‘I have played against the best teams and played well… I don’t doubt my ability’: Todd Cantwell is convinced he can follow in the footsteps of former team-mate James Maddison and make it to the top as he gets his career back on track with Rangers
- Todd Cantwell was at Norwich City at the same time as James Maddison
- Maddison is now being courted by Newcastle United and Manchester City
- Cantwell is convinced he can still reach the big time as he resets with Rangers
Todd Cantwell has arrived in Glasgow with a major point to prove. To fans of Norwich City. To Rangers supporters. But, primarily, to himself.
The midfielder’s career story to date is one of peaks and troughs. A local boy made good without ever quite reaching the levels of greatness that many felt he could have done. Not yet, at least.
When Cantwell was coming through the ranks at Carrow Road, the word was that coaches found it hard to separate his talent from that of James Maddison, who’d been recruited from Coventry City. Both were seen as being capable of going as far in the game as they wanted.
Maddison went on to secure a £20million move to Leicester, won the FA Cup and became a full England international. He is now on the radar of Newcastle and Manchester City.
Two years younger than his former team-mate, 24-year-old Cantwell has certainly had his days in the sun. Just not as many as were anticipated.
Todd Cantwell is trying to get his career back on track with Rangers after a few tough years
He looks to James Maddison (right), a friend, as a path to the top that he can emulate himself
Cantwell (left) and Maddison (right) crossed paths when they started out as kids at Norwich
He firmly believes, though, that his star can rise again – and that he can even belatedly match Maddison’s trajectory.
‘Definitely. I’ve had a taste of it,’ he said. ‘I have played in the Premier League, I have scored goals. I have played against the best teams and played well. I don’t doubt my ability.
‘Everyone’s journeys and situations are different. He (Maddison) is a fantastic footballer and he has done amazing things in his career so far. Everyone has a different journey and I am hoping that mine can end well too.
‘I have kept in touch with him. It’s difficult when you have such busy schedules. Listen, if I needed any advice from him I am sure he would reply, that’s for sure.’
Cantwell has already met with triumph and disaster in the game. He also made a point of broadening his horizons through loan spells with Dutch side Fortuna Sittard and Bournemouth.
Rangers represents a step up in terms of expectation and scrutiny, but he’s seen and experienced enough in the game and wider life that it shouldn’t faze him.
‘I think I’ve had a pretty dramatic start to my career, really,’ he added. ‘I have had four promotions, a relegation and had some different bits and pieces. To be honest, it puts me in a good place where I know what it is I want to be and where I want to get to. I want to be a winner, and coming to Rangers was definitely a good idea.’
He needed this change of scenery and to hear different voices. Even in one of the quieter corners of England, the criticism that came his way when he found the going tough was savage. He wouldn’t be human if it didn’t affect him.
‘It (confidence) is probably something that has been dented externally but, internally, it is not something you lose,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, as a footballer you have to isolate yourself from a very young age and have that ‘me against the world’ mentality.
Michael Beale (left) has handed Cantwell and opportunity at Ibrox and he is eager to take it
‘There are a lot of people that want to become professional footballers so you have to come through a pretty tough journey. Anyone in any line of work can have their confidence dented from external people.’
It was no amicable departure from Norwich, Cantwell being subjected to some stinging online abuse by fans.
More flak flew his way when he then wrote on Instagram: ‘The situation and the way I was treated will be revealed and my fans and fans of the club will know the truth.’ This left more questions than answers.
‘It was more to do with the fact that, when I left Norwich, I didn’t really do the standard type of opening-up letter,’ he added.
‘That, for me, is because there is timing to that. Right now, the important thing for me is to continue to play and enjoy myself. When it is right to say how I feel about certain situations, then I will.’
At least the memory of his loan spell in the Netherlands five years ago will only ever be positive. Cantwell made only ten appearances for Sittard yet his short time there proved hugely enriching.
‘I went over there and it turned into a bit of a fairy tale,’ he explained.
He has been targeted by plenty of flak online but is now loving the pressure playing at Rangers
‘We ended up getting promoted for the first time in, I think, 16 years. I am really glad that Fortuna have managed to stay in the Eredivisie since.’
His current situation differs from his previous postings in one crucial respect. Rangers are expected to win every game and every domestic competition they enter. This may require some adjustment.
‘At Norwich, when we were in the Championship, we had that responsibility as well and we were touted to win every game, really,’ he recalled.
‘Being here and being in all the cup competitions and stuff like that, it is a bigger weight (of expectation). But it’s something that I personally love.’
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