Harry Bunn spent last summer rubbing shoulders with the likes of Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure in Austria, writes James Shield.
Fourteen months and one serious injury later, the Manchester City centre-forward is preparing to pack his bags for Brunton Park.
Swapping Seefeld’s Hotel Klosterbrau for the less opulent charms of Sheffield United’s Redtooth Academy might, for less grounded individuals, sound like some sort of footballing hell.
Bunn, however, has been blessed with a sense of perspective many of his top-flight contemporaries lack.
“I snapped my cruciate and lateral ligaments when I was on loan at Crewe Alexandra,” he told The Star. “Being out for so long, nearly a year in fact, is tough but it made me realise how fortunate I am to be in this business and how much I love the game.
“United is a massive club, similar in stature to Manchester City, and it’s a great place for any young lad to be.
“So all I want to do is play.”
Bunn, who left City on a short-term youth loan earlier this month, could get his wish at Carlisle tomorrow when United, searching for their first League One win since the opening day of the season, return to action following last weekend’s defeat by Rotherham. If he does then the 20-year-old will not be short of valuable advice.
Father Frankie, once described by Paul Scholes as “my favourite ever player,” terrorised defences during spells with Hull City and Oldham Athletic where, in 1989, he scored six goals against Scarborough in the Littlewoods Cup.
Roberto Mancini, his managerial mentor at Eastlands, won 36 caps for Italy while former Scotland defender David Weir, who took charge of United nearly 14 weeks ago, boasts an impressive 69.
“My dad was a professional as well,” Bunn said. “So he can offer me advice after every single game.
“Probably the best piece he’s ever given is saying ‘Just do whatever you can to get in the box. Always try and be in the right position to get a goal.’
“Dad can be my biggest critic at times too but I always listen to him because he’s been there and done it. Done it well too.”
“Roberto has left City now but he was obviously some player in his day,” Bunn added. “And the manager here has played at the very highest level too.
“He’s great to go and talk to if you want to improve because he’s been there, seen it and done it as well.
“It’s great for me because Roberto was a striker and he (Weir) was a defender. So they’ve both got different insights and so that gives me a much more rounded view. I’m in a really lucky position.”
City’s visit to Tyrol, designed to prepare for the 2012/13 Premier League campaign, was a curious mixture of science and extravagance.
Mancini’s players received a red carpet welcome when they checked into their hotel before sleeping on handmade mattresses and duvets imported from Italy.
Officials, who reportedly spent £200,000 organising the trip, even requested a nearby church did not ring its bells until after breakfast but that request, according to the Klosterbrau’s manager, failed to impress the local priest.
Bunn, though, was more interested in furthering his footballing education rather than sampling the five-star lifestyle.
“It was a great experience. Going away with City and training with the first-team lads,” he continued. “You can learn a lot just by being around them and seeing how they go about their work.
“Obviously, for me, it was brilliant training with people like Sergio Aguero. Carlos Tevez was still there too.
“They didn’t have the best English to be fair but that didn’t really matter.
“You still pick-up plenty of things by watching them and working with them because they are right at the top of the game.”
Bunn, who has also been seconded to Rochdale, Athletic and Preston North End, showed signs of developing a potentially prolific partnership with fellow substitute Lyle Taylor at New York Stadium.
Weir’s decision to overhaul United’s tactics means they could be competing for a starting role against opponents who parted company with manager Greg Abbott on Monday morning.
But Bunn, who joined City’s academy in 2002, is undaunted by the prospect.
“I can play up front and I’m also comfortable in midfield. Either way, I don’t mind because I just want to help and contribute.
“Hopefully, being able to play in a few different positions will be good for me and good for the team in general because it’s always nice to have some different strings to your bow.
“It also helps to give you a decent understanding of what the lads around you want.”
By a twist of fate, Crewe recruited Bunn partly to fill the void created by Shaun Miller’s departure for Bramall Lane. His new colleague suffered a similar injury against Scunthorpe in December but is now close to a return.
“I know what Shaun will have gone through because I’ve had the same thing myself,” Bunn said. “It’s a horrible problem to have but you can come back from it as strong as ever.
“There are times when you get quite low because you’re not involved in things every day. You get used to that when you’re a footballer and it’s not nice.
“But it also makes you appreciate things even more than perhaps you did before.”