With City sitting pretty at the top of the table, and an international break to savour the feeling, let’s talk about the ‘P word’.
News of Daniel Farke’s contract extension was greeted with general delight and it’s hard to think of a more popular City manager in recent years.
(One name comes to mind, but more of him in a bit).
It’s also hard to think – and admit – that a few games into the season, I was expressing relief over his short-term contract, so that the inevitable ‘parting of ways’, wouldn’t cost so much in compensation.
And yet a few months on, I find myself singing his name and waiting beyond the final whistle for him to orchestrate our jubilant celebrations.
It has become my favourite part of a matchday.
We all know the drill by now, as the routine is always the same.
He walks toward us, arms held out to the side, hands shaking, as the chorus builds from the stands.
Then the show of unity;
“Whey, whey, whey, whey”.
The subsequent thumbs up and the patting of his heart, has won him a place in our hearts.
My early-season apprehension, turned to appreciation, through to genuine adulation.
But it all stems from the team’s results and performances. They provide the platform on which the connection has been built.
You can be the nicest bloke in the world (and I suspect he might be), you can say all the right things and play to the crowd as much as you want, but it ultimately counts for nothing, if your team isn’t delivering on the pitch.
Which brings me to Paul Lambert and the Ipswich fans.
“Paul Lambert is a Blue” they sing, “he hates Norwich”.
The latter might be true. The former most certainly isn’t.
The Glaswegian is not a ‘Blue’, in the same way that he was never a ‘Yellow’, a ‘Potter’, nor a ‘Wolf’ and the closest he’s got to being a ‘Villain’, is of the pantomime variety.
Lambert’s ‘heel turn’, including his histrionics on derby day and the press conference soundbites before and after, wouldn’t look out of place in the WWE. You could be forgiven for thinking he was trying to bag himself a place alongside Grant Holt in the wrestling ring at Fightmare.
In reality, it’s nothing more than a calculated ploy to garner popularity and buy himself time. And it seems to be working.
But… for those of us who have seen the routine and heard the lines before, it’s more than a little contrived.
You don’t have to be Mystic Meg to know that Lambert will suggest “the support was incredible, and the players couldn’t have given me more”.
When he joined Norwich, Lambert spoke of the conversations he’d had with his mentor, Martin O’Neill, of the need to get the fans onside. The fist-pumping, badge-kissing displays of (apparent) commitment that tap right into the DNA of all football fans.
We first saw it on his return to Colchester with the animosity he aimed towards his former employers and their fans, to signify and cement his allegiance to our cause.
I’ll admit to falling for it hook, line and sinker, so I fully understand why the Ipswich fans are lapping it up now. Especially considering that the previous time they came to Carrow Road, their manager told them to f*** off.
For a fanbase who experienced that, it must be nice to hear the Gaffer serving up platitudes and seemingly going to war against your bitterest rivals.
But it’s a smokescreen.
One aimed at deflecting attention away from a record which is worse than that which got his predecessor the sack.
A record that is being over-looked because he says nice things which have brought back the feel-good factor.
A record which will see them drop into the third tier of English football.
That’s when the real test will come.
Because fans will ultimately judge their manager on the performances and results their teams produce.
Over time, there’s precious little leeway given for saying the right things, being a nice guy or for genuinely caring about the club.
It’s why Bryan Gunn, a club legend, had two supporters storm the pitch to throw their season tickets in his face.
It’s why Chris Hughton, a thoroughly decent and dignified man, was sacked shortly after being engulfed in a shower of ‘clappers’, which were hurled towards the pitch.
Since arriving in Norfolk, Daniel Farke has talked of the pride and honour he felt at being able to represent the club and how he wanted to instil that in the players he selects to pull on the shirt.
He has spoken of the responsibility he feels towards the fans, to reward our ‘incredible support’.
He has always been polite, gracious and humble and pays ‘big compliments to the lads’ for the results they achieve.
Admirable sentiments and qualities.
But they counted for next to nothing during his first season, as we stuttered our way to a mid-table finish.
Farke’s approach hasn’t changed, his team’s results have.
And that’s what has allowed him to genuinely connect with the fans and earn our adoration.
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