Paddy Davitt: Todd Cantwell and the Canaries’ curse
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Todd Cantwell is not the first nor will he be the last to get stick playing for Norwich City.
There is something rather sad about a 21-year-old, who hails from Dereham, and who progressed all the way through the club’s academy, feeling the need to defend himself on social media after just 18 league starts.
Cantwell posted what could be interpreted as a rather cryptic tweet, following Sunday’s Championship draw at Wigan, along the lines he knows he is far from the finished article and is striving to “become the best I can”.
Wrap the context around those words, in the wake of a frustrating shift at the Latics, and it is fair to deduce the ripples of negativity have headed in his direction.
Cantwell was not alone in failing to hit the heights, in what felt a collective display weighed down by the pressure and the expectation of chasing a place in the Premier League that is within touching distance.
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He is not Emi Buendia. But neither in truth is anyone else in this Norwich squad. What he is, is a very young, inexperienced playmaker who looks far more naturally at home operating in the centre of the park.
But Marco Stiepermann is rightly Daniel Farke’s strongest available option this season in that area, after emerging as Teemu Pukki’s chief support.
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Cantwell had played a grand total of 15 minutes during Norwich’s Championship promotion quest in the two months prior to replacing Buendia against Reading.
Now he has been thrust centre stage at the sharp end.
To demand the same productivity or to expect him to exert the same influence as the Argentine maestro is laughable.
He might be better advised leaving social media alone. A decade ago he would have had to strain his ears to hear the odd cat call from the terraces; or a barbed comment in the street. Now they are amplified and delivered to his smartphone.
But there is also a counter argument. Young players should expect to be criticised, not cosseted.
Opponents of the academy system feel it creates an environment that runs counter to the harsher world of professional football.
The work of Neil Adams as City’s loans’ manager illustrates the club is striving to subject their brightest to the brutal realties of their trade.
Cantwell, himself, benefited hugely from a successful stint in Holland at Fortuna Sittard.
It is not only the skillset but the mindset that needs to be developed at such an early age.
Those critical of the youngster’s recent efforts may perversely cut him less slack because he is rightly branded ‘one of their own’.
Josh Murphy copped his fair share of negativity last season. Recall that cupped ear celebration towards the Barclay after scoring against Barnsley to silence his doubters?
It may not have been a major factor in easing him out of the door last summer, to Cardiff City, but it was certainly a concern for those closest to the wide player.
The Bluebirds may well return swiftly to the Football League in the coming weeks, unless Neil Warnock can engineer a truly Great Escape.
Yet a rapidly maturing Murphy has emerged with credit since leaving Norfolk with none of the fanfare or the outpouring of affection that followed James Maddison’s exit. It would be no surprise to see him face his old club in the top flight next season for new employers.
In truth, the past couple of days feel like a social media sideshow.
The be all and end all is promotion and the only opinion that matters in all of this is Farke’s. And the German is a huge fan of Cantwell.
City’s head coach clearly felt he was ready to replace the suspended Buendia. Others disagree.
That is the nature of football, where we all feel invested and we can all have a say.
There will be plenty of calls for change ahead of Sheffield Wednesday’s Good Friday visit, with Moritz Leitner and Mario Vrancic again giving Farke a nudge in a late cameo against Wigan.
Should Cantwell find himself eased out of the starting line-up he should take that as a challenge, not a confirmation in the eyes of some he is not ready.