I think it’s fair to say that the Norwich City youth policy in recent years has been a cause for disappointment. Players certainly have been produced in recent years, but the club has progressed from League One to the Premier League in a relatively short space of time.
Unfortunately, the players who have been produced are only capable of doing a job in the Championship or League One. Up to this point, we haven’t seen a player who looks capable of holding down a regular spot in the Premier League. Even those who could do a job as fringe players have been hard to locate.
However, the club is well aware of the problem and has been active in correcting it. As many people know, Norwich have been operating in a very restrictive youth recruitment policy for many years. This is because they have only been able to recruit players from the local area, but a successful youth system is very important to the Canaries.
As we know, they have a relatively small budget in Premier League terms and need to use every trick in the book to acquire talent. Part of that process has included casting the scouting net further afield, something that is set to continue this summer in the search for foreign bargains.
There has also been the policy of recruiting players from the Championship and League One, but as the club continues to progress, it’s unlikely too many more bargains will be found there. Therefore, a youth policy that can create a top-flight superstar is vitally important.
David McNally, Norwich City’s chief executive, has been very strong on this, and he was delighted when the club received its Category One status earlier this season. This is the highest award for a youth system, lifting the travel restriction and extending the time coaches get to work with young players.
However, there is a £2 million-a-year cost involved, but that’s a drop in the ocean provided the club remains in the Premier League. Of course, it may take a few years until we see if there has been a significant change in the quality of players coming through.
But there are a number of players waiting in the wings who will have aspirations to be top-flight regulars. The strongest claims appear to come from goalkeepers Declan Rudd, Jed Steer and the Murphy brothers. Time will tell if the investment is worth it, but I suspect it will turn out to be a very shrewd move.
The cost is minimal in the world of multimillion-pound transfer fees, and Norwich only need to find one decent player every couple of years to make that investment worth it. The prospect of playing for a Premier League club also means that the Canaries are likely to have the pick of the youth talent that is available.