Joe Nuttall is determined to put a frustrating year behind him as he seeks to take the next step in his fledgling football career.
The 17-year-old has spent the entirety of the 2013-14 campaign on the sidelines with a spinal fracture, and has been unable to play a single competitive minute in his first year as an Academy scholar.
However, while the youngster admits he has found the season difficult, he’s determined that the experience will drive him on to achieve higher targets and hopes to be fit in time to prove himself in pre-season.
“It’s been really hard, seeing everyone else training and playing, while I’ve had to miss out and not had a chance to develop. It’s really frustrating,” he revealed.
“But I think I’ll have extra motivation to work really hard and impress in pre-season, so I can get going quickly next year.”
Keen to prevent stagnation, the Academy offer those with long-term injuries the chance to get involved with other aspects of the game, and Nuttall feels he has benefited from the opportunity to spend time with the sports analysis department.
“It’s been good to have a chance to start something new, but maybe we could change it up a bit more, do a few weeks of analysis and then a few weeks of recruitment,” Joe reflected.
“But it’s been really good for me. Now when I go to watch training, instead of just watching it as someone who wants to watch football, I can understand a bit more of what Jason is trying to get the team to do.”
A strong, powerful striker who excels in the air and possesses a cool finish, Joe was spotted early and has been scoring goals in a City shirt for over eight years.
“I first started playing football properly when I was about eight and I was brought into the academy almost immediately. I’ve been here ever since!”
Able to hold his own against players older and physically bigger than himself, Joe made his debut for the under-18s in September 2012, while still only 15 years old.
The youngster made a sensational start, finding the net within minutes of coming on against a strong Liverpool side to seal an impressive 2-0 victory for the Blues against the Merseysiders.
He smiled: “I think it was more special because I was playing up an age group and I scored pretty much straight away. I was nervous because I had never played with those lads before but then my goal took the pressure off a bit.
“It gives me extra confidence that I was able to score for the under-18s when I was still under-16, because when I come back next season I will be a second year, so a lot of the players will actually be younger than me then. It gives me confidence I will be able to do well and hopefully I can still score lots of goals.”
Weeks after making his first start for the under-18s, Joe found out he had won a coveted scholarship place, earning the chance to become a full-time footballer at City.
However, he is quick to point out that the hard work does not stop there for a young player looking to make the grade with the Blues.
Nuttall remembered: “I was really proud when they told me.
It’s a privilege to get a scholarship at one of the biggest clubs in the world. I was very happy and proud of myself.
“But I don’t think knowing you have a scholarship makes you ease off, you push harder because when the next season comes round you want to start on a high instead of building back up from the beginning.”
The striker practiced what he preached, and when his continued good form led to further appearances for the under-18s, he refused to miss an opportunity to prove his worth. A hat-trick against Arsenal in February was followed by another goal against Blackburn the following week, as Joe proved far too tricky a customer for opposing defences.
While justifiably proud of his past achievements, Nuttall is now keen to look ahead to the future, starting with a productive 2014-15 campaign.
“My main aim is to stay fit!” he laughed. “And to win a regular starting spot with the under-18s.”
Pressed on whether he strives to achieve a set number of goals in a season, the youngster explained: “I don’t really have a target, I just think if you can try and score every game then you are doing your best, and that’s great.”
He added: “I’ve pretty much always been a striker. I just love to score goals!”