Conveyor belt of talent crucial to Grant

First there was Chris Martin, then Kris Renton, and finally Bally Smart and Patrick Bexfield - all introduced into the Norwich City fold in the final three and a half months of the season.

First there was Chris Martin, then Kris Renton, and finally Bally Smart and Patrick Bexfield - all introduced into the Norwich City fold in the final three and a half months of the season.

It was a case of needs must because of chronic injury problems in Peter Grant's first team squad, but youth is likely to play a bigger part in Norwich City's season than in recent years.

Martin made the biggest impact, called into the first team picture as soon as City's passage in the FA Youth Cup was ended by Newcastle on January 10 - the Beccles youngster, typically, signed off with the only goal in a 3-1 defeat.

Renton made his debut as City's youngest ever player at Leicester in mid-April, while Smart made it on to the pitch at Burnley last month, although Bexfield had to be content with watching from the bench.

Had Grant not had an inordinately high number of injuries we certainly wouldn't have seen as much of the quartet as we have - but the experience will serve them well as the manager prepares for a season without the financial benefits that some of the Championship's more affluent clubs enjoy.

Add Andrew Cave-Brown, Rossi Jarvis, Michael Spillane, Matthew Halliday and the not-so-young-anymore Ryan Jarvis and Robert Eagle into the mix and Grant has plenty of up-and-coming talent at his disposal. It could be the season when he needs it too.

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The Jarvis brothers have been sent on loan to give them much-needed first team experience - a learning curve that Halliday is also earmarked for - and Grant will be hoping that they have been through enough to make the step up into the first team inner circle.

Spillane did his cause no harm with a flurry of appearances at the end of the campaign, but they will all be challenged by Smart, Bexfield and Renton.

Smart is a super-quick winger who needs to learn some of the other arts of the game, while Bexfield is a smart operator in midfield, although a good brain maybe needs supplementing by a bit of beefing up physically.

Renton is raw, his arrival at City just a year ago his first taste of Academy life, but he showed enough to prove he's willing to learn.

And his presence in the first team squad - and that of Martin, Smart and Bexfield - will serve as a fillip to others who are trying to find their way in the professional game.

Club liaison Bryan Gunn is charged with the search for new talent, but says circumstances have contrived to make it a fruitful time for locally-produced players.

"I think we are restricted in what we can get with the current regulations - the 90-minute drive situation," he said.

"I am hoping a lot of the lads here will be working hard during the summer. It is a great life if you can make it as a professional football player.

"They have a great opportunity here, they will be given the best chance available, they have top coaches looking after them and great facilities. They will regret it if they don't give it their best shot."