Do you know when your mettle is being tested? It’s really rather subtle. It’s not a timed written examination nor does it involve a large cotton swab being shoved unceremoniously up your nose after being forced to endure a 450-mile round trip.
It’s about spirit and resilience. An ability to cope well with difficulties. In a period of extreme unfamiliarity, where everyone’s lives have been changed enormously in less than a year, your mettle is taking a proper hammering every day.
And it’s against the restrictions arising from the pandemic that key figures, players and fans of Norwich City Football Club find themselves being examined. Nerves are frayed. Temperatures are rising. With the shuddering impact of Wayne Rooney’s free kick last weekend, we’re close to finding out whose character is made of tin or tungsten.
The pressure on the club’s coach and leadership team has ratcheted up after the previously winless Derby’s smash-and-grab victory. Every move, every decision, every comment by Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber is now being forensically examined as the feel-good summer transfer jolly is overshadowed by poor performances and the flogging of the family silver.
Unsurprising as Jamal Lewis’ and Ben Godfrey’s departures are, they have become corrosive due to the results not being as expected and the clear discontent seen in the City camp.
The dramatic scrapping of Todd Cantwell and Emu Buendia ahead of the Bournemouth clash, before the Argentine was later recalled from the Carrow Road reclamation yard, caused widespread confusion and divide.
Given Daniel Farke’s comments surrounding his decision to drop the pair but then recall only Emi, it’s fair to say the German’s frustration and annoyance is no longer restrained. He’s feeling the pressure. The serene, humorous, eloquent and confident communication Farke specialised in during the Championship title-winning run-in has disappeared. We have something a little edgier, less controlled, with his heart worn closer to his sleeve.
Clearly, emotions are running high. This is a test for the German who started in 2017 with little or no expectation of success, but now faces huge expectancy to win promotion in 2021. If his performance was being marked by the growing number of disgruntled fans on social media, then he can only expect to fail.
Sporting Director Webber, Farke’s great ally, has been famed for his brutally honest rebuttals of critical viewpoints since joining the club. And who can blame him? His transfer policy has been akin to alchemy. Yet last season’s wretched dealings and the player sales merry go-round we’re currently on is beginning to tarnish his reputation.
Letting Tim Klose leave for FC Basel on loan with a view to a permanent transfer looks slightly eccentric in the light of Godfrey’s club record-breaking departure and with no obvious replacement lined up. If Norwich have to limp to Christmas with just three injury-prone centre backs and Alex Tettey filling in for them where needed, then Webber’s mood may well be so defensive he could end up partnering Ben Gibson. All eyes will be on him and his recruitment team to now quickly find gold where others see pig iron.
Where once there was unity now there appears to be discord. Confidence in the squad appears to have given way to doubt. Sparkling football and mental resolve dissolved spectacularly during Project Restart as if they been thrown into a bath of acid. Why this happened and when we might catch a glimpse of the football seen during the epic 2018/19 season again isn’t currently being answered by the majority of players.
With Tom Trybull and Moritz Leitner on the scrapheap, Emi and Todd looking for all the world like they are on their way out, it’s quite clear there isn’t total and unequivocal belief in Farke and/or the club’s current trajectory. Until this can be resolved, we all know the end result of differences between players and a manager – it’s a desk being cleared rather than a dressing room being emptied.
The pedestrian start to the season has set a growing number of fans on edge. We’re not in the ground to support the team and that is utterly frustrating. Football is a passion and an escape. It’s raw and emotional. It’s community and family. A huge part of our lives has been robbed from us – and there’s no clue on when it’ll be given back. We’ve been left powerless. Not just because we cannot choose when we go to a game and when we don’t, but because we cannot personally influence the result of each match.
It is my strong belief the 3-2 defeat of Manchester City at home last season couldn’t have been achieved without the fans. The noise in the Barclay and across the ground was intense. The passion pushed tired Canary limbs and minds on to a higher level of performance.
The home games against Millwall and Forest during our title-winning season were played out against an indefatigably positive atmosphere. The emotional electricity generated by powerhouse crowds took the team from losing positions to a sensational win and scarcely believable draw. Not now. We’re socially distant. Removed. We have no influence.
The frustration with this and the performances have seen calls for Farke to go. To dismiss the last few seasons as a product of an amazing fluke and to scrap everything and start again.
Now is not the time to rip things apart, but to pull together. For club, Head Coach, Sporting Director, players, and supporters to find unity. To listen, to accept criticism, to heal rifts, and accept we’re in a bloody difficult situation – even more so off the pitch than on it.
Football clubs will go to the wall before Covid-19 is controlled. Coming through this and still being a strong, financially stable outfit will be priority.
