Nathan Ake on his love of piano, donating to schools and why he hopes Pep will stay at City

Manchester City's Nathan Ake is sharing his passion for music by donating keyboards to some of the city's most disadvantaged schools, ITV News Steve Scott reports

Watching Manchester City treble winner Nathan Ake place his fingers carefully across the piano keys, you get the distinct feeling he'd prefer the pressure of a Champions League final to performing in front of a couple of dozen Manchester school children.

The Premier League superstar is spearheading the "Playing for Change" campaign which, with the help of Casio Music UK, is donating digital keyboards to some of the city's most disadvantaged schools at a time where funding in music projects is diminishing.

"Donating the pianos where the young people can learn and maybe see their future with it, or at least enjoy it, I have already spoken to some people and to see how they bond with each other because of music and make little groups - it's nice to see," Ake tells me.

In common with a lot of children, Ake flirted with a few instruments when he was younger, but gave up when something else, in his case football, took over his life.

He rectified that during the pandemic and now sounds remarkably accomplished.

Nathan Ake told ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott that it's 'nice to see' young people bond with each other over music

Ake visited the East Manchester Academy, just half a mile from the Etihad Stadium. Here, three quarters of pupils qualify for free school meals.

"In lockdown we had a lot of time, I thought to myself I want to try something new; piano is a nice instrument to play by yourself, so I ordered a piano and just started to practice.

"I got really obsessed, I was playing every day, to see and feel the progress that I was making, that motivated me even more to play."

Not unlike the dedication required to be a key member of probably the best club team in the world.

"The reward you get practicing every day, every day, every day and suddenly it clicks and you can play a song that gives you the satisfaction and the reward.

"You see all the hard work you've put in and in the end you're able to do it. It's a similar thing with football, where you train every day, you work hard, you be able to reach a good level."

Playing the piano also provides a release from the immense pressures of being such a high-profile footballer.

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"Football is a lot of pressure; it occupies your life every day even when you have a day off. I noticed especially during lockdown instead of thinking about football I was thinking about something else and every time you play piano you notice yourself not thinking about anything else and for me personally it is a good thing.

"It's just the music. It's just you and the piano and nothing else. When I play, I think that can be for your mental health if you're in a difficult situation, if you don't want to think about something it is a good get away in a positive way.

"I would recommend it to young people who are starting early, to be able to learn and enjoy it and get better at it."

As with his school audience, Ake is reluctant to show off his skills in front of his teammates, but says there are some converts to his classical-leaning style.

"I've played a couple of times. I don't really like to play in front of people, it's a lot of pressure, but I think some of them like it."

And Ake also reveals there is a definite musical spine to the serial winners.

"Jack [Grealish] really likes to play the DJ, we have people who are musical people. Bernardo [Silva] likes to sing, we have people who like music, so they don't mind."

Nathan Ake has starred for Manchester City since joining the club in 2020. Credit: PA

Does that mean there's a duet incoming with Bernardo?!

"We haven't done it yet, but I think we need to try it sometime!"

But what about the day job? After what was, by their standards, a slugging start to the season, Manchester City are now on the shoulders of Premier League leaders Liverpool. Was it difficult to get motivated this season after their successes last year? No, the manager Pep Guardiola would have none of it.

"We knew what we did last season was incredible, everyone was so proud of each other, but I don't know everyone has this feeling that it's not enough, you can't just bank on last season and that's it.

"Every time we came in, every day the manager made sure we made the same level. He's never satisfied, and he brings that over to us, making sure we keep that same hunger."

And what about the prospect of  Guardiola walking away when his contract runs out next year - will he sign a new one?

"Everyone hopes that, but who knows what he's going to do."

Nathan Ake was tightlipped when asked whether Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will sign a new contract with the club

And how would Ake fair under someone new, when Manchester United have failed since Sir Alex Ferguson left and now Liverpool face life without Jurgen Klopp?

"He has been there so long, I have been here also already three and a half years already. It goes quick, but this is football, so you never know how it goes."

If it came to it, as his piano prowess shows, you get the feeling Nathan Ake can turn his hand to anything.

The "Playing for Change" initiative is a collaboration between Nathan Ake and Casio Music UK.