One-time Mulbarton Youth star Luke Daley today became Norwich City's latest teenage signing as he agreed a two-year deal with the Norfolk club.
The 17-year-old first popped up on the first team radar in the home game against Stoke City last month when the second-year Academy scholar made a surprise appearance on the bench for the Potters clash.
An unused sub that day, Daley's recent goal-scoring feats for both the Academy Under-18s and Paul Stephenson's reserves have found the Nothampton-born striker training more and more with Glenn Roeder's senior squad and having earned his due reward with his first professional contract, Daley made a quietly accomplished 'debut' in front of the local Press this morning.
He is, it appears, a young man determined to make the very most of his second chance having been released by the Canaries at 11-years-old. Two years and Sunday football with Mulbarton later and he was back in the Colney fold.
“I've had two spells with the Academy,” he revealed, taking centre stage ahead of tomorrow's home clash against Burnley. “When I was younger in the Under-11s, I was only here for a season and at the end of the season I got released.
“I carried on playing Sunday league; got scouted again two years later and I've been here ever since.”
Like most clubs, Norwich's history is littered with players that came, played as kids and slipped through the net – Dion Dublin and Bobby Zamora are two obvious examples. Daley, however, was handed a second chance – one he vowed he would never let go.
“It was a shock [being released] but I kept at it, bounced back and it just shows that if you keep working hard you can get back in,” said the young man, displaying the kind of resolute character that should, in theory, bode well.
“When I got the second opportunity, I thought: 'This is my time to take it..!' and so I just grabbed it. I just wanted to prove that I was good enough to get back into this club.”
And yesterday, as he put pen to paper and became Roeder's latest full-time signing, that determination earned its reward.
“I'm very excited,” he added. “I'm grateful for the opportunity that I've had and I just want to get my head down now and progress as much as I can.”
It has been quite a time for the youngster. March kicked off with that extraordinary 5-5 Academy Under-18 draw with Leicester City in which Daley grabbed a hat-trick. A place on the bench against Stoke then followed before finalising his two-year deal last night.
“I found out that I was getting a pro contract a few weeks ago now; I got the letter through the post and I was very happy,” said the latest product off Ricky Martin's production line. “And a week later – yesterday – I signed my first pro contract and that was a very exciting moment for me.”
As was the prospect of making his Championship debut against the Potters last month. In the event, the youngster stayed parked on the bench but it was clearly another night for the scrap-book.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” he admitted. “I'd been training with the first team quite a bit running up to that and then I got told by the first team staff that I'd be involved in the squad; arrived at the ground later on and found that my name was on the board and I was on the bench. So very excited.
“And it was a good experience – it gave me a little taste of what I really want to do. When I was there I was a bit nervous at first, but as I was on the bench I was thinking: 'Yeh, if I come on I could do well…'”
For now, he remains something of an unknown quantity to the great majority of Canary supporters. Time to let the young man himself describe his attributes.
“I can play as a striker – or on the wing. My strengths are my pace and my ability to take on players,” he revealed. Physique-wise and he is not too dissimilar to Arsenal youngster Kieran Gibbs. And given the way that Roeder has, from day one, extolled the twin virtues of pace and power then Daley looks to be part of the new breed of modern-day footballer.
In fairness to the young man, he wasn't expecting too much too soon. He has, after all, one or two bodies in front of him in the first team queue. The fact that, at least for the Stoke game, he appeared to have clambered ahead of Chris Martin in the manager's thoughts may say something as last season's hottest property finds his Canary career stuck in the doldrums.
How close Daley is to a regular place in Roeder's squad thinking is the next question. Both Daley and Martin will have a gauntlet at their feet when they return to pre-season training in the summer.
“Realistically, I wouldn't say that I'm there yet,” said the former Hethersett High School pupil. “But I've got my contract now and I've got two years to get out and work at it, so hopefully if I can do well in training and impress the gaffer then maybe I can get back.
“If I can keeping working hard, then the aim is to get into the first team by the end of my contract. And be a regular.”
Roeder certainly appears intent on keeping Daley's feet firmly on the floor. Or rather one foot; the other is now on the first rung of the ladder.
“When I had my meeting with the gaffer that's what he said – that this is only the first rung on the ladder. And I've realised that. I'm not going to stop the work I've already done in my scholarship – I've got to keep it going through right to the end.”
No surprise to find who has been one of his principal mentors in that senior dressing room; someone who has 20 years worth of experience to pass on before he reached the final curtain in five weeks time.
“The atmosphere in the first team dressing room is a lot different,” he said. “You've got the professional players and they help you a lot. But you have to be more mature; you feel more grown-up, but it's an exciting time as well to be around players like Dion [Dublin] and Hucks [Darren Huckerby].
“And I do look up to Dion a lot; I've had a conversation with Dion; he's helped me quite a lot since I've been around the first team; he's given me advice. What I'm doing wrong, what I need to do better…”
And that's what Norwich will miss in five weeks time.
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