Gregg Broughton reviews the 2014-15 seasonA DATE has been agreed with Chelsea for our final Under-21s game of the season, with that match now set to take place at Carrow Road at midday on Wednesday May 20.
It’s a chance for our youngsters to finish as high up the league as possible and qualify for European competition (we need a top eight finish) against our old friends and rivals from the last few years.
A lot of the same boys who played in the FA Youth Cup Final against Chelsea two years ago will be coming up against each other that day.
Our visitors could be involved with the title, but they’ve got a couple of games before that - it will be between them, Manchester City and Manchester United who wins the league.
That is a good replication of what happens with their first teams, so for Norwich to be in that mix and to be able to effect that is fantastic and great credit to the players and staff who have been involved.
Paul Wilkinson has managed to settle a group of highly-talented players who have had great success over the last two years.
It’s a difficult job because at the beginning of the season, for example, he had boys coming back from loans who he had to get focussed and playing again.
The players have continued to bond very well as a group, and they’ve also been able to support the introduction of younger players into the squad.
The primary concern for us is always individual development. If you look at that team, we don’t have our best team out every week but that’s for the right reasons, for example players might be involved with the first team.
Each individual’s development has been very good. We’ve had a higher number of first-team appearances than in previous seasons, albeit in a lower league, and we’ve certainly had a higher number of appearances out on loan across the Football League.
To achieve our number one aim, which is to get players in the first team at Norwich or out loan, and also reach the level they have in the league, is a big success.
It’s been a mixed season for our Under-18s squad.
It’s been terrific in the sense that every second-year scholar and the majority of the first-years have experienced Under-21s football, and that’s a massive positive.
Every Under-16 and three Under-15s have made their Under-18s debut too, and have played consistently since Christmas.
Have the results been as positive as we would have liked? No, but is that the primary concern? No. We will always sacrifice results at Under-18s level for individual development.
As I said in my last blog, we have offered professional contracts to three of our Under-18s: Ray Grant, Michee Efete and Jamie Eaton-Collins.
To be honest, I would have liked to have had one more because four is the minimum target we set ourselves internally and I’m a little bit disappointed we haven’t reached that, though of course I’m delighted for those three boys who now have that opportunity.
Jerry Gill’s had a tough season because of a lot of his second years have been taken away, but since Christmas the younger players have really bonded and developed well, and the results and performances in the second half of the season have been very positive.
To the Norwich City fans, thanks for your fantastic support once again for the Academy this season, it’s been a positive year for youth development and long may it continue.