David Freezer: Hard work is just beginning for prolific Norwich City academy ace
PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:14 07 July 2019
To say Adam Idah has been prolific during his first two seasons with Norwich City would be something of an understatement - and now he's earned his chance to impress Daniel Farke.
The 18-year-old signed a new long-term contract earlier this week, until 2023, and found himself in with the senior professionals as the Canaries' players returned for pre-season season training.
All of a sudden the young striker has been faced with a whole new challenge, no longer the star talent in the under-23 squad catching the attention of supporters with his goal-scoring exploits at youth level.
Instead the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international found himself sharing a dressing room with experienced internationals like Grant Hanley, Timm Klose and - most pertinently - strikers Teemu Pukki and Josip Drmic.
The softly spoken Irishman's development both as a person and a young player hoping to make the step into the professional game is about to be put to the test, dealing with the competitive edge of a first-team dressing room.
The relative safety of development football with the U23s has been taken away from him and Idah is in with the grown ups, where character and wit will soon be under scrutiny, where big money contracts are on the line and where the battle for Premier League game time is intense.
However, the teen will have plenty of support around him, players who have walked the walk already. Idah just has to look across to right-back Max Aarons to see that a breakthrough season can be achieved at a tender age.
Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell have all been brought through by Farke as well, who strikes a balance between being as demanding of his fledglings as he is the senior pros, while ensuring they feel protected both behind the scenes and while in the glare of public judgement.
Football is an unforgiving world and Idah will know he is just at the start of his journey. Loan experience could still follow at some point but in pre-season he is set for chances to impress.
The Canaries are keen to ease Pukki and new signing Drmic into pre-season, after more goal-scoring action with Finland last month for the former and injury issues for the latter.
With former loanee Jordan Rhodes now back with Sheffield Wednesday and Nelson Oliveira still out in the cold and expected to leave before the transfer window closes on August 8, that has left the door ajar for Dennis Srbeny and Idah.
Srbeny did offer flashes of exciting ability last season but played a bit-part role in the promotion success, so City fans will of course watch the German's progress closely as well.
Idah comes with a little bit of hype though, as supporters eagerly await the next academy talent to roll off the Colney production line which has proved so successful in recent years, with the FA Youth Cup winning Murphy twins going on to big-money moves before the current crop emerged.
The Cork native was signed from Corinthians two years ago after impressing City scouts at the European U17 Championships, in which Ireland were edged out 1-0 in the quarter-finals by eventual runners-up England.
He enjoyed a fine first season in Norfolk and scored 15 goals in 23 matches at under-18 level, forming a prolific partnership with Anthony Spyrou which helped propel a run to the quarter-finals of the Youth Cup.
Idah also plundered nine goals in 12 games for the Ireland U17s that season and, after a brief taste of U23 action during his first campaign, he was promoted to City's development squad for 2018-19.
He adapted quickly and fired 13 in 24 matches for the U23s last season, earning a nomination for the Player of the Season award for Premier League Two.
Add to that an impressive eight in 14 matches at U18, U19 and U21 level for Ireland during last season, including reaching the semi-finals of the prestigious Toulon Tournament this summer - and his total was 21 in 38 in all competitions.
That's been enough to catch the eye of Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber. Other clubs will undoubtedly have noticed that prolific talent as well, making his long-term contract a potentially important piece of summer business for City.
Tall, fast and with a poacher's instinct, the raw ingredients for an exciting future are available. Clearly the youngster still has much to learn and with Farke's preference for a formation with a lone striker, his chances may be brief.
Yet a goal at the right time could just provide the fuel to get this particular fire burning, if he keeps working and waiting for his chance.