BEN Godfrey has paid tribute to York City academy manager Andy McMillan and former coaches Richard Cresswell and Jonathan Greening as he hopes to be crowned League Two’s LFE Apprentice of the Year tomorrow.

The former City midfielder, who left Bootham Crescent to join Premier League Norwich in January following a deal that could amount to £1million, has been shortlisted for the prize that will be presented at the Football League Awards night in Manchester.

Godfrey broke into the Minstermen’s first team in August at the age of 17 and went on to make a total of 15 senior appearances whilst also scoring against Plymouth prior to his transfer to the Canaries.

His fellow shortlisted nominees are Hakeem Odoffin, who moved to Wolves mid-season after making two senior appearances for Barnet and Luton’s Frankie Musonda, who also has a couple of professional outings to his name.

While now looking to make strides at Carrow Road, Godfrey recognises the vital role played by City in his development and expressed regret that former Premier League duo Cresswell and Greening are no longer involved at the club following their December resignations.

The pair are now employed by City’s part-time neighbours Tadcaster Albion instead and Godfrey said: “I don’t think anybody from York has ever won the award so I feel proud and quite excited and I owe Andy McMillan, Jonathan Greening and Richard Cresswell a lot because I learned different aspects from all three of them.

“Working with Jonathan Greening was great because of his technical ability as a fellow midfielder. With Richard Cresswell, you benefit from his drive and determination and Andy McMillan gives you tactical insight.

“With their experience and what they have been through, I don’t know why you would lose the likes of Jonathan Greening and Richard Cresswell at any football club. You learn so much from their experience and knowledge in the game.

“They are two massive personalities that the club should have tried to keep but, with Andy still there, the academy is in the right hands and has kicked on under him with his philosophy. You play some clubs who still play an old-fashioned style of football but Andy came to the club and changed that.

“He is looking to produce players who can progress and play at a high level and the academy has improved massively from when I was first a part of it.” Godfrey went on to express his gratitude to the first-team management staff he worked under for the Minstermen.

“Russ Wilcox and John Schofield made a big decision to put me in the team and everything has kicked on from there for me,” he pointed out. “I’m also thankful to Jackie McNamara and Simon Donnelly for starting me quite a lot and the chairman for trusting their judgement in terms of playing me during what has been a massive season for the club.”

McNamara recently questioned the academy’s success rate and called for a greater conveyor belt of talent in future seasons with all but one of Godfrey’s fellow under-18 hopefuls having been released this week.

The former Scotland international suggested casting the net further afield in the club’s search for talent and Godfrey is in agreement, saying: “There is talent in York and was in my age group, as we had a good district team.

“I know there are a couple or players in the years below me who will come through too, but I’d say that football isn’t a massive thing for youngsters in the city when you compare it to places like Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield and it was a fair comment from the manager that the club needs to produce more players. Everybody feels proud when they see an academy graduate out there playing for the first team and that should be an objective for any club, not just York.

“If you get kids through the academy, whether they are local or not, they have got passion because they have had to work so hard to get into the first team. The rewards are also there for player and club, because they can be sold on and play football at a higher level.”

Godfrey is now rubbing shoulders in training with established internationals such as Dieumerci Mbokani, Martin Olsson, Alexander Tettey and Steven Naismith in Norfolk, but has his own designs on a first-team shirt. “I’m enjoying it here,” he enthused. “Training is different technically and it’s also hard moving away from family, but everybody at Norwich has looked after me and they are giving me the best chance to progress and play in the Premier League, so it’s up to me now.

“I’m training with the first team and playing for the under 21s, so I am getting that contact with the first team, which is what I wanted, wherever I went. It’s tough because the average age to break through in the Premier League is 22 or 23, whereas in the Football League it’s usually 19 or 20.

“There’s a lot to learn as the step from League Two to Premier League is absolutely massive and it’s the little details that you might be able to get away with at lower levels that people put a big emphasis on, but I am hoping that I will be pushing for the first team next season.”

Godfrey also featured in Norwich’s FA Youth Cup run to the quarter-finals where they were knocked out by Manchester City, but the former Archbishop Holgate’s school pupil admitted he found the transition back to under-18 football difficult having experienced the demands and expectations of the pro game at his home-town club.

“Under-18s football is really different to first-team football,” he reasoned. “You have to adapt to it again and accept some people will make different decisions.”

That experience also brought him into contact with one of the most celebrated City youth-team graduates Graeme Murty – the former Scotland international who is now Norwich’s youth-team manager.

“He has good experience as a player and has produced a good team by teaching his players the right way,” Godfrey said of Murty. “He still pays attention to York and wants to know all about the players and staff.

“He appreciates they gave him the first step up in his career, like myself.”