Dowell hoping to make more happy FA Cup memories with Canaries
The FA Cup has already provided Kieran Dowell with some happy memories and the fit-again midfielder is hoping the world’s oldest club competition can help establish him as one of Norwich City’s attacking assets this weekend.
Dowell was signed permanently from Everton last summer, having spent time on loan in the Championship at Nottingham Forest, Derby, Sheffield United and Wigan.
The 23-year-old scored on his debut, during the 3-1 loss at Luton in the League Cup, but saw his progress ruined by ankle surgery needed after just his third appearance for the Canaries.
Dowell has featured as a substitute in six of City’s last seven league games and looked likely to start against Coventry in the FA Cup earlier this month, only to miss the 2-0 win at Carrow Road as he needed a screw removed from his ankle due to irritation from the previous surgery.
He returned during the closing stages of Wednesday’s 2-0 home win over Bristol City, having also been on the bench for the win at Cardiff at the weekend, and now Saturday’s fourth round tie at Barnsley could offer a good opportunity to get back up to speed – particularly if he can repeat the success of his memorable FA Cup debut.
That came with Forest in the third round in 2018, playing all of a 4-2 win over Premier League giants Arsenal at the City Ground, with his excellent free-kick headed in by defender Eric Lichaj to open the scoring and his unusual penalty sealing the success.
“That was a great night,” he recalls, speaking to us via video call from City's Lotus Training Centre at Colney.
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“Eric Lichaj, the American guy from Forest, he scored a worldie in the first half and I’ve scored a really dubious penalty in the last few minutes where I’ve slipped and it’s hit my left foot into my right foot and looped over the keeper.
“So there was a bit of controversy about that but it was given in the end!”
That was during arguably Dowell’s best loan stint, claiming 10 goals and five assists during 43 games at Forest – but it still wasn’t enough for the U20 World Cup winner to break through at Everton.
Originally from Ormskirk, around 10 miles north of Liverpool, Dowell was with the Toffees from the age of seven and experienced something with his club that Canaries fans are yet to enjoy.
On the importance of the FA Cup, he continued: “Especially at Everton, as a fan growing up, it was massive. We all wanted to win a trophy and the FA Cup was an opportunity to do that.
“I remember going to watch the semi-final against (Manchester) United in 2009, that we won on penalties, and then we lost the final to Chelsea.
“I went with my sister and my uncle and then missed the final because we went on a little tour with the Everton youth team. So I’ve had good and bad memories really.”
Now, after working hard to recover from his ankle surgery ahead of schedule and returning to action before Christmas, the attacking talent is hoping to make some more positive FA Cup memories.
Dowell is alongside players including midfielder Lukas Rupp and wingers Przemek Placheta and striker Onel Hernandez in hoping the tie at Oakwell will help them to recover form and fitness after injury issues.
After a disrupted start to life in Norfolk, the former England Under-21 international is keen to show Norwich fans what he’s all about.
“My natural position is as a number 10 but the way we play, with Emi (Buendia) off the right, I’ve found since I’ve been back that you can almost interchange positions and it’s really fluid in that way,” he continued.
“As long as you’re not doing the same movements then it works quite well.
“It’s quite refreshing how we play here. It’s quite structured in your build-up and your midfield but then once you’re in that final third it’s about taking risks and trying to do something different to unlock that door.”
Head coach Daniel Farke ensured Dowell was still involved in team meetings while injured and after six months of getting used to the German’s methods, with City sitting seven points clear at the top of the Championship, he’s been impressed.
The U20 World Cup winner added: “He’s got massive respect here from the players and with his style of play he knows exactly what he wants from us and a lot of the players who have been here a few years know that as well.
“I’m learning that now too, so I think we’re in a really good place.”