Ireland U19 midfielder Joe Hodge named Man City's Scholar of the Year

The 17-year-old scored a superb goal on his Republic of Ireland U19 debut last summer.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U19 midfielder Joe Hodge has been named Manchester City’s Scholar of the Year.

The 17-year-old secured the honour at the 2019/20 Premier League Academy virtual awards ceremony in what is the latest marker of his potential.

In July of last year, Hodge scored a superb goal on his U19 debut for the Republic of Ireland when he was still only 16, equalising to grab a 1-1 draw against Norway at the European Championships, before breaking both his leg and his ankle in August.

However, Hodge returned from that injury earlier than initially expected and helped Man City’s U18 side to their second successive Premier League Cup in February of this year.

Hodge has been with City since joining their U9 side but this was his first season as a full-time footballer.

The Man City staff praised Hodge for his attitude and application in bouncing back from serious injury.

“Joe thoroughly deserves this award,” said the Premier League club’s academy director, Jason Wilcox. “He is someone who maintains the highest of standards and his attitude and application has been fantastic both on and off the pitch.

“He is a great example to other young footballers.”

Hodge qualifies for the Republic of Ireland through his Dublin-born grandmother and played underage football for both England and Ireland.

However, in October 2018 he opted to play solely with Ireland and then impressed for the U17s at the home European Championships in May of last year, earning praise from Stephen Kenny among others.

“He’s a classic midfielder, a natural midfield player,” said Kenny on RTÉ after Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Belgium.

“He understands the game for someone so young, a great appreciation of space. He takes great angles receiving the ball and has great feet, good vision, and a range of passing.

joe-hodge Hodge in action for the U17s last year. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“So he’s got a lot, I suppose he has to develop physically but he showed tonight that he had the stamina to match the athletic Belgian players. It was an impressive second-half performance.”

Hodge was called up to the U19 squad the following month as his rise continued and City’s recognition of his talent, mindset, and “efforts towards his education” underline how exciting a prospect he is.

“I’m very happy to win the award,” said Hodge. “It’s a good achievement to win Scholar of the Year, especially considering I didn’t play many games.

“It is nice to know that what I did last season, I did well, even though I couldn’t play with the team. I thought my season was done, but I ended up playing 14 games, which isn’t bad considering I broke my leg.

“I played in the quarter-final, semi-final and final of the Premier League Cup and got one game in the FA Youth Cup, so I did a lot better than I thought I would. I’ve loved it, it’s been a really good first year.”

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