PROFILE: Young defender Famewo could be in contention again for City at Bournemouth
PUBLISHED: 17:27 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:27 08 October 2019
The team-sheet featured a new name for many Norwich City supporters on Saturday – but Akin Famewo could well be involved again for the trip to Bournemouth after the international break.
Famewo was preferred to the more experienced Philip Heise on the bench for the Premier League clash against Aston Villa, due to Daniel Farke's need for genuine centre-back cover.
Primarily that was because Ben Godfrey was playing through the pain of a hernia and while Jamal Lewis could potentially step into the centre of defence in an emergency, the left-back was playing with his own elbow injury.
So it was City's under-23 captain who got his first taste of first-team action, with Sam Byram providing the full-back cover on the bench, having been contending with an ankle issue of his own in the midst of the Canaries' ridiculous injury crisis.
Famewo was signed from Luton Town in January and for those watching closely in the warm-up, it's clear the 20-year-old has the physique to handle senior football, with an imposing frame standing at around six-foot two-inches tall.
The Londoner can play at left-back, which also played in his favour, and does have 26 Football League appearances on his record.
With current treatment allowing players to return from hernia surgery in around a week, Farke is hoping that Godfrey's operation in Munich yesterday will have gone smoothly, allowing him to train fully ahead of City's return to top-flight action at Bournemouth a week on Saturday.
However, it looks likely that defensive midfielder Ibrahim Amadou will have to continue covering at centre-back, with Grant Hanley seeing a specialist about his troublesome groin injury.
And with Christoph Zimmermann set to return from his foot injury in December at the earliest and Timm Klose's knee injury likely to keep him out until next season, Famewo could again be involved at the Vitality Stadium.
Should Godfrey not recover in time to face the Cherries, and with Lewis dropping out of the Northern Ireland squad with a minor knee injury, Famewo could yet find himself in at the deep end at Bournemouth.
So who is the youngster providing emergency cover?
The Canaries' initial interest emerged in January 2018, when the Daily Mail claimed an initial £250,000 with potential add-on fees had been offered to Luton.
It wasn't until the start of this year, when the defender was in the middle of a season-long loan at Grimsby Town, that his switch to Norfolk was sealed for an undisclosed fee though.
Famewo signed a deal until 2020 with the option for a further year, revealing that his mum's family were from Norwich and that he'd had his eye on the move for a while.
He had been with Luton since under-10 level and was part of the U18 team which won a league and cup double in 2016, playing in the third tier of academy football, the EFL Youth Alliance.
The Hatters won the South East Conference but also won the Youth Alliance Cup, beating Shrewsbury 2-1 in the final, and made it to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup as well.
Among his team-mates in that squad was left-back James Justin, who was signed by Leicester City this summer in a deal which could eventually be worth £8million and is now an England U21 international.
Famewo signed professional terms at 17 and his first league start soon followed, in a 1-1 draw at Hartlepool in League Two in September 2016, earning high praise from then manager Nathan Jones.
"He was outstanding, he's going to be a top player," Jones, who is now in charge at Stoke, told the Luton News at the time. "He has all the attributes, he's ours and we're proud of him."
Famewo made 13 appearances in total for the Hatters, mostly in the EFL Trophy, starting just two league matches. However, more game time was earned during his loan stint at Grimsby last season, making 10 appearances in League Two during a spell which was interrupted by minor injuries.
It was a hamstring injury which restricted his U23 action at City initially but after a full pre-season Famewo has been a regular starter for David Wright's development squad in Premier League Two this season, playing every minute of the U23s' three games in the EFL Trophy - including last week's 2-1 win at Crawley.
The academy prospect talked to us earlier this season about wearing the captain's armband, saying: "It is my first time being a captain this season. I am always being told I have good leadership skills so for me it is a great thing to take on board and understand this is my role.
"I would like to say I try and lead by example but when the time is right I don't have a problem giving the guys a blast or two as well.
"That works both ways and we have that trust together as a group that we know it is not a personal thing. We are all working towards the same goal."
It may be an injury crisis which has catapulted him into the first-team picture, but fellow former Luton trainees Lewis and Max Aarons took their chance when it arrived at City - and Famewo may yet get his opportunity to follow suit.
- Watch our interview with Famewo earlier this season, ahead of the 2-1 loss at Oxford in the EFL Trophy, above
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