On September 18, I ended my last piece with the following after City’s 1-0 win against Middlesbrough:
Middlesbrough was a wakeup call – at 3 pm, we gathered it would be a similar one to the lesson we were taught by Leeds a few weeks earlier. Instead, by 5pm, there was hope and optimism that this team of youngsters, rejects and experienced heads could be something special if Farke knows how to play it.
My closing statement was:
Things still need time to click but maybe that’ll be the beauty of this season.
On September 19, Norwich beat Reading 2-1 at the Madejski and I opened a new Word document appropriately named “possible new piece?” and started it quoting the above.
I never got round to finishing it – it’s an all too regular thing on the back of a post-match high.
And on October 2, as City looked to continue their unbeaten run against Derby, I added this to the document:
Usually you learn the regret what you said, or things don’t age exactly the way you planned.
Being someone who would fall into the “too optimistic for her own good” category, I’ve had to eat my words a few times.
But this time, I know I won’t.
Not because, as I’m writing this, Norwich enter their eighth game unbeaten, nor is it because I’m going through that post-match high, but it’s because something special is happening.
Until now, the file has sat on my desktop unfinished.
Funnily enough, the intention of writing on the back of City’s win against Reading was not wholly focused on the performance – it was actually before the game had even kicked off when Head of Performance Chris Domogalla seemingly told the players to turn around and applaud the travelling fans as they gathered near the corner flag for an exercise.
Maybe nothing major, it’s not exactly revolutionary – we have long seen players applaud fans as they emerge from the tunnels but to abruptly pause during the warm ups to applaud the fans, it was a special touch from the club that I had never noticed prior.
What followed was a dramatic turnaround of emotions – despite taking the lead in the 14th minute through a delightful Todd Cantwell assist, which saw Teemu Pukki slot home for his fourth of the season, the score was levelled in the 72nd minute when Jon Bodvarsson managed to squeeze it past Tim Krul during a goalmouth scramble in the box.
Comebacks have far been a rarity this season – games against Birmingham, West Brom, Sheffield United and Ipswich all had signs of them, yet only two points were ever achieved.
There was reason to question what the next 18 minutes would behold. We found the answer just under a minute later – Cantwell again pounced onto a loose ball during a lapse of communication from Reading and Mario Vrancic put City back in the lead to earn them their first three points on the road for the season.
A third successive victory was on the cards at QPR when a lucky deflection from a Marco Stipermann cross made contact with Pukki’s chest to nudge them ahead (which he 100% meant to do) and it proved Daniel Farke had found a way to adapt to games and play it the way their opponents intended to – a contrast and improvement to previous games and maybe even seasons prior when we gave up when we couldn’t play ‘our way’.
A Norwich City B team (so to speak) proved – almost to a man – to be worthy of a place in the first team when they took on Wycombe Wanderers in the Carabao Cup. And once again, there was plenty of evidence to suggest the City faithful were well aware of something happening.
It was a chilly Tuesday night but nonetheless, 1,439 made the journey to Adams Park to watch City play a struggling League One side (albeit, I’m sure a couple of fans would raise their hands and admit to just making to journey to watch Adebayo Akinfenwa play).
And once we had held on for a nervy final ten minutes at 4-3 (despite knowing in all honesty, we could have buried the game earlier on), the environment Farke has created was summed up by Felix Passlack (a promising 20-year-old right-back who has done minimal wrong but has simply been unable to break into the first team ahead of Max Aarons) seemingly writing on the hat-trick ball, “He hates Ipswich” – a suggestion at the mood of players left out of the team.
Fast forward to City’s 2-1 victory against Dean Smith and John Terry’s Aston Villa and post-match Jordan Rhodes spends nearly a minute expressing the warm feeling around the club and how much he is enjoying every minute at the club – despite only being rewarded his second 90 minutes in six games, following Pukki’s absence.
During that time, City had managed to reach an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions. The run ending at home to Stoke City – a undeserved loss and the strangest moment as 24,992 fans warmed up their vocals for last time to sing a final rendition of ‘On the Ball City’ at the full-time whistle.
Against Nottingham Forest, an early Lewis Grabban goal was enough to erupt a sold-out City Ground but just mere minutes later, a sold out away end silenced the home crowd – there was no sign of a losing team and by the 90th minute, Norwich had managed not only to level the score but take away all three points.
Against Brentford, City edged it on statistics and relied on a double-save from Krul and the crossbar to secure all three points, but it was possibly Emi Buendia’s goal, which excited fans the most. We usually perceive the long-ball method as a common feature of the Championship – it doesn’t make the game ‘pretty’ to watch, it becomes tiresome and when you don’t have the tallest of teams in the divisions and pretty much all of your creative players are under the 6ft mark – so when Timm Klose spotted a Buendia run long before the Brentford defence and launched that ball from the centre circle, it was another reminder that long gone are the days that Farke has run out of ideas and can only play one system.
For an outsider, reading Bournemouth 2 – 1 Norwich City, maybe you’d think it tells the story. But by the full-time whistle, yet another rendition of ‘On the Ball City’ rang out around The Vitality and while Farke would have been wanting the ultimate birthday present, fans stayed to sing ‘Happy Birthday’. It was not a “thank you for getting us to this point” – it was “we should have won against a Premier League team, we were just unlucky and that’s after we’ve made eight changes”.
So, up to the Sheffield Wednesday, two losses in 13 matches – neither of them felt like a defeat, neither of them you felt like cursing the team or hanging a sign out of your window to let Delia know that it was time for Farke to go.
Over the stretch of those 13 matches, Norwich had gone behind four times and came away with three points. In none of those four games when Norwich went behind, did the fans lose faith, stop singing or thought it was over. There was maybe a groan for a few seconds but there was enough to say, “we didn’t deserve that” and moments later, City proved that conceding a goal didn’t wipe them out.
Using the phrase “youngsters, rejects and experienced heads” may become a regular for this team. It’s not a bad thing to say – in fact, it’s what makes this team special.
We have a team who cares, who want (not ‘have’) to prove themselves and that’s all I ask.