This is the first instalment of my half-season overview, of every Under-18s and Under-21s player. Today we focus on goalkeepers and defenders.
*Please note that the contract lengths are from Transfermarkt and therefore could, in some cases, be inaccurate.
Henry Bullen (GK) – 16-years-old – 1st Year Scholar.
It’s been a difficult start to the season for Henry, due to the fact he hasn’t played many games for the U18s, but he has played a selection of games for the U17s, most notably in the U17PL Cup.
I’m an admirer of what Bullen attempts to do in goal, but he just needs more games to transform the mental processes into big-moment saves.
I expect Henry to play more games at U18s level towards the second half of the season, due to the club giving more opportunities to Caleb Ansen at U21 level.
Caleb Ansen (GK) – 18-years-old – Professional Deal (2026 + 1 year)
It’s no secret that Norwich want to push Ansen as he’s had the opportunity of playing four U21s matches this season, as well as being the first choice for the U18s.
Ansen’s development is night and day compared to where he was at the start of last season. Ever since keeping that clean sheet away at Chelsea, his performance levels have continuously improved. His reliability in making saves at U18s and U21s level has earned him a positive reputation in NR1.
The next step is to try and deliver more clean sheets, as he’s only managed to keep one since the start of the 2022-23 season. He’s shown the staff and supporters he can pull off match-winning saves, but needs to accumulate more clean sheets before any first-team recognition. Regular U21 football is likely.
Ellis Craven (GK) – 19-years-old – Professional Contract.
Despite demonstrating some eye-capturing performances at the start of the season, most notably at home to Nottingham Forest, Ellis has been starved of regular football.
Since his arrival in the summer, Craven has shown credentials of being a talented goalkeeper, with some brilliant sharp saves, as well as showing reliability with his distribution. He understands the game in possession well as he picks up good positions in order for the backline to reset on the ball.
There seems to be alignment amongst the coaching staff that Craven is below the pecking order of Ansen and Reyes but, in reality, he should be in contention to start more games. If Ellis fails to get minutes in the second half of the season, then he must get opportunities out on loan.
Vicente Reyes (GK) – 20-years-old – Professional Contract (2026)
As well as being the third-choice first-team goalkeeper, Vicente is also the first-choice keeper for the U21s and has had a reasonably solid campaign so far.
Despite conceding three goals from poor execution at playing out the back, Reyes has contributed with some sensational stops, with Chelsea (H) and Wolves (A) being prime examples. Moreover, he hasn’t conceded a goal in December, which is hugely impressive as he started all three games for the U21s.
Vicente is likely to stay at Norwich for the rest of the 2023-24 campaign to provide cover for the first team, however, playing games out on loan could be more beneficial for the Chilean.
Jaiden Owen (LB) – 17-years-old – Professional Contract (2025)
It has been a successful year for the Welsh left-back, after earning his first professional contract in the autumn. Owen has been out injured since October but finally returned in the FA Youth Cup fixture against Leeds United.
His intent to drive up the pitch on the left flank has been evident for all to see, combining well with the left-sided striker. More noticeably, his defensive work is continuing to improve, particularly in the game against Chelsea, where he contained his direct opponent, Frankie Runham, brilliantly. If Owen is to flourish at the club, his defensive work needs to continue to develop, as he can often look vulnerable in that position. More opportunities at U18s and U21s levels will certainly allow him to do so.
He needs to finish the season strongly, continuing to show his attacking enthusiasm as well as showing continuous development in his defensive game. If Jaiden finishes the season convincingly, he could feature in a few U21s squads, before the end of the season.
Tyler Williams (LB/CM) – 17-years-old – Professional Contract
Similarly to Owen, Tyler Williams has been out on the sidelines since October after signing a professional contract in the autumn.
With Jaiden Owen playing a huge proportion of games at left back, Williams has played in numerous positions across the season, with the versatile defender playing as a centre back, left back, as well as a holding midfielder. His most notable performance came against Southampton U18s when he was utilised as a holding midfielder and scored from the penalty spot. Throughout the match Williams showed plenty of endeavour to win duels, as well as an ambition to drive the team up the pitch.
He will be keen to get back fit for the second half of the season and build some positive momentum, which will hopefully boost his chances of being in and around the U21s for the start of next season.
Guilherme Montoia (LB) – 20-years-old – Professional Contract (2025+1yr)
Since arriving in East Anglia in the summer, Montoia has looked better as the season has evolved, which is hugely impressive as the Portuguese full-back has been injured twice already this season. The point above is illustrated from a statistical perspective too, as Montoia contributed with three assists in December, which amounted to 75% per cent of all of his assists this season.
He has been thoroughly impressive from an attacking perspective, making continuous forward runs, which makes the U21s a more dynamic side in possession. His quality of delivery from wide areas has been brilliant, especially since his return in December.
It will be interesting to see where the club views his current progress. Guilherme has loads of attacking promise, but there are still improvements that need to be made defensively. The defensive aspect of the game might be a factor in him staying at Carrow Road until the summer, so he has more game time to develop on that front.
Lloyd Ofori-Manteaw (CB) – 16-years-old – Scholarship (2025)
It’s been an educational season so far for Lloyd, as the U18s have shipped an abundance of goals, but he has shown promise in the games that he has played.
Since the 4-3 defeat against Arsenal U18s in November, Ofori-Manteaw has adapted well to the U18 Premier League level, demonstrating the growth in his physical capabilities. He is at the perfect club for his development, as facing constant exposure will only make him grow as a better player, as he’s constantly facing a high volume of scenarios, which continuously test him.
Lloyd has evident potential, and he will get more opportunities to showcase that in 2024 at U18s level.
