Hard knocks and a non-league education - the making of Barden
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Daniel Barden's FA Cup heroics during Norwich City's third-round win over Coventry wasn't a coincidence but the result of hard work and personal determination from the young goalkeeper.
The Welsh youth international has established himself as the Canaries number three option behind Michael McGovern and Tim Krul after a year of development at non-league outfit Bury Town.
In the curtailed 2019/20 season, Barden also featured in the FA Cup for the Suffolk non-league outfit in the preliminary stages of the competition last year.
One thing that was evident in his second start for City was his confidence. Despite some very senior options operating in front of him, Barden wasn't afraid to make his voice heard.
His journey to City's first-team has been full of sacrifice and hard graft. Barden is another graduate of the Canaries extensive loan system, his temporary spell in non-league designed to physically improve the 20-year-old.
Barden arrived from Arsenal on trial as the North London club informed the youngster he was free to leave early from his scholarship.
He arrived in Norfolk searching for a second chance and a fresh opportunity. City's academy staff quickly recognised a young shot-stopper suffering from a lack of minutes and who required physical development.
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On trial, Barden's performances were somewhat inconsistent. The rawness of his game was evident to academy staff members who were keen to observe him as they contemplated whether to take him on and invest in his development.
Barden's first trial for the Canaries Under-18s side was a fixture against Tottenham Hotspur's youngsters. David Wright's side lost 7-0, but the club decided to show patience after witnessing some of the raw materials in training. Many clubs would have seen enough, cut ties and resumed their search.
Academy staff concluded, after further observation, that he was worth investing in. As City have done masterfully during the last three years, they saw signs of improvement and worked out a development plan with the young keeper.
Barden signed officially for City's U18 side in November 2018, his first appearance arriving soon after against Manchester United.
Even his official debut was difficult after he was forced off with a gash on his knee after colliding with striker Mason Greenwood. That large cut has left a scar that is still visible on his knee today.
With some exposure to youth level football, the next goal was to expose him to a high amount of match minutes in competitive men's football. The aim was to instil some responsibility into his development, both on and off the pitch.
Even prior to gaining his driving licence, the club put it down to the then-teenager to make his own way to training and games. The aim was to test how desperately Barden wanted it. How much he was willing to sacrifice in order to progress in Norfolk.
At the beginning of each week, the goalkeeper would plan his training week with head of academy goalkeeping Tom Weal and head of academy athletic performance Jay Eastoe-Smith in order to maximise his time. The emphasis at that stage was on his physicality to ensure he could command his area with confidence.
His progress at Bury Town, who play in the Isthmian League North Division alongside Dereham Town, was steady. As for any young player being introduced to senior football, he required a bedding-in period.
As the exposure to the rigours of non-league football increased, so to did the quality of his performances.
Barden ended the season performing well and became a regular for Wales U19s side. That convinced City's academy staff, Ed Wootten and Daniel Farke to give him a go with the Canaries first-team set-up.
Within the group, 'Screech', as he has become affectionately known due to his resemblance to the character in the 1989 American sitcom 'Saved by the Bell', has a reputation within the group for making big and brave saves. His maturity has impressed players and staff alike.
That is why he has become the youngest goalkeeper to play for City in the league since Declan Rudd in 2010 when he replaced McGovern against QPR. It's why Farke trusts the 20-year-old explicitly. That said, the Canaries will still look to add an extra option in their ranks this window.
Orjan Nyland, as we exclusively reported last week, is one name the Canaries are considering. The Norwegian is near the top of City's long list of targets. The mission for the Canaries is that they don't block Barden's route to first-team football.
That combination of contemporary goalkeeping in his distribution and old school command has accelerated his development at Carrow Road.