From a boy into a man: Godfrey’s City progression
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When Ben Godfrey walked through the gates at the Colney training centre in January 2016, you could have forgiven him for being a bit starry-eyed.
From the humble beginnings of York City, the defender signed for the Canaries on his 18th birthday after playing 15 games with his hometown club.
He walked into a Premier League dressing room - the club were splurging money on experienced talent with a view to helping them retain their top-flight status.
Despite all the talk and significance of how ill-judged and poorly executed some of those decisions were in that January window back in 2016, City are set to break their club record fee for a player, two years after James Maddison - who signed in the same window - joined Leicester City.
The financial circumstances behind both sales are contrasting, but City supporters seem to be in agreement that Godfrey’s departure is one that benefits all parties.
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What a journey it’s been for a player who emerged as an adept defensive midfielder and leaves as an established central defender.
Underpinning his City career has been the constant discussion over his best position.
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Alex Neil experimented with him as a full-back, Shrewsbury Town felt he was a strapping defensive midfielder, but it was Daniel Farke who identified his ‘world class’ potential as a centre-back.
Those calls for Godfrey to be played as a midfielder come from his success in that position for the Salops - he leaves Carrow Road having played that role three times.
It isn’t the case that genetics have paved the way for Godfrey’s development - there has been a lot of graft put in both physically and tactically to reach the stage he finds himself in currently.
Everton are buying a player who has fulfilled his potential here, but still has room to grow. At Carrow Road, Godfrey reached his ceiling - at Goodison Park, he can continue to excel.
City fans will watch with pride - similarl to how they view Maddison, because he is someone who acts as a posterboy for the model Stuart Webber and Farke have sought to construct.
So, Godfrey arrived as a teenager with potential, but without a defined position – and an aggression that saw him sent him off against Swansea City’s under-23s in the EFL Trophy back in 2018.
His first senior appearance for the club was in the EFL Cup against Coventry City, an occasion he marked by netting a stunning long-distance strike as City made light work of the Sky Blues.
That led to some brief cameos in the Championship at the turn of the year: Godfrey was largely an unused substitute as Neil plotted City’s return to the top flight, but he did feature for nine minutes as a midfielder in the Canaries’ 2-0 win over Birmingham City in January 2017.
Inside the walls of Colney, Godfrey’s long-term future was being planned, his best position worked out.
That led to a loan in League One with Shrewsbury Town under then-boss Paul Hurst, someone who had forged a decent relationship with City loan manager Neil Adams.
Along with Carlton Morris, Godfrey helped the Shrews to a place in the League One play-off final, a game which ultimately ended in defeat to Rotherham United.
Upon his return to Carrow Road, Adams advised Farke to take a closer look. And he did. City’s boss decided on a position for him to nail down and thrive.
The start of that Championship season involved biding his time and watching from the sidelines, but he went from a young prodigy to a defensive mainstay.
Alongside Christoph Zimmermann, Godfrey was a regular member of the side as City chased down the title. His heroic blocks and ability to break the lines whilst in possession of the football.
His surging run and strike against Reading in a crunch second division clash displayed his technical ability.
There are still defensive mishaps, but his athleticism allows him to recover position effectively.
And then came the Premier League. A new test against superior offensive players in a debilitating season.
Throughout it all, Godfrey was a constant in a backline that was regularly changing through injuries to other options. He wore the armband. He pushed up the line. He led from the back.
Godfrey departs Carrow Road as a man - someone whose professionalism precedes him - having arrived as a boy.