Tuesday, September 11, 2007

England win against Israel was partly down to a former local park keeper...

One of the most amazing football stories I've heard in quite some time came to light last week when I learnt that the man who is behind Manchester City's Academy set-up was until 1997 a local authority parks keeper - his specialist subject? Trees.

Jim Cassell, who rumour has it, is also a lifelong Manchester United supporter, is the man who is at the heart of City's burgeoning youth set-up, which along with West Ham United, must currently rank as the best in the country.

Cassell was the man who told City's former manager Joe Royle to select Shaun Wright-Phillips for the Blues for first team. Not long after the England winger was sold to big spending Chelsea. Micah Richards is another who has taken to the top flight of English football like a duck to water, against Israel last weekend, both players were on target for their national team as England grabbed a much needed three-nil victory. Cassell must have been a very proud man that day.

The City production line is continuing to produce talent at what must look like an alarming rate for rivals like United who until the last few years have been among the best at nurturing talent from an early age, but the worm has turned and now it's City who keep on churning out quality young players.

Manchester City and England can be thankful that Jim Cassell swapped his donkey jacket and wellington boots for his track-suit to pursue a full-time career in professional football. All too often we hear about the vast sums of cash which dominates the world of professional football, but here we have a man from a working class background who had a very run-of-the-mill job who went to make a real mark on the game at the highest level. It is an amazing story.

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