Manchester lad Greg Leigh is hoping to really kick on this season and make his mark at City.
The 19-year-old Sale-born left-back has been training with the senior squad in Scotland for the last week and played the second-half of City’s opening pre-season fixture against Dundee on Sunday.
The popular defender admits training with some of the senior players has already helped his development along and he is hoping for more of the same in the coming weeks and months.
“When we returned for pre-season we were told to train with the first team and I found out I was in the party travelling to Scotland the day before we left,” said Leigh.
“I was hoping I’d get a chance to be involved in Scotland and with so many of the players still being away after the World Cup, that’s what happened.
I trained with the first team a couple of times last season which was a really good experience but to have a solid block of time with them like this is really good because it gives me a chance to develop further as a player]
Leigh is one of several younger players who played regularly for the EDS last season but he’s been taking tips from the senior squad members on how he can improve his game and he feels he is already benefitting from their experience and knowledge.
“I speak a lot to Micah Richards an Dedryck Boyata and they’ve been really helpful, as has Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy, Aleks Kolarov and Samir Nasri – they’ve all been great in fact and the little hints and tips make a world of difference because they’ve been there and done it.
“The training schedule has been hard and was a shock to the system to begin with if I’m totally honest. Three sessions a day hasn’t been easy and the senior lads have to work a lot harder than we do because of the level they play at and also because they are a lot bigger and stronger than we are at present.
“It’s been tough, but really good but you have to gear up for it and be ready. It’s helped me get to where I need to be fitness-wise a lot quicker.”
Now in his 11th year with City, Leigh says he has had to get to grips with the pace of Jesus Navas in training, along with the trickery of Nasri and Stevan Jovetic plus the power of John Guidetti and Alvaro Negredo – among others in the high-temp training sessions at St Andrews.
In one session, Negredo gave Leigh a taste of life in the top flight with one mid-air shoulder barging exercise looking particularly painful and resulting in a YouTube video clip.
“Obviously I didn’t want to be seen injuring a first-team player so I went easy on him so I toned it down a bit,” laughed Leigh.
“Will we have a re-match? I’m hoping not! You just have to get through things like that as best you can. I’m just hoping to keep raining at this level for as long as possible and it would be fantastic to go on the second leg of pre-season to the USA but I’ll wait and see what happens.
“Realistically, I think this season I’ll need to go out on loan and gain some first-team experience to develop my game further and then hopefully return and challenge for a place in the senior squad.”