Local boy Tosin Adarabioyo is just beginning his first year as a full time footballer, but he has been a familiar name on the City u18 teamsheet since making his debut at 14 years old.
The defender matured quickly and became a key figure in the meanest defence in the league last term – Tosin made 17 appearances for Jason Wilcox’s u18 side that romped to the Premier League North Division title.
Now recognised as one of the senior members of the new look squad even though he has only just collected his GCSE results, the Mancunian youngster was handed the captain’s armband at the dawn of the 2014/15 season and is eager to rise to the challenge and seize the responsibility.
“It was brilliant to get the armband,” Tosin declared. “I’ve been here for a long time now and I’ve really wanted it, so I feel proud to finally be captain. I really wanted to be skipper last year, even though I was younger but it was Ash Smith-Brown instead, so it was fantastic to hear the news that it was me this time.
“I think my responsibilities as captain are to try and keep the team together, make sure we work hard every day and try to do better than we did last season.
“Even without being captain, I’m one of the senior players in the squad this year so I’m trying my best to help the squad get along and integrate together so we can try and win the North League, push on further in the Youth Cup and hopefully win the Nationals as well.”
A composed central defender, who is good on the ball and confident in building from the back, Tosin is one to watch in both penalty areas – he scored the first league goal last season with a clever volley from a corner in a thrilling 4-4 draw with West Brom, and got off the mark this term with a fantastic solo effort against Everton.
While last year the squad netted 87 times in the league and conceded just 40 to finish with the best goal difference across the North and South Leagues, Wilcox has challenged Tosin and the rest of the team to do even better this time around.
The defender explained: “Jason has been speaking to us all about improving this season. He wants us to concede less and score more goals than we did last year, so we can hopefully win more games and go further in the Youth Cup.”
The 16-year-old’s potential was recognised early by the City Academy and he has long since been used to playing up the age groups as part of the club’s philosophy to test players and aid their development.
Adarabioyo was involved with the EDS as early as last summer, when he was just 15, but his footballing genes mean he is unlikely to ever be fazed – he’s been playing against older players all his life.
“My elder brother, Fisayo is a footballer as well,” said Tosin. “I’m a defender and he’s an attacker, so when we play together he always attacks me and I always defend against him.
“I’ve been playing against him since I was little, so I’ve always been a defender – centre back, right back or occasionally a no.6 in my younger days! It means I’ve always been used to playing against people older than me too.”
Tosin is also quick to point to the benefits of a consistent system throughout the Academy, which allows players to move seamlessly between age groups without having to adjust to a new style and formation.
“It’s really good for us that the u21s play in the same style as the u18s because if any player goes up they know how the team will play, what to do on set pieces and they won’t feel out of place,” the skipper enthused.
“When I was playing with the u21s last year Patrick Vieira just told me to try and be more aggressive so I don’t get bullied off the ball by older and stronger players.”
Consistently impressive club form has led to rewards at international level, and Tosin has already represented England in the u16 and u17 age groups.
However, with a drive and work ethic to complement his footballing talents, the youngster continues to aim for ever higher standards.
“Jason Wilcox has told me to make sure I keep on working hard every single day in training and my rewards will come soon,” he said.
“My aims for this year are to try to win and much as we can for the u18s, and to push into u19 UEFA Youth League squad and hopefully the u21s squad as well.”
He added: “To be a footballer, I think you need to be determined, work extremely hard and have confidence in yourself.
“My dreams keep me focused. I aim to be the best defender I can be, to play for England and City’s first team and try to win the Champions League.”