Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons: Norwich’s Homegrown, Heavy-Hitting Fullbacks
Jamie Carragher once claimed that fullbacks are either “failed centre-backs or failed wingers” and to some extent he is correct. Often described as the least glamorous position in football, fullbacks tend to go unnoticed when their team is playing well. Think of Dani Carvajal in Real Madrid’s Champions League-winning XI or Lucas Hernandez in the French team that won the 2018 World Cup. Despite this, it is Norwich City’s two rookie fullbacks that are receiving a lot of praise during Norwich’s title challenge: Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons. Yes, Teemu Pukki has been scoring the goals for the Canaries, but the two youthful defenders are equally important to Daniel Farke’s team, and whether at Norwich or not, it won’t be long until we see them both in England’s top tier.
The energetic left back, who was a national athletics champion as a child, has taken the Championship by storm this season. Lewis only broke into the Norwich first team during the latter half of the 2017/18 campaign, but he’s been essential to Canaries’ promotion efforts, slotting in without any signs of teething issues.
He announced his breakthrough to the first team with a fantastic performance against Chelsea in the 3rd round of the FA Cup last January, scoring a last-minute equaliser and giving Davide Zappacosta a headache on the left wing. The 21-year-old has also had international recognition, choosing Northern Ireland over England and making his senior debut for them in March 2018. With Chris Brunt retiring from international football in the summer, Lewis will be a stalwart on the left flank for years to come. The youngster has improved remarkably under Farke, and plays a crucial role in Norwich’s team.
A product of Luton Town’s youth academy, Max Aarons made the switch to East Anglia as a schoolboy. Aarons only made his senior debut for Norwich at the start of this season, but he’s already received several plaudits for his impressive performances. Without a doubt, he will be one of the frontrunners for the “Championship Young Player of the Season Award” as he’s adapted to senior football with remarkable ease.
Aarons bombs up the right wing for Norwich, giving the Canaries width in attack and overloading opposition defences. The Londoner has also been called up to the England U19 squad following his breakthrough season and will be eager to climb up the English National Team ladder. Aarons has contributed with 2 goals and 4 assists this season and has unsurprisingly been looked at by Premier League juggernauts. Just like Lewis, he has been a revelation under Farke, establishing himself as one of the hottest prospects in the Championship.
In just a matter of months, Lewis and Aarons have made the leap from academy football to the Championship, and in a chaotic, physical league, they’ve made the step up without breaking a sweat. Lewis looks like he’ll be a starter for Northern Ireland for years to come, while Aarons has the more difficult task of breaking into an England side featuring the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Fan’s View – @cjsouthwell1902
“Not only do Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis inject youthful exuberance and dynamism into this Norwich team, but they also contribute massively to the footballing philosophy implemented by Daniel Farke. Lewis has developed well since his debut on Boxing Day 2017. Defensively astute, physically competent and tactically intelligent, the only thing Lewis lacked was attacking threat for wide areas.”
“Working with Farke, who is notorious for developing youth, has improved his game to no end. At 19, he broke through the academy to become a constant and important member of this Norwich side.”
“He’ll be both a Premier League player and an England international, as is his quality. Given his age, he operates as though he has played 200 games and is a seasoned player, yet this his first full season in professional football. Remarkable. It’s been a pleasure to consume him this season.”
By: Thomas Owen
Photo: Norwich City website