Coping with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune both on and off the pitch represents a huge challenge for all of us, whether we are employed by the club or tied to it by emotion and loyalty. Things may well get worse before they get better, but only together will we pull through successfully.
It’s time to show your mettle because there are still 42 matches left of what can still be a golden season. The Farke and Webber era has shown us that anything is possible – don’t decide to leave early.
Well I am a positive person normally but when the club you love can’t be bothered to spend any money to stay in the Premier League or address issues, how can you remain positive any more when the board is so negative?
Martin Betts says
As I said, Webber had a wretched time with transfers in the Premier League. Apart from Sam Byram I’m struggling to think of a transfer that worked out. We have to remember people were very positive about his business at the start of this season, but some outgoings have left me scratching my head. Positive points: we’re only 4 games in. 42 left. That’s a huge amount of points. We know we can play at this level. We’re in a healthy financial position to weather the loss of crowds. This climate needs positivity and not negativity. Not ignorance or turning a blind eye to poor performance, but offering support and not opting to immediately call for drastic change before the first international break.
Could not agree more. Absolutely no effort in transfers in to make at least an effort to stay up.
The clubs mantra now is to recruit low cost players, send them out on loan. Then hoping they turn out to eventually make the first team, then sell for millions!
Webber, to the best of my knowledge, has failed totally in his purchases. All those sold in his tenure were recruited before his arrival. He is without, like many politicians good at promoting himself. Already he has previously stated he will be leaving, bet his option will be fewer than this time last year.
Still plenty of money in the bank, and more to follow, that for NCFC represents success!
Inside Right says
Absolutely. We have owners that don’t like the EPL and are clearly not comfortable there. What message does that send to the fans, players and staff? Not to mention acquiring a decent new manager/coach, which would be difficult under the current criteria.
Farke was not rewarded for his efforts in getting us promoted to the EPL, because the club had little desire to stay in it – and some fans agreed with this ‘concept’ too. It was as if he made a mistake by being successful. Only at Norwich eh?
Alex B says
Hi Martin B
We are now is a strange situation where we are short of CB’s and we let one go, we also have agents according to rumours pushing for players to be transferred to clubs that have lost interest.
1) Has Webber told the agents to find clubs for players.
2) Can we either buy or loan a CB rumours again Saliba of Arsenal is on our radar but no experience in English Football.
3) Can the disenchantment players that want out reintegrate with the team and coaches.
Aaron and Hernandez’s seem level headed out of the players getting all the transfer rumours and we have 3 that are getting paid with no chance of playing and all interest in them has died again if shove come to push will Farke utilize them.
10 players out on loan in reality how many has a future at city, Siani from the footballing metropolis of Luxembourg has said he was surprised to go out on loan in Europe he expect maybe England to adapt and I agree with him Bushini is in a similar position.
As our club become a scouting set up just to pick up free and cheap prospects that we can get a loan fee and then move on without any game time for city.
42 games to go some supporters are already moaning watching games via the internet I just wonder what it would be like at Carrow Rd.
The next few games will be vital in our progress this season and just might force some changes but the real people at fault are those at the top trying to run a club on a Spaghetti string with no financial input, taking all the plaudits when it goes well and hanging those under them went it turns sour, city need investment the sooner the better but the Smith’s like to be a Football Club owner it is the prestige they have run out of time, Webber and Farke are paying for it with low value recruitment.
Onwards and upwards
Stay safe and stay healthy
We spent a fortune last time under Neal and look where that got us thank god for maddison don’t blame board for not pushing boat out .they still spend study sum overall on players although not first team players at moment
David Bowers says
“We spent a fortune last time under Neal and look where that got us”
Two record signings?
Tim Ball says
Dave, really do you really think Naismith was a good signing !!!! And Matt Jarvis !!!
We definitely should have spent more in preparation for the Premier League, but a lot of that is Captain Hindsight.
The football played in the Championship winnings season was excellent and I for one among many others felt those players deserved a chance to prove they could make the step up and I thought most would if I am honest.
I got it wrong, but without going back over old ground I would have loved to have seen Sheffield United cope with our defensive injuries.
Timm Klose and Ivo Pinto were good signings but the truth is the club paid for that period of brave investment for the next few years.
David Bowers says
I think you’re missing the point. You’ve focused on Matt Jarvis, who cost 3M, instead of Godfrey who we sold for 25M.
You’ve focused on Naismith who cost 9M, instead of Maddison who we sold for 22M.
Brady we made 4M on
Pritchard we made 2-3M on
He signed players that were valued enough to play most of / their entire contracts.
He gained promotion, worth nearly 150M in TV money (1 year in PL, 2 in parachute payments), with a squad that wasn’t his.
