Nathan Redmond points the way to a bright future at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Nathan Redmond's virtuoso strike against Brentford was the one joyous moment in Norwich City's sobering Championship defeat at Carrow Road.
Redmond lined up Jack Bidwell after controlling Steven Whittaker's initial corner before a blurring trigger move that was pure poetry to watch and an unerring finish. The England Under-21 starlet deserved his luck and the fortuitous deflection against James Tarkowski that deceived David Button.
The 20-year-old has arguably been City's most consistent performer since the turbulence that brought a change of guard in the dug-out. Norwich's best work in the final days of Neil Adams' tenure and the three games since Alex Neil took control have tended to carry Redmond's imprint. The inviting cross against Cardiff for Gary Hooper's early strike. Those romps at Carrow Road over Millwall and before them Huddersfield, even that abject loss at Preston in the FA Cup which signalled the end for Adams. Redmond's cut inside and vicious angled shot in the second period at Deepdale was the closest Norwich came to working the Lillwyhites, but there were also deliveries that may have brought reward for Jonny Howson and Whittaker.
Redmond, perhaps to a greater degree than anyone else over the past month or so, has maintained the sort of consistent output Norwich crave to sustain a prolonged assault on the top six.
The youngster's sporadic output in goals and assists had been a regular accusation since he opted to continue his accelerated development under Chris Hughton. Given his tender age, Redmond remains far from the finished article but there is a growing maturity to his performances.
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You would expect nothing less from an intelligent, well-rounded individual who has now played more than 130 professional league games.
But Redmond's career trajectory serves as a cautionary reminder, given the inability of Norwich's own new wave to really force their way into first team contention.
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In their defence, City's relegation from the Premier League and the imperative nature of a swift return was always going to stunt the exposure of highly-rated operators like the Murphy twins, or Harry Toffolo or Cameron McGeehan. You could go through many of Adams' FA Youth Cup winning crop still on the books and feel they are all capable of progression. But right now they are raw potential when Norwich need the finished article. Toffolo has not looked out of place in a Swindon team going all out for promotion from League One. McGeehan is earning headlines and rave reviews now at Cambridge United but it was clear from his soundbites following a loan switch to the Abbey there was frustration at not forcing his way into Adams' senior plans.
Josh Murphy is the classic example. Thrust into the spotlight in Norwich's Capital One Cup win at Watford last season he currently finds fresh opportunities elusive.
Much rests on Norwich's finish to this Championship campaign. Should they remain in the second tier, City's youngsters may find they will get the big chance they crave. If Neil can engineer a successful tilt at promotion that path becomes even more difficult than it already appears. The rapid rise through the leagues arguably put paid to the Norwich careers of academy predecessors like Korey Smith or Tom Adeyemi, who had to come again in the lower reaches of the Football League. But Redmond proves it is possible to fight your corner and flourish with careful nurturing and an inner desire which sets young footballers like him apart.