Courted by City and United at multiple stages of his fledgling career, Manchester lad Ash Kigbu chose blue over red and hasn’t looked back since.
After putting his football on hold for a few years to concentrate on his studies, the young defender found his services in demand on his return to the game.
However, City’s groundbreaking partnership with St Bede’s allowed Ash to complement his footballing education with good grades in the classroom, and the adjustment to being a full time scholar has since been a smooth one for the confident and articulate 16-year-old.
He told mcfc.co.uk: “I started off playing football in primary school. I was training with United and City and I did that for a while but I stopped for a few years because my parents wanted me to focus more on school at that time.
“When I started again, they told me that if you do well then you can carry on playing, so I did do well because I wanted to play! They are so supportive of me, they try and get down to every game, are always helping me and asking me what I need. They’re great.
“The St Bede’s programme was one of the main reasons I chose City. At the time I could have gone to United as well but the St Bede’s programme helped me and my parents to make a decision, because it meant I could get a good education as well.”
A centre-back blessed with pace, power and superior aerial ability, Ash has carved out a regular starting spot for himself in Jason Wilcox’s u18 squad – and with the wealth of talent at the manager’s disposal, the youngster admits he had no idea how many minutes he would be able to chalk up in his first year as a scholar.
However, Kigbu is relishing the challenge and explains how the attitude of the players being schooled at City Football Academy means competing against the friends he has grown up alongside isn’t an issue.
“To be honest I wasn’t really sure what would happen this year,” he reflected. “In the u16s I was used to playing every game, but I was aware of the competition ahead so I came in with an open mind, ready to play or not play.
“It has shown me if I am doing well I will play, but if you’re not performing there is always someone else to do your job. It keeps you on your toes and to make sure you perform every single game.
“It would be easy for people to be childish about us competing for places but with the people we have and the team we have everyone is really good about it. I think we all realise everyone is trying to do the same thing and get to the same place.”
The class of 2015 are the first club-trained youngsters to spend the whole of their scholar season at the City Football Academy, and they aren’t in danger of forgetting their privileged position.
A glance at their opposition on a Saturday morning is enough to remind City’s young players that no other club in the country can provide a similar environment.
Said Kigbu: “I think other teams get star struck playing here! I think it kills them because no other club would be used to a place like this, but it should motivate them as well because everyone wants to be here.
“Everything you could think of to help you develop as a player is here. It leaves it down to us really because they have catered for everything in every department, so we have to make the most of it.
“We are blessed to be here.”
With world class facilities backed up by outstanding coaching and the chance to learn from his idols, Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala at close quarters, Ash is spoiled for choice when it comes to naming the best piece of advice he’s received in his career.
However, he doesn’t hesitate for long: “Keep things simple and know what you’re good at.”
60 Seconds with Ash
Last film watched?
The Shawshank Redemption. Very good movie.
A Rolls Royce Phantom Ghost.
Country you most want to visit?
Got to be America, because I want to go to New York and spend Christmas there.
If you could only have one superpower, which would you choose?
Telepathy. Doing things with your mind is crazy.
If you could learn a language?
I want to be able to speak something like Mandarin.
If you weren’t a footballer, what would you do?
Something in music. I just love music.
Last album listened to?
Dreamchasers 3 – Meek Mill.
Worst subject at school?
PlayStation or Xbox?
Favourite game to play?
Call of Duty
Best dancer in the u18s?
I don’t like to brag… but I’d say I’m up there! It’s between me and Isaac [Buckley]. He’s good.
Loudest in the u18s?
Lukas [Nmecha] always has a bit to say and Isaac is up there as well.
What do you do on a day off?
I would go out for something eat with my mates or just have a day on the PlayStation.