Chris Goreham: FA Cup presents chance for City’s fringe men to grasp the nettle
Norwich City are on an FA Cup run at last.
One win probably doesn't strictly constitute a 'run' but considering the Canaries hadn't tasted any sort of FA Cup success since Adam Idah was 11-years old the win over Preston is a welcome beacon in what has been a difficult season.
The prospect of Preston away wasn't one that immediately promised FA Cup magic but Idah turned it into an occasion that stirred something in the stomachs of the success starved romantics amongst the City support. The young striker's impressive emergence showed that making lots of changes for a cup tie can sometimes be a good thing.
There is a temptation to write-off the FA Cup as an old relic that doesn't mean much in modern football. Its critics are always quick to count up the number of line-up changes made by Premier League and Championship managers and use it as evidence that proves the competition's demise.
Of course either staying in or getting up to the Premier League is the priority for most teams. Third round day isn't helped by the fact that it comes so hot on the heels of a festive fixture list that tests the endurance levels of squads up and down the country. Wigan Athletic winning the FA Cup and also getting relegated in 2013 only underlined the theory that it's impossible for most clubs to concentrate on any more than one competition at a given time.
It's also true to say that Norwich City would have picked a very different line-up on Saturday if they had been in Premier League action. However, the knock-on effect of the pursuit of top flight riches is that clubs tend to carry much bigger squads these days.
In an age of seven substitutes and no proper reserve team football the top two divisions have no end of players who don't get regular game time. It's how they embrace the FA Cup that is key.
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Norwich City's starting XI on Saturday was typical of most Premier League teams. Even with eight changes they were still able to bring in an experienced international goalkeeper, two of the stars of last season's promotion campaign in the shape of Jamal Lewis and Marco Stiepermann plus Moritz Leitner, a Champions League finalist whose arrival at Carrow Road on a permanent basis 18-months ago was seen as a real coup.
The match also provided the perfect platform to try out a young striker and how Adam Idah grasped it with both hands. The 18-year old has been talked about for some years around Carrow Road as a player with undoubted potential but you never quite know until that first team opportunity presents itself. If Daniel Farke has proved anything in his time in charge of Norwich City it is that he can develop young players and will reward those who are prepared to meet his demands for hard work and humility.
It was a cup tie last August that helped to shape the promotion push. Max Aarons scored at Cardiff City in a League Cup encounter that had been seen as an inconvenience when it was drawn but the youngster has barely been out of the first team since. In fact Aarons has now become one of those that gets rested for cup ties himself.
Idah has some way to go before he can join Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis or Todd Cantwell as a genuine first team regular but if Saturday's cup tie at Preston was an open audition to be Teemu Pukki's chief stand-in during a demanding Premier League run-in it could not have gone much better.
Best of all it kept the Canaries in the cup so those fringe players will get another chance to remind us what they are about before the month is out.
A genuine cup run could really breathe some new life into this season. Let's just hope that the club's next FA Cup hero isn't an 11-year old reading this while they do their paper round.