On his day Nathan Redmond looks like a world-beater. But are those days too infrequent? Zoë Morgan wonders how Norwich’s biggest asset can make the most of his huge potential
He looks like a superstar, doesn’t he? All hair and boots and quick feet and exhaustingly complicated twitter vocabulary. Nathan Redmond oozes star quality just from his incomprehensibly trendy beard - surely he must be The Next Big Thing.
Indeed, a quick glance at Redmond’s England U21 career (7 goals in 25 games, named in the Euro Under-21 Championship Team of the Tournament) and the only Norwich game in recent memory that anyone who’s not a Norwich fan will remember, the Play-off Final, would suggest that Redmond is well on his way to superstardom.
Except – bizarrely, for a man whose professional career began at the age of 16 and who was sold to Norwich for over £2m at 19 – Redmond’s Norwich career is developing at comparatively sedentary pace. He has yet to establish himself as a regular starter, scores only rarely (though this has improved since Alex Neil’s arrival), and drifts in and out of games so frequently his nickname might just be ‘Leroy’.
This is not to say that he is not improving. One of Neil Adams’ major achievements during his time as Norwich manager was to teach Redmond – a graduate of the Andros Townsend School of ‘Run Until You Feel Like Having a Shot’ – the value of beating players down the flanks and then putting in an effective cross. On his day he can be electrifying: Redmond is one of few players in the Norwich squad with pace and when he has the chance to zero in on less-mobile defences he looks dangerous and often brilliant.
But a man whose career trajectory had been moving upwards at such a pace would perhaps have expected more. Relegation to the Championship and the consequent appointment of attackophiles Adams and Neil should surely have seen his eyes light up. This was his opportunity to dominate opposition teams, bang in a shedload of goals and make the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham come sniffing around. However, after only four goals in the league he was hardly troubling the shortlist for the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy.
Unless he is quite mad, playing for Norwich for the next 10 years is unlikely to be the pinnacle of Redmond’s ambition. A successful U21 career will have made him desperate to be called up for the senior England side, and one can only imagine he’s chomping at the bit to be a regular for an established top-10 Premier League team. His attitude on social media suggests nothing other than a young player with plenty of desire and determination.
Ambition, promise and the use of the ‘flames’ emoji can only take you so far, though, and Redmond should be using this season as a platform for what is to come. He will not get a move to a big club without being Norwich’s best player, which he is not. Does he have the talent to be Norwich’s best player? Undoubtedly. Redmond needs to be regularly producing match-winning performances for Norwich and he needs to become difficult to drop.
Whatever your thoughts on the England selection policy, it’s reasonably understandable that a Norwich player is even more unlikely to get picked when he’s not even playing most weeks. Redmond needs to read the game better and understand that he will not always have the same job to do: when he’s failing to penetrate defences by running fast at them, he must think ‘what else can I do?’. An ability to adapt could well see him fulfilling his potential.
Redmond is still young and has time to mature, but in the same sense, Raheem Sterling is nine months younger than Redmond and he has already shone for Liverpool and secured a big-money move to Manchester City. Sterling isn’t yet a complete player, but he has matured enough to produce regularly impactful performances at the highest level.
Wes Hoolahan, 12 years older than Redmond, should also provide a useful blueprint for Redderz’ development. Wes has struggled throughout his career to prove himself indispensable – a tendency to give the ball away and a lack of goals has always plagued him. But the most successful Norwich teams of recent years have been built around Wes, after he repaid the managers who showed most faith in him by putting in lung-busting, ball-chasing shifts.
In recent years Hoolahan’s omission from the starting line-up has been met with gasps from fans. It is a worry that Redmond’s presence on the bench is often greeted with a shrug of indifference from many. When Wes decides it’s time to go, where will the creative sparkle, that point of difference come from? He must force us to inhale sharply and shout ‘WHAT? NO REDDERZ?’
It was Spider-Man, wasn’t it, or was it Voltaire, who said “with great power comes great responsibility”. Redmond’s power is his talent and he owes it to himself to do what he can to become undroppable for Norwich. Once he has achieved that, the opportunities should open up in front of him.
He’s a superstar-in-waiting, but despite the hair and the beard and the boots, he’s not quite there yet.
You can follow Zoë Morgan on Twitter at @zvfm2