Meet Ben Knight - the latest Man City starlet tipped for the big time

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The 16-year-old was signed from Ipswich for £700,000 last summer and has already made quite a name for himself in the City academy

Ben Knight is a kid who knows what he wants. The 16-year-old was asked what he needs to work on after he scored twice for Manchester City's Under-18s as they reached the FA Youth Cup final on Monday night, and there was only one thought on his mind.

"Getting into the first team," he said, without hesitation. "I don't want to be a player that goes through the 18 system into the Under-23s, I want to be the one that goes above stages, that jumps stages. That's what I want to do."

It has to be said that he is on course. 'Playing up' - in older age-group teams - is no rarity for young talents in this country and certainly not at City, but Knight is standing out all the same.

City had a feeling he might, which is why they paid Ipswich £700,000 to sign him last summer, and why they made sure they got in ahead of Tottenham, despite a personal intervention from Mauricio Pochettino.


Signing night⚽️

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He was only 15 then and he does not turn 17 until November, but there he was on Monday night helping to fire City to another final. He opened the scoring by darting onto a decent but not particularly accurate cross and poking it past the goalkeeper, highlighting a knack to make something out of nothing. For his second he ran across the near post to meet a corner and flick in a header, despite being smaller than most of the players on the pitch.

Eric Garcia, the centre-back, captain and one of the most mature players in the academy, tried to claim that one but Knight was having none of it: "I'm a confident lad so nothing really fazes me like that."

Knight, whose uncle Nick played cricket for England, had been attracting admiring glances for years before he decided on City and he had become the proverbial big fish in a small pond at Portman Road.

But that step up in class has not fazed him, either.

"The quality of players I'm playing with is so much better," he adds. "It's harder because at Ipswich I was one of the big players but there are so many big players you have to up it even more to stand out. That's the challenge I wanted to take."

The challenge he has taken, he insists, is to keep standing out at City, rather than to accept fading into the background.

"Nah, I don't accept that. I always try to be the best player on the pitch. I don't care who's there, I always try to be the best.

"I'm a big player. If I come here and think there's Tommy Doyle or people like that around me, I'm not going to get anywhere, so I have to think 'I'm Ben Knight, I'm going to be the best player on the pitch'."

He has previously said he models himself on David Silva, playing as a No.10 and drifting around the box, but he has been used across the front three in the past few months and he has impressed his coaches by adding new dimensions to his game.

Gareth Taylor, the U18s coach who has overseen much of Knight's development so far at City, was full of praise after his two-goal show on Monday night: "He's a great lad, such a good kid to work with.

"He's enthusiastic, gets frustrated. We've pushed him a lot this season coming from a new club, it would have been really difficult for him with a big chance from where he came from at Ipswich, and also playing in a different position.

"We've played him right across the front line, at 10, we've really challenged him tactically and when you've got someone like that keen to learn and with that much enthusiasm he's always got a chance."

"He's an inside player," Taylor adds. "His best stuff will be inside the pitch but he also gives you some creativity out wide and crosses into the box. He's a midfield player but is showing some real maturity and class to play in that type of position and give us extra ammo going forward."


MCFC 18/19 season⚽️❤️

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Yet for all his obvious talent he has not always been a regular scorer, and that is the one element of his game he says is in need of particular attention.

"I don't score enough goals," Knight says. "I probably should have scored another one [on Monday]. In terms of improving, just staying grounded and don't think I've done anything yet. We haven't really done anything in the Youth Cup yet because we've got to win it yet. [We've got to] be level headed and always want to be better than you were."

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City will face Liverpool in that final, which is to be held, coincidentally, at City's Academy Stadium. It will be another opportunity for Knight's parents, who still live in Suffolk, to come and see their boy in action.

"They still live there," he adds. "I miss them every day and I hardly see them but I've got to do what I've got to do to get to where I want to be. You have to sacrifice certain things. They come up to every game, literally every game. It's five hours but they don't mind doing it."

If he carries on like this, there will be plenty more flocking to see him.