During the latest bout of international games, Sky Sports News took time to focus on a player from Northern Ireland’s u21 team. The following day with the channel’s praise still ringing in his ears, Ollie Norwood produced a moment of magic against Czech Republic. Already threatening with an earlier effort Norwood whipped a spectacular free kick past the Czech keeper as Northern Ireland, 2-0 down, attempted to mount a comeback in the u21 European Championship qualifier.
Despite losing the game 2-1, Norwood’s free kick stole the headlines and the following Sunday, the News of The World ran a piece on the 18 year old as Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington, hailed him as a genius.
“He is going to be a very good player,” predicts Worthington. “What he can do with the ball from free-kicks is remarkable.”
His remarkable ability in dead ball situations and his delivery in general have inevitably drawn comparisons with another former United dead ball specialist but Norwood is quick to distance himself from comparisons with David Beckham. Although admitting that he does practise his free kicks as Beckham did (like a good professional should) the English born Northern Ireland international is concentrating on improving all aspects of his game and not letting the comparisons or fame go to his head,
“I just want to keep playing to the best of my ability, I’ve been involved with United since I was seven so I have been lucky.”
In 2007 Norwood was one of the youngest first year scholars to be taken on by United and his performances for the academy as well as his 9 goals in the 2008-2009 season saw him propelled into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve side where he is more than holding his own in a talented midfield.
He has a confidence in his ability that belies his tender years thus he tries the unexpected, and in doing so he can create moments of magic.
There is more to his game than just set pieces, he is intelligent and has a good range of passing to compliment this. And if the situation calls for it, he doesn’t mind getting stuck in. His coach at u18 level Paul McGuiness is a firm believer in the youngster’s talents and claims he has ‘the ability to change games’, as he can score goals as well as create them.
Norwood is part of a contingent of talented Northern Irish youngsters coming through Old Trafford along with the Evans brothers, Craig Cathcart and young keeper Conor Devlin. And as part of the United party that travels to Germany seeking a point against Wolfsburg to ensure qualification as group leaders, don’t be surprised if Ollie Norwood is the name on everyone’s lips on Wednesday morning.