News From Manchester: Man City have learnt to embrace their recurring academy challenge – Simon Bajkowski

A problem with success in football is that others notice it and try to work out how they can achieve it. While some of that comes down to ideas, often it comes down to personnel.

City lost both their Under-18 and Under-23 coaches last summer – one to Guardiola's first-team staff and one to Parma, although he has now joined Guardiola – and this year Southampton came calling for their head of academy recruitment Joe Shields. It is no coincidence that the Saints have signed two City youngsters and tried to land a third in the same window that Shields has moved.

Both coaching and recruitment are perhaps even more vital at youth level than they are in senior football, with so many things needing to work well for players to progress through to the first team. Losing key staff can in many ways be more destabilising than seeing one of the best young prospects go elsewhere.

In recent years, City's attitude has changed. Where once disappointment ruled now there is more of a sense of satisfaction at the circumstances that have led to staff getting headhunted, as well as a determination not to be affected by it.

“One of the things that is a bit of pain in the neck is when you're developing your staff there's churn. They go either within our group or to first teams elsewhere,” academy head Jason Wilcox said in May this year.

“Initially when I was in the job it was quite frustrating but we've flipped it and see it as a real marker of success. We're here not to develop players just but to develop staff as well.

“The time it takes to recruit new people we have to get the right people. In that sense of course it's difficult to replace top people but we do a thorough process, we advertise for long enough, we get some top applications and have internal applicants and go through a thorough process.

“There's a lot of talent out there, something I really enjoy is identifying talent. We will have a churn of staff but what we have to do is every time we lose a member of staff, get somebody even better.”

In the same way that the first team have responded to losing some crucial first-team experience in the playing and coaching staff this summer, the academy will replace Shields and rely on the systems that they have put in place to keep operating at a high level.

If that leads to more staff being lost next year, it will be considered a job well done.


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