Your Posts: Trio of ex-City players excelling at Hartlepool United
- Credit: Nick Butcher
'Your Posts' is a series where Norwich City fans get their say. Next up is James Rushmore, who is studying in the north east and noticed a few familiar names whilst on a trip to Hartlepool United.
Becoming an established professional footballer is harder than ever, with thousands of youngsters being released every year. Norwich City are no different, after revealing that 9 academy players had left the club in May 2020.
But what happens to those players who don’t make the cut?
Some are lucky enough to find a professional club in the football league or abroad, but many face the choice between dropping down the pyramid into non-league or giving up their dreams all together.
As a Norwich fan currently living in the North-East, I’ve had to source my footballing fix via iFollow and through volunteering at local non-league club, Gateshead FC. Similar to King’s Lynn Town, Gateshead regularly sign recently released academy players, each with their own fascinating story as to how they signed for the club.
Back in September, whilst many were still optimistic of fan’s attending matches, I was covering a friendly involving both Gateshead and Hartlepool United. It was to my surprise when I was handed the team sheet to read the names “Ben Killip, Timi Odisina and Mason Bloomfield”.
Killip, who had originally joined Norwich in 2013 following a stint in the Chelsea academy, was with the Canaries until his eventual release in the summer of 2017. The Isleworth born shot stopper never made a senior appearance for the club, but did go on a short-term loan to both King’s Lynn Town and Lowestoft to gain valuable first-team experience.
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Unfortunately for Ben, the plethora of goalkeeping talent at Norwich meant he was surplus to requirements and he subsequently left the club as a free agent ahead of the 17\18 season.
One year at Sky Bet League Two side Grimsby Town followed, with Killip acting as understudy to current captain, James McKeown. Upon being released by The Mariners, Killip dropped down to non-league with newly promoted Braintree Town. Thirty-eight National league appearances later, and Ben was unable to save the Essex side from relegation to the National League South. However, all was not lost. The young keeper had caught the eye of Hartlepool United and eventually signed for them in July 2019.
Now on the verge of turning 25, he has set his sights on a return to the football league with the Pools who currently sit 8th in the National League.
Fellow teammate Timi Odusina initially joined Norwich academy from Arsenal in 2014, before signing a professional contract with the yellows two years later. After a short term spell at AFC Fylde, where he narrowly missed out on promotion to the Football league, he was eventually released in May 2020.
The 21-year-old centre back followed then AFC Fylde manager Dave Challinor to Hartlepool last summer, where he has already proved to be a key member of the first team squad.
Whilst Odusina is still very much eligible to play for an U23 setup, he has chosen to gain experience in non-league. Whether this decision will pay off in the long-term, is yet to be seen. But with players such as Jamie Vardy initially plying their trade in the lower leagues before rising up the divisions, its certainly a feasible path to take.
Yet another ex-Norwich prospect on the books at Hartlepool is Mason Bloomfield. The 6’3 centre forward originally joined the Canaries in 2018 after an impressive spell at Dagenham & Redbridge. Similar to Killip and Odusina, Bloomfield never made a first-team appearance during his time in Norfolk, but did leave the club on-loan at various points.
Following a brief spell at Hamilton Academical, the striker had mixed success at both Fylde and Crawley before finally being released in May 2020. Since moving to the North-east, Bloomfield’s appearances have been somewhat limited to cameos from the bench and an FA Cup fixture where the Pools were knocked out by the ‘Class of 92’s’ Salford City.
Much like Odusina and Killip, Bloomfield has already had a taste of the professional game and at 24 years old, he’ll be hoping to make an impact this season and prove that he has the ability to play in the football league again.
As a Norwich fan, it's easy to only acknowledge the instant success stories of our academy system, with the likes of Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, and more recently, Adam Idah, all making the step up to the first team. But the reality is that many fail to make the cut and are often forced down the divisions in search of game time. The Hartlepool United trio are a perfect example of this.
That’s not to say you should write-off these ex-city prospects. With age on their side, they all have the opportunity to impress and ultimately climb the football pyramid.
Who knows, they might even line-up against Norwich one day, so keep your eyes peeled!