Taylor Harwood-Bellis knows exactly where he was when Sergio Aguero’s famous title-winning goal hit the back of the QPR net.
He was going crazy, with some of his teammates from the Manchester City under-10s – and his cousin Danny – at the front of the Etihad Stadium’s family stand.
Fast forward seven years, and the modest Stockport lad is training alongside Aguero in the first team squad, and making his debut in the same team as another of his boyhood heroes, David Silva.
Fast-forwarding seems to be what Harwood-Bellis has been doing for the last year, to the point that he has found it a little bewildering at times – but he knows that, while he has made a breakthrough, there is a long road ahead.
In the summer of 2018, he was a raw-boned 16-year-old, just looking forward to his first season at under-18 level.
Then an injury to England under-17 captain Joel Latibeaudiere saw him promoted to the under-23s, and he seized that chance with a series of commanding performances as the Blues reached the FA Youth Cup final and had a good run in the Checkatrade Trophy.
That opened up a chance to join the first team squad for the summer tour of the Far East, and again the England youth defender stepped up and took his opportunity.
The death of his granddad Dave Bellis cast a dark cloud over a bright moment in his career, and the fact that the funeral coincided with the last training session before City flew to China had the teenager worried, torn between his family and a huge chance.
“I found out I was on the list for the tour just as I started training with first team when they first came back,” said Harwood-Bellis.
“I went in to see the manager because the last training session clashed with my granddad’s funeral, so I wanted to ask permission to miss it.
“He said it was no problem and wouldn’t affect me going on tour.
“I didn’t want to miss a session and for it to affect me going on tour, but the manager was brilliant.”
The youngster impressed Guardiola on that tour, and has remained in the first team frame ever since, making his debut in the 3-0 Carabao Cup win at Preston.
That debut was meant to be, Harwood-Bellis believes.
His late granddad was a City nut, who was cremated in his sky blue shirt, and his last words to his beloved grandson had been “Do it for City!”
Granddad Dave was born in Preston, was a North End fan before he moved to Manchester as a boy and would have been 78 on his next birthday – and there was Taylor, coincidentally wearing the number 78 shirt and playing his first game at Deepdale.
Injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have now seen Harwood-Bellis and Garcia shifted into the first team squad, and the 17-year-old admits he found training tough at first.
“It’s massively different,” he said. “You have players who have played in World Cups, Euros and in the Premier League for however many years.
“They are experienced players. The intensity and the ball speed, the way they pass the ball is so much quicker.
“I was sweating in the warm-up! The intensity is at a whole different level to anything I’ve done before. I’m used to it now but it was hard at first.
“It was always a dream of mine to play with players like David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany. I never got the chance with Vinny, but now I’m training and playing with the others.
“I never thought the dream would come true. I watched these players for years, going to Wembley to support them, in the away end at United.
“I was in the Family Stand for the Aguero goal, right at the front, with a few of the lads from City and my cousin Danny, going mental.”
Making his debut was different – Harwood-Bellis said he found it EASIER in some ways than playing in the youth ranks.
“The nerves were there but because I was younger – especially going into the EDS – you feel there is not as much pressure,” he said.
“I’ve been playing against people five or six years older than me, in the EDS as well as the first team. There’s pressure, but I think about the fact I’m only 17, and just play my game.
“The philosophies from all the way down the academy to the first team are the same. What the manager is telling me, and the EDS manager, is the same message.
“Playing with the best players in the world helps as well!
“Seriously, it is 100 per cent easier to play in the first team because you always have a pass on, and if you don’t know what to do, or where to play, someone will tell you instantly.”
Harwood-Bellis is built to play for City. At six ft two ins, the physios reckon he could still grow another inch, and he is yet to fill out physically.
But if he can keep progressing, he has the perfect blend of strength, aggression and football ability to play for the Blues in the Premier League.
“I never used to be aggressive, it’s developed in the last four or five years. I’ve become a player who others know won’t shy out of a 50-50,” he says.
“I am tall and big-boned for my age. But the first thing I always think about is to defend. The stuff I do on the ball is just as important, but it’s added on to my defending.
“I want to be a good defender first, and then play football. The two go together.
“The manager wants his defenders to defend first of all – he wants them strong. You have to have a good mix about you.
“I have probably got another inch left in me to grow, and in the next few years I will fill out into being a man.
“When I played at Preston, it wasn’t that they were tall, it was the way they are built – I was playing against grown men. Their bones are different, you go against a shoulder and it’s totally different to playing in the EDS.
“In training it’s the same – the smaller guys like David Silva and Raheem Sterling are so strong, and their centre of gravity so low, that you’re not pushing them off the ball, no matter how big you are. It’s a massive difference.”
His granddad’s words are always with the youngster, who grew up supporting both City and his local team Stockport County, where his uncle Steve Bellis is a director and dad Martin used to work.
“My granddad used to go to watch City every weekend, home and away, and even went to Maine Road on his bike,” says Harwood-Bellis.
“When he couldn’t go any more because he started getting ill, I used to go round to his house every Sunday to watch the football. All of my family were big City fans.
“People say you can’t support two clubs, but I don’t care what anyone says. I do.
“I support City because of my granddad, who wasn’t necessarily a County fan – he was City through and through.
“That passed down to my dad, who’s always loved City. I was a fan before I ever played for the club.
“My dad and uncle both worked at County so that has always been in the family. When I get the chance to watch County, I go, home and away.
“My granddad’s words are always in the back of my head. I’m doing it for myself, and my family, but for my granddad as well. It gives me extra motivation – not that I need much.”
Watching games from the sidelines comes naturally to the lad from Offerton, so standing in the away and chanting “City! City!” just days after he had been playing for them at Preston, was nothing unusual for Harwood-Bellis.
The video of him supporting the team went viral among City fans, and the startled look on his face when he realised he was being filmed was hilarious.
“It was more that I haven’t had people videoing before, knowing who I am, so when I saw someone videoing me, I just thought it was a bit weird,” says Harwood-Bellis with a laugh.
“I’m a fan in the away end. I was a fan before I was a footballer, and I was chanting for my team, not doing anything wrong. I’ve had a few comments from fans telling me they loved it.”
But Taylor is not the only sporting talent in his family – his twin sister Rebecca – or Bex for short – is a Great Britain under-16 international at basketball, a sport at which Taylor also excelled until he gave it up to focus on football.
Bex plays for Ipswich in the top flight of the national women’s league, and though they are miles apart, the pair still bounce off each other.
“Bex is not as confident as me, so before games I remind her she plays for Great Britain, so she knows she is good enough,” he says.
“She does the opposite, and tells me to calm down a bit, and not be too confident!
“Because I can play a bit of basketball, in the back garden, we sometimes have a game. We do help each other.”
Once Laporte is back, probably early in 2020, the likelihood is that Harwood-Bellis will be moved back into the elite development squad, and that will be the acid test.
Guardiola recently said that the biggest challenge for a young player is not moving up, but reacting in the right way when they are moved down again.
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Says Harwood-Bellis: “I’ll be fine with it. I’m not going to forget that I’m not permanently over there with the first team.
“I don’t class myself as a first team player, I’m an under-23 who’s training up with the first team. Going back won’t change the way I play.
“What will change is that I’ll put more pressure on myself to perform, because I will want to get back in the first team and be the best player there. That’s only natural.
“But it won’t affect my mentality, or how hard I work.
“My mum and dad and sister have done a good job of keeping my head on my shoulders but I’m not the type of person to go all big time.”