Daniel Farke will take charge of his 100th Norwich City game as Head Coach today when his side welcome Sheffield Wednesday to Carrow Road tonight (7.45).
I think that we’d all agree that it’s not always been a smooth path to where we are now, sitting atop the Sky Bet Championship, four points clear of Leeds in second and seven points clear of Sheffield United in third place.
Last season was a bit of a low and I know many of you might think I’m understating the facts of the situation there.
A 14th placed finish, behind Ipswich Town (albeit only on goal difference only), coupled with endless passing and possession and no regular end product.
Things were looking bleak for “Farkeball” although if you follow Vital Norwich, you’ll know that I always believed it could work. Did we have the right players though? Were we expecting too much too soon? Did this German bloke actually know what he was doing?
The answer to all these questions was yes and no.
A third transfer window under his, and Stuart Webber’s eye, brought the necessary tweaks and the right players into the squad.
The scouting system at Norwich under Kieran Scott, with whom Webber worked at Wolves, has been the envy of not just the Championship but every other English league too, showing that you don’t need to just throw money at a football club to make it work.
In fact, it’s almost the opposite. Naturally, money helps (a lot) but getting the right people and crucially players to form a team is the key.
Farke has promoted youth and the academy like no other City manager in recent years. It can, of course, be argued that the current young crop of Academy graduates, Cantwell, Godfrey, Lewis and Aarons wouldn’t have been ready much earlier than this season. You could also argue that a lack of transfer funds forced Farke to look within rather than try to buy a team but, that would be doing Farke and Webber a disservice.
If Norwich City are to get into the Premier League and crucially, stay there, then there has to be a plan for that. The Academy and a steady production line of young players are seen as the way to do it since Delia and Michael don’t have endless amounts of cash to put into the club. If you won a Euro Millions jackpot, you’d immediately be worth a lot more than our owners, while Marcus Evans at Ipswich is worth a reported £765m according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
That underlines again just how important getting the right people in actually is, not that Mr Evans actually spends much on his own football toy.
The addition of the young players to the team has made a huge difference with Aarons and Lewis, in particular, changing the dynamic of the team and they have emerged as the best two fullbacks in the league. Is that a bold claim?
Can you name me a pair that you’d swap them for in our division? I’ll wait.
The scouting set-up has unearthed some absolute gems over the last year. Who had heard of Emi Buendia, Mario Vrancic, Teemu Pukki, Marco Stiepermann, Moritz Leitner, Onel Hernandez or Christoph Zimmermann before they arrived at NR1?
The team that drew with Wigan last weekend contained four Academy graduates, four free transfers and three others who cost about £4m between them.
I for one, am excited to see who the Recruitment Team uncover next. Is there another Buendia or a Pukki ready to join the squad and deliver wholly beyond our wildest expectations? I like to think that I know a bit about football and it’s players both home and abroad but the German second and third divisions aren’t really my field of expertise.
We are now entering the end game of the season with just four games remaining. Realistically, Norwich only need to match Sheffield United’s results in two of those four and we will be promoted although we could actually be promoted today if the Blades lose at home to Forest at lunchtime and we then beat Wednesday tonight.
That doesn’t seem very likely to me but, bear in mind that Chris Wilder will be without John Egan, Chris Basham and crucially, Billy Sharp and due to Basham and Sharp having hamstring problems, they might miss a few games more yet too.
That game will be shown live on Sky Sports at lunchtime and although Forest have nothing to play for, Martin O’Neill will want to keep up the playoff chase until it is mathematically impossible. He has promised changes though, as he continues to look at players with a view to next season. So, you never know.
Back at home, Norwich’s only injury concern is Tom Trybull, who has taken a knock to his knee and struggled a bit this week. Farke said that he hopes he can make tonight’s game but if he does miss out then there’s another decision to make.
Would he play Alex Tettey, who hasn’t been involved for some time or, would he play Vrancic or Leitner alongside Kenny McLean to replace the midfield pit bull that is Super Tommy Trybull?
Finally, if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a great little video that the EDP’s Michael Bailey has put together about Daniel Farke.
Enjoy and COME ON YOU YELLOWS!!!