EXCLUSIVE: 'I'd have them back, I won't deny that' – City stars make lasting impression on their boss
PUBLISHED: 08:06 24 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:06 24 May 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
Shrewsbury Town manager Paul Hurst would love another year with Norwich City loanees Ben Godfrey and Carlton Morris – but knows that’s just another element at stake come Sunday’s EFL League One play-off final against Rotherham United at Wembley.
The Shrews boss will lead his side out at Wembley for the second time this season, with a place in the Championship on the line.
Hurst is also Ipswich Town’s prime candidate to succeed Mick McCarthy as manager – a topic likely to be off-limits until full-time against the Millers.
The Shrews’ superb season has been fuelled by the efforts of two young Canaries in Ben Godfrey and Carlton Morris, who are both set to start as Town bid to make up for their Checkatrade Trophy final defeat to Lincoln last month.
The pair have certainly made an impression on their boss, in a campaign where the Shrews had been tipped for relegation – only to finish third.
“I would have them back – I won’t deny that,” smiled Hurst. “But to stand the slightest chance at all, we would have to win on Sunday.
“Then the issue you have is you’re in the same league, and I don’t know exactly what the feelings would be on that.
“But they’ve both done extremely well and for them both, I hope they can force their way into the plans at Norwich.
“Whether they do, time will tell. But I’d certainly be genuinely pleased for them because they’ve been great for me and are good people. So hopefully they can have long careers, whether that’s at Norwich or elsewhere.”
One thing Hurst has confidence in is both 20-year-old holding midfielder Godfrey and 22-year-old striker Morris will return for pre-season at Colney next month, better players than when they joined the Shrews last summer.
“I’d like to think so and I don’t mean that in a big-headed sense from my point of view or the staff, but just the experience of playing.
“Hopefully they’ve learned some other things as well, because they are both still young players. Especially as it is Ben’s first loan, while Carlton has had a few.
“I never said to them when they joined that we would be challenging at the top of the league; I was saying we were hoping for a better season than last. So I think it’s worked out better than we all could’ve imagined and those two have certainly made a big contribution.
“Ben has had a huge role in our success and he’s a young man. Because of his physicality and his physical appearance, you have to remind yourself – as we have as staff – what age he is at.
“He did have a very slight hamstring injury but other than that, he’s been available all the time and I think he did benefit from coming out a couple of weeks with that, and he came back stronger.
“I think in both play-off games – and I’m sure some Norwich fans and people at the football club saw that – he was outstanding. Now we’re hoping he can put in one more big performance for us.
“I know not only Ben but Carlton as well, the football club have monitored them very closely and that’s great.
“We’re very grateful we got them in the first place, with (City loan manager) Neil Adams coming over initially and letting him have a look at us.
“I’m really pleased they did that because I’m confident about what we are but if they decided it wasn’t right for any reason, at least you know that from the start.
“I never made any promises about the lads playing all the time. Again I think they understood that they’ve got to earn the right, and both of them have certainly done that.”
While Morris took until his crucial play-off semi-final second-leg winner against Charlton to notch 10 goals this season, Hurst is more than happy with his striker’s output – especially since the new year.
“I’ve had that with one of my other centre-forwards at Grimsby, Lenell John-Lewis,” added Hurst. “I think in his first season he didn’t score a vast amount of goals, and the second season he got 20.
“But I’ve always said, it’s more about what you bring to the team. We’re talking about individuals here but it’s how they work within the team and the group, and Carlton has done extremely well on that side.
“In all honesty, I think he was up and down a little bit in that first period – but from January onwards, he has really kicked on.
“Again, he’s put in some big performances and his goal against Charlton, I didn’t realise on the day just how fantastic that finish was.
“So that will have done his confidence for this last game no harm at all, and both lads I’d say have integrated into the group fantastically well.
“They are genuinely good people, which is something we try to look for when we first make our enquiries – and they’ve been a credit to the football club.”
• For the latest Norwich City news and opinion follow Michael Bailey on the following channels…