Gabriel Keita (CB) – 16-years-old – Scholarship (2025)
Similarly to Lloyd, Gabriel had exposure to U18s football last season so he’s had an idea of what the level requires.
Due to an unfortunate injury in the autumn, he missed a few matches at start of the season. Since making his return in the winter months, he has demonstrated his quality from an aerial perspective, as well as showing his qualities on the ball. These traits were demonstrated in match scenarios too, with Gabriel scoring a header away at Leeds with good levels of composure. He also showcased his distribution quality too, playing a precise long through ball, for Errol Mundle-Smith to convert away at Arsenal.
Gabriel will have more opportunities to play with the U18s in 2024, and will want to portray good consistent performance levels with the ball but, more importantly, from a defensive angle.
Alfie Doy (CB) – 18-years-old – Scholarship (2024)
Frustration would be an apt word to describe his season so far, as he’s been injured for a large proportion of it.
Despite playing a few games at the start of the season, Alfie only returned to the team during December, ironically back for the 6-1 victory against Brighton.
He has looked solid since his reintroduction back into the team and continues to show his desire to play out from the back effectively, which gives the U18s a good foundation on the ball. One trait he has demonstrated consistently since playing for the U18s is his outstanding ability to win recovery tackles in dangerous areas. This was epitomised in the FA Youth Cup game against Leeds when he recovered brilliantly, with high levels of acceleration, to deny Leeds adding to their lead.
There have been performances from Doy in the last 18 months, which have been phenomenal, and hopefully, those samples are enough to give him a new deal in the summer.
Waylon Renecke (CB) – 17-years-old – Professional Contract
The trajectory of Waylon’s Norwich career has accelerated in recent months after a combined effect of consistent performances, as well as the club making an effort to push him through the ranks. Renecke is the only player to feature in the @norwichyouth team of the month for four consecutive months.
The left-footed centre-back has played with huge levels of maturity throughout the season, cutting out numerous loose balls, as well as dominating aerially. He has transferred his high-performance level at left-back too, as he has had to cover in that position, due to the absence of Montoia.
Renecke’s performances have reached another level from last season – a testament to him as this is his first season at U21s level. Waylon will hope to continue that form for the U21s in the second half of the season.
Charlie Wilson (CB) – 18-years-old – Professional Contract (2026)
Ever since Wilson’s arrival towards the back end of last season, the Liverpool-born centre-back has been brilliant. His level of performance across 2023 was rewarded with a new contract in the autumn.
Charlie was part of a defence in December that didn’t concede a single goal in three games. He is a clever central defender, executing the intricacies of his position well as he rarely gets himself into difficult situations. Wilson has been impeccably disciplined at defending with feet instead of going to ground, which is a good indication that a player is in form.
Wilson hopes to continue his brilliant form in 2024, with more opportunities at U21s level, as well as getting opportunities to train with the first team.
Emmanuel Adegboyega (CB) – 20-years-old – Professional Contract
Emmanuel has been superb since his arrival in the summer, captaining the team brilliantly with some high-standard performances. He has also contributed from a goalscoring perspective, adding two goals and an assist to his season’s tally.
During the early stages of the campaign, Adegboyega was given licence to carry the ball from the defensive third to the middle third, and he was given a similar licence defensively too by striding out of shape to attempt to win a turnover high. There have also been occasions across the season where he has played as a right back out of possession, which has benefited the U21s due to his ability to win one-on-one duels.
If Emmanuel sustains this high level of performance, then it will be hard for the first team to ignore his progress, especially as he’s trained with the first team on several occasions. He has demonstrated his ability to excel in PL2, so a loan move could easily be feasible.
Marcel McIntosh (RB) – 19-years-old – Professional Contract (2024)
The versatile defender has played a selection of games for the U21s this season, providing cover on the right-hand side of defence.
He has made an impact from an attacking perspective in the first half of this campaign by whipping in accurate crosses from the right flank, as well as demonstrating good acceleration to beat his man.
Marcel will need to improve from a defensive perspective if a further contract is going to come his way, as he’s got good attacking instincts to build from.
Benjy McCabe (RB/LB) – 18-years-old – Scholarship Contract (2024)
It’s been a frustrating spell for the Welsh right back, as he has had awful luck with injuries and has only played one game.
Here’s hoping 2024 can be a more fortuitous one for Benjy.
Alfie Pinyoun (RB/CM) – 17-years-old – Scholarship Contract (2024)
Alfie has carried his positive momentum from the second half of last season into the 2023-24 campaign, playing at a consistent level in the right-back position. He has scored twice this season, in a pre-season friendly against Wolves and against Blackburn, in another friendly, and has also contributed with an assist in the league.
His physical capabilities have developed too from the first half of last season, as he looks quicker and stronger when encountering duels. Alfie has also illustrated his technical quality across the season as he is a regular set-piece taker.
If Alfie can sustain those positive performance levels, he might have an opportunity to be in a few U21s squads due to them having a heavily congested fixture list between January and April.
Kingston Simbai (RB/LB) – 16-years-old – Scholarship Contract (2025)
The winter break came at the wrong time for Kingston as he was starting to get regular appearances in the U18s side. He delivered a solid performance in the 6-1 win against Brighton where he played the whole 90 minutes.
In the games that Simbai has performed well for the U18s, he has been aggressive and won a fair proportion of his duels. It would be interesting to gauge where Kingston is with his attacking development but he usually gets played out of his position – on his weaker left side.
The full-back position in the U18s squad is well stocked, so Kingston will need to deliver top performances when he gets picked for the U18s side in the second half of the season.
Come back tomorrow, and Saturday for my analysis of the midfielders and strikers.