It’s all starting to get that little bit more real.
With tickets for the opening Championship match not only going on sale but being snapped up – all 3000 of them – within three hours, it is clear that excitement and expectation are growing among the Yellow Army.
Despite the disappointing injury updates on Alex Pritchard and Timm Klose, and the impending departure of Jacob Murphy, it seems that the vast majority of City fans have well and truly bought into the vision of Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke.
The Murphy situation is a rather strange one in that news of the transfer seemed to spark similar levels of positivity at both ends. Newcastle fans, who have found their club struggling to make signings, finally had a big money deal to sustain their delusion that they are anywhere near the elite level of English football, while City fans were excited by the prospect of what a shrewd operator like Webber could produce with a serious capital injection to the playing budget.
I wish Jacob the very best and hope that he will continue the development that he showed last year. Without doubt he will be under pressure to perform with such a big price tag, but it may actually be helpful to him to start with a clean slate and get away from some of the prejudices that led to him being booed by a few City fans on occasions last season.
He is without doubt a huge talent, albeit not yet fully formed, and one can only hope that he gets the necessary game time at St James Park to develop, because at 22 he is no longer a “youngster” and needs to start to realise his full potential sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, City have plenty of cover in wide areas, with Josh Murphy, Yanic Wildschut and Marley Watkins all able to play wide, plus Matt Jarvis, should he ever find himself outside the physio’s room.
Given that it seems that Farke’s system is unlikely to utilise two wingers (and may on occasions derive its width from wing backs) that should be ample.
Attention will now inevitably turn to potential incomings, with Stuart Webber telling last week’s Social Club gathering that the club were looking to bring more players in.
One who apparently won’t be coming, despite a certain amount of teeth gnashing from Norwich fans, is Mitchell Dijks, whose stratospheric wage demands have not only proved too rich for Webber but also for Harry Redknapp at Birmingham – a man hardly known for his budgetary reticence.
Personally, I don’t quite understand the fuss about Dijks. Yes, he’s built like a Panzer tank and it was amusing to see would be tacklers bouncing off him, but defensively he was pretty ordinary and considerably less effective on attacking set pieces than his stature would imply. He certainly doesn’t have the talent to justify messing with the club’s salary ceiling.
What is impressing me is the speed with which the club seems to be getting its deals done this summer, and also the relative secrecy attaching to them, with rumours breaking only shortly before official announcements.
Of course, it helps that players are coming from abroad and that we are shopping in less high-profile markets, but it does suggest that the club is a much tighter ship in terms of leaks than has been the case in recent years.
The other thing that I’m really excited by are the reports of gruelling training sessions to support a style of play that will revolve around keeping possession but then working hard to retrieve it when it is lost.
Last season, City not only didn’t look after the ball well enough but also seemed to lack the stamina to maintain a high pressing game, with far too many goals conceded in the final 20 minutes of games.
It’s unfortunate that Klose and Pritchard are going to have to play catch-up in terms of fitness. I know from my own playing career how much a good pre-season can contribute to getting through the hard yards in midwinter (not that that stopped me from hating every minute of the endless doggies and sand runs!) but that’s the situation Farke is faced with and it simply offers the chance for others to step up to the plate and make names for themselves.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t wait for August 5 to arrive. Whilst I’m not kidding myself that it may take time for things to fall into place, I’ve got a good feeling about the way the club is going both on and off the pitch and the sooner we get going with the real stuff the better!
Thanks to our friends at Archant for permitting us the use of Robin’s services over the summer; as short-term loans go this one has been far more Peter Crouch than Antoine Sibierski. Thanks also to Robin for his valued MFW contributions.