For the final part of our “Meet Patrick’s Team” series, we caught up with Simon Davies who will be Vieira’s Elite Development Squad assistant.
Patrick Vieira didn’t have to look too far for the ideal to man to assist him in his first campaign as City EDS manager - Simon Davies was already at the Academy.
The former Welsh international midfielder started out at City three and a half years ago, working alongside Neil Roberts and Gareth Taylor on the Rishworth exchange programme which saw young players from Abu Dhabi jetting over to train at Platt Lane and Carrington.
After a successful period between the Middle East and Manchester, Simon came in to work with City under-16s, as well as putting coaching syllabuses in place for the 12-16 age-groups.
His appointment as Patrick’s right-hand man highlights just how highly regarded the 39-year old is around the club but now he’s in place, he reveals he just can’t wait for the season to get under way.
“First and foremost, Patrick is a winner and I do think that’s important,” Davies said.
“Patrick has won football matches in the Premier League, and also at World and European level – these are all places this club wants to get to, and I believe will get to, but having someone like Patrick to lead the way with that at under-21 level is really beneficial.
“What’s great about him is that he’s level headed, he wants to work hard and he expects that from his players and staff.
“It’s not a case of him looking down from on high with all he’s achieved, he wants to work hard and he demands that from those around him – I think that’s the best quality he brings.
...Simon Davies on Patrick Vieira...
“I’m really looking forward to this role – one, because of the quality of the players and two, because of the staff I’m going to be working with.
“In terms of players and staff alike, I think it’s going to be a great team.”
Davies joins to assist with an under-21 team which is another year older and wiser for their experiences in the Barclays under-21 Premier League and NextGen Series last season.
Meeting challenges, stepping up age-groups and playing attractive football are all cornerstones of the work under way at the Academy but instilling a winning mentality is also important, as Simon is quick to point out.
“You play the right way to win football matches,” he stated.
“As attractive as a football team can be, especially the higher up you go, football’s always been about winning first and foremost, and then playing the right way which is a belief that Txiki and all the coaching staff share.
“It’s advantageous at any club that every group plays the same way.”
Another of the challenges that awaits the collective will be taking part in the NextGen Series for the third time.
City have yet to make it out of the group stages in the European competition won by Aston Villa last time out but hopes are high for the year ahead as this pool of players continues to mature together.
“Where we’ve learned the most, especially with the younger Academy teams, is when we’ve played abroad,” Simon stated.
“We’re not the finished article by any means, but locally we play well and win against the majority of English teams – like I say, we’ve still got work to do, but the biggest challenge for us is going to Benfica, Ajax and Barcelona and competing there at the very top level.
“Staying in hotels, travelling on coaches, playing in hostile environments – this is all part of the development process.
“The game might be slower, it might be more technical, so it might be a tactical challenge too and it’s a great education for the players as we try to get them ready for the first-team level.”
...Simon Davies on playing abroad...
Simon will be aided by some familiar faces which await him in the under-21 ranks when he meets up with the squad.
It’s another aspect which makes the role so appealing for Davies.
“It’s great for me to have worked with the younger age-groups coming into this role now as the under 16s then included the likes of Shay Facey and George Evans to name but two,” Davies said.
“That was the first group of players I worked with at the Academy and now they’re going to be in this under-21s team next season – I’m delighted to be working with such talent.
“It’s important to challenge players all the way through but only if a challenge is right – it might be a positional challenge, a social challenge, an age-group challenge – we’ve just got to make sure it’s tailored to them.
“It might be sending someone out on loan to toughen them up because they’ve been playing in Academy football for too long or playing a different position on the pitch to help their tactical appreciation of the game.
“Whatever it might be, we’ve got to get it right as this is a crucial stage for these players.”
We’ll have full coverage of the under-21s’ pre-season trip to Croatia starting today here on mcfc.co.uk, with photos, interviews and features from Novigrad for the full 10 days.