The inside story of Jon Rowe's rise to Norwich City's first-team

Connor Southwell

Connor Southwell | 30 Dec 2021, 06:00

There was one small positive to emerge from Norwich City’s 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace; a debut for young attacker Jonathan Rowe.

Rowe has been an impressive figure in City’s free-scoring under-23 side throughout this campaign, striking up a partnership with Abu Kamara and Tom Dickson-Peters.

But his journey to the Norwich first-team has been six years in the making and began with a trial back in 2014. 

Rowe is one of six current professionals that were signed by the Canaries as part of their London Talent ID programme. The idea was to source the best talent in the capital and bring it to the club, including introducing a regional academy that utilised some of the best coaches and experts in that area.

It was a programme born from an idea by former academy manager Gregg Broughton, who has helped recruit a number of stars including Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey. 

Speaking about the programme in an interview with the Pink Un back in 2020, Broughton said: 

“But if I also look at Norwich’s Under-18s’ first line up of this new season I could see the same process – some who have been there from the start, some who have come in around the age of 13 and then five or six from the London area.

“We were very keen to set up that recruitment as part of our overall strategy.

“They were 11 and 12 when we targeted London and now hopefully they might push towards the first team. The same at Luton.”

Rowe is one of five players who have benefitted from that programme. City still have Jaden Warner, Tyrese Omotoye, Tony Springett and Abu Kamara on their books. 

The other professional to emerge from the scheme was Bayern Munich defender Bright Arrey-Mbi. The 18-year-old made his senior debut for the German club in the Champions League against Atletico Madrid in 2020 and was briefly on the books at Norwich. 

It was a programme designed to benefit the club in the long term in 2014, and is beginning to do so.

The management of that scheme was done predominantly by Jay Marshall, who remains an academy recruitment officer at the club, former Leyton Orient head coach Ross Embleton and Ryan Gordon. 

Behind it was plenty of scouts and local coaches who understood the region and knew how to develop talent, that is something that Rowe is the latest beneficiary of in terms of leading to a professional contract. 

The winger is on course to sign a fresh professional deal with the club in due course and is highly thought of by Dean Smith and Craig Shakespeare, with the duo having been impressed by his performances for the youth side.

Rowe joined City as an under-11 and was a striker when he signed for the club initially. 

He had a scout at his school who was impressed with his performances during primary school matches and referred him to AFC Wembley. After one season, that same scout offered him a trial at City’s academy. 

That was an offer Rowe accepted in the hope of getting to play football more regularly. He signed his contract and has remained at the club ever since. 

His position has changed since he arrived in the club’s academy, from a goal-getter, Rowe has now become a winger who plays just off the left side and is also capable of occupying a more central attacking midfield position. 

In an interview with the club earlier this year, Rowe describes himself as a ‘flair player’ who admires watching those capable of expressing themselves on the pitch.

“I’m a fan of people who play with a lot of freedom (and) those who know how to express themselves,” he told the club’s YouTube channel in March.

“I’m a flairy type of player and I’m really out there. When I play, you will know that I’m on the pitch. I’m not a simple player, I like to take risks for the team and create something from nothing.”

Rowe started the year playing for the club’s under-18 side, he ends it having made his senior debut in the Premier League against Crystal Palace and excelling in the under-23 side.

There is plenty of work to do for the 18-year-old, but it’s an exciting start to life at Norwich City. Saturday’s game against Leicester may prove another opportunity for him to showcase his ability.