Paddy Davitt: Dereham's Todd Cantwell has earned his place in the spotlight at Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 12:38 04 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:38 04 December 2018
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Implicit in Daniel Farke's praise for Todd Cantwell after a starring role in Norwich City's win over Rotherham United was a warning.
The Dereham prospect scored his first goal for his boyhood club against the Millers before conjuring a delightful pass for Max Aarons to put City in front at Carrow Road, and maintain their Championship promotion push.
Farke is loathe to shower too much praise on any of his talented youngsters. One need only recall this classic, after Cantwell had impressed in the comeback win at Nottingham Forest earlier this season.
“I am totally happy with how Todd develops and how he influences our game,” said the head coach.
“But he has not won the Champions League or the World Cup, he has not worn the Three Lions on his shirt, and when I think how many goals and assists we have so far then we can add something.”
Cantwell’s second half show against the Millers underlined he is a fast learner.
Add that ‘end product’ Farke touched on again after Saturday’s game and there will be plenty more headlines and plenty more acclaim for a boy who from as far back as his fledging youth career at Dereham Town wanted to be a professional footballer.
That tells you something about his character and his single-mindedness. Cantwell has not had as smooth a passage to the City first team as perhaps Aarons or Jamal Lewis.
There was a sense Farke and maybe sporting director Stuart Webber needed to be convinced he was ready to step onto the biggest stage in the green and yellow.
When Cantwell started to make waves last season in Holland during a successful loan stint at Fortuna Sittard,
Farke highlighted not only the boost to his football education but the effect living away from home in a different country and a different culture would have on the person as much as the player.
Cantwell has that touch of arrogance you need to break out from the safe, comfortable academy environment.
For all the flair and technical ability there is also an impressive work ethic.
That comes through if you dip back in the archives and read interviews with his proud family or teachers.
The midfielder was not just the best player among his peers playing for the Magpies’ junior sides or at Northgate High School before the Canaries’ came calling. He was also one of the hardest working.
That drive and determination has carried him all the way to what may now be an increasingly influential role in the defining part of City’s Championship season.
Onel Hernandez is likely to be back in the mix for the pre-festive period, once he overcomes a hamstring injury, but the Cuban will know he faces a challenge to reclaim his place on the left.
That, above all else, is arguably the most impressive facet of Cantwell’s coming-of-age performance against Rotherham; following on from previous eye-catching cameos. The 20-year-old looks a more natural fit in the centre of the park.
You can see in seasons to come that vision and awareness could best be served in an advanced attacking midfield role.
But right now his route to the Norwich first team is on the left, with the licence to cut infield as he did to devastating effect on Saturday.
Maintain the same levels of productivity in the coming games and Farke may have to become accustomed to praising a young man the City fans delight in hailing ‘One of their Own’.