Since he signed from Rennes in 2012, Norwich City have never been able to find a suitable like-for-like replacement for Alex Tettey and trust me they’ve tried.
Louis Thompson, Gary O’Neil, Vadis Odidja-Ofoe, Connor McGrandles, Graham Dorrans, Youssouf Mulumbu, Harrison Reed and Ibrahim Amadou have all come in and auditioned as a potential upgrade on the Norwegian, but only one still remains at the club – the injury-prone Thompson, who is currently on loan at Russell Martin’s MK Dons.
With reports of negotiations starting for a new contract for City’s longest-term player, I thought I’d write a piece about his Carrow Road career and look at what it is that makes him still so difficult to replace.
25th August 2012 was the day City paid Rennes £1.5 million for Tettey’s services, with Chris Hughton wanting a more defensively minded midfielder to patrol games from the middle of the park.
Tettey’s first three starts made us naively think he would be a very useful attacking option for City, with a goal on his debut against Doncaster Rovers in the League Cup and two assists in his first two Premier League starts, setting up Grant Holt both times – first in a 4-1 away defeat at Chelsea and then in that famous 1-0 win over Arsenal, where the Norwegian’s powerful effort was spilt by Vito Mannone.
Alex would go on to feature a total of 27 times in Hughton’s first season in charge as City finished 11th in the Premier League (a position we all knew at the time papered over the cracks).
An ankle injury would disrupt a lot of the anchor man’s 2013/14 season as City struggled with the defensive brand of football imposed on them, and they were eventually relegated under Neil Adams who had replaced Hughton. The one real bright spark of the season for City fans was thanks to Tettey – a wonderful 25-yard volley that flew into the corner of the net with the man himself looking as surprised as anyone.
The man born in Ghana stayed with Norwich despite dropping down a level and played a pivotal throughout the next campaign, with a goal in City’s first win of the season – a 3-0 win over Watford – and a brilliant headed assist for Lewis Grabban in the East Anglian Derby win. The only low of Tettey’s season was an early own-goal in the frustrating 1-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough and he didn’t play the final two games of the season.
But, like throughout most of his Norwich career, the enforcer came back into the side when it mattered and was a key presence as City overcame their arch-rivals over two legs and then went on to comfortably beat Middlesbrough in the play-off final.
Injury disrupted the midfielder’s second spell in the big time as the whole team struggled and went straight back down. The highlight of that season was again Tettey’s as he scored the most awkward looking toe-poked finish past David De Gea as City produced a memorable victory over Manchester United. It felt like a finish that only Tettey could pull off!
City struggled upon their return back to the Championship in the 2016/17 season, with Alex Neil sacked and Alan Irvine taking over in temporary charge, but Tettey still had a big involvement with the team and played 37 times.
With Daniel Farke coming in as the new man at the helm and only a year left on his contract, it looked as if the 2017/18 season could be the one where Norwich City and Tettey parting ways.
City initially struggled to come to terms with the German’s new ideas and the team slumped to a poor 14th place finish but the former Rosenborg man featured and captained the side regularly after a calf injury ruled him out for nine games. Alongside Tom Trybull, he played a major part in Norwich keeping five clean sheets in a row – a club record.
On the 2nd May 2018, after much deliberation from both sides, a two-year contract extension was confirmed.
The 2018/19 season was a fantastic surprise for players and supporters alike as Norwich were miraculously promoted to the Premier League. Tettey managed to play 32 games in all competitions, captaining the side over 20 times, and showing his leadership skills in a young squad.
He scored once from his position of defensive shield, but it was an incredible one. With the ball being cleared from a corner, Tettey, off-balance, smacked the ball back and it arrowed into the bottom corner of the net in a 2-0 home win over Preston North End.
With Ibrahim Amadou being loaned-in in the summer, not for the first time many believed that Alex would be used as a peripheral figure this season, but guess again. Five years ago, the man himself said he wasn’t able to play three games in a week due to his knees struggling with the intensity of training and playing but it’s testament to City’s number 27 and Farke’s fitness team that five years later the man is fitter than ever.
His first game this season was the monumental win over Manchester City where he played the full 90 minutes and was incredible, intercepting through balls, playing the ball well himself and staying with the pace for the full game.
There has been more than just football for the Ghana-born player to contend with this season. The sad loss of his mother meant he missed the home draw with Arsenal to attend the funeral but came back for the Southampton game to play a fantastic through ball for Teemu Pukki’s strike, and then got on the scoresheet himself in the home defeat to Sheffield United.
In total Tettey has played 19 games this season and has again been irreplaceable in the City squad. He seems to be ageing like a fine wine, with Stuart Webber and Farke sharing those views, allowing fellow defensive shield Ibrahim Amadou to cut short his loan spell.
He is a true club legend and while he splits opinions, I believe he should get a new contract for what he brings to the group. Time and time again Tettey has been turned to by City managers, often proving his doubters wrong with that consistent ability to pop up in the right place at the right time, to break up play defensively and disrupt the opposition, even if his passing can be inconsistent.
Even the quality of the passing has improved under Farke though. During Tettey’s first five seasons with the club, his pass success completion rate averaged 84.6 percent but since the German took over in 2017 that’s currently risen to 87.5 percent. Yes, he is a player who can pick up niggles and his knees aren’t what they used to be, but this is a player who looks after himself impeccably.
For me, the former Rennes midfielder offers fantastic leadership to a young squad and an undeniable passion. With Melvin Sitti available for Norwich next season, Alex is the perfect player to help develop the young man’s potential and to mould him into the perfect long-term replacement.
I hope his knees continue to hold on for another couple of seasons for a Tettey Testimonial [Tettstimonial™: Jon Punt – Ed] and we all see him continue to add to his current haul of 228 Norwich City appearances.