Greg Cunningham joined an illustrious list of players from the Emerald Isle to represent City when he made his senior debut in January 2010.
An attack-minded left-back also capable of doing a job further up on the flank, Cunningham was recruited from Irish side Mervue United in 2007. He settled in quickly and established himself in the Under 18 side that reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup in 2009. He had also showed an eye for a goal in that cup run, which came complete with a bizarre Irish jig of a celebration.
Stepping up into the reserve team proved not to be a problem, but it was still a surprise when he was named on the bench for the FA Cup tie away to Scunthorpe United a month into Roberto Mancini’s reign as City manager. The Italian had already blooded Dedryck Boyata, and was clearly of the opinion that “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”.
Cunningham replaced Nigel de Jong at half time at Glanford Park, and maybe he had been watching the combative Dutchman a little too closely, as he collected a yellow card within seconds of the restart!
But he acquitted himself well, playing behind the vastly experienced Sylvinho, and he made a couple more brief substitute appearances before the end of the season.
Caps for the Republic of Ireland were a just reward for his progress, and a first start for City came in the Carling Cup defeat away to West Brom the following September. But with Aleksander Kolarov, Wayne Bridge, Pablo Zabaleta and Jerome Boateng in the squad, a loan move was always on the cards and Cunningham teamed up with former Blues boss Sven-Goran Eriksson at Leicester City.
All was going smoothly until a fractured tibia, sustained on New Year’s Day 2011, brought the Irishman’s season to a shuddering halt. Now fully recovered, he has returned to the east Midlands for a loan spell with Nottingham Forest.