It was a tale of two goalkeepers today – one adding to his growing reputation with every passing game; the other having already earned himself an enviable reputation. At the tender age of 15.
For as Canary No1 David Marshall reflected on another excellent weekend at the office ahead of tomorrow night's trip to Southampton, so City schoolboy Jed Steer found himself linked to a ?250,000 switch to Premiership giants Chelsea. Or at least if the 'Soccer Spy' column in today's Daily Mirror was to be believed.
The 15-year-old has already been making a name for himself on the international stage – he was in goal for the final of this spring's Montaigu Tournament in France where the England Under-16 squad beat hosts France 5-4 in a tense penalty shoot-out; this summer and Steer has graduated to the England Under-17s.
Back in Norfolk and this weekend he was to be found in goal for City's Under-18 Academy outfit as they slipped to a 3-1 home defeat by Crystal Palace.
City boss Glenn Roeder has long ear-marked Steer and his teenage pal Declan Rudd as ones to watch for the future. Rudd has already found himslef on the bench – in particular in the final game of the season away at Sheffield Wednesday as the Canary chief marked everyone's card that Matty Gilks would be given the opportunity to find first team football elsewhere this summer.
Stuart Nelson's arrival on just a one-year deal as back-up to Marshall likewise suggested that he may just be keeping Rudd's place on the bench warm as Roeder looks to ease the youngster through next season. How he will accommodate both Rudd and Steer going forward is another matter – as he has already found with Joe Lewis' exit to Peterborough.
At some stage, something has to give. Protect yourself in the future with some hefty sell-ons; otherwise – particularly in the current financial climate at Carrow Road – there is a strong argument for cashing your chips in as and when you can. Should Chelsea's reported interest ever materialise, there is every chance that he will disappear into their youth system to re-appear on-loan somewhere in 2011. He could make his first Chelsea start in 2012.
Bank the cash now and look to bank a 'first Chelsea senior appearance…' bonus in four years time would be one way of thinking; particularly if it left Roeder with that much more room to play with in the forthcoming January transfer window.
And all whilst knowing that – for now – Marshall looks to be exactly the part.
The player himself was more than happy with his early season form after withstanding everything that Barnsley could throw at him at Oakwell – including Jon Macken's penalty and that outrageous first minute lob from Diego Leon.
“I'm feeling great,” said Marshall this morning, quizzed as to how his form rated career-wise. “Obviously the start of the season has been great for myself and not too bad for the team. There have been a few disappointing results but, hopefully, we're getting there.”
If Saturday's performance was disappointing for the weary souls that made the trek to Barnsley, at least they could cling onto a point afterwards. And for that they had Marshall to thank as he added to his collection of crucial saves. Not least the one which arrived with a little less than a minute on the clock.
“No keeper wants to be beaten from there,” he said, as the Spaniard Leon lanched one out of the sun from inside his own half.
“The sun was right in my eyes so I was happy just to get that one over the bar,” he said. “He was that far out that you think that he's going to play a through-ball, but after a few seconds and he's treid to beat you – so I was glad to see it go over. It would have been a bad start.”
As it was, of course – albeit with the help of the woodwork – and Norwich racked up their second, successive clean sheet. It's grabbing goals at the other end that remains the Achilles heel. But as far as the back end of Roeder's team is concerned, all is pretty well with the world. They have, after all, rode the loss of star loan signing John Kennedy pretty well.
“It's been alright,” said the City No1, with the Canaries having now only conceded one more goal than table-topping Wolves ahead of tomorrow's trip to the South Coast.
“And it was going alright last season as well,” he added. “But we need to start winning games. But, as I say, we've been alright; we've been creating chances and we've been unlucky over the last few games.
“It was disappointing there on Saturday, but hopefully we'll take the positives into the game on Tuesday and the strikers can get a few goals.”
Certainly Marshall wasn't under-playing the importance of tomorrow night's game – particularly if the Canaries want to keep themselves bobbling along somewhere in the top half of the table – as they were going into that Oakwell clash.
“It's massive,” he said simply. “I've looked at the table and obviously it's early doors, but you want to be up there. And the more points that you can get on the board at this stage then the better.
“We've got two tough games coming up – Southampton and Derby – but you want to go into that international break looking for six points and that will put us right up there.”
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