City's youth development has been under the spotlight over the past few months, with the likes of Nataniel Atkinson, Connor Metcalfe and Daniel Arzani bursting onto the A-League scene; but that’s only start of names that are making an impression internally.
Delving deeper into the banks of City’s talent, 16-year-old Mitchell Graham is another name that comes to the fore, with the young defender bursting onto the scene with City's Grand Final bound Y-League during the 2017/18 campaign.
The first graduate of City's College of Football Program at Bendigo South East College to play in the Y-League, Graham grew up a Manchester United fan, and has savoured his chance to learn under former United assistant and current A-League Head Coach Warren Joyce since Joyce arrived at the City Football Academy.
“He’s [Joyce] spoken about some of the United players that he saw come through like Scholes and Beckham, how they would also stay extra time at the training park practicing their free kicks or anything else they needed.” Graham said.
“The boss [Joyce] has been coaching us once a week lately and I’ve been fortunate enough to train with the first team a couple of times as well, and he really knows how to drive a player and make them do their best.
"He’s a really good coach.”
Graham also attributes a lot of his development since arriving at City to current W-League Head Coach and former U20’s Coach Patrick Kisnorbo.
“He [Kisnorbo], for me, was awesome,” he said.
“He played me in a new position the whole year [The 2017 NPL Season] and was able to help me grow as a defender,
"He made me want to become better by putting the pressure on me to help drive me and make me want to get better everyday,”
“Pala [Palatsides] and Lachy [City Youth Assistant Lachlan Armstrong] have also been great. I went to China with them and that was a success.”
Graham was referencing City’s participation in the Suning Cup, a tournament played this previous August that saw some of City’s youngest players head to China to take part in a tournament against youth teams from Asia and Europe.
City’s squad finished the Tournament in third place behind Inter Milan and tournament winner Anderlecht, beating out Bundesliga side 1. FC Köln in the third-place playoff.
“It was a great experience,” said Graham of his time in China
“We did quite well – beating European sides like Red Star Belgrade and Köln.”
When asked to describe the player he is, and what he wants to achieve in the future, Graham gives an answer that bodes well for his development at the Club.
“I’d say I’m hard working, determined and composed,” he said.
“Being a defender, I looked up to Ramos and Chielini, they were the main ones for me.
"The way they have the class on the ball, how composed they are on the ball and how they lead their teams.
"Carlos Puyol as well, being a great leader of Barcelona for all of those years is another one I looked up to."
“I hope to one day represent my country, I think that’s the main goal for any young player,” said Graham of his future goals.
"I’d also like to explore pathways overseas, but I’m also really looking forward to playing here in the A-League with Melbourne City in the future.”
Graham and City's Y-League team prepare for Saturday's Y-League Grand Final against Western Sydney at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle. Kick-off 2pm