In the final installment of our series on the City and Telstar relationship, Connor Southwell talks to City Loan Manager Neil Adams about why Dutch football is the perfect destination for young players.
There is a lot to admire about Dutch football for Norwich City.
As credit manager and city legend Neil Adams explains, behind their approach lies a clear strategy of sending their young assets to the Netherlands for development.
Rather than subjecting them to the rigors of the lower levels in England, the Eerste Divisie has become a hotbed for the Canarian loaner stars.
Although the Telstar relationship is currently known with Dan Adshead and Sebastian Soto on loan at Rabobank IJmond Stadium, Adams would like to stress that City has no contractual obligations with Andries Jonkers Club.
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“A lot of people have asked themselves the same question – why the Dutch second division team? I think we now have seven loans to the Dutch second division club. The main reason is when you look at Dutch football – and I’ve seen all the teams in Holland now, I know the styles and how they play – it’s very similar to how Daniel would like the players to play here.
“We still have very good connections with Dordrecht. They changed some of the senior executives, but we still have a good relationship. It’s not just Telstar – there are no contractual agreements between the clubs and some people have asked me if that is a condition and we have to have a player or two per season, but we firmly believed that would not happen.
“When we commit ourselves financially to one club, we exclude all other clubs that might be a good option for us. We made it clear from the start that this would be a connection and that it could be as strong a connection as possible – but it wouldn’t be more than that. “
Todd Cantwell’s success at Fortuna Sittard, and subsequent advancement up Carrow Road, has reaffirmed a belief that this is a path that can bear fruit for those operators who are less physically able and need to improve their technical skills.
City’s relationship with Telstar began when Jonker, former Arsenal Academy Director, called Adams to inquire about Charlie Gilmour’s availability. The Scot made an impression for Telstar, which led to the birth of a thriving relationship.
“I don’t think you can get enough information by looking at such possible steps. Since Andries is at the Arsenal Academy, you know he thinks football-wise, his ideas, his preferred game system and how he works.
“Provided he hasn’t gone to Telstar and becomes a long ball team, then you know it’s right. He worked in Barcelona and with Louis van Gaal. He knew Charlie from Arsenal and he trained him before, so it was pretty easy.
“It paved the way for Sebastian and Dan – this is how relationships develop, but you need to leave no stone unturned and do your due diligence as these are your assets and players that could turn into a Ben Godfrey, James Maddison and worth millions. The more information we get, the better, we don’t want to just send a player somewhere and keep our fingers crossed. “
Despite comparisons with Cantwell, Adshead was exposed to League One football with Rochdale. As a teenager, he played 11 first-team spots on Spotland, so why didn’t Norwich and Adams think it best to put him back in this setting?
“Alone because we look at the level and try to understand what they need. Dan played for Rochdale when he was 15, 16, so he had that experience. Dan is a pretty tough cookie, when he went there it was like water off a duck’s back. No problem.
“When we knew that Dan should be loaned out because we no longer wanted him to play U23 football, I immediately recommended the Eerste Divisie. If you compare it to English football, I would put it on League One. Telstar and Fortuna did quite well in League One.
“Every player is different. Once you’ve played in league football, you’ll get an understanding of what you need mentally and physically. He played in the premier league with Dan at such a young age and may not understand the complexities of the game, but he knows what’s going on on Saturday afternoon at three o’clock and how reckless it can be.
“That’s gold dust at this age, because you learn so much so quickly. That helped Dan get to Norwich, settle in so quickly, play for 23 and then get to a very good level in overseas football. I think there will be no end for him. “
After each game, each loan player must call Adams to analyze and rate his performance. During one of those phone calls, he shocked Cantwell by saying he saw a marked improvement in his maturity.
City hopes that through regular football in a tech-savvy league, Soto can claim a spot on Daniel Farke’s first team.
“Kieran (Scott) and his scouts saw Soto and got in early and got in first to get these players. I had never seen him play before he signed, and then look here. We were lucky to get him, there were a number of clubs that wanted to sign him.
“We’ll immediately think about where we could go. Then it was pretty universal that we should go this proven path. After we reported him to Telstar, we then had many hours of frustration with the legality of the numerous football leagues and lawyers because there were different conditions for non-EU players abroad, we finally made it.
“Sebastian kicked his heels a bit because he couldn’t train or play in the division. We were happy when he came on, but then we thought: “Now he needs a start”. He scored two goals in 20 minutes, which is great. Then it’s time to put him on a few games and then see if we can bring him back to our team or to a bigger club with the greatest respect for Telstar.
“When we recommend players who did so well in the Dutch second division, Daniel takes it up and looks at it. Soto knows he doesn’t necessarily have to go anywhere else – if he’s okay, Daniel is happy to give him a chance. So it’s up to him. If he scores a lot of goals there, he knocks on the door. “
City is now at a stage where they have constructive relationships with three Eerste Divisie teams in Fortuna, Dordrecht and Telstar. With Adams they have someone who knows how to promote young players from his time as U18 coach in the club.
The credit system is an incredibly important arm in their development process – led by Adams, they believe it has immense value.
To date, seven players have been loaned to Holland – a number that, given the strength of these ties, could increase in years to come.