Chris Goreham: The grass isn’t always greener away from Norwich City
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Victory at last! Norwich City’s first league win for more than six months would only have been more satisfying if their success starved supporters had been allowed in to see it.
Jamal Lewis’ brilliant goal against Leicester kept a packed Carrow Road jumping long into a wet February Friday night. My arrival at Huddersfield Town on Saturday was met with a man muttering “The Press Room is closed today because Norwich are changing in it” from underneath his facemask. Those two wins feel like they were achieved in different worlds rather than different football seasons.
One thing they did have in common was that the match winner came from the Canaries academy. This time it was Adam Idah who was in the right place to gleefully smash home Teemu Pukki’s unselfish pass.
Idah is clearly a hugely promising player. There has been a great deal of excitement for a couple of years about what the Irish youngster might be capable of when he finally breaks into the first team. Already this season, at the age of 19, he has started two games for Republic of Ireland. Luton Town’s hat-trick hero from the EFL Cup win over Norwich last weekend, James Collins, didn’t even make the squad. Idah’s reputation is already such that I had to double check to make sure that the goal against Huddersfield was in fact his first ever in the league.
It’s great to be inspired and optimistic about the standard of players being nurtured on the training pitches at Colney. Nothing pleases supporters more than having ‘one of our own’ performing a starring role for the first team. Sometimes that desire can cloud the judgement.
When Norwich were finally put out of their Premier League misery I felt sure that Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell would never play in yellow and green again. Yet there they were at Huddersfield Town, rolling their sleeves up to earn a proper hard fought away win back in the Championship. Any concern that their young heads might have been turned by a summer of speculation quickly faded. If they felt envious of Jamal Lewis for finding his way back into the top flight they weren’t going to let it show.
The road to soccer stardom is more hazardous than it looks. Make the wrong move at the wrong time and you can go from Boy Wonder to ‘I wonder what happened to him?’
When Alex Pritchard joined Norwich City in the summer of 2016 he had just turned 23. That means he was only about six months older than Ben Godfrey is now. Canaries fans were excited and there were enough glimpses in his brief spell with the club to suggest that Pritchard’s promise was well placed. He was sold for big money to Huddersfield when they were in the Premier League. He’s now part of a squad that many think could struggle to match the 18th place in The Championship they managed last season.
For every James Maddison there are several Josh Murphys or Jonny Howsons. Players who looked destined for greater things when they left Carrow Road but end up back in the Championship.
If there’s one thing Daniel Farke has shown during three full seasons at the helm it is an ability to connect with and get the best out of talented young players.
Lewis and Aarons were given debuts when things were not going particularly well for the German. Under that much pressure many other managers would have played safe and stuck with more experienced players but he gave them an opportunity to flourish.
If Idah and the rest of Farke’s fledglings want another crack at the Premier League the hard work is only just starting.
They have the talent to reach the top but you never know what’s around the corner. Those Norwich fans who celebrated beating Leicester in February would never have believed you if you told them what would happen before their team won again.
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