Norwich City Reserves will give a glimpse into the future
Former reserves boss Keith Webb believes the stars of the future will breathe new life into second string football at Norwich City next season.
The Canaries’ FA Premier Reserve League provisional fixture list was released yesterday, with double headers against their south group rivals Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Fulham, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolves.
City will also play each side in the north section once, including visits from Sunderland and Manchester United, leaving 22 reserve games next season.
The opposition will be a far cry from recent campaigns, when Norwich have been indifferent to the prospect of the Football Combination.
Two of the last three campaigns City have opted to ditch the league format and organise their own behind-closed-door matches and training ground friendlies.
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But Webb, who spent seven years as reserves manager from 2000-2007 including their last spell in the top-flight league, believes next term will raise the bar.
“They are obviously going to be up against some high quality teams,” said Webb. “Some will put out their young players, others will put out those not involved in their first team squad of 25, but they are going to be a step up from the Stevenages of this world.
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“We had some quality games, against Arsenal youngsters with the likes of Niklas Bendtner who have gone on to the top level. Chelsea had some good players as well, the likes of Scott Sinclair.
“So it will be interesting to see the potential players coming up and it will be a very good spot for the supporters to see the players of the future.
“We were getting crowds of 5,000 for the Arsenal games, and that will be good for the young players to give them experience of playing in a bigger crowd than the one man and his dog they normally would have played in front of in the Combination.
“And it’s good for the younger players as well, because that lifts them and their level of performance improves, and it will give Paul Lambert a truer indication of the standard and the quality they can attain.”
City’s first reserve outing is due to be at home to Blackburn on Tuesday, August 16 (7pm) – three days after the start of the first team’s campaign.
The club hopes to confirm details on the 11 home fixtures “in the near future”.
Webb, currently working as a scout for West Bromwich Albion, added: “The scouting network within the Premier League is vast, it’s a global sport. It is all about that level of attention, even on reserve games – it really is something else, and now Norwich are in the Premier League it will give me an opportunity to watch more top flight matches.”
Webb also had first-hand dugout experience of City’s last – and short – top-flight stay six years ago.
“It’s funny,” said Webb. “Everyone’s expectation six years ago at the start of the season was it is great to be in the Premiership, let’s enjoy it. And within eight games it was, ‘Why aren’t we halfway up and why aren’t we challenging for Europe?’.
“Paul has spent wisely, he’s got players in who are hungry and determined to do well, and if he can mould those new players coming in with the squad he’s got and build a good team spirit, then there is no reason why they should not do well.
“If you were to offer me fourth from bottom now, I’d snap their hands off. That’s their aim. OK, some will say it is lowering expectations but you have just got to stay in that league somehow.
“Hopefully they can make Carrow Road a fortress and pick up whatever points they can away from home. Blackpool did it the other way and their home form sometimes could’ve been better, but you’ve got to get that magical 42 points.”