The in-match social media output had been a mixture of relaxed assuredness and excitement as City purred their way through yet another winning performance on the banks of the Trent.
Amongs the fully invested Canary content, and supported by the watching football media, was a growing opinion from Forest fans that they were watching two teams a class apart; praise indeed from a fanbase brought up on the legends of forty years ago, and an ethos of playing football the right way.
Post-match analysis became introspective from the red half – what had Norwich got so right that they had got so wrong?
One of the clues was the men stood in the respective technical areas.
(Likeable) Chris Hughton is a man of method. So is Daniel Farke. But that’s where the comparison ends.
Amongst the comments about Norwich having the benefit of parachute payments (and crippling debts) came the stark reminder of style and attitude. When Likeable Chris took over at Premier League Norwich City, he inherited a swashbuckling band of brothers who had earned the right to play at the top, but had their limitations. A bit more quality and experience needed, but the basis of a foothold in the top league.
Instead, limited by lack of a plan, Likeable Chris introduced a reticent brand of football designed to ‘survive’ and the rest is history. He came and went, and so did City. There was the glorious ascent of 2015, but by then we were relying on the credit card too much and still didn’t have a plan.
If Hughton glanced across at Farke at all during the game, he wouldn’t have seen a reflection. He’d have seen a tactician like him who likes to stick to a preferred system; but he’d have seen a man who knows he’s part of a bigger plan with a focus beyond his tenure. Again, leading a band of brothers on the rise, but this time with experience beyond their years. Would Likeable Chris find a mirror like that anywhere in Nottingham?
The tired old “they’ll come straight back down” epithet gets bounced around as usual every time City reach the limelight, but last night should tell the footballing world what they haven’t been listening to.
There in the damp evening air were two men, two clubs on different paths.
Forest are struggling to find a way; their plan to buy the time for Hughton to rebuild a squad and find a method to inject the quality and enjoyment into a promotion push. They too, using the credit card as a plan.
Yet, there was Norwich; playing with a system, a verve, and belief instilled by a coach and club that the whole thing has to work together on and off the pitch, and that failure should not be feared, because of the bigger plan.
Everything the club does is based on the knowledge that you might have to step backwards to go forwards. The psychological mountain of Premier League survival is no longer a barrier. The idea that a club like Norwich could become a megalith like Manchester United (or Burnley) has been dispensed with.
What we saw last night were two teams, two coaches, with different loads to carry. One carrying the burden of what a club used to be; the other with the lighter load of watching a club just trying to be better. Farke talks about the privilege of managing Norwich because of the joy the club brings to the community.
And that’s the difference.
Last night was about one club that released itself from the shackles of the old order of merit, the other suffocating under the shadow of history.
Robbie Savage doesn’t get it. Stuart Webber does.
Football is the eternal game, but it will kill the joy if it doesn’t find a way to change the narrative about what success means beyond wealth and European Super Leagues.
We’ve found a way to enjoy the ride, because life is too short to bleat about the right to be promoted or avoid relegation, and yesterday evening should be the starkest of reminders that football should be something to enjoy, not a crushing burden.
We watch the permutations unfold as promotion approaches, and anxiety about what follows starts to build, but last night the one emotion missing for Norwich was fear, and how much it shows.
Never Mind the Danger….