OTBC profiles Academy defender Harry Barker
On the books since under-9 level, the 17-year-old defender is working as hard as ever to continue his development with the goal of one day breaking into Chris Hughton’s first team.
The second-year scholar has been handed the opportunity to begin the season with Scott Marshall’s under-21s squad, and was also a part of the first-team squad that took on MK Dons in a pre-season friendly.
“It’s a dream,” Barker told OTBC. “I’ve been watching Norwich since I was five years old when my mum and dad started taking me, and I’ve had a season ticket that whole time.
“They still keep buying me a season ticket if I ever want to go down. Sometimes I go and sit with my mum and dad during the season, which I did at times last year. So I’ve still got my season ticket, and I always will have.”
Many City fans will be unfamiliar with some members of City’s Academy, who will compete at the highest level next season as part of the Elite Player Performance Plan. So who is Harry Barker?
“I’m an attacking right-back,” he said. “But I can also play centre-back and left-back.
“I like to get forward but I know that defending is my main job. I’m also a very hard worker who likes to put in the extra hours on the training pitch.
“I played a lot at centre back last season, although I know my size may hold me back in some way in that position – I’m 5ft 11ins, and the guys in the first team are pretty huge. So I’m looking to play at right-back or full-back and use my pace. My left foot is getting much better too.
“I started with Norwich midway through the under-9s season, because I didn’t make it through the first cut. I went and watched an Academy game after I didn’t get through, so that gave me an idea of what it was all about, then I started playing well for my team, and joined midway through the season.”
It has been a whirlwind start to pre-season for many of the youngsters, but especially so for Barker and fellow scholar Josh Murphy, who both started on the bench for the first team away to MK Dons – the latter coming on for a ten minute cameo at the end.
“For me it all came through hard work, I wouldn’t have been given that chance if I wasn’t working hard,” added Barker.
“It was an amazing experience. I have learnt so much even though I didn’t get on the pitch.
“I was in all the team talks, and I was even there on the bench listening to the first team staff. The things that you hear from the first-team players and staff talking, you can take all that in.
“I also got to see how they prepare for the games, which is totally different to the youth team, so I’m going to try and get back into that changing room.
“It was nice to have Josh Murphy and Remi Matthews, who is from the year above, with me too, which was a comfort.
“We all sat together on the way there, but by the end of the journey we were sitting with the first team, who welcomed us in.
“Chris Hughton is really brilliant. I listened to the team talk and he was extremely clear, so if I had go on, I’d have known exactly what I would have to do.
“It was brilliant to see the Manager give the team talk and I felt a real part of it which was good.”
Last season was certainly a successful one for the local lad, and he impressed enough to be nominated by the Club to take part in a Coaching for Hope initiative during the summer – a Premier League venture which involved travelling to Cape Town in South Africa.
Barker added: “It was an educational trip which taught us all about the cultural issues in South Africa, but the main reason why we went there was to go to four townships to do coaching with young children through a charity called Coaching for Hope.
“I’m currently doing more stuff with them now, as the work I saw them do out there was unbelievable. It really does help the children and local coaches out there as well.
“They coach the local coaches, so that the local coaches can coach their own sessions. It was a really good opportunity.
If Barker were looking for a current right-back to model himself on as he develops, then he need look no further than current City star Russ Martin, someone who has already had a positive influence on the youngster.
“I think Russ shows just what you can be as a professional footballer,” said Barker.
“I try to spend as much time with him as I can, just asking questions or talking to him generally, because he is just a brilliant role model for me and all the other boys – even if you’re not a right back.
“The way that he trains, puts in the extra hours, and also the way he speaks to the youngsters mean you can really look up to him.
“For me this season my main aim is to stay in the U21s, and if I can stay with them, then anything above that will just happen as long as I keep working hard.
“I’m not going to hold back, I’m just going to keep doing what I did last year because I thought that worked for me.”
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Pick up the next edition of OTBC for more on the Norwich City Football Club Academy.