‘I wasn’t wrapped up in cotton wool’ – Godfrey felt ready for challenges with City and England U21s

Ben Godfrey captained the England U21s during a qualifying win over Kosovo in Hull in September Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Ben Godfrey captained the England U21s during a qualifying win over Kosovo in Hull in September Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Ben Godfrey has pinpointed the moment he saw a fight break out between two of his York team-mates as one of the landmarks on his journey to becoming a Premier League defender for Norwich City.

Ben Godfrey has been in the thick of the Premier League action for Norwich City 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesBen Godfrey has been in the thick of the Premier League action for Norwich City Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

The 21-year-old has been talking about his journey to the top level ahead of this evening's England Under-21 game in Albania (6pm), when he is set to again wear the armband for Aidy Boothroyd's team.

Godfrey has started every top-flight game for the Canaries so far this season and earned his first two caps at U21 level, missing two Young Lions games last month as he had hernia surgery.

As he continues trying to establish himself at the top level, Godfrey has reflected on an incident when he was named on the bench by York City as a 17-year-old, watching on as his hometown club were held to a 2-2 draw at Accrington Stanley in League Two, conceding a late equaliser.

"I'm so glad I did it the way I have, it's been an amazing journey," Godfrey explained, speaking to the Football Association's website.

"I wasn't wrapped up in cotton wool, so it was a steep learning curve and I wouldn't change my route at all.

"I didn't have the academy upbringing that many did, but I also learnt things it would be impossible for them to do by getting the exposure to men's football that I did at such a young age.

"You know that if you're making mistakes, it can affect everyone in the dressing room so I saw how much it meant to the players and there's one moment I can specifically remember.

"We were in a relegation battle and we were away at Accrington Stanley on the back of a poor run of results and were in a bit of a trouble.

Ben Godfrey has started every Premier League game for Norwich City so far this season 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesBen Godfrey has started every Premier League game for Norwich City so far this season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

"There was talk of players possibly taking pay cuts and things like that, so it was really important but at the time, I was just happy to be there.

"But after the game, and in the tiniest changing room as anyone who's played at Accrington will know, a little bit of a fight erupted in there between two players.

"It was an eye opener and that was when it clicked how important each and every point was."

Godfrey's debut for York followed later in 2015, making 15 appearances for the Minstermen - as a defensive midfielder - to earn a move to Norwich reportedly worth up to £1m in January 2016.

His conversion into a centre-back began with City's U23s and during 2016-17 he scored on his debut, thumping in a long-range effort as Coventry were thrashed 6-1 at Carrow Road in the League Cup first round - making six senior appearances in total.

"When I first went to Norwich, it was weird because in terms of experiences, I'd had much more than the other players at the time," Godfrey continued.

"But in terms of technical ability, I was probably quite a bit behind because that wasn't what we practised at the level I'd come from.

"So I was at a different stage mentally, and technically, to the other boys but I saw that I needed to work on my technical ability and catch up.

"But the other lads couldn't go back and get that experience which I'd had at 16 and 17. They had to learn and experience all of those things that I did four years before them."

A successful season loan in League One with Shrewsbury followed, before Godfrey played a major role in the second half of last season as the Canaries won the Championship title.

He has been chucked into the Premier League deep end by a defensive injury crisis though, which has ruled senior centre-backs Timm Klose, Christoph Zimmermann and Grant Hanley out of much of the opening months of the season.

Daniel Farke's team are bottom after 12 games but hope to have Hanley and Zimmermann back soon, to take some pressure off Godfrey, but the youngster feels he is learning a great deal.

"It's a really good experience, it feels like I'm learning on the job but it's been an unbelievable experience so far, playing against some of the best players at the highest level," he added.

"It's a good marker to where you are and every game is a test, but I'm enjoying every second of it and always learning and trying to have a smile on my face.

"It's been a year I'll never forget and hopefully there'll be many more years to come.

"It's been a real upward climb over the last few years so when it comes to suffering some bad results, mentally it can be hard and it changes the mood around the camp.

"But that's something I'm learning about and seeing. It's all exciting."

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