21st century full-back plots a course for ascension up the age-groups.
City u18s have recovered from their heavy opening day defeat to Chelsea by following up with successive wins over Middlesbrough and Liverpool but, despite this upturn in form, there’s a feeling that the Chelsea match still rankles with the player.
“The team got together and decided we needed to sort ourselves out and the next Monday at training we were all right at it,” he remembers.
“It was hard to pick ourselves up but the coaches were great, they told us to get our heads up and to put it right.”
As well as a talent for conveying complex tactical ideas in simple terms, this “carrot and stick” man management is at the heart of the work Adam Sadler has brought to his role as under-18s manager.
“He’s a good manager because he knows when the right time is to be calm and put an arm around you and the time to show his passion and to get emotional – I think that’s the sign of a good manager,” Ashley declared.
A local boy, snapped up by City as a nine year old, Ashley Smith-Brown has never lost sight of the privileged position he has found himself as a member of the City Academy set up.
“This is my seventh year at City and it still feels amazing to pull on the shirt, even after all this time,” the now-16 year old smiles.
“When I was in the under 8s, they took us into a room and gave us all a yellow piece of paper and said ‘Congratulations, you’re all signed to City for the next two years’ – it was overwhelming.”
Ashley has made swift progress up the ranks at the club, signing on as a first-year scholar this summer and also representing England u17s in the recent St George's Park Tournament a couple of weeks ago.
It’s easy to see why former Arsenal full-backs Gael Clichy and Ashley Cole are two of Smith-Brown’s inspirations when you see the defender in action.
He shares the engine, the explosive pace and the technique which will be familiar to fans of Sunday’s visitors Arsenal.
“I’m an attacking full-back, I like to get up and down - I’d probably describe myself more as a wing-back than a traditional full-back,” he suggested.
“Because of this, the player I most closely model myself on at City is Gael Clichy because the whole left side is his.”
“If there’s an area the coaches want me to improve on, it’s my tactical awareness and positioning but it’s something I’m working hard on all the time, to improve and to be the best player I can be.”
City u18s face Fulham away on Saturday morning at 11am, you can read the full interview with Ashley in Sunday's match day programme for the visit of Arsenal.