It's Inside Manchester City Week at Bleacher Report, and Day 2 brings a focus on City's youth system—led by an exclusive with Academy goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
A huge part of Manchester City's strategy to become a dominant European force is cultivating young players capable of performing at the very highest level.
It's been difficult in recent seasons, given the accelerated improvement in the first-team squad, for them to do that, but with the Etihad Campus now beginning to open, they will be hoping their world-class youth development facilities begin to bear fruit in the near future.
Already, though, without the new campus having time to take effect, there is a batch of youngsters the club believe have very promising futures. One of them is goalkeeper Angus Gunn, a mainstay in Patrick Vieira's EDS side.
It's immediately obvious when talking to Gunn that he's a very mature young person. It helps, of course, having a former professional player in the family—his father Bryan was a goalkeeper for Norwich—but even so, Angus appears incredibly well-balanced, an excellent trait for any goalkeeper.
I had a chat with him earlier this week about his long-term ambitions and goals.
ROB POLLARD: Just take me through your season so far. How do you feel it's going for you personally and for the rest of the players?
ANGUS GUNN: Personally, I think I'm doing pretty well. I'm happy with my performances. At the start of the season, I was just happy to be playing, really, because I was out injured for quite a long period last season. But my performances are really coming through now, and it's really pleasing. As a team, I think we're doing well. At the start of the season, we struggled a little bit because of the age group we're playing against and us being a younger squad, but I think now, our quality is really shining through in the league, and I think it's proving in all the results and performances we're getting that we're a good team, and we just want to keep showing that to everyone.
RP: How much are the youth players at City encouraged to learn about the history and culture of the club? Is that something that's pushed, or is the focus purely on physical, mental and technical development?
AG: We are very aware of the past and the future—where they want to get to—but it's hard to forget the past when there are so many legends around the club working, like Mike Summerbee, Joe Corrigan; they're always around the club and watching us and talking to us. It's hard to forget about the past, but really, we're concentrating on the future and trying to build more history for the club.
RP: What's it like working with someone like Patrick Vieira, a player who made such an impact on the English game and is considered one of the top three or four players of the Premier League era?
AG: It's brilliant. Sometimes you forget what a legend he is because we're working with him day-to-day, but you look back and think about it, and he's an absolute legend, not just in the Premier League but around the whole world. Certainly, all the lads look up to him, and everyone listens to what he has to say because we all know he's been there and he's done it.
RP: You mention about his style of football there, and City, it seems, are looking to play the same way right across all levels of the club. They have a vision of playing open, attractive football where every player is comfortable in possession. As a goalkeeper, does that leave you somewhat exposed and therefore maybe susceptible to criticism?
AG: Possibly, but we have to work on that and accept criticism, take it on board and keep working. But we're looking to get into the first team one day, and if that's the style of football the club wants to play, then that's what we have to adapt to. It does open us up to some criticism, but if we do it right, it's only gonna pay off in the future.
RP: So is your long-term plan, then, to usurp Joe Hart at both club and international level?
AG: Yeah, personally, I'd like to play for Man City and also England. Obviously, Joe Hart is No. 1 at the moment; he's a great goalkeeper, and he's a great person to look up to for me. But no one can carry on forever, so I'll hope to be there when Joe's not there anymore, and hopefully, I can be England and Man City's No. 1 goalkeeper.
RP: What have you learnt from Joe?
AG: A lot of things, really. The main thing is mental strength, especially last season. Obviously, everyone goes through hard spells in their career, and the way that he came back last season and this season just shows how strong he is mentally and what a great goalkeeper he is.
RP: Obviously, your father was a goalkeeper, which must help a lot. Who are your idols? Is he one of them?
AG: Well, I didn't really see any of him because when I was born, he'd retired, but obviously, he is one of my idols. But when I was growing up, it was people like Petr Cech and Robert Green because I was from Norwich, so they're who I look up to from that era. Now, obviously, people like [Manuel] Neuer and [Hugo] Lloris are people you can look up to.
RP: What have you made of Courtois? He's a goalkeeper who commands his area unbelievably well. In fact, I'm not sure I've seen anybody else do it in quite the way he does. What have you made of his rise in recent seasons?
AG: I thinks he's already a great goalkeeper. It gives a lot of young goalkeepers something to look up to because he was at Atletico Madrid at 19 and has been playing in the Champions League for three years already, and now, he's back at Chelsea. He's showing what young goalkeepers can do if they're trusted and put in. This year or next year, he will probably be one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
RP: What do you make of the UEFA Youth League? Does that competition raise the aspirations of young players and make them better players?
AG: It's great. It raises the profile of the players and the youth set-up of the academies. It gives us, as players, another thing to aim for throughout the season, not just competitive league games. It also gives us different styles to play against and things to learn. It can be even bigger in the future, and hopefully we can get to the final this year and make it a good year for us.
RP: The club are phasing in their move to the new Etihad Campus at the moment. Have the youth players moved in yet, and if so, what do you make of it?
AG: Yeah, we moved in with the first team a few weeks ago. It's amazing; the place is unbelievable. I'd say it's the best place I've ever been to in my life, training-wise, and I've been to places like St. George's. It's not even finished yet, and it's still amazing to be there and train there every day. When the academy move in in a few weeks, it'll just be great for them to be that close to all the first-team players and be able to look up to them and see them train.
RP: How difficult was it for you to leave Norwich and come here to City?
AG: It was difficult because I was there as a young boy, and my dad played for them, and I still love the club because that's the club I grew up supporting, but sometimes, you have to be selfish and think about yourself. Man City will make me a better player in the future, and it'll only make my game better, so I just had to think about other things than Norwich the club. Hopefully one day, I can go back there.
RP: What parts of your game still need improving?
AG: I think every part of everyone's game can always improve. At our age, no one's ever complete. I'd like to improve our style of football, playing out from the back, so that's probably the main thing.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter: @RobPollard.