Paddy Davitt: Why we are all guilty of rushing to judge Norwich City
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A significant figure in the current and future direction of Norwich City has playfully chided me this season.
His identity will remain secret. Let’s call him Stuart, for argument’s sake.
The nature of the banter surrounds the snap observations produced on the final whistle after Norwich City’s latest Championship episode every weekend, and the odd midweek shift.
Those ‘pointers’ are raw and largely unfiltered with the benefit of a longer period of quiet reflection. That is a strength and a weakness but they capture the immediacy and the emotional pull of the latest high or low.
They are not meant to be definitive statements. How can they be as they appear around the time Daniel Farke’s players are returning to the sanctuary of the dressing room. Unless of course technological constraints have intervened. (nb. Bolton and Brentford, sort your wi-fi out).
But they serve a purpose and they tap a vein that is prevalent in modern society far beyond the narrow confines of football; fanned by the flames of social media and the instant access it allows to disseminate ideas, opinions and analysis.
Turn on your television on any given Saturday evening and the formula has become a phenomenon; the thirst for a thumbs up or thumbs down straight after a musical or dance performance.
Snap judgements reflect the breakneck pace of our daily lives.
There is increasingly less time and even less patience to digest information in longer form. We are all guilty of such kneejerk behaviour.
That is why Norwich’s enduring quest for goals means it is easier for some to decide the players are not up to it or Daniel Farke is not up to the task of finding a solution.
In the same fashion, Alex Neil was found out in the big league at Carrow Road, and his inability to build a side who could defend back in the Championship accelerated his downfall. Scoring goals? Not a problem.
City’s Championship visit to Barnsley this weekend offers a pertinent reminder all is not quite how it seems when digested through the midst of such a maelstrom.
Neil’s Norwich were battered into submission in that first half at Oakwell in December 2016.
They were fortunate to only trail 2-0, but that fortune did not extend to avoiding the fury of the away supporters at the interval, stationed right above where the players’ tunnel is located.
City rallied, through Nelson Oliveira’s thumping strike, but the die was cast.
For many that was also the moment Neil should have departed, with half the season left to launch a salvage operation.
That is a debate for another column.
But the fiery Scot has rebuilt his reputation at Preston. The man incapable of defending guided North End to four clean sheets in their first five league games this season.
The man obsessed with attacking football has presided over a campaign where Preston have only scored six more goals than the ‘shot-shy Canaries’.
Such trends do not fit the narrative - regarding Neil, Norwich or Oliveira for that matter. The Portugal international finished last season with 15 goals. That is the only time in his career he has surpassed double figures.
Barring injury, you would expect him to add to his nine-goal haul over this run-in, but Oliveira is not the answer to City’s goalscoring issues.
Farke will know that. He acknowledged after his side ran out of ideas against Bolton it has been a persistent theme from the outset of the head coach’s tenure.
The idea - expressed in some social media quarters - Norwich’s leader appears too defensive and too cautious is another easy judgement that may in time prove to be similarly wide of the mark.
What the German is, is a coach overseeing a major rebuild against a financial backdrop that will continue to limit the scope and dictate the scale of the turnover.
Farke had to focus on solidity because the ease with which Norwich were being punished in the early months would have sucked them into a relegation tussle with the likes of Bolton.
That was skilfully avoided through City’s festive spurt.
Now the focus shifts to the other end, and developing a robust strategy that may well have Olivieira as the focal point, but will need to be far more nuanced that reliance on a striker who has shown no inclination yet in his career to score in massive quantities.
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