In the second of my three-part report on every Under-18s and Under-21s player, I will be focusing on the midfield players across the academy. Same format as yesterday… a review of their season so far, including the positive elements of their play, and concluding with a projection of their short-term future.
Uriah Djedje (CDM/CM) – 17-years-old – Professional Deal (2025)
It has been a positive start to the season for powerhouse midfielder, Djedje, as the youngster has made his U21s debut, a milestone that was richly deserved after his consistency over the last few months. After many games of trying, he scored his first competitive U18s goal, away to Brighton, with a powerful driven effort.
One area of his game that highlights his consistency is his constant ability to win back possession. In most games, Uriah wins at least ten turnovers, which summarises the role he has in the team. Djedje’s improvement is also noticeable in possession, as his consistency in executing low-driven passes is increasing.
He has performed consistently well for the U18s for 18 months now, meaning that U21s football is the next step for him. He has showcased that he can adapt to that level well as he contributed with a fine performance on his U21s debut, against Wolves in the EPL Cup.
Hugo Valencia-Gomez (CM) – 17 years old – Scholarship Contract (2025)
After impressing in the second half of the 2022-23 campaign, the 2023-24 season presented an opportunity for the Spaniard to kick on, however, Hugo suffered a long-term injury in the autumn.
In the games he played across this season, Valencia-Gomez was a huge asset out of possession, attempting to force turnovers at every given opportunity. His work rate was outstanding.
There is more to come from HVG across 2024, as he’s an interesting case study due to him having quality in possession too. Both he and the coaching staff must unlock that, for him to fulfil his potential. U18s football will be likely when he returns from his injury in the spring,
Miles Bracking (CM) – 16-years-old – Scholarship Contract (2025)
Miles has arguably been one of the U18s’ players of the season, as he has been at the heart of everything positive for the team.
Bracking is a typical box-to-box midfielder, with one of his biggest qualities being his ball-carrying ability. He is effective at linking the ball from the defensive third to the middle third – alleviating pressure from his defenders. He is also influential in the defensive phase of the game as he wins a high proportion of turnovers for the team.
The aim for him this season has to be playing a game for the U21s, as his performances are on course for a debut at that level.
Toby Chilvers (CM) – 16-years-old – Scholarship Contract (2025)
After playing in the FA Youth Cup in 2022-23, it is evident that the Club rates Toby highly. We have seen examples of his quality, for example, a wonderful goal into the top corner from distance against West Brom earlier in the season.
Chilvers is an all-action midfielder, who wants to show his quality in possession while showing high levels of tenacity off the ball. Over the season, Greg Crane has opted to play him as an inverted midfielder out wide, meaning he has not had the licence to impact games as much as he would like.
Chilvers has displayed his talent at U18s level in patches but I’m sure there’s more to come from him. Regular U18s minutes will assist with that.
Gabriel Forsyth (CM/CAM/RM/LWB) – 17-years-old – Professional Contract (2026)
Since arriving from Hamilton Academicals in the summer, Gabe has had a positive spell in Norfolk. The versatile Scot has played in a variety of positions, across U18s and U21 level, and has delivered two goals, and three assists.
Forsyth provides significant positive intent during games, which galvanises the team going forward. This has been demonstrated visibly in the LWB position, as Gabe is instructed to provide natural width as well as be a persistent runner back and forth to give Norwich balance in both attacking and defensive phases. There have also been moments of quality from him, notably coming from his left foot.
He will want to cement himself as an U21s’ regular across the second of half the season. He will also want to play more games as an advanced midfielder when he has earned his stripes in a defensive position.
Harry Brooke (CDM) – 19 years old – Professional Contract
September 2023 was a memorable month for the steady midfielder, as he scored and assisted twice in three games, which is impressive for a traditional defensive pivot.
Brooke has had a positive first part of the season, protecting the back four effectively with high levels of discipline. He is becoming efficient at dictating the tempo of matches too, as he’s starting to change the momentum of attacks by playing fast-paced forward passes. He also has an understanding of when to retreat and keep control of the ball.
This is his third season of playing U21s’ football and has demonstrated real maturity at this level. The next step for him has to be a loan move.
Adian Manning (CDM/CM/CAM) – 20-years-old – Professional Contract (2025 + 1 year option)
Adian has arguably been the standout performer for the U21s this season, contributing with assured performances in the centre of midfield while scoring five goals in the attacking midfield position.
His season could be broken down into two chunks. The first was him playing as an attacking midfielder, utilising the quality of his left foot in the attacking areas, while the other has been all about the control he has demonstrated as part of a double pivot. Manning’s understanding of the game is strong and he is applying all of his knowledge effectively in a deeper position, picking up technical positions for the team to flourish.
Adian has had a wonderful first half of the season and a loan move is looking likely for the controlled midfielder.
Pedro Lima (CM) – 20-years-old – on loan until 2024.
Since his arrival in the summer, the Brazilian midfielder has developed into one of the best U21 players at the club. He has scored three goals from midfield while also adding an assist.
His ability to use the ball effectively at high intensity makes him a cut above the rest as he can be a real handful to prevent. Throughout the season, Lima has been used as part of a double pivot, as well as a brief stint as an attacking midfielder. Despite having a responsibility to protect the backline as a defensive midfielder, he showed genuine ambition to carry the ball across the thirds and link defence to attack.
During November/December, his performances were outstanding and he looked the best player on the pitch during some matches. There are occasions when Lima looks above U21 level, so first-team level could be closer than some people think.
Joe Duffy (CAM) – 19-years-old – Professional Contract
Since making his way back into the team after injury, Joe has been magnificent. Since the Charlton game in October, he has scored seven goals in five games, highlighting the technical quality he possesses.
Alongside his wonderful technical quality, Duffy has a brilliant sense for goal as he has scored a collection of goals from close range, highlighting his intelligence in attacking positioning. He has also shown his ability to link up smoothly with strikers, helping the team create good opportunities.
For me, he is one of the most underrated players in the academy and should get more opportunities to train with the first team. Duffy has demonstrated his quality at U21s level and a loan move should be the next step in his career.
Dubem Eze (CAM) – 18-years-old – Professional Contract (2024)
It has been a demoralising season for Dubem due to the lack of minutes he has been given. Eze has only made five sub appearances, which is not enough minutes to express himself in an attacking position.
Ironically in those cameos, he has looked dangerous, especially in his appearance against West Brom. Eze injected speed and intensity into the game, which made Norwich a more dangerous proposition as their opponents tired.
From the sub bench, Eze has performed well and deserves to start games in the new year. This could be a possibility as the U21s will play approximately 15 games between January and April. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Eze is assessing his options after his lack of minutes.
Regan Riley (CM/RB) – 21-years-old – Professional Contract (2024+1yr option)
The season so far has been a familiar one for Regan – finally finding his groove and playing to a good standard before another injury comes to haunt him. He had a promising start to the season, with a brilliant performance against Chelsea, and capped off with a couple of assists.
He has played a bigger proportion of games this season in midfield, which has helped the younger players settle in as Riley has been a regular for the U21s now for three seasons. He has added huge levels of intensity this season, winning the majority of his physical duels. During the early stages of the season, the balance of the midfield worked well, with the tenacity of Riley, the discipline of Brooke, and the technical quality of Manning.
The priority for Riley now is to get back fit and play to a good standard. It could be a case that Norwich activate his year option and then try and loan him out for half a season to generate a potential fee in January 2025.
This completes the midfield section of our report. Come back tomorrow for the exciting part in which we analyse the forward players – the money makers!