Norwich City youngsters face big test against Manchester City in FA Youth Cup
PUBLISHED: 06:41 29 February 2016
JASON DAWSON ©Jason Dawson
Norwich City's U18s are dreaming of FA Youth Cup glory again just three years after lifting the trophy. City reporter david freezer looks at the youngsters' chances ahead of their sixth round clash against Manchester City this evening.
The FA Youth Cup is once again providing an exciting insight into Norwich City’s future this season.
The current crop of young Canaries are preparing to take on Manchester City in the sixth round of the competition this evening, following an already impressive performance in the competition.
Victories away at Hull City and Sunderland were followed by a memorable 5-4 thriller against Middlesbrough at Carrow Road.
City’s under-18s roared back from 4-1 down to see full-back Louis Ramsay’s spectacular volley take the game to extra-time, where Todd Cantwell won the tie with his second goal of the game.
That has teed up a tantalising trip to Manchester City in the last-eight, in a match which was initially set to be played at the 60,000-seater Etihad Stadium.
However, common sense has prevailed and the match will be played at the more appropriately sized Academy Stadium on the Etihad Campus in Manchester, in the shadow of the lavishly-funded club’s main arena.
The 7,000-capacity stadium is part of an incredible investment of more than £150million from owner Sheikh Mansour, a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, to develop brownfield sites around the club’s home.
Those extravagant facilities are a prime example of the might the Norwich starlets will tackle. The facilities at Colney and Carrow Road may be the envy of many lower league clubs but are dwarfed by what the youngsters benefit from in east Manchester.
The Citizens’ U18s are managed by former Blackburn and England winger Jason Wilcox, who is assisted by former Crewe and Bradford midfielder Gareth Whalley.
Wilcox led his team to the North Division title in the U18 Premier League in his first campaign in charge in 2013/14 and, after being joined by Whalley in the summer of 2014, third place in the league followed last season – ultimately finishing third in Group A in the second league stage.
They have won the North Division title again this season, after winning 14 and drawing five of their 22 matches, scoring 53 goals in the process.
It has been a more difficult campaign for the Canaries, who finished 10th in the South Division after a 1-1 draw Reading at Colney earlier this month. City’s youngsters warmed up for tonight’s clash with a 5-2 defeat against Brighton on Saturday in the final stage Group Three division.
The Blues youngsters won 2-1 at Portsmouth in the third round and romped to a 5-2 win at Leeds in the fourth round but needed extra-time to win 3-1 at Wigan Athletic in the last round.
Norwich’s latest U18 crop have already given glimpses of their potential in the Youth Cup though, a competition midfielder Cantwell admits adds an extra edge for the Canaries youngsters.
Victory over Boro saw their cup run burst into life.
Those players showed that they have the grit and determination to go with their talent when bouncing back against Boro – attributes they will need much more of to win this evening.
Even if they do win and then go on to become just the third Norwich team to lift the trophy, there are no guarantees that a successful professional career will follow.
Many challenges will remain but as the likes of the Murphy twins, Harry Toffolo, Cameron McGeehan and Carlton Morris discovered following their 2013 triumph, it can certainly be a huge help.
Beyond that though, the memories they will create, the camaraderie they will enjoy and the connection they can make with their new supporters will make it all worth it.