The other team Norwich City fans should have been keeping an eye on
Many Norwich City fans may well have made Shrewsbury Town their second team last season but there was another club with even more Canaries links.
While the Shrews had City youngsters Ben Godfrey and Carlton Morris, as well as Ebou Adams initially, Grimsby Town gave Diallang Jaiyesimi his first taste of Football League action.
The attacker spent the entire season with the League Two club, making 35 appearances in all competitions for the Mariners, alongside no fewer than four former Canaries.
Right-back Reece Hall-Johnson was a key part of City’s 2013 FA Youth Cup winning squad, while goalkeeper Ben Killip and midfielder Sam Kelly were both also previously at Norwich.
The fifth player is a striker Canaries supporters will always remember fondly – Simeon Jackson. Now aged 31, the Canada international spent the second half of the season on loan at Blundell Park from Walsall.
It’s 20-year-old Jaiyesimi who is the current interest of course though, particularly after signing a new contract in November, committing until 2020 with the option of a further year.
The Londoner was signed from non-league side Dulwich Hamlet in January 2016 with City claiming to have beaten off competition from several other Premier League clubs. Eight goals in 33 appearances at under-23 level followed in his first full season, leading to his Grimsby loan.
With the Lincolnshire side struggling at the wrong end of League Two the youngster was used mostly as a substitute – in 22 of his 35 games, to be exact – and only managed one goal.
However, Grimsby Telegraph sports reporter James Findlater says there were reasons for encouragement.
“Jaiyesimi did show a few bright sparks for Town last season, but he was mostly limited to appearances from the bench,” Findlater explained. “His best run came just before Christmas, when he was instrumental in the Mariners rediscovering a bit of form and pushing towards the play-off places.
“Unfortunately, that run of form was short-lived, and as Town embarked on a 20-game winless run, Russell Slade chopped and changed and made a number of signings in January in order to try and arrest the slide, effectively pushing Jaiyesimi out of the side.”
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The Canaries prospect mainly played on the left wing for the Mariners but can also play centrally or on the right.
Findlater continued: “He certainly showed glimpses of being able to play at a higher level during his time with Town, and during that bright spell before Christmas, he left a lot of defenders worrying whenever he picked up the ball.
“He’s still very young, so there’s plenty of time for him to develop and improve – I’d imagine another loan somewhere may be on the cards for him next season.”
The other positive Canaries story at Grimsby was Youth Cup winner Hall-Johnson though, becoming a regular starter in the fourth tier.
Best remembered for scoring the crucial penalty in the semi-final shootout win over Nottingham Forest U18s in front of 10,000 fans at Carrow Road during that triumphant season, Hall-Johnson was released in 2016 after just one appearance as a substitute in the League Cup.
However, after shining in the National League at Maidstone, Braintree and Chester he has now persuaded Grimsby to activate the one-year option in his contract.
“Hall-Johnson has been superb since returning from non-league,” Findlater added. “He was sent out on loan to Chester immediately after signing for Town, but upon his return in the New Year, he has practically made the right-back slot his own.
“He was one of the top performers as Town secured their survival during the final weeks of the season, and I think plenty of fans are excited about seeing him again next season.
“Mariners boss Michael Jolley certainly has faith in him, having dispensed with Ben Davies and Zak Mills – a move which took a few by surprise – which would suggest he sees Hall-Johnson as his number one at right-back next season.”
However, former City keeper Killip has been released after seven appearances and midfielder Kelly’s switch from Port Vale hasn’t worked out, with former Norwich U21 boss Paul Wilkinson departing with Slade in April.
And as for Jackson? A debut goal was followed by a hamstring injury which restricted him to just five appearances.
He’ll always be remembered by City fans though, as the man who scored those crucial goals against Derby and Portsmouth to help seal promotion to the Premier League under Paul Lambert back in 2011.
• Follow Canaries correspondent David Freezer on Twitter @davefreezer
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