Fans will feel a tinge of sadness but it’s the right time for City ace to move on
PUBLISHED: 10:36 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:36 07 September 2020
Jamal Lewis is primed to join Newcastle United. Connor Southwell analyses the left-back’s spell with City and why is he is ready to move on.
When Jamal Lewis made his first Norwich City start in December 2017, you could see the confidence the left-back possessed in abundance.
His debut wasn’t handed to him in ideal conditions, just a few days prior, the Canaries had been beaten 2-1 by Lasse Vibe’s inspired Brentford and Carrow Road was a cauldron of negativity and frustration.
Praise therefore must be given to Daniel Farke, who has proved during his tenure at the club that he isn’t afraid of handing young players their debuts and giving them the trust to adapt accordingly.
Nearly three years on and Lewis is a fully-fledged Northern Irish international and primed for a switch to Newcastle United for a fee of £15million plus add-ons.
That rise hasn’t been meteoric in a similar way to Max Aarons - but Lewis’ progression has been evident to City supporters since he first burst onto the scene.
But his development could have panned out so differently - the 22-year-old Northern Ireland international left-back joined City in 2014 having left Luton Town to focus on his prospects as a national-level 800-metre runner a year earlier.
Gregg Broughton was City’s head of academy recruitment at the time, and worked with Lewis at Luton. He managed to convince the youngster to swap his running jerseys for football boots and the left-back has gone from strength to strength since joining the Canaries.
“There were two things which always stood out during his younger years and they were his attitude and his resilience, they were already outstanding. But his athletic ability, his ability to keep running, his aerobic capacity, was always outstanding in his younger years,” Broughton explained in 2018.
When discussing his athletics career and the impact it had on his football, Lewis told the Belfast Telegraph: “I ran for English Schools and I was ranked in the top five in the country for 800m but I don’t really think of it like that because I didn’t take it as seriously as others, I didn’t really read into it. I always loved football the most so I just happened to be good at running. It helps you get up and down the pitch.”
His athleticism was a key component to City’s Championship title-winning season two years ago, when Lewis and Max Aarons were named in the EFL Team of the Year.
Lewis’ ball carrying capabilities helped drive the Canaries up the pitch and allowed Farke to deploy inverted wingers whilst Lewis and Aarons provided the width in City’s aesthetically pleasing style.
Lewis is arriving at St James’ Park with more potential to grow into.
Despite his capabilities, Lewis does need to improve his offensive output and decision making. However, as a defensive option who is willing to break the lines with his dribbling, there are few better in the price range he falls into.
There will be a tinge of sadness from City supporters at seeing one of their young, homemade fledglings fly the nest. Since Stuart Webber and Farke arrived, Lewis will be the first of those to have emerged from City’s academy to depart.
But, they will wish him well. There is always a recognition that players can outgrow the level City find themselves at and in Lewis, they have managed to extract over 100 games, six years and a transfer fee that represents the work put into his development at Colney.
In the same way that James Maddison has progressed his career with Leicester City, Canaries supporters will watch Lewis’ development at St James’ Park with interest, knowing that their club played a significant role in getting him there.
For Farke, this is yet more recognition and validation of his expertise in developing young talent. Speaking earlier this year, Lewis certainly feels a gratitude to City’s boss for the faith he displayed in him.
“He made me feel like I was his first choice when he came in and that gave me a world of confidence,” he said. “You can then show what you can do.
“As a young player you can play simple, because you don’t want to make a mistake in front of your team-mates and just want to get through the game, but when you have the type of manager who pushes you then you are not afraid to make those mistakes and you can shine.”
Lewis has always been a quietly confident lad. His professionalism has been praised by Webber and Farke in equal measure.
Since his first senior goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge - he has been the poster boy for City’s new approach to youth development. His narrative is yet another success story for City’s academy.