It was the in-house game and the closest thing most of those involved had come to playing in a competitive football match since the start of May.
With so many EDS players jetting off North of the Border for the first-team training camp and a couple sitting out with mild knocks or strains, several under-18s were needed to make it 11 v 11.
A glance over Patrick Vieira’s right shoulder at the two teamsheets aroused suspicions that this would be an even and entertaining encounter between two well-balanced sides and it didn’t disappoint.
Development Coaches Christian Lattanzio and Simon Davies took a team each, taking turns to select a player each to make up their XIs, while the boss watched on from the stands.
The two teams looked like this…
Christian Lattanzio’s Blues: Billy O’Brien, Ashley Smith-Brown, Cameron Humphries, Nathaniel Oseni, Angelino, Jack Byrne (sub: Marcus Wood), Seko Fofana, Aaron Nemane, Brandon Barker, Jordy Hiwula.
Simon Davies’s Blacks: Angus Gunn, Sam Tattum, Pablo Maffeo, Kean Bryan, Yvan Wassi, George Glendon, Tom Holland, James Hardy, Olivier Ntcham, Devante Cole, Thierry Ambrose.
Under-18s defender Tosin Adarabioyo opened a sweepstake in the stands for the scoreline with his teammates and most seemed to fancy the Blues to record the victory.
Note for lazy journalists: the prize for a correct prediction was just an ice cream. No other ‘scoops’ here!
A touch of ring-rustiness was to be expected after the long summer break but, once the players hit their stride, we were treated to an excellent game that didn’t bear any resemblance to the usual placid pre-season fayre.
Chances were relatively thin on the ground until the 23rd minute when Thierry Ambrose was a lick of paint away from giving the Black Team the lead.
Last season’s u18 top-scorer met an excellent centre from Devante Cole on the stretch but it cannoned back off the crossbar with Billy O’Brien beaten.
This pressure eventually told a couple of minutes into the second half when the team put into practice the work on overloads they’ve been engaged in this week.
Cole fed Ntcham down the left and the Frenchman picked out James Hardy, who tucked it past O’Brien to give Davies’s Black side the opening goal.
Hardy was on the scoresheet for a second time later in the game, finishing off a lovely team move which included a succession of intricate passes inside the Blue penalty area.
My colleague Alex Porter and I confided with one another that we thought James had taken too many touches, allowing O’Brien an opportunity to smother the ball, but the youngster picked his way around the keeper and tapped into the empty net.
Shows what we know!
2-0 was how it finished and we caught up with the victorious coach and his captain George Glendon for interviews you’ll be able to watch along with the highlights here on mcfc.co.uk tomorrow.
Earlier in the day, numbers dictated that the u18s couldn’t replicate this full in house match; however, a wholehearted 6 v 6 game certainly got the blood pumping.
The match may have taken place on a reduced-sized pitch, but there was no reduction in commitment or desire, as defender Charlie Oliver will tell you after getting a ball full in the face.
He picked himself up in time for his manager Jason Wilcox to offer the opinion that the swelling may lead to Charlie’s nose rivalling his own… we’ll keep you posted on that.
The action was fast paced with plenty of goals and skill on show – particularly from Manu Garcia and Isaac Buckley, although even the goalkeeping trialist got in on the scoring. No hint of a switch to the no.9 role as yet though.
...City in Croatia: Day Three..
After training it was time for more interviews – this time with Ambrose, who laudably insisted on answering our questions in English rather than his native French.
With an audience of compatriots Seko Fofana and Ntcham, it would have been understandable for the interview to descend into embarrassment but the young Parisian demonstrated his ever-improving English and let us in on the path which led him to the club.
That interview will be coming up on CityTV in the coming days – in the meantime, I think Oli’s camerawork is showing some promise!
Finally, those who tuned into the coverage of the pre-season camp here last year will know that my attempts to keep a low profile and stay on the sidelines were foiled by goalkeeper coach Dave Felgate.
A year ago, the sadistic former Bolton Wanderers stopper insisted that I earned my inclusion in the “Goalkeeper’s Union” by taking part in a series of stamina drills (in 90 degree heat) with Angus Gunn and Ian Lawlor.
Relive my humiliation: Goalkeeper Camp part one
Now, I thought that my tireless (read: hapless) display would entitle me to a lifelong membership to this sacred body but apparently my license is up for renewal and, if I want to remain part of the gang, I must once again don gloves and take part in a sequel to “Goalkeeper Camp” tomorrow afternoon.
Return to the scene of the crime and I don't like the way EDS GK coach Dave Felgate is looking at me.... pic.twitter.com/GaTTZnCs5O— Mark Booth (@markbooth_mcfc) July 16, 2014
Tomorrow it’s a recovery session in the morning after tonight’s exertions and then it’s back to the training pitches in the afternoon for my second day of reckoning, followed by the main session for the squad.
Keep me in your thoughts.