‘I might not have been good enough then...but I am now’ – McGeehan ready to show City what they missed out on
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Almost three years since he left Norwich City, MICHAEL BAILEY speaks to the club’s 2013 FA Youth Cup-winning captain Cameron McGeehan ahead of his Carrow Road return with Barnsley.
At the time it all looked so straight-forward – but then, football rarely does straight-forward.
From the Murphys’ spark to Carlton Morris’ physicality, the cog that kept Norwich City’s stellar Under-18 cast working together was Cameron McGeehan.
It was leadership that a lot of City supporters fancied seeing in their first team and such notable, high-profile success made it feel like it would happen. Even to McGeehan.
“When I was at Norwich, I always thought I was good enough to play for the first team,” said the 22-year-old midfielder, who now has 109 senior appearances since first leaving on-loan for Luton at the start of 2014. He never made one for the Canaries.
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“That was always what I was striving for. I thought when Neil Adams got the manager’s job I’d definitely have a chance, but it didn’t happen.
“I might not have been good enough then. Who knows? But I certainly am now. I’ve proved I was close over the last few years and now I’ve got to prove myself at this level and build on that.”
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The reviews from his 80 appearances across four seasons and two divisions at the Hatters were similar to his days as an FA Youth Cup-winning captain at City – convincing Barnsley to shell out six figures in the summer, for a midfielder still nursing a broken leg.
Now McGeehan is repaying their faith, ahead of the Tykes’ weekend visit to Carrow Road.
“There is a part of me that wants to prove myself a little bit, in terms of Norwich selling me to Luton,” said McGeehan.
“I thought they sold me a bit easily – but that’s just how it goes. The people in charge at Norwich when I was there aren’t there any more. It’s a different club to the one I left, so it’s not like I hold any grudges or anything like that. But you learn as you get older, that’s just how football is.”
McGeehan already cut a mature figure as he led City at Stamford Bridge back in 2013 – but he too will be a different player facing his former club this weekend, to the one that left.
And that may partly owe to his start at Barnsley, where he was signed by manager Paul Heckingbottom despite his continuing rehab.
“It was a bit of a leap of faith from the manager and a big investment from Barnsley with the fact I had been injured,” said McGeehan.
“I missed all of pre-season and when I was back training I had to take it really slowly. But I made my first start against Millwall (late September) and then played five in a row from there.
“The step up is tough enough on its own, going from League Two into the Championship – never mind adding the fact I had a long-term injury and then meeting a new team and trying to prove yourself to your new team-mates.
“That’s a big thing because you want to get your respect from them, but you can’t really get that without playing matches.
“So it was a tough period but I’ve come out the other side now and it’s just about building from here.
“I said to myself my season has started properly now. I’ve got no more fitness worries. I’ve played seven games in the Championship with a couple of sub appearances, so that should be me about fit now – and it will be great to take that on against Norwich.”
And while McGeehan had to leave City to find senior opportunities, he now finds himself at a Championship club proudly nurturing young talent.
“They’ve got a great philosophy here,” said McGeehan. “I think they’ve got a general rule they try to sign players only under the age of 24, and the manager is great for that. It’s been an easier transition for me because it’s such a young team, and a new team as well. They lost a lot of players last season.
“So the management team does a great job every year in terms of what their philosophy is and sticking to it. It works, and I think it’s just started to click in the last month or so.
“It’s a bit like at Norwich. They’ve had quite a bit of upheaval and players going out. So it can take a bit of time to get going, but we’re now gelling and all know our roles a bit better.
“It looks like Norwich are going with younger players now. The club has got rid of a few of their higher earners and things like that.
“I don’t know exactly how it is working but Stuart Webber (sporting director) did an amazing job at Huddersfield with a similar method. Maybe if it was like that when I was around, I might have got a go.
“But then, how many more times are they going to win the FA Youth Cup? It was 30 years before we won it, so it’s a once in a 30-year opportunity to see if they can build on success like that and maybe they didn’t quite do it at the time.
“The difference was they were in the Premier League and stayed up that season under Chris Hughton, so there was more pressure on having a high calibre of player. If they had been in the Championship, it might have been different. Who knows?
“It does look like they’re going a different route now and hopefully that works out.”
Which brings everything full circle, with McGeehan recovering from the rolled ankle that kept him out of the 2-0 home win over Birmingham before the international break – and hoping to play in Barnsley’s big date at Carrow Road.
He added: “If we beat Norwich we’ll go level on points with them, so you look at that and then think we’re a young team, we’re new, we’ve just started gelling recently – everyone knows in the Championship all you’ve got to do is put a little run together and you’re away.
“We’ve won our last two and on the road we’ve been decent. It probably suits us to be a little bit counter-attacking in style. So it should be an interesting game and I think Norwich have got quite a few youngsters as well, so I imagine it’ll be energetic.
“They’ve got boys like James Maddison doing really well and going away with England Under-21s, so I’m looking forward to playing against all those players.”
And you imagine Carrow Road is looking forward to seeing what Cameron McGeehan can do against them.
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