Exclusive: Turning Norwich City into the loan leaders – Adams lifts the lid on Canaries’ grand plan
PUBLISHED: 12:01 26 May 2018 | UPDATED: 23:37 26 May 2018
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It wasn’t a job Neil Adams set out to get, but it’s definitely one he is making his own – MICHAEL BAILEY catches up with Norwich City’s loan manager
The last time I spoke properly to Neil Adams, he was Norwich City manager.
Even now, his FA Youth Cup winners of 2013 remain the only side to beat Chelsea in the competition in seven seasons.
The brutal reality and ruthless nature of football management destroys careers. But as I’m sat in front of Adams in pleasant surroundings, there is one thing I take great pleasure in witnessing. It’s only made him stronger.
Not only that, he’s proving very good at his new job. From a loans manager title some derided when it became public knowledge, Adams has helped add millions of pounds to the values of several Norwich City youngsters already.
And you sense this is only the beginning.
“I know Stuart and Daniel are big believers in players needing to play,” started Adams, with sporting director Webber and head coach Farke providing the first-team structure around his work.
“Sometimes people can be put out on loan and it’s a case of, do the club really want me? But they are big believers in playing being best for development – particularly for young players. They need to be playing senior football.”
There will always be out-of-favour players sent out on loan. What has marked out City’s efforts in 2017-18 is the number of young players sent out with a view to making an impression back at Norwich in future.
It equated to 23 players sent to 22 clubs, at least two games every week for Adams from Dresden to Dagenham, and no more summer holiday to enjoy than any sporting director or head coach.
“Looking at some of the success stories vindicates what we’re doing,” said Adams. “There is a lot of work involved in it – the monitoring, the placing. We really are on top of it and the feedback we get from some of the loaning clubs is they can’t believe how much we actually do.
“The monitoring is key because a lot of clubs will send players out and forget about them. They’ve got players, they get them out and the players don’t hear from them again.
“But we can’t afford to do that. We send a player out for a reason, so it’s getting the right club and then making sure we know every step they take and everything they do.
“We need them to feel that they might be on loan, but they are our players and they are part of our group.”
That doesn’t happen by accident. City now ensure all their loan players return to the club four or five times in a season to check their progress, fitness and wellbeing.
“It’s like with Sean Raggett and Kenny McLean, who we signed recently and then kept out on loan, at Lincoln and Aberdeen respectively,” said Adams.
“If they’ve been back two or three times already, when they finally come through the door properly they know the place, they know everyone and they’re not the new boy at school.”
The players have their duties – such as ringing Adams within two hours of each game finishing, no doubt making for a few busy Saturday evenings.
MORE: Norwich City are in for another supportive spectacle when Shrewsbury Town take on Rotherham United and the League One play-off final.
Meanwhile, the level of City’s relationship-building and due diligence is precisely why Adams felt Shrewsbury Town could excel when others had their money on relegation – in turn, providing the ideal platform for Ben Godfrey and Carlton Morris to shine.
Even Ebou Adams. His initial loan at the Shrews didn’t work out – but a second spell at Leyton Orient certainly did, leading to several contract offers on the table for the midfielder.
“He can have a career now,” said Adams. “That’s fantastic for him. As for Ben and Carlton, the sky is the limit for them. If they get a promotion on their CVs, they increase their value.
“We know how well they’ve done and it’s up to Daniel and Stuart whether they want them in their squad next season. But it’s a bit of satisfaction for me. They were in the top three all season. You try to get it right and it doesn’t always work, but it’s nice when it does.”
Adams’ leg work doesn’t stop at players out on loan either. Manchester City were just one of the clubs to receive regular 20-page reports; in their case on Angus Gunn.
“It might go to Pep Guardiola, it might go in the bin. I don’t know. But it’s all there, you’ve given us a player and this is how we do it.
“That’s for personal pride. Maybe the next time they are deciding on where to send a centre-forward on loan, they will now send him to Norwich because we are bang on it and will look after him, keep them involved. We try to be the best.”
The detail is phenomenal and the time flies.
No one will have any joy getting a loan out of Adams unless they already know who they want. City don’t countenance loan fishing exercises.
Season-loans really do the business – which means Norwich will now insist on January recall clauses, just in case.
Out of so many loans this season, Adams deems just four as negative experiences. Even then, he has a clear view on the positives they still offered.
And there is an unwavering confidence in what senior football does to City’s young prospects: “It changes them.”
But this is football – and it doesn’t take long to start asking what’s next?
The planning is continuous, of course. A few City youngsters already have season-loan deals set to be confirmed in the next week or two.
That is only the start when you consider Godfrey, Morris, Remi Matthews and Todd Cantwell will rock up for pre-season off the back of highly successful loan spells.
“You could add Sean Raggett and Kenny McLean to that,” voluteers Adams. “These players come back now to stake a claim, to get in Daniel’s squad and his team. If they do, if they don’t, we’ll deal with that as and when. But that’s exactly what we want.
“It is tough. We’re a Championship club and the standards are high. Hopefully this squad is very difficult to get into.
“That means you’ve got to push these players while they’re out on loan because they are competing against Norwich players. You’ve got to go and nick their shirt. The only way to do that is to go and excel.
“You get that competitive nature into it, but the players can only go and give it their best shot. Pleasingly this season, we’ve seen so many that have done so well. That have gone out and ripped it up.
“That’s fine and now you come back, the guy is looking over his shoulder thinking ‘Crikey, I saw what you did last year’.”
We all saw what Neil Adams did last year too – earning himself and Norwich City a reputation as real loans leaders. And long may it continue.
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