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MARTIN ON U21S LEAGUE

8 October 2012

Ricky Martin talks to Global Canaries

WITH the new Barclays U21 Premier League season well under-way, Global Canaries caught up with Academy Manager Ricky Martin to get an update on the how the new format has been working for Norwich City’s next generation of stars.

The old reserve league format has gone out of the window, and the new under-21s league has been brought in as part of the new Elite Player Performance Plan to help bridge the gap between first team and youth team football.

City’s U21s, under the management of Scott Marshall, have fared well in the new format so far this campaign, and the performances of 17-year-old scholar Josh Murphy impressed Chris Hughton enough to hand the youngster a spot on the bench for last month’s Capital One Cup tie against Doncaster.

Next up for City’s U21s are Everton at Carrow Road on Monday, October 8 at 7pm. Tickets are just £3 and can be purchased in advance either online, by calling 0844 826 1902 or in person at the ticket offices at Carrow Road or the Canary Store, The Mall. 

Martin told Global Canaries: “For the Academy it’s an inspiring knock-on effect, and it’s a win-win situation when an under-18s player gets that opportunity, because they can see what level they have to be at and learn off their team-mates as well.

“The U21s squad have done very well. Initially we had only a couple of players under the age of 19 so we recruited heavily over the summer.

“We’ve also had an opportunity to fast-track a number of our own players, so we’ve now moved five members of our under-18s up into the U21s squad. So that’s a fantastic experience. 

“One of those is Josh Murphy, and already he’s had an opportunity to play with young senior professionals in the U21s. 

“He’s played with Jacob Butterfield, Chris Martin, David Fox, and Elliott Ward, and he’s under the guidance of Chris Hughton, Colin Calderwood, and Paul Trollope. So when he does well, it means he’s setting standards.”

There have been radical changes at Colney over the summer, as Martin and his team have put in huge amounts of work to ensure the Club is able to attain Category One status in the EPPP – the highest possible for an Academy in this country.

This has been helped by considerable investment and backing from the Club, and the results of the audit are due back later this month.

“We are now growing as an Academy,” added Martin. “With that growth there is a financial contribution. 

“The Club have been tremendous in supporting our drive for EPPP Category One status, and there is a big minimum spend with that. 

“We now want to improve our facilities and services so as an Academy we’re going to get involved with lots of fundraising activities. We’re currently looking for nine new partners to come on board and sponsor the nine individual teams that we have.”

The early success of the U21s side and the ‘fast-track’ of five members of Neil Adams’ U18s squad provide positive early indicators for the short and long-term success of City’s vision for its Academy at Colney, something that Martin feels can only benefit the Club.

“The U21s have been the final icing on the cake and the cherry on the top, because that’s where we’ve now added to our Academy, and seen our boundary increase,” said Martin.

“It used to be up to U18s, now it is up to U21s, so I feel we can be a bit more patient with players aged 17 or 18, and the reason for that is that there is some research which suggest players make their debuts at an older age now. 

“Going back 15 or 20 years, players at 17 or 18 years of age were making their debuts. But now with technology and the way players are now looking after themselves, it can make them stay on longer.

“Then obviously with the contracts now there’s more of a reason financially to stay on. At 32 or 33, one more contract could set you up for life.

“So you see the Paul Scholes’ and Ryan Giggs’ of this world playing on for longer, but the knock on effect is that they’re stopping the next Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes at 16 or 17. We don’t want to release a player or allow a player to go out into the football world without an opportunity to develop at our football Club.”

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