We have only seven games left to solidify our status as a Premier League club and, despite a recent upturn in results, our future still hangs in the balance. Much rests on the results from April’s fixtures.
Norwich fans have been destitute of a win for so long now it is almost a sin not to still be riding on a feeling of elation from Saturday’s result and the hope that we can claw together enough points to finish seventeenth. But without turning to the “worst-case scenario” plan, it’s perhaps time to look at a “whatever happens” plan for next season.
The final outcome of our season – good or bad – is irrelevant at this point because we can safely say up until now our side hasn’t delivered as promised. Additions to the squad in both summer and January haven’t elevated us into the mid-table side we dreamed of becoming and, for me, it points to an argument that we should be looking much closer to home for our next first-team recruits.
Looking over the registered 27 players that make up our first team squad (source:BBC Sport), only Declan Rudd has come up through the academy ranks and since Norwich were awarded their category one status in 2012, it will be interesting to see when the club will reap the reward from the academy system.
We all know that there is some fine home-grown talent out on loan and with the prizes at stake in the Premier League I have no arguments with turning to experienced players to keep us afloat but I think it’s time that Norwich fans have a homegrown player to idolise.
Relative to other Premier League clubs we aren’t big spenders but for the size of our club the last few transfer windows have offered significant outlay on players who at this point haven’t consistently delivered.
The question is “Could we achieve the same results from home-grown talent?”
Some may argue that Aston Villa have tried the approach of using a young squad but I think the situations are miles apart. Overhauling a squad, allowing key players to leave and completely upturning the club from the inside is a recipe for disaster, and Villa have rightly failed this season, but I think with the right approach, a sensible and considered one, there is no reason why the young players shouldn’t be given a chance at the top level.
For Norwich, my personal assessment is that the core spine of the team hasn’t been right all season. Thankfully now we seem to be getting there. Bringing in Timm Klose, regularly playing Gary O’Neil and Jonny Howson, and sticking with the same team are starting to pay dividends but it’s the fringe positions – like wingers and supporting striker roles – that could be up for grabs when the new season comes around.
Whether City are preparing for another season in the Premier League or adjusting to the reality of returning to the Championship, it doesn’t matter – the ideals should be the same.
As fans we should now be expecting to see academy talent breaking through into the first-team and with a young, hungry manager at the helm, it could be the perfect combination to embed young, hungry players into the side to prove their worth.