Norwich City Head Coach Daniel Farke praised his players for coming through a “tough 14 days” to thrash Gillingham 5-0 on Wednesday night, joining new signing Billy Gilmour in talking up the atmosphere on a big night at Carrow Road.
“I’m quite pleased, the circumstances of the last two weeks haven’t been easy for the lads,” Farke told official club channels. “We have had a tough 14 days. We had two players back yesterday into team training, Jacob Sorensen and Angus Gunn, our two Covid-19 cases.
“Also until the weekend, Dimitris Giannoulis and Max Aarons were self-isolating. They didn’t catch it but it was precautious. Today, seven players missed the game due to Covid-19 reasons. All in all, without 11 first-team players in the last days has been difficult for the mood and confidence but also on the training pitch.”
The German bemoaned the impact his side’s Covid outbreak had had on preparations for the upcoming Premier League campaign, some players still isolating with just 11 days left until the big kick-off on August 14.
Club captain Grant Hanley has not yet featured in pre-season and has missed three opportunities to play because of the outbreak, City’s final friendly at Newcastle is now his only chance to gain some match sharpness before the season starts.
Milot Rashica, Teemu Pukki, Bali Mumba, Michael McGovern, Jordan Hugill, Przemyslaw Placheta and Onel Hernandez also missed the Gillingham game, along with long-term absentee Sam Byram.
“It’s not easy for the lads who are missing, no team training for ten days is difficult. For Teemu, he was away longer after the Euros, came back and had three days with us and then is not with us for ten days.
“It’s not ideal but the main thing is, the lads feel alright,” the City boss continued. Some are struggling with some symptoms, but the main thing is their safety and health.
“We don’t want them to struggle for too long so we accept this situation. In the last few days, there have been no new Covid-19 cases so we’ve stopped the cycle a little bit. Hopefully, step by step, we get our players back. We have to take time to get their fitness back.”
A key player who was involved, and was instrumental throughout the friendly, was Billy Gilmour. The Scot featured in front of a Carrow Road crowd for the first time on Wednesday night and was blown away by the atmosphere created by the 10,692 fans in attendance.
“It was an amazing feeling,” he said. “Fans are back and honestly it was so loud. When we were scoring and the fans were celebrating, there is no better feeling.
“It makes me really excited for the Liverpool game in a couple of weeks. It is a big fixture to start the season and, hopefully, we can continue our positivity into that.”
Farke agreed, commending the support provided by those watching the game live, as fans congregated at Carrow Road for the first time since December 2020.
“It also felt a bit special tonight with it being our first time back at Carrow Road,” he said. “It’s been our first time back for months and a first chance to celebrate a little bit our fantastic last season and the promotion.
“You could feel it after the celebrations after each goal how much it meant to them and how much they have missed our feeling and spirit together. Our supporters have always been with us, even in the empty stadiums last season. For that, it’s great to be re-connected and reunited with them.”