THE SIGNING of a 31-year-old would not usually be major news at most clubs, but it indicates a significant change for Barnsley.
James Norwood would not have been a transfer sanctioned at Oakwell in any of the last eight summers, after they focused on developing youth for profit with very few recruits older than 25.
The only players in their 30s brought in since previous owner Patrick Cryne introduced that policy 2014 were centre-backs acquired in January with varying success – Peter Ramage, Matt Mills and Michael Sollbauer.
After they got the balance of the squad badly wrong last season, and a very young side finished last in the Championship, the new-look Barnsley board promised to sign some older players.
They made good on that promise last week with the arrival of free agent Norwood on a one-year deal with an option for the Reds to add another year.
Head coach Michael Duff told the Chronicle: “It’s big news up here that his age starts with a three.
“He knows the level and is proven at the level.
“First and foremost we think he can impact the team.
“Secondly, because of his bank of games and experience, we think he can help the younger ones.
“We have players who don’t know what elite looks like in terms of the every day standards.
“He has good habits, knows when to dig somebody out and when to put an arm round them.
“So he has a role off the pitch just as much as he does on it.
“If we didn’t think he would make an impact on the pitch, we wouldn’t have signed him.
“He fits us financially so we thought it was a good one for us.”
Duff was keen to insist that the Reds were still mainly focusing on developing young players.
He said: “If you look at the signings we’ve made this summer, a lot of them have been 25 or younger.
“It’s not ripping it up and starting again.
“The philosophy is to develop young players and sell them.
“That won’t change.
“But, by bringing in a couple more experienced ones, that might accelerate a couple of the younger ones.
“It’s just a tweak to the strategy.
“Most players will be under 24 which I have absolutely no issue with.”
After spells in the youth teams of Brighton and Crystal Palace, Norwood played for hometown club Eastbourne Borough in the eighth tier while still at school.
He moved to Exeter City, then in League One, but made just four league appearances across two years with loans to Sutton United and Forest Green, whom he then joined permanently.
After netting just three goals in his first full National League season with Forest Green, he reached double figures for three campaigns in a row then did so in a further three after moving to Tranmere Rovers in 2015.
After scoring more than 100 goals at National League level, he helped Tranmere to League Two and made a remarkable start to life back in the EFL with 29 goals in the 2017/18 season.
That earned him a move to League One Ipswich Town where he was dogged by injuries with adductor surgery and repeated hamstring problems.
He still was top-scorer in his first two seasons, despite not playing 30 league games in either.
He netted seven goals in 27 games last season but Ipswich decided not to take their option of extending the deal by another year.