Hibs' Thomas Agyepong soaking up life at Manchester City
He may not have pulled on the light blue shirt of Manchester City, but Thomas Agyepong has soaked up everything he could learn from Pep Guardiola's array of world-class players.
Plucked from the Right to Dream Academy in his hometown of Accra in Ghana three years ago, Agyepong has spent, as do the vast majority of youngsters taken in by cubs such as City, that time on loan, playing in Holland for Twente and, latterly, NAC Breda.
A further season farmed out to Hibs is seen as the next step in the 21-year-old’s development and although he may be a couple of hundred miles away from the Etihad, he knows he only has to pick up his mobile to be offered sound advice.
Finally clear to play for the Easter Road club having had to wait for a work permit to be approved, Agyepong – capped five times by Ghana – said: “It’s great at City, it’s a beautiful place. It’s a multi-million pound club and the facilities they have are amazing.
“I couldn’t play any games – I would have loved to – but I got experience training with the first team. When you go up against players like those you have to up your level and you develop.
“You make a lot of mistakes because you are young, but they are there to help you. When I was there they gave me advice. If I made a mistake they would tell me to keep going and if I did something right they would tell me and that was good to hear from the best.”
Brazilian ace Fernandinho has, revealed Agyepong, been a shoulder to lean on, the £34million midfielder always willing to listen. He said: “Fernandinho was like a big brother to me, Sami Nasri sometimes, [Aleksandr] Kolarov too.
“But the big one was Fernandinho. He used to speak to me all the time. Even now he still keeps in contact, he texts me and speaks to me and tells me to keep working hard to achieve my dreams.”
Agyepong revealed City youngsters being sent out on loan do have a say on where they go, the success Brandon Barker, a team-mate at NAC Breda, had at Easter Road playing a major part in his decision to head to Edinburgh.
He said: “Most of the time they give you the option to choose. But they also look at the type of player you are and where would suit you the best. At the end of the day you are their player and they want you to develop.
“So they look at the talent and the ability they have and they want to put you in an environment where you can develop yourself.
“But you also have a say because if you need to feel happy about where to go and then you can enjoy your football. If you are put in a place where you don’t enjoy it, then they won’t get the best out of you and you won’t develop.
“If you are not happy at your work you won’t get the best out of yourself.”
An indication of the interest City take in youngsters in Ageypong’s situation can be measured by the fact they’ve already dispatched a member of their backroom staff to Edinburgh to discuss what they see as his personal needs in regard to training.
Agyepong admitted he didn’t know a great deal about Hibs, but was given a glowing report by Barker of his time here before taking a closer look at Neil Lennon’s side in action.
He said: “I don’t know a lot about Scottish football but I watched a few games on the internet when I first heard I might come here and also on the back of what my friend Brandon told me. I could see Hibs played great football.
“That’s how they got into the Europa League qualifiers and had a good run as well. So you look at that and think, yeah, that’s a place you want to be.
“At Breda we never got to Europe, so to come to a place like this is another level. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get to the group stages, but it was a good run.”