Say what you want about the two Manchester clubs; the one thing I admire about them is that they each have a few local players in and around their first team.
At United both Rashford and Lingard hail from the Manchester area, while Scotland international Scott McTominay was born in Lancaster, and joined the Manchester United academy at the age of five.
City however at first glance may be filled with an array of various international players, but the one that stands out currently is Phil Foden. The young lad from Stockport seems to be on his way to being a key player for Manchester City over the next decade. But there may be someone coming through the ranks very soon who may even overshadow Foden…
On Tuesday night Manchester City were playing Club Brugge in the Champions League. The focus was on yet another England international – Raheem Sterling – due to recent transfer speculation. He came on at around 65 minutes, as did a young prospect by the name of Cole Palmer. The blues were already winning 3-0 at this point, so there was no harm in throwing on a youngster to give him some first team experience and see how he copes at this level.
It took all of two minutes for Palmer to assert himself in the game. With his very first touch the midfielder shifted the ball onto his left foot, and with the second he superbly curled the ball around the keeper into the back of the net.
The 19 year old from Wythenshawe ran off to celebrate with his team mates – a sight we may see many more times this season – and City ended up comfortably winning 5-1 away from home.
So where does this leave Palmer? At the moment, in a very good position. With fellow academy graduate Phil Foden, Guardiola wanted to make a point and not expose him too much to first team football too early. Easing Foden into the team has worked wonders for him, so there is no reason for Palmer to not follow in Foden’s footsteps and become an important first team player in the near future.
But these things take time, and Guardiola knows that. So expect to see snippets of Palmer more and more throughout the rest of the season until he is ready to take a more prominent role within the squad. Granted, Cole Palmer does not have the same hype Foden did at his age, but he has already appeared twice in the Premier League this season, so Guardiola clearly rates him highly.
As a neutral, I think this is fantastic for the English game, not just for the Premier League as a whole, but the national team too. Having local players play for their boyhood clubs can only enhance their passion, and their overall game. We’ve seen it with the United players I have previously mentioned, Kalvin Phillips at Leeds United, Curtis Jones at Liverpool, and to a lesser extent; James Ward-Prowse at Southampton (since his family are from nearby Portsmouth).
I personally think it is great to see local players coming through the ranks in Premier League teams and it was something I feared would be dying out due to the immediate pressure on managers to succeed. So I’m glad these managers are taking the time to nurture talents at youth level and England will surely reap the benefits in the near future.
Of course, Palmer still has a long way to go, but as long as he keeps driven and Guardiola looks after him, he could easily add himself to that list of names, and eventually establish himself as a top player in a club that would love to boast two hometown heroes in their first eleven instead of one…