How loans have helped Norwich to the top
Written by Connor Southwell — March 15, 2019
FORMER Norwich City manager Neil Adams now oversees loans at the club.
Whereas a loan may once have been seen as a way out for unwanted players, it is now a route to first-team football at the club. This has been proven by Academy product Todd Cantwell, who went on loan to Fortuna Sittard in Holland last season, helped them gain promotion to the Eredivisie and then returned to become an important member of Daniel Farke’s high-flying Canaries squad.
Loans manager is an increasingly important role in modern football and Adams told My Football Writer about what he does and how he does it.
WHAT DOES A LOANS MANAGER DO?
Neil Adams: I completely oversee the loans program that was introduced four years ago. I devised it, shaped it, created it and have hopefully improved on it year on year. In a nutshell, [Sporting Director] Stuart [Webber] will give me players we want to get out on loan.
Make no bones about it, the priority number one of our loan system is to get players into our first team. Number two is to make money on them, to increase their value if they’re not going to be for us. Three is to get them a career if they’re not going to be with us.
It’s about making sure that the pathway for each player is individual. What’s right for a Todd Cantwell, going to Holland, might not be right for Ted Bloggs, who needs League Two football, where he might need bullying and beating up a little bit if that’s beneficial for him.
No two players are the same and we’ve got to make sure that we get it right for each player, otherwise we could lose one.
I then place the players at clubs and negotiate the contracts and finances with the other clubs. Once that’s done, it’s about monitoring the, as closely as we possibly can. This is where we are right on top of it and clubs around the country have identified how detailed we are in doing this.
This might sound crazy, but we make sure that any player who goes out on loan is monitored just as much, if not more, than when they’re at the club. We’re taking the medical information and sports science data, watching players train and play, and regularly speaking to both the players and managers.
Previously, players might have gone out on loan thinking, ‘that’s the end of me’ or ‘that’s me out the door’. It’s completely flipped now because of the success stories we’ve had with the likes of Jacob and Josh Murphy, James Maddison, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell.
Players who have been out on loan have come back and are now in our first team. Players now see a loan as a great opportunity to get in Daniel’s team.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CLUB
Todd Cantwell is a classic example and a good case study. He was seeing some of his team-mates go out on loan and wondering why he wasn’t being given a chance. Again, that’s where it was my job to get the right club for him.
The reason we didn’t loan Todd out at the same time as some of his team-mates was because we didn’t feel there was the right club that wanted to take him. Eighteen months ago, Todd was a different size and shape to what he is now.
He’s more muscle-bound, taller, stronger, whereas 18 months ago he wasn’t as strong and aggressive and didn’t have the defensive elements of his game that he has now.
If I’d loaned him out to a League Two club, where the ball would have been flying over his head most of the game and he was put on his backside time after time, then he might not have learnt what we wanted him to.
We were holding back on clubs that were enquiring about him because we didn’t feel it was the right suit.
We had experience of watching Dutch second division football and felt [Fortuna Sittard] was perfect for him. With second division football in Holland, all the teams try and play out from the back.
We could protect him a little bit from direct football where people are jumping on him, smashing him with their elbows. It’s more technical and we thought he’d see more of the ball there whilst also being exposed to senior football.
It was a bit of a gamble because we’d not put anyone in the Dutch second division before, but he went to Sittard and they flew. So did he.
I saw a massive change in him after about five games. He was so much more mature, he was learning about the game and becoming more responsible. He wasn’t doing that in the Under 23s.
When he came back, I was able to say to Daniel and Stuart, ‘you might want to take a look at him now’.
IMPORTANCE OF SENIOR FOOTBALL
Stuart and Daniel are big believers in young players experiencing senior football. I also believe that the sooner you can get players experiencing senior football, the better it is for their development.
Senior football brings them on quicker than U23 football, where results don’t really matter and most teams play the same way. Even in the National League, there are jobs, points and mortgages on the line. It’s real football.
We’ve seen some of our younger players go out and wow, after one game their eyes are open and they’re thinking, ‘this is what’s it’s all about’. For us, that’s priceless.
Todd had been at the club since he was eight and had never know anything different. Norwich have a nice training ground, the people are nice, and he’d never really had to look after himself. So we had to think how we could toughen him up a little bit.
We had to take him out of his comfort zone, which meant going outside Norfolk, not to a Cambridge or a Colchester, but to Holland, where he had to fend for himself a bit.
We were monitoring him, but he had to go and make friends with new team-mates and find someone to ask if his electric was switched off at home or something like that.
And it was fantastic. He did more than we expected and came back and is contributing to the season we’re having. You realise that happened as a result of his loan spell in Sittard.
PATHWAY TO THE FIRST TEAM
At Chelsea, they would openly admit that their loan system is to make money. They will say players go out to get careers - but it’s probably not a career at Chelsea.
Very few who go out come back and play regular football with Chelsea. They’ve proved that they can make millions from it and again though.
That’s their primary aim, but it’s not ours. Our players go out with the primary intention of making Daniel’s squad better, or increasing their value if need be. We don’t bulk buy players with the purpose of getting them out on loan to sell them.
That’s not how we work, it would be pointless having our Academy in that case. We’re big believers in players coming through for us and if they’re they are good enough, they have a pathway.
Chelsea do it their way, Manchester City do it their way; we do it our way. I’m not saying there is a right or wrong way but this club is a big believer in making decisions individual for each player. Chelsea probably do it as a block.