Despite just a fleeting appearance for City’s first team, Tyrone Mears has gone on to carve out a career in the upper echelons of the game not just in England but also overseas – not bad for someone who was on the verge of becoming a professional rugby league player!
A natural athlete, Mears was mentioned to City’s Academy after being spotted playing for Oldham Schools’ Under 14 side, but it was discovered that he was also being lined up for a career in the oval ball game with Warrington Wolves. He swapped codes to join City and moved through the ranks at Platt Lane to get into the fringes of the first team squad as a right back.
His solitary outing for the senior side came against Nottingham Forest in 2002, where he replaced Stuart Pearce towards the end of the game. He left City that year but he had done enough to catch the eye of several clubs, and he was snapped up by Preston North End.
Despite his strength and athleticism, Mears was troubled by injuries which restricted him to 70 appearances in a four-year stint at Deepdale. West Ham paid Preston £1M for his services in the summer of 2006, but he played just a handful of times, the last of which was as a substitute against City in a crucial away win for the Blues that December.
A loan to Derby County in January 2007 turned into a permanent move six months later, although he could not prevent a Michael Johnson-inspired City beating his new club the following August. Acrimony surrounded a loan move to Marseilles a year later, and after just four appearances for the French outfit Mears returned to Pride Park, only to be sold to Burnley in 2009.
He was an ever-present during the Clarets’ solitary season in the Premier League and he remained at Turf Moor for another year following relegation, but his undoubted talent made it likely that a top-flight club would come calling.
So it proved in the summer of 2011, when he made the short journey from Burnley to Bolton but sadly he was struck down by a piece of cruel luck within weeks of being signed by Owen Coyle for £3M.
A broken leg suffered in training before the season had even begun meant that Mears would be out of action until the new year, but there is every chance that this graduate of City’s Academy can not only recover but go on to give a good account of himself in top flight football once again.