Five Canaries prospects to keep an eye on during 2018
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
As promising left-back Jamal Lewis becomes the latest academy graduate for Norwich City, David Freezer takes a look at other prospects hoping to make their breakthrough with the Canaries during 2018.
At least one academy product has played in each of Norwich City's last 81 matches – a surprising statistic, perhaps.
Jamal Lewis has become the latest youngster to emerge from the Colney conveyor belt, increasing the likelihood of that run stretching further.
City's hierarchy have made it clear in recent months how crucial it will be for the academy's category one status to produce first-team players as the financial reality of life after Premier League parachute payments has been made clear.
The presence of homegrown talent can help nurture a closer relationship between supporters and players, but the potential transfer value of talented youngsters may also prove pivotal to the self-funding Canaries keeping pace with their wealthier Championship rivals.
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Lewis's highly encouraging first three matches during recent weeks have come in teams which also included Josh Murphy and Angus Gunn – with Jacob Murphy's reported £12.5million summer sale to Newcastle proof of the financial possibilities.
It doesn't quite compare to the remarkable 80 years that Manchester United surpassed last year, having included a homegrown player in every first-team squad since October 30, 1937, but it's a start.
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So, as we enter a new year, here are five players to watch out for, as they look to follow in the footsteps of Lewis by getting their first taste of the professional game...
Position: Central midfield
With a vacancy in central midfield potentially opening up when Alex Tettey's contract expires in the summer, Godfrey's chance could arrive later this year.
Turning 20 this month, he has already shown he is capable of performing well at a decent level this season, playing a key role in Shrewsbury's surprise promotion push in League One – smashing a 30-yard winner in a 2-1 win at Southend on Saturday.
The imposing 19-year-old has 46 first-team appearances to his name now, 15 of which came with first club York City. So far just six have been for the Canaries and he is yet to start a Championship game – but did thump home a memorable Carrow Road goal on his debut after coming on as a substitute against Coventry in the League Cup last season.
Godfrey's loan has been extended until the end of the season, as he looks to muscle his way into Daniel Farke's thoughts for next season.
Position: Attacking midfielder
The undoubted talent of Dereham playmaker Cantwell has already been talked about among supporters who watch academy games for many a year.
The former Northgate High School pupil has been an unused substitute during four Championship games so far this season thanks to injuries, but faces tough competition with James Maddison, Alex Pritchard, Wes Hoolahan and Mario Vrancic all playing in his position.
Determined and feisty with an eye for a pass, a loan spell could well beckon – unless one of that four were to depart.
Position: Central midfielder
Brought in during the summer following his release from Liverpool and soon made U23s captain by coach Matt Gill.
Linked with a loan to League Two side Cambridge United recently. Looks after the ball and likes to set the rhythm of play with his range of passing and reliable set-pieces but will need to prove he can handle the physical demands if he is to step up.
A fracture of his back hindered his development at Anfield having played for the first team during pre-season under Brendan Rodgers in 2014. Turns 20 on January 15 and has impressed during his first six months.
Signed from Leyton Orient in a deal worth up to £250,000 having scored two goals in nine League Two games. Has notched six goals in 15 games for City's U23s so far and shown some of the skills and finishing ability which made him Orient's hottest prospect.
Was due to rejoin the O's on loan for the season but that was cancelled due to being needed in the Canaries development squad.
Exciting, quick, a prolific crosser and with an eye for goal, Middleton is already a favourite among those who watch U23s games, scoring three goals in 10 matches so far this season.
Turned 18 on New Year's Day but has already earned seven caps for Scotland U19s, having made his U17s debut at 15.
Was an unused substitute for City's first team in the FA Cup last January.