playing style, a style seemingly at ease with the technical requirements of the way the club plays. He's a highly accomplished footballer, and having tasted football last year on loan with Scunthorpe and Crewe the year before, sticking with the EDS didn't seem an option.

City clearly agreed. On Tuesday morning he confirmed a one month loan deal with Dean Smith's Walsall. He wasn't the first to City youngster either to step out for the midlands club, with Jordy Hiwula, now moved on and currently at Wigan, also spending time there to great effect last year. The real surprise came from his immediate involvement in first team affairs. Less than 24 hours after hearing of the move he was named in the starting lineup as Walsall faced Barnsley away from home - a baptism of fire, yet one he came through with his usual, nonchalant ease. He scored the opener, twisting well inside the area to fire home and set Walsall on their way to a 2-0 victory. He impressed too with his composure and general all round play in an assured and encouraging debut. Walsall, thankfully, play good football and its a young team too - one with a welcoming environment. Hiwula was treated well by Smith last season and the early signs are Evans will be made to feel equally at home.

Evans' debut goal for Walsall.

This move could be a vital part of his development. A tall, graceful player, adept at spreading play and capable of a long range screamer, he's a lovely footballer - but one with nothing new to learn in the EDS. Young players need professional football, and Evans is no exception. Though he may not be a headline grabber like some of our other academy players, there is likeable confidence to his game. He could go either way potentially, and the only we'll ever to realise that will be by affording him the opportunities he needs. I'm a firm believer that you never quite know, until you know, so to speak. You have to give players that opportunity to see how they adapt in a certain environment. Anything else is guess work - educated guess work, yes, but guess work nonetheless. Some players will go up a level unexpectedly, and others who you would presume would be dead certs, simply don't, slipping through the net as they don't quite adapt to then professional game and more testing environment. It's an impossible formula, hence a long list of failed wonderkids, and on the flip side, unexpected late bloomers and surprise stars.

Evans is one of many that could quietly work his way in, given an opportunity. Two, three, four games one season, ten to fifteen the next and before you know it he's 22 and playing close to 30 as a reliable squad member. A year later, a regular first team player, just like that. The game is littered with players who take a similar path, and it always will be. It might not happen, but it is possible and that potential scenario should always be thoroughly considered by the club before any decision is ever made, with all the youngsters. Not every player in the squad has to be a star, and there is no shame in using youth players to 'do a job' while they develop, standing in for senior players who need a rest. Ferguson was a master at it, though we'd hate to admit it. The likes of Brown, Fletcher and O'Shea being prime examples. Good, talented footballers that knew the club inside out, gave their all and grew into their roles as years progressed, eventually making the club a small fortune as they were sold on. They saved the club millions of pounds in potential transfer fees too. Bellerin and Coquelin at Arsenal spring to mind as modern day examples, now regulars at the Emirates having served a protracted apprenticeship. Why can't Evans follow suit?

"Stop it, George Evans..."

Like many around him at the CFA, Evans is very talented, but as he's surely aware, he has a hugely difficult task ahead of him. In another era he'd perhaps be a regular for City already, but the barriers to entry at the Etihad are considerably greater these days, and rightly so - but they shouldn't be out of reach. Some players simply improve amongst better players. Its not unheard of. Technical ones in particular. His style of game could be unappreciated in the lower tiers of the English league, where the emphasis perhaps isn't always on the more subtle side of the game. That's not always the case, no, and technical players of course do sometimes excel, but even if his loan spell at Walsall isn't as fruitful as one would like, that doesn't necessarily mean the door should be closed on him. Walsall are not Manchester City. The two clubs will work differently and they will play differently. He will need time to adapt, which he won't get given the brevity of the loan spell, and if he doesn't it isn't the end of the world. Evans should know that if he doesn't already. The signs are already promising, but caution and a little luck is needed. Fingers crossed this move is a success for him. He truly deserves it. As ever there will be updates throughout the loan spell on here.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

