10 Manchester City Trainees Who Made Their Breakthrough Elsewhere
Manchester City Football Club is not particularly known for its youth development program. And in recent years especially, the team's best players have been acquired from other programs.
At some level, this is due to City's comparatively recent (as against other English clubs) efforts to construct a system for bringing up younger players. From the club's website:
The Academy was set up in 1998 to provide a strong and effective Youth Programme, for the recruitment and development of young footballers within Manchester City Football Club.
In line with the Football Association’s Charter of Quality, the Academy prepares players of the future for the Club and enables them to progress both on and off the field.
The club further notes that 30 trainees have gone on from the Academy to play first-team football for City. Apparently that's a lot.
Of course, some of those players debuted with City only to find more fortune elsewhere. Here is a look at 10 of those players.
(All information in the following slides is culled from www.mcfc.com.)
Keep reading after this slide and you will see that most of the players listed in this piece are not household names. For the most part, none of those men could be called "the one that got away."
That, sadly, does not apply to Daniel Sturridge.
The only cold comfort for City fans is that Chelsea must have similar and more significant regrets.
Sturridge debuted with City in February 2007 with a substitute appearance against Reading. He made one other substitute appearance with the Sky Blues in 2007 before losing the remainder of the season with a hip injury.
His first goal came in January 2008 in an FA Cup tie against Sheffield United, followed three days later by his first league goal against Derby County. Out of contract after the 2008-09 season, Sturridge moved to Chelsea that summer.
As you no doubt know, it never quite came off for Sturridge in London, with his high watermark being 11 Premier League goals for Chelsea in 2011-12.
Sturridge has, of course, been positively reincarnated at Liverpool this season. Playing alongside Luis Suarez, Sturridge has 18 Premier League goals in 19 appearances, and Liverpool are in line for a Champions League place next season.
City could use a striker like Sturridge—but Chelsea desperately need a striker like Sturridge.
Joey Barton's first appearance with the City first team came against Bolton in April 2003.
Barton enjoyed a lengthy tenure at City and arguably had some of his finest moments as a player as a Sky Blue. Amazingly, though, Barton was involved in two of the greatest moments in Manchester City history by doing something he does a lot—which is getting himself thrown out of a match.
In February 2004, Barton was sent off after the first half of an FA Cup replay with Tottenham Hotspur for arguing with the referee in the tunnel. City were down 3-0 at the time. Ten-man City then scored all four goals of the second half and posted an astonishing 4-3 victory.
Barton's hot head was certainly part of the reason for his move to Newcastle United in the summer of 2007. However, it was his subsequent move to Queens Park Rangers that ultimately gave Barton his place in City lore.
Because it was Barton who characteristically lost his temper and put his QPR teammates at that familiar 10-man disadvantage against City on May 13, 2012—also known as the day City won the league for the first time in 44 years.
After that, Whelan bounced to Sheffield Wednesday, which is where his career really started to take off. His name thus made, Stoke paid £500,000 for his services in January 2008.
You know what they say about the rest. Whelan has been a mainstay at Stoke for the past five-and-a-half seasons, all of which have seen the Potters keep their Premier League place.
Probably Whelan's highlight at Stoke was also the club's apex during his time there, an FA Cup final appearance in 2011 when Stoke lost at Wembley—to City.
Stephen Jordan was an apt defender for City's youth teams but did not make his debut for the senior side until he turned 21 in April 2003 at Bolton.
Jordan made more than 60 appearances for the Sky Blues before leaving Manchester in the summer of 2007 when his contract was not renewed. Jordan moved over to Burnley where he stayed for three seasons; in that time Burnley earned promotion to the Premier League.
After 70 Burnley appearances, Jordan was let go following Burnley’s relegation to the Championship.
Midfielder Willo Flood made his City first-team debut in the 2003-04 UEFA Cup. From that point forward, Flood made occasional Premier League and League Cup appearances with the Sky Blues but never bedded into the XI.
Flood made 25 appearances in his first season in South Wales, then profited personally from season-long loan moves to Dundee United in the Scottish Premier League in 2007 and 2008. Flood's excellence with United won him a dream move to Celtic, but he only stayed at Parkhead for one season, making just a handful of appearances.
After a cup of coffee with Middlesbrough in 2010, Flood returned to Dundee United and again saw regular playing time.
Last summer Flood bounced to Aberdeen, where he plays now.
Striker Stephen Elliott made his Premier League debut as a 20-year-old substitute against Bolton Wanderers, then made only one other substitute appearance before Sunderland swooped in and took him away from Manchester for £125,000.
Elliott scored 15 times for the Black Cats; his goals aided their cause significantly as his side earned promotion to the Premier League in 2005. Unfortunately, Elliott's follow-up season was an injury-marred disappointment that saw Sunderland relegated again.
Sunderland rebounded in 2007, but Elliott was still sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers. After a season there, he played for Preston North End and Norwich City (on loan) before signing with Scottish outfit Hearts in the summer of 2010.
Elliott is now playing for Coventry City in League One.
After joining the City Youth Academy at the tender age of 13, Leon Mike later made his City debut in November 2001.
However, Mike's time in Scotland was brief after he managed but six goals in 39 appearances. Aberdeen promptly bought Mike out of his contract.
Mike had some success at Mossley AFC, where he scored 37 goals in two years and 71 games. Thereafter he joined FC United in December 2005 before announcing his retirement from football at just 25 years of age.
After football, Mike took up studies in the law and also dabbled in acting.
Tyrone Mears, an athletic right-back, made only one appearance with City's senior team (against Nottingham Forest in 2002). That season saw Mears make his first of many moves, this one to Preston North End.
Injuries hampered Mears at Preston; he made only 70 appearances in four seasons there. Still, Mears was enough of a talent to convince West Ham to part with £1 million for his services in 2006.
Mears was thereafter loaned to Derby County in January 2007, a loan which morphed into a permanent move six months later. Loaned again to Marseilles a year later, Mears expressed frustration at his uncertain situation. After returning to Derby County from Marseilles, Mears was sold to Burnley in 2009.
Mears is presently playing with Bolton Wanderers in the Championship.
Dickson Etuhu started 12 out of 13 games for Manchester City in the autumn of the 2001-02 season.
Soon thereafter, however, a contract dispute led City to ship Etuhu to Preston North End in January 2002—where he was signed by none other than current Manchester United manager David Moyes.
Etuhu has also enjoyed success on the international level, most notably appearing for the Nigerian men's national team in multiple African Nations Cup teams and their World Cup team in 2010.
Schmeichel made his City debut against West Ham in August 2007 and was thought for a short while to have seized the starting 'keeper job at City in the months that followed. However, by then current City No. 1 Joe Hart was a burgeoning star.
Schmeichel was thus loaned to Cardiff City and later to Coventry before playing his final game for the Citizens in December 2008. When Manchester City then signed Shay Given, Schmeichel clearly had one foot out the door.
The keeper then signed with Notts County in the summer of 2009 and moved over to Leeds United in 2010 before finally finding a home at Leicester City, where he is currently the undisputed No. 1 'keeper now.