Youth stars are closing in on first team, says Martin

PUBLISHED: 11:12 06 February 2009 | UPDATED: 16:03 10 September 2010

Michael Bailey

Norwich City's Academy manager Ricky Martin believes his young starlets are getting close to making an impact on Bryan Gunn's first team squad. The Canaries prepared for last night's FA Youth Cup fifth round penalty shoot-out win against Everton on Merseyside without their captain, 18-year-old Korey Smith, who travelled with the first team squad to Wolves on Tuesday.

Norwich City's Academy manager Ricky Martin believes his young starlets are getting close to making an impact on Bryan Gunn's first team squad.

The Canaries prepared for last night's FA Youth Cup fifth round penalty shoot-out win against Everton on Merseyside without their captain, 18-year-old Korey Smith, who travelled with the first team squad to Wolves on Tuesday.

And Martin is confident the sight of his Academy products running out for Gunn's Championship battle is a real possibility.

"I have spoken to Bryan recently and I've probably had more conversations with him about young players going into the first team squad than maybe some of the previous managers at the football club," admitted Martin. "I'm hearing we're spending millions of pounds and I'd like to know where all these millions of pounds have been spent, because that's not my budget.

"For what we're spending, we are trying to punch above our weight and I do feel this squad is a talented group, and there will come a stage soon when I have to go in and put pressure - and the boys will hopefully put pressure - on the senior staff to give them an opportunity.

"The boys need to perform well and be performing on the training field, in the under-18s, in the reserve team when they get those opportunities to put pressure on, and then be ready to be called upon by, the senior staff.

"I also feel that the club needs to be patient with these boys as well; that when they do go in they need to be given some games to give themselves a chance to establish themselves in senior football, a little run maybe just being in the squad, then getting 10, 15 minutes from the bench and then building up to gradually getting their full debut.

"That's where we come in as coaches and managers, to prepare the players and ensure they can make that transition from youth to seniors as smoothly as possible."

The first of those players to break into Gunn's first team plans could be Smith, which according to Martin would be something all his current team-mates would revel in.

"We're hoping Korey may be the next one to break through into the first team squad," said the City Academy manager. "That will be a massive fulfilment from the Academy staff, but also from the players.

"The players would be delighted and if they heard on the radio Korey Smith is coming off the bench and he's going to make his debut, I know all that group of boys would be very, very proud of Korey, and then I will be wanting them to be thinking 'that could be me next'. That's the environment we are trying to create."

Academy products Damon Lathrope, Kris Renton, Luke Daley, Tom Adeyemi and Smith have all signed professional contracts in the last 12 months, while Martin had his own stint with the first team, lending a hand in Gunn's first game in charge against Barnsley, as well as taking training in the aftermath of Glenn Roeder's sacking.

"It gave me a chance just to work with the senior players here and the club at the moment is very open anyway; we're working very close, side by side," said Martin. "It was a great experience for me personally but I've got some unfinished business with the Academy at the moment and until I get some players running out at Carrow Road who have come through the academy, I won't be looking to move on or work in any other environment. That s my job and I am so focused and so determined."

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