Dogged. Determined. Deserved.
That was the beautifully alliterative line produced by Norwich City’s media team in response to an epic victory in the North East. It was a win built from a basement of team ethic and unity, with the team huddle being the evidence of this. It has been a truly miraculous few weeks to support Norwich City.
As a football fans, we’re always looking towards the ‘what if. We seek the alternate outcome, the unexpected one. Whether that is a good old giant killing or a team over-performing, there is something exhilarating about it.
Something as human beings makes underdogs more appealing and we tend to root for a side that are looking to achieve against the odds. This idea that something is unachievable or impossible excites us.
Whilst I can’t deliver a psychology lesson as to why this is the case, when a team or individual defies expectation, there is something beautiful about it. These miraculous achievements are often born from a resounding team ethic and resilience.
You only have to draw upon the refreshing narratives written by Leicester City and Huddersfield Town as evidence of how an underdog can grip the hearts of football supporters; both excellent tales in their own right, no matter your opinion on the clubs in question.
The huddle in the aftermath of the victory at Middlesbrough symbolised how these values had defeated the embarrassment of riches deployed by the home side.
This unity and resilience is refreshing to see following an underachieving campaign last year. Daniel Farke’s men seem to have turned a corner and for Norwich fans there is finally a reason to be cheerful and positive.
Farke’s previously confusing and fragmented side have been remodelled, and Canaries followers are left to gaze unexpectedly at finding themselves in unchartered waters after the last two away fixtures. The disastrous away form that underpinned last season is still fresh in the memory, and fans are rediscovering the spark they hold with this football club.
Norwich has uncovered a spine which has stood tall to all bombardments of the last five fixtures. Since Timm Klose’s return, the defence have been impeccable. Klose was shoehorned into a side leaking goals and, along with sidekick Christoph Zimmermann, has stopped the rot. Not singlehandedly, admittedly, but that pairing deserve loads of credit.
Zimmermann in particular deserves tremendous praise. I’m keen to rhapsodize about him, particularly because of the criticism I threw in his direction in light of his sense of overawe at Villa and, to a lesser extent, Millwall. Since then he has become a poster boy for ‘FarkeLife’.
I apologise Christoph. I got it wrong, you’re a colossus.
It all comes back to that buzzword: resilience. The psychology of sport is fascinating, Norwich have seemingly adopted a ‘black box thinking’ approach. Is resilience something that’s coached, or built up over time?
In my opinion, it’s a mixture of the two, a combination of high intensity training, but also application. Resilience is something that all teams seek to achieve, but only the best properly achieve. Football is played as much with the head as the feet, if not more.
What’s also critical to success is team morale; a collective devotion to the cause. Farke has spoken of the difficulty he faced in preventing ‘tribes’ forming in the dressing room and while it would be easy for the German contingency to congregate together, they seem to have dispersed themselves across the dressing room.
From the expectations of last season, Norwich find themselves amongst an altogether different kettle of fish.
It’s this sense of underdog. A sense that the spotlights are on Norwich’s counterparts, no less the subjugate Middlesbrough and that could suit them. It could aide them to look forwards without the pressure denting the morale within.
That’s why keeping things in house is vital. Sean Dyche has kept that mentality at Burnley and it’s been salient to their success; Farke is looking to emulate this togetherness and mentality to achieve success in NR1.
It’s an exciting time to support Norwich. The pre-season optimism has returned, and they are on an upwards trajectory; five clean sheets, a new club reward, is not something to be belittled. In the wreckage of The Den, that would have been pretty unfathomable.
Norwich’s ‘nice’ tag has been temporarily removed. If you want success in this division, you have to be two-faced; whilst City have an aesthetically pleasing philosophy, being described as ‘very physical’ by Jaap Stam and the implosion of Chris Wilder are backhanded compliments.
No more are Norwich a ‘soft touch’. No longer do they possess their ‘nice’ tag. This is a bunch of winners, make no mistake.
What’s even greater is this Norwich team is full of personality, spearheaded by a man who knows how to manage. Integrity, class and the level-headedness of Farke has allowed the personalities to be just that.
But patience is required now more than ever. This run of unbeaten games is merely that – a run. Norwich will fail to score at home from time to time, or scrap draws here and there, but if they can continue to build on the current level of performance they will make the playoffs.
Dogged. Determined. Deserved.
These characteristics personify the Norwich squad. And long may it continue.