Sliding doors moment for City's centre backs

Akin Famewo is to re-join Charlton on loan, with the Addicks having an option to buy the Norwich City defender

Akin Famewo is to re-join Charlton on loan, with the Addicks having an option to buy the Norwich City defender - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Sadly for Akin Famewo sentiment could play no part in a Norwich City career which may be over before it really started. 

Confirmation of the 22-year-old's return to Charlton on Thursday came with a buy option at the end of his season long loan.

Given the Addicks only missed out on the League One play-offs on goal difference last time around, and have a serial promotion winner in Nigel Adkins at the helm, it is a fair bet they expect to be firmly in the shake up again. 

Should Famewo justify Adkins’ faith and play a leading role then he will not pull on a City shirt again. That may disappoint some of his family, who he revealed hailed from Norwich after arriving via the same Luton Town pathway that produced Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons. 

Famewo was part of a Hatters’ youth team which featured James Justin, who has since gone on to sign for Leicester City for many millions. Justin's former colleague is taking a more circuitous route to the top. 

At Norwich, there was one solitary Premier League appearance as a late substitute in a final day thumping at Manchester City in the summer of 2020, the last time Daniel Farke tried his hand in the big league. 

Famewo's chance came after professional football’s three month pause due to the pandemic which saw him return from an abbreviated loan spell at St Mirren. 

But timing is everything. Earlier on in that same season he was named on the bench for another Premier League hammering at home to Aston Villa. A period when City’s desperate search for centre backs saw Farke briefly turn to Alex Tettey and Ibrahim Amadou.

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Famewo had impressed enough, however, to earn a new City deal which was announced a month later. At that stage he looked on the same conveyor belt that had propelled the likes of Lewis and Aarons into Farke’s first team thinking.

But in the unforgiving environment of the Premier League, that was as close as Famewo came to a breakthrough.

Contrast his experience with those of Andrew Omobamidele last season in the joyous surge to another Championship crown. 

The raw Irish centre back was the beneficiary of another debilitating round of injuries at the heart of City’s rearguard. He grabbed his chance and never let go, with a series of unflustered, mature displays alongside Grant Hanley.

In all probability the call on Famewo may well have already been made by that stage, but his contemporary’s emergence illustrated why timing is such a priceless commodity in the career of any young player.

At three years younger, time at Norwich appears to have moved on for the Lewisham-born defender.  

Norwich City striker Sebastian Soto is heading to Portugal

Norwich City striker Sebastian Soto is heading to Portugal - Credit: Terry Blyfield/Crystal Palace FC

For Famewo, read Sebastian Soto, who exited for Portugal last week in a similarly structured loan with a view to buy deal to Porto. View such movement as part of the broader development strategy fashioned by Stuart Webber and Steve Weaver and honed by Neil Adams.

If the primary objective is to produce players for Norwich City’s first team there is an acceptance another path must also be available to offer those who fall just short a springboard to launch their careers elsewhere.

In both cases, City stand to make a profit on their initial commitments. That is sound financial and football economics.

Famewo looked to be a leader among his peers at development level, an impressive athlete and a rugged defender but there was less evidence of the composure and refinement on the ball Omobamidele exhibited last season.

By all accounts the Irishman has kicked on again in the early stages of this pre-season.

He might still be viewed as an understudy to Hanley and Ben Gibson in the short term but his accelerated progress is impossible to ignore.

Certainly for Famewo, who would have observed his rival's breakthrough from afar last season and rued perhaps he did not get his opportunity in similar circumstances.

Yet Charlton, under Adkins, looks a good fit for a young player who needs regular game time to now make his own mark.

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