Wilkinson excited by Under-18s challenge

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Manchester City Official

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New Under-18s head coach Ben Wilkinson says he is hugely excited by the challenge as City prepare for the launch of the 2021/22 Premier League Under-18 North campaign.

Ben has taken over the role in succession to Carlos Vicens, who joined Pep Guardiola’s first team staff earlier this summer after guiding City to both the Under-18 Premier League North and national titles last term

After a playing career in non-league football, Ben – the son of hugely respected former Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday boss Howard Wilkinson – made the move into coaching and spent more than seven years on the coaching staff at Sheffield Wednesday.

He joined City three years ago and has since enjoyed spells as both assistant head coach of our Under-23s and, more latterly, as lead coach of our Under-16s.

Now he is preparing for his latest challenge, taking charge of a City squad which has enjoyed outstanding success over the past few years, culminating in last season’s double title triumph.

Though the make-up of this season’s squad will look very different, Wilkinson says he is eagerly looking forward to overseeing our latest crop of outstanding young talent.

“I’m very excited by the challenge. We’ve got a really talented group of players and it gives us a chance to build on the really good work that has been done over the past couple of years,” Ben revealed.

“If you look back to the last five, even 10 years, we’ve had a really successful Under 18 team and I guess its about A: being as successful as we possibly can be and B: getting as many players through as we can; whether that’s with our first team or somewhere else.

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“There was some fantastic work last year. The teams played some exceptional football, and we had some top players. You put all those things together and it’s a real recipe for success.

“Now it’s time for new blood as our team this year will be almost unrecognisable from last year. Maybe one or two players will stay, the rest have all moved up and it’s about trying to take that success on.

“So, I am really excited about the role and very proud to follow in some successful footsteps.”

Looking ahead to the new campaign, Wilkinson was also crystal clear when outlying what would be his main priorities.

Adhering to the philosophy and playing style that underpins the Club as a whole would be the guiding principles as he sets out his stall.

“Commitment to the style of play that’s kind of deeply rooted in the Club and Academy’s philosophies (is key),” Wilkinson asserted.

“We can all be very proud of the fact that there is a very strong identity running through all the teams in the Academy.

“When you come and watch any of the City teams play; there is a real strong link through all the different age groups which is testament to the good work that has gone on for a long period of time here.

“So that is a big priority along with the individual development of the players.

“In terms of 70 or 80 per cent of the squad; it’s their first year of full-time football so it’s about managing that transition of still being a schoolboy and being a very serious footballer and being a Manchester City player and potentially training with the first team and the demands that are placed on you and also managing to maintain that winning formula.

“As much as its about developing players and the boys’ development, winning is also very important.

“The first team set the standard and we need to create winners at this level. If we are able to marry all those things together we’ll have half a chance.”

By way of added incentive, the Under-18s have also been handed a hugely exciting start to the new campaign.

Wilkinson’s young charges will kick-off the new campaign with a home derby against Manchester United on Saturday, August 14th – an attractive assignment which is then followed by a testing trip to Everton.

“It’s a great start for the boys and there will be no added motivation needed for those games,” Wilkinson added.

“They have played against Manchester United a lot of times in their journey, but it’s still means something to them above a lot of the other games.

“It’s another part of their development where they need to play the game and not the occasion.

“It’s a tough start against two of the top teams but it’s still only worth three points.”

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