Faces may have changed but philosophy remains the sameIn the latest edition of his monthly blog, Senior Club Journalist Ben Mouncer introduces the changes at the helm of Norwich City's Academy.
It has started. The football season is here.
Yet following on from Sunday, many more column inches will help form the epic that will outline Norwich City’s 2014-15 adventure between now and next May, so I’m going to change tack.
This weekend sees the hard work of a lot of good people at the Club’s Academy put into action as the competitive seasons for City’s Under-21s and Under-18s sides get underway.
A raft of new faces at senior level has given Norwich City’s youth set-up a different look compared to recent years, and while the fresh perspective could bring fresh success, they have a tough act to follow.
One of new Academy Manager Gregg Broughton’s first admissions was that he certainly wasn’t ready to inflict a root-and-branch overhaul of the set-up that has reaped plenty of fruit in recent times.
Cream always rises to the top, however, and given the fact that Neil Adams, Gary Holt, Ricky Martin and Mark Robson – all now operating in different roles, of course - each occupied key positions in that set-up, recruitment became a necessity.
Pitchside, Thetford-born Dale Brooks returns from a 14-month stint as Holt’s deputy at Falkirk to succeed Robson as Senior Professional Development Coach, or manager of the Under-21s to you and me. He was, previous to his move to Scotland, the Academy’s Head of Coaching at Colney and comes with a strong pedigree and invaluable knowledge of the inner workings of the Club.
He will need to call on all of that to steer the Development Squad through the challenges facing them in the Barclays Under-21s Premier League – a cluster of sides from Category One Academies brimming with some of the best young footballing talent in Europe.
If City’s recent record of climbing hurdles at this level is anything to go by, though, then expect them to fight the odds with valour when they take on Manchester United in their opening game this Friday. Individual development is the most essential by-product of these matches and subsequent fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester City will certainly push them firmly up that pathway.
Brooks’ group will often be complemented by a selection of scholars from the Under-18s, where Jerry Gill has stepped into Adams’ shoes and will more often than not be assisted by another familiar face returning to the fold in Dmitri Halajko, who was persuaded to rejoin from the FA.
Add to that the news that ex-Reading full-back Graeme Murty opted to leave Southampton to work alongside Darren Huckerby with the Club’s Under-16s and that Andy Mulliner upped sticks from Birmingham City to join as goalkeeper coach, and you begin to realise that the Academy’s reputation is built on more foundations than just the headline-grabbing FA Youth Cup triumph of 2013.
Then there are the young players fortunate enough to pull on the Canaries’ shirt, but I’ll let their football over the next 12 months do the talking.
One thing’s for sure: a future in yellow looks bright in every way.
For the full fixture programme for Norwich City's Under-21s, click HERE.
For the full fixture programme for Norwich City's Under-18s, click HERE.