Steven McInerney takes a look at City's academy side ahead of the upcoming season
Last year was unequivocally a strong year for the u18s. Buoyed on by the opening of the impeccable City Football Academy, Wilcox's team stole headlines.They were at times glorious, only just pipped to FA Youth Cup success by a powerful, accomplished and ruthless Chelsea side. It could have been a different result, too, had a couple of first choice players been available. The poise, power and skill of Denzeil Boadu and Thierry Ambrose were sorely missed through the middle - both were firing on all cylinders before being unfortunately struck down by season-ending injuries. Perhaps consequently, it didn't quite result in the happy ending it possibly deserved, and Chelsea were deserved winners, but the positives were there for all to see.
The football was marvellous - technically astute, incisive, measured and decorated frequently by a near perfect blend of flair and hard work. It was hugely promising, often fascinating, and arguably the first true indicator of the success that will surely be borne from the meticulous attention to detail the club has paid in developing the academy.
There was downsides, naturally - the league form took a slight hit. A packed fixture schedule, and the club's insistence on testing players up an age level, meant the teams involved in league games were usually peppered with a mixture of very young first year scholars, sixteen year olds basically, and players who were deemed not quite ready for the step up to the u19s or the EDS.
Effectively, though never officially, it created two separate squads. The u18s who played the league games, and the u18s who were involved with the FA Youth Cup matches. There was the odd blurring of lines, of course, and some flitted between the two teams earlier on in the season - notably the centre-back pairing of Tosin Adarabioyo and Cameron Humphreys, Aaron Nemane and Bersant Celina too, but the likes of Maffeo, Angelino, Ambrose, Bryan and Barker, all eligible, were mostly preoccupied with the EDS, the u19s and the FA Youth Cup run.
Others simply moved up as their performances improved. Garcia, Humphreys and Adarabioyo being prime examples, all ending the season with Vieira's u21s. Unsurprisingly, consistency suffered. Results were patchy as very young players, often still schoolboys at fifteen, filled the vacated gaps, leading to some indifferent results - yet all this is part of the process, and all it would have been expected. Regardless, The season was rightly considered a success. Players improved, many stepped up and the transition to the CFA was a resounding success.
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