Ian Clarke: It's going to be tough - but I've got a good feeling for Norwich City
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Yes, there have been 87 days since that awful 5-1 defeat at Hillsborough ended a hugely disappointing 2017/18 campaign.
That’s history and the beauty of football is that the slate is wiped clean.
In those three months, we’ve had day after day of scorching sun, plenty of comings and goings at Carra, one of the best ever World Cups and my colleague Michael Bailey and I shared in some crazy nights covering England games in Shack Charlton at Dereham’s Railway Tavern!
So on the eve of the Canaries’ 117th season, how full (or empty) is your Norwich City cup? Call it naive or being of a naturally positive disposition, I generally start new footballing years with hope.
That may seem wildly misplaced after finishing 14th and below Ipswich in May. Add to that the departures of James Maddison, Josh Murphy, Wes Hoolahan, Angus Gunn amd Harrison Reed. Throw in the financial strait jacket we’re in and face the reality that a lot of Championship clubs have very deep pockets and surely we should feel downbeat?
There is no doubt it is going to be a tough, tough nine months ahead.
All three clubs which came down have years of experience in the top flight and bag loads of parachute cash.
Several others have thrown big bucks at trying to reach the top flight – Forest have shelled out £24.3m, Middlesborough £12.3m, Bristol City £9.6m and Derby £5.8m. You sense they may open the wallets still further before the window shuts.
So what is the basis for being optimistic as we jump on board the Canary Express for another marathon trek?
Let’s start with the head coach.
Daniel Farke had a tough baptism in his first year in the Championship.
I feel he is showing signs of understanding what it takes to compete in the unforgiving league.
I want to see more brutal honesty from him and not pretend things are rosier than they are (remember his comments after the Forest game last year?)
Farke needs to have the horses for courses mentality – two holding midfielders and better game management away with a bolder approach and higher tempo at NR1. I’ve read lots about what he’s said during pre-season and he appears to have become more battle hardened and probably a bit angrier.
I also think that the signs are better for City this time around.
Last summmer we were hit with the lengthy lay-offs of Timm Klose and Alex Pritchard.
When we saw Jordan Rhodes go down with that ankle injury last week, we feared the worst.
The fact that he appears in contention for St Andrew’s is one example of how fortune appears to be with Norwich.
I’m as gutted as the next River Ender to see Madders leave.
However, we can’t dwell on that and it may actually mean City have more of a team dynamic this year rather than relying so much on the lad who I’m sure will wear an England shirt in Qatar 2022.
At the very heart of that team will be new captain Grant Hanley.
What a foundation to build on. He’s a proper man, a proper defender and a proper leader.
With Klose beside him, that’s a very decent nucleus for the backline.
Tim Krul is an excellent signing. A successful outfit needs a blend of wise heads and youthful vigour. The stopper has seen it and done it in football. Keep him fit and he’ll be a great addition.
We need Jamal Lewis ready as quickly as possible as I’m concerned about the left side. On the right, Felix Passlack has a huge amount to learn and I sense Ivo Pinto or Ben Marshall will have that berth.
Clearly a midfield minus Maddison is going to need some work. I’m encouraged by the manpower Farke has in there – Tom Trybull, Moritz Leitner, Alex Tettey, Kenny McLean, Louis Thompson, Ben Marshall, Mario Vrancic, Emi Buendia, Ben Godfrey, Todd Cantwell and Onel Hernandez. The challenge is to get the right mix.
Up top, the capture of Jordam Rhodes wasn’t universally welcomed. Personally I’m really pleased. Get him back to his goal every two games form and that will be inspired business.
I like the look of Teemu Pukki, while Dennis Srebeny still has plenty to prove.
As for Nelson Oliveira, we need to hope for a quick sale or get him out on loan. My Mondeo is ready to give him a lift.
So where will City finish? If things click, momentum is built and the wind is the right direction, I feel we can challenge the play offs.
Right, off we go! OTBC.
Top man Timm
At the age of 48 and after almost 30 years in journalism, I should have grown out of wanting to have my picture taken with Norwich City players.
Well, I guess that’s why I’m in the news team and watching the Canaries as a supporter rather than being one of the sports guys!
At the pre-season friendly at Lincoln, my daughter and I sat down in the corner of the ground pretty near to the tunnel.
After putting in his shift and spending a bit of time in the dugout after being substituted, Timm Klose wandered past us to get changed.
At the final whistle, he began a walk in front of the away section to thank the supporters who had headed along the A47, A17 and A15.
Yes, you can argue that he and his fellow players should do that.
He didn’t have to though - and Timm posed for photos for every fan who wanted a snap. I’m not ashamed to have gone in for a man hug! Top man Timm.
Fans’ group deserves support
One thing we can be certain of again this year is the dedicated work of the Norwich City Fans Social Club.
Season after season, Diane Blazier and her colleagues tirelessly raise money and organise events.
They are currently supporting the Community Sports Foundation. A total of £6,500 was handed over at the end of the last campaign and they hope to beat that figure in 2018/19.
Their first get together of the new season is a fans’ forum in the Top of the Terrace on Thursday August 16, featuring managing director Steve Stone and sporting director Stuart Webber, Host will be City legend Darren Eadie.
It will be a great opportunity to get an insight from the top brass at Carrow Road (at how many other clubs would that happen)? You can also meet fellow fans amd I’m sure Mr Eadie will be up for a selfie! Doors open at 6.45pm for a 7.30pm start. Tickets £3, under 16s £1. Pay at the door.