It’s easy to be mesmerised and uncontrollably excited following an unbeaten pre-season. When the new regime has bred positivity and optimism through supporters by almost clicking immediately, it’s hard not to be buoyant.
As pre-season concludes and the ‘real stuff’ approaches, it’s like the countdown to Christmas Day; football fans emulating young children on December 24th as Saturday draws closer.
But how important is pre-season to the rest of the campaign?
In truth, it’s completely and utterly irrelevant. Despite – as Marley Watkins touched upon – relationships between players being formed, coinciding with the mental qualities which develop, including confidence and unity, pre-season bears little effect.
I do however accept that the physical enhancements of Daniel Farke’s military style of training will be useful in the slog which is the Championship and it’s easy to buy into any regime which has delivered an unbeaten series of games.
What is critical is calmness, patience and open mindedness. Naturally, it’s simple to draw comparisons between Stuart Webber and David McNally, or Daniel Farke and Paul Lambert, but despite the direct and fresh ideas they brought into Carrow Road there are in fact few similarities.
McNally oversaw a more controlling reign and patrolled Carrow Road with peripheral vision in his running of Norwich City.
Webber seems more open to ideas from elsewhere and definitely doesn’t abide to the happy-go-lucky approach of previous senior figures. Farke seems composed and self-confident. He hasn’t buckled to the conventional blame game, despite it being reasonable following the quota of players situated in the physio’s room.
What has graced Norwich, as well as a thorough spring clean, is a structure of senior management who are direct, rehearsed and cohesive. If City do fail to ignite, it’s not for the want of trying. But as I’ve touched upon, pre-season is irrelevant and is very much a warm-up act for the gruelling season that’s about to commence.
As I board my Club Canary coach to undertake the journey down to the capital on Saturday, consuming some as yet unnamed TV/Radio content (suggestions welcome…), my mind will wander as to what the campaign holds for us Canaries. Between the endless passes there must be substance, an overriding quality that defines Norwich as better than their opponent.
Yet, in reality, the first day of the season often isn’t a great gauge as to how the season will pan out. The statistic of Norwich winning one opening day game since 2002 is a negative. That win was last season, and I remember standing on the terrace of Ewood Park thinking about how much of a doddle this campaign would be as the sun shone on a 4-1 rout of the eventually-relegated side.
I even disagree with the companies who publish the league table; wasting time on the creation of a table for the first three fixtures. It’s on the whole irrelevant (unless Ipswich are in the bottom three) and provides unwarranted fury/joy when the season is in just its infancy.
The capitulation of Farke’s predecessor seems astonishing on reflection, sitting top of the division, in possession of our own progression in the league only to implode. Under Farke, Norwich will look to flick effortlessly between systems and structures but ultimately one thing will remain the same: the personality and philosophy he has drummed into his side.
There is a side to me, perhaps pessimistically, which is waiting for the turning point. As a Norwich fan, there always seems to a point at which you realise your hope and optimism was unjustified. Under Alex Neil, that gloomy night was played out in Newcastle; for Neil Adams it the long run without a win in the autumn months; and for Chris Hughton it was the 7-0 thrashing by Manchester City.
It’s important to maintain balance. This is a squad formed within two months. Seven of last Saturday’s eleven weren’t even in the building when City defeated a QPR side who were firmly ‘on the beach’ on the final day of last season.
For myself, as excited as I am that football is about to re-emerge as the frontrunner of my Saturdays as opposed to shopping aisles (if she’s reading, I was willingly dragged…), I urge Norwich fans to share my patience and keep an eye on the bigger picture.
It’s important to emphasise the fact that City may be slow starters or just slow. Personally, if they can push towards the top six, I’d consider that a good season in what is hopefully a happy and prosperous marriage under the new structure. The wage budget has been slashed drastically; key players have flown from the nest and a radical new style of football is being implemented.
Unambitious? Perhaps, but I think a dose of realism is needed.
Teething problems are inevitable. As the ball is moved across a possession-heavy back four, perspective is imperative. This is all part of a plan. It’s not the scattergun tactics of Alex Neil, nor is the ‘heavy metal’ style that Paul Lambert brought, successfully, to Norfolk. This is tactical, patient and potent football.
It’s a tactical and heavy style where the basics are completed seemingly effortless.
You may be out of your comfort zone consuming it; you may suddenly have an urge to panic as Norwich play out from seemingly impossible positions; you might even swear when there is a mistake; but remember, in order for this ‘evolution’ to work, everybody has to be behind it. One group, one movement and one overriding belief.
The transition from predominately British styles and ideology is being replaced with a brand of football with German heritage coursing through its veins. Let’s back the boys. Be patient and keep perspective.
And that, Russell Martin, is how you complete a rallying call.
Let the fun and games commence.