Men's Team

Vassell and Sinclair: City culture brings best out of young talent

Former City duo Trevor Sinclair and Darius Vassell say the emergence of so many talented young players into the first team set-up this season illustrates the exciting potential pathway afforded to our Academy talent.

Following in the illustrious footsteps of Phil Foden, several other Academy graduates - including Cole Palmer and James McAtee - have made their own step up to first team level over the past 18 months.

Creative attacking midfielder Palmer signed a new long-term last summer while McAtee followed suit penning his own new deal earlier this month.

Aside from their time with the first team, the pair have also continued to make an impact with our Elite Development Squad.

McAtee has emerged as top scorer in PL2 this season, having claimed a brace in Monday’s 5-0 win at Derby to take his overall tally for the season to 16.


Palmer notably scored a hat-trick in our 5-0 win over Leicester earlier this term, appearing just hours after making a substitute appearance for Pep Guardiola’s first team against Burnley.

And according to Vassell and Sinclair – who were our Matchday Live special guests during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Brentford – the pair’s attitude and progress exemplifies the positive culture running through the Club.

“It’s all about the culture of the football club. It’s not about talent - it’s about cultures and setting good examples and humbling yourself,” former England international Sinclair declared.

“Cole Palmer got two minutes with the first team [earlier this season] and then immediately got a bus over to the Academy and then scored a hat trick for the EDS.

“And, actually, he could have gone over there and said: ‘I played two minutes, I warmed up…’ and tripped over his lip, and maybe felt sorry for himself.

“They (Palmer and McAtee) have both got that mentality. They go out there and show them why they are in the first team squad

“McAtee is a bit like Cole in the way he receives the ball on the back foot, checks the shoulder and gets into little pockets of spaces.


“In effect, they are beating men before they have had a touch.

“Obviously, McAtee is a very big talent and it’s great he has signed his contract - not only for the Club but because he sees his future here.

“He has seen Phil come through and there is a tradition at the club now.

“Pep has always said he wants to do something similar to what Sir Alex Ferguson did at Manchester United and bring a lot of young players through the Academy.”

That was a point further amplified by fellow former City and England star Vassell, who also pointed to the inspirational example the duo are setting for everyone else in the Academy.

“If you want to catch the manager’s attention - if you want to get that opportunity to get a run in the side - there is nothing better than scoring some goals,” Vassell pointed out.

“And if he is doing that well then fair play.


“As Trevor says, the culture means the young players see Phil do special things and they are believing, the Under- 12s or the Under-11s or whatever age group, they are believing that they have got a chance

“What Pep is doing is he is building for the future and the young lads who are seeing Phil score goals are feeling like they can do it as well.”

Both Sinclair and Vassell also praised quality of coaching in the Academy in terms of preparing the likes of McAtee and Palmer for the step up to senior level.

And they said that for the duo and all our other emerging talent, the opportunity to train and learn under Guardiola and some of the best players in the world formed a priceless element of their footballing education.

“You see a lot of young players coming in [to the first team] when if they are not sure they will flick it [the ball] and have a little gamble,” Sinclair pointed out.

“But these lads come in and have obviously been coached really well. They are checking their shoulders; they know exactly what their spatial awareness is and who is around them and they take responsibility

“It’s amazing to see such young players having that much control and maturity on the ball.”

“It’s been trained week in, week out with them and it’s about the company they have trained with – they can’t help but do it,” Vassell added.

“As a young player you watch and look up to people and you want to be like them and if you have the right people around you, you will latch on to the skill sets that they have got.

“And when you look at the Foden’s you do see similarities with the David Silva's.

“If you are young player here training week in, week out with those amazing guys, you say 'I want to be as good as you and I want you to notice me'.”

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