Several of Manchester City’s academy prospects were given a double boost yesterday as the return of the Premier League draws ever closer.
Manchester Evening News reported that academy quartet Tommy Doyle, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Felix Nmecha were all included in a practice match with the first team squad at the City Football Academy, with the youngsters lining out alongside Pep Guardiola’s established stars.
It was then confirmed (as per Sky Sports) that clubs will be allowed to make five substitutions per match for the rest of the league season, with the maximum number of substitutes that can be named by managers increased from seven to nine.
Aside from Nmecha, the other three academy players had all featured sporadically for Guardiola’s first team this season. Garcia is the most established, playing 718 minutes across 11 matches and starting twice in the Premier League, while Harwood-Bellis has played 278 minutes across four matches and under-23 captain Doyle has had 103 minutes of game-time from a couple of domestic cup games.
Their inclusion in the practice match yesterday suggests that they are in the manager’s plans, while the increased allowance for substitutes (and substitutions) offers them a greater chance of getting Premier League game-time than they might normally have.
Which of these Man City academy players excites you the most?
Another factor which could count in their favour is Manchester City’s league standing in the context of their continued presence in the FA Cup and Champions League, both of which are set to resume over the coming weeks.
Guardiola’s team are comfortably in a top four position but a massive 25 points behind Liverpool, and if the Merseysiders win their next two league games to clinch the title, the Manchester City boss may well give greater priority to the cup competitions rather than virtually inconsequential league fixtures. In turn, academy prospects like Garcia, Harwood-Bellis, Nmecha and Doyle could be given their chance to shine towards the end of the Premier League season.
While certain circumstances have helped the youngsters’ prospects of getting first team minutes over the coming weeks, Guardiola would not have called them to train with the senior squad if he felt they couldn’t make a contribution at that level.
The academy quartet have been shown a degree of faith by the manager and now is their chance to forge their way into his longer-terms plans at the Etihad Stadium.
Man City fans, would you like to see youngsters such as Garcia and Nmecha featuring regularly for the rest of the season? Comment below with your views!
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