UEFA Youth League - City 1-1 Sevilla

A frustrating game. To be truthfully honest, this was a match that City should have won at a canter, despite Sevilla's impressive start to the Uefa Youth League campaign marking them out as a team to be cautious of. A combination of their defensive organisation, our own profligacy, the miserable, dreary weather and some strange tactical decisions eventually took the game away from us. It should have been plain sailing. City were, by and large, the better team and controlled possession for extended spells of play. As it was, we only went in 1-0 up at the break. The goal came from Ambrose who bundled home from close range, via his shoulder no less, after a well worked set piece involving Aleix Garcia and Patrick Roberts. The second half was a niggly, scrappy mess and a few changes, notably an odd one that saw Kean Bryan shifted back to fullback, invited Sevilla back into the game. It came as no surprise when they eventually equalised, exploiting some defensive hesitancy between Adarabioyo and Maffeo to put their forward through on goal who fired past Grimshaw.

Despite City's best efforts, there was no late drama to be found and the game petered out long before the referee blew the whistle in what was a rather forgettable 90 minutes. It promised much more too - there was some notable performances. Kean Bryan was excellent. A strong, powerful presence, he looked commanding in the midfield, marshaling the centre of the pitch with a real authority. I've said it a thousand times before, but it's worth repeating. He's a holding midfielder, and a very good one too, not a centre-back. His all round game is wasted in defence - he can pass well, notably picking out Nemane with some great defence splitting through-balls, and he covers a lot of ground, breaking up opposition attacks with an impressive understanding of the game. He could step into professional football now and excel, easily. Alongside Aleix Garcia, who had a good game too, already noticeably better defensively than when he first arrived, he dictated proceedings and it was the breaking up of that partnership that eventually told and invited Sevilla back into the game. Manu Garcia started off brightly before fading, and neither winger had their most effective display. Nemane tried but struggled to get the beating of his man and Roberts lack of game time told, constantly making the wrong decision as he tried to do too much when given the ball. He guilty of wasting a glorious chance after being put through on goal by Manu Garcia that should have put it beyond Sevilla, but his rustiness was understandable.

Kean Bryan
Ambrose, despite his goal, wasn't quite at his best. That pre-injury form that marked him out as a genuinely exciting player last year has deserted him recently. Understandable given everything, and it will surely come, but he's wasteful at the moment, uncharacteristically so. Typically though, there was no questioning his effort. Defensively it was a relatively competent performance until the changes took their toll, leaving gaps at the back. Oddly, Maffeo was stationed in the middle of defence and the u18s regular, Charlie Oliver, was shunted out to the right, despite nominally being a central defender. Both performed competently however, with Maffeo in particular showing his ever-growing seniority at this level, coolly bringing the ball out from the back. Oliver did well, but he's not a natural out wide and doesn't possess a full-back's natural forward instincts. Adarabioyo was strong and measured and Duhaney had a solid hour before he was replaced, one that should have seen him register an assist, Ambrose poorly heading a gilt-edged chance wide unopposed. Grimshaw had little to do in goal, though there was some hesitant moments with the ball at his feet with the conditions no doubt proving a hindrance. 

Faupala's introduction was a strange one - we brought him on the right wing, and given that he's a traditional centre-forward it left the team a little lop-sided, especially seeing as Ambrose was left through the middle - a player that excelled at time's last year in this competition as a right-winger. The much-hyped Spanish wonderkid, Brahim Diaz, finally made his competitive academy debut. Now free of the eligibilty red-tape issues, it was nice to see him make his first appearance, though it wasn't to be a fairy tale introduction at this level. He rarely received the ball, and when he did he was immediately crowded out by several Sevilla players. He needs time, which he will get. Encouragingly his attitude seems fantastic, chasing back and winning a few challenges in his own-half. Not something you always get from prodigiously talented forwards. The third and final change, Kongolo for Garcia, was relatively functional - an attempt at undoing some of the damage that had been caused by shunting Bryan back into defence. It was left late though, and there was no real time for the Dutch youth international to make an impact.

