The head of the City Academy says that innovations away from the pitch are yielding results on it for the current Under 18s squad.
20010/11 is the first season where Academy scholars have taken part in the Multiskills Lifestyle programme, a course designed to help equip the boys with the tools required to deal with their lives as developing footballers.
Central to this is working with the club’s City in the Community programme on a variety of projects around Manchester. These activities, including enterprise schemes and coaching courses, have helped the lads in all aspects of their lives according to Academy director Mark Allen, who says:
“The life skills programme has been a revelation this year. It has given the ability to develop these boys into young adults, probably sooner than if they had gone down a pure education route.
“We are seeing the benefits now because we can see leaders emerging. They are setting their own standards, the coaches don’t have to say anything, they can do it themselves.
They are a tremendous group and a real credit to the club in the way they behave and in their attitude.
...Academy Director Mark Allen on the Under 18 squad
"We rewarded them with a trip to the Usher gig at the MEN, as a way of saying thank you and of how much confidence we have in them. That’s a credit to their team spirit and they way they are as a group.
“There has to be reward. We try to preach discipline, focus and drive but sometimes you should take the foot off the gas and say, ‘you deserve this because you have done really well.’”
With a relatively young squad this season, the nucleus of the current Under 18 team could be in place for 2011/12. Preparations for next season are very much on the agenda, and there are tentative plans to follow up a recent friendly against Ajax with another game against top-class European opposition.
Mark adds, “We’re already looking at possibilities for our pre-season abroad, having felt the benefits of being in Berlin last summer. Planning is everything, and the lads will thrive off that. If they see order, organisation and discipline then they will respond. It will give them no excuse and a platform to focus on training from day one.
“Before then, we are trying to fix a date for a game with Barcelona, and part of this will be a test for us in terms of hosting such a game. It will be a learning experience for all of us.”