Crook hails latest crop of City's young guns

The advance of Norwich City's teenage army has been one of the plus points of the season so far - but not a huge surprise to reserve team boss Ian Crook.

The advance of Norwich City's teenage army has been one of the plus points of the season so far - but not a huge surprise to reserve team boss Ian Crook.

Midfielder Korey Smith has not missed a league game since Paul Lambert's arrival as manager, while goalkeeper Declan Rudd has impressed on his first three league outings before departing for England Under-19 duty, but the two 18-year-olds have been far from alone in breaking into the senior ranks.

The Canaries finished last week's Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie at Gillingham with another five teenagers on the field, most of whom had very little reserve team experience, let alone first team football under their belts.

One of them, 18-year-old full-back George Francomb, retained his place for Saturday's 1-0 victory at Carlisle as City moved into the top six in League One for the first time.

“I suppose it's full credit to the gaffer for having the guts to put them in and give them a chance,” said Crook.

“We have spoken all along about the fact that the reserves should be used as a stepping stone for them because there is a such a big difference from youth team to first team.

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“It's a different part of their development but they have done well in the reserves, the gaffer has seen every reserve game and has seen enough to put them in.

“The great thing is being able to bring people into the first team when it's going well. There's a good feeling around the place, on the coach journey to games and in training sessions and it helps you as a youngster - rather than you get put in if the team is struggling and you feel the pressure.”

Right-back Francomb's call-up at Gillingham last Tuesday made him the latest member of Ricky Martin's successful Academy team of last season to find his way into the senior eleven.

Said Crook: “George has done a good job. With Micky Spillane and Jon Otsemobor being injured, it left us very skinny in that department, but George was given the opportunity and played his part in two clean sheets away from home and he's come out of it well.

“He will develop more quickly because of those couple of games and I think he acquitted himself well.

“He played one reserve game when I came here last season but he has probably only played two or three, although he was involved in our pre-season games and when David Stephens was away with the first team, he played at centre-half.”

Rudd's debut may have come sooner than expected, but he too grabbed his chance.

“Dec's a confident boy,” said Crook. “He's only played a couple of reserve games but the best thing that happened to him was in the reserve game at Peterborough - there were a couple of things he did early in the game that cost us a couple of goals, but fair play to him, he's taken it on the chin and he's worked really hard and he's been excellent.

“Korey Smith came into the team towards the end of last season when he came on against Sheffield Wednesday and then when he played in the last game at Charlton. He had a taste of it, although the difficult thing for him was that he came into a team that was struggling this season, but he's been excellent and results have picked up.

“Tom Adeyemi and Luke Daley have done well, too, and it was a fabulous experience for David Stephens and Josh Dawkin to get on at Gillingham.”

Crook's involvement with the first team has brought him back in harness with former Tottenham and Norwich team-mate Ian Culverhouse, Lambert's assistant manager.

He said: “I've enjoyed working with Cully and the gaffer with the first team week to week, and looking after the reserves when they have matches.

“Ian has been huge. He's smart, he sees the game, he works hard on a lot of things. You can't over-state the influence he's had on it all.”

The mood at Colney is buoyant after five league games without defeat - and only two defeats in 12 matches in all competitions under Lambert.

Said Crook: “Winning's a funny thing. I've said all the way along that an average player with a lot of confidence is better than a good player with no confidence. There is a lot of confidence around the place that results have brought on and it makes it easier for everyone.

“But it's only 12 games and it's right what the gaffer said about not winning anything in October. If we're still having this conversation in March or April, that's a different matter.”