So far, Daniel Farke has had it easy.
With the players away on their holidays, most of his time has seemingly been spent posing for the cameras in a black suit and shirt whilst sticking his thumb up.
“OK Daniel, it’s another photoshoot. You know the drill. Imagine you’re a Mafia hitman hitching a lift. Oh and hold the scarf.”
Since arriving in Norwich, his other public contribution has been to encourage the fans to dream big whilst setting out his vision on how he wants the team to play.
But that’s easy too.
They’re just words that anyone can come up with.
“I want my team to retain the ball and create goals through high tempo and decisive attacking play whilst keeping a solid shape when out of possession with an energetic defensive press that denies the opposition space and scoring opportunities.”
See? Easy. (Let’s book City Hall and an open-top bus).
But with the players returning for pre-season last Monday, Daniel Farke’s real work begins now.
Now he has to turn his good intentions into reality.
He has to turn the players who underachieved last season into a side that will (in his words); “Be in possession and dominate games”. He has to create his “brave team, an offensive team, a team who will press high”; a team that carries out his wishes to “stay compact, to defend and react well.”
No mean feat.
It’s what separates the professionals from those of us who talk a good game or write about it for MyFootballWriter.
It’s what separates the professionals from those of us who regularly guide our teams to the treble – albeit if only on the management games on our PC’s.
It’s what separates the professionals from people like me, whose coaching experience is limited to an under-10’s side in the Norfolk Combined Youth Football League.
One thing I’ve learned from coaching a kids’ football team is that simply telling the boys to play like Barcelona doesn’t make them play like Barcelona.
And selecting the ‘best’, or the fastest, or the biggest players is absolutely no guarantee of success either. Because football is not played by robots or on a PC – it’s played by people. And people tend to have all manner of stuff going on in their heads – although I can think of one or two former Norwich players where you’d question that.
The last coaching course that I went on opened with the following statement;
“To coach football to John, you have to know football. You also have to know John.”
So over the coming weeks, one of Farke’s key tasks is to get to really know his players. He will rely on his coaching team and the recent appointments of Christian Flüthmann and Chris Domogalla to support that process with all manner of performance data and analysis.
Football, like many other sports, is increasingly turning to science in the quest to maximise performance and find a competitive advantage. These days, if you want to know what a player’s pre-season fitness levels are, you can draw upon a wealth of data rather than relying on a subjective assessment of who looks most knackered at the end of a hike up Mousehold Heath.
But that data won’t really tell you what makes the players tick, what their characters are or how they will react to the pressures on the pitch.
The hi-tech world of Formula One is a sport where the performance margins are minute. Telematics data informs the race engineers of exactly what is going on in the car at any given moment in time and is used to diagnose any potential mechanical issues. However it can’t tell you that the driver is about to suffer a case of road rage and steer his Ferrari into a Mercedes as if they were dodgems at Blackpool’s pleasure beach.
The human element within sport is responsible for some of the greatest sporting moments and upsets. It’s what separates the winners and the champions from those who fall short; whether it’s a missed put in golf, a missed pot in snooker, or a skied penalty in a shoot-out.
We can all think of footballers who could be described as being ‘mercurial’ due to their inconsistency and their ability to both delight and frustrate in equal measure. Players whose unquestionable talent becomes secondary to whether their head was right on the day.
Looking at the current Norwich squad, the fans have every right to question the temperament of many of the players. Not just because of the performances we saw on the pitch last season but also because both Russell Martin and Cameron Jerome had cause to publically question the collective will and character within the dressing room.
It was a season that was characterised by individual mistakes, mental fragility, brittle confidence and a lack of leadership – traits that both underpinned and undermined the team.
Farke’s immediate task is to get to the root cause and address the underlying issues.
The most successful coaches are as much ‘man-managers’ as they are technical experts with the ability to understand each player’s motivations and personalities; to inspire self-belief and a collective desire to succeed by creating an environment in which each player performs at their best.
Only then will he deliver his stated aim of developing a brave team that reacts well to whatever is happening on or off the pitch.
The club’s new structure gives him every opportunity to do that. Stuart Webber can deal with the agents, negotiate signings and contracts, and manage the facilities and supporting infrastructure, leaving Farke to get on with the job in hand.
And for our new Head Coach, there’s no better place than to start by ‘coaching heads’.