Club Brugge striker Pierre Xavier Fonkeu and former Liverpool midfielder Adam Phillips impress during trial for Norwich City U23s at King’s Lynn
- Credit: Ian Burt
Three trialists created plenty of intrigue as Norwich City Under-23s kicked off their pre-season games with a 4-1 win at King’s Lynn Town.
Belgian striker Pierre Xavier Fonkeu, former Liverpool midfielder Adam Phillips and Hitchin Town defender Will Wright all started and played their part in a slick performance.
The Linnets took an early lead through a Leon Mettam free-kick but the Canaries moved through the gears, with 29-year-old Tonmy Andreu scoring either side of goals from youngsters Michee Efete and Todd Cantwell.
“Will’s been with us a little while in pre-season and the other two have been a little bit latter in pre-season but all three were good, impressed with all three and that will be an ongoing situation,” City U23s boss Matt Gill explained after the win over the Linnets.
With the reported loss of striker Benny Ashley-Seal to Leicester City looking likely to go through, despite being offered a contract by the Canaries, and Carlton Morris having joined Shrewsbury Town on a season-long loan it was left to Fonkeu to spearhead the attack at The Walks.
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The 20-year-old Belgian has come through the youth system of Club Brugge and was recently linked with a host of English clubs, including City, Stoke, Sunderland, Derby and Wolves.
“Pierre’s a great lad and he’s settled into the group really quickly,” Gill continued. “He’s obviously from a different country, you can tell a lot about a lad by the way they integrate into a dressing room and he’s done that excellently.
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“So that will be one that continues and hopefully one that works out for both parties. It’s always quite difficult in pre-season because there’s a lot of conditioning running going on but he’s a fit boy and was impressive.”
Phillips was released by Liverpool this summer after a series of back problems having been with the club since he was nine years old. The 19-year-old was highly rated by the Reds and former boss Brendan Rodgers included him in the first team’s pre-season tour of the USA in 2014.
“I thought he passed the ball excellently,” Gill added. “He gave us some real balance in quite an attacking midfield, with Tony (Andreu) and Todd (Cantwell), and some of his range of passing was excellent.
“Again, with trialists it’s a continuation, day-by-day you learn and see how it goes.”
Story of the match: King’s Lynn Town 1 Norwich City U23s 4
City will now have to decide whether to take the trio on next week’s pre-season camp in Germany, which includes two games for the U23s, against SC Rot-Weiß Oberhausen on Wednesday (12.30pm) and Eintracht Braunschweig U23s on Friday (12pm).
Performing well against a Lynn side who were looking well drilled by their manager, Canaries legend Ian Culverhouse, ahead of their new season at step three of the non-league pyramid was a good starting point for Gill since being named U23s manager permanently, with Darren Huckerby as his assistant.
“Result aside, I was really pleased with how the lads did,”the former Cty midfielder said. “it was our first competitive game of pre-season, we’re two and a bit weeks into a really tough pre-season so far and the boys have been really strong.
“They’ve carried on from where they left off, they’ve put into place the stuff that we’ve asked of them and it’s a really good base to work from for the rest of pre-season.”
The youngsters replicated the 4-1-4-1 formation seen used by the first team under head coach Daniel Farke so far in pre-season and finished the game with a very young team, after making eight substitutes on the hour mark.
“We’re still 4-3-3 and at times it will look 4-1-4-1 defensively maybe but we’re very much that it’s about players playing to their strengths,” Gill explained.
“We had the team that came on for the last half an hour that was a group of young lads who are really hungry to improve and have helped the group.
“We’ve had quite a strong number of bodies which is really helpful in pre-season, they’re a close-knit group and that’s what we’re going to ask for this year, togetherness within that group, even though they’re individuals who are trying to make their way in the game, they need each other to succeed.
“As far as formations go, we’ve not thought too much about it, we’re playing people in the right places for them and trying to give them some organisation to play from.”
Versatile defender Efete was withdrawn at half-time following his recent return from a loan in Iceland during the off-season, the 20-year-old making eight appearances for Breidablik as he got his first taste of senior football.
He was deployed at right-back and could well feature there for the first team in Saturday’s 120-minute friendly at Cambridge United, after Ivo Pinto was ruled out for four weeks with hamstring injury, although Gill said that was not part of his decision to play Efete in that position.
“No, there’s no link there whatsoever,” he added. “Michee has come back from Iceland, done excellently and I think it’s a real option for him to be able to play right-back and centre-half.
“Having quite a few centre-halves with us gave me the opportunity to play Michee at right-back and I thought he did excellently.
“He’s been spot on, he’s not had a break as yet, obviously played the first half. At some point we may look at that, he’s a young lad desperate to do well in the game so I’ll take the lead off him, at some point we probably will look to give him a bit of a break but he’s a young lad who’s desperate to do well and I think his time in Iceland has really given him the bug to try and improve and carry on.”
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