Last season saw Kieran McKenna’s side claim the Premier League Northern title, scoring in every single league game played. His attacking side, toppled Manchester City’s £200m academy and sealed the title with a game to go by beating them 2-1. However, the squad lost the national final 3-0 as Chelsea proved to be one manufactured academy too far.
As the song goes, ‘we often score six and seldom score ten’. This is slightly less tongue-in-cheek for the under-18 side, which hit 6 goals four times in a sensational campaign, scoring a total of 65 goals in 22 games. Below are some of the key players from the side to look out for in 2018-19 and beyond.
At just 16 years of age, Greenwood is one of the youngest in McKenna’s side, but it is difficult to tell after he finished the side’s top scorer with 16 league goals. In fact, Greenwood finished the second top scorer across both under-18 divisions, with Reo Griffiths of Tottenham, coming out on top. Greenwood’s talents have also been recognised on the international stage, scoring on his England under-17 debut against Russia following a call up in November.
Despite what his stats say, Greenwood’s game is not all about goals, he also registered 6 assists last campaign and is really developing that side of his game. His favourite move is to drop deep from his usual number nine role in order to pick up the ball and run at defenders. As if that was not bad enough for emerging defenders out there, Greenwood is two-footed. He takes penalties with both feet which shows how confident he is in his ability and adds an exciting unpredictability to his game.
In 2017-18 Greenwood played and scored in five age groups, from under-16 up to under-20. With goal scoring coming so naturally to him, he will be looking to better his tally of 29 across all competitions this time around as his development has shown no signs of slowing down.
Galbraith crowned an excellent campaign last season by signing his first professional contract in May. The Northern-Irish defensive midfielder joined last summer from Linfield and has already been capped numerous times for his U-17 national side, as he looks set to flourish even further this season.
Galbraith plays as a practical number eight, which means you won’t find any YouTube compilations with suspicious music of him just yet. However, McKenna is clearly a fan and used Galbraith to offer the balance needed for such an attacking side. His stability in the middle often allows Chong, Gomes, Burkart and Greenwood the freedom to do as they please.
Despite this, Galbraith took all of the headlines off of his attacking counterparts by grabbing what turned out to be the title winning goal against Manchester City. His 25-yard first-time strike also won the club’s goal of the month award for April. It’s well worth a watch if you haven’t see it already. The young Irishman finished his season on a high and will look to take that into the coming months as he looks to cement his place in the side.
Pugimal signed from Espanyol with great expectations, as a Spanish midfielder, it’s part and parcel I suppose. These expectations got greater when, due to international clearance issues, his debut was delayed. It was worth the wait though as an excellent debut free-kick against Newcastle justified why he had been drafted into the side.
Puigmal rarely takes more than two touches, one to control the ball, the other to release it. This keeps the play flowing and the 17-year-old is spoilt for choice when he puts his head up and sees who’s running ahead of him in this side. When dribbling with the ball, his close control makes up for what he might lack in pace.
Puigmal managed three goals last season, with his best coming from that 30-yard free kick against Newcastle, as the Spaniard has become the first in the queue to take set-pieces. His most important contribution, however, came in injury time against Liverpool to earn a point at a snowy Melwood in December.
Despite being set back by his international clearance delays last season, a full pre-season this time round will see him become a vital asset to the squad and add that extra Spanish guile and control that few other academies in the country possess.
This article was taken from the RoM charity preview.