Chris Lakey: Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
PUBLISHED: 14:15 25 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:15 25 November 2018
Do you ever wonder if Norwich City could become revolutionaries?
Whether the club can lead from the front, their fists shaking in the air in triumphal acceptance of the plaudits earned by their success in changing the face of English football?
I’m not talking about the cliched Webber-lution that saw City instal a sporting director and a head coach: that was a first for City, not football. It is a model used elsewhere, not universally accepted by the Little Britain attitude at some clubs (and with some ex-managers who believe in Britain first when it comes to new appointments) but now, seemingly, reaping great rewards at Carrow Road.
The real revolutionary bit is coming in two parts.
First of all is the determination to allow young players to prove themselves. It sounds so easy doesn’t it? But football - and Norwich City – has done young players a disservice over many recent years.
Max Aarons is my new favourite player of all time; he is an absolute pleasure to watch. And he is good. very good. Jamal Lewis, Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell too. Whenever I have watched City, I have kept an eye on Cantwell around the hour mark, when head coach Daniel Farke generally begins to make changes. Always I want to see Cantwell’s reaction when he realises his number is up and he is about to be replaced. But it hasn’t happened as regularly as I expected. Farke has shown confidence in him by allowing him to see out matches when the norm is for managers to relieve them of their duties, because it appears to be the expected thing to do.
Yes, there’s been a bit of needs must about it all given the lack of funds to sign more experienced players. But what City have done makes great sense: trust a young player who you believe in, let him prove himself and, when he does, jot down a price tag for when the inevitable bids come in. And then you become self-sufficient.
English football has long whinged about having to shop overseas for players, when in actual fact it is probably their own fault for not trusting their own. And if they don’t trust them because they are not good enough, then whose fault is that but their own?
City haven’t unearthed these lads by accident – it is the mindset of the current regime that has used them properly.
And, frankly, what better sight is there than a quality young player doing the business for your team? Love it.
The other example of City bucking the trend that needs to be mentioned is the patience that sporting director Webber has shown in Farke; they are two men with a plan that needed time to incubate and grow and currently sits at the stage where it needs to reach maturity. That’s well documented - many of us have moaned at it, called for heads to roll, gone strangely silent because of an upsurge in form and are now forming a disorderly queue to issue apologies left, right and centre for ever doubting them.
The reason they played a game of patience was because it was a stage in the master plan. Had it been the final stage the outcome might have been different, but it is clear it wasn‘t.
Many clubs can’t wait to make a change, resisting the urgings of the incumbent manager that they can see the corner about to be turned. City stuck with it.
Webber’s comments at Thursday’s AGM revealed something of the thinking.
He said: “I believe in complete transparency with our staff. Daniel is a key member of staff and he needs to know the challenges ahead if we stay in this league.
“That is being honest, not painting a picture where he signs a new contract and in 12 months we pull the rug from under his feet.”
Good to hear. And refreshing too.
Time to say thanks
Robbie Savage grows on me ... then drops off.
The former player famously gave Norwich City ‘Sav Time’ for his extraordinarily long walk off when being subbed for Derby in the final minutes of a game here in April 2011 which gave Simeon Jackson time to grab a winner on the way to promotion.
On the drive to work yesterday I heard him on Radio Five, welcoming us to his programme with the words; “Claudio Ranieri is back - and so is the Premier League after a two-week break”.
It’s no wonder the gap between the Prem and the rest grows wider and wider when the Football League (in this case, the Championship) is ignored. Yes, I know his a Premier League show, but the point remains. Sav redeemed himself a little when he spoke of his love for grassroots football – and, importantly, gave proper credit to the many volunteers who keep clubs ticking over.
“There are so many volunteers - everybody involved in grassroots I take my hat off to – getting up early in the morning putting the nets up... I take my hat off to them,” he said.
I have had a weekly diary sent to me from a local non league manager which shows how many hours he puts in for his club. I saw it and I was astounded. It will form part of a piece in our next Pink Un magazine, because it really needs highlighting.
There are countless others who give up an awful lot of time for non league football – manning turnstiles, the bar, selling programmes, stewarding, sorting bibs, cones, nets, the car park, the tea huts... and then cleaning up after everyone has gone.
It can be a pretty thankless task, so some gratitude towards these volunteers is a must; without them, we wouldn’t be watching local football. They are genuinely the heartbeat of the grassroots game.
This wasn’t going to be a plug for anything, but if you know of a volunteer who deserves a bit of a mention, then get in touch. I think it is about time that credit was given where it is due. I never thanked Peter Shailes or Colin Arnold or Rex Mallett for enabling me to play junior football (albeit not very well). I should have done.