“Pep is literally a genius. He makes the game so simple. Even in some of his team meetings he is so intense, he’s a perfectionist.”
On Saturday, Tyreke Wilson made his debut for Ireland’s U21s in their third-place playoff against Mexico at the prestigious Toulon Tournament.
The day before he had been informed by manager Stephen Kenny that, having missed out on the previous games in France, he would be given the nod at left-back in their final match of the competition.
An important game. His first start. A chance to stake his claim in the side. Wilson though wasn’t feeling the pressure
“I’ve been told I’m going to be playing tomorrow, I’m starting, I’m really looking forward to it.”
The 19-year old was confident, excited. Why wouldn’t he be? For him, this isn’t pressure.
Going over to one of the biggest clubs in Europe at the age of 13 and breaking your leg within the first six weeks. That’s pressure.
Being called up to train with the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, while Pep Guardiola barks orders at you from the sideline? That’s pressure too.
So far, Tyreke Wilson has negotiated the challenges of his life in football just fine. Now though, it’s time for him to take the next step.
Natural progression seems to be a theme for Wilson at this stage of his career for both club and country.
Earlier in the year, the Manchester City man was a vital part of Ireland’s impressive U19s side who clinched qualification to the European Championships – one of only eight teams involved in the competition.
Wilson is now too old to play in the upcoming tournament but his call-up to Stephen Kenny’s side has been the next logical step in his international career and one that he has thoroughly enjoyed so far, especially the experience of working under the former Dundalk boss.
“Yeah, it’s been good,” began Wilson.
“Stephen (Kenny) is obviously a really good, well-established manager in Ireland and he’s going to be the first team manager soon too so it’s great for all the young players. He’s been really helpful with me personally, he’s just been telling me to keep training well and my opportunity will come.
“He’s believed in us all the way. Obviously, Brazil were a top top side and all the lads were confident of getting a result but it was just one of them on the day that didn’t work out for us.
“Their second goal kind of took the sting out of it so it was hard to get back into the game with all of their quality players but we always believed, we just fell a bit short. I think we’ve done quite well in the tournament.”
Against Mexico, Wilson looked comfortable in his natural left-back slot with his performance validation for Kenny that he has another exciting young option at his disposal in a team that is rich in quality, and validation for the defender that he is capable of the jump up in age grade.
At club level though, it’s time for progress too.
Wilson has spent six years at the Etihad and is coming into the last year of his contract. The 19-year old has been a part of the U18s and U23s in the past couple of seasons but he knows that the next step is first-team football with a loan move abroad something he feels may suit his style of play.
“Maybe Holland or Belgium or something, somewhere that will suit my game, said Wilson when asked his preferred destination.
“I could drop down the leagues and play League One or League Two but it would have to be the right team because, no disrespect to any team, but hoofing the ball for me isn’t going to make me a better player.
“It has to be the right style of play for me so maybe going abroad might be the best option but we’ll see, I’m just looking forward to kicking on and playing first-team football.”
A move to central Europe is something that would have seemed alien to young Irish and English footballers just a few short years ago, but in recent years, a handful of talents have bucked the trend.
Wilson’s old teammate, for example, Jadon Sancho, made the move to Borussia Dortmund and is impressing in Germany while closer to home both Simon Power and Connor Ronan spent time in Holland and Slovakia.
“I had a good chat with Simon (Power),” said Wilson.
“He was playing in the second division in Holland and the team he went to played really good football and I think abroad they give more young players a chance like for example in England a manager’s neck is on the line and it’s harder for a defender to break through.”
The 19-year old’s progress in the game almost ended however before it had even truly begun, when he first arrived at City, in 2013. Wilson suffered a devastating leg break aged 13 just six weeks after signing for City from Dublin club Cherry Orchard.
The road to recovery was challenging from a physical and mental point of view for Wilson but overcoming the obstacle so early in his career he feels, galvanised him and allowed him to bounce back better than ever, with the defender clearly well thought of at Manchester City, given his level of first-team involvement.
Wilson has been a part of the senior squad over the last two preseasons, getting the chance to play and train with some of European football’s finest talents.
The Irish U21 international explained that it was the increase in tempo at training which, after making the step up, surprised him the most.
“It’s unbelievable. Playing and training with some of the best players in the world.
“You learn so much from it and from playing with those players. The tempo is just so high. It’s a massive step up from training with the U23s, because you’re with some of the best players in the world.”
Is it surreal? To stand across from the likes of Sergio Aguero? To win the ball against Leroy Sane? To be given instructions from Vincent Kompany?
In the beginning, explained Wilson, it truly was.
“At the start when you go to the gym with them and that you are taken a bit back you go ‘Oh my God that’s Aguero, Sane, Sterling’ or whatever but you just get used to them.
“They’re really good with the young players they just tell us to do our own thing and that but like even watching them in training it’s just incredible, it looks so good, but when you go in there yourself you’re made to feel part of it.
“You make yourself a better player by training with better players, that’s the way I look at it.”
The left-back also opened up on his experiences working with Pep Guardiola, calling the City boss a “genius” explaining that as a coach he is “out of this world.”
“I’ve been on the last two pre-seasons with Pep and he’s literally a genius. He makes the game so simple.
“Even in some of his team meetings and that he is so intense, he’s a perfectionist, he wants everything right, but he doesn’t mind if you make mistakes once you’re trying to do the right thing. He’s just out of this world.”
For Wilson, there’s always been pressure, but crucially there’s always been progress to go alongside it. This summer will be a massive one for his future as he enters a crossroads in his young career.
The next goal though is clear in his mind. He’s progressed through the City ranks from since he was 13 all the way up to U23 level. Now it’s time for first-team football, no matter where it may be.