Canaries youngsters resume quest for FA Youth Cup glory

Max Aarons of Norwich City U18 during the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup match against Tottenham

Max Aarons in action for Norwich City U18s during their FA Youth Cup win over Tottenham in 2017 - Credit: Andy Kearns/Focus Images Limited

Norwich City’s young stars resume their FA Youth Cup campaign on Monday – knowing the eyes of the club’s powers that be are watching their every move. 

The Canaries Under-18s side face West Ham in a fourth round tie behind closed doors at Carrow Road (2pm) on a path well trodden by some of their more illustrious colleagues. 

Max Aarons, Adam Idah and Todd Cantwell have all been on the Youth Cup stepping stone, part of the rites of passage from academy football to first team action. 

The job for people like Steve Weaver, City’s head of football development, is to ensure the conveyor belt is always well stocked. 

In 2017-18, Aarons stood out as City reached the quarter-finals. Seven months later he was making his first team debut against Ipswich – and has never looked back. 

Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber

Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber and head coach Daniel Farke watching the FA Youth Cup tie against Barnsley in December 2017 - Credit: Matthew Usher/Focus Images Ltd

"The Youth Cup has been, in recent times, a real good elevation for the players,” said Weaver. 

“I remember Josh Martin getting a hat-trick against Newcastle - everyone is watching, obviously Daniel (Farke) is there, he has caught the eye and the next thing is he does really well in the EFL Trophy, does ok in the second game and the next thing he is training with the first team and the rest is history.  

Adam Idah of Norwich City U18 celebrates an FA Youth Cup goal against Barnsley

Adam Idah celebrates the second goal of a quickfire hat-trick as Norwich City U18s beat Barnsley 4-1 in December 2017 - Credit: Matthew Usher/Focus Images Ltd

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“Adam Idah, got a 10-minute hat-trick against Barnsley, same thing happens, all of a sudden he is in the eye. 

“It’s amazing how the games work for one or two people and I am pretty sure that will be the same way this Monday. We hope so - they are in good form, the lads are in good spirits and there is no real excuse unless they just don’t play well on the day, which can always happen.” 

Weaver works closely with U18s coach Greg Crane – the one-time academy and reserve team player, no stranger to the Norwich City way. 

"I think what we have learned with the 23s is, we think it is a talented group but maybe an immature group,” said Weaver. “It has been a focus, it may change next year. Greg has done really good, he is a local lad, been a young player here and got a real feeling for the place and it is really important that we promote these sort of lads as well.” 

Like all young footballers, City’s academy players like to show off their skills on video, but Weaver backs the pragmatic advice Crane has for his players – just make sure you pass the ball to a team-mate. The evidence, he says, can be seen by watching City’s first team in action. 

“People in this day and age are very good at telling you the number of passes you’ve had, how many successful ones, how many forward ones – if you keep giving the ball away and pass it to somebody else, you generally don’t play,” said Weaver, in an interview with BBC Radio Norfolk.  

“And you bring out your special moments when you need to. 

“I think when you look at the talented lads in the first team – Emi, Todd, Teemu - if you were to put their performances together you’d probably realise they have two or three special moments a game, not every time they touch it and I think with the younger ones they see these special moments and think you have got to do it all the time.  

“Our job is to make sure that they bring those special moments out when they need them - just teach them the game. But we certainly don’t dent it, and I am quite proud of his comment to be honest. You watch our football and it is pretty hard to get the ball off us.” 

2013 FA Youth Cup final Chelsea v Norwich City

Norwich City celebrate their FA Youth Cup final win over Chelsea in 2013 - Credit: Archant

City famously won the Youth Cup, under the guidance of Neil Adams, in 2013, as underdogs, beating holders Chelsea, who then went on to win it five years in a row. 

“I remember when I played in the Youth Cup, it was a long time ago now but I still remember it,” added Weaver. “The lads always remember Youth Cup games and they get the most exposure. We probably try and keep it as low key as we possibly can, but it is really difficult to because it is the result that everyone looks for, it is a very prestigious competition and some of the teams that have won it and the players who have come out of those teams always comes around as well.

"I know some of the big clubs in recent years have been in a monopoly and I think Norwich is one of the only clubs that have broken that monopoly, but that just goes to show how hard it is to get to that level and when the big boys put all their big players out who they have assembled over time it can be difficult. 

“Norwich are one of the clubs who have proved you can actually put a thorn in the side of that so it is really important and there is a real interest in the competition and the young players from the fans and the club so long may that continue.” 

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