City’s next generation of would-be Premier League stars will be on view in Abu Dhabi for the first time tonight when the training pitch at their Emirates Palace winter base is unveiled.
And ahead of this Thursday night’s friendly against the UAE national side, boss Mark Hughes has again stressed the importance of having an owner in Sheikh Mansour and a chairman in Khaldoon Al Mubarak who understand the club, where it has come from and where it wants to go.
“We've obviously benefited in terms of resources, but the key factor is that we've been able to improve not only the team but everything involved at the club so that we're now capable of being successful in the future, which was in doubt before,” stressed the manager who put one or two television pundits in their place at his press briefing before the team left for Abu Dhabi.
The way Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon have gone about it, they have connected with the fans and understood the heritage of the club. They wanted to protect the Academy, for instance. They have done a great job in a short space of time.
“A lot of our first team players are on international duty with their respective countries during this trip, so it’s a chance to showcase some of our emerging young talent.
“I know they are incredibly excited about this opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they adapt to the challenge of playing the UAE on a big stage.
“The owners know and recognise that City has a proud tradition of bringing through world class talent who have developed through our Academy – Nedum Onuoha, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson, Vladimir Weiss and Micah Richards are just some of the recent examples. So the players who will be on show will be our stars of the future – and this will be a wonderful challenge for them.
We feel we are at a home from home and we want to show off our young players and the talent they have. Several of them won an FA Youth Cup or got to a semi-final and this trip will add to their experience as players and as young men.
And Hughes has shrugged off any suggestion that five straight draws and sixth spot in the Premier League is any reason to panic or has increased the pressure internally.
“There is always pressure in football,” he declared. “Of course there is a demand for us to achieve things. To succeed in football you have to relish the challenges ahead of you rather than shy away from them and that is what we will look to do.”
City’s South American stars Pablo Zabaleta and Sylvinho – along with Hughes - spent some of the day coaching Abu Dhabi schoolchildren and City in the Community staff did likewise.
Robinho and trained in the gym but is not expected to take any part on Thursday night as he continues his recovery from an ankle problem. Craig Bellamy is also with the squad but will not play on Thursday as he recuperates from a sore groin picked up in the 3-3 draw with Burnley.
Stevie Ireland and Nedum Onuoha are however pencilled in to play - along with Zabaleta, Sylvinho, Stuart Taylor, Javier Garrido and Benjani.
*Stay logged on to mcfc.co.uk for exclusive behind the scenes video footage from the Emirates Palace hotel and interviews with Sylvinho, former Academy boss Jim Cassell and CEO Garry Cook.