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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 April 2006, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Lake sees bright future for City
By Chris Bevan

Paul Lake captained the last Man City team to win the FA Youth Cup
From the young players I have seen at City, there is the same skill, endeavour and commitment that we had as a group
Paul Lake

Manchester City legend Paul Lake wants Blues boss Stuart Pearce to build his team around the latest crop of local youngsters to come through the ranks at Eastlands.

City face Liverpool in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup final on Thursday, looking to win the trophy for the first time since 1986 - when Lake was captain.

The club's academy has already garnered an impressive reputation after the likes of Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha and Stephen Ireland - to name but three - have broken into the first team this season.

And there is plenty more talent waiting in the wings with 16-year-old striker Daniel Sturridge, nephew of former Derby and Wolves striker Dean, one of several young City stars already attracting the attention of bigger clubs.

Sturridge was the top scorer at under-15 level when City beat Barcelona and teams from all over the world to win the prestigious Nike Cup in 2004 - a competition that had 7,900 global entries.

Two years on, he and his team-mates are targeting more silverware and, looking beyond Thursday, Lake feels the youngsters should be given a chance to join Richards in the first-team.

Lake's generation did not have to wait long for their opportunity - he was first-team captain before he was 20.

And of the class of 86 that beat neighbours Manchester United 3-1 on aggregate in that year's final, Lake, Andy Hinchcliffe, David White, Ian Brightwell and Steve Redmond not only broke into the full City team together as teenagers but also won a host of England Under-21 caps.

White and Hinchcliffe went on to win full international honours and Lake would certainly have joined them - he was in the provisional England squad for the 1990 World Cup finals - if not for the injury that ended his career prematurely.

Stuart Pearce can afford to have a little toy with these players over the summer and you might find three or four more in the first team next season, which is fantastic news for all City fans
Paul Lake

Lake is now physio at League Two side Macclesfield - working alongside former City boss Brian Horton and Brightwell, who are manager and coach.

He retains his love of City and feels the club must make the most of the young talent they have within their ranks.

"If you look at Manchester United's success over the last 10 seasons the driving force of that was a core of players who came through their system," he told BBC Sport.

"I know at City, with the coaches they have at the academy like Jim Cassell and Paul Power and the back-up they have, the set-up there is excellent.

"They have the skills and the facilities there and if they are able to churn out players of the quality of Micah and Nedum then it is an exciting time for the club.

"They are all working tirelessly and the current success is a combination of very good scouting and a bit of luck. But if they can come through and stay in the team then they can be the spine of the side and be there for the next five or ten years.

"Wouldn't that be a revelation in this day and age that we could still do that and still maintain a lofty position in the Premiership. It is a tall order but I think it's worth a go, don't you!"

Lake can see echoes of 20 years ago when the club's financial situation meant the then manager Mel Machin had little choice but to throw young players into the first team.

Current City boss Pearce has not had the luxury of throwing big money at signings like his predecessor Kevin Keegan - and Lake feels the club may benefit from having to turn to their youngsters again.

THE CLASS OF 86
GK: Steve Crompton
LB: Andy Hinchcliffe
RB: Steve Mills
CB: Steve Redmond
CB: Ian Brightwell
LM: David Boyd
RM: David White
CM: Ian Scott
CM: Andy Thackeray
CF: Paul Moulden
CF: Paul Lake

"From the young players I have seen who are already in the team, there is certainly the same skill, the endeavour and the commitment that we had as a group," he added.

"You have a sense of belonging and that is something that the City fans will always hanker back to - the passion that we all showed. We just wanted to play for the side and had a real sense of pride to be playing for the club.

"That gets lost sometimes when you have a squad of seasoned pros who just move from club to club. That is what we need to try to get rid of, these players who are almost just passengers.

"Stuart Pearce has been fortunate to have such a good group emerging.

"He has shown he is willing to give them a go already and can afford to have a little toy with these players over the summer - and you might find three or four more coming through next season, which is fantastic news for all City fans.

"The potential is there and there is no reason why they should not get their chance."


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