Norwich City’s Max Aarons has been awarded the EFL’s Young Player of the Month for November, following an impressive month for the Canaries.
One look at Aarons’ achievements in recent years and you may struggle to believe that he is still just 20 years of age. A Sky Bet Championship winner's medal in 2018/19, promotion to the Premier League, an EFL Young Player of the Season Award and, as of December 2020, 100 Canaries appearances to his name. An already impressive career for someone who only made their debut two seasons ago.
Aaron’s most recent gong, however, is the EFL Young Player of the Month Award, one which sees the young defender recognised for his standout performances at both ends of the pitch throughout November, as Norwich continued their impressive start to life back in the Sky Bet Championship.
“I’m delighted to win Young Player of the Month,” Aarons said, speaking exclusively to the EFL.
“It’s been a great start to the season, the team is doing very well, we’re up there competing at the top of the table and it’s nice to receive personal recognition for my performances as well. Things are looking good so far.”
At the time of writing, Norwich currently sit pretty at the top of the Championship table, and following relegation from the Premier League last season, have had an excellent start to life back in the EFL. Three wins and two draws saw Daniel Farke’s side go unbeaten throughout November, and there’s no doubt that Aarons has been key to the Canaries' performances.
“The players that have come in have done really well, we’ve all gelled really quickly” Aarons explained, when asked about the impressive start.
“We kept some important players that we went up with two years ago and we’ve added a good amount of new energy to the squad, it’s a good balance. Everyone is on the same page and we’re all working together, that’s the most important thing.”
Having won promotion from the Championship in 2019, Norwich spent last season in the Premier League and, despite relegation back to the Championship, they caught the eye of many in the top-flight team last season.
A young Canaries side showed more often than not what an exciting, young team they were, with a desire to play attractive football. Although the season ended in disappointment with relegation, Aarons only has positive memories of playing in the top flight, an experience which aided his development along the way.
“Last season was obviously tough to take,” he admitted, reflecting on the 2019/20 campaign.
“It was disappointing to be relegated and obviously no-one was happy with what happened, but when everyone came back for pre-season, we were all really enthusiastic about this season, especially the new players that came in.
“As soon as we had our squad and we started the season how we did, we were able to put the relegation behind us and quickly focus on this season, which was important.
“Personally, playing in the Premier League was very good for me, in terms of my development.
“When I look at my all-round game now, compared to that first year that I played in the Championship just two seasons ago, I’m a different player. I feel much more accomplished as a player, I feel more comfortable on the pitch and on the ball and I feel more well-rounded as a player having faced some of the best players in the world last season.
“My first season as a professional was all about me going forward. Last season I had to work much harder on the defensive aspect of my game. I’m certainly grateful for the experience, it was vital to me.”
A wise head on young shoulders, Aarons plays like someone well beyond his years and has done for some time, and his quick rise at Carrow Road is something to be admired by many.
Earlier this week, he reached a milestone many can only dream of, as the 20-year-old pulled on the Norwich City shirt for the 100th time, in just his third season as a professional footballer.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling to get to that milestone in such a short space of time, especially being only 20 years old and making my debut two seasons ago.
“It’s a special achievement for me. Even making my first-ever appearance was an achievement for me, because that’s what I worked towards back then, that was my initial goal, so to get to 100 appearances is a great feeling.”
Age, though, is irrelevant. Aarons is now a leader in this Norwich side, and it’s a role he relishes.
“We’ve got a young team here at Norwich and a lot of them are new faces as well. Having been here a while, I think it’s a responsibility I have, to be a leader.
“I don’t judge myself on my age anymore, I judge myself on the number of appearances I’ve made and how long I’ve been at the club. It’s a responsibility for me to have an influence on the team and to behave as a more senior player. I like being vocal, that’s one thing I’ve always had in my game, so it’s good that I now have the first-team experience to back that up on the pitch.”
The defender’s debut came at Carrow Road two seasons ago, in a Carabao Cup fixture against Stevenage, and whilst Aarons might have achieved an awful lot in those two years with promotions and relegations making the headlines, his debut is an experience he remembers as if it was yesterday.
“Really well,” he answered, when asked if he recalls his debut.
“I remember being very nervous but at the same time really excited as well. There were a lot of emotions for me that day. Delia, the owner, invited all of my family to her box for a meal before the game which was nice, and I just remember the whole day being a really nice experience for everyone, it was made into a proper occasion.
“Ever since then, things have picked up really quickly and it’s been a great journey since.”
An already impressive career, there’s no doubt just how important Aarons is to this Norwich set-up, and one man who has been there throughout is the current manager. From handing him his debut against Stevenage, followed by his first-ever league start in the East Anglian derby, Farke has been there every step of the way, something Aarons feels indebted to the Carnaries boss for.
“He’s been so important to me in so many ways. He was the person who put his faith in me two years ago at the start. He put his trust in me, gave me my debut and has continued to do so since day one, so I can’t say thank you enough to him.
“I will always look back on working with him as an unbelievable time in my career. I love playing under him and for him and I love the confidence he gives you on the pitch.”
Seventeen games in, the 20-year-old is also the only outfield player to have completed every minute of league action for Norwich so far this season and, having made his debut in the Championship two seasons ago, he certainly knows what to expect from the division.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” he continued.
“I do feel after having had the season in the Premier League, that I have more experience to deal with the intensity and competitiveness of it now, compared to two years ago, so it’s easier for me in that sense, but the tempo and competitiveness of this division is never any easier.
“Games come thick and fast, it’s a tough league and a relentless league, and we’ve certainly had to prepare ourselves for that but that’s something you’ve got to expect of the Championship.”
There may still be a long way to go, but with the Canaries top of the table in the run up to Christmas, promotion is the objective yet again.
“It’s got to be what we aim for. If you look at our squad and how we’ve started the season, promotion should be our goal. If we keep playing how we’re playing and churning out the wins, then we’ll have a good chance.
“Of course, with that comes pressure, but we’re ready for that as players and promotion has to be our aim.”