EDS & Academy

Wilkinson reflects on Under-18 pre-season tour

Under-18s Lead Coach Ben Wilkinson says he does not underestimate the value of his side’s recent pre-season tour of Croatia.

Wilkinson’s side joined the EDS in Croatia in July, while the first team were in the USA, to ready themselves to defend the Under-18 Premier League title won in 2021/22.

The nature of age-group football means that most of the side who lifted that trophy last season will now step up to Brian Barry-Murphy’s Premier League 2 title winning team.

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Before that, the players in that category spent 10 days in Croatia with the players expected to remain at EDS level in 2022/23, as well as the Under-16s that are now stepping up.

“It was a really good trip,” he said.

“Being able get away together and concentrate solely on training and prepare for season physically, technically and tactically is really important.

“It’s great to spend so much time together, we’ve missed that the last couple of years so it was nice to bed down some preparations for the challenges to come.

“The players that are now EDS players in the large part were Under-18s last season, so I think they’re quite comfortable with each other across that two or three year age range.”

While in Croatia, the Under-18s saw one of their peers making a name for himself.

Rico Lewis was the captain of last year’s title winners, and the right-back was rewarded for his efforts with a call up to the recent first team tour of Houston and Green Bay.

Still just 17, Lewis was the youngest member of the touring party. He featured for the final 15 minutes of the 1-0 win over Bayern Munich, even hitting the post after a lung-busting dart into the area.

2022/23 Under-18 fixtures

Wilkinson said that was a moment that should inspire everyone at Under-18 level this season.

He stated: “It's a message you will give them, but also it’s so powerful that it speaks for itself. It’s something we will obviously talk about, we’re always striving to get players over to the first team training so the manager can get eyes on them.

“It’s a great example to players and staff that the pathway is there.

“It’s great for him too, he’s worked incredibly hard so hopefully he can keep knocking on the door and be ready if he does get a chance.”

City will play a number of behind-closed-doors friendlies before the start of the new season as well as a trip to France to face PSG on 13 August.

The Under-18 Premier League then begins on 20 August when we travel to Newcastle United, before Derby County are the first visitors to the CFA the following week.

It’s the job of the coaching staff to ready the players for the start of the campaign, but Wilkinson knows there are other factors to consider.

“There’s a balance to strike between keeping players fit and pushing them so they’re in a position to cope with what’s coming, physically, technically and tactically,” he said.

“They’re growing and there’s a lot going on, so we’re just trying to manage the players in terms of making sure we get to the first match with as many players as fit as possible.”

EDS & ACADEMY COVERAGE

As with last season, you will be able to keep up with our Premier League 2 and Under-18 Premier League sides right here on mancity.com and the official app.

For every match, there will be live updates on our @ManCityAcademy Twitter feed. Following the final whistle, a full match report will be available as well as post-match reaction.

Selected matches will also be available on CITY+. These will be advertised in advance of the fixture.

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