This idea that Alex Neil is somehow responsible for Norwich’s financial mess is preposterous. He was made a scapegoat.
It’s the business model that’s the issue, because without PL funding it falls down. Every. Single. Time.
Tim Ball says
Sorry David, the point is when we did push the boat out, and I am not putting all the blame on Alex Neil, as so many of us would like to see, we fell flat on our faces.
That took years to recover from.
This continual obsession by a lot of fans that get rid of The Smiths and all will be the land of milk and honey to me is absolute rubbish.
Do I think they have made big mistakes? You bet. Should we have had more investment last season? Agreed. But spending so much at that time was one of them.
I remember a Charlton fan on BBC 606 saying they needed to get rid of Alan Curbishley to go onto the next level !!! They did Division 3 or whatever you call it now.
Look at Ipswich – they have a rich owner who puts in millions each year and still, the natives are not happy.
Be careful what you wish for.
David Bowers says
Unfortunately you’re conflating two issues
1) Profit and Loss from transfers
2) An inability to fund our club on Championship revenues
#1 is always going to be a lottery. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. For Alex Neil he lost on Naismith, Jarvis, and a few others. But he also won on a bunch too. In fact the purchase of James Maddison alone covered the losses. Not to mention Godfrey, Brady, Pritchard etc… Trust me, Naismith is a red-herring that’s become the perfect scapegoat for those wanting to protect the owners.
#2 is the real issue. When you’re in the PL league you’re getting revenues of 100M plus. When you’re in the Championship, without parachutes, you’re getting 30M. The club is structured to run at 50M and upwards when at its absolute leanest. It was actually 76M in our promotion year, but that included bonuses.
So is the issue that the club once bought a 9M dud when it had the money to do so and easily covered it with successful signings, or that the club in perpetuity overspends by 20M when The Championship?
We need to be back in the PL in the next 2 years, otherwise we’ll be in the same predicament, with no Naismith as a shield.
I also think maybe the players have had enough of farke now they trusted him when they were winning but now perhaps after the joke which was last season i think that respect has gone and on top of that players leaving even klose leaving perhaps speaks volumes .
David Bowers says
“His transfer policy has been akin to alchemy.”
Martin Betts says
Emi, Mario, Pukki, Steips, Onel, Zimbo, Krul – not too shabby, surely?
David Bowers says
I like all those guys, so please don’t consider this a slight to them. But none of them have been poached from us (or aggressively pursued). Apart from Krul they were all found to be below par at PL level. Many of those you mention were largely dropped during the PL season too.
In terms of sales, Webber’s been here 3.5 years and sales of his players have been inconsequentially low.
Plus we’ve had some absolute stinkers, or players we’ve simply dropped out of the team (see below), although some we continue to pay considerable amounts for.
My simplistic view is that we had a Championship level team when Webber took over and we still do now. None of the players Webber signed have been quoted to be talent on a level picked up by Alex Neil or Neil Adams (Godfrey, Lewis, Maddison, Aarons), mangers who are frequently slated for their ‘bad signings’.
IMHO, the success of our transfer policy has been ‘middling’.
My 2 cents.
Will only say that Raggett, Sbeny never really got game time to prove them selves
Martin Betts says
Every manager we’ve had, even the good ones, have bought stinkers. And some managers have made their success on the back of signings made by their predecessors. Paul Lambert bought some shocking players and his best were bought by Gunn (Holt) and Hoolahan (Roeder). Webber has turned up Emi Buendia and Teemu Pukki, and got Krul from a crock to an international again. For me, that’s alchemy.
Don Harold says
This phase reminds me of our promotion season in 2004. Lots of clubs were in a perilous financial state because of the collapse of the ITV Digital contract. We were able to be successful because, due to Delia then being one of the richest owners in the league (and her willingness, along with other directors, to bankroll deals for Huckerby and Crouch-lest we forget), we were able to operate when many other clubs were trying to keep the administrators away from the door.
There are likely to be similarities this season. Many clubs will be in terrible financial difficulties and many rich owners will be feeling considerably less rich and, in my opinion, will be more likely to prop up their core business than a football club vanity project. Although Delia is no longer rich in football terms, the football club does invest all of its earnings from transfers back into the club (don’t give me any squit about her lining her pockets, she doesn’t).
It could be that the next transfer window (is that still in January?) will be the one where we are strong. As long as we stay in and around the top 6 till then, I think we can be cautiously optimistic.
A businessman from Diss by the name of Carl paid for Huckerby.
