Parting of ways between Norwich City and Jed Steer leaves a sour taste

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Pete Norton/Getty ImagesHomegrown Norwich goalkeeper Jed Steer is headed to Aston Villa.

Jed Steer's defection from Norwich City will trigger few tremors across the wider footballing community, but there is no doubting the palpable sense of loss many in Norfolk will feel at losing one of their highly-rated youngsters to Paul Lambert's Aston Villa.

Steer has rejected a fresh contract offer from the place that nurtured him from callow youth to young adult in favour of linking up with the man who gave him his senior Canaries' debut from July 1. City chief executive David McNally has fired the first salvos in a compensation tussle that may ultimately need independent arbitration. Given the now well-publicised stand-off between the clubs following Lambert's rather messy divorce and hastily-arranged marriage in the Midlands 12 months ago, there is hardly much in the way of bonhomie between the two parties. Steer is the fourth member of City's staff to make the same journey this week following a trio of coaching talent that left to join Lambert's backroom staff. Yet the precocious Steer is the headline departure. There feels something inherently unfair in a model where Norwich have cultivated one of the country's best young keepers, if you canvass the opinions of respected observers, who is able to leave in such abrupt fashion -- for an arbitrary fee that will seem like scant reward for all the efforts of City's academy staff over the past decade.

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Villa wasted little time in breaking the news on their official site in advance of Steer's arrival, together with a sliver of welcoming quotes from Lambert. Norwich's official channels remained silent until McNally broke the impasse. The reaction of large swathes of the terrace population was predictable. Steer was forging a reputation as the latest in a noble lineage of goalkeepers who have blossomed in Norfolk.

The 20-year-old repaid Lambert's faith with a commanding debut display in an FA Cup win at West Brom back in January 2012. Steer's only other senior outing for the club came in a later round defeat to Leicester that same season. Since then, the England youth international has found himself consigned to development action and interludes of inactivity broken only by the odd loan stint at Yeovil and Cambridge United.

Chris Hughton opted for experienced cover to John Ruddy last season in the shape of first Mark Bunn and then Lee Camp. Steer's path to the first team was further blocked by Declan Rudd, another of the homegrown products. Crucially, Rudd is two years older than Steer and in Hughton's world view further down the track. Rudd was part of Stuart Pearce's squad that bombed abysmally in the European Championships earlier this summer, but is another with an exciting future. On his return from Israel he agreed to a contract extension at Norwich then a season-long loan stint at Preston in League One. Hughton has spoken in glowing terms about Rudd's potential and also the pressing need for regular first team exposure.

In that context, Steer's career decision is understandable. Another season of development football is in itself a contradiction for a young man who arguably had outgrown that level. Camp may have departed after his short term deal expired, but with Rudd heading to Lancashire, Hughton still has Ruddy and Bunn on the books. Steer clearly sees Villa as a better interim option. Brad Guzan is the unquestionable first choice, but Shay Given is nearing the end of his stellar career and Lambert's commitment to youth borders on the pathological.

Steer can see players of his generation like Jack Butland and David de Gea featuring prominently at the top end of the game. His desire to progress is understandable. But it is a crying shame the path chosen will take him away from his hometown club.

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