David Hannant: Retaining Skippy has to be top summer priority
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In Daniel Farke's time at Carrow Road we've been fortunate to see so many young players flourish and I'm so glad we have a manager who shares my view of 'if you're good enough, you're old enough'.
So many players these past few years around the late teens to early twenties mark have been impressive.
We've seen the likes of James Maddison, Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Todd Cantwell and more prove this point in years gone by.
However, as far as having the potential to go on to be a real top, top, player, who could easily hold down a place in the England squad for years to come, Oliver Skipp is quite possibly the pick of the bunch.
I can't confess to knowing a great deal about Skippy when he arrived from Spurs and having been bitten in the past by young players coming in on loan from big clubs, I was cautious not to get too carried away.
While we've had a decent enough relationship with Spurs in the past, the last few loans we've picked up from North London haven't really done the business.
The less said about Marcus Edwards the better and we didn't even have a great deal of luck when they lent the best English centre forward since Alan Shearer.
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Obviously we all know what Harry Kane has gone on to do, but his City loan spell was blighted by injury and about as fruitful as Troy Archibald-Henville's - another Spurs youngster sent this way to be blooded.
Kyle Naughton was handy and I'd loved to have seen him stay, but Ben Alnwick made all of three appearances before getting injured.
So when another Spurs prospect appeared on our door this summer, I don't think I was unfair to treat it with a bit of caution.
But even if I had the loftiest of expectations imaginable, I would still be utterly, utterly blown away by what I've seen from a man I'm quite happy to call a future England captain.
Of all the young players we've had through the door at Carrow Road, while not the most exciting, he's probably the one with the oldest head on his shoulders - although he's in a real tussle with Max Aarons for that title.
Everything about how Skippy plays the game screams maturity - an old head on a young pair of shoulders.
He has a great touch, can pick a pass and pivot the play and do everything you could ask of a defensive midfielder.
However, the one thing that has impressed me most is how he reads the game.
Despite barely being 20, he reads the game like a seasoned veteran - like somebody who knows nothing other than football.
A lot has been said about this new Soccer Bot technology City have invested in, but from what I've seen of Olly, he is the soccer bot.
The lad just seems to be everywhere, whenever there's a second ball to be had, there he is. He intercepts almost every loose pass and whenever it looks like we might be in trouble, he magically appears.
It is no coincidence that since his arrival the defence has been transformed.
A lot of this is down to the great partnership of Hanson (Hanley and Gibson), who seem to be telepathic with one another, but that extra layer of protection Skippy provides is just priceless.
And in probably the biggest compliment I can give the guy, this season he is doing for us what N'Golo Kante did for Leicester in that historic title-winning season for the Foxes.
That season Kante was named as the Premier League's player of the season and I have no question that were it not for him, the unlikeliest of title wins would never have happened.
I realise I can occasionally be guilty of hyperbole here and there and the quality across the board here is unquestionable, but I'm dubious as to whether we would be quite where we are without him.
Would we be there or thereabouts still? Absolutely, but 10 points clear? I'm not convinced.
But that's the other great thing about him, we can't speculate where we'd be if he wasn't there this season, because he's been there throughout - every single game. Extraordinary.
It's a big compliment to the quality of Alex Tettey that so many players have attempted to keep him out of the side and failed - but the fact Skipp has made that midfield berth his own speaks volumes.
I obviously realise all the cards are in the hands of Daniel Levy and co, but Stuart Webber really needs to do absolutely everything he possibly can to try and retain Skipp for a second season.
If Spurs have been watching him this campaign - and I'm sure they have - they wouldn't let him go on a permanent transfer for, well, everything we have.
However, another season on loan at Carrow Road would benefit all parties, particularly if we do get the promotion job done.
Hand on heart, I probably think he's looked good enough to step straight into the Spurs first team next season and, in fairness, historically Spurs haven't been too afraid to throw in a youngster.
But, Daniel Farke has shown he has the utmost faith in Skipp and rightly so - this wouldn't change with promotion. So being one of the first names on the teamsheet for Norwich in the Premier League is surely better for his development than being there or thereabouts for Tottenham.
Skipp has been so, so impressive since arriving and if I were Stuart Webber I would be chipping away at Tottenham Hotspur every single day to try and convince them to let him stay another year.
Obviously, Webber is a shrewd customer and I'm sure that's exactly what he's doing.
We know there's a big gulf between the Championship and the Premier League and we will need to do a reasonable amount of recruitment in the summer- but keeping Skipp has to be priority number one - whatever it takes.
Man of the match malarky is a laugh
While we're on the topic of Oliver Skipp, it would be remiss of me to devote a whole column to him and not mention the man of the match saga.
There are some things on Twitter that get rehashed so much it's just boring.
Some examples of these are as follows:
- Making reference to that time Gary Lineker treated the pitch as a bear treats the woods
- Playing the music from Titanic over a goal
- "Announce" rumoured player
I could go on...
But, there's just something about the vote hijacking I find hilarious - and I know what it is. In fact, it's two things, the fact that it's so, so persistent and the fact it's just shameless.
I don't think I'll ever not find it funny when somebody with COYS or THFC in their handle says they're a Norwich season ticket holder of 20 years and that Skippy is the best player they have ever seen.
I can obviously appreciate why the club is carefully guarding its official player of the season vote - he may well win it but if he does, it'll be on merit (although if the season were to end tomorrow he'd by runner up to Emi Buendia for me).
However, I'm all for the fun continuing on Twitter.
A few weeks ago, I dedicated this column to Kenny McLean - the other man in that midfield pivot with Ollie Skipp.
At the time, I described him as City’s most underrated player and I stand by that.
When the Mayor of Norwich tested positive for Covid-19, I was a little worried about whether we’d see the same energy and industry from him.
The virus has been known to take the wind out of even the fittest of people, as Jamal Lewis described.
However, clearly Kenny is one of the lucky ones - his energy levels are still terrific and he’s in the form of his career.
Against Brentford he probably had his best game in a City shirt and the understanding he has formed with Skippy is a joy to behold.
So much of the plaudits end up going to the attacking players in the midfield setup, but the McLean/Skipp engine room is a huge part of this season’s success.
Long may it continue.