Manu Garcia
Overall, not the finest of nights at the CFA, but it will happen. Patching and Humphreys, both away on England international duty, were sorely missed and a few players were out of sorts on the night. It still felt avoidable though, and you do wonder if the decision to move Bryan into defence, when he was clearly winning the midfield battle, proved too costly. We were comfortable, not really threatened and strolling towards another deserved three points before the change was made and we gifted them the ball. Unnecessary, but lessons will surely be learned. Next up for the u19s is the return leg in two weeks time - a game that will hopefully be streamed online on UEFA's YouTube channel. Before that the u18s face Middlesbrough on Saturday and the EDS are up against Chelsea on Monday night. Both are away, but i'm holding out hope that at least one will be shown live. If so, i'll post a link over on my twitter

Sunday, 11 October 2015

City u18s 6-1 Newcastle

This was a comprehensive and exciting victory. It ended 6-1, but it could have been more as City pressed forward relentlessly from the first minute to the last. After last week's first loss of the season to Everton, this was a welcome return to form and, excitingly, it felt like a tantalising glimpse of the future too. It was a changed team, enforced by absent regulars, and two fifteen year olds, both stars of the all-conquering u16s side, were handed starting places. Jadon Sancho, a precociously talented left-winger, only 15 in March and already a headline maker earlier in the year, made his first ever start at this level, and Tom Dele-Bashiru his second, his first coming last season in a relative dead rubber as the season wound down. They were simply brilliant, and both were huge parts of a devastating attacking performance that left Newcastle dead on their feet long before half-time.

We were two up within five minutes, both coming from the wonderkid, Sancho. Picking the ball up on the inside left position, each time he ran directly at the right back, and each time he left him for dead with consummate ease before firing home. Perhaps the keeper could have done better with both, but the goals were just rewards for a display blessed with magic. Comically, and brilliantly, one particular moment saw an attempt to double mark him fail so miserably that their number 4 was left so unbalanced he walked off in entirely the wrong direction, giving up through sheer exasperation. Magical stuff. He plays like a Brazilian, a real street footballer. It's no surprise to hear he idolises Neymar either. Stylistically it's uncanny - both dance with the football, shimmying this way and that, taking sheer pleasure out of habitually embarrassing their opponents. Satisfyingly though, there was a end product to the trickery and a real intelligence to his game too. It was evident in his involvement in the third as he linked up with the impressive Duhaney who broke into the area before teeing up Paolo Fernandes at the back post to fire into the roof of the net.

11. Sancho

The fourth came not longer after the second half began, Lukas Nmecha capitalising on a sloppy back pass to break away and toe-poke the ball past the onrushing Newcastle keeper. He grabbed the fifth too in another impressive display, pulling rank to fire past the keeper as a mild tussle for the ball had broken out after the referee had awarded City a penalty, with Sancho understandably keen for a hat-trick chance. Duhaney had earned the spot-kick, brought down in the area after his pace saw him reach a loose ball first. Newcastle grabbed one back but it was left to late sub Isaac Buckley to give the scoreline the gloss it deserved at the final whistle. He picked the ball up on the right and ran directly at the left-back, twisting both ways before rifling home past the keeper from just inside the area. A trademark finish, and a fitting ending to a performance blessed with skill, pace, intelligence and a real healthy arrogance. This was hugely enjoyable and thoroughly deserved.

Individually it was hard to see past Sancho, a real headline grabber, but there was contributions all over the pitch. Tom Dele-Bashiru was fantastic. Raw round the edges still, naturally given his age too, he's already quite clearly something of a beast. His acceleration in the centre of midfield from a standing start is devastating. From nothing to full tilt in the drop of a hat, he frequently shifted through the gears to drive past several challenges. When you mix that strength and pace with excellent technical ability its almost unstoppable, and it caused Newcastle all manner of problems. He's some player, and a regular spot in the u18s beckons long before the season's out. Alongside him Diallo was a monster. This was a performance of real seniority, equally effective snuffing out attacks as he was driving forward, he showed a real touch of class in a game where City were in total control from the first minute to the last. Davenport alongside them was a quiet, authoritative figure, frequently snapping into tackles before Newcastle had any chance to build anything, and Paolo Fernandes was a tricky nightmare, darting frequently at their defence with his usual impish delight.

