Liam Gibbs could be the missing link for Norwich City.

The highly-rated 19-year-old midfielder returned to action with a late cameo in the 1-0 Championship win at Blackpool following an ankle injury.

Head coach Dean Smith revealed he was tempted to start the former Ipswich Town youngster, such has been Gibbs’ early season impact, with on loan Newcastle United holding midfielder Isaac Hayden yet to feature.

The teenager is firmly in the mix for Tuesday’s trip to third-placed Reading, after the City boss opted instead to ease him back into his plans.

“It shows you what I think of him that we felt he could start after a month out,” said Smith. “But also the fact that I don't really feel we've got anybody who can play as a defensive midfielder. Kenny (McLean) and Nacho (Marcelino Nunez) are both better at breaking and running on, and it just leaves us a little bit too open in the middle of the pitch.

“Gibbo is more suited to that. But the fact that he's a good player as well and had been playing well makes him a good option. He is a really good character, a really good personality. He spits out huge numbers, in terms of the physical load.

"He can run all day; good, high speed running, good maximum speed, everything that you want to see from a young player. He's still learning the game as well but doing really well.

“He's been a real bright spark since the start of pre-season, but unfortunately got an injury against Sunderland having broken into the first team. We didn’t think after 30 days out, and two days training, he was probably ready.”

Smith has also placed his trust in another young gem, with Aston Villa loanee Aaron Ramsey now established in an attacking midfield role.

“We always had high hopes," he said. “We could see the talent was there when we worked with him before and we felt that he could be a plus for us. He's really good at connecting from back to front.

"He's got good vision and a good understanding of the game. He's been playing well over the last few weeks.

"You certainly need that physical element as well in this league. If you look at his older brother (Jacob) coming through, and you look at him now, he's filled out into his body. AJ is the same. Players mature at different times.

"He's certainly maturing at the moment and looking every bit a good player.”