Exciting times for players in revamped U23 squad at City as Trophy action returns
PUBLISHED: 13:08 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:15 18 July 2019
The under-23 squad at Norwich City has undergone an extensive overhaul since last season, bringing plenty of fresh interest ahead of a season which will also feature a crucial new element.
Six new signings have already arrived, all of them youth internationals, but not all the new boys are in Germany as part of this week's pre-season training camp.
That is a sign of the efforts which are being made by sporting director Stuart Webber and academy manager Steve Weaver, to improve the levels of quality at U23 level and continue the academy's success of producing first team talent.
So while Belgian left-back Rob Nizet, Scotland youth international Archie Mair and Aidan Fitzpatrick and England U18 midfielder Dan Adshead are all in camp - the latter two already having senior experience at Partick and Rochdale respectively - Belgium U21 centre-back Rocky Bushiri is pursuing a loan switch and Charlie Gilmour has already sealed a season with Telstar in Holland.
It's all meant a great deal of change for U23 boss David Wright to contend with ahead of a new season which, perhaps crucially, will see a City U21 side return to action against first teams in the EFL Trophy.
"The aim is to bring in better quality players all the time and with that obviously the group just gets better and better," Wright explained. "The quality and intensity of training during this pre-season has been excellent, we're really pleased with all the boys.
"We're really pleased with how they came back and it gives them a real foundation to kick on. The likes of Aidan (Fitzpatrick), Archie (Mair) and Dan (Adshead), they've come into the group and it's a real good group to come into, very welcoming, and they've slotted in really well."
Republic of Ireland U21 winger Simon Power (Ross County) and striker Mason Bloomfield (Crawley) are among those already out on loan and the likes of Timi Odusina, Savvas Mourgos and Diallang Jaiyesimi are among those believed to be on trial with potential loan clubs - with Anthony Spyrou scoring for Chesterfield in a friendly this week.
"We've got a number of boys who are out on loan now," former Crewe Alexandra defender Wright continued. "Last week we had something like 24 outfield players and now we've got something like 16!
"So there's been a lot of changes within the group but the players within the group understand what the pathway is and there's no one-size-fits-all pathway.
"The likes of Max (Aarons) just made that jump straight into our first team but then you look at Toddy (Cantwell), he went away on loan and then came back and came into the first team.
"So we talk to the boys about their pathway, that this or that may be possible, and at the moment especially the loans is working really well."
The next player hoping to roll off the Colney conveyor belt is striker Adam Idah, who has enjoyed two prolific seasons under Wright's guidance, at U18s level and then U23s after Matt Gill's exit for Ipswich saw the academy coach step up an age group last October.
The Ireland U21 international recently signed a long-term contract with City and scored twice in a first-team friendly on Tuesday, a 4-1 victory over German fourth-tier side SC Bonner.
Of Idah, Wright added: "It's great, great for him but the reason he's there is because he's worked so hard at his game, he's the one who has got himself the opportunity.
"It's good for the rest of the group to see that pathway, with Jamal (Lewis), Toddy, Ben (Godfrey) and Max. They can see that pathway is there and that continues now that Adam is there and training with the first team.
"So the boys can see that if they work hard enough they may get their opportunity as well."
While Idah can provide inspiration for the U23s, loans are not the only show in town for the Canaries' young prospects this season, as the club's return to the Premier League brought an invitation to the EFL Trophy.
Wright's squad have been draw in the same group as the first teams of League One side Portsmouth and Oxford, as well as Crawley, who play in League Two, with the first game set to be in early September.
City's U23s coach added: "When the boys are ready to go out on loan, at times they move past academy football and then they need men's football to see if they can then take that next step.
"So the competition will be great, to play the likes of Portsmouth and have a real look at our lads and see where they are really at individually and collectively.
"It will be great for the players as well, playing at good stadiums, against good teams, they'll get a real good indication of where they're at.
Why would you not want to go to Fratton Park?! I've played at Oxford, that's a really good ground, Crawley as well.
"These are really good opportunities for the players to impress and maybe have the opportunity to show they are ready to play men's football."