Duhamey, Dele-Bashiru & Buckley
Defensively it wasn't the most testing of days, but what little the centre-back pairing of Charlie Oliver and Tosin Adarabioyo had to deal with, they did with an almost arrogant ease. Adarabioyo was a man mountain. He looked a class above at this level, a real leader too. It was a captain's performance from the off and he looked equally comfortable, unsurprisingly given his natural ability on the ball, when he was asked to spend twenty five minutes in midfield as Joe Coveney made a solid cameo at centre-back. Duhaney was excellent. Starting on the left, he also spent thirty minutes in the right-back role when Callum Bullock, who was once again a solid presence, was replaced by the young left-back Lewis Blackshaw. Duhaney was a threat, darting forward repeatedly and linking up well with Isaac Buckley down the right. He was equally effective on the left too, forming a natural partnership with Sancho within minutes. Buckley's cameo was devastating, yet again. He scored, as he always seems to these days, and was a persistent handful against Newcastle's tiring legs.

All this and without several regulars this year. Two of the standout players for the u18s, Will Patching and Marcus Wood are away with England on international duty. Dilrosun, Kongolo and Kigbu weren't in the match day squad and Isaac Buckley and Zack Faour only made the bench - the former an unused sub. When you consider that Aaron Nemane and Humphreys have both played at this level this year too and the much-hyped Spanish star Brahim will also soon be eligible then it really starts to sink in how deep the talent pool is at the CFA. This is a remarkable group, and a group that is only going to improve too. There's a whole host of the u16s that could step in and excel at this level, with Sancho and Dele-Bashiru's performances offering a glimpse at the untapped potential we have seemingly on tap. Campbell, Foden, Bolton, Smith to name just a few. The u16s won again by the way, if there was any doubt. 5-1 v Newcastle. Campbell scoring a hat-trick, Phil Foden grabbing a goal and a Brazilian u17 trialist from Corinthians grabbing the fifth. A remarkable day at the CFA, but that's becoming the norm these days. Next up, excitingly, is the u18s derby this Friday night. It's at the CFA academy. As ever, a report will follow on here.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

CFA weekend roundup - EDS, U18s & the U16s.

Not the most constructive of weeks for the academy. The EDS and the u18s both went down 3-1, ending Jason Wilcox's unbeaten start to the Barclays u18s Premier League campaign, and adding further misery to the EDS' difficult start to the season. The EDS played Leicester at the CFA and from the off It was a frustrating game for Vieira's men. They largely controlled possession, as ever, but as always seems to happen at this level, they went behind to the opposition's first real chance. A simple hoofed cross saw Leicester's beanpole of a striker out jump Kean Bryan to nod back across the goal into the far corner. Too easy. They scored another not long after, a deflected shot from twenty yards left Ian Lawlor stranded. There was a momentary fight-back, David Faupala brilliantly firing in from just outside the area in the second-half, but it didn't last long. Leicester immediately responded with an even better strike - a twenty five yarder, perfectly angled into the top left hand corner. From then on out, City huffed and puffed, creating a few decent chances but it finished 3-1 to the visitors in what was, truthfully, an uninspiring and relatively confusing watch.

There had been brief glimmers of hope last time around, the EDS stuffing Middlesbrough 5-1, but this was a vastly different team and it at times felt a little confused. A collection of players, not necessarily a team, with many out of position and no real shape. Bryan and Maffeo lined up in defence, and though neither were awful, both are better elsewhere and it told. Tattum and Smith-Brown couldn't really get into the game in the full-back roles and the game sadly passed Manu Garcia by a little. The ineffective Glendon was replaced at half-time for Nemane, who did add energy and drive - his usual zestful self basically, but the team lacked spark around him. It didn't happen for Thierry Ambrose either, snatching at chances and looking a little clumsy at times - he's still not reached peak form yet. The player of last season before his injury was a different beast altogether. That will come though, surely. Aleix Garcia was neat and tidy, though perhaps never really as in control as much as he would've liked to be, and Celina scuttled about on the left looking to create whatever he could - both found it tough. It was a frustrating afternoon and even the late addition of birthday boy Brandon Barker struggled to provide that necessary killer edge.

