Learning experience for Manchester City youth in Hong Kong Soccer Sevens
Academy boss Mark Allen says the Sevens will provide a great experience for his youthful team
Manchester City Academy manager Mark Allen is ready for a "learning experience" as his team prepare to make their debut in the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens today.
The English giants are aiming to emulate the achievement of Newcastle United last year in winning the tournament at their first attempt.
Allen admits it is a journey into the unknown for the City contingent, himself included. "It is the first time in Hong Kong for all of us except for our coach Jason Wilcox, who came here as a player with England," he said.
"Our decision to come here has always been about development, so we've brought a very young squad. It is a great experience for them to play in a different climate in a competitive tournament and to see a new culture.
"Playing seven-a-side on almost a full-sized pitch is something new for the players. It will certainly test them fitness-wise and they are going to have moments when the game gets tough for them."
Allen is looking forward to seeing how his players adapt off the pitch. "It is a life experience for them, absolutely, a major part of their development," he said. "As footballers, they are going to travel all over the world, play in different continents and different time zones, and in different conditions, so it is an important part of their learning."
City have been drawn in group A of the main tournament where their opponents will include Sunderland. And Black Cats coach Kevin Ball expects several players to be flying high after getting a taste of life with the first team squad last weekend.
Five youngsters - Billy Knott, Adam Mitchell, Liam Marrs, Scott Harrison and David Ferguson - were named as substitutes for the final Premier League match at Tottenham, with midfielder Knott and striker Mitchell being sent on for their Premier League debuts.
Ball said the impact of new manager Paolo Di Canio had been significant. "Paolo's arrival has given the players a great deal of incentive, as has retaining our Premiership status," he said.
"The new manager is saying, 'The door is open, you've got to walk through it.' You hope that one or two of them will take that chance. So Billy and Adam are buzzing."
The main event starts today with Newcastle top seeds in group B ahead of Leicester City. Rangers lead group C, which includes Hong Kong's South China, while five-time winners Aston Villa head group D.