Young talent is available to Daniel Farke at Norwich City – if he’s brave enough to take some chances
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As tighter finances and a shift in philosophy bring Norwich City’s academy productivity into sharper focus DAVID FREEZER looks at which youngsters are most likely to make the breakthrough this season
Making the most of the funds ploughed into category one status for Norwich City’s academy is a clear target for new head coach Daniel Farke.
Young talent will need to make the grade and be sold on for profit if the Canaries are to survive the financial adjustments to life outside of the Premier League as a self-funding club, sporting director Stuart Webber has already acknowledged.
Despite the disappointment of finishing eighth in the Championship last season, there was a step in the right direction on the youth development front.
That was thanks to the talent of Josh and Jacob Murphy – with at least one of the twins playing a part in each of the 50 first team matches.
The skilful 22-year-old wingers look almost certain to play a key part in Farke’s team this year, after Jacob scored 10 goals in 40 games and Josh contributed five in 33 matches.
It looks likely that there will also be an academy keeper in goal, with Angus Gunn returning to the club on loan from Manchester City and Declan Rudd currently his closest rival for the number one shirt.
Beyond that it looks to be 21-year-old Harry Toffolo with the best chance of making the breakthrough – particularly as he is currently the only recognised left-back currently on the books.
That is of course likely to change before the action begins but Toffolo, part of City’s FA Youth Cup winning squad in 2013, is poised to get chances to impress after returning from a season on loan in League One with Scunthorpe, making 22 appearances.
Having previously spent time on loan at Peterborough, Rotherham and Swindon the full-back has clocked up a total of 69 senior matches, scoring four goals, and saw the one-year option in his contract activated.
In a similar position is another of the FA Youth Cup winners, striker Carlton Morris.
The powerful forward does have the security of three years remaining on his contract, so the 21-year-old has time on his side.
Morris spent the second half of last season with relegation bound Championship side Rotherham but didn’t manage a goal in his eight games.
He had scored eight in 15 for City’s under-23s before that loan and scored eight in 32 Scottish Premiership games for Hamilton the previous season though. He seems likely to get chances to impress Farke but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back with Rotherham on loan in League One.
At 22 years old and with over 110 appearances on his CV, former Swindon midfielder Louis Thompson can already be counted as a first team squad member, particularly as he was impressing before a serious Achilles injury last November.
That may cause the 22-year-old to miss the start of the campaign though, bringing the similar battling style of strapping 19-year-old Ben Godfrey into the mix.
The former York youngster made six senior appearances last season – scoring a screamer in an EFL Cup thumping of Coventry on his debut – and featured at right-back and defensive midfield, although mainly as a centre-back for the U23s.
Athletic defender Michee Efete is currently on loan at Breidablik in Iceland and the 20-year-old may get pre-season chances, with Timm Klose and Russell Martin the only recognised senior central defenders currently on the book.
He will need to progress quickly after making 36 U23 appearances last term, to trigger the one-year option in his contract.
Dereham lad Todd Cantwell scored six in 24 games for the U23s and the playmaker looks ready for loan experience at 19, with so much attacking midfield talent already in the first team squad.
Right-back Louis Ramsay, who turns 20 in September, also looks ready for a loan after featuring regularly at U23 level, but could yet be needed as cover for Ivo Pinto and Martin.
Two of the U23 stars of last season, midfielder Ebou Adams, 21, and winger Diallang Jaiyesimi, 18, are both entering the last year of their contracts and will be looking to continue their journeys out of non-league.
Scotland U17 winger Glenn Middleton made waves when he was named as an unused substitute in the FA Cup in January and is a hugely exciting talent but it seems unlikely he will be ready to push for the first team yet.
There is plenty more talent to delve into as well.
Left wing-back Jamal Lewis recently made his Northern Ireland U21 debut and defensive midfielder Joe Crowe was also called up to that squad.
While midfielder Louis McIntosh, only 18, managed an impressive eight goals in 15 games for City’s U23s last season, with a further seven in 13 for the U18s to stick on top.
How many of them will get a chance will come down to Farke’s bravery but only they can be responsible for taking their chances – with a dollop of patience from fans undoubtedly needed in the mix as well.
• For a full review of the City players out on loan and of the season for City’s U23s, see the new Pink Un magazine, available for £3.99 at local retailers now or to order at pinkun.com