“If you had asked me five years ago: ‘Do you think you would be where you are today?’ I would probably say ‘no’ – but things change quickly in football and I’m glad of it.”
Massive congratulations to Kinetic graduate Rhys Norrington-Davies who helped Wales qualify to their first World Cup in 64 years, beating Ukraine 1-0 in the European Playoff Final. Wales will join England, Iran and the USA in group B at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
Norrington-Davies spent the majority of his childhood in Aberystwyth, west Wales, attending a Welsh primary school, but was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He spent two and a half years in Nairobi because his father, Patrick, who grew up in the village of Dol-y-bont, was based in Kenya with the British army. His mother, Lowri, hails from Tre’r-ddol, another nearby village. The family returned home when Norrington-Davies was seven but he has fond memories of his time in Africa.
“It’s not your typical upbringing. I’ve got some friends who have since moved back to the UK, who I still keep in touch with to this day. It was a great experience – it is very different to the UK, that’s for sure. I saw everything, from the coast, Mombasa, to the Masai Mara. I did all the safari tours but more wild camping. It was a fantastic childhood.”
He impressed football scouts after his return to Wales. However, after three seasons at Swansea City, Rhys Norrington-Davies was released at 16. He joined the Kinetic programme in September 2015, spending two seasons with us, through Royal Russell School. After studying A-Levels in geology, physics and maths, a university degree in civil engineering and architecture beckoned. But then Sheffield United came calling and after he finished his A-Levels in 2017, Rhys signed for the Blades becoming our 13th signing to a professional club that had been on our academy programme.
Norrington-Davies: “It could have been completely different for me. I got accepted into Southampton University, depending on my A-Level grades, then I was offered a professional deal by Sheffield United. At 17 or 18, it was more about education for me and concentrating on that. Although I hadn’t given up on football and I wanted to play as high as possible, it was a passion of mine and I just enjoyed playing.”
Rhys made his Sheffield United debut in August 2021 after productive loans in the Championship with Luton and then Stoke last season. They followed spells with Rochdale and Barrow, the latter in non-league. “I needed to go out and get regular first-team football. The loans were ideal because I was new to the game, raw and they enabled me to develop my game. At the rate Sheffield United have progressed in recent years, finding themselves in the Premier League, I had to raise my standards. I’d like to think I’ve improved massively over the last two or three years but there is still room for progression”. Norrington-Davies made 25 appearances for the Blades this season, helping them reach the Championship Playoffs, where they lost to Nottingham Forest on penalties to deny them a trip to Wembley to challenge for promotion to the Premier League.
Rhys was part of the Wales squad for the Euros in 2021. Now we look forward to hopefully seeing him in the World Cup squad in Qatar later this year!