Manchester City Under-5s elite squad branded 'absolute madness'
Written by Simon Austin — March 7, 2019
MANCHESTER CITY have come under fire after a team photo emerged showing their ‘Under-5s elite squad’.
Nick Levett, the Head of Talent and Performance for UK Coaching, described the very existence of the squad as “absolute madness” and said it could lead to wellbeing issues for the children concerned.
Although the club has refused to officially comment on the story, an insider told TGG that the photo “misrepresents what really goes on at that age level” and added that the sessions are “fun”, children are “not registered with the club” and that they “often play for other clubs as well”.
However, TGG understands that City do stream their under-5s into three ability groups - development, who train once a week at a City development centre; select, who train once a week at the Academy; and elite, who train at least three times a week at the Academy and receive official kit.
One former City Academy coach told us these players, who can be seen in the photo in official kit, are “treated like little pros”.
In the photo they are flanked by two coaches, also in official kit, at the indoor centre at the City Academy.
The club pays for both the coaching and hosts the sessions for the U5s. The photo was apparently taken “as a souvenir” for players and their parents and subsequently posted on social media without permission, according to City.
Levett, a former talent identification manager for the Football Association, said: “This is making the children look like adults when they won’t even be able to tie their own shoelaces. In fact some of them might still be in nappies, or recently out of them. It’s absolute madness.
“They might not be officially registered to the club. It will be in the child’s head that they are a footballer, because they’re in the ‘elite squad’.
“The reality is that they will probably be released by the age of nine. There’s the issue of identity foreclosure, in which the child has an identity without having explored other options or ideas. When that’s shattered there can be wellbeing issues.
“At the age of 10 or 11 they are in a better place to cope with that, but not at four. Don’t take a photo like the first team. Don’t call it elite.
“There are also the kids who haven’t been selected for the elite squad. To be told you are not good enough at four, when you can’t eat your tea without spilling some is just not common sense. The worry is it becomes common practice.”