James Maddison is a name that most scouts have been aware of for a number of years now, but his meteoric rise at Norwich City this season has come as at least a partial surprise to the average football spectator and analyst alike.
This season, the 21-year-old has been outstanding, racking up 35 Championship appearances from which he has returned 12 goals and 6 assists from midfield.
In truth, Norwich head coach Daniel Farke owes a lot to Maddison this year. Without him, what has already been a distinctly average season for the Canaries probably would have turned out to be a significantly disappointing one.
His goal and assists statistics are clearly impressive, but he offers so much more to the side than that. His ability to run with the ball, most importantly directly towards the opposition goal is invaluable to Norwich City. Furthermore, this is a skill that is difficult and expensive to find at Championship level, and when you pair this with his ability to pass and bring his team-mates into the game, you begin to fully realise just how much of an asset he is to the club and its fans.
It is a widely recognised fact that having goal-scorers in your side is of vital importance. Much focus is rightly given to strikers in this regard, and every year at least half of the Championship dedicate a significant proportion of their funds in terms of scouting, transfer fees and wages to recruit that 20-goal-a-season centre-forward.
Maddison burst onto the scene at Coventry City before joining the Canaries in February, 2016 (© coventrytelegraph.net)
That being said, Maddison has proved the value of goals from midfield. Having a top striker is undoubtedly important, particularly for teams looking for promotion. However, having quality in midfield is so useful in terms of their contribution to both goals and assists, particularly as it can take some the pressure off the strikers to find the back of the net.
This is something that is certainly applicable to Norwich this season, with £5.85-million-man Nelson Oliveira struggling to settle, scoring only 8 league goals. In fact, Norwich’s current set of forwards only have 13 goals between them, so in this regard Maddison really has been the club’s most potent attacking threat.
The really refreshing aspect of Maddison’s rise has come in his willingness to continue his development in the Football League. The attacking midfielder started his career in hometown Coventry, where he made 24 appearances before being snapped up by Norwich in 2016 amidst a wave of Championship interest.
After a flying start to the 2017/18 season a whole host of Premier League clubs, including West Ham, Liverpool and Spurs, were credited with an interest in Maddison in the January 2018 window.
Maddison was linked with a host of Premier League sides in the January window (© si.com)
If Maddison really wanted to leave, it is most likely that he would have been able to force a move to the top flight. However, he showed no real desire to move on too quickly. This feels like a shrewd decision from the player and his agent, as it is likely that a move in this window would have limited him to mostly substitute and under-23 appearances for at least the rest of this season, something that certainly would have had a detrimental impact on his footballing development.
Instead, Maddison has stuck with Norwich, where his stock has continued to rise, and this should set an example to other young players who often look to take the big-money Premier League moves prematurely.
Unfortunately for the Canaries, it is unlikely that he we still be a Norwich City player when the season kicks off in August. There will undoubtedly be a queue of clubs in for him in the Summer who will be willing to pay the premium that the club will demand based on his age and his potential. Furthermore, his current form suggests that he now may in fact be ready to take the step up to face the challenges of top flight football.
This will be frustrating for many Norwich fans who may see him as the man to lead their promotion push next season, but few would ultimately stand in his way as he looks to achieve his potential at the top of the professional game. He now needs to find that all important consistency. If he can do that, then there is no reason to suggest that Maddison can’t go all the way to the top in his club and maybe even international career.
By George Roberts