Manchester City Academy Director Mark Allen Discusses Player Development
Update: A discussion with Manchester City Academy Director Mark Allen at the 3rd Annual Manchester City Cup … Allen has just stepped down this week as Academy Director to become Scotland’s Rangers Director of Football.
What Makes Manchester City Academy so special? What is the training like? How does this EPL Academy develop players? What is so special about their player development environment?
These — among many others — were on the minds of top youth soccer coaches whose teams were playing in this year’s Manchester City Cup when they sat down to listen to Mark Allen discuss the training across the Atlantic.
Hosted by Surf Cup Sports, this high caliber annual soccer tournament draws teams from all across the USA as well as from Mexico and England.
Here is a little bit of what Allen shared with the top youth soccer coaches attending the workshop:
We ask Questions:
At Manchester City, one of the important aspects of our player development program is that we have very consistent practices – and we ask questions. And we look for consistency in games. After every game, we talk to the players for a few minutes after the match.
We — the coaches — ask our players what they saw in the game –what did they take notice of? And, not only what they are noticing, but what can they do about it?
That way we are checking to see what they are learning.
It’s very easy to tell and command players. But in the heat of the moment, when a player runs on the right-hand side in front of 60,000 people, he is not going to hear any instruction. Will this player know what to do? Will he see the big picture and be able to anticipate and do something about it?
Coaching is very much empowering players to know how to make the right decisions when on the field.
What are the characteristics of coaches at the Academy?
You have to have ambition. We need to push the boundaries and challenge ourselves in the pursuit of excellence.
We want to be the best. We make no apologies.
We’re aiming to be the best and we want to be the best.
What does Manchester City Academy Value?
We value ambition — We want to try and push the existing boundaries in our world and try something new.
We have the ambition that if we get it wrong then we get it wrong. We won’t fail for not trying.
The second value is graft, what you would call grit – fighting the hard yards with proper effort and consistently being committed to go above and beyond.
I challenge the staff – don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. It’s a bit of a cliché but that’s how we work.
Let’s come and find a solution to every problem and work that extra bit harder than anybody else to stay ahead.
The third value is pride in what we do.
You’ll notice this, hopefully, in terms of the team coming up that they are immaculate in the way they look.
There’s a very big part in what we do.
When we send a team out onto the pitch, we expect them to behave and represent the football club with a sense of pride. There are no socks rolled all the way up over their knees or sleeves over the hands.
We like to think we set the benchmark for standards and conduct in terms of boys’ behavior such as on a trip like this. They’re representing the football club – how they dress, how they carry themselves and to always be respectful.
And, up to the age of 16, only black boots – no other color cleats are allowed.
So, when they become scholars at the age of U17, that’s when we give them the choice of what color boots to wear — for the very first time.
The final value is respect.
Not just respect for ourselves but for those around us in the community. We are a community club and are interested in the city of Manchester
Respect is very much a part of humility in terms of a football club.
Those four values live throughout everything.
In terms of how we operate, the player is in the middle of everything. The player is the most important — we focus on the players at our academy and give them no excuse for failure.
On a final note:
If a player is late for training, then he trains on his own later in the day. If a player is late for training the day of a game, then he doesn’t play. Whatever level, no matter how good the player is.
Everyone is working hard for them, and they are given everything they need. All we ask is that they show up on time; they’re respectful; they train hard and they play with those four values at the very core of what they do.
Our philosophy is very simple. That is to deliver a comprehensive football education. You must make sure those four values — ambition, graft, pride and respect — live every day of the week.