David Freezer: City could have a Premier League ace in their pack already
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Other players have been making headlines in recent days but Kieran Dowell is one of the Norwich City players who will be particularly relishing his Premier League opportunity.
The attacking midfielder admitted after his brilliant free-kick winner at Derby earlier this month that the end of the campaign was probably going to come at a bad time for him.
After seeing the first half of his season ruined by ankle surgery, needed after just his third appearance following an awkward challenge, it took a while for the summer signing to get back on track.
The 23-year-old has started City’s last eight matches, although one of them can be effectively written off as he was the man sacrificed in the 22nd minute after Dimitris Giannoulis’ harsh red card during the 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth – as promotion was confirmed a fortnight ago.
Three goals and an assist during that spell has been a decent return, at an exciting point of the campaign, but that doesn’t fully illustrate the impact the Everton youth product has been making in most matches.
He very nearly grabbed the spotlight during last Saturday’s 3-1 win at QPR, creating five chances and having four attempts at goal, but just couldn’t quite find his range to claim the rewards that his lively efforts deserved.
Dowell is a player who could well look better in the top flight. That was immediately apparent with Todd Cantwell in 2019. As well as natural development and a clear determination to take his chance, the pace and rhythm of the Premier League seemed to suit Cantwell.
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With a similarly graceful style and ability to glide past opponents, Dowell could well enjoy that elevation as well, where there are fewer players nipping at your heels and chopping down the flair players – particularly in the age of VAR.
With most teams looking to play expansive football, there can often be more space to play with. That’s without forgetting the huge step up in quality though, where world-class attacking players can summon brilliance in a split second and international defenders can read and react to danger so much more accurately.
Dowell was only afforded a taste of the top tier on two occasions by the Toffees, as an 18-year-old, at the end of the 2015-16 season. One was briefly as a substitute, the other was starting against Norwich.
Club legends David Unsworth and Joe Royle were in charge following the sacking of Roberto Martinez and Dowell helped the hosts ease to a 3-0 win over Alex Neil’s already relegated Canaries.
His debut actually arrived as a 17-year-old though, starting a 1-0 defeat to Russian side Krasnodar at Goodison Park in December 2014, with Everton having already qualified as group winners.
But other than making the bench for three games early in 2018-19, it was out on loan at Nottingham Forest, Derby, Sheffield United and Wigan that Dowell got his career kicked into gear – winning 16 England Under-21 caps along the way, having been an integral part of the Young Lions team which won the U20 World Cup in 2017.
City fans have seen those flashes of potential top-level class as well now, starting with his thumping long-range finish during the 2-0 win at Forest last month, stepping up when star man Emi Buendia was unavailable due to his partner giving birth the previous night.
Setting up Kenny McLean with a tidy one-two followed a few days later during the 1-1 draw with Blackburn, also teeing up Buendia for a shot that was deflected onto the bar. It was a similar story during the tired 1-1 draw at Preston in strange circumstances on Good Friday, setting Teemu Pukki clear, who was also denied by the bar.
His best display in a Norwich shirt clearly followed during that epic 7-0 win over Huddersfield, bamboozling the visiting defence to link with Buendia and score the fifth, followed by his best moment thanks to that powerful, dipping free-kick at Derby.
We know all about the disappointing matches against Bournemouth and Watford which followed promotion but Dowell and City were back in their rhythm at QPR and will be relishing the prospect of a title being on the line against a crestfallen Reading today, after the Royals saw their play-off hopes come to an end.
He’s not fulfilled his potential yet and that’s what will be intriguing for City fans, the prospect of there being more to come, particularly if Dowell can end the season on a high with more good moments in the final two games.
- It was great to see Emi Buendia recognised for his outstanding season with two Player of the Season awards this week. I caught up with him after the EFL Awards, click here to read that interview.
- We're taking part in football's social media boycott until 11.59pm on Monday but our content continues as normal at Pinkun.com and on the EDP and Evening News websites, including our Matchday Live updates during the Reading game and my video verdict.