Paddy Davitt verdict: Time to let Norwich City’s new wave off the leash
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Youth brings maddening frustration but it also carries a whiff of renewal for Norwich City.
To salvage something, anything from a season of unfulfilled expectations the sight of Josh Murphy and James Maddison both on target in a precious 3-1 Championship away win at Preston can lift spirits.
Maddison showed composure to coolly roll Steven Naismith's pass underneath the advancing Chris Maxwell to seal a first success on the road since February 4.
The spontaneous celebration spoke volumes. Maddison proudly ran towards the pocket of away fans before turning his back and motioning to the name on his shirt.
City's support need little convincing the time is right to unleash the 20-year-old midfielder, who was lauded as one of the best prospects in the country when Norwich swooped ahead of the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool.
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Maddison's career to date has been limited to the odd cup cameo and development outings. An extended loan stint at Aberdeen showcased his skills to a wider audience but the refusal to depart for a second spell was the actions of a man who believes he is good enough to feature right now at Norwich City.
Alan Irvine and before him Alex Neil sought to protect Maddison, Ben Godfrey and many of the younger talents who have not made the transition in the same seamless manner as Jacob Murphy.
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Given a downward spiral that eventually claimed Neil there was merit in such a protective policy. Not any more. Not over the remaining few games. Irvine was again keen to stress Maddison is just at the start of his journey but even in a brief cameo there was enough circumstantial evidence to suggest he did not look out of place.
Josh Murphy proved no less impressive or productive in the north-west. This must have been a difficult campaign on many levels for the flying wide man as his twin blazed a trail. Josh has the same reservoir of talent. We saw that again in the pivotal role he played in Norwich's second goal. Much like Jacob stepped out of Nathan Redmond's shadow following his departure to Southampton, Josh must grasp the chance to fill any such vacancy on the left. Preston should not simply be savoured for a rare away success. It could mark the emergence of two bright young things.
Irvine has so far been unable to cure the huge inconsistency in performance levels that produce superb shows against Reading or a hard fought win at one of the most difficult Championship outposts, mixed in with abject displays at Aston Villa or Huddersfield.
But when you sit and listen to the wise Scot you hear plenty of common sense. He knows there is a demand from the terraces for something to cling onto; a reason to believe again and some hope for better times ahead. Much is invested in a crop of exciting talent largely untainted by the miserable downturn over the past 15 months or so. But Irvine also knows the perils of exposing such precociousness within the wrong environment.
That is why Fulham's slick, streetwise squad hardly offered fertile ground on Good Friday for a Maddison or a Josh Murphy. That is why perhaps Preston, for all their fearsome home record, did, given Norwich's control either side of Tommy Spurr's free second half header.
Irvine wants an experienced framework to integrate a seam of raw potential, and there was clear signs at Deepdale players like Steven Naismith and Cameron Jerome can serve that purpose.
Newly-promoted Brighton under Chris Hughton may prove less accommodating at Carrow Road on Friday but the impact of Maddison and Murphy is grounds for renewed optimism.