Phil Foden was just 16 years and 193 days old when Pep Guardiola named him on the bench for Manchester City’s Champions League clash with Celtic last December. The Stockport-born England youth international has risen through the ranks at City, while also representing England at several age groups, and is part of an exciting generation coming through the academy.
Still 16, Foden has been a key part of a City under-18s side that has won the U18 Premier League North without losing a single game, a generation of players for whom there is great excitement and optimism within the club.
We caught up with Phil to learn more about him as a player and person, his idol at the club, future ambitions, and of course, what he thinks of Pep Guardiola.
Thanks for talking to us Phil. So, a little about your background to start. You’re from Stockport and joined City at under-9s level, that we know. But did you play for anyone before joining City?
Before playing for City I actually played for no one and I was picked up from my school.
You can play across midfield, but what would you say is your favourite and most effective position?
My most effective position is central attacking midfield, just behind the striker. That’s where I think I’m at my most dangerous.
I was at the CFA when you beat Southampton in the FA Youth Cup. The Saints have a good academy but just couldn’t handle City, and I thought you were our best player that night, linking play superbly. What stood out for me was the pressing and excellent organisation – is this something that has been part of your training or is it more down to Lee Carsley’s influence?
All ages of the academy work very hard off the ball in training, but since Lee has arrived it has been a big part of our team. We work on our defensive shape and pressing quite a lot throughout the week in training.
It’s not just City where you’re doing well, but for England’s U17 team along with Jadon Sancho, Joel Latibeaudiere and Curtis Anderson. Have you found there to be much difference between club and international football? And how much do you enjoy representing your country?
Yeah, I’ve found it a bit different playing for England because I play on the right wing so I have to adapt to a different role. But I enjoy it because it’s something different.
And I love playing for my country, there’s nothing better and I enjoy the experience a lot.
Pep Guardiola! The entire City fanbase loves this man and you’ve had chance to take part in first-team training. From your experiences so far, what is he like to work with? And has he spoken to you?
To work with Pep is something that a player can only dream of. He has such high standards and wants a lot from his team. Pep hasn’t really spoken to me personally, he has just left me to do what I’m doing.
You’ve just smashed the U18 league – congratulations, by the way! There’s also the FA Youth Cup to play for, a trophy we haven’t won since 2008 but came very close to in the last two years. The win over Villa put you into the semis – are you feeling confident of lifting the trophy this year?
All of our team are feeling very confident about lifting the FA Youth Cup this year because we all know what we are capable of doing. We came so close last year but we feel like this is our year. We all believe in ourselves and know we have a very strong squad of players, no matter who plays.
Many fans were buzzing when they saw your name on the team sheet against Celtic in the Champions League. But I’m sure no one was happier than you. Describe your feelings when you saw your name on the squad list that day. Were you more nervous or excited?
It was a really big shock. I got a call the night before from my coach I really couldn’t believe it. I was a mixture of both (nervous and excited), I just really wanted to make my City debut to show all the fans what I can do. I didn’t get my chance, but hopefully I will get to make my debut soon.
Which players do you look up to and try to learn from?
Ever since David Silva came to the club he has been the person I have looked up to. I watch him closely all the time, I think his movement and technical ability are just great. I like to watch clips of Silva after training and try and do what he does in terms of his movement off the ball.
Looking ahead to the future – what do you hope to achieve in the next couple of years?
I hope to become a regular player in the first team in the next couple of years. That is my aim, and just to keep working hard and improving.
Finally, what do you like to do off the pitch in your downtime? Any favourite video games or bands?
I only really play FIFA, I enjoy playing it in my downtime. I also like to go fishing after football, I find it relaxing and chilled.