Plenty of the discourse since Johannes Hoff Thorup's appointment as Norwich City head coach was confirmed has centred around youth - so where does that leave players like Ashley Barnes? 

The experienced striker kicked off Norwich's recruitment drive last summer, a symbol for a willingness to head down a very different path under David Wagner and Stuart Webber.

City's clamour to recruit Barnes was so significant they invited him for a tour of Colney and were willing to go where others were not by offering him a two year deal after his long-standing spell at Turf Moor came to an end. 

A week in football is a long time, let alone 12 months. Norwich are heading into a new direction led by sporting director Ben Knapper and his chosen head coach Thorup. It is one of youth, data, and possession-based, attractive football. On the surface, that doesn't tally up with Barnes' profile. 

Knapper has stated publicly that he wants to lower the age profile - the first steps have seen the decision to release Ben Gibson and Danny Batth, whilst Adam Forshaw exited in January to join Plymouth against Wagner's wishes. 

Barnes is still one of seven City players over the age of 30 in the squad—along with Shane Duffy, Grant Hanley, Kenny McLean, Onel Hernandez, George Long, and Christian Fassnacht. This dynamic contrasts with the discourse that has surrounded Knapper and Thorup so far. 

But, Thorup did work with experienced professionals during his time at Nordsjaelland. His captain was 35-year-old Kian Hansen who played over 40 matches, likewise 31-year-old Jeppe Tverskov - who was a regular fixture.

In fact, the age profile of the squad during his squad increased slightly. What impressed so many was how Thorup, who is just seven months older than Barnes, is how he managed the different age profiles in Denmark.  

Barnes will have a role to play at Carrow Road, albeit maybe a slightly different one to this season. 

There is another dynamic to consider - as it stands, Norwich will have Josh Sargent, the returning Adam Idah, Barnes and Ken Aboh, with his contractual situation moving close to a positive resolution, to select from. 

Ashley Barnes has had a positive impact on his Norwich City teammates.Ashley Barnes has had a positive impact on his Norwich City teammates. (Image: Daniel Hanbury/Focus Images Ltd)

Naturally, there will likely be movements in that department with Sargent already being touted with a move to top-flight clubs, Idah wanted by Celtic and Aboh likely to head out on loan. 

There was chatter, although hard to verify, that suggested there was a chance that Barnes could have left in January for another Championship side - but how close to that truth those whispers actually were, only a selected few would be able to verify. 

But there is a realism that, given his age, financial package and contractual status, the likelihood of any real interest is likely to be slim, but not impossible. It would be interesting to see the willingness of all parties if something did emerge this summer.  

Barnes remains a monumentally important presence in the dressing room. There is an argument that would be magnified in a more inexperienced, younger dressing room - he is a setter of high standards and a leader that others follow.

Ask Sargent, Idah, Jon Rowe or any of the City squad about Barnes, and the comeback is always glowing after a wry smile. Many were surprised by his welcoming nature, given the persona he's carved out on the pitch.  

He buys all in, and he immerses himself in every aspect of the club he represents at the time - even when not playing, there are no toys being thrown out of the pram, and he leads the squad. 

Such was the case, there was extra effort from Barnes, on behalf of the dressing room, to learn about the circumstances that led to the breakdown between supporters, Wagner and the squad in February's 4-2 victory over Watford in an attempt to unify. 

Barnes has a key role to play under Johannes Hoff Thorup.Barnes has a key role to play under Johannes Hoff Thorup. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Those skills could be invaluable to Thorup as he steps into English football for the first time and in a new environment, trying to implement a different style that will need commitment from the squad, which can be achieved by getting Barnes on board early doors. 

It may be that Barnes is exposed to fewer minutes; in truth, he is probably expecting that in year two of his Norwich project. But that doesn't mean he won't have a significant role to play. 

Even on the pitch, at Burnley under Vincent Kompany, Barnes was utilised as a false nine in a possession-heavy and successful side. Even if reduced to cameos, City will get a full-throttle and professional operator that would provide a different dynamic suited to seeing matches out or if in need of a presence up front. 

Barnes was useful on the pitch during his debut campaign - it is no coincidence that Sargent's best performances came when the 34-year-old was deployed as a second striker in Wagner's unique tactical set-up. 

Ben Knapper has made little secret of his desire to bring down the average age at Norwich City.Ben Knapper has made little secret of his desire to bring down the average age at Norwich City. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Norwich's win ratio was significantly reduced without Barnes on the pitch. Those intangible qualities do hold weight, and his influence on the pitch is clear. Is he the most prolific? By his own admission, no. Is he the best technically? Again, he would be honest in response to that question. But that doesn't mean he serves no purpose. 

Barnes turns 35 in October. He's in the final year of his contract at Carrow Road; it's going to be fascinating to see how much Thorup uses him and what role he takes in 2024/25. 

It may not be as frontline, but it will still be vitally important. Stuart Webber used to call them 'cultural enablers' - if Thorup can harness Barnes in the right way, he can be an asset to the early stages of his City revolution.