It is well documented how poor Norwich have been at the back in the Premier League this season; conceding the joint-most goals in the league this season so far (53).
The talk about bringing young players through the ranks has also been a heated debate this season, with the likes of Dele Alli and Marcus Rashford making first-team strides in the top-flight at such young ages.
If you combine these two points you could come to the conclusion that Norwich should look into their academy set-up in order to solve their defensive woes and try to find the next big star.
I was watching the under-21 squad face Manchester City on last night and there was one player in particular who impressed me for Norwich; Joe Crowe. The towering central defender was easily Norwich’s man of the match during the game.
Despite losing the game 2-1, Crowe was superb all night for the Canaries and limited the Sky Blues to a very limited amount of chances in front of goal.
Crowe won virtually every header up against David Faupala. His stature and strength, even at 17-years-old, helped him to rise above the forward and head the ball away from danger on several occasions.
The Northern Irish youth international also won everything on the floor. He made plenty of fine tackles and brave blocks, something I haven’t seen many Norwich defenders do this season, bar Ryan Bennett, who Alex Neil seems to dislike, and Timm Klose, who is looking to be a fantastic signing.
To top it off, Crowe was composed on the ball. He didn’t just hoof the ball forward every single time like you see a lot of young defenders do. Instead, he played it safe when needed, he played out from the back when needed to to try and drive the team up the pitch and he also cleared the ball out of play or up the field when needed.
The likes of Russell Martin and Sebastien Bassong in central defence have been blasted time and again this season for failing to defend even the most basic of defensive situations.
Bringing in a young player to make the difference is always risky though. The inexperience at the top-level can cost you a lot of points, as the board are learning with Alex Neil’s inexperience costing Norwich a lot of points. However, it could also be a breath of fresh air and revitalise what is a fatigued Norwich team, mentally and physically.
We all know something like this simply won’t happen under Alex Neil. He has shown time and again that he has no faith in young players and likes to rely on the older players in the squad, no matter how many times they let him down. Players such as Nathan Redmond, Josh Murphy, Harry Toffolo and Patrick Bamford are all promising young players that Alex Neil has failed to put any faith in since he took over. Redmond is starting to earn his faith but it has taken Neil seven months to notice he’s a quality player.
If Crowe was put into the team, maybe a few games on the bench and a few substitute appearances to bed him in, he could become a star. Worst case scenario is that he makes a mistake and we lose, but how is that any different to what our current defenders are doing? It isn’t.
You can’t really criticise Alex Neil for not giving young players a chance, but you certainly see the allure of doing so. If we go down to the Championship, which looks likely with the way we are going then I would love to see a few more youngsters, such as Crowe, to be bedded into the first-team.
Could Crowe be the next big thing to come out of Northern Ireland since Kyle Lafferty? Or will he actually make an impact in the first-team?