Norwich star Todd Cantwell talks about the singing of Justin Bieber and why he can play for a top six club
Chris Sutton, once an experienced ball header, talks to Todd Cantwell of Norwich, who confesses that he can’t bear the feeling of getting his noggin at the end of a cross.
For Cantwell, a moment from his youth stands out. After two first half goals against Tottenham boys, his coach challenged him to use his head and, well, he can explain the rest.
TC: I remember getting him around the keeper, putting the ball on the line, and following him.
CS: On all fours?
TC: The coach said to me: “I want you to get a main goal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you score one.” I absolutely hate headlines. I have the worst technique because it hurts every time I do it. That went very bad with the academy manager – I actually remember that I was picked up. I didn’t mean it in a disrespectful way. It was more of an internal joke, but I do understand why it seemed disrespectful.
Sports emails Chris Sutton has caught up with Todd Cantwell to talk about Norwich and more
Such stories may contribute to the apparent perception of Cantwell as arrogant. Perhaps his confidence in social media, stylish haircut and surf destination celebration also contribute to that.
But in reality this is a 21-year-old with a good head on his shoulders (even if he doesn’t use it to score goals). More than half an hour of chatting, Cantwell is polite, witty, well-spoken and passionate.
Playing for a top six club would not surprise him, he says, but securing survival is priority No. 1.
Cantwell said he was never the best at headlines, but once found a cheeky way to score
CS: As a local boy who plays for Norwich in the Premier League, you live the dream. But talk to me about the celebration of the ‘Cantwell surf’ goal. You come from Dereham and that is nowhere near the coast.
TC: I went to Manchester City to calm my nerves and watched music videos on my phone before the game. There is a song called Surf, by Young Thug (an American rapper). I looked at it and frankly, as soon as I scored, it just happened. It wasn’t something I was planning.
CS: So you never really surfed?
TC: No! I know it could tell her differently. But I like to switch off and listen to music. When I start thinking about the game, I get excited too early and you probably lose energy. To be honest, everyone has headphones in! Maybe some of the older boys in the back (of the bus) are having a conversation, but we younger boys are wearing our headphones and we are gone.
CS: Times have changed and I have heard a story about how your initiation song is Love yourself by Justin Bieber when you became a member of the senior team. We used to have a very different initiation in Norwich. At Christmas you have to undress and sing a Christmas song, while the first team launched soaps to us!
Cantwell revealed that his surf celebration came from nowhere – and that he never even surfed!
He said that his most nervous moment in Norwich with his initiation was singing Justin Bieber
TC: Oh wow. I think it has weakened a little since then. To be honest, the learned boys come in for Christmas and do a few songs.
CS: Was your Bieber impression your most nervous moment in Norwich so far?
TC: You know what? It probably was. My legs were shaking. There was a lot of practice. The boys had told me that if it was nonsense, we had to do it the following week – which I later discovered was a lie.
CS: You are described as the ‘Bieber of Norwich’ on my Sportsmail the podcast of colleague Peter Crouch. I call you the ‘Dereham Deco’. What do you prefer? Can you remember Deco?
TC: I listened to that! It’s all fun and games. I know who Deco was. He was a fantastic soccer player. That probably sounds better. It is a privilege to be called that.
Cantwell admitted that he gladly adopted a nickname with regard to the former Barcelona star Deco
Cantwell was nine when he joined the Norwich academy. Only he and goalkeeper Aston Oxborough – currently on loan to non-League Wealdstone – made it professionally.
His idol was Lionel Messi, because of the way the wizard of Barcelona did not let him stop by his small stature.
That was the sentiment behind his tweet on social media on New Year’s Eve: “Written off, not strong enough, not fast enough. Listen carefully, I am on my way to the top and nobody will stop me! “The post was loved by 52,000-plus users.
TC: I really didn’t want it to look like that (arrogance). As a child I was written off. “He is a brilliant football player, but not strong enough, not long enough, does not have the right attitude …” In the academy, I was always labeled as someone who thought a lot about himself.
Cantwell was just one of two players to make it professional from his age group in Norwich
CS: Was it jealousy?
TC: I would say. If I were to do tricks or skills, someone would say, “He’s messing around, he thinks he’s too good.” I never really let it happen to me. I have always been taught from home that I must express myself.
CS: Are you arrogant?
TC: I would not say that I am arrogant.
CS: But is a small amount of it not necessary at this level?
TC: You definitely need confidence and confidence, but there is a very fine line between that and arrogance. I would like to think that I am on the other side.
The 21-year-old removed the doubters to become a regular Premier League starter
Cantwell was loaned to the Dutch club Fortuna Sittard in 2017-18 – a movement that made him “fall in love with football again” after becoming disillusioned with the scene under the age of 23.
He helped them get their doctorate and then did the same with Norwich in 2018-19, even though he sometimes felt an “easy target” like the local boy when things went wrong.
This asterisk comes from a football family – his parents, Steve and Jackie, brother, Jordan and sister, Amber, all played. In 2018 they stood together in a charity competition for Help Delete Cancer while mother watched from the stands.
He had a successful loan period with Dutch side Fortuna Sittard and helped them win promotion
TC: That was special. I tried a bit with my sister. I said, “You must come here.” She was the only girl who played and of course some boys didn’t give her the ball. I gave her the ball a few times, she gave it away and I said, “That’s your last time.” But no, it’s all love.
CS: Let’s talk about Liverpool and your league position. You started at Anfield on the opening day of the season. Now they are at the top, you at the bottom. But your performance has been good and there seems to be real confidence in this group. It defies logic!
TC: You play well, you feel at ease, then you lose through a deflection or an individual mistake and you feel robbed. We play at a level where we can certainly win and catch up.
CS: How do you take defeats?
TC: I’m a bad loser. I’m sitting there and I’m almost looking for someone to be happy with losing and then I’m furious. To be honest, in this dressing room, the way we are all connected to get through, we are all aligned in that sense. We all hate it.
Norwich is at the bottom of the Premier League, but Cantwell is convinced that they can still stay up
CS: When I was in Norwich, Blackburn turned my head after a few good seasons. You are talented and now a name. Where are your ambitions?
TC: Of course every individual wants to try to reach the highest level that he can. But at the moment we have a big task on us. I am fully focused on taking us to where we should be and where we should stay.
CS: Can you play for a big-six club?
TC: With development and improvement I could certainly achieve that position. But it somewhat affects self-confidence. If you don’t believe that, it makes no sense to start in the first place. You really have to believe that you can get to the highest point. If you don’t, who will? I am studying. Things will not always be perfect. I’m going to make mistakes, I can assure you. But I really feel like I’m becoming a better player. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think of the fact that I grew up in this city and now I can wear the shirt on a Saturday. It is surreal.
He is completely focused on Norwich’s relegation battle, but believes he can reach the top one day