It’s been a couple of months since I provoked a vehement discussion on a WhatsApp group chat among a selection of my university mates.
James Milner had just converted a penalty in front of a jubilant Liverpool travelling contingent at the Etihad to put his side a goal up. On Twitter, I’d read somebody allude to the fact that his manager – Jurgen Klopp – had turned his back on the sequence of events, faced his team’s dugout and only celebrated once he’d heard that faint roar ensuing from behind him to his left. Immediately, I was sceptical over the sincerity of his actions. I pondered.
Typing commenced: “Klopp apparently not watching Milner’s penalty and Liverpool fans loving it because it shows ‘passion’ – absolute rubbish”, I stated cynically.
Klopp’s arrival in the English game had been followed by the similarly exuberant presences of David Wagner at Huddersfield and Antonio Conte at Chelsea, both of whom have not only gone on to achieve considerable success but also done so while simultaneously gaining the respect of both their sets of fans. Despite such buoyant touchline antics, I remained unconvinced.
I had my doubts. I struggled to sympathy with the notion that a foreign manager can arrive at a team in England and immediately gain such an intimate connection with a club, delineating such a conspicuous degree of ostensible passion whenever a member of their invariably foreign-dominated squad scores a goal.
It seemed more a form of pseudo-passion to me, an expression of superficial elation in order to ingratiate themselves with an axiomatically more devoted set of supporters.
I resented the ‘Germanisation’ of English football; the arrivals of the Klopps and the Wagners who charged relentlessly around their technical areas and so frequently beyond.
I hated the continual banging of the Terriers’ drum on my inaugural visit to the John Smith’s Stadium on that miserable Wednesday night at the beginning of last month.
I detested Klopp’s seemingly excessive celebrations when Adam Lallana scored that – yes, I’m going to mention it – infamous goal on that chaotic Saturday lunchtime at Carrow Road. In the midst of the carnage, the German coach’s glasses broke. Karma, I scoffed.
And now along comes Daniel Farke. Another Germanic, charismatic and hopefully talismanic figure. A character who appears to be of a similar cut to my maligned trio of Klopp, Conte and Wagner. A coach whose appearance and demeanour immediately suggests a sense of touchline omnipotence, a sense of perpetual animation, a sense of – I hesitate – passion. But there’s a problem. He came to Norwich.
A dilemma emerged. If Farke and his likely brand of energetic, dynamic and fast-paced football succeeds at Carrow Road, such on-field entertainment will almost certainly be accompanied by an ebullient dose of similarly merry antics in front of the Geoffrey Watling City Stand.
It may be a premature and potentially naïve assumption, but one would justifiably presume that Farke will possess those idiosyncratic characteristics that the other two Dortmund coaches in English football currently share.
But let’s forget the dugout vigour for a moment. Farke excites me. His first day of interviews, press conferences and photo shoots was an unequivocal success, surely instilling City fans across the Canary nation with a fervent sense of optimism for August 5.
He wants his players to be the ‘protagonists’, to be ‘active’ rather than ‘reactive’, to have ‘good possession’ and strike the optimum balance between defence and attack. This period of acute transition may be in its preliminary stages but Farke is saying the right things.
Considerable harmony between Farke and Stuart Webber also seems to be emerging, an encouraging sense of coordination that was so palpably displayed by not only each other’s sentiments but also by the subtle camaraderie that became apparent in Thursday’s press conference. Webber conveyed an implicit degree of confidence, almost arrogance throughout that day’s proceedings. He knows he’s got his man.
But now we wait. The imminent arrival of Barnsley’s Marley Watkins only functions as the start of what promises to be a summer of turbulence; a period where rumours will become ubiquitous and one where ‘fake news’ will almost certainly manifest itself indelibly on our Twitter timelines.
Webber and Farke must decisively determine who stays and who goes, who to pursue and who to leave, who has the requisite hunger to facilitate a ruthless assault on English football’s second tier.
Farke is no messiah. Despite Thursday’s universal sense of optimism that became clear after the club’s announcement, patience next season will be key. We must not capriciously turn on Farke after a couple of defeats, nor juvenilely expect him to pioneer a campaign of unabating success.
Instead, we must accept that the brand of football he will seek to foster may take time to implement, will be subject to highs and lows, and will not pay dividends week in, week out.
But if it does, however, and Webber’s recruit goes on to achieve the level of success that Liverpool and Huddersfield have witnessed under their continental influences, City may well be on the brink of an exciting new epoch.
As for Farke’s antics? Well, it turns out my views may be subject to change. If he does adopt a similar touchline presence to Klopp, Wagner and Conte and sprint around like a primary school student after an overdose of blue smarties but in a tracksuit adorned by yellow and green, I shall not be complaining.
So Daniel, I urge you – run up and down wildly when we score, embrace your players affectionately, swing on the dugout after a last minute winner and show us how much you care.
What I once resented in the English game I may well be about to adore. What I once perceived to be pseudo-passion may about to become a spirited sense of affection that long-term fans can relate to. Maybe it was jealousy, a potent sense of envy that derived from being an outsider.
Regardless, if this visible and animated touchline presence is what is about to arrive at City, my scepticism of sincerity will be swiftly eradicated. Bleed for us, Daniel.