Academy starlets hope to raise the bar

Norwich academy boss Ricky Martin insists the club's latest raw recruits have the potential to build on last season's youth successes. Korey Smith's squad reached the last eight of the FA Youth Cup and finished runners-up in their league to eventual FA Premier Academy league winners Arsenal.

Norwich academy boss Ricky Martin insists the club's latest raw recruits have the potential to build on last season's youth successes.

Korey Smith's squad reached the last eight of the FA Youth Cup and finished runners-up in their league to eventual FA Premier Academy league winners Arsenal.

Martin is confident the club's newest intake of eight first year scholars can eventually emulate the achievements of their peers with five of last season's squad now graduating to the professional ranks.

"Physically they are a big group," he said. "Big and strong. At the risk of echoing what I said last year they look a very fit group and I think that will play a major part. I remember saying 12 months ago I felt the group looked physically fit and come the end of pre-season I had a hunch they would be a good group. My gut feeling was proved right because last season was a tremendous one in the FA Youth Cup and the league.


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"We know seven of that side can play again this season in the youth team so over half the group has gained all that experience. Add to that our first year intake look physically capable of stepping up to the plate and now it's my job to equip them tactically and technically."

Martin is setting his latest young charges the same dual challenge.

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"The FA Youth Cup is special," he said. "I know that because I experienced it last year and the lads will want to repeat that and if possible go further. We will pick our strongest side available and that includes any lads involved with the first team. Barring, of course, it not hindering first team commitments I would expect them to be available when those games take place.

"The goal is also to be the highest Football League club in our league which has five Premier and five Football League clubs. The fixture list has just come out so this is an exciting time for us. Last year Crystal Palace went flying off and we had to chase them down and managed to do it and finish second in our league. That would be the goal again, which means coming second or third in the league overall."

Dario Dumic, Sam Habergham and David Stephens are the latest academy prospects to earn professional contracts and Martin is challenging the club's scholars to follow in their footsteps.

"Those three all have international youth experience but they now need to be fulfilling their potential," he said. "That is the biggest trick of youth development. It's okay looking good on a Saturday morning at U18 level but these lads need to take it further.

"To have four on pro contracts is the highest number I've had at this time of year. To get that number on the first day of pre-season training is a great achievement for everybody at the academy. I haven't really seen those lads because they have been away training with the first team trying to make their mark and they have no reason to come back to me now.

"With the new rules allowing seven substitutes this season there is no reason they can not be competing week in, week out. If their development means they are not quite ready then of course they'll be welcomed back to us."

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