Pep Guardiola has publicly trusted a number of Manchester City’s talented youngsters, and now they have a chance to show him faith is deserved – in the unlikely setting of Scunthorpe United.
City have already given Cole Palmer, Sam Edozie and Ben Knight first-team minutes this season, while Tommy Doyle, Romeo Lavia and James McAtee are practice regulars. Some of this has been applied, but credit goes to these young people for stepping up their efforts.
Speaking after the Premier League win over Norwich – in which Palmer came off the bench to make his Premier League debut – Guardiola confirmed that the forward, along with Liam Delap, McAtee, Lavia, Edozie and Luke Mbete, would all be mainly involved in the composition of the first team this season. Doyle has been named as a ready-to-go player.
He will join players like Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Ben Knight who have secured loans so far, and their departures should give those who remain a chance to impress.
These are players who are now seen as first-team members rather than academy prospects.
On the one hand, the nature of their first-team promotions could limit their playing time with the Under-23s – as Friday’s Premier League 2 win over Blackburn showed. With Palmer and Doyle in the squad against Norwich on Saturday, with Edozie likely on hold, it was left to McAtee and Lavia to pull the U23s through a tough second half to win 4-2.
McAtee had a good hat-trick and Lavia scored a rebound from his own penalty late. The two were rewarded with starring roles in Sunday’s post-Norwich training session.
Now, with the senior squad having a rare midweek time off, the youngsters might have another chance to impress as the Papa John’s Trophy resumes, pitting elite academy teams against opponents from League One and Two.
Last season, City advanced to the round of 16, beating Tuesday opponents Scunthorpe on their way to an unfortunate loss to Tranmere in the second round. Players like Delap, Palmer, Doyle and Harwood-Bellis stood out while playing, while Gomes, Knight, McAtee, Morgan Rogers and Lavia also had the chance to show their talents against seasoned pros.
Delap is set to miss a second trip to Glanford Park in as many seasons due to injury, with City’s contingent potentially very different from the one who left with a 4-0 victory last year.
Players like Felix Nmecha and Adrian Bernabe are gone, while Harwood-Bellis and Knight are on loan. McAtee and Lavia impressed last year, but they could now be the oldest members of a very young-looking EDS squad this season. It is up to them to show that they are ready to become the next beginners of the academy.
If McAtee, Lavia, Palmer, Edozie, Lavia and Mbete (plus Delap and Doyle) are now part of Guardiola’s first team, they might not be assured of being involved in the trophy this season. If they are chosen at Scunthorpe it is an opportunity for them to show the first manager of the squad that they are indeed ready to play against senior professionals every week.
Scunthorpe, 18th and winless in Ligue 2 so far this season, is unlikely to pose the same threat as a Premier League side, but this competition is all about development for academy sides. The tests against League One promotion hopes Doncaster and Rotherham in the other group matches will be a good barometer for the coaches.
Manchester City are aiming big this summer when it comes to transfers as they aim to defend their league crown – and it could be a very exciting summer.
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New Under-23 coach Brian Barry-Murphy, whose last experience in competition was in charge of the Rochdale senior squad, looks forward to the experience of being in the opposing technical zone for the tournament in the name strange.
He said: “It’s a whole different feeling going to Scunthorpe, I’ve been on the other side of the fence so I really understand what it will be like for these guys and it will be a really competitive game against a tough opponent on traditionally very good ground in England.
“It will be a great experience for our players and we will look to continue to build. We have built very well playing Liverpool at [playing Blackburn] and the guys are progressing well physically and it will be great to go and I hope to play as well as we did [against Blackburn]. “
McAtee and Lavia will look to build on their impressive performances against Blackburn, while the other youngsters nominated by Guardiola hope to show why he was right to support them for the academy’s first diplomas.
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