Could City youngster be the next to follow in the footsteps of Aarons and Lewis?
PUBLISHED: 18:00 18 December 2018 | UPDATED: 18:09 18 December 2018
The emergence of Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons from Norwich City's academy system is a clear inspiration for the club's young hopefuls - but their progress is particularly important for one player.
Ciaren Jones joined the Canaries this summer, following in the footsteps of Lewis and Aarons as he made his way across from Luton Town to sign a professional deal.
The progress of Aarons is particularly important for the 19-year-old defender, as he’s known the full-back for most of his life and played football with the England Under-19 international when they were kids.
“Me and Max used to play Sunday league football together at under-sevens and he lived around the corner to me, so we’d always see each other and been good mates,” Jones explained.
“And I know Jamal through a lot of Luton players as well, because he’s very close to a Luton player at the moment, Frankie Musonda.
“With Max, because we’ve been close since we were young it’s very good to see, it’s good inspiration for me especially because he’s a wonderful player and a couple of years ago he couldn’t even find a club.
“Now he’s a Championship regular, so good for him!”
The tall centre-back was raised in Luton and after spending his U10 season at Brentford, started playing for the Hatters at U11s and continued all the way through his youth scholarship.
That was capped by a memorable achievement in May, scoring the winner in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup final, powerfully heading home the only goal on the hour as Luton’s U18s beat Wigan 1-0 at Kenilworth Road.
It’s with the Canaries that Jones has begun his professional journey though, with his deal announced in June alongside fellow U23 additions Caleb Richards and Tom Scully, formerly with Blackpool and Everton respectively.
His development took a big step up this week though when he played another 90 minutes alongside City skipper Grant Hanley, as the fit-again Scotland international tuned up his match sharpness during a 1-1 draw with Sunderland at Colney on Monday.
Jones also paired up with the 27-year-old Scot to keep a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with Southampton U23s last month, and has found Hanley’s influence a huge help.
“It went really well, he talks a hell of a lot and always demands the best from us,” the youngster said. “Especially with concentration and sloppiness sort of things, trying to make us perform better.
“I’ve had a rocky start to the season but I think the last three games especially, I think I’ve showed Wrighty (David Wright) what I can do, because I wasn’t starting too much when he first came in as under-23 coach and I was struggling to get into the side.
“But I feel like I’ve worked hard in training and earned my place back in the team.”
The Canaries have tried to accelerate development of academy starlets by pushing players up through the age groups this season, bringing mixed results on the pitch, in the hope of short-term pain for long-term gain.
That has meant Jones being brought in to the U23s alongside the likes of Atli Barkarson, Adam Idah, Louis Lomas, Alfie Payne and Anthony Spyrou, who all signed their first professional deals after reaching the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals last season.
“It’s gone well,” he said of his first six months. “I struggled a bit at the start, mixing in with the group because it was quite a tight group but over time we’ve become proper close.
“A lot of the players that came in for this season, we’ve all gelled quite well as a team.”
On his objectives for 2019, Jones continued: “I think my main thing is physical presence, that’s one area I need to improve, especially my physical aggression.
“If you look at the examples of Zimmermann, Klose and Grant, they’re all big units, and ball players as well.
“So I want to add that to my game, hopefully get another contract at the end of the year, maybe go out on loan somewhere to get a bit of men’s football, that’s all that matters really.”
The City hopeful also realises that ability on the ball will be key to getting anywhere near to Daniel Farke’s first team, with Timm Klose the ideal example.
“The way that the boss wants to play and his philosophy of the game, playing out from the back, is a big thing that I agree with, trying to play through the thirds,” Jones concluded.
“So I look up to Timm a lot and watch his game a lot, when we can watch a home game, and try to replicate that.”