Get teenage kicks right through the plight

DAVID CUFFLEY Teenage striker Chris Martin may not be the last of City's young prospects to force his way on to manager Peter Grant's team sheet sooner rather than later, Academy manager Ricky Martin has forecast.


Teenage striker Chris Martin may not be the last of City's young prospects to force his way on to manager Peter Grant's team sheet sooner rather than later, Academy manager Ricky Martin has forecast.

The 18-year-old from Beccles was among the five substitutes for Saturday's Coca-Cola Championship match against Plymouth, his second stint on the bench for the senior side this season.

“That was tremendous for Chris Martin to be involved and I'm hoping he'll stay involved around the 16-man squad for the next few weeks,” said the Academy chief.

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He was speaking as the Canaries announced an under-16 match against Celtic to be staged at Carrow Road on Friday, March 23, in aid of the Tactic Zone appeal, which has so far raised £100,000 towards its £250,000 target to build state-of-the-art facilities for young players at Colney.

“Within the youth team group we've got lots of promising young players. Chris, rightly so, is performing very well and he deserves his opportunity, but likewise in the group there are other players that have been performing very well in the under-18s and the reserve team, so I'm quite keen and quite confident that there will be more than just Chris breaking through into the first team squad, as long as they continue to work hard and see that there is an opportunity.”

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The signing of Chris Brown from Sunderland for £325,000 did not stop Martin making the bench three days after scoring in the FA Youth Cup against Newcastle at St James' Park, with top scorer Robert Earnshaw a late casualty with a groin injury.

“When Chris had seen that the manager had gone out and bought a centre-forward, he may have felt his opportunities may be limited, so it's really good from the manager's point of view that he's seen that Chris has been performing and he's given him the opportunity,” said Ricky Martin, who reckons his namesake has what it takes to step up to senior level.

“I'm confident he would go in and give a good account of himself. I know the lad and he's come through the Academy over several years. I'm sure he would be able to cope and he will thrive on the situation.”

Grant had shown a keen interest in the Academy players, he added.

“The manager is very hands-on. He's been first-class from day one. The first time he had a home game on a Saturday, he was up at the youth team game in the morning. And he's been up on Sunday mornings. He's shown an interest in the training programme and he's had an input into some changes we've put into the Academy training programme.

“He drove all the way down to Portsmouth to watch the FA Youth Cup game in the last round, so he's seen Chris Martin and the players he's looking to bring into the first team squad. He's seen them playing in their big games, as well, so that gives him every opportunity to make a decision for himself on the players he feels are good enough to play in the first team.”

Tactic Zone patron Darren Eadie, who made his senior debut for City at 18, said it was important today's crop of youngsters were ready for the call.

Said Eadie: “You can't ever say when you're going to get your opportunity. It's about taking it when you do.

“I may not have made my debut for another year or so but for other people getting injured. I'm sure I wouldn't have played in the UEFA Cup unless that had arisen. That's what these kids have got to keep a grasp of.”

Five for the future

Chris Martin (striker): The 18-year-old second year scholar from Beccles has been on the first team bench twice this season. Has scored three times in seven reserve games and seven times for the under-18s this season.

Steven Arnold (goalkeeper): Just 17 and a second year scholar, he was on the substitutes' bench for the Carling Cup tie at Rotherham this season. Previously with Arsenal under-15s.

Patrick Bexfield (defender/midfielder): Cambridge-born second year scholar, aged 18. Featured in a left-sided role in the senior squad's pre-season matches and was in the tour party in Scotland. An ever-present for the reserves this season.

Damon Lathrope (midfielder): Just 17 and a first year scholar, he started his career with Cambridge United and has featured in six of City's reserve matches and been an ever-present for the under-18s.

Bally Smart (striker): A second-year scholar, the South African-born 17-year-old is an attacking midfielder who has featured in every reserve game this season.

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