It’s a real privilege to be travelling with this team in Portugal for the pre-season training camp for many reasons but one of the most rewarding aspects is charting the development of players.
I was fortunate enough to travel with the u15s to Singapore for the Canon Lion City Cup last month and two members of that squad have travelled out with the u18s – namely striker Joe Nuttall and midfielder Tom Holland.
Seeing players step up to mix it with the older, more experienced heads is fascinating and, after seeing them impress in Southeast Asia, it’s no surprise that Joe and Tom have adapted admirably to the physical challenges of playing with bigger players.
Joe was one of City’s stars at that tournament, scoring three goals, including a well-taken brace against Singapore. He is a powerful centre-forward, with pace to burn and a sharp eye for goal.
Tom is a cultured central midfield player, capable of playing with both feet and it’ll be interesting to see him take on the similarly technically proficient Portuguese players in the games against U.D Leira, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon that lie ahead.
Another enlightening aspect of the trip has been spending time with the staff that have accompanied the team on the trip. Without exception, they share a hard-working, committed ethos to the vision that Head of Academy Mark Allen has outlined in his development plan.
Skills coach Kristian Wilson epitomises this philosophy with the enthusiasm he displays at all times throughout the various training drills, a smile never far from his face and a nickname to dish out at every turn (though I'm not telling you mine).
Roy Tunks, the goalkeeping coach on the trip is another lively member of the team. Roy enjoyed an illustrious playing career, making more than 850 appearances for the likes of Rotherham United, Preston North End and Wigan Athletic in a career spanning 32 years.
He then went on to coach as part of Roy Hodgson’s team at Blackburn, before moving on to Newcastle United and Tranmere Rovers. He joined City around 15 months ago and u18 keepers Angus Gunn, Billy O’Brien and Liam Sharpe will know that they are receiving the best possible advice, as well as no end of Roy’s unique and acerbic wit.
The team will travel to Lleira after a light training session this morning where they will take on the local side at 18:30. We’ll bring you a full report on the site shortly after full-time.