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Manchester City's Lake: Talent and Ability Lost To Fate

10 Oct 1989:  Portrait of Paul Lake of England during the UEFA U21 Championship Quarter-final against Poland at Jastrzebie in Poland. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon /Allsport
True BlueCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2009

For those of you who don't know, the picture above is of Paul Lake. He is a born and bred Mancunian who lived the dream in his early years.

He was picked up by Manchester City, the team he supported at an early age (having been spotted at the age of 10). Paul even turned down the mighty Manchester United when invited for a trial, good lad you see.

Paul's progress continued and he was part of Manchester City's FA Youth cup winning team of 1986. I was there to see it as well.

His future was very, very bright with many tipping him as a future England star. Strong, athletic and supremely composed he was talked of as the new Booby Moore and he simply was that good.

A home grown talent playing for the club he supported as a lad, it was genuinely a dream scenario.

In today's wacky world of transfer fees, the £30m Manchester United paid Rio Ferdinand would likely fall short of Lakes' value.

But Paul wasn't going to fulfil that immense potential, he wouldn't even get close.

A series of operations on a damaged knee over the years meant that he effectively did not play beyond 1990. His career ended at the age of 22.

As a City fan I can tell you that he was the great hope for the team, and his loss left many wondering if City could sustain any sort of development.

It may sound silly, but the loss of Lake hit the club very hard and it could be argued that his injury began the clubs demise.

Of course City had seen something similar before.

The club's most celebrated player, Colin Bell, was in his prime when his own knee injury struck him down, shortening his career by as much as eight years.

Many argue that Bell's legendary fitness and stamina meant he could have played to almost any age. His retirement at 29 meant City did not see the very best of Bell.

At least Colin Bell achieved at the highest levels; winning trophies, and representing his country 48 times.

Paul Lake can only think of what might have been. City fans know that with a fit Paul Lake, almost anything could have happened.

Perhaps I am overstating what could have happened but that's how it still feels.

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