I tend to have a love-hate relationship with the summer.
Blue skies, wispy clouds, ice cream, sandy beaches, barbecues, blossoming flowers, freshly cut grass, cricket, tennis… I enjoy all these things. The sun and I are like young friends – if he’s out, I probably will be too.
But sometimes we fall out – every other year, to be precise – and this year is one such time.
What is the reason for this biannual disagreement? There’s no bloomin’ football – that’s what!
Yes, yes – I hear you. There’s still ‘some’ football – but that’s not good enough I’m afraid! I need a proper fix – only a World Cup or European Championship will fully satisfy me and make my summer shine to its max.
Obviously, enjoying things other than football is a good thing and its important to have a break, but I don’t just enjoy football. I love it – I’m obsessed with it. Nothing else quite gets the pulse racing in the same way.
And given recent developments in NR1, it leaves me more frustrated than ever that I have to wait a whole two months before the lads kick off the new campaign.
Of course there’ll be plenty of ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ to distract us, in what is bound to be a tumultuous transfer window for the club, but it won’t be until we see the action on the pitch that we will truly start to see Norwich City’s revolution.
It’s important that fans don’t get too sensitive over players that may leave. Everyone is available. EVERYONE.
Some of our personal favourites may ‘exit stage left’. Just remember, no matter how much you adore them, they all have weaknesses. There’s always someone younger, hungrier and more talented to find out there.
Which brings me to our new head coach Daniel Farke.
I’m not going to pretend I knew who he was until a few weeks ago – very few people on these shores did.
But as someone who led the charge for the appointment of Jens Keller (or someone of his ilk) and as a keen observer of German football in general, the prospect of the young coach from North Rhine-Westphalia has captured my imagination.
I fully expect to see the likes of Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann linked to English clubs over the summer, and with good reason. Germany is currently a hotbed for gifted coaching talent.
Farke may look like a hitman but he’s softly spoken – I just want to sit on his knee and hear him read me a bedtime story. Is that weird? Probably!
Some will believe that this is Stuart Webber trying to mimic his time at Huddersfield with the appointment of a Wagner Mk II, in the hope it reaps similar rewards, but that would be wrong. Yes, he’s come from the same club, but in terms of techniques and coaching they appear different beasts – and Farke certainly comes rated considerably higher than his Dortmund II predecessor by those who’ve watched both closely.
I’ve read and listened to pretty much everything the internet has to offer about Farke and I don’t think I’ve found a single negative comment from anyone. Hard working, diligent, tactically astute and a real ‘players person’ – he came across exceptionally well in his interviews and the same applies to his coach Edmund Riemer.
Six months ago I wrote about how my love for football was waning – and trust me, it really was – but I feel rejuvenated now. I’m excited for the first time since Alex Neil fired us to Wembley. The club has put into place a continental-style structure that I’ve been willing us to have for the best part of a decade.
Bizarrely, I wrote just a day before Alex Neil’s dismissal explaining just that, albeit based on the expectation that Neil would remain in charge (as had seemed likely at the time). So as you can imagine, I’m pretty chuffed with the direction the club has chosen to venture towards.
Any appointment will have its naysayers but this one feels like a breath of fresh air. Ignore what Messrs Wilkins and Brazil say. They effectively present ‘talkSPORT with Dinosaurs’ – antiquated, not modern football – and this was not the time for City to hire an old head from the traditional merry-go-round – this is a vibrant candidate and exactly what was required under this setup.
A proper coach – somebody who offers new techniques and improves players.
I feel like an explorer heading to new lands in search of hidden treasures. Whether we find those treasures remains a mystery at this stage – but that’s all part of the fun!
This could all go horribly wrong, but the core principles that Webber is putting in place would suggest any optimism is not misplaced.
I’ve heard many fans and board members bang on about the ‘Norwich Way’ over the years. But what was it? We haven’t really had a proper identity since the days of Mike Walker and Dave Stringer. Everything has felt very ‘quick fix’, based on individual managers ideas. There was no long-term strategy.
Colin, sorry, Neil Warnock once claimed he was asked about his view of the ‘Norwich Way’ in an interview at the club and he suggested ‘losing’. Amusing and relatively accurate, but perhaps didn’t go down too well with the hierarchy who failed to award him the gig.
I think we’re now getting a real glimpse into what Webber’s blueprint is. His vision will be shared by the head coach and, from what we’re told, Farke’s mentality is to dominate possession and press the opposition hard without the ball. He is seemingly flexible in his formations too, playing 3 at the back sometimes, depending on how the Dortmund first team was playing.
So it appears we now have a clear plan – one that will long succeed Farke’s reign. Any new head coach from here on in will have to fit the new model.
I totally understand why some fans will have misgivings and it’s highly possible it won’t reap immediate success. I also get why some don’t truly appreciate (yet) how the new roles differentiate from the old setup. It’s a brave new world for many connected to the football club, from directors down to fans.
But everyone needs to give it a proper chance. Don’t moan if things start slowly. Give it six months and see how things are shaping up. We waited patiently for over two months to accrue our new head coach, so perhaps we’re a more understanding bunch than I often give us credit for.
Webber mentioned that he’s been delighted by the backing he’s received from supporters and even the media in response to his axe-wielding and broad overhaul, whilst credit should go to the likes of Ed Balls (yes, you heard me – he was a driving force behind this) for trying something different.
We need to create a decent atmosphere again, not just at games, but in terms of spirit inside the club.
Fans need to embrace change. The whole club has felt stale for a few years – despite the rollercoaster promotions and relegations – so sticking to the status quo would have been a sideways step at best. The potential is there to become a better club than we already are. As Farke said himself, “allow yourselves to dream”.
Anyway, I have my own dream – a solution to these drawn-out summers where football is stark in its frequency.
The FA should bring back the Soccer Sixes.
It was a televised, indoor, six-a-side tournament played in the late 80s and early 90s while English clubs were banned from European football. Once continental football returned, the fixture lists grew and clubs were unwilling to risk star players. But for those short years it was huge fun and the games were often brilliant!
No tactics, no cheating – just skill and panache played at 100 miles an hour. Here’s some of Norwich City’s highlights!
Sadly, it would never happen now, which is a shame – partly due to that risk of injuring multi-million pound assets but mainly, I suspect, because there’s no money in it.
Imagine the outcry… Jose Mourinho and his sports scientists would be having breakdowns. ‘We play too many games already’ would be the call… just before heading off to the Far East to play a handful of meaningless but lucrative friendlies.
Anyway, that’s my little ‘dream’ ruined!
Have a great summer everyone and here’s to an exciting and hopefully successful 2017-18 campaign.