PROFILE: Hat-tricks have played crucial role in Idah’s progress at City
- Credit: Matthew Usher/Focus Images Ltd
It all started with a hat-trick for Adam Idah, not at Deepdale amid a sprinkling of FA Cup magic, but in dramatic fashion at Carrow Road back in December 2017.
At the time he was a 16-year-old striker taking a break from cleaning Nelson Oliveira's boots as a first-year academy scholar, by making his Carrow Road debut - one he will never forget.
The Cork native was signed from College Corinthians in July 2017 after catching the attention of City's scouts when playing up a year for the Republic of Ireland at the U17 Euros, where the Irish were beaten by England in the quarter-finals.
After a bright start to the season with the U18s, also getting his first taste of U23 football, it was the profile of the FA Youth Cup which offered his first big chance - a competition which had proved so influential for players including the Murphy twins, Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell.
Trailing Barnsley 1-0 at half-time, the young Canaries burst into life with four goals in 10 minutes early in the second half, with Idah scoring three of them and Anthony Spyrou the other as a team including a talented right-back by the name of Max Aarons surged to a 4-1 win.
Head coach Daniel Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber were among the interested spectators that night, with Idah stealing the show.
"Basically I was just playing locally back in Ireland and one of the scouts came to watch one of my games and I scored a hat-trick in one of those games," the Irishman told us after that game,
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"I came over here on trial and played against Peterborough and scored a hat-trick in my first game so they offered me a contract and I was really happy to join.
"I scored a hat-trick recently as well against Azerbaijan in the European qualifiers (for Ireland U17s), so hopefully I can continue that and hopefully get more!"
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Aston Villa had also had the talented youngster on trial but it was City who swooped for the signature of Idah, who had shown talent in athletics and hurling during his school days as well.
Although that Youth Cup run ended in disappointment, as David Wright's squad slumped to a 3-1 home loss to Birmingham in February 2018 to miss out on semi-final ties against Chelsea, Idah's personal journey had began.
In April of that year he brought the curtain down on his U18 development with another hat-trick, in a 5-2 win over Tottenham at Colney.
That followed on from a rather left-field transfer rumour from Italy, with gossip website CalcioMercato.com claiming Manchester United were interested in the youngster, likening him in potential to none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Harry Kane.
While that was given short shrift by the majority of Canaries fans, it did rather raise Idah's profile and continued to draw interest in his eye-catching progress.
He concluded that campaign with 15 goals in 23 games for the U18s before heading off to the U17 Euros again, where Ireland were edged out in the quarter-finals again, by Holland in a penalty shoot-out on that occasion.
By that point Idah was really racking up some decent experience at the top of the youth game and City responded, with the striker among five players to sign professional terms that summer, being congratulated by majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones as they posed for photos when putting pen to paper.
Pre-season brought more progress, scoring the winner in a 2-1 friendly success at King's Lynn, as Farke allowed the U23s to take over for the final 25 minutes, and then a brace as a young Borussia Dortmund U23s team were thrashed 6-0 in Germany.
With City's first team soaring towards their Championship title success, there were no senior opportunities, but Idah kept his goal tally up in the background last season as his development continued.
A strong tally of 13 goals in 23 games overall for the U23s at Norwich was added to by eight in 14 matches for Ireland at U18, U19 and U21 levels, helping to reach the semi-finals of the prestigious Toulon Tournament in France and earning his place in Stephen Kenny's plans - who is lined up to replace Mick McCarthy as Ireland's senior boss later this year.
When he returned to Colney it was clear City had a real prospect on their hands and a new contract was waiting for Idah, as he was promoted to Farke's first team squad ahead of pre-season.
A couple of goals against fourth-tier side SC Bonner reminded his head coach of his potential and a first chance arrived in the League Cup at Crawley in August, playing all of a difficult night, as City lost 1-0 to League Two opposition - with Baz Lubala's decisive goal deflecting in off the youngster as he tried to defend a corner.
While that made for a frustrating debut, as nerves seemed to get the better of him, Idah continued training with the seniors every day and was an unused substitute for three Premier League games.
His patience and persistence paid off though as a top-flight debut arrived during the closing stages of the 1-1 home draw with Crystal Palace on New Year's Day.
With injuries then allowing him a real chance to show what he could do at Preston in the FA Cup, all of that potential has come to fruition all of a sudden because of, you've guessed it, a hat-trick.
Not a bad speciality for a striker to have...