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City fans get first sight of local star they crave in Phil Foden

414   //    22 Nov 2017, 04:55 IST
PhilFoden - cropped
Phil Foden comes on for his Manchester City debut

Sergio Aguero hacked wide from a chance Manchester City's all-time record goalscorer would normally convert wearing carpet slippers and Feyenoord goalkeeper Brad Jones celebrated the let-off by getting booked for labouring over the goal-kick.

It was that kind of error-strewn, forgettable night. Then, a diminutive number 47 emerged from the home bench and the applause began.

The reputation for youth development in these parts historically lies with Manchester United, from the Busby Babes to Fergie's Fledglings, but City's academy has played an important role behind the scenes of rapidly changing circumstances over the past 20 years.

Relaunched under the expert guidance of Jim Cassell at the end of the last century, a youth set-up housed at Platt Lane and then Carrington provided a source of identity and income as City found their feet once again in the top tier. Debuts from Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge among others were keenly awaited and generally worthy of the billing.

But Phil Foden is different. While Wright-Phillips, Richards and the rest were shimmering blue bolts amid the general grey, Foden's time is one of plenty of east Manchester. A growing band of admirers expect him to fit straight in.

The 17-year-old from Stockport was an unused substitute against Celtic at this stage of the Champions League last season but became the talk of City's fanbase with some classy pre-season performances in the International Champions Trophy. 

Guardiola recognised a player attuned to the style he adores – quick-thinking, quick-passing, always on the move.

“You are the lucky guys who saw the first game, for the first team for Manchester City, of this guy," he told a post-match news conference after United won the first and probably only Manchester derby to be staged in Houston.


Last month, Foden sprung to national prominence with a brace in the final as England stunned Spain 5-2 to win the Under-17 World Cup. He was named player of the tournament.

Four wins from four in the Champions League this season, mirroring their mastery of the Premier League up until this point, meant City were already assured of a place in the last-16 by the time Group F whipping boys Feyenoord came to town.

Foden's debut beckoned and, after 75 listless minutes devoid of the jeopardy that made the recent wins over Napoli so thrilling, it arrived. Yaya Toure, a man twice the age of his fresh-faced colleague, lumbered off. Time will tell over whether a torch was passed.

On first sight, Foden is an elegantly natural ballplayer. He was instantly into the action, trotting over to Danilo to receive a throw-in on the restart from his own introduction.

Seconds later he shuffled towards the Feyenoord defence and set fellow substitute Gabriel Jesus scampering into a dangerous area down the left.

The rookie took corners, completed every pass attempted in the opposition half and looked like he belonged in a tidy cameo. The impression is that this club and its fanbase badly need him to irrespective of the otherworldly thrills being brought forth on a weekly basis by Guardiola's galaxy of stars.

At boardroom level, for all the lavish spending, City now turn in profits. Sustainability is expected to be maintained and the new home for the club's academy at the Etihad Campus has come at no little expense.

Ten years ago, a sparsely populated City squad was thickened by homegrown players, whereas now competition is fierce and many of their brightest youngsters over the past decade – England right-back Kieran Trippier springs instantly to mind – have been forced elsewhere and prospered.

The talk around Foden is of a once-in-a-generation talent. If Tuesday's outing is the first of many for a lifelong City fan, it would mean the world to supporters and be a notable landmark for the Sheikh Mansour era.

It would also, evidently, mean the world to Foden. When Raheem Sterling slammed home to secure a late 1-0 win, the substitute was not involved but sprinted eagerly across the field and was the first to wrap the England winger in an embrace. He was living a boyhood dream and revelling in every second.

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