Norwich City’s under-18s face West Ham this afternoon in the FA Youth Cup fourth round; a tie that is, according to Head of Football Development Steve Weaver, by no means a gimme.
More than three months after the third round- a Covid-related pause in the competition postponing the fixture until now- Kevin Keen will bring his Hammers side to NR1 for a crucial last-32 match in the most prestigious competition in academy football.
“It’ll be a tough game,” Weaver told official club channels, “we played them just before Christmas. It’s a good game and I’m glad we’ve got it at Carrow Road.”
That pre-Christmas match finished 3-0 to the young Canaries, but Weaver was quick to guard against complacency, highlighting how different this side would be to the one faced at the Little Heath Sports Ground: “We’re expecting a tough game from players we’ve probably not come across. Both ways, they’ve not played against some of ours and we’ve not played against some of theirs.”
City will be favourites despite this, coming off the back of a 4-1 thrashing of Arsenal and nine points clear of the Irons in the Under-18 Premier League table.
Norwich star striker Tom Dickson-Peters will be a key figure in the match having been omitted from the under-23 side in preparation for the game. Dickson-Peters has only played seven times for the 18s this season but is top scorer with nine goals, boasting three for the under-23s.
His partnership with Abu Kamara is a frightening one, Kamara bagging a hat-trick to ease the Canaries past Wolverhampton Wanderers in the third round. Winger Tony Springett will also be key, having been rested after scoring a fine long-range effort in the Arsenal victory.
Springett’s battle with full-back Jayden Fevrier will be an important one. The 17-year-old is West Ham’s top scorer this season despite his position, and his ability to nullify Springett’s threat by forcing him to defend will play a big part in deciding the London side’s chances.
City have recent history with the FA Youth Cup, the class of 2013 winning the trophy in a final against huge favourites Chelsea, earning Neil Adams the first team manager job 11 months later. The Canaries are also the last club outside the traditional ‘big six’ to win the cup, and the current generation will be keen to honour this history.
The game kicks off at 2pm on Monday and will be behind closed doors.