When you drive into the grounds of Langley School near Loddon, the unmistakable sight of Norwich City legend Grant Holt coaching on the pitches greets visitors. 

Holt leads the Langley Football Academy as a director of football - the course is designed to combine footballing excellence with academic opportunity for both boys and girls aged between 10 to 18. 

A quick glance at their lengthy alumni list shows the school have a list of 17 current professionals who have passed through their building and plenty more budding young stars signed with Norwich's academy currently in their ranks. 

Any professional club would be delighted to have a hand in producing that many professionals - so for a school in Norfolk to have done so is extraordinary. 

It is a list that contains the likes of Ken Aboh, who was in Norwich's squad for their 4-1 win over Cardiff on Saturday, Alex Matos, who moved from City to Chelsea last summer and defender Jaden Warner - who made his senior debut for the Canaries earlier this season. 

Perhaps the most high profile of them all is Canaries winger Jon Rowe, who spent time at Langley for academic purposes after joining Norwich as an under-12. 

The Pink Un: Norwich City winger Jon Rowe was a student at Langley School.Norwich City winger Jon Rowe was a student at Langley School. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

His time at Langley came when fellow City legend Darren Eadie headed up the programme - but since 2018, Holt has taken on the mantle as director of football. Alongside him are fellow coaches Ali Colman and Jordan King, who are responsible for running the academy. 

Colman is the longest-serving coach on the programme and works closely with ex-City striker Holt on working with those students currently within it. He beams with pride when invited to discuss the success stories, which extend beyond professional football. 

“We’ve got some varying stories," Colman said. "A lot of the kids who have come through the building at the school who are linked with Norwich City – Alex Matos being one of the main ones.

"He came to the school, was at Norwich and then went to Chelsea. We've had boys who are currently within Norwich’s set-up at the moment and a lot of alumni who are playing professional league football or still at Norwich or are out on loan.

"In terms of in-house – we had an English lad who came over from China called Matt Ward, who is now a professional at Ipswich Town.

"We have other stories – we had a lad from Kong Hong, and one of our exit routes is to go and study at university. He is now the Hong Kong national team captain and is doing really well at Loughborough University. We had a girl who came from India and is now catwalking all over the world in Milan, Paris and London.

"Our USP is developing the individual and picking the right option for them when they do leave Langley."

In years gone by, Norwich City have enjoyed a close relationship with Langley and have used the school to help the academic side of young footballers' education. 

That has also involved the pastoral and even some football - that close connection formed with those players and their families is at the heart of what they have sought to create through their programme. 

“I was fortunate enough to work with a lot of them when I was at Norwich. They were really passionate when they were here about playing for the school – that was great to see.

The Pink Un: Langley School head of football Ali Colman - who works on the programme at the Norfolk school.Langley School head of football Ali Colman - who works on the programme at the Norfolk school. (Image: Langley School)

"It was an opportunity for them to go play and express themselves with enjoyment. Nelson (Khumbeni) came back to speak to the pupils – all of the staff take real pride in seeing an Abu Kamara appearing on a vidiprinter on Soccer Saturday, having just scored for Portsmouth.”

The poster boy for Langley's programme is Norwich winger Rowe - who has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Carrow Road and netted 13 goals in the Championship. 

That has come as no surprise to the people inside Langley School, who worked closely with Rowe on and off the pitch through some difficult periods of his life. That has helped shape his character and given him the necessary tools to take into the professional game. 

“Jon Rowe was here. He is the most high-profile one at the moment. Alex (Matos) has gone to Chelsea, but Jon in terms of what he is doing in the first team at Norwich. It’s been great to see.

"I had him (Rowe) at Norwich at U12s, and he has gone on a difficult journey," Colman said. "He has had stuff going on at home and found it tough at times.

"He has shown good resilience and is reaping the rewards of that. What he's done this season hasn’t come as a surprise. When he signed at Norwich, every London club wanted him to sign for them, but he enjoyed the environment at Norwich.

"Then he came here as a by-product of that. He has always had the talent, but his mindset has been really important to helping him use that talent on the pitch.”

Despite having been embedded in professional academies from an early age - Colman believes the experience and education at Langley gave them a different set of qualities required to provide an edge in their game. 

For Rowe, Matos, Aboh, Warner and the extensive list of others - they were able to play football with freedom. Waylon Renecke, currently in City's U21s, was part of a recent national cup-winning side for Langley. 

“They got some more real life experience," he said. "I think it helped that we as a staff have got experience of working in that environment at Colney, so we can offer them bits that you don’t get in a more manufactured academy setting.

"When you’re travelling three hours on a bus to play a national cup game against a team from London who just want to kick lumps out of you.

The Pink Un: Ken Aboh, Norwich City Under-21, was also at Langley School.Ken Aboh, Norwich City Under-21, was also at Langley School. (Image: Izzy Poles)

"That is a good experience for Alex (Matos), Ken (Aboh) and those type of boys. Ruben Shakpoke (West Brom) and Tyrese Omotoye (Forest Green Rovers) – they got stuff they didn’t experience at Colney.”

Holt plays a key role in the running of the academy, from coaching on a daily basis to offering titbits from his extensive career at all levels of the game. He also leads video analysis sessions and has also been known to lead impromptu sessions on dealing with press interviews. 

Colman believes the individual nature of the programme sets it apart from competitors, along with the blend in qualities from the staff involved. 

“Our job is to develop each individual to maximise their potential so they can be the best that they can be. It’s not an elite programme as such, but we’ve had elite people in here," Colman said. "Our job is to develop each boy and girl as much as they can.

"We range from year six all the way to sixth form. As you go up through the age groups, you get more Langley Football Academy sessions. All of those kids will get the chance to play in the school team and represent the school in county cups, national cups, independent schools cups and state school cups. That is how the programme works. 

"We would say that we really cater for the individual. In our coaching staff you have myself, Jordan (King) and Holty.

The Pink Un: Alex Matos, who left Norwich for Chelsea, is another ex-Langley School pupil.Alex Matos, who left Norwich for Chelsea, is another ex-Langley School pupil. (Image: PA Images)

"Holty has played the game at pretty much every level through to the top level and has very good contacts in the game. Kingy is a semi-professional and has come through the Community Sports Foundation like myself.

"Then I’ve got the knowledge of coming through there and knowing what a recreational footballer looks like and building through my knowledge of being a lead coach at an academy – so I know what an elite footballer between under nine to under 18 looks like.

"If we have any elite ones that we think we can get to the top level, brilliant. If not, then we can cater for all students of all abilities.

"Three coaches – two with an A licence and one with a B licence, all licenced to work in the professional game with all the ability levels."

Full list of Langley School alumni: 

Jonathan Rowe – Norwich City & England U21 international

Jaden Warner – Norwich City

Saxon Earley - Plymouth

Abu Kamara – on loan at Portsmouth from Norwich City

Tony Springett – on loan at Northampton Town from Norwich City

Tyreece Simpson – on loan at Northampton Town from Huddersfield

Sonny Carey - Blackpool

Matt Ward – Ipswich Town U21

Tyrese Omotoye – Forest Green Rovers

Nelson Khumbeni – Bolton Wanderers

Keyni Mills – Ruthin Town (Wales)

Ruben Shakpoke – West Bromwich Albion U21

Ken Aboh – Norwich City U21

Alex Matos – on loan at Huddersfield from Chelsea

Ayyuba Jambang – Ipswich Town U21

Waylon Renecke – Norwich City U18

Alex Roberts – Norwich City U18