The u18s didn't fare much better, but this was a totally different set of circumstances. It was a bitterly cold morning at Everton's training ground. A frosty, biting wind spread across Everton's open and sprawling Finch Farm training ground - City's luminous third kit contrasting beautifully with what was the Autumnal of Autumnally possible days. It was bloody cold, and it didn't help City that Everton were up for it. They're good, the Merseysiders. They were unquestionably the better team in the first 45, pressing high up the pitch and creating several good chances with some strong, intelligent attacking play. They were second at the start of the day and it wasn't hard to see why, and it didn't help that City were far too generous defensively. They took advantage of City's indecision to go in two nil up at half-time. Their first goal was too easy. A corner headed in unchallenged from six yards out, bang centre of the goal. The second wasn't much better either,. Ciity hopelessly tried to clear a free-kick before it was eventually rifled into the roof of the net. There was chances at the other end, the ineffective Zack Faour really should have done better after a great counter attack involving Dilrosun and Diallo, but they went in deservedly behind.

The second half saw a fight-back of sorts. City started to dictate possession. The introduction of Nmecha and Patching told a little as City enjoyed some good spells in Everton's half, and there was some nice play by Fernandes as the little Spaniard starting to get more involved, yet Wilcox's team were hit by a sucker punch at the other end. Some uncharacteristically slack play from Marcus Wood gifted Everton the ball deep in our half and they promptly took advantage, firing a third past the stranded Haug. Credit where it's due, City's heads didn't drop and there was time for a simply wonderful goal from Lukas Nmecha. A beautiful solo effort, curled into the far left hand corner after he'd jinked and twisted past a handful of Everton players. It wasn't enough though and it finished 3-1 on a rather forgettable day. There wasn't much individually - the centre-back pairing of Oliver and Kigbu wouldn't have been best pleased with their displays. The latter in particular overcommitting a few times and being caught out of position. Bullock had a torrid time in the first-half in particular up against Everton's flying Bramall, and though they toiled, Fernandes and Dilrosun were not their usual incisive selves. Duhaney was competent, if quiet, and Davenport was overrun at times. Wood and Diallo, the former eventually ending up at CB after a switch around, struggled to control the game. By no means bad, but they were up against a good team. A hungry team that simply had a better day,, but that was to be expected at some point. They remain top of the league going into next week's derby at the CFA. I cannot wait for that.

The u16s continued their remarkable form. They were on the pitch behind the u18s and I managed to catch fifteen minutes of them during the half-time break - you can see them in the background in fact on the video highlights linked above. They were irresistible. They utterly destroyed what is, allegedly, a competitive and strong Everton side at this level. 7-1. An unstoppable machine. I managed to catch a few minutes at half-time due to overlapping times and I caught a few goals. The best being a simply marvellous curling effort from the pint-sized, but technically wonderful, Phil Foden. Luke Bolton grabbed a hat-trick from the right wing and Jadon Sancho, starting out as a centre-forward in the absence of Tyrese Campbell who was on international duty with England's u17s, scored the other three. It was a destruction. Tom Dele-Bashiru is a beast. He's stepped up to the 18s this year already, like Sancho, and it's not hard to see why. He looks a level above all at that age. Strong, fast, technically great. A complete midfielder. Matt Smith alongside him is equally everywhere. They all are. It's an impressive bunch. Several will surely make their debuts for the u18s before the season is out, and with players such as Nmecha and Patching now starting to make an impact at the EDS level opportunities will be there for them. Long before that, and this weekend, there's another game for the u18s. Newcastle at home. There's a rumour that Brahim Diaz has finally received his international clearance and may be eligible for inclusion. I seriously hope so. Fingers crossed. There will be a report on here on Saturday evening either way.

