City boss Glenn Roeder has dropped another gauntlet at the feet of two of his own, home-grown talents – telling them to look and learn from the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Kieron Gibbs and Ched Evans.
The three Premiership youngsters all made an impact on their arrival on loan in Norfolk last season – Gibbs, arguably, more on the Colney training ground than the Carrow Road pitch.
Either way, and it is clear that Roeder will be fishing in a similar pool of borrowed teenage talent again this summer hoping that some of their top flight attitude and character might rub off on one or two of their teenage team-mates.
Look and learn, chaps. Look and learn. Ability and attitude.
“Some of the boys that we have here didn't have that the mental toughness and the mental character of the boys that we brought in on loan,” said Roeder, who culled a whole crop of Academy products at the end of last season – including both the Jarvis boys, Ryan and Rossi.
Spared by the fact that both have longer-term contracts, both one-time England Under-19 striker Chris Martin and Republic of Ireland centre-half Michael Spillane are facing the biggest season of their young, footballing lives.
Roeder has long since proved that you try his patience at your own peril and while neither player was specifically named by the manager in yesterday's catch-up chat with the Press at Colney, it wasn't exactly rocket science working out who he had in mind.
“[So] it was good to bring players like that to this club so our young players could see that – and if that doesn't rub off on them now, what more can I do?
“It's down to them which way they are going to go,” said Roeder, who earlier this summer suggested he was waiting to see if “a canonball” would drop in the case of Martin.
“There's a couple of obvious players that I'm talking about,” added the City chief. “And I want both of those players to be involved this year in the squad.
“If I end up with just one of the two making it, I'll be pleased. If neither of them make it, I'll be very disappointed. But the blame – if there is to be any blame – will fall solely at their feet. For not taking hold of the bit when they've been shown what is required. Because I can only take them to water, I can't get them to drink it…”
In fairness to Martin, he was making all the right noises on the club's official website this week. It has been a difficult year for the Beccles youngster; not least finding himself banned from virtually every pub in the Waveney Valley following a fracas in his home town.
Time to let his football do the talking. “I want to get back and prove to Glenn that I am ready this pre-season,” he told www.canaries.co.uk. “I have worked hard and hopefully he can see that and that will be enough to make my way back in. We've been working hard over the summer break and I'm looking forward to getting back to training.”
No-one doubts that there is a player there. Indeed, had he stuck to the straight and narrow form and fitness-wise after bursting so spectacularly onto the Championship stage in the spring of 2007, Martin could have been joining Gibbs, Bertrand and Co on their travels this summer – in particular, taking his place in the finals of the European Under-19 Championships in the Czech Republic next month.
The Football Association last week announced a provisional 23-man party including the likes of Gibbs, Bertrand, Newcastle's Andy Carroll and Manchester City's Daniel Sturridge – all players of Martin's generation.
Opportunity continues to knock.
“I want to try and force my way back into the first team,” added Martin. “Last season was disappointing for me, and I want to put that behind me and force my way back into the manager's plans.”
Spillane's last international outing came at the end of March with a 35-minute, second-half run out for the Irish Under-19s against their French counterparts. A creditable 0-0 draw again suggests that Spillane can more than hold his own amongst his own age group internationally. His quest is more one of settling down into one position and making that his own – be it at right-back, centre-half or centre-midfield.
What is clear, however, is the fact that the young Gibbs has set a bench-mark by which all others get to be judged. The Arsenal youngster, clearly, still figures large in Roeder's thoughts; his whereabouts next season will, however, lie firmly in Arsene Wenger's hands.
“It took him time to get to grips with the pace of things,” said Roeder. “But for him, personally, he would have wanted the season to have had another ten games.
“But from the first day I sat eyes on him here at Colney, if someone had said: 'What club has he come from?' and if I didn't know, I'd have said: 'Arsenal'.
“And that's without seeing him kick a ball. It's how he moves; he's graceful; his feet hardly come up off the ground; he's a glider. And if you look at Arsenal's players, they're all gliders; athletes. And that's what he is.”
Give Mother Nature a helping hand in bulking out that slender frame, and then you've got a real player on your hands.
“He loved it here. And who knows what the future holds for him in this next season,” said Roeder. “But when he puts a little bit of bulk on that slight frame and he's got some more strength in his body – which he will do naturally – he will have a very good career, Kieran Gibbs.”
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