There’s not many players that can say they’ve been at City for ten years, but 17-year old James Horsfield can make that claim.
Training with the club since he was six years old, James capped a decade at the club by signing on as a first-year scholar in July and has grown to become one of lynchpins in this year’s City under-18’s team.
“It means everything to pull the City shirt on every week, the club is like a second family to me now,” James said earlier this season.
When his manager Adam Sadler talks about quality and technique needing work ethic and professionalism to prosper, it’s clear he has players like James in mind.
“Horsy”, as he’s universally referred to as, showcased these personal qualities on many occasions this season to become a regular member of the City u18s squad, much to manager Adam Sadler’s delight.
“In the case of James, he’s the proof that if you have quality underpinned with extreme dedication, you get your rewards,” said Sadler after a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in September.
This quality and tenacity has earned James the captain’s armband for the last two games, including the draw with Norwich City where he scored City’s only goal from the spot.
James is far from a flashy player, preferring to keep the ball moving and follow his manager’s instructions, which allows his footballing intelligence to come to the fore.
“I love Adam as a manager, he’s got everyone’s best interests at heart, he’s always trying to push you on to be the best player you can possibly be,” he said.
“For the way Adam likes to play, it’s obvious that ball possession is important, not forcing things and trying to play the game in the right way, quite similar to Barcelona in a lot of ways.
“Central midfield is probably my best position, but if I get in the starting eleven at full-back I’m still happy to play there.”
As part of their footballing education, the performance analysis team encourage the scholars to study the performances of top quality players in their positions, and James doesn’t have to look too far for inspiration.
“I like watching Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell – basically, all the midfielders, they’re all brilliant and it helps to watch what they do and learn from it,” James beamed.
“Garcia is so composed on the ball, he plays everything simply and nicely and he likes a tackle like I do.
“It’s great to be able to look up to so many world-class players.”
City under-18s are next in Barclays u18s Premier League action away to Arsenal on 13 April.