With all eyes on promising young talent in England, the usual ‘big six’ are singled out for specific attention.
Under more scrutiny than most are Manchester City, with heavy investment in their playing staff, as well as other aspects of the club, it is seen by many that it is about time they started producing some of their own.
Preston North End boast two of City’s bright sparks, Brandon Barker and Lukas Nmecha. The latter has a bit of a story behind him.
The imposing forward, and PNE’s no.45 for the current campaign, was born a little distance from Manchester. Having spent the first nine years of his life in Germany, speaking to the likes of Sane and ‘Gundo’ was made easier by his fluent grasp of German.
He said: “I was born in Hamburg; I had never actually played for a club in Germany, I just used to play in the park and stuff like that.
“Football just started getting serious pretty much as soon as I moved over here. After about a month or two I got scouted and I started playing for City.
“I was nine but I do remember my house and the playground but apart from that, just friends and family and things like that.”
Speaking to The Gazette during the international break, in which he is normally in action for England U20s, the promising loanee – who was a part of the Young Lions squad that won the U21s Toulon tournament in the summer – isn’t phased by being on standby.
Seeing his peers, like Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, receiving national praise only lights the fire under Nmecha; although he hasn’t forgotten where his international career started.
“The first game I played I was terrible! The Victory Shield (Home Nations U16 tournament), I’d never been that nervous before,” he said.
“Since then playing for England is just something you enjoy doing and what you work hard to achieve.
“I was with the 21s at Toulon as well. I enjoy playing for England but sometimes it’s better to get the rest.
“I’m happy for them, my time will come eventually, hopefully.”
Nmecha, a likeable and laid back character, who likes to stay at home and play a bit of FIFA in his spare time, is understated and humble.
He was involved in the second half of the Cityzens record-breaking season, featuring in the League Cup but training with the squad throughout. Pre-season allowed Nmecha to show what he could do and, impressed, Pep Guardiola wanted a loan move for his development.
Those around the Etihad are aware of his abilities and he featured on the club’s social media alongside Phil Foden having a bit of a shooting competition.
“I won that! It’s really crazy because he was playing alongside me and then all of a sudden he’s shot up and he’s doing really well. I’m really happy for him and I wish him luck.
“I trained half of the season with them and learnt quite a lot. I played pre-season with them and played three games and did well in them.
“When you train with players like that and you compare yourself to them, it just gives you that little bit of a push.
“You learn little margins there, since I’ve been here I’ve probably learnt a lot more about how the game’s played differently; when it’s not all going your way.
“I just wanted to show what I can do. It can be a bit of a hindrance if you’re just looking up to them – a bit stage frighty. I just got on with it and after this loan I’ll go back and see what’s happening,” he said.
The concept of playing for three points, fresh off the back of picking up his first three since joining PNE – in some style – is new to the former City Development Squad (CDS) man; and the step up, it’s fair to say, has been noticed. Now, he’s searching for his first goal.
“As I said when I first came, I wanted to come and start scoring straight away but at the same time I was still ready to feel disappointed. There maybe wasn’t the best of performances at the beginning – hopefully I can push on from here now,” he said.
“That’s how it goes, that’s what it’s like with most players. Some hit the ground running and others have to ease themselves in.
“I obviously came and wanted to start scoring straight away but I’m easing myself in and I’m happy with where I am right now.
“In the EDS, it did matter, but it was more about the development. But here, it’s just you need them points.
“That was the best feeling I’d had since I’d been here, for those three points. When you need something so bad and then you get it, it’s just relief and happiness.
“It’s a lot more physical, it’s faster. It’s really a man’s game compared to boy’s football.”
If recent performances against Aston Villa and Wigan are anything to go by, the goals will soon flow for Lukas Nmecha. Already looking towards the England senior team, he’ll feel the sky’s the limit and he certainly has the attributes and facilities available to reach those lofty heights.