Archie Mair is getting the best of both worlds. During the week he trains at Norwich City then he plays his games at King’s Lynn, who have matched their best FA Cup run and have another giant-killing in their sights this weekend against Portsmouth.
Mair, 19, is treading the same path as Carrow Road legend Bryan Gunn, who he spoke to before moving from Aberdeen at the start of last season before moving away from home for the first time.
Instead of playing Academy football, Mair took the decision to play in the National League and under another former Canary Ian Culverhouse. The teenager was man-of-the-match against Port Vale in the first round of the Cup and is now relishing facing the 2008 winners during his unique loan arrangement.
“I knew I needed to go out and get games playing men’s football so I’ve got the best of both worlds, really,” he said. “Norwich are flying this season and training with them every day prepares you for getting read on players who are at a very high level.
“On a Thursday night I train with King’s Lynn and we’ll go through shape and everything else, then play the games. It’s a good arrangement between the clubs and myself. You speak to everybody, especially goalkeepers, and they say that at some point you need to go out and play.”
Gunn, who was in goal on Norwich’s famous European nights in the 1990s, told Mair to take the opportunity when the club moved for him in 2019. There are reminders of Gunn are around Carrow Road with a lounge named after him. “He said you won’t regret moving down here, so go and grab it with both hands,” Mair said.
It meant a flat-share with Aidan Fitzpatrick, who moved from Partick Thistle at the same time, and a few room-mate arguments over who does the dishes. Fitzpatrick went to Queen of the South on loan this season and Mair wanted men’s football himself to experience the dark arts of men’s football.
“The place you notice it is the set-plays with the ruthlessness of the players in the league,” he said. “I’m still getting challenged by it but feel I adapted. It makes you grow up quickly and you’ve got no excuses. Trying to to put you off, get a niggle at you. If you come for a cross they’re not leaving you alone even if you call for it, someone will hit you after you take it. It makes you more streetwise.
“When I was 15 or 16 I was playing reserve football back in Scotland so I was still coming up against older players and that was physical so it prepared me for it a bit but it was a big change.”
After training at King’s Lynn two weeks ago he got home to watch Scotland reach the European Championships with their penalty shootout win against Serbia, with David Marshall the hero and an inspiration for Mair, who is with the Under-19s.
“It breeds confidence in the younger teams to think ‘why can’t we be the next generation to go and do that?’” said Mair. “Kenny McLean took one of the penalties. He is still on a high but unfortunately picked up an injury.
“It makes you proud being Scottish, watching them do that and gives you inspiration for your own future.”
Mair has also taken heart from young players at Carrow Road either playing under Daniel Farke or earning moves back to the Premier League like Jamal Lewis or Ben Godfrey.
He is hoping his spell in non-league football will see him playing in the EFL soon. With King’s Lynn, he has started nine successive games since making his debut and keeping the No1 jersey. That included the Cup win at Vale Park and now Mair can catch the eye at Fratton Park in the second round.
“You can see the pathway with Max Aarons playing every week, Ben and Jamal, and you know if you are doing well the boss isn’t going to be afraid to chuck you in. It’s about taking your opportunity when it comes,” said Mair.