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Published 28 November 2022 8 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Phil Foden’s grassroots story: ‘My PE teacher told Man City ‘yeah we have this little guy who is pretty good’

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Phil Foden

Phil Foden discusses his grassroots journey from playing for Stockport Junior Blues and Reddish Vulcans to becoming an England international and making the squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup

When I think back to those earliest footballing memories, it would be playing at my local park and in my local car park in Stockport. Those were the two places which pretty much started football for me. I would go out of my house, play in the car park for a couple of hours and then after that would play five-a-side with my friends at the park. So growing up I was used to playing on concrete pitches and just enjoying my football.

When I went to my Bridge Hall Primary School, a coach from Manchester City came into the school and then I was picked up from there. They say ‘things happen for a reason’ and I believe in that because I wasn’t even meant to train that day. 

They were training the under-6s and I think I might have only been four at the time and they asked the school if they had anyone else who could play and my PE teacher said ‘yeah we have this little guy who is pretty good’. So they brought me out for individual training and then gave me a card to give to my parents and I have been there ever since! Because I was only four, I had to wait a bit for me to sign but they said at that point that they wanted me to come down for trials.

Phil Foden on his first day training at Manchester City

Back then, we used to train in the week with City and not really play many games on the weekends so I used to play for my brother’s local team, I think it was Stockport Junior Blues, which was a year or two above me. So I would come off the bench for them on the weekends and try to change the game for them. 

Then after a while, City linked me up with Reddish Vulcans because they had a link with them so because City didn’t play games on the weekends, they would send me there with three or four lads from City. We won everything because we had the best team and they were really enjoyable moments during my childhood. Those were the days.

I would have been around eight or nine at the time. Playing in tournaments, we won the league, with me winning the golden boot, they were really good memories.

Snapshot of a video showing a young Phil Foden scoring a stunning goal for Reddish Vulcans
Snapshot of a video showing a young Phil Foden scoring a stunning goal for Reddish Vulcans

Playing grassroots football really helped me. I was scoring a lot of goals and enjoying myself at the same time that I was getting really good coaching at Manchester City, which was improving me as a player, so it helped me a lot and it was very enjoyable.

I would sometimes be playing against the year above as well so I was playing against more physical people, and that time playing grassroots definitely helped me.

I think I still play the same way I did when I was younger. I’ve taken all those years of just enjoying myself and playing with freedom into my game now. 

It’s funny because after about two years of me playing in that car park, they put a ‘No Ball Games’ sign up because no cars would ever park there because they knew I would be there kicking a ball about. 

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Playing on the concrete pitches and in the park in those small spaces really helps you technically and the way I play now, with my dribbling and playing in tight spaces. I have played that kind of football for all those years that it is drilled into me and it is natural.

As I got older, City were less keen on me doing things like playing for my school teams. I only went to my high school, Stockport Academy, for a year and then City sent me to St Bede’s College, which was a private school. I used to do half days and then do training. City paid for most of the City players to go there and it was really enjoyable because we would look forward to dinner time when we would get on the coach outside to go to training.

When it was eight-a-side I would play left wing but then when it became 11-a-side I moved to playing just behind the striker, which is where I see myself. These days I am all over the place and can play different positions.

Looking back, the guy who scouted me, Terry John, was really important in my career. Firstly because he found me because I probably wouldn’t be at City now had it not been for him. Maybe I might have still got there but things happen for a reason. So he scouted me but he was also my coach for a little while at City and he taught me all the basics of football at a very young age. He was very important in my career. 

Phil Foden in front of a picture of Paul Gascoigne in the summer of 2021
Phil Foden in front of a picture of Paul Gascoigne in the summer of 2021

As was my Dad because he was always telling me to get up and play football and drilled it into me since I was young: it was football, football, football. My brother Callum is three years older than me so we used to play one-v-one in the park and I would play against him. My older brother is much bigger than me so it helped me learn how to take tackles and the physical side of the game, learn how to use my body, so having one-v-ones with him definitely helped me to take those tackles and become tougher.

Everyone has different mindsets but for me, it was about playing football and enjoying myself. I never looked at putting pressure on myself or that in this particular game I had to perform. It was about just going out there, try your best, enjoy yourself and be proud of what you have done.

That is how I look at the games now. Just do the best you can and know when you come off the pitch that you can’t give anymore. That is all you can do really.

People are always going to talk, that is life, but you just have to do your own thing and make sure you do your best.

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