Nobody in these parts needs telling just how much potential Adam Idah has. But Saturday’s hat-trick in Norwich City’s 4-2 win at Preston in the FA Cup was the first glimpse for a wider English audience of what an incredible prospect he is.
Idah’s haul came in only his second start as he made sure the Canaries’ top scorer Teemu Pukki was not missed at all.
The 18-year-old opened the scoring with a fine finish inside the first 90 seconds and with his confidence soaring, the former College Corinthians junior added two more to leave with the match ball in his possession rap.
The second was the standout strike as the U21 international punished an error by Connor Ripley with devastating efficiency. The goalkeeper charged out of his area, but only cleared the ball as far as Idah, around 40 yards out.
He took one touch to steady himself and then sent the ball unerringly into the unguarded net with his left, when it would have been easy to snatch at the chance.
Then just past the hour mark when he was brought down inside the area by Ripley, he took penalty duties off team-mate Todd Cantwell and fired home before leaving the field to a deserved standing ovation from the 833 visiting supporters when replaced late on.
This was the dream when Idah left home in the summer of 2017, and he will hope it could be the start of a glittering career in English professional soccer. But with Cantwell, Max Aarons, and Jamal Lewis all fully involved in Norwich’s first team, he knows manager Daniel Farke will always give youth a chance.
“Coming over two years ago, I did not expect this, but it’s all down to hard work,” he said.
“I’ve been working hard in training towards getting that opportunity and I was delighted to take it.
“I take a lot of inspiration from the other young players here. They were young when they came in, but we have seen how well they have done. It’s a good pathway and I have to follow that.”
Idah’s previous start had come in a Carabao Cup defeat away to League Two side Crawley Town in August where the youngster had deflected in Crawley’s winner. But he has taken stock and believes that hard work on the training ground alongside Pukki is making him a better player.
“That was a difficult night,” he recalled. “I was unfortunate with the goal, but that is what happens in football and you have to put it behind you.
“Luckily the boss and everyone else was really good about it and told me to forget about it.
“I have improved a lot. Physically, my movement is better from working with Teemu and off the pitch I have matured a lot. It’s been great.”
Farke had suggested before the match at Preston that Idah may be ready for a loan spell in the lower divisions, but the hat-trick may have altered his plans.
“We don’t have to make any call about sending him out on loan,” says the German. “He is our player and he has a long-term contract. If we have the feeling he needs to go out on loan, we will do this. If not, we will keep him. There is no emergency case where we have to make a decision right now.
“As long as the player is scoring goals for us and delivering performances like this, we are not going to send our best players out on loan.
“There is lots of work to do with Adam and we will do that so it’s not necessary to make a decision today or tomorrow.”
Next up for the Premier League’s bottom side is a trip to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United next Saturday and Pukki faces a battle to recover from his hamstring injury. But Farke admits that he would have no qualms about throwing Idah in at the Theatre of Dreams for his first Premier League start.
“I never had any problem playing young players,” he adds. “Jamal Lewis had his first start in a really important game for us. Max Aarons’ debut was against Ipswich. But they have to be ready. That is the most important thing.”
PRESTON (4-2-3-1): Ripley 4; Fisher 6, Storey 5, Davies 6, Rafferty 5; Ledson 6, Bayliss 6; Bodin 6, Potts 6, Harrop 6; Stockley 6.
Subs not used: Rudd (Gk), Pearson, Clarke, Barkhuizen, Nugent, Gallagher, O’Reilly. Booked: Ledson, Fisher, Ripley.
NORWICH: McGovern 7; Byram 6, Zimmermann 7, Amadou 6, Lewis 6; Trybull 6 (Hanley 68, 3), Leitner 6; Cantwell 6 (Aarons 82, 3), Stiepermann 7, Hernandez 7; IDAH 9 (McLean 86, 3).
Subs not used: Krul (Gk), Vrancic, Buendia, Tettey.
Referee: M. Atkinson