City defender on Ferdinand's influence and his loan hopes

Saikou Janneh of Newport County and Jonathan Tomkinson of Norwich City U21 during the EFL Trophy mat

Jonathan Tomkinson in EFL Trophy for Norwich City Under-21s at Newport earlier this season - Credit: Focus Images Ltd

He's picked up Rio Ferdinand as a mentor, impressed in the youth ranks at Norwich City and trained with the first team. Now defender Jonathan Tomkinson has set his sights on loan experience.

The 18-year-old United States youth international signed a two-year professional contract last summer after swiftly progressing to the under-23 squad.

The Texan, like Ben Godfrey prior to leaving the Canaries in a big-money move to Everton, is able to ask former England and Manchester United centre-back Ferdinand for advice.

"We're signed at the same agency," Tomkinson explained. "I've met him before and we have each others' Instagrams and phone numbers, he's a mentor to me.

"So I can get in touch with him and sometimes we'll discuss random things, it doesn't have to be about me. So, like when Bayern were playing Barcelona (in last season's Champions League quarter-finals), I knew he was covering that game, so I shot him a message and we had a nice conversation about it afterwards."

The defender has played every match of the season so far for City's U23s, starting all but one, partnering Andrew Omobamidele in central defence as David Wright's team qualified from their Papa John's Trophy group thanks to wins over Plymouth and Newport - before an under-strength squad lost 6-0 at MK Dons in the first knockout stage.

"I had no EFL Trophy experience before, so going into that was playing against first teams, against men and that's where you really learn," Tomkinson continued, speaking to US football podcast The Ladcast.

"You're playing against teams from League One, players who have played around Europe and in the Premier League and stuff, it teaches you a lot.

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"So to win our first two games was really incredible and I felt on top of the world for a little bit. In the 23s I felt a lot more comfortable and confident, which is good but you can't get complacent, you have to keep learning."

Tomkinson has had a few opportunities to impress first-team head coach Daniel Farke in training and has played alongside players with top-level experience for the U23s including Michael McGovern, Moritz Leitner and Switzerland striker Josip Drmic.

"Not loads of it but I did get the opportunity to train with the first team a few times, so not just playing against the better centre-forwards but playing with the centre-backs," he added.

"Everyone is so friendly, willing to give you advice. Josip Drmic from the first team trained with us for a while and he taught me so much, saying that a striker in the Premier League is going to come at you like 'this' so when you receive the ball do 'that' and you might not lose the ball.

"He was one of those players that would tell you how to defend properly because even though it's not helping him, it's helping you. I really appreciated that." 

Jonathan Tomkinson of Norwich City in action during the Papa Johns Trophy match at Stadium MK, Milto

Norwich City academy defender Jonathan Tomkinson in EFL Trophy action at MK Dons last month - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The teen has seen another American, Sebastian Soto, join the Canaries and enjoy success in the Dutch second tier with Telstar to earn two senior USA caps this season.

With the loan system now such a prominent part of youth development for City, Tomkinson hopes to follow in the footsteps of players such as Soto, Godfrey and Todd Cantwell in gaining that experience.

"We have meetings every few weeks, just to kind of see where I'm at and where they think I'm at. Hopefully I'll be getting a loan in the future," he explained.

"I have trained with the first team a few times but I think for me it would probably help to go on loan before going through to the first team, which is okay, I trust that the coaches have the right plan for me.

"So I'll put my head down and work hard."

Tomkinson has five USA U17 caps and hopes to progress through the age groups, having been in the same squad previously as attacking midfielder Giovanni Reyna, who has made the breakthrough at the top level with Borussia Dortmund.

"It makes me proud that I've been there and trained with them," he concluded. "It's great to see them doing so well, I'm happy for all of them."

MORE: American defender on his move to Norwich City - via Ipswich

City's U23s are scheduled to resume their season at home to Aston Villa on Friday, January 22, in a 7pm kick-off at the Lotus Training Centre.

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