As an aside, I appeared on two videos this week for BlueMoonRising TV talking to Adam about the various EDS loanees, and the academy team's performances this year so far. Enjoy my emotive, rambling missives, if you like...

EDS Loans 

EDS, u19s & u18s

Monday, 5 October 2015

Football Blogging Awards

Hello. Somehow, and I think I've managed to con someone along the way, I've been nominated for 'Best New Blog' at the Football Blogging Awards. This is obviously really, really welcome. I only started this as a hobby and didn't expect anyone to really care. Some people seemingly do, and that's nice. Cheers all. If you fancy validating my ever-increasingly emotive and impassioned ramblings a little more, then you can follow the links here and vote for me:

Via Twitter || Via their website

All votes count up until midnight on October 30th. Thanks!

Also, bit of a heads up for this week. I've been lucky enough to be asked to appear as a guest on BBC Blue Tuesday this week, alongside Ian Cheeseman and, conveniently BlueMoonRising TV's Adam Keyworth. I'll be recording a couple of videos with Adam too. There should also be reports up of the u18s and EDS from this weekend in the next couple of days. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

MCFC September Loan Report

Following the preseason exploits of many involved with the first team over the summer, and indeed the individual achievements of many in the EDS and u18s last year, it was always likely that a few of our most promising players would seek first team football on laon this year. And so it proved, with Angelino, Enas Unal, Olivier Ntcham, Seko Fofana, James Horsfield, Shay Facey, Jason Denayer and Jack Byrne all  leaving the club temporarily to further their development. In what will hopefully be a regular monthly series, this is the first attempt at tracking their progress at their new clubs. Naturally, i've not been able to watch all their appearances, but i've followed their progress the best I can. At the end of their respective loans there will be more in-depth pieces, with hopefully some insight from fans of the clubs involved, which I tend to find offers a more realistic view of their performances compared to what little you can dig up on various forms of social media or highlight reels. For now though, here's September's edition.

Olivier Ntcham - Genoa

After signing a huge five year contract in the summer, Ntcham departed the club in an interesting set of circumstances. A two year loan to Genoa, with a purchase option at the end of the spell. Odd on the surface, but it makes sense. Firstly, twenty-four months is substantial and Genoa can really commit to the player. He's there for two seasons, and it feels like he can fully integrate into their squad without the looming presence of departure on the horizon. It adds incentives for both the club and the player to settle down and push forward together. The purchase option is neither here or there, seeing as City have a marginally higher buy-back option they can activate if they need too. If we had to make a 2 or 3 million loss to buy back him then would it really be a big deal after Genoa had turned a player into a potential star for us over two years? Of course it wouldn't. In fact most clubs would bite your hands off if the could guarantee a hugely beneficial loan for the rather measly sum of a few million. It's a drop in the ocean at City, let's be honest. It's something i'd expect to see more of over the coming years.

Encouragingly, he's taken to life in Italy exceptionally on the field. One of Genoa's shining lights so far. Situated in a whole variety of positions, left-wing, centre mid and even as false 9 he's impressed with his bullish, direct and powerful displays. It's not really surprising, because that ability was always hinted at, yet at the same time it is. Ntcham lurched from the ridiculous to the sublime frequently for the EDS. One minute a behemoth, powering through midfield and striking one in from twenty-five yards, the next Joey Barton's slightly confused brother. But bigger. Consistency was his problem, never his ability. There was promising signs in the post season friendly for the first team v Toronto. There was an immediate arrogance when he entered the field of play, driving forward with a brashness you don't usually associate with kids making their debut. He seems to have carried this into professional football. Genoa are renowned for giving youth a chance, and the signs are good. He'll be a regular, and the sky really is the limit. Genoa are a good team, and he's appeared six times for them already, in a tough league. This has been a good month for the young French midfielder, and (clearly over the top) Pogba comparisons have been made already. If he continues this form up for the rest of the year then we could witness something special when he eventually returns.

