I didn’t venture to what was once known as the Abbey Stadium yesterday but by all accounts is was a robust affair, in particular the challenges that brought a premature end to the afternoon for Timm Klose and Alex Pritchard.
The tone of Daniel Farke in his post-match interviews told of a head coach who’s fairly confident that Klose’s injury is short-term but who is less confident of a positive diagnosis for the latter. And that, if it comes to fruition, will be his first real body blow as City’s head honcho.
Fortunately, if it’s even possible to use such a word in these circumstances, it’s one area of the field where the squad is well equipped and for that we really have to ‘thank’ Alex Neil and his recruitment team (who, unlike Frankie McAvoy, I’m guessing won’t be following him to Preston).
With James Maddison having already caught the eye and Steven Naismith now seemingly intent on busting a gut to earn his Norwich millions, there are some pretty damn good options even before the gaze falls on one Wesley Hoolahan; someone the aforementioned Maddsion calls ‘The Master’.
So it’s a blow, a pretty big one, but it’s one the squad is well equipped to withstand without Stuart Webber having to work his way down his list of names.
That some of our flock took umbrage over the nature of both challenges suggests both were of the robust variety – and Farke alluded to the same after the game – but I’d argue that to dilute friendlies even more by taking out the physical side would render them even more meaningless.
Of course, if there was a premeditated attempt to injure a fellow pro then that’s wholly unacceptable but let’s not get too sniffy over crunching challenges in a ‘friendly’. Make them too friendly and they may as well be playing Pakefield High School Under-13s.
What started as the Graham Dorrans saga and briefly flickered into life as the Jonny Howson equivalent, has now taken on a new form: Jacob Murphy to Newcastle *question mark*.
Newcastle, having had a fruitless summer so far in the transfer market, are clearly keen to placate an increasingly restless Toon Army and are desperate to get Jacob in black and white stripes. For his part, the player has, it seems, expressed a desire to head north-east; something that has altered the landscape considerably.
But despite the Newcastle Chronicle accusing City of ‘dragging their heels’ (I mean, how dare little ol’ Norwich not just roll over and meekly succumb to Mike Ashley’s people banging their fists on the table), if they want him, they are going to have pay top dollar and some.
Stuart Webber has already proved himself, even in his short time here, to be the Championship equivalent to Daniel Levy and so any deal is only going to be good for Norwich City, regardless of where Jacob’s or Rafa’s toys may end up.
For the Y’Army’s part, there’s always a tinge of disappointment when one who we’ve nurtured since he was in single-figures wants out but in many ways moves like this are what makes an an academy. Occasionally one will flourish and progress into becoming a first-team regular, others may flicker briefly before being snapped up by clubs with too much money to spend and who clearly haven’t watched the player week in, week out.
Jacob had a good season, yes, and deserved his chance in both City’s first-team and in the England Under-21s but, for me (and I’ve gone for the tin hat) him and his brother both still have plenty to learn and need to find their way out of the lightweight category.
Eight figures for Jacob would be astounding business.
The signings of James Husband and Marcel Franke – more defensive reinforcements – were met with almost universal approval and a steady stream of largely unheard of players, some from the continent, appears to have gone down a storm in these parts.
And there’s no questioning the buzz that has accompanied these early days of the Farke era. Tactically there is clearly much work to be done, and the head coach confirmed that this week’s German training camp will be used to ramp up the players’ understanding of what is expected of them in a 4-1-4-1, a 3-4-3 and a 3-5-2, but rarely has a summer been awash with such anticipation.
However there were reportedly plenty of furrowed Germanic brows in evidence yesterday, so clearly the message still hasn’t wholly sunk in and it was interesting to hear of Josh Murphy being openly berated for ‘hoofing’ a clearance. What will ultimately be acid test will be how the River End reacts to a back-line that will resolutely refuse to ‘get rid of it’. Can barely wait.
Yet, aside from the reaction of the River End, there are still so many unknowns and uncertainties:
- How will players from outside the German top flight cope with the oddity that is the Championship?
- How will Team Farke’s philosophy translate to the English second tier (especially without McAvoy’s first-hand experience)?
- Will our existing players be able to successfully adapt to a completely new style of play?
For many, these are merely peripheral concerns that are drowned out by the constant stream of new names and faces but I can’t help but feel more than a hint of nervousness over what may unfold given the sea change that is occurring.
These are indeed exciting time but for the worriers among us there is plenty to feed off. The way forward however was summed up perfectly yesterday by Clare Thomas, columnist for our friends at the Little Yellow Bird Project.
Quote: ‘Apprehensively optimistic’.
And I agree.