After first pulling on a blue shirt at the age of eight, local boy Charlie Oliver has spent more than half his life as a City player.
The defender, who just turned 17 years old on Monday, has represented the club with distinction at every age group, and first made his u18s debut at 15.
Now, he is a key figure in Jason Wilcox’s squad and has worn the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper Tosin Adarabioyo as the Academy continues to place faith in technique and leadership attributes over age.
“I made my u18 debut against Newcastle away last October when we won 6-0,” Charlie remembered. “We travelled down and when we got there I was told I was starting for the u18s. I was nervous at first but after two or three minutes it was fine because the team last year was really good so I settled in very quickly.
“It was easy to play with them because they are all good players. Tosin was starting too and he’s my age, so he helped me through it.”
A defender at heart, Charlie loves a strong tackle and a good header, but possesses the confidence and ability to play with the ball at his feet and start attacks from the back – a staple of the City youth development diet.
Schooled in the club’s attacking, free-flowing philosophies from a young age, he was able to make the step up to u18s last season and his appearance record while still a schoolboy reached double figures.
After tasting North Division title success in May, the Mancunian centre-back is keen to do it all again.
He declared: “I got to play quite a few games with the u18s last year, and it was a really good experience for me seeing how they do things. Winning the league in the end just made it even sweeter.
“We definitely have the ambition to win it again and do what they did. We’ve had a really good start and I think we have a really strong group as well, so I have no doubt we will do well but it is just seeing whether we can go and win the league. I hope so.”
Wilcox’s men have had a strong start to the new campaign, losing just two of their opening 11 games and currently sit two points off top spot in the North League.
But Charlie believes that the St Bede’s programme could be another vital ingredient to success. This year’s scholar intake were the first to benefit from the groundbreaking partnership with the Alexandra Park school, which combines academic progress with daily football coaching.
“It really brought us together as a team,” the youngster revealed. “We did get to train every day which helped develop us in the football aspect, but we also developed in the school aspect as well. Most of us got seven GCSEs so if we didn’t make it in football we would have something to fall back on.
“The programme was about more than just football. You never know what can happen, you can get an injury when you’re young which ends your career, so now we’ve got our good grades as well in case we ever need to do something else.
“Getting used to being full time this year hasn’t been too hard because in the St Bede’s programme we were here every day, but for half days. Now the days are a bit longer so you need to concentrate more. I’ve grown into it now so it’s normal and really enjoyable.”
Sixteen is also the first age at which overseas youngsters can join the City fold, and the youngster reveals it’s been a smooth assimilation, with all nationalities keen to learn from each other’s footballing style and culture.
He said: “It’s brought in some different talents and different playing styles, like Manu [Garcia], who is Spanish. He sees the game differently, and he can play one touch really well. An English player might have a slightly different style, and the Dutch boys are good too but play differently again.
“It brings something to the changing room as well, like different senses of humour. The team spirit is really strong.”
A confident and articulate youngster, Charlie is keen to strive for ever higher goals, and his motivations are clear: “It’s all about trying to get another contract here at City and just trying every day to be the best I can.”