James Horsfield - Doncaster Rovers

Only recently announced, the right-back/midfielder moved to Doncaster Rovers this week for a month. It came out of nowhere, but it's not a bad move at all. Horsfield is a good, competent footballer - one that will surely build a career for himself in professional football. Personally i'm of the opinion that amongst the huge number of supreme talents we have at the club, he's a lot further down the list for a chance. The barriers to entry at City are vast, and it takes something special these days to even get a place on the bench. He may have just missed the boat at City, there's no shame in that, but sending him out on loan for experience before any decision is taken, presumably at the end of the season, is a good decision. He immediately was thrown in at the deep end at his new club, handed his professional football debut as Doncaster drew 2-2 with Swindon Town. He started at right-back, and according to what I could find online, impressed the home fans with his energy and commitment as he shuttled forward with confidence. Fingers crossed it'll be the first of many appearances.

Shay Facey - New York City

He's been at New York City for a while now, and if i'm being honest, he's been mixed, though arguably there hasn't been much he could've done about it. New York City have at times been a relative shambles defensively, and while Facey is clearly a nice footballer - neat, technical with a good turn of pace, he's not developed a huge amount over in the United States. Perhaps he would have suited playing alongside a more assured partner. Someone with the nous and required experience to drill into the youngster the necessary tools of the trade, someone to learn from. As it is, its felt like something of a relative free for all at the back as NYCFC have shipped goal after goal. There has been some good moments, and he's made some nice challenges, but given the current plethora of defensive options the club has at youth level - Adarabioyo, Humphreys, Oliver, Kigbu, Denayer out on loan, not to mention the first team options, maybe we'll see him move on when his loan expires. It would be a shame, as he left the club with a strong reputation having formed a formidable partnership with Denayer at youth level - a regular and valuable member of Vieira's EDS. There's hope still, obviously, but he needs to become a whole lot stronger and more decisive. Experience in a more demanding, organised surrounding will benefit him greatly. Fingers crossed that will come.

Jack Byrne - SC Cambuur

Following decent, successful spells for Rusnak and Bytiqi last year in the Eredivise, City sent the Irish youth international to Cambuur to experience first team football after a hugely promising twelve months for City in the EDS. He was great at times last season under Vieira's tutelage. A decisive, intelligent attacking midfielder, he notably excelled in the UEFA Youth League, grabbing a bagful of goals before City exited in the Quarter-Final stages. First team football was the natural progression. Sadly, it's been a frustrating start so far for the Irish youth international. He was unfortunately the victim of a whole host of niggling injuries that set back his progress. He only recently recovered, yet he was immediately thrust into the limelight, making his debut as Cambuur struggled against Twente. He was relatively innocuous, understandably given the new environment and the injuries. His second game was much more encouraging, impressing in the number ten role as Cambuur were unlucky to go down 3-2 to PSV. He drew plaudits with his aggressive, cultured style, earning another call up for the Irish u21s. If his progress continues I wouldn't be surprised to see him earn a place in the full Irish squad. They're watching him, and rightly so. With a little luck we could have a real player on our hands. City will be watching his development closely.

Jason Denayer - Galatasary

Unsurprisingly, Denayer's taken to life in Turkey like a duck takes to water. Easy. He's a rolls royce of a footballer, one that could excel absolutely anywhere, regardless of the pressure or the circumstances. He made his debut against Atletico Madrid in the champions league situated at centre-back, yet filled in at right-back as Galatasary made changes. A hugely testing scenario, yet he was simply excellent. Cool, composed, measured. Nothing fazed the young Belgian defender, as nothing ever does. Of all the players on the pitch - Koke, Griezmann, Sneijder and so on, he still managed to come away with the highest passing stats, despite playing in unfamiliar positions, on his debut. 68 passes with a 94% pass rate. He showcased some utterly sublime skill too, confidently striding out of defence, building attacks from deep. He's carried on since then with his same, unflinching brilliance. He's mainly started at right-back, and he's taken to it with ease. He could play anywhere given his technical ability, pace and reading of the game and I wouldn't be surprised if Galatasary work out before the season ends that he could star in midfield too. He's grabbed an assist and proven a solid, strong option so far, and this can only be a good thing. He should be at City this year anyway, unquestionably, but he's learning yet another position and, thankfully, improving even further. If City mess this up he'll be first choice for Bayern or Barcelona in two years. He's that good.

