Paddy Davitt verdict: Blow up, ref. Time to crack on with Norwich City’s revamp
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Nearly over, Norwich City fans. Then the real fun and games can begin.
The Canaries dug out a battling point at Alex Neil’s Preston, which in the final analysis did little for either club in terms of their current Championship status.
Yet it was another outing when City were effectively cast as a support act.
The chief plot line was whether the Lilywhites could cash in on Millwall’s slip up against Fulham the previous night to edge closer to an improbable play-off place.
A variation on the same theme from recent Norwich games against the Cottagers, Cardiff and Aston Villa.
The fury and intensity was the preserve of Preston’s players, fans and management in a frenetic final quarter when the Canaries stoutly held firm.
That speaks volumes for the character and application.
But we knew that already.
We have seen it on numerous occasions away from Carrow Road throughout Daniel Farke’s first tour of duty.
What we need to see now is a consistency in output at the top end of the pitch.
Allied to an ability to mix up their game to cope with the earthier qualities of Championship rivals with less technical grace but perhaps more grit.
The answers to those questions are entwined with what happens during Norwich’s summer trading.
Stuart Webber will now emerge centre stage as his hand-picked head coach retreats over the upcoming recess.
The futures of Wes Hoolahan, Alex Tettey and James Maddison must be resolved.
In Hoolahan’s case, one hopes prior to this weekend’s home league finale against Leeds United to afford the Republic of Ireland international a fitting swansong - if the mutual decision reached is to part company.
That is just one facet facing Webber and his recruitment team.
Watching Sunday’s Scottish Premiership game between Rangers and Hearts revealed another, as Steven Naismith and Russell Martin duelled in a contest that also featured former City team mates Graham Dorrans and Kyle Lafferty.
If ever one needed a snapshot into the failings of past transfer dealings, it was evident on the Ibrox pitch.
Webber is picking up the pieces of an inherited mess. His first two transfer forays - since becoming the club’s sporting director - have been framed by the financial imperative to trim a bloated squad, reduce the wage bill and add a surplus to the coffers.
That overhang looms large again this summer, as he seeks to furnish Farke with the ammunition to embellish the weight of possession.
Resolve the futures of those now on the margins - whether they be out on loan or just skulking around Colney - and there will be a further sense of renewal, and more clear blue water between the old and new eras.
Graphic evidence was visible on the touchline at Deepdale, as Farke and his predecessor exhorted two sets of players for one, decisive intervention.
You would struggle to find two more different personalities.
Farke is refinement and softly-spoken restraint.
Neil is a waspish, provocative character who kicks every ball, and the odd water bucket. Yet they have plenty in common.
In the build up to this latest reunion, Neil spoke again in glowing terms about the opportunity he was given to embark on a great leap forward in a coaching career that catapulted him to the Premier League.
But he also attributed the failure to stay there on poor recruitment and an inability to add reinforcements in that vital summer immediately after the Scot and his troops gloriously edged past Middlesbrough at Wembley.
Farke needs a far better support network now.
The financial landscape may continue to impinge, those trends to reduce the wage bill and engineer a transfer surplus may have to be accelerated for the foreseeable, but Farke is not a magician.
If you lose quality operators like Jonny Howson, like Jacob Murphy, like Alex Pritchard, then ‘creativity’ will only go so far to cover the gaps.
Norwich were again painfully tame in the final third at Deepdale.
Declan Rudd had the type of afternoon he would have dreamt about, when his head rested against the pillow on the eve of a first tussle with the club that shaped his career.
As good as City were defensively in Lancashire, they were again hesitant and lacking in punch in forward areas.
Farke may be an astute coach but he needs raw material.
That is where Webber comes in, in the weeks ahead.