Guardiola hails 'incredible achievement' after U18 & U21 hat-trick
Written by Training Ground Guru — April 25, 2023
MANCHESTER CITY manager Pep Guardiola has hailed an “incredible achievement” after the club completed a ‘double hat-trick’ of Under-18 and Premier League 2 titles last weekend.
City’s U21s, led for the last two years by Brian Barry-Murphy, clinched their third straight Premier League 2 title on Sunday by winning 3-0 away at Blackburn Rovers. This was the first time any club had won the competition three years in a row.
A day earlier, City’s U18s had won their FOURTH straight U18 Premier League North title by beating their nearest challengers, Sunderland, 4-2 at home. They will now take on West Ham - winners of the U18s South - for the overall title.
If they prevail, that will be a hat-trick of U18 national titles for the club (they won the regional league in 2019/20 but were denied the chance of the national title because of Covid).
Speaking after the U21s win on Sunday, Guardiola said: “I am so delighted for everyone here at Manchester City to see the Elite Development Squad made it three titles in a row.
“You cannot believe how tough it is to win this title once, so to become champions for three seasons in a row is an incredible achievement. It also shows the dedication and hard work that everyone in the Academy puts into their roles.
“Moments like this are very special indeed. I hope all the players and Academy staff take some time to reflect on this latest success and enjoy it. They should be very, very proud of what they have done.
“The way the team has played this season epitomises the attitude and focus of all our young players. They work so hard - with and without the ball - and have played some magnificent football all season long.
“I personally want to send massive congratulations again to Jason [Wilcox], Brian [Barry-Murphy], his staff and everyone who has worked towards this title. It’s a very special achievement – well done guys!”
The trophies are another accolade for Academy Director Jason Wilcox, who is leaving in the summer to become Director of Football at Southampton. The former Blackburn and England winger joined City in 2013 and has been Academy boss since October 2017.
He said: “To win the Premier League 2 title for a third season in a row is an incredible achievement from our Elite Development Squad.
"We have once again fielded one of the youngest squads in PL2 and, whilst we have been extremely proud of the superb results this season, we are even more proud and appreciative of the way this latest title has been won.
“Our U21s have once again served as the benchmark for the style of play we want all our age groups to adopt here at the Academy. Winning a hat-trick of Premier League 2 titles is another hugely significant moment for our Academy.
"And this latest title is once again testament, not only to our talented players and coaches, but every single of member of staff who works extremely hard every day to with great dedication to help deliver success."
U18 PREMIER LEAGUE WINNERS:
- 2021/22: Man City
- 2020/21: Man City
- 2019/20: Man City (North), Fulham (South) *no final
- 2018/19: Derby County
- 2017/18: Chelsea
So does this mean City have the best Academy in English football?
Wilcox himself has acknowledged that trophies are only one measure of success at youth level.
“We are ultimately judged on the production of elite players who are going to supplement the game worldwide,” he said in an interview with the Gold Dust Podcast last year. “Most first-team managers are looking for good people.
“They give opportunity to good, authentic people who want to better themselves. That is what we are trying to generate and it is a cultural thing. What is great for me is that the Board also value all the off pitch support when you are taking an U9 all the way through the teenage years and adolescence.
“We have the boys in our care for long periods of time and it is really important that the parents feel they are dropping their sons off with family members and that we care for them like our own.”
City placed fourth in our Academy Productivity Rankings for 2021/22, up from 14th in 2016/17. In terms of producing homegrown players for their first team, City rank 14th in the Premier League this season according to the CIES, with 7.1% of their minutes having gone to ‘club-trained players.’
According to the CIES definition, a club-trained player is one who has been with his club for at least three seasons between the ages of 15 and 21.