'I was making my money laying bricks' - City youngster adjusting to professional demands
PUBLISHED: 19:00 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 19:07 28 February 2019
From working as a brick layer, to chasing a professional career at Norwich City. It's been a whirlwind year for speedy winger Josh Coley.
The former York City youth player impressed in non-league last season, earning a pre-season trial with the Canaries which was turned into a full-time contract after impressing for the under-23s.
Coley scored 21 goals to help Hertfordshire side Baldock Town seal promotion to step five of the non-league pyramid – the equivalent level to local sides including Wroxham and Great Yarmouth.
The 19-year-old has since been a regular at U23 level for City, making 24 appearances and signing a new contract earlier this month.
“Southampton, Sunderland and Norwich showed an interest in me after a cup final I played in last year and Norwich was the best option for me,” the former Hitchin Town attacker explained.
“I went on tour in Germany over the summer and managed to get offered a pro deal.
“I was also working on a building site when I was playing in non-league. I worked for a small firm with one of the guys who played for Hitchin.
“I was making my money laying bricks but the dream was always to play football.”
He initially signed a one-year deal with the option of a further year but was among seven young professionals to sign new one-year contracts recently, alongside players including Anthony Spyrou and Alfie Payne.
The day he earned his professional chance is still fresh in the memory though, adding: “I thought it was going to be bad news but they told me the club wanted to offer me a deal.
“I was speechless, it was an unbelievable feeling to brought into the system and finally achieve a full-time position playing football. I’m really keen to make the next step now.”
After bouncing around in non-league, Coley has had to work on adjusting his game to meet the standards of players who have grown up playing category one academy football.
“My style of play has changed a lot since joining Norwich but I think it has improved me as a player,” he said. “I’d say I’m pretty fast and have a few skills to get past defenders.
“I enjoy one-on-ones and getting crosses and shots off but I’ve learned a lot that defending is a key part of the game so I enjoy that element too.”
He continued: “It’s very, very different to non-league football. You could make so many mistakes in non-league get away with it.
“Here, it’s been a difficult change for me. When I’m dribbling or waiting to receive the ball, I know that my touch has to be perfect, because you can quickly lose the ball and put your team under pressure – but I’ve enjoyed the challenge.”
Like many of City’s U23 hopefuls, Coley now has his eyes on a loan move next season to try and prove he’s worthy of a first-team chance.
“This year has been all about me learning the game at a professional standard,” the youngster added,” speaking to the Canaries’ matchday programme.
“Obviously I’ve done the lower league men’s football bit before, but a loan move is definitely next.
“I’m a long way off the first team yet so to get my attributes to the best level they can be can only be done out on loan.”