A whole clutch of City youngsters can expect to find themselves back out on the road this season as Canary boss Peter Grant looks to make even better use of the loan system.
Matthew Halliday, Rossi and Ryan Jarvis and Joe Lewis all found themselves out on the road last season, topping up their professional apprenticeships with spells on the lower league front-line – a policy that appears set to continue as the City manager continues to be less than impressed by the standard of football offered by the Pontins Holiday Combination (Eastern Division).
In a revamped, ten-team format, the 2007-2008 Combinartion league will offer such gems as Grays Athletic Reserves (a) – plus the equal might of Stevenage Borough Reserves.
Little wonder that as Grant unveiled his second new keeper of the summer – David Marshall – last week he was suggesting that 19-year-old Joe Lewis starts packing his bags for a further spell away from home learning his trade in the League Two trenches after his successful, five-game spell at Stockport County towards the end of last season.
?You look at Joe's situation – and I think it is important that Joe plays,? said Grant, with the towering England Youth keeper finding Marshall, Matt Gilks and Paul Gallacher barring his immediate path to first team football in Norfolk.
The fact that he has been handed a bright, new shiny Canary deal reveals just how much the Norfolk club think of him – but it may yet prove a season or two before he 'comes on stream' in the first squad sense. Time to further his education again elsewhere.
?We signed him on a new contract; we think he's got a massive future at the club – there's no doubt in my mind of that,? said Grant.
?But Joe went to Stockport and I could see him growing as a young man more than anything else and I think he thoroughly enjoyed his time there.
?So it's something that I'll look to do again – to get him more games. Because as I think I said to you last year, the loan system is great for us in that we can utilise it, get players out and get them games.
?Because I think there was too many players here that had sat for so long that they'd forgotten what a game of football was.
?And you don't learn. You can do all your training all you want, but the actual match fitness – and playing in that intensity; in having to win games of football – is a completely different thing altogether.?
Being toughened up in the School of Hard Knocks would appear to have done Lewis no harm – he kept three clean sheets in his five County appearances. Likewise Rossi Jarvis benefitted enormously from his spell in the Rotherham United midfield; elder brother Ryan ought to have gained fresh confidence from his free-scoring spell at Leyton Orient.
?I've seen that in Joe's performances when he came back; I saw that in his performances at Stockport – that he really enjoyed them,? said the City chief.
?And there's no way I'm bringing him back again to sit on the bench again and go through that for another three or four years – just waiting on an opportunity.
?So I think it'll be important that we get some of the boys out on loan and playing.
?But that doesn't mean that they haven't got a future at the football club – that means that they have a massive future at the football club. But the only way that they are going to progress is with games.?
Andrew Cave-Brown has already put his hand in the air to be considered for a potential loan switch; teenage striker Kris Renton may also find himself stuck a long way back in the queue – particularly if Czech forward David Strihavka arrives as expected over the next 24 hours.
That certainly was his belief when he spoke to the Banik Ostrava website in the middle of last week – that today would be his first full day with the Canaries.
Certainly Grant appeared to have no intention of resting on his transfer laurels after last week's frantic spin on this summer's transfer merry-go-round. And nor was Marshall's arrival the most crucial piece in his jigsaw – each and every fresh face is adding to a bigger picture.
?I think they're all crucial – it's no use having a good goalkeeper if the rest of the team is poor,? said Grant, looking to get himself into the happy position of having two players competing for every position.
?I think we're building a team now that's going to be competitive with eachother – I think that's the most important thing,? said Grant, whose Class of 07-08 make their pre-season debut away at Exeter City this Saturday.
?We've got competition for places in most areas of the field; we've maybe still got one or two places short. But once we get them in, then we'll take another look at is and – hopefully – it's going to make us a stronger outfit.?
As for where he still remains short, on the basis that Strihavka does indeed fly in over the next 24 hours, so all eyes may then turn to the centre-half position where last week's announcement of the new squad numbers left the 'No5' shirt vacant.
Jason Shackall, Dion Dublin, Gary Doherty and Michael Spillane ae the manager's current options. With a favourable wind, you would expect to see one more face added to that department if not before the new Championship season kicks off away at Preston Nort End on August 11, then before this summer's transfer window finally closes on August 31.
Do that and, in fairness to both manager and club, they ought to have most of their bases covered.
All that's left then is the small matter of performing to somewhere near their full potential on a rather more regular basis.
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