The moment Todd Cantwell came of age at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Rising Norwich City stars Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell have both surprised academy boss Steve Weaver – but in very different ways.
The Colney products are enjoying superb breakthrough seasons with Daniel Farke's senior squad, and reaping the rewards from years of previous hard work.
'It's amazing – you're a judge of someone until you work with them,' said Weaver.
'From a very early stage with Max, I was always saying to Stuart Webber (sporting director) don't worry, he'll be fine – you just need to create an opportunity for him.
'So pre-season came, we had a plan and we knew about that seven or eight months before – and it's gone brilliantly. Better than anyone could have expected. And that's credit to Max.
'But Todd wasn't that way. We had to snap him out to under-23s football, and it was still high-risk.
'It was difficult to send him out on loan, we sent him off to Holland and I've got to say, I probably take more delight in what he's done than anyone else – and it's nothing to do with anyone apart from Todd.
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'There's a quiet satisfaction among us all that Todd went and did what he did at Fortuna Sittard last season, because it was out of character. His self-belief was something we didn't see – instead we were looking at each other saying we've got to liven him up here. And what a change.'
While City's first-team were sunning themselves in Tampa, Cantwell stayed home to work on his fitness and play in the Under-23s' convincing 3-0 International Cup defeat to Athletic Bilbao.
'After that game he addressed the boys in the dressing room and said to them, 'lads, you're miles off – it's not acceptable',' said Weaver.
'The best thing was he openly admitted to them he used to sit there thinking he was good enough – but realised he was miles off it.
'You have moments in time where you actually think, that is unbelievable. It was not planned or scripted. It was just a moment where you sit back and think, that is great – a young lad telling some other young lads that I was like you, I was wasting away, and I had to go out and play.
'They keep surprising you, kids. And now Todd is playing on merit, and he's been terrific.'
Aarons, Cantwell, Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis are now held up as a key quartet of academy successes – but it was something away from the pitch that caught Weaver's imagination.
'What you have got is four lads who genuinely have an affinity to the club,' said Weaver. 'Their success is down to the four of them. Nothing to do with me – it's all about those lads.
'I've met their parents and the biggest compliment I can pay them is they are a product of their mums and dads. Very humble.
'The first question ask was, is he behaving? Not, what are you doing for my son? That tells you everything and you are then on to a winner from the start. What you sow is generally what you get.'
Weaver added: 'Every time Max played last year, he just had a level of consistent performance where all he did was exactly what he did at 18, in the under-23s and the same now. He's got a really good coping mechanism. Nothing fazes him and he gets on with it.
'And I've got to say, it really helps – likewise Jamal is playing excellently – because they've had Todd and Onel (Hernandez) in front of them doing the same things. Emi (Buendia) too.
'It's not a bad team to play in, is it?'
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