Stoke City v Sheffield United: Game-time scenarios crucial to Rhys Norrington-Davies’ development
The 22-year-old Sheffield United academy graduate is hoping to make his 20th Championship start of the season at Stoke City this afternoon but his Blades debut in August only came after he had over 100 loan appearances behind him.
Now he is an established Championship player giving the fit-again Enda Stevens a run for his money and part of a Wales squad a play-off final away from their first World Cup since 1958.
Norrington-Davies knows the debt he owes to the clubs who helped him along the way – Barrow, Rochdale, Luton Town and a final loan with today’s opponents.
He spells it out when asked how much he has been able to learn from senior pros such as Gareth Bale, who he spent the international break with.
“You can take advice from players but it’s all about being out on the pitch in different scenarios,” he stresses. “You can replicate as much as possible on the training pitch but you’re not getting that game scenario so the game-time’s really helped.”
Moving around comes naturally to a player born in Saudi Arabia, who spent parts of his childhood in Wales and Kenya with his father in the army.
“It was probably something I needed to do in terms of going out and experiencing that to make me appreciate what I had here,” he says of his loans.
“It was crucial for my development to play minutes. As the years have gone by I’ve stepped up the ladder and it’s got me to where I am now, so I can’t really complain.
“Every loan I’ve had has been different working under different managers and every manager I’ve had has had a different philosophy or style of play and it’s just about adding that to your own game. When Hecky (Blades manager Paul Heckingbottom) came in, he’s got his own style of play but the loans I’ve had have hopefully given me a bit of knowledge into what he might want.”
He still tries to learn off the field too.
“I look back on my game on a regular basis and see what I need to do better,” he says.
“I know my strengths and weaknesses. I sit down with the manager and the other staff on a regular basis and we go over clips of what they want me to do better.
“One in particular is working on my final-third ball and playing forward as often as possible. I feel like it’s slowly getting there but these things take time. I just need to keep on working on it.”