Football/Soccer

Jamal Lewis rested and ready to go for Norwich and Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's Jamal Lewis (right) up against the Republic of Ireland's Sean Maguire in last year's friendly in Dublin.
Kenny Archer in Tallinn

SUMMER holidays may be over already for Jamal Lewis but he couldn't be happier about the prospect of playing and training rather than lying on a beach.

Although he only made his club debut in late 2017, the 21-year-old has made himself first choice left back for both English Premier League new boys Norwich City and Northern Ireland.

The demands of the latter include Euro 2020 qualifiers in Estonia this evening and Belarus on Tuesday night, while the Canaries have already sent him a detailed training programme before their pre-season proper.

The lad from Luton has no complaints, saying: "I had my rest already, just after the season ended. I had about 10 days off.

"It's just part of the game now. Maybe way back you could almost take the break and literally come back a little bit unfit and work yourself back in pre-season.

"But now, I think especially in our position, going into something that we haven't done before with the Premier League, we have to come back prepared.

"We want to come back fit and at a good level. We don't want to come back and not be able to cope with the level and demands that will be put on our body.

"We train quite hard, especially in pre-season, so I've got to make sure I'm ready for that. If I'm not, I'll get found out."

The "extensive programme" sent out by Norwich's sporting director Stuart Webber did not take Lewis by surprise: "We train quite hard so I knew it was coming. We had some time off because the way it works is that we finished our season on May 5 after the Aston Villa game and then because of the Premier League season we are not back until the first week of July.

"Even though I have internationals, I've still managed to fit in holidays. It's quite good to be part of the process."

His involvement on the international scene has been factored in by his club, of course. "We've got a great backroom staff at Norwich and they've prepped every individual, taking into consideration my international games and so on.

"It's got all sorts. It's just basically training, how we train back at Norwich with obviously less football stuff, but keeping that fitness level high and keeping the muscles intact, so you don't get injuries.

"It's about being ready for the first week. We train quite hard and we've got to be ready for it."

As regards that opening game in the Premier League, he's certainly not seeking an easy opener, declaring:

"You would like a big team on the first day, just to get a bit of publicity and a good little performance.

"Probably Man United at Old Trafford. I would like that, that would be really nice but any fixture is going to be a big one because there are a lot of people in the team [for whom] it will be their first time playing in the Premier League. I think it's going to be a really good season next year."

Lewis has plenty of reasons to be confident, having been chosen in two different Championship teams of the year:

"I was really proud. That was something I kind of aimed for at the start of the season, I looked at who was in the league and thought, if I had a good season, that I could definitely get up there. As each game went past that probably became a bit more realistic.

"Both were voted by other people so it's good to know that I'm thought highly of by my fellow footballers and pundits and managers I think the other one was. Now the aim is to have a good season with Norwich and try to get into the Premier League team," he adds with a laughs.

It's a quarter of a century since Jack Charlton labelled full back the most important position on the pitch and the influence of the role has only increased since then.

Lewis has taken inspiration from the newly-crowned club Champions of Europe, saying: "Obviously I wasn't alive some years ago but full-back might have been a bit of a 'throwaway' position, you could stick anyone there.

"You can still do that, but in teams that play attacking football, like Liverpool, you see how many opportunities [Andy] Robertson and [Trent] Alexander-Arnold create for their team. If you place that importance on a full-back, it's a position that can give outlets to your team.

"When I'm playing for Northern Ireland and Norwich I try to get forward as much as possible and try to create a threat; even if that's creating space for the attacking players then I'm happy to do so."

He knows the tests on the club scene will be much tougher, but insists he is up for the challenge: "100 per cent. In terms of wingers, I think there's quite a big gulf between the Championship and the Premier League in that position, definitely a jump in quality.

"I pride myself on trying to be a good defender first so I will be truly tested and we'll see if I actually am.

"The manager will want us to still play our style of football. He might make some adjustments, he might not. I don't know. Hopefully I'll still play that kind of attacking football in some games.

"There'll be some teams where we have to balance it off a bit as some teams will dominate possession more than us. It's all about adapting. I'm looking forward to playing different teams, different styles and coming up with different solutions to problems."

With Northern Ireland needing to adopt an 'away' approach this evening and on Tuesday, while still trying to win both matches, Jamal Lewis is rested, relaxed, and ready for the tasks ahead.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Football/Soccer

Today's horoscope

Horoscope


See a different horoscope: