Two knocks on the Championship door - City's pair of Shrews know what's on the line
PUBLISHED: 20:16 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 22:48 25 May 2018
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Shrewsbury Town's Wembley destiny awaits for Ben Godfrey and Carlton Morris - while Norwich City fans will watch with a view to next season. MICHAEL BAILEY assess the past, present and future for a pair of Canaries' Shrews
‘We are rubbish’ – the three words scribbled below a table of League One betting odds at the start of the season, with Shrewsbury Town sat second from bottom.
Paul Hurst’s side went on to finish third. On Sunday, they step out at Wembley for 90 minutes that could propel them into the Championship next term.
“When I first went into the changing room, the gaffer had put that table up of where we were expected to finish and under it said ‘we are rubbish’. I think that really stuck in a few people’s heads. It definitely stuck in mine,” said on-loan Norwich City striker and semi-final match-winner Carlton Morris.
“Then the first 16 games we went unbeaten, so you could walk past that every day and have a little smile to yourself.”
The 22-year-old forward and his 20-year-old City team-mate, midfielder Ben Godfrey, are a significant reason why the Shrews have beaten those odds.
Both have had to dig in, battle through occasional dips in fitness and form, defy personal expectations and match high demands. All the key components of a full season of senior football – and exactly what will prepare the pair for later this summer, when they return to Colney.
“I can’t praise the lads and staff enough, for the way they’ve welcomed me from the very beginning,” said Godfrey. “Having a full season with these lads has been fantastic and it’s one I’m going to remember forever.
“I thought it’d be a great stepping stone for me to improve my all-round game, which I think personally I’ve done. I’ve enjoyed every up and down of it, and there have been a lot.
“Sometimes I’d drop out of the team and you would think why are doing that? I want to be out there playing every time, like every young and hungry lad.
“But when you come back that game later and you’re covering distances you haven’t covered for a few weeks, you realise these guys actually know what they’re doing to a tee and all credit to them for that. They are absolutely spot on with it every single time.”
That level of dedication and professionalism is what comes with a whole season spent at the right club, competing at the right level. And it’s exactly the sort of year that will benefit Norwich City going forward.
Both players will return to Norfolk in the summer. Both will want to make it at their parent clubs – and both will now want regular football, off the back of such a productive year away.
Godfrey, now an established holding midfielder after stints at right-back and centre-half, will come back from a superb season and eye-catching cup performances against Premier League opposition. What he’s got, City need.
Perhaps Morris will return with more to prove despite a wonderful all-round contribution – given the FA Youth Cup winner is two years older and maybe a handful of goals shy of what he and some wanted.
But both men are in much better, healthier positions than at the same time last year.
“With how we play, I have much more of an impact in the game than a usual striker in terms of touches, making runs, holding the ball up and even defensively; so more of an all-round player,” said Morris. “But it is about goals and that’s what you’re judged on. So it would be nice to get a few more.
“Neil (Adams) has been brilliant. I speak to him after every game, which is helpful because he knows football.
“We’ll just have to wait and see. You can talk until I’m blue in the face about it but at the end of the day, it’s how I perform in pre-season that’s going to have the bosses back at Norwich looking at me in different ways. I’ll just have to speak by how I perform.”
Godfrey added: “Norwich have been unbelievable. The communication between both clubs has been fantastic. They always update each other on every little detail and with Neil, we speak to him all the time – and not just about football but about our wellbeing as well, and making sure we’re OK.
“I’ve never really spoken to Neil as much as I have this season, so I’ve learned a lot from him and I’m really grateful for his and Norwich’s support.
“Some people saw me at right-back for Norwich but that was just to get me some game time, you could argue. I was going to be no Cafu! I had a spell at centre-back as well, which was different.
“It gave me a chance to learn the game from different perspectives, which did help me if I look back now. But I would always see myself as a holding midfielder and I’m hoping to carry on my career in that position now.
“A number of people ask me what’s the plan for next season. I signed a long-term deal at Norwich last season, I’ll go back in pre-season fit and we’ll see what happens. But it’s a great club and I’ve got a lot of time to look forward. Hopefully I can show everyone what I can do.”
And that sentiment works just as well on Sunday, when Wembley hosts what some have called the biggest game in Shrewsbury Town’s 132-year history.
Morris added: “One more job, one more game and hopefully promotion to the Championship.”
Not so rubbish after all then.
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