An England debut is a dream come true for any young footballer, but for City u18s defender Josh Murray it quickly turned into a nightmare.
Stockport-born Josh suffered a badly broken leg just 15 minutes after entering the fray in an u16 Victory Shield clash against Northern Ireland last November.
Further complications ruled him out for the rest of the 2013-14 campaign, a bitter blow for the young full back who had demonstrated so much potential coming through the Academy, and was one of the stars at the 2012 Canon Lion City Cup in Singapore.
But the 16-year-old is now back fit and raring to go as he tackles his first ever pre-season in foreign climes, part of the EDS and Academy trip to Croatia.
Josh told mcfc.co.uk: “It was a massive achievement for me to be picked for England, probably the biggest in my career so far.
“I was so excited, but nervous as well because it was my first game in front of so many people and it was on TV, which meant there was more pressure.
“Then I got injured, obviously. I didn’t know what was happening at the time, my body went into shock and everything happened so quickly. I was told I had broken my leg – which I knew, because I could feel it! But then I got Compartment Syndrome which is why I had to have so many operations.
“But I’m fit now and I’ve been missing football for so long, I just want to get out there and play!”
A long term injury is tough to take at any age, but for a then 15-year-old vying for a scholarship, it was especially hard and Josh was grateful for the support of players and staff at the club as he battled to regain fitness.
With six years at City already on his fledgling football CV, he has been plying his trade alongside many of his teammates through the Academy pyramid from the age of 11, and they remain a close-knit group.
He revealed: “It’s really difficult to cope, because you’re just sitting in the physio room when you want to be out playing football, but you have to get through it and do what the physios tell you.
“My teammates were fantastic - I got a video off them all when I was in hospital which really helped me stay positive.
“You get so much support from the staff as well and you form really close bonds with the physios and the other staff who are working with you.”
But Josh is keen to put the last seven months firmly behind him, as he embarks on his first season as a full time footballer and takes his place in the u18 squad.
He declared: “After the last few months, signing my scholarship at City felt like a new start. It’s a new year now and time to put that behind me. My parents were really proud, and it was really nice to be able to celebrate it with them.”
Murray is keen to point out the hard work starts now, as the u18s use the time in Croatia to ramp up preparations for the coming campaign, and he is relishing the challenge.
“The tour is really great because we’re all getting closer as a team,” he said.
“But it’s hard work, and you have to do your best in every training session to try and get in the team. It’s a big squad but you can’t be fazed by that.
“I just aim to work as hard as I can to play regularly for the u18s, and then hopefully push my way back into the England team again. That would be fantastic.”