Martin Betts says
Carl Moore may well have donated some money to the club that enabled Norwich to get him on loan, but I believe Manchester City also paid a percentage of his wages in the deal NCFC negotiated.
martin penney says
AN Other [if you like] paid for Darren Huckerby’s wages from his own pocket.
And it wasn’t a guy called Carl Moore, who might have very nobly contributed to the [generously small, thanks Man City], transfer fee but NOT the wages.
Said wages were covered by a different individual for the length of Hucks’ original contract.
Nobody could believe how the whole deal for Hucks was pulled together at the time – there were many stars to align, believe me.
martin penney says
Some great comments on a good article.
My 10 cents is that in the general scheme of things Stuart Webber is far too quiet from time to time to be a politician in the true sense of the word. He knows when to shut up – mainstream politicos don’t.
Sure Jamal and Ben G were not signed under his tenure and I’m pretty sure TC and Max weren’t either. But Emi? Yes, I think so.
As Alex B suggests we’ve gone into overdrive on loans out. Danel Sinani is the one that surprises me the most and not just because he has personally described his astonishment.
We are not Chelski and I do see this strategy as a little OTT.
As Ken said we made no attempt to stay in the PL. None at all.
At the moment with Gibson, Hanley and Zimbo we look like being a CB injury disaster waiting to happen but what do I know? I doubt Tettey wants to play there any more than I wish him to.
With our current Joint Majority Shareholders [clever swerve on Sir Geoffrey Watling’s <51% stipulation back in the day] in charge we're basically stuffed.
Yes I know the Smiths saved the Club. In theory anyway.
A good many of us cautioned against going into the season with two fit centre halves, one of whom hadn’t kicked a ball for six months last time out.
We were shouted down by the usual crew who assured us that we were more than adequately covered, despite the injury concerns surrounding Klose and Zimmermann.
Due to the nature of the centre half position, injuries, loss of form and indeed suspension are a frequent occupational hazard.
Jamming square tettey shaped pegs into round holes is the recipe for further disaster.
Surely we must have an iron in the fire to provide options?
The situation last season was stupid. To repeat it would be beyond stupid
Martin Betts says
I agree with the centre back situation. It’s potentially negligent and could come back to haunt Webber.
Sums up my thoughts Martin.
If we learned anything from the cup tie at Luton, it’s that tettey is not an option at centre half.
Ironically, the exit due to injury of Klose which prcipitated Tetteys switch to the back confirmed that he might not be the most reliable back up option himself.
I recall both Klose and Zimmermann, swathed in kt tape rushed back into the action early due to the problems at the back and lasting less than one game. Surely a moral in there somewhere?
Hopefully steps are being taken to rectify this, otherwise it could well come back to,bite us. I don’t expect the criticsm will be gentle if it does.
Colin B says
Interesting read and comments. As ever there are different opinions on what has happened or not happened.
I remember that before the last Premier League season there were many people saying that the Championship winning squad deserved a shot at the Premier League. Indeed many also commented that some of the youngsters would continue their impressive improvement. They felt that technical players like Leitner would flourish. I think that was the club’s view too so they set out to bolster the squad with loan players. Unfortunately most of the loans did not work out. That is a recurring theme. We have had many poor loan signings over the last decade.
Given we have “poor” owners in Championship terms then we will never be able to compete financially. We need a different approach, which is risky and does not guarantee success. That said throwing money at a problem does not guarantee success either.
As I have said before we will all have a view of what success for NCFC is. Many will see success as being 17th in the Premier League every season. I think our potential given all the constraints that the club faces is to be a yo-yo club.
Andy Grey Rider says
Where are all the Happy Clappers that were waxing lyrical last season? They’re just sheep following the good shepherd’s Smith.
I feel Coronavirus is here to stay and many clubs will go out of business in this league, before fans are allowed back in in great numbers but the way we are flogging off our gold, we may survive financially but have only a handful of teams to play. Many lower league teams are coming up with novelty ways of avoiding playing matches, to save the cash flow.
Wasn’t Webber at Huddersfield before us? Look what happened to their German manager and their current position. They did stay in the Premier League longer than us but didn’t capitulate like us.
You can blame the pandemic but I believe it was only inevitable that we would become the laughing stock once more.
They both have to go. Whatever the Shepherd’s Smith do is, please do not give any more spends to the Chuckle Brother’s to waste.
That list of 15 by David Bowers sums up their spending nous and the glory they received for off-loading Naismith has long been forgotten.
Please get these idiots off our wage bill before they do anymore damage!
Getting into the Premier League was clearly a fluke!
Cannock canary says
Perhaps, just perhaps there is a bit of a plan here.
Bringing in a large number of young ‘uns for nominal fees. Loan them out, get lucky with a couple of nuggets and make a profit on sales of others