Todd Cantwell: How Norwich star took confidence from getting kicked and going Dutch


Cantwell has been almost ever-present for Norwich this season
Norwich City v Manchester United – FA Cup quarter-final
Kick-off: 17:30 BST, Saturday 27 June Venue: Carrow Road
Coverage: Live on BBC One from 17:10 BST and highlights on BBC One from 23:00 BST on Sunday, 28 June. Live text coverage on the BBC Sport website and commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live from 17:30 BST.

When Todd Cantwell stepped up to take a penalty in the FA Cup last-16 tie at Tottenham, he wasn’t going to miss.

With the pressure of a packed crowd at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium watching on, Cantwell nonchalantly approached the penalty spot by doing kick-ups, plonked the ball down and smashed it into the top corner.

It helped Norwich on their way to the quarter-finals of the competition, setting up a meeting with 12-time winners Manchester United at Carrow Road, which is live on BBC One on Saturday (kick-off 17:30 BST).

Cantwell, 22, has stood out with impressive performances for the Canaries this season but his confident demeanour took some time to develop.

In fact, he grew up quite a shy lad, so how did his coaches help to turn his approach around?

“What we did in training was to get players to kick him on purpose all the time,” Norwich hall of famer and academy coach Darren Huckerby tells BBC Sport.

“I think over the two or three-year period in the academy, he grew and changed his whole mentality. He was a flair player, he had to realise that if he was going to play in this position then people were going to kick him.

“He stood up to the fight and his progression over the past five or six years has been superb. When he was younger he tended not to take a kick too well but he has come on leaps and bounds and is a man now.”

A rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

That education in the Norwich youth team stood him in good stead for a loan move away and when Dutch side Fortuna Sittard were promoted back to the Eredivisie in 2017-18, few Norwich fans could have foreseen Cantwell leading the celebrations that took place afterwards.

The midfielder had been given his first-team debut for the Canaries that season but he spent the second half of the campaign on loan in the Netherlands.

Despite being in unfamiliar surroundings, alone in a foreign country without any family or friends around him, Cantwell made an unforgettable impact both on and off the pitch.

In his 10 appearances, he scored twice and it was his assist that led to the winning goal that confirmed Fortuna’s return to the top flight for the first time in 16 years

Cantwell celebrated Fortuna Sittard’s promotion on crutches after suffering an injury

In the joyous scenes that followed in the city’s square, Cantwell – hobbling on crutches after being injured in the last game – grabbed the microphone off a team-mate on stage and led a rendition of the club’s anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in front of thousands of fans.

“That move was massive for Todd,” former Norwich midfielder and academy coach Adrian Forbes tells BBC Sport. “He didn’t just go to another club where he did not know the players, but took the chance to go abroad and play. You don’t get any more out of your comfort zone than that.

“What was key for him in his development was the injury that he suffered. He came back after his loan period and to go through rehabilitation, missing training and games, is all part of his journey.”

Cantwell was a regular in the Championship title triumph last season and has become a fixture in Daniel Farke’s side this campaign, missing just one Premier League game for a side described as