Can Norwich City's next wave emulate James Maddison and Jamal Lewis ahead of Athletic Bilbao cup bow?
Alfie Payne is looking to follow in some illustrious steps when Norwich City's Under-23s embark on their Premier League International Cup quest against Athletic Bilbao's U23s on Wednesday at Carrow Road (KO 7pm).
The Canaries have been drawn in a daunting group that also includes Wolfsburg and Tottenham’s best young talent.
The likes of Ben Marshall, Ivo Pinto and Todd Cantwell have not travelled with the rest of the first team squad to Tampa, but are eligible to feature under the rules of a competition City reached the semi-finals back in 2017.
That run saw James Maddison, Josh Murphy and Jamal Lewis all feature and Payne, who was an unused substitute recently in the Championship win at Sheffield Wednesday, is keen to make his mark.
“It’s always good to experience different teams and different cultures,” he said. “German teams, Spanish teams and English teams all play football in a different style.
“Playing in the competition will be a great opportunity to see how the European sides play, and to see how we can compete against them.
“Knowing that players who have played in the competition have progressed into the first team, it shows that if we work hard enough then we can progress as well as they have. We will be looking to emulate the form that they had in the competition and hopefully go even further.
“It’s always good to see the path that we are going on is the same path other professionals have been on as well.”
Wolfsburg’s U23s hammered Bilbao 4-0 in the opening game in Group C but teenager Payne is taking nothing for granted.
“Every footballer wants to play against the best and compete against the top teams,” he said, speaking to the club’s official site.
“So this competition is a great opportunity to see what we can do.”
The six group winners and the two best runners-up advance to the quarter-finals. In the knockout stages, ties are decided in one-off matches, with extra-time and penalties if the match is level after 90 minutes.
• Supporters can watch Wednesday’s game for free in the City Stand. Tickets are available in advance from the club’s normal ticket outlets.