Seko Fofana - Bastia

Like Denayer, he was another with experience already. He had a mixed spell at Fulham last year, with the cottagers fans praising his work ethic and general likable approach to the game, but criticising his lack of composure when it really mattered - his touch frequently letting him down in the rough and tumble of the Championship. Nevertheless, he was a solid squad member, and another loan spell this year seemed the logical decision. He moved to Bastia for the duration of the season. Early signs suggest a move to his homeland would seem to suit him. Ligue 1 has traditionally been a solid finishing school for young, talented midfielders, and City will hope for something similar here. Like Ntcham, there's no questioning his latent talent. It's there, in abundance, but it could go either way. Time will answer that question, but the signs so far are positive. Bastia fans and the local press have singled out his maturity as he's been deployed in a deeper role at times, keeping things ticking over. Yet he's still found time to burst forward on occasion, and he's started every game for the club, most recently as Bastia turned over Toulouse 3-0. He'll be a regular in his preferred position, as opposed to out wide where he was often shunted to a to Fulham, and it will surely be beneficially to his long term development. 

Enas Unal - Genk

Having only signed in the summer, the young Turkish forward was immediately farmed out on loan to Belgian club Genk. Work permit issues, apparently. Either way, he was handed the number 9 shirt and he'll most likely be something of a regular this year. He's made a handful of appearances so far, yet most were from the bench. He did however manage to score ten minutes into his first start, diverting a header past the keeper during Genk's 5-2 win over Dessel Sport. Still only eighteen, there's plenty of time to establish himself in the Belgian Pro League. Having made his first start and scored his first goal, October should be a much more fruitful month for the striker.

Angelino - New York City

I don't fully know what to make of Angelino's performances so far at NYCFC. While there has been moments of clear excitement, without a doubt, part of me is admittedly hugely underwhelmed by his loan spell. I'll hold my hands up, I was excited about the prospect of seeing him play professional football alongside the likes of Pirlo, Villa and Lampard, but as the season's progressed i've been increasingly uncertain about the benefits of the MLS to his development. He started well - a sprightly, intelligent presence. The Angelino of the EDS. Threatening going forward, and though a little lapse defensively, he was everywhere as he shuttled down the left with his trademark effervescence. It was momentary though. As time's gone by that spark seems to have faded a little, as has that energy. It could be a whole host of circumstances - he's not really had a break since last August. He's played through consistently, and though he does have energy on tap, seemingly, he is only human. He will be tired. There's also the expectation. NYCFC have been, by and large, a disorganised mess. It can affect a player's confidence. As mentioned with Facey earlier, he could have done with playing alongside players of experience, intelligence and defensive leadership. He hasn't. 

He's looked poor defensively, and worryingly, a liability. Far from the level required for City at the moment, and he was previously 'decent' at that side of things. It's regressed on that front. Thankfully, the talent is clearly still there. He's looked excellent going forward, grabbing a whole host of assists, linking up well with Villa and Lampard in particular. It's no coincidence that the MLS club have brought him on as a left-winger recently. He remains a left-back, as that's his natural position, but he needs something else for his own development. NYCFC are too primitive at the moment - the club is taking its baby steps and that consistency isn't there and, in hindsight, which is always a wonderful thing, perhaps its not been the best of moves for him. Yes, he's got football, but in a rather odd league. A league where defensive stability isn't really a thing. And that was the thing that he needed more than most. When he returns he needs to move to a league in Europe. That will surely happen too as he is a fantastic prospect. A very good footballer with remarkable technical ability, yet he'll need to be vastly more well-rounded to take the step up to City's level. It is easy forget however that's he's only eighteen still. Incredibly young. He will have learned something from this move, but perhaps not what was intended.