Norwich City Report Card: It’s been a blast, Madders
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James Maddison left an indelible impression on Norwich City last season. Paddy Davitt assesses what next for the precocious midfielder and the club he will leave behind, in the latest of our summer report cards.
Forget the numbers and the personal accolades. Impressive though they are. Just dwell on the huge influence James Maddison had on Norwich City’s season.
In his most fertile periods he lifted the Canaries above mid-table mediocrity on a wave of technical excellence and breathtaking goals.
That banger against Middlesbrough opened his account for the league season but the majestic finish at Brentford will take some beating.
The manner he embarrassed Ryan Woods with a cheeky nutmeg and then the right-footed finish - set off on a path well outside the far post before the ball arced over the despairing dive of Bees’ keeper Daniel Bentley - was a thing of beauty.
That is before you even come to the huge significance of his derby winning strike to sink Ipswich Town at Portman Road or the endless stream of assists and further chances spurned by his fellow team mates.
Maddison will get the Premier League move he richly deserves this summer.
The only imponderable is his final destination.
Fulham and Leicester City are the latest top flight suitors touted with a swoop that will smash Norwich’s transfer record out of sight.
The worry beyond the soothing thud of many millions hitting the Carrow Road bank account is how Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber possibly replace a player who was intrinsic to all the most encouraging aspects of a season of discovery.
Certainly they will not be able to source the vast sums required to buy a ready made replacement.
That much is clear.
In other words they must find a player from within or more likely without boasting the potential to blossom in the same fertile conditions Maddison flourished under Farke.
Kenny McLean appears an intriguing option but he will have to go some to match Maddison.
Many questions remain unanswered regarding Farke’s ability to navigate a path of financial prudence while moulding a squad capable of a concerted top 10 push.
But not in doubt is the major role City’s head coach played in Maddison’s great leap forward.
This time last summer, the 21-year-old was a precocious talent who had his path to the first team blocked by Alex Pritchard and Wes Hoolahan. Circumstance may have intervened in the case of Pritchard, with an untimely pre-season ankle injury, but Farke still had to show faith to perhaps overlook the more obvious claims of Steven Naismith.
That cuts to the heart of what the German is all about and why he was earmarked as the outstanding candidate by Webber to drive this new way forward. Maddison was simply the advance guard, but you can see an identical hot-house process underway with Jamal Lewis or maybe even Todd Cantwell.
The same raw material exists but as Farke so often repeated last season he can only open the door. It is up to them to barge through.
Norwich have been good for Maddison. But Maddison has been outstanding in an abbreviated period for Norwich.
Those City fans who worshipped him last season as he cut a dash in the green and yellow must get used to seeing him from afar as his career continues to soar on an upward curve.
Given the talent, given the temperament, maturity and support network around him the possibilities feel limitless.
It is not just the goals or even the inflated mark up on the original fee David McNally tempted Coventry to part with their prized asset that is Maddison’s abiding legacy.
It is the memories of watching a special young talent during a breakthrough campaign at Carrow Road.