Manchester City’s Under 18s kick off their Premier League campaign this weekend when they travel to the West Midlands to face West Bromwich Albion.
Gareth Taylor’s Young Blues enjoyed a successful 2018/2019 and would have earned an impressive domestic cup double but for shootout heartache in the FA Youth Cup final.
Nonetheless, the team will be looking to kick on this season and below are some key dates, information and signings ahead of the curtain-raiser…
Some new faces
A squad is often buoyed by new additions and, with several new faces joining the Young Blues, that will be no different for Gareth Taylor’s side.
Oscar Bobb has joined from Valarenga in Norway, offering invention and trickery going forward alongside fellow new recruit Samuel Edozie, who has signed from Millwall.
Oscar Tarensi has also made the switch from Espanyol’s B team to City and is capable of playing anywhere down the left flank.
Liam Delap, making the move from reigning National Champions Derby County, also represents a huge statement of intent.
The forward, who is the son of former top flight midfielder Rory, was England's top scorer at January’s Agean Under 16s tournament in Turkey with the Three Lions finishing third.
City drew more games than any other Under 18s Premier League team last season, so adding another goalscorer to our ranks could go a long way to helping transform some of those stalemates into three points.
A crucial month
November represents a real test of our Young Blues’ mettle with local rivals Manchester United and current champions Derby County both visiting the Academy Stadium.
However, the Blues can take confidence from their performances against both sides in the last campaign.
Our encounters with Manchester United certainly lived up to the billing, with exciting 2-2 and 3-3 draws in the league accompanying a comfortable 3-0 win in the Premier League Cup semi-final.
It was a similar story with the Rams, as we earned 2-2 draws home and away in the league alongside an impressive 2-1 win in the FA Youth Cup.
Home advantage could be key, but if we can take positive results against immediate rivals such as these, then November could well prove to be a springboard towards the busy winter period.
Taking confidence from the Cup
The Young Blues did themselves proud in the cup competitions last season, reaching the FA Youth Cup final and winning the Premier League Under 18s Cup.
Despite the penalty shootout heartache against Liverpool, there are plenty of positives which Gareth Taylor’s side can take into the new season from their Youth Cup journey, in particular the character shown to come back against Derby away from home.
We went one further in the Under 18s Premier League Cup, beating local rivals Manchester United 3-0 in the semi-final before overcoming Middlesbrough to clinch our first piece of silverware.
Results such as these show that we can mix it with the best, and the Blues will aim to transfer that stellar form into the upcoming campaign.
Whether he likes it or not, D’Margio Wright-Phillips’ surname is always likely to turn heads.
With prolific goalscorer Ian Wright as a grandfather and City legend Shaun Wright-Phillips as a father, it would be easy to buckle under the weight of your own name, but our young right-winger plays with a freedom which belies any pressure he may feel.
Pacy, direct and comfortable on the ball, the 17-year-old offers a constant threat down the flank and chipped in with five goals for Gareth Taylor’s side last season.
However, he also regularly turns provider, grabbing nine assists last season which was the third highest in the division.
With a potent attack in front of him, further boosted by new signing Liam Delap, the winger is likely to reach the same heights in the new campaign.
The return of Lewis Fiorini
After recovering from a broken tibia sustained in January, Lewis Fiorini’s return to fitness will feel like a new signing for the Young Blues.
The midfielder represents a real threat going forward with seven goals to his name last campaign before injury cut his season short, but he also provides a cool head from the spot, notching two penalties in the 3-3 draw against Man United back in November.
Along with EDS defender Joel Latibeaudiere, Fiorini undertook a training camp in Catalonia to aid his recovery – using the facilities at La Liga side Girona and Rugby League outfit Catalans Dragons.
And after months of painstaking recovery, he will be keen to set out his stall quickly and prove that he is back to his best.