I tended to steer clear of the Todd Cantwell debate that raged almost constantly during his time at our football club. I don’t know Todd, have never met him, and had no idea of the personal issues he was dealing with but of which others seemed to be aware.
As such, I didn’t feel qualified to comment and so stuck to passing comment on his abilities as a footballer, which were considerable.
For me, the bottom line was that he was a good footballer and also, to coin a rotten footballing phrase, ‘one of our own’. Alas, being one of your own is, as Todd discovered, very much a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, your successes are celebrated to a greater degree than those of a player the club has bought but you’re also, it seems, subjected to higher levels of scrutiny and given less latitude than others when performance levels drop.
And Todd’s did drop.. then went up again… then dropped… and so on.
Consistency was what eluded him most over the course of his time in the first team, albeit in the behind-closed-doors season of 2020-21 he did find a rhythm that no one could dispute.
In that season we saw the best of Todd Cantwell, just as we saw the best of Emi Buendia – both eventually finding their feet to outstanding effect after initially getting the hump over the fact they were still at Norwich City.
Todd had watched two of his alumni – Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis – depart for pastures more glamorous and, from the outside looking in, appeared to desire some of the same.
That it itself was fair enough because he’s one of our own doesn’t mean he has to stay so. It may be okay for the Steven Gerrards, Gary Nevilles, and Paul Scholes’ but there is no expectation that academy products who play for their local club have to stay for their whole career.
Why would there be?
But we do expect them to give their absolute all; the same that we expect of every player who pulls on the shirt. And that – again from the outside looking in – appeared to be why Todd felt the ire of factions of the Yellow Army.
It doesn’t take too much of a stretch to imagine that also is why he felt the wrath of successive City head coaches – all of whom, at some stage spoke glowingly of his undoubted technical talents.
But 2020-21 Todd Cantwell was peak Todd Cantwell. In a Norwich shirt, it didn’t get any better than that. In the ill-fated return to the Premier League in 2021-22 he played just eight games before, in the January, heading out on loan to Bournemouth.
As we know, that attempt to resurrect his career didn’t come off – Scott Parker returned him to sender once the Cherries had won promotion – and despite there being a clear desire on the part of Cantwell to depart Carrow Road that summer, nothing materialised.
He was, it appears, a reluctant part of Dean Smith’s squad but still made 18 appearances in the first half of the season before finally getting his dream move to Rangers in January 2022.
But clearly, there’s residual beef to be had with Norwich City. Todd being Todd, he was never going to go quietly and so it was no great surprise that when he chose to tell his story to the The Beautiful Game podcast he would fire off a few broadsides in the direction of Norwich.
Among Todd’s greatest hits during the pod were the following:
On the end of his time at the football club:
“My time at Norwich sort of fizzled into a bad place really.”
On being told to train with City’s development squad:
“I spent nearly two to three months in the 23s set-up which after what I had achieved at Norwich it was barbaric … I felt like I had all my respect, honour, and achievements stripped away from me.”
On being shown “no respect”:
“It was like I was a new signing who they signed on a free and if it didn’t work out then no problem. It wasn’t ‘this lad has come through the academy, dedicated his life to this club and won two Championship titles’, it was just ‘this is Todd, he’s different’.”
On his future while training with the 23s:
“I was just in tears saying I’m going to quit, I’ve got enough money, quit football completely.”
On his dealings with sporting director, Stuart Webber:
“If I’m being completely honest, me and Stuart never had a relationship. That might seem weird because he was the sporting director of a club when I was there but, for whatever reason, we never had a relationship. It’s a weird one.”
On reported interest from Bayern Munich:
“I had spoken to them directly and their sporting director and I thought it was going to be a career-changing move.”
On being in demand in the summer of 2020:
“It’s something I’ve not really spoken about because I have a mild bit of embarrassment towards it because everything was so public and there was so much interest in the newspapers.”
On being a Norwich City academy product:
“It was my town. I am a message to the young boys that you can come through, you can be expressive, you can be yourself, you can have blonde hair, you can drive a nice car, and you can come from Norwich. You don’t need to be from Chelsea to do that.”
In fairness to Todd, he was also complimentary about most of the staff at the club – many of whom he will have known on his journey through the academy – and also in relation to Delia, whom he holds in high regard and who he claims to have tried to make contact with in order to clarify some of the misconceptions.
Whether this was Todd being upfront and honest, or Todd being a bit loose-tongued, or even Todd taking some pre-planned potshots at Norwich City, it just feels like someone who needs to let go and move on.
Without Norwich City, there would be no Todd Cantwell at Rangers and it does feel that, for all the beef he clearly has with the club, it would be an idea if he occasionally paused to remember that.
The reputation he gained for being, shall we say, a challenge to manage may or may not be true, but to be still harping on about his difficult time here ten months hence does him no favours.
And as for the revelation that you can be from Norwich, drive a nice car, AND have blond hair… well who saw that one coming?
Time for you and your flowing locks to concentrate on Ibrox, Todd.
Watch the full Beautiful Game Podcast interview below: