Why have Liverpool fans started talking about Canaries left-back Lewis?
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In the strange world of football transfer rumours Norwich City left-back Jamal Lewis has gone from being linked with lowly Championship club Stoke to Premier League champions Liverpool in the space of a few days.
The link to the Reds stems from Goal.com and well respected journalist Neil Jones, formerly of the Liverpool Echo newspaper, who has a following of almost 150,000 on his Twitter profile.
Jones was assessing Jurgen Klopp’s need for quality cover for left-back Andrew Robertson, with the Scotland international proving a huge success since joining following relegation with Hull in 2017.
Yet on the rare occasions the 26-year-old hasn’t been available for the World, European and English champions, it’s usually been experienced midfielder James Milner filling in at left-back.
With young prospect Yasser Larouci expected to move on this summer after turning down a new contract and other academy options not yet ready to cover at the top level, attentions are turning to who would fit the bill, with Robertson and England star Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right renowned for their creative and attacking influence.
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That’s where Canaries academy product Lewis enters the story, with the report suggesting the Northern Ireland international is “well thought of” by the Reds and “should be available following the Canaries’ relegation”.
Another contender suggested is Bournemouth 21-year-old Lloyd Kelly, signed from Bristol City last summer in a deal reportedly worth around £13m and also able to play at centre-back.
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The England Under-21 international is said to be a player Liverpool scouts had identified as a possible option prior to his move to the south coast, yet injuries have restricted him to just eight appearances so far this season.
Lewis, however, has made 27 appearances for Norwich in the Premier League, showing his ability with his only goal, a sumptuous strike to seal a 1-0 win over Leicester at Carrow Road in February.
The athletic 22-year-old, who competed at national levels in athletics as a teen, was also named in the Championship Team of the Season during City’s title triumph of 2019.
Coming through the youth system of hometown club Luton Town prior to joining Norwich at 16, he qualified for Northern Ireland through his Belfast-born mother and has 12 international caps to his name so far.
As City fans have seen with the club’s other talented youngsters, once they are linked with one of the big boys, the ripple effect begins and in no time a whole host of websites and blogs with a Liverpool slant are talking about Lewis.
Given the success of Robertson despite being signed from a relegated club, there is precedent for that kind of approach from the Merseyside giants, particularly as the Scot is the clear first choice.
Should that interest solidify and turn into a big-money bid, it would be very difficult for Norwich to stand in the way of such an exciting move for a player who has served them well over the course of Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber’s three campaigns in charge.
Norwich had sold Martin Olsson to Swansea for around £4miliion in January 2017 with their promotion hopes drifting under Alex Neil and finished the season with Mitchell Dijks on loan from Ajax, who was too expensive to keep.
James Husband was brought in from Middlesbrough as one of Webber’s first signings but Lewis was also given a new contract as a new academy emphasis was promoted, only for a knee injury to keep him out of action until December.
Once he made his debut however he barely looked back, with his potential part of the reason that Husband largely remained on the fringes and for why the Canaries allowed fellow academy product Harry Toffolo to join Millwall on a free transfer in January 2018, after a series of loans - with the FA Youth Cup winner now established as a Championship player at Huddersfield Town.
So much so that Lewis is set to make his 100th appearance for Norwich on Sunday, when a thoroughly disappointing top-flight campaign will come to an end with a daunting trip to Manchester City for Farke’s team.
The link to Stoke in the Belfast Telegraph was rather wishful thinking, with the obvious link of former Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill keeping the Potters clear of relegation this season. That would be seen as a rather regressive move for Lewis though, even if City were willing to sell to a Championship rival.
Tottenham, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Watford are all among the clubs previously linked with interest in the full-back, who is under contract until 2023.
Yet, like most of City’s young talent this season, his first season in the Premier League has been far from plain sailing.
A minor injury saw summer signing Sam Byram step in and impress with his tenacity at left-back during the 2-0 win at Everton in November and it wasn’t until Byram injured his hamstring during a narrow 1-0 home loss to Liverpool in February that Lewis got his place back properly.
His pace, work rate and attacking intent are all clear but questions remain about his final ball and defensive positioning, with the caveat that the Canaries’ collective confidence has been steadily drained by a top-flight campaign beset by centre-back injuries.
So if a move to a club like Liverpool does materialise, with the appropriate money involved, most Canaries fans will wish Lewis well for the next stage of his career.
Or if not, City will know they have a strong Championship asset ready for next season’s attempts to bounce back to the Premier League, with fresh competition being provided by the signing of Sam McCallum from Coventry.