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‘We can’t rest on our laurels’ – Success stories are just the start for City academy staff

Academy products Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis in the thick of the action during City's win at Reading earlier this season 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Academy products Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis in the thick of the action during City's win at Reading earlier this season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

The first-team emergence of Norwich City’s young stars must act as motivation for further success for academy staff.

That’s the view of Canaries under-23 coach Matt Gill, having seen Jamal Lewis, Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons and Ben Godfrey all push into senior football in the last year.

“We can’t rest on our laurels,” the former City midfielder said. “We need to keep producing and there is ultimately a lot of pressure on staff to do that and make sure we’re doing the stuff needed for the players to progress.

“This year there’s some excellent boys in both U18 and U23 groups once again, and all the way down. We just need to make sure we’re accountable for doing what we need to do to make sure they’re ready for that opportunity once it comes along.”

Gill was on the books at Norwich as a youngster himself, before making the breakthrough with Peterborough in the late 1990s, so knows what it takes to make it as a professional.

Yet he is not surprised to see the starlets making their mark for Daniel Farke’s team, even Aarons impressing at right-back at the tender age of 18.

“No. I don’t know if that’s a little bit arrogant, but it hasn’t,” Gill continued. “They are hard working boys. They’ve come through the U18s and U23s, worked hard and it’s all credit to them.

“A lot goes to the head coach for having the bravery to stick them in, but then it’s down to the boys to take that opportunity and I think in every case they have done. So it’s all credit to the lads.”

MORE: Academy chief on Norwich City realising their Colney ambitions

Aarons was playing in the FA Youth Cup for City as recently as February, disappointingly losing to Birmingham in a Carrow Road quarter-final, but has now progressed to the England U19 squad. Along with left-back Lewis, Aarons signed fresh terms to extend his contract with the Canaries until 2023 last week.

City’s U18s coach, David Wright, added: “It wasn’t too long ago that Max was with the U18s so a lot of the boys know him and to see him make that step, his attitude and willingness to learn has been outstanding – so it’s no coincidence why he’s done what he’s done.

“It’s great the boys can see that and for me to use him as a very recent example. He’s gone on and played for England U19s the other day obviously. So at the moment he’s great to us for the boys.”

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