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Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Wednesday, 16 May 2007 14:00 UK

Miller aims to prove himself

By Chris Bevan

Man City forward Ishmael Miller
In five years time I hope to be an established Premiership striker, scoring goals every week

Man City striker Ishmael Miller

There has not been a lot to smile about at Manchester City this season but the continuing success of the club's academy has been one chink of light on the horizon.

One of the few positive aspects of former manager Stuart Pearce's reign was the stream of talented young players that came through the ranks to bolster the first-team squad.

Academy manager Jim Cassell has masterminded a set-up that has produced a string of first-team players, four full internationals and brought in more than 25m from transfer fees.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Chris Bevan

And the progress of the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, who joined Chelsea from Manchester City in July 2005, and current key defender at Eastlands Micah Richards means players following them through the youth programme know the first team is not a pipe dream.

Behind Wright-Phillips, Richards, Joey Barton, Stephen Ireland and Nedum Onuoha are the likes of Michael Johnson, Ishmael Miller and Daniel Sturridge.

Miller - a powerfully built forward who can play on the left or up front - has made three starts this season but has come off the bench on 14 occasions.

After nine years at the club, the 20-year-old knows first hand what it is like to come through the ranks at City - so exactly what is their academy doing right?

"We have got some very good coaches there who believe in the players and give them the right advice - and as a young player you can believe in them too," Miller told BBC Sport.

"Every training session is in the right manner and it was the same for every game. It is a really professional set-up.

"Former reserve team coach Frankie Bunn has gone to Coventry City now but he was the main person who gave me the most personal advice and encouragement when I was coming through.

"Paul Power and Alex Gibson are both great coaches too and their record proves that because they have brought so many good players through in the last few years."

Micah Richards
Micah's progress has given me great belief and it is fantastic to have him playing at the club with me and to see him playing for England

Miller on Micah Richards

The likes of Arsenal have shipped in youngsters from abroad to fill their academy and youth teams but City's approach was to go local and they are reaping the dividends.

"Being a Manchester lad, and a City fan myself, it means the world to me to play for the club," added Miller.

"I have been here since I was 11 and to come through the ranks with people like Micah, who I am closest to, is special.

"Micah's progress has given me great belief and it is fantastic to have him playing at the club with me and to see him playing for England.

"I believe in my own ability anyway but it is great to see your friends do well. It wasn't a surprise because I have grown up with them and seen what they are capable of.

"It was Stevie Ireland's time to break into the first team then the international set-up, then it was Micah's time - and hopefully all of that will happen to me someday too."

The biggest criticism of the academy system has been that the programme does not prepare youngsters adequately for the Premiership.

So how do players make the step up?

After scoring pots of goals in the youth team and for the reserves, Miller admits he has found things a lot harder in the first team but is confident he can make the grade.

"It is a massive step up to the Premiership from the reserves," he conceded.

"But it is really about getting the confidence to express yourself in the way you do in the reserves and having the belief in your own ability that you can do the things that you can do there when you are in the first team.

"It is not easy but if you have got people around you, encouraging you and telling you that you can make the step, it becomes achievable.

"I prefer to play as a striker but at the moment for the first team I play on the left. It is difficult in some ways but you adjust to it.

"I don't mind - I will play anywhere for the club, try to get used to it and give 100%."

City reserves celebrate winning the Manchester Senior Cup
City reserves celebrate winning the Manchester Senior Cup

Miller did not make City's squad for the recent Premiership derby defeat by Manchester United but did help the reserves beat their neighbours to secure the Manchester Senior Cup.

Flitting in and out of the first-team squad does not make things any easier to adjust to the top flight but Miller says his pre-match routine is the same whoever the opposition are.

"I am nervous before every game but you just have to prepare yourself in the right way every time," Miller explained. "You don't know who is watching and you have got to impress and perform well.

He also considered going out on loan earlier in the campaign but right now he feels staying to fight for his place was the right decision.

"The more first team games you play, the more confidence you get," explained Miller.

"Going on loan is a possibility for me. I just want to play for Manchester City but if going on loan makes me a better player and gives me more experience then so be it, I will do it.

"In five years I hope to be an established Premiership striker, scoring goals every week - that would be enough.

"I just want to still be happy and keep progressing to become the best player I possibly can be."

see also
Trio shy away from Man City post
16 May 07 |  Man City
Man City begin new manager search
15 May 07 |  Man City
Onuoha banks on Man City revival
07 May 07 |  Premier League
Stability 'key' to youth success
08 Feb 07 |  Football
Football factory or money pit?
08 Feb 07 |  Football
The academy graduate
05 Feb 07 |  Get Involved
Man City reject Richards rumours
01 Jan 07 |  Premier League
Lake sees bright future for City
12 Apr 06 |  Man City
Wright-Phillips signs for Chelsea
18 Jul 05 |  Premier League


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