I’d originally intended to write a piece that would look back at Daniel Farke’s first year at the City helm – he was appointed on May 25, 2017 – but the EDP’s Paddy Davitt did precisely that and some on Friday.
If you haven’t read it you should. It’s here. As ever, Paddy nailed it.
His description of Farke as ‘hugely likeable, honest and engaging’ comes from someone who talks to him on a weekly basis, and confirms what comes across over the airwaves. And while some will of course point to Chris Hughton at this juncture, for me that remains a tick in the box.
There are plenty out there who don’t come anywhere close to fitting any of those three adjectives – and isn’t it funny how a bloke with steam coming out of his ears from the red half of Sheffield immediately popped into my head – and when we had one who was the very antithesis it didn’t end at all well.
Yes, Glenn Roeder. I’m looking at you.
That we have someone in charge who is as far removed from Messrs Roeder and Wilder as is humanly possible has to be a good thing, and I’m not sure I go along with ‘I don’t care what he’s like as long as we win’. That may work for some but for a club that makes it its business to extend out into the Norfolk community and beyond, a little bit of charm goes a long way.
And better still, Farke’s likeability extends to his playing staff too.
Roll the clock back 18 months and there was something really quite unlikeable about a group who saw their rightful place as the Premier League without actually doing anything on the pitch to demonstrate it. The much discussed ‘sense of entitlement’ seeped from every pore and there was an unwarranted swagger that made them hard to love.
The toxicity and venom around the place at that time was mainly aimed at a board who were hellishly slow to spot the dressing room divide and disconnect – even though Russell Martin made it explicitly clear after that thumping at the Amex – but a squad with few redeeming features did little to help the groundswell of unrest.
Whether having a squad that possesses that unusual footballing trait of likeability tangibly helps is a moot point – ultimately it all boils down to results – but it certainly makes it easier to get behind them and give them our unconditional support. So too the fact they are now largely perceived as underdogs in a division brimming full of parachute payments and wealthy benefactors.
Talking of which, who felt sorry Dr Tony Xia as he cut a morose, solitary figure in Wembley’s Royal Box yesterday teatime? The same Dr Tony Xia who, in his capacity as owner of Aston Villa, mocked us because he ‘went in high’ and snaffled the prolific Ross McCormack from under our noses in August 2016 for £12 million.
While having to confess to having a soft spot for Villa (a long uninteresting story), there’s no denying they epitomise a lot of what is wrong with football 2018-style, and outside of their fanbase (and John Terry), there won’t have been too many tears shed when Fulham beat them to the golden ticket.
The ‘throw money at it and it’ll eventually happen’ approach is one that sticks in the craw – especially with those of us who barely have a pot to relieve ourselves in – and that it didn’t triumph yesterday against a side who play the way City aspire to was a win-win.
Fulham too have a wealthy benefactor let’s not forget – he owns Jacksonville Jaguars and wants to buy Wembley Stadium for God’s sake – but there’s something about the opulence of openly giving John Terry one final massive payday and being contractually bound to pay the aforementioned McCormack a £1 million bonus if you had made it to the Prem (even though he’s playing his football in Melbourne) that just whiffs a little bit.
Birmingham City fans meanwhile were predictably more than just quietly content. This made me smile…
SkyTV,Prince William,Tom hanks,Doug Ellis,Nigel Kennedy,Andy Gray,Brian Little,Paul McGrath,Dr Tony Xia,Lee Hendrie,Dwight Yorke,Steve Bruce,Gabriel Agbonlahor,Stan collymore,Grealish,Birmingham Mail,your boys took one hell of a beating? #sotv #avfc #ffc #bcfc THE CITY IS OURS pic.twitter.com/fYbD0c4CVV
— BCFC FANS FORUM (@bcfansforum) May 26, 2018
For sports aficionados yesterday was manna from Heaven. The Test match, interrupted only by Monaco qualifying and followed by the Play-Off and Champions League finals was almost as good as it gets – even if, for me, it was rudely interrupted by a spell of gardening.
As you’d expect from four top-level sporting events, every emotion on the spectrum was visited at least once by those involved and those invested in it, but it was the utter desolation and numbness felt by Liverpool keeper Loris Karius that most struck a chord.
Two second-half errors that will undoubtedly stay with the young German until the day he departs this planet were excruciating to watch, but what followed was far worse.
Yes he’s professional, yes, he’s very well rewarded, but I’m not sure all the money in the world will compensate for what ensued and the haunting memories that will remain. The lack of empathy from pundits, team-mates and those who felt the need to comment on social media was staggering.
We all err. Every single one of us. Most don’t do it in front of millions. Yet, from Steven Gerrard to Dejan Lovren to Dodgy Dave sitting on his bed in his Liverpool shirt in Birkenhead with his phone in his hand, the words and actions did nothing but heap more pain on a young man who was hurting beyond belief.
I know I’ll be accused of being soft, and that’s one of a million reasons why I’d never have made it as a professional sportsman, but the sight of Gareth Bale consoling Karius ahead of his own team-mates was just as heartbreaking as watching the young man opening asking for forgiveness from the Liverpool fans.
I sincerely hope he was afforded plenty of support once he’d found the sanctuary of the changing room, and will be offered plenty going forward.
Human beings can be horrible.
Finally, returning to things closer to home, there was one other paragraph in Paddy’s Friday piece that also resonated, and where, not for the first time, Mr Davitt encapsulated perfectly something I’d been trying to say for weeks but had failed. He was describing the task facing Farke in the season ahead.
Quote: ‘Lower the wage bill, bring in a transfer surplus, improve the squad – at first sight a contradictory set of forces impinging on Farke’s ability to mould a group of players who can hope for more than mid-table mediocrity.’
When you put it like that, that’s one massive ask. Good luck with that.