City report card: A season of hard knocks and education for Godfrey
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ben Godfrey was a constant in City’s ever-changing, depleted backline this season. In the latest of our report card series, Connor Southwell focuses on the defender who is being linked with big-money moves away from Norfolk.
Ben Godfrey stands as an anomaly within Norwich City’s defensive unit this season - he was a constant member of that ever-changing line that hindered the Canaries chances of survival so greatly.
The outcome doesn’t reflect some of the impressive performances by the England under-21 international, who has often been tasked with taking a leading role within City’s defence despite his inexperience.
Godfrey, at times, has been forced to marshal a defence that often included a player operating out of position, such as Ibrahim Amadou or Alex Tettey.
It’s easy to forget that Godfrey himself was recognised as a defensive midfielder two years ago - prior to the Canaries title-winning Championship campaign, Godfrey’s experience of playing in the heart of defence was minimal.
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Now, he is one of the country’s brightest talents - with AC Milan, Roma and Napoli all reportedly admirers.
One look at Godfrey explains why; he possesses the raw components that a contemporary centre-back requires to impact games at an elite level - his physicality, pace and distribution are all there to be seen.
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The son of a rugby league player, Godfrey has favourable genetics - but his athleticism and determination are a testament to his hard work on the training field rather than a blessing from his DNA.
Graft is something that underpins everything Godfrey does - whether that be his determination to prove himself during a productive loan spell with Shrewsbury Town or when chasing a loose ball in the Premier League.
Daniel Farke shocked many City supporters when he described Godfrey as possessing the potential to be a ‘world-class central defender’, but with speculation linking the 22-year-old with big-money moves to some of the world’s biggest club, City’s head coach has been vindicated in his appraisal.
The journey wasn’t always easy - he had to display patience following his loan spell with the Shrews when Grant Hanley, Christoph Zimmermann and Timm Klose were all ahead of him in the pecking order.
At times, he was even forced to play at full-back, but Farke remained committed to his development and allowed Godfrey to make mistakes in his quest for improvement,
The Premier League is a brutal beast. It delivers harsh lessons in the way it punishes individual mistakes - Godfrey has seen that first hand this season.
In the Championship, he was provided with the space to drive the ball forward to link the attack. To bypass presses and create an overload in central areas for the Canaries.
This season, on a few occasions, Godfrey stepped out and lost possession - as seen against Watford in the 2-0 defeat at Carrow Road in November - and was punished as the opponent displayed a ruthlessness not witnessed in the Championship.
That type of moment will come to shape Godfrey as he progresses his career - this season has been one about enduring the difficult moments and learning from those mistakes as he progresses forward.
Godfrey even captained City twice last season - another graphic illustration of how highly-regarded he is at the football club.
Speaking about the defender in December, Farke praised the youngster’s mentality.
“He is a strong character, it is no coincidence that he has worn the captain’s armband for the England Under-21s and also that he was allowed to wear our captain’s armband,” Farke said of the defender, who was signed from York nearly four years ago in a deal reportedly worth up to £1million. “It’s not a topic we have to speak about because he is mature and grown up enough to judge it.
“You can’t compare it with the situation two years or even 18 months ago. So far that, he is a key player for us and we definitely need him, that’s for sure.”
Leadership is another string to Godfrey’s bow - with the defender admitting he flourishes under the increased responsibility of being a captain.
“Being made under-21s captain was such an honour. Getting called up to the squad was big, it was nice to have Max and Toddy as well, then being made captain was nice, it’s a massive achievement and I couldn’t wait to tell my family.
“I do see myself as a leader. I don’t know why.
“I enjoy being captain of the team and, with or without the armband, I’d be the same but it’s such a good feeling to lead out your country.”
Godfrey still has so much of his game that needs refinement - City will be hoping that will be with them rather than elsewhere.