SIX THINGS: 1 – Get ready for the next generation to find their feet
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Kicking off our Six Things Summer Special, we look at Norwich City's young guns. It was like a toe in the water for City's youth project as James Maddison was given implicit trust and Jamal Lewis arrived – now MICHAEL BAILEY expects more to follow.
Some will feel the academy drum has been banged enough in the past 12 months to give supporters earache – but you may well find that was only the start.
Reducing the average age of City's squad in the space of a year hinged on young, promising talents signed – or maybe that should be pinched – from other clubs being able to adjust seamlessly to Championship life.
And of course, what 21-year-old James Maddison managed in such context during the campaign just gone was far above and beyond.
Jamal Lewis's path was more directly linked to the club's academy set-up. At 20, he still has plenty of work ahead but has already established himself as a prime first-team option.
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Yet with another big summer adjustment now on its way, City will be hoping a few more younger talents swim just as fast when they are thrown into the deep end – starting in pre-season. And if it pays off, the effort and investment could be worth millions.
You'll find a proper discussion over City's goalkeeper situation elsewhere in these pages but the burgeoning reputation of Remi Matthews, 24, has City fans tempted to see for themselves – the club may well do likewise following Angus Gunn's exit.
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Matthews' path is the same one that will see Ben Godfrey, 20, ready to give Alex Tettey a real run for his money in a settled, holding midfield role – rather than the 'try him here, try him there' approach that did him few favours before his Shrewsbury loan. His fellow City loanee Carlton Morris, 22, will also hope to cause dilemmas up front.
Todd Cantwell, 20, has a knee ligament injury akin to that of Maddison's to recover from this summer but he should have a real spring in his step after reaching real heights in time helping Fortuna Sittard earn promotion into the Eredivisie.
With City assessing their future right-back options, it also seems 18-year-old Max Aarons is set to join the first-team group come pre-season, while 20-year-old Adam Phillips could also find himself much closer to Daniel Farke's City squad – and with a chance to really prove he can step up, albeit fighting for time in what will still most likely be an ultra-competitive midfield.
As has been proven, you can actually win things with kids – but it's certainly the hard way, and it takes time.
How keen Norwich City fans really are to see young players blooded and learning at such a high level will underpin their attitude to – expectations of – the Canaries' Championship adventure over the forthcoming season and beyond.
But from bonds to affection for the likes of Jamal and even Angus on his season's return, having several of their own is likely to be one appetite that will be fully satisfied come next term.
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