Trendsetting Canaries setting the pace on loans under Neil Adams
PUBLISHED: 06:10 10 October 2020
Norwich City are gaining a reputation across Europe as being a progressive club when it comes to loaning out players.
For Neil Adams, he is a man reborn after his managerial stint at Carrow Road that saw him take a step back from coaching.
Speaking via video call, there is a picture on his wall that shows him during his playing days, celebrating after scoring for the Canaries.
Now he is an instrumental figure in developing the hottest talent at City. Not through coaching on the pitch, but devising a strategy to improve them on loan.
James Maddison, Ben Godfrey, Todd Cantwell and the Murphy twins are success stories for Adams’ approach to loans, something he feels has increased trust amongst other clubs in taking the Canaries talent.
“We’ve developed a reputation, I think,” Adams said. “Some of that is a pat on the back to us and some of it is good fortune. You send players out on loan, but you’re dependant on the players and if they can improve. Then, if that is the case, like Ben Godfrey, James Maddison, the Murphys. There are success stories.”
City have been praised for their youth-enabling philosophy - but it’s not simply been inside the walls of Colney where these players have become major talents.
In the cases of Godfrey and Maddison, it’s translated into a significant windfall for the club - and other English sides are beginning to sit up and pay attention to City’s work in this area.
“When anyone does that sort of thing, it tends to gather attention around the country and a lot of clubs have asked to come and have a look at what we do and how we do it. That’s great for myself and great for the club.”
Norwich are a club keen to alter the perception of loans. Whereas five years ago being sent out on loan often meant a departure was inevitable, now it’s seen as part of their development, as Adams explains.
“We’ve got a name that we’re big on loans. That comes from the sporting director, the owners and the head coach because if they don’t believe in it then it doesn’t happen. We’ve rolled it out and the proof is in the pudding. You can put a million players out on loan, but if it doesn’t work and either they don’t come back to be good enough to play for Norwich or increase their value, then you haven’t got something right.
“We feel like we’ve got the strategies and procedures right for these players to go and be the best that they can. Over the last five years players have seen how it’s working at the football club and it’s flipped from five years ago when a player being told they were going out on loan meant it was the end for them at the football club.
“Now, it’s ‘you’re doing really well’, that’s why you’re going out on loan. The mentality has flipped and players now see those success stories and think ‘that could be me now’.”
City’s stance on loans won’t always lead to players being ready for the first-team, but that doesn’t mean they are stockpiling talent.
Adams and his department are responsible for forging a long-term plan and assessing which division will be best for a player’s development.
The Canaries now have players in numerous countries to help their development - from Isak Thorvaldsson playing in the Icelandic top-flight or Melvin Sitti in Belgium.
Adams hopes City can cast their net wider in years to come, if only to benefit the players of the future and allow City to tailor their approach to sending in them out on loan.
“You can’t have it too small. We’ve put players on loan at clubs in Holland, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Iceland, USA, Scotland and Ireland.
“What that does is massively increases my knowledge of those levels, the qualities, and how they work. You can’t have too much knowledge. Where we are now with the loan programme now compared to five years ago is incredible.
“I have an in-depth knowledge of Dutch football, especially the second division, the Spanish second and third division as well.
“We all know the Premier League – so we don’t need to have a look at that. But what do people know about the second tiers? All this considerably increases our knowledge. That’s only going to be beneficial to players in the future when we can consider whether he’s League One or Two in England or Belgium.
“We now have the scope to tailor these pathways to be bespoke. This is the plan. This is how we see it. You might have a year in the under-23s but then you’ll go to Belgium or Holland for a year. It enhances the opportunity for the player.”