City's Academy Manager brings you the latest on youth developmentMONDAY saw Harry Toffolo’s youth loan move to Swindon Town for a month finalised.
I think Harry is a great example of somebody who had enormous success in the youth team, came into the building as a first-year professional last season and maybe found that adjustment hard initially.
He’s been fantastic so far this year, though, and that’s been recognised by the first team in terms of being in and around their squad for the Capital One Cup games, and I’m not at all surprised that a host of clubs were there to watch him last Tuesday night against Tottenham.
This opportunity gives him the chance to show that at League One level, just one league below where our first team are, and hopefully he’s able to grab that opportunity with both hands.
Harry was one of a number of players who excelled in last week’s televised Under-21s game at Carrow Road, which was a huge success in every regard for Norwich City.
The one thing you know with the supporters here is that if you give them an opportunity to come and get behind the Club in any shape of form, they will do that.
We wanted to test the water for an Under-21s game and it was a record crowd with a great atmosphere. People watching on television would have been enthralled; not just because of the high quality of the game, but because there was a genuine edge to it which is sometimes lacking at Under-21s level.
There were so many pleasing things. As Academy Manager, when I look at the overall picture of what we’re trying to do here, the biggest thing for me was to see Benny Ashley-Seal as a 15-year-old come off the bench and play for the second time for the Under-21s.
If you’re a parent of a ten-year-old, you realise that’s not a million miles away from where your son is and that was one of the most satisfying aspects of it.
The Under-21s will also be competing in a brand new Premier League International Cup.
It will be a very competitive environment, matching the Champions League format. We have a very tough draw, but with only the top teams from Europe in it, you would expect that.
We have the chance to play Chelsea, who are a team this age group has a long-standing rivalry with, and there’s also the chance to have two very different football matches when we take on FC Porto and Borussia Monchengladbach.
Finally I’d like to talk about recruitment into the Academy, which is a subject very close to my heart as that was my previous role at the Club.
We’re now at the final stage of interviews with the candidates to replace me and we had over 100 people apply for it. We interviewed six candidates last week and we’re now down to the final two for us to make a decision.
We have two full time recruitment staff – Scott Smith manages all of the recruitment in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and focusses on bringing young players into the Academy, and then there’s Jay Marshall who manages that regionally. They have just been joined by Joe Monks, who is Recruitment Officer for London.
There’s also Colin Watts, who has been here for 24 years and has done a sterling job and is still a vital cog in that recruitment process. Some of the impact they are all having in terms of bringing players into the Academy is very noticeable and helps us enormously in making sure the very best football talent can be nurtured here at Norwich City.