Turning potential into reality – how some past Norwich City starlets have fared
- Credit: Ady Kerry
Norwich City fans will be keen to see their 2013 FA Youth Cup winners get involved in Chris Hughton's first team as soon as possible – yet as we analyse, turning promise and potential into a long and fruitful career in professional football can be a fraught business. Some make the most of their talents, others fall short – as the Canaries' production line has proved…
• Craig Bellamy – With City: 1997-2000; Permanent moves: Coventry, Newcastle, Blackburn, Liverpool (twice), West Ham, Manchester City, Cardiff plus Wales and Team GB senior honours; Age: 35
It doesn't take long for a supremely talented player to show what they've got, no matter what level they are playing at – and that was a sentiment made for Craig Bellamy. A match-winner at Portman Road and on numerous other occasions, the Welshman always looked the part at City – a spell which included his breakthrough goal for Wales. He had to battle a host of injuries, including a cruciate ligament injury before his second full season began. In the end City couldn't resist a big offer for his services, selling to Coventry for £6m. Bellamy continually had to battle injury and a few bad headlines, but his quality on the pitch always shone through. He won a League Cup, Charity Shield and while on loan at Celtic the Scottish Cup. He also returns to the Premier League with his home town club next season.
• Robert Green – With City: 1999-2006; Permanent moves: West Ham, QPR plus England senior honours; Age: 33
Always highly regarded through the ranks, Green was just 19 when he kept a clean sheet on his City debut – at home to arch rivals Ipswich. From there he became City's number one and picked up an old Division Two championship medal and his first England call-up, making more than 200 appearances. Relegation from the Premier League eventually led to Green moving on to West Ham. The keeper has also been regularly involved with England, appearing at the 2010 World Cup – although he has only just about been forgiven for that fumbled goal against the United States.
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• Jason Shackell – With City: 2003-2008; Permanent moves: Wolves, Barnsley, Derby, Burnley; Age: 29
There was often a question mark over where Shackell would be best placed, but his reputation began to build as City took the old Division One title and returned to the Premier League. A solid citizen and popular with the City fans, the one-time captain was sold to Wolves for a fee of around £1m – before rather bizarrely being loaned back to Carrow Road a few months later. The move was not enough for Shackell to prevent City's relegation to League One – something he could bizarrely add a second tier winners' medal for his efforts at Wolves. The centre-back and often captain has been in demand wherever he has played, and was an almost every-present as Burnley captain last season.
• Ryan and Rossi Jarvis – With City: Ryan 2003-2008, Rossi 2005-2008; Permanent moves: Ryan – Leyton Orient, Walsall, Torquay United, York City plus England U19 honours; Rossi – Luton, Barnet, Cambridge United plus England U19 honours; Age: 26; 25
It probably feels like a lifetime since Fakenham's finest broke into City's first team – likewise, you will probably be surprised to see how young they still are. Ryan held the record as City's youngest player for some time, as well as the player with most promise – his goal against Liverpool the prime example. Maybe he never matched those expectations – but he continues to operate in the Football League and next season will be reunited with his former City boss Nigel Worthington at York City. As for Rossi, his career has ticked along a few rungs lower. The midfielder finished last season at Conference outfit Cambridge United, who had a fairly average campaign.
• Matty Ball – With City: 2011-2012; Permanent moves: Stevenage plus Northern Ireland U18 honours; Age: 20
As City rose through the ranks, the chances became ever more limited for Paul Lambert's youngest charges – a lengthy list including the likes of Korey Smith, Chris Martin, George Francomb and Tom Adeyemi can testify to that under Paul Lambert's tenure. But young Northern Irish midfielder Matty Ball got as close as any raw City scholar under Paul Lambert, making it as far as the bench of a Championship game and earning a first one-year professional deal to stay on at Carrow Road. In the end, he couldn't secure longer at City. But he signed a three-year deal at League One Stevenage, where he made his debut last season and will hope to show more of his undoubted talent next season.
• Josh Dawkin – With City: 2009-2012; Permanent moves: Braintree, Lowestoft Town plus Wales U19 honours; Age: 21
As things unravelled for City's first team under Glenn Roeder, Dawkin's promise through the age groups and reserves was a silver lining. He was handed caps through the wales set-up and got to eventually make his City debut at Gillingham in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. But the hoped-for kick on never really came, and while spells on loan at non-league Cambridge United and especially Kettering Town brought some rave reviews, Dawkin was never able to make an impact back at City as Norwich moved through the ranks. After joining Conference side Braintree Town last summer, the forward spent the second half of the season on loan at Ryman League outfit Lowestoft Town.
• Cameron McGeehan – With City: Current Under-18 captain; Age: 18
A second-year scholar who cost Chelsea £50,000 from Fulham as a 10-year-old, before joining City five years later and lifting the FA Youth Cup last month: 'We're all young and want to play in the Premier League, World Cups, European Championships, the Champions League. Winning the FA Youth Cup is a step in the journey there.
'We've got to stay grounded. We've got to keep working the way we were and remember how we got here, keep trying to improve every year because we are going to be playing under-21 football next year, maybe get out on loan and try to push the first team.
'Whenever you get your chance, you've got to be ready. Football is a patient game. It's a long career. You've got another 20 years if you're lucky, so we've barely started.'
• City's 1983 FA Youth Cup winners
The last time City were top of the youth development pops with an FA Youth Cup victory was 30 years ago – and the Canaries' cup-winning XI epitomised the fragile nature of turning promise into professional careers.
Successes included Jeremy Goss, who helped lead City to their highest ever top-flight finish at the heady days of their Uefa Cup run, while also earning several Wales caps.
Tony Spearing played top-flight football for City and Leicester, while Louie Donowa became an England Under-21 international as well as crossing the Waveney divide, turning out for Ipswich.
However, the likes of Neil Riley and Mark Metcalf saw their careers ended at a young age through injury.