We’re 5-1 up in a League Cup game against, it has to be said, very poor opposition. Game over.
Yet the player who scores the sixth in the proverbial ‘rout’ against the somewhat overcast Sky Blues celebrates as if he has just scored the winning goal in a title decider.
Slide forward Ben Godfrey.
His arrival at Carrow Road in January was a relatively unheralded one. Then, as now, the hue and cry was for big money to be spent and for the names that came into the club to be as big as the price that we paid for them. Which is natural enough and perfectly understandable.
Besides, an eighteen year old whose previous experience in the EFL was just fifteen appearances for York City?
It didn’t tick too many people’s boxes. And, to be fair, that’s also understandable. It meant, among other things, Godfrey could arrive, get on with the task of upgrading both his level of play and his career expectations without being expected to deliver from day one, as many of our more notable signings will have noted.
But for a seven figure fee you shouldn’t be expected to have an easy ride. Ricky van Wolfswinkel arrived with the sort of accordant fanfare and hype that spoke volumes of what he was going to have to deliver: goals in abundance and the ability to win games for us single handed.
The club’s now infamous marketing campaign that accompanied RvW’s arrival at the club is one that, I suspect, will not be repeated in too much of a hurry.
It not only raised supporter hopes to previously unchartered territories in terms of what the now dearly departed Dutchman could deliver but also weighed heavily upon the player’s shoulders from the off.
Ricky was, as has been said and offered in his defence on countless occasions, a really nice chap; someone who was always ready for a chat, a selfie and an autograph. Smiles for everyone and anyone, one of the meek who will, it’s said, inherit the earth one day.
We’d have settled for him inheriting the number 9 shirt. Yet, other than a very well taken goal in his competitive debut against Everton, he did exactly the opposite; showing, in the latter stages of his career at Norwich all the signs of a player whose confidence has been completely eroded.
There are myriad ways in which a professional footballer can fail to live up to expectations. We’ve all seen it and at every level of the game from your local village team right up to the international game.
The strongest ones are those who don’t hide, who can be having the worse game, the worse spell of their professional career yet, for all that, refuse to hide. They still want the ball; they’ll still make their presence felt and their voice heard on the field of play. The howls of anger and contempt from the stands won’t affect them and they’ll stand up to, physically if need be, to any detractors or critics in the dressing room or at the training ground.
We’ve had a few like that. Iwan Roberts is a good example. Like RvW, he arrived at Norwich for big money and with no little expectation. He had, after all, led the line with determination and goals at his previous clubs, notably Huddersfield (68 goals in 183 competitive appearances) and Leicester City (44 in 111).
In a squad that possessed players with the artistry of a Darren Eadie, Craig Bellamy and Keith O’Neill, Iwan was the blunt instrument to their cutting edge.
Yet five league goals in 31 league appearances in his first (1997/98) season at the club suggested otherwise.
Yet the similarities between Iwan and RvW end there.
Because the one thing Iwan had in abundance that RvW never seemed to possess was self belief, confidence in his ability, an unerring habit of holding his head high and never hiding.
He had swagger.
And there is something to suggest, even in these early days, that Ben Godfrey and his peers at the club – the latest batch of up and coming youngsters in which we will be pinning our hopes and dreams over the coming weeks and months – also have something of that Roberts swagger about them.
Godfrey clearly believes in himself. He didn’t mess about when he arrived, acknowledging what York City had done for his career but adding, tellingly, “… but it’s about what happens next now”.
The way he took his goal in the Coventry game plus the manner in which he celebrated showed just a little bit of that swagger that all young players need. Conviction in themselves and a belief that they deserve a place in the team, with added “look at me” after you back that up with as good a goal as you’ll see at Carrow Road this season. The timing, the placing of the shot, his body shape as he struck the ball.
No wonder Alex Neil smiles whenever he is asked about him. He knows Godfrey could go on to be a special player, one who already, in his own mind at least, will be convinced he is ready for a run in the Norwich City first-team this season, regardless of the calibre and reputations of some of his more well-known and established team-mates.
Just after Godfrey arrived at the club, Neil said that he would be monitored as part of the Canaries development squad over the rest of last season before, come the start of this one, “…maybe putting him out somewhere to gain more experience”.
And that may, of course, still happen. But he will have given Neil and Frankie McAvoy much to think about after last night’s performance.
Much as Sergi Canos and Jacob Murphy have already done and, have no doubt about it, James Maddison certainly will.
With Alex Pritchard still to come.
There will, of course, be those who say our reliance and, indeed, policy of recruiting the best young players available from other clubs rather than successfully developing them ourselves says much about the perceived failings of our own Academy set up.
Why is it, for example, that York City can find, nurture and develop and sell on a Ben Godfrey whilst we, seemingly, cannot?
I’d contradict that argument by pointing to the very real progress that the Murphy twins have made this year. Plus the fact Ray Grant was sat alongside Godfrey on the bench on Tuesday night. He wouldn’t have been there if Alex Neil didn’t think he was ready. Todd Cantwell won’t be that far off either.
The signs are encouraging. And, for once, they don’t come with lots of noughts on the end.
Gary Field says
With EPPP Category 1 status requiring a minimum spend of £2.5M pa you have to question how many Championship clubs can actually afford to maintain that status beyond more than a few seasons without Premier League cash? And this is before you consider how many players are actually making it through to the first XI