Personal development and ascension through the ranks isn’t solely the remit for young footballers at the Academy.
Coaches are also expected to step up the age-groups and build upon their skills to aid players coming through the system.
There’s no better example of this than Kristian Wilson, who has worked his way up from skills coach at Platt Lane to his recent appointment as part of Patrick Vieira’s Elite Development Squad coaching team.
“I feel what I can bring to the table is that I’ve worked with a five year old kid, I’ve worked with an 18-year old kid, so I’ve gone through a development process myself through this incredible opportunity I’ve been given at Manchester City,” he said.
“Patrick brings charisma as manager, he’s a big figurehead with so much experience– World Cups, Champions Leagues, European Championships – he’s done everything that anyone could ever wish to do.
...Kristian Wilson on Patrick Vieira...
“With that wealth of experience, his presence can only help what is a really talented group of players.”
Kristian started out as his coaching career working with Simon Clifford, the man credited with introducing South American training techniques to children within the UK courtesy of his Brazilian Soccer Schools.
Wilson was mentored by one of the game’s leading coaches, Roger Spry, who is now the technical director for the Austrian FA and has worked with Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Sir Bobby Robson.
The 32-year old’s first job in club football came at Sheffield Wednesday before Ron Reid and Scott Sellars took him across town to be part of the Academy coaching set up at Sheffield United.
The Blades Academy has been one of the most fruitful for playing talent in the past decade and it was there Kristian helped to develop the talents of now-established Premier League stars like Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker.
Brian Kidd was assistant to Bryan Robson at Bramhall Lane at the time and quickly spotted the potential in Kristian, bringing him in to work at first-team level before Scott Sellars and Kidd brought him across to City’s Academy.
Kristian hasn’t looked back – continuing his development through the age-groups like any successful player in the youth set-up.
“Mark Allen and Scott Sellars have been fantastic with me, I feel just like a player who has come through the system,” Wilson beamed.
“I’m 32-years old now and I feel like I’m coming into the pinnacle of my career as a coach to be working with the reserves and the EDS, it’s a really exciting time.”
As these quotes suggest, Kristian’s enthusiasm and unbridled optimism are key mental attributes he brings to the table.
As City prepare to embark on their second Barclays u21 Premier League campaign and their third NextGen Series tilt, Wilson believes that the experiences of this group last season will aid them over the coming year.
“I think last season wasn’t a fair assessment, we were very young – we were playing against 20,21 year olds with 16, 17 year olds.
...Kristian Wilson on last season...
“There’s a big difference between a 17-year old and a 21-year old in football, at 21 you’re just that little bit more mature – however, at times, we did play some really good football.
“I think this year you’ll see more of Jordi Hiwula, Harry Bunn, Jose Angel Pozo, Marcos Lopes – to name but a few – they will all kick on from that experience of last season.
“You need dedication and desire to make it at Manchester City – on and off the field – an inner-burning desire to make it here because you can get caught up in all of the other things – cars, money, going out –but that will just take you further away from the goal.
“The priority has got to be to play for Manchester City – all of those other things can come later.”
With an international cast of talent and a broad range of mother tongues in the squad, one of the challenges faced as a coach at City is to knit these players into a cohesive unit.
It’s a challenge that motivates Kristian as a coach and one that demands flexibility and the ability to think outside of the box.
“Being at Sheffield United, I was just working with local Yorkshire lads but it’s completely different coming here where there’s players from Italy, Romania, Portugal – I think you have to adapt the way that you coach,” he explained.
“You have to be a lot more visual, I have to manipulate what I do to make the sessions self-explanatory, they coach themselves, so you don’t have to step in all of the time and tug.
“I like to think I’ve helped to create a training climate where there is more ball contact than there was the year before and it’s an environment where it’s more fashionable to be technical within the group.
“I don’t like to see the lads stood around for the next part of the session, waiting around in groups, I’ll step in and get a ball going in twos and threes, keeping it up in the air - anything to increase that contact time with the ball.”
With City showing commitment to having a playing style consistent through the club with the appointment of Manuel Pellgerini, Wilson admits that his greatest motivation beyond personal accolades or financial gain is playing a part in imprinting this collective identity onto the team.
“When an opposition coach comes up to you after a game and says, ‘great team, great to watch’ it’s the best compliment you can get – that’s better than a pay rise, it’s the style of play that’s key,”
“We’ll have a style, a way of playing that will be easily identifiable as the Manchester City way of playing - ball retention, build up, creativity.
“The continued shaping of this identity is what I’m most looking forward to in this role.
“I can’t wait to get started.”
We’ll have full coverage of the under-21s’ pre-season trip to Croatia starting on Wednesday here on mcfc.co.uk, with photos, interviews and features from Novigrad for the full 10 days.
In the final installment of our Meet Patrick's Team series, we catch up with EDS Assistant Simon Davies on Wednesday.