Canaries pair prove it really is a game of fine margins
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Fine margins. In football, everyone talks about them. How you can be so close, but so far.
Football’s a sport known for its cliches – many people have made a fine living out of the sport’s lexicon.
Sick as a parrot, over the moon, game of two halves – you name it, footy’s got it.
On this day two years ago, two young Norwich City players could be forgiven for being alongside the parrot in the doctor’s waiting room.
Carlton Morris and Ben Godfrey were both in the Shrewsbury Town side which had lost the League One play-off final at Wembley, to Paul Warne’s Rotherham United side.
A month or so earlier they’d lost at the same venue in the Checkatrade Trophy final, to Lincoln City.
It was tough on two youngsters, but they were on loan at Shrewsbury for a reason – to improve them as Norwich City players.
But to add salt to the wound, Morris suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the play-off final. While he was hoping the injury wasn’t as severe as it felt, Godfrey was finding some solace, despite defeat.
“The staff, players, fans, they’ve brought me on leaps and bounds on and off the field,” he said. “I feel like I’ve changed and matured as a person, and enjoyed every second. It’s been a massive part of my career and I’ll never forget it. I’ve learned things here that will hopefully take me to that next level, and I have to say a massive thanks to the club.”
The fortunes of the two team-mates were about to take very different routes. Fine margins.
Morris’ injury wiped out the following season, bar a few appearances for Norwich City’s Under-23 squad. A year ago the striker signed a one-year contract extension and was immediately loaned out to Rotherham United, but by the turn of the year he’d been returned and was sent out to MK Dons.
Morris’ contract with Norwich takes him up to 2021 - by which time he will have hoped to be given the same sort of chance Godfrey has.
Because when Godfrey, 22, returned from Shrewsbury, things were about to get big in 2018. Very big indeed. He started 26 matches for City as they took the Championship by storm.
Daniel Farke was the least surprised man in the club: City’s head coach had predicted big things for Godfrey at the start of the season, and when injuries to Timm Klose and Grant Hanley opened a door, Godfrey smashed, rather than jumped, his way through it.
Godfrey is another example of Farke’s commitment to his young players, alongside Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons. City were suddenly a club that didn’t take a look at an academy player and opt to err on the side of caution and let him leave – they positively forced them into the spotlight. Gave them their chance. Made them good. Made them valuable.
And Godfrey was good. He’s a player who takes few prisoners, he’s brave, passionate, and he can play a pass too - and he’s still developing.
So far in this truncated season, he has been a revelation: he’s played 21 of 29 Premier League games and some of the big clubs are said to be sniffing around. He will play a lot more games - with which club and in which division, only time will tell.
Morris, meanwhile, will be wondering what his future holds.
There’s an argument that City need to strengthen up front - there’s Teemu Pukki and Josip Drmic, with Adam Idah in the wings. But Morris needs a break, not another loan, if he is to make it with Norwich City.
Russell Martin, the former City defender now in charge at MK, loves him.
“He’s been huge for the dressing room,” he said. “He’s a big leader in his own way and the standards he sets. He’s been a focal point for us and scored a couple of goals, but it isn’t about his goals, it’s about what he brings and he brings other people into the game. He’s been tremendous and the fans really like him already.”
But at 24 years of age, Morris will still be desperate for a chance to show Farke what he can do. Desperate to prove himself, to get the same sort of break that came Godfrey’s way a couple of years ago.
If football returns to some sort of normality over the summer, his first opportunity may be on the training fields of Colney.
Alongside him may well be Godfrey, a friendly reminder that football is, indeed a game of fine margins.