Ash Smith-Brown is one of the City Academy’s core Mancunian contingent looking to make a big impact for club and country.
The defender, a local lad who lives just minutes from the Etihad Stadium, has now been with the club for over a decade.
Having ascended through the age groups, the 17-year-old now regularly wears the captain’s armband for the under-18 side and is now enjoying European action in the UEFA Youth League.
“It definitely makes a difference playing for your local team,” he reflected. “Your friends and family are all supporting you and it’s a proud moment.
“I have been playing for the under-18s for about three years now. I first started playing when I was still eligible for the under-16s and now I am a second year scholar. All the experiences have been good.
“Being captain definitely changes the way you play. There is more responsibility on you to lead by example and to do the right thing."
"And it’s also something to feel proud of - it’s something I would really like to carry on doing.”
Possessing a quiet confidence, Ash’s composed nature adds to his leadership qualities on the pitch, and is also evident in the way he prepares before he takes to the field.
He explains: “On long journeys I just like to sleep – that’s the main thing! I’m a calm guy and I’d rather keep my own company before a match. I do listen to a bit of music – there are certain songs I listen to before each game.”
A versatile member of the under-18s squad who can play on either side of defence or at the base of midfield, Ash’s greatest strengths are as an attacking full-back. Adept at preventing goals and creating them at the other end for his teammates, his pace and quick feet ensure he’s a valuable asset for the academy.
The 2012/13 campaign was one of mixed fortunes for the youngster, who spent four months on the sidelines with an injury, missing the conclusion of the domestic season and being forced to withdraw from the England under-17 squad.
He admits it was tough to watch his City teammates playing football while he was recuperating, but is confident that the experience will stand him in good stead for his future career.
Ash reflects: “It was very tough but it was also a good experience because now the injury has made me hungrier for success. It puts things into perspective. In a way, I’m kind of happy that it happened because it was a good eye opener to see how much I really want to succeed.
“I have really enjoyed the season so far with the team under Jason and let’s hope it can carry on.”
The under-18s took 10 points from their opening four league fixtures in this debut campaign under new boss, Jason Wilcox, and Ash has plenty of positive things to say about the new manager.
“He is a good coach,” the defender argued. “He has good man management. He knows how to work with certain players, and how to speak to them differently so they respond. He understands them and he just wants the best for us.”
As well as succeeding at club level with the Blues, Ash dreams of pulling on the England shirt as part of the senior side. The full-back has already begun his journey through the national team’s footballing pyramid, having been selected for the England under-16s and under-17s.
He cites playing for the Three Lions as one of his proudest achievements in the game, alongside captaining the City under-18s.
“England is the main goal,” Ash revealed. “I see playing for the under-16s and under-17s as a stepping stone to the next level, but I’m still really proud of being selected.
“I think as a footballer you should always aim for the highest level, which for me is England.”