Norris: It's Been a Long Road
Monday, 12th Aug 2019 18:50
Will Norris’s graduation to the Premier League, which rejoices in its tag as the best league in the world, from the relative obscurity of Royston Town’s reserves, is the stuff of dreams.
The rags-to-riches rise of the goalkeeper, on a season-long loan at Town from top-flight Wolves, says it all about his dedication and refusal to give up on his ambition to make it all the way to the top.
Norris recalled: “I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t always think I was going to make it. I grew up fairly average-sized and a pretty average goalkeeper, but I concentrated on my work and really knuckled down. It was when I was 17 or 18 that I really grew and filled out a bit.
“I’ve had some good opportunities from some good people along the way and when I’ve been given a chance I’ve taken it.
“It has been a long road – nearly eight years now – but I got my first pro deal and I haven’t lost my hunger to do well.
“I was just leaving school and I was 16 or 17. I had part-time jobs – I worked in a bar for a while – but I always prioritised football, whatever level I was at.
“I was working until late on the Friday night, playing for Royston on the Saturday and then went back to work again on the Sunday. I’ve paid my dues and it’s been a nice route for me.
“Playing in men’s football while I was still pretty young helped me. It taught me a lot about awareness and what they call game management. That was really important for me.
“The move to Cambridge United in 2012 was massive and I owe a lot to the staff there. They gave me the opportunity to move from part-time football and be a full-time professional.
“As a kid you always dream about that chance coming along and I owe my career to the people who decided to bring me in and work with me at Cambridge. I went out of my way to try to prove to them that they were right.”
Norris smiled as he cast his mind back to progressing from the Royston second string to claim a first team place at a club then in the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division.
On the subject of barracking from the crowd, he continued: “It was worse back then in my part-time days. You might have only had five people behind the goal giving you a hard time but you could hear what they were actually saying.
“It’s not like that when there’s a real crowd. But it was all good fun and good experience for me.
“It definitely thickened my skin a little bit and I think that’s the key to anyone being successful, the fact that you have your own views and listen to the people who actually matter.”
Norris vowed never to give up in his quest to reach the top, knowing his route would be far removed from that of boys, often as young as six, enticed into an academy set-up.
“I think it works both ways because for people in the pro game it’s easy to drop out and never experience anything like it ever again,” he said.
“I went the other way and I saw people not taking their apprenticeships too seriously at a stage when I would have done anything to be in the position they were in.
“I put in the hard work and always felt that I wanted to repay the people who had given me opportunities.”
Norris will make his debut in the Carabao Cup first round tie at Luton tomorrow and accepts – at least for the time – that first team opportunities could be limited.
Even if he helps Town to progress at Kenilworth Road, the chances are he will back on the bench when they visit Peterborough for a League One fixture on Saturday.
He added: “I think it is difficult when you’re brought in for one game only but that’s the nature of things as a goalkeeper.
“I just want to put in a good performance, help us to get through to the next round and take it from there.
“I can’t expect to have 20 minutes here or there, as an outfield player might; it’s either 90 minutes or you’re not playing at all. It goes with the job.
“But I like going under the radar – a solid and sure performance with a clean sheet will do me.
“You can also impress in training, of course, and every time you go out on the training ground that should be your aim. You need to try to be at your best.
“I don’t think one game a month [in the cup competitions] is enough to cement your place in the team but the gaffer has been very open and honest with me. I’ve spoken to him about my situation, I’m happy with what he has had to say and he’s happy with me. It is what it is at the moment.”
Norris is enjoying his time with Town and working with goalkeeping coach Jimmy Walker. “He’s brilliant, a real character, and it’s good to have a fresh pair of eyes on my goalkeeping,” he said.
“There’s a nice, tight-knit goalkeepers’ union at the club. It’s a strong department and I definitely believe I can improve over the next nine months or so.
“If I can take the best bits, the bits that work for me, from all the coaches I’ve worked with it will be the key to me kicking on. Jimmy can definitely add to that.
“We need to breed a winning mentality at this football club. That means winning as many as possible and it doesn’t matter if they’re in the league or a cup competition.
“To achieve what we want to achieve this season we need that winning mentality resonating through all the competitions we play in and even in training.
“After the draw on Saturday against Sunderland the lads were down and it felt more like a defeat. That shows where we are.
“It was down to a mistake and we definitely don’t want to be making mistakes like that again. If we iron them out it has been an assured start to the new season and we’ll go on to be there or thereabouts come the end of it.”
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