It didn’t take long for Oliver Norwood to discover that cultured, passing football isn’t always best suited to League One, a division more renowned for brawn and bluster, strong challenges and aerial duels.
But the 20-year-old – one of nine young Reds currently out on loan – is enjoying every minute of his spell at Scunthorpe United and admits he quickly learnt to tailor his game. Indeed, evidence of Norwood's increased physicality came at the weekend when he was dismissed in Scunthorpe's 3-2 defeat at Notts County. (It should be noted, however, that The Iron thought the decision extremely harsh and were originally considering appealing the decision.)
Speaking to United Review before that incident, Norwood described League One as "a battle". "You have to earn the right to be given a yard of space or any sort of time on the ball," he said.
"It's been a bit of an eye-opener. It's taught me a bit about the ugly side of the game and the importance of going and winning the ball back. I've also learnt that sometimes you have to give your opponent a bit of a kick because he's only going to go and do the same to you a few minutes later.
“It took me a couple of matches to get used to the pace of the game in League One but I feel settled now. Scunthorpe play 4-4-2 with wingers, so I'm in a traditional central midfield role. I'm box-to-box and see plenty of the ball, which suits me.”
While even Scunthorpe boss Alan Knill admits "the part of the game Oli has to work on is stopping other people playing", there’s never been any doubt about Norwood’s ability with the ball at his feet. A composed central midfielder, the Burnley-born Northern Ireland international possesses a keen footballing brain, a broad passing range and an eye for the spectacular at set-pieces. Now Norwood says League One has given him a chance to improve other areas of his game.
“I spoke with [United Reserves boss] Warren Joyce recently and asked him what I should be doing better. We both agreed that sometimes, when we don't have the ball, I go missing. So I’ve been working on that. Hopefully I'll have added that to my game by the end of this loan spell.”