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Unsung hero Delph eyes City landmark

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Fabian Delph has emerged as a key figure for both club and country

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Fabian Delph has emerged as a key figure for both club and country

Fresh from being handed the honour of captaining England, Fabian Delph is now on the threshold of another notable landmark as he approaches his 50th Premier League appearance for Manchester City.

The very epitome of the modern-day unsung hero, Delph may not garner the attention or headlines afforded many of his team-mates but the esteem with which he is held - both by manager Pep Guardiola and his colleagues - speaks volumes.

It’s a sentiment shared by England manager Gareth Southgate who had no hesitation in awarding Delph the armband for last week’s friendly win over the United States.

By way of encore, Delph then followed that up by delivering a magnificent individual display in Sunday’s crucial 2-1 UEFA Nations League win over Croatia, a performance that garnered widespread praise and admiration.

As Southgate said: “You don’t give the England captaincy to somebody unless they really have the attributes that can carry it.

"Fabian was huge for the group in the summer and he was one of the reasons we were successful.”

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The prestigious recognition was also further just reward for the way Delph has battled back from adversity to become such a trusted figure for club and country.

Delph made the move to City from Aston Villa in the summer of 2015 armed with an impressive midfield pedigree.

However, his first two seasons at the Club were marred by a succession of injuries.

Though he managed 17 Premier League starts and a further nine from the bench in his first campaign, that tally was reduced to just 12 league appearances in total during Pep Guardiola’s inaugural season in charge.

Those types of challenges would have overwhelmed many players but Delph – perhaps mirroring his no nonsense Yorkshire upbringing – dug deep and emerged as crucial component of our record-breaking 2017/18 squad.

The catalyst was the serious knee injury which side-lined left-back Benjamin Mendy for the bulk of the campaign in September 2017.

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In need of an immediate quality reinforcement for the position, Guardiola opted to entrust the key role to Delph and was rewarded handsomely.

Despite being deployed in an unfamiliar position, Delph proved a revelation in the role, going on to make 22 league appearances as well as delivering an absolute peach of a goal in our 5-0 league win over Crystal Palace.

Arguably his stand-out individual performance came in in our crucial 1-0 win away at Chelsea in late September which highlighted Delph’s tactical acumen and flexibility and drew warm praise from Guardiola.

“He showed us,” the City manager said after the game. “He showed us, he showed me, he showed his team-mates a lot.

“It's not easy when, for a long period you don't play and, OK, a manager gives you an opportunity and play one position you never play before.

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“So, it means a lot, it means a lot for all of us and normally that happens when you are a good guy.

“Some guys, they only want to play in one position, 'in the other one I am not comfortable', so he's a guy who always tries to help.”

For his part, Delph was equally effusive about the way Guardiola had helped shape and hone his career progression.

Reflecting on last season’s record-breaking campaign, the 28-year-old said: “He has opened my eyes to so much. I didn’t picture football like Pep does. He’s painted the pictures for me.

“I’m a very traditional English guy who believes in hard work and dedication and giving it absolutely everything. I’m there to fight and pick up second balls, to be that old English type of player, but he has reinvented me.

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“Now it’s all about being calm and collected on the ball, being sensible in terms of if someone occupies my position then I need to occupy a different position.”

A key member of England’s World Cup finals squad last summer, Delph had only 12 days break over the summer before returning to link up with his City team-mates ahead of the new campaign.

And already this season he has further emphasised his versatility and commitment to the collective cause by impressing in the deep lying protective midfield role normally occupied by Fernandinho during our recent Carabao Cup win over Fulham.

With Mendy sidelined with a knee problem, Delph’s importance will only be amplified as we began the crucial run-up to Christmas.

And Guardiola knows in Delph, he can call upon a player he can totally depend on.

“I have no doubts about Fabian. He was important for us last season and he will be again this season,” the City boss declared earlier this season.


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