The relief that surrounds Todd Cantwell’s drawn-out Norwich City departure epitomises how the Norfolk boy’s Canaries career will be remembered: with regret. 

The reason for that relief is the seemingly inevitable feeling that a talented and mercurial talent would not fulfil his potential in yellow and green. 

His temporary move to Bournemouth was treated as a final departure in January last year, and yet it was instead a forecast of what was to come in a frustrating 2022 for Cantwell. His initial enthusiasm and spark faded quickly on the south coast to foreshadow the pattern of his supposed City revival months later. 

That false dawn – starting as he returned to hometown Dereham in pre-season – was predicated on the love for the game City fans recognised, the flicker in the eye they’d come to associate with their unorthodox creator. 

The assumption was that with that positivity back the productivity would follow, but that never came to pass. Aside from a promising opening day performance in the 1-0 defeat to Cardiff City, Cantwell’s attacking attempts looked as awkward as Dean Smith’s.

The former Aston Villa man afforded his charge all the patience he needed, with 18 appearances given to him and half of those starts. While there was plenty to level at Smith during his tenure, Cantwell’s numbers spoke for themselves. In all of those games he failed to register a single goal or assist, and his only Carabao Cup appearance included a penalty that crashed against the Bournemouth bar and away. 

The style of play Smith brought to Carrow Road was not one immediately matrimonial with Cantwell’s own preference, but there were still individuals who took it upon themselves to be a creative presence. 

Loan signing Aaron Ramsey – now likely consigned to missing men starting XI quizzes and ‘players you forgot’ tweets thanks to an untimely injury in Tampa – was often the man to bring that spark in a side severely lacking it. Talisman Teemu Pukki took on the burden when bored of solely the goalscoring one. Even forceful combatant Josh Sargent began creating his own chances. 

Watching those players assume his archetypal role will have frustrated Cantwell, but he had experience. Much of the talk leading into the 2021-22 campaign surrounded whether the hole left by master architect Emi Buendia could be filled by the number 14, and yet he fell drastically short. 

He again couldn’t register a single goal contribution before then-head coach Daniel Farke decided enough slack had been allowed, and Smith’s arrival did little to resurrect a season that had dropped as low as a spell training with the under-23s. 

In fact, fans have to cast their minds back as far as the late stages of the 2020-21 season for any semblance of the Cantwell Glasgow Rangers hope they’re getting this winter. Even his six goals and seven assists that term came belatedly after Farke’s public criticism of his focus as transfer rumours swirled around a return to the top table. 

That ability to clash with superiors is another motif that will mar memories of his time at Norwich, from cryptic social media messages to outright exclusions from squads.  

Stuart Webber’s thinly-veiled nod to Cantwell’s public display of disappointment during the miserable Project Restart era was the start of the most dramatic of those, and it was no surprise that the midfielder’s bite back came via social media. 

That conflict drove an enormous amount of the distraction from what should have been an exciting career at the top level, kickstarted by a successful time at his local club. Instead those distractions, frustrations and barriers were allowed to get in the way of what could have been. 

That’s how Norwich fans will look back on Todd Cantwell as a Norwich City player – not at the highlights of Manchester City and dazzling Anfield debuts, but with regret at how much more all parties could have achieved.