A new crop of youngsters celebrated signing City scholarships at a special evening at the City Football Academy.
The class of 2015 took their first step on the ladder towards a professional career by putting pen to paper in front of proud friends and family ahead of returning to pre-season training this week for their first year as full time footballers.
For the first time, the scholars also received a commemorative cap as a mark of recognition for an incredible achievement, presented by the club’s Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain.
Reflecting on signing his scholarship, Jacob Davenport told mcfc.co.uk: “It means the world to me to sign here. I have been a fan of City all my life so to sign on now is unbelievable really – it’s amazing and a dream come true.
“I’ve had a taste of playing for the u18s last year so I know a little bit of what to expect now. Hopefully I can play a lot more and we’ll see how next year goes.”
Forward Lukas Nmecha, who has already represented England at youth level, added: “I’ve been at the club for five or six years now and to know that all the hard work has been worth it means a lot.
“City is one of the best clubs in the world so it’s an extra bonus to get signed here because it makes you feel like you could be one of the best. It’s going to be tough but hopefully like today showed, it will all be worth it in the end.”
An opportunity to celebrate and reward a significant milestone in the careers of the young Blues, it was also a chance to look forward to what lies ahead, and the youngsters listened to inspirational speeches from Director of Academy, Mark Allen and u18s Head Coach, Jason Wilcox.
Mark Allen said: “Whatever you do in your football career don’t forget nights like this because this is where your journey begins. The future starts now and it is hard work.
“The staff will give each and every player 150% in terms of support, help, counselling and guidance but what we can’t do is put the effort in on the pitch and in training.
“It is your career. We will help you but you have to make it happen.”
One of the club’s former scholars, James Poole, who has gone on to have a professional career in the game, drew on his own experiences to give the newest crop of scholars a few words of advice and encouragement.
He added: “You’re going into the best two years of your life. You’re playing football and doing what you love every day with your best mates. I’m not going to say you’re lucky to be here, because I understand what you’ve given up and how hard you’ve worked.
“You’ll never regret putting the hard work in because it goes quickly. Enjoy every moment and make the most of it.”
The boys will now take their place in the u18s squad under the tutelage of Wilcox, entering his third year in the role of u18s Head Coach.
“First of all I’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate the boys on being offered scholarships,” said Wilcox.
“It’s a fantastic achievement especially at this football club in this moment in time and it is a night you will remember for the rest of your lives.
“Our main objective is to get players into our first team but there are no guarantees and it will be a long road. This is an almighty challenge for you. To become a first team player at this football club is an almighty task.
“But it is important that we embrace the challenge, we are not fearful of it and we all work together. Let’s make sure we work really hard and we ask questions of each other every single day, and go on this journey together.”
We’ll be covering the u18s throughout the 2015/16 season, so you can follow how they all get on right here on mcfc.co.uk