U23s boss leaves City for League One first-team role

Norwich U23’s Lead Coach David Wright during the Papa Johns Trophy match at Stadium MK, Milton Key

U23s coach David Wright has left Norwich for a first-team role at MK Dons - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

David Wright has left Norwich City after almost three years in charge of the club's under-23 development squad, to become assistant first-team coach of League One side Milton Keynes Dons.

Wright joined City from Colchester's academy in November 2016, after Graeme Murty had left to join Rangers in a senior academy role, becoming U18s head coach.

He steered an U18s squad including Max Aarons and Adam Idah to the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals in 2018 and stepped up to take charge of the U23s later that year, after Matt Gill left to take on a first-team role at Ipswich as part of Paul Lambert's coaching staff.

The former Crewe Alexandra full-back oversaw Idah's progress at U23 level before his senior emergence, as well as players including Josh Martin, Andrew Omobamidele and Tyrese Omotoye.

Last season the U23s impressed in the EFL trophy, beating Plymouth and Newport to reach the knockout stages, losing 6-0 at MK Dons with an understrength team due to an injury crisis in the first-team squad.

Now he steps up to his first senior coaching role as part of the new regime at Milton Keynes, following the departure of Canaries legend Russell Martin as head coach recently, joining Championship side Swansea.

Wright made over 500 senior appearances as a player, almost 250 of which were for Crewe. He mostly played at Championship level, for clubs including Wigan, Ipswich and Crystal Palace, having a brief loan stint at Norwich in 2005.

The 41-year-old joins the staff of Norwich-born former Canaries trainee Liam Manning, who didn't make it as a professional but had academy roles at Ipswich and West Ham before becoming academy director of New York City in 2019.

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After a year in the US, Manning took his first head coach role and steered SK Lommel to fourth in the Belgian second tier last season, resigning to pursue a career in English football.

Alan Neilson and head of football development Steve Weaver will be overseeing the U23s squad following Wright's exit.

Weaver said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank David for his outstanding efforts and contributions to our academy set-up over the last five years.

"David has played an integral role in developing both our academy structure and our players.

“He leaves with the very best wishes of all at Norwich City.”

Wright's assistant, former Newcastle, Southampton and Fulham defender Neilson, was the man interviewed after City's U23s started their PL2 season with a 3-0 win at Southampton on Sunday thanks to an Abu Kamara hat-trick.

“I was happy with the performance," Neilson told City's official website. "Pre-seasons are really tough, for the whole football club with Covid outbreaks, and for some of our lads, this is our fourth game.

“We’re still behind from the pre-season, but some of the effort levels from the lads was absolutely superb. We know we’ve got the ability, but we’ve got to keep on working hard all the time and keep on pushing them, so they get better and better.

“It was really good, the new shape will take time for some of the players to learn, we’ve been playing 4-4-2, we’ve changed it now to a 4-3-3. It’s just slight tweaks, but we’ve got to work hard, we’ve got to get angles to pass the ball to each other.

“I think at times today, we did that really well, other times we were a little bit sloppy in possession, so there’s things to work on. The players know me, I’m a nit-picky coach, I’m wanting to do better all the time.”

MK Dons sporting director, Liam Sweeting, told his club's website: “We are delighted to welcome David to MK Dons. He joins from a highly-quality club in Norwich City and with a fantastic reputation for developing players.

“What’s more, he has a wealth of EFL experience from his time as a player but also as an assistant with Colchester United, and already has a fantastic working relationship with Liam Manning and Chris Hogg (assistant head coach) from their time together at Ipswich Town.”

The U23s' next PL2 game is at Carrow Road, taking on Stoke City on Friday (7pm), with free entrance to the South Stand for fans, without the need for a ticket. The Canaries also intend to stream the match on YouTube.

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