Norwich City report card: Todd Cantwell, critics, contracts and class
Todd Cantwell is a poster boy for Norwich City’s academy. The lad from Dereham made his real first team breakthrough for the Canaries in a memorable campaign. Group football editor Paddy Davitt reflects on his progress, in our latest City report card.
Promotion to the Premier League and a title winner in your first full season for your hometown club. Not a bad start to Todd Cantwell's senior Norwich City career.
The 21-year-old from Dereham is setting a very high bar.
A second consecutive season of professional combat ended in promotion, after an eye-catching loan stint 12 months ago at Fortuna Sittard in Holland.
Perhaps it was that spell away from the safe, comfortable surroundings of Colney that convinced Daniel Farke to bring Cantwell firmly into the first team mix this time around.
The attacking midfielder got a taste of the big time with an FA Cup cameo at Chelsea last season, but this was the real deal.
Cantwell may have watched most of the defining part of the season from the bench, but 18 starts in the Championship was a more than decent return. Not that it was just a story of unbridled optimism and positivity.
That negative reaction from some quarters, following a lacklustre draw from the Canaries overall at Wigan back in mid-April, prompted a personal response on social media.
Cantwell felt compelled to point out no-one needed to tell him he was far from the finished article and that every day was another chance to learn.
There really was no need to launch such a defence.
To expect a youngster to compensate for the suspended Emi Buendia in what was his first league start in three months against the tigerish Latics was a tall order.
Farke certainly brushed aside criticism, pointing out how different that episode may have been had Cantwell earned an assist for an early spurned chance that fell to Teemu Pukki, which would have forced Wigan to alter their gameplan to the benefit of the recalled youngster.
But Cantwell showed a maturity in how he dealt with the fallout that may serve him much better than waves of praise and platitudes.
Criticism is part and parcel of that transition from promising talent to consistent first team performer.
What he also has to deal with is expectancy and a large swell of goodwill that will accompany any Norfolk prospect performing in the green and yellow.
The talent is surely not in doubt.
His first Championship appearance at Reading in September was notable for a gorgeous threaded pass, perfectly timed, for Pukki to despatch. The away win at Nottingham Forest in October contained any number of clever touches and creative flourishes as he roamed infield looking to influence proceedings.
The home win against Rotherham in December was a landmark occasion. A whipped finish across his body at the near post brought a first league goal for the club, then the cushioned lift for Max Aarons to head Norwich in front.
Farke may have used him more sparingly at the businesss end but there was no doubt on his day Cantwell could make the difference in the Championship.
But there are issues on the horizon. The first is a longer term resolution to Cantwell's current contractual status. City opted to take up their option last week, which ensures the youngster will remain at Carrow Road for the next 12 months.
That also buys some breathing space for both parties to conclude a successful outcome to negotiations.
The likes of Aarons, Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey all signed up for extended tours of duty. From the outside, Norwich clearly looks and feels like a club going places. Cantwell hardly needs convincing of that. But the other issue is perhaps interlinked.
Given Norwich's elevation to the big time, just how Farke handles the next phase in his development?
The creative midfielder will back himself to step up in the Premier League, but there is balancing act to be struck to ensure he gets the exposure and game time to engineer another growth spurt; much like in the same way he blossomed in Holland.
From a distance he looks to have the technical ability and composure to become a Premier League player.
But whether that is now or in the future is to be decided. Yet Cantwell must know he is at the right club to get his opportunity.
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