Yvan Wassi has his brother to thank for a blossoming football career.
The Manchester-born City man began kicking a ball late on in life – at the age of nine – to follow in the footsteps of elder sibling, Brice, who is progressing through Blackburn’s Academy.
“My brother used to play football and it was something for us to do,” Yvan explained. “He was always out of the house and I thought that looked pretty good, so I started playing. I got lucky, I got scouted two months later and I joined City when I was in the under-10s.”
A naturally talented athlete, Wassi thrived in the Academy, and proved his worth to earn a two year scholarship in July 2013.
“It felt great,” he admitted. “My Mum was really proud, and so was my brother. I was really happy, because I’ve been working so hard towards it and so it felt fantastic that all that hard work paid off.
“I’ve been in the Academy for a few years now, so the journey has been really different for me. It’s been really good to see all the changes in the last few years, and be a part of that. We’ve now got fantastic facilities at Platt Lane, and coaches have been brought in to deal with specific areas of training for us, so it’s been great.”
The youngster has made his home on the left hand side of the pitch, where he has operated as a winger, but has played most of his games in the full back position. However, Wassi is confident that proficiency higher up the pitch has helped his development as one of the back four.
He said: “I like being a full back because I like going forward too. I don’t think I could play centre back because you rarely go forward there and I find that boring. I like to go up and down the wing – I think that’s definitely one of my greatest strengths as a player.”
A lively and popular member of the squad, who is definitely recognised as the joker of the pack, Yvan’s personality shines through on the pitch as well as off it.
“Sometimes when I go past someone, or someone does a good skill I shout stuff and take the mick or joke about it.”
However, it’s been a tough year for the likeable defender, who has had to contend with a run of injuries as he seeks to make an impact in his first year as part of Jason Wilcox’s under-18 squad.
“Personally this year has not been that good, because I’ve had lots of injuries, I’ve been out for quite a while and on top of that I haven’t been getting many games,” Yvan reflected.
“It can be difficult to cope because when you’re out with an injury you can’t do what the others are doing, so you see them all going out to train and you think ‘I wish that was me’. On the other hand, when you see anyone around – players, staff, coaches - they all encourage you to keep going so it makes it easier to deal with.”
While adjusting to the pressures of being a full time footballer, and being forced to spend time on the sidelines nursing injury problems, the youngster has also been getting used to a new management style under Wilcox.
The former England international is also enjoying his debut season with the under-18s, moving up a few age groups after coaching the under-13 side that swept all before them in the 2012/13 campaign.
Wassi revealed: “It’s been different, working with Jason. He has a different style compared to Gareth [Taylor, under-16s coach] and my other past coaches. He’s a very detailed person, and he likes everything done the right way, including all the little details.
“It’s been good though.”
With his potential recognised by the Academy staff early on, Yvan was selected as part of the squad to travel to Singapore in 2012 to take part in the Lion City Cup. The prestigious tournament pitted City’s selection of under-15 players against counterparts from teams such as Ajax and Vasco Da Gama.
The boy Blues clinched third, but more importantly were given the chance to take the next vital steps in their footballing education in the two weeks spent on the opposite side of the world.
Yvan said: “Competing in tournaments like that benefit you as player because you learn about different cultures, and also the different styles of play in other countries. For example, here we play early in the morning but over there they tend to play late in the afternoon because it’s so hot, so that was something we had to get used to quickly.”
Back home in the present, Yvan’s aims for the rest of the season are simple: “Stay fit, not get any injuries and to get as many games as possible.”
The race for the Premier League has come to the boil, so make sure you’re there to lend your support as we bid for a second title in three years.
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