There is one common denominator that binds us together and that is the adoration and unconditional love of Norwich City.
Last Wednesday night epitomised this togetherness, which has been discussed by those spearheading the club’s operations. Stuart Webber mentioned it, Daniel Farke actioned it, but that Stamford Bridge performance left those who align themselves to the Canaries with an immense sense of pride.
This football club has been wedged apart with club politics, player departures and the ownership debate in recent months, but as academy graduate Jamal Lewis scored in added time in West London, it proved this club has the potential to be united.
The framework and apparatus is still being constructed and the rollercoaster being endured, yet time is a key factor in Operation Farke. With wins, conversations surrounding the owners and off field issues evaporate.
This window epitomises what the project is. The club needs to have an academy that is regularly producing talent and who better to source and develop that talent than a man who was leading operations at Borussia Dortmund’s Under-23s only a year ago.
Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell are the new poster boys despite Alan Irvine, upon his departure last May, stating the club was devoid of talent in its youth sides. Farke however has already plucked a real gem in Lewis and it is not implausible to suggest that there is an abundance of talent working tirelessly to be the next Lewis, Murphy and the like.
The sale of Alex Pritchard, to a degree, reinforces the desire to have a squad full of players fully committed and those who fail to display commitment or have minds elsewhere will be swiftly move on. The average age is also slowly decreasing. The oldest signing to date has been 28-year-old Mario Vrancic.
Webber inherited a mess upon his arrival at Carrow Road and this structure requires longer than six months for that mess to be cleared up despite the excellent off-field work, including halving the wage bill and ridding the club of its big earners.
This philosophy is one of slow construction, one which has been halted by bumps in the road and slowed by the reduction of an inflated wage bill. January is one of the most frenetic and fractious periods of the footballing year. Day by day, deals develop and fall, only to be completed eventually. It is a disconcerting and problematic period for all football clubs.
For Norwich, the size of the cloth has been significantly reduced and that gaping hole has been filled by the money the club was able to recoup from the sale of Pritchard. Now, all eyes turn to the incomings.
There won’t be big names, nor big fees or household names (Kenny McLean from Aberdeen fits that bill). The signings will be done on the cheap, which is the reality of where Norwich is at present. The investment debate needs to be put on ice for the time being, the feelings of pride and admiration from last Wednesday night need to be embraced.
This pathway is the correct one. Fans are feeling fragile due to the mismanagement and perceived lack of ambition, but for once this club has a youth policy that allows young players an opportunity rather an ageing squad eating away a large proportion of the wages.
The players on loan, Ben Godfrey, Carlton Morris and Remi Matthews, are there to improve their game by playing at a good level. Godfrey, in particular, would have been easy for Norwich to retain and ensure he has a bit part role; instead, his position was filled with a loan whilst he gains a full season of development to eventually replace Alex Tettey.
When he does so, Norwich will have an operator who has been part of a League One promotion battle and will be hungry to maintain a positive year. Also, it would be easy for the club to recall Godfrey whilst right-backs are short of supply, but that too would be just a short-term fix.
City are using the loan system to great effect. It is a positive thing to have a lot of players on loan; it shows a club being proactive and trying to improve youngsters for either a first-team role or a viable player who can make them money.
The academy is undergoing significant changes.
Youth players from the younger years are filling the gaps left by loanees and in doing so are gaining valuable experience of operating in a higher age bracket. The club requires the academy to be self-funding through sales of youth team players but also by offering these players a path into the first squad.
There is now an abundance of youthful talent in the ranks. Nurturing and growing is the remit of those who oversee a player’s development. Lewis, Cantwell and Godfrey are just the first of a longer chain. What Norwich need to do now is ensure this is engrained in their DNA and learn from clubs like Southampton who have received large fees for graduates such as Walcott, Bale and Shaw.
In Farke, they have a progressive coach willing to integrate younger players in the side and in Webber, a man who is willing to spend significant time shaping and developing the academy for long-term gain.
It’s all about the process and that is in place.