England call for young keeper
CHRIS LAKEY The career of Norwich City goalkeeper Joe Lewis took a huge step forward yesterday when he was put on standby by Stuart Pearce for the England Under-21s friendly against Romania next week.
The career of Norwich City goalkeeper Joe Lewis took a huge step forward yesterday when he was put on standby by Stuart Pearce for the England Under-21s friendly against Romania next week.
“It's brilliant news,” said the 19-year-old from Broome, who is currently on loan at League Two Morecambe. “Playing for your country is the pinnacle of every player's career and being part of the Under-21s framework is fantastic.”
Canaries manager Peter Grant sent Lewis - who has yet to make a senior appearance for City - on loan to give him valuable first team experience away from Carrow Road, where he is behind David Marshall, Matty Gilks and Paul Gallacher in the pecking order.
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Just six months ago, Lewis had never featured in a first team match of any kind, but a successful loan spell at Stockport at the end of last season was followed by the switch to Morecambe, where he has become a hit in the space of just two games.
“I don't think this would have happened without the loan,” admitted Lewis, who produced a wonder save against Barnet at the weekend to ensure the Lancashire club a point on their league bow.
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“When England scouts look at players they don't go to the clubs' training grounds. It doesn't matter to them how I perform there or even in reserve games, it's how I perform in proper games and there is nothing like first team football. Getting games at that level means everything and puts me in the shop window for something like this.”
Lewis has played for England at several different levels, but the U21s is a very different ball game.
“It is a huge step because you are talking about players who play in top Premiership sides, week-in, week-out,” added Lewis, who has just seven senior games under his belt.
It was Grant's decision which helped bring Lewis to the attention of Under-21s manager Pearce, who admitted he has yet to see the 6ft 5in stopper in action.
“Quite often what we do is Martin Thomas (goalkeeping coach) goes out and scouts them and I get the reports,” explained Pearce, who has named Tottenham's Ben Alnwick and Joe Hart of Manchester City in his squad for the clash against Romania at Bristol City's Ashton gate next Tuesday.
“Although I haven't seen Joe personally he needed to know he was in our thoughts. It is vital for him to get first team experience because the only two players in the squad who are not playing in their first teams are (goalkeepers) Ben Alnwick and Joe Hart, the rest of the side are playing first team football. So it is a major boost he is playing regularly, for both him and us.”
Lewis has had an impressive first full week of senior action with Sammy Mcllroy's Morecambe, who went to Preston in midweek and won 2-1 victory in the Carling Cup - something Norwich failed to do in the Championship on Saturday.
“I'm really enjoying it,” said Lewis. “It's quiet up here, but it's a very good club, well organised. The staff and players are very professional and although the club has only just got into the league, it's clearly a good league set-up with fanatical fans.”
Lewis, who has played for England at U16, U17 and U19 level, became the youngest player, at the age of 15, to be given a Norwich City squad number and in October 2004 signed his first professional deal with the club.
England U21 squad: Alnwick (Tottenham), Hart (Man City), Cranie (Portsmouth), Gardner (Aston Villa), Mancienne (QPR), Onuoha (Man City), A Taylor (Middlesbrough), S Taylor (Newcastle), Wheater (Middlesbrough), Huddlestone (Tottenham), A Johnson (Middlesbrough), M Johnson (Man City), Kightly (Wolves), Milner (Newcastle), Muamba (Birmingham), Noble (West Ham), Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Blackstock (QPR), Derbyshire (Blackburn), Moore (Aston Villa), Walcott (Arsenal).