Jacob Butterfield is playing for more than Capital One Cup glory

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Jacob Butterfield has been dealt a tough hand since his summer move to Norwich City.

The 22-year-old's career to date is unlikely to have caused much more than a minor ripple beyond Norfolk or his first club, Barnsley, but the attacking midfielder's talent on the circuit was well known before Chris Hughton's first foray into the transfer window as Norwich boss saw him hit the high road to Yorkshire.

Butterfield looked a perfect fit. Good value in an inflated marketplace for a young, up-and-coming starlet with serious potential. The major imponderable was whether he could replicate his displays in the Championship on the Premier League stage. Sadly, Norwich's fan base is still waiting to find out.

Butterfield arrived with a long-standing knee problem that wrecked the second half of his Barnsley sojourn last year. The former England Under-21 international could only perform the lighter tasks of Hughton's crucial pre-season bedding-in process. Gradually, Butterfield reached a stage of fitness to feature in some of the club's early season development games before a belated senior debut in the Capital One Cup third-round home win over Doncaster. Then more frustration. A dead leg after his first 90-minute shift settled to reveal a swelling around the old knee injury. Professional footballers will tell you coming back from a lengthy spell out is fraught with additional pitfalls - injury to other areas of the body as it looks to over-compensate or pain at the source of the old problematic affliction. More physio, more rest, more inaction. Butterfeld will make his second Norwich City comeback in Wednesday night's Capital One Cup last-16 home tie to Tottenham.

The youngster's injury battle has been a constant theme of a frustrating spell far away from family and friends in the North. Butterfield talked candidly this week about the difficulties of settling into life in an alien environment miles from what you know and where you have previously flourished.

A 22-year-old, single Premier League footballer should not be short of company, but there was an undeniable flicker of homesickness in his voice. It is easy to forget these are very young men whose career paths can change on a whim, be it falling out of favour with a club manager or perhaps coveted by a rival. Butterfield was quick to qualify that he has been made more than welcome by City's first team squad, a tight-knit crew who have cast a protective arm around one of their own, particularly towards someone far away from home who through injury has been unable to smooth the inevitable acclimatisation process by showcasing his undoubted ability.

Yet if that wasn't enough of a barrier, Butterfield acknowledged one more: the superb recent form of Wes Hoolahan. Hughton made it clear during his summer recruitment drive he wanted sustained competition across every area of his squad. Two players for every position was the mantra. Butterfield just happens to be vying with the Irish midfield maestro, who has been outstanding in Norwich's recent Premier League renaissance against Arsenal and Aston Villa.

Right now, Butterfield knows he is very much Hoolahan's understudy, which is why cup progress against Spurs at Carrow Road is not the only aim. The midfielder is playing for his Premier League future at the club, even this early in the piece and with the unavoidable hindrances of injury and adapting to new beginnings. Butterfield can appreciate the genius of his rival, yet there was also a determination in his tone earlier this week that he is good enough. Now free of injury and settling into Norfolk life, he plans finally to show everyone over the coming matches. You sense Hoolahan will have to maintain his current stellar form to keep the younger man at bay. It should prove a fascinating duel.

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