Cantwell is proof that sometimes City need to remain patient
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The development of Todd Cantwell has reminded Norwich City coaches that sometimes patience is needed to allow talented players to fulfil their true potential.
Cantwell is closing on the second Championship promotion of his career at the age of 23, after scoring six goals in the Premier League last season to break into the England U21 set-up.
However, the 'Dereham Deco' didn't make his league debut for City until he was 20, having made an FA Cup appearance at 19 before going out on a successful loan to help Fortuna Sittard earn promotion to the Dutch top flight.
Head of football development Steve Weaver admits Cantwell acts as a good reminder that not all youngsters develop physically at the same rate, with the creative midfielder looking stronger this season after talking about his desire to build his upper body strength.
“I think Todd has taught us to be patient and he’s also taught us, and I’ve known this for some time, but Todd thrives in games," said Weaver, who was promoted from the role of academy manager last summer and now also oversees the under-18s.
“Playing at the training ground for the under-23s is probably not that exciting for him, I think Josh Martin is similar. Being at someone’s training ground doesn’t really turn Josh on, put him in a first team environment and he’s happy.
“So I think Todd, not because of his talent, he was just very sort of indifferent with his development path – but I’ve got to say, when he went on loan he ripped it up in Holland.
“He was one that we’ve learned from. Not in terms of talent and ability, but just maybe we didn’t think that he had the mindset at that time – but he’s obviously proved us wrong.”
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Weaver was speaking to City's official All In Yellow podcast about his time with the club and was asked who the next young prospects are that fans should be keeping an eye out for, but was loathe to name anyone specifically.
“We’ve got a load of those lads now where they’re not for now," he explained. "So I think it’s not the fact that the well is dry, it’s just that they’re going to take a little bit longer because they’re not physically ready to play.
“But in terms of talent, we’re as excited about the ones just below as we are about any of the ones that have actually gone on to do stuff.
“We’re really pleased with the kids underneath, all the way through, but it would be unjust for me to name any.
“I think, to be fair, the obvious ones are probably that we’d like Adam (Idah) to cement himself, to be that centre-forward that starts every week, because he’s in and around it.
“Andrew (Omobamidele) is in and around it, Tyrese (Omotoye) has been in and around it, so I think really for them to become those players, for Josh Martin to become the next Todd Cantwell really, is the next thing.
“But I think the next group are another maybe a year away from getting around it, just because they’re physically under-developed.”
Producing talented young players is crucial to the self-funding model at City but ensuring those that don’t make the grade are treated properly is just as important to the club’s senior staff.
Weaver explained that part of that process is being honest with youngsters and their families when their chances of a future in the professional game are starting to drift.
“They’re in an education system,” he said. “So you go through school and do your A-Levels, if you do that you might be lucky enough that you go on and do a degree and then qualify.
“What we don’t provide – and we go to great lengths to try and tell the kids this – is that we don’t provide you with the job at the end.
“I think that’s the problem with football, that football has got to look after people beyond, and there are horror stories up and down but I don’t think that’s at Norwich.
“We’ve counteracted that. We do our best to let the players know at least six months in advance, so the games are still there for you, training is still there but at the end of this season your contract will be finished.
“That’s the best way we can do it and it’s probably the only way we can do it that we think is fair.
“We release them with a load of information that they’ve been built up to, so that it’s not the end of the world.
“They’ll never agree with you if you release someone because that’s just human nature but at least you’ve done it the correct way.”
Weaver is a close ally of City’s sporting director Stuart Webber, having worked together previously at Wrexham, Wolves and Huddersfield, joining as academy manager in September 2017.
In July he was promoted to head of football development and took charge of the under-18s, with Jen Rice brought in as academy manager after 12 years at Wolves, allowing Weaver to spend more time on football and less on the complex administration of a category one academy.
Weaver also talked about the investment in the impressive new facilities at Colney and the continued work to improve the Lotus Training Centre.
Asked if the smart surroundings could lead to young players feeling too comfortable during their formative years, he replied: “That falls back on your culture. That goes back to, if you walk past a bit of litter, pick it up.
“I always think that irrespective of how good or big your house is that, if you’re a parent, it’s whether your kids are well behaved.
“We’re a Premier League club, or we’re on the verge of it and we’d like to be there and sustainable. There’s a level that these clubs have.
“We like to brag about facilities but we went to Leicester recently where they’ve just spent £100million and there’s a golf course! So it goes with the territory.
“The facility now is of a level befitting of the club. It wasn’t fitting of the club before, it was pretty poor in terms of the standard of Norwich City.”
The big money sales of players including the Murphy twins, Ben Godfrey and James Maddison has proven a key part of the success since Webber and head coach Daniel Farke arrived in 2017.
Academy chief Weaver believes there are plenty of high-profile examples of clubs that have made youth development a crucial part of their culture.
“English football can take an awful lot from the continent, in terms of there are some really big clubs in Europe who don’t necessarily spend as much money as everyone else but they developed their own players,” he continued.
“That’s whether they get a young player from a club up the road and develop them or whether they bring them through themselves.
“I always look at Manchester United. They’re the biggest club in the world, they spend a lot of money on certain players but the other part is that they develop their own.
“I think they’ve had a youth product in their squad for every game for 100 years or something like that, it’s their culture. For me, that should be Norwich’s culture.”
- You can watch the full All In Yellow interview in the video above