City's Academy Manager brings you the latest on youth developmentLAST WEEK saw the draw for the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup, and our Under-18s will face a trip to Doncaster Rovers next month.
We set the quarter final of the competition as a benchmark every year, as I think all Category One clubs should do. To do that, you have to win three games and this is the first of the three.
For young players, especially going into the second year of their scholarship, it is their big opportunity. I think there is added pressure because of the recent success the club has had in it - it’s a very public competition.
When you play against a Category Three Academy, you’re expecting the teams to be very well organised, very hungry and to have one or two exceptional players. To win the game, the minimum we will need is to match their hunger and organisation. We will then also need to have the best player on the pitch.
We’ve already watched Doncaster twice. We were there to see them beat Peterborough in the last round, and we recognise where their strengths are. They will be looking at our Under-18s and seeing that we are struggling in terms of results, but what they won’t know are the reasons that underpin that.
That will help us, because with their Under-18s, what you see when you watch them play is what they’ve got in terms of their players, whereas with us we always have Under-18s in and around the Under-21s.
We’re under no illusions that it will be a very tough test, however, and a real potential banana skin, but it’s certainly an exciting time of the year for our youngsters.
Our Development Squad are also competing in their own domestic knockout competition – the Under-21s Premier League Cup – and they are set to face Fulham in the last 32.
The only difference between the two is that in the FA Youth Cup, unless there are exceptional circumstances, you always put your best eleven out. In the Under-21s Cup, you have five or six players who are eligible but probably won’t play in that competition; Josh Murphy and Nathan Redmond, for example.
The Under-21s is about different opportunities and different experiences for players. We take all of the U21 tournaments really seriously, but it will always suffer a little bit because of the transitional nature of that group.
Two members of that squad are catching people’s attention out on loan at the moment: Harry Toffolo at Swindon Town and Jacob Murphy at Blackpool.
Harry had a tough year last year compared to the enormous success he had in the youth team, but not only has he come back and done brilliantly for Norwich this season, but that earned him a loan that has suddenly resulted in everyone watching him.
He’s playing in a team that plays a similar style of football to Norwich, he’s been given enormous license to get forward as wing-back in a 3-5-2, and he’s made a real impact. He’s now got himself in the starting eleven and doing very well in the league below where our first team are, and we’re delighted for him.
Jacob’s scored two goals already playing in a central position. That’s good, because often as a winger when your team isn’t doing very well and you don’t see a lot of the ball, it’s very hard to impact on that, so the fact that they are playing him centrally will suit him.
For Jacob to be making headlines in the same division that we’re playing in – I think it means there will be other players in that Under-21s team who will think that it’s fantastic and that there are genuine opportunities, be it via our first-team or out on loan.
We’ve got a planning meeting this week where we’re discussing the Liverpool Under-21s game at Carrow Road in December along with three of the other big games, International Cup and Under-21s Premier League matces.
Hopefully from that, we’ll be able to make some public announcements about what our intentions are for those dates. Our aim is to beat the crowd we had at Tottenham in October in one of those games this season, and if it’s not the Liverpool game, then it could be one of many others.