Exclusive with Brooke Norton-Cuffy – Millwall loanee on Coventry play-off defeat, loan progression and why he has unfinished business in the Championship

Millwall loanee Brooke Norton-Cuffy believes he has unfinished business in the Championship after missing out on promotion to the Premier League with Coventry last season.

The 19-year-old has joined the Lions on a season-long loan from Arsenal and is in the opening stages of his second full campaign in the second tier.

Norton-Cuffy began last year on loan at Rotherham at the foot of the Championship before being snapped up by high-flying Coventry halfway through the season.

The attacking full-back made 24 appearances for the Sky Blues – cementing his place in the side towards the end of the season – as they reached the play-off final against Luton Town at Wembley.

But after a goalless 120 minutes, the Hatters won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history after a 7-6 win on penalties.

“One-hundred per cent,” Norton-Cuffy told the South London Press when asked if he had unfinished business in the Championship.

“Speaking with my friends, family and agent, I really felt like I showed my true self at times in the Championship, but I didn’t do it enough.

“This season is about me performing at a consistent level for as many games as possibly can. I played quite a bit last season, but it was lots of ups and downs. I had to deal with a change of manager at [Rotherham], something I have never dealt with before. With Rotherham, we were in the relegation zone at one point. It was about fighting, digging deep and trying to get points when we could.

“I went to Coventry and it was a completely different style of football.

Coventry City’s Brooke Norton-Cuffy is tackled by Luton Town’s Marvelous Nakamba during the Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday May 27, 2023.

“I had to adapt to a different culture and had to try to cement myself in the team. I really picked up form towards the end of the season. It’s now about being consistent this season and showing that I can bring more to the game than last season.”

Norton-Cuffy was deployed as a right-sided midfielder for Mark Robins’ Coventry side that took to the Wembley turf for their play-off final. He played the full 90 minutes before making way for Fankaty Dabo as extra time started.

“I didn’t realise how big a game it was until the day before,” added the Pimlico-born Norton-Cuffy. “I saw it everywhere the day before. On my phone, on TV, in newspapers and I had people ringing me and about 1,000 texts. I tried to stay off social media the day before and tried to take my mind off it.

“The day of the game, it was just rammed packed with fans everywhere. I didn’t really have time to digest the game properly and think about how the result went, because I had to go to the U20 World Cup with England the day after – I had to fly out to Argentina.

“I was disappointed and gutted that we lost, especially with the way we lost, as it’s always a bit worse when you lose on penalties.

“The World Cup was a blessing in disguise – I didn’t have time to dwell. I was upset the night of the game, but the next day I was in my England tracksuit and getting ready to go on the plane.

“I’m someone who gets quite beat up about stuff. I really love winning, so I’m not the best when I lose. But when there are games every two or three days in the Championship, you don’t really have time to dwell. You just have to get on with it and put what went wrong, right.

“Games come thick and fast in the Championship and it’s perfect for me. I’m upset the first day and I’ll go away and watch back my clips to see what I can do better, and then I’ll try and improve on that for the next game to make sure we can get the win.”

Norton-Cuffy has already notched up more than 50 senior appearances at first-team football since he headed out for his first loan at Lincoln in January 2022.

It has been a steady progression of stints away from The Emirates for the South Londoner that has seen him reach The Den for this campaign.

“The loans have been great for me – they have helped me massively,” added Norton-Cuffy.

“I went on loan at quite a young age – I had just turned 18 and went on loan to Lincoln. I didn’t have a car yet, so I took the train there.

“That first loan is what really helped me kick on.

“Rotherham was a step up to the Championship and I started the first 10 games – I think I did well there.

“It was hard to cement myself in the team at Coventry, but I did well and earned my spot towards the end of the season.

“Now I have come back to the Championship with Millwall and I want to push on and see where it can take us this season.

“I have learned so much. In League One, I got away with some things, whether that was positioning-wise or using my pace to get back to defend situations in time. But I was exposed at times in the Championship. I was learning on the job and trying to adapt. I was sitting down, watching clips, and analysing everything to see where I could improve.

“If I make a mistake, that’s fine, but let’s not keep making the same mistake again and again, because then you’re not learning. You need to learn from the mistakes you made.”

So why has the youngster opted to join Millwall this season to continue his progression?

“Playing against them last season wasn’t an easy game at all,” explained Norton-Cuffy, who has started his first four outings in a Lions shirt.

“I sat down and had a meeting with the manager [Gary Rowett] and the assistant [Adam Barrett], and they gave me the plan for the team, my individual development, and how he wants me to fit into the team.

“The fans were a big part to play. They have a good reputation for being loud, being hostile and really getting behind the boys.

“There is a lot of talent in the squad.

“It’s going to take a bit of time for us to gel together. The players are still learning about what I’m about and I’m still learning about them.

“There are a couple of new faces in. There are some young players on the fringe of it, like Romain [Esse] and Aidomo [Emakhu], who are both great talents and additions to the squad.

“Once we really click and start to understand each other, because it’s still early on in the season, we will be a really tough side to stop.”

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