There’s something very Norwich City about going 20 games without a Premier League win and then when it finally arrives, after immeasurable amounts of heartache, we sack the head coach and his assistants within an hour of the final whistle.
That’s not to say it was the wrong decision but it was certainly brutal in its execution.
It was during the second half when, with City winning, the camera panned to the visitors’ section of the Brentford directors’ box. It was only for a few seconds but enough time to see that most, if not all, of the Board were present and were anything but happy.
On the far corner of the stadium, the travelling Y’Army were noisy, boisterous and readying themselves for a celebration befitting the first win of the season, but among that small group of board members and club officials, there was not even the slightest hint of a smile.
At the front of that group sat Delia and Michael, as stony-faced as I’ve ever seen them. They clearly knew.
I guess the logical thinking behind where and when to pull the trigger was based on the club giving the players the best chance of beating Brentford – ie. a disruption-free week of training at Colney – while also giving the club a two-week window to find and appoint a successor. Logical but still brutal.
From directing and orchestrating the City faithful in the traditional way after a huge win to collecting your P45 in the space of an hour with a massive round of press interviews sandwiched in between.
Stuart Webber, by the sounds of it, came to the conclusion that change was needed after the Leeds defeat and did what sporting directors are paid to do: acted decisively. It’s not something this club has been particularly good at in the past few decades, especially when it involves parting company with someone who is thoroughly decent and who has been responsible for taking this club on an extraordinary journey.
The timing of the trigger action was, however, based purely on what, in Webber’s view, is best for Norwich City. He had to put aside the relationship he had built with Daniel Farke and act accordingly. I’d imagine Delia and Michael would have been devastated at having to sanction such a move.
The hard part of any sacking or dismissal is that at its heart is a human being. And in Daniel Farke we had one of the best. A man who personified calmness and class and who was at the heart of one of the biggest transformations this club has ever undergone.
The journey has been more fun than we could ever have imagined with silverware to boot, and until the last few weeks, the bond between a City manager and the club’s supporters has rarely been stronger.
We loved him for the beautiful, silky football he introduced but also for being different to 95 percent of managers in English football. A manager who trusted brain over brawn, who preferred a pass to a hoof and who understood precisely what Norwich City and its supporters were all about.
And let’s not forget his team – Eddie Riemer, Christopher John and ChrisDomogalla. Again, all thoroughly decent men who bought wholeheartedly into what this club is all about and who all played their part in the successes of the last four-and-a-bit seasons.
In terms of tackling the second tier of English football, they absolutely cracked it. Smashed it out of the park. It may have taken them a season to come to terms with the idiosyncrasies of the Championship but once they had there was no stopping them.
They built two Championship winning teams, both of whom ripped up the division playing some of the best football ever seen in the second tier. For all of the brickbats, jibes and jokes we have endured this season, those two title wins attracted the polar opposite – admiration, compliments and warmth.
Alas, what makes a very good Championship team is very different from what makes even a half-decent Premier League team. And the qualities needed to set a course for promotion are very different from those needed to set a team up for a relegation scrap.
And I believe that, deep down, Daniel understood this.
In his interview on the club’s official channels following the disappointment of Project Restart and the subsequent relegation, he spoke of the difficulty in translating a passing, attacking ethos from second to top tier. He also spoke of how the transition, in the first season at least, was less tricky for teams whose game was based on not conceding – like Sheffield United.
But that was never going to be us. Our new DNA was around passing and attacking. When, in recent weeks, we tried to be more defensive it only served to hinder, almost completely, any attacking impetus. It didn’t work because Daniel didn’t really believe in it and the makeup of his squad was based on the needs of Farkeball.
The fact we were able to out-pass every team in the Championship was what made us so good and so effective. We were the master technicians. But in the Premier League, we were asking our players to do the same against teams with better players, whose technicians were better than our technicians. It didn’t work and despite Daniel tweaking it every which way, it never looked like working.
And within the financial straitjacket he had been placed, Farke was unable to arm his team with enough good technicians who could also withstand the extra physicality needed to compete in the Premier League.
After the Leeds game, he cut a sorrowful figure who, almost for the first time, sounded like he had no answers. He looked broken even though he maintained his usual composure and dignity. Those two qualities never ever wavered.
And I’m glad that his final act as coach of our football club was played out amidst cheers, singing, raucous applause and some thunderous choruses of On the Ball City. I’m happy that will be how he remembers us
For his final memory to have been the sound of Carrow Road echoing with boos, as it did after the Leeds game, would not have been a fitting way to end such a wonderful spell. So maybe, in that respect, we should be thankful for the timing.
Webber may have a name in mind. The much-vaunted succession planning almost demands it, so I suspect the wait for a new face in the City dugout will not be a long one. But that’s for tomorrow.
Today is about remembering one of the most exhilarating spells in the history of Norwich City Football Club and two of the best seasons ever; one of which was sadly witnessed through a TV screen.
He gave us thrills and spills but, most of all, he gave us a football team of which to be proud. All while remaining decent, loyal and kind.
Thank you, Daniel. we’ll not forget you.
Auf wiedersehen my friend.