THE BIG INTERVIEW: Aarons 'loving life' as superb breakthrough City season picks up pace
He's 19 years old, already representing his country and has tasted defeat only three times in over 30 games of first team football.
So when Max Aarons says he’s “loved every second” of his Norwich City emergence, he means it.
At the start of this campaign not many Canaries fans had heard of the right-back getting some chances to impress Daniel Farke during pre-season. Eight months later much has changed.
The academy product has become an integral part of a promotion push for the Championship leaders, scoring three goals and setting up another five in 34 games in all competitions. He has a win percentage of 65 per cent and has started each of City’s last 33 league games, finishing all but one – remarkable statistics which have led to the teen reportedly being monitored by some of England’s biggest clubs.
“It’s been really good, I’ve really enjoyed it,” Aarons said, as he reflected on his breakthrough campaign. “Learning along the way but loving this season.
“Being top is just the icing on the cake really and hopefully we can just carry that on.”
Just over a year ago the former Luton Town trainee, who joined Norwich when he was 16, was still playing for the under-18s as the FA Youth Cup campaign of that squad finished in the quarter-finals.
Today he is an England U19 international with a Premier League future within touching distance, being ranked as the seventh most experienced player born in 2000 in European football by the stats gurus of the CIES Football Observatory.
“It’s crazy how quick the turnaround has been,” he admits.
“If I’d have flashed forward a year from last year, I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d have told me I’d be sitting here talking about the first team and being top of the league.
“So it’s been a great year, I’ve loved every second.”
Aarons, originally from Milton Keynes, had left Luton when he was 15 and joined City after trials at Spurs and QPR due to his relationship with former academy manager Gregg Broughton, who had previously held the same role at Luton – following the path taken by Jamal Lewis.
Just over two years later his senior debut arrived, playing all of a 3-1 win over Stevenage in the Carabao Cup first round at Carrow Road in August. That earned another shot in the second round, away to Premier League side Cardiff and Aarons grabbed his chance with both hands – scoring the third after a sharp turn in the box as City won 3-1.
Five days later, the teen and Emi Buendia started their first league games for City, on derby day, at Portman Road – and neither has looked back since.
“The goal just took me five steps ahead,” Aarons reflected. “I was playing off so much confidence after that, which obviously helped so much in the (Ipswich) game, which was the weekend after the goal wasn’t it? So yeah, I’ll never forget that week.”
Of the 1-1 draw in Suffolk, he added: “So much was going through my mind, I couldn’t even tell you! I was just a whole bag of nerves really, I was really excited but really nervous at the same time, but I think that helped on the day. Those nerves can help if you use them in a positive way – I’ll never forget that day, it was a great day.”
That rapid rise means Aarons is now playing alongside experienced internationals such as Timm Klose, Alex Tettey and keeper Tim Krul, who the youngster remembers watching take part in a penalty shootout for Holland in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup, when he was aged just 14.
“I remember watching it at home!” Aarons continued. “That exact game I had something on at school the next day and I couldn’t even stay up to watch the penalty shoot-out, I had to go to sleep.
“So it’s crazy, playing with someone like Tim now, when I go back five years and was just watching him on TV, it’s weird.”
Of course it’s Farke who Aarons is now so grateful to, not only for his chance, but for sticking with him as well.
“If you make a mistake or something like that, he’s just always got an arm around your shoulder and is always there to help you,” the Canaries star concluded. “He just gives you massive confidence that when you go out on the pitch to go and play your game. It helps you so much that he wants you to play to the best of your ability, which has helped me so much this season, with how much I’ve learned.”
City fans need no further convincing of that ability, as they take pride in seeing a top-level player kick-starting his career.
• Watch the full interview in the video player above