With our philosophy embedded at a young age, the fledgling quartet have cemented their places in the senior starting XIs and now, the next generation of City stars are champing at the bit to follow in their football boots.
Currently enjoying those new and privileged opportunities of training at the state-of-the-art City Football Academy with its impressive Regional Talent Club, and playing alongside some of the world’s best stars, budding female players are dreaming of embarking on the same road with a clear pathway now laid out for the journey to senior stardom.
Unlike their veteran counterparts (and Jill Scott will tell you…), teenagers today do not have to suffer the hardships of working multiple jobs, training late at night, travelling long distances to train in inadequate facilities, washing their own kits…
Aiding the progression of young players is something the Club and staff are deeply passionate about, and a lot of work is put in to ensuring each individual receives the best support on their journey, as City women’s interim manager Alan Mahon explains.
“We’ve always worked closely with the Development and Academy squads to ensure we have the best young players coming through, building the best process for young players, creating a realistic pathway,” he said.
“We’re very proud of our Academy structure. It isn’t done by fluke. A lot goes on behind-the-scenes and it will only get better.
“We have some young players in the first-team squad now and we recognise it can be difficult for young players to come into an environment like City because of the levels.
“We give them more time to adapt, but in terms of their development, attitude and application, they’ve been fantastic. They understand the process of getting into the first-team, and we’re really happy.”
Three of those starlets currently on the fringes of first-team action are Jess Park, Emma Bissell and Tyler Toland. The teenage trio have enjoyed snippets of matchday minutes with squad rotation for cup games, and they’re loving every second of their fledgling careers – the envy of their friends.
The biggest challenge for many youngsters now is the requirement to be patient, as they soak up the incredible experiences of learning from the cream of the crop, knowing it will benefit them in the long-term.
“It’s all about development,” Toland stated. “I knew at the start I wouldn’t go straight in to play and I was prepared to wait a year or two, training day in, day out with the best players in the world. I can see it’s helped me massively as a player.
“Seeing those players who have progressed through the youth set-up and how they started out, knowing they maybe didn’t play at the start, it helps you to be patient and put the work in.
“The players have told me to keep at it and that it will happen for me if I keep working hard every day. Everybody has to start somewhere and in this professional environment, if you put the work in, you will get the opportunity.”
With all three players having to uproot at a tender age – Toland moving to a completely new country at 18 – Park (one of three players to bag a hat-trick in the 10-0 FA Cup triumph over Ipswich Town) believes the exposure to City’s professional environment has also positively impacted the girls off the pitch.
“My development has definitely shot up,” she agreed. “I’ve really developed quickly on and off the field – technically and tactically, and socially.
“I’ve become more confident; more of a leader, and being with the girls, you learn and improve automatically, picking up different things from different players.
“It’s incredible and it’s brilliant to learn from them, playing with them. They’re always giving us tips and advice on and off the field. The most important advice they’ve given me is to be patient.
“You have to trust in the process. Watching them play and win titles makes me very hungry to be lifting trophies.”
Success at Club level can also open up doors to international glory. Since joining City, Stanway, Roebuck, Walsh and Hemp have gone on to make their senior debuts for England’s Lionesses side, competing at major tournaments, regardless of their youth – another feat our Academy stars aspire to achieve.
“You can see the pathways,” Bissell continued. “Younger footballers are coming through and you can see it’s possible if you put in the hard work.
“Our time will come. For now, we have to keep developing, getting the experience, so that when it does come, we’re 100% ready to perform at the best level.
“We’re playing alongside and against top players already in training. I’m up against players like Ellen White and Pauline Bremer – top quality, clinical strikers.
“I learn things from them which is so beneficial for me. Watching how they play has really aided my game and helped me come on so much.
“We’re all working hard to get into the starting line-up, pushing ourselves every day.
“For me personally, I’m with England’s Under-19s now and a real goal of mine is to break into their senior team in time.
“It can happen if you work hard enough and remain focused.”
So, what do Scouts look for in a young player to know they have what it takes to play for City, competing at the highest level for trophies?
“A number of things,” Mahon continued. “Physicality, balance on the ball, experience, technique… that’s a big one for us because of the way we play. We pride ourselves on that.
“First and foremost, we want good people as well as good players. That always makes life easier because it’s easier to manage their expectations – they understand that becoming the next Steph Houghton doesn’t happen overnight.
“It’s a long process of hard work and determination over numerous years.
“We have good people throughout the team. Recently, I’ve seen Keira take Tyler under her wing. Keira is now reaching the next level and she’s looking to bring other players with her.
“That’s testament to the camaraderie of our team structure. The players want to help each other and that makes things easier for the staff.
“Producing our own players is something we’re very proud of and something we’ll continue to be involved heavily in.
“We’ll long keep pushing youngsters, giving them pathways to develop. If they join in, listen and absorb everything, we’ll have a strong and healthy future.”