Busy season has boosted hopes of bright future for Canaries starlet
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Following the conclusion of his loan spell in Scotland with St Mirren, David Freezer caught up with young Norwich City defender Akin Famewo about the valuable experience he gained north of the border.
It’s been quite the season for Norwich City defensive prospect Akin Famewo.
The 21-year-old defender captained City’s under-23s in the EFL Trophy, trained with the first team, was on the bench for a Premier League game, signed a new contract until 2023 and then got stuck into a successful loan spell in Scotland.
He soon found himself playing every minute of 13 successive matches for St Mirren, including away to Rangers and Celtic. However, regular action at first-team level wasn’t totally new ground for Famewo.
Prior to joining the Canaries in January 2019 the youngster had made 13 appearances for Luton Town and a further 12 while on loan at Grimsby, while both clubs were in League Two.
“I definitely felt like I had a little bit of experience, I wasn’t not used to playing in front of people, I’d done that quite a bit since I was 17,” he explains.
“So I was just mainly focused on developing and learning, there wasn’t too much of it being out there for the first time regularly or anything like that.
“It was a great experience, the league felt brand new and the style of play, but I didn’t feel brand new to playing in front of a bigger crowd.”
His first league game was a narrow 1-0 loss at Rangers in front of 49,000 spectators at Ibrox, followed by a 0-0 home draw with Aberdeen, after which the Saints’ manager Jim Goodwin described his performance as “outstanding”.
“That was an amazing experience,” Famewo said of the Rangers game. “I didn’t really realise until after the game how many people were actually there.
“As the game was winding down a bit and you sometimes hear the crowd and the attendance of the game and I was like ‘wow, okay!’. You walk out of the tunnel and Rangers’ stadium is like Celtic’s, it’s a massive ground, it’s loud and it’s a great experience.
“It wasn’t something I looked at as intimidating, it was of the feeling ‘right here is what I want to be doing week in, week out, in the Premier League’, where everyone has big stadiums and loads of fans, that’s just part of the game. It was exciting, I wanted to do it.”
The Buddies only lost three of the City loanee’s nine games, one of which was a 5-0 defeat away to champions Celtic in front of 58,000 fans, and kept three clean sheets - the last of which proved crucial to finishing ninth before the Scottish season was finished early due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It felt like we were doing well, as a team we were all gelling well,” he continued. “It was like a close-knit family and a good team to be a part of. I really enjoyed my loan there.
“It turns out the Hearts game (a 1-0 home win against the bottom team), look how big that turned out to be, with how the season finished, but it’s a strange one because we weren’t really climbing the table too much because the teams above us were getting the points they needed as well.
“But it was a big improvement and a bit of a cat-and-mouse thing, because you know you’re putting in all the effort and getting decent results. So it was a good experience on the whole.”
Famewo was under the guidance of St Mirren boss Goodwin, a former tough midfielder who played for clubs including Stockport, Scunthorpe and Huddersfield.
“He’s genuinely a great guy,” the Canaries prospect said. “From the first day I arrived, he came and met me to introduce himself, which is not expected of him but was very much appreciated. I thought that he had gone that extra mile to make sure I felt welcome, that doesn’t go unnoticed.
“His tactics, the way we trained, was all very in-depth, not a thing was missed. We’re going into games knowing how the other team are going to play, ‘in this aspect we’ll defend, we’ll counter-attack them here’. Everything was very well thought through.”
The defender knows he will now have to wait to find out which league Norwich are going to be in next season before he can make too many plans but feels his career is moving in the right direction after banking some very welcome senior experience in central defence.
“I’ve always really classed myself as a centre-back,” he concluded. “I can play left-back but I’ve always seen my main position as a centre-half so to play there and stay there, I’m happy about, and I feel like I must have been doing something right because St Mirren have some good players.
“It was good to be playing back-to-back games at a high level. You learn as much off the pitch as on the pitch because you learn about your body, how you need to do certain things to recover, to maintain your body – so it was good from that aspect as well.”