OVER £100million worth of talent has passed through Norwich’s increasingly successful loan system – including Leicester’s James Maddison and Ben Godfrey of Everton.
So it is no surprise that clubs like the Canaries, who allow a large number of younger players go elsewhere for first-team action, employ a loan player manager.
It is a relatively new phenomenon in English football – but absolutely crucial.
Last season, Norwich had 19 players on loan and the man in charge of the system is former first-team boss Neil Adams, who took charge of the club both in the Premier League and the Championship.
Midfielder Maddison, defender Ben Godfrey and twins Josh and Jacob Murphy all made their mark at Carrow Road before being sold for big money.
Along with current first-team midfielder and England under-21s international Todd Cantwell, they all had successful loan moves under the watchful eye of Adams.
Norwich, who are embroiled in a relegation battle this campaign, appointed Adams in 2015, seven months after he stepped down as first team manager when the club were seventh in the Championship.
Adams, 56, today gives a fascinating insight to the job which includes loan clauses with clubs – and strict orders for the players.
A former winger with Norwich, Oldham and Everton, Adams currently has players out on loan at clubs from Mechelen and Waasland-Beveren in Belgium, to Telstar in Holland, Queen of the South, Charlton, Blackburn and King’s Lynn.
He said: “The club decided that if you send players out on loan – particularly those that you want to develop and players you want to give experience to – you had to do it in a detailed and thorough way.
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More clubs are using loan managers. We are looking to develop our players and increase their value. We don’t hide away from that.
“We are sending out elite category 1 players. Some need developing at a club. We have to do it properly, it has to be researched and planned and most importantly of all, thoroughly monitored.
“You need success stories like Jacob Murphy, Josh Murphy, James Maddison and Ben Godfrey to back it up. If you had gone on loan six years or ago, it might have meant you were finished at the club. Now, when we tell a young player they are ready for a loan it is a pat on the back.
“More and more clubs are using loan managers. We are looking to develop our players and increase their value. We don’t hide away from that.
“In normal circumstances, I watch about 12 games a month. Until March 2020, I would spend a lot of time going to Holland and Belgium.
“Also, we will watch the players’ games on either live links or the videos sent to us from the club. It is a condition of our loan contract that a club must send us footage of every game our player plays within two days.
“I also insist players call me within a couple of hours after every game. It is a five minute catch-up.
“I ask: ‘How did the game go? How did you feel you played? Did the manager or coach say anything? Are you fit?’ Then I will watch the game.
“If they have lost 5-0, I appreciate they will probably not want to talk to me on the team coach so they sent me a text and we catch up the next morning. We also have January release clauses in case it is not working out.”
Norwich’s loan success stories include Maddison who was signed from Coventry for £2m and loaned back to the club in 2016 before being sent up to Aberdeen for five months. He was sold to Leicester for £22m.
Norwich signed Ben Godfrey from York for an initial £100,000 and was sent to Shrewsbury on loan. The defender has done well since moving to Everton for £25m.
The Murphy twins had numerous loan spells before becoming regulars in the Norwich first-team. Jacob was sold to Newcastle for £12m and brother Josh earned a Premier League move to Cardiff in a £11m transfer.
Adams, who led Norwich to a shock win over Chelsea in the 2013 FA Youth Cup final, added: “The proof is in the pudding. Todd is a class example.
“I am sure he won’t mind me sharing this information but Todd had never sort of left Norfolk and had been at the academy since he was eight. He was obviously an excellent player but needed toughening up a bit and needed senior football.
“Had he gone to League One or League two in England he might have got beaten up and we may have lost the fantastic ability he has got so we loaned him to Fortuna Sittard in the Dutch second division.
“Todd was able to develop his talent, got out of his Norfolk comfort zone and he ended up helping get the club promoted. Now, he is a regular for our first-team.”
Canaries boss Dean Smith and sporting director Stuart Webber decide which players are sent on loan.
Adams added: “We are recognised around the country as doing this quite well. The proof is when you have clubs asking to come to Colney to see how we do it. We are happy to welcome them.”
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