Veteran ball boy Foden a 'flagbearer' for Manchester City youngsters
Phil Foden's progress in Manchester City's first team sets a vital example to the next generation of youngsters battling to make the grade for the Premier League champions, says youth team coach Gareth Taylor.
Foden made 26 appearances in all competitions for Pep Guardiola's treble winners in 2018-19, scoring seven goals – including his first in the Premier League, which secured a vital 1-0 win over Tottenham during the title run-in.
Breaking into City's lavishly assembled squad has proved a tall task for the club's leading young stars over recent years, with Jadon Sancho, Brahim Diaz and Rabbi Matondo all deciding to seek high-profile opportunities elsewhere.
The significance of boyhood City fan Foden seemingly lasting the course is not lost on Taylor.
"As coaches, we can say, 'This is what this guy did, this is how much he cared, this is how much he wanted to improve. These are the things you need to be looking at'," said the ex-City striker, who now takes charge of the club's under-18 side.
"I had Phil for two-and-a-half, three years. As well as being a top talent, he was an incredible lad to work with – very low maintenance, very humble, always doing extra.
"These are the key kind of credentials that you're looking for in young lads. To have Phil, someone who's worked his way up all the way through the academy, now working with amazing players and an amazing manager as a kind of a flagbearer is great for us."
All eyes will be on whether Foden can take a more prominent role in Guardiola's plans next term, with his thirst for involvement on matchdays at the Etihad Stadium something Taylor remembers with a smile.
"When I was coaching the under-16s, we kind of helped out with the ball boys. But the ball boys, usually, we try to have a cut-off at under-14, maybe under-15.
"Phil still wanted to do it at under-16. He probably did it only a calendar year before he was in the first team.
"He just wanted to be close to it all the time, he wanted to be close to the players and he loved that angle of being close to the pitch."
Foden turned 19 this week and will feature in England's bid for glory at next month's European Under-21 Championship, where a burning desire to improve identified by Taylor could pay dividends.
"With Phil it was always just sheer love of the game," he added. "He's doing the same now.
"I see him in the training sessions. Afterwards he'll take a bag of balls and you'll see him out there for ages.
"It's improving his game but, also, he just loves it. He absolutely just wants to play."