After collecting City kits as birthday gifts for as long as he can remember, Callum Bullock still gets a thrill pulling on the shirt for real every week as a full time Academy scholar.
A fan of the club since first kicking a ball in his back garden, the youngster secured his dream move at the tender age of 11, when he signed on the dotted line for the Blues.
Now a regular starter for Jason Wilcox’s under-18s side, Bullock says he is living the dream of every young Mancunian, especially when it comes to derby day.
He told mcfc.co.uk: “I’ve been a City fan all my life and it’s every Manchester kid’s dream to play in a derby. It definitely adds a bit more, being local, when you play in games like United – I’m always desperate to win and get the bragging rights.
“I’ve been all over the world with City. I’ve been to Holland, Spain, Portugal, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, everywhere. To go all over the world with your boyhood club is out of this world.”
Callum’s flying start with local side Cheadle and Gatley, which also counts the likes of City EDS midfielder George Evans among its alumni, caught the attention of the club’s scouts and his subsequent blend of talent and industry has seen him excel through the age groups.
Scorer of the last ever u18s goal at Platt Lane earlier this term, the 17-year-old has already been named on the bench for an u21 fixture, but he counts signing a scholarship deal in July 2014 among his proudest achievements and admits relishing the stiff competition.
Explained Callum: “It was the best feeling in the world. That’s something I can look back on and be proud of, to say I’ve done that in my life.
“I love having competition and I wouldn’t like to be at a club where it’s easy all the way through. I feel with the competition here and the players the team can bring in, I need to be on my game all the time to make sure I get in the team, which is making me a better player.”
Traditionally a right winger, Bullock has now carved out a place for himself at full back. Proficient in the tackle and with a love of getting forward from his new-found position, he is quick to praise under-18s Head Coach Jason Wilcox for his mental and footballing development.
He revealed: “I think Jason knows how to get the best out of me, and his individual training programme has brought me on as a player.
This year I feel he’s got the best out of me as a person as well, because he’s made me much stronger mentally and helped me deal with certain situations.
...Callum Bullock on Jason Wilcox..
“He’s played in the Premier League and for England, which is a massive achievement in your career so he’s great to look up to and is always there for advice.”
Bullock and his year group are the first year to benefit from the St Bede’s educational partnership, and have now become the first scholars to move into the City Football Academy.
Now learning their trade in world-class facilities on the same site as Bullock’s idols in the first team, he says the level of investment is proof that Academy players are being given the best possible chance to succeed in a City shirt.
“The CFA is unreal,” he declared. “We are so lucky to have been given such fantastic facilities. It definitely feels like we have a lot of belief from the club, because they have put so much investment into us.
“It feels like we have someone behind us pushing us on who really believes in us as well which is amazing.”
Not short of role models in a first team brimming with talent, the boyhood City fan refuses to take inspiration from just one player in Manuel Pellegrini’s squad, but instead believes each member of the Premier League Champions has qualities and attributes that can enhance his own fledgling career.
Callum said: “I’d love to have the career any of the City first team have had. I look up to Vincent Kompany for his leadership, James Milner for his versatility and mentality, and Pablo Zabaleta for how he gets forward. I like to watch players like Silva and Nasri but I think they’re one of a kind!
“Milner is a big inspiration to me in particular though, because of how far he’s come from such a young age.”
City u18s take on Crewe Alexandra in the FA Youth Cup quarter final on Monday 2 March at the Academy Stadium. Tickets are available now.