Amongst the most distinctive newcomers to the Premier League this season has been Todd Cantwell, the blond-haired Norwich City midfielder, known for the headband that he wears on the pitch, as well as for his elegant playing style.
Born near Norwich in the small town of East Dereham, Cantwell’s parents, both of whom are Arsenal supporters, encouraged a love of the game in Todd from an early age, and he became a successful youth player with his school and local club, Dereham Town, before joining the Norwich academy system when he was aged 10.
He gradually progressed through the various age groups at Norwich, although his progress was not as meteoric as first predicted. Indeed, he was marked out as much as for his long blond locks – a look inspired by his brother Jordan – as for his ability on the football field.
Nevertheless, by the time he was 16, he had been called up for international duty with the England under-17 side.
By 2017 Cantwell was knocking on the door of the first team, and was twice named amongst the Norwich substitutes for league matches, but never got on the pitch. He did finally make his debut for the club in an FA Cup tie away to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in January 2018, but hardly covered himself in glory. Introduced as an 86th minute substitute, he was himself replaced in injury time in extra time.
Shortly after that match Cantwell was sent on loan to Fortuna Sittard in the second division of Dutch football, and the attacking midfielder was an instant success, helping the club to promotion back to the top flight after a 16 year gap. Despite his spell in Fortuna being interrupted by injury, he scored twice in 10 appearances, and it was his free kick that led to the Finn Stokkers header which sealed their promotion.
Promotion with Norwich
Returning to Norwich for the start of the 2018/2019 season, Cantwell was handed his first start during an EFL Cup match against Stevenage in August. He made his league debut against Reading the following month, and scored his first goal for the club in a 3 – 1 win over Rotherham United last December.
In all Cantwell would make 24 appearances for Norwich in all competitions last season, and picked up a Championship winning medal as his side won the league comfortably.
At the start of the current season, Cantwell had his current contract extended, as Norwich began life back in the Premier League.
Things began well for the 21-year old. In the first home game of the season, he provided two assists to Teemu Pukki as his side claimed their first win back in the top flight beating Newcastle United at Carrow Road 3 – 1.
The following week, he became the first Norfolk born player in more than 14 years to score a Premier League goal for the club when netting against Chelsea. And then, in their next home match, he scored again in their memorable home victory over the reigning Premier League champions Manchester City. Meanwhile he earned his first call-up to the England under-21 squad, and made his debut in the Euro 2021 qualifying win against Kosovo.
Since then, things have not gone so well. Norwich, with the smallest budget in the Premier League, have begun to struggle, whilst injury forced Cantwell to miss the latest round of England under-21 fixtures.
Cantwell is under contract at Norwich until 2022, but how long he stays with the club may depend upon what happens to them at the end of this season. If they are relegated if it hard to see him dropping down into the Championship again, and there will likely be a queue of other Premier League clubs eager to sign him.
Whatever happens, Cantwell and his distinctive hairband are likely to remain a fixture in the Premier League for years to come. When he appeared towards the end of last season with his locks shorn, it caused almost as much discussion amongst the club’s fans as the team’s performance on it.
However, those who feared that he had begun to conform were given a simple explanation for the change. Cantwell had simply had a bad day at the barber’s, and had his hair cut off to rectify the mistake that had been made.
Over the summer he grew his hair back again, and it is now restored to former glories.