As revealed in our ‘289 goals in 40 games’ feature on Thursday, former City striker Paul Moulden knows what it’s like to have high expectations placed on young shoulders.
One of the brightest youth team graduates of the 1980s, Moulden’s career was blighted by serious injuries that eventually saw him retire aged 28.
With his youngest son now keeping goal for City’s Academy side, Moulden is well-placed to advise rising talent Phil Foden on how to best deal with moving from the youth ranks into the first-team spotlight.
“I think he’s gone from strength to strength, which you’d expect from a lad with his talent,” said Moulden who left the Blues in 1989.
“If I was to impart any advice, I’d just say: ‘keep your feet on the ground – you’re playing with world class players, so learn off them every day, keep improving and working hard to fulfil your potential.
“Obviously, steering clear of injuries helps, but he has every chance of getting to where he wants to be, but it’s vital you remain grounded.
“When I broke through, were still under then-youth team coach Tony Book’s watchful eye, even though we were now in the first team.
“The only expectation on our shoulders was to go out and give 100% - that was required of all the players who broke through to the first team. We all had ability, but Tony’s concern was that we backed up that talent with hard work.”
Moulden, like Foden, has quickly become a firm fan favourite and like the Stockport-born playmaker, he shared a strong rapport with the City faithful as a teenager.
“The fans were second to none with me and I wanted to return that faith,” he said. “It was greatly appreciated, but I appreciated more when I left and played for other clubs. The support I got from our fans and everyone at the Club was incredible and it was a great time to be at City.
“Kids have got to come through and play, but that’s what Manchester City has always been about – we have a long history of bringing young talent through and long may it continue.”
Moulden says he wouldn’t have swapped a single day of his career and enjoyed his playing days immensely – his only regret is perhaps the question of where he might have got to had he not been so unlucky with major injuries.
“I had a catalogue of set-backs during my time with City and broke my leg three times before I kicked a ball for the first team,” he said. “Scoring was never a problem for me – staying fit was my major issue.
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“Four broken legs, a broken back, three hernia operations, an Achilles tendon stripped, ligaments detached – all major injuries for a player and most of which you’d be unlucky if they happened once in your career. I had the lot.
“I couldn’t stop scoring and things couldn’t have gone much better at schoolboy and youth level. I made into the first team, the goals kept coming- but so did the injuries.
“I broke a bone in my spine after a collision and was out for a season as a result. I recovered, went on pre-season and then my good mate Earl Barrett cleaned me out in training and I was out for another year.”
And what of that record of 289 goals in 40 games with Bolton Lads?
“I was in a great team and we used to wipe the floor with everyone,” he smiled. “We weren’t just a cut above everyone else, we were two or three levels better with a lot of great players.
“I kept involved with football after my playing career ended but of live it through my boys.
“I’ve got three sons – Joe, 22, who is a centre-half who was at United and Blackpool and is now in Indianapolis where we have high hopes he’ll get drafted; Ted, 18, who’s a right-back at Bolton, but is out with injury at the moment and Louie, 16, who is a goalkeeper with City – for all my goal-scoring instincts at their age, they couldn’t buy a goal between them!
“Returning to Phil Foden, I’d just add to enjoy it and that I enjoy watching him play and can see he see enjoys playing – that’s what football is all about.”