Young Royals winger James Henry today gave City fans a little hint of what they might expect over the next three months – another David Bentley.
Ideally, not the Premiership loan version of the one-time Arsenal starlet whose spell in Norfolk was more memorable for his 'Ave it!' bust-up with then manager Nigel Worthington than much else. Rather the fast-maturing Blackburn Rovers version – the one that looks an early favourite to step into David Beckham's right-wing shoes under new England boss Fabio Capello.
So was that a fair comparison? Was he another Bentley?
“David Bentley? Yes, that's a good shout,” said the long-time Reading youngster, reported to have spurned Chelsea's advances to stay with his home-town club.
“A lot of people have said that I sort of play like him. And I think I do, really. Fast; get down the line; do my stuff defensively. I'd like to say I'm a Gerrard, but unfortunately not. But David Bentley, yes, that's fair enough.”
Henry, of course, arrived as one of a pair with 19-year-old Reading centre-half Alex Pearce keeping him company – just as he did in the first half of the season when the two went to Bournemouth on loan together. The fact that they come as a pair was one of the reasons, reportedly, that Royals boss Steve Coppell turned down a late enquiry from Spurs – that and the fact that he felt Norwich and Glenn Roeder would offer two of his teenage star turns a better chance of first team football.
The 18-year-old right winger certainly made a big impact on his arrival at Dean Court – scoring both goals on his Cherries debut in their 2-0 away win at Bristol Rovers at the start of November. His 11-game stint would eventually yield four goals.
Time for both teenagers to test themselves at the next level as Pearce offered his own opinion on his travelling side-kick.
“He's a tricky winger; he's got lots of tricks in his bag; he'll get loads of crosses in for you; get down the wing; work hard defensively and going forward he'll do a good job,” said the 19-year-old, with a defender's eye for what a winger's role is.
“He tracks his man – he won't let his full-back get past him, that's for sure.”
The fact that the two know eachother so well helps. But the fact is that Pearce is not the only familiar face on duty at Colney as far as Henry is concerned.
“It's nice to come down here and know people already,” said Henry, as Roeder gathers an England Under-19 'old boys' club around him.
“I already know Ryan Bertrand from England and Kieran (Gibbs) from England, so it helps you settle in a lot quicker knowing a few faces. And I think it is good for the club to have some more young blood coming through – people with desire that really want to play first team football. So it'll be fantastic for this club.”
As for Pearce, he too was relishing the next stage in his own footballing education.
“To come down to Norwich is a great chance for me to get football,” said Pearce, with a confident, no-nonsense air about him. He is well aware that the Royals management team will be looking for him to impress at this level. It is, however, more about testing himself than impressing others.
“I just want to do well for myself,” said Pearce. “To come down to a Championship side and prove my worth in the Championship which is a fantastic league.”
Was he ready to mix it in what remains an ultra-physical league? “Oh, yes. Definitely.”
It was only fair that Henry was able to return the compliment and offer his opinion on his loan pal.
“He's a strong centre-half; won't lose a header; won't miss a tackle – hopefully. Very strong; very passionate. And he'll do a very good job for this club,” said the winger.
The final introductions were left to Roeder himself, who found himself this morning with enough teenage bodies about the place to keep everyone on their toes – be it Gary Doherty and Jason Shackell with Pearce and Middlesbrough's Matthew Bates in the building or Lee Croft as Henry snaps at his heels.
Given Tuesday night's result, it would be a surprise if Roeder rips a winning team apart to accommodate all his new arrivals. Indeed, only five of the seven can feature in his final 16. Mo Camara could be one to miss out with Ryan Bertrand starting tomorrow's game where he finished the contest at St Mary's – at left-back leaving Gibbs to fill the hole in front of him.
Wenger will expect his young star to feature most weeks.
As for the Reading Two, Roeder was delighted at their arrival and had no qualms over their tender years.
“They're mentally tough boys,” said Roeder, doing all the introductions up at Colney this morning. The fact that two Berkshire boys come with Coppell's stamp of approval was another big plus in their favour.
“I like Steve Coppell – I don't go out to dinner with him – but I like him as a manager; the way he does things; the type of player he has in his club,” said the City boss, his revolution now in full swing.
“And if they're not highly motivated and mentally tough, they don't normally stay at Reading to long so I was delighted to take these two boys that we've got from Reading.”
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