Testing times as Norwich City's Under-23s play their part in Canaries' evolution ahead of Carrow Road clash with Stoke
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Ahead of this evening's Carrow Road clash of the development squads of Norwich City and Stoke, David Freezer takes a look at the huge amount of change currently affecting the young Canaries.
It’s been a summer of drastic change at Norwich City and that evolution is also having a big impact on the club’s under-23 squad.
Three of City’s 13 signings during the transfer window have been billed as additions to the development squad, with released Arsenal midfielder Savvas Mouros the latest arrival.
Along with striker Tristan Abrahams being signed from Leyton Orient in a deal reportedly worth around £250,000 and released Liverpool midfielder Adam Phillips being added, the U23s squad is looking very different to last season.
Canaries fans have their first chance to see Matt Gill’s side in action at Carrow Road this season when Stoke arrive for Premier League Two action tonight (7pm).
With talks to sign former Club Brugge striker Pierre Xavier Fonkeu stalled, Abrahams is currently the only striker with senior experience available – leaving Orient unimpressed.
The 18-year-old was supposed to be returning to the National League club on loan for the season but is yet to play for the O’s, leaving boss Steve Davis to question if the deal is in the best interests of the player and the east London club this week.
That is due to Carlton Morris – last season’s joint top scorer for the U23s with eight goals – being loaned to League One side Shrewsbury Town for the season.
Combined with uncertainty over the future of Benny Ashley-Seal, after summer trials at Leicester and Chelsea despite being offered professional terms by Norwich, Abrahams seems certain to face Stoke tonight.
In total City have another seven players out on loan.
Ebou Adams is also on loan at Shrewsbury and his midfield colleague Ben Godfrey made that a trio yesterday, who will also be with the Shrews until January.
Diallang Jaiyesimi – who also scored eight goals for the U23s last season – is spending the season in League Two with Grimsby and right-back Louis Ramsay in the National League with Woking.
Northern Ireland U19 international Joe Crowe, who can play in central defence or midfield, is also away with Limerick until the League of Ireland season finishes in early November.
Centre-back Sean Raggett is the eighth player out on loan, following his £350,000 switch from Lincoln City and immediate return to the League Two side until January, although at 23 years old is expected to be closer to the first team.
That is combined with the summer release of players including goalkeeper Ben Killip, now at Grimsby and midfielders Conor McGrandles, now at MK Dons, and Ray Grant.
All of which means City’s development squad is looking rather youthful at the moment as many of last season’s U18s progress, leaving fans to question if players going out on loan is the right move if it leaves the U23 squad threadbare.
Losing 2-1 to Brighton at Colney in their PL2 Division Two opener at Colney, featuring senior players including Steven Naismith and Tom Trybull, was followed by a 4-0 loss at Middlesbrough last Friday.
Left-back Harry Toffolo stepped up his injury comeback in that game and could well continue those efforts against Stoke tonight, with defender Michee Efete and attackers Todd Cantwell and Glenn Middleton among the other more recognisable names.
Three over-age outfield players and a goalkeeper are still available but with the first team having it’s own injury issues ahead of tomorrow’s Championship trip to Millwall, that looks fairly unlikely.
“We had two games in a week and it was a good chance to get stuck into the season,” U23s boss Gill told City’s website. “Obviously a 4-0 defeat (against Boro) is not what we want. There was some very naïve defending from the team that made it easy for Boro to score.
“What I would say is the response was excellent, the lads were very brave to play the way we want to play in the second half. On another day we could have scored a couple of goals.
“I’ll always look on the positive side. I think we need to be a bit less naïve and a bit more streetwise in the way we go about our defending and when we haven’t got the ball.
“They’re a young group and we’re still on the path we want to be on. Obviously it’d be nice to have a couple of good results but it’s a good challenge to have early on in the season to pick yourselves up and show everyone what can you do.”
Now Gill and his youngsters need to show they can take the chances offered to them by a summer of change.
Tickets for tonight’s match are free and can be collected from the club’s shops at Castle Mall, Chapelfield and Carrow Road.