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Academy News

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Talent-scout Mullender celebrates 50 year-landmark

COMPETITORS: Eric with the semi-finalists

COMPETITORS: Eric with the semi-finalists

The man who discovered Ryan Giggs, Michael Owen and Peter Barnes for City had been honoured with a Manchester schools tournament at the CFA.

Eric Mullender started scouting for City in 1966 and aged 85, is still finding local gems around Manchester and the north of England.

A genuine unsung hero, Eric attended the schools’ tournament in his honour at the CFA indoor pitch on Friday afternoon.

The event is the culmination of a year of school football at the Academy, with local teams from all over Greater Manchester taking part.

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Neil Mather, City Academy Schools Coordinator, said: “We hold sessions twice a week for all the schools in the north-west going from the ages of five up to 11.

“At the end of the season, we have a champions of champions tournament featuring the best 10 schools from each age group are invited back to take part in a champions competition.

“We are giving local youngsters the chance to play football at the best facility in the world, and of course, if we spot any talented players, we can invite them back to the Club for further trials.

“We are always looking out and we have a lad who joined our Under-8s earlier this year, so it’s a great opportunity that perhaps they might not have otherwise had.

“We’ve maybe had 150 to 180 schools who have taken part in total and this particular year, the Under-11s tournament has been dedicated to one of our longest-serving scouts, Eric Mullender.

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“He’s done a fantastic job for more than 50 years and discovered some great players, so we just wanted to recognise his work in some way and he’s still doing a fine job.”

Eric attended the tournament with his wife Jean and recalled some of the highlights of a half-century of work for the Club.

“I was a teacher who also had my FA coaching badges,” he said.

“I remained a teacher until I was 70 but first started scouting for City in 1968 and have done ever since.

“I had always played a decent level of football and would referee games for the school I worked at and the very first match I refereed, the kids were shouting ‘Barnsey!’ constantly to this lad who looked quite a prospect.

“At the end, I asked if he was related to Ken Barnes and he said he was his son, Peter.

“I decided to contact City and they encouraged me to let them know if I spotted anyone.

“Ken Barnes was the chief scout at the time, so I suppose the first player I discovered was Peter, his son!”

MEDAL CEREMONY: Eric hands out the prizes

Mullender continued to unearth gems including Ian Scott, Andy Hinchcliffe, David White and Paul Moulden – among many others.

But there were a couple of big names who got away – at least from City’s clutches.

“The best ever lad I brought to the club was called Ryan Wilson and he stayed with us for four years from the age of nine," he revealed. 

“We couldn’t sign players back then until they were 14. He was later better known as Ryan Giggs and, of course, ended up with Manchester United.

“I also brought Michael Owen to the Club, but he only trained during the school holidays and his dad was determined to get him to Liverpool, which he eventually did.

“If I had to say who was my favourite, it would probably be Paul Moulden – he was incredible at schoolboy level and a prolific goal-scorer.

“He stood out a mile and scored so many goals, but he was unlucky with a number of broken legs when he played for City, but he was a natural.

“I’m still finding the odd special talent and continue to watch games in the hope of discovering the next David Silva or Colin Bell.”

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