Neil Adams is still getting a buzz out of Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
“Do you still speak to Neil Adams?” It’s one of the questions that comes up most often from Norwich City supporters.
We worked together commentating on the Canaries for seven seasons. The break-up of the broadcasting double act wasn’t down to artistic differences. We were not like Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel who supposedly didn’t get on with each other.
I prefer to think of our relationship as being similar to the one that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin shared, but that might be because following City away from home together for so many years meant that we probably clocked up enough miles in each other’s company to have been to the moon and back several times.
The truth is that my Neil was also always the one most likely to take a proper giant leap from the BBC Radio Norfolk commentary box. He always knew what he was talking about and this hadn’t gone unnoticed at Carrow Road and so, when Norwich were promoted to the Premier League in 2011, they had enough resources to expand their pool of academy coaches and Neil Adams, like his fellow Stokie Robbie Williams, left the band for a glittering solo career.
It culminated when he masterminded City’s FA Youth Cup win in 2013 and then replaced Chris Hughton as manager in a desperate last throw of the dice to stave off relegation from the top flight less than a year later.
When Neil left that job at the start of 2015 he took some time away from the pressure cooker and it wasn’t long before fans of his work as a player, coach and commentator at Carrow Road were asking after him. The truth is that Neil Adams never really left the club and it was good to be able to shine the spotlight on his latest role with City when he made a welcome return to the BBC Radio Norfolk studios last week.
Sporting director Stuart Webber seems to have realised that the club has a member of staff on board with plenty to offer and has expanded the ‘loans manager’ job that Neil Adams has been carrying out for the past couple of seasons. He keeps an eye on the growing number of promising young players the club has out on temporary deals at other teams. It means more than going to watch Shrewsbury Town, where Ben Godfrey, Carlton Morris and Ebou Adams, are currently housed. Neil has to help identify the best places for City’s brightest young assets to build their first team experience.
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It was while watching Jacob Murphy at Coventry a couple of seasons ago that he first saw a bright young thing called James Maddison in action. While Neil isn’t taking full credit for his recent stand-out performances for the Canaries, I dare say his recommendation helped convince the powers that be at Carrow Road that it might be worth joining a bidding war for the teenage Maddison.
Neil also revealed to us that he is now playing a role in the overhauled recruitment system. He spent some of last weekend in Holland watching a Dutch First Division match because City have their eyes on a couple of players they might look to sign in the future and Webber and Co value his opinion on whether they would be the right fit for a short hop over to Norfolk.
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I did ask Neil which match he was going to in a bid to try to put together some clues as to who these players might be, but he refused to say. I bet Neil Armstrong didn’t keep secrets like that from Buzz Aldrin.
The emergence of Eddie Nketiah at Arsenal came just in the nick of time to save the Gunners’ blushes and end Norwich City’s League Cup campaign after a pulsating tie at The Emirates last week.
The 18-year-old was a new name for me and I was grateful that the PA announcer in the stadium confirmed the correct pronunciation of his name when the teenager came on as a late substitute, particularly as I needed it less than 15 seconds later to describe his dramatic equaliser on the radio.
It wasn’t just a match-saving performance from the young striker, but a match winning one and I wondered whether we had been treated to a glimpse of the football future as he overshadowed his illustrious team-mates like Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere.
It’s not always obvious when the next big thing is plying his trade right in front of you as anyone who saw Harry Kane play for Norwich City in 2012/13 would confirm. Sure enough, Eddie Nketiah wasn’t even in the squad for the Gunners’ Premier League clash with Swansea at the weekend.
There have been times when the Canaries have been put to the sword by exciting youngsters who would become stars worth millions and millions of pounds in the transfer market.
A 17-year old Emile Heskey came off the bench to score the first goal of his career and give Leicester City a 1-0 win over Norwich in September 1995.
Two years later Robbie Keane marked his debut, also aged 17, by getting two for Wolves in a win at Carrow Road when we all thought he must be related to Roy Keane.
More recently, in 2009, Jono Shelvey got an FA Cup goal against the Canaries for Charlton 54 days before his 17th birthday.
Sometimes you just know you are witnessing something special and one correspondent to BBC Radio Norfolk last week on the back of Nketiah’s explosive performance told us that he’d seen Bobby Charlton play a starring role for England Schoolboys against Scotland in 1953.
We have been unable to confirm whether or not he had a comb-over even at that early age.